question about reloaded ammo

Discussion in 'P-3AT' started by Axeman, Mar 17, 2009.

  1. Axeman

    Axeman New Member

    81
    Oct 13, 2004
    Since I can't find any ammo that I can afford to burn up to finish breaking in my new P3AT I am reloading the fired brass with lead bullets which are the only type of .380-specific bullets I can find on the net or at any  LGS. However, I am having a problem with the reloads that I didn't have when I was using up my small amount of factory ammo, which is that in almost every 6 round magazine one cartridge will fail to fully chamber leaving the slide about 1/8" from lockup and the case is jammed so tight in the chamber that I have to put the front edge of the slide on the edge of a table top and push on the grip to break the cartridge case loose from the chamber and retract the slide.  I have measured the case diameter of the reloaded cases at several points between the case rim and the case mouth with an electronic micrometer and the stuck cases are re-sized to exactly the same diameter as the few Federal factory loaded rounds I have left. Have any of you P3AT owners had a similar problem with reloaded ammo, or any ideas about what could be causing the reloaded cases to jam in the chamber?

    Other than the sticking cases in about 1/2 or more of the 6 round magazines I fired,  the reloaded ammo performs perfectly and is more accurate than I can shoot the tiny gun with it's poor excuse for sights. I hope to get better with practice at hitting where I'm looking with the little gun, but at this point I am lucky to keep six shots on an 8" x 16" cedar shingle at 15  yards firing offhand holding the gun in a 2-hand grip in a Modified Weaver standing position.  Of course the  expectation on every shot that the slide may stick partially open on a jammed cartridge case doesn't do anything to inspire confidence when I'm squeezing the trigger through it's looong travel to the breaking point.   Overall I'm still happy with my little friend, but it would sure be nice to get off a couple of 50 round trays of my reloaded ammo in rapid fire mode without being stopped cold by a loaded case stuck in the chamber.
     
  2. rcmodel

    rcmodel New Member

    Feb 6, 2005
    Eastern Kansas
    Color one of the offending rounds with a black Magic-Marker and try to chamber it.
    Wherever the black rubs off is the problem.

    Most likely the bullet is getting into the rifling before the slide if fully closed.
    If that is the case, seat them deeper until they don't.

    You can take the barrel out of the gun and use it for a drop-check ammo guage while you load.

    It is also possible you are not belling the case mouths enough for lead bullets, and you are getting shaved lead pushed up in front of the case mouth, which is hitting the headspace shoulder in the chamber. It will also help to chamfer the case mouths with a deburring tool before loading them the first time.

    Excessive taper-crimp could also squeeze lead forward and cause the same thing, but if they measure right, it's probably not that.

    PS: You might also consider Berry Plated bullets.
    They are always available.
    http://www.berrysmfg.com/products.aspx?c=10

    rc
     

  3. ChasF

    ChasF Member

    270
    Feb 14, 2009
    I don't reload .380, but I had a similar problem with 9mm. I finally traced it down to the difference in bullet profiles that would let one brand chamber and another not (at the same OAL). I used a black Sharpie to color the bullet entirely and found out where the interference was. It was also of interest that different makes would tolerate different OALs for a given bullet profile - I had thought that it would have been the same across the board, but (once again) was wrong.

    That said, I have yet to determine the 'correct' or optimum amount that the bullet should engage the rifling. Any thoughts on that issue? Anyone?
     
  4. Axeman

    Axeman New Member

    81
    Oct 13, 2004


    Thanks to all who replied with good suggestions for solving my ammunition problem. After lurking on KTOG for months that's the response I expected from what is probably the most eager-to-help-the-newby bunch of guys on any gun forum.

    But  I'm sorry to say to you ChasF  that I can't offer any educated thoughts that you asked for concerning  bullet contact with the rifling. I have always tried to seat copper or brass jacketed bullets in rifle cartridges to the depth that causes the bullet nose to be very lightly engraved by the lands in the bore when the bolt is closed and forces the cartridge a very few thousandths forward after initial contact with the lands. That cut and try method of determining proper bullet seating depth is relatively easy, and bullet nose contact with the rifling lands has worked  very well for me for reloading accurate rifle ammo.  My circa 1901 6.5x55 Swedish Mauser would cut a 3 inch 5-shot group at 100 yds with my reloads in past years when my eyes were still young enough to see the open iron sights and the target at the same time. If you believe the gun writers who peddle their tall tales to gun rag editors a 3" group @ 100 yards is unacceptably poor for a rifle.   But I was shooting centerfire rifles when those guys were sleeping on their mothers' laps with a warm nipple in their mouths, and some very experienced rifle shooters who I knew and hunted with back then were quite happy to get  a 3 inch 3-shot group with  open iron sights or a peep sight when tuning up old Betsy for a deer hunt. However, I don't know if that same procedure of seating a bullet to where the rifling makes a light  imprint  on the bullet also applies to semiauto pistol ammo.  I doubt that it does since I have never seen any evidence of that on a fired and recovered bullet from a factory loaded cartridge.  But if there are pistol caliber rounds that were designed to have the bulllet make contact with the rifling then that is probably the best overall cartridge length for reloading that caliber ammo. Sorry I can't be more help, but I pretty  much settled in with the  old 1911 and the .45acp round many years ago as my primary pistol-ammo combo, and I haven't dome much experimentation with other types of pistols and ammo.


