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Factory loads for vintage revolvers

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by mr.ridout, Nov 23, 2019.

  1. mr.ridout

    mr.ridout Member

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    I like turn of the century and early 20th century revolvers and some of them are nitro proofed. I know that my Webley MK VI is nitro proofed, but is not safe for current factory loads. Is there a way to know what is safe to use? For instance I have a Velo style Belgian .32 long Colt/S&W .32 long that is nitro proofed. What are my options for firing it? .......current factory loads, light target loads, reloading with BP, etc. Is the smokeless powder of 1920 different from the smokeless of today? Mick
     
  2. Curator

    Curator Member

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    mr.rideout:
    Metallurgy in the early part of the 20th century was not what it is today. "Nitro-proofed" handguns may have only barely survived the proofing process. Most ammunition of that time was also lead bullets unless of military caliber. Your MkVI Webley was proofed for the .455 Webley cartridge (12K psi) and should be OK with modern made .455 Webley ammo if you can find any. Many of them were converted to fire American .45 ACP cartridges that are really too powerful (20K psi) and will eventually damage your gun. "Velo-style" .32 long Colt originally had a "heeled" lead bullet and was quite different from the .32 S&W long cartridge. Both were loaded to black powder pressure levels before 1920.

    I too like and shoot early 20th century revolvers, but I handload them with lead bullets and keep pressures down to black powder equivalent and avoid really fast burning powders (like Trail Boss, Bullseye, Vihta Vuori N310, Red Dot, etc.) where an extra 10th of a grain will be an overload. You really can't go wrong using real black powder either. I load for .32 S&W, .32 S&W long, .38 Short Colt, .,38 long Colt, .38 S&W, and .45 Adams, all top break revolvers made before 1920 using both real black powder and light loads of smokeless powder (individually weighed charges!) These guns can be fun to shoot if you are careful and respect their limits.
     
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  3. rfwobbly

    rfwobbly Member

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    Sorry, I can't speak to the improvements in gun metallurgy, or tell you what proof marks you might look for to document certain chamber pressure levels. But the safest way to proceed is to stay at black powder chamber pressure levels.

    You might want to focus on reloading with VihtaVuori Tin Star or Hodgdon Trail Boss, because these modern, clean burning, non-corrosive powders mimic the lower chamber pressures of black powder without having the detrimental side effects.

    There are also many good on-line articles with technical details to help...
    https://curtrich.com/bpsubsdummies.html
    https://thebiggamehuntingblog.com/best-black-powder-black-powder-substitutes/

    Hope this helps.
     
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  4. Curator

    Curator Member

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    [QUOTE="You might want to focus on reloading with VihtaVuori Tin Star or Hodgdon Trail Boss, because these modern, clean burning, non-corrosive powders mimic the lower chamber pressures of black powder without having the detrimental side effects.[/QUOTE]

    rfwobbly: With respect, you should look up actual Trail Boss pressures. They are significantly higher than the same velocity loads using black powder. The advantage of Trail Boss is that its bulk helps prevent accidental double charges in large capacity cartridges "originally" loaded with black powder. It is a common misconception perpetuated in internet forums like this one that Trail Boss is a low pressure substitute for black powder when it is not. Trail Boss is not a good powder choice for antique firearms that were originally made for black powder.
     
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  5. mr.ridout

    mr.ridout Member

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    I have reloaded .44 Russian and .44-40 in the past always with black powder, or rather Pyrodex. I have the equipment to do that. I was hoping that I could use light smokeless factory loads for my newly acquired .32 long colt and 8mm French ordnance revolver. The Velo style .32 LC is nitro proofed on the barrel and cylinder, but I would prefer to use BP, because it would be safer for the gun, and hard to overload with powder. But the gun accepts .32 LC., not .32 S&W long. There is a shallow shoulder in the cylinder chambers at .75". A S&W .32 long has a .92" case and will not fit in the chamber all the way. But some of the info I have seen says the .32 Colt LC has .92 case also. Indeed some of the sellers at a gunshow today were selling .32 Colt LC that had a .92 case. Only one seller had .32 Colt LC ammo for sale that had a .75" case and fit, albeit a little loosely. But they reload them with 1.5 gr or Bullseye. I don't know if that is OK in a 100 year old revolver even if it is nitro proofed. Sorry, I am rambling, but I am trying to assimilate a lot of info and I'm not sure which info is even accurate.
     
  6. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

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    Develop light loads with Bullseye. Bullseye has to the oldest powder on the American market, dating back to the Laflin and Rand powder company, and before 1900.

    I own a Webley converted to 45 ACP and standard 45 ACP loads will stretch the top strap. So, I would say, based on my 45 ACP experience, use Bullseye. Try 3.0 grs with the 265 grain bullet.

    Reloading for .455 Webley

    455 Webley load data needed
     
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  7. Mohler

    Mohler Member

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    Mr ridout, is the mkvi cylinder shaved or original ?
     
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