Can’t Find Brass for Rare Cartridges? Make Some.
Russ Chastain 05.20.20
In this video, some of the Brownells guys talk about how you can modify brass cartridge cases from more-common rounds, so you can load your own ammunition for guns which take obsolete ammunition.
Their first example is an old 1905 Mannlicher-Steyr pistol chambered for 7.65 Mannlicher. “Cartridges of the World” (COTW) calls this the “7.63 (7.65) Mannlicher” and notes that it’s a straight-walled rimless cartridge “only slightly more powerful than the 32 Automatic.” The last ammo sold for this was military surplus produced long ago when these guns were actually in use by the military.
As a straight-walled cartridge, you would think that forming brass to fit would be pretty simple, right? Well, maybe not.
To do this one, you start with brass for 32-20 Winchester. Then you have to put it in a lathe to remove the rim and cut an extractor groove into the case head. Once that’s done, cut & trim each case to the correct length. Turns out, the Brownells guys are working on that particular round for Ian of Forgotten Weapons.
They have a set of RCBS loading dies for it, but mention those dies are only made in limited runs. Incidentally, I believe that’s also the case with RCBS’s 7.62x25mm Tokarev dies, because RCBS doesn’t list them on their website but I know they do make them. I’ve ordered an old used set of CH 30 Mauser dies for loading the Tok round; buying used dies is always an option, and sometimes a great one.
From there, they show an easy conversion: 32 Win Special from 30-30 Win brass. All you need to do here is run 30-30 brass through a 32 Win Special sizing die, and you’re set. This is how I make 338-06 from 30-06 brass.
Another conversion involves cutting down 223 Rem brass to form it into 30 Mauser or 7.62x25mm. These days, commercial ammo and new loadable brass are readily available, so you probably won’t need to do that, but it’s nice to know it’s possible.
We see a blast from the past in the form of the 38-45 Clark, which is a 45 ACP necked down to 9mm! Pretty cool, though not terribly practical. That’s it in the photo above.
The last one he shows is 17 Remington Fireball. Not to be confused with the 1971 “17 Remington” round, the Fireball version came out in 2007, and it never really caught on.
If you can find some 221 Fireball brass, you can neck it down, or you can start with 223 Rem brass and run it through a series of loading dies until you finally get it formed to size.
“Huge pain in the butt. Neck turning is involved, the whole works. But, um, I couldn’t find any 17 [Fireball] brass at the time, so I made a couple hundred rounds the hard way.”
They recommend the use of good case lube, although he misspeaks and says “die” instead of “wax.” I can attest that Imperial Sizing Die Wax is great stuff, and a tin of that might last for the rest of your life.
You do need to be careful with ammo loaded from converted brass, because the headstamp identifying the cartridge becomes inaccurate — so make sure your conversion ammo (or at least its container) is clearly marked.
Enjoy! Now I need to figure out if I can make brass for 43 Spanish.