Richard Craver

Musings about this world, and the world to come.

Getting Loaded

Written By: richardwcraver - Oct• 17•17

I’ve been getting loaded a lot here lately. But you don’t need to plan an intervention, I can stop any time I want…really.

Actually I’m speaking of ammunition reloading. I’ve been preparing to start this hobby for some time now; reading reloading manuals, listening to podcasts and watching the better YouTube channels. I’ve been collecting components and setting the shop in order. It was finally time to start pulling the handle on the press.

In the last week I put together a set of ladder loads of 9mm ammo, and went to the range for evaluation. A ladder load set is basically looking at published reloading data from industry leaders, and making up a series of ammunition at the various powder charges from minimum starting load to maximum load.

Then I go to the range and fire the ammunition through my firearm starting with the assembled ammo with the least powder through those with the most to check proper function and most importantly examining brass for signs of over-pressure.

I found that the lightest loads with 4.8 grains and 5.2 grains of powder we’re very pleasant to shoot with very little recoil, but the outside of the brass was sooty. From my study I knew this to be because the pressure was too low to cause the brass cases to expand and seal against the walls of the chamber. On a pistol it makes a nasty mess of the inside of the firearm, on a rifle it can allow hot gases to blow back on to the shooters face, or cause improper function of gas operated semiautomatic systems. 5.6 grain loads were basically OK, as was 6.0 grains. The outside was shiny, but the inside was black. Different powders I’ve learned burn best at different pressures, at this medium level the powder was still burning sooty. This is not unlike a car’s gasoline engine which may run with a less than optimal compression, but will not burn the fuel efficiently or cleanly. Brass from 6.4 and 6.6 grain loads were shiny on the outside, and inside was gray ash, a sign of cleanly burned powder, and more importantly there were no signs of over-pressure in the brass or primers. Below is a piece of range pickup brass that is cratered around the firing pin strike. All of the brass with the CBC headstamp (Brazilian made Magtech brand) was cratered like this. Normally this is an over-pressure sign, but since all the CBC brass was like this, I suspect they are using soft primers.

Over-pressure cratering in range brass at primer strike.

My load data from one source had a max of 6.5 grains, the other source had a max of 7.2 grains. So my ‘safe’ load is a conservative 6.5 grains at 1.080″ cartridge overall length. The recoil is brisk, but not harsh.

So I flung open the garage door, set down, put Pandora on, and cranked out 100 rounds. I had a visit from a curious neighbor along the way that dropped by to see what was going on. Satisfied that everything was OK, and that there was no food around, he left me to my madness.

Assuming the next range trip is uneventful, I start prepping brass for rifle ladder loads next.

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