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I’ve known for sometime that dimensionally, small rifle and pistol boxer primers were the same. I’ve also known that it was generally safe to use small pistol magnum primers in place of the standard ones. This occasionally was necessary when I was running low on one type.
Given the recent ammunition and reloading component panic of the last 6-8 weeks, I started researching the feasibility of using small rifle primers (which I have an abundance of) in my .38 special plinking loads.
I started with my favorite cowboy load:
3 grains IMR Trail Boss
158 grain lead cast semi-wadcutter (I casted these myself for bonus points)
While the rifle group looks better, I also shot it last. It’s very likely I warmed up and improved shooting the second group. The point of this, however is not an accuracy comparison, but a safety and functional comparison. At least with this modest charge, I could not detect any pressure signs or other concerns with the small rifle primers. Eventually I may load up full house .357mag loads using a slow burning powder, such as H110 and rifle primers. If that is also successful, then I might consider standardizing both my carbine and revolver hand loads on a single type of primer.
Recently I was shooting a snub nose revolver. I had 2 boxes of defensive ammo in .38+p, but only a dozen rounds of my standby .38spl plinking ammo. What I did have was a brand new batch of hand cast bullets with an experimental lube I’d not tried before. I tested out a few rounds of “beta” ammo in a full frame gun, and it seemed reasonable.
I load up the snubby with the hand cast beta lubes: bang, bang, bang, STUCK CYLINDER.
This was a squib load, where the bullet left the case, but stopped mid way between the cylinder throat and the forcing cone. If it had gotten all the way into the barrel, I could have swung open the cylinder, which is more typical.
This was a combination of problems:
1) too little crimp for the recoil of the snubby revolver
2) my homemade lube was TOO oily, and it saturated the powder, reducing the ignition
How I know the cause
1) an unfired round in the next chamber jumped the crimp about 1/8″
2) when I later pulled the bullets, some of the powder came out it sticky clumps (think kitty litter)
How I cleared the failure
A locked up cylinder has to be the worst failure, as there’s almost nothing to be done in the field, unless you carry a brass dowel and mallet
On my way home from the range, I stopped by a gunshop. The owner was intrigued, and felt I had enough of a clue he would help me out.
He ended up using a steel punch (which scared the crap out of me), as the wood dowel kept cracking. Eventually we tapped the lead bullet back into the brass case, and the cylinder swung open.
THIS COULD HAVE GONE MUCH WORSE.
If the bullet had traveled just 1/4″ further, it would have cleared the cylinder and I might have fired into the obstructed barrel. I have to assume a polymer frame would have KABOOMED in this scenario.
I had been hand loading for 2+ years and never had a squib, as I’m paranoid about safe charging amounts. This however was not a problem with the charge size, but a contamination of the powder from wet bullet lube.
As ammo levels are unpredictable, a lot of new folks are diving into reloading. Whenever you are trying something radically new (cast bullets, different powder, etc.) always proceed with caution. I was showing off, trying to impress my wife and it almost ended in disaster.
“An intelligent man learns from his mistakes, A wise man learns from the mistakes of others.”
My 8 year old son shoots a string from a Ruger 10/22 with tech sights at an 8 inch gong 25 yards away… And doesn’t miss! He was a self declared Red Ryder BB gun “expert” and this was his first time shooting a firearm.
For background on the rifle’s configuration, check out the Appleseed Project blog post.