Reloading: The Journey Begins (Part 1)

I have been talking about reloading for several years. I have talked to friends and strangers. I have “talked” with people on the InterWebz. Well, I finally talked myself out and by the time I started actually doing it I haven’t really felt like posting about it. Thanks to reader Joe, I’m finally getting around to doing just that.

First a disclaimer: Reloading can be dangerous, please take all proper precautions and do your own research. I am not an expert in any way shape or form when it comes to reloading. Quite the opposite, I am most definitely a beginner and I am still learning every time I walk over to the bench. I want to share what I have learned so far but I am not an expert.

Speaking of walking over to my bench, here’s a photo of my current setup:

My Current Setup
My Current Setup

Why Reload?

Reloading can be a costly endeavor to get started in and as I mentioned above it is potentially dangerous if you are not careful. So, why do it? I chose to get into this for several reasons most of which I have covered before but it never hurts to share (they are in no particular order):

Webley Mk II
Webley Mk II

My grandfather passed down a Webley MkII to me before he passed away. It means a great deal to me and I really wanted to be able to shoot it. Unfortunately, it was converted to .45 ACP at some point in time which was a really bad idea. The maximum chamber pressure of .45 ACP is around 21,000 psi while the old Webley was only designed to handle around 13,000 psi so, eventually, if I used commercial ammunition the cylinder would likely rupture destroying the gun and, possibly, my hand along with it resulting in something like this:

Blown01a-1 Blown05a

I tried finding someone who would develop a custom load that would allow me to shoot the old Webley Safely but to no avail. If I were going to be able to do so I would need to do it myself.

I enjoy shooting several calibers that are relatively expensive to buy commercially. The components are no more expensive than more popular calibers like 9mm but since there is less of a market the availability is lower and the prices are higher. I would like to be able to shoot these more often and more economically and reloading allows me to do so. For popular, high volume, calibers like 9 mm or 5.56 you will probably not save money by reloading. I have done the math several times and I have never found a way to make that work. With that said, I can assemble ammunition using better bullets or even premium bullets, like Speer Gold Dots, for significantly less that what you would pay for commercial ammunition using the same bullets. That means I can practice with the same or similar rounds to what I carry for self-defense for just a little more than cheapo FMJ.

Being able to assemble my own ammunition also means I am just that little bit more self-sufficient. As long as I have the supplies I need, available or on hand, I will not run out of ammunition. There is probably an entire post just on this one reason and various topics associated with it but for now we’ll just leave it at that.

To be honest, there is another reason too but it’s not one I discuss much. Like riding, shooting, hunting and several other activities I enjoy, reloading is a mental challenge. It is a challenge that forces me to focus, to research and learn. It is exercise for my mind and as we get older that becomes increasingly important. It is a mental challenge without the attendant stresses of work related challenges.

So, that’s the why of reloading for me. Having a clear understanding of why you want to reload and what you will be reloading is important because it will shape many of the decisions of you make as you get started. In the next post in this series we’ll take it from why to how.

God bless.

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9 thoughts on “Reloading: The Journey Begins (Part 1)

  1. ***STOP***
    Webley @ 13000 is most likely BLACK POWDER AND NOT SMOKELESS POWDER.
    Look into/Google data. If you load smokeless, you may be doing something dangerous.
    The old 1873 SAA Colts in 45 Long Colt, were black powder; Fill cartridge by dipping.
    Research that weapon9WEBLEY) before loading anything, please.

    Like

    1. It is a Webley Mark II which means it was designed for black powder (actually cordite). That’s the challenge with obtaining ammunition for this firearm. It is a black powder(ish) firearm that has been converted to use .45 ACP. I am going to use Trail Boss powder, 255 grain copper coated (not jacketed) bullets with a max target pressure under 11,400 which was the common load level for British military .455 ammo. The actual target is actually 9,709 for a further 15% buffer. Muzzle velocity should be 525-600 fps. Initially, I’ll use .45 ACP cases on moon clips since that is the way it was used by my grandfather. After the initial rounds I have some .45 AutoRim brass that I will use from that point forward that will eliminate the need for moon clips. I think the 50 year old moon clips from Woolworth’s could fail with too many more uses.

      I use a scale and powder measure “spoons” from Lee. A 0.5 cc “spoon” is almost exactly the right amount of powder for a light .38 Special load but I still weigh each one. I have yet to get my powder dispenser to drop as accurately as I would like so i have set it aside for now.

      The Trail Boss powder is designed specifically for this type of use. It is significantly bulkier than standard powders so it fills the case nicely even with very light loads. I am told this reduces the potential for bad things happening from secondary ignition of un-burned powder that can happen with such loads and regular powders. Trail Boss is about double the volume of the 700-X I use in my .38 Specials at the same weight.

      I wish I could claim to have developed these loads and information on my own. In actuality, I enlisted a co-worker who is EXTREMELY serious about reloading. He helped me develop the loads using an app he owns that is WAY more comprehensive than any reloading manual I have ever seen and accounts for many more variables. He also recommended the Trail Boss powder and we both spent a lot of time researching this on the InterWebz.

      I will test this first batch of rounds myself and I may either buy or borrow a chrono to double check them. After that, I will set up a time for my Mom and any of my kids (all grown adults) who would like to participate and we’ll all send a few rounds downrange in memory of my Grandfather. At which point four generations of my family will have handled and fire this revolver. After that, the Webley will go back in the safe and only brought out on special occasions, like his birthday. I have enough materials to assemble 250 rounds. If i get through more than 100 before I die and pass this firearm down to one of my kids or grandkids I will have either shot it a lot more than I expect to or will have lived a lot longer than I expect to.

      What’cha think? Did I miss anything?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Without any substantial data, the loads should start from above squib. Timing with chronographs would be helpful, as desired speed of a given (230 gr.?) projectile needs to be brought up, rather than down, because you need your hand, fingers, eyes, etc. The loads will react differently to modern pistol primers than what was around when the Webley was in service. To hedge on a bet, I would have the cylinder throated, timed, throat the forcing cone, and hone smooth the action while leaving the mainspring weight heavy to ignite the primer or risk a hangfire if the mainspring is too light and the primer does not function properly. Knock off the research at a hair above 750 fps chronographed. Loads must be small batched of three or four, with data meticulously recorded. Any sound of cracking you must halt firing the weapon. Metalurgy inspection. Stress cracks might set up, requiring x-ray or Zyglo testing but, if any crack are revealed. Put the revolver away for posterity. Once the rounds are made, your children must be made aware of the data, shown the formulas, so they never crank modern .45 acp rounds through the weapon. In fact, if a handrest could be made to hold the revolver and remotely fire a few rounds. It’s more of a challenge with the correct approach, than trepidation. Again, research if anyone had previously undertaken a similar task. If not, approach with caution. Wildcat loaders might have some information at some boards online. Best of luck with the endeavor.
        Well, I mean, if I were around, I would be on it, because everyone knows that I have, more balls than brains.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. There is some information available out there are we’re not starting from scratch. The .455 cartridge is fairly hard to find and many people are forced to reload in order to feed them withhhout it costing an arm and a leg. The vast majority of the surviving examples have been shaved for .45 ACP so the challenge is not unique. Getting even a small reload shop to take on the project impossible so I found myself needing to learn a new skill (which I wanted to learn anyway) and pick up some equipment.
        Thanks for the advice!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Good luck with your reloading endeavor. I wish to reload at some point, but that time is not now. I will read with relish about your successes that are surely to happen soon.

    Joe

    Liked by 1 person

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