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    • #24219
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      Advice from Lupi Di Cavatore, cross posted by permission:

      In places where center-fire rifles, handguns and ammunition are heavily regulated, shotguns are easier to obtain. Modern rifle powders, rifle and pistol primers are virtually impossible to get legally in places like Mexico or Brazil. Components for shotgun reloading, i.e. powder, shot and shotgun primers may be more likely available without resorting to the Black Market. Resourceful hunters, farmers and outdoorsmen can load metallic cartridges using simple, expedient methods used during the Great Depression and which are still common throughout the Third World. There are four basic considerations which must be met:

      First, the powder must ignite safely and generate uniform velocities at low loading density, given the large free airspace resulting from using small charges in a typical rifle cartridge case. Pistol or shotgun powders ignite easily and burn uniformly under such conditions and present to no serious issues for this purpose. In particular, shotgun powders used in 12-ga. and 16-ga. field or target loads are very well suited for loading most pistol and revolver calibers, as well as for assembling small game loads in “deer” and military rifles. Whenever using shotgun or pistol powders, due caution is required to determine a safe and suitable powder charge.

      Second, reduced powder charges must safely and reliably expel the bullet from the barrel. Salvaging rifle powder recovered from pulled-down, full charge military or sporting ammunition is a different breed of cat. Ignition will be erratic if the bullet weight is much less than in service rounds, particularly if a reduced powder charge fills less than 2/3 of cartridge case capacity. A fired 7.62x39mm case filled up to its mouth with typical military rifle powders makes a good dip measure to assemble “low recoil, medium velocity” ammunition for the .303 British, 7.62x54R, 7.62mm NATO, .30-’06 or 8mm Mauser, using either gaschecked cast or pulled down jacketed bullets. Such cartridges will produce energy similar to the .30-30 or 7.62×39 and are suitable for home defense and most hunting, while conserving your rare and expensive factory loads. A .357 Magnum or .30 M1 carbine case used similarly produces lower power 5.56 or 7.62×39 rounds approximating .22 Hornet or .32-20 ballistics for small game shooting.

      (My buddy who once lived in South Africa frequently found caches of 7.62×39 ammunition in the bush, but had no rifle of that caliber listed on his FAC. His drill was to pull down the “illegal” prohibited ammo, saving the pulled bullets in one can, and the salvaged powder in another, using them later to assemble .303 ammo for his licensed Enfield to shoot Impala for biltong. Primed 7.62×39 cases were cooked off in the campfire, later taken into town and sold a scrap dealer. Steel cases were worth almost nothing, but brass ones were valuable enough to buy primers used to reload his .303s! A 7.62×39 case cut off at the neck served as a dip measure for loading .303s with pulled 123-grain 7.62×39 bullets turned around BACKWARDS so that they would expand! Accuracy was good enough to 50 metres to kill camp meat for biltong).

      Third, the reduced power cartridge must still have sufficient power and accuracy to improve upon the accuracy and effectiveness of a pistol. The purpose of the reduced power, low noise, low recoil rifle loads are for discreetly foraging game without attracting unwanted attention, and for home or farm defence or guard purposes to reduce the risk of collateral damage in settled areas. Intended effective range is 25 metres or more. In the best case, a “Cat Sneeze” round can dispatch small game for the pot in almost complete silence from a rifle-length barrel is suitably accurate to kill marauding feral dogs, coyotes or foxes out to 50 metres!

      Finally, the “Hard Times Hunter” must load very cautiously, such that even an inadvertent “double charge” is not sufficient to blow a primer, rupture the cartridge case, cause hard bolt opening or escape of powder gases, which could injure the shooter, permanently damage a rifle or in the worst case, “blow it up!”

      The key to exploiting salvaged powder, is to be both frugal and careful. The best reduced load powders are recovered from pulled down misfired shotgun or pistol rounds. Use the minimum powder charge which ignites reliably and expels the bullet from the barrel, producing acceptable short range accuracy to kill small game. Listen for a uniform report and check the bore if a shot does not “sound right” or if you do not observe the bullet strike. Subsonic loads with lead buckshot or pistol bullets of suitable diameter, or plain-based cast lead bullets without a gas-check, using the minimum charge producing good accuracy fit the requirement.

