JS-Kit/Echo comments for article at http://smallestminority.blogspot.com/2007/09/reloading.html (42 comments)

  Tentative mapping of comments to original article, corrections solicited.

jsid-1191117882-581419  matt at Sun, 30 Sep 2007 02:04:42 +0000

Pretty good. Since this is for people just getting started I would add a comment on Berdan brass and also crimped in primers on military brass.

Also, did you get that Lee Anniversary Kit? If so how do you like it? I recommended to a coworker as a cheap way to get into reloading but with the caveat that I hadn't seen the kit in person.


jsid-1191118147-581420  Stingray at Sun, 30 Sep 2007 02:09:07 +0000

I've been slowly piecing together parts for my own bench over the course of the last year or so (almost ready!), and this post is right up the alley of things I need. The manuals I've read go over each step nicely and all, but they seem to lack a good journey of the brass account sort of angle like this covered. This one is getting the copy/paste/save treatment. Much obliged for the effort.

jsid-1191118926-581424  Kevin Baker at Sun, 30 Sep 2007 02:22:06 +0000

The kit I bought back in '87 wasn't as complete as the kit they're selling now, but it came with one set of rifle reloading dies (.30-30 Winchester, in my case). I had to buy some extra materials to get started.

The Lee Challenger O-press is adequate for a beginner, and you can't beat the price.

jsid-1191129129-581432  tavis at Sun, 30 Sep 2007 05:12:09 +0000

Lee classic loader $19.95
Wood mallet

jsid-1191156740-581435  pdb at Sun, 30 Sep 2007 12:52:20 +0000

Nice post. I've been accumulating odds and ends to start rollin' my own for ... uh, years now, and am closing in on having enough gear to get going.

However, one thing I didn't see that you covered, and I've been wondering about... should you clean your brass before or after you deprime them?

jsid-1191166633-581439  DJ at Sun, 30 Sep 2007 15:37:13 +0000

Well done, Kevin.

I differ only slightly, in that I do not like Lee dies. I tried a set in .243 Winchester and got tired of snafus. Perhaps it's just me, but they gave me difficulties that RCBS dies never do. All of my dies are RCBS, and none give me any problems.

So, I follow a simple rule: The bitterness of poor quality or the wrong choice lasts longer than the pleasure of a low price. I suggest not getting started if you can't afford high quality tools.

One tool I suggest that you didn't include is a case tumbler. I use a Lyman Turbo 1200, which looks like a pumpkin on a black base. Dump some fired cases in with crushed walnut hull media, tumble for about three hours or so, and they'll look like new.

And, yes, I suggest cleaning both before and after resizing, as I do. Cleaning before makes sizing easier and, as you noted, results in less wear on the dies and the brass, while cleaning after helps remove the dregs of the sizing lubricant and helps clean the primer pocket.

The one missing part of your instructions is how to determine if the results are any good. The manuals tend to not talk about it much, possibly for reasons of liability. Beats me, but this is where hobnobbing with those who've been there, done that can be helpful.

It involves three gauges: 1) muzzle velocity; 2) pressure; and, 3) accuracy.

Muzzle velocity is easy to measure with a chronograph. The Shooting Chrony Alpha is hard to beat, and at $80 plus a $10 tripod from Wal Mart, it's fairly cheap.

Pressure signs require some teaching and experience, as a "hey guys, watch this" approach is strongly ill advised. In general, learn to examine: 1) the shape of the fired primer, looking for sharp edges, flattened surface, extruded firing pen indentation, and expanded primer pockets, all in order of increasing pressure; 2) expansion of the diamter of the head of a belted cartridge by more than perhaps 0.0005"; and, 3) difficult extraction of the fired case. Be acutely aware that different cartridge shapes and sizes, as well as different manufacturers of brass for a given cartridge, will show different signs of excessive pressure.

Accuracy is obvious, but a short story is in order. I have been shooting a Winchester Model 70 in .30-06 since 1976, always with the same handload (until recently, but that's another story). A friend replaced a broken Remington 742 with a Browning BAR, both in .30-06. The day before deer season opened, we left early in the morning and stopped at our local range to sight his new gun in. He dug five boxes of factory ammo out of his bag, all partly empty, and of three different bullet types and three different brands. I just smiled and watched as he commenced shooting one five shot group after another. He couldn't keep five consecutive shots on an 8"x11" target at 100 yards, with his best group being about 7" or so. He was ready to wrap the barrel around the legs of the shooting bench, so I brought out my handloads. His first first five shot group with them could be covered by a half-dollar. He now understands that details matter in ammunition.

