Reloading the 7.62 Nagant Revolver

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Reloading for this unique and complicated seven-shot revolver is simple using commercial once-fired brass, it’s more accurate and much cheaper than buying commercial ammo.  The Nagant Revolver, designed in 1886 by Emile & Léon Nagant (production began 1895) is unique in that, when the hammer is cocked the cylinder moves forward to form a gas seal and increases velocity.  The 1895 Nagant Revolver is probably one of the best buys in surplus handguns on the market right now, selling for $109 at online distributors, such as AimSurplus, J&G Sales, and Southern Ohio GunHowever, the ammunition can be pricey and difficult to find in local gun stores, presently selling for about $23.00 for a box 50 rounds.  However, I sense that most people interested in the 1895 Nagant simply shy away from taking advantage of the excellent deal on these revolvers due to the price of ammo and its limited sources, along with the perceived difficulty to reload.  Fear not my fellow gun geeks, this cartridge is very simple to reload using existing components (spent commercial brass), cast bullets, and a Lee Precision 7.62 Nagant Die Set and can be done for $2.18 per box of 50!!!  Now that should encourage anyone to start reloading.

Let’s start with the reloading dies necessary for reloading.  While gearing up to do my reloading for the Nagant I read online where reloaders would use several different dies to complete the process (ie., M1 Carbine Dies, a modified seating die, roll crimping the rim) in order to duplicate the gas seal cartridge.  If you’re looking to get the gas seal by seating the bullet below the case mouth and taper crimping to get the shape of the original cartridge – that may be the way to go – but quite frankly, my endeavor was to simply get the Nagant firing again with reloads on a rather inexpensive budget and good accuracy.  The gas seal is unique, but not necessary in order to obtain decent velocity and a good target group.  Lee Precision manufactures a die set for 7.62 Nagant and it’s marketed as such to imply that it is to be used with forming 32-20 Winchester brass only.  Yes, it can be used with 32-20 Winchester brass – but it can also be used with once-fired 7.62 Nagant brass from Fiocchi or any other once-fired commercial case.  I will be using the Lee Precision 7.62 Nagant Die Set; figuring if it can form 32-20 brass to 7.62 Nagant brass then it should also be able to form 7.62 Nagant to it’s original specifications.  Now, let’s get started.

First, since the unfired Fiocchi cartridge has an overall length (OAL) of 1.512″ I need to ensure my new reloaded cartridge has about the same OAL in order for the nose of the cartridge to clear the barrel when the cylinder rotates.  We can’t have the projectile hanging up on the entrance of the barrel when the cylinder rotates.

 

 

Next, we simply take a once-fired 7.62 Nagant brass case and trim it, using a Lyman Universal Case Trimmer (or your choice of trimming device) trim the case to about 1.287″ in length.  The main reason I chose to trim down the brass instead of retaining the normal, full case length is due to the hard working of the Nagant crimped case mouth which will quickly become brittle and split (plus, it’s very thin brass at the neck).  I should get several more firings from the trimmed brass versus the original case design with the projectile seated below the case mouth and overly crimped; just to get a gas seal.  Anyhow, once trimmed to this length, debur and chamfer the case mouth to ensure you don’t scratch your reloading dies.

 

 

 

 

Place the now-trimmed 7.62 Nagant brass case in a reloading press and run the case up into your 7.62 Nagant sizing die.  It’ll size easily.  Apparently there is difficulty in finding a proper size shell holder for the thin rimmed Nagant brass.  Well, I was fortunate enough to have rumbled through all my Lee shell holders and found a #19 that actually was slightly bigger than the other two I had and it holds the brass case perfectly.  I marked this shell holder with black ink to differentiate it from the other shell holders.  I suppose that you could, if desired, use a dremmel tool and open any #19 shell holder enough to allow the case to fit.  Seat a small-pistol primer into the case as normal.

