Reloading Question

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KLB
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Reloading Question

Postby KLB » Wed Nov 22, 2017 12:02 pm

I don't reload, but I write detective stories. Someone shoots at my detective character with an AR-15 but misses. The police find spent casings and get fingerprints. They successfully identify the fingerprints, but the guy claims he reloads a lot and sells and gives away ammo. He claims to have no idea into whose hands his rounds might have passed, and the police investigation stalls.

My detective can interrogate more persuasively than the police can, and he's going to get the truth out of the guy, but before beating it out of him, I want the detective to ask a series of questions about reloading that that the claimed reloader cannot answer. For example, it occurs to me for him to ask how many grains of gunpowder did you put in each round, that sort of thing.

Please help me with questions that might be asked to show the claimed reloader is as ignorant of reloading as I am.

Thanks.

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Re: Reloading Question

Postby Archery1 » Wed Nov 22, 2017 12:31 pm

That would be in line with small talk. Detectives would already know by tool marks that it was a reload or that not a reload. The sizing die or other die will leave tool marks that will match the tool marks on the casing like rifling will match the bullet to the barrel. So, the one being questioned, if reloading for others (aside from any legal problems he may have with that), should have no problem corroborating his alibi, not only providing proof of reloading, but a long list of other potential suspects.

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Re: Reloading Question

Postby TexasJohnBoy » Wed Nov 22, 2017 1:36 pm

There's also this bit:
https://www.atf.gov/firearms/qa/person- ... nufacturer

Is a person who reloads ammunition required to be licensed as a manufacturer?

Yes, if the person engages in the business of selling or distributing reloads for the purpose of livelihood and profit.
No, if the person reloads only for personal use.

[18 U.S.C. 922(a) and 923(a); 27 CFR 478.41]


Your suspect would have to be licensed by the ATF to sell reloads, and therefore has already committed a possible federal offence. I don't know how strictly this is enforced, but for what it's worth. I think this would give a good amount of leverage in an interrogation if the subject sold reloaded ammo without a license.
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Re: Reloading Question

Postby KLB » Wed Nov 22, 2017 2:32 pm

TexasJohnBoy wrote:Your suspect would have to be licensed by the ATF to sell reloads, and therefore has already committed a possible federal offence. I don't know how strictly this is enforced, but for what it's worth. I think this would give a good amount of leverage in an interrogation if the subject sold reloaded ammo without a license.


Thanks. OK, to meet the first objection, say he bought actual reloads at a gun show. To address your point, he could claim ammunition was stolen and that he didn't report it, because he's not the kind of guy who looks to police for help.

What I've been told so far is helpful, because it has kept me from saying something stupid.

But what details of the reloading process could the shooter be tripped up on?


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Re: Reloading Question

Postby mrvmax » Wed Nov 22, 2017 2:40 pm

He could ask what powder was used (and how many grains as you mentioned), what primers were used, what the manufacturer of brass was, what grain bullets were used, if/when he trims and sizes the brass, if he deburrs after trimming, if he anneals the brass, what O.A.L he loads to, what dies were used, how he cleans the brass (does he use vibratory tumbler, ultrasonic, SS pins), what brand of dies, does he neck size or full length size

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Re: Reloading Question

Postby AndyC » Wed Nov 22, 2017 7:05 pm

Ask him "Oh, reloading... so I guess you use more powder when you use a heavier bullet, huh?"

Heavier bullets use less powder (of the same kind) - non-reloaders always assume heavier bullet, more powder.

or something like "Which brand of primers do you prefer, Lee or Hornady?" (ammunition-related but they don't manufacture primers for sale).
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Re: Reloading Question

Postby MaduroBU » Thu Nov 23, 2017 7:55 pm

This idea involves a bit of forensic metallurgy and less "gritty street smarts", so if that's not what you need then don't bother reading below.

When a round is fired, the brass stretches and then mostly springs back to its former shape; this allows it to seal ("obturate") the flow of propellant gas out of the breech of the gun. When it is sized in a forming die during reloading, the brass is stretched again, formed back into its original shape to be reused. Brass undergoes a phenomenon called "work hardening" wherein as the metal is formed,it becomes more brittle and less ductile. Over a sufficient number of cycles, which varies based upon the stresses to which the case is subjected, the case neck will become too brittle and crack. This is never a problem for the first 2-3 firings, but after that point the number varies greatly by cartridge.

