2 Berdan II's with welded up/ plugged holes in chambers
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Thread: 2 Berdan II's with welded up/ plugged holes in chambers

  1. #1
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    Default 2 Berdan II's with welded up/ plugged holes in chambers

    A while ago I bought a cheap Berdan II- nothing special but I wanted one for my collection. After getting it home and having a look at it I concluded it had once had a hole drilled through the chamber (both sides). It looks like at some point it had plugs welded and was rather crudely ground where the work was done. Wondered if this was done by a private owner but wasn't too concerned as I wasn't planning on getting into Berdan reloading. Lo and behold I'm in a small shop last week and he happened to have 3 Berdan II's and they all appeared to have the same work done at the chamber. Picked up an 1890 with a very, very good bore. The fact that I've now seen 4 with these plugged holes suggests it was done institutionally. But, was it done by an importer to a pile of decommissioned rifles or were they trainers that were pressed back into service at some point? Anybody else run into these or have any thoughts about them? In addition to the plugged holes they have scrubbed receiver ring flats, nicely re-crowned muzzles, and all show signs of barrel removal. The photos show the '90 first, followed by the '85.

    Ruprecht
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    I have a 91/30 refurb that had been demilled by drilling the chamber then repaired with welded plugs for emergency use in ww2. Your berdans look very similar but I'm not sure if it was done for the same reason.

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    Quote Originally Posted by racerguy00 View Post
    I have a 91/30 refurb that had been demilled by drilling the chamber then repaired with welded plugs for emergency use in ww2. Your berdans look very similar but I'm not sure if it was done for the same reason.
    Alex shows a picture of one such 91/30 in his recent book but, if I recall correctly, the hole was drilled vertically through the barrel reinforce. He mentions that the plug occasionally failed which must have been exciting.

    Ruprecht

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    Ah, Bill, you picked up the one with the intact volley sights. I looked at those three, especially with the price drop, and it was a toss-up between the one w/ volley sights or the one with the clear stock cartouche. The vice marks and shiny bits you point out were a bit offputting for me, as I'd want to work up some brass and loads for it. Congrats. Not easy rifles to find.

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    Howdy, Henry. The owner of that shop suggested that these were all in a recent importation from "somewhere in Europe". The other I have came from Corwin Arms who also had 2 or 3 for sale on their website at one point. Say, are you still planning on making the Victorian Riflemans Shoot? Just finished 80 Snider rounds yesterday which I'll be saving for that event. Regards.

    Ruprecht

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ruprecht View Post
    Alex shows a picture of one such 91/30 in his recent book but, if I recall correctly, the hole was drilled vertically through the barrel reinforce. He mentions that the plug occasionally failed which must have been exciting.

    Ruprecht
    That is the 91/30 that I own. It has welded plugs in the 12, 3, 6 and 9 o'clock positions in the chamber area. I will not be firing that one! A friend also has a Finn capture dragoon with a single-hole repair.

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    Ruprecht, thank you for pointing this out - I was not aware that some Berdans have the re-welded chambers. The vice marks seem most apparent on the edges of the rear sight base. Your red arrows seem to denote the most significant vice marks on the barrel - or is it where the chamber was drilled through and re-welded? I don't have any experience spotting this so if I'm missing something otherwise obvious, please help me learn! Is there any way to spot the drilled chamber looking into the chamber from the rear of the receiver? Thanks

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    Nice collectibles, at least.
    "Get your facts first and then you can distort 'em as much as you please"--Mark Twain

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    Quote Originally Posted by Araxos View Post
    Your red arrows seem to denote the most significant vice marks on the barrel - or is it where the chamber was drilled through and re-welded? I don't have any experience spotting this so if I'm missing something otherwise obvious, please help me learn! Is there any way to spot the drilled chamber looking into the chamber from the rear of the receiver? Thanks
    The arrows point to what I believe are the welded/ground plugs. I haven't got the borecam out to have a look from the inside yet.

    Ruprecht

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    Quote Originally Posted by FGD135 View Post
    Nice collectibles, at least.
    Perhaps with black powder such repairs might be safe? I don't plan to test them but it would be nice to know if there's any history behind it.

    Ruprecht

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    The ones Corwin brought in are supposedly ex-polish captures. I didn't know they were re-watted, but if done similar tothe WW2 91/30's, the plug should be threaded and then cap welded, the chamber was then re-reamed.

