Old School Reloading for an Old School Snubby

An 1851 Navy modified as an ‘Avenging Angel’ snub-nosed revolver, and converted to fire .38 Short Colt. The gun has a ‘Bisley’ style grip, which, while anachronistic, is very comfortable. The case includes an ejector rod, a screwdriver and reloading tools.

The Ideal Reloading Tool

Back in the 19th C. you very likely might not have a full reloading bench, or have it with you when needed. Various hand tools were devised for reloading in the field, including the Ideal Reloading Tool.

Hand-held reloading tools were introduced alongside centerfire metallic cartridges. Winchester was the first large manufacturer to sell these. The tools were a ‘nutcracker’ type tool, and included a bullet mold. With this tool and the proper components one could make finished ammunition at home or in the field. Smith & Wesson, Colt and other manufacturers followed this trend.

Eventually Winchester stopped making these tools, and John Barlow, the man who ran the department for them, went out on his own and went to work for Ideal Tool. They produced a variety of bullet molds, and in 1885 launched the Winchester-style Ideal Reloading Tool, which was offered in a variety of calibers and configurations; each caliber required a specific tool. New designs and modifications were introduced over time, and in the late 1930s Ideal was taken over by Lyman.

A few years back a friend happened across one in .38 S&W, and knowing that I shoot that caliber sent it to me. I quickly realized that it only worked with 147gr. RNL- the original bullet used in .38 S&W. I don’t load those; most of the bullets I use have a stubbier profile, which rendered the tool useless to me. It didn’t take long for me to realize I could install a screw to adjust for different bullet lengths, which I promptly did. This illustrates the major shortcoming of the tool; they were not only caliber specific, but very limited in the selection of bullets they would work with. With the screw-plunger the tool worked out rather well, but I seldom used it, having a proper reloading press.

Using the Ideal Reloading Tool

I actually use the tool to reload .38 Short Colt… sort of. I use .38 S&W brass, but it works well enough. The Colt cartridge has an overall length of .765″, and the S&W is .800″ long. Since .38 SC uses a heel-base .375 bullet the chambers are bored straight through to a uniform diameter, so as long as the bullet doesn’t stick out the end of the cylinder the case length isn’t critical.

It turns out that the .38 S&W tool works quite well for .38 SC., at least using the ‘wrong’ brass. It’s pretty simple to use, especially if you start with resized brass. I have loaded un-resized brass, but this can be a tight fit in your cylinder when loading.

For projectiles I am using Buffalo Bullets 125gr. RNL. While not a true heel-base bullet, they do taper towards the back to facilitate loading them into the cylinder of a percussion revolver (which is what they are designed for.) I’ve found them to work quite well in .38 Short Colt, and I imagine they would work equally well in .38 Long Colt. The powder I am using is Hodgden’s Triple-7 FFFg, a black powder substitute that I have gotten excellent results with.

OK, before you ask, I have nothing against actual black powder, and think quite well of Swiss. In this state, however, it will take me a four-hour round trip to buy even Goex, and Swiss is unobtainium. Yeah, I could order it online, but the hazardous material shipping fees double the cost. Add in that Triple-7 is pretty much non-corrosive (I clean the guns the same way I would for smokeless powders) and available 10 minutes away, and… well, we have a winner.

The explanation will make more sense with illustration, so here’s a pictorial essay on the process.

Of course you need the essentials- from left to right- powder, powder measure, primers, bullets and the tool.
First you’ll need to prime the case. I do this with the primer on a hard surface and press the case onto it to get it started. It’s important not to touch the primer; aome peoples natural oils will disable them if they get inside.
Next, drop the case in the hole opposite the small, flat stud.
Pressing the handles firmly together will seat the primer
Next you need to flare the mouth of the case. Yes, I’m an idiot and did this out of order. With the case placed over the seating chamber, hold the case and tap the base of it on a hard surface until you get the desired amount of flare.
It doesn’t take much, so don’t overdo it. You need just enough to fit the base of the bullet into the case.
Next you need to charge the case. With the powder measure set to the correct charge (in this case ten grains) carefully pour powder in until it’s level with the top of the measure…
…then pour the powder into the case. When using black powder or a substitute it is important not to leave any air-space between the bullet and powder. This can cause a dangerous pressure-spike that can severely damage your gun and injure you. Please read the instructions for your powder about how much compression of the powder is desirable, and follow the directions!
Once the case is charged place the bullet in the case and insert it into the seating die on the tool. As you can see, the ‘dry’ lube is messy as hell.
Best to place the die over the bullet and case to avoid spilling the powder. I’m doing it the other way in the photo so you can see. One the bullet and case are in place squeeze the handles together to seat the bullet. This particular tool does not roll-crimp the case; rather it retains it with tension on the neck. Not usual for a revolver cartridge, but I haven’t had any problems with bullets in this low-powered cartridge ‘walking out’ under recoil.
When you close the tool it seats the bullet, and when you open it the spring-loaded extractor pulls the loaded case out.
…and there you have it- a loaded cartridge ready to go. The outside ‘dry’ lube is messy, but it seems to do the job.

The Gun

I thought people would likely have questions about the gun, so here are some answers. Obviously it’s based on an 1851 Navy reproduction, and it was made in Italy, but I genuinely don’t remember who made the frame, and the parts are from several manufacturers. It’s a real Frankengun.

Still a bit of finishing work left to do, but it’s complete and functional.

The gun weighs 29 oz., so recoil from the .38 Short Colt is pretty mild. The barrel is 1-13/16″ long, and it’s profile is based on an Avenging Angel from the 19th C. The cylinder is made from a percussion cylinder with the back turned down around the sprocket, then bored through and reamed to approx. .380″. The breech plate is 5160 spring steel, and has a hole to allow the use of a hammer-mounted fixed firing pin. There is a loading port, but no loading gate, and naturally there is a matching loading port cut in the blast-shield.

The barrel was originally a .44 barrel. I bored it our and lined it with a .36 caliber barrel (which is actually .375″.) The cylinder-gap is .004″. There is a bead front sight, and the rear sight is a notch cut in the hammer nose, as was normal for an 1851.

The grip-frame has been extensively modified, both on the front/trigger-guard and the backstrap, to mimic the shape of the Colt Bisley grip. The handle is Quilted Maple, custom made to fit the grip-frame. It was hand-sanded to 3000-grit before applying the lacquer finish.

How does it shoot? God only knows- I’ve only done a few point-blank test shots to insure everything is working properly. No reason to believe it will be inaccurate, but where the point of impact is in relation to the sights? We won’t know until I can get it out to the range- which I am very much looking forward to!

Michael Tinker Pearce, 3 May 2020

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The .44 that was a .45- .44 Colt

The Colt Richards conversion of the 1860 Army

In the mid 19th C. a fellow named Rolin White patented a clever idea. Bore all the way through the cylinder of a revolver so that it could be loaded from the rear with a metallic cartridge. He tried to interest Colt in his idea, but they saw little utility in it. The burgeoning firm of S&W, however, thought it was a grand idea and purchased the rights to the patent. From then until 1870 S&W enjoyed a monopoly on practical cartridge revolvers, which they defended enthusiastically and, more important, effectively.

