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Thread: Serious question about home swaging from rimfire brass

  1. #1
    Boolit Master John Ross's Avatar
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    Serious question about home swaging from rimfire brass

    I have swaging dies for two calibers of bullets.

    1. A .429" die made for me by Frank Hemsted in 1973. I think I paid $75 for the die, solid ram for my RCBS press, HP nose punch, and automatic ejector. In those days there was not as great a selection of jacketed .44 bullets, and I wanted to experiment with different jacket lengths and bullet weights in the .44 Magnum and .44 AutoMag.

    2. An 1 1/2"-12 die made by Art Freund in the mid-'90s to swage 1" diameter bullets for my 4-Bore rifles.

    We got an end mill reground by a local machinist to the proper nose shape to cut the interior of the die, then polished the inside of the die and had it hardened.

    Jackets were bored out of short sections of 1" solid copper rod by a local job shop, and I cut .875" diameter extruded lead wire for cores, filed to matching weight before being put into the jackets for swaging.

    Swaging was done on my OWS Rock Crusher press. I made an auto ejector out of allthread and some aluminum angle.

    IIRC total materials and labor for this setup cost a bit less than $200, not counting the copper and lead of course. BTW the bullets shot one-hole (BIG cloverleaf!) groups at 100 yards out of my scoped single barrel gun.

    In each of these cases, I paid to get a swage die that would produce something that was not available for purchase anywhere at the time.

    So here is my question: Who is target market for Corbin (and others) to sell dies that cost multiple hundreds of dollars to make .22 centerfire bullets out of fired rimfire cases?

    I could understand a hobby machinist making his own dies to see what level of quality bullets he could turn out thusly, but what's the goal of the guy who buys this equipment, given that excellent .224" factory bullets are about a dime each?

    Bench rest shooters like Walt Berger make their own bullets in expensive dies with the best jackets they can purchase, to wring every last bit of accuracy out of their guns. My first thought is that Walt's hair would stand on end if you told him you were going to run a fired .22 case into one of his match dies. Second, is even clean, never-fired brass as good as gilding metal for bullet jackets?

    Making .22 bullets out of fired rimfire brass strikes me like the prospect of reloading fired primers--something you'd only do as a last resort.

    What am I missing?
    Last edited by John Ross; 03-05-2018 at 01:48 PM.
    JR--the .500 specialist

  2. #2
    Boolit Buddy Nines&Twos's Avatar
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    I could (barely) see it for people who shoot HIGH volume but for the investment needed to get started I can buy a whole lot of bullets

    I’ve tried to talk myself into it several times and in the end, I’m left asking the same questions you pose.
    There is the intrinsic value of “I made those” and that is beyond any dollar value.

    To each his own.

  3. #3
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    For starters, that's how Vernon Speer and John Nosler both got started in the business, swaging .22 caliber bullets from fired .22 LR casings. Bullets in that caliber were hard to come by in those days after World War II. I don't know what press Vernon Speer used, but John Nosler used a Hollywood Senior, until Fred Huntington gave him one of his Rock Chuckers. That original Hollywood is sitting in the display case at Nosler now, since it was donated back by the person who purchased it from John Nosler at one of his garage sales many years ago.

    Today, a lot of people have started swaging their own .224" diameter bullets due to the shortages they experienced from 2008 through 2016. They weren't able to buy bullets to feed their rifles in those calibers anywhere, for any price, since they'd all been scooped up during the scare. Some experienced it during the AWB, too, which reinforced their fears even further. I remember during 1968 when there was a shortage of certain components due to the Firearms Act of 1968.

    Just yesterday, a very good friend handed me a small bag of 100 .224" bullets he'd swaged from .22 LR cases which are 55 gr. He also gave me about 25, 45 gr. FP .224" bullets he'd swaged from .22 Short brass for my .218 Bee. His comment was, "if there's ever another shortage, we'll be able to make all the bullets we want for our .223's".

    I believe the recent shortages are what's driving the current trend in swaging .224" bullets. That, and the uncertainty of what the political future may hold for the shooting sports, since the rhetoric has gotten so shrill as of late.

    Then there's also the innate curiosity of the human mind that asks, "can I do that?" And the resulting satisfaction of being somewhat self sufficient when it comes to doing something out of the ordinary.
    Hope this helps.

    Fred
    After a shooting spree, they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn't do it. - William S. Burroughs.

  4. #4
    Boolit Master pertnear's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nines&Twos View Post
    I could (barely) see it for people who shoot HIGH volume but for the investment needed to get started I can buy a whole lot of bullets

    Iíve tried to talk myself into it several times and in the end, Iím left asking the same questions you pose.
    There is the intrinsic value of ďI made thoseĒ and that is beyond any dollar value.

