Monday, July 28, 2008

Blank Ammo

Shooting black powder blanks in shotgun

Making Blank Anno
When I started making blanks some years ago I discovered something right off the bat. There was little or no info anywhere in regards to the subject. I looked everywhere to no avail. If there was something written about blanks I was unable to locate it. Anyway I applied the same methods that I used for designing bullets or other oddball projects I engage in, trial and error. There was plenty of error believe me but that’s how you learn. After some searching I found some blank powder at a gun show but no instructions as to how much to use in a given cartridge. Factory blanks are sometimes available but hard to find. I don’t see blanks listed in any of the national catalogs that list live ammo. Now and then Old Western Scrounger has a few but not in every caliber. Navy Arms sells 5 in 1 blanks but they are plastic and jam in some guns particularly lever actions. There are a couple of companies that produce them but they are sometimes hard to locate. Searching the web may produce results.

577 Martini Henry blank

Almost any gun can be made to fire blanks. Westerns use replica guns that look and function like the originals. Needless to say the antiques are too valuable to use in movies. Semi autos are the hardest to make blanks for. You need to have a blank adapter to cycle the action. It takes a little more work to make it fit and get the desired noise level. There are some guns that are made to shoot blanks only. Some of them are pot metal junk that I would hesitate to shoot. They have a shield in front of the cylinder that does nothing but create a hazard. You can get a buildup in front of the cylinder that can in the least jam the gun. Personally I prefer the regular guns for my blank shooting. Shooting blanks in your regular gun has another benefit. Any gun handling is a benefit in maintaining proficiency with that firearm.

38 special blanks

The first thing was to obtain or make dies. Most companies don’t sell them however blank crimping dies can be bought from C H Tool and Die Company. They come in an assortment of calibers and I imagine they will make a custom size for an extra fee. They are necessary if you plan on crimping any cases. They run from about $60 to $100 depending on caliber. 5 in 1 dies are the most expensive. In order to do rifle blanks they are absolutely necessary in order to have cases feed. If there is another company out there that makes blank dies they have kept it a secret from me. Any regular loading press can be used mine being the RCBS Ammo master single stage press. One of my dies the 30 caliber I shortened to be able to crimp such cases as the 32 short cases. When I do 30-06 I have to back up the insert so I can get the necessary leverage and feel when doing those blanks. Some of my other blank dies are also shortened to make them more versatile.

a full length 30-06 blank My first project was 45 Colt blanks. Requirements were that they be loud and not put any holes in a single sheet of newspaper at 5 feet. Also they could not be crimped. After some trials with different materials I ended up with sheet Styrofoam. The sheet was an inch thick and 18 X 48”. To cut wads I used a 50-70 case with the primer pocket drilled out and a nail with a big head to push it out of the case once cut. A chamfering tool keeps the case sharp for good cutting. I modified a bullet-seating die to put the wad down in the case against the powder with an extended seating stem. The ideal load was 8 grains of this powder. It gave a good loud noise and discintrigrated the wad as required. This load does not have a crimped case. I do slightly crimp the case mouth to facilitate feeding. It makes a difference if the case is straight or slightly crimped. Some people feel that if you crimp the case a small piece of brass may come out acting as a projectile. While that is possible if the gun is pointed in a safe direction no one should get hurt. Starline makes 45 Colt cases especially for black powder blanks. The flash holes are larger giving better ignition to them. The cases are head stamped for blanks and should not be used for loaded ammo with smokeless powder. The extra ignition can cause a dangerous pressure spike. Using them for black powder ammo shouldn’t cause any problems. I have done so with no problems. Blanks should never be fired at someone at close range. This is especially true at the facial area. Doing so can seriously injure or even kill someone. Blanks produce muzzle blast and expel projectiles mostly unburned powder for a short distance. Stay back at least 10 feet and aim at a body that has heavier clothing on. Better yet aim to the side of them.

44-40 styrafoam & crimped blanks

Blank powder is very fine and has to be well sealed in the case to avoid leakage. As a note never use blank powder for live ammo it will certainly destroy the gun and maybe part of you. It is simply way too fast to be used as a propellant.
The 45 Colt can be loaded with black powder to good effect. If you crimp it sometimes it sticks in the cylinder. To avert that I size case in a 38-40 die load full about 30-32 grains of FFFg black powder will suffice. Ditto for Clean Shot or Pyrodex. Crimping a case in a blank die will shorten its reloading life. You can also fill with black powder and use a Styrofoam wad, which works pretty well. It won’t however destroy the wad like the blank powder load will so keep that in mind. The wad may act as a projectile for a short distance. Also may be on fire so watch for fire hazards. Thin cork wads may work for you if you can find them. The 44-40 and 38-40 can be loaded using the same methods.

cut off blank dies

45 auto blanks can be made from 30-06 cases cut to the same length as a loaded 45 round. Just cut down case size as normal and load. You need a 45 crimp die and will have to adjust as needed to feed in gun. If you use blank powder watch out for leakage as it is very fine. Try Red Dot until you get the noise you want probably 8 to 10 grains. Like custom ammo loading blanks requires some experimentation.
With 38 special cases I use either 5 X blank powder with a Styrofoam wad or 8 X Red Dot with a crimped case. Crimping a case with blank powder is difficult because of leakage. You could put a slender piece of Styrofoam at the top of the case as you are crimping it. Correctly done that will prevent leakage. Since blank powder is hard to find I looked at flake powders to fill the need. They ignite easily and due to the large flake shapes much less prone to leakage. They do require more powder and have to have a certain amount of resistance in order to work well. The principal is the same as live ammo. The powder has to have a certain amount of push against it to perform properly. When loading 38 cases I fill it as much as possible and give it a good crimp. I get good noise that way. Wads by the way seldom work with regular powder. They just don’t put up enough resistance to burn the powder properly. The effect is the same as loaded ammo. I also size the 38 cases in a 30 Luger die. That adds resistance and prevents the case from sticking in the gun. With black powder I just fill up the case and crimp. Gives lots of noise and smoke. The 38 S & W cases as well as 38 short and long Colt I use FFFFg filled to the top and crimp it. It works well that way. Blanks for 32 revolvers can be done the same way.

308 Win plastic blank

Whenever you are shooting blanks it’s a good idea to check the barrel for obstructions. Sometimes a build up can occur creating a hazardous situation. Shooting like that is like shooting any obstruction out of a barrel. Damage to the gun can occur as well as injury to a shooter or bystanders. That’s also true with weapons that have blank adapters.

12 gauge black with styrafoam

The 5 in 1 blanks can be made from 445 Super Magnum cases or Starline makes 5 in 1 cases. I only use black powder or Clean Shot when loading these. Size case fill up about ¼” from top of case with powder and properly crimp. The 5 in 1 cases from Starline look very much like 445 super magnum cases. The only real difference is the size of the flash hole. I don’t recommend using the Starline cases for smokeless loads. Doing so could be courting disaster. They will fit a 44 magnum 38-40, 44-40, 45 Colt and a 45-70 in most cases. They will cycle through a lever gun with no problems. The 5 in 1’s have been around for quite a while being popular in Hollywood for westerns. It’s really convenient to have a blank that fits all. You can find out more about blanks at

In doing 223 blanks I size and prime case as normal. I use between 7 and 8 grains of Red Dot. That gives it a good loud noise and is consistent. I use a C H crimp die to finish it off. Occasionally the shoulder will buckle a bit so I size it a little so it will feed in all semi-auto 223 weapons. Of course you can adjust the powder charge for noise level.

