R.H. VanDenburg, Jr. n the study of shotshells, per- haps the least understood seg- ment of this most interesting I subject is that of the all-metal RELOADING . While our modern plastic- tubed shells were preceded by paper-tubed shells, it is not true that all-metal or shells preceded those with paper tubes. Early on in the development of breech-loading arms, self-contained Brass was bound in paper or linen. In , the earliest shell that the modern shooter would instantly recognize had a brass head, a paper- tubed body and an external primer. At the same time – the latter half of the nineteenth century – well-traveled sportsmen were taking to the field with 12, 10, 8 and even larger bore that used brass shells. These self-contained shells were sturdy, easily transported and waterproof. “Why?” asked many a waterfowling hunter, “can’t we have a brass shell, too?” Waterfowlers, to a greater extent than most others, felt the need for a waterproof shell. Actually, the paper shells of the day were intentionally moisture-resistant to varying degrees. The absorption of moisture into the shell was a very real concern, as it could dilute the effec- tiveness of the black powder, and the paper shells could swell to the extent they could not be cham- bered. Still, the waterfowlers had a point and while manufacturers continued to develop more mois- ture-resistant paper shells, attention was turned to the development of all-metal shells as well. There are components galore for loading brass shells with either black or . The earliest attempts simply substituted drawn brass tubes for the paper tubes, affixed them to the brass heads and turned them in to secure the over- shot wads. Wax or shellac was typically used to wa- terproof the shell mouth. Drawn, one-piece shells followed as did the use of other metals such as , aluminum and to a lesser extent . One particularly interesting attempt employed a thin paper shell with a zinc liner actually longer than the paper. The zinc liner was then crimped in a pie or star crimp that we would recognize today. All these shells, however interesting and effective, had their

48 www.handloadermagazine.com Handloader 266 PART I: Practical Tips for Versatility Shotshells

This Model 1897 Baker external is fairly typical of its ilk.

June-July 2010 www.handloadermagazine.com 49 RELOADING Brass Shotshells

drawbacks. The brass shells had a larger interior capacity than paper shells and required larger wads. True pie-crimping could only be accomplished by the am- munition factories, and the ever- increasing cost of metals would eventually make the price pro- Historical hibitive. information regarding The concept of the all-brass brass shot- shell attracted the attention in shells is England of Dr. Charles J. Heath, found in a at one time president of the variety of British Waterfowlers’ Associa- older books tion. Dr. Heath developed two and catalogs. precepts of shotgunning science that, in differing forms, are still powder and shot. At the same shells, Dr. Heath was able to push with us today. One was a “cham- time such loads would not be as much as 2 ounces of BBs at berless gun” that might be suitable, perhaps even unsafe, for 800 fps with what he claimed to thought of as an early attempt at use in a gun of standard dimen- be astonishing results. backboring. Dr. Heath reasoned sions. Few chamberless , as that with the thin brass tube All the above, admittedly a Dr. Heath envisioned, were ever shotshell there was no need for skimming of the highlights of the built. the heavy forcing cone required era, took place in England and of a gun shooting the paper The second development of Dr. Europe. In the U.S. similar activi- shells of the day and that it could Heath was what today we think ties flourished but with a decid- be essentially removed and the of as the “high density-low veloc- edly American flavor. bore enlarged to much the same ity” principle in which more and size as the interior of the brass larger shot were paired with a In the 1878 E. Remington & Sons shell. Of course, such a shell lower-than-normal velocity for a catalog of breechloading rifles, would require much larger wads very effective and useful load. shotguns, and ammuni- 1 tion, the company had this to say: and, for waterfowlers, hold more In the 12-, 2 ⁄2-inch brass “Of late years, the reloading brass shells for shotguns have Old published reports highlighted all-metal shells, this one from a come much into use, and we rec- reprint of the “ALCAN Shotshell Reloader’s Manual, No. X” in the first Handloader’s Digest. ommend every sportsman to have some of them on hand, as they can always be loaded in places where it might be difficult to obtain paper shells. They are also better at taking a larger wad in the same size chamber, and giving more penetration, and are less liable to injury by wet. . . . We are prepared to furnish metal shells that we know are suitable for our guns. They are made with a solid head, or flange, and fitted with a steel cone, upon which the primer is placed, and exploded by the firing-pin of the gun. These shells are put up in boxes containing twenty-four shells, with primer extractor . . . for re-

Handloader 266 VICKERMAN Inline Seating Die GMW, Inc. Tel: 509-382-4159 www.gmwvickerman.com

