Baboon Pirates

Scribbles and Scrawls from an unrepentant swashbuckling primate.

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Location: Texas, United States

Monday, June 01, 2009

Adventures In Reloading

Still With Ten Fingers And Two Eyeballs!

We should have filmed it for YouTube... We'd rush to the top of the comedy charts! It's... Laurel and Hardy Reloading!!

Yes, it was Reloading Day for El Capitan yesterday, where I went to simply dip my toe in the waters of metallic cartridge reloading, and ended up mired in sludge up to my kneecaps.

OK, maybe it wasn't that bad, but I've got a LONG way to go before I reach any kind of proficiency in reloading ammo.

I wandered up to northwest Houston Sunday to procure two bottles of gunpowder from 10-Ring, then moseyed over to the Cisco Kid's place to set up the progressive press for a batch of .45 Long Colt. The Cisco Kid & I went halves on a Lee Loadmaster press and all the assorted gadgets needed to make ammo, and he had already reloaded several hundred rounds of 9mm ammo, and had the press mostly figured out.

With the assistance of some online videos, we managed to get approximately 312 little tiny fiddly bits bolted into place on the press, and after much griping and gnashing of teeth, got the automatic powder measure worked out before we blew up his living room.

In theory, reloading is simple. Put a bunch of cleaned cases in the feeder tubes, and yank the lever. The cases auto-feed into the shell plate, go into the decapping die, and the old primer is removed. Each pull on the lever advances the plate, and the case is primed, then filled with a set amount of powder, then the bullet is seated, then crimped, and finally it dumps out into a hopper.

In reality, things are a bit different. F'rinstance, the auto feeder needs to be jiggled every time you go to a filled case tube, or the case goes in cattywampus. Then, the primer seating mechanism beshits itself on a random basis, either squeezing in a primer sideways, injecting a primer into the feed chute bass-ackwards, or failing to prime altogether. The powder measure seemed to work OK, and threw reasonably consistent charges. We couldn't get a setting for 5.5 grains of Trail Boss powder, and had to settle for 5.2 grains. It should still get the bullet down 4 5/8 " of barrel!

Most of my fired cases were overlength by a (#*%hair, but they crimped OK, and the overall length of the cartridge was within spec. The dozen or so that miked a bit long, we ran back through the crimp die, and they shortened up to under the max length.

We had some issues with primers not seating deep enough. I think that was due to my not getting enough arm into the lever action. The Cisco Kid's got these long gibbon arms, and was able to give it enough ooomph to make it work. When he mounts the press on the custom frame he's building, it'll be tall enough I can make it work reliably.

We quit for a dinner break, and that was perhaps a mistake, since it broke the rhythym. One of us had turned off the powder feed before leaving, and when we sat down to load the last 20 or so rounds after dinner, we were merrily chunking away at the press and had no clue we were loading "blanks". I didn't discover this until I had dumped those 20 rounds into the box full of loaded rounds, and went to flush out the measure. Ooops....

So, it'll be a long evening measuring each round, setting aside the ones that weigh 5.2 grains less than the average and pulling the bullets. There's also going to be some variation in weight since I used 5 or 6 different brands of brass, so odds are I'm going to have a squib load at the range, and have to pound a bullet out of the forcing cone!

Despite all the hiccups, I'm reasonably sure I've got 175+ rounds of .45 Long Colt ammo to feed through my six-shooter. I don't have a breakdown of cost per round yet, but compared with a retail price of $40 for 50 rounds, I'm way under that. I've got to factor in the cost of the press & tools, but this first batch looks to cost somewhere in the 10-12 cents per round range. I had the bullets & cases, just needed powder ($14.99/9 oz, used approx 3 oz.) & primers ($45/1000). Next time, I'll have to purchase bullets, and that will raise the tariff a bit, but it's still more economical than paying retail!