Thursday, April 12, 2012

emergency reloading

I don’t know what is wrong with me, I’m having a several day brain fart.  I can’t think of a blessed thing to write about.  As per Vlad’s excellent suggestion, I’m just going with a reprint.  Just don’t expect it too often.

by James M Dakin
copyright 2001
From The Bison Newsletter ( sold in book form for the entire 120+ issues- see my web site ).  This was the precursor to the Bison Blog.

In any survivalist situation we can contemplate, there will be a disruption in the supply
chain. Natural disaster, civil war, nuclear war, dictatorship or economic collapse will all
bring the supply of goods to market to a halt. It is all well and good to stockpile a supply
of ammunition and food and supplies, but plans must be made for when those supplies run out. Those works of fiction that devastate 99% of the population leaving all the supplies
to the survivors make for a lazy way to write but hardly mirror reality.

The worst recorded disaster in history is probably the Black Plague of the Middle Ages,
and that only wiped out one quarter to one half of the population. Imagine if our country
lost one half its population. There would still be 130 million people fighting for the
remainder of supplies. Even in a nuclear war with 90% of the population gone we would
still have tens of millions of people to contend with. There is no such scenario where you
are left with a pick of supplies. The worst offender after Steven Kings book “The Stand”
would be the “Survivalist” pulp series where our hero literally finds his guns and ammo
just lying around ready to be picked up. For “realism” he has a nasty sort pop up from
time to time to fight for the booty, but he is quickly foiled in his armature try.

If you would like a lesson in combat for scarce goods, just try buying something that has
been drastically reduced in price. Items that are competitive in price day to day, not those
that are priced high to begin with so they can have their prices slashed and the store still
makes 25% profit. I’m talking about things like a $100 computer scanner that is suddenly
marked down to $39 ( below cost it is assumed ). The sales ads come out in the paper at
8 am and when the store opens the first three people in line buy the whole supply. These
things are sold almost before they are advertised. Now think of a pawn shop or a sporting
goods store about five minutes after disaster strikes.

When a disaster threatens there is widespread buying. I can think of very few instances
where there is no warning of things to come. Even a nuclear war is sure to have mounting
tensions prior to hostilities. Even if bombs suddenly start falling without warning, any
area not directly under an explosion will have many people running about stealing supplies
as quick as possible before the fallout arrives. Afterwards there should be about zero
pickings for the survivors. Our market system is highly efficient, even with the heavy
burden of government trying to strangle it. There is a constant resupply of goods to
replace purchases, but few stockpiles. Most business owners regard a large inventory as a
sign of failure to plan and to graph past purchasing patterns. Your size in pants might be
delivered every week, but the store actually only has two pairs in stock at any time.
Please do not for a second assume that there will be supplies that you can find and use.
You will need to rely on three sources of supply. One is your own stockpiles. Two is
buying or stealing another’s supplies. Three is building your own from raw or semiprocessed
materials. Stockpiling your supplies is straightforward and quite simple. This is
what most survivalist books teach. Stock up on such and such and you will live happily
ever after. To a certain extent they are correct. Our modern capitalist society ( again,
even after massive government interference ) is so efficient that we produce an ungodly
amount of goods and even the low wage earners have enough left over from living
expenses to have plenty of hobbies and leisure activities. With all this extra capitol it is
easy to stockpile goods for future calamities. It is a shame that so many people squander
their excess on eating out, going to entertainment and going on vacations rather than
putting aside a small amount of cash to prepare for a rainy day. However, as you are
reading this you clearly see a need to do so and thus you already see how easy it is to
prepare. For the price of three ounces of gold, about $1,000 in turn of the century
greenbacks, you can store enough wheat to feed ten people for a year plus arm five of
them with WWII Mausers and ammunition. Or, for one ounce you can have enough food
for yourself for four years, a rifle and ammunition.