Two types of 8 X 57 blanks

I have done some 7.62 X 53 Russian rounds. With those I pull the military bullets as commercial brass while available isn’t necessary for blanks. I use 15 grains of Unique to obtain a nice loud report. If I notice the shoulder buckle a bit I just resize a bit. They work fine. When you crimp the neck it puts a strain on the shoulder much the same a crimping a bullet. Too much can buckle the shoulder. Sometimes it’s necessary to crimp the necks tightly to prevent leakage. Adjust your die to crimp enough but not too much.

7.62 X 54 Nagant blanks

Nine-millimeter blanks can be made from 9 mm magnum cases. Size and prime as normal and load with Red Dot or Bullseye. Get as much as you can in there then crimp with a 38 C H crimp die. Done correctly they seem to feed and make a nice noise. A blank adapter would be needed to function a semi-auto pistol. In theory a 380 can be made from a 9 X 23 case but the base is a tad too big. If you really need 380 blanks then get a case sizing die that sizes the entire body down to a 380 head size. Magma Engineering in Queen Creek AZ makes one and you would have to specify die size. They make it because the 40 auto case has to be sized that way in order to have good reloaded ammo. I made 40 auto blanks out of 10 mm magnum case. Probably 10 grains of Red Dot and crimped should do the trick.

303 British blank

I have not been able to find brass suitable for loading the 30 carbine. The regular cases are too short. When they are crimped they won’t fire as they go too far in the chamber. At a later date I plan on rectifying that situation. The most promising cases are the 222 Remingtons. It is close to the length of a 30 carbine. Probably can swage the body to the same diameter as the carbine case and load as needed. Ditto for the 7.62 X 39 full length blanks. However the 7.62 blanks are available on a sporadic basis.

223 blank

With the regular 30 calibers such as the 30-30,308 and 30-06 I use cases that were previously sized and were found to be too long for regular ammo. I have loaded the 30-30 with 12 to 15 grains of Unique depending how loud I wanted or black powder. Both work fine. The 308 gets 15 grains of Unique while the 30-06 gets 15 to 18 depending on required noise level. They seem to fit and feed in most magazines although occasionally the magazine may need some modifications. They are crimped with a C H die to the point that they won’t leak. Over crimping will buckle the shoulder. I neck all my 30 caliber blanks to 7 mm prior to crimping. It helps with leakage and puts less strain on the shoulder. The smaller caliber snouts don’t hurt feeding either.

Tools used to cut styrafoam wads

You can try Red Dot or Green Dot and get similar results. If you need a longer 308 blank try a 7 x 57 case. They can be necked up or down as needed. Like loading live ammo some thought and customizing may have to be put into the blanks needed. In many cases blanks can be more difficult to make then ammo. There are times that cases must be cut down to fit a specific load. You just have to fit the blank to your needs.

Fired 45-70 blank

The 45-70 cases can be loaded with FFg black powder and crimped to make a nice blank. Also 15 grains of blank powder under a good tight Styrofoam wad also works well. You can crimp it with 20-22 grains of Unique for a smokeless blank. The powder charge can be adjusted for noise level. Blanks shot inside should have a lower noise level to protect every ones hearing. Outside the noise have more places to go hence dissipating it better. I have loaded the 45-70 with 40 grains of FFg black powder over a Styrofoam wad. The purpose was to produce a line-throwing load. Black powder loads should be shot outside because of the smoke and smell.

A baloon breaking load using walnut shells crushed

Making 8 mm Mauser blanks is simple. They can be made from 30-06 cases with the shoulders pushed back so it will chamber. I find that if I use the 7mm-08 sizing die I can make 8mm, 7.5 French or 7.7 Jap depending on where I set the shoulder. I have a billion 270 Winchester cases which are also fine for blank making. The 6 mm case makes nice 308 blanks. With the 8-I neck down to 7 mm caliber and load 12 to 15 X Unique depending on the noise level wanted. If I was going to make blanks for a 7 X 57 or similar round I would neck it down to 6 mm to facilitate feeding. They feed in a Mauser fine. Semi or full auto firearms need to have slightly different blanks. They need to be long enough to feed and chamber and strong enough to work the action. Of course most of them have a blank adapter fitted to the barrel. That creates more back pressure thus operating the gun ok. Again the load may have to be customized to operate that particular firearm. A weak recoil spring is sometimes used with the same results. That’s where a custom blank maker comes in handy. Since military 308 and 30-06 cases are cheap and plentiful I use them where ever I can. They are even cut down for 45 auto blanks. I generally use (seconds) which are cases that have been fired a lot or are military cases. Cases with odd or undesirable head stamps can also be used. Even cases with tiny splits at the mouth can be used. For 7.62 X 54 Russian I usually pull military bullets and use them. Once a case is used for blanks it’s no longer fit for reloading typical ammo. So old cases and Bearden primed cases are fine.

45 auto blanks

Almost any case can be made into making blanks. At a customers request I pulled bullets from 500/450 cases and loaded them with black powder to be used in a parade. After pulling the bullet I crimped with a regular 45 caliber crimp die. They worked fine. Twelve gauge shotgun shells can be used a well. I load 50 grains of FFFg behind a Styrofoam wad cut with a brass 10 gauge shell. With blank powder I need 35 grains in order to produce a loud noise. The muzzle blast is tremendous and should never be pointed at anyone at ranges under 25 feet or so. The wads should be cut for a tight fit to prevent leakage and produce a good noise. I use a MEC reloader to push the wadding tight against the powder then crimp down the crimp into the shell. The smaller gauges as well as the 10 gauge can be made the same way. Clean Shot also works a well giving the smoke without the corrosion. I load Clean Shot by volume using the same amount of space as black powder. Pyrodex also works well in most blanks. If you want to fool with blank powder it can work just have a tight wad. Start at 20 or so grains depending on gauge and adjust to noise level. That gives it a good tight fit. I push the crimp down into the shell. They feed and work fine.
Another type of blank sometimes encountered is the wood blank. They have a wood projectile that is the same shape as a bullet. The theory is since they are much lighter then bullets they won’t travel far. Also the rifling should help tear them apart lessening their range. While that’s true I would not recommend aiming them at anyone unless at extremely long ranges 50 yards or so. At close range they can easily inflict a serious or fatal wound. They would be good for shooting up in the air or on a range for training purposes. I have seen them in everything from a 6.5 Jap to a 45-70.

