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Loading the Winchester Lee Navy
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March 21, 2023 - 6:53 pm
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Redding says that if I can supply a couple of fire formed cases they can make me a die set.

I have started to modify some 220 Swift brass into 6mm Lee Navy brass.  I bought a .441″ reamer.  I drilled a 7/16″ hole in a piece of aluminum then used the reamer.  I have pressed 2 cases into this hole.  The base diameter of the 220 Swift is .445″.  The base of the cases are now .443″.  I needed them to be no bigger than .444″.  I knew I would get some rebound in the brass that is why I started with the .441″ hole.  I rigged up a small rifle primer pocket tool to hold the bottom of the brass and then put the neck in my drill press.  Now with both ends captured I spun the brass against a file to reduce the rim diameter from .468″ down to .444″.  This was a bit tedious and slow but came out pretty good.

Now the brass will load into either of my Lee Navys.  I was lucky that the base to shoulder measurement of the Swift and Lee cases is the same length already.  But I do have a 24 Cal bullet and case comparator.  With the case comparator and a press I could have moved the shoulder down if needed for fit.  The ejector groove is now a little too shallow but sometimes the brass does eject.  As of now I haven’t tried these 2 modified cases in one of my stripper clips.  When I make the final brass I will cut the groove a little deeper.  I am waiting on a .241″ neck expander mandrel to open up the neck from a .224″ bullet diameter to .241″ ID.  This will give me .002″ neck tension on the .243″ bullets when when they are seated.  With the bullet comparator I can find out where the bullet touches the lands and then seat accordingly.  After I shoot both of these I will have to determine the proper neck bushing to size the necks back down for reloading.   After the 2nd firing I’m hoping that they have fully fire formed.  I have old data for 4 different powders and will use a reduced load for the first firing then adjust as needed for the 2nd firing.

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March 22, 2023 - 1:59 am
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Nice write up! What brand of brass did you start with?

 

Mike

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March 22, 2023 - 3:37 am
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Chuck, Sounds as if you have done yourself proud on this project!  We DO need to talk! I think you have mechanical abilities I don’t.  Tim

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March 22, 2023 - 5:36 pm
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Mike, I am using some used Win/Western brass for my testing but I have some Federal on the way.  The Federal was easier and cheaper to find and buy.

Tim, I really have no mechanical abilities.  Just been playing with this stuff for over 30 years.  Almost want to go buy a very small and cheap lathe.  Never used one but it would make easy work on the brass.  This won’t be my first project where I formed and fired brass before I had dies.

This has got me thinking.  I do have a drill operated lathe for cutting/thinning case necks.  I wonder if I could modify this to cut other areas of the brass?

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March 22, 2023 - 8:51 pm
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Chuck,  I have used a 3/8″ drill itself as a small lathe.  Bach when .405 brass was scarce to non existent, I bought some metric 9mm something and cut to length, then used my drill and jeweler’s file to turn down the thick brass ahead of the rim.  Rims, if I recall correctly, were a bit smaller diameter, but sufficient.  Head area was bigger diameter but could be turned to chamber.  I would file at lower speed then unchuck the brass and test fit in the chamber.  When it chambered nicely I quit and loaded it.  Held up longer than I expected, maybe close to 20 loadings.  No longer recall why I settled on the caliber I did nor where I got the metric brass.  Memories are good for general data, not so much for details!  TimLaugh

