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GUNS Magazine Digital February 2011 - Page 32
HOLT BODINSON The mother lode of milsurp ammunition. f it weren’t for Norma’s pioneering efforts to supply us I with some weird and wonderful metric cartridges for our milsurp rifles in the 1950s and ’60s, the whole field norma of military surplus arms may never have reached the proportions it has today. The modern surplus bonanza for military arms really began just after WWII when returning GI’s brought home hundreds of thousands of “liberated” rifles, shotguns, handguns and who knows what. Feeding the Mausers, Lugers and P.38s was simple. Cartridges like the 9mm Luger and 8mm Mauser were familiar trade items and often available at the local hardware store. What stumped so many potential shooters was foreign metric calibers many had never been seen before Johnny came marching home bearing a few, oddball souvenirs. There was also an associated problem you had to experience to appreciate. During and immediately after the war, sporting ammunition of any caliber or gauge was in extremely short supply, and you could simply forget about component brass, bullets or primers. When the Korean War arrived uninvited at our doorstep in 1950, the ammunition and component situation deteriorated for several years. Yet, resting in closets, attics, garages and mud rooms around the country were tens of thousands of Japanese Arisakas, and there were thousands of young men yearning to shoot them. If your family didn’t own one, the going price for a Jap rifle was $10 to $15, but only the most well read shooter had ever heard of the 6.5x50 or 7.7x58. Without any ammunition to feed them, various attempts were made to make them shoot. Jap 6.5s were rechambered for the .257 Roberts case, creating the 6.5x257 wildcat. Handloaders began forming the 7.7x58 cases from .30-06 brass, only to discover that the case head was undersized and swelled noticeably when fired in the Arisaka. It wasn’t a happy state of affairs. Then in the early 1950s, a little known Swedish firm, Norma Projektilfabrik of Amotfors, Sweden, began importing newly manufactured 6.5x50 and 7.7x58 ammunition loaded with their steel-jacketed, Tri-Clad hunting bullets. That one step ignited an interest in foreign surplus arms that has only grown with time. Shooters suddenly began to notice those odd military rifles stuck in closets and attics. They were cheap, often free for the asking, and now with Norma taking the lead in manufacturing hunting ammunition for them, they had a useful purpose, or at the very least, they were fun to shoot. Until the American market was penetrated, Norma was highly focused on supplying new and reloaded 6.5x55 target ammunition to the many shooting clubs in Sweden, and the primer used was the Berdan. Switching over to the Boxer primer for the American market was a first for Norma—and as important—Norma was able to supply the American handloading market with unprimed brass with the added touch of drilled, not punched, primer holes. American component brass at the time was all primed brass, because the primer was automatically inserted as one of the final machine operations in making cases. The problem with primed cases for the American handloader was the high cost of transportation through the Railway Express system. To keep costs affordable, large dealers were actually de-priming bulk lots of cases so they could ship small quantities via parcel post to the consumer. new era Norma can take the credit for heralding in the era of unprimed cases for American handloaders. Equally important, Norma began supplying the American handloading holt used a Schultz & Larsen in .358 norma Magnum to win the running moose competition. 32 WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM•FEBRUARY2011