    To each his own.
    I think ReloaderFred explained it all quite logically & completely. But I believe Nines&Twos best described my decision to swage. Like he said, I had to talk myself into it, but sometimes you just want to be able to say "been there & done that".

    One follow-up I'd like to mention. If you buy good dies & equipment & take care of it, you can easily get most of your investment back. The way things are going, you could probably make a profit!
    Visit my fictional blog "The dr Chronicles" about a laid-back Texan named dr - Enjoy!

  5. #5
    Boolit Master
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    I was firing a lot of .22 Hornet back in the mid to late '70's. Jacketed bullets of the type suitable to such a rifle and its range were $2.50 a box, so Corbin's offering of the complete core casting to case drawing to bullet swaging kit for .22 RF was at least reasonably amortizable at $79. I had certainly shot up 35 boxes of Hornet bullets by that time. By then, many other diemakers had gone out of business or were so thoroughly backlogged they didn't need to advertise or respond to mail requests, and most of the advertised prices were beyond my purchasing ability. I had already tried the Herter's Nine-Ton press and dies and found that absolutely cheap was not the way to go. Corbin had taken over Ted Smith's operation and was offering (I guess) this loss-leader to get into the market, and I figured this was my chance.

    I wanted a fallback in case I couldn't buy bullets, and I was also interested in the process. Most anything to do with guns I figure I have to try at least once.

  6. #6
    Boolit Master
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    for me its knowing I am self sufficient and don't have to worry about shortages. the being able to experiment with weights and sizes is a plus. also I have goobs of 22lr brass so why not make it useful. the dies are expensive but should last my lifetime.

  7. #7
    Boolit Master tiger762's Avatar
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    I've made over 12,000 with my RCECO set. A 50cal can full of 50gr 224's weighs about 80 pounds :O I look at it like this. For every person who has a "Plan B" is one less person adding to the misery of the panic buying once a shortage hits.

  8. #8
    Boolit Master Faret's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tiger762 View Post
    I look at it like this. For every person who has a "Plan B" is one less person adding to the misery of the panic buying once a shortage hits.
    And that's if he does not have any friends!

  9. #9
    Boolit Master BlackoutBuilder's Avatar
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    I want an ammo can full of live ammo for each rifle I have, and another ammo can full of swaged bullets for each rifle. That way, I don't have to worry about it. For me, it isn't about the money, I don't have any.
    NFA = Not Freaking American

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  10. #10
    Boolit Master
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    When i was a kid , i had a Rem700 Varmint Special with a factory 2 oz in 222 rem.. It shot as tight a group as anything i could get off the shelf in Australia in the late 80's wit my home made .224 projectiles.. Plus i just enjoyed making my own projectiles.

  11. #11
    There are excellent historical reasons for amateur bullet swaging to have arisen. We owe them a debt of gratitude, for the much greater standard of accuracy we now expect and usually get from hunting rifles, owes a lot more to bullets than to rifles. It comes from the way benchresters and amateur bulletmakers prodded on the large manufacturers.

    Nowadays, particularly in the use of .22 cases, it is a matter either of niche requirements, or a desire to achieve things themselves. There are a lot of things we can buy for less than our own achievements cost. Meat, for example, and we could poison pests or, in many situations, delegate the job to a conscientious dog, cat or python.

    Long and heavy .22 bullets can be hard to come by, and current production of .228 bullets doesn't seem like a thing to depend on. They are too frangible for use on large game or fur-bearing animals, or at much over .223 velocities, although a short internal ferrule of 7/32in. K&S brass tubing might help. Corbin say the only thing that prevents a rimfire jacket as accurate as any other kind, is the imprint of the firing-pin. Well, I have my large stock of never-loaded rimfire shotshell jackets. It might be that aa lopsided headstamp would do the same. But it is worth doing for a lot of us.
    Last edited by Ballistics in Scotland; 03-06-2018 at 11:02 AM.

  12. #12
    Boolit Master

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    Yah! good idea! I will just sell all my swaging equipment and spend all my time down at the bar drinking tequila.
    To lazy to chase arrows.
    Clodhopper

  13. #13
    Boolit Master John Ross's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BlackoutBuilder View Post
    I want an ammo can full of live ammo for each rifle I have, and another ammo can full of swaged bullets for each rifle. That way, I don't have to worry about it.
    It seems to me that your priorities would dictate investing in powder, primers, and bullet molds before buying any expensive swaging dies...
    JR--the .500 specialist

  14. #14
    Boolit Man hotbrew's Avatar
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    My interest started with reloading and then branched into swaging as a hobby extension. I bought swaging press and dies because I couldn't make them. The swaging then drove me into acquiring more tools, a lathe and a mill to make dies also as a hobby extension. I have made a die for 32 wadcutter that produces rounds that stay stable to 50 yds in my GSP. I now have a new hobby making fixtures and tools for my other tools.