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March 23, 2023 - 7:41 pm
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Got my neck expander Tuesday night so I was able to expand the ID of the 2 pieces of brass. .222″ to .241″.  Practiced on a couple pieces first.  Ruined 3 cases.  I did not take the time to precisely set up the expander die so I messed up 2 because of poor alignment.  Once I was properly aligned I split a neck.  I then annealed the necks and everything worked fine.  So now I have 2 cases that I can load and shoot.  My bullets just arrived at my door step.  I am going over my powder choices.  I have been in contact with the lathe manufacturer.  I want to get a mandrel to fit the primer pocket and I’ll put a mini 3 jaw lathe chuck on the other end to hold the neck.  Once I fire the brass the first time I will order the appropriate neck bushing to resize the necks so the ID will be under .241″.  Bullet seating is my next tests.  I would like to use one of the dies I already have.  It is just a matter of finding the closest one that will allow the brass to go in and be fairly stable while seating.  Precision is really not needed at this point.  I have the tools to find the length, base of the case to ogive of the bullet.  In this case I will use a .236″ comparator.  The lands of a .243″ barrel are .236″.   I will find the point the bullet just touches the lands and use this for my seating depth.  With the bullet touching the lands and the base against the bolt this will ensure the brass only grows in the shoulder/neck area and not at the head.  I have a lot of experience shooting with the bullets into the rifling.  For the modern rifles we seat a bullet long and close the bolt.  This will push the bullet in.  This is called jammed.  We then back off .020″ and shoot away.  You never want to shoot jammed but you’d be surprised how far you can seat into the lands and not have pressure issues.  I get the jammed, -.020″, and touch measurements with every different bullet I shoot in my target guns.  Find jam and keep going until you find touch.  In the old days some target shooters would push the bullets into the barrel from the muzzle end so they are in the lands when fired.

Remember though I have had a chronograph for over 30 years and I always work my way up from a safe starting point.

Be safe, especially with the older guns.

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March 23, 2023 - 7:48 pm
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Mike, 405 brass can be formed from Basic brass, 7x65F Brenneke and 30-40 Krag.  The 30-40 will be a little short.  No lathe required, just the proper dies,  a taper expander and a trim die.

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March 24, 2023 - 6:31 pm
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Spent a lot of time going through my older loading manuals looking for data so I could pick a powder and starting load. The original load used was a 112 gr. flat base round nose bullet at 2650 FPS. I bought some modern flat base 95 gr. hunting bullets.  Hopefully these will be more accurate and create less pressure.  I stayed away from boat tail bullets because these have less bearing surface to grab the rifling.

This rifle can be loaded with black powder but was never intended to do so.

Donnally’s manual showed info for a 75 gr. bullet using 3031 and a 100 gr. bullet using 4895.

Barnes’ data showed info for 75 gr., 100 gr., and 112 gr. bullets. Using 3031 and 4895.

Ackley’s data showed info for 75 gr. and 112 gr. bullets using 3031 and 4064.  Ackley’s  manual showed breach pressures from 20,300 to 53,000 psi. (see Sharpe’s)

Nonte’s data showed info for a 112 gr. bullet using 3031 and 4895.

Sharpe’s data showed info for 95 gr. and a 112 gr. bullets using Unique, 2400 and 4064.  This manual also listed at least 8 other powders that I have no idea what they were or may be now.  Like Hi Vel, Sharpshooter, Lightning, SR 80, GR 75 and 112 B.  Sharpe’s manual showed breach pressures from 20,300 to 53,000 psi.  (see Ackley)

Speer had info on 90 gr. and 105 gr. bullets using 4064.

Lyman had info on a 100 gr. bullet using 4064 but this data was way hotter than the rest.

I looked up the burn rates in the Hornady manual. Of 159 powders on their list  The fastest powder starts at #1.  Unique is ranked 30, 2400 is 50, 3031 is 77, 4895 is 87 and 4064 is ranked 97 on the list.  I will probably use the 4064 starting at about 23 grs. for one case and maybe 25 grs. for the other.  Depending on the speed I get I will load until I get up to about 2650 FPS. 

In the meantime I have continued conversations with 21st Century to see if they have a .198″ to .199″ mandrel that will fit into a small rifle primer pocket.  If this works out I will put a mini 3 jaw lathe chuck on the other end of my lathe to grab the neck.  This will make things a lot easier to turn a bunch of rims.

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March 25, 2023 - 12:00 am
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Had no idea this round was this fast, pretty impressive for the time. If I can find my project list this cartridge has certainly gotten my attention!

