Saturday, November 24, 2007

Pulling down surplus for the components.... it's easy!

The Turkish Mauser I enjoy shooting in the military rifle competitions has a taste for Sierra match bullets. My wallet does not enjoy the same flavor. The 200 grain Sierra match bullets sell for just under $30 a box, and are not always available.

Clearly, at thirty to forty cents a round, practice is an issue. I’m willing to spend a little to stay competitive during the match, but without chopping that cost practice would be curtailed.

The largest cost in reloading any cartridge is the projectile, and here we are fortunate. The dedicated hand loader has an option to buying commercial bullets. Surplus military ammunition can sometimes be bought at reasonable case lot prices and then broken down for components.

In my case, I have a fair amount of Yugoslavian 8x57mm ammunition made in the 1950’s. While it’s decent in it’s own right, it is corrosive and not quite as accurate as I’d like. Costing about ten cents a round, this ammo is a prime candidate for tear down.

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My choice of tooling for this chore is the RCBS collet type bullet puller. Looking something like a loading die, it can accept various precision collets matched to projectile diameter.

Getting the correct size collet is important. While a .308” collet might work to pull .323” bullets, it will take more time and probably leave marks on the bullet. With the proper collet the works goes smoothly, reasonable quickly, and leaves the bullets virtually unmarked.

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The bullet puller is mounted into the press like any sizing die would be, except depth is not critical. It’s helpful to have the bottom of the tool well under the shell holder plate as this allows better visibility of the operation.

With the loaded subject in a shell holder on the press ram, it’s advanced into the bullet puller collet from underneath until the case mouth gently bumps the collet. The threaded rod going through the tool is then tightened enough to tightly grip the bullet. ‘How tight’ is a matter of judgment, and depends partly on whether the bullet is glued, or ‘sealed’, into the case. If it is a sealed military round, the extra step of ‘bumping’ the bullet into the case a few thousandths with a seating die can help break the seal.

Once the collet is firmly gripping the projectile, a sharp push to the press handle will usually pull the bullet easily.

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Of great importance is organization. Lay out the various items needed in a logical order. Containers for the pulled bullets, powder, and cases must be easily at hand. Also of great importance is labeling these containers. I recommend labeling the powder container, bullet box, etc before even beginning the operation. The label should have enough detail to make it clear exactly what is inside.

Once a rhythm is established it takes a very short time to make components out of loaded ammunition. The boxed ammunition pictured above was converted into it’s components in no more than ten minutes time.

Nothing will go to waste. There is load data on the Internet for surplus powder, and it can always be used at the original charge weight if it was noted. Many hand loaders like to reduce the charge by 10% or so simply for shooting comfort.

The cases can, and will, be reloaded again with other bullets and powder. In this case, they are destined to be cast bullet plinking loads.

The bullets…. there is the gold. In this case they were pulled with almost no marks at all. Just some light scratching where they were originally pressed into the case.

I’ll be running these through a vibratory polisher with white rice and dab of car polish. This will leave the bullets shinier than new.

Most surplus ammunition can be broken down for components, and the job is not difficult with the right tools. Sometimes wonderful deals can be had on old surplus ammunition of questionable viability, but which has valuable components worth more than the whole.

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The final product, after a few hours in the polisher:

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matt said...

I have pulled apart 8mm surplus rounds before and your right it is a great source of cheap components. I have never seen the RCBS bullet puller though. It looks like a pretty slick unit I've always used a hammer puller. I have found some squib rounds in the yugo surplus. These were pulled bullets with 4064 replacing the old powder. I'm guessing these were bad primers they had just enough bang to put a bullet into the bore a few inches. I have never thought of throwing the pulled bullets into the polisher but they sure do look new coming out. I've tried this with 7.62x54R surplus but the factory crimp deforms the bullets too much

The Hermit said...

There used to be an outfit called Paragon that sold surplus. The guy that ran it was a real crook, and some of the stuff he palmed off was in really bad shape. I had to pull the bullets from some of that and use them in reloads. He went broke years ago, though, as well he deserved to.

Liquid said...

Now that last photo, makes me blush.


Carteach0 said...

Makes you blush?
I'm almost afraid to ask why...
Almost, but not quite.

treefroggy said...

Isn't the Yugo stuff Berdan primed ?
How do you safely de-prime ?

Carteach said...

Yes, it is berdan. I typically use the primed brass for plinking loads, and then it goes into the metal bin.