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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Aspiring to become a man of the cloth. So, I bought Len's loader and Troy's 54R pusher. Both really nice pieces of work from two pros - who are also really nice to do business with.

First night trying, having some difficulty with;
  • The cartridges force the belt towards the front of the the loader - maybe the belts are not stretched enough or the cartridges need a little silicon lube before loading?
    This link below displays a picture of the belt being pushed towards the front of the loader - the loaded rounds seem to go forward and out of the device instead of just straight out. I wonder if the guide spring tension is too tight, there are some double feeds from the needle seated cartridge jamming into the cartridge being fully seated.
  • Loading cartridges into the belt uniformly - there are small deviations with seating depth, probably not enough to be problematic?
    This link below displays a picture a well used IMA style of belt loaded with 36 rds of 54R

The pictures do not represent my operation of the loader (the upper arm and belt cover were in place). I have read the manual carefully and watched lots of Youtube videos about using the loader... I believe/hope my technique is solid. However, I am unsure about the upper arms spring tension and other adjustments (guide spring, tension screws) that may effect my issues.

Would like some tips from the beltfed gurus. My intent was to start loading and unloading the well - used IMA green and white style belts that I acquired from fellow board member, to loosen them up. I already unloaded the belt in the photos and hung it up on a home-made stretching rack - basically just a lead brick tied to the belt's grommets. I'll try again after a few days on the stretching rack!

I may try loading a Izzy .308 belt next with .308 and see if I encounter the same issues. As I intend to attempt to operate my MG (once BATFE approves) in .308 before trying the 54R conversion. My Izzie belts are brand new, is there a post about how to prepare a brand new belt for use? Perhaps I should stretch them or handload/unload them first.
 

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Boy, that looks A LOT harder than just giving in and using Israeli links and the OOW plate linker. They work perfectly together with 54R
 

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Hey NBC LT, any better luck with .308 ammo or with looser belts?
308 ammo will not be a problem, No Rim and sized correctly for the belts.

Looser belts will help. Rule of thumb here is if 308 is falling out of them they will work for 54R.
Links are the easiest as long as you lube the links and don't seat them too deep. Oh yea, and feed single loop first.
 

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When you are stretching belts, best to get them wet with warm water then hang them with weights.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Belt strecthing experiment

The 54R conversion instructions clearly mention that well stretched belts are a must - so I decided to try two different belt stretching methods after buying well used IMA type of 100 round belts. I initially thought that the used belts I acquired were already stretched enough, but I realize that is not the case.

Method #1
Soak and hang - After soaking and hanging the belt, there was almost a foot of stretch! Should be dry by tonight - more to come.

This belt was hung after soaking in hot water for 5 minutes. The weight is a lead brick within a sandbag - link to picture below


Method #2
Loading the belt by hand and hanging a lead brick from 2 gromets. Not as much stretch in the overall belt length as the first (recommended) method - but seems to be working.

I have been loading this belt and hanging a lead brick off of both gromets - link to picture below

I have been loading the belt deep with 54R. Note that you can see the belt actually adjusting downward from the shuttle area - link to picture below
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
Will do!

Hey NBC LT, any better luck with .308 ammo or with looser belts?
I am stretching the belts now to try with 54R again soon. My .308 belts are brand new IZZIES, I may try that later tonight.
UPDATE
Trying to load the new Izzie belts with the .308 pusher did not go well either. The cartridges push the belt forward in the star rollers. I'll try again during the week with actual M80 ammo - I was using expendable reloads today that have a longer overall length.

The stretched white belt (soak and hang method) gained about 4 inches once off the rack. Could not load either 54R or .308 into it reliably - same reported issues.

I kept the green belt loaded today (load and hang method) and hung it from the same place I hung my white belt yesterday (changed suspending the lead brick weight from both grommets to a single grommet). Stroked the belt with a wet paintbrush and let dry in the AZ heat twice today. Will unload tomorrow and try to load ammo into it.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Progress made in 54R loading

I stretched 2 belts;

Belt #1 - a white IMA style belt suspending a lead brick by a single grommet unloaded after soaking in hot water- Still having trouble loading either .308 or 54R in this belt. In 54R the cartridge pushes the belt forward into the star wheel and forward from it's ideal position out of the shutter.... verdict - belt is still too tight - still really hard to load by hand with any round. .308 rounds do not seem to line up right for penetrating the junction between the needle arms and entry into the belt. I usually have to push down, or to the left upon the projectile for a cartridge to get between the needle arms properly and guide into the belt.