30-06 blanks in belt

Blanks are used for many things the most obvious being movies. In the western part of the U.S. cowboys put on many shows doing mock gunfights. They are entertaining as well as funny in some cases. Tourists flock to Tombstone Arizona to watch the mock gunfights that puts them on all the time. You can fire a gun into the air without worrying about falling bullets. Don’t do it in town unless you want to risk being arrested for discharging a firearm in city limits. Most constabulary doesn’t know the difference between blank and live ammo. They can be used for some training purposes. I imagine that they can be used for test firing in some instances where using live ammo isn’t practical. That would include testing a firing pin. All in all blanks can be fun as long as they are used safely. Just remember they are not toys.
Bob Shell

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Unique Gun Powder

44-40 responds to Unique powder loads very well

Unique the everlasting powder
Unique came out about 1900 during the dawn of smokeless powder. Many people still used black powder for almost everything. Like any new product smokeless powder took a while to catch on. Unique was brought out as a shotgun and pistol powder. Back then there were no magnum pistol cartridges such as the 357 or 44 magnum. It would of course be great in 38 & 44 special calibers. I don’t imagine it was used in as a rifle propellant at least not at first. Filling a rifle shell with it would effectively destroy a rifle if not the shooter. Later on when someone discovered that it could be safely used as a reduced load propellant in a rifle. Like any new product it took a while to discover the usefulness of Unique as a propellant. As it turns out it is probably the most flexible powder ever brought out.

Closeup of Unique a flake powder

I have not used much Unique in shotguns as don’t load a lot of them. However in a 12 gauge with 1 & 3/8 ounces of shot it would be great. It can also be used in other 12 gauge loads as well a slug loads with good effect. It’s also a great powder in the 20 gauge with many loads. Its also good with 3 ball loads in a 12 gauge.
In pistols I have used more kegs of Unique then I can count. Anything from the 32 S & W long to the 45 Colt accepts this powder. In 38 and 357 magnums it is one of the best from target to near full power loads. 5 grains with a 158 grain semi wad cutter is one of my all time favorite loads. It’s accurate and consistent in any 38 gun that I have shot it out of. Velocity runs about 800 to 850 depending on gun used. In a 357 case I add 1 grain. It is an excellent reduced load powder in the 41 and 44 magnums. 7 grains in a 41 with a 210 grain or 8 in a 44 with a 240 grain slug makes a good working load. The 45 Colt likes it as a cowboy load using 6 grains with a 250 or 8 with a 200. Since Unique is a flake powder it ignites easily even with some airspace. It also takes up a lot of room for its weight another feature making it a good reduced power load. With the light weight bullets it will propel them to near max velocities in those calibers. It works well in the 45 Winchester magnum with full power loads and a light bullet such as the 185 or 200 grain. With the heavy bullets and max loads its better to use a slower burning powder. For many years it had a reputation for burning dirty with real light loads but it has been cleaned up in recent years making a great powder even better. Its burning characteristics have changed little over the years which makes life easier as you can depend on its consistency. It does produce smoke but with cast bullets some of the smoke is produced by the bullet lube being used. I have used many of its contemporaries over the years such as 700 & 800 X as well as PB, Herco and others. While they work fine I just have a tendency to pick up the can of Unique when it comes to that type of reloading. Honesty compels me to say that I have some great loads with Red & Green Dot as well. All the flake powders ignite easily and properly used make fine loads. Some don’t respond well if you under load them too much. That is especially true with Blue Dot.

The 44 special Bulldog responds to various unique loadings

In rifles with cast bullets it’s almost impossible to beat. I have used it in everything from a 222 Remington to a 375 Weatherby. With the right load combination it produces excellent accuracy combined with a light report. At 100 yards I have shot many a group of 1 inch or occasionally less. Velocities average from 12 to 1600 feet per second in most cases. It also produces excellent results with light weight jacketed bullets at reduced velocities. Even with standard weight jacketed bullets at reduced velocities it works well. It will shoot a light weight bullet up to about 2000 feet per second or so depending on the gun and bullet. It is not suitable for a full load in any rifle even the 22 Hornet. Trying to hot rod it will get you in trouble pronto. If you get a max load and try and stretch it even by a grain the pressure may spike dramatically. Such an incident will ruin a rifle. There are dozens of powders better suited for full loads. Unique is for reduced loads and it shines in that area.

The 165 grain among other cast bullets are a natural with Unique

Since I don’t have any control over anyone using this data I can’t be responsible for its use. Like any loading data approach it with caution and common sense.
Here are some loads all using Unique
222 Remington 10 40 grain Speer velocity 2676 accurate
22-250 10 40 grain Speer velocity 2328 nice load
22-250 12 40 grain Speer velocity 2603 accurate
22-250 14 40 grain Speer velocity 2858 22 Hornet velocity
220 Swift 10 40 grain Sierra velocity 2243 accurate
30-30 10 110 grain Speer velocity 1561 ok
30-06 10 110 grain Speer velocity 1281 accurate
30-06 15 130 cast velocity 1799 ok
8mm Mauser 15 165 grain cast velocity 1740 accurate
300 H & H mag 7 86 cast velocity 1326 ok
300 H & H mag 10 86 cast velocity 1666 fair
300 H & H mag 10 173 cast velocity 1209 accurate
300 H & H mag 20 100 Speer Plinker velocity 2264 accurate
300 H & H mag 20 110 Speer velocity 2105 good load
300 H & H mag 20 110 milt rn velocity 2206
300 Winchester mag 20 110 grain Speer velocity 1918 minimum load
375 Weatherby 20 250 cast velocity 1570 accurate
45-70 15 300 grain cast velocity 1265 ok
458 magnum 17 296 grain cast velocity 1311 accurate
458 magnum 15 500 grain cast velocity 1039 consistent

As you can see it is useful in a lot of rifle applications. Some of the larger caliber loadings would take a deer at woods ranges.

The 9mm Jap shoots well with Unique

32 Long Colt 77 grain cast est vel 750
38 TC 9” barrel 6 150 grain cast swc velocity 951 accurate
357 magnum 5.5 125 grain Speer velocity 663 very slow
357 magnum 5 141 grain wc velocity 897 accurate
357 magnum 5 150 grain swc velocity 816 favorite load
357 magnum 6 158 grain swc velocity 1043 working load
357 magnum 7 158 grain cast velocity 963 Colt Python
357 magnum 7.5 158 grain cast velocity 1165 leading
357 magnum 7 158 grain cast velocity 1150 Ruger
401 Power magnum 7 185 grain cast velocity 876 slow
401 Power magnum 8 185 grain cast velocity 1031 better
401 Power magnum 9 185 grain cast velocity 1106 accurate
44 magnum 10 180 grain Sierra velocity 1190 pleasant
44 magnum 8 235 grain cast velocity 1027 accurate
44 magnum 10 240 grain cast velocity 1200 Contender
45 auto 8.5 185 grain Sierra velocity 981 mild
45 auto 8.5 185 grain Hornady velocity 1040 accurate
45 auto 8.5 200 grain cast velocity 1141 stout
45 auto 230 grain cast velocity 768 ok

The 44 Special and 10.4 use Unique quite well in fact the 10.4 case is made from the 44 special

I have designed some lightweight bullets for self defense. The 38 and 357 magnum uses a 75 to 115 grain. In the 44 magnum the bullet can weigh anywhere from 115 to 140 grains. The 45 Colt uses a 125 to 155 grain while the 454 Casual uses the same weights. The lighter weight bullets work best with Red Dot and the heavier ones prefer Unique to produce the high velocities desired with such a load.