    Now on to my problem.  The .45acp  cartridge and the 1911 pistols that fire it are normally more tolerant of ammo that doesn't conform to the original specs than the smaller caliber pistols. However, this KelTek is the only .380  semiauto pistol  that I have reloaded for and I have already found that it likes out of spec ammo and is not at all fond of in spec ammo. The first batch of .380 reloads I ran off worked very well with only one failure to feed glitch and I am 99% sure that was my fault. I then ran off another batch with a reset bullet seating depth and the powder charge cut back 1/2 grain to compensate for the deeper bullet seating. In other words I made a couple of what seem like very minor adjustments to this batch I'm shooting now and they don't work as well as the first batch.  To put the situation in a nutshell,  the first batch of reloads that were out of spec were reliable in my gun, and the reloads that were closer to specs were not.  Going by that anomaly I suppose the easiest and most obvious way to reload reliable ammo for my particular gun would be to return  the settings  on my equipment back to where they were when I reloaded that first batch of ammo that functioned well but was possibly a wee tad over the .380 design specs for pressure and overall cartridge length.  I intend to load a 50 round tray of ammo with the first batch's bullet seating and powder charge and see if they work as well as that first batch. If the stuck case problems disappear I will make those settings a permanent part of  my standard reloading routine for ammo intended for the K-T', at least as long as I use the same 100 grain swc lead bullets.  If I locate a source for 90 to 100 grain round nose lead bullets I would much prefer the round nose bullet profile for a .380 semiauto pistol because that's the  profile that .380 caliber pistols were designed to reliably use.

    This long and boring post may get me banned for the forum, but I felt it necessary to explain my experience with my first KelTek and hopefully some reader with long experience with reloading for a Keltek .380 will set me straight on the proper way to reload for this pistol.
     
  5. rcmodel

    rcmodel New Member

    Feb 6, 2005
    Eastern Kansas
    Seating bullets to be engraved by the rifling is not right.

    It raises pressure, and presents a risk of a bullet pulling out of the case when a loaded round is ejected.
    You will find no reloading manual recommends it.
    You will never find any factory rifle load that engages or engraves the rifling, and some of it is more accurate then you can load yourself anymore.

    Generally, you will get best rifle accuracy by seating almost to the lands, but not touching at all.
    Generally, .005" - .010" off the lands will give the best results. Some folks do seat to just touch the rifling, but never deeper to engrave the bullet.

    As for handguns, you don't want the bullet touching the rifling at all, period.

    Different bullet shapes require different seating depths.
    Even the same weight & type of bullet from two different manufactures do not have the same exact ogive, or bullet shape.

    Generally speaking, a RN bullet is seated out to slightly less then SAAMI spec as found in reloading manuals. For the .380 that max OAL is .984".
    I seat FMJ-RN to .975" OAL, and they work perfectly in my gun.
    The same would probably be true of lead RN, unless the bullet shape differed greatly from a normal .380 FMJ-RN bullet shape.

    Other bullet shapes such as FP, TC, SWC, and HP will have to be seated shorter to keep the full diameter bearing surface from contacting the rifling leade.
    I seat 90 grain Hornady XTP's to .955" OAL, and they work perfectly in my gun.

    OAL can be adjusted to get best feeding, but in general, loading to the length recommended in the reloading manual from the bullets manufacture will work pretty well.

    rc
     
  6. Apiarian

    Apiarian New Member

    147
    Jan 19, 2005
    +1 on too long COAL. I am working up some loads and this was the first thing I encountered. Shorten those puppies up a bit and see how it works.

    btw has anyone experienced R-P brass as being soft? I am seeing guppies in the R-P before just about anything else. I'm using them as a kind of pressure indicator since they flow before Win and CPC.
     
  7. ChasF

    ChasF Member

    270
    Feb 14, 2009
    Thanks for the reply. That is basically what I had thought, and I haven't shot any that did engage the rifling yet (and won't at this rate.) But it does illuminate another problem; if I load to an OAL to satisfy my pickiest pistol (Kel-Tec P-11) the minimum length listed in various reloading datas are violated. That could also lead to higher pressures and other problems. And I would like to avoid compressed loads. My other pistols will tolerate lengths 15-25 mils or so longer than the P11.

    So I'm looking for a JHP bullet that will load safely in 3 semi-autos. I have found one that is close, but still engages by about 5 mils. (BTW, I have been loading unprimed, uncharged brass to test the length issue. My 'blue' checks are done with the Sharpie. I drop the test piece into the chamber and rotate it to see where the lands engage. Then chamber it in the firearm to check land engraving length if the first test looked promising. Any comments on technique?)
     
