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Handloading the 7.62 Nagant

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by Cosmoline, Oct 6, 2006.

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  1. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

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    Nagant1.jpg

    Well that was what I call an advanced handloading exercise! Oy. I was using Fiocchi once fired brass and the Lee hybrid die set that's primarily set for .32-20. The die set sells on Midway and is something of a work in progress. Here are the steps I went through to do it:

    1--Run spent Fiocchi shells through the deprimer/resizer die. Usually this is a really, really easy step. But the Lee die seems excessively narrow and reforms the brass about as much as any die I've ever seen I needed to use considerable amount of case lube on the shell and inside the die to keep it from getting stuck.

    1a--Get the right shellholder! The Lee shellholder that comes with the set will not fit Fiocchi 7.62 Nagant. Instead I scrounged up an RCBS No. 1, for the .308, which by a very odd circumstance fits the Nagant OK. Not perfect, but good enough if you use a hand press and take your time.

    2--Run through the neck expander, using ample amounts of lube and being real careful. It will look way too expanded.

    3--Reprime, again using the RCBS No. 1 shellholder and a hand primer. Make sure the primers go all the way in and are not just flush.

    4--Charge (I use 4 grains of Unique) and drop the bullet in. It should go quite far in with minimal or no pressure. I used .309" Hornady HP/XTP 90 grainers.

    5--Seat the bullet. Here's the beauty part, where I fell into a simple and effective solution to the problem. A Hornady bullet from an earlier abortive seating attempt had gotten stuck a little bit. No big deal, but then I got to thinking. What if I just leave it lie? So I did, and I'll be darned if that bullet didn't act as a perfect little extension and seat the actual bullets just right, a notch below the case mouth. Very, very little pressure is needed here, and if you use too much it's easy to destroy the case. I found that out the hard way.

    6--Run through the resizer again. You must first remove the decapper pin assembly, of course. This is the really weird step, unique to this die set AFAIK, and I got two cases in a row jammed in there and getting them out was a little hard on the nerves, since they're primed live rounds at that point. After that I thought about it for a moment and decided a full length resize is a waste of time and causes too many problems. So I just did a half length resize, to close up the mouth a bit and get it so it will work in the revolver. Again use care and do NOT attempt to ram it over the bullet or it will jam up. The goal is to shrink down the mouth and create a slight taper from the bullet to the forcing cone, so that the brass will slip inside and form that unique Nagant seal.

    There you have it. I'm trying them tomorrow. According to the data collected by others before me on the Nagant forum, they should run out at about 1,000 fps. It's a little shy of the old military Nagant loads, and if I see no pressure sign I'll probably take it up to 4.5 grains and 1,100 fps for the next batch.

    nagant2.jpg
     
  2. eastwood44mag

    eastwood44mag Member

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    LMK how that works. Even shooting Russian surplus, they're still more than half again what .45 acp runs me.
     
  3. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

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    Yeah, it's a darn pricey cartridge. The good news is Wolf is coming out with a full power load to old USSR specs.

    Part of the reason these old Nagants have a bad rep is because the ammo on the market now is only about half as powerful as the real stuff.
     
  4. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

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    The test loads worked good. Accuracy is exceptional. Whatever else the Nagant is, it's a very accurate firearm. I was able to nail bullseyes and get a 1" group at 15 yards in single action mode with no difficulty. With a better trigger it could do even better.

    The big problem comes in double action mode. Though I tried to crimp the top as much as possible, it still got hung up when trying to cycle in DA mode, and required jigling to fit. The Lee resizing die is tight, but in the wrong places. What's needed is a special cone-shaped final die to give it a neck that will more easily slide into the slot behind the forcing cone. I believe RCBS makes such a die, but it's extremely expensive and has to be custom made. I'm going to fish around and see if I can find something that will do the same thing but without the $$.

    I'm also upping to 5 grains Unique, as I experienced no overpressure signs or stuck cases at 4 grains. That should get these SP's running at a respectable 1,100 fps in line with a moderate loaded .32-20 or .32 H&R Mag out of a short gun. Combined with the exceptional accuracy of the piece, my load should make the old Nagant a formidible sidearm.
     
  5. ribbonstone

    ribbonstone Member

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    .256WCF fireball die works for me, adjusted to form the case mouth into a cone, the open end at about .28". Not the most common of dies, I just happened to have one on hand. Had an old .rusty .223 dies that I annealed, cut off, and used the upper section to form the same type of cone-crimp.


