The die isn’t cast, its’ machined.

In a previous post here we discussed pulling bullets.

The other day I sat down to load some .30-06 and do a wee write-up. But then all hades sprang forth, and a monster ate the house-guests at Hrothgar. That’s a classic English Lit reference for ya’ll.

20160223_172302[1]Boom. WD-40 is amazing. But it is no replacement for case lube… Long story short, I couldn’t find my case lube. Dummy that I am, I thought I could just replace the lube with WD. Its a great lubricant, after all.

The case lodged in the decapping die and could not be removed. Do not use WD-40 to lube your cases prior to decapping!

At this point you have to resign yourself to destroying the casing. 20160223_180454[1]First I drilled a 1/4″ hole through the primer pocket and tapped it, but that didn’t work, so I stepped up to a 5/16″ hole and a 3/8″ coarse bolt thread tap. Be careful when cutting threads. Turn the tap 1/8-1/4 turns and then back the tap up by that amount to clear the shavings. Do not force the tap! Breaking a tap is no joke, and no fun.

Once the threads are cut, get a bolt, large nut, and a washer with a nut for the bolt. I didn’t have this second nut, so I used a fly nut.

20160229_175543[1]Insert the die upside down in the press. Screw it in but leave the case rim below the top of the press by a few threads. Put the nut over the top of the press. Make sure it is big enough for the casing to slide through it. Then the washer, fly nut and bolt go on as is the picture. Use pliars to hold the die. (Grip the knurled part, not the threads on the shank body.) Then use an adjustable wrench to turn the bolt down. The pulling power of a screw is substantial.

This time, it was not substantial enough. Even after an application of magnificent force, nothing would budge. So I did what any man in my situation would do. I broke down and wept.

Just kidding. That’s not very manly.

I left it for a couple of days and thought about it. The great thing about doing odd mechanical work for the last decade or so is that you get to see all the wrong ways to do things. You even get good at those techniques. I have often used heat to get rusty bolts undone. After some reflection, I thought that was a bad idea. When you apply heat to two dissimilar metals, they expand at different rates.

And then it hit me. What is sauce for the gander is sauce for the goose. Dissimilar metals also contract in cold at different rates… Duh. I want the brass (a softer, less dense material) to come out of the steel. It needs to shrink. So I threw the die in a ziplock bag and tossed it in the deepfreeze over night.

20160229_175505[1]Tah dah! It came out in about 3 turns when I put it back on the press. Brilliant. I am smrt. Very much, thank you, very much.

A little bit of plier work later, and the expander ball was out again. I re-assembled the die, straightened the decapping pin, (it bent slightly during the process) and ran some cases through.

I also found my lube. Sweet mother…



A Case for the Carcano

In a previous post I mentioned that I have a Carcano rifle. Military rifles are interesting, and oddball ones from secondary theaters of major wars even more so. 20160221_173718

For reference, this is my 5-year-old holding the rifle. This is a cavalry version built in Brescia in 1934. It features a Mannlicher type action complete with the enbloc clip loading system. I plan to review this rifle and its history in a later post. For now I want to talk about the cartridge.20160221_150905

The original round-nose ball cartridge is shown on the right. I got a couple of boxes from Norma. On the left is one of my handloads. The cartridge designation is 6.5×52 Carcano. The COAL (Cartridge Over All Length) usually comes in around 2.90″. Norma factory loads clock in at about 2430fps. As soon as I have a chance I will clock my loads for comparison.

The Italians first adopted this round in 1891, and then never updated it to a spitzer bullet. The 1890’s were a time when every major power, along with every second-rate wannabe, was racing to get the best battle rifles for their armies. The Germans had the K-98, the British the Enfield. America had the 1903, the Russians the Mosin. France got the Lebel, Austria a Mannlicher, Japan the Arisaka and Italy the Carcano. Every one of those Nations switched to spitzer bullets as soon as they realized the improvement that a conical bullet gave over round ball.

Everyone that is, except the Italians. They continued to use round-nose ball until 1945. Its a shame they didn’t go pointy. This fine little cartridge has got itself a bad rap that it surely doesn’t deserve. Let me lay out some of the advantages that this little guy possessed over its bigger rivals.

The small size of the case means that more ammo can be carried by a soldier at a time. Small size also means less recoil than a Lebel or Springfield, for example. Shorter cartridges also make for shorter actions in rifles. This can mean quicker cycling and less time between shots fired. The long bullet cross-section makes for very stable flight characteristics. This same long cross-section also means that when soft tissue is hit, the bullet is liable to yaw or tumble. Carcano wounds tend to be nasty. 20160221_150703

Other nations, particularly the Swedes, with their 6.5x55mm, used these smaller cartridges too. For a size comparison I have put the 5.56 NATO on the left and the .30-06 on the right.

