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Reloading for 6.5 and 7.7 Japanese. Rifles Updated

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Joined: Aug 21 2003
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Location: Hayden, AL

PostPosted: Mon Oct 25, 2004 3:53 pm    Post subject: Reloading for 6.5 and 7.7 Japanese. Rifles Updated Reply with quote

Consider this courtesy of Lt. Col Shannon M. Zeigler (posted by permission), the main article as being the current one, however, there may be tips and tidbits in the older articles that may be of some help, so I didn't delete them, just made the a little less prominent.

see above for latest and greatest
Reposted with permission from the author (2004 not obsolete, just updated above).

Reloading for the 6.5mm and 7.7mm Japanese Rifles

By Shannon Zeigler

The limited selection and high cost of commercially available Japanese rifle ammunition forces those of us who choose to shoot often to reload. Norma factory ammunition sells for approximately $35 per box of 20. The intent of this article is to address basic reloading procedures for 6.5mm and 7.7mm Japanese cartridges. I will not address the history of these cartridges, and will only briefly touch on technical specification. There are numerous reloading manuals, and websites that can address more detailed questions. I am also going to assume that the reader has a basic knowledge of reloading. Iíll will assume no liability and strongly encourage users to reference current reloading publications. I feel safe using these methods, but as I say, ďyour loads, your life, your choiceĒ.

Reloading Dies

Which one should I buy?

Lee, RCBS, Redding, Hornady and Lyman are some of the companies currently selling reloading dies for the 7.7 x 58 mm (rimless) and the 6.5 x 50 (semi-rimmed) Japanese Cartridge. Hereafter, I will refer to them as 7.7mm and 6.5mm. I have experience using Lee, RCBS and Redding. In my opinion all three will work fine. Lee is going to cost you approximately $22.50 and RCBS $40 plus for a set of dies. Lee dies can be temperamental. The resizer has a tendency to get stuck in the case neck when resizing .30-06 brass into 7.7mm; consequently it pulls the shaft from the sizer die. To overcome this you really have to ensure the nut is tight. You can also thread the shaft and attached a nut to it. The upside with Lee is that they include the shellholder with their dies. Others sell theirs separately. I also recommend buying used dies from gunshows. Iíve found used dies at gunshows ranging from as little as $10 to full retail per set. Shop around and bear in mind that most die manufactures will repair or replace damaged dies free of charge, less shipping and handling.

6.5mm Japanese (6.5 x 50mm semi-rimmed)

Many rifles are chambered in 6.5mm (Models 30, 35, 38, 38 & 44 carbines) which make it a great choice to reload. I personally prefer shooting 6.5mm rifles over the 7.7mm because of its superior accuracy and mild recoil. Brass cases can be found in two varieties; factory Norma or your can reform .35 Remington (.35 REM). (I recently saw a post on www.gunboards.com discussing the use of .243 brass, but I have no experience with this) A virgin box of 20 Norma unprimed cases will cost you $20.00. Although Iíve never priced factory new .35 REM brass I am certain it is less than $10 a box of 20. I scour gunshows and ranges for once fired brass at a fraction of the cost. The other advantage with using .35 REM it that it has a larger head diameter than factory 6.5mm Norma. Norma uses factory (SAMMI) specification to make their brass. According to the Sierra Rifle Reloading Manual, 3rd Edition (Sierra), 6.5mm has a head diameter of .447 inch compared to .35 REMís .4574 inch diameter. The .0104 larger diameter of .35 REM reduces case bulging when fired in the oversized chambers of 6.5mm rifles. I think this produces more consistency and extends the life of the brass. The above mentioned reasons are why .35 REM is my favorite choice. .308 Winchester (.308 WIN) can be reformed into 6.5mm, but I have no experience with it and will therefore not address using .308 WIN. To Resize .35 REM you must initially size it in a .308 WIN resizer die. The purpose of running the .35 REM case through the .308 WIN resizer die is to reduce the case mouth enough to allow the 6.5mm resizing die to effectively resize the case. Once you have resized your brass in the .308 WIN resizer die your .35 REM is ready to resize in the 6.5mm resizing die. Resize as any standard cartridge. Note: Donít forget to lubricate your cases! You will notice that original 6.5mm ammo is semi-rimmed whereas .35 REM is rimless. I have not experienced problems using .35 REM cases in any of the 6.5mm Arisakas Iíve shot. An additional bonus with using .35 REM is that once the case has been sized to 6.5mm you do not have to trim the case length. If or when your case stretches, Sierra recommends a trim-to length of 1.974 inches and an overall maximum length of 2.940.

