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5 December 1839

The United States Army officer and cavalry commander George Armstrong Custer was born. Custer fought in the American Civil War and the American Indian Wars George Armstrong Custer (December 5, 1839 – June 25, 1876) was a United States Army... Read more ...

5 December 1839

George Armstrong Custer was born
The United States Army officer and cavalry commander George Armstrong Custer was born. Custer fought in the American Civil War and the American Indian Wars

George Armstrong Custer (December 5, 1839 – June 25, 1876) was a United States Army officer and cavalry commander in the American Civil War and the American Indian Wars. Raised in Michigan and Ohio, Custer was admitted to West Point in 1857, where he graduated last in his class in 1861. With the outbreak of the Civil War, Custer was called to serve with the Union Army.

Custer developed a strong reputation during the Civil War. He participated in the first major engagement, the First Battle of Bull Run on July 21, 1861, near Washington, D.C. His association with several important officers helped his career, as did his success as a highly effective cavalry commander. Custer was promoted to captain in 1864, and was brevetted to major general in 1865. At the conclusion of the Appomattox Campaign, in which he and his troops played a decisive role, Custer was present at General Robert E. Lee's surrender to General Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865.

After the Civil War, Custer remained a major general in the United States Volunteers until they were mustered out in February 1866. He reverted to his permanent rank of captain and was appointed a lieutenant colonel in the 7th Cavalry Regiment in July 1866. He was dispatched to the west in 1867 to fight in the American Indian Wars. On June 25, 1876, while leading the 7th Cavalry Regiment at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in Montana Territory against a coalition of Native American tribes, he and all of his regiment—which included two of his brothers—were killed. The battle is popularly known in American history as "Custer's Last Stand." Custer and his regiment were defeated so decisively at the Little Bighorn that it has overshadowed all of his prior achievements.


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Home-Made Hammer Swaged Bullets

Category: Miscellaneous
Published: 19 September 2008 by Øyvind Flatnes.
Edited: 19 September 2008.
Views: 29757
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Hammer swage and bullets.

It may be discussed whether cast or swaged bullets are best. Of course, both have its advantages, but the disadvantage with swaged bullets is that they are harder to make for the average shooter. However, it is not impossible. Professional equipment is available from companies such as RCE Co. and Corbin, but swaging presses and tools are expensive.

During the latter part of the 1800s many competitive muzzleloading shooters used so called 'hammer swages' which was a die where the bullets were swaged by the force of a hammer. The muzzleloading schuetzen rifles that used such bullets often had a false muzzle to facilitate the loading of the heavy paper patched slugs. A hammer swage is not difficult to make if you have access to a lathe. Swaged bullets normally don't have grease grooves and are best suited for paper patching.

My attempt to make a prototype of a hammer swage was actually quite successful. The swage is made up from three parts: a steel cylinder which is bored exactly to the diameter of the finished bullet, a bolt that forms the bullet base and a bolt that forms the bullet nose. The tool is simple to use. A lead slug with a light coating of RCBS case lube is inserted into the cylinder. The nose forming bolt is inserted in one end of the cylinder and the base forming bolt into the other. The bullet is formed with a couple of hard blows from a hammer against the base forming bolt. That's it, and the finished bullet can be removed from the cylinder.

Find out more!
You can learn more casting and swaging bullets for black powder guns in the brand new book From Musket to Metallic Cartridge: A Practical History of Black Powder Firearms.

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Hammer swaging process.

I used a .437" cast smooth sided bullet that I paper patch for .45-70 ammunition as a basis for the bullets. After it was run through the hammer swage the diameter had increased to .454". The finished bullets were going to be paper patched and shot in a .577/450 Martini-Henry Mk IV. The bullet nose was changed and the new bullet got a cup base. Bullets may be swaged from lead wire that is cut in appropriate pieces or you can make a mould that cast slugs of proper weight. If you make a device that allows you to adjust the length of the slug, the mould can be used as a basis for swaging bullets in many different calibres.

The nose of my prototype bullet looks ridiculous, but it only meant as a just a test. To say the least, it is not very aerodynamic! I have now modified the nose so that it looks a bit better, and it actually shoots ok in the Martini-Henry. The advantage of a hammer swage like this is the opportunity to make a number of different nose and base forming bolts. The length can also be varied until you have a bullet that is optimal for your rifle. To change the diameter of the bullet you need to make a new cylinder.

The disadvantage of swaged bullets is the production time. First you must make the lead slug from which the bullet is swaged. If you have access to lead wire you will save some time, but at least here in Norway, lead wire is not readily available. On the other hand it is simple to cast a couple of hundred slugs that can be used to swage bullets in a number of different calibres. If you simply want to experiment with a few bullets it takes less time to swage them compared to start melting lead, wait for it to heat, heat the moulds and cast a couple of bullets. I have tested the bullets briefly, and you can see the results in the article about the .577/.450 Martini.Henry rifles.

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From left to right: A basis bullet, a finished bullet from the hammer swage and a paper patched bullet from the hammer swage. Picture 2: Bullet nose and cup base. Picture 3: Two swaged lead bullets. Finally, a cut away drawing of hammer swage.