Next, using the neck-expanding powder charge die in the Lee Die set (marked 32-20), expand the case mouth and charge the case with a powder of your choice.  I highly recommend using Hodgdon Trail Boss powder due to its unique features.  Hodgdon Trail Boss was originally designed to be used for cast bullet shooters.  The powder itself is unique in it’s properties in that its very fluffy which allows cases to be filled to higher capacities while maintaining relatively low pressures needed for cast bullets.  When a case is charged with fast powder and low volume the inherent problem of “aspect variation” comes into play which is simply, a lot of room in the case with a little bit of powder – and depending on where the powder is laying at in the case at the time of the ignition can result in different exterior ballistic results.  Meaning – it can be very inconsistent.  The 7.62 Nagant cartridge is particularly susceptible to aspect variation due to the long case and low maximum pressure requirements (11, 000 psi max).  Thus, using Trail Boss will eliminate the issue of aspect variation and provide more consistent results on paper…trust me.   In the photo to the left I have loaded 3.5 grains of Trail Boss which fills the case approximately 3/4 full.

Next, seat your projectile to the depth that ensures your projectile doesn’t make contact with the barrel when the cylinder rotates.  My projectile is a cast bullet made of water quenched wheel weights, weighing 95 grains  actual, using the Lee Precision TL314-90-SWC mold. I add a light roll crimp to help hold the projectile in place.  The projectile is sized at or slightly (.001″-.003″) larger than the diameter of my revolver’s bore.

 

To the right you can barely see the nose of the projectile protruding outside the cylinder and yet still clearing the barrel as it rotates.  My OAL cartridge length is 1.523″ which is slightly longer than the Fiocchi factory round of 1.512″, but it’ll work fine.

Below is my finished product.  It’s basically identical to the original 7.62 Nagant design however we’ve simply removed the brass surrounding the projectile.  We lose the gas seal, but we can reload this case several more times.  Also, it’s easier to reload without special modifications to your dies, or having to purchase new, commercial 32-20 brass.  Next, we move on to some field results to determine how this puppy compares to factory Fiocchi 7.62 Nagant cartridges.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Field Testing:

Target on the left is 7 rounds of Fiocchi Factory 7.62 Nagant, 98 grain ammunition.  Target on the right is 7 rounds of my reloaded Fiocchi brass using 95 grain cast WW SWC with 3.5 grains of Trail Boss.  Click on target to enlarge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Based upon the Chronograph Data it appears that the reloaded ammunition produced on average 30 fps faster ammunition (even without the gas seal), with improved  accuracy over the factory Fiocchi ammunition.  It should be noted that even though the Standard Deviation and Extreme Separation for the factory Fiocchi ammunition (SD: 10, ES: 27) compared to the reloaded ammunition (SD: 46, ES: 126) is significantly lower, it indicates that while the factory ammunition is more consistent, it is not more accurate.  I suspect this to be attributed to two possible conditions with the factory Fiocchi ammunition – first, as mentioned earlier, aspect variation plays a role in accuracy of ammunition and the light charge (6.4 gr) of flake powder used in the long case (1.512″) is likely a culprit in it’s less than desirable accuracy.  Furthermore, Fiocchi ammunition uses a 98 grain FMJ .295″ diameter projectile.  Both of my Nagant Revolvers lands slugged at ~.303″ which indicates that the Fiocchi .295″ diameter projectile isn’t engaging the rifling of the barrel – producing an inevitable lousy group.  The only saving grace the Fiocchi projectile provides is that it has an exposed lead-base which helps in it’s expansion – provided there’s enough pressure applied during firing; which is questionable at 650 fps.  All I can say is the proof is in pudding (or the targets in this case).

So you see, not only can you produce cheaper ammunition by reloading the Nagant but you can also produce more accurate ammunition, cheaper.  Here’s the cost break down using the following components:

1.  9 oz jug of Hodgdon Trail Boss Powder ($14.00)

2.  1000 Winchester Primers ($32.00)

3.  Brass (zero charge since it was already purchased when I bought the factory cartridges)

4.  Projectile (zero charge since I cast my own bullets from lead wheel weights)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a video of how I reload the Nagant 7.62×38 Cartridge:

I hope you’ve enjoyed this tutorial.

Safe Shooting!