Annealing: I anneal my converted 6.5mm cases before I begin the priming and loading process. Never anneal a primed or loaded case! It will blow up and hurt you! If you are not familiar with annealing refer to a reloading manual, but in a nutshell it softens the brass (the resizing process causes the neck to become brittle causing it to split). I find it essential in extending the life of my cases. I use a propane torch to anneal my cases. Focus the flame on the neck and about the first ľ inch of the shoulder. The technique I prefer is to hold the case head with my bare fingers and I slowly rotate the cases until the neck and shoulder turns a grayish-red color at that point it usually becomes too hot to hold. I immediately drop the hot case into a pan of cool water located below my hands. You do not want to let the cases air-cool. Air-cooling alters the structure of the metal. Further explanation is beyond the scope of this article. After the first annealing I recommend annealing after every fifth firing.

One problem that I have encounter is that occasionally I will have difficulty closing the bolt on a freshly convert 6.5mm case. I give the bolt an extra push and upon successful closing I fire the case. After the cases have been fire formed they will chamber with no problem. Do not fire unless you are certain the bolt is completely closed.

Loads: Original Imperial Japanese 6.5mm were loaded with 139 grain full metal jacket (FMJ) bullets had an average velocity of 2500 feet per second (fps). I try to approximate that as closely as I can, so I use 140 grain bullets. (When buying bullets look for 6.5mm/.264 inch diameter) I prefer the 140 grain match bullets offered by companies like Hornady and Sierra. I like the accuracy and ease of chambering over soft point bullets. As for powder and charges I have had the best luck with IMR 3031. I use 31.5 grains and have had outstanding accuracy. There are numerous powder loads and bullet weight available for 6.5mm and most can be found in any current reloading manual. Iíve found 31.5 grains to be a safe, conservative load. The reliability of the Arisaka action allows for far greater loads. IMR 4895 is another excellent powder to use as well.
7.7mm Japanese (7.7 X 58mm)

Reloading the 7.7mm provides the user with a multitude of options in both brass and bullets.


As with 6.5mm Norma factory ammunition will approximately $35 per box of 20. Virgin brass cost approximately $20 per box of 20. If you are not willing to pay a $1 a case for Norma brass then I suggest using reformed .30-06 or 8mm Mauser.

Reformed .30-06 (.30 caliber)

.30-06 brass is the most popular and most available option. While .30-06 brass if very common and inexpensive, it is time consuming to reform. .30-06 brass is 63mm long versus 7.7mm which is 58mm long. That extra 5mm (1/4 inch) of brass means that after you resize your case youíve got a lot of excess brass to trim off. You have two options; you can buy a reforming die and cut the excess brass off with a hack saw or you can simple resize it in a 7.7mm resizing die and then trim it with a case trimmer. If you opt for the second method, I suggest using an electric powered case trimmer. A manual trimmer is tiring and time consuming. I prefer using the second option. It is one less step in the reloading process. After reforming the brass and trimming it to length, I recommend annealing the cases. Again this prevents neck splitting and extends case life. After you have reformed two or three hundred cases you will want to get as much life out of your brass as possible. Please refer to the 6.5mm section for more details on annealing. Sierra recommends a trim-to length of 2.260 inches and an overall maximum length of 3.150. Some reloaders will argue that using reformed .30-06 is unsafe because the diameter of the case head is too small. I disagree. According to Sierra, 7.7mm has a case head diameter of .471 inch compared to .30-06 diameter of .470 inch. I have occasionally experienced case head separation, but we must bear in mind we are shooting these out of bolt action firearms and not auto loaders. If that happens use a broken shell extractor to remove the stuck case. A .30-06 shell extractor will do the job.

8mm Mauser (8mm X 57mm)

When I began reloading 7.7mm I mainly used .30-06 brass, primarily because of availability, but now I reform 8mm Mauser exclusively. Surplus and once fired 8mm is not as readily available in boxer priming as .30-06, but your can buy new commercial 8mm for approximately $24 per one hundred. To reform 8mm into 7.7mm simply lube and resize in the 7.7mm sizer die. It is that simple and easy. And since 8mm Mauser is one millimeter shorter than 7.7mm Japanese there is no trimming involved. The Sierra reloading manual gives the 8mm a case head diameter of .469 inch versus the 7.7mmís .471 inch a difference of .002 inches, negligible in my opinion. Again I recommend annealing your cases.

