Thursday, May 14, 2009

Making Snap Caps: A Chronicles Project.

© 2009 Albert A Rasch
Making Snap Caps
or Dummy Cartridges

As we are constantly expanding the parameters of what we do here at the Chronicles, I thought we should have a new series that covered projects and ideas, hence "Chronicles Projects."

As Holly at NorCalCazadora has a new .270 and is bereft of any snap caps or dummy cartridges to practice with, the opportunity arises to make some for her!

Winchester-Western .270 Ammunition

You'll need a sharp drill around 3/16th of an inch in diameter. I'm using a brad point metal cutting drill bit. The small diameter brad point doesn't slide around on the curvature of the case, it just digs right in as long as you are near the center of the cartridge case.

I'm using a drill press to make my life easy, but you can do it with a hand drill if you can maintain a steady grip on the hand drill.

I wrapped a piece of fabric around the cartridge case so the jaws of the vise would not mar the brass. You want the vise to hold the case firmly enough so that it doesn't move.

Now before we get started, have you taken a moment to put on some personal protective equipment?

Mr. Albert wears his PPE! So should you.

Before we start drilling, it is a good idea to get a bit of cutting oil. It probably isn't necessary when drilling through brass, but it is a good habit to get into if you cut a lot of metal. It extends the life of your drill bits, and keeps the metal you are cutting cooler. If you are drilling once in a blue moon, use some 3 in 1, or even lard.

Gunk Dark Cutting Oil

Myself, I prefer the rich, full bodied, and somewhat petro-chemical yet peppery scent of the dark cutting oil. Call me untutored, but there is something about that sulphurized, superior lubricity with anti-weld properties, that I think makes it a perfect combination with brass, bronze and anything else I happen to be cutting into.

Get a little oil on the drill bit, and just touch it to the case. That will cut a small divot in the case, then give it another drop of oil. That will be enough to do the job.

Gently work your way through the cartridge case until you cut through.

Hole drilled nice and clean.

Now shake the powder out of the case. Please dispose of it properly. Small children will find it, make powder trains like on Pirate's of the Caribbean, and start fires in the garage. I should know...

Pour all the powder out.

All cleared out.

Now we need to debur the holes we drilled in the cartridge cases. As I am fond of saying use what you got!

Find a convenient twig outside.

Take a pinch of steel wool...

And twist it around the twig.

Debur the hole that we drilled.

That's it. Spin it around a few times until you get any burrs out of the hole we drilled. If you used s twist drill that was a little dull, you might get some particularly difficult burs that may need a bit of wet-or-dry sandpaper

Now let's deactivate the primer. Shoot some WD-40 in the case and let it sit 24 hours. This will penetrate the lacquer that protects the primer and prevent the primer charge from firing properly.

Give it a spritz of WD-40 to deactivate the primer.

Now pop it into the rifle and fire it. I have done this many times and I have only had a couple of complete deactivations. Most of the time you get a little "FFiiiizzt," and that's that.

You now have a fully functional snapcap to practice with. Keep them clean, and use them to practice your sight picture, action manipulation, firing technique, etc.; the uses are limited to the imagination.

The following technique for making homemade snap caps requires either a drill press, or lathe. I'll revisit this particular method in the future when I pick up a few more snap caps.

The following is a set of 458 Winchester Magnum cases that I made for my Ruger #1.

350gr Soft Point, 500gr Trophy Bonded Bear Claw, and 510gr Soft Point

After following the previous set of instructions, you have to remove the primers.

Safety Warning: You must have safety glasses on! The primer may go off and spit out hot pieces of metal savings!

A primer is made of a soft brass cup with a steel insert that acts as an anvil. Between the firing pin and the anvil lies the primer compound. When drilling through the primer you will go through the cup and hit the anvil. You are better off using an awl to pry out the anvil once you cut through the cup.

Once you have the primer out, you can bore through the cartridge head. Use a drill the closely matches the diameter of the snap caps you are using. A-Zoom makes them as small as a 25 auto cartridge.

