Stop and PUT ON SAFETY GLASSES!
STEP 1 - Size the case: Put the brass case in the 'sizing die'. You'll need a mallet with a plastic end for this. I've tried it by putting a piece of wood between the die and the hammer, but it's a pain so don't even bother. Go to Home Depot and buy one. I found that hammering on a table vice or a chunk of steel is much easier that hammering on a flexible surface like wood. I've been living in my house for ten years, and last week when I was going through some old cubby holes in the basement, I stumbled across a perfect block of steel to hammer on. The guy who used to own my house made wine here and had a press in the basement. This looks like part of it. It's been recruited into service on my reloading table.
STEP 2 - Seat the primer: Pick up the 'priming chamber'. It's a cylindrical gizmo with a screw in one end. It has 2 functions; the first being to set the primer into the brass case. Put the priming chamber on your working surface with the silver disk facing up. Now take a primer and drop it into the hole in the center with the flat side down. I'm using Winchester WLP large caliber handgun primers.
Turn the die over so the side with the back of the brass case is facing down. Place the die on top of the priming chamber. We are now going to hammer the case down onto the primer to the primer fits into the back of the brass case. There's a steel rod that comes with the kit called the 'priming rod'.
Put the rod into the die (or 'body') and let in sit over the primer. This will seem a bit scary the first couple of times, but it's no big deal after that. It the rod about 5 times until the case starts coming out of the die and the primer is pushed into the case so both the base of the case and the primer are flush with each other. You'll likely need to pick it up and examine it, then put it back and hammer it some more until it's seated properly. You quickly get the feel of this and it will be 3 whacks and it's in. This step works MUCH better if it's done on a solid surface such as a table vice or a slab of steel. The more solid the base, the easier it is to feel the primer seat into place. You really can't feel it if your work surface is flexing. You might want to wear leather gloves for this in case the primer blows. I had one go off in 120 cartridges, and I believe it was my error since it was during my first 50. It made a bang that no one upstairs heard and made my fingertips black. Don't put your face over the case when hammering, just in case.
Step 3 - Remove the case from the die: Once the primer is flush with the case, get the 'decapping chamber' that's in the kit. It's a cylinder with a hole on the middle. It allows you to hammer on the cartridge without the primer coming in contact with anything. Now put the die with the brass case in it case down, resting on the decapping chamber. Now put the Priming rod into the case as you did when you set the primer and dive it a few whacks with the mallet. The case will fall out of the die and will stay in the decapping chamber.
Now put the die back over the brass case. notice that one side of the die has a ridge circling the tube. That's the crimping end, so keep that side up and put the die once again over the case.
To double check this, I put one 1.30cc scoop of powder on my scale (thanks again for the scale Dirk). Instead of the weight being 19.8 grains, the scale reads 21.1 grains. That's a moderate load at 1700FPS with a 200 grain bullet, but with a 265 grain bullet it's in the range of a maximum (and possibly dangerous) load. Maximum load is 22.1 grains; only 1 grain difference.
Next I weighed the contents of the 1.0cc scoop, which the chart says holds 15.2 grains. The scale read it at 15.4 grains, which is close. 15.4 is halfway between 14.8 (the minimum load) and the next load up - 16.3 grains. That sounds like a good place to start, so I'm going with that. The moral of this story is DON'T TRUST THE LEE CHART. Use a scale to verify the Lee figures.
I find it interesting that the larger the bullet, the smaller the amount of powder is required. Example: here's 3 bullets using the same powder. Note the bullet size and the powder required to achieve a starting load:
200 grain bullet 19.7 grains of powder at 1600 FPS
240 grain bullet 17.2 grains of powder at 1400 FTP
265 grain bullet 14.8 grains of powder at 1200 FTP
Big bullets travel slower and require smaller powder loads to stay safe. Keep this in mind.
Now that we know how much powder to add (one level 1.0cc scoop), put the decapping chamber on the table with the primered brass case sitting in it. This assured that no matter how much you hammer on the bullet, the primer has only air under it. Now slip the body or the die over the case. The case now fits the die so well that when powder is dumped into the die, it only falls into the case and nothing falls to the sides onto the table. Now fill up the yellow scoop with powder, then take a business card and run it across the top of the scoop so the powder is level and not piled over the scoop. Don't pack down the powder!
I find it's easier to pour the powder from the bottle into a soft plastic container such as a cottage cheese container. That way you can dip in the scoop and keep it level as you pull it up and out. Now carefully pour the scoop of powder into the die so it pours into the brass case.
I've found that it goes faster if I set all the primers at one time, then load the cases. You'll also have a bunch of primered cases ready to go if you want to quickly make a new load. Keep your cartridges in a plastic case made specifically for that caliber. You can find these boxes wherever reloading supplies are sold. Most hold 50 rounds. Be sure to label the box with the bullet type and weight, type of powder used and the amount of powder. Now have fun comparing one load to the next at the range to see which load works better for your firearm.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Regarding underloading W296
Here's some great info from Kevin on a question I posted for him (see my previous post):
Mike just got a hold of me about your concern for W296. W296 is identical to Hodgens H110 which I use. H110 was sold by Hodgen when they didn't own Winchester Powders...if you look at the load charts they are identical. only difference is that on volume H110 is .00005 gr less... A safe rule of thumb is to never load less than a standard reduced load to start. Reduce load is generally 10%. H110 and W296 can build up some heavy pressures when the case load is reduced too much. Remember, Heavier the bullet the less the powder volume... your Lee 1.3 dipper loads 19.8 grains which is above the reduced load limit of 19.35. You're fine even if your COL is a little long. Just double check if your unsure and seat your loads at or slightly below the COL.
