Complete buckshot handloading kit
Centerfire rifles are great guns, but their inherit power, loud report, heavy recoil and ammunition cost minimizes their potential use to big game hunting or the serious target shooter, leaving most us with a nice firearms that sits idle during most of the year.
I remember an article in the January 1987 issue of Guns & Ammo magazine where Ross Seyfried said that “if there is anything we could do to our favorite centerfire rifles and handguns that would make them more useful and enjoyable that they already are, it would be to reduce their power to almost zero.”
I have several air guns that shoot at 6 ft.lb, but they have different balance, trigger pulls and sights than my centerfire rifles, and may not be what I want to drag out in the woods. Additionally, good quality air guns may be expensive, so they may not be a solution for every body.
Currently, there are several reloading manuals that present information for “managed recoil” rifle loads, but most of them are quite powerful and noise, and use expensive bullets and reasonably large amounts of gun powder.
Sometime ago in conversations with my friends Stan Bell and Eric Weeldreyer we were discussing squirrel or basement loads for .30” caliber rifles. The long standing recipe requires a new primer, two or three grains of fast burning pistol or shotgun powder and a single buckshot (No. 1½ buckshot has a .310” diameter and performs well) or musket ball.
This load can be used in basically any .30” caliber centerfire rifle, and the brass does not need to be resized. Just de-prime, insert a new primer, pour the desired amount of powder and sit the “bullet” by hand.
Although I have a very nice CZ 550 rifle in .30-06, I wanted a inexpensive and robust nock around play rifle, and there is not a better deal today than a Mosin-Nagant, and in order to celebrate 2012 I bought one of these rugged battle rifles for around one hundred dollars.
At the same time I purchased a chamber insert that allows .32 pistol cartridges (.32 ACP, .32 S&W, .32 S&W Long and .32 H&R Magnum) to be shot in the 7,62 x 54R mm rifle (these inserts are also available for .30-06 and .308 Winchester) and for an additional ten dollars I bought fifty new .32 H&R Magnum empty cases and went home to play with my new toy. In order to keep the cost even lower you could just scavenge some empty .32 pistol shells at your local range.
I currently don’t have dies to reload .32 pistol ammo, but I did not think that they were required for what I was planning. I primed all cases and poured just over two grains of Universal shotgun powder. I had a bunch of .32 musket balls at hand and just set each bullet by hand and was ready for some action.
At the Southern Michigan Gun Club outdoors pistol range I place a target at 25 yards, loaded one round into the insert, chambered it in the rifle and fired. The results were surprising! One soft pop, a hole in the target and the range officer on duty asking me to check the bore as he thought that I had a squib load. I explained that I was shooting a very low power round and there was nothing to worry about and we had some great discussion about other “almost zero power” alternatives and their multiple uses.
I fired a ten shot string off-hand at 25 yards and had a group of around two inches. Not bad at all for an open sights rifle made in 1943 and with unrefined Russian-grip trigger pull.
I cronographed the load and the 46 grains “bullet” had an average speed of 620 f.p.s. resulting in a calculated muzzle energy of 39 ft.lb. Just for comparison, a typical .22 LR fires a 40 grains bullet at 1,200 f.p.s. for muzzle energy of 127 ft.lb, and the surplus military ammo fires a 150 grains bullet at 2,950 f.p.s. resulting in almost 2,900 ft.lb of energy. Even at this low energy, treat this load with the same care and safety precautions as any other, as it has enough speed and energy to cause serious injury or death.
An important note: never use jacketed bullets for reduced loads as they will probably get stuck in the barrel and are very hard to remove. If a lead bullet gets stuck in the barrel it is relatively easy to push it out, but a jacketed bullet will require an expensive trip to your local gunsmith.
An additional benefit of the reduced load is its reduced cost. One pound of pistol or shotgun powder sells for around twenty dollars, and by keeping the charge at around two grains a person can get over 3,300 shots per pound. I ordered an eight pound jar of No. 1½ buckshot for forty four dollars (delivered) and it contatins 1,840 “bullets”. Small pistol primers are around thirty dollars per thousand. While the surplus 7,62 x 54R ammo costs twenty three cents per round, my buckshot (or B.S.) reloads cost around six cents each, which is cheaper than many of the .22 rimfires available today, and just one or two cents more than the cheapest twenty-twos.
With everything going so well I wanted a “survivalist” reloading kit to carry with the Mosin-Nagant. My goal was that is should fit in one of the WWII vintage ammo pouches that came with the rifle.
I am blessed that I read a lot, keep all my books and most of my magazines, and generally can remember where to find information that I read in the past. The Gun Digest 2002 (56th Annual Edition) has an article by Steven Hurst (The Family Colt) where he describes how a neighbor crafted him a reloading kit to reload .32 ACP using buckshot bullet, which his friends called “B.S. ammo.”
Following the same guidelines I built a reloading kit out of basically scrap items that I had at home. The picture that illustrates this article show the complete set up in the lower right corner. The broken drill is used to remove the used primer. You just sit the fired cartridge on top of the nut, center the drill over the flame hole and tap on it. You can use a hammer, a piece of wood or the bayonet supplied with the rifle (apart from grilling marshmallows or hot dogs, this is the only other practical use for the Mosin-Nagant bayonet).
Next step is to sit a new primer. Just put a primer in the pocket, sit the case over a flat surface, and using the Allen wrench (or any other suitable object) and tap gently (again, you could use the bayonet). I use the pencil on the photo to “eject” the pistol case from the insert, but it probably be used in place of the Allen wrench or vice-versa.
Since I could not find any wire at home, I glued a .22 Short case to a nail and use it as a powder measure. In my case it drops just over two grains of Universal gun powder. Last, place a No. 1½ buckshot or a .32 musket ball (both are .310” diameter) and sit it by hand.
The pressures developed by this load are so low that the cases don’t need to be resized, and they should last a very long time.
Some people may ask what the practical purpose of the B.S. Rifle Ammo is. First and foremost, they are fun, and second they are cheap. With virtually no recoil and as little noise as an air gun the B.S. loads are perfect to train new shooter, improve your riflemanship (sight alignment, trigger control, overall gun handling), and even hunt small game. In the last case, if more power is required you can work up the load by adding a bit more powder, but don’t overdo it or you will defeat their purpose.
1. This article was featured in the May/June 2012 issue of Backwoodsman Magazine.
2. You can find different diameter (caliber) buckshot at Ballistic Products (www.ballisticproducts.com).