Loads: Original Imperial Japanese ball ammunition fired a 175 grain bullet an average velocity of 2400 fps. I prefer using full metal jacket bullets (FMJ) over soft point for ease of chambering. Reloading for the 7.7mm gives the handloader numerous options. Hornady, Sierra and Speer all offer soft points in the 150 to 180 grain range. Hornady also sells a 174 grain FMJ. Additionally, British .303, Russian 7.62 x 54R and 7.62 x 39mm all use .311 diameter bullets. I scour gunshows looking for inexpensive surplus ammunition and components to use. Currently, surplus 7.62 x 54R ammunition provides the handloader with the option of buying and pulling the bullets for less than ten cents a round. Compare that to Hornady at $18 per 100 and you see an immediate saving of eight cent per round. You will not have the same accuracy using surplus bullets, but the price is right. Furthermore, you have the option of using .308 bullets. I have not noticed a noticeable difference in accuracy using .308 diameter bullets. I prefer using IMR 4895 when I load for 7.7mm. I load 45 grains of IMR 4895 when I use 150 grain bullets and 42 grains when loading the 174 grain bullets. All loads are on the conservative side and accuracy will vary between guns, but I have found them to be acceptable in most Model 99 rifles.

Since my initial draft of this article Iíve learned Hornady will begin selling 6.5mm and 7.7mm Japanese ammunition in early 2003. Doss White wrote in a recent Banzai that they will sell loaded ammunition for approximately $19.99 for a box of 20. I can reload a box of 6.5mm or 7.7mm for less then $6.50.


Sierra Rifle Reloading Manual, 3rd Edition, Copyright 1989, Sierra Bullets L.P., 10532 South Painter Avenue, Santa Fe Springs, CA 90670. Website: www.sierrabullets.com

© 2003 Shannon M. Zeigler (412) 362-9692, email: sa.zeigler@att.net

------Trey's Notes:
Graf and Sons have ammo and brass listed in both calibers, www.grafs.com.

Riceone@bellsouth.net sells a nice set of dies to resize .308 down to 6.5 Japanese.

Huntington offers dies and some bullets, you'll need to check their site for availability and prices.

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I didn't pay to much for that old Arisaka, I just bought it a little bit too soon!

Last edited by gwsiii on Mon Jun 01, 2009 9:35 am; edited 2 times in total
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 03, 2006 8:50 am    Post subject: Mild Plinking Load for 7.7 from Smokey Reply with quote

I tried 123gr Hornady FMJ 0.310 bullets over 16gr Unique.
They shot a nice 4 inch group right at point of aim at 100 yards, with a 300 yard setting.
This might be worth considering for the "last ditch" rifles with fixed sights.
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I didn't pay to much for that old Arisaka, I just bought it a little bit too soon!
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Joined: Aug 22 2003
Posts: 34
Location: Northern Virginia

PostPosted: Sun Feb 11, 2007 12:01 pm    Post subject: Forming 6.5mm Japanese Cases from .220 Swift Cases Reply with quote

Forming 6.5mm Japanese Cases from .220 Swift

Vis35 posted his process for forming 6.5 Japanese cases from .220 Swift cases on Gunboards.com in March 2005. His detailed process intended for inexperienced reloaders. I have edited his comments for brevity and clarity. I am also going to assume that the reader has a basic knowledge of reloading. We assume no liability and strongly encourage users to reference current reloading publications. I feel safe using these methods, but as I say, ďyour loads, your life, your choiceĒ.

The advantage of using .220 Swift cases over using .35 Remington is availability, and primarily the case is semi-rimmed. The .220 Swift is a semi-rimmed just like the original 6.5mm Japanese cartridge, whereas .35 REM is rimless. This improves use of stripper clips and case extraction. 6.5mm Swede stripper clips can be substituted if you do not have original Japanese or post-war Chinese stripper clips.

Required Tools: Full length 6.5mm Japanese sizing dies and a case trimmer, you could get by with just a trim die and not have a case trimmer. Powered Case Trimmer is recommended.

Step 1. Remove the decapping pin/expander ball assembly from your FL sizing die and put the die in your press, set it about 1 turn from touching the shell holder, lightly lube the case with a good case lube. Press the case part way into the die, do not try to size it completely in one shot.

Step 2.
Remove the case and relube it, size it again a little deeper into the die, remove and relube it again and finish sizing it (if you see small dents in the shoulder, you are using too much lube).