In 1868 Colt’s chief competitor, Remington, gritted their teeth and licensed the rights from S&W, for the princely, and then not insignificant, sum of $1 per gun. They introduced factory conversions of their revolvers, at first in rimfire calibers and later in .44 Remington Centerfire.

By 1870 Colt was well behind the technology curve and was eager to launch their own cartridge revolver… but they were saddled with parts for thousands of percussion revolvers like the 1860 Army. The solution, devised by an employee, was to turn down the back of the cylinder around the sprocket, then bore it through to accept a cartridge. Add a breech-plate with a loading-gate to take up the material that was removed, include a provision for a firing pin and voila! You have a cartridge revolver.

.44 Colt

The first thing about the original .44 Colt is that it wasn’t. Forty-four caliber, that is. The bore of an 1860 Army revolver is actually .452, like a modern .45. But the Colt’s cylinder was too small to accept a cartridge with the bullet recessed into it; the case needed to be the same outside diameter as the bullet. Because of this the round uses a heel-base bullet, where the back of the bullet is smaller, approximately .430″, so that the base may be seated inside the case, while the tip is sized to the bore at .452 to .454.

Heel-base bullet. The base is smaller to fit inside the cartridge case, while the protruding portion is the same outside diameter as the cartridge case. The recessed ring is to hold lubricant, which, being outside the case could pick up dust or lint; not an optimal solution! Among modern cartridges only .22 rimfires still use heel-base bullets.

On firing the soft lead of the bullet’s base would be deformed and expand to fill the bore and engage the rifling. The round was called .44 Colt because the revolvers it was used in were called .44s (even though they were .45s.) Similarly .44 Remington also used a .452 heel-base bullet, and was of similar length. Some sources say otherwise, but comparing the cartridges side by side I cannot see any reason they would not work interchangeably.

.44 Colt was loaded with either a 210 gr. or 225gr. heel-base round-nose lead bullet, over 23-28gr. of powder. This gave muzzle velocities in the neighborhood of 650fps. and muzzle energy of about 206-207 ft.lbs

The cartridge worked reasonably well, but it was not without problems.For example the ring of lubricant was located outside the case, where it could, and did, pick up dirt, dust and lint etc. It could also get messy at high summer temperatures. The other issue was less with the cartridge than the guns that fired it. With the lock notches on the outside of the cylinder located directly over the chambers the metal there was paper-thin, and very often blew through in use. This left the cylinder with a hole in the bottom of the notch, which seems rather unsafe in theory. In practice, however, people continued to shoot these revolvers for decades, so apparently these holes didn’t matter.

The US Army briefly adopted the .44 Colt, but replaced it only a few short years later when the Colt 1873 Single Action Army was introduced, in the conventional and much more powerful .45 Colt.

.44 Remington (left,) .44 Colt and Remington (center) and .44 Colt. .44 Remington had a thinner rim, which leads some to state that .44 Colt could not be used in Remington revolvers, but the ‘aftermarket’ .44 Colt and Remington worked in either, despite having a rim basically as thick as the Colt’s.

Even though the Colt Richards and Richards-Mason conversion revolvers were the only guns officially chambered in .44 Colt, the cartridge remained in production until the outset of WW2. Heel-base bullets work well with black powder, but rather less well with smokeless powders. They also only work really well with soft, almost pure lead bullets. As a result attempt’s to modernize the cartridge were less than ideal. As the guns that fired it, already hopelessly obsolete, were retired, demand for the cartridge was almost non-existent… for a time.

.44 Colt’s Resurrection

Do to the popularity of movies and to an even greater extent television Westerns, the guns of the old west experienced a boom in popularity during the 1950’s and 60’s. The Colt 1873 was in production, but was quite expensive, and a number of Italian firms stepped in to offer lower-cost alternatives, including percussion revolvers and eventually cartridge conversions. For some reason, apparently in the 1970s, they decided, in the interest of historical authenticity, to reintroduce conversion revolvers chambered for the .44 Colt, but without the problematic heel-base bullets. These new guns used conventional bullets of .430″, with bores to match. Ironically original-style .44 Colt rounds cannot be chambered in these guns, so the attempt to recreate history was a bit dubious. These guns, sold by Cimarron and others, remain in use today, and ammunition is made by Black Hills.

The original .44 Colt still has it’s adherents, and molds for casting heel-base bullets, reloading dies and the bullets themselves are also available.

Reloading .44 Colt

Whichever flavor of .44 Colt you are using, reloading is not difficult. Modern .44 Colt is reloaded like any other modern cartridge. If you wish to do the original with heel base bullets it’s really not much harder, basically amounting to an extra step at the end.

Heel base bullets are available if you look around a bit, or you can cast your own. I used to swage mine from soft lead ‘cowboy’ bullets, but recently I’ve found a simpler method. Buffalo Bullets offers a 180gr externally dry-lubed bullet specifically for percussion revolvers.

These bullets taper towards the base to be loaded into the cylinder, and I’ve found that I can use them quite easily in .44 Colt. Resize, prime, flare the case, stick the bullet in and seat it. works a treat, though the heavy coating of dry-lube makes a bit of a mess. So far just like loading a modern cartridge, but there is one more step- the crimp. The bullet may seem to be in there nice and tight after seating, but trust me- it will ‘walk out’ under repeated recoils and jam things up.

Crimping requires a special collet-crimp, and the one sold by Old West Bullet Molds is just the thing. It’s $50, but if you want to load this cartridge it’s a bargain. Simply run the bullet up into the die and it will crimp a ring around the case just below the rim, which will hold the bullet in place perfectly.

.44 Colt, loaded with Buffalo Bullets 180gr RNL. You can clearly see the crimped ring produced by the Old West Bullet Molds collet-crimp just below the bullet.

I loaded these cartridges with the 180gr. Buffalo Bullets RNLs, over a charge of 17.3gr of Hodgden’s Triple-7 FFFg powder, with a Federal #100 primer. Triple-7 is a black powder substitute and, as when loading black powder, you cannot have air space between the bullet and powder. This can result in detonation, which will break your gun or worse. Unlike black powder, however, you want very little compression of the powder. This load, with the bullet seated very deep, allows about 1mm of compression, which experience has shown me is about right.

Triple-7 tends to give higher velocities than a comparable charge of black powder, and between that and the light-for-caliber bullet I was curious to see how it would come out.

Shooting .44 Colt

I set up my target at five yards- a piece of pressure-treated pine 4×4. I put the chronograph at about ten feet from the muzzle and fired a string of three shots. Normally I do strings of five, but with everyone stuck at home I wanted to minimize the chance of annoying the neighbors.

So how does this load shoot? Mighty fine if I do say so myself. Recoil was not heavy, and the three bullets completely penetrated a treated pine 4×4. All three bullets were found between the 4×4 and the backing.

Three shots stacked up neatly at five yards. I used the first bullet hole as the point of aim for the second, and the second bullet hole as the point of aim for the third All three blew right through the 4×4.
The degree of deformation of the bullets varied wildly. I suspect the bottom left bullet was the first, so the wood was somewhat ‘tenderized’ by the first hit, and the top bullet might be the third shot after the first two tore up the wood. Two of the three have visible marks from the rifling all the way to the base of the bullet. The other is too mangled to tell.

