My Foray into .410 Gauge Reloading

Using Brass Shells Made From 303 British Cases

By Colin Riley - January 9, 2012 Updated January 2013

Over the years, I have had occasion to try many different types and brands of shotguns in a number of gauges as well as reloading and firing many thousands of rounds of 12 and 20 gauge. Initially, I loaded standard 1 1/8th ounce 12 gauge loads and 7/8th ounce 20 gauge loads for trap and skeet. Later, I found that I could do just as well with 7/8th ounce loads in 12 gauge and 3/4 ounce loads in 20 gauge.

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It seems only natural to progress to the .410 bore with its 1/2 ounce payload, unfortunately 410 gauge ammunition is not cheap.

For whatever reason, 410 gauge target loads have always been much more expensive than 20 or 12 gauge target loads in spite of the fact that far less material is used in their manufacture than in the larger gauges. This price difference has generally been attributed to economies of scale, the logic being that since far fewer 410 gauge shells are produced than 12 or 20 gauge, the fixed costs associated with each round are naturally higher. Still, I can't help but think that there would be far more demand for .410 ammunition if the retail cost per round were lower.

I have long considered shooting and reloading for the 410 but I have never bought a shotgun in that gauge due to the expense of the ammunition and the cost of the tooling required to load plastic shells for this gauge. Currently there is no inexpensive tool or press available to load 410 shotshells as is the case with the Lee Load All in 12 and 20 gauge. The least expensive 410 reloader sold today is likely the MEC 600 Jr and that sells for more than 3 times the price of a Load All.

Another discouraging factor has been the lack available cases. I have always been able to scrounge as many 12 and 20 gauge cases as I could possibly reload. 410's on the other hand are generally as scarce as hens teeth. Most of the people who shoot 410's in quantity are competitive skeet shooters who reload the cases until they fall apart. Of course there is also the notoriously short life span of the standard 410 case. Since the .410 shotshell operates at considerably higher pressures than any of the other common shotgun gauges, reloaded plastic or paper 410 hulls take quite a beating and may become unserviceable after being reloaded only a few times.

From L-R; Fire formed 303 British case, brass case after a few reloads, Wad column of card and fiber wads, plastic 410 wad, paper 410 case, Remington Plastic 410 case.

That being said, some time ago I read about using 303 British cases to make 410 brass shotgun shells, which provided the prospect of being able to load for this cartridge using the metallic reloading tools that I already have rather than having to invest in a dedicated press.

Recently the opportunity presented itself to purchase for the sum of 50 dollars, a well used Springfield model 951 single shot bolt action .410 shotgun made by Savage.

Springfield Model 951 Bolt Action Shotgun

With this minimal investment, I decided to try making and loading 410 brass cases.

The methods used to make these cases and the loads shown on this page are safe only in the gun(s) in which they were developed. Neither the author of this page or the owner of this website assumes any liability for injury or damage that occurs from the use or misuse of this information.

Making Brass 410 Shotshells from 303 British Cartridge Cases

  1. For this effort, I used deprimed but unresized cases. In a properly headspaced 410 shotgun, the rim thickness of a 303 British brass will be too thick to allow the action to close easily on a case in the chamber. Using a sharp metal file, I filed enough brass from the head of the cartridge to thin the rim enough to allow me to close the action on the empty case without using undue force. Depending on the brand of the brass, I found that this may take a few dozen strokes to bring the rim thickness down to 0.054-0.055 inches. Generally this reduction in rim thickness removed the head stamp from the cases that I was using with the exception of some Sellier & Bellot brass that I have, which appear to have a rim thickness that is 3 to 5 thousands less than that of other brands The primer pocket depth was also be reduced by this operation, which allows the use of large pistol primers which are more appropriate to shotgun loads.
  2. I used a propane torch to anneal the case neck, shoulder and body of each case. First, I set the cases upright on stacked ceramic tiles in a steel pan containing just enough water to cover the tiles to a depth of a quarter inch. This is done to prevent the case heads from being softened. The blue flame of the torch was run evenly over each case until it changed color. I then quickly tipped the case off the tiles and into the water with a stick to quench the brass.
  3. The cases were drained and allowed to dry overnight.
  4. When the annealed cases were completely dry, they were primed with a large pistol primer. I have been using CCI 350 magnum pistol primers not because I was concerned with powder ignition but rather because I have a lot of them and I don't load for large caliber magnum pistol cartridges.
  5. I charged each case with 8.0 grains of Alliant Herco power and then filled each case with corn meal. The corn meal was tamped down with a 1/4 inch dowel and more was added to fill the brass within 1/8 inch of the case mouth
  6. I put away the powder. I then dripped in enough candle wax to keep corn meal from falling out. About 3 or 4 drops was sufficient to keep it in place.
  7. The cases then had two wraps of 1/2 inch masking tape applied, a quarter inch from the case rim to help center the case in the chamber as suggested by Ed Harris' article, "Method for reforming and reloading .410 brass cases ...". I fired the loaded cases at the range and inspected each one for damage.
  8. Any cases that had deep cracks or splits were discarded.

