Caution! Reloading with salvaged materials can be dangerous. The information in this article is for educational purposes only.
I recently read about the plight of people in India who struggle against reams of regulations bound with red tape to be able to fire a few rounds a year. I noticed that it is not illegal for India residents to reload cartridges for their own use, once they have secured the permit to legally possess a firearm.
Unfortunately, no one markets reloading supplies in India; no importation of reloading supplies is currently allowed; and reloading tools are difficult to find.
In the United States, we are blessed with multiple manufacturers of inexpensive, durable and effective reloading tools, multiple shops that sell all manner of reloading supplies over the counter; and thousands of gun shows a year, all over the country, where not only guns and ammunition, but reloading supplies are bought, sold, and traded, mostly without interference from the government.
If you want a bullet that is not made anywhere, you can, for a modest sum, contact a manufacturer to machine a custom bullet mold for you. If you find a fine rifle or pistol in an obscure caliber, you can find a way to reform brass for it, or, if necessary, machine brass cases from stock. You can pay someone to do these things for you, if you choose to do so.
Many people around the world do not have these advantages, created by free enterprise in a system where the government generally follows the law, where the basis of the system is that everything that is not forbidden is allowed, rather than everything that is not allowed is forbidden.
It is possible for much to be accomplished with limited resources, knowledge, a bit of ingenuity, and time. It can be done even under the restrictions in India and be done relatively safely.
First, realise that this is not a new topic. People have been faced with the necessity of reloading their own ammunition with limited resources for a century and a half. Quite a bit has been written about the subject. If you are interested, I highly recommend Modern Handloading by Maj. George C. Nonte, Jr. It is out of print, but used copies are readily available on the net. Maj. Nonte goes into extensive details about equipment and bullet casting. He has a chapter on "Case Forming and Alteration". He has another chapter on Home-Brewed Tools and Equipment. For most small scale applications, tools can be relatively simple and easily made. If you are not handy, a small local shop can likely make the tool for you. The book was published in 1972, so it is a little dated. For the purposes of this article, it is perfect.
Much useful information can be obtained from reloading manuals, especially those published before 1970. I especially like the old Ideal Handbooks. I started reloading using one of them. The current edition of Modern Reloading by Richard Lee goes into a fair amount of detail on the mechanical issues of reloading cartridges, and has a good section on casting bullets. I highly recommend it.
In India, components to reload the cartridges with are the more difficult problem. If you have access to loaded cartridges of some kind, you have access to a source of components. Nonte says not to attempt to salvage berdan primers. Of course, they can be used in the original case, reloaded as you would any other primed case.
Warning! These methods carry significant risk! Do not use them if you can easily access factory components.
Shotgun cartridges can be disassembled, as can boxer primed cartridges. Shotguns mostly use "battery cup" primers, which are likely the easiest and safest to deprime live. A kit for recharging battery cup primers was available in the United States into the 1970's. A cap similar to a berdan primer or a percussion cap was used to replace the spent inner cap. Battery cup primers can be used in rifles and pistols, if the cases are modified to use them; alternatively, special cases could be made for their use. I would not use them in any cartridges that would develop pressures over 20,000 pounds per square inch (psi). Fortunately, most non-magnum revolver cartridges fall into that category.
Note: This official government website, in India, says that the shotgun primers use mercury fulminate in their primers! Mercury fulminate destroys brass cases. I did not think any arsenal, anywhere in the world, still used mercury fulminate in their priming mixtures! The site also give useful information about the amount and types of powder and priming type used in many (but not all) of the cartridges listed. It appears likely that the .32 revolver cartridges are Berdan primed. Perhaps an Indian reader can confirm this.
Decaping boxer primed cartridges is more dangerous than decaping shotgun shells, especially if the primers are crimped in place. Nonte explains some safety precautions, such as using ear and eye protection, and orienting tools so as to direct an inadvertent primer discharge away from the user. He describes one user who was able to salvage primers from .30 carbine ammunition, even though they were crimped in place!
The gunpowders used in shotgun shells are commonly used in pistol cartridges. A typical 12 gauge shotgun shell will use about 15-30 grains (1- 2 grams) of smokeless powder. A typical pistol cartridge uses between 1.4 and 15 grains (.1 to 1 grams) of smokeless powder, for standard, non-magnum, loads. Smokeless powder loads must be approached with considerable caution. Double loads have often blown up revolver chambers.
If percussion caps are available, it might be practical for a battery cup system to be made to use the percussion caps in centerfire cartridges. A similar system, the Draper Cartridge, was used in the United States for a short while, used a percussion nipple as part of the cartridge. A system designed to use Boxer primers in muzzle loading rifles that are originally designed for 209 shotgun primers, is sold in the United States.
The shot used in a shotgun shell can be melted and recast into pistol or rifle bullets. In the United States, one of the best sources for casting bullets are used car wheel weights. These bullets would not give the performance of jacketed bullets, but they can be very effective at lower velocities, typically 1500 feet per second (450 meters per second) or less. They have to be lubricated, but there are many lubricants available. Beeswax can work fairly well. There are lots of formulas for good lubes.