Belt #2 - a green IMA style belt that I loaded and suspended a lead brick from both grommets dry, then hung it from a single grommet, loaded with 54R, and used a paint brush to wet the belt while suspended. Since the belts dry quick here in AZ, I wet them with the paintbrush twice. I was able to unload this particular belt and reload it in 54R. Trying to load .308 with this belt still seems to have an issue with alignment of the cartridge penetrating the junction between the needle arms and entry into the belt. However the belt is loose, it grips enough on to the 54R and .308 rounds that they don't fall out (unless shook) but you can push them back or forward pretty easily within the belt and it is a little less easy to get the cartridges all the way out of the belt... verdict - I think I got this one right. Now I need to figure out why the .308 needs to be guided down and to the left to engage the area between the upper and lower needle arms to insert into the belt.

I did not stretch the new, unissued IMI belt - therefore it does not even come close to loading in any caliber. Not sure how to stretch or prepare this for .308 or 54R use - any help appreciated in the belt prep department amongst gurus.

In the words of Charlie Sheen - overall I think I'm "Winning" the battle of the belts. Amazing, my granddad and father probably did this all day long and I'm acting like them with a cell phone now that the tables are turned.

OVERALL LESSON - It may be best to stretch belts loaded and wet them for hanging with ~ 20 lbs weight.
 

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Thank you for the update NBC LT, I am watching this thread with great interest. I'm sure that at some point I'll become 'a man of the cloth' too so thanks for posting your experiences for all to learn.
 

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If you are trying to use the 54R pusher to load 308, you will not have success. The pusher is ONLY for 54R.

I never recommend using new belts to load 54R. Even after you stretch the belts you need to open the pockets. Like I stated before, you need WELL USED belts to load 54R. If all you have is new belts you need to run them through the gun in 308 a few times before attempting 54R. Shooting is better than hand unloading and more fun.

Here's a thought, if you wash the belts try using fabric softener that might help with loading. Its just a thought, I haven't tried it.

Troy
 

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I've found that I just use 7.62X51 metal links and they work the best with 7.62X54R. The spacing is correct. Maybe advertise and see is people have "useless" worn out stretched cloth belts that they can't use anymore because the rounds fall out. I do prefer to use cloth belts in 8mm or 7.62X51 or 30-06 as they load faster and at the range after use you just roll them up. The best type of belts that get stretched and ****** out are usually the green ones.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Using the right pusher

If you are trying to use the 54R pusher to load 308, you will not have success. The pusher is ONLY for 54R.

I never recommend using new belts to load 54R. Even after you stretch the belts you need to open the pockets. Like I stated before, you need WELL USED belts to load 54R. If all you have is new belts you need to run them through the gun in 308 a few times before attempting 54R. Shooting is better than hand unloading and more fun.

Here's a thought, if you wash the belts try using fabric softener that might help with loading. Its just a thought, I haven't tried it.

Troy
Hi Troy - Well headed advice - I am exclusively using the .308 pusher for .308 and the 54R pusher for 54R. I have not tried to use 54R in my new belts (Izzie), only .308. See my next post titled - lesson learned.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
I like the green ones too

I've found that I just use 7.62X51 metal links and they work the best with 7.62X54R. The spacing is correct. Maybe advertise and see is people have "useless" worn out stretched cloth belts that they can't use anymore because the rounds fall out. I do prefer to use cloth belts in 8mm or 7.62X51 or 30-06 as they load faster and at the range after use you just roll them up. The best type of belts that get stretched and ****** out are usually the green ones.
Thanks for answering my post. I did post an add on this forum for " used - loosey - goosey belts". I did get some well used but not abused belts - both green and white. Must admit, I like the green better. Better results.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Lesson(s) Learned - Thanks forum posters!

Had to dismount my 1918 replica loader today, my brother-in-law is going to help me with an epic amount of .38 special case prep (trim, chamfer, de-bur, primer pocket clean) so I needed my bench space back. Will try again in a few weeks now that I have more experience.

Lesson Learned:
Take Len's Advice! He told me from the get-go to read the manual and check everything out. So many regrets for not doing just that. Taking the time to read the manual is priceless and you cannot really learn belt loading from a youtube video. After reading the manual now, I should have:
1. Checked that all the screws were tight before every operation of the loader - When something stops working right - this is usually the answer... you got a loose screw!
2. Checked the gap between the upper and lower needles. Only after so many tries have I come to realize that my needles are on top of each other! I'll get them to pass my 0.01 inch gauge (as per the manual I did not thoroughly read and procedurally abide by) prior to my upcoming post "try 2".
3. I still think that my .308 experiment was further flawed by my use of reloads that exceed the combined overall length of standard 7.62 X 51 ball/FMJ. I'll bet that M80 ball will index the round between the upper and lower needle arms properly. More to come in August.


Questions remaining:
1. Is there any recommended preparation for .308 belts that you intend to load with .308? I am currently looking for something tall to hang the brand new 225 round Izzie belts that I intend to run with .308.

Belt stretching experiment -
I laid the green belt out tonight, loaded and put a light coat of water on the belt to dry overnight. Although the rounds were not falling out, they were really loose and easily moved to a different position in the belt. This should tighten it up a bit for a final dry stretch tomorrow before going into storage.
 
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