The 444 Marlin and shotshells loaded with Unique

These are just some of the loads that I have and still use. For small game a reduced load rifle is just the ticket. The lead bullets won’t destroy much meat and the noise isn’t very loud. Good for campsite food where legal. For instance a 170 grain 30 caliber lead bullet launched at 1200 feet per second or so can be effective at 100 yards or so. Those types of bullets have much more killing power then their ballistics may indicate. The secret is the penetration achieved. Lead bullets have a well deserved reputation for achieving deep penetration due in part to that they don’t expand. The other part of the formula is high sectional density. High sectional density contributes in large part to a high ballistic coefficient. Of course if your rifle is sighted in for a full power load then you will have to adjust the sights or scope.

The 455 Webley is a good candidate for Unique

Unique works well in blanks as well. Depending on blank and noise wanted 10 to 15 grains works fine. In the 30-06 15 grains works fine as does 12 in a 30-30 blank. Other flake powders work well also due to ease of ignition. In small blanks such as the 223 or 38 special I generally use Red Dot. The loads for both are 7 X Red Dot. Flake powders ignite easily and take up a lot of space making them ideal to make blanks.
Bob Shell

The 30-30, 30-40 and 303 British are capable of excellent accuracy with Unique and cast bullets

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Rimfire Ammo

Rimfire Ammo
With the resurging interest in old guns there is one area that the ammo makers are missing out on. That is the rimfires of yesterday. The rimfire was the first modern looking ammo to come out in 1858 by S & W as a 22 short. During the civil war others started to make an appearance namely the 44 Henry & 56-52 Spencer. They were used in the Civil War to an extent. For many years they were popular in various rifles and handguns from small revolvers to rolling blocks. Many people used them for small game hunting and target practice. There are quite a few guns out there that need this ammo but none is made on a regular basis. Calibers such as the 25,30,32,38 and 44 calibers need to be made to satisfy the market. If someone would do it they might hit a gold mine. There are a couple of foreign calibers such as the 10.4 Swiss Vetterli and the 12 X 42 just to name a few. I am in the ammo business and I get calls and inquiries about these all the time. The only way to get some one interested is for everyone to contact the ammo factories and ask about getting them in production. You can start with Winchester and Remington as they both made rimfires at one time and may still have the tooling in a basement. Without those calls it will never happen.
Bob Shell

Colt Revolvers

Colt double action in 41 Long Colt

Shooting the 41 Long Colt
The 41 was brought out in 1877 for the Colt Lightening model and later introduced in the New Navy and Bisley models. It was brought out as a self defense round and with the relatively blunt 200 grain bullet it was considered adequate. Many old west characters liked it due to ease of carrying. It was said that Billy the Kid favored it. Just for the record there is a 41 Short Colt round which is a shortened version of the long with a lighter bullet. It is very obscure and was underpowered and would qualify as one of the 3 most useless cartridges in existence. I have tested the 41 short and it is pathetic. If you shoot someone with it you better be able to whip or out run them as it will only make them angry. The original load was black powder propelling an outside lubricated bullet at about 730 feet per second producing 230 lbs of energy. Later on they used a 386 diameter inside lubricated slug at about the same velocity. Because of varying dimensions it wasn’t accounted very accurate. However I have found in a solid gun with good ammo it shoots pretty decent. It did win the 1908 Palma match so I have to believe even then they knew how to wring out good accuracy. After about 1910 popularity started to wane giving way to the 38 special which was more accurate and versatile. In recoil the 41 feels similar to a full size 38 with the police load which means that it’s not hard on the hand. Like many of the double action revolvers of the period the trigger pull is a beast. In the single action mode it is serviceable. It has fixed sights as was common in the day. They are ok and close on with factory equivalent loads in both of the revolvers shot. If they are off for you it would be a good time to learn Kentucky windage.

41 Long Colt Ammo

There are some 41 Colts out there so it’s worth while to develop some load data. A few years ago brass was very hard to get. The only supplier was Bertram and unfortunately the brass was expensive and of poor quality. I had a lot of problems with it from no flash holes in the primer pockets to the rim coming off when attempting to prime it. Since the maker is in Australia it was hard to return it. The only other way to get cases was to size down a 41 magnum and cut its rim. Not only was that labor intensive but they weren’t the best cases either. Anyway happily Starline now sells quality brass at an affordable price. The bullets were a problem but a call to N.E Molds solved that. It is the 2 diameter bullet being 386 and 401 up front. Also Huntington Die sells a hollow base version which shoots fine. Both bullets shot to the same point of impact at 10 yards. At 15 they shot into a silver dollar size group which I don’t consider too bad for an old gun and shooter. Both bullets are soft which without a doubt contributed to the accuracy. Even at 75 yards I was able to hit the iron pig as long as I did my part. We noticed that the gun has a split at the rear of the barrel. Continued shooting didn’t hurt the gun or the accuracy. I also have a Colt Police Positive in 32-20 that also has a split. I guess they are getting old.

41 Short Colt Ammo

I worked up a few loads for it and here they are. They were chronographed 10 shots at 10 feet from the muzzle. A chrony was used for these tests. If you use these loads approach the max from below. There is nothing to be gained by using max type loads and will wear out the gun faster. Since I have no control of how this data is used I take no responsibility in its use.

4 X Unique 192 grain cast 630 mild
4.2 X Unique192 grain cast 639 accurate
4.2 X Unique197 grain 674 accurate
4.4 X Unique 192 grain 643 ok
4.4 X Unique 197 grain 662 accurate
4.6 X Unique 192 grain 730 near factory
14.5 X Pyrodex 192 grain cast 676 accurate
3.8 X 231 197 grain 685 mild
4 X 231 197 grain 687 most accurate
4.2 X 231 197 grain 707 clean
4.4 X 231 197 744 max
4 X Red Dot 197 814 accurate
4.2 X Red Dot 197 853 not for old gun
4.4 X Red Dot 197 875 too hot!
10.5 X Blackhorn 209 200 grain HB 642 accurate

Bullets suitable for 41 Colt

The 192 grain is hard cast as opposed to the softer 197. Overall the 197 was slightly more accurate due to the lead upsetting in the bore. There are not a lot of bullet weights or styles available as there are in other calibers. However I don’t consider that a major problem. The bullet sold by Huntington is hollow based and soft which allows the base to expand upon firing. I have obtained another 41 Colt revolver with a 6” barrel that I have tested with various loads. Unlike the other one there is no split at the forcing cone and it is pretty tight.
Bob Shell
Closeup of 41 Colt cylinder

Monday, July 21, 2008

Crimson Trace Night Sights

A 44 magnum with Crimson Trace Laser Grips

Crimson Trace Grips
In this world we live in unfortunately sometimes we can be a victim of a crime. Someone can break into your house at night with bad intentions in mind. The burglar has the element of surprise as he isn’t going to call ahead of time to let you it’s your turn to be robbed. If you live in a state where you are allowed to protect yourself and your family consider yourself fortunate. Some areas of the US don’t allow that option. Anyway if you choose to protect your family then you need a handgun that is powerful enough and utterly reliable. You need to get proficient with it as well as other adults and other responsible and trained family members. I recommend a lot of practice with it with and without the laser grips on. That way if the unthinkable happens you will be prepared. Since you are in a situation where the burglar has the advantage of surprise you need an edge. The Crimson Trace products give you that needed edge. My model 19 sits in my night stand and I have complete confidence in the Crimson Trace grips being reliable.