The gun used in the test is an Armi San Marco 1858 that I converted, and this was the first time I fired it. The gun has a 3-3/4″ barrel.

The chronograph showed an average velocity 838fps. for 281ft./lbs of energy, with an extreme spread of only 8 fps. Three is a small sample group, but that’s pretty remarkable consistency.

This is significantly more velocity and energy than the original load produced from barrel twice as long as this one. I don’t think I would use this load in an original gun; I’d be more inclined to use FFg black powder in that case; it’s a fair bit less energetic. For this particular gun and my uses, however, I’m very pleased.

The Gun

As mentioned the gun used is a custom Armi San Marco 1858 Remington reproduction. I just completed this gun, and aside from firing primers to function-test it I had never shot it. I’ll show and tell through pictures:

With a bit of cutting and welding I reshaped the handle into a profile resembling a Colt Bisley revolver, and lowered the hammer-spur to work in conjunction with it.
The grips are made from Bolivian Rosewood, hand-sanded to 3000-grit then polished with 0000 crocus cloth before receiving a light coat of lacquer.
I mounted a new barrel, shortened to 3-3/4″, then shortened the rammer and installed a latch to engage a groove in the front of the cylinder pin. This retains the pin while holding the rammer in place. The bronze front sight is visible in a variety of lighting conditions, and in what I can only attribute to divine intervention seems to be about as dead-on as one could want.
usually the breech plate on a conversion is sized on the cylinder. I sized this one on the blast shield. Gives it a subtly different look, and allows me to see if the gun is loaded at a glance.
There is no loading gate, just a port cut in the breech-plate and blast shield on the frame. This has not been problematic in other conversions I have done.

So, the load performed well, the gun performed well- going to call this one a Win. I’ll be doing more testing with different bullets and bullet weights, and maybe some actual black powder down the road.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 27 April 2020

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More Hunker Games- Load Development and Slow Guns

I can’t properly go shooting while we’re in isolation, but I can do a little shooting on the property if I don’t overdo it and annoy the neighbors. Having recently completed the 1848 cartridge conversion it seemed like a natural time to work up some .32 S&W loads.

.32 S&W

Like many cap-and-ball .31 reproductions the bore is rather over-sized (I’ve seen undersized ones too.) This means that jacketed and even some hard-cast bullets don’t get a good seal in the bore, causing low velocities, leading and sometimes key-holing (when the bullet doesn’t hit the target squarely.) This plays havoc with accuracy and penetration.

The traditional solution is the use of a hollow-base bullet, these days most often a Hollow-base Wad Cutter (HBWC.) The problem is those are pretty scarce in .32 caliber, and while a few companies used to make them they’ve all pretty much stopped.

I ordered some 73gr TCL hard-cast bullets from Rimrock, and as you’d expect they are great… in my Iver Johnson and S&W top-breaks. Out of the Baby Dragoon? Not so much. Really soft lead bullets will bump up to engage the rifling, but these are just too hard. Even at five yards they were yawing or key-holing.

Iver Johnson .32 Automatic Safety Hammerless (2nd Model.) It’s a good little shooter.

So, time to swage some bullets. How? Take a chunk of steel, bore a .310 hole in it, and lathe-turn a plug with a post on it to make the hollow base, and a rammer for the other end. These have to be super-snug in the holes. Insert the plug, insert the bullet (or thick lead wire) and hammer the rammer in on top of the bullet. Remove the rammer and used a brass drift to drive the bullet and plug out. Rinse and repeat. It’s not fast, but it will do for short runs of bullets.

My original 58gr. HBWC for ‘gallery loads,’ very light loads for indoor shooting. Normally wadcutters are seated flush with the lip of the cartridge, but .32 S&W is so short you really can’t.

I started with some 58gr bullets for ultra-light loads for indoor shooting. I’d show you the others, but frankly they look just like these, only slightly longer. These proved quite satisfactory when launched at very low velocity (478fps.) They were surprisingly accurate and not at all loud.

This is the gallery load mentioned above, and was shot at five yards with the Baby Dragoon. Quite satisfactory.

I had some thought that this gun might go out for some small-game hunting as well as target practice, so I figured some stouter loads might be needed as well. To that end I swaged some 77gr. soft lead HBWCs and upped the powder charge. Quite a difference! The velocity was much higher, both from the 3″ Iver Johnson and the 5-3/4″ barrel Baby Dragoon.

I’ll note at this point that I was using Alliant Red Dot powder, and there’s a good reason. When tested in shotguns this powder, loading the same weight of shot to the same velocity, exhibited basically the same chamber and down-bore pressure curves as black powder. It takes a lot more black powder to achieve the velocity, of course, but this would seem to make Red Dot a good choice for some black powder cartridges.

Here are the loads I came up with for the Baby Dragoon:

55gr. HBWC, 1.0gr. Red Dot, Fed #100 Primer 478 fps. 29 ft./lbs ES: 40

77gr HBWC, 1.2gr. Red Dot, Fed #100 Primer 841fps. 121ft./lbs ES: 44

Now it might seem odd that 0.2gr of powder would drive a heavier bullet so much faster, but there’s more to it than just weight and powder charge. Loaded to the same overall length the 77gr. bullet fills more of the case, which changes the burn of the powder. The soft lead bullet also expands to fill the bore more completely, using the pressure more efficiently. Based on recovered bullets, the 55gr. load barely engages the rifling, and the muzzle report is enough softer that it sounds like there is considerable ‘blow-by’ past the bullet.

I have some heavier factory wadcutters coming; we’ll see how they perform.


These weren’t the only surprises in store; when I got to .38 S&W things continued to go strangely. I recently purchased some 125gr LSWCs from Rimrock as well, and these are hard-cast and specifically sized for .38 S&W, which tends to run several thousandths larger than .38 Special/.357 Magnum. Rimrock lists the bullets as .360″, and my caliper said .361. Oh well, what .001″ among friends?

I’m trying a new powder, Universal. This is formulated for loading a broad spectrum of handgun cartridges, thus the name. Given the relative paucity or reloading data for .38 S&W I had to make some educated guesses, and initially erred on the side of caution and worked my way up. For test guns I used an Iver Johnson .38 Automatic Safety Hammerless with a stock 3-1/4″ barrel and my S&W .38 Safety Hammerless with a 1-5/8″ barrel.

Iver johnson .38 Automatic Safety Hammerless (2nd Model,) with a stock 3-1/4″ barrel and an ergonomic grip for my big fat fingers.

A pattern quickly emerged. All things being equal a longer barrel gives you more velocity, but in this case the shorter S&W consistently produced higher velocities. Apparently all things were not equal. The Iver Johnson is a ‘slow gun.’ This is not the first time that I have encountered this; initially in my ‘How Obsolete Are They’ tests I used a Harrington & Richardson, which also turned out to be a ‘slow gun.’ So, what makes a gun slow? In a word, its tolerances.

Harrington & Richardson 2nd Model (4th Change) top-break in .38 S&W. A ‘slow gun’ with modern bullets, but a bad gun? Not at all.

