Reloading Tips, Techniques, & Helpful Hints
I've read the Hornady Handbook and want to start reloading my own ammo. Does anyone have any info they have learned about reloading that is NOT covered in the books? Any info would be greatly appreciated.
Go slow. Do not be in a rush.
Start low (not max loads)
Quality Check your work (Did I load powder in that case?).
This thread is intended for anyone who wants to stat loading their ammo. Spitty gave me some good advice in keeping batch numbers low until you find what works. He said there is nothing more tedious than to pull a bunch of bulets if the round isn't satisfactory.
What TXnorton said...
I would also measure alot to ensure the bullet depth is correct, no high primers.
Make sure you have the correct components. Example are 45ACP which is usually large pistol primers, I 've seen some with small primer holes.
Above all read, go slow, measure abunch, and see if there is anyone local that will let you load a couple of rounds or let you watch them.
Just take it slow. you will learn a lot simply from trial and error. Your best source of information is going to be from the handbooks and right from the get-go they all stress safety. Never, never deviate and or compromise safety. A tremendous rush of psi ignites right in front of you nose so don't ever let that slip from your mind.
You can learn quite a lot from experienced reloaders, but again never take anyone elses word until you go back and check the handbook.
Hornady is a great book especially if you load for service rifles but probably one of the best is the Lyman Reloading Manual.
My manuals reside on my loading bench and they get a lot of use even though I seldom change my loads once I find the right one.
No matter how slow you go, if you don't try to understand each step and why it's being done you can mess up and learn nothing. Few "mess ups" are deadly but they affect the overall quality and accuracy of your reloads.
First, understand that all 'directions' about equipment use and adjustment are no more than starting points, it will remain up to you to adjust for the final results. Such as, adjusting a sizer so it actually allows you to rechamber the round can't be assured by turning the die down just so far and just so much further. Nor can adjusting for bullet seating, nor adjusting for crimping nor for OAL. Each requires understanding and that requires thought, not rule following.
Understand from the first that your initial ammo will only be "plinking grade", you will not be driving tacks right out of the gate. And calling your first ammo plinking grade is not a denegration, it's just a recognition that few manuals observe about early efforts but it's true anyway. After a few hundred, or thousand, rounds you will have the fundamentals down well enough to begin serious pursuit of more refined methods that can eventually do better.
Don't get obsessed with trivia. Make ammo, shoot it and have fun. Such things as trimming cases within .001", weighting to .1 gr. for pistol charges and rifle for non-long range ammo, passed maybe 400 yards, etc., is a waste. Nor does sweating to get OAL consistant to better than maybe 10 thou. Nor does tumble polishing brass 'til it glitters, clean brass is all you will ever need. None of that stuff HURTS anything but it accomplishes nothing on target.
It is not necessary nor even helpful to lock dies into a press with a wrench, finger tight is all you need.
Don't agonize too much over which brand of press, dies, scales, etc, or bullet or cases or primer or powder is "best". None of it's magic, technique is much more important than brand. All of the tools are very good or they would not have survived in the market; some of it is vastly over priced tho. (We don't always "get what we pay for!") No matter what tools you start with, they WILL do you a very good job IF you use them properly so don't sweat over that.
Lubricate bottleneck cases lightly but completely, especially the lower third. It's thicker there and that's where they will get stuck in the sizer if not properly lubed. And do get both an intertia bullet puller and stuck case puller as part of your intial package, you WILL need both eventually and having them handy will relieve much irritation when the need arises.
Your bench is perhaps the single most important reloading 'tool' you will ever have but it's stength and design is rarely mentioned. Make your bench about 20" wide and as long as you can. Most benches are wood, you don't need massive 4x4" legs, 2x4" legs are plenty strong enough for strength.
Most benches are too low. You will like having your bench top at a standing elbow level for best work. Use a swiveling bar stool when working seated. And have lots of light directly over your head to illuminate the bench well.
You can work around obstaticals but it's better to place the tools properly for efficent work. No manual I know of suggests how to best arrange bench mounted tools. In fact, most of the photos I've seen have things positioned for photography, not working, and that's rarely very good.
For a right hander, put the press on the right end of the bench with at least 8" of free space to the right and 16" to the left of the press so you will have sufficent space to place cases, bullets, lube pads, etc.
Most presses get mounted too low. No matter the bench height, raise your press enough so you can fully depess the lever without having to bend over and your back will thank you!
