Blown out shoulders and the .303

What a beauty!

Back in the days of yore, good old boys carried the Lee Enfield into our wars. I love my Enfield. It is an accurate rifle, light handling, powerful and pretty. That’s all a man needs in a gun, really.

Being a reloader, I thought I should reload for my Enfield. There are a variety of die kits for the .303, and I bought the Lee Loader kit.

The dipper is quite useless.

Here it is. I like Lee Dies.

If I were to compare it to RCBS dies, I would say that the lock ring with the gasket is as secure as the RCBS dies, just without a small set screw that rounds out as soon as I use it…

The main feature of this set is that it is a neck-sizing die, not a case sizing die. With the .303 this really matters. When Enfield designed this cartridge/rifle combo back at the turn of the last century, (think 1890s-1900) they designed the cartridge to seat on the rim. It is a rimmed cartridge, after all. An example of the modern method of seating the cartridge on the shoulder was adopted by the Americans in  the 1903 Springfield in .30-06.

Because the .303 cartridge is seated on the rim, head spacing isn’t as critical to the performance of the rifle as in shoulder seated types. The Enfield designers thus left headspace tolerances wide open. If a rifle suffered from too much headspace, the armorer could swap different thicker bolt heads in or out as the case needed. In a service rifle, this isn’t a catastrophic design flaw. Its just a workaround that works.

observe the blown out shoulder on the once-fired brass, and the overall case streching

This is what my rifle does to casings. I actually swapped out the original bolt for another one on account of brass that was tearing just above the rim.

The shoulder on the factory load (Winchester Super X) on the right measures 1.784″ from the rim to where the shoulder begins. On the once-fired brass on the left (PPU) the same measurement is 1.843″. Notice the shape of the brass shoulder also changes. In the fired cartridge it takes on a rounder profile.

The Lee loader is a neck-sizing die. This means that the whole case isn’t resized, just the neck down to the top of the shoulder. Because the case stretches significantly, 0.059″ in my rifle, a full-length die would have too much material to push. This would lead to case deformation. The neck is really the only part of the case that requires resizing anyway. Remember, this cartridge seats on the rim, not the shoulder.

There are a few things to consider when reloading the .303. First, no used brass can be guaranteed to work in any rifle other than the one it was first fired in. Enfields have some pretty random interior dimensions. Second, beware of case-head separation. That brass stretches quite a bit. If there is excessive head space it will rip the casing, and could damage your rifle or lead to extraction problems. In this case, get a new bolt or bolt head. Third, be careful how much powder you load in the used casing. Once fired casings have more capacity than the factory brass. Overfilling can happen, and if it does you then have a safety issue. Blowing up old guns is not my idea of a good time.

On the importance of crimping a straight case.

Reloading is one of the things that makes the shooting sports more like an art, and accents the aspect of craftsmanship in our fun. Safe reloading can provide premium ammo for the enthusiast at a discount. It also gives a fellow something to do on a cold winter day. If you have the money to get into it, I heartily recommend reloading.

When I got into it there was lots I did not know. There was even more that I did not know I did not know, which is worse. Now I think of myself as being a fellow who knows some, knows that he doesn’t know lots, and knows some of that which I am ignorant.

One of the things I have learned on the way is that a straight-wall case needs crimping. 20160223_165652[1]

When I bought my Norinco 1911 I also bought dies and components. After I shot all my factory ammo I started reloading.

The first batch was maddingly bad. I have a chronometer, with which you measure bullet velocity. The ten shot average was in the 830fps range, which is ok for .45 auto. One bullet came out at 510fps. I could actually see the 230g ball pass through the arms of the chrony. Because the velocity was so low, the bullet dropped considerably more than I had anticipated. My brand-new chrony narrowly escaped destruction.

I had a dud. How humiliating.

Buy one of these
Worse yet, I had a failure to feed on every single mag. After flawlessly chewing through the factory stuff I was really bummed out. Was my gun no good? Or was it my reloading?

A micrometer, as shown in the picture, is the tool for the job. Unless you use it, you won’t be.

When I went back to the bench I re-read the instructions that came with my .45 auto dies. The bullet seater die contains a crimping function milled right into the die body. (These are RCBS dies) After achieving proper bullet depth, back the bullet seater out, turn the die body down, and re-press the cartridge. Adjust the die up or down to attain the correct crimp for your cartridge/handgun combo. Then reset the seater, and go to town. You have consistent crimp all day.

