Thursday, July 28, 2005

Handloading: Case Inspection and Prep.

Okay, we've got our shiny new (or ratty old used) loading press and we're ready to load some ammo. There are differences in the steps depending on whether we're loading bottlenecked rifle ammunition or straight walled handgun cases, we'll hit those differences later. Right now, it's time to inspect our cases. The inspection process is basically the same for new cases and fired cases, with the addition of a couple of things to look for in fired cases.

The first thing to look for is cracks and deep corrosion. Sit down under a good light and look over every case. If the cases are grubby dirty and have powder fouling all over, wipe them with a cloth with a little Hoppes Number Nine. Avid reloaders have case tumblers to clean and shine them up, others will use the Iosso case cleaning system, a chemical process. Look through the Midway Link on the sidebar for case cleaning options for later. We aren't there yet, let's not spend that money until a little later. We can load perfectly functional ammo with nothing more than wiping the cases down. You may get the idea to REALLY shine them up and use brass polish, instead. Don't. NEVER USE A POLISH OR SOLVENT CONTAINING AMMONIA ON CARTRIDGE CASES!!! Ammonia dissolves copper, a main ingredient in the brass case. Just clean the top layer of crud off, it's all you need. There are a couple different polishes made especially for those wanting shiny cartridges, don't bother. If you decide that you just love to make your own ammo, great. When you buy your tumbler down the line a little, your cases will be shining like a new dime. We're trying to get into this without breaking the bank, right?(Note: cases used with black powder require a different sort of cleaning, if you know enough to be loading black, you don't need this beginner's course.)

After inspecting for cracks look at the head of the case, the part where the primer goes. If it's a fired case, look to see if there is a smoky ring around the primer, if so, discard the case. It's been fired too many times and the primer pocket has stretched out to where it isn't sealing the pressure anymore, or has been fired with a load way too hot. Either way, don't just toss it in the trash, smush it with a hammer or vise grips first. Bad cases have an almost supernatural way of getting into the loading block. Smoosh it down, you don't want to give it a chance to rise from the dead. A wooden stake through it's brass heart is probably overdoing it, though.

Now in fired cases we want to check for what we call incipient head separation. This requires a very high tech piece of equipment...Straighten out a paper clip and sharpen one end with a file or even a handy piece of sidewalk. Now take the pointed end and bend it to an "L" shape, small enough to fit into the neck of the case. Stick it in, all the way down to the solid head and then drag it out. If the case is fixin' to separate, you'll feel the point catch in the internal crack. It is especially important in range pickup or other cases you've come by used. In ammunition fired in my own rifles I do a sample, one out of every ten or so. Look at the flash hole, make sure that it's not off center or, in range pickup, especially, those two little flash holes from Berdan priming. Either will break the decapping pin in your die.

Now is a good time to mention that it's a real good idea to keep each batch of brass together. Load the whole batch, whether that batch is twenty or a hundred. My system is simple as befits my mind. My cartridge boxes contain fifty rounds each. I keep each box together and that box is a single batch. They stay as a batch from the time I buy the brass new, until I throw the whole batch away when it's worn out.

Now it's time to size the brass cases. New or used, the cases first have to be sized. In handgun brass, use a carbide sizing die so you can avoid having to lube the brass, in bottlenecked cartridges we have to lube. Get some caselube, I use Imperial Sizing Wax, but RCBS, Lee and Hornaday, there are all kinds that work. Put a small amount of lube on the fingers of your left hand (if you're right-handed) and wipe it on the body of the case, avoiding the shoulder. Use a very little, a thin coat does it. Too much lube and you get unsightly dents in the case. Miss lubing and the case will stick in the die and that is a Major Pain, requiring spending more money. A thin, even coat is what we want While you're doing this, put a little lube on the casemouth too, just push the mouth onto the ball of your lubed finger or thumb. This will lube the expander ball of the die.

Now, you've adjusted the dies according to the directions, so slip the case into the shellholder and crank the handle of the press. Up and down. Pay attention to how much effort is needed. A case that is harder to size than the others just like it means that something is amiss, probably not enough lube but possible it's been stretched out from an overpressure load. Get a feel for how much pressure it takes to pop the used primer out, too. An unusually easy one can mean trouble. This is why I don't like range pickup brass, different brands of cases, fired in different guns means that the information I get from 'the feel' of the press handle is useless. Once we've sized our cases, wipe the lube off with a clean cloth. Lee and RCBS lubes are water soluble, use a damp cloth. Imperial Wax, a little lighter fluid on the cloth works just fine. (Don't use your wife's best dish towels)
Other than lubing, the pistol cases in the carbide die work exactly the same.

Okay, now that we've sized the case, we're ready for the next step, checking the case length. Each time the cartridge is fired, it stretches out some, then the die smooshes it back down to the original size. That brass that's smooshed has to go somewhere so the case lengthens a little, . When the case gets too long the neck is jammed into the chamber throat and it is unable to expand to properly release the bullet. This can cause even normally mild loads to give disastrous pressures. To avoid this we keep our cases trimmed and check the length. We usually use a dial caliper to measure case length. A good stainless steel dial caliper costs anywhere from twenty dollars on up. If money is tight you can delay buying one by buying a Lee case trimmer. This is a two piece affair. You buy the cutter and lock stud, for $4.39 and the (cartridge specific) case length gauge and shellholder for $3.59. You'll also need a chamfering tool, the cheap Lee works and it is only $2.69 in my Midway catalog Lee case trimmer can work by hand but it's much easier to chuck the thing in your electric drill. Way faster, too.

The way it works is that you take the unprimed case, put it in the shellholder and lock it down. The Case length gauge is screwed into the cutter, you stick the case length gauge into the mouth of the case, turn on the drill, or laboriously turn by hand, developing callouses on top of blisters, until the case length gauge hits bottom. It can't cut too much, assuming that you have the right length gauge in.

I have, and use, a much more expensive lathe-type case trimmer, it also reams and turns casenecks when I want to do that. I confess, though, that in the cartridges I shoot a whole bunch of rounds, I have a couple of the Lee complete sets of trimmers and lock studs. They're so fast when chucked in my electric drill that when I buy a batch of 500 .223 cases to last through varmint season I can start with them all trimmed to the same length much quicker than on the rig I paid over a C-note for with all the attachments I have. So, you'll eventually want a dial caliper and, probably a lathe trimmer but that cheap Lee will not only allow you to delay spending that money but even after you have, it'll still be handy to have.
After trimming, you'll need to chamfer the cases and deburr the outside. There are lots of tools for this, the Lee works and it's cheap.