It would be interesting to know why military small arms development went with the 5.56 instead of something 6.5 or .25 caliber.

The 5.56 cartridge has a muzzle velocity that ranges between 2900fps and 3100fps. In this respect it is quite a bit faster than the old 6.5mm. However, the energy in the bullet is more from a Carcano. At the muzzle, a 62g 5.56 going 3100fps has approximately 1300 ft/ibs of force. By comparison, the 156g Carcano at a velocity of 2430fps has approximately 2040 ft/ibs of force.

Heavier bullets hit harder. They also deflect less in bush, and penetrate obstructions easier. Smaller bullets are easier to shoot accurately in auto. A smaller guy can handle the recoil just fine. More ammo can be carried with greater ease. Manufacture is cheaper, as less material is required for each cartridge.

In all things, trade-offs must be considered. The .30-06 is a big round. It goes through lots of things, including soft tissue. The recoil in difficult to manage in an automatic weapon. Imagine taking your .30-06, full auto, and then try to imagine hitting anything. WW II BAR operators have my respect. A smaller bullet like the 5.56 may not take an enemy down. There are certainly many anecdotes from the Iraq and Afghan wars that seem to indicate there may be reason to reconsider the 5.56.

I think a case for the Carcano being a superior choice could have been made when NATO settled on the 5.56, and I certainly think that such a round should perhaps be considered by Canada in the future.




Pulling bullets is like pulling hamstrings…

Last week I began my series on reloading by loading the wrong powder in my .45 ACP. Auspicious… This weekend I pulled those cartridges apart, and a few others I had made before, but had not had time to pull. Lets get down to brass tacks, as they say, and begin.

20160221_154832This is my Lyman bullet puller. Its a hammer. I love modern technology. Basically all you have to do is insert the casing into the correct collet correctly, and then screw the endcap on. Whack the thing on a hard surface until the bullet drops out. Be careful not to hit yourself, skin your knuckles, or smack anything your wife might notice a dent in. Long story there.

There is a non-trivial chance the casing might explode in the puller. Pullers are designed to contain an explosion if it occurs. That said, be careful.

Here is the casing in the collet with the cap off.20160221_154738 Notice the hockey tape over the top of the cap. I have found that the vigorous beating crimped cases require to pull will often cause powder to fly all over. I hate wasting powder, or inhaling it in a spasm of enraged hammering. Very not cool. Whack it till the bullet comes out. Repeat. Its very simple.

The fun thing about pulling bullets is that you get a safe mulligan. I have a Carcano, in 6.5×52. The parts for that round are hard to come by, but I found some ammo and some 6.5mm Berger VLD 140g bullets. 20160221_150905 Having shot some of the loaded Norma stuff, I thought to reload with spitzers. Here are is factory round-nose cartridge next to my reload.

When I loaded the spitzers I put 39g of IMR 8208XBR in the casing. There is literally no data for that powder in this casing, and what little data I could find on other powders didn’t convince me to buy those powders. Therefore I made up a load.

On range day I discovered that the load was slightly over pressure. If you see bulging in the primer around the firing-pin indent, you have too much pressure. Mind you, it wasn’t too terrible. The Carcano action is plenty strong and can handle it. I am a bit leery of putting that kind of stress on an expensive and rare casing, and so I decided to pull the bullets and step the load down .5g.

Safe mulligans mean that a reloader can improve his techniques and recipes without jeopardizing his safety. If you reload, a puller of some sort must be in your toolbox.



A little reloading mishap…

12662493_966439410104544_5170198928883898097_nToday I loaded some .45 ACP. All went well, until I sat down to write this post…

I opened my browser, uploaded a picture, and then it hit me.

The powder I just loaded in my batch wasn’t Red Dot, it was IMR 8208XBR!!!! For those who don’t know the difference, I just put rifle powder in my handgun cases. This is a big no-no.

There are two takeaway lessons to be found here.

First, pay attention to what you are doing! When I measured out my powder something felt wrong. It seemed smaller than normal. 8208 XBR is an extruded ball powder. It looks like little grey tubes. Red Dot is a flake power and has an appearance similar to red and black snowflakes. 5.2 grains of these two powders occupy a significantly different space. I should have double-checked. What an idiot.

The second take-away is this: buy a bullet puller. I guarantee that you will make mistakes reloading ammo. With the proper tool, you can always recover most of the components for future use. I have such a puller…

In the next reloading post, we will take a look at how to safely take a bullet apart.

Gee I’m an idiot…

Drill baby, drill

I am a big fan of optic sights. Scopes are God’s gift to the sight-impaired. Mosin Nagant rifles do not come from the factory drilled and tapped for modern scope mounts. What to do…

20160116_102237Aha. Much better.