Quality hand-cast for reloaders, competitors & recreational shooters! Extensive selection of , , big bore & paper-patched bullets. Website: www.MontanaBulletWorks.com 7730 Hesper Rd. • Billings, MT 59106 • Tel: 406-655-8163

Above left, the CBC shell is drawn brass and accepts a large pistol primer. Right, the RMC shell is turned from solid brass and cut for a High Plains 209 battery cup primer. Reboring & Barrels, L.L.C. Offering Button and moving exploded caps; also in Charles Askins, in his Modern Cut-Rifled Barrels. Most and twist rates. boxes containing ten shells, with- Shotguns and Loads, was rather out extractor.” dismissive of both chamberless Contact: Norman Johnson Phone: 701-448-9188 guns and brass shells: “Whatever E-Mail: [email protected] In comparing the above, in Eng- the chamberless gun may or may 243 14th Avenue NW - Turtle Lake, ND 58575 land and western Europe, shot- not do in the way of patterns, it is shells were typically purchased not a practical arm. We are not from an ammunition manufac- going back to black powder nor King Shooters Supply Inc. turer or from one’s gunmaker. In to brass cases, which must be the latter instance, the gunmaker hand-loaded and carefully han- Roger’s purchased empty shells, paper or dled as was true fifty years ago.” metal, and loaded them for his Better Bullets customers, often to the cus- In spite of such feelings, which tomers’ specifications. In the less were no doubt shared by many, IF AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEED settled America, the need to be the all-metal shell held on. In the ...RELOAD™ able to load, or reload, one’s own first annual edition of Hand- loader’s Digest, edited by John T. shells far from any settlement Amber of Gun Digest fame and was of paramount concern. 124 W. Church Road published in 1962, are depicted King of Prussia, PA 19406 Fifty years later, in 1928, Maj. tools for loading brass shells. The (610) 491-9901 www.kingshooters.com Hours: The RCBS Cowboy Shotshell Die set Tues - Fri: Noon to 9 p.m. is designed to handle the CBC shells. Saturday: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Firearms Buy • Sell • Trade Class 3 Dealer Bullets Roger’s Better Bullets Zero • Frontier • Sierra • Winchester Reloading

June-July 2010 www.handloadermagazine.com 51 RELOADING Brass Shotshells

book also contains the “ALCAN Shotshell Reloader’s Manual, No. X.” In it are several pages de- voted to all-metal shells and the reloading of them. These include the Alcan-Metal shotshell, which was a four-piece shell: a steel head, aluminum tube, basewad and a metal overlay cup that served to reinforce the tube in the powder area. Also listed were a solid brass shell for use with smokeless powder with The C-H tool is a two-die set with a full-length sizing die and a seating/ Remington-type 57 primers and a crimping die. Berdan-type solid shell for use with black or smokeless powder shotshells in 12, 16, 20 and 28 All well and good, you say, but and Berdan primers. Each was gauges and .410 bore. All but the surely this is still the dim past. 1 available in gauges from 10 to .410 used No. 2 ⁄2 large pistol Not quite. Today there are at 1 .410, including 24 and 32 gauge. primers. The .410 used No. 1 ⁄2 least two sources of brass shot- All-Metal shotshell reloading kits small pistol primers. Our military shells for U.S. reloaders and two were available in 12 gauge. In the used these in 12 gauge as guard sets of reloading dies. There also book’s section on Remington shells with buckshot. Winchester are components galore for load- components were listed all-brass provided a similar product. ing brass shells with either black or smokeless powder. The first all-brass shotshells are headstamped “CBC (and the Tired of Run Out? gauge)” and are manufactured by Companhia Brazileira De Cartu- Tired of Over Sizing? chos in Brazil and imported into Want to Extend the U.S. by MAGTECH Ammuni- Brass Life? tion Co., Inc. of Minnesota (1- 800-466-7191). They are available The WTC Sizing Die in 12, 16, 20 and 28 gauges and is the Answer to your .410 bore. Other sizes are manu- Sizing Headaches! factured but may not be available here. These are drawn brass, one-piece shells with the primer Minimal brass sizing for flawless chamber- ing and maximum case life. pockets protruding into the shell Concentricities of .0005" or better from top interior. Shell length is nominally to bottom. 1 Head space adjustment within the die via 2 ⁄2 inches. The 12-gauge shells on hardened and ground tool steel retainer hand measure from 2.440 to 2.465 rings. Standard die body will accept die inserts for inches. In type, they are very sim- any from 6mm to 30-06. ilar to the thin brass shells of Dr. Now introducing the Magnum die body that will accept larger cartridges up to 416 Rigby. Heath’s time and the Remington 2 part die insert construction - one for the shells manufactured into the mid- body, one for the neck and shoulder. twentieth century. The primer Every die is custom made based on your fire formed brass. pockets are, or were, sized for Wildcat Development and hydraulic forming the 6.45mm (#56 Tupan) primer. services available. In the early years of their avail- ability, we were informed to use small pistol primers. At some time this changed, at least for 201 Old Homestead Hwy. * N. Swanzey, NH * 03431 603.352.9521 Warner-tool.com those shells imported into the * U.S. Current CBC shells take a

