Albert Linegar -Reloading Administrator
So you want to start loading your own ammunition. Good! There are many good reasons to Reload your own Ammunition, 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 Article is meant to introduce the beginning reloader to these concepts and hopefully answer some of the frequently asked questions.
- 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.
- 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, seat the bullet, and in some cases, place a crimp around the bullet. There are many manufacturers who produce quality reloading dies. Just be sure to get the right dies for the caliber you're reloading!
- 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. 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.
- Case Trimmer: This applies mainly to rifle brass.
- 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. In general though, any quality powder measure will provide acceptable results with a wide range of powders.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- RELOADING MANUAL: 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.
- Eye protection: It's a good idea to wear safety glasses while reloading. Primers can ignite if handled improperly.