Note. Case length is especially important in handgun cases and others that require the bullet be crimped. There is a minimum and maximum case length for each cartridge. This does not mean that we're cool with a batch of cases with lengths varying anywhere in that range. The case length affects the crimp and the crimp effects how efficiently the powder burns. In my beloved .357 magnum, for instance, the maximum case length is 1.290 inch. The trim-to length is 1.280 inch. Ten one-thousandths is a lot and makes a BIG DIFFERENCE in the strength of the crimp. The exact length within that range of ten thou isn't very important, what IS important is uniformity.

What I do is trim each new batch to length when I buy it (after sizing), I keep each batch together. After shooting, cleaning and resizing, I check a sample of the cases. As long as the sample isn't close to the max length, I just look at how close my sample is each to each other. As long as they don't vary by more than a couple-three thou, they're fine. They seldom do vary unless I'm shooting loads that are right at the red line.

Assuming you stay away from the red line you should be fine without a caliper, just use the trimmer every third time you load the cases.

Okay, we're almost done. All that is left to do is clean the primer pocket. I use the same little screwdrivers that came in the set I bought to keep the screws in my eyeglasses tight. (Nobody can truthfully say that *I* have a screw loose.) When we fire a cartridge some black crap gets left in the primer pocket, this is carbon. It's quite hard and will interfere with the proper seating of the primer. I just scrape it out with that little screwdriver. There are lots of tools made for cleaning primer pockets, I've used just about all of them one time or another. None works better than an itty-bitty screwdriver.

One last thing. Military ammunition used a crimp to keep the primer from backing out in full auto. Lots of us get once-fired military brass, either from dealers or pals in the service. Military brass that is crimped includes .308, .223. some old .30-06 and 9mm and .45ACP. If you end up with a batch of this good, strong brass, great. You'll need to get rid of the crimp, though. That Lee chamfering tool will do it. Just a couple-three turns. Do it by trial and error. Take about two turns, try to seat a primer, if it's still difficult, cut a little more. You want to kind of sneak up on it, cutting only just enough. Cut too much and case life suffers.

Next week...Priming. That will be shorter, praise the Lord.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Random Searches

We're seeing quite a little bit of argument on the utility of random searches to try to prevent, or at least minimize, the threat of suicide bombers on our mass transit.
Assuming that they are really random I question the utility. Rightly or wrongly, though, I would submit that these searches won't be truly random.

What we will actually see, I hope, will be the use of what was once called "the policeman's eye". By the time a law enforcement officer (LEO) has been on the bricks for a year or so (s)he develops a near-instinctive ability to spot someone 'wrong'. A good case in point is the capture of the Millennium Bomber by that lady customs agent in 1999. The guy was acting wrong. What she thought she had was a drug runner. Instead she broke up a serious attempt at a terrorist act. The guy was 'wrong', she knew that, she just didn't know why. Fortunately she was in a position where she had all the 'probable cause' she needed to question and search him based on that feeling. Most LEOs don't have that luxury, the rules on exactly what constitutes probable cause to stop and search, or even question, are pretty strict.

An LEO gets intimately familiar with the rhythms of the beat, who belongs, who doesn't. The eye is attracted to subtle cues of behavior.

These random searches will catch more than bombs. I can see bluesuits disgustedly flushing small amounts of dope down transit station toilets because an arrest won't be worth the paperwork. I'm curious as to how the public will react when the dragnet to catch terrorists catches the guy with a bench warrant for failure to appear on a traffic ticket.

It would be a simple matter if all explosives were of the type that the trained dogs can find. It would be expensive but within a year or so we could have bomb dogs everywhere. Unfortunately it ain't like that. So, we're going to have to rely on something else. How this redounds to civil liberties is a question far above my pay grade. It's not a question that the LEO's ability to spot someone 'wrong' is generic, mostly. The visual cues are not usually specific as to exactly what that particular person is doing.

I'm curious as to how the courts will view these searches. I'm also curious as to any better ideas.

We aren't going to lock up or deport every person in the suspect groups, nor are we going to require everybody to go round naked with transparant purses and backpacks. So, what are the options? How about making use of our LEO's eyes and instincts and then let the courts decide what to do with the non-splodeydopes they catch?

Sunday, July 24, 2005

That Explains Everything.

We now know that the feller who's head that the Brit Police ventilated, Jean Charles de Meneze, was Brazilian. That explains everything. As we all are well aware, Brazilians always wear heavy clothes during the summer, just see the women on the beach at Ipanema.

It turns out that police followed de Meneze from a house they had under surveillance in connection with the tube and bus bombings. The relatives claim that de Meneze spoke excellent English, so there is no reason for him to not have followed instructions.

I've seen a few people complaining that those Police Officers shouldn't have been in plainclothes and that de Meneze had reason to run from armed people. I don't buy that, it's hard enough to follow a suspect in plainclothes, virtually impossible in uniform. Especially with those tall hats that Brits wear.

Nobody, least of all the Officer(s?) that fired the shots, is happy about this, not even me. Even though I still think of this whole affair as a bit of Clorox in the gene pool, I don't really advocate the death penalty for stupidity.

I submit that there are a lot of unanswered questions about de Meneze's conduct. Let's start with what he was doing wearing a heavy coat and sweater. Why was he coming out of that building? Did he always wear those heavy clothes? Was he from that area of Brazil that I hear is filling up with radical Islamists?

I'm still thinking that de Meneze was, willingly or unwittingly, a decoy.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

London, Again, and Now Egypt.

In London the bombs didn't go off, in Egypt they did. The reports from Egypt are still too sketchy for me to have a clear picture, looks like a couple of car bombs plus a smaller one. One of the car bombs rammed into a hotel and blew up. It looks as if another car bomb went off right after a smaller bomb. This is an all-to-common M.O. a bomb to create an initial set of casualties then a bigger bomb to catch the rescue and security people. No definitive idea of who did it yet but I'd be willing to bet next week's grocery money that it wasn't a bunch of angry Lutherans. Maybe the Methodists?

I've a somewhat better picture of London. Seems that our brethren from the Religion of Pieces screwed the pooch. The explosive used, something called TATP is very unstable and difficult to store. If the TATP was left over from the 7/7 bombings it could easily have degraded in two weeks. It's also fairly easy to screw up the mixture, I'm told. At any rate the forensic people have a treasure trove of evidence now. That's good news. Forensics isn't my baliwick, I have a pretty good idea how to preserve a scene for others to process but I know enough to believe that evidence that didn't explode is more likely to be immediately useful than evidence that did explode. The security and intel people are going to learn a lot, how much they will, or should, share with the public is another question.