52 www.handloadermagazine.com Handloader 266 RELOADING The old Lee Loader kit for Brass Shotshells shotshells is ideal for reloading brass shells. The large pistol primer. An attempt to Decapper & learn more about the change was Base, right front, unsuccessful. will remove primers from The second all-brass shotshell both the RMC is manufactured by Rocky Moun- and CBC shells. tain , LLC of Cody, Wyoming. These shells are turned from solid brass and have the same interior capacity and shape as a typical straightwalled paper shell. Primer pockets are cut for of a simple aluminum die body nation of both. If the brass shell the modern 209-style battery cup with a screw-in steel sizing ring, is to be crimped, the Cowboy primer. Dave Casey, proprietor, a removable, steel decapping as- Shotshell Die is again employed. makes these shells to order, and sembly, a crimping insert and a gauge or bore and length are up The second reloading tool is steel lock ring. The die comes to the customer. Casey will also from C-H Tool & Die Company of with a shellholder that fits any cut primer pockets to accept Mt. Vernon, Ohio. This is an old- standard metallic press ram. The large rifle primers, but he does 1 line reloading tool company now die body is threaded 1 ⁄4x12 and not recommend it. Twelve-gauge under the able direction of Dave 5 will fit most presses with a re- shells on hand are 2 ⁄8 inches movable die bushing. This tool is Davidson. The C-H tool is avail- (2.625 inches) in length. Head- designed to be used with the able in most any gauge and shell stamp is “RMC (and gauge).” CBC shell and shot charges only. length. It is a two-die set, all steel When it comes to tools avail- There is no seating stem for ball with aluminum locking rings. 1 able to assist the reloader in or loading. Priming and de- With 1 ⁄4x12 threads it too fits loading brass shells, there are priming are done with the die set most any metallic press with a re- two. The first is from RCBS, on one’s metallic press. Powder, movable die bushing. Its shell- called the Cowboy Shotshell Die, wad and shot insertion are either holder fits standard reloading part number 99060, and is avail- done by hand or on a shotshell tool rams. The first die is an in- able only in 12 gauge. It consists reloading press or some combi- side-tapered, full-length sizing die – as opposed to RCBS’s sizing ring. The second die is a seating and crimp die. It includes an ad- justable seating plug to hold the overshot wads, bullet or round- ball securely positioned as the shell is crimped, much like a modern metallic seating/crimping die. Probably most C-H cus- tomers who purchase this die set are big-bore rifle shooters and their are roundballs rather than shot. The set will work equally well with CBC or RMC shells, but depriming and repriming of the latter must be done elsewhere, as the standard metallic presses will not accom- modate 209 primers nor will the hole in the shellholder allow them to be removed. Most who use brass shotshells with shot loads will never have a need to size the shells, but the

54 www.handloadermagazine.com Handloader 266 use of the shellholder when as a roll crimp, where the case height, something that might not working with the CBC shells is a mouth grips the bullet at the can- exist with the CBC shells and great help. Those who load bullet nelure, in a crimping groove or might be beyond the capabilities or ball will need the C-H tool sometimes over the bullet ogive. of most case trimmers. Even both for seating and crimping. In some rimless car- more important is a consistent Here, sizing may become an issue tridges that headspace on the wad column height and a means but it is readily handled with case mouth, a straight taper of keeping pressure on the over- these fine dies. Whenever shells crimp is employed. In paper or shot wad as the crimp is being are to be sized, they must applied. This is easily ac- first be lubed as is done When it comes to tools available complished with the C-H with metallic cases. tool with its seating plug. Before we proceed, we to assist the reloader in loading brass With the RCBS tool, a need to review some gen- shells, there are two. dowel or something sim- eral topics in more de- ilar must be inserted tail. The first is crimping. Both plastic shotshells, a roll crimp is through the top of the die and tools allow for crimping. The one in which the shell mouth is held in place against the overshot RCBS tool has a progressive turned in 180 degrees to secure wads as the ram is raised and the crimp beginning at five degrees an overshot wad. The more com- crimp applied. monly seen star or pie crimp is and progressing to 20 degrees. When a bulleted round is one in which the shell mouth The C-H tool has a .175 inch ra- crimped, as the leaves folds inward to meet at the cen- dius crimp. Most crimp data the case or shell, the crimp is au- ter obviating the need for an found in old documents suggests tomatically removed. In a brass overshot wad. Neither of these crimps commonly ran from a .125 shotshell, however, as the round latter two can be used with the radius to .175 inch. This all refers is fired, the overshot wad is brass shells under discussion. to a turn in or slight roll crimp. In forced out of the mouth of the metallic cartridges, a turning in To properly crimp a brass shot- shell and the shot follows, but of the case mouth is referred to shell calls for a consistent brass without exerting enough force on

