Reloading .22 rimfire cartridges: Part 8

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

fired cartridge rims
Some reloaded cartridges had to be fired a second time.

Part 1 Reloading .22 rimfire cartridges
Part 2 Reloading .22 rimfire cartridges
Part 3 Bore size versus performance
Part 4 Reloading .22 rimfire cartridges
Part 5 Reloading .22 rimfire cartridges
Part 6 Reloading .22 rimfire cartridges
Part 7 Reloading .22 rimfire cartridges

This report covers:

  • Priming went slow
  • Toy caps are sensitive
  • Not loud but hot!
  • Wait
  • Loading
  • The 24 cartridges for the test
  • Pyrodex
  • The test
  • Sharpshooter commercial priming compound
  • Cap priming powder
  • Discussion
  • Summary

This is the 8th report on reloading rimfire cartridges. I learned a lot today and so will you. If this study is of any interest to you, today will be revealing.

Priming went slow

Packing the priming compound into the rims of the cartridges takes a long time. It took me about 30 minutes to pack the Sharpshooter priming compound into the rims of 12 cartridges that I needed for today’s test. It took another four hours to finish the toy cap priming compound. Let me explain why.

Toy caps are sensitive

I had to load 12 cartridges with each type of priming compound for the test. Each cartridge that is primed with toy cap powder gets the powder from 6 ring caps, That’s 72 caps that have to be stripped of their compound that is in the form of a hard cake. I proceeded as carefully as I knew how and I still set off 5 caps, getting the 72 I needed. After the cake of explosive is out of the cap it has to be crushed and ground into powder. Try doing that with cap powder without setting it off!

Suffice to say, the work with the caps went very slowly. My neighbor, Denny, came over to watch and I told him I had already unintentionally exploded 4 caps. He asked me to do one intentionally so he could see. I told him no way, but just wait. Sure enough, in about 5 minutes another one exploded.

Not loud but hot!

When the caps explode they don’t make a loud noise. There is nothing restraining them, so they just flash. And that flash is hot! I learned that last time and now I keep my fingers as far as possible from the cap I’m working on.

After it is turned into a powder the priming powder has to be put into a cartridge, wet with one drop of acetone, wait at least 5 minutes and then pack the sludge into the cartridge rim. It goes the same for the commercial Sharpshooter priming powder, but since that stuff has not exploded on me yet, I move a little faster.

Wait

After the priming powder is inside the rims the cartridges have to sit overnight to dry. So I worked on this report on Friday and also on Saturday.

Loading

I used two gunpowders for this test. I used 0.8-grains of Unique, a smokeless powder recommended by Sharpshooter, the company who sold me the loading tools. And I used Pyrodex — a replica black powder that they also recommend. With that powder I filled the case.

Unique
Not much Unique was used.

Pyrodex
The cartridges were filled with black powder substitute Pyrodex.

The 24 cartridges for the test

I’m testing two different bullets, two different powders and two different priming compounds. That’s eight combinations of cartridges I loaded for this test. I loaded three of each type and here they are.

Sharpshooter priming, 38-grain bullet, Unique smokeless powder
Sharpshooter priming, 25-grain bullet, Unique smokeless powder
Cap priming, 38-grain bullet, Unique smokeless powder
Cap priming, 25-grain bullet, Unique smokeless powder

Sharpshooter priming, 38-grain bullet, Pyrodex replica black powder
Sharpshooter priming, 25-grain bullet, Pyrodex replica black powder
Cap priming, 38-grain bullet, Pyrodex replica black powder
Cap priming, 25-grain bullet, Pyrodex replica black powder

Those are the 24 cartridges I loaded. There were also other problems I encountered while loading the gunpowder and seating the bullets that I will address.

Pyrodex

Black powder should be loaded until the case is full, with no space in the cartridge when the bullet is seated. It took the entire 12 cartridges for me to learn that three of the small scoops of Pyrodex was the perfect amount to use.

I also had some difficulty crimping the cartridges that had Pyrodex in them. I suppose the powder was pushing against the base of the bullet as it should and that was making the bullet stand proud. Toward the end of the reloading I noted that several of the 38-grain bullets loaded very hard into the cartridge case and I had little hope for them. 

The test

I attempted to shoot all the cartridges through the chronograph for velocity. I shot all the cartridges loaded with Unique first because it is smokeless. I thought Pyrodex would fill the room with dirty smoke and might set off my smoke alarm.

Sharpshooter commercial priming compound

I say I attempted to shoot all the cartridges. None of the 12 that were loaded with the Sharpshooter priming powder went off. Yes, the two blanks that I loaded and fired in Part 7 both did fire but I noted at the time that one of them sounded weak. I didn’t say that in the report but the video I filmed shows it. I guess I don’t yet know how to load this commercial priming powder into the rims of cartridges.

Cap priming powder

The cartridges primed with priming powder extracted from toy caps were a different story. Two of those cartridges refused to chamber in the rifle, but the other 10 chambered with differing levels of success. The two that wouldn’t go in were a cartridge with a 25-grain bullet and one with a 38-grain bullet.

