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- Last updated: 22/06/2020
Everyone who reloads saves money, compared to those that shoot factory ammo, but we also want to make the very best ammunition we can. To do this we need to understand the theory behind the best reloading techniques and equipment and be consistent in our reloading practices.
After you have some experience reloading your own ammunition, you will discover that there are a number of ways of customising your ammo to improve your shooting accuracy and consistency. If you shoot a lot, and you just want to save money, that’s one thing, but being able to customise ammunition to your specific needs is the real advantage of reloading. To do this you must understand fully the various stages of the reloading process and be able to make changes in a very consistent way.
If you have spent a lot of time shooting full-load factory ammo in large calibre rifles, and have been hammered by the recoil, (maybe even developed a flinch in anticipation of the recoil) being able to reload some rounds of light loads is useful. You can practice sight alignment and trigger control without having a sore shoulder the next morning, which is a big advantage, but again you need to be able to safely and consistently produce the lighter loads.
Improving and developing your skills in reloading so you can customise your loads requires a combination of things, expanding your knowledge and working more consistently are two of the best to start with.
First, read a much as you can. There are numerous reloading books and magazines which contain a wealth of information and the internet is a seemingly endless source of information. A word of caution: anyone can publish anything on the internet, and you should not use any advice or load data from the internet without verifying it in a published load manual.
Reloading companies spend an enormous amount of time and money in testing and verifying their data. An individual typing information onto a web page can easily make a typo and not notice the mistake before it is posted online, so always check it against published reloading data or software before using it. There might also be people prepared to put data online which is deliberately dangerous. Also, you might see some bizarre techniques and ideas online, there was a post suggesting that, because guns are prooftested to pressures well in excess of those generated by the applicable ammunition, it is ‘safe’ to exceed maximum recommended loads by as much as 20 %, this is not true.
Instructional videos are plentiful online and are well worth a look if you are buying a new piece of equipment. The Henry Krank website, for example, contains links to videos demonstrating much of the Lee Precision range of reloading equipment currently available. The videos are very easy to follow, and they make setting up and using the equipment very easy to understand.
Reloading manuals are full of information in addition to the load tables, and each manual contains different information, so it is well worth reading more than one to get a wider consensus of opinion. You can seek out and talk to other reloaders at the range but do bear in mind that sometimes, just because someone has been doing something for a long time, it does not mean they are doing it right! Talking with a group of reloaders rather than just one will get you a broader range of views and advice on best practice. It is highly likely that someone will have already worked through whatever issues or problems you have.
The more consistent you can be in your reloading, the more consistent and accurate the end-result will be. Some of the simplest parts of the reloading process take very little time but make a big difference to the end-results, so it is well worth practicing consistency in every single part of the reloading process.
You should work the same way every time and standardise your procedures. For example, good quality powder measures can throw charges very consistently, but only if you operate the handle the same way every time. The lever or handle must be moved at the same speed through its full range of movement each time.
To practice this, dispense half a dozen charges and weigh each one. If they do not all weigh the same then consider how you operate the handle, and make sure you do it exactly the same way each time. Consistency, rather than how you do it is the key. If you bump the handle to a stop at each end of its range of travel, bump it with the same force, making the same sound every time. You must be consistent. Keeping the powder hopper on your measure topped up to the same level, so that the weight of powder pressing down in the hopper is the same, will also help keep the charge weight dispensed consistent.
If you have a load you like and you change one component or technique (such as crimping the bullet more or less tightly) you may get different results, so you need to be consistent in all aspects of reloading. When you are reloading, try to stand in exactly the same place every time, so that the way you ‘address’ the press and the amount and direction of the force you apply to the operating lever is consistent. You should also avoid any distractions while reloading, even music playing in the background can take your mind off what you are doing and cause you to give it less attention than you should.
To ensure consistency you must have a good set of measuring tools and you must use them. You can have the very best scales and case trimmers on the market, but if they are sat on the shelf they may as well not be there at all. Just how often you trim your cases, check the powder weights being thrown by your measure, or clean your primer pockets is up to you, but the more often you do it, the better your consistency will be. Although it tends to be minimal, powder measures can wear so the charge they dispense might change over time. Different batches of the same powder may vary in density very slightly, so occasionally checking your powder measure, scales and powder is well worthwhile.
Another key to ensuring consistency in reloading is making sure you keep accurate records. Every reloader should keep an accurate log that includes both the load data used and any adjustments made to it. Also keeping a record of the results achieved at the range can be useful, so you know which loads perform best and, just as importantly, which changes to your reloading techniques and practices have a detrimental effect on your shooting. If you make more than one load for one calibre, with either different heads or different powder charges, these records are vital so that you have the dies and powder measure settings correct for each one. Most shooters write this information on the ammo boxes, with bullet type and weight, powder type and charge, and C.O.L. all recorded on the top of the box, but it is well worth keeping a written log too. Reference to the log will enable you to switch your reloading gear between loads much easier. You can also mark your bullet seater die to ensure that each and every time you adjust it you can return to a reference point very consistently.
As you have no doubt noticed, the word ‘consistent’ has been very much overused in this article, but for good reason. It is the key to achieving good and satisfying results at the range and makes all of the effort involved in reloading worthwhile. If you ensure that you apply the same pressure and movement to the lever on your press each and every time, and keep all of the settings on your equipment checked and constant, you will achieve the ultimate goal of reloading, (here’s that word one more time!) your loads will be consistent.
For Lee Precision reloading equipment and instructional videos, visit henrykrank.com.