Reloading

Printer-friendly version

Why Reload?

  • To save money
  • To make more accurate ammunition
  • To supply obsolete or obscure calibres
  • It’s a hobby all of its own

There are only three sources of ammunition:

• Factory made new ammunition
• Military surplus
• Home loaded

Sometimes it makes sense to use factory made ammunition for instance, rimfire cartridges (i.e. .22 rimfire) cannot be reloaded so you have to buy factory made products. Luckily, billions of rounds of the stuff are sold world wide each year, so prices are held down. Similarly shotgun cartridges are sold in huge numbers, so it is probably cheaper to buy them in bulk than it is to reload, with this in mind reloading applies particularly to centre-fire cartridges, both full-bore rifle and pistol (for gallery rifles).
In both cases you can make better (or more suitable) ammo than you can buy.

Full-bore rifle ammo can be bought cheaply as military surplus – but this is not target grade ammunition. Although it may be perfectly suitable at short range it certainly will not perform at long range.

By hand loading, it is possible to produce superior quality ammunition for less money than factory made ammunition.

The savings to be made for lever action ammo (i.e. pistol cartridges) are even better, plus the fact that you can load reduced velocity lead bulleted rounds which are much better suited to target shooting than most factory produced loads, where the emphasis seems to be on high velocity, high performance.

NB: Under section 35 of the Violent Crimes Reduction Act, 2006, from April 6th 2007 there has been a restriction of the sale and purchase of cap-type primers designed for use in metallic ammunition for a firearm.  To purchase primers a certificate must be produced.

Top

 

Here is the list of essential equipment:

  • A selection of reloading guides and powder loading charts. Thoroughly read and understand the manuals.
  • Reloading press that take 7/8” UNF threaded dies.
  • Sets of reloading dies in the calibre you want to reload.
  • Shell holders for those calibres.
  • Powder scales.
  • Powder measure and stand.
  • Somewhere to set up the equipment.

Nice to have, but not essential equipment:

  • Auto primer: this is a little, hand-operated tool, used to seat primers. Much better than using the on press primer seater.
  • Case tumbler: produces bright clean shiny cases.
  • Powder trickler: dispenses powder one kernel at a time. Used to top up the powder charge thrown by the powder measure into the scale pan.
  • Powder funnel: used to get the powder from the scale pan into the case.
  • Case trimmer: used to trim bottleneck cases to the correct length.
  • Case lube pad: bottle-neck rifle cases should be lubricated before sizing, otherwise they will stick in the die and be almost impossible to remove.
  • Vernier callipers: very useful for checking case and bullet diameters and lengths.
  • Progressive press: for loading large quantities of pistol cartridges. Not for the beginners, these machines are very expensive and complex. The RCBS machine pictured in the gallery can produce ammunition at the rate of 1000 rounds per hour (assuming that it works properly!) RCBS no longer produces these machines.

Top

A brief run through the reloading process:

You’ve bolted the press down, set up your powder measure and scales. You’ve chosen an appropriate load from the manuals and have a supply of bullets and primers to hand. Fill the powder measure hopper with your chosen powder and using the scales adjust it until it throws the selected charge. If you are loading maximum charges in rifle cases, set the measure to throw a grain or two less than the load you need. Fill your powder trickler with powder and use this to top up the thrown charge to the recommended amount.

It is recommended that you process cases in batches; say of 100 cases. Obtain empty cases; either buy new, unfired cases, or save your own fired cases. Do not bother with ex-military cases (unless they are ex-US military), because they usually use the Berdan priming system, and are difficult to de-cap and re-prime.
Commercial cases and most US military cases use the Boxer priming system, which makes de-capping and re-priming simple. If you are not sure what type of case you have, have a look inside it: if the base has a single central flash hole, it is Boxer primed. If it has multiple flash holes, it is Berdan. Some cases of Soviet Bloc or Chinese origin are made of steel, not brass, and should not be reloaded.You should check the cases for damage, splits, dents, corrosion etc. Clean off any mud, grit and loose dirt. Check that there are no foreign bodies inside the case (usually firing point gravel). Experienced reloaders usually clean cases in vibratory tumbler cleaners.

De-prime, resize, re-prime, neck expand in batch, so that you have 100 cases ready for powder charging and bulleting, which should be done individually.

Here we go then: Screw the resizing die into the press, and snap the proper shell holder into the ram. Pick up a clean empty case (if it’s a bottleneck rifle case, smear it with some resizing lube) and slip it into the shell holder. Pull down the press handle and force the case into the die, right to the end of the press-stroke. The case will be resized and the de-capping pin will pop the spent primer out of the case. Pull the handle back up (you can recap the case on the down stroke by putting a primer in the presses primer seating arm, and seating it in the case on the down stroke, but it is recommended that you re-prime off of the press with a hand primer tool). Either way, remove the sized case and put it in a container. Repeat this process for the whole batch of cases. If you intend to re-prime by hand, do it now.

The next stages for pistol cases are neck expansion and then powder charging. For bottleneck rifle cases it is powder charging. There is no separate neck expanding stage for bottleneck cases, as the neck is automatically expanded as the case is withdrawn from the resizing die. You may need to trim the case down at the neck to ensure that it is the correct size.

Neck expansion: unscrew the sizing die and screw in the neck-expanding die. Take each case and run it through the die. This will slightly expand and flair the case mouth, ready for bullet seating.

For low pressure, low velocity pistol cartridge loads, it is quite acceptable to throw the powder charge directly from the powder measure into the cartridge case, as long as a routine check is kept on the actual charge weight being thrown (Recommendation: check weigh each 10th charge).

High pressure, near maximum charges, typically used in high velocity rifle cartridges need every charge to be individually weighed out. Do this by setting the powder measure to throw a charge some 1 to 2 grains less than the selected load. Drop this load into the scale pan, and then use the powder trickler to ‘drip’ powder into the scale pan, until the scale indicates the correct weight. Transfer the powder from the pan to the cartridge case, using a funnel if needed.

Whichever type of cartridge you are loading, you now have primed case, full of powder in your hand. Screw the bullet seating die into the press, put a bullet into the top of the case, put the case into the shell holder and pull the leaver down. This forces the bullet into the case, and if required, will crimp the case mouth onto the bullet.

Put the loaded round aside. Pick up the next empty, primed case, charge with powder, insert a bullet and seat in the press. Repeat until the whole batch is completed, then package the loaded rounds in an ammunition storage box. Include a label giving details of calibre, bullet type and weight, powder type and charge weight, primer make and type, date loaded and any other relevant details.

(See the 'Reloading' Shockwave presentation in Multimedia).

This is only a very brief overview of reloading. It is essentially a very simple process: however it is potentially easy to create a combination of unsuitable calibre, powder, primer and bullet that can produce dangerous over or under pressures. It is essential that you refer to a good loading manual for appropriate powder types and charges before you commence loading. All of the powder and bullet makes produce manuals and data sheets/charge tables. Highly recommended are those by Speer/RCBS, Vihtavuori, Sierra, Hornady, Alliant, Lee, Lyman, Nosler. Buy, beg or borrow, but do not reload until you have read a few.

NB: most reputable powder and bullet makers are increasingly using their websites to list loads.

Reeds Target Shooting Club accepts no liability for any accidents that may occur if you decide to reload.  The above information is only as a guide – be sure to refer to an appropriate loading manual for information on charges and powder types.

X