And finally, don't mix brass of different manufacturers! For a given cartridge, the brass of one manufacturer might have much more interior volume than that of another manufacturer, and such affects the interior ballistics far more than you might imagine. It also affects how many times you can reload the brass.

As examples, I found that Winchester brass is nearly always thin and non-uniform. In .243 and .30-06, I could get at most about 3-4 reloads before having case head separations. In .270 WSM, Winchester brass resulted in split necks after two loads. With Remington brass, 12-14 reloads worked just fine in all three. Norma brass is even better, and Nosler now sells what appears to be premium stuff, but I haven't tried it.

So, how do you develop a "hunting" load without umpty'leven trips to the range? First by realizing that you're not after maximum accuracy, else you would be after a minimum load. Rather, you're after acceptable accuracy that is consistent with a maximum or near-maximum load.

Begin with a load that the manuals list as a "starting load". Load two rounds of it. Then load more rounds in pairs, increasing the powder charge in each by (pick one: 0.2 grains for a pistol load, 0.5 grains for a rifle load). Go to the range and fire each, preferably over a chronograph. Make sure the velocities are "normal", meaning the load is actually working properly (i.e. some powders work well, some don't, in any particular cartridge and firearm). Pick the load whose pressure signs are just one setting below "that's too much".

Now, load ten to fifteen rounds of that load, plus ten to fifteen rounds of one charge increment higher and lower. Go to the range and fire for accuracy. Pick the load with the best combination of accuracy and low spread in velocity.

If you're after loading for maximum accuracy for target work, or for long-range varmint work, then you're outta my league. But damn, ain't it fun?

jsid-1191168490-581442  ben at Sun, 30 Sep 2007 16:08:10 +0000

I started with the Lee Anniversary Kit too! Great kit. It's what I still use. It's great for rifle, especially bolt action calibers, but for pistol and auto-loading rifle calibers, it's a little slow.

One of these days I'll move up the the LNL or some other progressive.

jsid-1191179465-581449  Linoge at Sun, 30 Sep 2007 19:11:05 +0000

I have been idly considering venturing into the reloading arena ever since I purchased my first package of 7.62NATO rounds, but the problem was that I had no idea where to start. Thanks for providing a concise and straightforward post on all of the major details for a beginner.

That said, considering I have no garage, shed, or other room in which I can make my little bombs and store my explosive concoctions, I should probably hold off until I am living somewhere other than an apartment in Southern Kalifornistan.

jsid-1191183527-581450  Kevin Baker at Sun, 30 Sep 2007 20:18:47 +0000

I started off in a 3-room duplex. I had an old desk that I stored the bullets, powder, and primers in, and I bolted the press to a piece of wood that I would clamp to the desk top with C-clamps when I wanted to reload. When I didn't, the press was stored in the closet.

It was not really stable enough for full-length resizing rifle cases, but it worked well for pistol cartridges and neck-sizing rifle (thus my affection for Lee's collet neck sizing dies.)

If you're reloading for your SOCOM, you'll need something sturdy enough for full-length resizing.

jsid-1191186584-581455  DJ at Sun, 30 Sep 2007 21:09:44 +0000

I started in an apartment on the same desk I used for schoolwork. Now I use a small workbench in the garage with a metal cabinet for storage. I store powder, primers, and ammo in the house, where it's cool.

Seriously, though, this is what basements are made for, but houses here don't have them.

jsid-1191200397-581462  Linoge at Mon, 01 Oct 2007 00:59:57 +0000

Yeah, the SOCOM is what I would be resizing for... 9mm is still relatively cheap enough to be buyable on the open market.

Still, I would very much prefer to have someplace other than my daily living spaces to do that kind of thing... I am a complete klutz, and that kind of mess would be the kind of thing which would cause Better Half to consider eviction of my new hobby...

That, and since Kalifornistan has limitations on how much gasoline one is allowed to store in apartments (what if you have a generator, eh?), they probably have something similar for powder - and if not the state, then the complex. Would have to check that (or just not ask, but that is a different can of worms).

jsid-1191245870-581479  DJ at Mon, 01 Oct 2007 13:37:50 +0000

Linoge, when you check for the rules, keep in mind that smokeless gunpowder is labeled "extremely flammable", not "explosive". If it is not contained such that pressure builds up, such as in the chamber of a gun, it simply burns very quickly. Black powder is "explosive", meaning it explodes when ignited, regardless of containment. So, likely the rules are different for the two. Take care you don't get them confused.

jsid-1191269994-581491  Ed at Mon, 01 Oct 2007 20:19:54 +0000

I got into reloading because my Dad had an obscure rifle in the basement that I always wanted to shoot. It was: 11.15 X 60R otherwise known as the .43 Mauser. Turns out this is probably one the hardest cartridges to learn on, but it sure was fun!

