//E173: A Primer on Ammo Reloading

E173: A Primer on Ammo Reloading

In this episode, we learn how to roll our own. Armada member, and long-time friend of the show, Mark sits us down at his workbench and gives us some schoolin’ on ammo reloading.

Today’s show notes are thanks to the hard work of our guest, member, and friend, Mark. Enjoy! And be sure to thank him for the hard work.

Ok, this is a lot of info for show notes, but it just spewed out like the rum shits. It covers most of the info we talked about and perhaps a bit more. I figure it’s easy enough for you to pull out what you don’t want. FYI, I didn’t put anything about casting in there as that’s not really a ‘beginners’ thing. I’ve also attached a spreadsheet for documenting reloads. Let me know if you need anything else.

Get Mark’s reloading spreadsheet by clicking here.

Why Reload Ammo?

1) Cost savings.

Yes, there is equipment and consumables overhead, but reloaded ammo can be as much as a 80% savings on regular ammo and even more on “Match Grade” rounds or those other hard to find calibers.

2) Load Tuning & Accuracy.

A reloader can customize a round by projectile weight, type, and velocity for a particular gun for a specific purpose such as target shooting, hunting, plinking, or subsonics.

3) Immunity to ammo availability.

Assuming you’ve stocked up on consumables (powder, primers, bullets, and brass), the next national incident that sends ammo price and availability won’t affect you.

4) Pure satisfaction of making some kickin’ ammo and say with certainty “I made this. Look at how shiny and pretty it is. Look at how consistent and good my groups are; they are but the size of a platypus’ sphincter. Bow down to me, you dirty steel case shooters of questionable lineage.”

Reloading Safety gear:

  • Safety glasses
  • Gloves. Also helps in holding onto those slippery little things while reloading.
  • Mask. Should be used when dealing with anything generating airborne contaminants, such as dust from a vibratory cleaner.
  • ABC Fire extinguisher

Reloading processes:

Single Stage. As it implies, each stage is completed separately during the process. It is more time intensive, but it lends itself generally higher quality ammo. A typical single-stage methodology will be:

  • Inspect
  • Deprime
  • Clean
  • Inspect (something might not be visible until the brass is cleaned)
  • Resize (see note below regarding rifle vs pistol cases)
  • Prime
  • Powder charge
  • Seat bullet
  • Measure
  • Crimp (if necessary)
  • Inspect (and pop in case guage if you’ve got it)
  • Document

Progressive:

This is a more automated process in that most stages are completed in parallel. It produces ammo faster, but it can lend itself to error if care is not taken. Generally progressively loaded ammo it not as high quality as single stage. A typical progressive methodology will be:

  • Inspect
  • Deprime
  • Clean
  • Inspect (something might not be visible until the brass is cleaned)
  • Resize & deprime+prime+powder charge+seat+crimp (if necessary)
  • Measure (random)
  • Inspect (and pop in case guage if you’ve got it)
  • Document

General notes:

Get a binder or notebook and document what you did, when you did it, and the final results (shot well/bad, recoil, dirty, etc..). Some also use a spreadsheet or some other electronic document.

It’s probably ok to have some music on, but distractions should be kept to a minimum.

As you load, put a post-it note with the intended powder charge and cartridge overall length (COL) up on the wall in front of you. This will act as a reminder for what you’re doing. It’s easy to get dumb and say COL is 1.12 instead of 1.21!

Resizing of any brass that has a shoulder (most rifle cases) will require a lube to prevent the case from getting stuck in the die. After the resizing process, it is usually pertinent to remove the lube.

When you first start, load two or three ‘dummy’ rounds first. No primers or powder. Load them in your pistol mag and hand cycle them. If that goes ok, then the ones you load thereafter should be ok. This is a check to be used with or without the case gauge. Keep those as ‘go-by’ rounds which you can use for measureing or resetting your seating tool. Make sure you mark them with a sharpie or something (ex. In red with the COL length and bullet weight on the side).

Get a few plastic bins (shoe-box size). Keep brass separated in batches. Keep the dirty brass separate from the clean stuff. You can also have a bin for brass that’s ready for loading (sized and primed). Try to keep brass that’s been fired more than a couple of times separate from the other batches. Once some start to fail, chuck the lot of them. Keeping them in batches like that will allow you to safely reuse brass efficiently.

Also have a bin for rounds you messed up. Once you get a few of those, pull the bullets on them (Google “Bullet Puller”), recover the powder, and either keep the case if it can be used again or throw it out.

YouTube is your friend but it’s not all knowing.

When “working up a load”, it’s generally a good idea to start somewhere in the 50-60% of maximum powder charge and derive what works best for you and your firearm.

Good Ammo Reloading forums:

Note that most forums (Ex. AR15.com) will normally also have a reloading sub on it.

