Book Review: Handloader’s Manual of Cartridge Conversions

Handloader's Manual of Cartridge ConversionsJohn and Judy Donnelly have published a pretty cool book for those of us who like to shoot oddball guns – The Handloader’s Manual of Cartridge Conversions. It is not a reloading manual in the typical sense, but rather a reference for using commercially available (or at least less uncommon) cartridge cases to create unavailable ones. How does one make ammunition for 9mm Japanese Revolver, or 7.65mm Roth-Sauer, or 8x50R Lebel? This is the book that will tell you, with more than 500 pages of data.

It does begin with about 70 pages of descriptive text discussing the fundamentals of cartridge case converting, and handloading in general – the tools and procedures that one will need to be familiar with to do this sort of work. But the meat of the book is in its data sections, which contain 2 cartridges per side of page. The data is spartan, but the important part is there: what case to start with, what steps are necessary to the conversion, and complete dimensions for the finished case. There may be a modicum of powder load data, but it will only be marginally useful. The history of the cartridge will be a single line at most. But that’s not the point of this book – the dimensional data and conversion processes are. You’ll still need to get reloading dies, figure out overall length, work up safe loads, and all the other steps that go into safe handloading. But this book will give you that critical first step: being able to make the brass.

I should also point out that it doesn’t address just obsolete military cartridges. In fact, the majority of the cartridges it covers are sporting rounds, from ones that are relatively simple ones like the 8mm-06 Springfield to some really obscure ones like the .33 Poacher’s Pet or the .293/230 Morris Long (and Short!). Basically, if it isn’t in this volume, you won’t find the data short of finding and asking the guy who invented the cartridge. Here’s an example page:

Handloader's Manual of Cartridge Conversions
(click to enlarge to readable size)

The limitations of the book should be made pretty clear by looking at that page. Want to know about what guns use the 6.5mm Bergmann? What type of bullet(s) it originally used? Who made it? You’re out of luck. Same goes for the sporting cartridges. You are buying this book for the dimensional and case conversion data, nothing more. Understand that, and you’ll love the book. I believe there are a few scattered typos amongst the 2000+ cartridges, but nothing systematic or serious.

The best part is that the current edition paperback is downright cheap, at $22 on Amazon. If you have a reloading bench, this volume needs to be on its bookshelf!