Reloading a Step by Step Process


Reloading your own ammunition is an option any avid shooter should look into. With the high cost of ammunition, reloading can greatly reduce the expense of a trip to the range. There are some initial start-up expenses such as the cost of the various apparatus necessary to do the job properly and the cost of materials such as powder, bullets, primers and powder. While the cost of the materials cannot be redeemed, the expense of the apparatus can be made up within a short period of time in the savings that reloading your own ammunition offers you over the cost of factory loads.

There are three basic steps to the reloading process, and each step requires certain tools. The most important of these tools are of course the press and the dies. The press can vary in cost from around $100 to several hundred dollars depending on your needs and desires. For the beginner, the best bet is probably a single stage press. These are the least expensive and are used in a process known as batch reloading. During this process a single step in the reloading process is used on an entire batch of shells of the same caliber. Whether this batch consists of 50, 100, or several hundred rounds, this method is the most time consuming and the repetitive nature can become monotonous. The individual who is experienced and shoots more than 300 rounds per week should consider using either a turret press or a progressive press. With a progressive press, several rounds can be reloaded at the same time with each of the steps being performed on a separate shell at the same time. A turret press holds the various tools for each step in a turret that is located on the top of the press, and the turret is rotated at each step, allowing the individual to reload each case in three quick steps.

I prefer to batch reload my rifle and handgun loads and use a progressive reloading press for shotgun loads. The reason I prefer to batch load my rifle and handgun loads is twofold. The first step involves resizing and de-priming the spent cartridge. Brass expands when a cartridge is fired, and the diameter of the cartridge must be resized. This is done with a sizing die while a plunger expels the spent primer. This process stretches the brass. As a result, the more a cartridge is reloaded, the longer it will become, and the thinner the case walls become. I like to check my case lengths at this time and inspect each case for cracks. Cracked cases are discarded, and any case nearing the maximum tolerance levels on length are trimmed at this point. I also like to clean the primer pocket of any carbon deposits or residual powder from the previous primer.

The second step is priming the case. While this can be done with the press, I prefer to use a hand primer. Lee offers several good ones. They come with a primer holder which automatically feeds the primer to the case which is held in a case holder and a simple squeeze of the hand and it’s done. Depending on the appearance of the case, I may decide to throw the entire batch into a buffer at this point. Leaving them in the buffer for an hour or two will result in highly polished brass and a factory look to your reloads. Make sure you prime your cases before buffering though, or you’ll be picking pieces of cork out of the primer pocket.

The third step involves charging the case and seating the bullet. This is the most crucial part of the process. I prefer to break this down into two steps when reloading rifle or handgun loads. I have a powder measure and a powder scale with which to measure the desired powder charge for the intended load. This will be determined by the type of powder being used, the weight of the bullet to be loaded, and the muzzle velocities I wish to achieve. Make sure you have an up-to-date reloading manual to consult. I powder charge my loads at the rate of about 50 at a time. It is important that you are not distracted at this time! Double charges can have disastrous results. Using my powder scale, I will check my powder charges about every ten loads. This is an important thing to do if you are reloading near to maximum loads, but it will also help to provide consistency to your reloads.

The final step involves seating the bullet. The press is used for this. Make sure you consult your reloading manual as to the proper seating depth of the bullet being used. It’s a good idea to have a bullet puller. Mistakes can occasionally happen. I use an impact puller by RCBS. You simply place the cartridge in the top, screw on the cap to hold it in place, and use it like a hammer. The bullet comes out and is caught in the head of the puller. The case will need to be recharged. But since both the bullet and the powder are reclaimed, they can both be used again.

I have often shown my reloads to people I’ve met on the shooting range and have often been complimented on how much they look just like factory loads. Reloading is a relaxing and enjoyable activity that is often accompanied with a sense of achievement.

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