A Bit of Interesting "Vintage" Reloading

sirhrmechanic

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So this has been a project that I started almost a year ago when it became apparent that getting 2 1/2" shells for some of my old shotguns was getting impossible. I started to do some searching about all-brass shotshells, which work fine in 2 1/2" chambers, but also wanted to use smokeless powder. Found a few threads on places like Chuckhawks and CastBoolits that talked about brass shotshells and smokeless. But I had some concerns about the head strength.... something that came up repeatedly in the other forums.

This led to some experimentation (with some input and cheerleading from @buffalowinter) and a process that seems to be working well for making up these shells. My first 'batch' I used on a quail hunt last fall. And they worked great. They performed as well as the factory rounds I brought, anyway. Both knocked down quail, pheasants and chukars! So, that test went great.

I post these here rather than in reloading because some of the folks with old trench guns may want to have an option for reloading the all-brass shells with something other than black powder. Cleaning a Model 97 of BP residue would suck more than cleaning an old SxS. And both have to be cleaned religiously immediately after firing BP cartridges. Red Dot is so much better! This is really a 'vintage' endeavor.

So first step is having MagTech all-brass shell casings. I have a good supply of 12 and 16 gauge available. They are loved by cowboy shooters and black-powder shooters as authentic-looking and reliable as well as simple to load. With Black powder.

The issue with these and smokeless shotshell powder is two-fold. First, they use a small rifle primer to fire. So you really need to get the powder 'around' the primer flash hole. The second issue is that because they are a pure extrusion, they have a 'hollow' base at the case rim, and the primer pocket protrudes inside the case about 0.100". This leaves a lot of powder 'below' the flash hole where I don't think it ignites properly. Not to mention the rim is, as a result, weak, compared to more modern shells. There is a very thin wall at the rim. Smokeless powder shells need a solid base at the case rim.

The solution is to cut brass disks and solder them into the base of these shells, strengthening the bottom and putting all the powder into the flame front area of the primer. Below, you can see the 'protruding' primer pocket. It sticks about 0.100" into the case.

shotshell 3.jpg


So from a brass bar .750" in diameter, I cut disks that are about .650", which fit into the shell. They are drilled a bit over 1/4 inches and chamfered so they will fit over the primer pocket internally. They are just slightly undersized, allowing room for solder to flow and bond in the bases. Soft Solder has a massive holding power and while it has a low melting point, the firing of the shotshell will not put enough heat into the base to melt it.

shotshell 1.jpg


Once each 'disk' is sliced off (and chamfered) it is ready to solder into the case. Below you can see the bar, the disks and a case ready to go together.
shotshell 2.jpg


The disk (and base of the case) have tinning compound brushed on them and a small piece of solder (about 1/4" long) is snipped off a roll and dropped into the case. This will soft solder a reinforcement into the case as well as create a primer pocket that is going to be flush with the powder charge. It's a bit blurry in the picture below, but you can see the tinning compound liquid and the chunk of solder sitting in the bottom of the case on a vice.

shotshell 4.jpg


Using a fairly lazy flame and a plumbers torch (I am thinking about doing some kind of hot plate for the next batch) the base of the case is heated until the solder melts and flows between the case and the insert. Clean cases and fresh-machined brass take tin and solder brilliantly. By resting the case on vice jaws as below, the heat goes nicely right into the head.

shotshell 5.jpg


Here the solder is melting and flowing in and around the case head, creating a solid brass base on the shell. Again, a lazy flame and careful application of heat and the thin walls of the case won't be negatively affected. You don't want to heat the case too hot.... red is bad! A lazy flame will work great. You can see the 'bubbles' of the tinning compound, despite the blurry photo.

shotshell 7.jpg


After a short application of flame (no more than about 30 seconds) the solder melts, the tinning compound acid remnants 'rise' to the top and the solder flows nicely into the case base. The acid washes out with warm water and soap and a bit of Scotchbrite on a stick.

shotshell 8.jpg


Next installment, I'll go into loading. The inside of the brass case is bigger than the inside of the plastic case. I considered using modern wads 'one size larger' but experimenting with this, I was concerned that they were too big for the forcing cones and chokes of the old guns. I tried 10 gauge wads in 12 gauge and 12 gauge in 16 ga. And both seemed too big to be safe in an old barrel.

So after much experimenting, I went with modern plastic wads in the 'standard' size (in this case, 16 ga), but used some fiber and card wads to supplement the plastic wads. More on this later. Also light powder charges and reasonable shot loads. No magnums here!

These are just the first 6 I knocked out for testing load in 16 gauge. They are for an old hammer gun that is still in proof (nitro proof) and will handle these loads fine. But has 2 1/2" chamber and there are simply no shells currently available to buy. They are made... but good luck finding any to purchase. So these first shells are to develop a load before I load up a bunch of shells.

FYI, I can convert about 150 cases in a day of turning, soldering and cleaning. And as they can be loaded many times, that's more than enough cases to have on hand for... a long time! It's a time investment that pays off long term.

shotshell 9.jpg


The cases will have card wads over the shot and a bit of 'white glue' sealing them shut under their crimp. They pattern and shoot great. At least the 12 gauge shells I did last year do! These 16's are a work in progress. But they are perfect for 2 1/2" chambers as they don't have any 'crimp petals' to come out and raise pressures in the short chamber early guns.

