Is It Possible to Reload
the .22 Long Rifle
Bubba Says .22s Can't be Reloaded.
But They Can Be
If You Know the Secret
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 both Sioux and Cheyenne Indians 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.
Sharp Shooter's .22 Long Rifle Reloader Kit has everything you need to reload 22s. A separate kit is available for .22 Magnum. Begin by gathering up a goodly quantity of 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 split necks). For those who are meticulous, Sharp Shooter offers a resizing die that process 22 Long Rifle, 22 Long, and 22 Short cartridge cases. It includes a shell holder. The 7/8ths of an inch diameter die fits all major manufacturers' reloading presses. Truth be told, you don't really need a resizing die.
Deprime the .22 Cases
I began my reloading adventure by inserted the kit's rim cleaner (hooked kind of like a dental pick) deep into a case and meticulously scraped fired debris out of the inside crevices inside the rim. Then I tap-tap-taped the case upside down on my kitchen table knocking out the spent primer debris. The procedure 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.
Make Your Own Rimfire Priming Compound from Caps or White-Tip Strike-Anywhere Matches
Know that the explosive material often used in caps is known as Armstrong's Mixture. A highly sensitive primary explosive comprised of the primary ingredients of red phosphorus and potassium chlorate, with sulfur and calcium carbonate present in small amounts. Toy caps using Armstrong's Mixture appear to be corrosive. An interesting factoid: Armstrong's Mixture is similar to the corrosive non-mercury primers in old military ammunition. Potassium chlorate, potassium perchlorate and manganese dioxide are what makes it corrosive. 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. In the alternative to rolling your own repriming compound, Sharpshooter sells the stuff. A wise alternative.
Priming the Case
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 inside the case rim.
Charge the Cases With Powder
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.
Casting a .22 Caliber Lead Bullet
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. This prevents 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.
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 say cannot be done, eg, reloaded a .22 long rifle round.
Crimp the Bullet in Place
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 to be on the safe side, simply dispose of it, which is what I do.
Background Information on
the .22 Rimfire Cartridge
In 1845 the Flobert .22 BB Cap consisted priming compound packed under its rim and with a round ball pressed in the front. The rim was intended to hold the cartridge securely in the chamber. There was no gunpowder in the case that relied entirely on the priming compound for propulsion. No big surprise, velocities were very low, comparable to an airgun. The next evolutionary step in rimfire cartridge development was the .22 Short using a longer rimfire case charged with 4 grains of black powder and firing a conical bullet.
The .22 Long had the same bullet weight as the short, but with a longer case and a little more black powder (five grains). The .22 Long Rifle is a .22 Long case loaded with a heavier Extra Long bullet that was intended to perform better in the long barrel of a rifle. The key to repriming a rimfire cartridge is the compounds scrapped off the white tip of strike anywhere matches and roll caps.