      Reduced RIFLE loads using metal JACKETED bullets attain about 300 m/s (980 fps), and revolver or pistol ammunition 230 m/s (750 fps) to be confident of reliable bore exit, so that you need not worry about lodging a bullet in the barrel. Soft lead, lubricated bullets have much less bore drag and can be loaded as slow as 200 m/s (650 fps) and exit either rifle or revolver barrels reliably, while producing very low noise. When assembling “Cat Sneeze” loads great care is required to prevent inadvertent double charges! Use a powder measure and visually inspect every case with a penlight ensuring no accidental spilled or double-charges.

      Exploiting improvised materials and using primitive loading techniques were common because dirt poor peasant farmers and poachers had to “make do.” Doing so was common practice in postwar Europe and still is in much of South America and Africa. When ammunition and reloading components were scarce during, and long after WW2 in Europe, frugal hunters, big game loads were improvised by opening bird shot rounds, remelting the lead and crudely casting buckshot in fisherman’s lead sinker molds, then inserting them and reclosing the shell. Poachers blended and combined all gleaned, salvaged powder from multiple sources together. During wartijme this witches brew included black powder taken from artillery igniter packs, smokeless powder recovered from misfied .22 rimfire, 9mm, 7.65mm or .45 pistol rounds, swollen paper shotgun cartridges and even 81mm or 60mm mortar boosters!

      (These days we weigh test charges based on listed data using a fast common powder, such as Bullseye, and then check with a chronograph!)

      Weighed powder charges carefully gleaned from disassembled 12-ga. or 16-ga. shotgun shells served as a baseline for estimating useable charges for most common sporting and military rifle calibers. A typical 12-ga. charge used in old-fashioned paper shells assembled with card and vegetable fiber wadding, as was common before about 1960 was 1.5 grams (23 grains) of a fast-burning flaked smokeless powder similar in composition and burning rate to modern Vectan, D20 or GM3, Cheddite Granular, Red Dot, Green Dot or 700X. In modern plastic shells using one-piece plastic wad columns, the equivalent charge is 1.2-1.3 grams (18-20 grains) of a denser spheroidal powder similar to Vectan AS, Cheddite Drago, TiteGroup, W231, or WST. A powder widely salvaged by postwar Europeans was obtained from US 60mm mortar shell boosters, a Hercules flake powder, called “Infallible,” being very similar in burning rate and composition to modern “duck load” powders such as Unique, Universal, Herco, PB, or WSF.

      During wartime a poacher would conduct simple empirical tests with a battlefield pickup rifle, and fashion a dip measure from an empty 9mm pistol case. The rifle would be tied to a tree, a LONG string attached to the trigger, then from a safe distance the careful and timid poacher would wait for a thunderstorm before jerking the lanyard! If the gun made a satisfying BANG~!, the bolt opened easily, the case looked normal and the primer didn’t fall out, it was a “good” load and it was then time to load five more rounds to go look for camp meat to bring home!

      1/4 of a 12-ga. charge works well for a “Cat Sneeze” load with lead bullets in typical “deer rifle” calibers, and as a full-charge load for large caliber handguns such as the .357 and Magnum, .44-40 or .45 Colt

      1/3 of a 12-ga. charge will reliably expel a standard weight jacketed bullet from the bore of a .303 British, 7.62x54R, 8mm Mauser or .30-’06. This volume should not be exceeded in weaker rifles like the Lee Enfields, converted Vetterlis or ’88 Mauser Commission rifles.

      1/2 of the 12-ga. charge makes a heavier jacketed load for strong-actioned rifles such as the Mosin-Nagant, Springfield, ’98 Mauser and modern sporting rifles, approximating .32-40 Winchester ballistics in the 7.62 NATO, 7.62x54R, .30’06 or 8mm, or a mild smokeless load for large bore hunting rifles using lead bullets in cartridges such as the .348 Winchester, .35 Whelen, .375 H&H, .444 Marlin or .45-70.

