Reloading Basics - Tips and Tricks
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- Last updated: 29/03/2021
All reloading equipment comes with instructions and you must always follow them to keep things safe, but here are a few suggestions that might just help make things go even smoother.
Unless you are priming cases one by one, adding each primer by hand, you can sometimes end up with an un-primed case or incomplete round. To avoid this, always match the number of primers that you put in the tray of your priming tool to the number of cases you are priming. If you have primers left in the tray after processing all of the cases then you have missed one. Simple but effective.
With a single-stage loading press, it is common practice to use a reloading tray to stand the cases in, between stages. These are useful tools to have but people often stand 50 primed, empty cases in a block ready for reloading and this approach has a few pitfalls. If you start with primed cases in the tray, before they have received a powder charge, you risk either missing one and not putting any powder in, or even worse charging one case twice, resulting in a double charge. To prevent this from happening, only place a case into the tray after it has received a powder charge and been visually checked.
Unless a tray has calibrespecific holes in it, they sometimes don’t hold the rounds securely and they can topple over if you move or knock the tray. For this reason, and to prevent any powder spillage, after visually checking each case has got powder in it, partially seat a bullet into the neck. The bullet should be inserted far enough so it cannot fall out, and perfectly straight so that the seating process starts correctly. The presence of the bullet gives you visual confirmation that there is powder in the case.
If you are using a turret, or other multi-stage press, then checking that each case has been charged with powder is not as easy. On my Lee Auto Breech Lock Pro I have a small LED light positioned at the side of the press to illuminate the inside of each case as it reaches the bullet seating position. With a small angled mirror, it is then possible to see inside the case and ensure it has been charged.
To ensure you keep the overall length of your rounds the same, particularly if you make more than one round of the same calibre, it is always worth making a dummy round of each load. This makes resetting the die to the correct COL much quicker and easier. When using a dummy round to reset the die there is a risk that you might push the bullet into the case slightly over time, so you should write the length on the side of each one and check it regularly. To prevent the COL from slipping, it is well worth securing the bullet with a bit of superglue, just to keep it in place.
Over time, dirt, bullet lube and even shavings of lead can build up inside reloading dies. If left to accumulate, this can have an effect on the length of your rounds and the crimp. Just how often you should clean your dies varies, for example, heavilylubricated lead bullets often leave a lot of rubbish in the seating die so you have to clean it more often. Before cleaning dies it is important to mark the settings clearly so that you can reset each one exactly when reinstalling them on the press. A bore-brush of the appropriate calibre, solvent and patches should be used in the same way that you clean the bore of your gun, ensuring that all solvent is completely removed and the die is clear and dry.
As soon as you get one or two cases in a batch cracking, it is a sure thing that the rest will soon follow. They are all of the same age, with the same number of firings, so the fatigue and thinning of the brass will be the same. Rather than keep encountering cracks each time you shoot the batch of cases, it is best to retire them all, maybe using some to make dummy rounds.
When you have completed your reloading, one final check is well worth doing. If you weigh an empty case and a primer, then add the weight of the bullet and powder charge you are using, you have the theoretical weight of a completed round. Weighing each round and checking it against the calculated weight will identify any rounds that are significantly heavier or lighter than they should be. Some slight differences will occur, due to the tolerances in the different components, but if a case is heavy enough to indicate a double charge of powder, or so light that the powder charge might be missing, you should pull that round and check.
These are just a few tips to make reloading that bit easier and safer. I have mentioned a couple of times that marking and labelling your equipment with the settings is a great way of avoiding mistakes and keeping things consistent. It also ensures you have a record of the settings for each load.
The ‘final check’ is a great way to monitor the consistency of your finished ammunition and help you pick out any potentially dodgy rounds. If you have a set of digital scales it is very quick and well worth doing, and also gives you an opportunity to look over your finished ammo for any visible faults.