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Home » Perfect Ammo: A Step-by-Step Reloading Guide for Beginners

Perfect Ammo: A Step-by-Step Reloading Guide for Beginners

In this comprehensive reloading guide, we will take you through each step of the reloading process, from selecting the right components to mastering the intricacies of priming, powder charging, and bullet seating. This guide is primarily intended for newcomers eager to explore the world of reloading, this guide will equip you with the knowledge and skills needed to reload ammunition safely, accurately, and efficiently.

Reloading ammunition is a time-honored tradition among shooting enthusiasts and firearms aficionados. Not only does it offer a deeper understanding of ballistics and cartridge dynamics, but it also provides the satisfaction of crafting your own custom-tailored rounds. Whether you’re seeking precision accuracy on the range or optimizing performance for your hunting adventures, reloading empowers you to fine-tune every aspect of your ammunition to suit your specific needs.

Component Selection:

Before delving into the intricate process of reloading ammunition, it’s crucial to understand the importance of selecting the right components. Just as a chef carefully chooses the finest ingredients to create a culinary masterpiece, a handloader meticulously selects brass, primers, powder, and bullets to craft rounds that meet their exact specifications. Each component plays a pivotal role in the performance and accuracy of the finished ammunition. In this section, we will explore the nuances of component selection, guiding you through the process of choosing the perfect brass, primers, powder, bullets, and reloading dies.

Brass Cases:

  • Decide if you want to use new or used brass cases for your reloads.
  • One of the advantages to new brass is longer case life. You can expect to get more firings out of new brass than used brass. New brass is almost always more consistent than used brass. This makes it easier to achieve a higher level of consistency down range. Consistency is key to precision.
  • The advantages of used brass are primarily cost related. Used brass is significantly cheaper than new and if you aren’t looking for maximum precision, used brass is the way to go.

Primers

  • Choose primers that match the size and type recommended for your specific caliber and load.
  • There are several different types of primers. Large and, Small Pistol, Large and, Small Rifle and “Magnum” variations of each. Some other variations include “match” or “benchrest” primers, or “standard” primers.
  • Your reloading manual will specify to use large or small primers and if you should use “magnum” or “standard”.
  • Typically, “match” or “benchrest” primers give competitive shooters more consistent powder charge ignitions, and I don’t recommend new reloaders or shooters spend the extra money on these primers as the difference is almost negligible.

Powder

  • Refer to reloading manuals or powder manufacturer data for recommended powders and charge weights.
  • Use a powder beam scale or electronic scale to precisely measure powder charges.
  • NEVER mix powders! And never substitute powders without consulting reliable load data.

Bullets

  • Select bullets based on intended use, considering factors such as weight, construction (lead, jacketed, or plated), and ballistic coefficient.
  • Handle bullets gently to avoid scratching the jacket or deforming the nose. Both of these can lead to decreased accuracy downrange.

Reloading Dies

  • Choose high-quality reloading dies that match your caliber and reloading press type (single-stage, turret, or progressive).
  • I always recommend new reloaders use Lee or Hornady die sets. The offer the best value and I rarely hear of people “upgrading” from these dies.

Let’s Load!

For this instructional reloading guide, we are going to use a single stage press. Most single stage presses set up and work the same way, so this guide should be very easy to follow regardless off the press you have.

1. Brass Prep

Brass preparation encompasses a series of critical steps, including inspection, cleaning, resizing, and trimming, each contributing to the overall quality and performance of the finished cartridges. By investing time and effort in properly preparing your brass, you not only extend its lifespan but also lay the groundwork for achieving optimal accuracy and consistency in your reloads.

  • If reusing brass, clean it thoroughly using a tumbler or ultrasonic cleaner to remove dirt, debris, and carbon residue. Read our Mastering Brass Cleaning guide to help decide what specific method is right for you.
  • Inspect brass for cracks, splits, or signs of stress, especially around the case mouth and base. Inspect new brass just in case too!

Sizing The Brass

Lube the brass!
Set up your re-sizing die
  • Pull the handle on you press down, so the ram is at the highest position.
  • Screw your sizing die down until it touches the shell holder.
  • lower the ram slightly and screw the sizing die down 1/4 turn.
  • There should be a small amount of force required to full raise the ram and the handle on your press should cam over at the top of the stroke.
Sizing
  • Once your sizing die is set up, place your lubed brass in the shell holder and raise the ram all the way up. It shouldn’t take a lot of force, but some is required. If you are concerned that you may get you brass stuck, stop, remove the brass and re-apply lube. Take it slow and work up the brass incrementally until you develop a “feel” of the amount of force required.
    • Often new brass gets slightly dented necks from shipping. To fix these, simply run them through your re-sizing die.

Trimming

When brass is fired, it expands to the size of the chamber. After it is resized, the case elongates slightly, and requires trimming. Not all brass needs to be trimmed, however. Use a set of calipers to measure your brass and reference your reloading manual to determine of your brass needs to be trimmed. If it does require trimming, follow the instructions that came with your trimmer to set up and trim your brass. Read our comprehensive guide to brass preparation to make an informed decision on which trimmer is right for you.