      A fired .32 ACP cartridge case makes a dip measure which throws about 6 grains of Bullseye, 6.5 grains of 231, or 4.2 grains of Red Dot which are safe and satisfactory minimum small game loads with standard weight jacketed bullet for small capacity military rifles from the 5.56, and .300 Blackout to the 7.62×39. These light charges work great for low noise “Cat Sneeze” loads with soft lubricated lead bullets in the 7.62 NATO, 7.62x54R Russian, .30-’06 or 8mm Mauser. Very light charges might not reliably expel jacketed bullets, so check the bore if anything sounds abnormal or you don’t see the impact. A Brownell’s Squibb Rod turned onto a Dewey cleaning rod and tapped lightly and persistently with a dead blow lead hammer is the safe way to remove a stuck jacketed bullet, after flooding the bore with Kroil.

      A fired 9mm Parabellum case makes a dip measure which throws about 8.2 grains of Bullseye, 7.5 grains of Unique or Granular Cheddite, 7 grains of Hodgdon Universal or 10 grains of Vectan GM3, TiteGroup, WSL or WSF. These powders are best for loading reduced loads with jacketed bullets in cases of 7.62 NATO, .303 British and larger.

      To load lubricated lead bullets use the same 9mm dip measure to drop about 7 grains of PB, 5.5 grains of Red Dot, 6 grains of 700-X or Hodgdon Clays, or 6.5 grains of Herco, for subsonic, lead-bullet “Cat Sneeze” in the 7.62 NATO to .30-’06 and 8mm Mauser.

      To reload fired Berdan cases for reduced loads, the firing pin indent of the fired Berdan primer cup is drilled entirely through the solid web of the cartridge case using a 50 Gage (1.8mm) drill. The hole drilled in the primer cup then carefully is enlarged with a 6 gage (5.2mm) drill, taking care to not remove metal in the web of the case, other than any radius remaining of the Berdan primer “anvil” formed in the case head.

      If all you have are large pistol primers, these can be safely used in very light rifle loads, instead of rifle primers. Indeed, the thinner cup of a pistol primer gives an indication of pressure, because if a pistol primer flattens, punctures or leaks in firing a reduced rifle load, you know that you have used too much powder! If you went too far with the 6 gage drill so that standard rifle or pistol primers fit too deep or loosely, all is not lost. Convert the case to use shotshell primers, which may be more common in some places, by running the 6 gage drill entirely through the case web. While supporting the interior of the case with a piece of pipe, swage the primer pocket to shape using a cone shaped mandrel made from the shank of a # 14 flat head wood screw to reshape the pocket to accept a 209 size shotshell primer. Select a screw whose shank is of full dimension, then cut off the threads. With a patience and practice you can chuck the remains of the screw in a hand drill and radius the cutoff end with a bench grinder. This takes some fussing, but you only need to make one. To use the mandrel, insert a short piece of pipe into the new hull and drive it over the mandrel with a hammer. Whack it hard enough to allow a new shotshell primer to seat flush with the base of the hull. Fired cases reloaded with shotshell primers are easily deprimed using a piece of ¼” rod and a mallet.

      (Cases converted to use shotshell primers can be used safely only with light loads below 1500 fps, never for full charges!)

      Bulk lubing of cast bullets or buckshot is done most easily using Lee Liquid Alox. Dilute scarce commercial lubes with equal parts of mineral spirits or paint thinner to make it go farther.
      You need very little bullet lube in subsonic loads. A practical expedient bullet lube is to dissolve dried up odds and ends paste floor wax or shoe polish in equal parts by liquid volume of mineral spirits, tumbling on the same way. In casting buckshot or light bullets for low velocity loads you do not need or even want hard alloy. Any soft scrap lead you can scratch with your thumbnail which casts well is fine.