    On the 22rf jacket I started with a Richard Corbin set up. Since then I have modified an old Herters 3 to draw the 22rf and added a pneumatic cylinder to see if I could do it. I'm working on new jacket drawing setups as I get time.

    The hobby keeps growing as I get interested in experimenting with doing more. In no case was ROI a factor in moving on (cost is a limitation though).

    I can buy new (probably better) components but I'm not shooting for money. Doing something myself puts a smile on my face.

    hotbrew
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  15. #15
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    The numbers for .22 rimfire to .224 bullets don't make sense looking at it from a purely economical standpoint for a casual shooter. For folks who like to be self sufficient, experiment, or shoot (varmints for instance) in high volume, it becomes more viable. There's also something satisfying about the ability to walk out to the garage, and make something usable from scrap.

    The only part of the set that sees significant grit or dirt tends to be the punch that pushes the cases through the jacket making die. Those punches are generally replaceable for a few bucks. After de-rimming the brass gets cleaned (again) and if there's anything getting into your dies, the cleaning process you're using needs revisited.

    Another aspect is that the same dies can (generally) be used with commercial jackets and produce very high quality bullets. I've used the same dies to produce explosive varmint bullets using rimfire jackets, and match grade bullets that shot in the .2 inch range using Berger jackets. (and that was on my first try making 'precise' bullets with the set)

    I do a fair bit of the 'can't be had elsewhere' stuff as well, like 450 grain 4S spitzers for .458, and bonded core bullets with tapered jackets in exactly the weights I want. I'm personally more interested in this kind of stuff than .224 bullets, but I think discounting the whole rimfire to jacket concept on a purely economic basis would be overlooking important aspects of the concept (and hobby). It's like when people tell me that they don't understand reloading because they can buy 9mm ammo for not much more. While they're correct in a technical sense, they're overlooking a lot of nuance and details that make a difference.

    ETA:
    A couple of other thoughts:

    $75 in 1973 is about like $400 these days. That's pretty close to what Larry Blackmon charges for a setup including dies and press, so that's not as different as it might seem at first blush.

    The other thing about the capital investment in swaging equipment is that it tends to hold it's value fairly well. It's not something you're really going to wear out in normal use, and there's almost always a market for used equipment.
    Last edited by NoZombies; 03-06-2018 at 03:00 PM.
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  16. #16
    Boolit Master BlackoutBuilder's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Ross View Post
    It seems to me that your priorities would dictate investing in powder, primers, and bullet molds before buying any expensive swaging dies...
    I've got that down already.
    NFA = Not Freaking American

    It would be less disrespectful to burn the flag than to put a thin blue line through the middle of it.

  17. #17
    Boolit Bub
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    I ended up going with Blackmon as well 5 to 6 years ago. I have been more than satisfied with the BSSP press and dies. I started with the 223 set up for 22RFs. I dont trim brass after de-rimming jackets, so you will have slight differences in the tips. I make 55g bullets that will shoot an inch all day. If I seperate and pick out the best and consistent tips, they wil shoot .5 @ 100 yds. I started because I thought it was an interesting offshoot of reloading and they were getting harder to find for reasonable price. I have made 1000s of bullets that I shoot in 223 and 22-250 and up to 3700 MV without them coming apart.

  18. #18
    Boolit Master



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    Home made has great terminal performance on Prairie Dogs.
    Home made insures I will have bullets as needed ANY TIME.
    I enjoy the process.
    I am retired and have some time.
    All good
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  19. #19
    Boolit Master
    rancher1913's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Ross View Post
    It seems to me that your priorities would dictate investing in powder, primers, and bullet molds before buying any expensive swaging dies...
    anybody that is into boolit swaging has most likely long ago had powder and primers covered into their greatgrandkids lifetime.

  20. #20
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    What rancher1913 said. Swaging is the only way for me to get the correct 17 cal bullet my rifle likes(37gr). On top of it all, I am independent from the shortages and runaway prices.
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Abbreviations used in Reloading

BP Bronze Point IMR Improved Military Rifle PTD Pointed
BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
C Compressed Charge PR Primer SPCL Soft Point "Core-Lokt"
HP Hollow Point PSPCL Pointed Soft Point "Core Lokt" C.O.L. Cartridge Overall Length
PSP Pointed Soft Point Spz Spitzer Point SBT Spitzer Boat Tail
LRN Lead Round Nose LWC Lead Wad Cutter LSWC Lead Semi Wad Cutter
GC Gas Check