Monday, July 13, 2015

More .38 special .357 Magnum wet pack tests

What was supposed to be another weekend full of shooting matches turned out to be half a weekend of shooting matches and half range work as the rain here in NW Ohio has made a lake out of the range we were going to be shooting 3 gun at so I helped at our home range with a work day. Made up another block of phone books to soak over night and thought I would test some more .38/357 bullets as well as .500 S&W and a 30/30 cast load.

First off all the .500 S&W factory loads kept veering off course inside the books and blowing out the sides. got one really good mushroom. Did not penetrate as much as you would think but expansion helped it slow way down and leave a large cavity in its wake.

Factory Hornady .500 S&W bullets (350gr starting I believe) 

Next I wanted to test some souped up .357 hallow point loads I've touched on in a previous post. 125gr cast HP bullet exiting a carbine bullet going ~2000fps. I didn't think the bullet would hold up but it did and retained all its weight! 

2000 fps loads flanking the slower .38 special load I covered in a previous post. Same bullet.

Top view of souped up .357 magnum 125gr load.
 Next I wanted to test a 173gr keith bullet coming out of my carbine at  a unknown velocity (greater than 1100fps though) the bullet performed very well, penetrating far into the stack of wet phone books, well over a foot and a half. The re-swagged jacketed bullet shown at right below did not deform at all surprisingly. This bullet was experimental and will not be used for anything other than plinking.

R:124 gr 9mm swagged to .357 fired into wetpack shows no deformation, C: 173gr keith fired into wet pack R: unfired Keith.

Last I wanted to see how my 30-30 loads with 34gr of Reloader 15 and a Lee cast flat nose 150gr bullet performed out of my newly rebuilt 94. at this point I had pulled the phone books apart to recover previous pistol shots so sucessive bullets wouldn't damage future specimens. I had about 20" of good phone books left and wasn't enough, my 30-30 loads blitzed right through the whole stack as if it were butter. Sooo I will revisit that particular test next time I head to the range with wet pack and test more bullets. The more I learn about bullet performance and design the more I see how gimmicky some of these bullets being offered by the big companies really are. Dead is dead.....can't make anything more dead. And a good shot can do a lot with any bullet, a bad shot will just piss off an animal with a top of the line bullet if not placed correctly.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Experimental 9mm swagged to .38 special bullets

Anybody who has frequented the range for various matches or just practice more than 3 times a week starts to pick up a LOT of brass and sometimes "duds" or dropped live rounds. As a rule of thumb I never try duds in my guns as they could be bad reloads etc... But the bullets are still good. I have a good size box full of 9mm bullets I've pulled from range dropped  ammo and "duds". I don't really shoot 9mm a whole lot but I do have swage dies for  to make .357 diameter bullets for use in my .38 special/.357 mag. Just for grins I dropped some standard round nose 124gr fmj in the dies with a SWC  type nose punch. The noses don't form fully because of the jacket but I do get a interesting wadcutter with a nipple type projectile. They are purely just for plinking in my revolver as they do not feed in the bolt action. I could try seating the wadcutter part flush and that might work but like I said these are just cheap fun as I don't shoot FMJ bullets often. 

9mm projectiles swagged for use in .38 special, Center round is factory .38 Special round that I picked up at the range.

7/12 Update- Shot a few of these into wet pack and had zero deformation and a lot of penetration. Interesting performance considering its a "junk" bullet and seemed to perform better than a regular round nose.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Home made powder dippers :or: Lee dippers don't do half sizes

While working on a project I came across the "want" for a powder dipper that threw EXACTLY 4.2gr of Red Dot. I have a powder thrower (the lyman 55) that can throw whatever charge I so desire to surprising accuracy. However the application I have in mind will not allow for the use of a powder thrower. The next logical step is a lee dipper. I can't recall if I've mentioned it before but lee dippers are very handy to have however they do lack accuracy. Do not confuse accuracy with consistency here, Lee dippers will throw a repeatable charge until your hand falls off, however it may not be the charge that is listed in the chart/manual/book what have you. If we take a look at the lee dipper chart we see that the closest we can get to 4.2gr of red dot is using the 0.5cc dipper which is supposed to give us 3.5gr  the next dipper up is the 0.7cc which jumps us up to 5.0gr of red dot, way past the 4.2gr we wanted. Now if you have several dippers sets or duplicates of a lee dipper size you may be tempted to shorten it to get the volume and thus the weight you are after. No problem with that, just be sure to make a note of the charge it has been modified for on the handle so whoever gets the dipper next knows.