 

Mike

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March 25, 2023 - 2:47 am
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Some data goes over 3000 FPS, not me. 

https://www.msgo.com/threads/a-firearm-accident-that-killed-a-friend.22036/

There are many different opinions as to what happened.  Since the only person that can answer the questions is dead the rest are all guesses.  Many who post about this don’t know what they are talking about.  I have over 30 original cartridges that measure .243″.  The lands are .236″.  Also my opinion of what caused the accident was this person did not have the bolt/extractor installed properly.  The extractor with spring just rests on the side of the bolt over a square piece and it falls out of place easily if you are not paying attention. If inserted improperly the bolt when pulled back comes out of the gun.  It is part of the bolt stop system.  So, I could imagine the bolt blowing back and hitting the guy in the forehead.  Remember, this is a straight pull not like a bolt that is in a Model 70.  The bolt comes straight out but does come up at an angle. Believe me when I put one of these back together I always test to make sure the bolt stop system is working.

Winchester-Lee-Navy-Re.jpgImage EnlargerWin-Lee-Navy-Musket-Re.jpgImage Enlarger

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March 25, 2023 - 3:12 pm
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Sad story, Chuck. Author did a good job of documenting the circumstances. I’ve investigated a few instances where a gun was destroyed but none involving serious injury or death. We don’t always get to examine the firearm and the “experts” entrusted to do so are often not qualified or may not be forthcoming with their findings. Sometimes the owner will refuse to let someone examine the firearm or ammunition. I wish every hand loader would read that account.

 

 

Mike

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March 25, 2023 - 10:47 pm
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Here is a picture of an original bullet and an original round next to a dummy round with the bullets I’m gong to use.  The next picture shows the modified 220 Swift case in the middle. You can see the new brass has a much shorter neck so the bullet won’t be seated into the case as far.  I can’t push a bullet in right now because I don’t have anything to reduce the neck again.  Once fired I will determine what size neck bushing I will need to reduce the neck.

 

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March 26, 2023 - 2:11 pm
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TXGunNut said
Had no idea this round was this fast, pretty impressive for the time. If I can find my project list this cartridge has certainly gotten my attention!

 

Mike

  

This really was fast for the times.  Not too long after (ten years), Sir Charles Ross came along with the .280 Ross – launching a 150 grain bullet at over 3000 fps.  And interestingly enough, it was also a straight pull.  

I’ve only owned one Winchester-Lee.  It was a factory sporter with the two welded up tap holes in the barrel (performed by the factory for that group of rifles that were converted from muskets).  The one I had was not in .236 but in .256.  I have a letter from George Madis that, “proves” it was an original experimental chambering.  I may have discussed that rifle here.  It has been long gone from my collection.

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March 26, 2023 - 4:31 pm
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steve004 said

TXGunNut said

Had no idea this round was this fast, pretty impressive for the time. If I can find my project list this cartridge has certainly gotten my attention!

 

Mike

  

This really was fast for the times.  Not too long after (ten years), Sir Charles Ross came along with the .280 Ross – launching a 150 grain bullet at over 3000 fps.  And interestingly enough, it was also a straight pull.  

I’ve only owned one Winchester-Lee.  It was a factory sporter with the two welded up tap holes in the barrel (performed by the factory for that group of rifles that were converted from muskets).  The one I had was not in .236 but in .256.  I have a letter from George Madis that, “proves” it was an original experimental chambering.  I may have discussed that rifle here.  It has been long gone from my collection.

  

I was having a conversation with a fellow shooter yesterday and he mentioned the Ross.  He said you had to pay attention when re assembling this rifle too because of how the bolt stop was designed.  I have Gene Myszkowski’s book on the Lee and will see if he says anything about the .256.  Someone told me that Gene passed away?  The only other person I know that has a lot of knowledge on the Lee’s is Jim Curlovic.

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March 26, 2023 - 5:27 pm
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Chuck said

steve004 said

TXGunNut said

Had no idea this round was this fast, pretty impressive for the time. If I can find my project list this cartridge has certainly gotten my attention!

 

Mike

  

This really was fast for the times.  Not too long after (ten years), Sir Charles Ross came along with the .280 Ross – launching a 150 grain bullet at over 3000 fps.  And interestingly enough, it was also a straight pull.  