    Likely quite safe for black powder, IF done the same way.

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    In case of the 91/30s at least those weren't "dewats" in the common European​ sense, but training rifles returned to emergency service.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Claven2 View Post
    The ones Corwin brought in are supposedly ex-polish captures.
    Thanks Claven2- reminded me I'd seen a comment about a "Polish captured" Berdan on CGN. I wonder if there are specific markings that might support this or if it is simply an inference based on the location from where they were recently purchased (or if it's just a story).

    Ruprecht

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ruprecht View Post
    Perhaps with black powder such repairs might be safe? I don't plan to test them but it would be nice to know if there's any history behind it.

    Ruprecht
    There's no way I personally would ever fire any rifle with that kind of "repair" in the barrel, unless the barrel and chamber had been re-lined afterwards. Can you tell if this was done? Have it xrayed and/or magnafluxed and carefully examined with a professional-quality bore scope. Otherwise, strictly a wall hanger--or have one relined by a black powder gunsmith, or rebarreled. Now, if I was to re-barrel a Berdan II, since that would ruin it as a collectible, I'd do it in .45-70 or some other more available black powder cartridge, and, in fact, a very few Berdan I trapdoor rifles were produced in .45-70, iirc, but I digress.
    Last edited by FGD135; 06-13-2017 at 10:27 AM.
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    Just recently purchased a Berdan 11 rifle and haven't taken it out of the wood yet but you give me something to look for. The one I got has a nice cartouche on the stock and intact volley sights. It also has Finn sling swivels through the stock indicating it may have come in from Finland with the group that was sold as surplus here and maybe captured in the Finnish Civil War. Alsky has one that is identical to it and we plan to get them together this summer sometime so pictures will like as not be taken then. Nice to know there are a few of these around. In searching through ammo we found rounds intact with paper patches dated 1889 for the Berdan rifle. The wood on the one I have is in excellent shape and the bore is spotlessly beautiful with a tight excellent working action. Indeed I guess it could be fired safely but I have no present plans to do so for a change. This is much unlike me as I fire just about all I own but I have not planned to fire this one. Neat old gun for sure! After doing Civil War reenactment for 20+ years as a Berdan Sharpshooter I have many feelings about finding one of these and holding on to it for the duration in one piece. I will try and bring it to a Civil War event later this year and let the fellows see the thing and handle it. Berdan although a pronounced chicken on the battle filed was indeed a brilliant inventor responsible for I think maybe 22 patents in this country. They ranged from the Berdan Bowls method of separating gold ore from slag to a bread slicing machine and of course the primer system too. Amazing man for sure who I believe Joe Leiper was going to write a biography about at one time. Bill
    zeebill live from the hills of West Virginia!

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    Zeebill:I'll look forward to seeing photos of your Berdan. I've been meaning to buy a book about Berdan, the man, as it should be an interesting read. And FGD135, I agree with everything you say. My interest in this rifle is strictly as a collectable. But if I've personally seen 4 of these types of "repair" there may be a fair number out there and owners should be wary, especially if, like RangeRover, they plan on shooting their rifle. Personally, I have enough grief attempting to load for Snider and Martini without adding more work. And back to the two Berdans of this thread- pulled both out this morning and I now suspect that there may be some sort of liner visible at the breech end of each. Going to have a closer look with my (not professional grade) borecam. As collectables, I think the first question here is was the deactivation done by a government for training purposes or a later purchaser intent on making sellable wall hangers? Further question then is- were they plugged/ lined by a government (in desperate need of rifles) or a later purchaser intent on turning wall hangers into (superficially) shootable guns.

    Ruprecht

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    Perhaps those were "reactivated" for some kind of military history or parade unit in the last country they were held in, maybe used for firing blanks, before being sold to a firearms distributor. I wouldn't know why any importer would reactivate a rifle, esp something that old. In the past, Century Arms (and Interarms and Bannermans before all) did lots of unusual firearm modifications, however, they mostly just sportered used military rifles.
    You folks in The Great White North have different laws, would a Canadian importer have any reason to do this?
    Last edited by FGD135; 06-13-2017 at 11:33 AM.
    "Get your facts first and then you can distort 'em as much as you please"--Mark Twain

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    I think the Brits deactivated huge numbers of rifles in their mad quest for gun control, letting collectors keep them if drilled out like that and registered.

    Could these be such work, later repaired by some importer?

