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Thread: Revolver shot loads that WORK!

  1. #1
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    Revolver shot loads that WORK!

    I've been unhappy with the options available for making .357 Magnum and .45 Colt shot loads (Snakeshot, Ratshot, whatever you want to call it), so I set about improving current methods. After reading about the tests and efforts of others here and elsewhere, I had an idea of what needed to be done. Mike Venturino did an article a while back that explains the challenges pretty well and gives some excellent data. I also read the article at Gunblast.com and thought a person could do much better if they wanted to. My objectives were:

    1) Eliminate the leading normally associated with firing shot through a rifled barrel.
    2) Maximize the shot payload and velocity while maintaining good patterns. I was hoping to include enough shot to equal "typical" boolit weights for these cartridges.
    3) Be able to make them entirely myself without any commercial materials other than the normal handloading supplies.

    To accomplish this, I decided I'd need to use a plastic "wad" or "shot cup" with petals like modern shotshells use to protect the bore, and the shot cup would need to extend beyond the cartridge brass like a normal boolit to contain as much shot as possible. CCI shot capsules accomplish this, but they are expensive and don't hold nearly the amount of shot that they could. I experimented with many different things, and finally settled upon using 1-gallon milk/water jugs for material as it will melt and form quite nicely without becoming too brittle, and it is self-lubricating and pliable, making it quite suitable for a shot wad. It's also universally considered trash, and is therefore FREE.

    This is going to be long on pictures, so I won't include a bunch of pattern shots, but perhaps in a later post if folks want to see.

    The .357 Magnum carries 125 grains of #9 shot and fills typing paper up at eight feet from a 4" barrel, with a half-dozen or so pellets off the paper.

    The .45 Colt carries 255 grains of #9 shot and fills typing paper at 11 feet from a 7-1/2" barrel with maybe one or two strays outside the sheet.

    Zero leading, patch pushed through the bore comes out with just a smudge of powder residue. A cylinder full of these can be fired without any of the shot capsules migrating forward and locking up the works, and I loaded these pretty hot ( equal to same weight of regular boolit with fairly slow powder). The slits down the sides of the shot cup, plus the tendency of the material to want to return to being flat create constant case tension, and the bottom of the shot cup it precisely dimensioned to bind with the case walls at the exact level of the overpowder wad create a good bit of friction with the case. Since straight-walled cases thicken toward the case head it is necessary to predict powder level and make the cup base the correct diameter. For the .45 Colt, there is no need to taper the wad, but the .357 Magnum had to be tapered quite a bit. if you shoot .41 and .44 Magnum skip this and use cushionless .410 wads. .38 Special is a waste of time IMO.

    I make these by full-length sizing and priming brass, charging the powder, tamping down an over-powder wad squarely and tightly, pressing the shot wad tightly over the powder wad, installing a support collar over the protruding petals, filling and tamping the shot cup full to 1/16" below the collar, and then melting and forming the petal ends over the shot to make a sealed cap.

    The shot cups themselves I make by cutting water jug material with a razor knife and a sheet metal template, wrapping the cutout around the mandrel, sliding the forming collar over the shot cup/mandrel, melting/forming the protruding plastic into a base cup for the shot, removing the mandrel and pushing the shot cup out of the collar and then slitting it down the opposite side of the formed edges to make a two-petal shot cup. In the last pic I put the .45 Colt forming tool with shot cup ready to melt/form the base from the plastic sticking out so I could get the process into one picture.

    Gear
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  2. #2
    Boolit Master

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    I am interested in hearing more on the making of the wad. Can you expand on that?

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by manleyjt View Post
    I am interested in hearing more on the making of the wad. Can you expand on that?
    In the first and last pictures you can see the almost rectangular piece of plastic cut from the water jug. In the first pic you can see the sheet metal template I use as a guide to cut it out with the razor, this piece has to be EXACTLY the right size and shape to come out correctly in the finished product. I then wrap that piece around the tapered mandrel made from the bolt, and slide the "forming collar" s(made from two cut-off cases taped together with blue tape) over the mandrel to capture the plastic and form it into a tube with minimal gap where the sides wrap around and meet each other. At this point the forming collar extends about 1/16" beyond the mandrel end and the plastic "tube" extends .300 past the collar.

    I use a propane torch to gently melt the plastic until it becomes clear and gooey and then fold and mash it down into the recess in the end of the tube with a butter knife. This forms the base of the shot cup, as in third from the right in the last pic. When it cools for a few seconds, I trim any excess, pull out the mandrel, and then push the shot cup out of the forming collar. At this point the shot cup will have a slit down one side from the original edges of the flat plastic meeting. I slit it again on the opposite side with a knife, forming two petals. In several of the pics I show shot cups with one slit (as formed) and the finished one next to it with two slits.