From what I remember, you must be loading around a 270 gr bullet right? anything lighter you need more powder in H110 or W296. you will notice that they make more noise...
If you were loading an OLD 44 mag, I would say don't get close to the starting load...just in case. with a modern firearm you should be fine even at the starting load.
270 GR. SPR GDSP Hodgdon H110 .429" 1.600" 19.5 1502 29,300 CUP 21.5 1637 37,700 CUP Rifle load
270 GR. SPR GDSP Hodgdon H110 .429" 1.600" 19.5 1295 29,300 CUP 21.5 1421 37,700 CUP Pistol load
270 GR. SPR GDSP Winchestr 296 .429" 1.600" 19.5 1295 29,300 CUP 21.5 1421 37,700 CUP Pistol
FYI ... Reduced loads are some times used to reduce the recoil of a round but it doesn't always work that way. I think the warnings are more to keep someone from under loading a round to help a new shooter or one that is afraid of recoil... We're Men, we can handle a teenie ol 44 Mag. Reducing loads can also be used on ammunition that is not rated to velocities that max loads would push them. XTP mag loads are designed to handle the stress. plain lead could deform from a heavy load and would not be accurate at longer distances. Hope that helps. -Kevin
Friday, March 13, 2009
Important WARNING on Winchester 296 powder
I just purchased a Lee measuring cup kit, and it comes with a sliding measuring calculator. Printed on it there's a notice not to use Winchester 296: "Do not use powders that cannot be reduced such as Winchester 296". "Wonderful", I thought. I just bought a container of it last week and loaded 25 rounds. What does 'cannot be reduced' refer to? Does that mean that you can't create a load with less than the minimum load? Are these rounds safe to shoot?
The chart says that the 1.3cc scoop that comes with the 44mag Lee classic loader kit equals 19.8 grains. According to my reloading manual, the minimum load is 16.1 grains and the maximum is 23.8. That puts me a bit on the low side but somewhere in the middle. I shouldn't have to worry about the load being too low, but you should be aware of this info.
I wrote Lee about it yesterday and I just received a response from their tech department: "My understanding of that warning is Winchester 296 is sensitive to reduced loads. If not enough pressure is developed, 296 will not burn completely or even squib, in which it is possible to stick a bullet in the barrel. If you didn't notice it and tried to fire another cartridge this could obviously create a dangerous condition." I'm guessing this would only be a catastrophic problem in a semi-auto pistol, because I can't imagine shooting a squib in my lever gun and not knowing it. In a semi, you could do a double-tap and have the second round blow the gun apart in your hand. I'm sure it would be a major problem to have an underpowered bullet get stick in the barrel of my rifle, but it shouldn't be a life-threatening failure. I sure wouldn't use it in any firearm that cycles quickly, which could even include a revolver.
Monday, March 9, 2009
Some reloading observations
As you know, I'm new to reloading as you might be, so as I come across something that works for me I'll pass that info onto you. I have 100 rounds that I need to reload after last week's shoot, so yesterday I hammered out the primers all in one step. This is my new method of production line assembly. Instead of reloading the cartridges one at a time, I'm doing each step 100 times. It requires that I juggle tools less and allows me to get into a rhythm. When I'm doing something messy like lubricating the cases, I only have to wipe my fingers off once instead of 100 times.
Trying a heavier bullet
I loaded another fifty 44 magnum rounds yesterday which exhausted my bullet supply, so after work I had to pick up another 100. I was hoping to find 240 grain Hornady, but could only locate 265 gr. That's OK because the load is similar. Using 1 Lee scoop of Accurate #9 (equal to 17.5 gr), I'll be very close to the center velocity in the chart which is 17.7 gr = 1400 FPS. That's 200 FPS slower than the 200 gr bullet I was shooting... or maybe not. Don't forget that I was loading those cartridges light, so the velocity might not be all that much different. I'll be using the same amount of powder since the 200 gr bullet required a minimum of 19.7 gr and I loaded them light at 17.5 gr. That could have brought the velocity down to around 1400 FPS, which would match the 265 gr bullet. This cartridge is going to kick butt when it meets a coyote.
A New load and a range date
I've been spending about an hour a night for the last three evenings learning to reload. The more I do it, the faster and easier it becomes. I've discovered tonight that I don't need to lube or flare these new cases, and that's saving me seconds per round. I wasn't trying to race against myself, but developed a natural rhythm which makes the process move along faster and easier. They're taking somewhere around a minute per cartridge, so I decided to turn the camera on again to show you how simple the process is. If you're not reloading you really should consider doing so. Especially for expensive rounds like the 44 magnum.
Bought reloading components for the 44 magnum.