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Cas City Forum Hall & CAS-L  |  Special Interests - Groups & Societies  |  STORM (Moderators: RRio, Major 2)  |  Topic: Loading Heel Base Bullets for Conversion Revolvers 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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Author Topic: Loading Heel Base Bullets for Conversion Revolvers  (Read 32295 times)
Hoof Hearted
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« on: January 13, 2012, 12:46:55 pm »


This is so much easier than most people think, so don't panic    Wink

There is a growing contingent of shooters exploring the Cartridge Conversion Revolver. The 44 "Army" sized pistols support the use of 45 calibre Center Fire ammunition as well as 44 Colt in either Heel Base or Hollow Base. The 36 "Navy" sized pistols need 38 Colt ammunition loaded with either Heel Base or Hollow Base bullets (I have pioneered 41 Colt also in these utilizing .386 inside lubed bullets).

If you are one of this "new" contingent, this tutorial will help you understand how to feed your need.

While this shows 38 caliber (.380) projectiles for the 36 caliber cap and ball conversion the method is the same for 44 heel base loading (which actually uses .452 to .454 sized bullets).

I'm sure most of you know that a 36 cap and ball revolver has a bore of between .375 and.380 (measured OD at the widest point of rifling). Originally conversions used the supplied cylinder, which was bored through at the nipple end, (chambers of .380) and the case OD was designed to fit in that (this same OD is still used today in 38 special and 357 magnum). But modern cartridges use inside lubed bullets because the bore size is the inside dimension of the 38 case (approx. .356 to .358). Seeing that the first designs had to work around the existing cylinder and barrel dimensions they used outside lubed bullets of the same OD as the case.

While many people try to work around using heel base bullets by loading hollow base ones I choose to shoot the heel base and here is why:

#1. In my experience hollow base grouping is not adequate. There are a number of reasons why but mostly the store bought Speer wadcutters have too shallow of a hollow cavity causing erratic expansion which leads to flyers (holes way outside the rest of the group). This is because the long, non hollow, section of the bullet can (and does) "yaw" in the bore. The home cast ones like the Rapine, Lyman ond others have a longer hollow base and can be better but pressure is the key to expansion and many do not load them to high enough pressure or use too hard of an alloy. They are also tedious to cast (one at a time), the cull rate is very high (mould too hot or base plug too cold) and they really dont shoot any better than the Speers.

#2. Heel base is "correct", PERIOD CORRECT and accurate (which is correct) and they look really cool when eyeballed by your peers............

This is really pretty simple if you have a modicum of reloading experience and Old West Moulds is a one stop source for all the things you need (if you already cast and own reloading tools) so here goes:

Brass preparation is pretty straight forward:

First- Clean (I prefer tumbling)

Second- Resize This is easy as any correct sizer for the contemporary version of your case will work fine (44 special/mag for 44 Russian/Colt) and (38/357 for 38 long/short Colt). I have found that the 9mm carbide sizer is a tad tighter and works well.

Third- Bell case mouth. This can be tricky and may require some adjustment for case length, also you want a very MINIMUM flare (in fact you may be able to skip this step completely depending on the mould).

Fourth- Powder charge. Remember, no air space for black powder and always consult current loading data from prudent sources.

Fifth- Seat bullet. I find that most bullet types will seat by finger pressure. Meaning no die necessary. As mentioned above shortening or adjusting of dies here can be tricky (depends on die manfacturer). 9mm seater works well for problematic 38 short.

~If you dedicate a set of dies to the caliber you are loading, you may want to belt sand the expander and seater die shorter by the difference in case length. Then rechamfer the opening.~



This is a pic of Bernie's (Old West Moulds) crimp arrangement. This is very important. There is no better way to crimp a heel base bullet, period! He uses a modified Lee Collet Crimp die and a specially designed adjustable shell holder. It is inexpensive and worth ten times as much (just don't tell him)!

Sixth- Crimp as above.



This is a pic of Bernie's ingenious way to lube your "outside lubed" 19th century recreation!
It is so simple it makes you say, "wow, why didn't I think of that".
He uses the same Cherry that he cut your mould with to grind a new "ejector pin" for your lube sizer die that matches the ogive of the bullet. Along with a shell holder that replaces the "top punch" and you size and lube the loaded round upside down...........