Assuming that you only make minimum wage you should bring home at least $600 a
month full time. If you live in a small trailer in a park, after utilities you still only spend
about $250 for rent, food is $100 eating meat every night, and even if you smoke you can
roll your own for $10 a week at one pack a day. Transportation is a second hand bicycle.
That means your monthly living expenses are only $400, leaving $200 a month for
preparations. After only six months you could have enough basics stored up to feed and
arm five people. Or, just yourself at five years food with several back up weapons and a
whole bunch of ammo along with some back up lighting and cold weather gear. Even the
most economically challenged worker bee can prepare him/herself for any coming

Next up we have trade and or theft as methods of goods procurement. Speaking as one
who has been screwed over continually financially speaking, I find it necessary to preach
on the advisability of not taking what is not yours. Don’t get me wrong, my parents did a
fine job of raising me to be hard working and honest. However, being on the receiving
end does sharpen ones displeasure at being robbed. Don’t steal from others what doesn’t
belong to you. I’m not talking about a pen from work here, I’m talking about stealing
from others the means by which they live. If you owe someone $100 that is the same as
asking them to starve for a month with no groceries. If you take 25% of someone’s
income it is the same as denying them one quarter of their time. If you work forty hours a
week, a twenty five percent tax is the same as taking away ten hours of their life. Over the
course of working forty years that amounts to robbing them of a full two and a half years
of life. You could be shot almost three years before you died a natural death and the
effect would be the same. Or, to put it another way, at 25% taxes, you could take one of
your days off each week and be a slave for someone else for almost half that day. This is
what institutionalized theft ( government ) accomplishes.

Having said that, however, there are instances where it is okay to steal. Yes, there are
plenty of grey areas in life. If the owner of a store is killed by another, you could shoot
the murderer and take what he had on him, plus the owners goods. As long as you didn’t
stand by and let it happen and as long as this was a end of society type scenario. The
owner is dead, what does he care? Or if you shot another in self defense you could take
what was his. If you happened on to an abandoned home, why not take what was
available? There is no one to harm by your actions. Now, say that you killed a bandit.
His wife and child were innocent but were with him when he tried to kill you. Should you
take all that was his and starve the wife and child? I would say you inherited them as
dependants along with the bandits goods, but failing that it would be doing the right thing
to allow them to leave with all their processions. It would be a cruel thing to send a
starving child out to die. But, then, there will be plenty of those around and you can’t
take them all in. Plus, you actually deprived them of their “bread-winner” by killing the
bandit, so they might starve after their meager supplies run out anyway. Just try to do the
right thing as long as it doesn’t harm others who depend on you. It is a dilemma that has
no easy answers.

What other situations legitimize theft? Perhaps you and a small group were starting to
rebuild, replant, etc. If a criminal was caught or a prisoner of war was captured, would
you not be in your right to make use of their free labor? Of course you would. As long as
the war was defensive and the crime was not victimless. If you started a war for free
slaves, that would be wrong. If you outlawed certain crimes that hurt no one, such as
drug use and prostitution, then using involuntary servitude would be wrong as a

Last up we have building your own supplies from raw or semi-processed materials.
Farming for new food is an obvious answer, as is using broken down cars for material for
blacksmithing. Other ways would be to process raw materials to manufacture chemicals,
primitive mining, turning crop waste to chicken/fish feed or fuel alcohol. Anything you
can think to stockpile you should try to think of a way to also manufacture. Some will be
easy such as grain crops and domestic animals to replace food stores. Leather to replace
clothing as well as shoes. Candles or wood alcohol lamps to replace light bulbs. Primitive
Bell jar batteries to replace your deep cycle batteries. Solar heating of water when your
propane runs out. Some items will be next to impossible to make on your own, such as
plastics, computer parts, or reloading components for your ammunition.
And that is what this pamphlet is all about. How does one keep reloading when the
supplies have run out? When all your primers and powder and jacketed bullets are gone,
what are you going to do? You can always go back to black powder arms with flints,
which would be the same as traveling back to the 1830's and trying to conduct a military
campaign with what was at hand. Remember, the introduction of the percussion cap
revolutionized war in as far as combat could now be conducted year round in any weather.

Before, flints were rendered less effective by foul weather. And of course the advantages
of smokeless powder over black powder are obvious. By eliminating smoke you hide the
shooter, and by improving the chemistry of the powder you increase the effective range of
the weapons while at the same time making it easier to use. This makes for even greater
numbers of marginally trained troops to be able to fight. Then the obvious advantage of
cartridges over loose components. The introduction of the industrial age made for great
advances in rifles and firearms, and it would be a shame to regress to a condition equal to
those arms before that event.

Remember that the modern bolt action rifle and machine gun were both introduced one
hundred years ago. As long as you have access to persons with a certain knowledge of
machine shops, chemistry and engineering you should be able to produce on a more
primitive and more labor intense but still modern level a post collapse arms industry. Here
we concentrate on the individual and his need to reload after his supplies run out, but keep
in mind that it is critical that you develop that arms industry as soon as possible. Without
it you will be back to fighting with flintlocks and black powder.