This much is generally known about TATP. It's made from widely available ingredients, ingredients that will raise no eyebrows if bought in nominal quantities. A small number of people each going to different stores can easily amass enough to make several very loud noises. Also on the plus side (from the spodeydope's point of view) is that the mixing it up, while quite dangerous, is fairly simple. I guess if one is planning on wearing it when it explodes, the risk in mixing it and making the bomb itself, once the explosive is made, is acceptable. Also on the plus side of the ledger for the splodeydope is that it's very difficult for the bomb dogs and explosive sniffer machines to detect. Keep this known fact in mind, it's the source of much that follows.

On the minus side of the ledger is that the stuff often makes the loud noise before the splodeydope intends it to.Those one-handed, or no handed 'clerics' and blind sheikhs weren't born that way. We could probably make a pretty good dent in the splodeydope population with a simple policy of shooting Muslims with blown-off or badly burned body parts on sight. 'Course we'd blow away a few who were just unlucky enough to have been in other sorts of accidents but it seems to make more sense to me than strip searching Norwegian Grandmothers. We saw the results of the other downside to TATP in the bombs that fizzled.

I'm sure the rational behind the searches of bags and backpacks in New York City, for instance, is a direct result of the difficulty the dogs and 'sniffers' have in detecting this stuff. Michelle Malkin linked to an article that explains just about everything it is safe to about TAPT. It's a website called Hyscience. I've bookmarked it and shall poke around some more in it. Lot of smart people out there.

I'm most gratified to see how the armed Police Officers took down that feller in the bulky coat yesterday. It seems that he didn't have a bomb, I'm wondering if he was simply stupid or a decoy. It's one or the other. Here's the deal. If the police think that they've a suicide bomber there's only one way for that suspect to avoid being shot full of holes, that's stop, show empty hands and follow instructions to the letter. You know that remote for your car door locks? How long does it take to work it? That's how long it takes to set off a bomb.

Imagine that you are wearing a badge and gun. You are close enough to that suspect for him to give you a Very Bad Day. There are also a bunch of civilians around and it's been drilled into your head since the Academy that it's your duty to protect them. Are you going to jackass around with him? Maybe get into a rasslin' match? Will anyone stand over your grave and admire your committment to civil liberties?

The splodeydope is causing a shift in the policies of police and security agencies. It is considered bad form for Officers to blow a suspect away without giving multiple chances to surrender, even to the point where there are serious complaints if the bad guy doesn't get the first shot in, often complaints when he does get the first shot. I'm thinking of that scumbag in LA that wounded a bluesuit while holding his baby daughter. The death of that baby was, and is, a tragedy. I know damned well that those Officers involved will go to their graves hating it. Thing is, it wasn't the fault of the Officers. Just what were they supposed to do with one of their own bleeding on the ground? The shame is that it happened fast enough to where they couldn't have one of their scoped rifle guys put that scumbag out of our misery with a nice clean headshot.

With the splodeydopes, all that has to go out the window. An Officer will have just one split second chance to stop the bomb from going off, if we get that chance at all.The onus MUST be on the suspect to stop, show empty hands and comply with all instructions. Period. There can be no confusion about this.

Here's a personal opinion about our policies. I think that it's madness to go around searching those afore-mentioned Norwegian Grandmothers while avoiding 'racial profiling'. We have a pretty good idea of who these splodeydopes are and they ain't Norwegian Grandmaws. There is only one thing stupider than that policy, those "I do not consent to being searched" shirts. It's pretty much a given that we all agree that it's only a matter of time before the splodeydopes start blowing up here. The argument between Left and Right isn't about "if". It's about why and whom to blame.

It's just a matter of time, too, before someoneon the Right, or the Left, decides to be a civil-liberties hee-row and wear a big coat in August, maybe along with a backpack with protruding wires and loudly proclaim his 'rights'. Good luck. Maybe all you'll get are those rights. and a few lefts, too. Don't try running, m'kay? Remember those five head shots.

I'm no fonder than anyone else about the idea of some stranger pawing through my stuff. I feel so strongly about it that I deliberately avoid, whenever possible, going where it's likely that some stranger would have occassion to do so. I'm less fond, though, of seeing body parts srewn haphazardly about wreckage. Been there. Done that. Got the vomit stained T-shirt.

It's a new era, our Police and security forces don't like it any better than anyone else. The dangers we're facing are real, not imagined. We'd cut down considerably on those dangers if Left and Right would agree to argue about taxes and welfare reform and present a united front about national security. Somehow I believe it would be far easier to solve, say, social security if as few as possible of us are blown up.

Carnival of the Cordite #23

The Carnival of the Cordite is up at But That's Just My Opinion.

Lot's of gunny goodness and an important WARNING TO HANDLOADERS. Seems that a batch of Alliant's Bullseye smokeless powder got put into the wrong eight pound cannisters. A small number (?) of eight pound cannisters of Unique Powder actually contain Bull. Using Unique data for Bull can easily result in a KABOOM! Lot numbers involved are 850, 859, 861, 868, 872, 876, 890, 898 and 907. Anyone having any of the eight pound cannisters of these lots should call 1-800-276-9337 or E-mail: reloading@alliantpowders.com. Thank you Mr. Completely. Those of you who have no idea what lot numbers are nor what Unique and Bullseye are, well, you don't handload ammo so don't worry about it. Unless, of course, you shoot commercially reloaded ammo. If you do, it might not hurt to make contact with the outfit that made those reloads and ask them if they're involved in that recall. The smaller commercial reloaders do use the eight pound cannisters, the really big outfits buy their powder by the drum. Of course the factories buy it by the boxcar load.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

The First Step In Handloading

We've gone over all the components of the cartridge, now it's time to think about assembling them into functional ammunition. The very first step is not to run out and spend a buttload of money buying equipment and components, though. Step one is to think about the following questions...

Am I able to follow simple directions without getting big ideas on "improving" them before I even know what I'm doing? It's my belief that anyone who can follow a simple recipe out of a cookbook and make a decent meal from it can handload safe and functional ammunition,

Is my lifestyle such that it is safe for me to have powder, primers and suchlike around? Will my kids, or stoned roommate stay out of my stuff? If not, is there a way to keep them out of it?

If the answer to both these questions is "yes" then every other difficulty can be solved, beginning with: Do I have space to work? Space for storage?

The next question is: What am I trying to accomplish with my handloads? Here I should explode the myth that handloading saves money. No one in history has ever saved a nickel handloading, we just shoot a lot more for the same money. At least it's the same money until we get one of the many derangements possible and find ourselves spending the house payment on that latest wonder bullet or shiny new toy.

We need to decide what we're trying to accomplish with our handloading before we buy the first piece of equipment. The best loading press, for making large quantities of inexpensive ammunition is not the best press for the guy, or gal, who wants to make ammunition for the top level of many of the various competitions.

