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.