May 29, 2009

Whatever Happened To The Brass Casings?

by Stephen Bly

I’m a dirt road guy. Blacktop bores me. And Interstates drone like a prison line: you see nothing but the rig in front of you.

My latest protagonist, Avery John Creede, and his 17-year-old nephew, Ace, roam for days under the clear, blue Montana skies. If you like frontier wilderness, Montana’s got plenty of that kind of space left. I live next door in Idaho, and don’t intend to move, but Montana and Wyoming feel a lot like home too.

One thing about our highway system. . .it’s well marked and easy to navigate. Not so in Avery John Creede’s day. Those horse trails had no signs. That required a ‘feel’ for the land to keep from drifting off course. And when you’re lost a hundred miles from nowhere, danger lurks.

That’s why in one scene in Creede of Old Montana Avery uses empty brass casings from his bullet belt to mark the trail for Ace.

When you watch western movies, you don’t often see a cowboy pick up brass after he shoots to reload his own cartridges. But most of them did. Store-bought bullets were often too far away and expensive. Somewhere in his saddle bag, most cowboys carried a reloading tool (see left photo) and a bullet mold (see right photo). With a hunk of lead, a tin of primers, and a sack of black powder, they could reload the brass and restock their bullet belts.
Avery packs a .44 Colt revolver and a .44 Winchester 1873 saddle ring carbine. Both weapons use the same bullet, so he only needs one reload tool and one bullet mold. A .44 Winchester Center Fire cartridge is often called a 44/40. The size of the bullet is .44 of an inch, and it contains 40 grains of black powder. That explosion pushes 200 grains of lead fast enough to kill most anything.

If you simply required a larger bullet, you could go with the .45-70 (found in most of the Army rifles, carbines, and muskets). Or, like the Fortune men in the Fortunes of the Black Hills Series, you could tote a .50 caliber Sharps.

But enough of this ammo talk, especially since most of the readers of this blog tend to be gals. However, if you lived in the Old West, you’d have to know these sorts of details. And carry your own gun. As Mary Jane Cutler (alias ‘Sunny’) does in Creede of Old Montana (to be released October 2009).

On the trail,

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Edna said...

I love to read about old things but a lot of them are younger than me, but I never was around horses, I am glad because I was scared of Mama's old cow, she chased me up a tree one time, I was not very old, but she had a calf and I didn't know any better and just went right on down past her and she got after me, I was up in that tree crying for my mama, because the old cow just looked up at me and stood, there, she knew I was afraid. But I do enjoy these stories


Molly Noble Bull said...

I love to read all Stephen's interesting articles. His books are great, too.

Vickie McDonough said...

Thanks for sharing about casings. I don't think I've ever read a book where someone picked them up, but it makes perfect sense that they would.

Tina Dee Books said...

I have heard about picking up the casings, but I don't remember where I'd heard it.

I recently went target shooting with my oldest son. He's 21. He and his brother were adopted and their parents have invited me to visit and spend time with my boys (God is so good!)

As a souvenir of our time together, I collected the casings from the rifle we used. I have them tucked away in a drawer.

Hubby and I just visited Steve, should give a warning when you post such links. My dear hubby drooled all over my computer keyboard reading through those shotguns! LOL!

Thanks for the great info. Enjoyed your article, as usual!


Alison Bryant said...

A lot of us gals like ammo talk, too! =) Thanks for the info...very interesting.

Susan Page Davis said...

Good point, Steve. My dh is a reloader, and I shoulda thought of that. I'll make sure my characters pick up their brass in my second Ladies' Shooting Club book.

A J Hawke said...

A great post!
Part of the reason I write historicals is I enjoy the learning.


Karin said...

And those shoot outs are fiction also. They didn't have enought bullets for what we see on TV!