 

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20 Responses to Reloading the 7.62 Nagant Revolver

  1. William O'Keefe says:

    Loved!!! your article. I’ve just purchased one of these in great condition; though I had originally thought it still had the original Cosmoline on it I’m thinking that it’s been reblued instead. Of course it also has the import wording on it also, which really takes away from the beauty of this piece from a historical aspect. In any event I haven’t reloaded in over 25 years but the purchase of this piece has me dusting off my RCBS Rockchucker and ordering dies from Lee. Just one question. Do you know of any other vendors that make dies for this reload and/or possibly carbide dies? Thanks again for the great info you’ve passed on.
    Bill

  2. Gun Gab says:

    Bill – Thank you for the comment. I received my third Nagant Revolver today from Southern Ohio Gun; their addicting and a great value to boot. I highly recommend the Lee die set even though they aren’t carbide. The Nagant brass reforms very easily in them, just add a tad of case lube. RCBS has Nagant Revolver dies (for an impressive $160! and they aren’t carbide either); whereas the Lee die set sells for $31 – they work great and I have excellent results with them.

    I’m glad to have shared this info. I hope you find time to fire that reloading press up and get the ole war-horse shooting again – at a reasonable price. Take care.

  3. KneverKnew says:

    I just purchased my first Nagant Revolver from J$G as well as the Lee reloading die setup. I also got one box of the 7.62 Nagant ammo to test fire and reload the brass. I have 32-20 brass on the way. I got a bag of 32-20 cast let bullets to try first. My question is concerning casting your own bullets. Other than the bullet moulds and melting pot (which I have) what other equipment/ procedures will I need to purchase/take to cast and load my own bullets for the nagant, or any other guns for that matter? Thanks.

    • KneverKnew says:

      Yes, there is a lot of info to learn about casting. I do reload and have for a while. I even have a electric melting pot for casting round ball for flintlocks. I tested my 1933 Tula yesterday with factory Prvi Partizan 98 gr FPJ thru my Chrony. Average V was 668.3 fps. Accuracy was very good. 7 shots/10 yrds/1.6″ group, two handed off hand. Back at 25 yards it was a 3″ group. My first 6 reloads: 115 gr Meister 32-20 .312″ bullets seated inside case and crimped to create similar gas seal, over 3.0 gr Unique performed even better. Average V was 802.2 fps and my 10 yrd 6 shot group was .79″! Nice.

    • Gun Gab says:

      Hmm, I replied to this and not sure what happened to the post. (scratching head).

  4. KneverKnew says:

    Now that I’ve determined I can get at least one loading at factory gas seal case length, I turn my sights on trimming the cases for subsequent “conventional” loading. My factory Prvi ammo OAL was averaging around 1.517″. Cannalure to flat tip of Meister 115 gr bullet is .265″. I aimed to keep OAL about the same as factory so I figured 1.517″ – .265″ = 1.252″. I figured 1.250″ was a nice round number for a case trim to length. Sound about right?

    • KneverKnew says:

      I see you chose 1.287″ case trim to length for yours. I’m assuming that was basen on the type of bullet you are shooting. Does my calculated case length of 1.250″ appear to short or do you think it will work fine? With the 115 gr bullet seated to the cannalure, I should get an OAL about the same as factory: 1.517″. Everything sound good to go?

      • Gun Gab says:

        If I recall, the case length of 1.287″ was chosen for two reasons. First, since many people were using 32-20 Winchester cases to reload the Nagant cartridge I assumed it was logical to trim the once-fired Nagant brass to the same length as the 32-20 (which is 1.30″). So I initially trimmed my brass to 1.30″; however, when I seated my cast bullet as far as I could into the brass I found that the OAL of the cartridge was too long for it to rotate and clear the forcing cone (the nose of bullet was hanging up on the forcing cone and the cylinder wouldn’t rotate). So, I trimmed a tad bit more off the brass so that I could seat my bullet a little deeper, enough to clear the forcing cone and allow the cylinder to rotate. My end result was 1.287″ for an OAL. That was the longest I could trim the brass and get my seated bullet in the case as far as I could and still be able to clear the forcing cone. Hope that makes sense.

