Saturday, February 2, 2013
Actual Reloading Content
A W W Greener 12 gauge followed me home a few weeks ago. Its a well used gun but also cared for. The right firing pin hole is worn and the lockup isn't as tight as I'd like but that's fixable. If only I could expect to be in as good a shape when I'm 140 years old.
The figure is still visible in the damascus barrels and they aren't particularly pitted. Its a svelt little upland game gun with hammers, an under lever and 2 1/4" chambers. My gunsmith told me to go ahead and shoot it. You know, just to use up all those 2 1/4" shells I've been tripping over in the reloading room all these years.
Fortunately, I had suspected that a Greener was stalking me when I started buying supplies for loading 10 gauge shells and I also bought a few tools and components in 12 gauge. Long before that, I bought a bunch of "junk" at a garage sale for $125 because amongst the junk was a MEC Grabber in 12 gauge that only needed about $10 in parts to make it work again. Also present was a bag of 25 year old, brand new Active 12 gauge 3" hulls. The Grabber got used and the hulls sat in a box on the floor for a couple of years until the little Greener came along.
Turns out the Active hulls aren't tapered inside and they have a pretty low base wad so they looked perfect for black powder loads. Ballistic Products sells a neat little tool they call a Trim Doctor for trimming shotgun shells so I got one of those and trimmed two cases to 2 1/4" for test purposes. The Lyman Black Powder Handbook has a 2 3/4" load that uses 100 grains of black powder and an ounce of shot and my Lee adjustable shot dipper won't throw less than an ounce so it seemed like a good starting point.
I didn't want to experiment on plastic shells with real black powder because I don't like the idea of pouring black powder into anything that can build up static electricity so I substituted Pyrodex "Select" RS on a volume for volume basis. "100 grains" took up a little more space than I wanted so I dropped to "90."
I wanted to use some old Winchester Red wads that I had accumulated but they proved to be too long so I ordered some gas seal wads and some special wads for short cases from Ballistic Products. The wads for short cases turned out to be a tad longer than the old Winchester wads but the gas seal wads looked promising. On top of 90 grains of powder and the gas seal wad, the ounce of shot was almost where it needed to be to take an overshot card wad and a roll crimp. There was just a teeny little bit too much empty case for a roll crimp and I really wanted a roll crimp.
The thing about a roll crimp is that you get to use more of the case for powder and payload than in a case closed with a folded crimp so a 2 1/4" shell with a roll crimp doesn't really give much up to a 2 1/2" one with a fold crimp. I definitely wanted the roll crimp but what was to be done about the extra space in the case? I had already ordered stuff from Ballistic Products three times in as many weeks and I wanted to get this project moving this weekend so I just didn't want to order again. I had a thin sheet of cork but no way to cut it into wads to fill in the space. That got me to thinking about the old lathe and making my own wad cutter.
Half inch iron water pipe looked like a promising raw material. The Lovely Bride Googled the outside diameter and came up with whatever the number was. I measured the inside diameter of the Active case and it was right at 0.73." The nominal iron pipe O.D. less the proposed I.D. left enough metal to make a nice cutter. The lathe had come with two five gallon buckets full of used motor oil sludge within which all kinds of lathey stuff had been steeping for 35 years. That included a few drill bits to fit the tail stock. One that looked about right was marked 23/64." My calculator said that was 0.7185." Thank you Lord Jesus, Amen!
An early morning trip to Lowes netted an eight inch piece of 1/2" iron gas pipe (galvanized would have looked cheap) and I chucked that in the lathe, cut the threaded section off one end and drilled out about 1 1/4" of it with that bit. It was the first time I had used the tail stock and it went so well that I drilled more than I had planned just because it was fun. (Didn't take pictures because I didn't want to stop to get the camera). Then I set the lathe bit at an angle and cut a bevel on the outside edge of the pipe to make the cutting edge on the wad cutter.
Put the cork on a wood block, put the cutter on the cork, tap it with a mallet and that cutter cuts the most perfect little cork wad you can imagine. They fit the case perfectly too. Two such wads tamped down in the case before the shot goes in and it's set up just right for an over shot card wad and a roll crimp.
By now you may have guessed that one of the tools I bought from Ballistic Products was a roll crimper. Its a little device that goes in your drill press.
You spin it and press it to the top of the shell. Friction heats up the plastic and the tool forces the hot plastic to curl over and hold the card wad in place. It worked the first time I tried it. The only thing that didn't go as planned was that I didn't realize how tightly I'd have to hold the shell to keep it from turning with the tool. I ended up using some coarse sandpaper for extra grip and that scratched the outside of the case.
This is no high volume, automated loading system. Its a take your time one at a time proposition. I think that's appropriate. The old Greener was hand made too. Even the screws are regulated. I never had a gun with regulated screws before. I will show it the care and respect it deserves.
Before the weekend is out I plan to make half a dozen or so test shells. I will try them out in an H & R Topper first and, if all goes as expected, might have a go at some squirrels with the Greener later this week.
And no, nobody paid me to write any of this. Nobody even asked me to. Sheesh.