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DIY Historic Ammunition

home reloaded springfield 1873 rifleAlex and I make all sorts of things ourselves: confit, counter tops, hard cider, chicken coops...stuff most people prefer to buy.  We like getting a little messy and learning exactly how things are created. Even given our penchant for handmade goods, we freely admit that Alex's birthday gift of homemade ammunition for his father this year is bit of do-it-yourself over-achievement.

The Back Story

Tom, Alex's dad, has a Springfield Model 1873 rifle, more commonly known as the Trapdoor Springfield.  He was gifted the firearm, made around 1880, from Alex's mother's mother twenty years ago.

It is likely that the rifle hasn't been shot in about a hundred years, knowing the family history.  Neither Tom nor Alex have fired the gun, and can't but for the birthday present.

You see, modern commercial ammunition is loaded to higher pressure levels than the black-powder era Springfield.  Firing with modern ammunition could be unsafe and would likely cause heavy wear on the rifle. Ammunition can't be easily purchased, so the gun cannot be shot.

Until now.

home cast lead bullet brass casing for home reloading loading smokeless powder Click pictures for biggerness.

Making Ammunition

Starting in November, Alex melted several blocks of 'clean' lead radiation shielding from a Brownfield cleanup project he and his father worked on.  He poured the lead into a historically accurate profile in a modern mold and allowed the bullets to cool.

Next he loaded casings with smokeless powder and crimped the casings to the bullets. He tumbled the cartridges to clean off residual grease. Then, Lil and I wrapped what is certainly the most weight-per-volume gift in our family history.

Now Tom has twenty opportunities to shoot with this historic rifle. Alex invited his dad to an afternoon at an outdoor range once the weather turns warm again so they both have a chance to see how the old gun performs.  More than a useful present, this gift was a labor of love.

Happy Birthday Tom!

Recipe for Black Powder Equivalent 45-70 Load

for any reloaders who found this post through a search engine, as typical Hounds in the Kitchen readers are unlikely to cook up ammunition any time soon

405 grain cast lead bullets

33.5 grains Alliant Reloder 7 powder

Winchester large rifle primers

New Starline brass cases

1. The cases can be sized using any commercially available reloading dies.  In this case, Hornady 45-70 New Dimension Reloading Dieswere used in a Lee Cast Iron 4 Hole Turret Press.

2. After sizing and priming, add the powder charge.  Reloder 7 is a fast-burning powder for use in small varmint calibers, but also in the larger, older 45-70.

3. Seat the bullet and crimp the case.  Overall length of the cartridge is 2.65 inches.

Maybe someday I'll write about my journey from a gun fearing pacifist to a person whose spouse produces ammunition. Would any of you care to read about my views on weapons?