Shooting Out a Candle with a .45 Single Action: The craft of making ammunition from your home work bench

Most of my recreation activities, much like the nature of this blog site are for my own personal interests. And occasionally I put up a video, largely so I can watch it and work things out. I’m not really thinking of a greater audience that might see it, but I share things in case anybody might be interested. If I put a little more effort into the popularity of things it would indicate that I cared what people thought about what I was doing which I don’t. But as many have been telling me, it wouldn’t take much to polish things up to a mass audience and that might be something I do in the future. But for now I am having fun with a relatively new hobby of mine, Cowboy Fast Draw. Over the last several years I have been working on a very intense project that has a lot of moving pieces and international value so to balance out the stress of it I have turned to single action shooting with a little private range in my garage that is kind of rustic and disorderly—which counters all the order that is required in the task I mentioned. That makes this little range of mine a very valuable element to my life that has provided great joy. And to that effect I have learned a lot more about shooting and ballistics than I ever would have if I had not joined the Cowboy Fast Draw Association. With them I have learned so many neat little tricks about shooting ammunition other than lead bullets. And it has been in these adventures that I have experimented a great deal and learned to shoot out a candle with a single action .45. One of these little experiments can be seen in the video below.

 

On the Cowboy Fast Draw shooting at that little range I practice at ranges from 10’ to 21’ and since I have a history with working bullwhips in a competitive way and putting out candles with the accuracy required it has been on my mind to try to do such a stunt with a gun. But to do that I had to learn to play around with ammunition to make such a thing viable. And this is what a good hobby can do for anybody. I just can’t emphasize enough what a blessing all this has been in my life. I have always enjoyed many things. I have more hobbies than there is time in a day to do them all. But for me practicing this particular set of skills which is involved in Cowboy Fast Draw shooting it was just the right thing to settle my mind down for the vast challenges that are involved in business. I would say similar people in my position might manage the stress with golf, or something equivalent. But for me that wasn’t enough. I needed something that worked with me at a foundational level, and a unique aspect to shooting sports was just the thing.

Part of that journey has been in building my own reloads, which is really the first skill you have to learn in Cowboy Fast Draw. We use wax bullets in that sport so you have to learn to prep cases, load primers and bullets to participate in the sport. It’s all pretty easy once you learn the components, and it is a very satisfying thing to do at the end of a hard day of work to stand at a workbench and reload a bunch of Cowboy Fast Draw ammunition. But to do what I needed to do with the candle trick is to take that reloading to a different level and use actual large pistol primers seated in the casing instead of just inserting a large 209 shotgun primer in letting the tight tolerances hold everything in place. The reason is that with shooting the wax bullets in Cowboy Fast Draw the 209 primer does all the propelling of the bullet. It sounds like a loud cap gun but it moves the bullet along at over 600 ft per second which is significant. But with the bullet charge I used for the candle trick I had to properly install a primer with a modified flash hole to get everything to work.

So I went out and bought an ingenious little device called a Harvey Deprimer. That is a little tool that pushes out the primer of a .45 pistol casing. I already had the large Hornady hot tub cleaner so that I could clean up a bunch of .45 casings and then prepare them for reloading the way you would if you were reloading stock ammunition for the gun range. Only with this type of thing there is an extra step, you have to modify that flash hole from the primer pocket to the inside of the casing where the powder charge will be. I spent some time drilling out that flash hole with a 1/8 drill bit on around 50 casings then I went to Cabela’s and picked up a Lyman E-Zee hand primer tool which installed the large pistol primers into the primer recess and I loaded my special cases for shooting out candles with a .45 single action. Of course, it worked which you can see in the video.

However, the most beneficial part of the whole exercise was the process of doing the work, of going to Cabela’s and picking up all the things I needed then crafting up the ammunition for the task. On the day I did it was raining ever so softly outside, and I was at my bench doing the work of combining tight machining tolerances and gunpowder in ways that defined the essence of the Second Amendment in really wonderful ways. It was nice to make ammunition without the polish of a professional manufacturer, just like it is nice to build a fire as opposed to turning on an electric fireplace. It was nice to just apply the craft of a new skill to a task worth trying.

As I was doing all these things I couldn’t help but think of some Japanese people whom I know who are really into samurai culture. In Japan they do not run from their heritage the way we have been encouraged to in the United States. That valor for which the samurai represented to the Japanese people is alive in nearly everything they do and I couldn’t help but draw comparisons. Guns in America and in business are synonymous with quality and accuracy and while the power that comes from the gun is quite explosive, the ability to hit tight targets very fast is something I find special. And as far as hitting a tight target I can’t think of anything tighter or more sensitive than a candle.

So it turned out to be a pretty rewarding exercise that was worth sharing. We all do things in life that can be unique, and the more things that generate happiness, the better. For me this new aspect to a long-time interest that I’ve had in gunfighters and single action guns is just wonderful. I remember when that West Chester Cabela’s opened and I covered it here with great enthusiasm. I look for excuses to go there all the time, and this new hobby gives me a reason to go often. It wasn’t something I missed to realize that some of these very unique shooting supplies were things that Cabela’s carries on the shelf. A few years ago before these big outdoor supplier stores opened, this type of reloading was really obscure, and hard to get parts for. But not anymore. And no matter how bad the world may look on the outside, the process of going to Cabela’s and getting reloading equipment to make actual ammunition is a reminder that all is good with the world as long as people can do such things. It has certainly been one of the more satisfying things that I’ve done in a while—and with the results of this little test, I’ll be doing it a lot more often.

Rich Hoffman

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