Bodeo Reloading


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After a recent visit to a tiny local gunshow, which had a good deal of a “new style” fodder, but almost nothing to offer to someone in search of a reloading project, I have found something that have seen previously only in pictures. Not that this is a rare or a highly thought after piece of a gun history – it is just something that was never popular on a local market and thus not being offered too often. Besides, it sported an outrageous price tag which only added to its unpopularity. I knew beforehand that there is no ammunition readily available for this gun so it was a perfect candidate. Surprisingly, or rather not surprisingly, my modest attempt to bargain immediately brought the price to more or less acceptable level and money changed hands.


First of all I have found a picture of an original cartridge and my first thought was - “Oh my” - there is no way I will be able to reproduce this bullet, which appears not only to be heeled like a .22 caliber bullet, but it is also belted. On a second thought, I have figured that, since I am not looking to imitate the copper jacketed bullet as in the original, I can get by with just a heeled lead bullet. The thin belt of the jacketed bullet had probably served the purpose of a gas seal while substantially reducing the surface area of the bullet that had to ride the bore, thus reducing the amount of friction. My theory, and let me stress on the “theory” part, is that, it was due to the fact that this cartridge and a gun itself were both transitional in two ways - black powder to smokeless, and lead bullet to jacketed. The cartridge itself was initially developed as a black-powder cartridge with lead bullet for the 1874 Italian Service revolver. And the Bodeo revolver was to utilize this cartridge but also an updated version with the smokeless powder and a jacketed bullet. Short barrel and low pressure of a revolver cartridge does not leave a chance for an undersized jacketed bullet to expand efficiently, while using a tightly fitting (not belted) jacketed bullet may lead to an undesirable increase in pressure. However, if I am going to use a soft lead bullet of a proper diameter it should be able to provide the needed gas seal and should not be too hard for the barrel to swallow.

With this in mind, I have continued my search and found multiple references by people successfully using lead bullets of a .422 - .427 diameter in their Bodeo revolvers. Comparing these personal accounts I have noticed that owners of the “modello da ufficiali” (the one with the trigger guard), and of a 1920's manufactured revolvers in general - mention .422 bullet more often than the owners of a “modello da truppa”, who generally specify a .425 - .427 bullets. Whether this is just a coincidence or the real fact - I have no way of finding out at this time. Therefore, it is a great idea to slug the barrel to know for sure what diameter is needed. In my case however, it turned out that slugging the cylinder is even better idea.

While my barrel measured a healthy .427 groove diameter, a bullet of this size will not clear the cylinder without shaving off another .002-.003 of the bullet. While not an immediate problem with lead bullet, it may be a dangerous situation with .427 jacketed bullets. For my purpose I believe a .425-.426 lead bullet will be the best option, although it will require a special order bullet sizing die from Lee Inc. But first I am going to try the soft lead .427 200 grains RN bullets that I already have. Although, it is heavier than the original 177 grains bullet – it is almost impossible to find a reasonably priced .427 mold that will produce a bullet lighter than 200 grains.


With the bullet question out of the way for now, it is time to get on with brass.


Multiple sources reference 44 S&W Special, 44 Remington Magnum, and 44 S&W “Russian” cases used successfully to produce cases for the 10.35 Italian.

Let's compare some dimensions:

Cartridge

10.35 Italian

44 S&W Russian

44 S&W Special

44 Remington Magnum

303 British

44-40 Winchester

Bullet

.422 - .427

.429

.432

.429

.311

.427

Rim

.514

.515

.514

.514

.540

.525

Base

.460

.457

.457

.457

.460

.471

Neck

.430

.456

.457

.457

.338

.443

Shoulder





.401

.457

Length

.890

.970

1.160

1.285

2.222

1.310

It looks like 303 British and possibly a 44-40 Winchester are likely candidates as well, but will require more work to turn the rims, it also appears that internal volume of the 303 case may be less than others due to a thicker base of a rifle shell, plus you will need to use LR primers instead of LP. But in general, why bother with the expensive brass that will require more work to convert when cheaper, readily available 44 Special and 44 Magnum brass exists.



A buddy of mine has supplied me with some 44 Remington Magnum range pick-up brass and this is what I am going to use:

  1. The first task is to shorten the cases:

- Since almost no case stretching is expected due to a minimal amount of sizing required. I cut it to approximately .91” either with a hacksaw or a dremel tool with a cutoff disc. Keep in mind that dremel may produce a wider cut so be careful not to cut it too short.



  1. Then trim and deburr the cases:

- Trim length is .890”





  1. Form the case:

- Well, not much forming is really involved – just give it a slight taper with the .303 British full length sizing die just so it grips the bullet.




And now you have yourself a 10.35 Italian case – ready to prime and load.




  1. So let's wrap this up - prime the case:




  1. Charge the powder:

- My personal preference for this type of cartridges is "Unique" by Alliant, partially because i have plenty of it. First load will be 4.5 grains, but I strongly caution on using my data (read the disclaimer).




  1. Seat the bullet:

- For this first run, before I have produced my own bullets, I will use the "Hunters Supply" 44-40, 200gr, RN cast bullets sized to .427.




  1. Crimp the bullet using .303 British full length sizing die (don't forget to remove the decaper pin first):

- Only the top 1/4 - 1/3 portion of a cartridge needs to be resized. This operation serves several purposes: - crimps the bullet; gives a neat taper to the cartridge so it can fit into the chamber; and effectively resizes the lower half of a bullet, thus creating that heeled bullet I was so concerned about.




And finally a trip to the range...




Although the bullets did hit high at 25 yards - I would still consider it rather impressive for a revolver that turns 100 in less than 5 years, and for its horrible trigger pull - after the first 10-12 shots I had to use both index fingers to pull the trigger. This first attempt, while successful, will require more experimentation with different powders and bullet sizes. This particular bullet produced more leading of the barrel and cylinder than I would like.


Update


Since the initial write-up I have continued on experimenting with different powders, loads, and bullets, and while the final word is yet to be spoken, there are few things I should mention about my findings:

  • The cylinder bores on my revolver turned out to be somewhat inconsistent, and measured at .4225 to .4240
  • 200 grains bullet is not a good choice for this revolver - no matter what diameter was used (and I have tried .427, .425, .424, .423, and .422) - it still shot 6-12 inches high and to the right. In addition - leading was substantial.
  • The best results achieved so far were with the 160 grains lead SWC bullet from Hunters Supply sized to .422 over 5.5 grains of Unique powder. This load shot only about 2 inches high and straight center at an average speed of 750 fps.