Saturday, October 07, 2006

Forming brass for the Nagant revolver

I wrote about the 1895 Nagant revolver a couple of years ago, and about the somewhat odd cartridge designed for it. It's long, the bullet is seated down inside the case, and when the cylinder comes into battery the mouth of the case actually fits inside the breech of the barrel; when fired, the case mouth expands and forms a gas seal that actually does give the bullet a bit more velocity than it has with an open flash gap.

You can get 7.62 Nagant brass from Starline or you can use the Lee dies to form .32-20 brass to work; in both the case is too short to form the gas seal. It works quite well, and the brass lasts longer since it's not being as drastically worked when you fire. If you want the full-length cases, the only two you can buy that I know of are Fiocchi(two drawbacks, it's expensive and due to the dramatic crimp they use it tends to crack at the mouth when fired) and the Russian target ammo some dealers carry(very accurate, generally doesn't crack but berdan primed). Which leaves the option of taking some existing case and forming it.

At the time I got my Nagant I found a post on a gunboard on how to do this and decided to give it a try. Some success, some failure and some bugs in the process as I tried it. Fiddled with it on and off, and here's how I've been doing it.

Needed: .223 cases, a GOOD case lube, a .30 Carbine sizing die, a short piece of brass rod about
1/4" diameter and a drill press. Also some way to cut the excess off when the time comes. Done right this gives you a case with a rim to hold it in place and long enough to give the gas seal.

My procedure
I start off by chucking a case in the drill press with about 1/2" sticking down. Start it turning at low rpm and use a file, flat side vertical, held against the case with the bottom edge in the extractor groove.

I haven't tried to measure how much to take off; the ideal here would be a small lathe where you could repeatedly shave off an exact amount. But until I have/have access to a lathe, drill press it is. I take a bit off, then use some fine sandpaper to smooth the cut area. Do a handful, then wipe them off and head to the loading press.

Put in the appropriate shellholder and run the die down until it touches the holder and lock it. Lube a case(I've been using Imperial Sizing Die Wax) and run it up into the die, just a little; when it wants to stop, stop and back it out. Wipe on more lube, run it up again till it gets tight, pull out and relube. If you've taken enough off the case at the drill press you should be able to run the case almost all the way up in three tries, if not it'll need four or
five. I STRONGLY suggest you rotate the case a bit each time, as if you don't you'll wind up either bending or cracking the rim, and you need it in place

If you did it just right at the first step, inspection will show no raised area and you can do the final forming. Most of the time I didn't take off enough(lathe would probably solve that) and the die will form a lip or rim on the case from brass being pushed down. Here's an original case, and one at this point of the forming:

You can see the belt formed a little above the extractor groove and the sized case is longer.
So when the whole bunch is at this point, take them back to the drill press and use the file to cut off that lip, then sand smooth. At this point you can trim the cases. You can use a jewelers saw or whatever, I usually use the sanding disc on my belt sander to cut them back to the start of the shoulder; they need to be at least 1.5" overall after cutting, then use a deburring tool to clean up the edges. Clean the cases off and back to the press.

Here you'll need a flat piece of steel, only specs are that it be thick enough not to bend and wide enough to cover the shellholder. Take the depriming stem out of the die- you may want to use a universal deprimer to do that and just leave the stem out of the sizer- set the steel on the shellholder, lube the case and push it up into the die,

then run the ram up until it contacts, then lever it all the way; it'll take some pressure and the rim should be the only thing showing below the die mouth. Back off the ram, stick the brass rod through the depriming stem hole into the case, take a light hammer and start tapping. Hit too hard and you can crack the shellhead or break it off, so just tap and if you lubed the case well it should start coming out after a few.

Examine them at this point, look for any cracked rims or other damage that means toss it. If all's well, get out the case trimmer and trim them to 1.5" overall. Depending on the case and how far back you cut it off, you may have to use the expander die to open the mouth up a bit so the trimmer guide will fit in. Then deburr inside & out, clean off the lube and you have cases ready to use. Don't forget: you will need a way to bell the case mouth a bit to let the bullet start in.

Here's a .223 case, one with all the forming done, trimmed to length and one of the Russian target cartridges on the right. Hard to see in this shot but the Russian has a long taper crimp above the bullet(which is a wadcutter seated with the face almost .4" below the case mouth).

I loaded 25 of these reformed cases with standard small pistol primers, a charge of Unique and some 100 grain Hornady hollow-base wadcutters, seating the bullets so the face is about 1/4" below the case mouth. Then I ran them partway into the sizing die to give the case a taper crimp and smooth out any bulges formed when you seated the bullet. Later on, just for the hell of it, I've got some .30 caliber hollowpoints I'm going to try out in these.

