Monthly Archives: May 2017

Further Adventures of a Reloading Newb


The Remington Bulldog Cartridge-conversion is complete, so the next logical step is to set up to reload .45 Colt. To that end I became the proud owner of a set of Hornady Custom dies. I paid a little more than I would have online, but once you factor in shipping I was actually ahead, plus I got to support my favorite local gun store. Also picked up a shell-holder, a box of CCI Large Pistol Primers and 100 185gr. cast SWCs. I’d actually planned to go with a heavier bullet, but they were right there and the price was right so what the heck.

Consulting the internet for reloading data I figured that 8.5 grains of Unique was a reasonably conservative load and ought to be about right to start. After a nice dinner with the Light of My Life I headed into the shop to have a go. I read the instructions, set the powder-drop and got going.

The de-priming die worked exactly like the .38/.357 dies I have been using so that was easy enough. The I looked at the expanding die. This did not look like the .38 die, so I read and followed the directions. There were a couple of small bobbles but I got on track quickly enough. Switching the Hornady hand-primer to Large Pistol primers was dead-easy, and before long I was ready for the final step- seating the bullets. I checked the directions again, which were alarmingly vague, and set it up the way they seemed to indicated…

“Woah! That’s not right!”

I adjusted the die in a way that seemed sensible, then tried again…

“That’s… uh… better?”

OK, it was at least symmetrical, but it still wasn’t going to be easy to chamber… Back to the instructions. After carefully re-reading the directions the light-bulb came on and the problem was obvious…

“Yep- got it! These directions are useless.”

That being the case I filed them appropriately and took the die apart and examined it. Once it was in pieces it was pretty obvious how it was supposed to work. I reassembled the die, mounted it in the press and fiddled a little. Voila! Success. The bullets are seated quite deep, but being relatively light-for-caliber the nose of the SWC is quite long. The specified maximum overall length for .45 Colt is 1.6″, so I loaded these to 1.58″ with a fairly stout roll-crimp.

I now have 41 loaded cartridges, two candidates for the bullet-puller and a good working understanding of Hornady’s seating die, which is actually pretty neat. The Custom die has a sleeve that goes over the cartridge and bullet and aligns the bullet so that they seat straight every time, then a plunger seats the bullet to depth- useful, that.

I also learned an important lesson- if the instructions suck don’t try to use them.

Good to know, that last one. I’ll let you know how these shoot next week; too busy for a range trip the next few days. Y’all have a good weekend!

Michael Tinker Pearce, 18 May 2017

Range Report- 14 May 2017: The Missus Doesn’t

Going to the range twice in two days- I’m getting spoiled! Linda- the Mrs.- had yet to shoot her new gun, a Vz70 .32 ACP and was eager to do so. After running errands and some gardening we set out to do that, and of course to shoot some other guns because why wouldn’t we?

To address the term ‘Rapid Fire’ for the purposes of this article: the range we usually shoot at, Champion Arms, limits non-members to a maximum of one shot per second. Firing faster or shooting double-taps is restricted to members that have been cleared to do them by range staff. When I refer to ‘Rapid-Fire’ I mean as fast as I can get away with before the Range Officer takes exception. Generally this will be 3 shots/ 2 seconds or just a bit faster.

The Vz70 is a blowback-operated pistol made by CZ. It borrows a lot from the Walther PP and PPK, though it’s the same size as the PP. It is a largely conventional DA/SA semi-auto. One of the main operational difference between this gun and the Walther is the safety- not only is it mounted on the frame rather than the slide, it does not drop the hammer. This means that the gun may be carried ‘cocked and locked’ or with the hammer down and the first shot fired double-action.

The double-action pull is long but quite smooth and not overly heavy. Single action pull is decently short and crisp. I fired the first group at 5 yards since we had no idea where the gun was ‘printing.’ Dead-on to point of aim as it turns out- not a spectacular target but indicative of the gun’s potential:

Linda took over from there and fired several magazines at five and seven yards, and after thirty rounds or so was clustering her shots around the bullseye and even the flyers were inside the large circle.  I ended by shooting an 8-shot rapid fire group at seven yards:

I really like this gun; contrary to my expectations the slide did not chew up my hand the way Walthers, Makarovs etc. tend to do. Recoil is predictably mild, the trigger is decent and the sights are actually reasonably good. The only flaw was that at first the gun would not lock open on the last shot. It would manually lock open on an empty magazine though, and by the end of the session it was functioning normally.

We’ll be trying this gun with Lehigh Extreme Cavitators as a defensive load, and if that works well this will be a nice little SD gun for Linda. Yes, in this day and age there are 9mm guns no bigger than this, but Linda has a bum wrist and is recoil-sensitive, so this seems to be just the ticket.

Linda also fired the Steampunk Snubbies, both my EDC and her pearl-handled gun. These are a pair of S&W .38 Double Action Safety Hammerless revolvers with the barrels shortened to 1-5/8″ with ergonomic grips on my gun, and antique Mother of Pearl grips with a T-grip style grip adapter on Linda’s.  She was easily able to keep her shots on target, but she finds the Pearl/grip adapter combination a bit small for her hand and neither gun is really comfortable for her. I ended the session with this rapid-fire group at seven yards:

Some explanation here- this is ordinary printer-paper and low-velocity bullets tend to tear it. In addition to the two holes there are three gray rings visible where the HBWCs tore the paper rather than punching a clean hole

The more I shoot this gun the more I like it. The trigger is not light but is quite smooth and sweet.

Linda next requested to shoot the Shopkeeper’s Special, a Cimarron Richards/Mason conversion customized with a barrel cut to 2-1/4″, improved sights and a bird’s-head grip. It is very easy to cock and has a very light, crisp trigger. It’s heavy enough to easily absorb the recoil from standard-pressure .38 Special loads and Linda proceeded to demonstrate a respectable ability with it at seven yards. She really enjoys shooting this gun, as do I; if it is not my favorite revolver it’s certainly in the running. These are two groups I fired at seven yards at a pace of about 1 shot/second.

Last I did some shooting with my 6-1/2″ barreled S&W M1903 Hand Ejector. The double-action trigger on this gun is amazing; I really enjoy shooting it but the long barrel isn’t my favorite thing. Despite the much longer sight-radius I really don’t shoot it much better than the short-barrelled guns unless doing deliberate fire at 25 yards. Still, it’s a great gun, and I produced this rapid-fire group at 15 yards:

I need more practice with this gun; while I can shoot it decently I have the feeling I am not even beginning to push its limits.

So a grand afternoon of shooting, with both of us happy with the results and, on my part at least, with the guns.

As an addendum- all the .38 Special rounds fired today were Hornady 148gr. HBWCs over 4.7gr. of Unique with a CCI small pistol primer. The .38 S&W loads were my standard- the same HBWC over 2.5gr. of Unique with a CCI primer.

A further addendum- examining the two targets shot with the Richards/Mason I realized that the group on the left was shot with a different load than the one on the right- that one was shot with the HBWCs. The target on the left was shot with Montana Gold 125gr.Hollow-points loaded on top of 5.6gr. of Unique with a CCI primer. the difference in the size of the holes is conspicuous.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 14May2017