If black powder is available, black powder can be used to produce usable loads for most revolvers and many rifles. In modern firearms, it is nearly impossible to put too much black powder in the case. A full case is the most common load.
If a source of centerfire cartridges is available, powder and bullets can be salvaged from them. Bullets can be swaged to smaller diameters. Swaging dies are fairly easy to make. Even a simple polished hole in a mild steel plate can be used for lead bullets. A slightly more complex die, of a polished, tapered hole in a strong tube for squeezing a jacketed bullet down to a smaller caliber, can be used for jacketed bullets, with good lubrication. I have done this using Lee bullet sizing dies polished out to the diameter needed. Swaging jacketed bullets down 10-15 thousands is not hard and seems to work reasonably well. It is easy to swage .312 bullets to .308.
Using smokeless powder loaded in one high power rifle caliber in another cartridge is trickier than using shotgun powder for pistol loads, but it can be done. For example, the powder used for the .50 Browning Machine Gun is designed to be slow burning to build maximum velocity in the long barrel of the .50 BMG. By careful experimentation, a long time reloader found that you could not put enough of .50 BMG powder in a 30.06 to cause pressure problems. With a full case and heavy bullets, he could get usable velocities, in the neighborhood of 2000 feet per second (fps) or so. He is a careful man, and after a long life of reloading and load experimentation, has all his fingers and both eyes.
In general, I believe that you can use powders salvaged from centerfire rifle cartridges for mild loads in cartridges that are not too dissimilar. There are clear dangers involved, but if you have a supply of cartridges, and therefore a reliable amount of powder of the same type and consistency, careful experimentation could result in a usable mild load for a rifle that is useless without cartridges. Safety can be greatly enhanced by studying reloading manuals and considering relative loads for the same powders in different cartridges. Loads should always be started low, and worked up to modest levels. The more study, the greater safety. Initial testing should always be done remotely, and cases examined carefully for pressure signs and problems. This is not something that I recommend be done routinely. But it can be done of necessity.
It is possible to recharge primers from other available materials. Those that seem practical to me are all corrosive. Care must be taken to clean the firearms used with hot, soapy water the same day they are used. There are numerous sources on the Internet that show how to recharge primers using strike anywhere matches and toy pistol caps.
Priming compound can be produced from fairly simple chemicals. Those chemicals are generally available. One formula requires potassium chlorate and sulfur. Sulfur is commonly available as a garden supply. In India, potassium chlorate is used in the village craft production of matches, so I would expect small quantities to be available. 10 grams would be enough for 500 primers. Potasssium chlorate, sulfur, and fine grit make corrosive primers.
Here is one method for recharging primers, of many that are discussed in depth on the forum castboolits.gunloads.com. Over 20 pages of careful experimentation by professionals is in this thread.
Tested Ron Brown's modified. This is more of hot spark primer. Should be a good all around.Note: Potassium chlorate, sulfur and grit combined become a very sensitive and powerful mixture. They should never be combined in anything other than very small quantities (under 2 grams) and in strictly controlled conditions.
Dry. Small pistol cup. Filled cup & pack(this is called 1/2 cup). Filled cup again & packed(this is called 3/4 cup). 1/2 cup did work each time. The amount of mix for 1/2 was 0.3 grains. The 3/4 did work each time. The amount of mix for 3/4 was 0.5 grains. When fired in the pistol, the flame from the end of the pistol was about the same as CCI small pistol.
Chem %weight by volume
Potassium chlorate 46.6% 3
Sulfur 19.41% 2
Grit* 33.98% 1.5
Add 1% baking soda to this mix.
* The grit I used was 4030 sandblasting sand. Just measured it out. I think this is to a little course. I also, think one could use less of it.
1. Measure out 2 volumes of sulfur and put it on a sheet of paper. Crush out any lumps.
2. Measure out 1 1/2 volumes of fine sand. Add this to the sulfur.
3. Pour the above back & forth between 2 sheets of paper 10 to 20 times.
4. Beside this pile of mix, measure out 3 volumes of potassium chlorate. Crush out any lumps.
5. Combine it all together.
6. Pour it back & forth between 2 sheets of paper until your very bored. 20 to 30 times for me.
7. Reload primers.
Variations on these systems are already in use all over the world in small illegal shops and black market manufactures. I am sure that cartridges are commonly disassembled and reassembled for illicit purposes in village shops all over India. India is said to contain about 40 million illegally possessed guns.
But that is not what we are considering here. It is legal for legal Indian gun owners to reload cartridges for personal use. Recharging of the primers is simply part of the process, from my point of view. But I do not live in India, nor do I pretend to be an Indian lawyer. It is hard to believe that it would be illegal to disassemble shotgun shells to use the components for reloading lesser cartridges.
With access to the Internet, you have access to an enormous collection of human knowledge and experience. It is likely that someone else has already tested methods to solve your problem. It may be on a YouTube video or detailed in a discussion forum. Use the experience of others to magnify your own capabilities and to reduce your difficulties.
©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
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