That first 25 I tried out at about ten yards, and all fired with no problems, no split case mouths and good accuracy(good for me with those sights; results may vary). Some empties fell right out, some were pretty sticky; I think a combination of not smooth enough where they'd been filed down and maybe a bit too thick there. The Russian brass looks like it's pretty thin-walled, the .223 much thicker so I think it didn't contract back as much after firing. I'm going to thin the cases that stuck just a bit at/above the web and polish them and see how that works out.

When my old pc crapped out, I lost the information I'd originally saved on this procedure including an e-mail I got from the guy who posted it. If you happen to see this, thanks for helping me work this out.

Most dies will not have a seating stem long enough to push the bullet this deep. You'll have to make a longer stem; I took another die(I used a .30-30) and used a long piece of threaded rod for a stem to seat it. Doing this, you have to make damn sure the bullet is started straight for it to continue straight in. Update: since I wrote this, I tried something: I took unscrewed the top from the seating die and put in a spacer, about .4" long above the seating stem. That allows the Lee die to set the bullet down below the case mouth in full-length cases.

I found that commercial cases were a lot easier to work than military; the mil cases have thicker walls.

I tried annealing some cases to see if that would help in forming them; it didn't.

I had several cases crack at the mouth the second time I expanded them for loading, so I got out the torch and annealed the case mouth area on all. I've got a dozen more ready to trim to length, after that I'll anneal them before expanding the first time. There's a lot of forming done and it's work-hardening the brass; hopefully annealing them at this stage will help them last longer.

Additional: Just found this thread over at The High Road on this very subject, some good information there.


Having finally made time to do this, I'm going to harden the blade that was forged here and ground here.

Here's the blade, and that line drawn in is important. Generally, I want to bring it up to critical heat in that range back from the edge, not much farther.

That means that section will be at full hardness, with the area further back tougher to support the hard section. Not a big factor with a small blade like this, and you can harden the entire blade. It is how I prefer to do it on all but smaller blades.

I lit the forge, and made three of the roasting forks while it burned clean and larger, so I had a clean fire with all the coal that will be on/around the steel coked. I also got a small pot I keep for this and filled it with quenching oil. Before I started on the blade I took a piece of steel and brought it up to a bright red, then quenched it to heat the oil; warm oil(around 100F) flows better and gives a more even quench. When it was ready, the blade went into the fire.

Note that it goes in roughly horizontal and with a very low air flow at first to let it soak up heat. Depending on how thick and/or wide a piece is, you may only need the low air blast. The big factor on even heat is to make sure the fire is large enough to bring the whole blade up to temp.

In case you've wondered, you can see how spooked the guard staff is by the fire and hammering:

When the blade is at heat, that mid-to-bright red I've tried to describe, it comes out and is lowered edge first into the oil, at a slight downward angle. I try to submerge from the lower rear corner to the point or just a bit further into the oil at first. Then, after a few seconds with a wide blade, move it up & down vertically just a bit. I hold it in the oil for a good 20-30 seconds and then submerge the entire thing. No picture of this; not enough hands.

Here's how it looks fresh out of the oil.

You can see the difference in color between the area that was fully hardened and that further back. Often you can tell if a steel hardened properly simply by that appearance, best way to check is with a file. A sharp file will, at best, almost bite the steel; generally if the piece fully hardened it'll just skate on the surface.

I'll let the piece cool completely, then give it a second hardening. After it cools from that one, with the oil and scale scrubbed off, it looks like this:

Fully hardened and ready to temper. I'll cover that later.

Carnival of Cordite #75

It's up

Friday, October 06, 2006

Things my son told me about boot camp

A contraband bag of M&Ms can go for $20.

Someone desperate will pay $30 for a can of snuff.

Someone who's really interested in making money can manage to get to the main PX and buy $100 worth of candy, and by or shortly after lights out sell it all for $300.

The contraband 2-liter bottle of Dr. Pepper the DI found can, when slammed into the floor, manage to liberally splash about half the barracks and mess up the wax job on the floor. Which they'd had to do. Which, sometime after the DI finished yelling, caused several people to have an in-depth discussion with the idiot who snuck it in.

An MRE heater, with just a little water added, can be closed up and placed in the bottom of your sleeping bag to keep your feet warm.(I don't know where he picked that one up, but he was the only one in the platoon who knew it. So he collected heaters others didn't use on chilly nights in the field; and a couple of guys, after finding out why he'd wanted them, paid $5 to get theirs back)

Dumbasses who take contraband in their rucks on a field maneuver will have their ruck searched while they're out of camp, and will wind up doing things like moving all the sandbags from around his squad's tent about 300 yards to the river. And back. With dire threats of what will happen if they spill any sand from any of the bags that get ripped.

