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Old School Reloading?

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by ObsidianOne, Apr 3, 2013.

  1. ObsidianOne

    ObsidianOne New Member

    So I'm curious how things were done way back when. I know bits and pieces of info, like the scissor bullet molds that were used over fires and what not.
    When did the first primers for smokeless powder start cropping up for consumer use?
    What about presses? First press company?
    How did they tumble cases?
    Even if you don't have answers to the questions above, if you have any knowledge of it, share, discuss, pictures are highly encouraged :)
  2. noylj

    noylj New Member

    Tumblers? That is a very modern "need" based on desire for shiny.
    Old timers (up until mid '70s or early '80s, including all benchrest shooters), simply wiped the exterior of the case and got on with business.
  3. Fire_Moose

    Fire_Moose Member

    I hear steel wool was a tool of choice....more so then.

    Sent from my CZ85 Combat
  4. gamestalker

    gamestalker member

    By all means tumblers have been around prior to the 70's. Although I don't know for certain if the modern vibratory tumbler was in use yet, but rock style type tumblers, and nut shell were in use prior to the 70's.

  5. FROGO207

    FROGO207 Active Member

    Way back the muzzle loaders would be provided with a ball mold and that was all that was needed besides consumables. A hundred or more years ago you would get a bullet mold and basic reloading tool like the Lee loader as an option when you purchased a firearm. Some primers, black powder and a bar of lead set you up to reload. Most just bought finished ammo a few rounds at a time as shooting lots like depicted in the movies was NOT the way it was done. :banghead: I would wager that most cowboys did not even have a firearm and when they did hardly ever shot it for any reason due to cost of ammo. I remember reading the cost of a firearm was so large a guy would have to work a full year to afford to buy a personal firearm IIRC.
  6. Bull Nutria

    Bull Nutria New Member

    read 'Six Guns' and "hell I was there" by Elmer Keith, Elmer did lots of reloading, he lived from late 1890s until late 70's or 80's. He invented his own style of cast bullets still in use today. He also had a large hand in inventing the 357 mag and 44mag!! he also was a rifle wildcatter.

    he wrote several books and was an outdoor gun writer, real cowboy, bronc buster, soldier, hunting guide, photographer, rancher, expert rifleman and hand gunner. Advisor to S&W, Remington etc.

    I enjoyed reading about him in his own words!!

    lots of photos in his books, you will be surprised how little reloading has changed over time from some of his books.

  7. ObsidianOne

    ObsidianOne New Member

    I've heard of him, and his bullets, but didn't know all that! I'll have to check those out! :)
  8. oldpapps

    oldpapps New Member

    How far back do you want to go? Black powder?, Rim Fire?, Musket caps and lead ball?, Flint?

    Oh, I met Mr. Keith at the 1980 NRA Convention in KCMO. Very quiet and polite gentleman and 'dogging' heals on his boots and that big white hat. :)

    Just going back a hundred years, it would be a market dominated by 'IDEAL'. They made everything, pier handled bullet molds (like we have today with wooden handles), gang molds made of brass, lead dippers and pots and stove top units. The 'IDEAL No. 1' tool did it all. Bullet mould, loading chamber, re-capper. A neat looking little hinged unit. Then models No.2, and No.4 and No. 4 Special and No. 6. They made a bullet sizer too, $2.20 for a double mould! IDEAL made a mounted bullet lubricator and sizer that was the for runner of the Lyman 450. IDEAL eventually morphed into LYMAN. (I suspect this could have been a buy out but that is a guess.)

