Reloading: Tips, tools and toys
- By Pete Moore
- 1 Comments
- Last updated: 24/11/2016
We’ve explored some of these items before and made vague references to others. Whilst these bits and pieces are not a fundamental part of the handloading process, they can make loading life much easier or improve the quality of your product.
Material storage does not get on the radar of many shooters. I’m amazed at the number of times I’ve seen the use of ‘contemporary’ materials both on the range and on the bench. Plastic bags holding new primers, old Tupperware boxes containing propellant: ‘I shared a tub of H4198 with my mate and he got the tub!’ and reloaded ammo in original makers cardboard boxes held together with tape.
Primers must be kept in their original packaging with any surplus from the reloading process also returned to the correct tray. I can vouch for that – having used the wrong primers to reload a batch of comp ammo, all because I was too lazy to clear out the AutoPrime… (they looked like the right ones!). Propellant storage should be in the original makers tub or if all else fails, in a tub from a previous batch of the correct type with the new Batch Number clearly marked on the labelling. As a very last resort you can buy empty plastic powder storage tubs designed for black powder but fit for purpose. Make sure that the powder type and batch number are clearly displayed.
Moulded plastic ammo boxes come in a multitude of brands, shapes, sizes and colours. They offer a robust impact and water proof solution at minimal cost. Colour coding is an easy option, green for pest control, brown for normal target duties and red for match use… or whatever. Always use the recipe label supplied by the bullet maker and stick it inside the lid. Make sure you record the number of times you’ve reloaded that batch of brass and give that box/batch a unique number that you can record in your paper or electronic record book.
Let’s continue the moulded plastic theme. Rifle rests for cleaning/maintenance or for use as scope zeroing or sighting aids are really worthwhile. At the deluxe end of the market are the exotic sandbag/rest combinations offered for use in benchrest shooting activities. My MTM molded (their spelling) rifle rest must be 25- years old and still gets the job done. We’ve nearly all got a plastic tool box in the shed, even one for fishing, so why not one for the range? As to the contents, well that really depends upon the nature of your shooting activities but I will suggest one item… a cheap monocular. It has been invaluable on many occasions. Equally invaluable are loading trays, like spanners you never have too many!
Staying with plastic products; get a dedicated cover for your scales. They cost sod all and will keep dust and debris from the sensitive moving parts. Also cheap and useful – funnels. Your collection should include a model with a long drop tube to help settle charges that fill the case. Always buy reloading specific funnels as they have a flared end that safely fits a wide range of case neck diameters.
CLEANERS, SCRAPERS, SHAPERS AND DE-BURRERS
Case prep is an essential part of the handloading process. The primer pocket deserves special treatment. With military and some eastern European cartridges primer removal can be less than straightforward! Cases with Berdan primers are getting less and less common and require the use of either a ‘can opener’ de-primer or a hydraulic de-capper. The problems don’t end with the removal of the primer as the pocket may well have an edge crimp and sealant together with an internal anvil and twin flash holes. There are custom crimp removers and brushes to clear the sealant and combustion residues. If you’re not refitting a Berdan primer then a reforming tool will be required to remove the anvil and to create a central flash hole.
Having trimmed your resized cases to length you’ll need to remove the resulting inside and outside neck burrs with a case de-burrer. These tools have a set angle and should be used in preference to a general metalworking swivel head de-burrer. Practice on scrap cases using your Fresnel lens or jeweller’s loupe (a brilliant little magnifying glass) to confirm that you’re making a consistently small chamfer that removes the minimum amount of material.
MEASURE FOR MEASURE
We’ve all got a Vernier caliper and possibly a micrometer but a wall thickness micrometer could be a valuable item to add to your Xmas wish list. As the case ages and endures successive trimming operations so the neck wall thickness will start to vary around the diameter. This will have an impact on the consistency of neck tension. We’ll look at inside neck turning another day, but until then, keep checking!
You may well have a traditional beam balance for checking your powder charges, nothing wrong with that. However, for batch weighing cases and bullets it’s easier and faster to use the benefits of a direct readout electronic scale. Whatever your model and type get yourself a weight check set!
Those of you with a Lee die set will be familiar with the design on their locking rings. Inset into an annulus is a rubber O-Ring. It is a clever means of ensuring that the die body has a degree of float, enabling it to self align during the operating cycle. A quick trip to your local engineering supplier will give you the same significant benefit, there are a number of suitable sizes but my choice is the B.S. 1806 50-813 in 80 hardness medium nitrile. It does mean that for optimum accuracy you may have to reset the dies each time you start reloading a new batch but the results are worth the effort.
If you shoot abroad, or just go there to see the foreigners, remember to check the expiry date of your (former E111) European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Remember that it is free from NHS Choices, so avoid the rip-off sites that try to screw you for a payment.