Firearms, Ammunition, Reloading and Shooting

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Reloading the .22 Long Rifle. . .
Oh, Yes, You Can!

Strictly speaking .22s are not intended to be reloaded. But the fact of the matter is that they can be. Once you know the secret. We're about to tell you how.

.22lr bullet crimp tool

Naysayers are quick to rant long and hard with the pronouncement that you can't reload the .22 Long Rifle, or that even if you could, it's takes more time and trouble than the process is worth. Suffice it to say, the actual history of the world proves these guys dead wrong. I know this for a fact because I have been reloading the .22 Long Rifle cartridge for more than a month now. And I'm not the only one.

It's well-documented that Siberian hunters, Inuit Indians and depression-era American shooters have been relying on this expedient method for reloading .22 rimfire ammo since early in the 20th century. In other words, since about the time the venerable.22 long rifle was first introduced. Researching this story I discovered the tantalizing fact that Sioux and Cheyenne Indians both reloaded rimfire cases for their .44 caliber Henry Rifles.

Fact of the matter is that reloading .22s is as simple as the sea is salt. Begin by gathering up empties in good condition. Just like centerfire cartridges, that means it's necessary to pick and choose, to discard any fired cases that are damaged (meaning: bent or with a split neck).

I used the Sharp Shooter's .22 Long Rifle Reloader Kit. With its rim cleaner I meticulously scrape fired debris out of the rim..22 reloading kit which has everything you need to get the job done. I inserted the kit's rim cleaner (hooked kind of like a dental pick) deep into a case and dutifully scraped the inside the the rim, displacing the fired primer detritus. Then I tap-taped the case upside down on my kitchen table knock outing the debris. It only takes about a minute or two. As for the dent made by the firing pin. Admittedly, this left a dead spot devoid of priming compound. So what? I ignored it.

22 lr powder funnel

Next, I scraped the white material off the heads of some strike anywhere matches(the heads only). For safety sake, I worked in small batches, milling/mashing the white stuff into fine powder. Once the match heads were pulverized. I used a medicine dropper to wet the compound with acetone (included with the Sharp Shooter kit). Using the opposite, square end of the rim cleaner I wedged new, priming materiel into the newly, hollowed out cavity case's rim.

A half an hour later, once acetone had dried, I charged the primed case with powder. The kit includes loading data for both black powder substitute, or smokeless powder. Depending on the bullet and the desired muzzle velocity one might load from 1.0- to 1.5- grains of powder, A powder dipper is included to more accurately measure these diminutive charges. And there's also a funnel correctly-sized for the narrow .22 case mouth.

.22 powder dipper

Now for an appropriate bullet to load. The .22 long rifle uses a heeled bullet, which simply means the bullet base (the part that that snugs up inside the case), measures a smaller diameter then the forward portion of the bullet that engages the rifling grooves. Moreover, the nominal bullet diameter is larger than the nominal bore diameter to prevent excessive lead fouling that occurs when shooting lead bullets of the same or slightly smaller than the groove diameter. With .22 Long Rifle, both bullet and case diameter measure .224 inches, ie, the same diameter. Heeling the bullet, or making its base narrower than either of the former. No one makes molds in this configuration, not Lee Precision, Saeco or Lyman. Not anyone.

This is not a problem because the Sharp Shooter kit includes a heeled bullet mold. It's machined with two cavities, one for 25-grain bullet and another for a 38-grain bullet. So that all you need to cast .22 bullets is a stove, a lead pot and a pouring ladle. I have used cookware from Goodwill to melt lead.

.22lr bullets

With a goodly quantity of bullets cast it's time to insert one and crimp it in place. The bullet mold handily has a cutout for crimping the bullet. That done, with a competed .22 long rifle round in your hand, you've just done what the bubbas said cannot be done, reloaded .22 long rifle.

And finally, the next time at the shooting range, bend over and pick up the .22 duds you see laying around. Know that many Failure To Fire (FTF) are from dirty weapons where the bolt never quit locked-up close enough to the chamber to let the firing pin strike the rim. So clean off the grit and give it another shot. If it remains a dud, bring it home with the all others. Either recycle the bullet proper in the melting pot and charge a newly primed case with the powder. Proviso: The range pick up case's primer may still actually be live. So proceed with caution. You could fill it with water to kill the priming compound or just dispose of it, which is what I do. Click here for more info.