One thing that I found extremely valuable is the Crimson Trace Laser Grips. They are extremely easy to snap on and feel like the original grips. When you grab the gun the grip lights up automatically because there is a button on the grips that is activated when you grip the gun. It projects a red dot about the size of a quarter which is easy to pick up. It will definitely help you hit the target. Another feature is that if a housebreaker sees that dot on his body he may give up without a shot being fired. They know what that dot means. They make the grips for many of the more popular guns and you can check the website for availability. They are always coming out with new models so it pays to keep their website handy. They have a couple of rifle models also. They are well worth the price as they can give you the life saving edge that you need. They fit the gun and are comfortable to shoot. They have tiny and I mean tiny screws in the grip for adjustment. Like any other sights they have to be adjusted for windage and elevation. An Allen wrench is supplied for that task which isn’t particularly hard.

A burgler's view of the red dot

I also found that they can be handy for night hunting. My S & W model 629 has a set and they are there to stay. I tried them out at night and my shooting definitely improved as I was able to shoot decent groups in spite of the darkness. Also I was shooting heavy loads and in spite of the recoil the grips were comfortable. Even the 310 grain bullets that I shoot in that gun are relatively comfortable in spite of the recoil. Whoever designed those grips knew what they were doing. They will be great for hog hunting at night. I tried them in the woods and the dot showed up well in every background as long as it was dark. They will give you confidence to hit a game animal in the dark.

Although they work fairly well in cloudy weather during the day the sunlight renders then useless but you should only need regular sights anyway. They have two batteries that easily slip into the grips as well as a button on the bottom to shut them off during daylight. They are a valuable addition to any handgun that may be used at night. I would recommend them on any handgun that may have to be used at night for serious social purposes. To check out their product lines go to
Bob Shell

Italian Revolvers

The Bodero Revolver
The 10.4 sometimes called the 10.35 was developed for the model 1874 service revolver. It came in two main models. The enlisted soldier’s model didn’t have a trigger guard and the trigger folded up while the officer’s model had a normal trigger guard. I am not sure as to any advantage of having two different trigger guard systems. There was also a brass frame model made but they are not common. Like many other guns of the period it was designed by a commission and made in several different plants so there are some minor differences between them. It is similar in size and power to the 44 Russian but isn’t interchangeable. In fact I have seen them rechambered for the 44 Russian which while usable destroys the collectors’ value of the piece. It was also used in the 1889 Glesenti revolver and saw some use up to 1945 as a secondary pistol. There were both black powder and smokeless loads developed for it. It was used until the 1920’s when the 9mm Glesenti replaced it as the first line service handgun. Occasionally you can find a revolver at a gun show or on an auction and the price is usually reasonable.

Ammo is somewhat of a problem as nothing is standard with this gun. Fiocchi has made ammo for it but availability is spotty or non existent. Like many of the obsolete guns that abound making your own is the only option. The listed ballistics is for a black powder load of a 177 grain is listed at 735 while a smokeless is launched at 800 feet per second. One can see that it’s not a powerhouse nor should the handloader attempt to make it one. I did not attempt to squeeze every last foot second out of this revolver as I prefer my weapons to be in one piece. If I desire more power I have plenty of other more modern handguns.
5 X Herco 170 grain hj hp 552 slow
6 X Unique 170 grain hj hp 833 good load
4.5 X Herco 180 grain hp 452 slow
5.5 X Herco 180 grain hp 722 ok
5 X Herco 190 grain cast 802 accurate
3.5 X Herco 200 grain cast 577 consistent
4.5 X Unique 200 grain cast 729 accurate
4 X Herco 210 grain Wad cutter 719 accurate

Brass can be made by shortening a 44 special or Russian case or obtaining the brass from Buffalo Arms. They make good quality brass for many hard to get cases for obsolete guns. Case length is listed at .89 while the loaded length is 1.25. It doesn’t take a very astute person to see that there isn’t a lot of room for the powder charge. Bullets are .422 in diameter and are very difficult to find. You need a custom mold or do as I do and swage down .427 diameter bullets and they work fine. I tried some Sierra hollow points swaged down but to be perfectly honest there is no advantage to using them. They are more expensive and won’t expand at the velocities obtainable with this revolver. I made some full metal jacketed bullets and while they shot ok there is no advantage to them that I am aware of. The 170 grain half jacket hollow point driven to 750 feet per second would expand due to its design and may be the best bullet for self defense if you chose to use the gun for that purpose. The lead bullets originally made for the 44-40 works just fine for any conceivable use and they were my all around favorites.. You won’t be driving any lead bullet fast enough to lead the bore. I would not recommend shooting 427 diameter bullets for a couple of reasons. First of all they probably won’t chamber and if they do excess pressure may result in shooting those oversize bullets. My bore slugged out at 422 which is the called for diameter. You can buy a set of reloading dies if you can find them though they will cost an arm and a leg. I found that using a 41 magnum seating die sized the cases perfectly and a cut down 44 special dies to bell the case and seat the bullet. Once I figured all that out loading isn’t any more difficult then any other revolver. The top loads I would consider max and would not exceed them and the light loads are shown for comparison purposes. My gun was made in the 1920’s near the end of the manufacturing period. That puts it in the smokeless powder period however I have no desire to make it a junior 44 magnum nor would any prudent individual.

The gun loads like most typical guns of that period. It appears to be a sturdy affair with a small grip both characteristics of that period. The barrel is about 4” long. The rear sight is very rudimentary being a notch in the frame while the front is a typical blade. There is a gate that lifts back and you just drop in the rounds. While it’s a double action piece I shot it single action as the trigger is very heavy in the double action mode. I suppose that people during that time had a bionic trigger finger. Anyway the single action was pretty decent being serviceable but heavy. It seems that military revolvers of that period were treated as stepchildren. Most of them aren’t very powerful and accuracy is an afterthought. With one or two exceptions most of them were underpowered and produced some complaints from the troops for that reason.

