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Thread: Forming .44-77 Shells

  1. #1
    Boolit Master

    Bent Ramrod's Avatar
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    Forming .44-77 Shells

    With Jamison/Captech defunct, the only source of empty .44-77 brass, outside of turned-from-solid cases, is reworked cases, from those with a .50 caliber Winchester base and rim. The cheapest and easiest to find in this group is the .348 Winchester, with a length of 2.50", a base diameter of 0.547" and a rim diameter slightly larger than 0.600".

    The reformed cases will fit the chambers of Shiloh Sharps and (presumably) other modern replicas. Whether they fit original guns must be determined by their owners. The price of reformed cases is reportedly $3 each. Therefore, it is worthwhile for an owner of one of these rifles to know how to make a few shells, in self-defense, if for no other reason.

    I got some .44-77 shells along with my rifle, made from .348 Winchester. These have base diameters of 0.518"-0.520". Swaging the 0.547" bases of the .348s is a major reduction, requiring specialty forming dies and an industrial size press. The base is hard, to withstand the primer detonation, firing pressure, and back thrust. Further reduction might cause it to crack. Annealing it for this operation would allow the primer pocket to be distorted in forming, and the first primer fired would likely enlarge the pocket and allow gas blowback, rendering the case useless for further reloading.

    So the only recourse for the home mechanic is turning off a portion of the base, from 0.547" down to the .44-77 base diameter. I used 0.519" as a target diameter. I made a tightly fitting mandrel for the .348 case neck, centered it in the lathe, pressed a case on the mandrel with the live tailstock center, and turned the base down. I picked a length for the turned-down section of 0.195" ahead of the rim, running the longitudinal feed in reverse. I could take it down 0.005" or so at a pass and the friction of the setup would allow the case to spin against the tool bit.

    I took the turned cases and slowly squeezed them into my .44-77 sizing die. The 0.195" turned section was best for allowing the swaged down brass in the case body to blend in seamlessly with the base. Shorter turning lengths resulted in an ugly ring of brass hanging over the turned down area, and the case would size no further until this ring was removed. A longer turned section makes a ring in the case body, which may or may not cause a stress riser on firing, so I preferred to avoid more length.

    This sizing operation is not without its hazards; I wound up cracking the sizing die after less than 20 cases. I have a new one on order; but it was an expensive lesson, the equivalent of buying about 50 formed cases. But, as my old Chief Chemist used to say, "Experience is gained in direct proportion to the amount of equipment ruined." I'll make a heavy tool-steel ring die to bring the diameter down on the next ones I do, and use my Harbor Freight hydraulic press instead of the RCBS 2A. The RCBS was up to the job, if the die was screwed in gradually, but it did add to the time and effort required. Imperial Sizing Wax was used in this step.

    After the turned and formed shells were checked for chambering, they were loaded with 11 gr Unique, the case filled with Cream of Wheat and a blob of wax, and fired. They blew out to fit the chamber, although they were a little short (2.40"+ from 2.50"), and I havent checked the neck thickness yet. About half he original formed cases that came with the rifle had been neck-turned, and fit grease-groove boolits well, but I prefer the unturned cases, since the thick necks hold bore-diameter paper patch boolits better.

    Anyway, the process is proven out, to my satisfaction at least. A little more tooling, and the rifle will shoot as long as .348's are out there.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    From left to right, .348 Winchester shell, shell turned at base and swaged to fit rifle chamber, fireformed shell, sectioned shell to show brass thickness, and an example of the need to anneal the necks a little softer than I usually do in the paper-patch loading process. Also shows the "step" that results from turning a longer section on the base.

    The brass at the base is still a few thousandths thicker than it is further up the case body, by my Starrett tube micrometer. I haven't fired any with full loads yet, but it should hold the pressure of blackpowder loads. The ones that came with the rifle do, anyway.

  2. #2
    Boolit Master enfield's Avatar
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    300 win mag neck size until it just chambers.. oh ya and cut to length

    hey, watch where ya point that thing!

  3. #3
    Boolit Grand Master
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    This should also work for the .43 Spanish.

    If I ever get back to that project, I will try it.