Seventh- Lube and size.



Set up right you CAN load heelbased bullets almost (maybe just) as fast as "regular" or inside lubed bullets Grin

As a resource link:
www.oldwestbulletmoulds.com

New source of cast bullets (from Old West Moulds):
This should make some of yall's life easier (if you don't cast)

http://www.alphabravobullets.com/products/shop.php?exp=&cat=4

The above link is for cast, sized and lubed heel base bullets for the 38 Colt which is what you need for your Navy Conversions. He can provide bullets lubed for Smokeless or Black Powder and he also carries 44 Colt Heel Base Bullets. Just call and ask for John if you don't see it on their pages.

http://www.cartridgeconversion.com/

This is a ONE STOP SHOP for all of your conversion needs!


Good Luck on ya Wink

HH
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« Reply #1 on: January 13, 2012, 12:55:18 pm »

Here's a link for more info:

http://www.cartridgeconversion.com/Heel_Base.php
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« Reply #2 on: January 13, 2012, 01:28:57 pm »

Good write up.
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« Reply #3 on: January 14, 2012, 06:59:54 pm »

HH - you really are doing yeoman work here for the heeled bullet crowd.

AWESOME!
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« Reply #4 on: January 14, 2012, 10:48:33 pm »

Thanks to both of you! Wink

Pony Racer..........

In the past you have said that you were having issues with crimping (I believe).
Is there anything I can do to help you?

HH
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« Reply #5 on: January 15, 2012, 07:59:16 am »

HH - I was having multiple issues with reloading the 11mm french round from the turn of the century.

These include bullets being not sized correctly, not lubed with BP friendly lube and hard to comeby (i have since been able to locate multiple sources including bernie rowles outfit) and the finikyness of getting the shoulder of the bullet lined up with the case mouth (your outline and tools to use fixed those).

With some research and my good friend who is a talented gunsmith and machinist, I have decided to forego the heeled outside lubed bullet for the 11mm St Etienne and do a conversion to 44 russian.

Both of my St Etienne revolvers are shooter grade guns and other than sleeving the barrels the work to the cylinder will be very minor.

The french 11mm revolver was made to fire the 11mm round with close to a 1cc BP load.  The french marines converted theirs to fire a french 12mm load with 1.3-1.5cc of BP.  So shooting the 1cc 44 Russian load will not harm the pistols and while it will hurt the collector value to those seeking a true french 11mm revolver it is a period correct caliber for one of these guns to be converted to.

I do appreciate you asking - and the amount of info you have provided to all.

BTW - I got a suprise late christmas gift by way of a nice Rogers Spencer revolver - it sure seems sweet but i am already considering converting it - yep I have a sickness for conversions:)!

PR
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« Reply #6 on: March 14, 2012, 03:34:53 pm »

Hoof Hearted,
This would also be applicable to the .429  .44-40s, for use in Colt 1860s.
So who makes up .44-40 conversion cylinders?
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« Reply #7 on: April 05, 2012, 08:41:45 pm »

I have a 36cal. 1851 Navy with a 38cal. conversion cylinder, and I bought some 38cal. 150gr. heel base bullets. Does anybody have re-loading suggestions for Trail Boss and or Winchester 231 powder to re-load 38cal. short colt and 38 LC? Should I just start with 3 grs. of Trail Boss? I been all over the web. cant seem find any info.
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Dakota Ike
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« Reply #8 on: April 06, 2012, 04:23:12 pm »

Hodgdon's has reloading data for both the .38 short and long Colt using Trail Boss and several other powders. 

http://www.hodgdon.com/
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« Reply #9 on: April 06, 2012, 04:49:17 pm »

I have a 36cal. 1851 Navy with a 38cal. conversion cylinder, and I bought some 38cal. 150gr. heel base bullets. Does anybody have re-loading suggestions for Trail Boss and or Winchester 231 powder to re-load 38cal. short colt and 38 LC? Should I just start with 3 grs. of Trail Boss? I been all over the web. cant seem find any info.