The platoon lost "two guys because they got hurt who'll have to finish later, and one guy because he's a dumbass".

The new Top Sergeant was so short he looks like a midget on his Harley; and NOBODY is dumb enough to mess with him, because- among other things- he's about 2/3 as wide at the shoulders as he is tall.

Helmet or not, getting hit in the head with a Pugil stick hurts.

Yes, the gas chamber really was that bad.

The issue berets are cheap.

These barracks are a lot nicer than the one he stayed in at Encampment in CAP a few years ago. Which was left over from WWII.

There were no skunks around these barracks, but they still have racoons in the trash.

When they were issued their cleaning stuff for the rifles he asked the DI if there was anything better available. "What do you mean 'better'?" "One-piece rod, some better CLP?" "No, you have to use this shit." Pause. "I keep my good stuff at home".

Somehow, after several weeks, he was the ONLY one in the platoon who knew what CLP stands for.

You weren't supposed to take the trigger mechanism out of the lower receiver for cleaning; instead you're supposed to use cotton swabs and such to clean it out. Figuring out how to take it out, clean it well, AND put it back together properly turned out to be worth $10. From each guy he put it back together for.

They had one guy in the platoon who got a perfect score on the ASVAB tests.

One guy lost 45 pounds.

One guy- God knows how- managed to develop a fat belly.

One guy, during a live-fire exercise, started to point his rifle in a bad direction. He recovered from having approximately 500 pounds of DIs landing on him. And then demonstrating their vocabulary to- at?- him.

They only got to fire an M2 Browning Heavy Machinegun in a simulator; he was disappointed.

The instructor gets excited when you throw a grenade, and it hits one of the tires a ways out and bounces back.

A guy on crutches can use one to kill the rattlesnake he finds in a latrine at one of the ranges.

And the platoon had five guys bitten by Brown Recluse spiders. Including the guy who got bit on the ass, waited five days to go to sick call, and came back after 'they cut a chunk out of my ass and packed bandage stuff in it'. He was, ah, rather uncomfortable for a while...

Truck + steel safety bumper=

saved back end of vehicle.

On my way home from grocery shopping I stop at a light and hear that 'Oh my God!'-class braking behind me. Look in mirror in time to see idiot in minivan, vehicle nose down and shock on his face, heading toward my rear end.

Shut up, you know what I mean.

Impact. Then I produced a profusion of words, turned the engine off and got out. To find
1. Not a mark visible on my truck, and
2. Headlight glass all over my bumper.

So he lost both right-side lights, and grill and bumper damage, and I may have a scratch or two on my bumper. Shock wasn't enough to trip the cutoff on the fuel pump, either.

I love my truck.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Well doggies!

The boy done good

No, I haven't posted anything the last couple of days; been a bit busy.

I present to you one of the newest members of the U.S. Army

having graduated from Basic Combat Training today as Private 2nd Class.

It's been an interesting couple of days. Looking at the roster for his battalion, you find names from people with all kinds of skin colors and backgrounds; people from many states and from four other nations(as someone put it, Americans who weren't born here), all having sworn to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies, foreign and domestic. All looking a bit hollow-eyed from heavy work and never quite enough sleep, having spent the last eight weeks learning what for many were completely new skills. And all having made it.

I'll post some more about this later, some stuff he told me. For now I'll just leave it with- in case I didn't say it before- I'm proud of the boy.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Brit politicians in charge of this should be tarred and feathered

Was at Florida Cracker and found a link to this article:

A paratrooper wounded in Afghanistan was threatened by a Muslim visitor to the British hospital where he is recovering.

Seriously wounded soldiers have complained that they are worried about their safety after being left on wards that are open to the public at Selly Oak Hospital, Birmingham.

On one occasion a member of the Parachute Regiment, still dressed in his combat uniform after being evacuated from Afghanistan, was accosted by a Muslim over the British involvement in the country.

Oh, the MoD has it well in hand, though:
The Ministry of Defence, which said that it had no record of threatening incidents, indicated that there was a military security presence at the hospital and it co-operated closely with local police.

A MoD spokesman said there was "appropriate security" at Selly Oak for the 11 servicemen currently being treated.

This despite "A relative of the Para said the man had twice walked on to the ward where two other soldiers and four civilians were being treated without once being challenged by staff."

She had a link to this one, too:
One soldier recovering from a gunshot wound has described how he spent three weeks in a bed next to a mentally handicapped man who was unable to care for or clean himself.