Enlisted soldiers' version which lacks the trigger guard

Recoil wasn’t bad with any of the loads. Accuracy was surprisingly good though it shot high. We obtained groups of 2’ at 15 yards with the best loads which is very respectable with such a gun. The empties have to be poked out one at a time which would encourage you to solve your problem with the first 6 shots. As for what it would be useful for small game comes to mind but would lack the power for any large game. While not the best item it would be fairly good for self defense at close range. It beats throwing rocks or taking a knife to a gun fight. After all no one wants to get shot with anything if they can avoid it. Its main use would be going out and target shooting and getting stares from fellow shooters who have their modern guns.
Bob Shell

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Russian Nagant Rifle is a Good Shooter

The Mosen Nagant Rifles
In 1891 Russia came into the smokeless powder era by introducing the Mosen Nagant rifle and a rimmed 30 caliber round. It replaced the 10.6 Berdan single shot rifles, which had been in service for a number of years. The Russo Turkish war of 1877-88 taught Russia the value of repeating rifles. They were armed with the single shot Berden rifles while the Turks had Winchester Model 73 lever action guns. That was the same situation that Custer was in when he fought at the Little Big Horn. It was the trapdoor Springfields verses the model 73-lever rifles plus a lot more Indians. Many military minds of that period disliked repeaters as they thought that they wasted ammo. In 1882 the Chagin commission was formed to create a more modern repeating rifle. The first attempt was a repeating version of the 10.6 Berdan rifle. That didn’t work out which was just as well because in 1886 France came out with the first smokeless powder round. That would have made the Berdan rifle obsolete as soon as it came out even if it worked. The commission tried but rejected such notable rifle designs as the Lebel and Mauser. Col. Mosen also submitted his design, which he was working on from 1887 to 1889. It was designed with a single stack magazine and a 3-line caliber, which is how Russia measured its calibers during that time. A line is equivalent to .1” or .254 mm so 3 of them equaled 30 caliber or 7.62. At about the same time 1889 Nagant submitted his own design to the commission. Initially the Nagant was chosen over the Mosen after being tried out by various units but due to politicks the Mosen eventually was taken. Probably the fact that the Mosen was home grown had something to do with it. In any event time has shown it to be a fine rifle. However the magazine system was the Nagant style in going with a compromise. The rifle was adopted in 1891 and production started in 1892. The rifle was first used in the Russo-Japanese war of 1904. While the rifle showed itself to be sturdy and reliable the 210-grain round nose bullet left something to be desired in range and accuracy.

WWll sniper rifle

The rifle is a bolt-action magazine fed item holding 5 rounds of ammo single stacked. The action design was original and bears no resemblance to the Mauser or any other rifle. The bolt is a two-piece setup with the locking lugs being removable with the bolt head. The bolt also encloses most of the case head except the slot for the extractor. In the unlikely event of a case rupture that may provide the shooter some protection against escaping gas. The bolt cocks on opening and is easy to use. The cocking piece is simple and can be manually cocked if necessary though some effort is required. Bringing back the cocking piece and turning it to the left can utilize the safety. While effective it can be hard to use especially in cold weather. Another unique feature is that the firing pin can be adjusted. A multi purpose tool was provided with the rifle for that purpose as well as having a screwdriver blade on the end. In order to check the firing pin protrusion first remove the bolt then turn cocking left piece holding the bolt. That will uncock the action allowing the firing pin to protrude. The gauge has 2 openings 75 and 95. The pin should fit somewhere between those openings. If pin needs adjustment turn in line with the adjustment marks on the cocking piece until pin is in specs. If you have misfires that would be a good place to check on the problem especially if the primers appear to be lightly hit. Recock the bolt before putting back in the rifle. I have fired quite a bit of ammo in a few rifles and never had the need to adjust the firing pin. However with all the millions of weapons out there I imagine that some had to be adjusted at one time or another. When you first get the rifle it isn’t a bad idea to disassemble and clean the bolt. With long term storage and oiling frequently the parts may be gummed up. This would be especially true in cold weather. To disassemble the bolt pull the cocking piece back and turn counter clockwise. The locking lugs and the bold connecting sleeve will come off exposing the firing pin. The extractor can be removed by inserting a small screwdriver under it but it isn’t generally necessary. The firing pin can be unscrewed from the cocking piece then the spring and firing pin can be removed. It takes a little effort to pull the cocking piece back, which also makes the safety hard to use. Reverse the procedure to reassemble the bolt. Another interesting feature was the bottle of cleaning fluid. It is a dual chamber item one side holding oil while the other had cleaning fluid. The letters on the bottle in Cyrillic tell you which is which. (See photo for explanation.) There were other shaped cleaning bottles for other countries with their language on them. There are stripper clips to load the magazine if you can find them probably at a gun show or a Shotgun News ad. The magazine also is part of the trigger guard, which protrudes below the stock.

Typical ammo for the 7.62 X 54

There were various models made the 91/30 being an improvement over the original Dragoon model. The older models have a hexagonal receiver while the newer ones are rounded. There was a single shot produced up until about 1952 at the Izhevsk as well as other arsenals. It had no provisions for a sling or cleaning rod. Also there was no hole drilled out for the magazine. It was probably some type of training rifle and was chambered for the conventional 7.62 X 54. The sights on most new models were changed from arshins to meters. One arshin equals .71 meters or .78 yards about 28 inches for your information. Maximum sighting in yards for the Dragoon models was about 2500 yards while the 91/30’s 2200 yards. The carbines ran from 1100 to 1560 yards. As with most military rifles an optimist designed the sights and distances. Originally it was loaded with a 210-grain slug at about 2000 feet per second, which was on par for such cartridges as the old 303 British, and 30-40 Krag loadings. Most countries during that period started with a heavy round nose bullet before the advantages of spitzer bullets was understood. The round nose bullets lacked in accuracy as well as range. In 1908 in keeping up with military developments of the time the bullet was changed to a 148 grain pointed bullet at 2800 feet per second. That loading increased the range as well as flattened the trajectory quite a bit. The rifle saw service through WW ll and is still used today in parts of the world. In the early years Russia couldn’t make enough rifles so companies like Remington and Westinghouse among others made them by the hundreds of thousands and some are still around. SIG and Styer also made them by the thousands. As a note Winchester made about 293,000 rifles and millions of rounds of ammo for the 7.62 X 54. They were even fitted with a bayonet lug. Very occasionally you will see one for sale, which would be a nice collector’s item. At the onset of the 1917 revolution most of the contracts were terminated and the rifles were sold as surplus on the civilian market. Some of the other models are common and are inexpensive to buy today. In 1918 Poland obtained a large quantity of them and converted some of them to the 8 X 57 Mauser. I am not sure as to what the advantage would be unless it was an ammo issue. There would be no power advantage to switching calibers as they have similar ranges and power. As well as rebarreling there would have to be some extractor work done in order to handle the rimless round. I imagine the magazine would have to be somehow reworked to reliability feed rounds. I even heard that some Nagants were rechambered for the 30-06. Bannerman rechambered some around 1918 but they were not considered safe to fire due to some deficient workmanship. If you encounter one I suggest that you use it as a wall hanger. Finland also adopted the Nagant rifle around WW l and used it until the 1950’s when they adopted more modern weaponry. They used it against Russia in the Winter War when they were invaded. They fought valiantly but were outnumbered and outgunned by the Soviets and surrendered in 1940. Many other countries used them to an extent even Germany used some during WW l. One of the more interesting uses was that the Kaiser’s Navy used them for was as mine sweepers. The U boats were issued them and they were used to shoot mines that were placed in the water. A few were also modified to shoot the 8 X 57 round but due to the plentiful supply of 7.62 X 54 that conversion was largely unnecessary. Hungary made some of their own Nagants during the 1950s and by all accounts they were of high quality. They were used against the Communists during the unsuccessful 1956 uprising. Other countries such as Romania and China produced various models of the Mosen Nagant with their own markings on them. North Korea also made some and used others made by China and Russia. It also saw service during the Viet Nam War by the north. Suffice to say there were tens of millions of them made by various countries over many years. That in itself would speak for the reliability of the weapon. Poorly designed and performing military weapons usually have a short life and aren’t adopted by a dozen or so countries. For someone who is interested in various models and where and when they were made a good book would be The Mosin Nagant Rifle by Terence Lapin and published by North Cape Publications. The book gives a breakdown of known numbers produced by various countries and arsenals as well as other info. Russia still uses the round in their light machine guns as well as their Dragunov weapons which are available for sale in the Shotgun News as well as other sources it is also their current sniper round making it possibly the oldest military caliber still in use. The Nagant has been used in competition with good results. The accuracy potential in a quality rifle is excellent and can utilize match bullets with good results. Some of the current reloading manuals show and recommend their match bullets for loading. It has been used in 300 meter Olympic competition by Soviet riflemen among others. It is popular in parts of the world as a hunting cartridge and with good ammo it will take most big game animals with proper bullet placement and good ammo.