I've added the following:

.45 ACP
.38 colt

.30 Carbine

The list keeps growing. The best thing is looking at a gun and not worrying about ammo. Give me some old, obscure, never heard of it caliber and I've got to have it!

jsid-1191274133-581492  Kevin Baker at Mon, 01 Oct 2007 21:28:53 +0000

Have you purchased commercial .303 British or 6.5x55 Swedish Mauser recently? These aren't exactly obscure, but they ain't cheap, either!

jsid-1191277766-581494  longrifleman at Mon, 01 Oct 2007 22:29:26 +0000

I would add a kinetic bullet puller to your starter list. You will have some oopsies to deal with and the easiest way to reclaim the components is with one of those. Trust me on this. Collet style pullers are probably "better" but not cheap.

I would also not scrimp on boxes to store different loads and generations of brass in. They can be had for a couple of bucks each and will save a lot of head scratching in the future. Trust me on this.

I also don't like any of the commercial loading blocks very well, at least for rifles. I make mine out of scrap 2" lumber and drill holes to match the size of the case. Most commercial blocks are too shallow and if you bump the block or are trying to move it, it is easy to knock cases over and then you get to dump all the powder from all the cases and start over because you aren't sure just how much is left in any case. Trust me on this.

After you get the basics, a couple of gizmos I really like are a powder trickler and a hand priming tool. I think the RCBS hand primer is enough better built to more than justify the cost over Lee.

I would agree with Kevin on Lee equipment being good enough. I have Lee, RCBS and Hornady dies and can't tell much difference. If you pay attention to your set-up, they will all produce quality.

jsid-1191326285-581506  Ed at Tue, 02 Oct 2007 11:58:05 +0000

I pick up most of my dies on ebay, so I have some of everybody's. I forgot to include .303 British in my list. I think I paid about $15.00. It's a little tricky to load, but not too bad. Right now I'm looking for a set of .303 savage and 50 U.S. Carbine (a true oddball!)

jsid-1191335027-581518  Firehand at Tue, 02 Oct 2007 14:23:47 +0000

I've got a number of Lee dies, and I've never had a problem with them. And they've turned out good loads.

This is a good rundown, Kevin, about as good as you can get without turning out a book.

On a place to load, I think Midway used to carry- may still, can't look right now- a loading 'bench' that's a platform to mount the press to, with enough room for some other things, on a base that includes a seat. So your weight holds it steady, and when you're done you can stick it in a corner or closet. If I didn't have a desk in the spare bedroom to mount mine on, I'd get something like this. I do my loading in the house because the garage gets too hot in summer and too cold in winter for comfort.

jsid-1191337450-581521  OtherWhiteMatt at Tue, 02 Oct 2007 15:04:10 +0000

Thank you for this Kevin. I've been wanting to get into this, but now that the price of .223 is going through the roof- nows a good time.

jsid-1191340385-581522  Mr. Completely at Tue, 02 Oct 2007 15:53:05 +0000

Great post! I thought I'd mention that W231 works quite well in .38SPL, which might let the new reloader on a budget get by with only buying one powder. I would also recommend one of the collet bullet pullers, Hornady, for example, that you put in the reloading press. They aren't all that expensive, and if you pull very many bullets (and new reloaders will have plenty to pull) it's a whole lot easier to use compared to the hammer type pullers.

...... Mr. C.

See you in Reno!

jsid-1191350949-581531  Eagle 1 at Tue, 02 Oct 2007 18:49:09 +0000

Nice post! Looks like you covered the basics. I started with a 550B Dillon progressive that would do both rifle and pistol. More expensive and there was a much steeper learning curve but it paid for itself very quickly when I started burning up 200-300+ rounds a month with the practical shooting game. A few squib loads (operator error) and 80K rounds in that pistol caliber alone it still works like a champ. The press itself was the only big ticket item to start, accompanied by a dial caliper, case tumbler and bullet puller. Dean Grinnell's "ABCs of Reloading" is a great source of humor and wisdom. I started only reloading pistol at first and then broadened the field to rifle reloads a few years later. There are some who poo-poo the expense and ability of a progressive press to build match quality rounds but you'd be hard pressed (no pun intended)to convince me. Maybe at David Tubbs level. Whether you purchase a progressive or single-stage press, get one that will reload both rifle and pistol. Some progressives will load only pistol.