    Robert

  4. #4
    Boolit Master



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    Yes, 300 Win Mag with the belt turned off and case cut to length

    Fire form to fill out the case

    Mike
    NRA Benefactor 2004 USAF RET 1971-95

  5. #5
    A less expensive way of going about this would be to blow out a smaller case. You can trim, neck size and blow out 45-90 cases. They would or should be annealed first but they will work. I wasn't sure about this and had been looking into having a 44-60 built and was told to use blown out 45-70 cases. I set a case up by neck sizing it and then firing it in a 44-77 chamber and it filed right out nicely. Case capicity was close to Jamison brass that I have. With a Shiloh you may need to get a different extractor but with my roller it extracted without any problems at all. Yes the case looks a little funky as the head(web) area does not blow out but thats a minor thing. I did fire form the case with black and a bullet but the load you list should work just as well. Leave the case long as it will shorten when the sides blow out. I lost about .025 or so when I formed my case, so if your not using a bullet I would leave it at least that much longer or perhaps a bit more. You can always trim the excess off later.
    Sam

  6. #6
    Boolit Master

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    I fired the blown-out .348 shells today in the Shiloh Sharps with full loads of 80gr Olde Eynsford 1Fg and a Brooks 524gr paper-patched boolit. All the cases that survived the original fireforming with Unique and Cream of Wheat survived this first loading. Apparently the necks were not fully formed with the COW charges as they were pretty uniformly smudged on the outside. But the thinned bases, even those first ones that I turned higher than the later ones, seemed to have held up with no separations, cracks or splits. I'll add them to the pile for loading in turn and see if their longevity matches those made by Buffalo Arms.

    Click image for larger version. 

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  7. #7
    Boolit Bub stevenjay1's Avatar
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    I make 43 Mauser cases from 300 Winchester mag cases. If you don’t have a lathe you can just use a power drill and file. It works, just takes Longer. I do have a lathe and I use a three jaw chuck and have the belt as close as I can to the chuck and still room to use a parting tool to cut off the belt. I then anneal the case mouths, fire form them in my 71 Mauser and trim to length. Load and fire. The cases head space on the shoulder just like 43 Spanish and 44-77. The only issue that I see is the rim diameter may be too small to catch the extractor. Anyway, this Makes good solid and shootable brass. If you start with.458 mag brass you wouldn’t have to fire form the brass.
    Last edited by stevenjay1; 04-06-2020 at 05:10 PM.
    Just another homesick Texan that shouldn't of left in the first place!
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  8. #8
    Boolit Grand Master

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    Quote Originally Posted by nuclearcricket View Post
    A less expensive way of going about this would be to blow out a smaller case. You can trim, neck size and blow out 45-90 cases. They would or should be annealed first but they will work. I wasn't sure about this and had been looking into having a 44-60 built and was told to use blown out 45-70 cases. I set a case up by neck sizing it and then firing it in a 44-77 chamber and it filed right out nicely. Case capicity was close to Jamison brass that I have. With a Shiloh you may need to get a different extractor but with my roller it extracted without any problems at all. Yes the case looks a little funky as the head(web) area does not blow out but thats a minor thing. I did fire form the case with black and a bullet but the load you list should work just as well. Leave the case long as it will shorten when the sides blow out. I lost about .025 or so when I formed my case, so if your not using a bullet I would leave it at least that much longer or perhaps a bit more. You can always trim the excess off later.
    Sam
    If you do this a couple of turns of Scotch tape around the base will allow the case to be centered in the chamber. If you don't do this your case is likely to be slightly out of round.
    Wayne the Shrink

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  9. #9
    Boolit Master
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    What step in the case reforming process is everyone annealing the neck, and or shoulder area? I am working on a batch of 348 cases for a 43 Spanish that is almost the same as the .44-77 case.

  10. #10
    Boolit Bub stevenjay1's Avatar
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    After I turn the belt off I anneal the neck and shoulder. After the cases are dried I run the case through the sizer first to establish a shoulder then prime, charge with bullseye (my choice) but any fast pistol powder will do. Place a small tissue wad on top of the powder to keep it separate then fill the remainder of the case with cream of wheat and add a little wax to hold it all in. Chamber fire trim to length.
    Just another homesick Texan that shouldn't of left in the first place!
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  11. #11
    Boolit Master

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    Pretty much the same for me. I check the base-turned .348 shell for chambering, anneal the neck and shoulder, dry, prime, put in 11 gr Unique and fill to top with Cream of Wheat and press a dab of bullet lube in the mouth to hold it in. Ka-Pow, Ka-Blast! and another .44-77 shell is born.

    I found seven Bell cases in my .43 Spanish stockpile, and will blow them out to .44-77 next time I’m out. The Bertrams will stay with the Peabody; still have 40 or so left and I don’t trust the Bertram metallurgy for blowing out the case mouths. I’ve lost a bunch just with regular shooting. Nice to know the .348s can be reformed into them as well.

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BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
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