Scope can be mounted without gunsmithing

One of mine is a sniper rifle built in 1943 model 91/30 with a scope with the same date. All the numbers match and it has the original 28.7” barrel. It came with a sling, cleaning kit, ammo pouches and a bayonet. The instructions and specifications on the scope were printed in Russian and which is of no help to me. The scope was packed separately from the rifle but mounting wasn’t much of a problem. Slide it in and tighten the large screw at the back and it is ready to go. The scope has 3 post reticules 2 from the sides and one from the bottom. It is serviceable once you get used to it. It has a good clear vision for an old scope and would be useful for hunting or sniping. Adjusting the scope can be an adventure as there are no arrows marked up or down or left and right. It is a trial and error method until you get the hang of it. It is the PU model and is a 3.5 power model. Mine was high and to the right and is taking some work to get it sighted in properly. I backed off one of the screws holding the mount to the receiver and it moved the impact very close to where it should be. There are 2 screws that look like they are made for that purpose and I used the rear one. The sights are a tangent for the rear and a hooded front sight. The trigger takes some getting used to and I don’t like it as much as some other military weapons I have fired. My rifle weighs 11.5 lbs with the scope attached, quite a load. If I took it hunting I would walk to a blind and no further then a few yards with it. With the bayonet attached the length is 5 and ½ feet long.

The Nagant has an adjustable fireing pin

The bayonet is a snap on affair that is 20” total with the blade being 17”. The point is a screw driver blade. There are several variations but they all essentially look alike. I can see where that would be handy as well a deadly. There is a full length-cleaning rod through the fore end as was the custom of the day. The stock is dark and I am not sure what type of wood they used but it’s definitely serviceable. Like most military rifles of bygone years it gives you confidence of its quality and reliability. The rifling was sharp and deep though needed some cleaning. The twist is 1 turn in 10”.

Another of my rifles is a cut down version that I picked up at a gun show for $20.00. It looks rough but shoots fine. Since it is light and handy it would make a good woods hunting rifle. I did a lot of testing and shooting with this piece and never had a malfunction. Accuracy is more the adequate with this rifle. Once I got it adjusted it hit to the point of aim at 100 yards when I do my job. By some standards this gun looks crude however it is reliable and bad weather or a ding won’t hurt it. It makes a good rifle to carry around in a truck or four-wheeler weighing in at 6 & ½ lbs.

Tools that were issued for the Nagant

The cartridge is rimmed and rather powerful almost equaling the 30-06 in many loadings. Many of the barrels need a .311 diameter bullet for best results. I have pulled military and some commercial ammo and without exception it had a .310 or .311 diameter bullet. For best accuracy I recommend that you slug the barrel. At one time it was very difficult to obtain reloadable cases though some military ammo could be had. If someone wanted hunting ammo they could pull the military bullet and reload with a soft point. That worked ok as long as you didn’t change the bullet weight using the same powder. Naturally the neck has to be resized in order to maintain proper tension. Reloading dies are made by all the die makers and the ones that I use are from R.C.B.S. Loading it is the same as any other rimmed bottleneck case and standard large rifle primers are used. Magnum primers are not necessary or desirable. Generally the medium to the medium slow powders work best as in the 30-06. Just as a bit of info the Mosen Nagant round can be necked up and used in the 8 X 56R Hungarian round. It is a little short but will do in a pinch. However since Graff makes brass for the 8 X 56R there is probably no need to do that anymore. However if you wanted to fire blanks in the Hungarian the 7.62 would be a lot cheaper especially with military blanks or blanks made from military rounds.

Good shooting inexpensive ammo from Russia a 203 grain softpoint

Happily several companies make good brass such as Winchester and Sellier & Belliot. Norma also provides ammo for this rifle. That’s a good thing because making Russian cases out of anything else is extremely difficult and time consuming. There is no reason to consider rebarreling it to another caliber. First it would be expensive and the 7.62 X 54 is a very capable cartridge in its own right. For all practical purposes anything that a 30-06 will do so can the Russian round. Due to the magazine shape as well as other features it is generally considered difficult to sporterize. A commercial scope can be mounted with some effort and a sporter stock could be made. It would be a good project for an amateur gunsmith with some time on his hands because a professional job would cost some serious bucks. With a good bore it is as accurate as any contemporary military firearm of that period. There is no reason why one in good shape with quality ammo couldn’t turn in a 3 shot group of 1” at 100 yards possibly even better with a good scope. With its powder capacity it can handle any bullet weight that a 30-06 can handle. As with any cartridge the way to get the most out of it is to hand load your own. Jacketed bullets from 60 to 220 grains can be used. Cast bullets are an option for those who like to plink or hunt small game. I found that the 165-grain cast bullet is very accurate when used with light loads. This particular bullet shoots well in any 30-caliber rifle I have tried it in. Like most non-magnum cases it is amendable to reduced loads and is flexible. As long as the action is solid velocities approaching the 30-06 can be obtained especially with a longer barrel. I have shot my rifles quite a bit and here are some loads that were safe in my rifles. As always approach maximum loads from below. Most factory ammo loaded for the Mosen rifles is limited to around 45,000 lbs of pressure and considering the age and condition of some of the rifles that’s probably a good idea. It’s not a bad idea to have your rifle checked out by a gunsmith prior to firing it.

The 7.62 X 54 was chambered in the Model 95 Winchester and possibly a few others. As far as I know there are no commercial American rifles chambered for this round what a shame. A Ruger # 1 or a Thompson Center Encore would be a splendid home for such a chambering. If you have a Siamese Mauser action that needs a barrel you could do worse then chambering for the Russian round.

