Welcome back to another edition of The Rimfire Report. In this series we discuss, explore and review various aspects of the rimfire world. Today we’ll discuss the concept of reloading 22LR. With the recent happenings across the globe I have been putting a lot of thought into modern conveniences and how easily they can disappear. For now, I’d imagine most of us have a pretty healthy supply of rimfire ammunition to feed our guns. However, what if those lines of supply cut off? Would there be a way to reload 22LR for survival purposes?
The Rimfire Report: Reloading 22LR During the Apocalypse
DISCLAIMER: Neither I or The Firearm Blog are suggesting you do any of this. Reloading is dangerous and requires training and experience to do safely. This article is merely an exercise in the hypothetical and does not substitute actual reloading supplies and equipment. Do not try this at home.
Yes, Reloading 22LR is possible
Most people will dismiss 22LR as a reloadable cartridge altogether. However, this is not the case. There have been 22LR reloading kits out there for a long time but to most people’s credit, reloading 22LR is insanely impractical for all but the most dedicated of hand loaders. That sentiment applies even more so here. Doing this will not be cheaper, less time consuming or better performing than factory-produced 22LR.
One major limitation is that 22LR cases deform upon firing. The dented portion of the rim becomes a permanent dead spot where primer material cannot be ignited and thus careful consideration will need to be taken when loading the firearm with reloaded ammo.
However, despite its many disadvantages, you could be faced with this situation and my thought was that it should be possible to reload 22LR at home using only a couple of common household items and some ground-up matchstick heads.
Preparing the cases
Like any reloading process, you’ll first need to make sure that your cases are cleaned from any carbon that may interfere with the primer material seating in the rim of the cartridge. I find that using a fine pick to scrape the bottom of the case and inside the rim works well. Getting into the rim to scrape out the old burnt primer material will increase the reliability of your remanufactured ammunition.
If you have a rotary or corncob media tumbler you can use those to clean the brass. If you’re in apocalypse mode and electricity is not available you can use water, salt, and dish soap to accomplish a thorough cleaning. After cleaning be sure to inspect each of the cases inside to be sure there is no leftover cleaning media or water left inside. After cleaning your cases should be ready to accept your homemade priming compound.
Home Made Rimfire Primer Compound
There are several commercially available rimfire primer compounds that work very well. There are also a number of alternative solutions that can usually be made at home with no specialized equipment. The most common method I’ve seen is ground up Strike Anywhere matchstick heads. I have also seen caps (from toy cap guns), and poppers commonly found at fireworks stands.
You’ll need to take any three of the materials listed above and scrape them into a fine powder. This step should be done with eye protection on and done away from any flammable materials as the likelihood of setting off any three of them while grinding them into a powder is very high.
After a fine powder has been formed you can use a drop or two of acetone to turn the fine powder into a paste at the bottom of the case in order to pack it into the corners of the rim. After the priming compound has been thoroughly packed in you can set them aside to dry while you prepare your powder. Double-checking to see if the compound is dry with a flashlight is recommended.
This is by far the easiest step in the process. If commercially available powders like Alliant Unique or Muzzle Loading Smokeless pistol powder aren’t available or in short supply, you can use common household matchstick heads as the propellant.
The instruction kit from 22reloader.com tells us that 5 matchstick heads should be sufficient to push a 25-grain solid point bullet at about 547 FPS from a 16-1/2″ barrel. Obviously using commonly available reloading powders is going to yield higher muzzle velocities and a more consistent burn but for the sake of this exercise, I chose to use the matchstick heads.
I crushed up various types of matchstick heads and ultimately went with the green type as it took the least amount of effort to get a decent amount. Surprisingly 5 matchstick heads look to be about the same volume of powder as the regular propellant charge in a standard velocity 22LR cartridge.
Unfortunately this step I was not able to complete at home without a proper bullet casting die. However, there are plenty of 22LR bullet molds available online that are affordable. Sourcing lead shouldn’t be a problem as you can usually go to the local outdoor range and source lead from the berm with little issue.
Wheel weights are also common items that can be found on old vehicles and are commonly made from lead. Melting lead can be done with an open flame in a pot however, an electric heater works much better. As the lead melts you should skim any dross from the top of the liquified metal and discard it. For my experiment, I chose to reuse some of my pulled 40-grain 22LR bullets.
They work! The matchhead powder charge works pretty well. By no means does the small charge cycle a semi-automatic weapon but it would probably work fantastic out of a revolver. I think with some extended experimentation I could probably develop a matchhead powder charge that would possibly cycle a semi-auto handgun.
The smell was exactly what you’d expect – matches. The case came out extremely dirty compared to regular rimfire propellants and primers.
However, at this point, I think the exercise has been proven to be a success. You can make 22LR ammunition right at home using simple tools. I’d be interested if any of you had a workaround for using a 22LR bullet mold as I feel like it almost takes a bit away from the “homebrew” feel of this particular experiment. Either way, it was a fun weekend project and I enjoyed the process. As always, thanks for stopping by to read The Rimfire Report and we’ll see you next time!
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