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Interesting real example of survival reloading

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  • Interesting real example of survival reloading

    Recently I have been studying the topic of Survival Reloading, which I find an interesting microcosm of survival skills in general. While most serious Preppers have a store of ammunition, practically all of us constantly question if we “have enough” or “how much is enough”.

    Ammunition, unlike most food stores, really doesn't have a shelf life. Smokeless powders do not degrade so as long as your stash is kept dry, it should last a lifetime. In the 90’s, there were large batches of WWII surplus ammunition available to the public at great prices and my experience was it worked just fine.

    So what does Survival Reloading have to do with other survival skills? Bullets are just like food, medical supplies and other consumable commodities in that we all must determine a balance between finished product, raw material and post-TEOTWAWKI production. Using food as an example, finished product would be MREs or canned food, raw material would be a sacks of rice and post-TEOTWAWKI production would be seeds.
    Unlike food, ammunition requirements in a post-TEOTWAWKI life can be very difficult to predict. If only a few of us Homo sapiens are left wondering the earth, then ammunition requirements could be very low. If wide spread famine breaks out, then ammunition might be in high demand both for defense and bartering.
    Ammunition also differs from food in that there are certain components, such as primers, which would be EXTREMELY difficult to produce in a complete breakdown of society – OR WOULD THEY?

    While I was researching the topic, I came across a book written in late 1940’s by Ira Wolfert called “American Guerilla In The Philippines” (there was a movie by the same name based on the book). The book basically explores the life of Navy Officer David Richardson who ended up on a Pacific island and joined a Philippine Guerilla group to fight the Japanese.

    The book addresses the topic of ammunition and “survival” reloading at a level that many Preppers would never consider. First of all, the guerilla group had only a few old bolt action rifles, and somehow ended up with about 3000 empty rifle cartridges (brass). Not a great place to start.

    So they took old brass curtain rods and cut them to length and then pushing them through a rifle barrel in order to size (Swag) them. Anyone who has ever removed a lodged bullet from a rifle barrel will testify that this must have been brutal work. They then took lead from old automobile batteries, smelted it down and filled the brass. Would most of us know how to smelt lead without our fancy electric furnaces?
    For primers, they punched out the old ones and used a knife to remove the anvil and pounded out the firing pin detent. They used a mixture of Sulfur, Coconut carbon and antimony powder (I had to look that one up) to make a paste. Would you know how to do this?

    They had a Japanese sea mine that they dissembled and used the explosive as a base for their powder. Various mixtures were attempted to reduce the burn rate into something the old rifles could handle. They then poured the powder into the brass and measured it by sight alone. Would you know how to do this?

    The bullets were then crimped into the brass by hand using pliers. According to the book, 60 soldiers could produce about 160 rounds per day and 80% of them actually fired. Not something I would relish taking into battle, but then again, it sure beats charging a machine gun nest with a machete.

    I reload a lot of ammunition and have for over 30 years. I have all of the fancy electrical equipment one could imagine and have even wildcatted my own brass. When I read this account, it dawned on me how little I actually KNEW about the chemistry involved in the entire process. It also made me reconsider earlier decisions regarding black powder weapons and other “low technology” firearms.

  • #2
    Very interesting read Hogleg I keep a few black powder rifles around 1 revolver and a single shot pistol nothing old all newer CVA kits and the such and a few bullet molds all round ball just incase
    NONSOLIS RADIOS SEDIOUIS FULMINA MITTO

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    • #3
      primers have a shelf life, especially if not sealed in GI ammo cans. If shtf, there will be so many dead people within a year that anyone who survives that long will be able to pick up all the guns and ammo they want. So much for "needing" to be a gunsmith, bullet caster, or reloader. Practice firing will quickly draw in your killers, except perhaps with a silenced .22lr and subsonic ammo. Also, so much centerfire ammo will be used up that it will be precious, so you simply must have something that uses the .22lr rd, preferably a 223 fighting rifle, that features a .22lr conversion unit, so that you have the best of both worlds.