I give this warning not only to avoid the unwelcome company of lawyers, but also because
this is sound advice I myself plan on following. I have not tried out these procedures, nor
do I plan to unless the only alternative is to die from lack of self protection. Reloading
can be dangerous as it is with professionally manufactured modern components. You try
using jerry-rigged supplies and you could kill yourself, or worse maim yourself and then I
might have to look at your ugly crippled face. Please take this warning seriously.

Don’t think you are going to be able to manufacture your own cases. These puppies are
exact in dimension and any deviation could result in a case that sticks in the chamber or
propels a bullet on an erratic course, or blows up. You are going to have to reuse your
cases time and again. This is not to say that it is impossible to manufacture cases, just not
on an individual bases with minimal skills. One item to think seriously on is what type of
rifle you wish to get and how it relates to reloading. A semi-auto that spits out a case at
high velocity will loose that case and also ding it up. Also, perhaps that guns rounds are
only cheap when steel cases are used, as seems to be the case with the SKS/AK round, the
7.62X39. Try reloading that, even without a Berdan primer. Because I feel that my
survival plans should center on a civilization collapse and not just a dictatorship threat, I
tend to think more along the lines of ammo scarcity instead of what is the best combat
gun. That is why I only use war surplus bolt actions.

Bolt actions are a great way of saving ammo, while the best way to waste rounds is to
have a semi-auto. I don’t care if the bastard has a ten round clip or a thirty, you will still
pray and spray. With a bolt action you will use about 10% of the ammo or less and the
action of recycling a round will not throw the case into the bush ten yards away. With a
bolt, you can collect the brass at your feet. And, no, you don’t want to use a brass
catcher. It is difficult to skulk about in the woods with all that noise. Your only choice
should be war surplus, as they will handle heat build up much better and be much sturdier
than commercial hunting models. The exception of course is if you are already proficient
in another long arm. Then, stick with that one no matter what. Skill is twenty times as
useful as equipment.

Also, if you choose to go with a portable Lee loader ( paperback book size, all equipment
included, $20 reloader ) they will only neck size a case, and so are perfect with bolt
actions. The reason most shy away from these is that because of the neck sizing only
feature, you can’t use them in autoloaders and pumps. It is claimed that this is a more
accurate round when reloaded with this tool.
If you invest in a stationary loading press, and have a variety of dies for it, you could use
this as a means of post collapse commerce, as not many shooters reload. Also with this
you will be able to de-prime live primers to use, but more on that in its own section. If
you do go with the other more conventional press, then you will have plenty of practice
with case sizing and trimming and other such details you will need to learn unless you go
with a bolt action and a Lee Loader. This is my choice, since it limits my learning curve
and my cash outlay, but it also limits what I can do about reloading in the future. One day
I will go the full route and then feel comfortable writing in detail about it.

With cases, it is quite simple. Until you get some bright boy that gets your post-collapse
arms industry off the ground, you will need to save all your brass and coon and cuddle
them so as you may use and reuse them over and over again. With a Mauser action your
brass will not be much abused and I see no reason why they couldn’t be used over and
over again as long as there were no slits in the metal. With an Enfield action, your brass
will take much more of a beating, and I believe that by carefully husbanding them you
might get one half to a dozen uses from them. The difference between the two is that
Enfields can take a lot of dirt and grit in their actions and still function wonderfully, where
Mausers are temperamental about dirt. The exact same characteristics of the AK47 and
M16. My choice is lower case life verses combat situations were my weapon jams. Most
others choose to have their brass last a lot longer. Truthfully, neither choice is the right or
wrong one.

There might be several rounds that the case can be resized to turn it into another caliber.
This is a subject matter I’ve not followed in years and can’t recall a whole lot, but I’m sure
it was mostly for wildcats, and not applicable to standard military arms. The best way to
ensure a case supply is to make sure you save all you use, treat them well, and not wasting
ammo with careless shooting practices such as warning shots, shooting at noises instead of
people or spay and pray. Treat each round as if it were your last and your case supply
should last a long time.
One more word on round conservation. If you are truly worried about a future were
ammunition could run out and leave you unarmed, were civilization totally ceases to exist,
were what you stockpile is going to be pretty much all you have until you die, consider the
following. H&R Handi rifle is a $200 rifle ( or less if you get a dealer instead of a retailer
) that is a break-open single shot in .223 caliber. Put a good scope on this thing and for
about $500 you have a 1/4 or with lesser ammo ½ inch 100 yard groups. You will
undoubtedly NOT waste ammunition with this rifle, it serves nicely as a medium range
sniper rifle, it is not overly expensive and best of all it uses the M16 ammo. I had their
$90 shotgun and would not hesitate to buy this rifle. In fact, I have considered this a time
or two, but as is my way I will procrastinate on it long and hard.