Back to the rainy day project at hand ,more like rainy month for us here in NW Ohio but I digress. With a few simple hand tools and a file (or Dremel or even better a belt sander) we can make our own precision powder dipper for only the cost of time. You've probably seen these charge dippers before made out of fired cases but I'm going to offer some insight into making these that you may have not considered before. First we want a thin tall case not a fat one like a 40 S&W but something like a 30 carbine is perfect. The reason is a tall skinny case can give you better accuracy with smaller volumes of powder. Think back to your chemistry lab days and how quickly a tall skinny graduated cylinder would fill up vs a flask. Our 30 carbine case can be filed to our exact needs where as a short fat case would give us consistency issues with smaller volumes. Plus it will be easier to dump the powder straight into our pistol cases (in this pun intended .38 SP +P loads).

Shortened .30 carbine case, a .32ACP case might also work if you have those on hand.

Stripped copper wire and my legs.....

First I measure out 4.2gr of red dot, dump that into the case we will cut down. I mark on the side where I want to cut, making sure to leave myself a little length to shorten it up more if needed.  I used a Dremel tool to cut off the excess and then a sanding drum on my Dremel to shorten the case up in small increments (marking how much to remove each time) until I got exactly 4.2gr DIPPED from my powder mug. I deburr the case mouth like you would for a rifle case each time I shorten it as well. Next I dug around for scrap copper wire and stripped it. This we will use as our handle for our scoop. The 30 carbine is rimless so the extractor groove will work well to twist the wire into. After the scoop has been tested for accuracy we take a fine tip sharpie and write the charge it was made to throw on the side. A coat of clear nail polish over this will keep it legible for years.

Handle installed and everything ready to go

Marking the new dipper is important for safety and sanity.

This little project is a component of another post I'm working, Lyman 310 dies and tongs. I recently got a set for .38/357 and am working on loading ammo with it this week and hopefully will have something posted on that experience before too long.

Here is another homemade dipper I came across in a lot of reloading stuff from an estate, looks like a large nail was soldered onto a very old balloon head .44 Special case. Made for 20gr of 4756 which is a powder I'm not familiar with.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

500 S&W / 38 special and 9mm Mihec mold wet pack tests with some 40 S&W thrown in for good measure

Summer range time has been lots of matches (6 or 7 so far?) and a few range work days (with additional range time afterwards). Been developing new loads for some new bullets/guns I've acquired. Enjoy the update as its nice outside and I don't want to be in front of this computer more than I have to be.

I've been shooting my 500 S&W for about a year now and finally got around to testing the bullet I've been casting for it on wet pack (soaked phone books or other such media). Running a load of 14.5gr of Unique under this bullet it leaves the muzzle around 1100fps. I've only been casting with the large HP pins in the mold but after this test I'm curious to see what the smaller pin will do as the bullet did a poor job of holding together, breaking apart at the bottom of the lube groove.

.502 Mihec mold with Large HP pin option

Next is a 125gr cast HP traveling in the mid to upper 900 fps range in a .38 Special case and we see in the following pictures it gave excellent performance!

Fired out of a .38 Special case, wonderful performance.

Side view of  125gr HP fired out of .38 Special

Next are two 180gr bullets fired out of a 40 S&W. One is a premium HP bullet the other is a very cheap plated bullet that shed its plating somewhere downrange or right out of the muzzle? not sure.


premium expanding bullets vs cheap "FMJ" plated job.

Last but not least is my new one and only 9mm mold (which means I need to return the 9mm molds I've been borrowing from my dad). This one is a 125gr mold with various HP pin options like the .38/357 bullet above. This one has a "penta" hp and it does cause the bullet to expand differently. Bullet was traveling around 1025fps. This bullet neutralized a ground hog with a head shot and penetraded almost the full length of its body. Nothing was left of the brain larger than a tic-tac.  I skinned her out but failed to find the pill as it went in regions I didn't feel like cutting into.