Another soldier at the hospital recalled one of his comrades who had lost a leg screaming in agony because the morphine had worn off. The pain was so intense that the soldier fainted twice during the 45 minutes he had to wait before a doctor could be found to administer more morphine.

It seems the Brits went a bit overboard with their 'peace dividend':
Before the strategic defence review that followed the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, there were seven military hospitals. But under a programme entitled "Defence Cost Study 15" in 1994, all but one were closed. Royal Hospital Haslar, in Portsmouth, survived but is now being mothballed and is due to close next year when the site will be sold to a developer.

After the closure of the service hospitals, special military wards were created in a number of NHS hospitals which were manned by Forces medical staff. But the MoD has confirmed that this policy has been abandoned because staff shortages and the so-called high tempo of operations made them "unsustainable".

Ok, this dumb Okie has a question: if the 'high tempo' of operations makes keeping a military ward in a hospital "unsustainable", why the !*##% don't they stop the sale of Royal Hospital Haslar and USE THE DAMN PLACE?

There is no excuse for wounded troops being treated this way. Period.

I don't care what party someone like Foley belongs to,

and I don't give a rats ass what it does to either party, they should be thrown the hell out of Congress. Period.

And I think this needs to get messy. Because we've got two things feeding this mess:
People who are so worried about harming Their Party by kicking out someone who may be good at pushing The Partys' view of things.
Too damn many people who both want to make being in Congress their lifes work, and who give other such people a pass even on conduct such as this.

Just maybe, if it gets messy and loud enough, there might be enough pressure on some of these clowns to do something. I'm not counting on it, but it would be nice.

Monday, October 02, 2006

You have GOT to check this out!

Bobblehead Mohammed

Thanks to Malkin for finding it

Somewhat oldie range test

Marlin Model 81-DL

One of the nice things about what John Ross labeled the 'gun culture' is that people tend to have neat boomsticks, like to talk about firearms and are generally friendly. And if a friend has something new/unusual/they just like, if you leave a testicle as security ask nicely they'll let you take out to the range and try it out. Which brings us to this piece.

Marlin has made a lot of different firearms over time, this one being a bolt-action target rifle with a tube magazine. Bolt handle is long and runs straight down, then turns out into a large round knob. The stock is a hardwood with a red stain, nicely fitted to the action and barrel. It widens in front of the trigger guard and has a flat bottom, sling swivels mounted at the factory. It has an aperture sight on the receiver

with an unusual adjustment system. The elevation you loosen a locking knob and turn a snail adjuster that moves it up or down; for windage there's a locking arm you push to the left to loosen and then push the aperture left or right. Front sight is a gold bead.

The trigger is a two-lever type(yes,I took the action out of the stock to look) that breaks at about 4-5 pounds with a touch of creep.

From what I can find the original model was the 81-B. The 81-DL was manufactured from 1941, then stopped turing WWII. It resumed in 1945 and ran 'till 1964. Stocks on those made before WWII had a forend like this one, postwar rifles a more standard shape and those after 1957 a walnut stock in a Monte Carlo style.

I started off with Federal Champion ammo to zero and generally shake it out, then tried some Eley Sport and some of the S&B that's floating around. It liked the Fed & Eley best, giving groups like this:

For 30 yards with a not overly steady rest, not shabby at all.

Overall a nice rifle, well worth having. I think the trigger could easily be polished to 2-3 pounds and clean, and that's all it would need. If you ran across one it'd be well worth making yours. Or the kids. And if they're a bit small for it, then you can use it till they grow up.

Carnival of Cordite #74

Up at Spank That Donkey

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Among the problems with the militarization of police

is the same problem when mistakes happen in regular policing: all to often the officers and agency involved basically stonewall. No apology, no "We screwed up", basically pay for property damage- if they can't get around it- and continue on.

What brought this on was looking over at The Agitator earlier today. This particular section is on
SWAT-type raids on either the wrong address, or due to bad information from an informant. Get a chance, go read through it. It'll really, really piss you off. Both the idiocy of some of these raids('economic in nature' for God's sake), and the amount of money going into armored cars and APCs for law enforcement agencies.

It's bad enough when there's only property damage. How the hell do you tell kids to trust the police when, in a botched raid, they kill the dog? Or, using a SWAT team to arrest a guy on gambling charges, you kill him through negligence? And then cover it up with "A mistake was made" or "Normal procedures for a raid were used, so no charges will be filed"?

More of the cops that don't like this crap any more than we do need to start speaking out about this and doing what they can, because every time one of these idiocies happens, it makes their job that much harder.