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Thread: Progressive press for blackpowder .45 COLT reloading

  1. #1
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    Progressive press for blackpowder .45 COLT reloading

    I modified one of my Dillon Square Deal B's recently. I replaced the plastic powder hopper with one I Jerry-rigged from aluminum, making it safer for black powder. Then I plugged up the seating die with a copper rivet, making a compression die. The resulting operation is still slower than cranking out a bunch of smokeless .45 Colt loads with a Dillon, but it is faster than doing every single operation one at a time. Using the modified progressive press, I can resize, deprime, reprime, and load powder automatically. After the case has received its charge of powder, I remove it from the press. I drop-tube its powder charge into a waiting primed case at the bottom of my drop tube and then switch those cases. I press a card wad into the mouth of the freshly drop-tube charged case and then return that case to the machine where the modified seating die compresses the powder charge to the appropriate depth. Seating and crimping are then accomplished on a single-stage press. Every time I crank the handle, I'm producing a case ready to seat and crimp a bullet into. I included a few pics. The first shows the level of 40 grains FFF Goex as dumped from the Dillon Powder thrower. The second shows how much it settles when drop-tubed. The third is after it is compressed under the wad.
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    "The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money." Alexis de Tocqueville

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    i follow what you are doing --and i love to tinker also, but can you please explain why you do not use station 3 and 4 on the dillion?
    Teachers can learn ua the rules;
    Experience teaches you the exceptions

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    My modification has changed station 3 from the bullet-seating station into a powder compression station. Dillon Square Deal B presses are odd birds. They are just for pistol-loading and use proprietary dies that are smaller than standard. In fact, each die is as small as it can possibly be and is sized for the specific job it does. As such, the die holes in the die plate also differ in diameter depending upon which die goes in that station. I'd like to make station 4 the bullet-seating station, but the hole in the die plate at that station is too large for a bullet seating die. So compressing the powder is the furthest stage I can get to with my Dillon Square Deal B. I have to seat and crimp the bullet elsewhere.
    "The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money." Alexis de Tocqueville

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    Very nice to see you shooting the old Colt the way God intended it to be shot. Got to love the Holy Black! Well done sir...

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    Very nice to see you shooting the old Colt the way God intended it to be shot. Got to love the Holy Black! Well done sir...
    [very best old guy voice] Dol gone kids an' their tin cat-rid-judges. Even wors' then them dag-gone new fangled caplocks they's so proud of!

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    I like doing things as historically accurate as possible, but it was inconsistencies in velocity using smokeless that pushed me into experimenting with Black powder cartridges. My smokeless loads in that cavernous .45 Colt case varied widely depending upon powder position within the case (muzzle up vs. muzzle down). I promise to publish full results after test-firing soon. Sure hope they shoot well, because I've loaded over 100 rounds so far.
    "The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money." Alexis de Tocqueville

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    Trail Boss powder is intended for low to medium velocity loads in high-volume "cowboy" cases. (So is black powder.)

    I use a Dillon 550 for loading BP-substitute .45 Colt ammunition. I replaced the automatic powder measure with the Dillon "AT" powder die, which is meant for either powder dippers hand-dumped in the case, or attaching non-Dillon measures. It has a set screw to hold the standard Dillon case mouth belling die in place.

    If you want a compression die in the process, the Dillon 650 has a five-station tool head. Use the AT die to replace the automatic measure.

    There are purpose-built BP measures that can be used with the AT die. (Might need a bit of work for some of them.)
    Burt Blade

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    Success!!!

    I just got back from testing my loads at the range, and I don't know where black powder metallic cartridges have been all my life! I tested two different lots that I'd loaded a few weeks apart--the first and the last. During the weeks I'd loaded, I had tweaked my loading process a little, finally ending up compressing the powder mechanically to just slightly above where the base of the bullet would end up. On my first batch,I didn't mechanically compress the powder as much and relied upon the bullet doing the last 16th of an inch of compression, which deformed the bullet nose considerably. The effect this had was probably in accomplishing less actual compression of the powder with the first lot, and in a less uniform load overall. Velocities of the two lots were impressive.

