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Thread: Reloading Equipment/Procedure Basics For Beginners - Read This First!

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    Default Reloading Equipment/Procedure Basics For Beginners - Read This First!

    Ahhh, so you want to start loading your own ammo. Good! There are many good reasons to "roll your own", including saving money on ammo and achieving the maximum accuracy potential of your firearms. Reloading is a fun hobby, and can become just as addictive as shooting! Loading your own ammunition is a fairly simple process, once you understand the tools and supplies needed, the steps in the process, and how to go about the process safely. This thread is meant to introduce the beginning reloader to these concepts and hopefully answer some of the questions frequently asked here on the forum.

    A. Equipment

    The equipment needed to reload ammunition is as follows:

    1. Press: There are a few different types of reloading presses available. These include single stage, turret, and fully progressive presses. The main difference between these types is the speed in which ammunition can be reloaded. In using a single stage press, one "stage" of the reloading process is completed at one time, as the press holds only one die. The die must the swapped out before moving on to the next step. Many people prefer these presses for reloading precision rifle ammunition. Turrett presses and progressive presses, on the other hand, hold all of the dies needed, which means the user does not have to stop the reloading process to swap and re-adjust dies. Generally, a turret press will allow more rounds to be loaded per hour than a single stage, while a fully progressive press will be faster than either of the two aforementioned types. It's up to you to decide which press is right for you based on your budget and the amount of ammunition you plan to reload in a sitting. At first, you should be taking things slowly, but that is no reason to rule out one of the faster presses. You can operate them in a single stage mode until you feel more comfortable, and still have the option of speeding things up down the road.

    Some examples of quality single stage presses include:

    RCBS Rock Chucker: http://www.midwayusa.com/eproductpag...eitemid=513567

    Lee Classic Cast Single Stage Press:
    http://www.midwayusa.com/eproductpag...eitemid=317831

    Redding Boss:
    http://www.midwayusa.com/eproductpag...eitemid=709373

    Turret Press Examples:

    Lee Classic Cast Turret Press:
    http://www.midwayusa.com/eproductpag...eitemid=814175

    Lyman T-Mag 2:
    http://www.midwayusa.com/eproductpag...eitemid=169077

    And, progressive presses:

    Hornady Lock-N-Load AP:
    http://www.midwayusa.com/eproductpag...eitemid=679228

    Dillon RL550B:
    http://www.dillonprecision.com/#/con...atid/1/RL_550B

    2. Dies: The dies are inserted into the press and are what allows the reloader to resize the brass, remove the spent primer, flare the case mouth (on straight walled handgun ammo), seat the bullet, and in some cases, place a crimp around the bullet. There are many manufacturers who produce quality reloading dies including RCBS, Lee, Hornady, and Redding, among others. Just be sure to get the right dies for the caliber you're reloading!

    3. Case Tumbler: A case tumbler, along with brass cleaning media (usually ground corncob or walnut shells), offers an easy, effective way to clean brass prior to putting it through the reloading process. This is generally done for two reasons. The most important is to remove dirt and grime which can damage or "gum up" your dies. The other is to enable you to produce shiny, visually pleasing ammunition. It is also easier to spot case defects on clean brass (we'll discuss this more in-depth later). Tumblers are available anywhere reloading equipment is sold, and they all do the job. Select yours based on the number of cases you'll want to clean in a batch. Avoid using brass polishes which contain ammonia, as this can weaken the brass.

    4. Case Trimmer: Generally, this applies mainly to rifle brass. Most handgun reloaders don't trim brass, but there are some that do. We will go more in depth into the trimming process later.

    Some case trimmers which are generally regarded as good quality products:

    Forster Original Case Trimmer Kit:
    http://www.midwayusa.com/eproductpag...eitemid=614276

    Lyman Universal Trimmer:
    http://www.midwayusa.com/eproductpag...eitemid=795961

    Giraud Power Trimmer (Best choice for high volume trimming, but very expensive):
    http://www.giraudtool.com/prod02.htm

    5. Powder Measure: You will need to be able to accurately measure and dispense the appropriate charge (weight in grains) of powder for your ammunition. Powder measures are either stand alone units or units that attach to the press and are actuated by the case. Certain measures work best with certain types of powders. Feel free to ask a question on the forum regarding which of these measures may be the best choice for your particular powder of choice. In general though, any quality powder measure will provide acceptable results with a wide range of powders.