        • KneverKnew says:

          Yep. It makes sence. As I had thought, you pretty much ended up with a TTL that works for your particular cast bullet of the moment. I might be able to elongate my case a bit more and still rotate/clear the barrel with the bullet. I plan on shooting these today to see how they perform against my initial “gas sealed” reloads. If I can come up with a way to seat a bullet deep, and maintain enough brass to create a gass seal I may try that until they split. Then trim them down for “convensional” loading. We will see how it goes.

    • Gun Gab says:

      I trimmed mine to 1.287″, but a tad shorter (like your 1.25″) shouldn’t hurt. Be mindful you’ve reduced your case volume which may increase your pressure. Start low and work your powder charge up. Watch for pressure signs. One reason I chose Trail Boss to for the powder is that it is marketed with the info that you can chuck as much powder in a case as you want and it’ll never go over pressure limits.

      • KneverKnew says:

        In my initial testing with 3.0 grains Unique, I noticed no pressure signs, and it shot really well. My next load will be 3.1 or 3.2 grains. Not sure yet. I previously would order powder via UPS, but the cost is too much right now. I looked locally at a store that stocks powder but they didn’t have Trail Boss. Oh well. I have an ample supple of Unique, Bullseye, AA#7, AA#9, Universal Clays, and various others. I understant the desire to fill the case as much as possible to minimize aspect variation. I used to reload for 45-70 and have tried multitudes of powder/ primer combinations and finally found several loads that were spot on in all respects. Then I sold the gun. Go figure. Would 32-20 load data be inapropriate to go by for the Nagant? Or 32 Long or 32 Mag? Just trying to get some more reference data.

  5. KneverKnew says:

    Just tested 7 rounds using same data as before except the cases were trimmed so that there was no gas seal. Very interesting results. My Average V was around 480 fps, as apposed to the previous Average V of 802.2 fps using a gas seal. Quite a difference!
    So, now what? There was no pressure signs on either test. Do you think I’ll be able to load the round sufficiently with Unique to bring the “conventional” non gas sealed cartridge back up to the 800 fps range, or will I get high pressure before that? I assume that wouldn’t be the case with the bulkier powders like Trail Boss. Like I said before, I have an adequate supply of powders for this purpose, such as Unique, BlueDot, Bullseye, AA#7 and AA#9. I even have an 8 Lb. jug of WC820 which is similar to AA#9, but a little quicker. I’d like to find a usable load with adequate velocities using these powders if at all possible, without having to purchase even more.

    Any suggestions?

    • Gun Gab says:

      460 fps is pretty slow! I used 3.0 grains of Titegroup and got velocities of 714 fps (prior to using Trail Boss). I just kept getting a flyer every 5 or 6 shots so I went with the Trail Boss and the flyers ended. I haven’t experimented with any other powders.

      I would absolutely NOT use load data for the 32-20 Winchester or any other cartridge (ie, 32 S&W Long or Mag) . While the cartridges may be similar in size, the working pressure of the firearm is what needs to be adhered to; and with the Nagant 11,000 psi is max versus the 32-20 Winchester having a max pressure of 16,000 cup, 32 S&W Long at 15,000 psi and .32 Mag at 21,000 cup. No No!

      I am curious as to what you are using for a projectile. Cast bullet or jacketed? Weight? Diameter? Reason I ask is ’cause a jacketed bullet will generate more pressure than a cast bullet, a heavier bullet will create more pressure than a lighter bullet, and a fatter (diameter) bullet will create more pressure than a smaller diameter bullet.

      Have you seen these for load data in your powders listed?:
      http://bobshellsblog.blogspot.com/2008/09/russian-762-nagant-revolver.html
      http://www.handloadersbench.com/forum17/12451.html (Se e post by Bigdog57)
      http://www.realguns.com/archives/130.htm (Some of these loads seem a bit hot, like the 6 grains of Blue Dot)

      I’m not suggesting these are good sources for load data – but you can see that loads were developed with some of the powders you listed. I still think that for a low pressure, high volume case, Trail Boss is the way to go.