Excellent performance from a cast bullet!

Monday, June 1, 2015

More .38 special & .357 Carbine observations: Now with 5" Gp100 and .38 SC loads

As the weather has turned very nice for us here in NW Ohio I've been able to spend more time on the range. In between helping run matches and doing range work I hauled out a chronograph to try a 2nd test batch of hand-loads I cooked up over the winter and late spring.

I shot these loads over two sessions, the first session was mostly handgun work with some carbine thrown in, the second session was mostly carbine with a few out of the revolver for comparison in velocity only.

Toying with multiple bullet weights I'm trying to get an idea what the carbine and revolver like as a combination. The twist rate in the carbine is 1:16 with 1:18 in the 5" GP100 revolver, although it was easy to find the max bullet weight these twist rates would stabilize I was not able to find what minimums were with velocity and weight, something I would have to toy with myself to see how well it shoots in the end anyways. All my cast bullets are straight wheel weights and lubed with the superb Carnuba Red from lars lube . In this test session I was also able to test bullets from my newly arrived 360640 mold a 125-135gr adjustble mold with removable hallow point pins. I cast about 150 bullets with the large HP pins in place and loaded those up.

First off I tried the odd duckling out of the bunch, I had loaded up a small batch of .38 Short colt rounds using the 125gr 360640 HP bullet the day before hitting the range and wanted to see how they shot (and sounded since the other short colt loads I've tried have been louder than expected) I loaded these with 2.0gr of red dot. The only bad thing was that the chronograph didn't want to read ANY of these rounds out of the revolver? probably operator error there.

All testing in both sessions was performed at a mere 50 yards, the 2nd session I scoped the Carbine with a low power scope for giggle. On to the data, we'll go from short colt to special and then magnum data.

  • .38 Short Colt (NOT SPECIAL)- 125gr cast 360640 HP - 2.0gr Red Dot  (shows potential with decent group) 

              77/357- 706,721,743

The above load shows massive efficiency potential if proven in further accuracy testing if you ask me

  • .38 Special- 75gr cast wadcutter-3.0gr of Bullseye
          GP100 5"-604,649,672

The above caught my attention as these loads were all assembled at the same time and the fact the velocity kept going up is something that I need to test again. The light 75gr pill might not give enough resistance for super consistent ignition in such a large bore? However 2 of the shots were touching at 50 yards with the 3rd only a few inches away. However the entire group was about 18" under the bull which isn't surprising really looking at the velocity and figuring drop at 50 yards.
  • .38 Special -125gr cast 360640 HP- 4.0gr red dot 
           77/357- 1126,1074,1117
           Gp-100 5"- 903,888,872

Nothing really jumped out with the above load,  I'll have to compare this load with my staple 158gr lee SWC over 4.2gr of red dot as I seem to remember I was getting almost 1000fps out of that load in a 4" barreled smith I would have expected at least upper 900's out of a 5" barrel with 4.0gr of red dot and a lighter bullet but then again this is part of learning.

  • .38 Special -173gr Keith - 5gr of Unique 
            77/357-1097,1088, did not capture 3rd shot
            GP100 5"-919, 871,910

This load shows a lot of potential in both guns, a heavy 173gr bullet moving at moderate speeds seems to always be the answer, although not that much gain in the carbine over the powder does that I've learned. Accuracy was definitely noted with this load.

  • .38 Special- 148gr SPEER factory wadcutter- 2.7gr of Bullseye

This "target" load is a staple of many bullseye shooters it seems like and with loads going up to just above 3.0gr of Bullseye there is some velocity to be gained but there really isn't a need when just punching paper. This load is a good place to start when looking for accuracy performance out of a gun. This load shot well in the carbine in previous tests and achieved 750+fps as I stated in the previous "observations" post.

  • .357 Magnum 125gr cast 360640 HP-15.0gr of 2400
          77/357 1749,1862,1780
          GP100 5"-1139,1352, did not capture 3rd shot - Erratic velocities between 1 and 2?

The above was a mild .357 load, was just a starting point to move up from I may revisit this load again and move down from it to see what happens to group size.