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      • #4
        why would you pour lead into the cases? Are the curtain rods to be bullets? black powder is VERY dangerous togranulate, Dupont and Pydodex have had plants explode, did you know that? :-) Black powder is very inefficient, having only about 20% of the power of smokeless powder, so it is very wasteful. better to go with a .177 pellet rifle for small game, crossbow for larger stuff, and leave out the missfires, smoke, corrosion, noise and risks of blackpowder.

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        • #5
          Ya I read that book years ago wasn't there something about one load that they used that would break a tank sprocket but would ruin the rifle and yes this was all very dangerous especially grinding up mine power into smaller flakes but it was war time just living was dangers.
          WE DIDN'T BELIEVE THOSE WHO HAD SWORN TO KILL US 9-11-01

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          • #6
            Interesting. As a handloader of some 40 years (yes I still have all my fingers and both eyes) I have some views that many people might not agree with (you can't please everybody, but pissing everyone off is dead easy), so here goes.

            Powders don't have a shelf life, but that does not mean they can't go bad. If the powder smells "Acid", but not the "usual" solvent smell, I'd be careful. If it has what looks like rust in it, it IS bad!

            I agree with Sworth, after a few fire fights, guns will be stacked up like cord wood, but AMMO will be rare as chickens with fangs!

            The INDEPENDENT AMERICAN MAG (no, I do NOT get a penny from them! northwoodstraders.ecrater.com) has the entire back issue set on CD for $10 and that is a screaming deal! They have articles on how to make powder (DANGERIOUS!), bullets, how to convert cartirdges into bullets, and lots of good stuff.

            Out of time!

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            • #7
              Originally posted by sworth View Post
              why would you pour lead into the cases? Are the curtain rods to be bullets? black powder is VERY dangerous togranulate, Dupont and Pydodex have had plants explode, did you know that? :-) Black powder is very inefficient, having only about 20% of the power of smokeless powder, so it is very wasteful. better to go with a .177 pellet rifle for small game, crossbow for larger stuff, and leave out the missfires, smoke, corrosion, noise and risks of blackpowder.
              Sorry but I must disagree. Black powder is safe enough if handled properly. Gas is explosive if mishandled. Pyrodex and the like may have less "power" than cartrige powder. And BTW pyrodex IS different than black powder. It is far from wasteful as a matter of fact smaller caliber "blackpowder" weapons like the .32 caliber I own doesn't need much more powder than a modern .22 does. Plus I can and have killed small game with it at over 150 yards you couldn't do that with a pellet gun.

              Plus using your anology the same thing couls be said about ANY firearm. They all make noise,they all sometimes misfire if not propery maintained, they all corrode if not properly maintained especially using a lot of the cheap imported ammo.

              I'll keep my "smoke poles" thank you. I've had them for over 20 years, they work just fine, are easy to maintain, I can make my own powder, cast my own bullets in a pinch and I can melt down and reuse the shot multiple times if need be.

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              • #8
                Don't forget having the ability to pull down calibers you may find and reload the componants in calibers you do have.

                My Dad had to do this in WW2 when there was no commercial ammo to buy and the GIs at local army camp would bring him 30 cal carbine ammo. He pulled the bullets and gave them to guys with 30 cal rifles. He kept the propellant which he loaded into 22 Hornet cases and eased out the carbine primers and used them in Hornet as well.

                He said you could buy bullets from individuals but primers and loaded ammo was a real pain to find.

                He said the GIs gave him 30.06 as well but he did not own one and he traded it to others.

                I have occasionally had to pull down factory ammo that was loaded too hot and after weighing the "as loaded" charge dumped it all and remeasured it out 3 grains lighter after partially neck sizing the case neck.
                Distinguished Rifleman High Power , Distinguished Rifleman Smallbore Prone, Presidents Hundred (Rifle), Palma Teams Member (2), Dewar Teams Member (2), Member 4 Man National Championship Smallbore AnySight Team, Certified Small Arms and Ammunition Test Director Aberdeen Proving Ground , Eagle Scout, AC4HT, NRA Benefactor Member, Firefighter I, Shriner

                --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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                • #9
                  this is another option. Lee Hand Press You need to buy dies seperate but it's definitely portable.
                  Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum

