BASIC RELOADING FOR BEGINNERS
The practice of reloading gives one several obvious and important advantages over relying strictly on factory ammunition. The most
obvious of these is that it saves money. As of this writing the typical .223/5.56 NATO ammunition sells at a premium of between $.
40 and .51 per cartridge while a shooter in possession of reloading equipment who has obtained brass at the range or from
previously fired ‘store-bought’ ammo can reload the same cartridge for about 23 to 37 cents apiece or less, depending largely on
projectile choice if all components are purchased new and substantially less when brass, primers and powders purchased at lower
prices from stockpiles are used. At differences in cost such as this, it does not take much regular shooting to pay for the equipment
Further savings can be had by providing one’s own bullets by molding them from lead. But that is a subject for another pamphlet in
Another advantage the reloader has over others is that he can ‘tailor’ his loads to a particular rifle or pistol. Contrary to popular
belief the most expensive, top end ammunition does not always shoot accurately in all firearms. A number of factors come into
play—barrel harmonics, length, bullet bearing surface length, ballistic coefficients, sectional densities, to name a few. Commercial
ammunition producers are limited to SAAMI (Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers Institute) specifications and
restrictions, and to the general cartridge parameters dictated by common chamber sizes and other factors. They are left with the
strategy of manufacturing to general needs rather than catering to specific models. Although he is cautioned to stay within SAAMI
specs, the field is open to the reloader in catering to the harmonics of a particular barrel of specific length, taper and stiffness; to
individual chamber sizes, free bore lengths and so forth.
Furthermore, the reloader can tailor a load to a specific purpose. Long range shooters can push the boundaries of pressure and
velocity to get the best result at range. Hunters can obtain the best load for their rifles under the exacting conditions which they
hunt. Bench rest shooters can obtain the smallest groups by tailoring a load to the gun they shoot. And those who wish to shoot
undetected can tailor a subsonic or reduced load to their needs.
The ability to reuse brass, lead and other cartridge components and to stretch out supplies by reducing loads is imperative for
survivalists. Under the worst case scenario, the ability to compose field expedient cartridges by reusing materials is tantamount to
survival itself. And the ability to reload your own ammunition will keep you shooting long after gun bans, ammunition bands and
The most important first step in reloading is to obtain a reloading reference and ballistic table. The following are recommended:
Hornady Handbook of Cartridge Reloading. Grand Island, Nebraska: Hornady Manufacturing Co., 4th Edition, 1991. Vols. 1 & 2.
Lee, Richard. Modern Reloading. Lee Precision: Hartford, Wisconsin, 2003; 2nd Edition, 2008
Without the starting reference points in pressure, how to, and basic safety provided by these and other such manuals, reloading
simply cannot be accomplished safely and effectively. Consult the bibliography below for a more complete list of references. Once
one has established a basic knowledge of the dangers and processes involved, he may then proceed safely and with confidence,
using the loading tables provided therein.
The next step then is to obtain the proper equipment:
1. Reloading Press
2. Dies in the chosen caliber and cartridge
7. Primer seating tool
8. Case trimming equipment
10. Case Tumbling equipment
12. An impact bullet puller
To find these and other items associated with reloading go to the section entitled “Where to get what you need.”
Reloading presses range in price from $27.99 to well over a thousand dollars. As in all things, you get what you pay for. Presses
cover a wide configuration spectrum, from single stage presses for large rifle cartridges to fast multi-stage presses that sling out a
loaded cartridge every time the lever is pulled.
The best advice for beginners is to get the best press for the money but avoid investing a lot of money until you are convinced you
will love it enough to justify the higher cost. For the survivalist there is need of a good, strong single stage press that will operate
under any and all conditions.
Such advice may change depending on use. High volume competition shooters may want to graduate straight to an expensive multi-
stage press. Single stage presses are typically slow while the only thing holding back a multi-stage press with automatic feeders is
how fast the operator pulls the load lever.
As the purpose of this pamphlet is to get the beginner started, we will confine our discussion to single stage presses. Click on the
link for examples:
The “Lee Challenger Breech Lock Single Stage Press” is about as good as it gets for the price. Such single stage presses only get
smoother with use. Others to be recommended are:
RCBS Partner Single Stage Press
Lyman Crusher 2 Single Stage Press
Stick to the basics to begin with. At minimum you will need a press with the strength and leverage to easily reload your cartridge of
choice. The larger the cartridge the stronger the press needed. Those suggested here are ample for all but the largest cartridges—
such as .50 BMG.
