We have talked about the equipment and the components of reloading. Hopefully, you are ready to go. ‘Where do I start?’ you might ask. As I stated in the first blog, you should obtain reloading books and manuals. Reloading is serious business and you need step by step instructions you can reference as you go along. Just a disclaimer: I am not attempting to show you how to reload in this blog. Videos and websites abound to help you in the process as well.
Once you have everything together, it’s time to start. First, prepare your cases. Inspect them before and after cleaning. Look for spits or cracks in the necks. Look for bulges in the sides above the base on bottleneck rifle cases. Look for ejector ring damage. Toss all damaged cases. Clean cases with either tumble or vibratory methods. If they are once- fired cases sometimes a good wipe with a rag will do. Inspect after cleaning also. I’ve found damage is easier to spot on a shiny case. Now, time to resize and de-prime. Resize and de-prime are accomplished in the same die operation. Handgun straight wall cases are easier to resize with a carbide die. Otherwise, you must lube the cases so they won’t stick in the die. Too much lube can put dents on the shoulder of bottleneck cases. Some practice is needed to use the right amount. I like using a spray lube. Put the cases in a case tray and spray from different angles for even coverage. Set up the die in the press as shown by the die manufacturer’s directions. After resizing, prime the cases. Get to know the different nomenclature for primers. There are large and small pistol and large and small rifle primers. We have magnum and standard primers as well. Use your reloading data to tell you what primer to use. If you deviate, pressure issues could arise. I prefer to use a hand held primer tool, it’s portable and gives you a positive feel for seating the primer. The next step is different between straight wall (most pistol) and bottleneck cases (most rifle). Straight wall cases require you to flare or expand the mouth to accept the bullet. That’s why pistol die sets are 3 die sets. Don’t flare more than needed to start the bullet in the case mouth. It overworks and stretches the brass, the cases won’t last as long. Lee Precision makes a die that not only flares the mouth, but allows a powder dispenser (Lee’s Auto-Disc Powder Measure) to drop the powder in the case. You can put a powder funnel in the die and manually drop the powder, also. Other brands of 3 die sets just expand the mouth with this die. After these steps, the case is resized and primed. Now, dispense the powder. (If you have the Lee die, that is already done.) Scales, electronic or beam, are the best way to measure or weigh powder. I know there are scoops for handgun loads, but rifle loads require more accurate charges. Various manufactures offer combo units that are both scale and dispenser. You can scoop powder onto a beam scale and then use a trickle to finish the charge, but that takes awhile to load 20 rounds. Take care with moisture and static electricity when handling powder. It’s time to seat the projectile. Some pistol dies have specific seating dies for bullet shape, i.e. wadcutter, semi-wadcutter. Watch out for that. Wadcutter dies won’t seat jacketed bullets very well. Pistol dies also crimp the bullet in this step. Once again, practice makes perfect. Don’t get in a rush. Setting the bullet depth and crimp amount is tricky, but have patience. Crimping semi-auto pistol cartridges is very important. The cartridge headspaces on the crimp roll. I would suggest a go/no-go gauge for all your semi-auto pistol cartridges. You will ruin cartridges. Rifle dies traditionally just seat the bullet. Crimping rifle cartridges is very debatable. Semi-auto rifles sometimes require crimped cartridges. I use a separate crimping die in those few instances. Rifle seating dies (if they have the crimping feature) just aren’t that good of a crimper. Seating depth is critical for rifles. If the bullet is touching the lands of the barrel, high pressure can happen. I have a Winchester Model 70 that does just that. I have to seat my bullets deeper than spec. I’m too lazy to have the barrel throated. Reloading allows me to do what I need. Accuracy can be achieved by varying the seating depth. Experiment with it. Have fun with it.
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