Reloaders need a lot of (sturdy) storage. Make a strong 5-6" wide 'book shelf' rack and mount it on the wall above the bench, leaving maybe 12-14" of clear space between it and the bench top so it doesn't eat bench space. Have one lower and wider shelf (maybe 10" wide) at nose to chin level, and place your beam scale/trickler there so each can be easily seen and reached. (Poor beam scale location is, IMHO, the main reason some people think they are "slow" to use; they really ain't so slow but a lot of users are! :D )
Do NOT mount your powder measure on the press (unless you have a progressive or an auto-indexing turret) or on the front edge of your bench, both are very poor positions for quick, smooth work practice. Place your powder measure's bench stand about the middle of the top, well away from the bench edge, and just to the left of the press. Pivot the stand before bolting it down so you can easily reach the measure from the press position without moving. Then place your scale and trickler on the shelf pre-positioned for them, and just to the left of the measure. With powder tools placed this way you can easily drop charges, weigh and trickle them up and drop into cases standng in a loading tray then quickly move to the next OR just drop charges directly into the cases in a tray. Done this way, no digital powder weighing system is much, if any, faster than a beamscale/manual measure, over all. And, no matter what I said above, you WILL want/need to acccurately weigh individual charges at times, especially when you do intial development work and eventually get around to accuracy development. (I really meant just not to .1 gr. ALL the time!)
Lots more ol' hand's thoughts to share with newbs but I'm getting carpal tunnel. Good luck!
Don't touch your primers.
Now 1hole certainly laid it out for you and he is absolutely correct. I like my scale and trickler on the right of my powder measure, don't know why, but I'd spill too much powder the other way.
As far as the loading bench goes, I have a hard non porous top on mine sort of like formica. That makes it easy to clean and pick up those little powder granules that sometimes have a way of jumping out of the pan.
In the beginning, most of your loading will be building plinkers, but as you approach senior life, you may be shooting in service rifle and other matches or searching for that elusive one hole multiple shot group. That's when you will be investing all those other little gadgets---headspace guages, neck guages, etc. and learning more technical aspects of loading super accurate ammo. Then you'll be spending more money getting your rifles accurized and tuned so as to extract their full potential. But for the time being just get started and have fun.
Determine the best OAL for a given load and make up a dummy round w/o powder or primer to use next time you set up your press in that caliber. Keep the dummy in the box with those dies for easy access.
WASH YOUR HANDS prior to and immediately after loading. This will minimize the chance of fouling a component (like a primer) or fouling your system with lead. If you exercise proper precautions with lead handling, you will likely never have an issue. The next time you get a physical, ask your doctor to run lead levels on your blood. This will give you a base line for future reference. At each anual physical, re-do the lead level test to monitor your exposure.
Read materials available from each bullet/powder/component maker. Read "The Cast Bullet Handbook" even if you do not entend to shoot cast bullets. It will give you insight into a broader range of knowledge. Read about gun powder and understand the difference between single, double and triple base powders.
Large rifle primers are dimensionally different than large pistol primers. Small rifle primers are dimensionally the same as small pistol primers. The difference is generally the thickness of the cup (the part you see on a loaded round) and the intensity of the priming compound. In a pinch you can use small rifle primers in pistol cases, BUT you MUST reduce your load and work up a new load as the intensity will affect the pressure. NEVER use small pistol primers in rifle cases. You will have issues with blown primers, pierced primers and dangerous gas leaks.
Learn to "read" primers, the look of a primer after firing and what that tells you about the pressures. Flattened primers, primer flow and pierced primers tell you things about hte load you are working up. Flattened primers (where the rounded edge becomes squared off) are normal in rifle rounds but perhaps a sign of near max pressures in a handgun round. When primers flow (under pressure metal becomes somewhat plastic and flows) and completely fill the space surrounding in the primer pocket, you are at or over max pressure and should back off the load.
Primer pockets should be cleaned before loading, but they do not have to look new. Depending on the primer last used you may or may not need to clean them at all. If you can see some brass at the bottom of the primer pocket, it is probably OK for range/plinking use. If you see nothing but soot, clean it.
Segregate your brass by headstamp. Winchester, Win, W-W, W-W Super etc are probably very close to the same for all intents and purposes. Remington, R-P, UMC, Rem, Rem-UMC and Peters are pretty much the same for all intents and purposes. PMC and Eldorado (ELD) are pretty much the same. F-C, Federal and Fed are the same. GFL and Fiocchi are the same. Hornaday and Frontier are the same. If you keep each batch separate and have a load for each batch you are much safer. If you are looking for exceptional accuracy (one hole groups) the brass should be segregated by, weight, exact number of times it has been fired and in which gun. Extreme accuracy nuts (affectionate term) start with a batch of new brass from one maker, weigh each case and segregate by weight, keep each individual batch separate, loading them over and over until they reach the end of their life cycle and start on the next batch, work up a new load and use that brass till it is discarded. Most people will never need to go to that extreme. Just don't mix a bunch of brass you picked up at the range and load it all to max or near max and expect it to perform well and stay in one piece.
Don't y'all just love this stuff?????
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