Initially, when I started fireforming 303 Brit cases, I first used some cases that had been reloaded a few times. Regrettably, this brass suffered an average three splits out of ten when fireforming.

That being said, those cases that survived the process have been quite durable and have been reloaded several times since without cracking.
With once fired brass, I was able to get 29 good .410 shell casings out of 30 fire formed.

Notes on Loading .410 Bore Fire Formed Cases

Loading with old style card and fiber wads is a somewhat time consuming process compared to the plastic wads in use today.

Loading Procedure for Brass 410 Gauge Cases

  1. Deprime cases, generally there is no need to resize cases as long as they were fireformed in the same gun. I use the carbide sizing ring of a Lee 45 ACP Carbide Crimp die size both plastic and all brass cases if necessary.
  2. Prime cases with large pistol primers
  3. Measure Powder and add to case
  4. Seat over powder wad using a dowel
  5. Seat filler wad(s)
  6. Seat additional card wad
  7. Measure 1/2 oz. shot
  8. Seat overshot wad, glue in place with white glue.

Load selection was tricky as there is little data available for non plastic wad columns. In the "Alcan Shotshell Reloaders Manual No.X" there is one loading recommendation for 1/2 ounce of shot in a 2 1/2 inch paper shell which calls for 15.0 grains of Hercules 2400 followed by a 0.135 inch over powder wad and a 1/4 inch Filler wad.(Alcan 14)

Page 5 of the Alcan Manual states that for a traditional shotshell wad column in all gauges to perform properly, it should consist of at least one over powder wad with a minimum thickness of 1/8 inch and a minimum 1/4 inch of filler wad(s).

The 1951 Ideal Handbook that I have, suggests that the thickness of the filler wad(s) should be no less than 1/2 the bore diameter and not much more than the bore diameter. Going by this recommendation, the minimum filler wad thickness in the 410 gauge would be 0.205 inches.

After some experimentation, I settled on a wad column made of an 0.135 inch over powder wad made of cardboard, a 0.375 inch filler wad made from newspaper pulp, followed by another 0.045 inch card wad.

For the first few firings, I found it necessary to use 3/8 inch diameter overpowder and filler wads. After being reloaded and fired a few times the lower half of the brass cases enlarged enough to use 7/16 inch diameter wads.

I cut out the wad components using a set of cheap chinese made hollow punches purchased from a local hardware store. Fiber filler wads were cut from 3/8 inch thick sheets of paper made from newspaper pulp. The filler wads were lubricated by painting the side of each wad with Lee Liquid Alox thinned with mineral spirits. This helps to prevent leading in the barrel and forms a better gas seal.

To measure the shot , I soldered a piece of thick copper wire to an empty brass 45 Schofield case. The 45 Schofield case just happened to be the right size to hold half an ounce of lead shot.

7/16 inch diameter overshot cards are pressed into place. I found that the shells would work with just a friction fit but I generally will use a toothpick to spread a bead of white glue around the edge of the overshot card.