  • .357 Magnum 125gr cast 360640 HP- 16.5gr of 2400 Win primers
          Gp100- 1303,1403

  • .357 Magnum 125gr cast 360640 HP- 16.5gr of 2400 CCI primers


The above I shot in the rifle alternating primers between shots It seems like the CCI may be a little more consistent with 2400 in both the carbine and revolver. From here the primers looked good and I felt ok moving on to 17.0gr of 2400 which was still 2.5gr under "max" in one of my books.

  • .357 magnum 125gr cast 360640 HP- 17.0gr of 2400
           77/357-1978,1981,2008 (WOW)
           GP100-1403,1443 (no real flash compared to sim loads with jacketed bullets)

I was impressed when I saw the 2008 fps show up on the screen, though its of no real practical value its interesting to note that one can get into the upper 1900's with a pistol caliber carbine. Hitting the bullet energy calculator filling in 1990 for the velocity thats giving us just over 1100 ft-lbs of energy at the muzzle.

  • .357 Magnum 125gr Jacketed HP- 16.5gr of 2400
            77/357-1888,1888 with confirmed duplicate

The above seem VERY consistent in initial testing and its interesting to note here that the handgun velocity as well as rifle velocity was slightly lower with the jacketed bullet than with cast (lead is a natural lubricant...even if it sticks to barrels sometimes)

  • .357 Magnum 160gr Cast Wadcutter -12.0gr of 2400
           77/357-crap I forgot to write these down

This heavy wadcutter load showed potential in both handgun and revolver. I like the idea of a wadcutter as a hunting bullet

  • .357 Magnum 173gr Kieth SWC -12gr 2400
          GP100 5"- 1132,1142

  • .357 Magnum 173gr Kieth SWC- 12.5gr 2400
          GP100 5"-1142,1136,1077 

The 2nd load of .357 mag with the 173gr bullet and 2400 had no appreciable gain in velocity in the revolver although if fired in the carbine (didn't load enough ammo for that) it might have shown a little more velocity.

  • .357 Magnum 92Gr RN cast 14.0gr of 2400
           77/357-1727- ( I only fired one round over the chrono out of curiosity, solid round nose bullets don't excite me but I was curious what the little pill would do) 

  • .357 Magnum 148gr Speer wadcutter 5.5gr bullseye
           77/357-1321,1293 (Very accurate with following shots on target)
           GP100-1050,1083,1224 (erratic ?)

  • .357 Magnum 158gr Lee SWC 6.5gr unique
The above load with 6.5gr unique and the 158gr Lee SWC showed some promise to being a good load in both the revolver and the carbine. This 158gr bullet as I may have mentioned before is one of my favorite bullets for the .38/.357.

Some might be annoyed that I didn't go on about what was accurate and what wasn't but this is just a starting place for me to work from. I took further notes on accuracy but nothing was super stellar enough to be passed along, more so I thought the velocity readings were more interesting as from that we can calculate energy....something that we want to know if going afield.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

.38 Short Colt....again

Having shot up my small supply of 3.5gr red dot under the 92gr round nose bullet I loaded some more primed cases with 1 grain less...2.5gr of red dot. The results were the same it seemed in report at least, I think I'll start to move away from the light 92gr bullet as moving to a heavier bullet will give me less of a report. I have access to a noise dosimeter and may include that along with a chronograph in the next extensive testing day I have at the range. Just for kicks I'm curious how these loads compare with similarly loaded full length .38 Special loads as the load density (or amount of air space left in the case after bullet has been seated) is significantly lower. The 92gr round nose were what I had on hand really for initial testing and I feel comfortable moving to a heavier bullet (105gr Lee or heavier as previously mentioned) The short colt although loaded with a heavier bullet might be made to the same OAL as a .38 special loaded flush with a wadcutter, something I happened to notice that somebody else pointed out on another forum when researching this round.

The accuracy with these loads has been "ok" nothing stellar and nothing tested over 25 yards as the drop is significant past that distance, a quick guess on the ballistic calculator has it dropping over 36" at 100 yards if its clocking around 600 fps and a mere 24" if its getting 750 fps out of the muzzle.

Closing thought, check the chamber for leading build up just like you would with .38 special and check back for more info.

Monday, May 4, 2015

.38 Short colt range report

Note- If you're waiting for the book reviews I mentioned I would try and have up don't hold your breath the weather turned nice early this year and I've started a full time job so reading time has been curtailed. Right on with what we're here for.