I never used anything other then Black in my heel-based rounds. No mess, no fuss, as much as the case will hold with about 19% compression when seating the slug. I have almost 200 .38LC heeled rounds ready for when Hoof finishes wrenching on my Navy. I always thought of the BP subs as cheating.
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« Reply #10 on: April 07, 2012, 09:37:38 am »

I never used anything other then Black in my heel-based rounds. No mess, no fuss, as much as the case will hold with about 19% compression when seating the slug. I have almost 200 .38LC heeled rounds ready for when Hoof finishes wrenching on my Navy. I always thought of the BP subs as cheating.

After having this 1851 Navy for 2 months now, I'm ready to try anything. I didn't realize it would be this hard, I thought it would be like my 1858 Rem. with a conversion cylinder, and I do like shooting both, Blk. powder cap and ball, and Smokeless powder out of the same gun, BIG FAN of add ons, one gun/tool/machine, does all. A couple ?, Does a 1851 get fouled up the same/as bad when your using cap & ball vrs. Blk. powder cartridges, and what is a good way to crimp the heel bullets ? The one's I bought wont fit in the Kirst cylinder in a 38LC. I had to get 38SC. brass. Now I'm trying to find a 38SC./LC. crimping die that will work on my Lee loader. From what I've read, making a crimping die for a 38 colt heel base bullet from the 19th. century, is to much of a technical challenge for the 21st. century.
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« Reply #11 on: April 07, 2012, 09:47:57 am »

Go back to the beginning of this thread and check the links Hoof Hearted posted. Bernie at Old West Bullet Moulds has the crimp die you seek. Get one, they work great.
L.O.
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« Reply #12 on: April 07, 2012, 05:54:14 pm »

Bernie's crimp die works like a charm. He also includes a sheet with some information on the origional cartridges, and some loading data.From reading this sheet, you can't load the 150 grain bullets in current Starline .38 long colt brass(for conversions anyway) These are longer than the origional case, they are the same as the 1892 Army Colt version, that used a longer case, with inside lubed , hollow base, bullet. The same basic revolver was also adopted by the Navy, and they used the origional loading, with the shorter case, heel base bullet. You can trim the cases, or I think Buffalo Arms has correct length ones, or just use Short Colt cases.
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« Reply #13 on: April 07, 2012, 09:17:26 pm »

Bernie's crimp die works like a charm. He also includes a sheet with some information on the origional cartridges, and some loading data.From reading this sheet, you can't load the 150 grain bullets in current Starline .38 long colt brass(for conversions anyway) These are longer than the origional case, they are the same as the 1892 Army Colt version, that used a longer case, with inside lubed , hollow base, bullet. The same basic revolver was also adopted by the Navy, and they used the origional loading, with the shorter case, heel base bullet. You can trim the cases, or I think Buffalo Arms has correct length ones, or just use Short Colt cases.

Buffalo Arms has ready trimmed .38LC cases for heeled bullets for .33 a piece. .30 if you order 100 or more. I had a bunch of nickeled .357 brass that I've been cutting down. Since I plan on my Navy being a working gun, I wanted cases that would not form verdigris in the belt. I'll keep the brass cases for the range. I also have some aluminum case .357 Blazer rounds that I want to experiment with.  I'm going to pull the slugs and cut the cases to .88" and reload them with BP and heeled slugs. They're not reloadable but that's not a problem. When out in the bush, I always seem to loose empties in the high grass and if I can make this idea work I won't mind loosing them.
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« Reply #14 on: April 22, 2012, 07:02:10 pm »

After much research on 36cal. 1851 Navy with 38cal. Kirst conversion cylinder, I agree with what everyone says about Bernie's Old West Bullet Moulds. I went through over 75, 38/SC reloads this this weekend, using Bernie's 150gr. heel base bullet mould, and the 38cal. heel base crimping die. Now I can shoot both, Blk. powder, and 38SC cartridges, out of one revolver!  I did have to do some test on 2 different powders that I have, Trail Boss and Winchester 231. I  use 6gr. of T.B. in my 45LC R&D conversion cylinder for the Rem. 1858, but couldn't get enough powder in the 1851 Navy,38sc, it kept sounding like a cap gun. So I loaded 6 rds. of 25gr. Blk. powder, with 130gr. conical bullets, and it finally went BANG. My son uses 231 in his 45LC, so we tried 3grs. of 231 in the 38SC, and the bang was just under the 25grs. of Blk.powder, that felt about right to me, and it seems like I shoot better with the heel base bullets than I do with the  conical bullet, I'll have to do some more test, 500 more rounds otta do it.       
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« Reply #15 on: May 08, 2012, 08:11:23 pm »