    I have seen museum deactivation and once sadly bought a lovely Remington M91 only to find the chamber welded shut.

    You could try shooting them with "hillbilly proof method:" Tie the rifle to an old tire tightly pointed downrange, load with a light load, cock it with a long string attached to the trigger, get down low and pull. If it doesn't blow up, try it with a heavier load a few times. That is how old shotguns used to be tested back when I was a kid.

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    The Berdan II is legally an antique, in Canada, which means no license required to buy or sell. Would they be more marketable as a superficially shootable or intact rifle than as a deactivated gun- hard to believe that any company could justify the cost of the work. I've attached two closeups showing what does appear to be a sleeve in the chamber of each. With the borecam I can also see a sharp line in each just short of the rifling which may be the end of the sleeve. No sign of anything on the inside in the vicinity of the external plugs. The surface inside this probable sleeve is very rough with deep milling grooves- doesn't look like any chamber finish I've ever seen.

    Ruprecht
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    Definitely appears to be some kind of liner--I still suspect these are parade rifles for blank firing, etc.
    "Get your facts first and then you can distort 'em as much as you please"--Mark Twain

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    Well, you got four now, why don't you take the one in the 'Best Firing Potential Condition' and work up a light load, one round, and see what happens...

    Go Flames!
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    Quote Originally Posted by VA-Vet View Post
    Well, you got four now, why don't you take the one in the 'Best Firing Potential Condition' and work up a light load, one round, and see what happens...
    Go Flames!
    VA-Vet: I've only got the two and not unhappy regardless of the origin of the work. One has a truly good bore and if I find out that owners have been successfully shooting them I might try it sometime. First I have to figure out how to get accuracy from a Snider which is proving to be entertaining! Regarding the Flames- they're now threatening to leave us if the City of Calgary doesn't spend a bunch of taxpayer funds building them a new arena. Right smack dab in the middle of the biggest downturn the Alberta oilpatch has ever seen. So, if you want 'em back, they're yours! Regards.

    Ruprecht

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    Methinks you guys are going to build them that arena. With the league expanding one team, I doubt another city wants them. But, maybe Atlanta is ready to try for a third time...

    Go Flames...
    Looking for USS Casimir Pulaski SSBN 633 items.

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    Perhaps someone who owns a few examples should make a PSA on CGN to warn the owners of the potential danger and to let them know what they actually have.
    Looking for Mosin 91/30 bayonet ГС4625. Will pay well!

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    Hello Gents,

    Between my Berdan I, Berdan II Carbine, Berdan II Dragoon, Berdan II Trials Rifle and Berdan II Infantry Rifles, I have 9 examples. In all my years of collecting I have never run into any Berdan variation in the States with a dewat chamber? I've looked at another three or four dozen examples in the course of the past 30 years and am a total loss regarding these deactivated rifles?

    The Berdan II saw front line service with the Russian Army during WWI and was a reserve weapon in a number of other countries during the Great War. There is no circumstance in which I can possibly imagine that these rifles were deactivated and then converted back to fire on an emergency basis??? Surviving examples would have seen action during the Russian Civil War on a limited basis.

    A large percentage of the examples I've seen in Russian and Eastern European Museums were either deactivated or were absent their bolts. Original examples that are sold today in Russia and Eastern Europe are also deactivated.

    My best guess regarding the sudden appearance of these particular rifles is that they were imported into the U.S. from Eastern Europe as antiques and someone here in the States has attempted to "reactivated" them for sale on this side of the pond.

    Without x-ray and penetrant inspection to confirm the manner in which they have been "restored", personally I would never fire any of them.

    I have two Berdan II Infantry Rifles that I load for and both are extremely accurate. I use hardcast heavy for caliber .430 bullets designed for hunting loads for the .44 Mag. I neck size my brass and reloading with light smokeless powder is a breeze. They are indeed fun to shoot.

    If you don't mind my asking, what did these altered rifles sell for???

    Best of luck with whatever you do with them!