I had a chance this weekend to try out some of the .38 Short colt loads I made up last week in my 77 Bolt action. First observation was not all my magazines wanted to actually load all 5 rounds, Something about the helical design of the magazine and the short stubby cases made the magazine jam after loading 3 rounds. However the magazine will pretty reliably load 3 rounds. The second observation was the short case has feeding issues if the bolt is not cycled smartly. The resulting jam is the bullet partially falls into the void in front of the next round in the magazine and catching on the rim. Easy to clear but annoying to say the least. When I shot the first magazine I was impressed with the odd noise these loads made, Not really a snap or pop like one is used to but more like a too large paper bag being popped nearby, doesn't really make an impressive pop but just kind of makes a noise as it bursts.  Not a clue what velocity was,although I think its safe to say this was a max load (3.5gr of red dot under a 92gr cast round nose) I'll try lighter loads of red dot and eventaully bullseye and see what accuracy is. At 50 yards I had 5 shot groups that were fist size easily. Just for fun I tried a few shots at 200 yards, the drop at that range is around 25 feet best I could tell.  I did not get a chance to try these out of a revolver of any sort much to my regret as I'm curious what the report would have been like from those. I have brass primed and ready to load and everything is still set up to load these so I'll load them up again and make a hard metal note to test in a wheel gun.  Hopefully another long range session with a chronograph is around the corner as I have many test loads waiting to be fired through the 77/357 and GP100 combination.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

A preface to my.38 Short Colt idea

Being a re-loader and a tinkerer one tends to look at how to get more versatility out of the tools he has at his disposal (even if there is no REAL need). Now there is nothing wrong with light .38 special loads, a light load of bullseye and a just about any bullet will give you surprisingly good performance out of a revolver or a carbine (bolt action, lever or single shot). But as we all know you have to experiment and see what else is out there and when looking at light loads for the .38 special the .38 short colt came up. It turns out shooters who get their .38/357 wheel guns cut for moon clips will use the .38 short colt in them as they load into the gun easier. Not something we're really worried about here, this is mostly just a educational venture but still fun. The .38 short colt is a case roughly the same length as the 9mm Luger, the similarities are very close except for the rim.  Most shooters are familiar with being able to shoot 38 special in a .357 magnum but few are familiar with the .38 short colt and .38 long colt being compatible in these guns as well, and for good reason. Both are obsolete except in specialized guns and the competitions those guns are used in.  My interest in the cartridge lies strictly with its physical characteristics. My thinking is the short stubby case takes up less room than a standard .38 special case (in a stock pouch like what I've put on my 77/357). I can also at a glance discern a light load from a magnum load. This is all theory right now of course, but it looks good on paper. I can carry one of my 5 round rotary magazines loaded with the .38 short colt loads and one with .357 magnum hot to trot loads. This could be the best of both worlds but only testing will tell. 

Its pretty obvious which magazine holds the light load and which holds the heavy one.

I decided to make 50 .38 Short colt cases out of .38 special brass just to try as a comparison to .38 special loads.  I'll post pictures of how I made the brass later but the use of a mini chop saw, a trimmer and a deburr tool is paramount to stress free case modifications. I've done the tubing cutter thing in the past and it was a lot of 4 letter and $1 words.
.38 Short Colt loads are not that easy to come by however it seems several people recommend using reduced 9mm cast loads as starting points so that is what I decided to go with. As the case has roughly the same dimensions  same  Going to my Lyman cast bullet book I decided to try a load of  3.5gr of Red dot under a ~92gr round nose. Round nose bullets are not what I would use "out in the wild" as they tend to over penetrate and not disperse there energy effectively. I plan on using a 105gr Lee semi wad cutter after I get a sampling of bullets cast, sized and lubed. For now I'll just play around with the 92gr round nose and see what kind of results I get with it. 

.38 Short colt brass and loaded cartridges made from .38 Special cases

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Lee loader : Reloading for economy and fun!

