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Thread: What did they use for reloading back in the day?

  1. #1
    Boolit Master Kev18's Avatar
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    What did they use for reloading back in the day?

    I know back when the center fire came out alot of people like mountain man/ trappers were a fan of the 1866 (later models) and 1873 because of its reloadable case, unlike the .44 RF.

    My question is what kind of equipment did they use? I know that they had the Ideal tools (I own a couple) but what press or machine did they have to reload at general stores or in homes? What did it look like?

  2. #2
    Boolit Master


    richhodg66's Avatar
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    I think hand tools were it. Someone posted an odd press being sold on ebay recently and Pressman said reloading began to take off in the 1920s.

    I was told reloading was quite popular before the advent of smokeless powder because all the cartridges were designed for a case full of black powder so it was hard to get into trouble doing it. Interesting question.

  3. #3
    Boolit Grand Master
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    I've read about early handloading in remote areas, I think it was included in one of Elmer Keith's books.

    Yep, hand tools, powder measured by volume and pretty basic stuff. When you get down to brass tacks, it's fairly simply. Large straight walled, rimmed cases don't require a lot of case preparation. Bullet molds were often included with guns, even after metallic cartridges became the standard. The basic concepts from cap & ball revolvers and muzzle loading long arms translated to cartridge reloading, albeit with some changes but the principles are still there.

  4. #4
    Boolit Man
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    If your interested in reloading history get the book "Complete Guide to Handloading" by Phil Sharpe. It's LONG out of print but, I see it at gun shows regularly. It's a classic and very collectable.

  5. #5
    Boolit Grand Master

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    For the most part I'm betting that reloading presses were too expensive for most people so the tong type had tools were more common:

    http://www.wawyckoff.com/IdealTools/NumberEight.html
    https://www.gunsinternational.com/gu...c915_p1_o6.cfm
    http://www.antiquereloadingtools.com/tools

    My guess anyway. Also, my understanding is that even after breechloaders and brass cartridges were in use, muzzleloaders were used for some time after by those in remote areas simply because they had little to no access to cartridges and primers but BP and flint were common. It was a minimalist lifestyle for many so simpler is better.

    Longbow

  6. #6
    Boolit Master DonMountain's Avatar
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    I suspect that most people back in the 1870's and 1880's just used home-made tools to reload their cartridges. Except maybe a purchased bullet mold they probably bought with their rifles. So, just imagine what it would take to reload maybe a straight-wall case like a 45 Colt. A nail with the tip ground off to punch out the primers. A stick with a ball of old cloth and soapy water to wash out the black powder from the case. Seat a new primer with your finger and then press it in with a block of wood or end of a flattened stick end. A cut off shell casing to measure black powder and pour into the case up to where the bullet base is seated. Cast the bullets with a purchased mold. Smear on with your fingers some bear grease. Push the bullet into the case and press it down against the table until the powder volume stopped it. Then put it in your gun and shoot it.

  7. #7
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    In the days of black powder reloading was much simpler than it came to be with the advent of smokeless powder. Nearly every maker of rifles included a reloading tool with the rifle. While there were several different designs they all operated in a manner similar to the tong tools. Ideal was the first to get into the reloading market with a dedicated line of tools including powder measures, moulds and sizers and re-decappers. The OEM makers might have a mould or they might not and they really kept the kit simple. By 1905 all the OEM tools were discontinued leaving only Ideal.
    Then Mr. Barlow retired, Ideal was sold to Marlin who then sold it again where the company languished until 1926 when Lyman purchased the Ideal line.

    There was a growing interest in reloading by 1920 and several smaller makers began to offer tong tools or some type of bench tools, IE: Belding and Mull and CV Schmidt.
    Ideal was the only one offering a full line of tools, everything the reloader needed, except a scale. An inexpensive dedicated reloading scale would not be available till 1935 from Pacific.

    That's the Cliff Notes version.

    Ken
    Antique Reloading Tool Collector, Historian and Writer
    Newsletter editor: Antique Reloading Tool Collectors Association
    Archive manager, Antique Reloading Tool Collectors Association
    email: pressman@antiquereloadingtools.com
    www.antiquereloadingtools.com

  8. #8
    Boolit Master
    GOPHER SLAYER's Avatar
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    I have a few old reloading tools, a lot if you count all my 310 items. Attached is a picture of an old Winchester 38-55 reloader along with some adj measuring tools for shot and powder. One has a handle made of ebony. The extraction screw also has a handle of ebony. I am not sure what the brass tube with spatula is for, maybe nothing to do with loading cartridges or it may be to used to lubricate bullets.
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    A GUN THAT'S COCKED AND UNLOADED AIN'T GOOD FOR NUTHIN'........... ROOSTER COGBURN