    Warmest regards,

    JPS

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    JPS: Thanks for the comments and info. The prices I've seen on these have been around $750.00 (US). One of my two I got quite a bit cheaper than that. As I've indicated I just wanted an example of the Berdan II for my Russian/ Soviet collection so I'm not unhappy with these. It's not like we have a lot to choose from up here and importing one from the US would be pricey. Obviously, I had hoped that some marking or other on these two would suggest something to someone regarding time/ origin of the drilling of the holes and subsequent plugging but such is not the case. To reiterate, both show identical work with the scrubbed receiver flats, recrowned muzzle, ground area where plugs were filled, and interior of chamber sleeve all being "in the white" and showing virtually no darkening or corrosion. It does seem strange to me that the receiver flats would be scrubbed by anyone planning to sell these commercially today- those Imperial markings would definitely add to the value- but the milling on these areas does appear as recent as the rest of the work. Similarly, it also seems a bit strange to me that with all the effort put into installing the chamber sleeve, the areas of the plugs would be ground so crudely. All in all one gets the impression of a rifle made shootable after being drilled but with little concern for appearance (other than removal of Imperial markings). Perhaps some additional info may be gleaned from the importers (if they're willing to share it!).

    Ruprecht

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    Could these be middle east bring backs???
    Looking for USS Casimir Pulaski SSBN 633 items.

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    Regardless of whether these were relined or altered by the Afgans, some importer in the GWN, or by the Bulgarians, etc., for parade use, I wouldn't even consider shooting one until serious examination of the barrel and chamber, as previously noted.
    As a suggestion, you might want to consider attaching a more or less permanent small metal hangtag on the trigger guard with a warning so that someone else down the road doesn't blow themselves up. One time I watched a collector shoot his prized prewar M91/30 that nearly got him because he didn't check the gun first--as it turned out the chamber had been bored out straight as a shot gun shell-- the bolt locked up solid, thankfully.
    "Get your facts first and then you can distort 'em as much as you please"--Mark Twain

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ruprecht View Post
    JPS: Thanks for the comments and info. The prices I've seen on these have been around $750.00 (US). One of my two I got quite a bit cheaper than that. As I've indicated I just wanted an example of the Berdan II for my Russian/ Soviet collection so I'm not unhappy with these. It's not like we have a lot to choose from up here and importing one from the US would be pricey. Obviously, I had hoped that some marking or other on these two would suggest something to someone regarding time/ origin of the drilling of the holes and subsequent plugging but such is not the case. To reiterate, both show identical work with the scrubbed receiver flats, recrowned muzzle, ground area where plugs were filled, and interior of chamber sleeve all being "in the white" and showing virtually no darkening or corrosion. It does seem strange to me that the receiver flats would be scrubbed by anyone planning to sell these commercially today- those Imperial markings would definitely add to the value- but the milling on these areas does appear as recent as the rest of the work. Similarly, it also seems a bit strange to me that with all the effort put into installing the chamber sleeve, the areas of the plugs would be ground so crudely. All in all one gets the impression of a rifle made shootable after being drilled but with little concern for appearance (other than removal of Imperial markings). Perhaps some additional info may be gleaned from the importers (if they're willing to share it!).

    Ruprecht
    Hello Ruprecht,

    Thank you for the pricing info. It's greatly appreciated.

    It's not surprising that the scrubbing of the receiver flats on your Berdan IIs appear to have been done before the de-wat was performed. As has been noted on a large number of the M1891 Three-Line Rifles that came in with the large shipments from Romania in the 1990s, one of the various countries that possessed former Imperial Russian weapons took it upon themselves to scrub the Imperial Romanov eagles from their rifles. Some of them also received the infamous "Balkan wedgies!"

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    Per my own opinion, these rifles came into the U.S. from Eastern European and the "restoration" of the drilled chambers was most likely performed by someone here in the U.S. in order to increase the value of the rifles on the domestic market. In many of the Eastern European countries functional rifles are illegal to possess, so it's unlikely that these weapons would have been "restored" prior to export. That several similarly "restored" examples have surfaced at the same time in the same place reinforces this scenario.

    Please keep in mind that the Berdan II was used during WWI by Russia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro and each of the Central Powers that captured quantities of the model from each of the above.

    Hope in some way, shape or form, that this info is helpful???

    Warmest regards,

    JPS

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    Well you guys motivated me enough to teardown the Berdan 11 rifle I recently acquired to see what I have. Everything is in great shape with no welds or anything near a problem that would keep me from firing it. It is not serialed matching but with the signs of Finnish ownership in the sling swivels on it I didn't expect that. The stock is great with a 1880 date cartouche on it. The wood has plenty of life left in it and the bore looks even nicer after just a few oiled patches and light brushing with a brass shotgun brush.

