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Reloading Fill em Up

Reloading Fill em Up

We continue our starter series, by combining the prepared cases with our consumable ingredients. Having thoroughly cleaned the cases to remove all traces of lubricant and primer pocket residues, we can install the appropriate primers. This part is our only encounter with a true explosive material and must be treated with extra caution. There are two basic diameters of primer, known as Large and Small. These are subdivided into designs for use in Rifles and Pistols and then further subdivided into ‘power’ levels such as Standard and Magnum. Further fine tuning categories such as Benchrest or Match just adds to the confusion! However, at this stage in our learning curve it is best to be guided by the type nominated in our manual for the calibre that we’re reloading.

Prime choice

Our basic requirements will be a good pair of safety spectacles, a pair of disposable rubber inspection gloves and an appropriate tool for the installation of the primers. Many presses are fitted with a toggle tool that enables a primer to be installed during the case prep/assembly cycles but this does not afford the opportunity to clean the primer pocket and anyway, it is a rather fiddly operation, insensitive to the seating pressure being applied to the primer. A better choice is a hand priming tool. The original model was the Lee AutoPrime but the design was so simple and effective that almost every equipment manufacturer now offers a clone!

Load the appropriate number and type of primers into the correct size of tray (large or small) and ensure that they are all facing anvil upwards. When operating the seating piston, squeeze the handle gently in order to ‘feel’ the anvil closing into the primer cup. Do not add further pressure, as this will distort the cup. When seated correctly, the base of the cup will be either flush with, or a few thousandths of an inch below the head of the case, easily detected by rubbing your thumb across the head. If it’s proud then it has not been seated correctly, either because of an inclusion in the base of the primer pocket, a restriction such as a poorly removed crimp, or simply because further seating pressure is required. If it cannot be seated to the correct depth, then the cartridge must NOT be reloaded. Removal of the offending primer must be carefully and slowly conducted using the de-capping tool in the appropriate die set – remembering to wear your safety specs!

Factory duplication

To add the powder charge to our primed cases, we will need a tub of the appropriate propellant, a dispensing device, an accurate weighing scale, a reloading tray and possibly a funnel with drop tube. Alternatively, we can use a set of Lee Dippers in conjunction with the data from the Lee Second Edition Reloading Manual. The choice of propellant should be restricted to one for which detailed data is available and where possible, limited to a ‘factory duplication’ load. The weight of the appropriate charge will vary according to the weight and style of the bullet that is being used. Again, try to start your reloading activities with a bullet that is similar to the factory ammo you have used, making sure that a COL (Cartridge Overall Length) dimension is published for that specific bullet (do not use data for generic types, as they are not always of sufficient accuracy to be safe). Check the manual for the correct charge weight, either a starting load or the lower of the figures published and note any comments that may be appended, such as ‘compressed load or charge’. If the charge is a compressed one, then you will need to drop each one through a funnel with a long spout (drop tube) in order to safely and consistently settle it in the case. Before starting, set out your batch of prepared cases in the reloading tray.

Weigh or measure?

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Powder measures come in a wide range of designs and prices but a good choice would be one that has a micrometer adjustment on the dispensing drum. Before first use, make sure that the powder hopper and drum(s) are free from any manufacturing residues such as swarf or manufacturing lubricants. Firmly mount it on your bench or on the top of your press and where a choice exists, make sure that the appropriate measuring drum (pistol or rifle) is installed. Add enough powder to fill at least 80% of the hopper and fit the cap. Place your beam weighing scale on a flat stable surface and set to the selected charge weight or if an electric scale, zero with the powder pan in place. If you are unsure about setting the beam scale, try setting it to the weight of your chosen bullet and then weight one. If it was correct then you can reset it to the selected charge weight.

Open the micrometer adjuster a few turns (the numbers on the scale have no direct relationship to charge weight), lock the barrel and cycle it firmly into the weighing pan a few times. This will help to settle the powder in the hopper (the Corn Flakes in the box principle!). Return this powder to the hopper. Now throw a single charge and check the weight on the scale. Continue this ‘adjust, throw and weigh’ process until the desired weight is being consistently dispensed.

Keeping a good record

Make a note of the number on the micrometer scale, as it will be a good starting point for the next batch of ammo to this recipe. Whilst you’re recording this, make a start on your reloading records by noting all the details of the assembly including the batch numbers of the primers and powder, case headstamp, charge and bullet weights. Cross reference this entry to the box in which you will store this batch of ammo. You can add any chrono or performance data later.

Charge each case with powder, check weighing every tenth charge and adjusting the measure if required. Top up the hopper whenever it gets below 50%. After the whole batch has been charged, visually inspect it to ensure that there is a charge in each case and that none have been double charged – then double check using a torch if necessary! Now return the unused propellant to the original container. We’re nearly there – just bullets and dimensions to go.