What level of equipment can I afford? Do I know someone who can help me buy used and not get burned? If I do, will they help me get started? It's easier to learn anything if we have a mentor, a hands-on mentor makes it easiest of all but that mentor can also be in print or even on-line.

I'm going to work off a few assumptions in this series, they are as follows...

Golden Assumption: You aren't a chuckleheaded moron. All chuckleheaded morons should leave this site and not come back.

Assumption #1: Your goal in handloading is to get a sufficient quantity of affordable ammo that you can really shoot enough to really get good.

Assumption #2: You have a limited budget.

Assumption #3: You don't have a large workshop to devote solely to handloading.

Assumption #4: you'll be loading primarily handgun ammunition.

With those assumptions in mind, let's walk through our house or apartment. It's probably not a good idea for the homeless to try to set up their own little ammo factory. What we are looking for is space to set up a sturdy desk, table or bench. There should be room for a bookshelf or cabinet nearby for storage of components and equipment. This area doesn't have to be huge although as we go along we'll gather more and more stuff. What is imperative is that it be a low-traffic area. We can't leave our stuff where just anyone can mess with it, nor is it a good idea to try to load ammunition where there are a lot of distractions.

It is best if our bench, table or desk is used for nothing but loading, this is not always possible. If it isn't possible it's not an insurmountable problem, it's just a minor pain in the kazoo. We have to set our gear up and take it down every session.

In my opinion it is a mistake to permanently mount one's press to the bench. It's fine to do so if we have the luxury of a spacious bench and room that is used for nothing but reloading. I don't have that luxury of space, I may want to use my 'bench' an old schoolteacher's desk, for my turret press one day, my big, and expensive, Forster Bonanza Co-ax press the next, take everything off and clean guns, or set up my casting furnace and cast a thousand or so bullets.

Instead of mounting my gear directly to the bench, it's all mounted on pieces of plank ends scrounged from construction sites. Just go by a building site with a sixpack of cold cokes on a hot day and ask nicely if they've got some two by ten or twelve plank ends and you'll get more than you'll ever need. Each of my presses is mounted to the plank end and then C-clamped on the bench as needed.

Our very first purchase should NOT be a loading press or bench or anything of the sort. It should be a GOOD loading manual, preferably more than one. We should also take advantage of the library and even the 'net. Look on my sidebar, click Midway and go to the section on books and manuals. The Speer Manual is good, so are the Hornaday and Sierra Manuals. Anyone interested in handloading needs to have at least one of these, all three is better. Sit down and read the "how to" sections. Let the information settle in and then re-read them. Another good one is Dick Lee's Modern Reloading.

Be warned, here, all of the people writing for these manuals are in cahoots with a specific company For instance, reading the Speer manual will leave the impression that only Speer bullets, CCI Primers and RCBS loading tools will suffice. Now, RCBS loading tools are mostly pretty durned good and they've a warranty second to none. Yet any one piece of their equipment may not be the best for my purposes.

There are three types of bench mounted loading presses, the single stage, having only one station for the die and shellholder. The turret press has more than one die station but only one shellholder. The progressive press has a die station and shellholder for each different step of the process, the shellholders advance the cartridge case through each die.

The beginning handloader should, in my opinion, steer clear of the progressive presses. When the equipment is doing every step of the loading process at once it adds to the complexity and chances for error. An error in handloading can result in a destroyed gun and injury, or even death, to shooter or bystanders.

I'm not real fond of loading handgun ammo on a single stage press, either. Since I usually load one box of fifty at a time and a shooting session generally involves a minimum of three hundred rounds it's a pain switching dies every few minutes. A turret press eliminates that problem. Mike Dillon hadn't made the big breakthrough in progressive reloading presses by the time I retired from formal competition. I managed to keep a job as well as fire some thousand rounds per week to stay at the top of my game with a turret press. I even managed to spend ten minutes or so a month with the family.

Depending on the depths of your pocket, there are several good turret presses to choose from. The least expensive is the Lee. With the exception of a clunky, user unfriendly priming system the Lee is a good, serviceable press, I still load handgun ammo on one. The priming system doesn't bother me, I haven't primed a case in a press for decades anyhow. We'll discus that in more detail later in this series. I especially like the Lee setup with the powder through expander die where we drop the powder charge at the same time we bell the casemouth. The Lee Auto-disc powder measure is so inexpensive that I just use one per cartridge that I load and leave each turret set up. It takes less than thirty seconds to pop a shell holder and turret into the press to switch from, say .357 Magnum to .45 Colt.

The Lyman T-Mag press is a good one, I've never owned one but I've worked a couple belonging to friends. What I don't like about the Lyman is that it's difficult to change turrets. I like having my dies set up in spare turrets so I don't have to be constantly re-adjusting them. Still, if one only loads a couple of different cartridges, it's not a big deal. The Lyman runs about sixty bucks higher than does the Lee.

Next up in price is the RCBS. It's a very good press and the warranty is quite simple, if it breaks, they fix it or replace it. It's got a removable turret and the turrets are easily exchanged. If your wallet can stand the gaff, the RCBS is a darned good choice.

The Rolls Royce of turret presses just has to be the Redding. I've loaded ammo on a pal's Redding T-7 and it was a pleasure. If my paychecks had to be delivered by forklift, I'd own one.

Go over to the sidebar, click on Midway's site and poke around the metallic loading presses. Read the customer reviews, count your dollars and decide. Bear this in mind, though. There is NO difference in the quality of ammunition we can produce on a sixty dollar Lee press and a two hundred dollar Redding. I will go so far as to say that ninety percent of beginning handgun ammo loaders would be best served by the less expensive Lee. That is because some of you will decide handloading isn't your cup pf tea. More will like it but decide they want more speed and go to a progressive press once they've had sufficient hands-on experience. The value of a press on the used market is about the same as used toilet paper. It simply makes no sense to buy the most expensive press on the market if, in six months, one will spend three hundred or more dollars buying a Dillon Progressive.

Whichever brand you decide to go with be sure and buy the die set with the carbide sizing die for straight walled handgun cases. We don't need to be spending the time lubing cases and then cleaning the lube off the loaded rounds.

Look long and hard at the "complete" kits for one cartridge. I put complete in quotes because there is no such thing as a complete kit. I am aware of no kit that comes with everything we need. Some come with almost everything. Buy the RCBS, for instance and you get everything but the loading dies ands a case trimmer. Buy the Lee, you get the dies but no powder measure or case trimmer. Sigh. We'll talk about case trimmers next week when we discuss case inspection, preparation and sizing.

More London Explosions

Another four(?) explosions in London this morning, the reports are too scattered and confused yet to make much sense of it. So far, though, no serious casualties reported.