Of the 10 cartridges primed with cap powder that did chamber, 6 of them fired. That’s a 60 percent success rate. Here is what happened.

Bullet…….Powder…….Vel.
38 gn..……Unique…….621
25 gn..……Unique…….805 second try
25 gn..……Unique…….630

Bullet…….Powder…….Vel.
38 gn..……Pyrodex…….679
25 gn..……Pyrodex…….739 second try
25 gn..……Pyrodex…….748

The two notes about the second try means that the cartridge failed to fire the first time I attempted to fire it. So I removed the cartridge and rotated it to a fresh location on its rim, Of all the cartridges I tried to fire, each that would chamber got at least two attempts, unless it fired the first time.

Discussion

There isn’t a lot of data, but I do have some solid conclusions. First, cap powder is more reliable for me at present, so I will proceed with it, alone. I will not give up on the Sharpshooter commercial priming powder, but I need to conduct some more tests to learn what I’m doing wrong.

I have an idea of how to modify the priming powder packing tool to push the wet sludge into the cartridge rim more effectively. I will grind the end of the tool to make a flat paddle like a long tiny screwdriver blade.

Next, I need to pay more attention when loading 38-grain bullets and Pyrodex. I think the three small scoops of powder that I learned at the end of today’s loading is the place to begin next  time.

I thought Pyrodex was going to leave clouds of smoke in my office, but that never happened. The smell of the burned powder did linger a long time, but there was no real smoke. The rifle did have to be cleaned afterward because Pyrodex is corrosive, and so are toy caps. So cleaning is a must.

I did note that the two 25-grain bullets that were shot with Pyrodex went out at a consistent velocity. That, I like a lot! I think that Pyrodex is a good powder for this test. Unique I’m not as sure of. The wide variance in velocity between the two 25-grain bullets that fired gives me some concern. It’s probably a difference in crimp pressure that black powder is less sensitive to.

Summary

This test is progressing more slowly than I envisioned at the start. I see no need to rush it, either. I want to get consistent ignition and the method of priming down (i.e. a higher percentage of cartridges firing) before I progress to an accuracy test.

44 thoughts on “Reloading .22 rimfire cartridges: Part 8

  1. B.B.,

    Keep an ice cube or two handy for a really fast finger cool down if something makes them HOT! I Hate the smell of burning flesh!

    I still am of the opinion that you need an fast chuck method to quickly upright spin the case to spread & pack the primer into the rim effectively.

    To make up for your suffering this weekend another Leather tip: https://fiebing.com/

    Any of the readership that works, owns or otherwise uses Leather needs to check out their products and Knowledge Academy.

    shootski


  2. Very interesting, BB! I can see store owners scratching their heads and wondering why the toy caps keep selling out. What do you think will help to improve consistency of the cap primed versions in igniting the first time?


  3. B.B.,

    I like “faras” as much as anyone but only in the appropriate places.

    “Not loud but hot!
    When the caps explode they don’t make a loud noise. There is nothing restraining them, so they just flash. And that flash is hot! I learned that last time and now I keep my fingers as far(NEEDS A SPACE HERE)as possible from the cap I’m working on.”

    shootski



  4. BB,

    Well, it is definitely not economical to reload rimfire. Also, there is an incredible learning curve, which thankfully you are showing to us. Unfortunately, I can see circumstances where this may become a necessity, but I can also see where to some this would be most enjoyable. Thank you.


  5. BB,

    We all appreciate your tenacity.

    On the packing stick,.. I assume the footed end of the stick is the end that is used for the packing step?

    While that might appear to make sense, something like the other end would make more sense to me (a steel rod,.. with a flat ground end). Adding more of the commercial priming compound would the other idea,… so that you know for sure that you have enough compound to fill 100% of the rim.

    Without actually doing it myself, I can’t say anything for sure.

    The other suggestion is to search you-tube videos that are also doing the .22 reloading with focus on the packing steps and any tips anyone gives,.. if you have not already done so. You can not be the only one that has had this problem.

    Good luck moving forwards.

    Chris


    • Chris,

      No, the “footed” end of the stick is for cleaning out the rims of fired cartridges. I doesn’t work. It’s too big.The otrher end is for packing the powder/sludge.

      Believe me, I have watched as many of the videos as I can find. No mention of how it’s done other than to “do a good job.

      BB


  6. BB-
    I think the suggestion to spin the priming slurry into rim via centrifugal force has merit. I believe I would utilize a variable speed Dremel type tool and a Cratex tapered cone polishing bit. The soft rubber material of the Cratex bit can be abrasively formed for a snug fit in the cartridge case mouth. Use a block of wood with a loose fitting hole for the cartridge case base to hold the case uptight. Add primer and lower the bit into contact with the case. Start motor on slow speed and increase contact pressure and speed. Don’t allow the bit to slip and spin in the case. Stop motor and remove case from bit. Pack as normal, if needed. I’d have to check, but my Dremels go up to 10,000 rpm or so. It seems that this might help with priming speed and firing reliability.