You will need to know the common designation of the cartridge to utilize the drop-down menus and buttons at your favorite
warehouse website. The .308 Winchester is the common reference for both the .308 Winchester cartridge and 7.62x51 NATO. The
usual path then, say at http://www.midwayusa.com/ is “Reloading supplies” to “Dies-reloading” to “Rifle Reloading dies” to “.308
Winchester.” Following the drop-downs and buttons above brings you to
Then it is simply a matter of picking the dies you want by price or function.
At the very least, you will need a de-capping die, bullet-seating die and a factory crimp die. The de-capping die punches out the
primer, full-length resizes the casing and brings the case neck to the right diameter and concentricity. Once this is done, some
prefer a pour-through powder die which bevels the mouth of the case and makes pouring powder a cinch. The bullet-seating die
presses in and seats the bullet once you have primed the case and dropped the powder. The last stage, if you deem it necessary, is
to crimp the bullet into the case. The bullet seating die will put a taper crimp on the bullet if properly seated; otherwise, it is good to
go the extra mile and put a factory crimp on the case mouth. This is particularly important for semi-auto rifles that feed from a
magazine. Semi-auto pistol cartridges head-space on the case neck (cartridge mouth) and need only a taper crimp in most instances.
Brass and Bullets
Brass and bullets are found in the same way. Follow the drop-downs.
Powder should be chosen by close examination of the ballistic charts in your reloading reference. Hornady, for example, lists
powders from fastest burning powders to the slowest for a suggested load. The thing to keep in mind is that the fastest burning
powders usually produce less of everything—less pressure and less velocity—as a general rule; while the slower burning powders
produce more pressure and more speed.
A good compromise then is to start with a mid-range powder in the group of powders suggested. Then either purchase the powder
at a local gun store (the suggested procurement method) or purchase online following the previous method. If you choose the latter,
be prepared to pay a hefty Haz-Mat fee in addition to the cost of the powder.
There are four basic categories of primers: standard large rifle primers, standard small rifle primers, magnum large rifle primers and
magnum small rifle primers. The four basic types are duplicated in pistol ammunition.
The majority of loads will require only standard primers. The use of magnum primers is relegated largely to high-volume, magnum
cases and slow-burning magnum powders.
It is suggested that primers too be purchased by cash at the local gun store rather than on line. They are however available online at
most volume outlets, provided you pay shipping and Haz-mat fees.
The remainder of the necessary equipment may be obtained without additional cost other than shipping and handling online the same
as presses, brass, bullets and dies—provided you know the proper terms to follow the drop-downs.
Primer seating tools are found via typing “hand priming tool” into the search window, which brings you to
Case trimming equipment, Lubricants, and Case Tumbling equipment are found under “Reloading Supplies” to “Case Cleaning and
where it is simply a matter of scrolling down to the item desired.
The Stages of Reloading
The following are the basic stages or steps in reloading a cartridge. Each step should be given special attention in the reloading guide
you use, keeping sharp interest in safety concerns.
1. Fired cases must be de-primed (or de-capped). Most American ammunition is Boxer-Primed and requires a simple push-
through resizer/de-capper. Ammunition manufactured outside the NATO alliance countries and some older military surplus ammo is
often Berdan-Primed and requires a special tool to decap. Some diligence should be given to brass reuse when buying brass and
ammunition you intend to reload as Berdan and Boxer primers are not interchangeable and Berdan primers are often difficult to
2. Fired cases must be cleaned. Case vibrators, tumblers or sonic cleaners are recommended.
3. The cases must be prepped. Cases with nicks in the mouths must be trimmed. Military primer pockets must be chamfered
and cleaned or reamed.
4. Cases must be primed. A hand-primer is suggested.
5. The powder charge must be determined using a powder scale and dropped (put into the primed case) via funnel or pour-
6. The bullet must be seated to the proper depth. Using a pour through die bevels the case mouth, allowing easy bullet-seating.
The bullet seating die, set to proper depth, reseals the bevel and puts a taper-crimp on the bullet.
7. The bullet may be Factory-crimped at the case mouth. As bullets tend to ‘walk out’ of the case mouth under recoil, it is
important to factory-crimp bullets of cartridges that are fed from both blind and detachable magazines.
To implement consistent loads, it is wise to invest in a caliper to measure case dimensions. A dial-type caliper is suggested. See
Note: Most dies come with seating instructions. Follow these instructions to the letter and avoid bent cases and other problems.