Smokeless Powder

In terms of ease of use and consistancy in 410 brass shells, I found that the old standby Alliant 2400 to be the best choice. Alliant Blue Dot and Herco seemed to work well enough for low power short range loads but they are too fast burning to be used for standard velocity clay target loads.

I tried the new Alliant 410 powder but found that it was the worst choice of all in this application. It is designed to burn more cleanly and efficiently than 2400 in plastic 410 shells with plastic wad columns which it seems to do. In brass cases, I just could not get it to ignite properly, which is rather odd since Alliant 410 supposedly is faster burning that Alliant 2400.

.410 Gauge
Case Reformed 303 British
Projectile 1/2 ounce #9 shot
Wad 3/8 inch diameter 0.090 inch thick overpowder wad, 3/8 inch thick fiber wad, 7/16 inch diameter 0.045 inch thick card wad
Powder 8.0 grains Alliant Herco
Primer CCI 350
Firearm Springfield 951
Barrel Length 24.0 inches
Avg Muzzle Velocity 880 feet per second

9.0 grains of Herco generated an average muzzle velocity of 974 feet per second. Both the 8.0 and 9.0 grain Herco loads are subsonic and quiet compared to the full power load using Alliant 2400. Loaded with # 6 or 7 1/2 shot, it seems to me that it could be used for small game hunting at distances of 50 feet or less where noise is a concern.

.410 Gauge
Case Reformed 303 British
Projectile 1/2 ounce #9 shot
Wad 3/8 inch diameter 0.135 inch thick overpowder wad, 3/8 inch thick fiber wad,7/16 inch diameter 0.090 inch thick card wad
Powder 11.5 grains Alliant Blue Dot
Primer CCI 350
Firearm Springfield 951
Barrel Length 24.0 inches
Avg Muzzle Velocity 948 feet per second
.410 Gauge
Case Reformed 303 British
Projectile 1/2 ounce # 6 shot
Wad Column 0.135 inch thick overpowder wad, 3/8 inch thick fiber wad, 0.045 inch thick card wad
Powder 15.0 grains Alliant 2400
Primer CCI 350
Firearm Springfield 951
Barrel Length 24.0 inches
Avg Muzzle Velocity 1093 feet per second

I also tried the powder charge weight recommended for plastic hulls with plastic wad columns found in the Alliant Manual. The same load using the 13.5 grain powder charge of 2400 meant for use in plastic shells with plastic wads developed a mere 780 feet per second.

Plastic Wad Columns in Brass Shells

I tried both WAA410 and PC410 orange plastic wad columns with and without a cardboard over powder wad in the brass shells but I was dissatisfied with the results. The undersized plastic wads did not provide enough initial resistance to ignite the powder properly or provide a good gas seal. The end result were low inconsistent velocities and the all too frequent blooper. Recovered wads showed signs of significant gas blowby along the length of the wad columns.


References

Alcan   "Alcan Shotshell Reloaders Manual No. X" Handloader's Digest 1st Ed. 1962 p. 14

Andy H  ".410 Brass cartridges"   < http://forums.pigeonwatch.co.uk/forums/index.php?/topic/105920-410-brass-cartridges/ >  Accessed (Dec. 28, 2011)

Gun Gab  ".303 British to .410 Shotshell Conversion" < http://gungab.net/archives/1538 >  Accessed(Dec. 17, 2011)

Harris, Ed  "Method for reforming and reloading .410 brass cases from .303 British" < http://web.archive.org/20040213045939/http://www.4-10.freeus.com/reloading303.html >   Accessed (Dec. 20, 2011)

Lyman Gun Sight Corp "Ideal Hand Book No. 38" Jan. 1951 p. 160, 165

Stair, Miles "RELOADING .410 BORE SHOTSHELLS"   < http://www.endtimesreport.com/410reloading.html >  Accessed(Dec. 17, 2011)

Zutz, Don   "RELOAD THE .410" Handloader Jan.-Feb. 1967 p. 36-39   < www.riflemagazine.com/magazine/PDF/hl5partial.pdf > Accessed  (Dec. 24, 2011)

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