    Some quality examples include:

    RCBS Uniflow:
    http://www.midwayusa.com/eproductpag...eitemid=752260

    Lee Pro Auto Disk (Great choice for use with the Lee turret press):
    http://www.midwayusa.com/eproductpag...eitemid=348753

    Redding 3 Powder Measure:
    http://www.midwayusa.com/eproductpag...eitemid=466608

    6. Powder Scale: It is vitally important to spend the money on a good quality scale! You MUST be able to verify that your powder measure is dispensing an accurate, consistent powder charge into your cases! Either a balance beam type or digital scale will do the job, just please, don't skimp here. . . buy quality!

    Some good choices for reliable, quality scales:

    Dillon Eilminator:
    http://www.dillonprecision.com/#/con...or__039__Scale

    RCBS Model 502:
    http://www.midwayusa.com/eproductpag...eitemid=605320

    Dillon Terminator Digital Scale:
    http://www.dillonprecision.com/#/con...ectronic_Scale

    7. Calipers: You'll need a set of calipers to take various measurements, including case trim length and overall cartridge length. These are available in both dial and digital configurations. Both work, with digital being a bit quicker to read.

    8. Case Lubricant: This only applies to bottleneck (usually rifle) cases. Bottleneck cases must be lubed prior to resizing in order to avoid the case becoming stuck in the die under the pressure of the resizing process. Straight walled cases generally do not need to be lubed prior to resizing due to the carbide surface found in most straight wall case resizing dies. Dillon, RCBS, Hornady, and Imperial sizing wax are all good choices.

    9. Various Case Preparation Tools: There are a few other case preparation tools, some that you need, and some that aren't necessary, but can be added later. After trimming, case mouths need to be deburred. The tool that is used to deburr the case mouth will generally also chamfer the inside of the case mouth. Chamfering allows for easier insertion of the bullet in a rifle case, since the case mouth isn't flared like it is when reloading handgun ammunition. There are hand tools available that do the job, but I far prefer the RCBS case prep center, found here:

    http://www.midwayusa.com/eproductpag...eitemid=565099

    Some other tools that can be added to your collection include a primer pocket cleaner, flash hole uniformer, and primer pocket uniformer. These tools generally aren't needed to produce functional ammunition, but when used properly can aid in producing the most accurate ammunition possible.

    10. RELOADING MANUAL(S): This is VERY important. It is vital for any reloader, especially a beginner, to own and read a quality reloading manual. It is actually beneficial to own at least two, in order to compare load data from one to the other. The reloading manual will generally be used to look up load data for your caliber including powder charge, overall cartridge length, case trim length, etc. Reloading manuals are also full of various other useful pieces of information. It is generally a good idea to cross reference load data from at least two different manuals before beginning the process of reloading. BEFORE YOU UNBOX YOUR EQUIPMENT AND SET UP YOUR BENCH, READ YOUR RELOADING MANUAL FROM COVER TO COVER.

    11. Eye protection: It's a good idea to wear safety glasses while reloading. Primers can ignite if handled improperly, so why not keep your eyes protected? You only have two, ya know?

    B. The Reloading Process: Ok, so you have your equipment. You've READ YOUR MANUAL, and you're ready to start. The process isn't rocket science. It does require you to pay attention to what you're doing, however. A mistake at the bench can lead to disaster at the range if you don't take your time and do things correctly. Reloading is a fun and enjoyable hobby, but only when done safely. Ready to begin? Let's go.

    1. Inspect and Clean Brass: So, you're home from the range with a bag full of fired, dirty brass. First, inspect the cases for any cracks, large dents, or splits. If you find cases with any of these flaws, pitch them in a scrap bucket. Put the rest of them in your tumbler with the cleaning media of your choice, turn on the tumbler, and do something else for a few hours. Hey, you could go clean your guns. After the brass is clean, remove it from the tumbler and inspect it again. It is easier to spot cracks, etc. on clean brass.

