Reloading: M1895 Nagant

Reloading: M1895 Nagant (part 1)

There’s something cool, charming and dare I say manly (the best succinct description I can come up with) about shooting a revolver, especially a vintage revolver.

Drum roll please! Enter the horror show that is handloading for the M1895 Nagant Revolver.

Commercial ammunition for M1895, at least in Australia, is about as common as rocking horse shit. Besides being extremely rare and prohibitively expensive (for what it is), factory ammo I shot felt underpowered and underwhelming. Well, what’s there to do…


And here is where we learn our first lesson… The difference between quality and cheap. Or, as I like to call it, Lee. Where tolerances are measured with a rubber band and QA is optional. Don’t even get me started on their Carcano dies, but whatever. I still love them, like a child that I never wanted. They make dies for the most obscure and obsolete cartridges. It’s a love hate relationship. As long as it’s something common, it’s fine. But the moment we get into obscure dies… Well, either the machinist needs to stop smoking weed or start, in any case the dosage is incorrect! From a three die set (Nagant M1895) there is, as a matter of fact, only one die – the FL sizing die that is a true Nagant M1895 die. The rest are for 32-whatever cartridge that I don’t care about. Because, that’s exactly how things work, right?

Full disclosure, I’ve done enough research to expect that, but still, WTF, is that even legal? Anyway, beggars, can’t be choosers, so we move on… Emotionally.


First thing first thing first – components.

Brass: I actually purchased a bag of brass well before I even started looking for the revolver (just knew it was on the cards, so snapped one up when I saw it for sale online), so that’s a big tick!
Projectiles: little more involved – DIY. I cast .311″ bullets (roughly 102gr), powder coated, because I am hipster like that; and sized to .311″ (as per the Nagant’s 7.91mm bullet diameter).

Bullet mold:

Primers: small pistol primers. However, after testing, I think and will verify soon – small magnum pistol primers and/or faster burning powder would have been a better choice. To be continued…

Next, the charge! Unfortunately Leon was unavailable and nobody else knows. So, after a little bit (actually quite a lot) of research and cross referencing suggestions, I zoomed in on two variants.

One was to use Trail Boss. The recommendation suggested a weight which I immediately knew was too big for the cartridge by volume (yes, I use TB enough to ‘eyeball’ too much). After following more links to other forums, the same author did mentioned that it was a compressed Trail Boss charge. This is not recommended for TB. That’s not to say that he was wrong, results seemed to be good and consistent and he documented everything. But I wanted to start with something, shall we say, ‘more bang and less boom’, while working with an unfamiliar cartridge. I decided to give it a wide berth, until I test my current loads and have a little more time to do my own Trail Boss calculations for Nagant cartridge. Especially when seating depth has a direct impact on TB charge and I didn’t know how deep I was going to seat, until I started seating bullets and running into a few challenges).

The second variant pointed to Unique. Its equivalent is AP70N (which I have) and somewhat similar to AP50N, very common powders for 9mm. Being familiar with 9mm, this charge seemed to be proportional to bullet weight and low pressure cartridge. I backed off a few tenth of a grain (yeah, dealing with really small charges here) and worked my way back up to the recommended charge; and a little over in one tenth of grain increments. At this stage, I wasn’t concerned with accuracy, I wanted to find pressure signs, if any.

TL;DR still a little underpowered, by about 200 ft/s. I think testing with AP50N and magnum primers will get me there.

So , I have the components, I have the charge range, good to go…

Full length sizing

First thing first FL size, yep, so far so good. The shell holder has a bit of slop and I was concerned about case slipping out and needing to extract it, but as always, with enough lubrication anything is possible.


The first stuff-up!

I primed a few cases with small pistol primers for magnum loads. Something nagged at me, so I double checked the primer box and yep, grabbed the wrong box.

Remember kids, check, check and check again.

I am certain now that it wouldn’t have made material effect on safety (hindsight), but better safe than sorry. I wanted to stick to the plan. I was less than a quarter of the way in, so I decided to de-prime and use the correct primer.

I was chilling and priming one by one on my press, slow and steady, but by the time I de-primed my mistakes, I ran out of chill factor and cracked out Lee Auto Bench Primer to power through priming these little buggers.

In case you are wondering, shell holder (for priming tool) #19 is compatible.