 Huh Would it be possible to start with .38 S&W cases; THe dia. would make loading easyer and I'm not sure that the rim thickness would be much of a problem. Or am I just trying to make it simple
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Hoof Hearted
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« Reply #16 on: May 08, 2012, 09:30:38 pm »

Huh Would it be possible to start with .38 S&W cases; THe dia. would make loading easyer and I'm not sure that the rim thickness would be much of a problem. Or am I just trying to make it simple

There are multiple "problems" with what you are suggesting. The largest is that they are too large to chamber........
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« Reply #17 on: May 09, 2012, 12:29:02 am »

I just received one of Bernie's modified crimp dies through my dealings with Hoof. All I can say is WOW! It took me a few minutes to get it situated right, and then I saw the most perfect crimps I'd ever seen on heeled rounds. I'll never go back to modified wire strippers.   Grin
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« Reply #18 on: May 13, 2012, 09:48:18 am »

Huh Would it be possible to start with .38 S&W cases; THe dia. would make loading easyer and I'm not sure that the rim thickness would be much of a problem. Or am I just trying to make it simple
I have used some in my 1892 Colt DA, but can't guarantee they will fit in your conversion. The case diameter is slightly larger, may not work in all guns. I don't think they would fit in any of my other .38s.
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« Reply #19 on: June 12, 2012, 07:05:21 pm »

Well I trust what Y'all are sayin' about heeled .38cal bullets is correct, bt I hsave only One original Factory Conversion that's an 1871 Colt .38Colt Pocket Police with the Naked Lady and Roman Soldier grips on it ... Pat. Pend 1871.... 1872 and an 1861 5.5" Pietta Navy with a gated Kirst .38SPL(old one 1984) I shoot 148gr HBWC in both with BP and W231 in um they shoot great for me and was alot cheaper to load... also 148gr Semi HBWC are available over the counter here ... will fit the Pietta '61 Navy ok with plenty of BP but not as well in my Pocket Police 1871 Factory Conversion ... I have more .44C&B/.45Colt than anything else any way  ... but still would like to see the differance with them heeled boolits...
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« Reply #20 on: June 13, 2012, 08:44:18 am »

A friend with a power case trimmer would make easy work of trimmin 38 Special down to 38 Long Colt.
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« Reply #21 on: January 26, 2013, 09:53:48 am »

BTT
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« Reply #22 on: August 08, 2015, 02:30:24 pm »

Two questions, would it be possible(read economical)  to get a 4-6 cavity mould made, and could you load on a progressive like the Lee Pro-1000?

Actually 3 questions, how well does the crimp hold the bullet in?  I've had hollow base bullets back out of the case a bit before.  Not often, but sometimes.  Load was 17 grains 3F Swiss with a hollow base bullet cast from a Rapine mould.  I get pretty good accuracy, but really really hate casting one at a time and the hollow base likes to get lube down in it while lubeing and sizing.
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« Reply #23 on: September 21, 2015, 11:55:29 am »

It crimps well, but you do have to use a Factory crimper - it goes past the bullet, then closes and crimps on the case. 
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« Reply #24 on: September 21, 2015, 01:44:11 pm »

Thanks, I guess I should have posted an update.  The brass mould works great, and the crimper as well, just have to do the crimping on a single stage press.  I do the majority of the loading on a turret press, including seating the bullet, then crimp on the single stage.  it'd be nice if I could do all on the turret or a progressive, but this is still way faster than screwing with casting and lubing hollow base rounds.

As far as accuracy, I'd give the heel bullets the edge, though I did get good results with the 165 grain Rapine mould.

With this loading set up I no longer have a strong desire to line the bore to .357.  Not quite as fast as loading inside lubed bullets, but close enough.
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