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Sarge's Reloading Factory
Back in 1968, and just after Sarge finished his first hitch in the Army, he caught the competition bug. The guys he worked with in his new civilian job had a Wednesday night Trap League. (a shooting sport where a clay disk, called a clay pigeon, was launched by a rotating machine and the competitors would shoot at it in an attempt to break the clay disk into pieces. It was definately a challenging sport as the clay pigeon flew fast and in ettatic angles.
Sarge had no idea what a Trap Shotgun should be as the only shotgun he had ever shot was his Dad's Mossberg 16 ga. bolt action. So when he got a chance to buy a inexpensive single shot 16 ga. shotgun, he grabbed it. After shooting a couple of Wednesday nights he soon found out that the cheapest part of Trap Shooting was buying the shotgun. The shotgun shells soon added up to a princely sum every week as not only was there Team Shoots, Individual Shoots, but team practices too. Most Trap shooters loaded their own shot shells to allow more shooting at less cost.
Back in the days before box stores and malls there were few companies that sold a full line of sporting goods. Guns, ammunition, clothes, reloading supplies, and reloading tools. The biggest and most famous company was Herters of Waseca, Minnesota. And they did it all with a catalog that rivaled the Famous Sears Catalog. How was it the most famous? All you had to do was sit down a hot cup of java and I can guarantee you would soon so engross in the descriptions of items and the bravado of Leonard Herter and his "Herters Perfect reloading tools, guns,hunting clothes and hunting accessories that you would soon find yourself drinking stone cold coffee and wondering how it got that way? Whoever the advertising team was, they figured a way to say "deluxe" at least eight different ways. This catalog should be required reading for every novice Politician. (Maybe it is,how else can they tell us how wonderful their programs will be without running out of adjectives)
So, I was hooked, by the prices at least, not with standing the hyperbole. I dropped my pen, fumbled my check book but finally wrote a check for $10.67 plus shipping. For the next 10 days I was as jumpy as a room full of 12 year olds a week before Christmas. Then Santa Claus in the Brown suit stopped at my house. With my wife leaning against the sink, arms crossed and with that look on her face that universally says "What is he up to now?" I feverishly tore the wrapping off the package. Even though I had seen the picture in the catalog, what lay in the box looked like a pipe with a cap on it and a couple of steel dowelsin separate compartments. But happily there was a sheet of instructions. While twiddling his thumbs in anticipation of his "Herters Most Perfect Shot Shell Loader", Sarge had bought all the supplies, primers, powder, shot, wads etc. that was needed to remanufacture shot shells. His wife was getting curious and began to ask questions as each article was placed on the kitchen table. Thatis until he brought out a pound of Hercules Red Dot Gun Powder.
"GUN POWDER?! She shrilled and disappeared out the back door.
"That worked out well," mused Sarge and now with no interruptions he put the first empty, used shot shell in the "Most Perfecr Shot Shell Loader." Taking his newly purchased decapping tool (hammer) he gave the steel dowel with it's protruding pin a good whack on the top and out popped the used burnt primer. Next the instruction sheet explained how to seat the new primer, with the "Warning" that primers contain a explosive compound and should not be forced, handled roughly or subjected to heat. (the primer is the little round cup like item in the bottom of the shot shells and when the firing pin hits it, it explodes hot fire and sparks into the gun powder contained in the shot shell and causes the powder to burn up instantly) With that warning of dire consequences in his mind, Sarge set the empty 16 ga. shot shell down on top of the live primer and putting the primer punch inside the empty case, gently tapped the punch with the hammer. Picking up the shell the primer was still protruded almost it's entire length. Again "Tap, Tap, Tap", 3rd time, same as above, 4th time, 5th time, still no seated primer.
"Heck!" (or words to that effect) said Sarge and he whacked the punch a good one! (mentally crossing his fingers and hunching his shoulders anticipating the explosion). No BOOM, No Explosion, No shattered hand or windows. Peeking under the shell he saw the primer was nice and flush with the bottom of the shell base.
"WHEEWWWW" Now that was over there was still the explosive powder, (said right on the can) "EXPLOSIVE" HANDLE WITH CARE!" The "Herters MOst Perfect Shot Shell Loader" came with a little plastic dipper and a list of gun powders the user could load. Luckily Hercules Red Dot was on the list. So measure powder, dump it in he case. No explosions that time either) And then the wads (in those days they were card board and they helped seal the hot powder gases behind the lead shot along with some felt ones that coushened the shot and pushed it out the barrel) The wads were pushed in and then another larger dipper graduated in ounces was filled with lead shot and that dumped in on top of the wads. The almost loaded shot shell went back into the tool and another punch went in the top and was smacked down with the hammer. That was supposed to crimp the shell.
The completed shot shell with a crimp that did not look like any crimp Sarge had ever seen before was now loaded.
Now Sarge had loaded his first shot shell, but would it work? How embarrassing it would be to have a box full of duds at the next trap shoot. "I just gotta know for sure" mumbled Sarge to himself, and with that in mind he put the shotgun in the car and took off for the back country roads. Searching for a place to discharge his first round, Sarge spots a tree on the side of the road ahead. It's long limbs hang menacingly over the road. The wind comes up and the branches dip and jump at Sarge, reaching down with thorny spikes to impale him. Sarge quickly loads his new shot shell in the chamber. A shouted warning to the dangerous tree is ignored and Sarge cocks the hammer, touches the trigger and fires. One branch flies into the air and the other cracks and hangs down,...dead...
Sarge removes the smoking shell, tucks it into his pocket and grins ear to ear. NOW HE IS A RELOADER! And there is one less evil, menacing, thorny, locust tree endangering American Citizens.