I'll be working today on my entry for Carnival of the Cordite so won't be adding my ignorance to the babble about London until a day or so later, when I have some idea of what happened. The big news blogs are all over it, anyway. See Michelle Malkin or the Puppy Blender for links.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Note To Self

Try to remember that if you have a paper cut on a finger, to put a Bandaid on that cut before pouring Black Powder. The mix of sulfur, saltpeter and charcoal doesn't seem to be much fun when a granule gets stuck into the cut.

That is all.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Another Fatwah From The Fatheads

In a rather interesting development it seems that some of our brethren from the Religion Of Pieces have declared a Fatwah demanding the killing of fellow Carnival of the Cordite contributor Chris in Phoenix. His Blog is titled Anarchangel.
The link, assuming I can get it right is here.

I've been following this a little and there seems to be a few different schools of thought. My friend Gullyborg, whom I've yet to meet in person, is taking this seriously. You can read his reaction here.

There seems to be another school of thought that this is a hoax. I don't believe that is the case, after all, a hoax would have a pretty short shelf life and, when exposed, would completely discredit Chris, probably forever. There is the possibility, of course, that the fatheads issuing this fatwah have neither the authority to do so nor means to carry it out. I wouldn't bet the farm on that, though It seems like just about the only requirement for the issuing of fatwahs is that some moose-limb has a grievance. I'm told that there is a minimum number of goats molested before one gathers the authority to issue fatwahs but I may be wrong there.

The third school of thought seems to be that Chris brought it on himself by desecrating a q'ran. I'm not inclined to either capitalize nor call it holy. From what I've seen Chris decided, when that phony Newsweak story about q'ran desecration in Gitmo came out, to show them some REAL desecration. At the time I thought it was kind of juvenile, but that's just me. Chris is fairly young anyway and one kind of expects that young folks would do juvenile things.

What I don't get is how these moose-limbs seem to think that it's fine for them to issue dire threats, and carry them out, every time their precious little sensibilities are offended. Every time I see the news, some moose-limb is offending me. I don't go 'round killing them, though I've certainly got the ability. I'd probably run up quite a little score before I was stopped, and not by the moose-limbs, either. We aren't at the point where ordinary citizens have to start a moose-limb eradication project, it is my hope that we won't reach that point.

I read an interesting piece by Lee Harris in Tech Central Station last week. Unfortunately I can't find the link, due to my well known status as one who is severely html challenged. In it, he declares that the "war" status is, perhaps, the wrong way to look at the fight between western civilization, or what's left of it, and radical Islam. Instead it's more a matter of a blood feud, a Hatfield and McCoy sort of affair. Or maybe the Crips and the Bloods. If anyone reading this (all three of you) can find that link and put it in the comments, I'd owe them one.

This may be an important distinction since the participants in a war usually have some idea of what they're trying to accomplish and will stop when they've reached their goals or figure out that they can't. Assume, for a moment, that I were King. No, don't curl up in a fetal position, it ain't gonna happen, just go with me here. I'm the King and I want to invade Mexico so I can control the Tequila Mines of the fabled city of Cuervo. The Mexicans defeat my army short of that goal and defend the Tequila Mine so well that my generals tell me that we'll never get there. Since the goal of my war is unattainable, I sue for peace and the war ends. The other alternative is that I win and Mexico sues for peace and learns to live without those fabulous Tequila Mines. One way or the other, the war is over.

Not so with a blood feud. There is only one goal in a blood feud, revenge. Each side has, as it's only goal, the killing of the other clan. A clan member doesn't have to be doing anything to be a target, he or she just has to be. Each attack adds to the feud and it usually goes on until one or the other clans is killed out. There's not a whole lot of possibility for peace because there are no goals but killing. The only way, short of death of one side or the other, to end a blood feud is for the moderate members of both clans to cast out the feudists. Failing that, the moderates must pick up the gun for, if they don't, they die.

Lee Harris' scenario is quite bleak. We so no effort whatsoever of moderate moose-limbs to cast out their feudists. This bodes ill for the moose-limbs for while their feudists are certainly bloodthirsty, they're amateurs when it comes to killing. It bodes especially ill for moose-limbs here in America, not only aren't they paricularly good at killing but they are a small and visible minority. The vast majority of Americans, myself included, have no hate for Islam and no particular love, either. What we do love are our friends and families, and our country. As long as Islam left us alone we were, and are, quite content to leave them be. Endanger my family, though and I'll do whatever it takes to stop you. If it were some of the Bloods threatening threatening my family and I didn't know which ones, everybody flying the red colors would be my enemies. And my targets.

This is the problem that the oft-heard of but seldom seen moderate Muslims face. The clock is ticking. Either they cast out their killers or, eventually, it will be too dangerous to let them live among us. When that day comes, if it comes, it would be well to understand that today's world is one where "among us" means on this planet.

UPDATE: 07/20/05. Please note that Harvey, the original Bad Example, found the link to the Lee Harris article. It's in the comments, the second one. Whether one agrees, or disagrees, it's an important piece and should be considered very carefully. While there is no one I agree with a hundred percent of the time, Harris has a first rate mind and a very good eye.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Primers, The Spark Plug Of The Cartridge.

The centerfire rifle and handgun primers are intricate and interesting little beasts. There are five different types available, Small Pistol, Large Pistol, Small Rifle, large rifle and .50 Browning Machine Gun. In the first four are also standard and magnum. The only difference between standard and magnum primers is that the flame from the magnum primer can be somewhat hotter and lasts a couple of gazillionths of a second longer. This helps in the ignition of large charges of powder, especially the ball powders which are coated with chemicals to retard burning. I know, coating the powder with something to keep it from burning seems counterintuitive but that's how they control the burning rates.

Large rifle and pistol primers measure .210 inch across, while small rifle and pistol primers measure .175.

An interesting historical fact is that two different people on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean invented the metallic centerfire primer at about the same time. The American,Hiram Berdan, invented a primer that require the anvil (more on what the anvil is and does in a minute) to be part of the cartridge case, eliminating the possibility of one central flash hole.

At the same about time a British Ordnance Officer, Edward Boxer, invented a primer that had an integral anvil. This made primer manufacture a little more complicated but simplified cartridge case manufacture. It also made handloading quite a bit easier,

In an interesting twist, the Berdan Primer, invented in America, is used in Europe and Britain while the Boxer Primer, invented in Britain, is used in the USA. This is primarily because the reloading of cartridges was very rare in Europe while very common in the US. Berdan primed cases are a major pain to try to reload. There are only two ways to decap a Berdan primed case, there is a decapping tool that like an old fashioned can opener, punches a hole in the primer and the handloader prys the cap out by using that hole. This, um, sort of works. Then there's the hydraulic method. Fill the case with water, put a tight-fitting rod in and rap it with a hammer. Water squirts everywhere and, after enough tries, the primer is pushed out. Do not try this outside in Wisconsin in the dead of winter. With it's central flash hole the Boxer primed case is easy to decap, a decapping pin in the sizing die pops it right out. Back in the day, a lot of foreign cartridges were only available in Berdan priming. Those cartridges were also expensive and hard to find. I've reloaded some of those, I hope to never do so again. Thanks to the size of the American market, even European companies like Norma, Sellior and Benoit and Lapua have shifted to Boxer priming.