Eagle 1

jsid-1191373447-581543  Morenuancedthanyou at Wed, 03 Oct 2007 01:04:07 +0000

Nice post. I'd just like to add the recommendation to put the case trimmer on the short list if you are shooting rifle rounds. When I resized a box of once-fired .308 military brass, I found that about half of them were too long, and needed to be trimmed after resizing.

jsid-1191379175-581548  Kevin Baker at Wed, 03 Oct 2007 02:39:35 +0000

I actually did without a case trimmer for quite a while. Of course, I built up a large stock of over-length .357 Magnum cases in the mean time...

My .303 British cases never lived long enough to need trimming, and I neck-sized them anyway, so case growth was minimal. Plus, in a pinch the neck chamfer tool can take a few thousandths off if you really need to.

I did without a bullet puller for quite a while, too. If you don't absolutely have to save the projectile, a pair of slip-joint pliers and the press work OK.

jsid-1191425356-581557  Sevesteen at Wed, 03 Oct 2007 15:29:16 +0000

For straight-wall pistol calibers, I'd mention either the Lee Pro 1000 or the Classic Turret press. Either of them can be used as a single-stage to start. Available as a fairly complete single-caliber kit, you'd need a scale, calipers and a reloading manual The Pro 1000 has a poor primer feed system--Once you learn its quirks, it works but it is enough of an issue that I'd probably begin with a turret despite the higher volume of the progressive.

I'd change the cost breakdown to one average rifle, one average pistol, and then what it costs to add a caliber.

Don't order powder or primers online if avoidable. In any reasonable beginner quantity, hazmat fees make them uneconomical compared to local purchase.

jsid-1191431135-581561  Jim Mills at Wed, 03 Oct 2007 17:05:35 +0000

Excellent post, Kevin. I'm glad that you decided to post this, even though Kim apparently hasn't followed through. Many people are considering getting into reloading, and are put off by the lack of easy to follow information about what is needed and knowledge of what is involved. I'm sure this article will help a lot of those folks.

In your instructions, you state that the Lee die sets come with a factory crimp die, but only some of the pistol die sets include that die. The 3-die pistol sets do not come with the factory crimp die; the 4-die sets do. For the .38 Special/.357 Magnum die set, you have specified the 4-die set with factory crimp die, but with the .45ACP die set, you have specified the 3-die set without the factory crimp die. It is less expensive to buy the 4-die set at the outset (where available), rather than adding a factory crimp die to the 3-die set later. That 4-die set is: .45 ACP Lee Carbide 4-die set
http://www.midwayusa.com/eproductpage.exe/showproduct?saleitemid=242098 - $30.99

Some of your readers may just follow the instructions given, buying the die set specified for the cartridges they plan to reload, and then discover when they start to reload that they don’t have the factory crimp die. Since you describe the use of the factory crimp die in your instructions, it is better to specify the 4-die set that contains that die.

Factory crimp dies are available for most rifle cartridges, and I recommend them for any cartridge that is to be fired in a semi-auto. I use them in any cartridge for which they are available, because a good crimp will help avoid bullet set-back during recoil while in the magazine of rifles, and “pulling” the bullets for cartridges used in revolvers.

Your instructions for adjusting the sizing die are a procedure that would be used for steel sizing dies used for bottleneck rifle cases. However, most manufacturers do not recommend lowering a carbide sizing die 1 more full turn after it contacts the shell holder. The carbide insert is very hard, but it is very brittle. Excess pressure while reloading might crack the insert, ruining the die. Lee recommends just lowering the carbide sizing die until it contacts the shell holder. Some other manufacturers recommend adjusting the carbide sizing die so that it doesn’t touch the shell holder, and in fact, may have some clearance. One manufacturer recommends a clearance of 0.055”, “the thickness of a nickel”. Because of those variations, the best advice is to adjust any sizing die according to the manufacturer’s recommendation.

You don’t mention lubing straight wall pistol cases before sizing them. With carbide sizing dies that isn’t necessary, but it does make the reloading operation go a bit easier. At least one expert (Brian Enos) recommends lubing pistol cases with Hornady One Shot before reloading, and leaving the lube on after the cases are reloaded. He contends that the lubrication helps in the functioning of his handguns. The process described in your narrative for reloading rifle cases could also be used for the pistol cases. It’s not necessary, just another option.

You state that, “At this point you can use the chamfer/deburring tool to dress the inside and outside of the case mouth, but with pistol cartridges this is seldom necessary.” That’s one of the bits of jargon that Kim cautioned about! What do I dress it with? I can’t find any clothes of the right size!