I’ve only owned one Winchester-Lee.  It was a factory sporter with the two welded up tap holes in the barrel (performed by the factory for that group of rifles that were converted from muskets).  The one I had was not in .236 but in .256.  I have a letter from George Madis that, “proves” it was an original experimental chambering.  I may have discussed that rifle here.  It has been long gone from my collection.

  

I was having a conversation with a fellow shooter yesterday and he mentioned the Ross.  He said you had to pay attention when re assembling this rifle too because of how the bolt stop was designed.  I have Gene Myszkowski’s book on the Lee and will see if he says anything about the .256.  Someone told me that Gene passed away?  The only other person I know that has a lot of knowledge on the Lee’s is Jim Curlovic.

  

With the Ross, ironically, it was the later, multi-lug action that was plagued by the bolt blow-back concerns.  This action was the action Ross used starting in about 1907 in the Scotch Deerstalker and continued it to the MkIII (military version) and the M-10 Sporter (.280 Ross).  The multi-locking bolt looks as lot like the Weatherby MkV action.  E.C. Crossman performed very stout destruction testing on the M-10 (as well as Winchesters and other actions).  He cold not blow the Ross action – despite filling the case with pistol powder, tamping it down, filling it more, seating the bullet to compress the powder and then, greasing the exterior of the case.  As stated, the action wouldn’t blow, but the Winchester M1886 and M1894 did not fare as well.  So, the irony is that would not blow yet it had a reputation of being unsafe.  There were a few isolated incidents where (the Ross is a straight-pull) the bolt flew straight out of the action, with disastrous consequences to the shooter.  This could happen with improper bolt assembly.  

The early Ross rifles – M1903 and M1905 (military versions were the MkI and the MkII) while they were straight-pulls, they had a standard locking bolt arrangement and they are not known to have any bolt blow-back issues.  

If you’ve ever taken a Ross bolt out and tried to put it back in, it can take a few tries.  It is much like a mouse trap.  The bolt is of a, Yankee corkscrew driver design and to put the bolt back in, you have to pull the bolt head out (against spring tension and it locks in place (barely).  Just touching it (e.g. against the inside of the action) will prompt it to spring back in place.  This event is very similar to when you set a mouse trap and jiggle it enough that it snaps shut.  This alone will not cause the bolt to be improperly inserted.  However, if the bolt is reassembled incorrectly, the bolt (on some rifles) can seemingly be fully inserted, yet, it stops short of locking lugs engaging the receiver.  This is not readily apparent just glancing at the top of the receiver and looking down at the bolt body.  For those that have any trepidation,there is a visual check that will insure all is well.  As you close the bolt, you place your head close the top of the receiver and peer toward the front of the action.  You can actually watch the bolt head turn as it engages the locking lugs. 

As far as my for Winchester-Lee, I sent it to George Madis and he disassembled it and gave it a good look-over.  All the underside barrel makings etc. were exactly as expected.  The rifle appeared correct in every way except for two departures from standard – it was stamped .256 AMP and it was not a .236 USN.  A chamber cast came with the rifle and I think the cartridge was actually a .256 Newton.  As we know, the .256 Newton is actually .264 caliber.  George rendered his opinion that this was a factory experimental rifle.  This is a dubious conclusion.  Much later, a friend who spends a great deal of time in the sporting magazines of 100+ years ago found an ad by Packmayr, marketing one of his gunsmithing services, which was to alter Win-Lee rifles to .256 Newton.  So, my rifle…. .256 AMP – August M. Pachmayr!

By the way, the barrel markings on the underside of my rifle were quite standard and nothing to indicate Winchester has done anything to modify the chambering.  In the end, the most likely conclusion is that someone who owned a standard Win-Lee Sporter, spotted Pachmayr’s ad and sent his rifle to him.

I am intrigued that given Pachmayr advertised this conversion in outdoor magazines, surely he converted more than one rifle?  In all my travels, I have never heard of another one.

