The pursuit to find a cost effective blank for reenacting with the 56-50 Spencer has been elusive until recently. Through a cooperative venture with my long time friend Andy Bresnan, we have developed an all brass re-loadable blank and a less expensive shotgun hull blank. Both of the blanks can be reloaded and used many times over. The brass blank is more expensive, but looks better for your living history events and for the reenactor who doesn't want to wreck his "magic moment". The shotgun hull blank is less expensive for the cost-conscious reenactor, but both of them are labor intensive. Both of the blanks feed great, sound great (Yes, they really have black powder in them and not just a primer.) and extract smoothly in the reproduction Spencers that have a center chamber extractor. The side mounted blade extractor, on the originals, do not extract as well. The rims on both blanks are all brass and therefore the extractor will not rip through them, as is the issue with some of the all plastic cases. Listed below is the process and materials needed to make these blanks.
(Brass Blank-Left, Shotgun Hull Blank-Right)
The following information is meant as that, information only. I take no responsibility nor recommend anyone doing the procedure described as it is not meant as loading data but merely as an informational report. These blanks have worked for me and in several Taylor Arms Spencer Rifles. DO NOT make any of these blanks if you are not familiar with reloading. Blanks are very dangerous and can cause injury and death.
With that said............
1. Start with an 8mm Lebel brass case as the parent case. They can be found at the following link: http://www.grafs.com/retail/catalog/category/categoryId/792
2. Cut the brass case to a lenth of 1.62" for the initial rough cut.
3. Remove the brass material from the head stamp, until the lettering is gone. You will need to do this, to allow the breech block to completely close and seal the chamber. It should now be at a 1.615" for lenth.
(Case on the right, showing the headstamp filed down)
4. Run the brass case up into a Spencer 56-50 blank cut-off/trim die, file it to length, 1.585" and clean out the case mouth and primer pocket with a deburring/chamfer tool. This will give a uniform length and place a slight bottle neck on the case.
(Case on left-before trim die, case on right-after trim die and filing down the case mouth: note the bottleneck.)
5. Prime the case with a large pistol primer, load with 25 gr of FFFg blackpowder and place a 3/8" piece of 1/2" diameter foam rope over powder but closer to case mouth.
6. Run the loaded case up into a Spencer 56-50 round ball seating stem. This process rounds over the nose of the case which holds the foam rope in and facilitates the cycling of the rounds through the Spencer's action.
(Completed blank rounds)
This manufacturing method allows for the cases to be reloaded over ten times*, which significantly defrays the cost of the brass case. (*This number of reloads may vary based upon care, powder charge, cleaning process and any other variables associated with reenacting and firearms. The most sensitive part of the blank is the case mouth.) The case mouth may or may not need to be reformed between firings. As you can tell, this process is labor intensive and does require the purchase of a reloading press and a couple of dies.
I am not going to re-invent the wheel. Andy Bresnan has already listed the process on his Henry rifle web page. You will find the link for the shotgun hull blanks here:
For those of you who desire the 56-50 Spencer blanks but do not want to go through the labor or the expense of buying the loading press and dies, you may contact the Black Squirrel Arsenal for either the brass or shotgun hull blanks at firstname.lastname@example.org
Yes, there is a cost which includes the labor, but they are still cheaper than any other brass blank on the market. A breakdown of the products and prices are listed on the Black Squirrel Arsenal page.