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American Handgunner Nov/Dec 2011 Digital Edition - Page 22
John Taffin HANDLOADING SAGE ADVICE FROM THE HANDLOADING GURUS Mr. Murphy VisiTs i t is a well-known fact the Good Lord watches out for fools and drunks. Both groups are quite large, with the first one being almost uncountable as it takes in so much territory, with one of the subcategories being dumb re-loaders. My first attempt at reloading occurred in late 1956. I had one of the first of the brand new 2nd Generation Colt Single Actions; mine happened to be a 71/2" .45. I had not yet started casting bullets and my reloading press consisted of the Lyman #310 Tong Tool. I found some 230-grain-cast .45 ACP bullets and purchased a Lyman Powder Measure. This particular measure had a scale on the bottom of the drum, as well as slidingadjustment bars on top. It also came with a chart for setting certain charges. At the time I was still a teenager and definitely in my stupid period, so instead of using the chart as a reference then checking my charge with a powder scale, I skipped the last step. Those 230-grain lead bullets were loaded over what I thought was a proper charge of DuPont’s #5066. When I fired the first John shudders to think what round, the 71/2" could have happened to one of reared back and classic .44 Specials (above) pointed straight up his if his negligent mistake had at the sky. not been discovered. I was smart enough to know something was definitely wrong, Here’s what 500 but dumb enough reclaimed rounds look to make the wrong like, with the most option to corefficient bullet puller rect it. Instead of to be found: a good pair of vise grips. pulling the other 49 rounds, I shot them all as fast as I could. I guess I from wheel-weights and then lubed and thought shooting them fast would get sized. During the winter, I purchased a rid of them quickly enough that nothing goodly supply of new brass, including would happen. I was without a doubt 3,000 rounds of .44 Special. I decided watched over that day, as I did not hurt to load these in groups of 500, using myself, or that brand new sixgun. various Keith bullets in different sizes, I continued to reload — after I and with my three standard .44 Spebought a powder scale. Over the years cial powders of Unique, Universal and I’ve loaded for virtually everything, Power Pistol. The priming punch on my and have an inventory of well over 300 progressive press was sticking and often bullet molds. For use with the .44 Spehad to be released by hand, making the cial and everyday working loads in the first 500 an exercise in frustration. .44 Magnum, Keith bullets are molded After those first 500 rounds, I replaced the priming punch and everything was running so smoothly I got careless, lazy, negligent and stupid. EnTEr Mr. Murphy W ith the new priming punch, everything was going easily. I don’t allow any distractions when I’m reloading — no TV, radio or music, and especially no visitors. I can at times get distracted enough even just in my own thoughts. I was working along in complete silence, but sensed someone, or something else, was in the room. It turned out to be Murphy of Murphy Law fame. In all the years I’ve been reloading, well over half a century, I’ve never had a powder measure lose its setting. Guess what? Mostly, when loading in bulk, every 100 loaded rounds are dumped into a .50 ammo can, until the can is full or I have the desired count. I finished up, closed the lid, and got ready to change the powder in the measure when I noticed something. Actually, I should’ve noticed it quicker as the hopper seemed to be at a lower level than it should’ve been after the last 200 rounds. Then I saw it. The setting on the measure had not changed, however the main stem on the micrometer had backed out and I knew my charges would be way too high. I pulled one of the loads on the top of the can and found 12.5 grains instead of 7.5 grains. When I reached way down to the bottom of the can I found the weight was indeed 7.5 grains. I had a mess! if I had not discovered the near disaster and fired one of the rounds in one of my 100-year-old prized .44 Specials. With the cases all now reloaded, and the primers already in place and very little sizing needed, much less effort was required, as well as less time. But, I did learn something. I check my measure to begin with, after every 100 rounds, and again at the end. Murphy will not catch me in this situation again. Hopefully my bruised ego will heal, too. Bruised Ego I 22 thought about weighing each round but with a difference of only 5 grains; a minimum-weight case paired up with a minimum-weight bullet could have an overload and not reveal it. The only safe thing was to pull every load. I have bullet pullers from two manufacturers as well as a couple of inertia bullet pullers. The former, I have never been able to make work with .44/.45 bullets and the latter are way too slow. The only practical answer was to place each round in the shell holder, run it up to the top of the press without a die inserted, clamp on with the vise grips, then use the leverage of the handle to separate the case from the bullet. Once I got started in the proper rhythm, I could do four rounds per minute. Using this method, I was able to reclaim all the powder and primed brass; although the bullets were ruined for shooting, they could be melted down and re-cast. I shudder what could’ve happened * WWW.AMERICANHANDGUNNER.COM • NOVEMBER/DECEMBER2011