Complete Guide to Handloading: 
A Treatise on Handloading for Pleasure, Economy and Utility

 By: Philip B. Sharpe

 Published 1937, 1941, 1944, 1945, 1947, 1949, 1953 by Funk & Wagnalls 

Chapter XIII


[The author and the publishers of The Complete Guide to Handloading herewith authorize any reprint of this chapter in full without payment of royalty or other charges, provided that full credit is given. Any abbreviated versions, or condensations must be submitted to the publishers for approval in advance of publication.]


"And the angels sing..." There was a song. The angels do sing. And they keep right on singing for the handloader who once read a catalog and blossomed forth into an expert. The boys who want to magnumize anything, the boys who want the heaviest loads, the boys who disregard all loading information and feel that their guns will stand more...


For all these, the angels sing.


The chap who pays no attention to approved loading data, but feels that his gun is stronger, or the source of information was foolish, and loads should be heavier, had better look forward. Undertakers - pardon me, they do not like that term, - funeral directors do not like to play with gun bugs who get blown up - invariably, the face is torn up. Perhaps it would be a good idea to talk one of your local funeral directors into letting you sit in on an embalming. When the carcass is drained of blood and pumped full of formaldehyde, it still looks very thin. Formaldehyde shrinks the flesh. But that face. Torn up? Pieces of metal dug out of the skull by the coroner?


Right there, your funeral director is an artist. First thing he does is politely ask for a Photograph. Sure, of you. He is supposed to fix up what is left so someone will recognize it. Holes, mangled tissue are no problem. The mutilated flesh is cut away - you don't mind, then - for you it is all over. Hot, opaque wax is poured into the holes; pressed into place. It doesn't burn because you don't feel it. The artist then goes to work. Does a fine job, applying makeup. Your friends file past the coffin, look in, shed a tear, and say, "George looks so very natural."


OK, suppose the under- sorry, funeral director - finds the mess too much to patch up with wax and makeup. Easier. The coffin is closed, sealed, and no one gets a look.


Is a choice good? Would you prefer to see those friends. Would you like to say "Hello Joe. Hello Charlie. Hello Jack."? Or be a nice piece of sculpture by the cadaver boys?


Not a word of this is funny. Not a word is levity. Not a word is a crude attempt at humor. All is deadly serious - so very deadly serious. There is nothing the matter with handloading, but there is a lot the matter with people who handload. All you have to do, they seem to think, is take a primed cartridge case, pour in all the powder you can get in, push in any bullet - and that's that.


"And the angels sing..."


The blasted primer blew out, spitting gas back through the action into your face? That was Gabriel, blowing his horn - for you!


The author has gray hair. It came on gradually. Perhaps age has something to do with it, but most of it was caused by the incoming mailbag. It takes cement to keep those gray hairs from standing up. Don't laugh. It wasn't funny. Writes a chap, "In my .30/06 I have been using 47 grains of 3031 with a 150 grain bullet. there is plenty of Pistol #6 around. What would be the ballistics of that same charge of Pistol #6?"


"And the angels sing..."


Then there is the chap who complains that his loads all stretch primer pockets so a new primer can be dropped into the pocket and shaken out. He wants to know what the matter is. Maximum charge recommended is 52 grains of that powder. Someone said that the powder people are nuts. You can use 57 grains. That is what he is using - and living on borrowed time! Primers leak, blow, and primer pockets stretch at a little over 70,000 pounds per square inch. Greatest pressure approved by any maker of arms and ammunition in this country has been 55,000. Heaviest proof load used here in any caliber is 72,000 - and in that cartridge few leak. They commence to leak at 75,000. All blow at 78,000.


When this volume was first printed we had a country of serious handloaders. They were boys seeking good-shooting loads. They asked for accuracy, long barrel life, low recoil, economy. But the times have changed, and it is not for the better. The author is left holding the bag. He spent a fortune gathering the dope in this book. The powder, arms, ammunition makers, and others interested contributed data costing more than $100,000. But the sudden- experts don't believe. They are being held back. Increase the loads given...


"And the angels sing..."


This author has no desire to be a killjoy. Handloading is safer than driving an auto. In a car, you drive for yourself and everyone else on the road. In handloading, you load for yourself. If something goes wrong, it is your fault - alone.


In the past five years, dozens of blown-up guns have been reported - some with fatal injuries, and others serious but non-fatal. Many of these were traced to double charges of light loads. If you have a cartridge calling for a load of 50 grains of a certain powder for full charge, it is impossible to run a double charge - the case will, perhaps, hold 60 grains, full level. Hence the surplus runs over, spills, and is easily spotted.


But you are using a light bullet for a reduced charge calling for 20 grains of a fast-burning powder. You get two charges into the case. You fire it. Ergo - you get more loose parts than was originally used to assemble the gun. Sometimes you gather them up. Sometimes they dig them out in the hospital. Sometimes the coroner says, "What's the use?" and they stay there. There is no possible excuse for a double charge in handloading.


Use a loading block. Hold the block so you can see over the charged cases. Run your eye over them, line by line. Terrible job. A block of 50 takes almost 10 seconds - and any unusual powder level is spotted - high or low. Throw those back and try again.


It can't happen to you? It has to me. I have been handloading for something over thirty-eight years. I have no idea how much ammunition I have loaded. But many a double charge has been thrown. The one thing that kept the angels from singing is that I caught it before pushing a bullet into the case and pulling the trigger. It is so very simple to inspect that I cannot stir up much sympathy for the fellow who won't, despite the letters and explanations and pictures of wrecked guns he sends in.


The Angels sing. They are looking for business.


May I close this brief warning chapter with a story about a Sunday School teacher who had worked long and hard to impress her class. Finally, she came to the point. "All who want to go to Heaven, please stand up."  Everyone did, but one little chap. "Jimmie," she reprimanded, "everyone stood up except you. Don't you want to go to Heaven?"  There was a profound silence for several moments while Jimmie deliberated. Finally he heaved a deep sigh and muttered: "Not yet!"


In this volume, we have tried to give you loading data and information available from no other source. The tests reported herein are so extensive that no individual in this country could afford to finance their repetition - or live long enough to see them completed. Your author has tried to give you factual data, but he is still a little soft. He can kill a deer - or an enemy soldier, but it still pains him to see a rabbit killed uselessly by a car.


And so you can keep on disregarding facts, loading poison - while


The Angels Sing...for YOU!


Philip B. Sharpe was a genuine firearms expert and wildcatter who wrote many fine and informative books and articles from the 1930s into the early 1950s.  If you have ever heard of the 7mm Sharp & Hart (sometimes called the 7x61 S&H), that was a wildcat developed by Phil Sharpe in collaboration with Richard F. Hart.  This cartridge briefly achieved factory production in 1953 when Schultz and Larson chambered their rifles for the cartridge.  This cartridge, by the way, could drive a 175 gr. bullet to about 2900 fps out of a 24" barrel.




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