      Gun Gab

      • KneverKnew says:

        I do plan on getting some Trail Boss eventually, just because I’ve heard enough about it to be curious. Just not right now. Funds are an issue, as well as having to make an excuse to my wife WHY exactly I’m getting MORE powder when I already have three or four kinds that will work. You get the picture…
        As far as the bullet, it’s listed as a Meister 32/20 RN/FP Lead, 115 gr., .312″ diam, with one lube band (blue lube). I slugged my bore and it reads .312 Grooves. Accuracy was excellent, as I posted, using a gas seal and 3.0 gr. Unique.
        I’m about to test same setup, with gas seal, but using 5.1 gr. AA#9. I got a bullet stuck in case yesterday, and my kinetic bullet puller broke. I put approx. 5.0 gr AA#9 through the primer hole (small grains and such) and then primed and fired it. It worked. A bit dangerous, I know. Didn’t want to toss the case though. The round had a pretty nice report and recoil, hit a few inches high at about 30 yards (shooting at pine cone from porch) and no noticeable pressure signs such as flattened primer and such. I loaded six at 5.1 gr, through the case mouth this time. LOL! and will fire for accuracy at 10 yards and velocity using Chrony. I’ll let you know what I get.

  6. ern balls says:

    good forum guys thanks

  7. JT says:

    What model mold do you use for casting your bullets?

  8. Darrell says:

    I read on another forum that lead bullets would bind up the cylinder retaining pin so that it would be hard to remove for cleaning. Do hard cast lead bullets make a difference here or what? Would it be ok to use a plated .312″ bullet in place of a lead bullet. Also I plan on going with the Lee 7.62 Nagant die set up and Starline 32-20 brass so I’ll be loading without the gas seal(same as I did with the Nagant revolver I had about 10 years ago) and I’ll be using Unique since that’s what I have on hand and use in my 9x19mm for loading. IIRC I was using a 90gr HBWC made for the 32S&W(i.e. .312″) and 5.4grs of Unique and didn’t have any pressure signs. This time around I’ll probably start with a 100gr .312″ flap point(for the 32-20ctg.) and 3.5grs of Unique. That should be a fairly safe load. If all goes well then I’ll bump it up to 4.0grs and run those over the Chrony to get a velocity. I’d like at least 850fps out of a 100gr bullet so it’d be a useable load for small game up to the size of ground hogs and would even work in a pinch for home defense although my Glock G19 is my main HD gun. Anyway, great forum.

    • admin says:

      1. I’ve had absolutely no problem with leading on cylinder pin. People shoot revolvers with lead bullets all the time…they all have cylinder pins.
      2. Hard cast bullets v. soft won’t make much difference at these low pressures. I use wheel weight water quenched (BHN roughly 19). Most important thing is to ensure that the lead bullet is sized .001 – .003″ over bore diameter.
      3. Jacketed bullets: I would slug the bore of the firearm to ensure it’s at .312″ if I were shooting .312″ jacketed bullets. I’ve not done it though due to the extra expense of jacketed bullets. Do more research on it with others before trying (that’s my legal caveat).
      4. I wish you luck. Please post back about your findings. Thank you. PS. You may have to do some work on the revolver if you use 32-20 brass due to the thicker rim. FYI.

  9. lousy shot says:

    Hi, I did use the data from realguns.com. I’ve to say they do perform very well. Follow there receipt as mentioned on his website and you are in business at a very good power. Makes the nagant wake up! Mr. Realguns did his homework pretty well.
    We testted some loads. The H110 receipe works great. Really powerfull. No problem at all. You can substitute the 10 grain H110 with Lil”gun as well. Reduce maximum load .5 grain to work up. We ended up at 10 grain Lill”gun. You think you do fire a real magnum, but as you check out the pressure with some reloading software you do see you are on the safe side. Some 6,5 grain Accurate #7 behind the mentioned Hornady 90 grain “,308 XTP works great as well. We used original brass and small pistol primers. Succes with it. # mentioned loads are maximum. Don’t substitute any component mentioned.