If it weren't for handloading the Berdan priming system would be superior. The small size of the individual parts of a primer means that the fewer parts, the better. The two, or even three, flash holes in a Berdan primed case can make for more consistent and reliable ignition. It's not worth the hassle to the handloader, though.

The Boxer Primer is built from several different parts. First is the cup, that's the outside of the primer, a stamping of thin, fairly soft metal, usually brass, that contains everything else. Next is a very small amount of explosive. This explosive has changed over the generations. The first used was Mercury Fulminate. This was very effective with Black Powder. When smokeless came along the shooters of the day discovered discovered a major problem, the mercury attacked the brass of the cartridge case. Black powder left so much residue behind that it diluted that mercury so much that it was harmless.

The ammomakers searched for a replacement and found Potassium Chorate. The drawback to the Potassium Chlorate is that it leaves Potassium Chloride, chemically very much like salt, behind. This salt is hygroscopic, meaning it attracts moisture. This causes rust. In the old days this didn't matter, shooters were used to black powder the residue of that is just as prone to cause rust. As the memory of black powder faded shooters stopped cleaning their shootin' irons with soap and water. The solvents and oils used did nothing to wash that salt out of the barrel and shooters wondered why their barrels rusted. Meanwhile, military shooters knew to use water and their bores remained in good shape. American military ammunition continued using these primers up into the 1950s as they had to be concerned with long storage. As a youngster I shot a lot of surplus ammunition with such priming. My WW2 veteran mentors taught me exactly how to prevent rust along with stories of what did when water was short. In my youthful imagination I envisioned some eight million soldiers all peeing down their barrels in formation.

Eventually we settled on Lead Styphnate as the explosive. All American commercial ammo has been loaded with this priming since the 1940s, military ammo was phased in as the ordnance types became comfortable with these primers ability to work after decades of storage. This explosive, and the fuels that extend the flame, are all non corrosive now, nor do they attack the brass in the cartridge case. However, some foreign ammunition, especially military surplus, is still corrosive. If there is any question at all, err on the side of caution. Water is cheap. Just run a half-dozen or so sopping wet patches through, a couple of dry patches and then clean normally. Save peeing down the barrel for real emergencies.

In addition to the explosive Lead Styphnate, there is fuel and oxidyzer involved. Then there is a thin piece of foil put in. Then a little three legged anvil is put in and the whole affair is covered in shellac to waterproof it. In my youth these coatings were somewhat iffy. Handling primers with the slightest bit of oil on the fingers would kill them. In the last few decades the primer manufacturers have made great strides in oilproofing them. A couple of years back, in response to an argument on a shooting bulletin board I used to frequent, I conducted an experiment. I took a batch of primed cartridge cases and poured various things into them, enough to soak through the flash holes. I then left those cases for a week, and put them in my revolver and popped them off. I used WD-40, Remington Gun Oil, Three In One Oil and Kroil, a penetrating oil. Every one popped. This is by no means a definitive test, I only used one size and two brands of primers, Federal and Winchester Small Pistol. It is an indicator of just how far the technology has come since I was a boy. Naturally these advances came along after I got priming tools that eliminated the need for ever handling individual primers by hand. Even so, I like those tools, they're faster and more precise.

The difference between rifle and pistol primers is chiefly the amount of priming compound and the hardness of the cup. The rifle primer cups are thicker and stronger than in pistol primers, primarily because of the higher pressures involved. There are very few applications where one can safely use pistol primers in rifle cartridges and vice versa. About the only one that is widely accepted is in a cartridge like the .22 Hornet. Some specialty cartridges, the .454 Casull Magnum for instance, is made for the small rifle primer. I think I remember reading that the .500 S&W is also a small rifle but don't bet the farm on that.

When messing with primers one should bear in mind that a primer is the only part of a smokeless powder cartridge that is explosive and the only thing that is designed to pop by an impact. The packaging of primers is specifically designed to protect from such impacts. Primers should be kept in the original packaging until used. I'm aware of one case where a feller decided that he wanted to keep his primers protected from moisture so he dumped several thousand in a mason jar. He got away with it for quite some time. Eventually, though, it caught up with him and a bunch of them exploded while he was pouring some out of the jar. Didn't kill him but between broken glass and pieces of primers, well, he just wasn't very good looking anymore. Avoid jackass stunts, too. I know of a kid who wanted to hear some bangs so he set some primers on a concrete floor and whacked them with a hammer. They popped all right and the little anvil of one primer went into his cheek, just below the eye. Went right down to the bone, too. An inch higher and he would've been wearing an eyepatch. There used to be black dust that was escaped priming compound found in the tubes or trays of the various priming tools and, if we let it build up, became a danger. I haven't seen that dust lately, probably the same advances in water and oil proofing keeps the priming compound where it belongs. Still, if you see dust building up on your priming tools, clean it off with a damp towel or something.

Changing primers in a load can have an effect on pressure, velocity and accuracy. Usually we see minor pressure and velocity changes and they aren't always predictable. I have a pal who did extensive pressure and velocity testing on the .30-06 cartridge, testing dozens of loads with the same cartridge case, bullet and powder charge, changing only the primer. He saw no changes in pressure that would render a load unsafe unless that load was already at the red line. I keep my loads away from there anyway. If we are shooting a max load and want to try a different primer, back off and work up to max again. I don't have pressure testing gear, I have to work off visual signs and measurements of the fired cases so I do one last step to see if a load is safe. I load a very small batch and shoot it, reload the case and shoot it again. I repeat this until the primer pocket gets loose. If I can't get AT LEAST a half dozen loads out of a case, that load is too hot for long term use. I'd rather have more, like ten.

Well, that's about all I know about primers worth telling and probably far more than most people want to know. Next week we can begin exploring how to put all these parts together.

Update...after posting this I realized that I never explained what the anvil is. It's a little piece of metal shaped like the DANGER! RADIATION sign, that sits at the very top of the primer. The lead styphnate explosive, along with the fuel and oxidyzer is crushed between the cup and the anvil when the firing pin hits. A close look at a Boxer primer under a lottle magnification shows us that the 'feet' of the anvil stick out just a tiny bit past the cup. When we prime a case it gives the anvil a good solid base to resist the blow from the firing pin. That also serves to pre-stress the priming pellet, the mix of explosive, fuel and oxidyzer, increasing the sensitivity.