  8. Apiarian

    Apiarian New Member

    147
    Jan 19, 2005
    Unless you are running a very very short ogive like a semiwadcutter, I don't understand why you need it so short. My Lee and Lyman manuel states .984 max OAL. That works just fine with my Berry's RNHB 100gr in the P3AT.
     
  9. ChasF

    ChasF Member

    270
    Feb 14, 2009
    I have tried Berry's, Sierra, and Hornady XTP. All have a rather short ogive, and thus the same problem. I haven't found much data for the Berry's recommended OAL, but have manufacturer's recommendations as well as Lee manual figures for the others. If I load the Sierra to the minimum, I still have to back down about 10 mils to get it to clear the lands in the P11.

    I really think that I will abandon reloading JHP and stick to reloading ball for practice sessions.
     
  10. Axeman

    Axeman New Member

    81
    Oct 13, 2004

    I may have mislead you by saying the bullets in my rifle reloads are "engraved"  by the lands. I seat the long 6.5mm bullets to barely touch the lands when the bolt is closed. If I pull a cartridge out of the chamber  without firing it for some reason I can see where the bullet was  pushed against the lands firmly enough  to make little shiny spots on the copper bullet about the  size of a period like the one at the end of this sentence.  I heard about that technique from an old timer almost 50 years ago when I first started reloading for centerfire rifles and he had been loading .30-06 ammo that way for his '03 Springfield for a long time before that. That slight pressure against the rifling isn't enough to push the crimped in  bullet back into the case and raise the chamber pressure, and definitely not anywhere  near enough grip on the bullet to pull it out of the case neck if the round is pulled from the chamber for any reason.  In fact the rifling has no grip at all on the bullet at all. I have 40 rounds of 6.5x55  loaded with 140 grain fmj bullets in the basement and tomorrow i am going to run a few through the rifle and then compare the length to rounds that have not been chambered and see if there is any difference in length according to my calipers. But i am sure there is no danger of a bullet pulling out of the neck because it isn't jammed into the rifling to engrave an imprint of the rifling like I apparently gave the impression that it does.  I always load 10% below the maximum propellant charge anyway,  so high chamber pressure is not a problem with the bullet touching the rifling. If I recall correctly the old guy's theory behind having the bullet against the rifling is that military rifle chambers are, or were in the early 20th century, made oversize in diameter so that cartridges with dirt or mud stuck on the case would still go into the chamber in combat, and the bullet touching the rifling and being held against the bolt by the extractor at the rear is supposed to help align the case with the bore in the slightly oversize chamber.

    Maybe I would get more accuracy from my reloads if I take your advice  and seat the bullets several thousandths deeper, but I have been loading for the Swede like this for the last 20 years and as I said in the first post I was getting 3" groups when my eyes were better. I certainly don't want to pass on any information that could get someone hurt with dangerous ammo, but after all these years and Lord only knows how many reloaded  rounds I have fired with that rifle I have never had any signs of excess pressure or any  other problems with any of my reloads. I wouldn't seat bullets that far into the barrel for any rifle except a strong bolt action and I seat the flat nose bullets in .30-30 ammo for my lever rifle to the same length as factory ammo.


    The only dangerous ammo I have ever fired in the Swede Mauser or any other rifle was 3 rounds of PMC factory ammo that was part of a batch  that had been overcharged with propellant and had damaged some other rifles. I noticed more than usual recoil on the first two shots and the 3rd round I fired blew the primer out of the pocket and drove the cocking piece back into my hand and almost broke my thumb.  When I called PMC they said that they had recalled that run of ammo and would send me another box, to which I said no thanks, I don't think I want any more PMC ammo free or not.  Anybody can make a mistake, but commercial ammunition makers like PMC should test samples out of every batch before letting it out of the factory.
     
  11. rcmodel

    rcmodel New Member

    Feb 6, 2005
    Eastern Kansas
    O.K., as best I can remember there were some bad barrels shipped a couple of years ago (about when the PF-9 came out) that had excessively short chamber leades. I believe there were also some P-11's shipped like that, but my memory fails me right now.

    Anywho, they were too short to work with Corbon factory ammo, among others.
    I believe K-T replaced those barrels under warranty with ones that were chambered correctly.

    Perhaps someone with firsthand P-11 experience from that time, and a better memory can jump in here.

    Anyway, if you have to seat that much deeper then the reloading manuals call for, sounds to me like you have one of those bad barrels.

    rc
     
  12. ChasF

    ChasF Member

    270
    Feb 14, 2009
    Thank you for your input. I'll be calling KT customer service tomorrow.

    To everyone, I appologize for dragging the focus to P11s. I was trying to keep it general. But it is very nice to know that there are lots of helpful people here.