Hi! Thank you all for creating such a great community and hobby. I am only getting started but I have already gained a lot from what many of you have written.
Somehow, last Fall, I got interested in guns. I found and read the Cast Bullet Handbook and found it fascinating. I very much liked the idea of making cheap ammunition, so decided to make some 358-sized pistol bullets. I made about a thousand bullets--Lyman 358477, 358156 and 358429, which all came out close to 359, and very much enjoyed that. Then I had to learn how to make the cartridges. I got reloading equipment and primers, used brass, and a big jug of Bullseye and started making cartridges. I must have read the reloading manuals from Speer, Lyman, and Lee almost cover-to-cover now and have tried out many thing on paper and spreadsheets that I haven't had a chance to do in practice yet.
In order to have something to shoot the bullets with before I made too many mistakes, I found a used Smith & Wesson Model 10 revolver for a low price on-line. This particular gun was used by the French police since some time in the late 1960s. It arrived in good working order. I disassembled the gun completely--which was a project and learning experience in itself--and noticed that it has been continuously maintained, with a number of parts replaced. I cleaned it well and polished a few of the bearing surfaces, but was basically satisfied that the gun was good. The upgrade I will make eventually is to install an oversize cylinder stop to correct a very small side-to-side wobble there. I slugged the barrel and one of the cylinder chambers, and based on what I had learned at the time it seemed that 359 would be the right size for the bullets, so I had been lucky. At this point I acquired a used Star Lube-Sizer to speed up the process of making cartridges.
I loaded up a bunch of different charges at different load levels, going as high as 3.1 grains of Bullseye for the 358429. I assumed that the 3.0 grain load was going to work across the board and made most of the cartridges at that load level. I left the gas checks off the 358156 bullets at first, tried forming gas checks for, and eventually put my work toward other bullet shapes. I tried the shake method of powder coating and got it to work well enough to try out, sizing the bullets after double-coating for the first experimental loads.
Eventually I shot the gun, and it was great fun, which is also lucky, since I have rarely shot a gun since I was kid. A major complication in finding a place to shoot was that none of the nearby ranges would both allow reloads and allow me to recover my lead bullets. The shooting club that might have worked out requires NRA membership, and I even though I admire the NRA of the past I don't want to join today's NRA. Fortunately there is a wilderness area not too far away where shooting is allowed, and an old rock quarry there where people gather to shoot. Most of my bullets worked, even though I made some that would not fire because the primers were set too deep, and I had to fix that in my reloading process. I started out shooting with a chronograph so I'd know my loads were doing what they were supposed to do and no more. With limited hobby time, I've only shot the first 1000 rounds so-far, really just learning to shoot, and have been figuring out what to do make the gun do next.
Meanwhile I put together some AR-15 rifles--a 16 inch barrel with pistol length gas system chambered in 300 Blackout, and a 16 inch barrel chambered in 223 Wylde. I also assembled a pistol lower from parts and will build an 8.5" upper in 300 Blackout in a week or two when the parts arrive. I've been totally enamored of the 357 magnum during my research, and I realized that the 300 Blackout is very much like a 357 but a little bit more energetic with better ballistics and sectional density. I've been casting the Lee TL309-230-5R for 300 Blackout and formed some cases for it, but have not shot 300 Blackout yet. I did make and shoot six hundred rounds or so of 223 ammunition using commercial 55gr TMJ bullets and a moderate charge of 20gr Shooter's World Tactical Rifle / Lovex D73-01. I had to get a little more sophisticated about processing and sizing my used brass to make my 223 rounds chamber reliably, but the gun and ammunition work reliably now.
The thing I've gotten into recently is using software tools to work out experimental loads, and I've been learning new things from that.
The projects I'm interested in next are:
* Construct a durable bullet trap to save all my low-velocity lead without breaking the bullets. Catching 3000fps bullets is too difficult for me right now, but for pistol speeds, progressively heavier hanging plates of spring-tempered steel with the lightest starting around the bullet weight seems to work on paper..
* Quiet loads in 38 special (4" barrel revolver), 170 grain bullets, target velocity 620 fps, target muzzle pressure 497 psi, 165dBA at the muzzle. I have a plan, using tiny compressed loads of Bullseye powder, bullet seated at the bottom of the case, with cardboard wads to protect the bullet base directly on top. I have an SPL/dBA meter and the chronograph, which I should be able to use to calibrate the simulation fit versus case volume. I can work up loads by seating the bullet progressively deeper and decreasing the charge weight for each step on the ladder. That is necessary to avoid stuck bullets and safely approach the combination of charge and load that will meet the target without exceeding .38 SPL +P pressures. If it works with Bullseye then I will start again with Clays, which is the quietest load I can simulate, at around 158dBA or so at the muzzle. The whole process has to be done for a particular jug of powder because the safe ranges are so narrow, and the load may turn out to be too temperature sensitive to make safe and general purpose bullets with, or the loaded ammunition may age in a way that causes it to become dangerous over time. There are reasonably safe ways to find out the answers, though, and I'm going to try. I do think that consistent velocities will not happen unless the bullet seating pressure can be controlled during loading, possibly with a spring behind the stem of the seating die. On the plus side, cases might not need to be sized at all: just deprime, install the new primer in a dirty case, drop in the powder, wad and bullet and seat and crimp in one operation. I think this idea is not new and that someone reported something similar to this in a forum that I read early on, though I did not understand it at the time.
* Make the 300 Blackout guns work, first with subsonic and heavy lead bullets, and then with lighter lead bullets. I have a design process for selecting loads that will cycle at a particular velocity, but I need to calibrate it for my particular gun by experimentally determining the gas port pressure for one load below which the bolt won't lock back on an empty magazine. This can be done with the chronograph and software. After that it should be possible to find the minimum load for any powder and bullet that will cycle the gun. Subsonic ammunition with the 8.5" barrel without a suppressor appears to be possible, and testing is only needed to find the fastest (and quietest) powder that will do it for that gun. The 16" barrel with pistol length gas system may cycle with subsonic ammunition, but the highest available gas port pressure with any powder is about half of the MILSPEC pressure for 16" carbine-length gas system. So there is a little physics exercise needed to figure out what may be possible.
* Make the 223 work with lead bullets, preferably without gas checks.
* Possibly if the work with the 38 and quiet loads goes well, then the success could be improved with a different gun. In simulation I can create 600 fps loads for a 24" barrel, 327 Federal case, and 130 grain bullet that are below 100 psi muzzle pressure, which is 151dBA at the muzzle. That would also be a fun gun to use with a suppressor because it starts to get into the range of normal sounds. The entire powder burn would happen in the case, so the barrel would last forever.
Thank you all again for creating and participating in this group. I pretty well knew I would like this hobby, but I'm finding it deeper and more interesting than I expected. I hope we'll have some fun in the near future and hopefully create some new things together.