I also failled to mention the new lead-free primers for use in indoor ranges. These are, at present, only available in certain types of factory ammunition. The people who make them say that they won't be available to ordinary handloaders for the forseeable future as they require loading techniques that aren't available to us. Some indoor ranges do not allow lead bullets because they aren't well enough ventilated to keep the lead exposure to the range personel at a safe level. Since many of these ranges are police training ranges, owned by governments, instead of fixing the ventilation systems, they decided to blame the ammo makers. Typical. Since the lead-free ammunition is quite a bit more expensive than standard lead bullet reloads, it would be cheaper to simply install some decent ventilation systems. I remember the days when police practice ammo was reloaded, the work being done by trustees in the jails. Since petty criminals are rarely magna cum laude types this might remove some of the aura of difficulty and danger surrounding handloading.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Sometimes I Kill Snakes, A Lesson For Islam

I don't usually kill Rattlesnakes when I see them, unless they're in the yard or some place where kids or my dogs play. I'm too fat for a rattlesnake to eat and unless I'm hunting, I make enough noise moving around in snake country to where they have plenty of time to avoid me. Rattlesnakes aren't all THAT aggressive, they won't bite something too big to eat unless, in their tiny reptilian brains, they feel cornered. I wouldn't ever kill them if not for the fact that kids and dogs can get into an accidental confrontation. I dislike killing anything without reason. The rule on rattlesnakes is that when I'm in their habitat I leave them be, they need to stay out of my habitat. If they don't, too bad for them.

Cottonmouths, on the other hand, will go out of their way to bite, even something too big to eat. They are the reason that the first round under the hammer is a shotshell. When I kill a snake it's not out of hatred, I actually think snakes are kind of cool. We don't have any giant anacondas or humongous boa constrictors so I leave non venomous snakes be, even in the yard. My rule is a simple one with snakes, if they aren't dangerous to me or mine, they go about their snakey business unmolested by me. If they are dangerous, I kill them. Without hatred, without anger and without regret. While I will kill the snakes that endanger me or mine, I'm equally aware of the role they play in nature. Kill them I will, though.

I am hardly unusual, most people living in snake country have more or less the same policy. The days of the indiscriminate killing of any snake seen are pretty well gone. Mature adults judge the danger and act accordingly. People living in Coral snake country learn to tell a venomous coral snake from the harmless, and beneficial, King Snake. There is a little rhyme..."Red touch yella, kill a fella, red touch black, friend of Jack". This rhyme refers to the stripes on Coral Snakes and the harmless other kinds of stripey snakes. If the red stripes touch the black stripe, it's a non venomous snake. Red and yellow, it's venomous. Don't ask me who Jack is.

Here's how this relates to Islamic terrorism. Snakes are easily recognizable. I can tell a venomous snake by sight. Most, like the Rattlesnakes of my home range, have a peculiar head shape. Others, like the Coral snake have a distinctive color scheme and there ain't nothin' but a Cottonmouth that looks like a Cottonmouth. The trouble with Islamic terrorists is that they have no such distinctive appearance. If they did, it would be very easy to root them out. They don't have a distinctive head shape, nor color scheme. This is how they manage to present a danger. Unfortunately they don't just present a danger to us Infidels. There was a time, before we learned to differentiate between venomous snakes and harmless ones, snakes, of any kind, were killed on sight. If there was no easy way to distinguish the harmless from the venomous, they still would be.

My father's generation did not have the precision weaponry of today. In order to stop the German armaments industry they destroyed whole cities. Same with the Japanese. We slaughtered hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians to break the backs of the war machines. It worked. We, knowing that the vast majority of those we killed were not our targets, accepted the useless slaughter in order to destroy those targets.

I'm told that only a small minority of Muslims have any interest at all in the cause of the Islamists. I'm further told that few, indeed, share the goals and the hatred. The problem is, the (allegedly) vast majority of Muslims who neither share the goals or support the methods of the Islamists, do little or nothing to distance themselves from this small minority. They do little or nothing to expel and expose this supposedly small minority. This needs to change, and soon. History is replete with the ashes of the innocent who allowed evil a place to work. Hamburg. Berlin. Shwienfurt. Tokyo. Nagoya. Hiroshima. Nagasaki. That list could go on. Every major city in Germany and Japan lay in ruins. The ashes of the guilty mixed with the innocent.

The young men who unleashed this terrible destruction did not hate, they did not revel in the deaths they caused. Americans and Britons did not dance in the streets nor pass out sweets to children after the firestorms of Hamburg. It was a grim, distasteful and dirty, not to mention dangerous, chore.

Today the clock is ticking. The Islamists are trying hard to find a way to deliver something more powerful than a handful of conventional-explosive bombs. More destructive than wide-body jets. When they do they will unleash a destruction the likes of which haven't been seen since Carthage. We, in the West, will eliminate the Islamists, Islam will be the collateral damage. We won't be able to take the risk of allowing the supposed peaceful majority to survive. I wish the Islamists hiding in America, plotting to kill my children and grandchildren, had the distinctive head shape or peculiar coloration that would allow me to tell them from the majority of peaceful Muslims. They don't. The time is coming when I shall be forced to choose between the safety of my children and the collateral damage of those peaceful Muslims I would have to kill to eliminate the Islamists they allow in their midst.

The Bin Ladens are looking at the wrong examples of history. They look at Somalia instead of Dresden. They look at the USS Cole instead of Nagasaki. They forget what we do when our very lives and way of life is threatened.

The clock is ticking. The choice belongs to that majority of peaceful Muslims. I pray they choose wisely.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Cartridge Case. Our Gas Tank.

Since I have nothing useful to add about the London bombings I shall merely continue with my online exploration of the cartridge. Once we explore the components we'll take a look at how we can make our own ammunition.

The humble cartridge case is the heart of the art and science of handloading. It is the fuel tank, it's an envelope that holds everything together, it's a gasket to keep the pressure from the powder gases from going in undesired directions and it's a jig to keep all the other components in the right alignment to work together. The non-handloader tends to forget that last, the factory worries about alignment so (s)he doesn't have to. I shall discuss alignment in detail when we get into 'how to' part of this series.


Cartridge cases are classified by their priming system, centerfire and rimfire. Rimfire cases are, once fired, scrap metal, they cannot be reloaded. Their rims are folded with a space between the folds. The priming compound is then dabbed in as a thin paste and they were spun in a sort of centrifuge to get the goo into the rim, allowed to dry and then loaded. The factories may well have figured out a more efficient way to do this since I studied up on it as a boy. It doesn't much matter, even if they have I still can't reprime them, nor can I iron out the dent from the firing pin. One of the biggest makers of handloading equipment, Buzz Huntington, got his start making the equipment to turn those fired .22 cases into bullet jackets. When I was a kid varmint hunters still made their own bullets with them. Huntington called it the Rock Chucker Bullet Swage and the company is called RCBS.