It seems as though every reloading company has some "eternal" product that carries on and on and sets the standard in its niche. As far as "intro to reloading" goes the Lee Loader fills that niche with honors. Its been made to reload just about any major shoulder fired cartridge case and hull you can imagine (short of 50bmg...but even then I'm sure there is somebody who has copied the Lee loader for the 50BMG). Here is a good place to start as a primer on lee loaders

The Lee loader is hands down the most economic way to load ammunition for your rifle, pistol or shotgun. Even if you are a veteran reloader you can not help not giving due credit to this overly simple and effective tool.

The Appeal- Say you purchase a rifle like the Savage Axis in 30/ don't shoot but maybe 80 rounds a year to hunt and keep in good shooting form with. You really dislike the $1 a shot and then some for the ammo you are seeing on the shelves. While looking at the reloading kits at one of the "worlds largest outfitter stores" you see this little "lee loader -30/06" you do some research and for under $30 you can be set up to load yourself ammo instead of what may have been a lot more for press, dies and all offending accessories.

A few caveats with this line of thinking, you also will need a good powder scale, primers, bullets and a hard rubber mallet DO NOT USE your claw hammer. Other than that you are set to go.

Pro tip- Even if you are loading on a STURDY bench you may still want to use a large steel block under your set up to absorb the pounding so items on said bench don't migrate off bench.

Today we'll be loading some .38 special since I've been shooting that caliber a lot lately. The pistol dies are a little different than the rifle dies but they all perform the same basic tasks and the same theory is behind both sets.

First we grab our decapping rod and decapping chamber and with our RUBBER mallet we drive the primer out. Decap all your cases first.

Pro tip- If you are handy and you have the material cutting a notch in your steel block (or dense wood?) so that the spent primer falls into a tray or other bin of sometype will speed up the process some. Having spent primers floating all around is not good.

Step 1 remove primer

Rubber mallet- Yes its an import but it goes with our affordability theme here....also my older plastic mallet kind of gave up the ghost.

Don't even think about using this!!!!!

Step 2: hammer case flush with die

Grab your priming base/bullet seater combination tool.

Place primer in hole

Set die with case facing down on top of priming tool

Lightly tap, get a feel for this step and go slow, check primer about halfway through to ensure its seated straight and true

A coffee mug is great for pouring powder into to scoop from, After your done loading pour powder back into original container. Never leave powder out when you are not loading ammo.

Now here is one area I get a little fussy with when it comes to the included scoop supplied with the lee loader. This scoop is the .5cc scoop, it is supposed to throw a 4.6gr charge of unique....ok well thats all fine and good but when I weighed the charge it did throw it came out to 3.9gr everysingle time. Still a safe minimum as per some load books however this is a good reason to have a powder scale on hand so you know what charge the scoop throws. DON'T TRUST WHAT THEY SAY IT SHOULD THROW.

PRO TIP- If you have a good powder measure you can take a fired case like a 9mm and wrap some medium weight wire arounds its base, now you can use this as a scoop and file the case shorter until you get the charge you are wanting, A coat of nail polish on the outside with a sharpie label can let you know what scoop is for what powder and exact charge it was made to throw. Cheap and effective!

In goes our powder
 Next we take our combination tool and adjust the bullet seater stem a little at a time and trial fit until we get the bullet seated to where we want it.
Adjusting the seater requires loosening the lock ring and running down the stem in the pistol set.
 We may or may not flare the case mouth at this point, I forgot to take a picture of that process but no biggie, next the bullet is dropped in and seater is situated on top.
Whack-a-mole that bullet into place (gently)

Pro tip- Again if you are handy I would highly suggest making a sort of tool rack for the rods, flare tool and bases. putting each tool back after each use and in the order you use them would make loading even faster. Also a scrap block of wood drilled with a spade bit can make a marvelous loading block on the cheap! And its good for the environment!?

And presto- We loaded a round of .38 special

If we wish to crimp our bullet we simply flip the die over to the side we poured the powder through and placing the bullet nose down tap lightly with our mallet a few times to get the desired crimp. It does not take much so check after a few taps and you will get the feel for it quickly.