      A frequent question people cask involves loading buckshot for “Cat Sneeze” loads. Common US 00 or British SG buckshot is nominally .33″ diameter and is too large to load in .30 cal. rifles unless it is sized first. Unsized it works fine in the typical 8mm Mauser. To improvise a .30 cal. sizing die take a 1/2″ thick piece of aluminum, brass or mild steel plate. Drill a 1/4″ pilot hole entirely through the plate, then enlarge the 1/4″ pilot hole in stages successively with a 9/32″, M or N letter drill, then finally with a 5/16″, nominally .3125″. Then countersink, deburr and polish the chamfered hole with emery cloth. I recommend drilling a 3/8″ hole through your bench top and then attaching a threaded jar lid with matching hole under your work bench.

      Position and C-clamp your improvised plate sizer die over the hole, lightly oil your buckshot, drop them one at a time onto the countersunk hole, and smack each through with a 5/16″ punch and a plastic hammer into your storage jar. This works for .32 pistol bullets too! A 5/16″ hole works fine for .32 ACP, S&W Long and .32-20.

      US 0 or Italian 10/0 buckshot is about .32 inch and fits snugly in a fired .30 cal. case neck. They usually chamber easily IF your seating die reduces the outside case neck diameter to about .340″ or so. 0 buckshot works very well in .32 revolvers and pistols and in “near .30 caliber” rifle cases such as the .310 Cadet, .303 British and 7.62×39 or 7.62x54R.

      US #1 or British Special Sg buckshot is nominally .30 caliber, but due to loose tolerances on buckshot, may be too small to effectively take the rifling. If too small to fit tightly into the cartridge case, smack it lightly against a steel plate with your plastic hammer, then run it through the sizer die to make little lead “hockey pucks” which can be stacked in pairs in a .30-’06 or 7.62×54 case, or loaded singly in the 7.62×39, .303 British or 7.62 NATO.

      I recommend 0 buckshot for assembling small game loads, using the buckshot straight out of the bag as-is. If all you have is 00, run it through a .311″-.313″ sizer die first.
      A dip measure fashioned from a .22 Long Rifle fired case throws about 3 grains of Bullseye, 2.8 grains of Unique, 3 grains of Bullseye, 3.2 grains of 231, Hodgdon Universal, or HP38, or 4 grains of Vectan AS, TiteGroup or WSL. This represents about the minimum powder charge which reliably expels a buckshot reliably from a rifle barrel in larger cases such as the .303 British, 7.62 NATO, 7.62x54R, .30-’06 and 8mm Mauser. It makes a quiet and effective, good short range small game load for use within 25 yards. The same charge can be used safely in small rifle cases such as the 7.62×39, and .30-30, but will be a bit louder.

      You can safely substitute soft lead .32 pistol or revolver bullets of 100 grains or less. A heavier lead or any jacketed bullet, may “stick” in the bore when attempting “Cat Sneeze.” Lightly oiling the bore, then removing the excess oil with one dry patch reduces risk of this.

      To load buckshot simply, decap your fired cases with an icepick. Reprime by placing a fresh primer open face up on a clean, flat steel plate, centering the primer pocket over the primer, GENTLY tapping the primer in by inserting a 1/4″, non-sparking brass rod through the case neck until it rests against the inside solid web of the case head, (or ¼” ID pipe if using shotshell primers), urging the primer into its pocket with a few light taps of a plastic hammer, until it is flush with the case head.

      Use needle-nosed pliers to gently reshape any dents in the case mouth, until it is round. Use a countersink turned with the fingers to gently inside deburr the inside wire edge of the case mouth. Solder an empty .22 LR case onto a bent copper wire to serve as a powder measure.

      Measure powder charges by pouring about ½ cup of powder at a time into a small coffee cup or jar, filling the dip measure by pushing it down into the powder and letting the powder flow into the measure of its own weight, by gravity only. Slowly raise the measure up over the mouth of the jar, then strike the powder level across the top of the measure with a pen knife, razor blade or card. Then carefully pour the measured powder charge into your primed case. Start the sized buckshot into the case mouth with your thumb. If necessary, place the case head against a block of wood and gently tap the buckshot flush with the case mouth using your plastic hammer. Smear any available fat, grease, wax or tallow over the ball to fill the gap between the case mouth and the radius of the seated ball. This lubricates the bullet. Also smear a thin film around and over the primer to waterproof the cartridge.

