Suitable tools for reloading are furnished by the Ideal Manufacturing Company, Smith & Wesson, and the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. These usually consist of one or more combination tools, with which the various operations may be performed with rapidity and precision.
In reloading ammunition the one thing to be borne in mind above all else is uniformity. No matter how excellent may be the quality of the powder, or how perfect the bullets, if there is any variation in quantity, size, etc., the results will surely be irregular and disappointing. The bullets should be of the same diameter and weight, the mouth of the shells of uniform size, the powder accurately measured, and all the details in the operation of loading each shell should be as nearly identical as it is possible to make them.
Shells that have been loaded with black powder will corrode very rapidly if not properly and promptly cared for. The primer should be extracted from the shells as soon as practicable after firing. The shells should then be immersed in hot soap-suds and stirred around briskly until thoroughly washed. If it is desired to brighten them or to remove corrosion, add one tablespoonful of sulphuric acid to each quart of suds. Rinse the shells in two clean boiling waters by agitating them as before, and then dry them by exposure to sunlight or mild heat. Intense heat will draw the temper of the shells and ruin them.
If the shells were originally crimped they will have to be opened with the tool so as to admit the bullet without shaving off or abrading its surface. The Ideal Manufacturing Company can furnish a special plug, screwed to the tool, by which the primer may be extracted and the mouth of the shell opened in one operation, the tool automatically releasing the shell from the plug, thus making the operation of opening the mouth of the shell rapid and easy. In the case of smokeless powders the cleaning of the shells is not so important, but is desirable, as some of the powders leave a sticky residue which interferes more or less with the reloading process.
After the shells have been cleaned and dried the new primers may be placed in position. In doing this be sure to seat them firmly on the bottom of the pocket and below the surface of the head of the shell. This will prevent misfires and premature explosions.
The measuring of the powder charge is the most important detail in reloading ammunition. There are several devices to measure powder that are convenient and fairly accurate.
The usual method is to measure the powder with a charge cup that is supplied with the reloading tools. A quantity of the powder should be poured from the can into a small box and the charge cup dipped into it and rilled. With a thin lead-pencil tap the cup lightly two or three times on the side to settle the powder uniformly. If the powder settles below the top of the cup dip the cup into the powder again and fill it, being careful not to tilt the cup so as to disturb the powder already in it. Strike off the powder in the cup with the pencil and pour it into the shell. By measuring the powder in this way and verifying it by weighing each charge in a delicate balance, a high degree of skill may be acquired in a short time. Ordinary revolver charges should not vary more than one-tenth of a grain in weight.
The charge cup method is preferred by many in measuring smokeless powders, as some varieties, being coarse grained and light in weight, are liable to form large voids. Such voids are invariably corrected when the charge cup is tapped and the powder settles.
After the desired quantity of shells has been primed and charged with powder, the bullets, properly lubricated, are started into the shells by hand and then one by one the cartridges are placed in the reloading tool, which seats the bullet and crimps the shell.
In reduced black powder charges, when the bullet is seated below the mouth of the shell, the tool should be adjusted so as not to crimp the shell.
In loading cartridges in which the shells are not crimped on the bullets, it is very important that both the shells and the bullets should be absolutely uniform in size, so that the fit, and consequently the friction, of the bullets in the shell will be the same in all cases. By reloading some of the shells oftener than others or with different charges, the expansion of the shells will vary and the bullets will fit more or less tightly. Such ammunition when fired will vary in elevation. It is well to begin with new shells using the same load in them and reloading them the same number of times. Even with the same charge and under apparently identical conditions a few of the shells will expand differently. This variation will, however, be readily discovered in seating the bullets with the tool. Cartridges in which the bullets seat with greater or less effort than the average should be carefully separated from the rest and not used when fine shooting is required.
In reloading ammunition with spherical " round " bullets the neck of the bullet should be up, opposite the powder side. In this position the neck is always in sight, and any turning of the bullet so as to bring the neck on the side and in contact with the barrel will be apparent and can be corrected. All round bullets should be at least i/iooo of an inch larger in diameter than the bottom of the grooves of the barrel. This causes them to deform slightly on the circle of contact with the barrel, and creates a narrow cylindrical surface around the bullet, securing a better bearing and greatly increasing the accuracy. It also insures the tight fitting of the bullet in the shell, preventing it from being displaced by the recoil. If round bullets fit loosely, or if there is the slightest imperfection in the bullet where it comes in contact with the shell or the barrel, " gas-cutting " will result and hot lubricant is liable to pass by the bullet into the powder charge. In either case the accuracy is impaired.
When round bullets are used, the lubricant must be applied after they have been seated. This can best be done with a small brush. The brush is dipped into melted lubricant and then passed around the bullet where it is in contact with the shell. Too much lubricant is undesirable. At least three-quarters of the surface of the bullet should project above the lubricant. By keeping the lubricant at a constant temperature, the quantity adhering to the brush will be approximately the same and the results uniform.
In reduced loads, when black powder or " bulk " smokeless powder is used, the bullets may be seated so as to just touch the powder charge; never so as to compress it. When " dense " smokeless powder is used, a suitable air space must always be provided. This is necessary both when round or conical bullets are used.
With all forms of conical bullets and when using either " dense " or " bulk " smokeless powder, in full or reduced charges, better results are invariably obtained by seating the bullets in the regulation position and crimping the shells moderately and uniformly on the middle of the front band of the bullet.
Ammunition for automatic pistols may also be reloaded by hand, but there is much less economy than in reloading other ammunition. When the full charge is used, a metal-cased bullet is required which must be purchased from the manufacturers. Reduced loads with lead bullets will operate in some of the pistols only. An overcharge of powder for a lead bullet will lead the barrel and is liable to cause difficulty with the mechanism, and accidents. Only experienced persons familiar with the operations of loading the rimless shells and whether or not the arms will operate with the charges they propose to use, should attempt reloading this ammunition.
Himmelwright, A.L.A.. Pistol and Revolver Shooting. New York: MacMillan, 1922.
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