Better to describe the indicators for the operation, and how to carry it out. The case mouth may have sharp corners, especially if it is new brass or has been trimmed to the proper length (more about that later). Visually inspect the case mouth. If you see sharp corners, or if the entire case mouth is one flat surface, chamfer the case mouth inside and outside with the chamfer/deburring tool. Just place the pointed end of the tool into the case mouth and turn the tool a few turns to remove a slight amount of metal. Then, reverse the tool, and place the open end around the case mouth, and give that outside a few turns. Be careful not to remove too much metal. The case mouth is fairly thin, and the desired result is that the flat surface of the case mouth will still be about one-half of the thickness of the case mouth metal, and each chamfer (the 45 degree angle that the tool cuts) is about one-fourth of the total thickness of the case mouth metal. If you remove too much metal, the case mouth will be sharp. That is not wanted. The goal is just a slight chamfer to remove any burrs and ease the entry of the bullet into the case.

If the case mouth appears rounded, so that you can’t really judge how thick the case mouth metal is, or what portion of it is a chamfer, the case has probably already been chamfered and used enough that it will have no burrs. It will not need chamfering again until the case is trimmed.

Case trimming is hardly ever needed if the cartridge being reloaded is a straight wall pistol case, and the loads are mild. That’s why these loads are a good place for a beginner to start. However, magnum power pistol loads and almost all rifle cartridges will require careful attention to case lengths to avoid excessively high pressures. You did include a dial caliper in your kit, and reloaders should check the length of each cartridge case after full length sizing. If the length exceeds the maximum length for that cartridge in the loading manuals, that case should not be reloaded until it has been trimmed. It isn’t necessary to throw the case away. Just set all the over-length cases aside in a well labeled container until you can afford a case trimmer.

A bullet puller is a similar purchase. Most beginners will load a cartridge or two that is not useable. Many of these will be caused by applying excessive crimp to bottleneck rifle cases that are too long for the current setting of the crimp die. That causes a slight ridge at the shoulder of the case which prevents it from entering the chamber. That’s another reason for checking loaded cases, either by chambering them in the gun or using a case gauge.

If you accumulate a few of these cases that won’t chamber, they don’t necessarily have to be thrown away. Set them aside in a well marked container until the size of the collection justifies the purchase of a bullet puller. The inertia bullet pullers are easy to use. They look somewhat like a hammer. They usually come with three or so collets that hold the cartridge case in the puller. Those collets are a real nuisance to use. Instead, use the shell holders that came with the Lee Autoprime tool. The shell holder set includes every shell holder the beginning reloader is likely to need. If the Autoprime shell holder set doesn’t include a shell holder for a cartridge on which you want to pull a bullet, you can use the shell holder that came with your die set, or that you use on your press.

Inertia bullet pullers will dent almost everything you bang them on! Work bench tops, tables, even concrete floors, will be dented by the tools. Do yourself a favor and find some piece of solid steel to use for this purpose. An anvil, if you have one in your shop, works well. I have a one foot long section of railroad rail that a friend gave me for just such uses. That may be a bit unusual, but look for something similar in size and strength. If you are married, a suitable surface for rapping the bullet puller is MANDATORY to keep peace in the household!

jsid-1191452033-581576  SCATTERSHOT at Wed, 03 Oct 2007 22:53:53 +0000

Came here from Say Uncle. Your article is very good. I highly recommend having a chronograph. You should focus on producing high quality ammunition. The low cost per shot is icing on the cake !

jsid-1191460580-581583  DJ at Thu, 04 Oct 2007 01:16:20 +0000

"Inertia bullet pullers will dent almost everything you bang them on!"

They also shatter into a gazillion pieces, spectacularly so. I replaced mine with an RCBS collet style puller.

"... and almost all rifle cartridges will require careful attention to case lengths to avoid excessively high pressures ..."

It might be overkill, but I believe in overkill. I length trim and de-burr all my rifle cases with every loading.

jsid-1191467388-581590  Drew458 at Thu, 04 Oct 2007 03:09:48 +0000

Oh, and pick up a little $2 can of Imperial Sizing Die wax. Just the smallest amount rubbed on every 5th case makes sizing with carbide dies so much easier. Makes a great lube for rifle cases and you'll never get any on the case shoulder like spray lube always does, and it isn't a gross mess like those lube pads. A little bit rubbed on the die's mounting threads makes them turn nice and smooth, etc. An eensy bit on the expander ball every 20 rounds. Endless uses. And it wipes off clean with a paper towel. One can is about the size of a half dollar coin and will last you almost forever.

If you're trying to save pennies you can use a bit of 4-O steel wool instead of the deburring tool. Just twist the case mouth straight into a pad of steel wool a couple times and it comes out smooth. Twist it a little harder a few more times and you can "trim" cases with it too.

