Hand loading and reloading my own ammo is something I’ve enjoyed for years. It takes a bit of preplanning and preparation to get started, but once set up it can be a very rewarding hobby. In this post, I am sharing some very basic and general steps to give you an overall idea of the process of loading and reloading.
First, I recommend reading and studying a few books on this topic and learn the safety rules as you will be working with explosive, flammable, and lead products. Be prepared to invest time studying how-to manuals and user guides. You can buy a kit or buy the tools as you go along. You can learn the process over several days. However, you still need to be prepared to invest considerable time to do this the right way and safely.
Finally, if you are delving into this to save money, stop now and go no further. Unless you are loading older, obsolete, and hard to find, cartridges that are already very expensive, then this is not a money-saving solution for most of today’s common calibers. I reload because I have some of those older cartridge needs and because I am looking for the perfect bullet, in one caliber that will perform at distances in a constant and consistent manner.
1. Buy a Book
The first step, and I believe one of the most valuable, is to get a good, modern and comprehensive reloading manual. Two good sources I use are Modern Reloading by Richard Lee, and Lyman’s Reloading Handbook 49th Edition. The majority of the first chapters will get you up and reloading in no time.
2. Inspect Your Brass
You must inspect each piece of brass (case) you intend to load, even if new. Look for cracks, minor dents as in Figure 1, or major damage to the brass and discard if unusable as in Figure 2.
3. Resize and Deprime Brass
If slightly off in size, on new brass or all used brass, then you can use carbide die sets to reshape the brass. If you already have standard dies then use case lube before you resize brass.
Insert the sizing die into the press. The height of the die is adjustable. Initially, set it high. You can lower the die if needed. Place your brass in the press shell holder.
Pull the handle on the press and insert the brass into the die. This adjusts the brass to the correct shape and size. It will also deprime used brass as the pin, seen at the bottom of Figure 3, pushes the old primer out of the primer pocket.
4. Debur Case
With used brass, you will notice that the primer pockets can be dirty or rough. You should clean primer pockets in this condition with a deburring toolby inserting it into the primer pocket and hand turning. You will also need to debur the mouth of the case. The deburring tool can do both jobs.
5. Clean and Polish Brass
You may choose to add another step at this stage. Some loaders choose to not just clean but polish the cases as they are now sized, de-primed, deburrred, and ready to load.The brass goes into a tumbler along with a media mix and will both clean and polish the brass. Clean brass, not polished, is all that is required. You should only have to tumble brass that is exceptionally dirty.
6. Priming the Brass
Once the brass is cleaned and polished, inspect the cases once more for any abnormalities. If you have a single stage press, you will need to use a hand-held priming tool. This is a simple process but you need to do it correctly and safely. Read your manual carefully to ensure your safety.
WARNING: Primers are explosive so keep your face away from the hand-held primer tool and remember that multiple primers in close proximity can start a dangerous chain reaction.
7. Measuring the Powder Charge
Getting the right amount of powder, to charge your cartridge, is of course the most critical step in the loading and re-loading process. You should be very comfortable with the knowledge you need to properly charge the cartridge, WHEN IN DOUBT, POUR IT OUT and start completely over again. There are numerous powder scales to choose from that are either manual or electronic.
8. Charging the Case
Your powder measurement now confirmed, by the scale, you then transfer the powder into the cartridge case. Have a system in place to move the cases from one side of the bench to the other once charged. Uncharged and charged cases should never be near each other and a consistent method must be in place to keep them separate at all times. A double charged cartridge will at minimum destroy your firearm and at worst severely injure or kill the shooter or onlookers. WHEN IN DOUBT, POUR IT OUT, even if that means numerous cases.
9. Seat the Bullet
If you have a single stage press you can now insert the bullet-seating die. Always start high and adjust to the correct depth. Measure the bullet length with a caliper. This will set the bullet and provide some amount of crimp.
10. Insert and Crimp the Bullet
Some die sets come with a crimping die. If your set includes a crimping die, then insert and crimp the bullet in place.
There it is you have just reloaded your first cartridge. The satisfaction of shooting your first hand loaded cartridge is one that is hard to describe. So go get a book and start learning.