Introduction to Reloading

By Chuck Hawks

This article addresses the general advantages of reloading your own ammunition. For more specific information about reloading handgun, shotgun, and rifle ammunition you will find articles about each on their respective Information Pages.

Most shooters reload ammunition at least partly to save money. They realize that they can reload their own cartridges for about 1/3 the cost of purchasing factory loaded ammunition in a common caliber like .30-06 or .357 Magnum, assuming that they save their fired cases. For some, such as shooters with a rifle chambered for one of the fine European cartridges like the 6.5x54, for which factory ammunition in the U.S. is both scarce and expensive, the savings can be much greater. Given the high cost of factory loaded ammunition, anyone that is not independently wealthy and wants to do much shooting will probably need to reload.

But there are other benefits from rolling your own. For many, it becomes an enjoyable hobby in itself.

Other shooters reload primarily because they want to fine tune specific loads for their guns. Centerfire match and benchrest shooters have learned that to achieve the very best possible accuracy they must produce custom ammunition tailored for their individual firearm. Many hunters reload for the same reason, or because the particular bullet or bullet weight that best fits their needs is not available in a suitable factory load.

Of course, anyone wanting to take advantage of the benefits of a wildcat cartridge, such as the .257 Roberts Improved or .338-57 O'Connor must reload. Ditto for the experimenter who creates a new wildcat cartridge.

Shooters also reload to create special purpose loads for common cartridges. Light practice loads, for instance, or heavy loads to take advantage of exceptionally strong firearms, neither of which are available from factory sources.

And there are those who do not live within convenient distance of a source of factory loaded ammunition, or are shooting a factory loaded cartridge that is not stocked where they live. These individuals have little choice but to reload if they want to do much shooting.

In fact, there are probably nearly as many reasons to reload as there are reloaders. So, for all or any combination of these reasons, sooner or later most recreational shooters begin reloading their own ammunition.

If you have just reached the point where you have decided to take the plunge and begin reloading, right now it probably seems a complicated and difficult process. However, with only a little practical experience you will discover that reloading is simple and very easy to do. Care and attention to detail is required to produce safe and reliable ammunition, to be sure, but the process has only a few steps and is basically repetitive. Reloading is, as they say, not rocket science.

A reloading press is the basic tool used to reload both centerfire metallic (rifle or pistol) and shotshell ammunition. What the press basically does is hold the dies that reform, prime, and eventually reload the case or shell and provide the mechanical leverage that allows the operator to easily accomplish these tasks.

Shotshell reloading presses are generally self contained; even entry level presses usually have powder and shot reservoirs, and allow the operator to sequentially perform the steps required to reload a shotgun shell without recourse to other tools. About seven pulls of the press handle (resize the case and remove the fired primer, prime the shell, drop a powder charge, seat a wad, drop the shot, start the new crimp, and complete the crimp), and a fired hull is transformed back into a loaded shell. All operations are performed on a single shell before starting over with the next shell.

Single stage (the kind most reloaders use) centerfire metallic presses are less self-contained. A separate powder measure is a practical necessity, and a hand priming tool is a great convenience. Centerfire metallic cases, either rifle or handgun, are reloaded in batches and a single operation is performed on all of the cases to be reloaded before moving on to the next step. If you are reloading 50 cases, for example, the first operation is performed on all 50 before moving on to the second operation. Performing the same operation on all cases before moving to the next operation saves time and effort.

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Copyright 2003, 2016 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.