A reloaded case would have a measurably harder case neck versus one that had only been fired once. You'd need to test how brittle the case neck of the case from evidence is compared with other once fired cases of the same type AND reloaded cases of the same type. A pair of averages would emerge between the control cases, but I am not sure how different the means and SDs would be. By comparing the ductility of the case from evidence to those means, you could determine if it had been reloaded. A lot of range ammunition is made with reloaded cases which are not annealed (see below), so it would be imperative to be able to identify and test the same sort of ammunition from the factory. Given the ubiquity of military brass, the shell would need a rather unique headstamp (i.e. the markings on the rear of the case, which are manufacturer specific) to find a comparison sample.

There is a technique called annealing which returns the case neck to its normal, ductile state. It is commonly done for high end target reloading, but not for garden variety range or even hunting ammo. A machine to quickly do a lot of cases consistently is around $500 and up to thousands of dollars. If the suspect had no such machine, it would be very unlikely that he annealed cases to give to friends (given how laborious that process is), which would make the above test accurate.

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Re: Reloading Question

Postby puma guy » Fri Nov 24, 2017 2:08 pm

AndyC wrote:Ask him "Oh, reloading... so I guess you use more powder when you use a heavier bullet, huh?"

Heavier bullets use less powder (of the same kind) - non-reloaders always assume heavier bullet, more powder.

or something like "Which brand of primers do you prefer, Lee or Hornady?" (ammunition-related but they don't manufacture primers for sale).

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Re: Reloading Question

Postby deplorable » Fri Nov 24, 2017 4:26 pm

A serious reloader wouldn't leave their brass behind. For heaven's sake, it's hard enough leaving strangers' range brass behind.

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Re: Reloading Question

Postby SQLGeek » Sun Nov 26, 2017 1:44 am

As an alternative twist, you could make the suspect's rounds that he fired Berdan primed. These types of cases are not easily reloadable without modifications. The average reloader probably wouldn't mess with them. This would shoot holes in his claim that he reloaded them.

And I did check and there are some manufacturers that have made Berdan primed 5.56.
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Re: Reloading Question

Postby AndyC » Mon Nov 27, 2017 4:38 pm

deplorable wrote:A serious reloader wouldn't leave their brass behind. For heaven's sake, it's hard enough leaving strangers' range brass behind.

Funny thing - I actually responded to a shooting at a club in Cape Town around 1990; youngster had been shot in the armpit (driveby) but the brass was all .45acp and had a sharpie stripe across the case-head like we reloaders do. Cops weren't interested in my brilliance, tho...
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Re: Reloading Question

Postby JustSomeOldGuy » Tue Nov 28, 2017 12:36 pm

AndyC wrote:
deplorable wrote:A serious reloader wouldn't leave their brass behind. For heaven's sake, it's hard enough leaving strangers' range brass behind.

Funny thing - I actually responded to a shooting at a club in Cape Town around 1990; youngster had been shot in the armpit (driveby) but the brass was all .45acp and had a sharpie stripe across the case-head like we reloaders do. Cops weren't interested in my brilliance, tho...


South Africa hosts an IPSC World Shoot once a decade on average since the 1970's. Given that it's an active IPSC region, I wouldn't be surprised that reloads (presumably acquired thru burglary) are sometimes used in crime there....
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Re: Reloading Question

Postby AndyC » Tue Nov 28, 2017 5:59 pm

My exact thoughts, too.
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Re: Reloading Question

Postby KLB » Thu Nov 30, 2017 5:24 pm

I appreciate all the comments. I got sidetracked and am only now getting back to writing.

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Re: Reloading Question

Postby SQLGeek » Sun Dec 03, 2017 5:52 pm

AndyC wrote:
deplorable wrote:A serious reloader wouldn't leave their brass behind. For heaven's sake, it's hard enough leaving strangers' range brass behind.

Funny thing - I actually responded to a shooting at a club in Cape Town around 1990; youngster had been shot in the armpit (driveby) but the brass was all .45acp and had a sharpie stripe across the case-head like we reloaders do. Cops weren't interested in my brilliance, tho...


The sharpie mark is to indicate how many times they've been loaded?
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