    2. Deprime & Resize Cases: For this step, you'll be using the resizing/depriming die and your reloading press. If you're working with bottleneck cases, you'll need to lubricate the cases first. Adjust the die according to the manufacturer's directions, insert the rim of the case onto the shellholder of your press, and lower the handle, raising the case into the die. This step will remove the spent primer and resize the case to the proper spec dimensions.

    3. Measure & Trim, Deburr & Chamfer: This step generally only applies to rifle brass, although some will tell you to trim pistol brass as well. Some brass can become longer than the maximum case length, usually after a few firings. In your reloading manual, you will find the minimum, maximum, and "trim-to" case lengths listed for your particular cartridge. Measure your cases, setting aside any that are beyond the trim-to length. Set up your trimmer per the instructions, and trim those cases to length. You will then need to deburr the trimmed cases using your selected deburring tool.

    4. Prime The Cases: A new primer must now be inserted into the primer pocket. This is usually accomplished on the press, in slightly different ways depending on the press manufacturer. The specifics of this step will vary depending on your press, so read the instructions. Just please, be careful with primers. They are explosive. Do not hit them. Do not insert a primer into a case upside down. And just in case you slip up and make a mistake while priming your cases, wear your eye protection!! After priming, ensure your primers are seated properly by running your finger over them and checking that the primer doesn't stick up above the level of the primer pocket. The primer should be seated flush with the top of the pocket or even just slightly below.

    There are four main types of primers: Large Rifle, Small Rifle, Large Pistol, and Small Pistol. There are also "magnum" variations of these. Your reloading manual will list the correct primer for your load.

    5. Charge the Cases: In this step, you will be adding a carefully measured and weighed powder charge into the case. Your reloading manual will list a start charge and a max charge for the bullet you have chosen to use. ALWAYS START LOW AND WORK YOUR WAY UP. NEVER start with the max charge listed in your manual. Once you've found the specified powder charge, follow the instructions that came with your powder measure, and set it to dispense the proper weight of powder, which you must verify by using your powder scale. I generally like to, once I have my powder measure dispensing the correct charge weight, dispense ten charges into the scale pan, weigh it, and divide that number by ten. If it works out to the desired charge weight for my load, I know my powder measure is throwing a consistent charge. It is generally a good rule of thumb to weigh every tenth charge or so while you're charging your cases as well, just to ensure that you are getting a consistent charge weight. If reloading rifle ammo for precision accuracy, it may be a good idea to weigh EVERY charge for the utmost consistency. For plinking or general target shooting ammo, weighing every charge generally isn't necessary.

    6. Seat the Bullet: In this step, you will be using your bullet seating die on your press to insert a bullet into the case mouth, thus completing a reloaded round. Find the suggested OAL (overall length) for your cartridge/bullet combination if your manual. This is your goal length. You can play around with this measurement later in the quest for accuracy, but start with the suggested length for now. Minimum and maximum overall length will also be listed. Insert the bullet seating die into the press according to the manufacturer's directions. Then back out the seating adjustment almost all the way. Raise the case and bullet into the die, and turn the bullet seating adjustment inward until you feel contact with the bullet. Lower the ram, and turn the adjustment knob in some more. Raise the ram again. This will partially seat the bullet. Measure the length of the cartridge with your calipers (it should be too long at this point). Turn the adjustment in some more, raise the ram, and measure the cartridge. Repeat this process until the desired OAL has been achieved. You have now reloaded a complete round of ammunition.

    7. Crimp the Bullet: On most handgun ammo, it is necessary to put a crimp around the bullet in order to remove the flaring on the case mouth and ensure proper chambering in your firearm. Your die set should include a crimp die. Set it up per the instructions. The measurement of the case mouth around the bullet can be found in your manual. Do not overcrimp your rounds. Most rifle ammunition does not need to be crimped. However, if you are using a bullet with a cannelure, it is a good idea to crimp the case mouth into this cannelure, or crimp groove. This groove holds the bullet in place, making it more difficult to dislodge or "set back" into the case. Rifle bullets without this cannelure are held in by neck tension, and generally stay in place just fine for most all applications.

    Well, that’s basically it. Take care to READ your manual, get rid of any defective cases, CAREFULLY weigh your powder charges, be careful while handling primers, and take careful measurements, and you will be fine. I hope this little tutorial will help some of those out there who are interested in loading their own ammo. Feel free to ask any questions of me or any of the fine folks here at PAFOA.