    We have it so much more effective loading equipment today. I wouldn't want to go back to those days. When using black powder, looking at the tools, I would have stayed with 'cap and ball' over going to the cartridge system. Of course that would be for hunting use.
  9. sage5907

    sage5907 New Member

    Reloading has been in my family for generations. When I was very small at the end of WWII I remember all the trains being pulled by big black steam locomotives. I also remember seeing 12 guage and 10 guage shotgun loading equipment at my granddad's house. The shotgun cases were full length brass fired in double demascus guns. They punched caps out with a punch, loaded black powder, and wads were made of leather cut with a round punch. When the cartridge was loaded hot wax was poured on the end to keep moisture out. When the west was settled the indian wars were won with a rifle and the buffalo were exterminated with a rifle but the west was actually won with a double barreled shotgun and a garden hoe.
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2013
  10. Certaindeaf

    Certaindeaf member

  11. sage5907

    sage5907 New Member

    When I first started reloading back in the 1960's there were two schools of reloading pushed by the two premier gun writers of the day. Jack O'Connor wrote for Outdoor Life and he pushed fast bullets at high speed. Elmer Keith wrote for Sports Afield and he pushed large bullets at moderate speed. I was an avid Jack O'Connor fan and I followed his writings religiously first haveing a 270 Weatherby Magnum, 270 Winchesters and 25-06 rifles. Later I became an avid 30-06 shooter and am now thinking about a 338-06. After all these years I think Elmer Keith was more correct in selecting larger bullets at moderate speeds for big game hunting.
  12. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline New Member

    From what I've read the first reloaders in the modern sense of the term were not cowboys but professional buffalo hunters. We know they ordered paper for patching bullets, and that they demanded precision loads for their work as the buffalo got harder and harder to find and the shots got longer. The kits would be made by the rifle makers I believe, though they're rare as hen's teeth these days. From those roots, the practice expanded as centerfire cartridges spread. And by the 1890's Ideal was making tools and publishing loadbooks. Here's a good history:


    There's quite a collector's market for old reloading tools.

    As far as cleaning, with BPCR's you can clean with soap and water. In fact that works better than a dry tumbler for eliminating the corrosive salts. I've done this a bit with my own black powder loads and it works well if you use a scrubber brush and dry them quickly. These are big honking rounds, some the size of shot glass. So it's not too much trouble. The brass also develops a dark shiny patina that's really pretty. I have noticed no problems with strength, and no green spots. I don't know if they knew about annealing the stuff. Probably. They knew a lot more than we give them credit for.

    The pros might also have had their own custom kits. Here's an example of an early reloading kit put together by a marksman:

    Last edited: Apr 4, 2013
  13. Tolkachi Robotnik

    Tolkachi Robotnik New Member

    Tong Tools.

    Earlier, it was pretty common to be doing this away from any sort of bench or work shop. Tong tools were very common, and various ones did various jobs. The mini-balls were simple lead and very effective. They might need some swaging or knurling with simple hand tools. A mallet was part of a lot of operations. This hand made ammo was extremely accurate if done correctly. Even the spent lead bullets were kept and melted back into new.

    Black powder could be handled with volume alone and high pressure was not a real common problem.
  14. Clark

    Clark New Member

    I can reload with two rocks and a nail.

    But now with more stuff, I can reload faster and better.
  15. splattergun

    splattergun Active Member

    I would wager that most cowboys did not even have a firearm and when they did hardly ever shot it for any reason due to cost of ammo. I remember reading the cost of a firearm was so large a guy would have to work a full year to afford to buy a personal firearm IIRC.[/QUOTE]
    A pistol would cost roughly a month's wages. It was a high priority for a range cowboy, but less so than saddle, boots, and a good lariat. One fallacy, though, is that they always wore their pistols on the hip. Usually they were carried in a saddle bag or a pommel holster. They just got in the way when working cattle.

    My great-great uncle was a cavalry sergeant in the 5th Regiment during the Apache wars in the early-mid 1870's and the Sioux campaign in '76, until he was discharged with an arrowhead lodged in his knee. His memoirs mention what a laugh he got from the old westerns, wherein the characters always wore 2 guns. " Only greenhorns wore 2 guns". He mentions "reloding ball cartridge" for his own pistol after his army stint, but not specific methods or equipment.
  16. Certaindeaf

    Certaindeaf member

    I can make a nail with one rock. lolz
  17. Slamfire

    Slamfire Active Member

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