The Nagant is capable of fine accuracy

Many countries in various styles, as you can imagine made military ammo. The original had the 210 grain round nose that was found wanting in a couple of areas. The Germans invented the spitzer bullet and the Russians adopted it in 1908. It weighed between 148 and 150 grains and greatly extended the range of the 7.62 X 54. Also it was lighter enabling a soldier to carry a few extra rounds. As heavy as the rifle was a soldier needed all the help he could get. Around 1930 they introduced 2 other bullets the lighter one for short to intermediate range while the 182-grain was a long-range projectile. Tracers weighing 148 grains as well as armor piercing bullets weighing 170 grains were also employed by the Soviets. They even had a subsonic bullet weighing about 140 grains and a practice round at 60 grains. There were incendiary rounds on various designs employed as well. Other countries made ammo-featuring bullets weighing from about 150 to 175 grains of varying designs. A serious ammo collector could get quite a few head stamps from various countries and years. Much of the older ammo is corrosive so if you shoot it be sure to thoroughly clean your rifle. If in doubt treat it as corrosive. If you run into pre WW ll ammo it may be best not to shoot it. If it wasn’t properly stored it may not be reliable or consistent. If you experience hang fires DO NOT continue to shoot it. That is a sure sign that it has deteriorated to the point of being extremely dangerous. I would advise you to either dispose of it or put it in a collection. That is true with any caliber military ammo that displays hang fire characteristics. I personally have run across French and British ammo in that shape. I pulled the bullets and dumped the rest as the cases were Berdan primed and not worth fooling with. For the non-reloader ammo is cheap and plentiful. Both the copper washed and lacquered steel case ammo are perfectly fine for target shooting. I found it reliable and consistent. As with many calibers reloading your own is the best way to obtain its full potential. I have included some of my loads to show what it is capable of. As you can see it is a very flexible round and can be utilized in many ways.

Loads for the cut down model with a 22” barrel
10 X PB 110 grain rn 1521 small game
10 X Unique 110 grain rn 1742 good load
46 X 4197 110 grain rn 3162 consistent
53 X IMR 4895 110 grain rn 3082 pest load
43 X 4197 125 grain Hornady 2802 ok
20 X 5744 150 grain Hornady 1614 good load
51 X VV150 150 grain Centrix 2786 deer load
49 X H 4895 150 grain Speer 2825 consistent
Military Load 150 grain fmj * 2564 mild
Hungarian Load 150 grain soft point* 2731 good load
53 X 760 165 grain soft point 2573 mild
47 X IMR 4895 165 grain soft point 2610 potential
51 X 760 180 grain soft point 2599 accurate
Winchester Fact 180 grain fmj 2435 consistent
Winchester Fact 180 grain soft point 2444 good load
44 X IMR 4895 190 grain TRI/COR 2396 hunting load
43 X IMR 4895 200 grain Speer 2344 mild
JSC LOAD 205 grain soft point * 2199 mild
* 311 diameter bullets. TRI/COR bullets author designed……..
Loads for the 91/30 sniper rifle 28” barrel
15 X Unique * 110 grain round nose 2177 ok
15 X Unique * 125 grain soft point 1852 good load
15 X Blue Dot * 150 grain soft point 1592 small game
56 X 760 150 grain soft point 2896 consistent
10 X Unique * 165 grain cast 1396 accurate
54 X 760 165 grain soft point 2747 deer
53 X 760 180 grain soft point 2636 good load
Winchester Factory 180 grain full metal jacket 2618 consistent
49 X AA 4350 200 grain soft point 2502 accurate
47 X AA 4350 220 grain round nose 2227 mild
48 X IMR 4350 220 grain round nose 2438 max hunting load

Reloading dies

Winchester large rifle standard primers were used in all the tests. * Military cases
I advise that with the top loads start from a couple of grains below and carefully work your way up. Different rifles react differently to the same ammo. Since the author and publisher have no control in your loading methods or materials used we have no responsibility or liability for use of the load data provided. I tried other loads but these are the best and most representative of the lot.

One thing I did was I had some military cases loaded with a 200 grain soft point boat tail bullets that I pulled. I wanted the bullets for another project that I am doing now. The cases were used for some of the reduced loads included in the data for the sniper rifle. Since I am familiar with the powder I can reuse it. The Winchester factory ammo shot good and was accurate. By the way it was made in Czechoslovakia according to the box. My best groups at 100 yards with the sniper rifle were just less than 2” with 3 shots. Most of them ran between 2 and 3” with 3 shots. Probably a better scope and possibly a steadier shooter could have reduced those groups a little. The trigger pull contributed nothing to the accuracy of the rifle. As far as I know there are no commercial triggers available for the Mosen Nagant rifle. Filing and smoothing the sear may or may not help but I didn’t attempt that maneuver.

Just for comparison I took a 30-06 case and a 30-40 Krag case and filled them up with 760 to see how the capacity measured against the Nagant round. The 30-40 took 59.8 grains while the 30-06 took 70. The 7.62 X 54 took 65 grains all were filled to the top.

Note locking lugs, and extractor on spoon handle bolt

The model 44 was the last model made and is still in use. The metal finish is crude with some tool marks but the action is smooth as I found with most of the 91 and 44’s I have examined. It is similar to the others but has a permanent bayonet attached to the right side as opposed to the removable one on the sniper rifle. The bayonet is the same as the other models with the screwdriver type tip. On my example the trigger is better then the 91/30 sniper rifle that I have. My rifle had some outside rust though it cleaned up pretty good leaving some very minor pitting. It is dated 1945 and has the hammer & sickle emblem on it as well as other markings on the receiver. The wood is rough with small gouges and dents but serviceable. If you ding up the rifle it won’t hurt anything as it would in a fancy hunting rifle. It would be a good rifle to carry around in a ranch truck once you removed the bayonet and some of the wood. Since I have such a weapon already this one will stay original as is though it isn’t much of a collector’s item. It is necessary to disassemble and clean the rifle before firing or you will have oil all over the stock after it is shot some. Even that may not help as the oil may be soaked in the wood after years of oiling and storing. Other examples I examined had names and dates carved into the stocks. I imagine some of those rifles have interesting stories to tell if only they could talk. The bore had a lot of crud in it although the rifling looked good. After some scrubbing didn’t help clean up the bore much I took it out and shot it. A dozen shots really cleaned out the bore and it looks good now. Accuracy is good for iron sights especially with my old eyes. I noticed that shooting the steel cases you had to tap the bolt handle open and closed with both the 44’s that I shot. It wasn’t a real big problem once you got used to doing that. Recoil while noticeable wasn’t that bad and bench rest shooting presented no problem.

Common bullets for 7.62 X 54

The market is flooded with millions of these rifles, which is good for the shooter and collector. Ammo is plentiful and cheap another plus for the shooter. Military ammo in quantity would cost about ten cents a round so an all day shoot won’t break the bank. A collector could collect various models of the Mosen Nagant rifle along with the accessories and have an interesting collection without mortgaging the house. With all the models and variations the collector could spend a lifetime collecting these fascinating rifles. Along with the various Mausers and other types of military rifles that are around the shooter on a budget never had it so good.

Bob Shell