The tolerances in the bore are often measured by a process called ‘slugging’ the bore. Basically one takes an over-sized soft lead ball and forces it through the bore, and then measures it’s diameter. The H&R referenced earlier had a .365″ bore. Firing a hard-cast .361 bullet through this allowed a portion of the pressure to force its way past the bullet rather than driving it forward, resulting in a slow muzzle velocity. I slugged the Iver Johson, and the bore measured .361, so that was obviously not the culprit.

The next thing to check was the gap between the cylinder and barrel. This is about .006″, which I did not feel was large enough to create the loss of velocity I was getting compared to the S&W’s .004″. Checking the cylinder itself revealed the culprit; the chamber throats measured .368″. This allowed considerable blow-by past the bullet before it entered the barrel. By comparison the chamber throats and bore on the S&W measure dead-on .361, resulting in more consistent and higher velocities with modern bullets.

OK, you need to understand something about these guns. These are not bad guns, and their low velocities are not always issues with ‘sloppy’ tolerances. Yes, they are slow with modern hard-cast or jacketed bullets. But these are not the bullets they were designed to fire. When these guns were made .38 S&W was loaded with very soft bullets. The variances in the tolerances on these guns may be related to that fact. It didn’t matter if the cylinder throats were large, because the base of the bullet would easily expand to fill the available space. Likewise if the bore were a few thousands over diameter it was not a problem. There was also a theory in the 19th century that the best performance in a revolver was attained by having a large chamber throat, which the base of the bullet would expand to fill, and having the bullet swaged precisely to the bore diameter in the forcing cone. In an age were ammunition dimensions were often approximates there might be some merit to this idea.

So in some cases the fault lies not in our stars… er, guns, but in our ammunition. When used with soft lead bullets and a suitable charge these guns may not be slow at all. Yep, gonna test this.

.38 S&W

So, back to testing loads with Hodgden Universal powder. The first thing I notice was it’s brown; it looks like finely-ground medium-light roast coffee. OK, that’s weird, but not really relevant. I was able to find a few .38 S&W loads using Universal, but none with the weight and diameter of bullet I’m using. Time for some educated guessing. Comparing charge-sizes with Unique in several loads I figured a charge of 2.8gr. would be safe, but likely rather slow.,say in the mid to high 500’s in terms of feet per second. That seemed like the place to start. I worked up gradually from there to as far as I considered prudent in American antique top-break guns.

I’m omitting the results from the 3-1/4″ gun, as they proved slower than the shorter S&W for the reasons outlined above, all tests were from the 1-5/8″ S&W, and were five shot strings.

My custom S&W .38 Double-Action safety Hammerless (4th Model) with a 1-5/8″ barrel. A very sweet little gun, capable of surprising accuracy.

Rimrock 125 gr./.361″ LSWC, Universal powder & Fed #100 primers.

2.8gr. powder, 564fps, 88ft./lbs, ES: 11

3.0gr. powder, 598fps, 99 ft./lbs, ES: 15

3.2gr. powder, 626fps., 109ft./lbs, ES: 18

3.5gr. powder, 698fps., 135ft./lbs, ES: 19

The first two loads yield results very similar to modern Winchester and Remington factory loads, and ought to be reasonably safe in any gun in good enough order to be fired. The second two loads are likely to be safe as well, but guns vary and I would be leery of using them extensively in anything but S&W top-break revolvers or other high-quality guns, like Webley and Enfield service revolvers. Solid frame guns are generally much stouter, but a lot of very cheap, poor quality revolvers were made in the late 19th and early 20th C. Err on the side of caution, especially when dealing with guns of unfamiliar brands, or guns known to have been cheap when new.

I’ll be testing Universal with heavier bullets soon, but the loads above are more gentle on old guns. As long as you are sensible with your loads pressure is less a concern with antique guns than recoil, causing them to loosen up or break. The lighter bullets at modest velocities produce less recoil, but will still be perfectly adequate for target practice or small game.

As always, you use this load data at your own risk. The writer assumes no liability for the use or misuse of this load data. Only use these loads in a good-quality firearm that has been inspected to insure that it is safe to fire. When in doubt DON’T.

If you like what you see here, please consider clicking the link above and supporting me on Patreon.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 24 April 2020

Every Day Carry (EDC)

In the gun world ‘EDC” is common parlance for a gun you carry almost all of the time. Some take this very literally, and insist that this is the only gun you should carry. Ever.

There’s a certain logic to this; if you always carry the same gun it will be the one you are most familiar with, the most experienced with and it’s manual of arms will quickly become ‘hard wired’ skills. In any situation you will use the gun you will be familiar with reloads, clearing jams etc. Taking this logic a step further, it would be advisable to always carry the gun in the same holster, with reloads in the same place on your person. This is not the worst idea in the world.

There’s a slight problem… for many of us it simply won’t work. Not unless we are willing to completely re-engineer all aspects of our life around carrying that gun. What we wear, where we go, what we do, who we see and under what circumstances.

The Colt Junior .25 ACP- small and compact enough to be carried under almost any circumstances… and because of it’s very low-powered cartridge and the difficulty involved in shooting it well, it’s a very poor choice for EDC.

Most of us have lives that are largely the same from day to day. Most of the time we can select a gun that we can carry all of the time on an average day… but if that gun is your only option circumstances could easily arise that mean you will need to choose between being unarmed or not going.

The thing is we don’t all live the same life. If you are, for example, a Guide living in an area where open carry raises no eyebrows, your Ruger Super Blackhawk might fill your needs just fine. But even then… what about when you go to church? Visit family members? Go to a parent-teacher conference? Awkward.

Firearms have advanced to the point where is is easy to buy a very capable firearm that you can carry almost all of the time. The Sig P365 ticks all of the boxes for a lot of people, not surprising since it was specifically designed to fit the ‘one gun EDC’ paradigm by some very experienced, very clever people. Similarly the Glock 43, an air-weight S&W J-frame and many other guns fit the EDC role pretty well, depending on your abilities and your perception of your needs.

I have a single gun that works for me most of the time, and I carry it most of the time. I am intimately familiar with all aspects of it’s operation and manual of arms, I shoot it very well, and it is adequate for the sorts of threats I feel I am likely to encounter. I seldom go places where I cannot dress to conceal it without arousing comment… but it does happen. If circumstances dictated that I needed to wear a suit, lightweight casual clothing or be in protracted, close contact with a group there is a high likelihood that someone would notice that I am wearing it. Depending on the circumstances, this could cause issues that I would rather avoid. In those instances I have the choice of being unarmed or carrying something more discrete.

A compact magnum revolver might be a good choice for carry when hunting… but is it really your best option for running down to the store for donuts?

Being a long-time firearms hobbyist suffice it to say I have a lot of options compared to many people. Not all are suitable for concealed carry; some are in sub-optimal calibers, hold too few shots, are too slow to reload or are just too damn big. But I have a fairly encyclopedic familiarity with handguns, and with any suitable handgun I own I am confident that I could employ it effectively in the sorts of self-defense situations I feel I am most likely to encounter. But let’s face it, I am not most people, or even representative of firearms enthusiasts.