    Now the bad news! Like the idiot I sometimes am I tried to disassemble the bolt because there was much hardened grease and oil present looking into it. I sure should have left well enough alone because I am unable to get the bolt back together. So if anyone knows where to find a tutorial online about Berdan 11 bolt assembly I will refer to it and fix my embarrassing present situation! As the Pennsylvania Dutch wisely say Ve Get too soon oldt and too late smart! Old Red Faced zeebill
    zeebill live from the hills of West Virginia!

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    JPS: Thanks for the info- much appreciated. My purpose in posting these rifles was simply to quickly find out if there were known Berdan training rifles and/or known official reactivations of training rifles. Answer to both appears to be NO so mission accomplished. We'll probably never know who drilled or reactivated these guns unless the importer steps up with info, which is unlikely. Being Canadian imports they have no import marks to help figure it out. Thanks to everyone who commented. Regards.

    Ruprecht

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    I thank you for the post it got me moving enough to see I had no problems which is a relief. As a result of my post for help I got an email with help on the way to cover my stupidity. Isn't this a great place when it works the way it should? Ruprecht Thanks so much for the heads up and lets hope it motivates others too! Regards also! Bill
    zeebill live from the hills of West Virginia!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ruprecht View Post
    JPS: Thanks for the info- much appreciated. My purpose in posting these rifles was simply to quickly find out if there were known Berdan training rifles and/or known official reactivations of training rifles. Answer to both appears to be NO so mission accomplished. We'll probably never know who drilled or reactivated these guns unless the importer steps up with info, which is unlikely. Being Canadian imports they have no import marks to help figure it out. Thanks to everyone who commented. Regards.

    Ruprecht
    Hello Ruprecht & Company,

    I'm always happy to help whenever I can. If you visit any of the Russian or Eastern European militaria dealers, you will find that just about every firearm has been deactivated in one way or another. I know of no recorded instance in which Berdan II Infantry Rifles would have been deactivated to serve as drill rifles. They saw active combat very late in their service life during times when any rifle that would fire was better than no rifle at all. Black powder single-shots of various types were used by the Russians during WWI and the Civil War that followed.

    In addition, the chamber mouth work performed that can be seen in your last two photos hasn't even had time to oxidize! There is no question in my mind that these rifles were patched up fairly recently.

    Now as for your rifles, you might be able to shoot your rifles, however it will take some accurate measurements. You need to acurately determine just how far down the chamber the weld repair is??? Based on this measurement, you might be able to have a chamber insert made. The Martini-Henry collectors have a long history of having chamber inserts manufactured that allows them to plink with .45 Colt cartridges loaded into a removable chamber insert that matches the original .577-450 chamber dimensions. You could have a chamber cast made to allow a decent machinist to provide a proper fit in your chamber. The exterior dimensions of the cast could be used to machine a matching insert.

    The modern steel insert could be chambered for the .44 Mag cartridge. NOW.......Before everyone starts screaming about pressure, you roll your own light loads using cast lead .44 Mag bullets. Most Berdan II's have .430 bores and .44 Mag brass is readily available and dies are inexpensive.

    The question is whether or not the chamber insert goes past the reactivated section of the chamber???

    Just a thought!

    With that said, there's never a bad time to share with fellow members.............

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    Colt M1868 Berdan I ~ M1870 Berdan II Inf Rifle
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    M1870 Berdan II ~ M1870 Berdan II Cav Carbine
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    M1870 Berdan II ~ 3-Line Berdan 7.62x54mmR Conversion
    1876 Trials Rifle

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    Russian Infantry Winter Dress circa 1914-1917 ~ M1870 Berdan II Infantry Rifle


    Best of luck with your Berdan II Ruprecht!

    Warmest regards,

    JPS
    Last edited by JPS; 06-18-2017 at 11:38 AM.

  35. #34
    Join Date
    Dec 1969
    Posts
    1,785

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    Gosh, if I was having a chamber insert made for the Berdan, it would have to be ~.44 Russian~.
    "Get your facts first and then you can distort 'em as much as you please"--Mark Twain

  36. #35
    Join Date
    Dec 1969
    Location
    Outer Mongolia
    Posts
    8,765

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    Roger that! .......... But have you checked the price of .44 Russian brass lately? Could probably be converted from .44 Special, but having never looked into reloading the early .44 Russian cartridge, I'd be guessing? However, .44 Mag brass is everywhere!

    ;>)

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