Chamfer & Deburr

After brass is trimmed, it will be left with a burr around the case mount. This burr should be removed to prevent the bullet scratching against the sharp edges. Handheld chamfer and deburr tools are very straight forward. Simply rotate both sides of the tool on top of the brass. Only light pressure is needed and remember that you aren’t trying to remove much material.

There you have it! Your brass is fully prepared for loading.

2. Priming:

Preparation

There seems to be some debate among reloaders on the subject of primer pocket preparation. Some folks will argue that primer pockets need to be scrubbed clean of all carbon with a primer pocket brush to achieve maximum precision, while others argue that doing so will wear out and cause inconsistencies in the primer pocket. The same goes for primer pocket and flash hole uniforming.

In my experience, carbon residue needs to be cleaned from the primer pocket only when it builds up to the point of causing issues seating the primer. I have had brass ruined by using wire brushes and flash hole uniformers. The processes in which the primer pocket is made is so consistent than even with cheap brass, it is almost impossible to measure inconsistencies. While some brass certainly does have inconsistent primer pockets, I believe that most brass doesn’t need any primer pocket or flash hole uniforming, and if it does, there are undoubtedly more inconsistent parts of that brass that will cause more issues with accuracy than the primer pocket.

In summary, if you think your brass needs the primer pocket or flash hole uniformed, you should just get different brass.

Primer Seating

Continuing with our guide, it’s time to seat primers. I like to use the Lyman Hand Primer for my hunting or precision loads, so that is what I will use for this example. However, most single stage reloading presses have an “on-press” priming system.

  • First carefully transfer primers from the box to the primer tray of the hand primer.
    • Take the lid off the primer tool tray
    • Rotate your box of primers upside down while the sleeve is still on
    • Align the box right over the tray and slowly slide the sleeve off. The primers should fall onto the tray without bouncing around too much.
  • Gently shake the primer tray to orient the primers. The hand primer tray has small ridges that catch the edge of the primer and the momentum from shaking causes them to flip the correct way.
  • After all primers are the same orientation, carefully put the lid back on the tray to avoid spilling primers and place they tray on the hand tool.
  • Shake the primers down to the shellholder. You should visibly be able to see one primer through the shell holder.
  • Place a prepped case in the shell holder and squeeze the hand primer tightly. You should feel when the primer is fully seated.
  • Take the primmed case out, and verify that the new primer is seated at, or below flush with the base of the case.

Your brass is now primed and ready for powder!

3. Powder Charging:

For the purpose of this example we are going to use a beam scale to weigh the powder charges. If you have an electronic powder dispenser, such as the RCBS Chargemaster Lite, follow those instructions to calibrate and dispense charges.

Measurement

  • Set up your powder scale on a stable surface and allow it to stabilize before use.
  • Calibrate the scale according to the manufacturer’s instructions using certified calibration weights.
  • Use a scoop or powder trickler to dispense powder into the pan of the scale.
  • When your scale reads the correct amount of powder, use a powder funnel to pour the powder into your primed brass.
  • Check the scale frequently during reloading sessions to ensure consistent and accurate measurements.

The last step is seating a bullet!

4. Bullet Seating:

Die Setup

  • Take you seating die and make sure you are using the correct seating stem for the bullet you are using. This mostly applies to pistol bullets, flat nose versus round nose.
  • Place a case in the shell holder and raise the ram all the way.
  • Next, unscrew the seating depth adjustment know almost all the way and screw your die into your press until it touches the brass, and back it off 1/2 turn.
  • Lower the ram and place a bullet on the charged case and raise the ram.
  • You should feel the bullet begin to seat into the brass. Lower the ram and measure the overall length of the cartridge.
  • Screw the seating depth adjustment knob down incrementally until you achieve the correct overall length as provided in your reloading manual. This will require a bit of trial and error.
  • After you have your seating depth dialed in, congratulations, you made your first cartridge!

You’re done! Now it’s time to go shooting.

Safety Considerations:

  • Always wear safety glasses and hearing protection when reloading ammunition.
  • Keep powder, primers, and loaded ammunition stored separately in a cool, dry place away from heat and flame.
  • Follow established reloading data and guidelines from reputable sources to ensure safe and reliable ammunition.
  • Inspect your reloading equipment regularly for wear, damage, or malfunctions, and replace any worn or defective components promptly.

As we reach the conclusion of this comprehensive guide to reloading ammunition, we hope that you have found the information provided here valuable and insightful. By mastering the intricacies of component selection, priming, powder charging, bullet seating, and brass preparation, you’ve taken a significant step towards becoming a proficient handloader.

Disclaimer:

It is important to remember that reloading ammunition can be dangerous if not done correctly. Always adhere to the safety guidelines outlined in reputable reloading manuals and seek proper training before engaging in reloading activities. Safety should always be the top priority when handling firearms and ammunition.

Please note that this blog contains affiliate links, which means that I may earn a commission if you make a purchase through these links. Additionally, some parts of this blog were written with some assistance of AI technology.

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