About a round a minute is doable

I have shown how a single round of pistol ammunition can be loaded very cheaply, quickly and with minimal tools. I have a very extensive reloading set up with lots of fancy equipment however loading with the lee loader is as simple as you can get and very enjoyable. If a man was stuck in a cabin for awhile I would much rather load my ammo with one of these than the nicest progressive press out there. Its fun, its simple and relatively safe. The lee loader is perhaps all you might ever need to satisfy your ammunition consumption. OR it could be a great way to find out of reloading is something you want to dive deeper into. These kits are hands down great for the beginner who is learning on their own and has the time to do it right and read up on it.

The link below goes to the instructions for the Lee Loader in its pistol form.

PAK-TOOL -A point of interest in reloading equipment

I came across this little hand press reloading tool called the "PAK-TOOL"  in an estate that was being liquidate. This tool is supposed to be a compact tool for the cabin, range bench or where ever you need a compact tool to load your ammo. It seems to have been offered in quite a few calibers. I won't be reloading any ammo with this tool but I thought I would post it here as a point of interest, not something you see very often and surely something I have never come across until now. The tool uses proprietary dies, shell holders and rods to perform all the steps necessary.  ALL the parts are proprietary, nothing translates over to other dies, presses or what have you. This particular tool was set up for 45-70 but also included shell holders for a few other calibers of which the dies were not present. Its an interesting idea but it didn't seem to take off. 

It looks more complicated than it actually is and the press itself is very well thought out.


The instructions make it seem more complicated than it actually is as well.....the inventor could have benefited from a Kaizen mentor. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Winchester 94 1968 Bent carrier : or : Winchester breaks A John Browning design....

There are few things I hate more than a well designed gun, economized to the point the basic function of said firearm is jeopardized. From my readings there was a span in the mid-late 60's that Winchester not only changed the steel of their receivers to take some butt ugly looking bluing but they also used stamped carriers that more often than not BENT with little use of the gun. Luckily I was able to secure a machined carrier to replace in my '68 vintage 94 and we're back up and running. The 94 is such a simple design believe it or not and has a lot of features one may not realize existed, such as a built in firing pin safety in which when the lever is actuated it actually cams the firing pin back away from the breech face. John Browning designed it so you know its a solid design...well that and its over 110 years old now so for it to survive this long it had to be....  My particular gun is in 30-30 as most of these rifles were. Its a "beater" of sorts. The 40 year old firing pin also needs replaced so we are waiting on that part still....however looking at how simple the thing is and cost of replacements I may just make one really quick on the lathe with the use of a ball turning turret to ensure the correct taper is achieved.

A quick 15 minutes turned my 94 into a puzzle of parts.

Bent stamped carrier on top, machined carrier on bottom, NOTE bottom carrier is shorter, this made me think it was the wrong carrier but it is not!

Function proven with the use of snap caps, range test next....after the firing pin is replaced of course.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Williams FP-RU-77 sight installation on a Ruger 77/357 : or : NECG sight need not apply....wouldn't mind trying a Skinner though.

Most Ruger rifles leave something to be desired in sights, mostly their rear sights. It's the same with other "field" type rifles such as remington 700's and such. I've never been able to shoot well with the rear notch type sight as it does not offer the accuracy I am looking for. Now I can hit stuff with the notch sight but its not what I prefer....kind of like Tom selleck's character from Quigley down under...."I said I never had much use for one. Never said I didn't know how to use it". Anyways I went on a search for a rear sight for this 77/357 as the flip up notch rear wasted sight radius and does not allow for easy adjustment. Now NECG does make a "drop in" rear sight but they wanted too much for the dang thing and it looks butt ugly, and this is coming from a guy that thinks Mosin Nagants are beautiful. That and you give up your ability to mount a scope if you ever wanted to put one on for whatever reason without loosing your zero. Skinner sights makes a lovely replacement and is easily adjustable, you retain the factory sight radius though.  My solution was to find and install a FP-RU 77 rear sight on my receiver. FP=Foolproof...except these 77/357 receivers are not drilled from the factory so we'll have to do it ourselves. No worries, we have the technology!

123 blocks, hold downs and brass shims are used. Receiver only needs to be flat since we are drilling one hole at a time.