Epoxy the snap cap in place by carefully inserting them in the bored out hole most of the way. Then finish pushing it down in place on a flat, hard, immovable surface.

Cartridge head bored out, Pachmayer caps epoxied in.

When you're all done you will have an excellent set of caps. I used them to learn how to cycle my #1 until I could do it faster than my bolt action rifle.

This is the first of many projects that I hope to put together for everyone. Some will be more complicated than others, while some you can pull off with what you might have on hand.

Next project might be the Scary Sharp Axe! That's always fun.

Albert A Rasch
The Hunt Continues...


hodgeman said...

Love the PPE Al!

Can you sing "When Smoke Gets In Your Eyes"?

Great project!

Anonymous said...

Very cool project Albert, I am sure they will come in handy.

Holly Heyser said...

Awesome! I'm very excited.

Now, a question from the ignorant: Why do you need to have a cartridge that still has a bullet in it? Why can't you just throw a spent cartridge in the chamber?

I'm not being contentious; I just don't get it.

Albert A Rasch said...

Stunned, Albert makes note to self in small (very small) book titled "Miracles do Happen."

Woman says, "I'm not being contentious..." 5/14/09

Ok I've had my fun!

A good rifle with a good ramp and good feed geometry will certainly feed empties without too much difficulty, but it is designed to shove a somewhat pointed object into the breech. In some cases the empty cartridge tends to lift too high off the "magazine" as it moves into battery and catches on the back end of the barrel. (With a controlled round feed bolt this is infrequent.)

But having dummies makes it easier to load them properly, and in the case of a single shot, like mine, the weight and "feel" makes for better, more realistic "training."


Holly Heyser said...

OK, that's what I was looking for.

No,not getting crap from you, young man. I mean the explanation.

Seriously, though, I think there's been quite enough contentiousness in the blogosphere this week. :-)

Albert A Rasch said...

"Hee, Hee Hee," Albert snickers behind his hand, cautiously looking over his shoulder. Women have secret ways of communicating via the ionosphere or something.

Albert A Rasch said...

Just thought of a demonstrative image. If you look up at this week's banner, you will see that between the fingers of my right hand there are two 458 cartridges.

As I mentioned earlier, I can load, fire, reload, and fire again, faster than I can cycle the bolt on my 30/06.

It took plenty of practice, Which was my original reason for making those 458 snap caps.

I figured that if I ever got the chance to hunt Cape Buffalo I had better be ready. Wouldn't want to embarrass myself by being gored while fumbling with the #1.


flea said...

Nice project Albert!

I am always a bit nervous when fiddling with live rounds but maybe...just maybe you have given me the nudge I needed!

Albert A Rasch said...

Remember, you are dealing with a propellant, not an explosive. Takes a lot more to set it off than a mere drill bit. Secondly you are cutting into brass so no sparks.

But that doesn't mean you shouldn't wear protection! At the very minimum you should wear safety glasses. You can make due without a few fingers, but losing your eyesight will keep you from a lot more!


Holly Heyser said...

So, Albert, is the cigar optional?

Albert A Rasch said...

It wouldn't be as much fun without!

PS: They are in the mail.

Holly Heyser said...

Albert -

Just got 'em in the mail - thanks!


Holly Heyser said...

OK, just went outside and tried them out and wow, what a difference it makes. I don't have to flinch! A revelation.

It was also very handy to load the magazine and take three quick "shots." I wish I had more time with them before my hunt tomorrow, but I'm grateful to have had them at all. Thank you so much, Albert!


Albert A Rasch said...


You're kidding me! There already!

It was my pleasure to put them together for you!

Good luck tomorrow!

Anonymous said...

Mate, made 4 of these this arvo for my stevens 200 in .270WIN....they work a treat. every one was a complete deactivation, and they had only had the wd-40 in there for 5hrs(i got thanks again from Australia and will defs recommend these to my mates


Jeffrey Washington said...

I'm giving these a try with some .223 rounds. I think they look good and your post is very informative. It helps that the frugal gene in me doesn't want to pay the cost for (2) snap caps from the store.