Bill Eichelberger Interview Jan/2004

Interview with Bill Eichelberger on the “Extreme Small Calibers”. Bill Eichelberger is probably the go-to guy, the guru, the authority on the small calibers. His experimentation with the .14’s, .12’s and .10’s has been extensive, and I would like to thank him for this effort and recognize him for the work that he has done.

How long have you been working with the small calibers (less than .172 cal)?

It was in the early 1970’s that I started getting serious about small calibers, particularly the .14’s. That interest was influenced very much by chatting with a lot of folks the likes of Boots Obermeyer, John Walker, Bill Key, Bob Carpenter, and Jim Cuthbert. During this time I also managed to be in contact with some folks that were doing some things with .14 calibers. As I recall, these were Tim Bolinger of Matco, Asa Davis, Bob Alenxander of Viper Copper and Brass, and Chuck Richardson of DKT Industries. Nobody had a lot of information but we were all in the same boat toying with the project of making the .14 calibers work.

What is it that got you interested in experimenting with the small calibers? Many consider you as the pioneer of the really small stuff, what is it that made you try these small calibers?

Experimenting with the small calibers was just something that I thought a lot about and I was intrigued with the possibility of shooting small caliber ultra lightweight bullets at high velocity. In the beginning, some times things didn’t work as planned and as I said before, it was a bit frustrating because there was little reference material or information available. In fact, early on I gleaned a lot of valuable information through talking with Bob Carpenter who had worked on the Army’s .14/.222 cartridge at their Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland. In addition to my efforts, there were others doing some pioneering efforts in the .14 caliber arena as well. If I may indulge in a bit of trivia… Asa Davis, Bob Alexander, Chuck Richardson and I each had developed a .14 caliber cartridge based on the .32 ACP case and we each referred to them as “Our .14 Flea”. A bit later I had managed to collect copies of the cartridge drawings from each of these three gentlemen of their .14 Fleas. Although there’s not that much you can do different with the stuffy little .32 ACP cartridge case, each one of “our .14 caliber Flea” designs were a bit different.

What is the practical limit with respect to bore size? Is .10 caliber as far as you’ll go or have gone?

The .10 caliber is as small as I intend to push it. I had started to develop tools, dies, etc. for an 8 caliber Eichelberger Pup, which was based on the CCM Cooper case, but have abandoned it for personal reasons.

What are your favorite cases for each of the small calibers? (.14, .12, .10)

I want to say these are my favorite cases, but I think they are also the ones we’ve had the most success with. Quite simply they are the…
Eichelberger .14/.221
Eichelberger .12 caliber H&R Mag
Eichelberger .10 caliber squirrel.

What is the useful limit of each of the small calibers in distance and energy? (.14, .12, .10)

Since I begun developing small calibers, there’s been more written about this and much of the info is based on case capacity, bullet weight and so forth. Personally, I generally limit my shooting of the .10, .12, and .14 calibers to about 50 yards whether I’m shooting at paper targets or small varmints and nuisance birds.

For what purposes do you consider the really small calibers good for?

Personally I derive a lot of satisfaction from punching small holes very close together in paper. As for varmints, they work well on ground squirrels, small tree squirrels, and starling to pigeon size nuisance birds.

What caution would you give a reloader who had interest in shooting one of these very small calibers?

For openers, all the safety guidelines for reloading of any kind apply as well for the small calibers. Powder charges must be measured precisely to the 1/10th of a grain and all powder must get into the case. This is very important in small calibers because of the high pressure that builds in the shoulder and neck area of the case as it drives the bullet down the small bore. A couple of tools we’ve found that make this much easier to accomplish are a RCBS Powder Pro Digital scale working in conjunction with a RCBS Powder Master Electronic Powder Dispenser. This equipment makes it possible to precisely measure powder charges to the 1/10th of a grain and confidently duplicate small powder charges over and over. Once you’ve weighed the powder charge, the next challenge is to insure that it all gets into the very small mouth opening of the case. To accomplish this, we have made up dedicated powder funnels with the opening in the funnel machined for the particular case/caliber.

What would somebody need to do to get into the small caliber shooting world? (bullets, barrels, dies, reamers, cleaning supplies, etc.)

Getting started in the small caliber shooting world will require all of the items that you have listed above and as you get into the small caliber arena a bit further you’ll find that making up tooling customized to your operation will occasionally be necessary. Unfortunately, there is no single source you can go to and obtain all of the needed equipment and components. My original plans were to have a small caliber shooters supply shop, kind of like a supermarket, where you could do one-stop shopping and obtain all of the components and tooling you would need to put together a small caliber rig. Unfortunately, for personal reasons that didn’t come to be.

It seems that the .14’s have been used with some success by at least one predator hunter, what would you consider to be the smallest case .14 that should be used for effective predator hunting and what range limits?

Blaine Eddy sure has had a great deal of success with his little .14/.221 rig. It pretty much depends on the size of the predator you’re looking to take, your shooting ability and at what distance you want to shoot the critter. Although the .14.221 is my choice for all-around shooting, most of the cartridge configurations based on the .22 Hornet can work pretty well also.

I realize that you use solid machined bullets for the .12’s and the .10’s, do they cause any pressure concerns over a copper jacket lead bullet?

I’ve shot .10, .12 and .14 caliber copper jacket lead bullets as well as solid bullets and we’ve noticed little difference with chamber pressure or down-range performance between the two.

I currently have a .14 caliber reloading manual from you, what other manuals or products do you offer for sale to small caliber shooters?

We managed to put together 4 different manuals about our small caliber cartridges. I want to stress that the info in the 4 manuals is just for the Eichelberger cartridges we have developed. These 4 manuals are:
Eichelberger .10 and 12 caliber Reloading
Eichelberger .14 caliber reloading manual
Eichelberger .17 and .20 caliber reloading manual.
Eichelberger Small Caliber Cartridges *
(* contains dimensioned cartridge case CAD drawings for .10 caliber through .22 caliber)

What is your favorite small caliber?

This question is like asking me what kind of donuts are my favorite – I like them all!! Seriously, in thinking about this, I’m not sure I have a favorite small caliber or even a favorite small caliber cartridge. The .10 calibers have caused quite a stir, but I think our .14 calibers have provided us with the most challenge, fun and satisfaction. Many of the .14’s were developed with a particular goal and/or use in mind and at the time we were getting tooling, etc. together and I enjoyed that a lot. The bottom line is: I guess I like the whole bunch!!