I would recommend a plain hard plastic 5-0-5 balance beam scale. They're half the price of a good steel 10-0-10, and are actually more accurate than the digital scales. They work just as fast too.

You don't need a powder trickler either. Just take an old fired rifle case - leave the old primer in it, clean it, fill it halfway with whatever powder you're using, and learn to lay it on an angle and roll it in your fingers to get a few flakes of powder to come out into the scale pan. I've been using the same .270 case for a decade. When you're done, just remember to dump the excess powder back in the can ... always double check that it's empty before and after your session.

I've got to disagree with DJ on his comments about reading pressure signs, especially when loading for cartridges that don't run at maximum pressure. Trust me, you are NEVER going to see a flattened primer or feel a stuck case in a .45-70 or a .30-30. And head expansion has been proven to be unreliable, even if you happen to own the specialized kind of micrometer you need to check it accurately. But we'll debate that another time, Ok?

I've had my green plastic RCBS inertial puller for 25 years now and use it whenever I reload. I whack the thing on bare concrete and its still going strong. I've never dented a case, and I load some thin walled stuff (.32-20, .45-70).

You can clean your fired cases cheaply this way: put a spoonful of dishwasher powder in a 1qt chinese take out soup container. Add enough cases to fill it up just under halfway. Top it off with hot water from the faucet, put the lid on it and shake. Shake shake shake until you're sick of it, then drain and rinse. Rinse again, again, again. Want shiny cases? Final rinse with white vinegar, 89 cents a gallon at Walmart. Drain the cases, shake them off, let them dry on a towel.

I LOVE how well IOSSO works, BUT I find I still have to run the cases through the vibrating media cleaner with some polish for a bit afterwards. IOSSO gets them chemically clean - which means you have to coat them with some polish right quick or they will tarnish like nobody's business in a day or two.

Don't waste your money on digital calipers. Manual ones are better and they have no battery to die on you.
Don't bother with flash hole deburrers or primer pocket uniformers either. Sure, they're great, but mostly you don't need them because today they sell good brass. Same goes for inside and outside neck turners. You don't need them at this point of your reloading career.

If you really really want to go on the cheap, , Lee still sells the Load-All for $20. Get it in one common cartridge, and pick up a hard rubber mallet. Personally, the thing scares the @#$^ out of me: whacking partially assembled live ammo with a hammer seems mighty risky, but it works. Just make sure you have a set of Lee powder scoops too, and you can load up a box of rifle ammo in under an hour.

PS - I've had my Dillon RL550B for 12 years now and it works perfectly. A good press and good dies will last forever. Your grandson's grandson will still be using your equipment if you take care of it.

jsid-1191508009-581598  DJ at Thu, 04 Oct 2007 14:26:49 +0000

"I've got to disagree with DJ on his comments about reading pressure signs, especially when loading for cartridges that don't run at maximum pressure. Trust me, you are NEVER going to see a flattened primer or feel a stuck case in a .45-70 or a .30-30. And head expansion has been proven to be unreliable, even if you happen to own the specialized kind of micrometer you need to check it accurately. But we'll debate that another time, Ok?"

I can't disagree, but I don't load those cartridges. When loading a .357 Mag, watching the primers is quite informative. I just finished developing a new load for mine yesterday, and the primer shows the pressure to be lower than what I've been shooting for about 30 years, despite higher velocity and despite the charge weight being heavier than the maximum listed in the Speer #13 manual. Each gun is different, so I watch all the signs that I can.

Head expansion measurements give lots of false negatives, but if the head expands by 0.001" or more, and you can measure it with a dial caliper, it's worth noting. I look for indications along the lines of, "What the hell is going on here?" and this is one of them.

jsid-1191513249-581604  Drew458 at Thu, 04 Oct 2007 15:54:09 +0000

Ok DJ, I'll accept that. Perhaps this method does work with pistol cartridges. After all, the chambers in a revolver cylinder are generously sized, and headspace is not tightly controlled either. Pistol cartridges use much softer primers than rifle cartridges, and their cases are much thinner as well.

As an aside, Vihtavuori load data for the .357 specifies using a small rifle primer!

I was thinking more along rifle lines; high pressure magnums cartridges and low pressure lever gun cartridges both use the same primer. In many instances the brass at the case head is the same thickness in both. Advances in machining and metallurgy have made that "sticky bolt" situation a thing of the past in newer rifles of even average quality, unless your load is WAY hot. The case head can't expand any larger than the chamber dimension, so closer tolerance, smooth finished chambers limit this significantly.
My point was that its just about impossible to see any of these "classic signs of high pressure" in the lower pressure rounds in a well made modern rifle.