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                  • #10
                    Sure is and there is another that is harder to find which is a PAK tool. The guy that trained me at the Army Small Cal Lab had a PAK and it was a neat took designed to be carried in a pack.
                    Distinguished Rifleman High Power , Distinguished Rifleman Smallbore Prone, Presidents Hundred (Rifle), Palma Teams Member (2), Dewar Teams Member (2), Member 4 Man National Championship Smallbore AnySight Team, Certified Small Arms and Ammunition Test Director Aberdeen Proving Ground , Eagle Scout, AC4HT, NRA Benefactor Member, Firefighter I, Shriner

                    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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                    • #11
                      Interesting read. I must find that book about the guerrilla guy. Never heard of their experience, meaning the reloading.

                      As a long term reloader, I like read stuff like this.

                      Making bullets. I'm sure what they were doing (Phillipines) was similar to the old practice of making bullets using a brass sleeve. I think it was one of the NRA magazines that had the process of using used .22 shell, forming the latter into a .224 caliber 'shell' and pouring lead into the cavity.

                      I wonder why they didn't just make soft lead bullets, seems to be the easier method and I know the fouling would be hell to clean out.

                      Powder. I had a good friend that was a USMC mortar man and decided that when the world was over as we new it, petrol based fuels would almost always be present. More so than gun powder. He did quite a bit of research on mortar based propellants using gasoline, etc. Some worked rather well and some were no more than portable widow makers.

                      Many years ago, I read a tale about a Spanish priest relating how Spanish military authorities were upset that their Apache adversaries were experimenting with charcoal and other ingredients, overall goal was to make black powder. Now to me, that is survival, a tribe figuring out a complex formula and duplicating it. Whether it is true or not - I wish I could find or remember the article - we all know someone in our own sphere who is mechanically gifted and can make or duplicate anything.

                      Always interested in this kind of experience. Please post some more. Thanks.

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                      • #12
                        And I thought using my Lee Loaders was primitive. The Lee hand press as mentioned earlier is also one of my favorites. Will have to look up that "PAK" tool. The more I "advance" into reloading with the modern tools (digital scales, progressive presses, etc.) the more I desire to regress and honor the earlier traditional methods. I find it therapeutic in a way. What a hunt and collection this could become -- looking for and collecting early reloading equipment/components.

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                        • #13
                          This is actually not as complicated as many may think. You do need some basic chemistry for making nitrocellulose/gun cotton and making the one of several compounds for primers. These are skills all preppers should develope anyway as they can be transfered over to other areas, such as medicine, water treatment, improvised explosives, etc. With basic knowledge and some cached supplies (or knowing where to get them) like nitric acid, sulphuric acid and you can research the rest yourselves. Also remember after a major SHTF, many of the chemicals will be easily accessable in abandonded facilities. Learning to scrounge (how, where, and for what) are also skills necessary for a prepared prepper.

                          Ammunition, smoke grenades, explosives (for stumps and such) are all relatively easy to make. Just be prepared.

                          Dale

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                          • #14
                            That is a very good book- I have a first edition of it.

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                            • #15
                              if shtf, so many will die, so quickly, that there will be tons of stuff lying around to be picked up, to include guns and ammo. The game will be gone and there will be so few survivors that running out of ammo is a very unlikelly issue. You will be free to make and install a a sound suppressor on your .22 autorifle, since no laws will matter. There's billions and billons of rds of 22lr made and imported here every year. Can you imagine the advantage of having such a rifle, when everyone else has nothing more than a pellet gun, bow, xbow, or muzzleloader? :-) Making black powder that is good enough for grenades and bombs is simple, but granualting it so that it will burn (relatively)effiently in a rifle is far more dangerous. You can sound suppress a modern gun, but blackpowder will almost instantly ruin a sound suppresors effectviveness, due to the fouling becoming an insulator of heat. If shtf, there will be plenty of .22lr left to be found, traded, etc, and there's no reason (in "normal times") for yoiu not to have 5-10 rds of it already cached. It does need to be keep in GI ammo cans, tho, because it absorbs moisture from the air and goes bad.
                              Last edited by rhode; 05-02-2013, 11:03 AM.

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