So, what’s a person to do? Of course if you only have one firearm you really haven’t got a choice. But if you are able to have more than one, your life conditions may make it prudent to do so. Say, a standard carry gun that fulfills most of your needs, and others to serve the rest of the time. It’s axiomatic that in a self-defense situation any gun is better than no gun, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put some thought, and more importantly some training, into your ‘situational’ weapon or weapons.

For ultimate discretion it’s hard to beat an NAA mini-revolver… but a five-shot single-action .22 that’s so small it’s difficult to shoot well? Yes, any gun is better than none… but few would argue that this is an ideal choice when something more effective is an option.

If possible I would recommend that you employ guns with a similar or identical manual of arms. If you rode a dinosaur to school and EDC a 1911 .45, you might look at a Sig P238 as your more discreet option. It is not mechanically identical to your 1911, but operation, loading, unloading, clearing jams etc. require identical actions. Similarly if you carry a S&W K-frame revolver the smaller J-frame is an obvious choice for a more discreet weapon. Chances are whatever you carry most days, there is a smaller gun that has the same, or very similar, methods of operating it.

Whatever you carry, whether it is you ‘almost every day’ gun or a situational alternative, you need to practice with it. If it does not operate identically this is even more important. Practice does not just mean being able to hit a target or clear a jam, either. You need to practice how you carry it, how to access your reloads etc. and be aware of the limitations of those methods. If you just drop it in a pocket holster you need to understand that it will be slower to get into action, so you can work around that if you need to. The same applies to how you carry your reloads.

Experts are great. You should definitely consider their advice… but they don’t live your life, and their circumstances may be very different than your own. Their advice may not apply to every aspect of your life, and you need to bear in mind the specific needs, circumstances of your life and the threats that you feel you are most likely to need to deal with. Educate yourself, train with your weapons…. and most of all think.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 11 April 2020

Baby Dragoon Cartridge Conversion

This is an Armi San Marco replica of a Colt 1848 Pocket Model, known as the ‘Baby Dragoon.’ The .45 ACP cartridge is for size comparison. These guns are small!

Developed in 1846-47, the Colt Pocket Model was a .31 caliber percussion pistol based on (and financed by) the Colt Walker. It incorporated various improvements over the Walker, and these were carried over to the famous 1851 Navy, which was basically a scaled-up Pocket model.

The Pocket Model was available with or without a loading lever in a variety of barrel lengths. Despite the modest power of the .31 they were very popular, and helped set the stage for Colt’s future success. In the modern era these guns have been reproduced by most companies manufacturing percussion revolvers, and examples made by Pietta and Uberti are still available.

My gun, recently picked up as part of a trade, was made by Armi San Marco. It’s a well made gun in good condition. Of course, being me, I got it with the intention to convert it to fire metallic cartridges. But which cartridge? I’ve already done a conversion in .22, and another in .251 TCR. This time I decided I would do the classic, ‘easy’ conversion for these guns, to .32 S&W. I’ve seen modern conversion cylinders offered for this purpose, but they seem to be out of production at present.

Colt 1849 Pocket Model. This short-barreled version with no loading lever was know as the ‘Well Fargo,’ after the famous shipping company of that name.

As it happened I had a spare cylinder, so I used that for the conversion. I figured if I screwed it up I could always go back to the original. First thing was to remove the nipples from each chamber. That done I chucked it up in the vice and turned down to back of the cylinder to .650″. I then carefully bored through each chamber. each chamber needed clearance for the rim of the cartridge, so I chucked it up in the milling vice on the drill press, then used an end-mill to create room for the rim. I don’t have a .32 S&W chamber-reamer, so I used a slightly undersized drill bit, marked with tape to produce the correct depth. From there I finished the chambers with sanding drums, going up to 600 grit. Once a dropped cartridge would full seat itself in the chamber I was done with the cylinder for the moment.

Next was the breech plate. I used a piece of .262″5160 spring steel. I started by boring a 1/2″ in the piece, then using a flex-shaft tool with a carbide bur and sanding drums I enlarged the hole to fit over the .650 extension at the back of the cylinder. Next I place the cylinder on the steel and traced the outline, expanding it at the bottom to rest against the frame to prevent rotation. Using the flex-shaft with a cut-off wheel and some files I removed material to make a space for the hammer-nose. I’ll leave off the time I spent doing it over after I screwed it up the first time, and the time I spent fussing to allow the cylinder to rotate freely, but still have the bottom of the breech ring bear on the frame to prevent rotation… Then I had to relieve the rear face of the ring to accommodate the ring that stands out from the face of the breech.

The finished product- the converted, bored through cylinder and breech-plate.

After this I had to cut a loading port in the blast-shield on the frame, which I did with a large round-file and sanding drums. Once this was established I marked the breech-ring and cut a loading port in it.

The final part of the conversion was to drill the hammer-face for a fixed firing pin. I used a 3/32 drill and a piece of 3/32 music wire for the pin itself. The pin is basically a force-fit, and is glued in with Red Loctite. We will draw the curtains of charity over the extensive fussing around to get the firing pin the right length and shape to pass cleanly through the hole in the breech-plate. Similarly we will gloss over me breaking the lock/trigger return spring, and my three attempts to fabricate a functional replacement.

Here’s the hammer-mounted fixed firing pin. You can also see that I subly reshaped the squared-off rear of the trigger-guard to stop gouging my finger.

Without the loading-lever in place thought the lug under the barrel was inelegant, and decided to do something about it. Using the belt-grinder and sanding drums I re-shaped it to be similar to so-called ‘Avenging Angel’ conversion done on 1851 revolvers, except I didn’t cut the barrel shorter. It came to me with a 5-3/4″ barrel and every inch is still there.

I tested the gun with primed brass to insure everything was functioning, which worked fine.

With the gun fully functional I turned to the finish. I sanded it thoroughly with 240 grit emery cloth, removing all traces of the original finish. Sadly this included the color case-hardening on the frame. A tool had slipped and marked up the surface. I rust-blued the gun with Mark Lee Instant rust blue, which produced excellent results. The hardened surface of the frame colored slightly different than the frame, barrel and breech-ring, but I think that actually adds to the overall look of the gun.

Here’s the finished gun-

This angle shows the reshaped under-barrel lug to good advantage.
This photo shows the loading port cut into the frame and breech-ring. While there is no loading-gate the cartridges are always held in place by the breech-ring, even when the cylinder is rotated to rest the firing-pin between cartridge rims for safety. That cartridges can, theoretically, fall out of the gun is pointed sharply upwards while cocking it, but in practice this pretty much never happens..
The finished pistol shown with a 3″ K-frame S&W for size comparison.

Usually when I’ve finished a new project gun the first thing I want to do is test-fire it. Unfortunately the ranges are closed right now, and we’re all supposed to stick to home. How very annoying. OK, less annoying than getting horribly sick and maybe dying, or spreading a virus that might kill someone, but still… OK, I am a resourceful fellow, and the answer was as close as the loading bench.