Read More About It
See an excellent piece on reloading entitled Have You Considered Re-Loading Your Ammo?
by Scott Mayer here:
Where to get what you need
ASK.COM. http://www.ask.com/ Answers basic questions; links to suppliers
BEST PRICE. http://www.best-price.com/search/landing/query/reloading+kit/s/yahoo/ Links to suppliers.
BLUE PRESS, The. http://www.dillonprecision.com/ : monthly magazine; Dillon Precision Products, PO Box 29316, Phoenix, AZ
85038-8607. Mainly Dillon reloading equipment with a host of other items: holsters, tools, lubricants, range bags, etc. Some
replacement parts and gun accessories.
BROWNELL’S. Brownell’s, Inc., 200 South Front Street, Montezuma, Iowa 50171. www.brownells.com Complete distributor of
gun parts, reloading equipment and shooting accessories. 29,000 items. Orders: 515-623-4000. Technical: 515-623-5401.
CABELA’S. www.cabelas.com “World’s Foremost Outfitter.”: seasonal magazine; Cabela’s, One Cabela Drive, Sidney, Nebraska
69160. A large mail order firm. Everything: clothes (of all kinds, casual wear, camouflage, etc.), sportware, footwear, guns,
ammunition, hunting equipment, fishing tackle, replacement parts, accessories for everything from your truck or boat to your RV
and 4-wheeler), scopes, water purification, camping equipment--the magazine is over an inch thick--anything you want or need, 4
times a year.
CHEAPER THAN DIRT. www.cheaperthandirt.com : monthly; Cheaper Than Dirt, PO Box 162087, Fort Worth, TX 76161; a true
clearing house; one stop shopping for the extra ordinary, the cheap and the rare; ammo, ammo cans, axes, backpacks, bags,
blowguns, canteens, camping gear, gun accessories, optics, knives and swords, military surplus, tactical gear--all at the right price.
GUNNER'S DEN. http://www.gunnersden.com/index.htm.rifle-reloading-primers.html General supplier. Easy to use website.
HORNADY MANUFACTURING CO., INC. www.hornady.com Grand Island, Nebraska. Bullets, reloading equipment, loading data.
LEE PRECISION INC. http://leeprecision.com/xcart/home.php 4275 Highway U, Hartford, Wisconsin 53027. Reloading equipment,
MEC. http://www.mecreloaders.com/ Mayville Engineering Company, Inc. 715 South Street, Mayville, Wisconsin 53050. 1-800-
797-4632. Shotgun reloading supplies, reloaders, parts, loading tables.
MIDWAY USA. http://www.midwayusa.com/ : several catalogues; Midway, USA, 5875 West Van Horn Tavern Rd., Columbia, MO
65203. Order anything, start getting the catalogues. A clearing house catalogue, some but not all items at wholesale prices. Mostly
reloading equipment from many major manufacturers, bullets, powder, bullet molds, sizers, crimpers, tools of all kinds.
NATCHEZ SHOOTERS SUPPLIES. www.natchezss.com : catalogue; Natchez, PO Box 182212, Chattanooga, Tennessee 37422;
clearing house; some wholesale; scopes, guns, hunting equipment, cross bows, ammo, reloading supplies, manuals, etc.
NUMRICH http://www.gunpartscorp.com/ : best place to get parts for older guns, with a sizeable stock of parts for new models as
well. When you can’t seem to find it anywhere else, Numrich will have it.
OPTICS PLANET, http://www.opticsplanet.com/ Reloading equipment of all major manufacturers, as well as, optics, sights, sight
bases, range finders and much more.
RANGER JOE’S. http://www.rangerjoes.com/ : catalogue, seasonal; 325 Farr Road, Ste. A, Columbus, GA31907-6248. Mostly
military and law enforcement gear. Clothing, camping gear, accessories, and items hard to find elsewhere.
SPORTSMANS GUIDE. www.sportsmansguide.com : several seasonal magazines, including Shooters, which lists a number of gun
accessories; The Sportsman’s Guide, 411 Farwell Avenue, So. St. Paul, MN 55075-9876.; a real clearing house of rare items;
ammo, black powder, cleaning equipment, clothing, gun parts (many kits, less the receivers, almost whole guns), holsters, knives,
optics, reloading stuff, etc. Good prices.
SIERRA. www.sierrabullets.com. 1400 West Henry Street, Sedalia, MO. Bullets and reloading data.
Projectiles and Shot