Moving on…

Flaring the case mouth

Time to flare the mouth… Remember that Lee eating glue issue? Well, yeah, of course the expander die is for 32, not 7.62x38mmR. Way too big, not even with enough lubrication! I could have filed and cut and fart and whatever, but I do have a universal expander die, so I just went with that.

Thing about this cartridge, is that the bullet seats below the case mouth.

This required a lot more flare than my usual approach to ‘normal’ cartridges. There was a little trial and error there, but again, got there in the end.



FMD! I want an auto trickler! Really! It will happen! This mad science bullshit cannot continue with manually trickling 40 charges at 0.1gr increments. Anyhow, moving on!

Seating the projectile

Back to Lee and… Yeah…

The bullet is seated below the case mouth, but the stem doesn’t go below that line! That’s okay, I thought to myself, I am just going to clamp the stem in my redneck lathe (AKA drill press) and take to it with a file.

And of course, now the stem can slide through the hole, but too short to be engaged. That’s okay, cut a bolt and used it as a spacer.



This is where I messed-up and overlooked the fact that the damn stem looks more like a hole bunch, than anything else. And the amount of pressure required to shove that bullet below the mouth ended up swaging the little turd. Filing material around the radius of the stem only made the problem worse.

Back to drawing board! Behind door number two, we have a 308 bullet sizing die and in my research, I recalled someone suggesting using the ramp from that as a bullet seating stem. Very well… Let’s do that.

Nope! Nope! Nope! The crayon is strong with Lee. The hole for the stem on my die was obviously smaller than the dude who was suggesting this solution (because, you know, who cares about consistency in die manufacturing process anyway, YOLO). So, it’s almost 2am now and I am looking at my drill press, thinking, I will seat this bullet, I don’t care what it takes!

Collected my thoughts and luck would have it, I had just the right file.


Opened the hole just enough and dropped the ramp in. Well, well, well, we now have a bullet seating die for Nagant.

So I seat the bullets… And of course, I am reminded about the ‘QA-is-optional’. The shell holder for the cartridge has way too much slop and concentricity is an issue.

Carefully, one by one, I guide them into the die and try to step it up, to avoid this banana business.

Bam! Seated.

Crimping the mouth of the case

As luck would have it, 223 FL die without a pin is just what is needed to apply the most perfect crimp to Nagant case. That’s right, it takes a capitalist cartridge to make a communist cartridge (oh, the irony).

Yay, we are done!

Bonus round!

No! Of course we are not done! Did a plunk test and… Why would it be so easy, no. no, no, why would I even expect that, after this amount of pain.

The bulge from the bullet is not playing nice with the cylinder. Sooooo, what to do, what to do? Alright, so, all you need at this stage is 5 washers, electrical tape, a concertina, a lama, a small acrobat and an M1895 FL sizing die! A little abstract, but that’s how the entire process feels at this stage. Back to Full Length die, I am thinking, maybe I could smooth it out somehow. Removed the pin and started stepping one of the cartridges in there (actually very common process with 9mm cartridges, so not as crazy as it sounds), doing a plunk test between cycles.

Yep! Found the sweet spot, which equates to 5 washers. Hacked up a spacer and did the rest!

I wasn’t kidding about washers and electrical tape. The rest, I am not allowed to discuss in public.

Range Time!

But of course, the madness continues. At 15m the gun is shooting 20cm to the left. Next time, I will need to bring high precision Russian sight adjustment tool (AKA a hammer). Well, to shoot I came, so shooting I will (and holdover I must, to avoid shooting the chronograph).

Got some unburned powder at my max charge, which was actually a really small charge, with no signs of pressure and cases freely falling out of the cylinder. Which made me think that AP50N would be a better option here or Trail Boss for that matter (need to check TB burn rate vs AP70N).

Average velocity at 654.83 ft/s, with goal being:

  • 900 ft/s according to some forums; or
  • 891 ft/s according to Wikipedia.

So, just a little bit more work and I think I am going to get there.

I also recovered a bullet (I love finding bullets I shot):

…to be continued.

Random thought: this is why I think a single-stage press is the best way to start reloading. Unlike a progressive type press, which abstracts a lot of fundamentals that I think are very important.


Fark that’s a lot of effort. Good on you for sticking it out and finding a way. Might need to call you Will from now on

This shit makes me want to get into reloading even more. Soooooon.

