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Old April 21, 2010, 09:33 PM   #1
Johnny Guest
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Join Date: August 28, 1999
Location: North Texas
Posts: 4,116
Loading 230 RN Lead bullets for .45 ACP - - a Tutorial

(These hints work for some other autoloaders as well.)

This tutorial is written as an assist to those just starting to handload .45 ACP with lead bullets. Most of us start loading for the .45 ACP just as an economy measure. To begin with, all we care about is generally duplicating the characteristics of factory ammunition. With .45 ACP 230 gr. full metal jacket factory ammo becoming so expensive, the obvious remedy is to locate a source of lead bullets with a profile that closely approximates that of the FMJ bullet. Factory FMJ bullets and plated lead bullets are also quite suitable for handloading, but lead bullets end up being a LOT less expensive.

PLEASE NOTE: No one should start handloading without at least one good manual. Read all the helpful hints. It's not really boring, and it can save you a lot of wated steps. This tutorial is not intended to substitute for a good manual. It's just telling you how I (finally) learned to do the job well.

One common problem in loading lead bullets is the case mouth grabbing the bullet and shaving a tiny bit of lead. The .45 ACP is designed to headspace on the case mouth, so this little shaving can prevent the cartridge chambering properly. Even if the action closes sufficiently to allow the pistol to fire, headspacing will not be uniform, and so accuracy will suffer.

Here's one way to make things work.

Follow insructions on your die set. Screw the sizer die in so that it just barely kisses the shell holder, with no case in place. If the die is not carbide, lubricate the cases sparingly. It doesn't hurt to lube cases with carbide dies, but I usually don't bother. Run a case into the sizer and then turn the decapper stem in until the spent primer is popped out. Adjust until the decapper pin protrudes a few hundredths below the case base.

Now the case mouth should be expanded or "belled" until a bullet just starts in, and will set there without doing a balancing act. Reprime using your chosen method. Charge the case with an appropriate amount of a suitable powder. 5.5 grains of Unique or 5.4 of 231 are good.

Take your seating die and screw it into the press, only a few turns. Back the bullet seating stem all the way out. There are two ways to go at this point.

(1) Place a factory loaded 230 FMJ cartridge in the shell holder. Raise the ram all the way up. Screw the seating die in until it just firmly touches the case. The seating stem should NOT be touching the bullet. Back the die out about one-half of a turn. Turn the lock ring just finger snug. Now screw the seating stem in until it is snug against the factory bullet, and lock it in place. Lower the ram.

Now take the prepared, primed, charged case, put it in the shell holder, and set a lead bullet into the case mouth. Making sure the bullet remains upright, slowly raise the ram. If all went well, the bullet should be seated to a depth matching the factory cartridge. A pair of calipers is very valuable here.

Okay - - Closely examine the cartridge. You probably just about straightened out the case, removing most of the bell. There should be a tiny amount of flare left. This is good, in that it prevented shaving lead off at the mouth. You might want to remove the barrel from your pistol and drop the cartridge into the chamber. Compare the way it rests with a factory round. Your handload will most likely NOT go into the chamber as far. You may now either use a taper crimp die to remove all the case mouth bell, leaving the case sides completely straight, OR back out the seating stem and screw the seating die in to obtain the same result. Note that if you do the latter, you'll need to go through the die adjustment each time you switch between bullet seating and final case-straightening. Now guage the result in the chamber. You should have a loaded round that will function perfectly.

The other way to go:
(2) If for some reason you don't have a pristine factory 230 FMJ cartridge, you can accomplish the same thing, but you'll really need that set of calipers.

Place an empty, sized but NOT BELLED case in shell holder and raise the ram. Screw the seating die in until it touches the case mouth, and then back it out A FULL TURN. Snug up the locking ring. Screw the bullet seating stem WAY out.

Now place a sized, belled, but NOT PRIMED or charged case in the shell holder. Put a lead bullet into the case mouth and raise the ram all the way up. Screw the seating stem in until it makes firm contact with the bullet. See if the bullet started seating into the case. Lower the ram slightly, screw the seating stem in a turn or two, raise the ram, and inspect the result. By trial, keep adjusting the seating stem until you have a dummy cartridge with an overall length of 1.270". When you reach this, back out the seating stem and screw the die body in until the bell is almost removed.

Now you go through the final bell removal, case straightening process, preferably with a taper crimp die. The case mouth should now measure 0.473" immediately below the bullet, and you've now assembled a good, usable dummy cartridge with which to set your dies when you load primed, charged cases.

Please note: In no case should you attempt to both seat and remove all case bell in the same stroke. This almost ensures you'll shave some lead off on the case mouth.

I'll float this for a time, at least, and will check it periodically. If there's anything unclear, please let me know, and I'll edit as needed.

Best,
Johnny
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