June 2005 ~~~~ Editor:  Cliff Hanger ~~~~

Fire Forming Cartridges by Old  Scout

   My current “Major” project is the construction of a 32-40 barrel for a H&R Handi-Rifle. This long gun is to be the ultimate “Plainsman Category” rifle, for use in sidematch as well as main match Plainsman events.

   The CAS style of shooting often leads to lost brass or trampled brass, that is useless for reloading. The 32-40 brass is a bit expensive and hard to find, so to combat that problem, this project rifle will use 30-30 brass formed to 32-40. The ubiquitous 30-30 hull can be found at gun shows and club swap meets for $5 to $10 a hundred, and even new it is probably the cheapest rifle brass there is. Loosing a few of those at a shoot is no concern to me.

   While preparing to fire form some 30-30 case, it occurred to me that some folks may not be aware of this process. Cartridges have quite often been introduced in families which use the same basic cartridge, just formed to different shapes. One such family is the 22HP, 25-35, 30-30, 32-40, and 38-55. All of those calibers are based on the 38-55 basic cartridge.

   Over the years the 32-40 and 38-55 brass has, at times,  been out of production. Those of us shooting these guns had to resort to making our brass from 30-30 cases. The 32-40 case may be formed by just re-sizing a 38-55 case in a 32-40 die. This makes a great 32-40 case, but the 38-55 brass is just as hard to find as 32-40 and nearly as costly.

   To use the 30-30 case, it is necessary to first size it in a 32-40 die to reduce the shoulder diameter. While it is possible to form the 32-40 completely in one operation, I prefer to remove the expander from the sizing die, and just reduce the case diameter 

(click for larger image)

to fit the rifle. Then, fire forming in a rifle, produces cases that are more uniform and slightly longer. If one is making 38-55 brass,  fire forming the 30-30 case, is the only practical method.

Figure 1     (click for larger image)

   The five cartridges shown in figure 1, are left to right a 30-30 case, a resized 30-30 ready to fire form ( this case still has a 30 caliber neck and slight shoulder), the case after firing, and the re-formed cartridge loaded for use in a single shot rifle. The last cartridge on the right is a factory 32-40 round. As can be seen the re-formed 30-30 case is about .080” shorter than the factory round. The slightly short case is not significant in a single shot rifle. When used in a lever action rifle, it may be necessary to seat the bullet out of the case, as required to get a workable over all length. Figure 2  shows the same process applied to produce the 38-55 cartridge.

Figure 2    (click for larger image)

   For cartridges of this general capacity, I load 10 to 12 grains of fast burning pistol powder ( I use Bullseye ) in the case and then fill the remaining space with cream of wheat type cereal  (currently I’m using Grits). Fill the case and then press the filler down with a pencil or similar item and refill. For handling purposes I then press a thin wax wad over the case mouth. Others use a couple of drops of “White Glue” to keep the filler in place. When fired these forming loads are dangerous to about 15 feet, and make a fair amount of noise. They should be treated just as live ammo would be. Smaller volume cases would use much smaller charges.

   An occasional “hard” case will split at the neck when fire formed. This is not a dangerous matter, and will only be encountered with used brass. Out of 100 pieces of used brass I expect to loose 5 during forming and maybe another 5 in the first loading, to neck cracks.

   I form many 100’s of cases each year for the “Odd Ball” guns I enjoy shooting, such as 40-85 ( from 9.3x74R), 8x50R  (from 7.62x54R), and 38-50 Rem. (from 30-40 Krag).

Old Scout

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