It is the centerfire case that interests me, it's the one I can do something with. Centerfire cases are further classified by the method used in controlling headspace. This is a very important word, headspace, I shall lift the definition directly from the glossary of my Speer Manual #13.

Headspace: the distance from that surface of the barrel or chamber that prevents the cartridge from moving further forward into the chamber, to the face of the breech with the action fully closed and locked. This is the most important dimension governing the safety of the shooter. In handloading the combination of cartridge case and firearm must be considered when talking of headspace. To a handloader, few guns need have excessive headspace, since he can adjust the case to fit the chamber, even though the chamber may have excessive headspace when measured by SAAMI standards.

We'll discuss this more, also when we get into the how to part, right now it's enough to know that there are four main ways that we control the headspace, by the rim of the case, by the shoulder of a bottlenecked case, by a belt near the casehead and, in most autoloading pistol cases, by the mouth of the case. We only have a few thousandths of an inch to play with in this, too little and the cartridge doesn't allow the action to close and lock, too much and the firing pin won't reach the primer. Or worse, it reaches the primer allowing the cartridge to fire, yet enough of the brass is unsupported by the steel of the gun to get a KABOOM! The shooter should keep this in mind, the brass of the cartridge case itself is not strong enough to hold the pressure of a high intensity round if not supported by the steel of the firearm.

The rimmed cartridge is the easiest headspace system to visualize, drop the cartridge into the chamber of a revolver and the front of the rim stops it from falling all the way through. Rimmed cartridges are used in revolvers, single shot and lever action rifles and, of course, all rimfires. The rimmed cartridge case would be the only type needed except for the box magazine. The rimmed cartridges don't work particularly well in them. The length of a rimmed cartridge is not particularly important, allowing us to shoot .38 Special cartridges in a .357, for instance, unless it gets so long that it either won't chamber or, worse, will chamber but is jammed so that the caseneck can't expand to release the bullet normally. This causes pressures to skyrocket and had been the cause of more than a few KABOOMS!

The advent of smokeless powder actually brought us the rimless cartridge. The velocities that smokeless made possible made our modern sharp-pointed bullets useful. Sharp pointed bullets and the tubular magazines of the day weren't (and still aren't) a good mix. So most every military in the world went to box magazines, sharp pointed bullets and rimless cartridges, everybody but the Brits. They insisted on sticking with their rimmed .303 and using the difficult to manufacture and oddly shaped magazine in their Lee-Enfields. Headspace on rimless cases is measured from the head of the case to a point on the approximate middle of the shoulder called the 'datum line. A bottlenecked case is the easiest in which we can adjust for a rifle with out of spec headspace in a process called fireforming. The term rimless is actually a misnomer, there is a rim, there has to be to give the extractor something to grab. The rim simply doesn't stick out past the body of the case.

The belted cartridge is simply an attempt to make a rim that will work in the box magazine. We can blame the belted case on Cordite. Cordite, for some reason that if I ever learned I've forgotten, didn't work particularly well in cases with a fairly sharp shoulder angle. Perhaps it was simply a matter of it being long strands. At any rate the belt worked reasonably well in magazines and fairly well to stop the cartridge where it was supposed to. The only cartridges I'm aware of that need that belt are the original Holland and Holland numbers. The trouble is that the wildcatters of the twenties to fifties seized upon those H&H cases because they had more room for powder than the standard cases of the day. Thus the belt became a symbol for power and we are just lately getting away from them. In a modern, sharp-shouldered case the belt does nothing but add expense. Savvy handloaders ignore the belt and adjust their loading dies to headspace on the shoulder.

Rimless straight-walled (mostly) handgun cases headspace on the casemouth. Instead of a gentle angle like a revolver the chamber has a little 'shelf' that stops the case. The person handloading for the .45 ACP and the 9mm Luger should pay special attention to the case length. As the case expands on firing and is squoze down in resizing it will tend to lengthen. If it lengthens too much it will prevent the slide from going fully into battery. In most autoloader this just means a failure to fire. Beware, though, some can fire. When that happens the butt end of the case is unsupported, the high pressure gas blows through the comparatively weak brass and blows the magazine and grips to pieces. Considering that one is gripping those grips at the time, that's not fun. Fortunately(?) it's not common for autoloading pistol brass to last long enough to stretch to the danger point. Between the ejector grabbing it and tearing up the rim and it getting thrown out in the weeds, we don't usually get that many loads out of those cases.

I won't go into detail about how a cartridge case is formed, a description of the process would add more than I've already written. It's quite a process though. Most people don't realize how many operations it takes. Nor do we realize that through a combination of work hardening and annealing the mouth of the cartridge case is considerably softer and more ductile than the head of the case.

The cartridge case is the most expensive part of the cartridge, some uncommon cases can cost over two dollars each. Other cartridges, not all of which are from the 19th Century are no longer made and the only way to get ammunition for the firearms is to make them, starting with the cartridge case. Often they can be made from another case fairly simply, sometimes it's a very laborious process.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Friday, July 01, 2005

Help! Beeswax Wads In Black Powder Cartridges.

My first attempt at loading black powder cartridges in the .45 Colt was a mixed affair. They all went BOOM! The accuracy wasn't too bad but the grooves in the bullets don't hold enough of the SPG lube to keep the black powder fouling soft enough to where the cylinder of my revolver will turn after a few shots. I haven't heard of the winning shooters in the Cowboy Action Matches having to stop and take their shootin' irons apart and clean the face of their cylinders in the middle of a stage. Seems I should be getting at least a full gunfull before the cylinder starts dragging.

I've read that a 'grease cookie' placed between a beeswax over-powder wad and a card wad under the bullet will cure the problem. So, I've ordered a block of beeswax but the trouble is, I know nothing about working with the stuff. Here are my questions...
I just melt it in a double boiler and then pour it into a cake pan to get a sheet, right? How thick? Is there anything I have to do to keep the beeswax from sticking to the pan? Do I need a layer of wax paper or some of that dry silicon spray that people use on candle moulds?

It looks like all I have to do is take a thin sheet of beeswax, small enough to be able to handle, press it over the charged case, using the case like a cookie cutter and then push it the rest of the way down with the same little piece of dowel rod that I push the card wad down, then put the glob of bullet lube in, add the card wad and seat the bullet.

Is there anything I'm missing? I mean besides the good sense to use smokeless powder and avoid the whole mess?