    After I seat the shot cup in the case over the wad, I then install a cut off case over the protruding petals. This "nose-forming collar", together with the cut-to-minimum case, is made to the max SAAMI COL for the round so it will chamber in any modern revolver of that caliber.

    Next, I fill the shot cup with shot and tamp it down firmly leaving 1/16" room at the top of the nose collar (room for the protruding petals to be melted, folded, and pressed into the end forming a sealed end cap over the shot).

    The milk jug material is easy to form, just warm it until it becomes clear and starts to shrink and curl, then take a knife blade and fold it in on itself kind of like a shotshell crimp, and then heat again if necessary and mash it against the mandrel (for the base of the cup) or the shot and collar (for the business end) to force it to form a solid mass flush with the end of the collar. Any excess will be squeezed out the sides and can be peeled or trimmed off. I sharpen the collars with an outside deburring tool so the excess is pretty much cut off by itself.

    Hard to describe without video, I'll post more pics later if I can figure a way to capture the melting/forming process where it will make sense.

    Thanks for the interest,

    Gear

  4. #4
    Boolit Master

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    Thank you Gear. I await further info.

  5. #5
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    This is the shotcup sequence and tools, bottom to top: Template, cut-out, tapered forming mandrel (note the "stop" made from a cut off cartridge), the "forming collar" made from two pieces of cut-off brass taped together (the nickle case is longer, with the casehead end sticking out of the tape, this mimics the exact shape of the inside of a sized case to make the shot cup tapered to fit. I had to adjust the depth several times to get it right (add powder volume and you have to increase the shotcup base diameter). The brass end of the forming collar is a short section from a fired case to give a more loose fit and is belled on the end sticking out of the tape to make starting it over the plastic-wrapped mandrel easier. Next up is a shot cup removed from the mandrel and collar, then at the top is a finished shot cup after slitting the other side.

    Gear
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  6. #6
    Boolit Master


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    That's terrific! How very elegant in design and execution.

    Shot cups for my .45 Colts, here I come. Thanks a bunch.


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  7. #7
    Boolit Master wistlepig1's Avatar
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    Nice job, I have used the Speers and was all that pleased with them--- not enough shot! Keep us updated, thanks

  8. #8
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    Catshooter, here's the .45 Colt dimensions, might save you some figgerin'. This is for SAA-style cylinders and leverguns, Ruger SBH will take longer wads.

    Inside forming mandrel: .390" o.d. rod with 1.390" extending past the "stop" bushing.
    Forming collar: 1.410" long, made from two cut-off cases, one fired, one sized. The sized one forms the base of the shot cup.
    Nose collar for SAA: .400", rolled over slightly on one end to make rounded noses for easier cylinder insertion.
    Wad/shotcup template: Exactly 1.300" X 1.700".

    As always, YMMV.

    If you want to make the whole shot cup longer, add exactly the same amount to the 1.700" dimension of the template, mandrel, forming collar, and nose collar so the amount of material for making the cup base and nosecap is adequate.


    I'm adding these pics (for .45 Colt, the OP shows mostly .357 Magnum) to show how the blank is captured between the mandrel and forming collar with the mandrel recessed .020", then the melted end of the blank ready to mash into that recess, and finally what it looks like when pushed out of the forming sleeve and before the opposite side is slit. This makes the basic shot cup or 'wad', the nose end is formed the same way after loaded in the case, filled with shot, and the nose collar slipped over the protruding petals. The molten petal tips will press into the nose like hot glue, holding the exposed part of the wad together. See the OP pic for the "exploded" view of the .357 round with the wad pulled out to show it in it's finished form.

    The last pic shows a few finished .45 Colts with the noses formed as I described above, I forgot a pic of the nose mandrel for the .45 but it's in the OP in several pics for the .357. These pack between half and 5/8 ounce of #9 shot, the equivalent of many .410 shotgun loads! They can be loaded pretty warm. I've pushed them beyond equivalent powder loads for Boolits, and haven't had a recovered wad disintegrate yet.

    Gear
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    Last edited by geargnasher; 03-01-2010 at 01:37 AM. Reason: add pics and explanation

  9. #9
    Boolit Master leftiye's Avatar
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    Ingenious! Very exciting work there. Thanks for sharing.
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  10. #10
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    The ingenious stuff that comes out of the minds of the residents here never stop amazing me. That is some wicked kewl....thanks for sharing.