Great write up. Good shit.

Good write up mate.
20cm off the bull doesn’t matter when you’re shooting dissidents point blank in the back of the head, in a basement… like it was made for. :rofl:

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Wow! I thought I was alone. Im not.

Okay kids, are we ready for Part 2?

Loading for Nagant M1895 Part 2 - re-engineering the stupid cartridge, because fuck you.

Soooooooooooo… With powder shortage I thought let’s revisit the Trail Boss path, being that I have enough to last. I don’t use it in anything, this seems like a very good opportunity.

While at it, keeping in mind that I love the fidget spinner, but hate everything about the ammo it takes, I wanted to try something else. In fact, fuck it, I will make my own cartridge, a better cartridge, with blackjack and hookers!

So, let’s remember the horror show that is, loading for M1895.

Terrible dies, terrible cartridge to load for, bullets have to be cast, everything about it is just horrible.

One night after an epic brain fart, I decided to test something that was sitting in the back of my mind for a while. Will the 310Cadet case fit in M1895 Nagant. Looks sort of similar. Also, when I got Bertram Nagant brass (which by the way is an absolute piece of shit, avoid it, most of it split, get PPU instead) I thought to myself, this looks suspiciously similar to 310Cadet around the webbing.

So… In it goes…



It’s a bit shorter, so now I have space in a cylinder to seat a bullet too. Ha! But I don’t want to cast… HRBC to the rescue. They had something close to what I needed (.32) and I ran them through the sizer (.311), actually they can do that too before shipping, so kudos, but I was doing a test run, so I just ran it through my sizing die… Tested weight too, no noticeable change for this use case. Double win.

(both in .311)

Now lets make up some dummy rounds and see if it gels.

It gels! Very well! I am getting excited!

What else do I need? Primers! I have some reclaimed small rifle primers, she’ll be right, so fuck it, in they go.

Now, remember this little factoid?

Yeah, fuck that shit.

Calibration time! Looks good, time load! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand fuck you @juststarting. Fiddled with settings and speed and I just couldn’t get a reliable throw. Now, when I say reliable I mean fast! It just wouldn’t do it with TB and throwing 2.2 - 3.2gn charges. I could get it going, but it would be too slow, so screw it, will throw ‘almost’ and get the trickler to do the rest, but I was determined not to do this shit individually by hand this time.

Alright, fuck you back Nagant!

So now we have a normal cartridge. A normal loading process, I will use a thrower in the future, but for load testing trickler better. Anyway… Bam. Made my own bloody cartridge!

I wasn’t too sure about wad cutters… They got 2.2gn of TB. Literally struggled to punch through cardboard at 15m.

Zeroed on 3.2gn of TB, at around 671fps, which is a bit less than milsurp load (900s). I could take it up, have done that before, but I figured, I am not going to abuse this ol’girl and stick to this load.

Actual testing, at stdev (population) 13 this is the best I could do (consistent across a few groups):

Considering that number, I am pretty sure it’s not me, so I am more than happy with the group for this gun/capability, just need to drift the front sight and I think I am going to call it a day.

From this:

To this:

Very happy, adventure can be considered closed!


So is that a very long way of saying “You can make 7.62x38R Nagant ammo using .310 Cadet components, and a bit of Trailboss”? :stuck_out_tongue:

You’re a braver man than me, trying to load the Nagant with Trailboss. It’s an anemic cartridge to begin with; I’d legitimately be worried about rounds getting stuck in the barrel when using Trailboss.

Kinda… With 310 brass, but different bullets and OAL is pretty important… But hey, why don’t you post something constructive Mr Smartypants :wink:

Re: anemic, I wouldn’t say that. Feels that way when shooting Fiocchi, but they just make chronically underpowered ammo. And I like to keep it mild because I don’t want to stress things more than needed…

However, milsurp load (which I also shoot, super rare though) is roughly a 100gr projectile at about 1000fps. So, yeah, not anemic at all by those standards. In fact, speed over weight, which is revolutionary thinking for the era… So yeah, not that anemic.

Can confirm, 2.2 at 10m barely goes through cardboard lol. Like it actually pushes a hole, not punches it :laughing:

3.2 goes alright and passes the TB “shake test”. Need to drift the sight though. Might I will try 3.3 and 3.4 to get POI a bit higher. But so far so good.

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