    In case you really get bored and have the use of a lathe (even a small hobby lathe):
    1. Size .223 as far as you can in a .30carbine die stripped of it's decapping assembly. Can't size the solid head, so will stop short of the case fully entering the die..come out looking like a little belted case.
    2. Lathe off the belt. This forms a rim.
    3. Cut off and trim to length.

    Not perfect...the rims are bit too thin...but it works fine and is certainly cheap.
     
  6. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

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    Interesting idea, thanks! I'll dig around and see what I can find.
     
  7. ribbonstone

    ribbonstone Member

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    If you want all the accuracy you can get, the full length cases are the most likely to supply it. The end of the cylinder is reamed to take a bullet wrapped in a brass case...the hole is about .337-.338". Using short cases sets the bullet free in a hole much too large for it...it crosses the over-size hole, leaking gas areound the edges, and hits the forcing cone a bit off center and a bit "cockeyed". Things like the 32-20 case shoot pretty well even with that handicap, but the longer cses shoot better.


    Have also noticed that it's the long case that actually bridges the space between the cylinder and forcing cone...the case actually enters the forcing cone a short distance (and the corcing cone is cut oddly to allow that). There is still a gap between the metal of the cylinder and the barrel breech...it's small, but it's there, the design of the cylinder directs this flash mostly downards rather than to the sides, but it's there.

    Can do a simple test (and it was done years ago by the American Rifleman staff). Chronograph loads in the full lngth Nagant case...then take some of the loaded ammo and file the case back until it no longer bridges the flash gap and re-chronograph. It isn't a whole bunch...somthing between 6 and 8%. Can keep cutting cases back until they are the lngth of 32-20's, and the exact same loads will now be 10-14% slower...that's mostly the gas leaking past the bullet as it moves through the cylinder mouth's .338" diameter.
     
  8. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

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    You're right on the money re. the long cases. I had been shooting .32 H&R out of the Nagant and while it was fairly accurate it spit crud in my face and had a different point of impact. The actual 7.62 Nagant cases with a good bullet work the best. Folks over on the Nagant board have been experimenting over the years and it seems as though the .309" or .308" jacket bullets and slightly wider .311" or .312" cast bullets work the best. But with the right combination accuracy can be stellar, I mean fantastic. It makes me want to grab one of the "target model" Nagants everyone jokes about. If they're more accurate than the combat models they could easily take trophies.

    In the mean time, re. my current problem with the case mouth, I got to thinking tonight and for a stopgap I've worked out a patent Cosmoline solution--which means it's probably going to break something important.

    I simply flipped the innards of the neck sizer upside down and inserted a loose-fitting screw and washer as a spacer, then screwed the top on. It only goes in a bit, but it's enough to hold the screw/upside-down neck resizer in place. I then gently--*very* gently ram the cartridge mouths into it with the hand press. This gives them a rounded mouth. It also shaves a bit of brass, so it ain't ideal. But it does seem to have solved my problem until I can get ahold of a proper die.

    Nagant4.jpg

    Here's what they look like now:

    Nagant3.jpg
     
  9. donkee

    donkee Member

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    If you're wondering why the shell holder didn't work for Nagant brass, it's that the LEE die set is made for reforming 32-20 brass. That includes the shell holder.......
     
  10. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

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    Yeah, I noticed all the dies except the resizer are marked ".32-20" :D But considering the price it's not too bad. It'll do until something better comes along. I'm eagerly awaiting the second generation of Graf 7.62 Nagant brass--which is supposedly going to fully seal the gap. The .32-20 solution is imperfect at best.

    In the mean time I'm actually pretty impressed with the Fiocchi brass. The target loads are useless, but the brass itself is quite thick and strong. It should be good for several reloads. With these pups I'm satisfied for the time being and will be using the Nagant as a general field pistol this winter--at least until the bruins come back in Spring.
     
  11. ribbonstone

    ribbonstone Member

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    Keep fiddling with the crimp, trying to get by with a bit less until you find the minimum. Those case necks get a lot of work and it doesn't prolong their working life.

    Also realize that if the cases are a little bit too long, are going to get hang-ups. Cylinder roatates, but also starts moving forward before the round is 100% lined up...if the case is just a tad too long, can drag on the forcing cone as it is rotated and moved forward.