  9. #9
    Boolit Grand Master

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    I'm of the opinion that most used a tong type tool or hand dies similar to the wack a mole lees, and long with dippers and such. There may have been some presses and scales in the towns, forts and posts being used. But and here is the common sense to my opinion. The major modes of transportation were horses and by foot. A horse or horse drawn wagon can only carry so much space and weight is limited. By foot even more so. Im betting their entire "kit" could be carried in a coat pocket for this reason. Even traveling with a horse drawn wagon it would be full of other needs and supplies. The rifles of the day were bigger and heavier. Powder and lead would add weight and take up room. Im betting the dipper was made in the apothecaries shop where fine scales could probably be found. The tong tool or other made with the rifle. There weren't a lot of machine shops around the local black smith or gunsmith made replacement parts for the tools as needed by hand

  10. #10
    Boolit Buddy
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    On E-bay there is a Frankford Arsenal 50-70 reloading set, which I would trade my left walnut for, but I'm not going to spend $1799 for it !!!

  11. #11
    Boolit Master
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    I believe in Frank Mayer's book he talks of loading on the buffalo ranges. Pretty much as Don described. I don't ever remember tong tools being mentioned in any of the research I've done on the buffalo runners. Smaller cartridges, I suspect the Ideal and Winchester tool was fairly common. A friend of mine just bought a Winchester tool for 32-20 with the mold. It shows evidence of much use. I don't know if anyone has been able to date it accurately other than it was after the 32-20 came out or, came out with it.
    "In general, the art of government is to take as much money as possible from one class of citizens and give it to another class of citizens" Voltaire'

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  12. #12
    Boolit Master
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    Don't forget that you can reload the old BP calibers like the Sharps without dies, just punches to decap and reprime. Fill the case with BP compress it, seat the bullet by hand, the bullet is held in place by the chamber and it can't fall into the case.

  13. #13
    Boolit Master
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    Quigley & Chamberlain wrote a good book on the early reloading tools, but the quick answer is that many folks used the various generations of Winchester tools, the tools somebody referred to above as forerunners of the "Whack-a-Mole" tools... both in revolver and rifle length, and of course the Talbot and later Ideal style tools that culminated as the Lyman 310.

    One point that hasn't been brought up is that about every town worthy of the name had a shop that sold and repaired guns, and frequently did what we would regard now as small scale commercial reloading. Shooters would gather up their expended brass and turn it in for reloading or in exchange for ready reloads.

    We tend to make reloading a very mysterious and complex process, but in reality, it's really pretty straightforward at its base, and we just make it a lot more of a big deal than it has to be. Some really good ammo can be turned out on a kitchen table with very minimal equipment. I should know, I've done it!

    Froggie
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  14. #14
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by Waldog View Post
    If your interested in reloading history get the book "Complete Guide to Handloading" by Phil Sharpe. It's LONG out of print but, I see it at gun shows regularly. It's a classic and very collectable.
    Here is a .pdf file to look at/read. or download.:

    I suggest ya download it, as these sort of sources tend to disappear at times, for some reason...


    http://photos.imageevent.com/badgerd...20-%201937.pdf
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  15. #15
    Boolit Grand Master

    Wayne Smith's Avatar
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    Phil Sharps' book is (or was) available as a reprint through the NRA Library program. Thats where I got mine.
    Wayne the Shrink

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  16. #16
    Boolit Master
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    This sight has antique British reloading equipment it looks like much of it was accessories for the high end rifle and shotguns.
    http://www.antiquegunsandtools.co.uk/tools.html
    Interesting stuff but
    I don’t see any tools that are similar to the presses and dies we use.

  17. #17
    Boolit Bub BlackPowderLove's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JBinMN View Post
    Here is a .pdf file to look at/read. or download.:

    I suggest ya download it, as these sort of sources tend to disappear at times, for some reason...


    http://photos.imageevent.com/badgerd...20-%201937.pdf
    Thanks!
    “Tradition is not to preserve the ashes but to pass on the flame”

  18. #18
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    mdi's Avatar
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    I did a bit of quickie research and the earliest I found was a Winchester reloading tong tool in an 1875 catalog. I saw some reference to tong tools available in 1872. All I found were tong type tools. This was just a quick google search. Winchester also made quite a few "regular" hand tools; hammers, screw drivers, pliers, planes, etc...

    I found a site offering antique reloading tools and most offered were tong type and some ran into the thousands of dollars. The stuff sold on ebay under "antique" reloading tools aren't antiques, just old and old looking tools...

    Interesting site; http://cartridgecollectors.org/?page...eloading-tools
    Last edited by mdi; 07-23-2019 at 12:13 PM.
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  19. #19
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    2nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. - "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

  20. #20
    Boolit Master Kev18's Avatar
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    I knew about old tong type tools, I have 2.. One that I use quite alot. And it's in good condition! I think its one of the early Winchester models. I have a book from 1950 with alot of the reloading tong style tools and mine isnt in it. It has the mold attached to it.

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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