Hints & Tips Dies

Case Annealing

Purchasing a Classic Firearm

Slugging a Barrel

Casting a Breech

Ballistol Oil

      *Rook Rifles

There are many fine examples of Rook rifle about unfortunately the increased interest in them has also produced an increase in asking prices. Still a fine Rifle will always retain its value. Some readily available cases can with a little effort be transformed into hard to come by Rook calibers.



Made From


Trimming to O/L


255 Rook

25/20 Winchester

Rim will require thinning to 0.50”


Some pieces may require 25/20 rim turned to the proper dia. (.401”) Can also be made from 32/20 Win.


.22 hornet cases,

Turn rim to .343

Cut off to 0.84” and chamfer

F/L size in Rook die or reduce dia. in base of .25 ACP F/L die. Fire form with light load. .25 ACP Projectiles work well.

310 Cadet

32/20 Win.

Rim will require thinning to .40 and sizing

Trimming to 1.080”

The round requires a heeled bullet .323 on the body and .311 on the heel. Some commercially made rifles will require the rim to be reduced whilst most military rifles will take the 32/20 as is. See Below *

360 No 5 Rook

.357Mag Cases


Cut to length

Good bullets can be made from Lymans # 358430 drilled to form a ‘minie’.







* Some will take a 32/20 round as is, I have heard that some people would shove a bit of emery down the chamber to ‘ease the way’ but I’m not sure that I would want one in my collection. Others have just seen a lot of use and the 32/20 now readily chambers. The Cadet saw a lot of use in Australia where they were issued to home defence units. Under the Geneva convention the original lead projectile (expanding) had to be replaced by a jacketed bullet so some Cadet bores may show signs of wear.

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        *   Case Annealing

Case annealing is a skill that all rifle shooters should learn if you wish to get the maximum life out of your case. The process of expanding a case on firing and resizing causes the brass to go brittle and so crack or split, annealing keeps the brass soft. I have spent many hours sat outside on a dark night annealing cases, because that is the best way to see the colour of the brass. To anneal a case you are looking to soften only the neck of the case and certainly nowhere near the head. One idea is to stand the case in a pan of water about 11mm deep; this will keep the head suitably cooler than the neck. When the neck and shoulder area is a dull cherry red either place the case on the water or another bucket of water or allow to cool naturally (the cooling step is not a part of the annealing process). I am a great fan of placing the case in a bucket of cold water rather than leaving them to cool. You only need to pick up one hot case to take my point. If you get the case too hot you will see the brass disintegrate so please practice first. I would recommend that you sort out a handful of old split or damaged cases to practice on. There is no set standard for when a case needs annealing, this will depend on the shape of the case, straight or bottle and how loose the breach is. If you are only shooting one rifle in a caliber, try just neck sizing. This can extend the life of a case as you are minimizing the amount of reforming of the case.

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*  Purchasing a Classic Firearm

Having purchased your classic rifle, please resist the temptation to immediately rush out and buy a set of Dies, mould and Cases etc. More often than not such action can lead to the purchase of incorrect tool and materials. Begin by thoroughly cleaning your prized new possession, for this job I recommend BALISOL oil (see below). Inspect the action paying particular attention to the Bore and chamber. Use a Bore Light to ensure that no part of an old case particularly the neck is stuck in the chamber – It happens more often than you would think.

A lot of classic firearms do not have their caliber stamped on the barrel or action, but even if a caliber is marked it does not necessarily mean that this is the correct one since re-chambering may have taken place. A simple method of establishing one or two prime dimensions is to slug the barrel.

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*  Slugging a Barrel

 Determine the bore diameter at the muzzle, use the inside diameter measuring fingers of a digital or dial vernier caliper be sure that both fingers are in contact with the larger diameter. Chose a bullet mould which will cast a slug slightly oversize, if for example the bore measures 0.0445 –7 then any .45 caliber mould will suffice. (Hint, a long rifle slug is easier to measure) Next cast a couple of bullets from PURE SOFT LEAD and lubricate well with grease or run a well-oiled patch through the barrel a few times. Drive the slug through the barrel using a rod of softer material than the barrel. (Hint, it is usually easier to start from the chamber and drive towards the muzzle. Measurement of the outside diameter of the slug will give you the nominal bore diameter as well as providing a visual indication of the bore condition.

The consistency with which the slug can be moved through the barrel will also indicate whether it is tapered or has any tight spots. Make sure you count the number of grooves as some barrels have an even number and others an odd number (such as the Snider with 3 or 5) will require additional measuring aids.

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     *  Casting a Breech

The Bore diameter is still not a good indication as to allow positive identification. There are over 70 calibers using a .308 bullet with no two of them interchangeable. To cast an impression of the breech using hard candle wax or fusible alloys such as Cerrosafe, specifically a variation called Alloy 158, this melts at 158 deg Fahrenheit This is an American product so not readily available elsewhere. You can order it via the internet from Brownalls in the states. The casting process is the same for both media however.

Clean the chamber first with a solvent and brush and then follow with a light coating of oil. Use the cleaning rod to position a piece of tissue paper or soft cloth about 25mm in front of the chamber this will plug the barrel to hold back the wax. Hold the barrel vertically, muzzle down and warm the chamber area with a hair dryer meanwhile melt the wax and when the barrel is warm, pour the molten wax into the chamber and allow about I hour to set. When cooled gently push the cast out using a cleaning rod. Should the cast not wish to move, then a gentle heating will free it from the chamber. With a little care the casting should provide an accurate set of chamber measurements.



 *  Ballistol Oil

Ballistol Oil has been around now for 100 years, first formulated by the Klever company for the German Army back in 1904 and has been in use ever since. I came across it in an American Shooting Mag and after a couple of e-mails to Germany found a regular supply.  I have found that a 1:4 mix with water is terrific for removing Black Powder residue, wiped over the metalwork and even the stock. Run a mop of neat oil down the barrel and store away till needed. So far my internet research has turned up all sorts of uses besides firearms. The recommended uses include: metal, wood leather, plastics & paint, it will not damage monofilament fishing line (It is also an antiseptic). The Formula is complex, but I am assured that it is essentially a biodegradable combination of oleates, alcohols, liquid paraffin and some others. Ballistol emulsifies with water i.e. it mixes with water. As it comes out of the can, it is a clear light “oil.” When combined with water it becomes a milky liquid.

The instructions say it is a cleaner, Lubricant and rust preventive. It is indeed all these things. As a bore solvent it does a great job of dissolving burned powder residue and, to a lesser degree, works on both lead and jacket fouling. It is not as aggressive on jacket fouling as the mean, ammonia cleaners. If Ballistol was a new product on the market, I would think it was another snake oil (to quote an American writer) but this is tried and tested overseas and deserves a try by all black powder shooters.

Available in 500ml neat oil,   400 ml Spray, and 50 ml spray (great for the gun box)

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