Bullets will more than likely prove to be your least problematic component. With a bullet
mold you can use salvaged metal, pulled bullets from other rounds, even improvised
material. If you can build a camp fire, you can cast bullets. Source for lead can be ingots,
wheel weights, or salvaged shooting range lead. If you have no excess stock on hand, you
can pull the bullets off other rounds ( they have a tool for this ). The best would be .22
since they are lead without a jacket. Even so, if you must, use whatever bullet you can
scavenge. If nothing else you can use the lead inside the jacket. Just beware of the
following: Shiny wheel weights contain zinc, avoid these. When melting lead, provide
ventilation. Inhale lead fumes and it can screw you up. Do not attempt to salvage lead
from batteries. They are too toxic and not the lead you need. A single Lee mold is $20
but try to get a double mold, to cut the work in half. Other than that, I can’t think of any
problems with casting bullets. Easy as pie.

Primers are the most technologically advanced component in reloading. Smokeless
powder was introduced before the turn of the century but it took thirty more years before
a primer was introduced that was not damaging to a guns metal. It was not until around
the middle of the twentieth century that we got today’s benign primer. These things were
tricky to perfect, but remember that a primitive primer was introduced in the 1840s using
mercury fulminate. I’m sure any high school chemistry student will be able to produce a
primer with this material. The downside is that your brass will become brittle with this
method. Potassium chlorate is better and the only side effect is corrosion of the gun if not
cleaned soon after cleaning. This is dealt with by black powder shooters and those using
old military surplus ammo using corrosive primers. Use soap and water or ammonia, as
outlined in Surplus Arms and Ammo, the gist of it is to swab with a wet but not dripping
patch with store bought ammonia at half strength. Then clean as usual. This negates the
corrosive effects.

You can reload a primer by peeling back the sides of the cup and putting primer material
back in. Please forget about using the white part of strike anywhere matches, as was
previously recommended. They are getting near impossible to find because of government
restrictions on shipping, and some feel that they are even reduced in strength. Of course,
this might be the ravings of conspiracy nuts, but it might be true given the fears of
litigation today. You can use the material from toy gun caps at about 1/4 the cost of store
bought primers, but I would only use as a last resort. Of course you will want to stock up
on primers at only $25 per thousand. I imagine even those seriously screwed financially
can get a few boxes. None-the-less, this is about making do without.

You can pry apart other size primers and take out the primer material using a little rubbing
alcohol, then while wet place in the proper size primer, and allow to dry. With the toy gun
caps use the same method, but be sure to test before using a whole packet. Some brands
are very weak. Keep in mind with salvaged primers that you have several sizes, none
interchangeable. Small pistol, large pistol, small rifle, large rifle, shotgun. Usually if you
are reloading military rifle ammo you will only run across large rifle and thus are saved the
trouble of dissecting and operating on primers to get the material. To get a live primer
from another round, do the following:
After pulling the bullet and draining the powder ( we will discuss if powder is useable later
) you can take the case and extract the primer with a tool made for this chore. A
Universal Depriming Die. This assumes you have a press and not a Lee Loader. Just for
this feature alone however, it should be worth your while to get at least a beginner loader,
around the $30-$50 range. Of course wear leather gloves and eye protection, as well as
get as much distance as possible but really it is quite simple to extract a live primer. Use
slow steady pressure. The chance of detonation occurs when you strike the primer
suddenly with force. If you slam the punch down hard then it’s possible to explode the
primer, but with easy steady pressure this will happen rarely. So, if you have a 303 you
can take “captured” 223 rounds, extract the primers and have bullet material and a primer
( although a 223 uses a small rifle primer so you would need to change over the
compound to the other primer cup ), with perhaps even the powder. The only thing you
will need to provide is your own brass.