    Don't know what the upper end as far as pressure is concerned would be...never had the urge to find out.
     
  12. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

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    I expect I'll get another reload or two before the mouths start to crack, there's no way to avoid it until I get better equipment. If I had a good die to produce a gentle cone crimp from the top of the bullet to the mouth, like the Russian brass, it would be a lot less hard on the mouth. At least now they will cycle fine in DA mode.

    My bet is it's a lot higher than folks think. Probably up around 35,000 psi before the revolver starts to fall apart. But max safe working pressure should be about 22,000 psi based on the stats of the original combat loads. That's about on par with .32 H&R Mag, but not as hot as 9x19 or 7.62 Tok. I wish someone would sacrifice a few Nagants to get an idea about what it takes before things get dangerous. They've got a heck of a lot of steel on them.
     
  13. Firehand

    Firehand Member

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    I've been trying the reform .223 cases idea. Until you work out the method it's a PITA, and if I could buy some full-length cases for the Nagant I wouldn't do this.

    Awright, awright, I would. At least to try it out...
     
  14. ribbonstone

    ribbonstone Member

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    Yeah...it is a pain...but back before the current wave of imports and the increase in Fiocchi availability, how else to get brass? Besides, ones you get it set up and and the bugs worked out, once you make 100 cases, are ready for a long time.
    ---
    Same deal: before the current glut of 7.62X25, would make them from .222's (.223's are thick at the neck and need a good bit of neck reaming....222's a whole lot less...and i'd guess that you might get away with no neck thickness problems with .221's). Broomhandle shooters were around a long time before the Toks and CZ's showed up in any numbers and we found ways of getting them to go "bang".
     
  15. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

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    Well that's what separates gun nuts from mere shooters. The difficulty is part of the fun. I had a G23 for a few months, but the thing worked so well and was so easy to find ammo for I quickly tired of it. This Nagant promises to keep my interest for months :D
     
  16. Firehand

    Firehand Member

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    Your interest and your language skills and your frustrations, too.

    Or is that last two just me?
     
  17. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

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    Hey, check out my sig. No less a literary force than V. Nabokov was taken by the "black stone of seven deaths" :D
     
  18. Firehand

    Firehand Member

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    Ref the crimp, I run them into the sizing die a short distance; that gives a gentle taper like the Russian target stuff.
     
  19. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

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    Which Lee sizing die? I've tried that on the one that comes with the 7.62 Nagant/.32-20 hybrid set, but that crimp isn't sufficient to prevent mouth jams in double action. I didn't caliper it out but on my dies it was a notch wider than the "CCCP" brass tapered crimp.
     
  20. Firehand

    Firehand Member

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    Should have stated, I use the .30 Carbine sizing die that I've been forming the .223 brass with
     
  21. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

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    Update: In my test loads, 5.0 grains of Unique was too hot and caused some sticking. I've backed it down to 4.0 grains. That should be about 1,000 fps with the 90 grainers.
     
  22. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

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    I'm reviving this project for my newly found Nagant. I'll try to chrono some test loads on the weekend.
     
  23. 71/84mauser

    71/84mauser Member

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    I have found an interesting solution to the seating problem with the Lee dies. I have found that the normal seating end can be tapped with an 8-32 bottoming tap. you can the use a 1/2 or 1/4 inch allen head screw to set your seating depth. This also will (with care) give a half decent crimp to the end. I also fond that with a dremel I could take enough off to allow the cassing of hotshot brass to work. I laoded with 4 grains of 231 I have not yet fired these nor chroned them but intend to this week.
     
  24. GaryL

    GaryL Member

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    Maybe, but it's old steel. Remember the Titanic? Old steel can be good, or soft, or brittle. Brittle steel can take more pressure just before it grenades. Back in those days, process control was Ivan thinking the batch being heat treated looked about right.

    BTW, thanks for posting this up. Has the die situation improved any? They are cheap enough revolvers, but the ammo is something else. Kind of reminds me of printers and ink cartridges.
     
  25. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

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    71/84, that's an excellent idea. I'm going to dig around for a suitable screw.

    Unfortunately not. There are some custom dies available on midway but they cost a large fortune. The brass situation is also bleak, though improving with some more boxer ammo. We still don't have the long-awaited Wolf Gold full power loads either. Possibly there are Serbian factory delays, I don't know.
     
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