I had been experimenting with swaging .32 caliber bullets, and had come up with a pretty neat 55gr. Hollow-Base Wadcutter. The very thing, I reckoned. Loaded on top of 1.0gr. of Red Dot with a Federal #100 primer it ought to be about right… and it was. The bullets had just enough power to fully embed themselves in a 1-3/4″ think kiln-dried Douglas Fir board, and as an added bonus they were remarkably quiet. Not silent, mind you, but not loud or sharp like a typical gun shot.

Five shots at five yards… not shabby. I was aiming with a 6-o’clock hold on the blue tape, and predictably for a percussion revolver it shot quite high. You can actually see the hollow bases of some of the bullets if you look closely
One the left is a bullet I recovered from the target. While you couldn’t reload it and shoot it again, there is very little distortion. On the right is the loaded ammunition.

So, pretty much a perfect Gallery Load for indoor shooting. I’ll break out the chronograph later and see what’s what. Of course I’ll be loading these much hotter for normal use (which will still not be impressive.) Load one of these hollow-base wadcutters backwards over a reasonable powder charge and this could be a very effective small-game load!

Michael Tinker Pearce, 5 April 2020

Mischief Managed- Smith & Wesson .38 Single Action (2nd Model)

Also known as the Model 2, not to be confused with the Number 2 Army, this was the gun that introduced the .38 S&W cartridge. Which is, of course, .36 caliber… but we’re not going to worry about that. The 1st model was produced from 1876-1877. These became known as the ‘Baby Russian’ because the long ejector housing gave it a similar profile.

The 2nd Model was produced from 1878-1891, and had a shorter ejector housing and other improvements. This model seems to be the one most commonly found these days, and it was the last model with a spur-trigger. The 3rd Model dispensed with this in favor of a conventional trigger and trigger guard, though a small batch of 3rd Models was made for the Mexican government with a spur trigger.

Between all models around 223,000 of these handy little guns were made, so they were successful and quite popular. It’s not hard too see why; the auto-ejector made for fast reloads, and the svelte little gun is quite easy to hide. Operation is simple as well, and thanks to it’s safety notch on the hammer the gun could safely be carried with all five chambers loaded. It’s worth noting if you happen across one of these guns and the cylinder free-rotates when the hammer is down it’s not necessarily broken; it might simply be that the hammer is in the safety notch. The cylinder does fully lock when the hammer is in the fired position.

A few years back I came to fancy S&W’s small top-breaks, but wasn’t much attracted to the single actions until I saw one an internet pal had put together. It had the barrel shortened to two inches, a nice, deep blue refinish and Mother of Pearl grips.

Magnumwheelman’s Model 2 snubby. Quite an attractive little gun, and he carries it regularly.

Now, having a thing for snubbies and S&W top breaks this little gun ticked all the buttons for me, and I decided if opportunity presented I would do one up for myself. Well opportunity presented itself last year; a friend spotted a 2nd Model in his local gun store at an excellent price, and I was able to pick it up.

Rather sad cosmetics, but no way to argue with the price!

Not in excellent cosmetic shape, but the bore and chambers were good, and the cylinder exhibits no endplay and locks up dead tight. The trigger is a bit stiff, but nicely crisp. The barrel slugged dead-on at .361″, and the chamber throats were likewise an exact .361″. Having acquired a suitable gun I was ready to get started.

Now at this point some might question my decision to modify an antique like this. Fair enough, but bear in mind these are not currently much sought after by the collector market, and even then they are mainly interested in pristine examples. There are plenty of guns like this one in circulation, and Smith & Wesson themselves frequently modified these guns at a customers request.

First things first- I shortened the barrel to 1-5/8″, the same as on my .38 Safety Hammerless. The looks of this length just work for me, and besides I am already familiar with the ballistics of this barrel-length. I crowned the barrel, then made a new front sight and silver-soldered it in place. I made the sight from bronze because in most lighting conditions it’s quite visible.

Once the barrel was shortened I made a new set of grips to replace the original Gutta Percha grips (which I kept.) I had some moose antler on-hand thanks to a buddy of mine from Alaska, and it made a nice set. I took the gun to the range to try out, and it shot very well, and right to the point of aim.

Quite adequate at seven yards, and the gun is a pleasure to shoot!

The next order of business was to dispose of the nasty old nickel. I’ve always done this , slowly and painstakingly, with abrasives, and was determined to never do so again. I was advised that Hoppe’s #9 is a copper solvent, and got a large bottle. I disassembled the gun, then put the barrel, cylinder frame and sideplate in to soak… and soak… and soak.

No joy. the Hoppe’s had zero effect on the nickel plating.

In the end I gave up. The reason this often works on nickel guns is that it is common practice to plate the gun with copper, then plate over the copper with nickel. S&W apparently didn’t have an under-layer of copper for the Hoppe’s to attack, so it had no effect. Bugger. On the bright side I have a life-time supply of Hoppe’s #9.

I set the project aside for a time, thinking at some point I would order some nickel stripper from Brownell’s, but somehow that never happened. Then the other week, with plenty of time on my hands, I caved. I detail-stripped the gun, then carefully sanded all the nickel off, taking special care to preserve the original lines of the gun. I sanded with the sideplate in place to avoid rolling it’s edges, which looks horrible when the gun is refinished. Finally I carefully sanded the gun to 280-grit, then rust blued it using mark Lee’s Instant Rust Blue.

Reassembling the gun involved holding the trigger and trigger-plate against spring tension, and naturally as I was trying to secure the plate the springs sprung and the lock-spring vanished into the nether realm, probably the same ones that socks go to out of the dryer… Bugger. Rather than searching the internet for another spring I simply flattened some music-wire and made a replacement. This time I got the gun reassembled without mishap.

I’ll let you judge the results for yourself, but I am excessively pleased with how it has come out!

Shown with a 3″ K-frame for size comparison

By it’s serial number this gun was made in the early to mid 1880s, and nearly 140 years later it’s still going to be used for it’s original purpose. I don’t plan on EDCing this gun, but it is admirably suited to situations where extra-discreet carry is appropriate, and it may be employed as a back-up if I feel the need.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 27 march 2020

The Hunker Games

I’m not a serious prepper. Sure, I live in an area with a lot of potential for natural disasters; earthquakes, severe storms, and sooner or later there will be a lahar from Mt.Ranier. Might not be in my lifetime, but it will happen.

This being the case it makes sense to be prepared for a protracted loss of services; have a way of cooking without electricity, a source of clean water, some medical supplies, durable food stuff etc. Power might be out for days, even weeks in the case of a particularly severe event. Best to be prepared, and we are, but it doesn’t dominate our lives.

Such an event might include some breakdown of the social order but, well… duh. I write a gun blog; you can pretty much figure we’ve got that end of things covered. But honestly, for the type of emergencies we’ve anticipated guns and ammo have been the lowest priority. When this pandemic popped up I didn’t run out for ammo or reloading supplies; I bought canned food, pasta and dried beans to supplement our existing stocks. Because honestly, that’s a lot more likely to be useful.

Anyway, Linda and I are pushing 60, and she has COPD. We are at a heightened risk should we become infected, Linda very much so. Watching this thing from the beginning and living in a ‘Hot Spot’ has given me some perspective on this thing that a lot of folks are lacking. I’ve read the science and the medicine, and done the math. As of a week ago Linda and I have been hunkering down, avoiding going out and contact with others.