Because the straight-wall .45 auto seats on the case mouth, crimp is essential for consistent feeding. Bottle-neck cartridges seat on the shoulder, for comparison.

I omitted to explain the importance of casing length. We will go over that another time.

I have found that my best crimp for my gun is .005″ narrower than the measurement at the base, just forward of the rim. Every load I have crimped to this spec has functioned without fail. No failure to feed for me.

To sum, reloading is a rewarding process, but make sure you follow the directions! Humiliation at the range is not the worst thing that can happen if something is not done properly! Guns do blow apart in some cases. Be careful.

Safe reloading my friends. And remember, “ball stops ’em all”.20160223_165233[1]

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.




Taking stock…

20160116_103059ATI makes a very nice looking monte carlo stock for the Mosin. I picked one up at Bartons’. It was 107$, not too shabby a price. It comes with a cheek pad that has a peel-n-stick backing. You just peel the back off and install it on the comb.

I like the look of the stock. After all is done, the rifle shoulders beautifully. It feels great. But… the fitting process took some doing. 20160116_103236As you can see in the pictures, I really had to get in there, rip-tear-and-pull-hair. I used a file, sandpaper and an angle grinder to work the plastic into good shape. I really wish I had a dremel…

The barrel channel isn’t straight or wide enough.20160116_103248 I had to open it up by about a 1/4″ just to float the barrel. The action sat up on the stock so the action screws cannot even make contact with their threads.

In the top picture I show with the screwdriver a particular spot inside the stock. That spot is of great importance. If that spot isn’t milled out to the proper depth, the magazine interrupter, which is attached to the ejector, will not function. If that part of the stock isn’t inletted properly the interrupter impedes loading the magazine. A single-shot rifle is pretty useless in my view. 20160116_103157

All this to say, I am disappointed that this “drop-in ready stock” isn’t anywhere near drop-in ready. I am doing a second Mosin, and all the same problems occur. I can understand some work being required, but this does seem excessive. For 107$, I expect better quality.

Once the milling is all done, I would recommend bedding the action. Adding epoxy to the receiver lug cut-out and tang slot are a good idea. There is a bit of room in there that can be filled. 20160116_103258 20160116_103305

The idea with bedding the action is that there is some room in those cut-outs. As the rifle recoils, some movement in the action will be expected. This leads to diminished precision in shot placement.

We will examine the process of epoxy bedding in a later post.



American gun-control debates aren’t helping us at all

thThis flag says it all. Stay away, keep off! I know my rights, and they SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED. After all, the 2nd Amendment is in the Bill of Rights, right?

Slow down turbo. Lets consider together the impact of American gun debates on our Canadian conversation. The American 2nd Amendment is a glorious part of their Bill of Rights. I am in hearty accord with it, and Amen. However, I am no American. I am a Canadian.

One of the first things the opponents of firearm-freedom in my country do is throw this in my face. “You aren’t American, this isn’t America, you don’t have the Right to Own a firearm. It is a Privilege. And it is one the government has a right to take away at any time.”

This kind of facile argument is very frustrating to deal with, as there is a grain of truth to it. I am not American, and the American Constitution and Bill of Rights have no authority in Canada. But is that all there is to this? Are Americans the only men in the history of the world who have a right to own and bear firearms? Are they unique among men?

I think not. In a future post I hope to go into the American Constitution and the context surrounding the debates and men that formed the Bill of Rights. For now, we shall leave them by the way and move forward to sketch our program.

There have been several types of responses in the Canadian gun world to the typical anti-gun rhetoric above. One method has been to grant the premise that a Right does not exist where it is not enumerated in law, and then try to amend the situation by getting laws passed or struck. This method is fine, but the premise is flawed. More on this will follow in subsequent posts.

Another response has been to find a means of making Rights universal to Nature. If all men everywhere have universal and natural, rights… and property is one of them, then all Canadians have a natural right to arms. The logic of this is fine. Unfortunately, the leftists do not agree with the premise, and I partly agree with them.

So then, we are left in a dilemma. We know that owning guns and enjoying their use cannot be immoral. Somehow we know this, and yet we must make clear what we mean and do not mean. Our task is to form our thoughts, to bend our rational powers toward the effective communication of what we believe.

If Human Rights are so arbitrary as to require ratification by law, then we know they do not suffice. What if the ownership were not a Right? What if it were a Duty?

I aim to argue that the ownership and use of firearms, for defence in particular, is a DUTY of every man.