But our beginning reloader here is never going to see this, since he is following the above directions and only choosing a load from the middle of the range of published data, right?

jsid-1191514791-581607  Drew458 at Thu, 04 Oct 2007 16:19:51 +0000

I know this post is about getting started in reloading and not spending a fortune, but I would suggest getting the Hornady Lock-N-Load Overall Length gage, a modified case, and the bullet comparator.

You may have noticed that some load manuals don't specify the actual length of the assembled cartridge? This tool lets you find exactly how far out you can seat your bullets in your firearm, and the Comparator lets you set up your seating die exactly.
Then you just subtract .02" (or whatever clearance distance you use) and seat to that length (assuming that such a length will also fit in your rifle's magazine, function through its action, and be able to eject the loaded round; always adjust OAL to the shortest of these 4 lengths).

Measuring the overall length of a cartridge can be a pain, because the nose of a bullet is not always exact. The Comparator lets you measure from halfway up the ogive where things are always exact. And you do it with the actual bullet you're using, not some "typical" shaped plastic pretend bullet.

The tool set is not inexpensive but it makes for much better ammo.

jsid-1191545593-581649  DJ at Fri, 05 Oct 2007 00:53:13 +0000

"As an aside, Vihtavuori load data for the .357 specifies using a small rifle primer!"

Interesting, isn't it?

For .357 Magnum loads, the Speer #13 manual states the following:

"Slow-burning pistol powders require a heavy roll crimp to insure proper ignition. Use Magnum primers only when they are specified in the data. We found the new VihtaVouri N110 to be an excellent 357 Magnum propellant with standard CCI primers. ... Do not use Magnum primers with the 2400 or Viht. N110 loads shown here or high pressures will result.

And yet the VihtaVouri web site lists N110 as a rifle powder, and shows using rifle primers with it for a .357 Mag load!

Now, look at the Speer data for their .357 Mag load using their 140 grain hollow point. It says:

Note: The .357" 146 gr. JHP-SWC may be used with these powders by reducing the maximum charges by one grain."

Now, to particulars.

I have used the Speer 146 JPH-SWC since the late 1970's. My pet load, developed in 1978, was 14.0 grains of WW 630, which produced 1360 fps in my 4" barrelled Model 28 Smith. Now, it produces 1325 fps in my 6" barrelled Model 686 Smith. It's the same case, same primer, even the same 8 lb. keg of powder. Go figure.

That powder hasn't been listed for some time and is no longer available. I have a couple of pounds left, so it's time for a new load.

VV N110 looks promising, right?

The Speer manual shows a max load, for a 140 grain JHP, of 15.2 grains, producing 1365 fps in a 6" barrel. My load development resulted, for that same old 146 JHP-SWC, in 16.0 grains, producing 1363 fps, with lower pressure signs than the old WW 630 load. Per the Speer manual, it's 1.8 grains over max, and it's using a CCI 500 primer, which is a small pistol standard primer.

I also developed a load for the Speer 158 Gold Dot, which will be my new "meat" bullet for this gun. The Speer manual shows a max load of 15.0 grains at 1253 fps. My load resulted in 15.8 grains at 1243 fps, with lower pressure signs than for the 146 JHP-SWC load. This is 0.8 grains over maximum, again with a CCI 500 primer.

What's the point of all this? It is that you cannot trust the manuals, because every gun is different. Compared to what was used to develop the loads shown in the manual, they have different chambers, different cylinders, different forcing cones, different rifling, different bore diameters, different barrel roughness, different barrel lengths, and so on. Unless you want to accept less-than-optimum and/or less-than-maximum loads, you have to learn to read the pressure signs and trust your own judgment.

That's what makes it fun.

Y'all be careful, now, y'hear?

jsid-1191552059-581653  Morenuancedthanyou at Fri, 05 Oct 2007 02:40:59 +0000

One note about inertial bullet pullers -- I tried to use mine to pull some 180-gr .357 Mag loads in an unheated shed during the winter, with no luck. I was hammering the puller so hard I was afraid of breaking it, and the bullets would not budge. The puller worked just fine on other loads in spring when it was warmer. Has anyone else noticed this?

I wound up getting a collet-type puller to take apart the 357 stuff, but I had to grip the bullets so hard it distorted the bullet cross sectional shape.

Maybe the thermal coefficient of brass (11 x 10^-6 per degree F) is higher than that of lead (-?- couldn't find the number on the internet). That would cause the brass to grip the bullets hard in the cold.

jsid-1191553262-581655  Kevin Baker at Fri, 05 Oct 2007 03:01:02 +0000


What you described is exactly why I will NOT load ammo for other people.