Given our situation, our neighborhood, age, physical condition etc. we always figured that in the event of a serious emergency we’d hunker down at home- a ‘bug-in’ so to speak. I did not imagine we’d be doing it with water, power, high-speed internet etc., but I’m hardly complaining! But still, it’s kind of weird…

I mean, you prepare for events like this, but you never expect them to, you know… actually happen. It’s kind of surreal, and it hits you in odd ways. Got a sweet tooth? Just run to the store and… nope. Go to dinner, to a movie, a shooting range? Nope. Have guests over? Nope. Sure, we’re home, comfortable, got pretty much everything we need… but it’s like a few layers of life have been stripped away.

We’re very lucky; I’ve worked at home for decades, so it isn’t costing me anything to stay home. In a given week aside from running to the store we don’t get out much. Might have a guest over for dinner or a visit, but we live a fairly secluded life. But choosing to be home and having to stay home? They’re different things.

The Governor has cancelled all public events and ordered all public gathering places to close; theaters, bars, restaurants etc. The major local super-market has stopped delivering groceries. Starbucks has gone to drive-through only. Really, there’s not a lot of places to go right now…

So here we sit. I work in the shop, we don’t go out or order food in. Got a sweet-tooth? Make something sweet. Bored? There’s about a jillion movies on Amazon, Netflix etc. There’s social media if I feel the need to be frustrated, amazed and appalled by people. Plenty to do. It’s not like we’re in jail or anything. It’s just… weird.

Nothing for it; I think we might be OK if we went about our business more normally. I think we’ll likely be OK even if we catch it. I think a lot of things, always have… so I know that what I think isn’t always right. In this case even a small risk is too much to take if it can be avoided, because if I decide not to put up with the inconvenience someone could die. Maybe not one of us, but if we spread the infection someone, somewhere down the line. Someone I don’t know and have never met, but that doesn’t matter; they are important to someone. Given the option I’ll pass, thanks.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 17 March, 2020

How Obsolete? .32 S&W Long

Factory loads in .32 S&W Long are anemic, and while fine for taking small game they are perhaps not very suitable to self-defense. I mean, sure, it’s going to beat a .22, and for folks that are particularly recoil-sensitive it’s arguably a better option. But it has to be considered a bit marginal by most standards. Even factory hollow points might as well be solids; they simply will not expand at the low velocity of these loads.

But if we go to handloads the outlook is less grim. Sharp’s 1937 ‘Complete book of Handloading’ lists some pretty hot loads that are within SAAMI pressures. My own testing using a 96gr. LRNFP over 4.3gr. of Unique with a Federal #100 small pistol primer developed 1089 fps. and 253 ft.lbs of energy from a 4″ barrel. In a 2″ barrel it did 984 fps. for 206 ft.lbs of energy. That’s respectable, and would definitely penetrate adequately for self defense. It’s not going to produce much of a wound cavity, but it will at least reach the important stuff.

Traditionally small bullets moving slowly offer a choice. You can have an expanding bullet, you can get enough penetration, but you cannot have both. But 1000-1100 fps. isn’t slow. How do .32 hollow points do in this range? We actually have an example in hand. There have been FBI-standard gel-tests using Fiocchi’s .32 ACP load with the 60gr. XTP hollow point. Tested against 4 layers of denim over Clear ballistics gel these bullets, at around 1050 fps., exhibited modest expansion (to approximately .400″) and reliably penetrated 11-12″. Not going to set the world on fire, but it’s not too bad.

.32 S&W Long loaded with the Hornady 85gr. XTP hollow point

I picked up some Hornady 85gr. XTP hollow points for my experiment. After looking at load data for both .32 S&W Long and .32 H&R Magnum I settled on a test load- 85gr. XTP, 4.0gr. of Unique, CCI 500 small pistol primer. Loading it in my 2″ Colt Detective Special I fired five rounds through the chronograph. Here’s what I got:

1044 fps., 206 ft.lbs., SD: 40 with an extreme spread of 101 fps.

I have to conclude that these bullets, like their 60gr. counterparts, will expand at least modestly, and with 1/3 more weight they will certainly penetrate deeper. We’ll put that to the test later this spring.

How are they to shoot? Recoil is mild. The report is sharp but not excessively loud or unpleasant, and at 7 yards they made a nice, tight group. There was slight, intermittent flattening of the primers; not worse than the 96gr. load referenced above. Cases extracted quite easily. I suspect that these loads are near SAAMI maximum pressure, and may even exceed it slightly. I have no way of measuring this of course.

That being the case I am reluctant to recommend this load, but consider this: SAAMI maximum pressure for .32 S&W Long is 15,000 CUP, but .32 S&W Long wadcutters are routinely loaded to 17,000 CUP. This is necessary so that they can operate the mechanism of semi-automatic pistols used in rapid-fire competition. neither I nor anyone I know has reported difficulty firing these in their revolvers, so take this for what it’s worth.

Walther GSP in .32 S&W Long Wadcutter

My Detective Special is designed for .38 Special, so when chambered in .32 S&W Long (which Colt calls .32 New Police- heaven forefend they should mark S&W on one of their guns!) it’s plenty ‘beefy’ enough for the XTP load. I have no doubt this load, used judiciously, would probably be alright in any good quality handgun. Nevertheless this is a high-pressure load, and such should always be approached with caution.

So, this antiquated cartridge might be more viable for self-defense than I had previously thought. I suppose the gel tests will tell the tale.

As always you use this load data at your own risk; I assume no risk or liability for the use or misuse of this data.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 11 March 2020

How Obsolete Are They- Results Roundup

A few of the guns used in these tests.

Chronograph tests are finished; time to gather the results in one place. We’ll go from small to large. Each load will list the barrel length it was fired from, and I have used guns of typical length for self-defense use. The guns used in the test were made when the cartridge was current technology, meaning some of them date as far back as the 1880s.

I used two brands of primers for these loads, Federal and CCI small pistol primers and Federal large pistol primers. The difference between the brands did not show in chronograph results, and while it may not make a difference I’ll list them anyway.

The majority of the loads use Unique. This was one of the first commercially available smokeless powders, and so I was often able to find ‘period-correct’ load data for old cartridges. If the cartridge was originally a black powder cartridge I will list that load first. I’m actually using Hodgden’s Triple-7 FFFg black powder substitute for a variety of reasons, but hereafter I will simply call it ‘777’ for convenience. I have also measured the charges in the modern fashion, by weight rather than the old method, which measured by volume. I’ve done my best to recreate original factory loads, and while I doubt I’ve nailed it perfectly they are probably at least in the ball park.

I’ve included three 19th C. cartridges that are (effectively) no longer produced; .32 Colt Long, .38 Colt Short and .450 Adams. In the cases of the Colt cartridges I had guns on hand to shoot them, so why not? For these two I have tried to replicate the original factory BP loads. For .450 Adams I have listed a pair of black powder loads and one modern load using Unique. Once again I had the guns to shoot it and already reloaded it, so why not? Also, there are many fine old Bulldog revolvers and Webleys chambered for this round, and load data is scarce for BP loads and non-existent for smokeless.

