Sunday, November 20, 2011

Reloading for the 7.62x38R Nagant Revolver

I happened upon something at a flea market I had been searching out for 4 years now since reading a article in a magazine about a odd little Russian revolver that made for a great woodsman pistol. Its compact, novel design and caliber appealed (read near impossible to acquire and reload for, higher skill level to reload for and not for the faint of heart to attempt) to me in such a way I could not help but want one. The 1895 Nagant revolver usually runs for $110 or so from various online sources and around $125 from military surplus firearm dealers at gunshows. Shipping at the cost of the FFL transfer quickly brings a online or auction acquired gun into the $150+ range and the $125 cost for the show pieces never were satisfactory at the same time I had the $125 in my pocket.

So I exercised some patience and waited, not in too much of a rush as I had numerous other projects to tackle in the mean time. And then whilst looking at the numerous firearms at the flea market I came across a table with one of these revolvers laying there and its owner willing to part with it. The revolver was pristine, looked as if it had never even seen a single round of ammo and was best of all for sale. Having the ability to look it over the seller didn't say much until I asked the price. $200 he replied I sighed, set down the piece, said thanks and walked away. "hey now wait, come back, we can talk" were the words that quickly chased me as I strode away. I turned around to hear what the seller had to say, He asked me what I thought the gun was worth. That seemingly harmless statement is a trap to the majority of the people who take the bait, you have entered the realm of dickering and haggling and you can either awkwardly walk away claiming you are not that interested in which case you probably weren't too much in the first place, failure to make that a point and they might just goad you into naming a price and paying it or grab the challenge by the horns and give it your all & cut them down to YOUR PRICE. I looked the little Russian over more carefully this time, checking its bore, muzzle and other workings. The gun did not have a holster or cleaning rod, not a big deal but definitely a con. I quickly told him it was worth $100 thinking that was fair for both of us and he would never sell it otherwise, long story short I got him down to $100 after a few back and forth offers and "AW NAW I can't take THAT". So here I am with a $100 revolver to reload for and a few options of how to go about it.


This picture was added 8/28/2012 showing the gun about a year after I got it,
As you can see I found some original ammo, but too costly to justify shooting it, looks good on camera though!


Preparing for this gun actually started many years ago, around the time I read the magazine article on the gun and saw various ammo options. I acquired 32-20 brass which I read worked well in the revolver, having various kinds of brass on hand I easily traded for 60 or so pieces of once fired 32-20 brass that would be used along with a 93gr RN mold a friend had me purchase so I could supply him with a few cast bullets now and then. Bullets were sized and lubed to .311 to fit the bore of the revolver, and I set off to load a handful of rounds to test. The week after I had purchased the revolver I went to the range with dad (mostly to help him find a lost ball from his Coehorn mortar he was using to put on a demonstration for the local historical society) and headed over to one of the unoccupied pistol bays and loaded up to try it out. The 32-20 brass fire-formed beautifully, mostly just expanding around the neck. I had loaded the first batch using 32-20 dies however I quickly discovered that .30 carbine dies (as pointed out by somebody online!) would work to readily load this round and they were right. Take a .30 carbine set of dies and swap out the .308" expander ball for a .310", seat the bullet and taper crimp. After the first range trip I did realize some of the rims on the cases were a little too thick to allow the gun to funtion properly. So a set of needle files has come in handy to file the top or forward facing portion of the rim away so as to allow it to function in the gun. As you can imagine after converting 32-20 brass into its Russian Empire/commie cousin it would be a good idea to store it in a well labeled box so positive ID can be made, headstamps can and do lie and making brass out of one caliber for another can pose some problems if somebody came across it and didn't know any better. If you have lathe skills it would not be a bad idea to put the case in a collet in your headstock and turn a circle into the center line of the headstamp to negate the markings. It is important you do not try to make the brass fit the gun by shortening up the base of the brass as this will cause the primer to become exposed, causing a dangerous situation.

My first loads were 3.2gr of red dot behind the 93gr RN bullet, more than enough for plinking. They clocked 790FPS over the chrono and printed very well on paper. My next step is to see if I can make more brass from some .218 bee brass or use it to trade for more .32-20 brass, I have some .25-20 brass and loaded ammo I can fire form as well but I'm not hurting for brass that much. I would like to work up a load that is a little faster than what I have now, try to get something that is close to 950 FPS out of the 4.5" barrel I also have a small assortment of jacketed bullets and surprisingly some XTP as well I would like to load up and do some tests with in phone books.

It is a interesting project if I was a trapper or something and wanted something more than a .22LR revolver I would not hesitate to pack this little revolver at all. Reloads hardly use any lead or powder so its not too hard on the wallet.

3 comments:

pastordl said...

Good article and thanks for the info. What make dies are you using?

Wonderwolf said...

RCBS dies for the .30 Carbine set. Thanks for the support!

Stephen Buckrun said...

I am going to have to see if I can find one of these revolvers to play with.