I'll be drilling the receiver on my Bridgeport mill, the cast stainless receiver is much softer than I anticipated. This made things a lot easier as far as tapping and drilling went. My first problem was finding a way to mount the receiver level in on the mill table, two 123 blocks were used under the receiver. A pair of hold downs and brass shims to keep the receiver from getting scratched were also utilized. The 77/357 receiver has a few high spots that you need to be aware of so you are sure the frame is level. The sharpie lines you can see are my guides as I free drill the 1st hole, making sure to not get into the bottom of the reciever just below the raceway. My goal was to be just a few thousandths above it and the first hole is drilled all the way through and tapped. I reversed the drill bit in the chuck while setting up so I got a accurate measurement as to where the hole needed to be.
Side view of set up.

Lots of magic tap is used while drilling the hole....I have to say I was a little nervous in drilling as I only had one chance to get it right. A #31 drill bit was used to tap the hole for the 6-48 threads.

First hole drilled, now since I don't have a fancy jig for hole spacing  I'll remove the receiver and tap the first hole. At that point I will install the sight, make sure it is level and then go off of that for the second hole using the tap installed in the chuck to make sure the base is where I want it for the second hole.

Tiny tap handle with tiny tap! 6-48 tap shown. A taper tap was used although a bottoming or plug tap is shown.

Here is where I messed in I forgot to take pictures...through the magic of the internet I will just skip the the sight base installed with the stock already inletted (easily done). The stock needed trimmed down about 1/4" to allow the sight to sit as low as possible. The stock being solid in this area took the modification easily. Once both holes were drilled and tapped I cleaned them up with a file on the inside to break the hanging chips away and stoned the outside lightly after tapping it off so as not to scratch the receiver. This ensures the base will mount flush. When tapping it is important that the tap is square with the receiver, lots of tap magic is used again and chips are cleared away very often. After we are done with tapping we clean up the receiver with brake cleaner and a air hose, making sure all the chips are gone. Then we install the sight, oil up the parts that need it and we're ready for the range!

Sight installed, everything is level and ready for the range! I can still install a scope on the 2nd rear mounting area and have my irons as a back up! looks a lot better than I thought it would. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

MiHec 360640 with options!

I'm a member over at and to say we love our cast boolits is an understatement. Every once in a while we'll get together and commission custom molds. Below is one that is currently being produced (no additional order are being taken, buys close when the mold starts production). I'm looking forward to it for my 38/357 carbine/revolver combination. I've often heard how good the 125gr bullet is in the .357 Mag and this little pill should offer some good range sessions by the looks of it!  There were two options given to us, we could either go with a gas check or without. I went without  a check as bullets sized and lubed correctly (I love my carnuba red) should not lead. MiHec is the manufacturer of the molds, I have one other custom mold from him for my .500 S&W and its simply a work of art. 

I'm also waiting on 2 other custom molds, one heavier 38/357 mold and a additional mold for .375 H&H

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Lee speed die 357 magnum 38 special picture comparison

As promised previously pictures of the .357 speed die and its parts (left parts) and .38 special speed die parts (right) in comparison. The die body has internal differences, also the carbide inserts are slightly different.  Obviously the decap/flare stem and seater stems are different.  

P.S. As spring approaches rather rapidly I hope to have at least two and at most three more book reviews up before I officially leave the reading room for the range for the season.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

.357 Magnum and .38 Special LEE Speed die update : Observations

In my .357 Magnum Speed die post  I pondered what made the .357 mag speed die specific to .357 magnum. I fathomed  that it was only the decap flare stem that made it .357 specific but alas I was wrong! In fact not only is the decap flare stem different, the die body itself has different INTERNAL dimensions...Looks like just over 1/8"  which is how much longer the .357 is to the .38 special. But the bullet seater stem is longer in the .38 special set as well, which makes sense since it would have to reach further down into the die to seat a bullet.

Picture of compared parts coming soon, If you are looking at getting one of these speed dies to load both 38 special and .357 mag I'm sorry but it will not work. The dies are very cartridge specific as the the case lengths are different .135" difference actually.  The whack a mole type lee loader will work for both .357 magnum as well as .38 Special as will most 3 or 4 die sets.  Would you rather have 2 dies to load 2 cartridges or 3 dies to load two cartridges when those 3 dies are still in production and widely available.

Sorry for any inconvenience I may have caused on this assumption of interchangeability. I myself would have liked to see one speed die be able to load both as that would have made a very handy on the range set up for testing. Stay safe out there.