Ed Harris on Loading .410 All-Brass Shells
I thought a brief how-to-do-it on loading all-brass .410s would be helpful. I've successfully done this, fire-forming from .303 British, as well as 9.3x74R German and more recently using Magtech .410 all-brass shells from Midway. Load data, wads and assembly/crimping technique are a bit different from using modern plastic shells and wads.
In break-open shotguns, all-brass cases are easily made by fire-forming from .303 British brass, which is cheap and plentiful. Charge the case with ten grains of any fast-burning pistol or shotshell powder. The powder type isn't important, almost anything you have around the shop will work. Push a cotton ball down onto the powder, fill the case up to the shoulder with Cream of Wheat, then press a Gulf wax plug into the case mouth. Fire-form the case pointing the muzzle straight up. The resulting case will be 2.25" in length. Cases should fire-form perfectly without splits on the first pop if they are mouth annealed first. Cases which have been reloaded as rifle rounds several times absolutely must be annealed first! A quickie on how to anneal rifle brass:
With Magtech brass use, 15.4 grains of #2400 powder, thrown from the RCBS Little Dandy powder measure, using the rotor #19. Place a Buffalo Arms .44 vegetable fiber 1/16” card over the powder, then two Buffalo Arms .44-45 wool felt cushion wads , LIGHTLY oiling the top cushion wad only, applying TWO DROPS of SAE30 weight motor oil with an eye dropper, squishing the wad between the fingers a few times to work it in, then wrapping the wad in a square of TP, squeezing it again between the thumb and forefinger to wick out and absorb the excess oil. This aids in reducing leading when no plastic shot sleeve is used.
A .45 Schofield case holds half an ounce of lead shot to solder up a dip measure. For birdshot fill the case to within 1/8” of the case mouth, insert another 1/16” card and glue in place with Elmer's. You can get a bit more shot in using the old fashioned card and fiber wad column, but my cylinder-bore gun throws better patterns using the Federal No. 410SC (1/2 oz. Skeet) shot cup over the card, pouring the shot into that and closing the shell by crimping (or gluing with Elmer's) a .36 cal. card inside the top of the shot cup, as shown in the photo below.
If you have a Lee 7.62x54R Russian or .308 Win. seater die, you can make a more finished-looking crimp, by inserting a blank Lyman 450 sizer top punch into the seater die plug, adjusting the seating stem to position the top card, below the die shoulder, then using a .44 cal. card to fit the all-brass shell, or .36 cal. to fit inside the Federal shotcup if using that wad. You want to hold the overshot card slightly below the case mouth, as you bump the case mouth against the die shoulder to form a nicely rounded, professional-looking crimp. See the photo below.
If loading buckshot, insert a card firmly over the powder, as you did before. A Federal No.410SC plastic shotcup is used as the buckshot container and the fiber filler wads are not needed. The plastic shot cup MUST NOT be used in all-brass cases without an over-powder card, because its diameter is too small to seal the case interior. Omitting the card results in powder leaking past the wad, causing “bloopers.” After firmly seating a Federal No.410SC plastic wad, drop four 00 buck into the shot cup, then add one cast .390” round ball cast of SOFT lead on top of the stack. Adjust the seater so that the top ball is crimped positively into the end of the shell. Alternately you can load FOUR pellets of 000 buck in the shot cup, or the same number of .390" cast round balls in the brass shell with fiber wad column and no plastic shot cup.
Four .39" cast round balls total 350 grains or 0.8 of an ounce. Each pellet at 25 yards has 150 ft.-lbs. of energy, about the same as a .380 ACP pocket pistol at the same distance. If the .390 balls fall through your gun's choke and they pattern well, the improvement in energy is dramatic! I use the same 15.4 grain charge of #2400 in my gun, but it is, admittedly a "hot" load. I suggest reducing the charge to 12 grains, using Little Dandy Rotor #15 and work up cautiously. OR substitute IMR or H4427 powder for the #2400.
The 1951 Ideal Handbook provides data with #2400 powder for .410 shells with conventional wad columns. It suggests thickness of the filler wad(s) should be not less than 1/2 bore diameter and not more than bore diameter. Minimum filler wad thickness in the 410 bore is 0.205 inches.
A .444 Marlin sizer die with Lee No.5 shell holder can be used to resize brass cases if necessary. Prime cases with large pistol primers. The RCBS Little Dandy Rotors #19 measures the appropriate charge of Alliant #2400. Thumb over powder card into case mouth, and slide firmly onto the powder using a dowel. Similarly seat the filler wad(s), or plastic shotcup, if used. Add shot and top card or buckshot. Glue top card or crimp, if a suitable die is available. That’s all there is to it.
Two all-brass .410s, one with birdshot and plastic shot sleeve, another with buckshot, at right is a .44-40 cartridge shown for size comparison.
73 de KE4SKY In Home Mix We Trust From the Home of Ed's Red in "Almost Heaven" West Virginia