For anyone who is cowboy or trench gun shooting.... or a vintage shotgun aficionado, perhaps this helps. It builds on the work of some folks at other forums. And I think the addition of a solid base makes these a much better shell. I'll have some load data, etc. next few weeks when I get enough shells converted to start loading a reasonable number at a sitting.

BTW, for those who are interested, dies for all brass shells are available at C4H... an amazing little company that makes THE most bizarre dies and shellholders. Husband and wife operation that is just fantastic to work with all the time. They make shotshell dies for brass-shells.

More to follow, but in case any of you vintage guys want to get your trench guns or cowboy guns shooting all-brass smokeless loads, this is how it starts.

So that's what I did in the machine shop today, if not the reloading room.

Cheers,

Sirhr
 

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roostercogburn98

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I like C4H. They rent just about any tool you can think of as well. Have used them many times. Cool stuff here
 
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MikeinTexas

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I have monkeyed around with Magtech 12 ga shells and found the “balloon” head construction gives bloopers-just like you found. I tried drooling some epoxy into the shell but wound up getting it all over the inside and didn’t make a good job of cleaning it while it was stilly soft-so I ruined two shells. I have read where some people have used plastic disks to essentially build up the insid to have the powder above the flash hole.
I just gave up and currently use real BP and felt and fiber wads in 10ga.
I don’t have a lathe to make the filler like the OP, but that’s genius. And I wouldn’t worry too much about possibly annealing the brass case as shotgun pressures are low.
 

towerofpower93

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Super interesting solution to a problem.

Did you ever do a write up on the reloading aspect? Never done shot shell reloading myself, but this looks like too fun of a project to not get the final findings of load development put to "paper" :)
 

sirhrmechanic

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Super interesting solution to a problem.

Did you ever do a write up on the reloading aspect? Never done shot shell reloading myself, but this looks like too fun of a project to not get the final findings of load development put to "paper" :)
I have to be careful there… I am not sure I want to post load data for these in case somebody blows themselves or their spendy double up!

This is out-there level experimental in a lot of ways!! Because wads, base shape, load capacity, etc are all very critical in a shot shell. Much more so than a metallic cartridge.

I will say that I looked up a lot of load data and between powder, loads, wads and shot charges, I used some formulas (like AA loadings) that are proven and light.

But watch substituting anything in shotshell
Loads. They may be lower pressure than out rifles. But the barrel walls are thin… and chokes do “things” to shot Columns and internal ballistics.

Sirhr
 

towerofpower93

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I have to be careful there… I am not sure I want to post load data for these in case somebody blows themselves or their spendy double up!

This is out-there level experimental in a lot of ways!! Because wads, base shape, load capacity, etc are all very critical in a shot shell. Much more so than a metallic cartridge.

I will say that I looked up a lot of load data and between powder, loads, wads and shot charges, I used some formulas (like AA loadings) that are proven and light.

But watch substituting anything in shotshell
Loads. They may be lower pressure than out rifles. But the barrel walls are thin… and chokes do “things” to shot Columns and internal ballistics.

Sirhr

No worries. As I said, I don't reload for shotguns, but have previously read the bit about "don't deviate from loading manuals for it" unlike rifle/pistol reloading. Glad to see it worked out for you.
 
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VSP968

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As always @sirhrmechanic , Interesting stuff. I thought I’d add this for you.
REM UMC BEST head stamped full brass 12ga round, unfired:

87F7C6EF-F35C-4513-8EB1-B9C158150650.jpeg


3227E830-2147-4FA2-8A9B-71720BCF0120.jpeg


90AC3CA1-0089-456E-B9AF-6876AEA2EEDD.jpeg


Note primer pocket isn’t much different from your brass above . Found this at a garage sale years ago.

And then there’s Russian full steel case 12ga 0000 shot:

368685B3-A10E-4A8B-B7C3-9A87B1900421.jpeg
C75BF159-3580-4BFF-8D38-9A25B893AAE6.jpeg
DBB80922-95A5-49D0-858C-DC5B23B8B364.jpeg


I don’t have any fired cases and I can’t remember how it’s primed. I’ve had this stuff for a long time. Probably came from Sportsman’s Guide or someplace else stupid. I remember it was cheap…
 
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sirhrmechanic

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As always @sirhrmechanic , Interesting stuff. I thought I’d add this for you.
REM UMC BEST head stamped full brass 12ga round, unfired:

View attachment 7888714

View attachment 7888715

View attachment 7888716

Note primer pocket isn’t much different from your brass above . Found this at a garage sale years ago.

And then there’s Russian full steel case 12ga 0000 shot:

View attachment 7888717View attachment 7888718View attachment 7888719

I don’t have any fired cases and I can’t remember how it’s primed. I’ve had this stuff for a long time. Probably came from Sportsman’s Guide or someplace else stupid. I remember it was cheap…
Very cool! That Remington is an old balloon head BP shell. I have an old Parker one, too.

Not good for smokeless… without a base!

Which has been the point of this oddball little exercise!

Sirhr
 
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