A scope mount system is available from ATI. I bought mine for 75$ at my local Wholesale Sports outlet. Instructions in the kit indicate that it can be used for round or hexagonal receivers. Mine is round, so I cannot attest to the fit on a hex receiver. Given that it did work on my rifle, I’d guess that it does.

The kit comes with the bits and taps required to mount the rail, screws and the rail itself. It also comes with the parts and equipment for the bolt handle. We will cover the bolt work in another post.

The very first thing I did was remove my bolt. Do not drill holes in the receiver with the bolt in!

Place the rail on the receiver and clamp it in place so that you have room to drill out the holes. 20160116_102150Notice the position of the rail. Do not mount it in front of the machined-out step in the top of the receiver. If you do, you will drill into the chamber and ruin the action. Use clamps or a vise to securely hold the work piece. Check to ensure that the orientation of the mount is correct from side to side, viewed from the t20160206_145259[1]op. An off-centre scope is not going to help our shooting any.

Here is my Dewalt 20v drill that I used to drill the holes in the receiver. I used a clamp to secure the work piece to my bench. Be careful. Off center holes are pretty useless. Using a drill press is by far the best wat to do this job, but I don’t have one of those. McGiver has nothing on me…20160206_145519[1]

Be careful to follow the directions provided. Also, don’t lose any pieces. I won’t get too far into the process, as the kit comes with detailed directions, but I will make a few observations on the way.

First, do not put the tap in your drill for the thread cutting process! Use a proper tap handle. If you don’t have one, then you can use an adjustable wrench. If you go with the wrench, be careful to center the tap in the hole. I remember breaking a 5/8 tungsten tap once… long story.

Turn the tap slowly by 1/4 turns, and then back the tap out by 1/4 turn. Go slowly. If you experience any binding, do not force the tap. A broken tap is a real downer. Use lubrication. On a small hole like this WD-40 works well. Old engine oil or a proper thread cutting oil are fine too.

Once you have the holes cut & tapped, mount the rail. Use blue Loctite. Apply a small dab to the thread on the screw and then torque it down. Usually scope mount screws are torqued to 20 or so inch/pounds, but I just torque everything by guess. I guess I over-torqued them, cuz I over-torque everything. Like that time I snapped the studs off my Honda minivan…

Next post we will examine the scope, rings, and all that jazz. 20160116_102221


What is wrong with rights?

red ensign

In my last post on American gun debates I opened the idea that these debates have been less than helpful in my Canadian context.

I aim to show that the classic presumption in English Common Law is for the ownership of weapons, and for their lawful use in domestic self-defence. To do this, we shall examine American history, as a spring board into this debate.

The charge brought by many a liberal on the hapless Canadian gun owner is that owning a gun is a mere “privilege” and is emphatically not a right. We are Canadians after all, not Americans. We can all agree that a Canadian is not an American. No matter liberal confusion regarding identity in other areas, they are right on this point.

So what? Does it matter?

History and tradition do matter. Americans have a 2nd Amendment. It reads,

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Article II 1789 Bill of Rights

We need to ask ourselves what that meant when it was adopted as law in 1789, and what bearing it has on us.

To recount the whole story of American independence and political development is not our aim here, but I will make a few remarks.

The American founding Fathers fought for Independence from Great Britain because they believed that the English Parliament was infringing upon the colonies’ rights as de jure states under the British Crown, and because they believed that the British King had neglected his sworn duties as liege-lord to protect the independence of the colonies and colonists from this infringement. If you do not understand this fact of self-perception, nothing the 13 colonies did makes sense.

In short, the 13 colonies, plus Vermont, (who fought a separate war with Britain) fought to maintain their Rights as Englishmen. Even a cursory reading of the stuff these guys wrote at the time proves this.

They came to see that the best way to protect their ancient liberties was through separation from Great Britain.

We need to see that they saw the world through their eyes, and their immediate context.  Political and religious thought in the 13 colonies were shaped by the events of the English Civil War from the 1640s’.

So what does all this matter to a Canadian? American developments springing from ancient English Common-law traditions do matter. Their developments can be seen as a parallel growth from a common root. To be sure, American law has no legal authority in Canada, but it ought to have an advisory authority derived from common ancestry and common traditions.

However, the common root does have legal authority in Canada. Queen Elizabeth II is our Queen, and via the covenants and traditions we possess in common with the British Crown we have good grounds for assuming all the ancient rights of Englishmen as being ours.

Incidentally, this is why I am a convinced monarchist. This tradition is worth all danger to keep.

What then were the common traditions the American colonists sought to defend? What was it that they thought they ought to have, and were willing to forego all comfort and safety to attain?

We shall sketch the English Civil War and some of the developments from it in the next posts in this series, in an effort to lay out some of these that pertain to the question at hand.