      If your rifle is sighted in for full charge hunting or military ammunition, try the buckshot load using the same sight setting at 50 feet. If you can hit a bottle cap at 50 feet with that sight setting, you are done.

      It is common for very light loads to hit “low.” If sight adjustment is needed to hit your target, raise the rear sight a notch at a time and then try again. A realistic accuracy expectation firing typical milsurp rifles with iron sights is a to hit a wine cork or bottle cap at 20 metres, a Bega cheese tin at 25 metres or a 500ml Lager can at 50 metres. Scoped hunting rifles will do much better! My scoped Mosin-Nagants are good enough for silent 100 metre, 10cm five-shot groups or better, with either buckshot or cast lead .32 ACP bullets with nearly silent Cat Sneeze loads , using 500 metre sight dope for full charge jacketed loads.

      While the Lyman 310 tool is traditional, recommended for modern users, is the Lee hand Press: See also:

      You-Tube demo here The Lee hand press uses standard 7/8-14 threaded dies and common shell holders, so that you can use dies which you may already have. It has ample leverage to full-length resize pistol cases and smaller rifle cases. The 9mm, .45 ACP, .357, 5.56mm or 7.62×39 brass size relatively easily. While .30-’06 brass fired from an M1 can be resized on it, doing so takes significantly more effort. However, the Lee hand press is an affordable starter-outfit, well designed for its task. A complete portable kit with dies, primers, powder, bullets, small loading block, etc., stores in a .30 cal. ammo can, or WWII GI gas mask bag, thrown over the shoulder or attached with a snap-link onto your wilderness ruck.

    • #24261
      • Bronze
      • Posts: 7
      • Comments: 74
      • Overall: 81

      Thanks for posting. Lots of good info here. Hopefully I never have to use any of this info, but it is good to know.

    • #24265
      • Gold
      • ★★★
      • Posts: 187
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      • Overall: 615

      Good Post
      – too bad the guy in S Africa didn’t know he could move the primers from 7.62×39 over to modified 303 cases – same process that Larry put for conversion of 7.62x54R to small rifle primers just don’t delete the center post – toughest part would be making a two prong berdan primer removal tool to save the little beggers.

    • #24266
      • Gold
      • ★★★
      • Posts: 208
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      • Overall: 2660

      This is a brilliant post.
      Moved to Brilliant solutions and STUCK.

    • #24427
      bullet maker
      • Bronze
      • Posts: 12
      • Comments: 76
      • Overall: 88

      Lots and lots of good and useful information.

    • #24439
      • Bronze
      • Posts: 5
      • Comments: 81
      • Overall: 86

      I keep a minimum of 8 jugs of Promo in my SHTF powder magazine. (One advantage of living in the boonies is you can securely store large amounts of powder and primers without worrying about “regulations”) It can be used for 12 ga loads of all types, all my pistols and pistol caliber lever actions, and for reduced loads in the .30 cal center fires. It is a “cheap” powder and I paid as low as $70/8 lb jug a few years ago.

      We will face shortages again. NOW IS THE TIME to put up powder and primers if you have not already done so. You may not have the ideal powder for all your WANTS, but you should select suitable powder(s) for all your NEEDS!!


    • #24549
      • Silver
      • ★★
      • Posts: 21
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      • Overall: 245

      I read an article about reusing primers in Siberia years ago. They would cut the white dot off of match sticks and mix a paste, then put a dab into the primer cup after stamping the fireing pin dimple out with a punch. You had to use the strike on anywhere matches, not the strike on box ones.
      There was a thread on the CBF awhile back about Ammonpulver powder:
      “the range of proportions that prove useful are from about 80% ammonium nitrate and 20% charcoal, to 90% ammonium nitrate and 10% charcoal. The chemically balanced equation gives very close to 86.96% ammonium nitrate and 13.04% charcoal (87% and 13% are close enough)”

      I think I’m going to print off a hard copy of both articles and put in my load binder.

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