June-July 2010 www.handloadermagazine.com 55 RELOADING to loading brass shotshells, sev- new hull conditioning tool called eral methods were tried. A plumb a Spin Doctor is made of alu- Brass Shotshells bob, found at any hardware minum and showed some prom- store, can be used. The ones I’ve ise, but the brass shells scored seen lately were chrome-plated the aluminum tool. It was de- the crimp to remove it. Subse- steel, were tapered and of a size signed to be used in a drill press quent reloading of the shells is to handle anything up to 12 and still can be – just don’t turn then compromised as neither re- gauge. Ballistic Products, Inc. (1- on the press. A rawhide or plastic loading tool has the ability to re- 888-273-5623) makes tools for re- mallet, gently applied, is better. move any leftover crimp. shaping paper and plastic shells, Perhaps better still would be to In an attempt to remove the but they are made of wood and cut a short dowel to length and crimp, after trying this approach unsuitable for this purpose. A drill a hole to accept the tool shank. Slide the dowel over the shank and tap the dowel with a mallet. After numerous such at- tempts, the conclusion was reached that if loading shot in brass shotshells, it is best not to crimp at all. Not only do we put less wear and tear on the shell mouths, but wad column height becomes unimportant. Adhesives ensure that the overshot wads stay in place in the field. In a range envi- ronment, a tight-fitting overshot wad may prove sufficient, but gluing in the overshot wads is a much surer approach. I have come to rely on two-part epoxy, applying it to the edge of first one, then another, overshot wad of .025 or .030 inch. Each is seated separately. Epoxy can readily be cleaned up with rub- bing alcohol before it hardens. After firing, any residue inside the shell can be removed with a chamber brush or a brass brush of the next larger gauge. Others have employed silicone adhesive or simply a hot glue gun. A second subject is priming. Most of us first trying brass shot- shells will not have access to ei- ther reloading tool. We’ll simply do our reloading the old-fash- ioned way – by hand. Beginning with a hard, flat surface, we place a primer, anvil up, position the shell over it and with a dowel in the shell, tap the shell with a mal- let until the primer is seated. This works with either shell, but when priming the CBC shell, because the primer pocket protrudes into the shell interior, the dowel must be drilled to accept the primer

56 www.handloadermagazine.com Handloader 266 5 pocket. A ⁄16-inch hole is suffi- The CBC shells can be primed cient if properly centered. De- and deprimed on most metallic priming is another matter. A nail presses with a removable with its point filed down has bushing. The dies are threaded 1 been used for a century or more. 1 ⁄4x12. Lee Precision sells a Decapper & Base in .22 and .30 caliber for de- priming military cases with anyway (large rifle primers are crimped-in primers. The .22 cal- taller than large pistol primers) iber (Part No. 90103) is ideal for or to remove it can have a very decapping either of these shells. unpleasant result. Likewise, there are minor differences in Reloaders with a metallic press some 209-type shotshell primer using the CBC shell may opt to diameters, and there is no “give” purchase one of the die sets (12 in the brass RMC shells. gauge only from RCBS; any gauge from C-H) for on-press The moral of all this is that until priming and depriming. Those you have perfected your priming with a shotshell reloading press and depriming procedures, work of any gauge can use it for de- with spent primers! With the priming and priming the RMC RMC shells, even a dab of case shell – just remove the sizing ring lube on the outside of the battery on the deprime station first, if cup at first would not be un- To effect the removal of the shell necessary. called for. from the shellholder in such an Things can go wrong, however. eventuality is likely why the “Reloading Brass Shotshells” Seating a large rifle primer in the RCBS shellholder has a strategi- will be continued in Handloader CBC shell will result in a primer cally placed trough cut in it. A No. 267 with loading procedures protruding from the shell head. heavy-handed attempt to seat it and loads. •

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