What's safe in MY gun may not be safe in someone else's.

jsid-1191575528-581659  Jerry the Geek at Fri, 05 Oct 2007 09:12:08 +0000

Kevin, this is an excellent detailed description of the reloading process as done on a limited budget. I wish 'someone' had published a similar essay years ago.

I've been reloading for over 50 years now, both rifle and pistol, and I can't find a single significant correction to the processes you describe. I'll be linking to this post at Cogito Ergo Geek, for the benefit of new shooters who haven't yet clicked on my sidebar link to The Smallest Minority.

The only thing I would suggest is a point summary to help the new reloader understand that is a step-process. Something like:

1. clean the brass
2. deprime/resize the brass
3. seat the primer
4. measure powder into the case
5. seat the bullet
6. crimp the bullet

Minor steps aren't included, and some people choose to, for example, perform all steps on every cartridge while others (like you) combine 4, 5 & even 6 for each cartridge. Either way, it works.

Inspection of the product at various steps might be a good idea, depending on what kind of cartridge you're reloading. When using the step-process instead of a progressive press (useful for loading more than a few boxes at a time), it's a good idea to check the case for foreign material (small gravel, etc.) before Step 2.

And always inspect the finished cartridge for Over-All Length (usually a matter of looking over the cartridges in the block for 'long' or 'short' loads) and checking for high primers ... which simply will not fire, more often than causing a 'slam fire' in a semi-automatic pistol.

My only question is: when are you going to publish a treatise on reloading for the shotgun?

jsid-1191587578-581661  Kevin Baker at Fri, 05 Oct 2007 12:32:58 +0000

Thanks, Jerry. I don't reload shotgun shells because I'm not a shotgunner. I probably don't put more than 100 shells through my Mossberg 590 in any particular year.

jsid-1191594207-581668  DJ at Fri, 05 Oct 2007 14:23:27 +0000

"What you described is exactly why I will NOT load ammo for other people."

I agree wholeheartedly.

That being said, two people have used my ammo in their guns, one box each, but only in new guns and only after careful vetting by me. And, I loaded some for another person's Winchester .32-40, but only very reduced loads, as they were just for making noisy holes in paper.

jsid-1191726991-581721  Billll at Sun, 07 Oct 2007 03:16:31 +0000

If I learned nothing else from working in automation, it's that every other step is an inspection of the previous one. I use the inserts from a box of .45s as a reloading bank for my .357. It holds everything quite securely. I use the Lee anniversary set, and like it just fine. The dispenser is quite accurate with the pistol loads (Titegroup), but for some reason, not so good with the rifle (.223, Hodgedon 335).
I fill all 50 rounds with powder, then use a pencil with no eraser (brass end) to check for depth. I have 2 scribed marks on it, one for a typical load, and one for an empty case. Catches squib loads and doubles nicely.
I'm a gadget builder, and make a lot of my own stuff, like a tumbler from a 2-lb coffee can, and a trickler from a plastic film can and a plastic drinking straw.
Tumbling media: Crushed walnut shell, AKA parrot litter from Pet-Smart.

jsid-1191799352-581732  DJ at Sun, 07 Oct 2007 23:22:32 +0000

Incidentally, Kevin, have you rendered a verdict on the RCBS electronic scale and powder measure?

jsid-1191802417-581734  Kevin Baker at Mon, 08 Oct 2007 00:13:37 +0000

So far all I've used it for is loading .45 Colt, and it throws charges just fast enough to keep up, but they are accurate +/- 0.1 grain.

I'm going to wait until I've done some rifle reloading with it before I pass judgment.

jsid-1191854438-581748  Kim du Toit at Mon, 08 Oct 2007 14:40:38 +0000

Kevin and everyone,

I'm sorry for the slip -- I actually wrote to a number of knowledgeable folks (like Kevin) to get a "consensus" as to what a beginner should use for reloading -- but a number of people haven't responded (yet, or maybe STILL), and tehn life intervened so the project went on the back burner.

I did, however, manage to get an excellent glossary of reloading terms, which I will be publishing soon (when the author finishes editing the changes I suggested).

Kevin, many thanks for all your hard work. If I may, I'm going to copy and post this piece (with all accolades and attribution, of course) onto the Nation of Riflemen website, which was to have been its original destination anyway.

jsid-1191857627-581751  Kevin Baker at Mon, 08 Oct 2007 15:33:47 +0000

Be my guest, Kim.

jsid-1260052408-617302  Mike at Sat, 05 Dec 2009 22:33:28 +0000

Reloading is a great thing to get into. I sell 9mm bullets for reloading: cast, jacketed and jacketed hollow point bullets. You can check out my website at http://www.jscustombullets.com

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