Keep in mind that although I mention the 223 I would not recommend that you equip
yourself with an AR15 just so you can steal soldiers ammunition. The M16 weapons
system is in my opinion a piece of crap. Although it shoots quite accurate, it is light to
carry, has almost no recoil and has a million after market accessories, plus can have
supplies refurnished from military and police stocks, the fact of the matter is that in
combat conditions a gun that can easily be rendered inoperable by normal dirt and
excessive use is not what you want to risk your life on. An AK47 may have a problem of
inaccuracy, but you can literally pour dirt into the innards and it will still work. More
importantly for our discussion here is that theft is only one of your options, not the sole
one. Theft, improvised material, and stockpiling all play a role, as does conservation of
ammunition so you need fewer reloading supplies in the first place. Assuming you can
steal all your needed ammo is dangerous.

So, for primers you haven several options. Your own stockpile. Purchasing or stealing
more. Depriming from other rounds. Rearming with toy gun cap chemicals. Rearming
with older less technically advanced chemicals. Taken together these should see you
through an ammo drought until you can establish your own arms industry, as long as you
conserve your ammo. I imagine that it would not be an insurmountable problem to have a
modest cottage industry turn out steel cased ammo using primitive primers ( mercury
fulminate ) and smokeless powder. If worse came to worse, use black powder. This
posses a significant tactical drawback, but is better than resorting to swords and arrows.
Again, if you have a competent chemist, making a smokeless powder is possible, if
dangerous. The first of its type was guncotton, or nitrocellulose. I mention the primitive
forms of primers and smokeless powder not to imply they are your best option, but to
point out that if someone without an advanced education could manufacture these in the
early to mid 1800s, I’m sure you can find someone with enough education in the field to
duplicate the results.



Again, this warning. This is serious stuff, people. The section on powder is were you are
going to run into the most problems. Explode a primer reloading and at most get a minor
injury. Screw up on powder and your gun explodes and takes you with it. Powder jerry
rigging is dangerous, pure and simple. Use common sense and take every precaution.
This is only to be used in an emergency.
To get a round of one caliber and use its powder in another is generally safe if you follow
the three guidelines:
1) if cases are generally the same size
2) if the “new” bullet you are firing is the same weight or LIGHTER
3) if you go from a smaller bore to a larger bore
So, you could use the powder interchangeably in 30-40
Krag/303/7.62x54R/308/8mm/7.65x54/ 30-06/ 223. A 223 bore is smaller than a 303,
which is good, but a 22 has a much smaller bullet so you could not use the powder from a
22 in a 303.

Another guideline is fast/slow powder burn. A 50 BMG has slow powder and could be
used in just about anything simply because you couldn’t stuff enough powder into another
case to be dangerous. However, powder from a 223 is fast burning and if you filled that
50 cal case with it it would blow up on you. Based on this, I would avoid using pistol
ammo powder in rifles since the case size is different, and avoid shotgun powder since you
are going to a smaller bore. Avoid putting 9mm in a 45 since the bullet weight is greater
in the 45. Just remember the three guidelines and you should be okay. But remember, the
general consensus is that substituting powders is a stupid thing to do. You will only want
to do this if it is your only option.
Another idea is to use black powder although I would be uncertain which is the better
idea. Using a substitute smokeless power might blow you up, using black powder will get
you spotted and killed by the enemy. If you do use black powder which should be simpler
to make than guncotton, keep in mind that it will corrode your firearm if you don’t clean it
a few hours after use. You can use black powder in a smokeless powder gun, but not vise
Use another rounds powder, make your own primitive powder, or use black powder.
These are your options to reload after civilization crumples. As is the rest of life, all
choices involve sacrifice to some degree. I would say it’s not fair, but fair is where you go
to sell your pig.


  1. M'Kay! I'm out of here on vacation. Usually I can get on the web at the folks house ( they refuse to live primitive and are On Grid ) so I'll try to stay current on the comments each morning. Peace, and pray nothing goes wrong until I come back.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. I like the write up. It is tempting me to buy the full set...

    Safe travels

  4. re Lee Loader
    You may reload ammo with Lee Loader for all rifles -- bolt, lever, pump or autoloader. The cartridge case is fireformed to the chamber of the rifle in which it is fired. Keep cases fired in rifle A with rifle A, cases fired in rifle B with rifle B etc. Cases fired in other rifles usually do not fit your rifle chamber unless resized full length.
    I welcome civil comments and questions.