    Happy Reloading,
    Dave
    Last edited by BerksCountyDave; November 30th, 2008 at 06:00 PM.

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    Default Re: Reloading Equipment/Procedure Basics For Beginners - Read This First!

    Well done!

    For the sake of new reloaders, let's keep this thread limited to specifics or further clarification of basic reloading. Reloading is serious work and let's keep this tidy.

    In other words.....I'll remove off topic posts.

    Lycanbutrepdaveforthegoodworkthrope

    I taught Chuck Norris to bump-fire.

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    Default Re: Reloading Equipment/Procedure Basics For Beginners - Read This First!

    With regards to reloading manuals (point 10) I learned the hard way that you should always check you load against a minimum of TWO references.

    For decades I used a load from a Lyman manual for the M1 carbine that included a footnote that reducing the load would cause malfunctions. Their load of 14 gr 2400 behind the Lyman 311359 115 gr cast bullet worked the action but eventually I got a split stock and the locking lug sheared off the bolt in separate incidents.

    Checking the latest Lyman manual I now note that they list the Max chg at 12.5 gr for the same bullet. For quite some time I was firing loads 12% OVER MAX! I loaded down to 12.0 gr now and my carbine just purrs along without a single hitch and the recoil is noticeably lighter.

    Many powder manufacturers have websites with charges that you can use as an ancillary references. Failing that you can also search various forums for loads but, of course, this info would be less authoritative.

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    Default Re: Reloading Equipment/Procedure Basics For Beginners - Read This First!

    Just started to reload .40 S&W. Is it necessary to chamfer straight walled pistol cases each time they are reloaded or only when they are trimmed?

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    Default Re: Reloading Equipment/Procedure Basics For Beginners - Read This First!

    Quote Originally Posted by sutehk View Post
    Just started to reload .40 S&W. Is it necessary to chamfer straight walled pistol cases each time they are reloaded or only when they are trimmed?
    In general, you will never need to trim OR chamfer .40 S&W brass. Just keep loading it until it cracks or you lose it.

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    Default Re: Reloading Equipment/Procedure Basics For Beginners - Read This First!

    I'm waiting for my Hornady Lock-n-Load classic single stage press kit to arrive and it will have the Hornady reloading manual in it. Can you recommend a second reloading manual that I can pick up while I wait? I'll be loading mainly pistol ammo if that matters. Thanks.

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    Default Re: Reloading Equipment/Procedure Basics For Beginners - Read This First!

    I found this to be a good database for looking up loading information:
    http://data.hodgdon.com/main_menu.asp

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    Default Re: Reloading Equipment/Procedure Basics For Beginners - Read This First!

    The Hornady manuals tend to be REALLY conservative in their load data. Speer and Sierra both make great manuals.

    Also, there as these things called "Load Books" that are about 7 bucks and are basically compilations from different manuals for one caliber. Get one of those for each caliber too.

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    Default Re: Reloading Equipment/Procedure Basics For Beginners - Read This First!

    Quote Originally Posted by BerksCountyDave View Post
    The Hornady manuals tend to be REALLY conservative in their load data. Speer and Sierra both make great manuals.

    Also, there as these things called "Load Books" that are about 7 bucks and are basically compilations from different manuals for one caliber. Get one of those for each caliber too.
    One little factoid about the "One Book/One Caliber Complete Reloading Manuals" - they were published in 2004. If you are looking for the latest and greatest data, it might not be there. They will have all of the "classic" loads, which is a great place to start.

    --RobW

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    Default Re: Reloading Equipment/Procedure Basics For Beginners - Read This First!

    Quote Originally Posted by RobW View Post
    One little factoid about the "One Book/One Caliber Complete Reloading Manuals" - they were published in 2004. If you are looking for the latest and greatest data, it might not be there. They will have all of the "classic" loads, which is a great place to start.

    --RobW
    Yeah, unless you're trying to find data for new powders/bullets, the load boks work very well. Another great resource is loaddata.com. It's about 30 bucks a year and has TONS of load data available. Great idea if you're loading a lot of different calibers and wanting to use a lot of different bullets and powders.

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