Ammo Reloading Consumables:

  1. Brass cases. You can buy new ones, but just pick up the ones you’ve shot from store-bought ammo or buy “once fired” from places such as https://brassmanbrass.com/ or good old Ebay. NOTE: military brass may have a ‘crimped’ primer, or a bit of extra brass surrounding it. This crimp will need to be removed after the case is deprimed using a primer crimp removing tool such as:
  2. Powder. Powder suitability varies for both rifle and pistol as well as caliber. This requires a bit of personal research and forum inquiries, though most powders are available locally. This will allow you to avoid a HAZMAT fee (~25 to 40 dollars) for shipping.
  3. Primers. Primer type varies for the type of ammunition. There are small pistol, small rifle, large pistol, large rifle, as well as magnum pistol and rifle. Again, this will require some research to decide which one is suitable for your ammo. As with powder, the HAZMAT fee will also apply when shipped.
  4. Projectiles. There’s a huge amount of options here. You will have to decide on what is suitable, but first time reloaders should stick to standard weight (ex. 230 grain 45ACP) full metal jacket (FMJ) bullets of the standard profile (ex. Round Nose = RN). So a typical 45ACP would be a 230 grain FMJ RN bullet, with a standard diameter of 0.452 inches.

Ammo Reloading Gear:

Listing equipment and consumables from MidwayUSA for convienience. You can go anywhere, including Amazon, and get similar items. Some other sites are:

Main Manufactures in order of increasing cost, and generally quality:

  • Lee (Recommended for beginners)
  • Hornady (Chevy or Ford of the industry)
  • RCBS or Redding
  • Forster
  • Dillon

Most manufactures also make the accessory gear from the list below as well.

Loading manual: Lee or Hornady recommended for first time users. Used books are fine but may not be up to date with powders and new bullets. Sierra makes a bindery-style manual that you can update rather having to buy complete new editions.

Press, single stage: Recommended RCBS Rock Chucker, though a Lee Classic is adequate.
Press, Progressive (list by quality/cost)

Reloading dies: Specific to caliber but can be used with all presses (standard threading). Brand is personal preference, though generally quality will increase with price. Some examples are:

Shell holders: This is what holds the brass case in place on the press. Each company is different, though one for 45ACP may also work for 308 winchester. Consult the press manuals and info to see which one is necessary for your caliber(s).

Calipers: For length measurements or rough diameter/thickness checks. Manual or electronic, just keep in mind that the electronic ones use button-style batteries. Even Harbor Freight ones are fine for starting out.

Scale: Electronic or manual. Electronic is faster to use.

Scale Check Weights (Validate and zero your scale):

Vibratory cleaner: Go to the local pet store and get some corn-cob pet bedding if you don’t want to buy the ‘official tumbling media’.

Media Separator:

Loading trays: Get 2: One for a pre and post process. Ex: You have unprimed cases in one, then shift them over to the second tray once deprimed. Do this with every step and it’s pretty hard to screw it up!

Case guage: (showing for 9mm. Other calibers will be different tool). This will allow you to test all the rounds to make sure they’ll chamber correctly.

Powder charging: Note: most progressive presses come with a built-in powder charging mechanism.

Powder trickler: This will allow you to get your charge perfect every time by manually trickling the last .5 to 1 grain.

Case trimming: This is primarily for rifle as most pistol cases do not require this.

Case mouth finishing: This is primarily for rifle as most pistol cases do not require this.

Optional – Primer pocket finishing:

Priming tool: (if not doing it on a press). Note: most progressive presses come with a built-in case priming mechanism.

Bullet Puller: (Pulls bullets out of cases that you goof-up)

Case gauge (9mm example):

Optional – Loaded round comparator: This premits the true loaded length of the round from the case base to the bullet ogive. This can have a big effect particularly on rifle rounds.

Optional – Headspace comparator: This can have a big effect particularly on rifle rounds.

Labels: Make sure whatever you load is documented on the container. Suggest these or similar:

Storage boxes:

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By | 2017-03-26T12:35:34+00:00 May 16th, 2016|Urban Survival Podcast Episodes|3 Comments

About the Author:

In his free time, Aaron enjoys hogging the remote, surfing, scotch, mental masturbation and debate over philosophical topics, and shooting stuff--usually not all at the same time.

3 Comments

  1. Michael May 22, 2016 at 10:17 am - Reply

    Please, please start with a manual.
    For example, starting with a reduction of 50-60% may cause catastrophic results, depending upon the powder and charge used.
    Stick to the listed “recipes”, within book values.

    Try not to mix your brass between MIL and commercial. There is a difference between case head thickness, hardness of the brass/neck area, etc.

    • MarkTheNewf May 25, 2016 at 9:32 pm - Reply

      Michael: Not sure where all this is coming from. The importance of manuals and measurements are covered and stressed in the podcast. Mixing of brass is not relevant for typical pistol calibers and the intermixing of once-fired brass (pistol or rifle) personally inspected and prepared by the reloader while using reasonable charges is not an issue either. This is also discussed in the podcast. No need to panic! When in doubt, ask a fellow reloaders either personally or on a forum and they’ll be happy to pass along info. As always, common sense and following of general rules will bring you a long way, even for a noob. Truth be told, I’ve had more problems with commercial ammo (over crimped bullets/buckled cases, primers in backwards, deep-seated bullets, etc.) than with any reload. I wish I’d taken some pics for proof!

  2. Austin August 18, 2016 at 11:12 pm - Reply

    Not sure if I missed it but can you point me in the right direction on what you are using to plate your bullets. I’ve looked at many options but don’t know anyone who plates them. I’m tired of the messy lube.

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