  11. #11
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    Might this work with 38 spcl cases? I unfortunately don't have a 357 magnum or a 45 colt.
    "I have enough ammo and guns to shoot my way into Nevada." - California resident.

  12. #12
    Boolit Master Baron von Trollwhack's Avatar
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    Yes. those 45 Colt loads are the equivalent of the 2 1/2" 410. With 5 or 6 shot you can hunt rabbits, or make big mocassins drop dead. BvT
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    Since almost all aspects of our cultural existence are LIBERAL in most states, this means that the nation is on a trajectory to dissolution by the burden of toleration and acceptance of LAWBREAKING as a norm, a trajectory back to the dark ages of history.

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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by thx997303 View Post
    Might this work with 38 spcl cases? I unfortunately don't have a 357 magnum or a 45 colt.
    Yes, but they will only hold about 100 grains of #9 shot, if you decide to try it I would highly recommend #12 shot to keep the pattern density. These are for close-range (inside of 10 feet) anyway, just not as effective as .357. Any snake beyond 10 feet isn't really a threat unless it's right around my house, so extreme range isn't necessary IMO.

    Gear

  14. #14
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    I will definitely have to give this a try. Once I reach home though.

    Will be a couple of weeks.
    "I have enough ammo and guns to shoot my way into Nevada." - California resident.

  15. #15
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    Thats interesting, i have always loaded my 45 Colt cases, using gas checks, put one lip up over the powder, fill with #12 shot and put a check lip down over the shot, and crimp the case mouth, works good on snakes,
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  16. #16
    Boolit Master yondering's Avatar
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    Awesome, geargnasher! Thanks for sharing; I'll have to try this. I've tried other shotshell methods, like you, and haven't been satisfied with any in 45 Colt.

    What powder and charge weight are you using with these in 45 Colt?

  17. #17
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    GT, that works ok, but the velocity and penetration are low unless you use a really thick base wad, you can't get nearly as much shot in it as you can with a plastic wad, the patterns really blow up, and I've had terrible leading doing that. You can also crimp a round ball over the shot instead of a GC, but I live in the rocks and the shot richocheting back at me is bad enough without a ball to contend with.

    Yondering, I'm using Longshot with the .45 Colt, since this is an "experimental" load I'm going to leave it at "work it up yourself for YOUR gun". I use longshot in both calibers because faster powders tend to compact the shot and are tough on the wad as it passes through the forcing cone, plus Longshot gives a lot of power for a small volume versus other slower pistol powders which gives me more room for shot. I get I'll pm you details tonight when I get back to my data.

    If anyone else wants my load data, I'll be glad to discuss it via pm, but if you don't have an idea of where to start, maybe you better stick with commercially loaded shotshell loads.

    Gear

  18. #18
    Boolit Bub
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    With the snake population down here, you need to either be an expert pistol shot or have a shotshell alternative.

    For years, I have used a simple method. Take a 38Special case, add 2.3gr. of Red dot, shove a GC on top, then fill the case with #9 shot and cap it with an inverted GC and crimp it slightly.
    I usually go the extra by painting the end with some nail polish. This works great on snakes out to 20 feet or so.

  19. #19
    Boolit Master JIMinPHX's Avatar
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    Thumbs up

    I messed with those Speer capsules in a 4" .357 a few years back. When I did that, I found that 4.5 grains of Bullseye under #9 shot gave me my best patterns. I didn't get the doughnut shaped patterns that some other people had reported. I was pretty happy to have gotten what I ended up with.

    You have certainly kicked it up a notch from where I left off. Your creativity, resourcefulness & craftsmanship are all impressive. I'd love to turn you loose in a fully equipped machine shop some time & see what you come up with.
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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by JIMinPHX View Post
    I messed with those Speer capsules in a 4" .357 a few years back. When I did that, I found that 4.5 grains of Bullseye under #9 shot gave me my best patterns. I didn't get the doughnut shaped patterns that some other people had reported. I was pretty happy to have gotten what I ended up with.

    You have certainly kicked it up a notch from where I left off. Your creativity, resourcefulness & craftsmanship are all impressive. I'd love to turn you loose in a fully equipped machine shop some time & see what you come up with.
    Thanks, Jim. If I was ever let loose in a bona fide machine shop I wouldn't be heard from for years! I actually thought about contacting you about making some of these simple wad forming tools, but random bolts and scrap shell casings work fine. Maybe you can tinker with the idea and sell a few if you ever run out of something to do.

    Gear

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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