  7. BB

    I have never been able to decide how much cleaning to do after shooting black powder or Pyrodex? It varies from a good bore scrub all the way to full disassembly, soapy bath and oven drying.

    Would you tell us how you cleaned your rifle?

    Stay safe.

    Deck


    • Deck,

      Well I did something you may never have done. Because corrosive primers and not black powder are what ruined all those rifle barrels of the past, I cleaned with two types of bore solvent and set the rifle aside after a half hour of cleaning. Then two days later I cleaned it again. The corrosive salts will get into micro-fissures inside the barrel and you have to clean twice to get everything. At least that is what I have read.

      BB


      • BB

        Nope, never have done that before. Did not know corrosive primers were so much more the villain than the black powder charge either. So much to learn here.

        Your perseverance is quite impressive to me in this series. Lots to learn about what to like and what to dislike about rimfire reloading.

        Deck


  8. BB,
    This is the most fun blog subject that I have read that wasn’t about airguns (and more fun than replica airguns to me). I know it is taking a lot of time but I want you to know that I appreciate your efforts. Good luck getting the priming compound to work. 4 hours it too much effort to get enough cap powder to ignite 12 tiny cartridges!
    I was wondering if you have a dusty room after firing those shots inside?

    You reminded me of a friend that was making black powder in his basement until a flash fire almost burned down his house. Mad scientist…

    I hope you have a great day and week,

    David Enoch


  9. B.B.
    Thanks for this report. It’s an eye opener for me as I knew it could be done, but I didn’t know it would take so long to load them. For me, it would justify a PCP or Springer over reloading 22LR. Heck if I needed more power, I could reload a .32 cal black powder rifle a lot faster. Just me.

    Doc


    • Doc,

      I am with you on the .32 or .36 caliber black powder muzzle loader. I have wanted one for as long as I can remember. I would get a flintlock and find the cleanest back powder substitute now available. The small calibers foul pretty quick. I think one designed for slugs would be best. I wonder how some .32 caliber minie balls would work?

      A high quality stainless steel black powder squirrel gun would be nice. Don’t forget the double set triggers.

      Don


      • Don,
        I never owned a .32 or .36 cal muzzle loader. Only a .50 cal. I didn’t think of it getting “fouled” faster. I was thinking less powder, less fouling. I’ve read that people who own the .32 claim they are very accurate (round ball). I didn’t know you could get one in stainless. I’ve only seen pistols that way. Then again I’ve never seen a stainless air rifle but I know there is an HW-30 Stainless.

        Doc


        • Doc,

          I only have a 50 caliber rifle too. I do have a couple of 44 cap and ball pistols. I have heard others say the small calibers foul sooner, but I don’t have one. I have seen .45 caliber and up rifles in stailess steel, I don’t know about .32 and .36 but would want stainless if available.

          Don



            • B.B.,

              I did try scrubbing the bore a few times betreen every two or three shots when shooting in a BP club. It took all the fun out of it for me. I ended up lubing my patches with some type of black powder solvent/lube. That would get me through the three position match.

              It definitely improves accuracy to scrub the bore between shots. I guess it is like sorting pellets for me.

              Don


            • B.B.,

              Swabbies (US Army term for Navy Personnel) comes from the essential task of SWABBING the bore of a Black Powder Gun (Naval term for a Cannon) after each firing.
              Swabbies did not swab the decks of warships they holystoned them!

              shootski


      • Don,

        Black powder substitutes will not work in a flintlock. They don’t ignite. You have to load about 15-20 grains of black powder down the barrel first and then the substitute powder.

        Brent



  10. BB,

    I was thinking about Chris’s suggestion of using a rod for priming. It sounds like a good idea. If the rod/dowel was close to the inside diameter of the cartridge had a slight dome it would displace the primer into the rim.

    Guess that giving the rod a little twist would help move the slurry.

    Fun stuff eh?

    Hank



  11. B.B.,
    I give you a lot of credit for the time you are putting in on this series!
    Personally, I like the way things are shaping up for the Pyrodex reloads. I’m really partial to that stuff as that’s what I used in the muzzle loader matches I shot; and the reason I used it in matches was that I started going to matches as good practice for hunting, so I shot the same load in matches that I used to hunt – a .490 Hornady patched round ball with a .015″ patch over 70 grains of Pyrodex P (FFFG equivalent); this gave the best accuracy in my .50 calber Hawken replica. And the thing I love about Pyrodex is that I could shoot a 20-round match without swabbing the bore (I guess I’m getting old and lazy! =>). Pyrodex…love it!…and glad to see it working well for you here.
    Take care & God bless,
    dave


  12. Hi B.B.,

    First reply post here, long time reader. Your topics and thoroughness are outstanding!

    The reason for my post is that I looked at the picture at the top of the article. It stated that some of the cartridges needed to be fired twice. They all had one very defined hammer strike. Because of the one that had 2 attempts and there other 2 that had one attempt each with the same hammer strike signature, I figured those were made from your rifle. I wouldn’t exactly call those “rim crushers”, if you know what I mean.

    Thanks for you blog,

    Randy


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