As far as Gene Myszkowski, it’s been quite a few years since I talked to him.  He was a great guy.  He’s been gone just less than a year – passed away early April of last year.  I think he was 82.  I think it’s fair to say he lived a long, full and interesting life.  Like many guys here, he was into racing and vintage sports cars as well.

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March 26, 2023 - 9:37 pm
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Steve, I went through Gene’s book and found a section about advertisements to rebore these rifles.  He mentions the most common was the .256 Newton.  I own and shoot a .256 Newton.  And yes it is a .264″ bullet with a .256″ land measurement.  It was the first cartridge I had to form.  Early on I used 30-06, wised up and then used 270.  Now I have some new made correct head stamped brass.

The other common, at the time, calibers to have been bored was 25 high power, 7 mm and 257 Roberts.

They experiment with 6.5 mm .264″, 32-70 .328″, 30 Cal .308″.  Bullets up to 135 gr. in the 6 mm.  Early cartridges were rimmed.  The most common are semi rimless with a 112 gr. bullet. The early rimmed cartridges use .238″ bullets.  The later semi rimmed were changed to .244″.  There was at least one gun that was chambered in .275″.

The Marines used some “gallery/short range/riot” ammo when they went on shore patrol.  80 gr bullet and less powder.

One other item I found in the book is that a lot of the pictures are from L. Behling.  Lou worked for at least 3 to 4 of the major Arsenals.  He was a small arms specialist for over 30 yrs.  When he went into the Military and they found out who he was he was pulled from regular duty and put on the US Army shooting team.  I have his phone number and will give him a call.  He is also working on an article about the Henry cartridges and I can see if he has moved on from the last time we spoke.

As I went through the book I took a bunch of notes.  One item of interest was the name of the ships that were issued the Lee’s.  Some even list the Marine units too. 

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March 27, 2023 - 9:15 pm
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Did not have time to do much today.  Here is a picture of most of the tools I have used so far not including the drill press.  When I went through the lead balls I have I did not have a small one.   So I made one.  I took a larger ball and pressed it through a hole a little larger than what I needed.  Notice my brass press.Lee-Navy-Tools-2.jpgImage Enlarger

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March 27, 2023 - 11:22 pm
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Chuck – this has been a great write-up.  Very comprehensive and detailed.

I found my copy of Gene’s books last night.  Good thing too.  Replacements are out there, but…

Also, full disclosure:  my conversations with Gene had been focused on the Remington-Lee rather the Wincehster-Lee Surprised

I had two Remington-Lees at the time – one in .30 U.S. and one in .38-55.  Gene has a book on this rifle as well.

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March 28, 2023 - 6:04 pm
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Be careful with this book.  The binding is terrible.  It will fall apart.  If you want more info you can go on Cornell’s website and order the Winchester pamphlet from 1897, Lee Straight Pull Rifle.  They also have the United States Navy Rifle Calibre 6 Millimetres Model 1895 Description and Nomenclature publication put out by the Navy in 1896.

Weren’t some Remington Lees in 45-70?  Here is a brief write up on James Paris Lee.

http://www.hgca.org/james-paris-lee-and-his-guns/

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March 28, 2023 - 6:34 pm
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Chuck – 

Thanks for the Link on James Paris Lee.  Yes, the Remington-Lee came in quite the variety of chamberings – .45-70-500 was in the offering.  Also, 6mm USN, .405 WCF, .38-72 WCF, .32 Winchester Special, .38-72 WCF, .30-30 WCF, .35 WCF, .32-40 High Power, .38-55 High Power, .43 Spanish, .44-77, .45-90, .303 British, .30-40, 7mm Spanish Mauser, 7.65 Belgian Mauser.  There were sporting rifle versions and military style versions and sub-variations of each.  Some chamberings and versions are very rare.  In recent years a .405 WCF Sporter in super high condition came up for auction and I was severely tempted.  A .32 Special also came along and of course I was tempted by that Wink

While were talking, I’ve always found the Remington-Keene with it’s external hammer and tubular magazine of interest.  I have one in .43 Spanish that I do some shooting with it.

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