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Wildcatting
For many, reloading their own ammunition is about one thing; performance. There comes a time where the performance of a round peaks out with adjustments in bullet size/weight, powder charge and size, and other factors that can be controlled by changing a part of the process. When this happens, many hobby reloaders tend to stick with the performance they have achieved and continue on. However, there are a few that take it to the next level; we call those “wildcatters.”

Wildcatting isn’t a new term. In fact, many rounds commercially available today are only in existence because of a wildcatter. Simply put, they saw a need or niche that hasn’t been fulfilled and tweaked an existing round to fit the need. Some of the more prominent wildcat rounds include the .22-250(wildcatted using the 5.56 round), 17 REM (a wildcatted 222 REM), and the 25-06 (a necked down 30-06 round.) These are only a few of the rounds that were once only a variation of an existing round.

With that in mind, is it feasible, or safe, to wildcat today? Of course! The question is, do you have the right mix of patience and experience to be successful. Wildcatting can be done several ways, some of which you may actually already be implementing into your reload process. Let’s look at a few wildcatting techniques.

Necking

This process is done by many reloaders, yet just simply forming the neck of the casing back to it’s factory shape isn’t wildcatting. However, when you neck the case up or down, in turn changing the size of the bullet needed, this is considered wildcatting. Take the .22-250 for example. Though it is a scaled down version of the 5.56 casing, the neck of the cartridge was a necked down version of the 250 savage, necked down to accept a .224 bullet.

Many professional reloaders will change the bullet diameter to effect velocity and/or accuracy; this is a very basic form of wildcatting.

Case Modifications

Parker Otto Ackley, commonly referred to as just P.O. Ackley, was the renowned expert when it came to modifying existing cartridge cases. In fact, he spent much time doing extensive work and writing about his experiments in improving cases. His modifications often consisted of straightening out the case body and changing the angle of the case shoulder. He found, however, that there are limits to what you can safely change without causing extraction issues.

He found this limit to be 0.10” per inch of case body when it came to taper and 40 degrees was the steepest should angle. These limits are still the standard today for many wildcatters.

Moving Case Shoulders

When it comes to moving the shoulder of a case, extreme care should be given as not to cause premature throat erosion. The most common practice is to move the shoulder of the case back, in turn creating a shorter round. This would allow for less of a gap between the powder charge and the bullet, leading to an increase in velocity.

Before you begin moving the shoulder back or forward, take great care to research the specific case size you are using to find the precise limits. You can never be too careful when it comes to wildcatting; research is key.

Always remember that wildcatting a cartridge should only be done by those professional reloaders. If you are a newbie, don’t attempt to change the existing cartridge in any way until you have developed the skills and gained the experience needed to do so safely.