The data presented represent the results of the average of 3-5 shots. Chronographs vary, and temperature, humidity, altitude etc. can affect results. Consider the data an approximation, not The Gospel.

I’ve recounted the origins and history of most of these cartridges already, so let’s get straight to the results.

.32 S&W

88gr. LRN, 3.5gr. 777, CCI500 primer (balloon-head case)

3-1/4″ barrel 471 fps. 43 ft./lbs SD:40

I’m not convinced that this genuinely represents the ballistics of the original load, though from some of the descriptions of it’s ineffectiveness it might…

88gr LRN, Remington Kleenbore (antique ammunition)

3-1/4″ barrel 615 fps. 74 ft./lbs SD: 14

88gr. LRN, Remington Target (modern ammunition)

3-1/4″ barrel 611 fps 73 ft./lbs SD: 17

At a guess Remington hasn’t changed their recipe for this cartridge in the last 100 years…

.32 Colt Long

87 gr. heel-base LRN, 6.8gr. 777, CCI500 primer (balloon-head case)

3-1/4″ barrel 739 fps. 105 ft./lbs SD: 20

.32 S&W Long/.32 Colt New Police

98gr. LRN, 9gr 777. CCI500 primer (Balloon-head case)

2″ Barrel 738 fps. 119 ft./lbs SD: 12

I only tested this from my 2″ Detective Special… a friend’s wife fell in love with the 4″ S&W so it was no longer available when testing this load. What can I say? I’m a sucker for a woman in love…

98gr. LRN, Remington Target (modern)

4″ barrel 694 fps. 105 ft./lbs SD: 18

2: barrel 643 fps. 90 ft./lbs SD: 32

96gr LRNFP, 3.0gr. Unique, Federal #100 primer

4″ Barrel 739 fps. 116 ft./lbs SD: 15

2″ Barrel 691 fps. 102 ft./lbs SD: 22

96gr, LRNFP, 4.3gr. Unique, Federal #100 primer

4″ barrel 1089 fps. 253 ft./lbs SD: 31

2″ Barrel 984 fps. 206 ft./lbs SD: 53

This is a maximum pressure load; start 10% lower and work up.

96gr. LRNFP, 4.0gr Power Pistol, Federal #100 primer (+P)

4″ barrel 1184 fps. 281 ft./lbs SD: 41

2″ barrel 1090 fps. 253 ft./lbs SD: 45

This load should only be fired in the strongest of revolvers, or better yet guns chambered for .32 H&R Magnum of .327 Federal Magnum.

.32-20 / .32 Winchester Centerfire

96gr. LRNFP, 12.7gr. 777, CCI500 primer (balloon-head case)

4″ Barrel 837 fps. 149 ft./lbs SD: 12

96gr. LRNFP, 3.7gr. Unique, Federal #100 primer

4″ Barrel 744 fps. 118 ft./lbs SD: 35

96gr. LRNFP, 5.5gr. Unique, CCI500 Primer (maximum-pressure load. Start 10% lower and work up)

4″ Barrel 942 fps. 189 ft./lbs SD: 18

100gr. Copper-washed LRNFP (antique)

4″ barrel 779 fps. 135 ft./lbs SD: 23

115gr. LRNFP (antique)

4″ Barrel 761 fps. 149 ft./lbs SD: 13

.38 Colt Short

125gr. Dry-lubed heel-base RNL, 10gr. 777, CCI500 primer

2-1/2″ barrel 544 fps. 82 ft./lbs SD: 19

.38 S&W

Some data had to be omitted, as the results were skewed by using a gun of inferior quality. Loads are limited to those safe for top-break revolvers.

145gr. RNL, 7.0gr 777, CCI500 Primer

3-1/4″ barrel 636 fps. 130 ft./lbs SD: 16

1-5/8″ barrel 566 fps. 103 ft./lbs SD: 7

145gr. Winchester (modern)

1-5/8″ barrel 535 fps. 92 ft./lbs SD: 39

These bullets are quite undersized, and keyholed frequently

125gr. TCL, 2.7gr. Unique, Federal #100 primer(.357 bullet diameter)

1-5/8″ barrel 621 fps. 107 ft./lbs SD: 21

This is specifically formulated as a low-pressure ‘antique-friendly’ round.

150gr. LSWC, 2.7gr. Unique, Federal #100 Primer

1-5/8″ barrel 672 fps. 150 ft./lbs SD: 14

160gr. LSWC, 2.7gr. Unique, CCI500 primer

3-1/4″ barrel 754 fps. 202 ft./lbs SD: 24

1-5/8″ barrel 722 fps. 185 ft./lbs SD: 31


No data yet; these will be chronographed during the ballistic gel tests

.450 Adams

138gr. .451 Lead Ball, 10.0gr. 777, Federal #150 primer

2-1/2″ barrel 628 fps. 121 ft./lbs SD: 16

210gr. copper-washed LSWC, 7.5gr 777, Federal #150 primer

2-1/2″ barrel 551 fps. 142 ft./lbs SD: 9

215gr. TCL, 4.0gr. Unique, CCI300 primer

2-1/2″ barrel 639 fps. 195 ft./lbs SD: 7

Approach this load with caution. Start at 3.5gr. and work up

As always, you use this load data at your own risk. The writer assumes no liability for the use or misuse of this load data. Only use these loads in a good-quality firearm that has been inspected to insure that it is safe to fire. When in doubt DON’T.

So there we are. Next step is testing these loads in Ballistic Gel, and I may be testing some loads with modern hollow-points or other modern bullets, and I’ll report on their velocities at that time. These test will likely occur later this spring; such testing can be pretty involved, not to mention expensive.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 5 march 2020

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Read This. Seriously.

This is a post from Active Response Training, and it is very much worth thinking about. https://www.activeresponsetraining.net/born-to-intervene?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ActiveResponseTraining+%28Active+Response+Training%29

This has nothing to do with the post, but pictures are good.

I have long maintained that my first and foremost responsibility is to myself and to my family, and I firmly believe this. With that in view I am always determined to temper my responses with that consideration… and when faced with a situation last fall, I didn’t.

I was coming out of a store and saw a large man and a small young woman engaged in an argument. The man then grabbed her by the arm and appeared to be trying to force her into his car. I know that domestic disputes are one of the most dangerous situations to intervene in. The sensible thing to do would have been to get in my car and call the police, while keeping an eye on things and recording the license plate etc. I didn’t.

As soon as he started using force common sense departed. I set down my purchases and approached to about twenty feet away and engaged the man verbally. Words were exchanged, and at my suggestion the young woman went into the store to get help, and in the end the fellow drove away. Yeah, there’s more to it than that but the exact details don’t matter. The point is as soon as his action triggered me I responded in a manner that was prone to disaster, without even thinking about it, and it’s mostly luck that things did not end badly.

Of course in the aftermath I immediately started thinking about everything that could have gone horribly wrong, what I should have done etc. Because of that experience Greg’s post above hit a nerve. It’s well and good to have good intentions and a commitment to acting sensibly in a crisis… but you might not. Be prepared for that to occur.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 2 March 2020

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