Step 3. Take your 6.5mm rifle, remove the striker assembly and try it in the chamber, the bolt should not close. Turn the FL die a little closer to the shell holder (1/8 turn or so), relube the case, size it and try it in the chamber again. Keep repeating this process of sizing a little more and trying the case in your rifle until the bolt will just close with slight resistance. This may sound like a lot of work, but what you are doing is setting the shoulder of the case to headspace perfectly in your rifle, in fact it is so perfect that this case may not chamber in another rifle, but by doing this and necksizing when you reload your brass will not stretch and your case life will be increased. NOTE: If you intend to use your cases in multiple rifles ensure the shoulder is set far enough to guarantee use in any rifle or carbine chambered for 6.5mm x 50SR.

Step 4. Form the rest of your .220 Swift cases using in three steps as above. You now have the shoulder formed and a short section of 6.5mm neck that tapers down to .22 caliber.

Step 5. Replace the decapping pin/expander ball assembly into your FL sizing die. There should still be enough lube on the outside of the case, but take a Q-tip and rub a little case lube inside of the neck of the case. Press the case up into the FL die with the decapping assembly in, this will expand the whole neck to 6.5mm., if you find this difficult and you have a 6mm (.243) or .25 rifle decapping assembly, you can put it into your 6.5mm die and do the neck expanding in two steps, however I find that I can do it in one shot.

Step 6. Trim cases to length - 1.980 inch is recommended. The cases will have a slight bulge below the shoulder because the .220 Swift cases are slightly smaller in diameter at that point than 6.5mm Japanese, this will blow out to the proper shape on your first firing. After the first firing, anneal the shoulder and neck area, in the reforming process you have worked this area quite heavily which makes the brass brittle. Anneal after every 2 to 3 firings and neck size only for longest case life.

Note: It might seem like a lot of work with all these partial sizings and relubeing the cases and forming the shoulder and neck as separate steps, but I tried to form the neck and shoulder in the same step and found that I crushed about 40% of my brass, likewise when I tried to use fewer than three stages to form the shoulder I got oil dents or crushed shoulders. Using the process I described here 100% survive.

Originally Posted on www.Gunboards.com, Firearms of the Rising Sun
By Vis35: 03/31/2005 : 05:31:46 AM
Edited by Shannon Zeigler, 11 FEB 07
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PostPosted: Tue May 26, 2009 9:41 am    Post subject: Old post from Shannon Reply with quote

See above for latest and greatest reloading article.

Posted: Fri Mar 18, 2005 10:18 pm by Shannon
Post subject: Loads for the 7.7mm

Japanese 7.7 x 58mm originally fired a 174gr FMJ and if I recall, correctly, the velocity was around 2400 fps. I've never shot original ammo or weight the bullet to confirm published reports. I do intend to do that once I get off my duff and buy a chronograph - it's the only bit of gear I lack to consider myself a serious reloader.

I've used a variety of bullets (.308, .3105 & .311) depending on what I want distances I intend to shoot. Decent plinking ammo (100yds or less) can be made .308 bullets, in 147, 168 & 172 grain. I've had good luck with all. I've shot them at 400 meters and they do terrible - they'll sprial all around the target, pretty humorous - but a waste.

In .3105, Hornandy makes a great 174gr FMJ bullet that I've great success with. It is about a close to the real thing as you'll find commerically. They run about $17-$19 a box of 100.

If memory serves Speer makes a .311 diameter bullet, but it's soft point so I don't use it. I prefer the FMJ for more consistent feeding and proximity to the original load.

The best and least expensive load I can recommend is using pulled 7.62 x 54R bullets. I've shot many loads through my 99 LMG using Czech 7.62R LPS (150gr) ball with nice results. Again, not a tack driver, but inexpensive to use. My current favorite it using the currently imported Hungarian Yellow Tip Heavy Ball. They weight-in at around 180grs and do quite nicely in the Type 99s. I also use the Hungarian powder as well and load the cases with 42-44 grains. The 7.62R Hungarian charge is 46 grains so you can't do a pull and dump with these. Jeremy and Gregg, regular contributors to this and other boards, recommend this method to me, and I highly recommend it as well. You can buy a 880 rounds from AIM Surplus for $70 plus shipping or go to a gun show and avoid the shipping costs (apprx $20 for 880 rounds). Regardless it's a great price for both powder and bullets.

If I am using commercial powder I go with IMR 4895. I've had excellent results with that. I trust this helps. Read the relaoding article Trey provided - I discuss case forming, dies and loads.

Best Regards, Shannon

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