    To recap, I was shooting a 255 grn. 452190 over 40 grns. FFF Goex. Brass was mixed (also affecting uniformity), and primers were Federal standard large pistol. Velocities on the first lot averaged about 950 f.p.s. (highest was 998), while the last lot was around 1,000 f.p.s. with its highest at 1027 f.p.s. Both had extreme spreads of around 50 f.p.s. I attribute the higher velocity of the second lot to higher compression. Accuracy remained good through the 60 rounds I tested. Recoil was stout--not .44 magnum stout, but certainly higher than the smokeless loadings I've put through it. Whereas I usually consider .44 magnum recoil to be bordering on painful, this was just this shy of unpleasant. I guess I'd call it invigorating.

    Fouling was decent. I noticed around the 30 round mark that when loading and unloading, the cylinder began turning with a little more effort. After 60 rounds, it was binding a little more, but still cocked easily enough. I would probably want to clean after 50 rounds.

    Cleanup was everything I hoped it would be. Using 30% Ballistol "moose milk", it was a little messier than smokeless at first (lots of dripping). But the fouling cleaned up with much less effort than smokeless, and there was ZERO leading! I always got leading with smokeless .45 Colt loads. Had I wanted, I'm sure I could have used just soap and water followed by moose milk, but milk was all I brought to the range, and I decided to clean the revolver there.

    I also tested some .455 Webley loads. I have a Mark I Webley with a shaved cylinder. I'd been loading reduced velocity .45 ACP loads in mine (with poor velocity results), and began to notice that the internal capacity of a .45 ACP case was a bit larger than that of a .455 Mark II cartridge. In fact, its capacity looked to be much closer to the original .455 Mark I cartridge which was originally a blackpowder cartridge anyway. Sure enough, 18 grains of FFF Goex behind a 265 grn. hollow-base bullet fit perfectly. Velocity was between 630 and 650 f.p.s. which is also just about perfect for a .455 Webley. A great day at the range!
    "The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money." Alexis de Tocqueville

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    finally ending up compressing the powder mechanically to just slightly above where the base of the bullet would end up
    Hmmm, interesting. I can see turning down a half inch wood dowel to length then modifying a die with the dowel to fit in a press for the chore. An extra step but the uniform compression would mean better round per round performance.

  10. #10
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    Yes, I'm sure there are lots of ways to accomplish this, from ordering special compression dies to whittling a component from wood. I just did it cheaply and easily and only this way after I happened to notice that a flat-headed copper rivet I had would be a perfect press fit into the nose of a Dillon square-deal B bullet seating die, turning that die into a perfect powder compression die.

    Also, I forgot to add in my range report that my revolver got pretty hot. I'd read a blurb or two about black powder heating up firearms more, but I'd forgotten that until I was unloading the fifth cylinder full and noticed that it was uncomfortably hot.
    "The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money." Alexis de Tocqueville

  11. #11
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    Nice.

    My percussion revolvers are ready for cleaning after about 50 rounds, too. They don't reload fast enough to get very hot.

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    I loaded 50 rounds today using the Keith-style 452424 bullet, and I had to drop the powder charge a little. I've read many, many comments about how today's brass limits case capacity too much to fit 40 grains in the case. And I was wondering why I was able to fit 40 grains under a 255 grain 454190 bullet and still make the 1.60 OAL. But with that darned Keith bullet, if I crimped behind the forward driving band, OAL was too long for comfort--the bullet nose was almost flush with the front of the cylinder. If I tried to crimp in front of it, I was unable to fit 40 grains of powder underneath. In the end, I dropped the powder volume to 37.5 and crimped ahead of the forward driving band. I'm thinking that all the writers who say one can't fit 40 grains behind a 255 gn. bullet using modern cases must have been trying to do so with a Keith bullet.
    "The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money." Alexis de Tocqueville

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