General Category > Shooting Sports

Reloading Centerfire Ammunition: Tips For Getting Started


American Rifleman by Bryce M. Towsley September 18, 2022

It’s trendy these days to claim that there’s no reason for hunters to handload ammunition, but you’ll never hear it from me.

Handloading is much more than saving money or accessing good bullets. Yes, you can save money by “rolling your own;” and while factory ammunition has expanded the options, a handloader still has far more bullet choices available. Handloading also allows customizing ammo for optimum performance and accuracy from individual rifles. More than anything else, there is a certain satisfaction in closing the bolt on a cartridge you constructed, and handloading brings you closer to the whole shooting process. Taking a trophy animal, shooting a tight group or simply smacking a tin can with something you essentially designed and built brings a feeling of satisfaction and pride that can never occur with store-bought ammo.

Personally speaking, I like the control, and I like the involvement. The technical side of me is fed by the satisfaction of developing a load that is the very best that can be put in a particular gun, while the hunter side of me is satisfied by more complete immersion in the process.

Handloading centerfire rifle and handgun cartridges is the most diverse of all the aspects of building your own ammo. It can be as simple as putting together a few rounds to take deer hunting or as complex as developing your own wildcat cartridges. It is an interesting, challenging and satisfying hobby. And it is easy to get started.

Two Rules

Two handloading safety rules that my grandfather taught me more than 30 years ago have served me well.

Never have more than one can of powder on your loading bench at any time. When you have finished with ­one powder, pour the unused portion back into that can. Seal it up and put it in storage away from the loading bench before bringing another powder to the bench. That prevents mixups as to which powder has been used and prevents inadvertently pouring unused powder into the wrong container and contaminating the powder in that can.

Never stand up a case in the loading block until after it has been charged with powder. Instead, keep the cases loose in the trays for every operation up to and including charging with powder. After charging, place the case in a loading block for the first time. That helps prevent charging errors such as double charges or no powder at all. Double-check by holding the loading block with the charged cases under a strong light to check the powder levels before seating the bullets.


Which Powder?

One area of confusion for any handloader concerns which powder to choose. For example, the Speer No. 13 Handloading Manual lists 15 different powders for my favorite 165-grain bullet in the .30-’06 Sprg.

A good rule of thumb is to start with the powder that produces the highest velocity. But, while that is a good place to start and will usually produce good results, it is not always the best choice.

Often, the best balance of velocity and accuracy is exhibited by powders producing slightly less velocity. Some manuals, such as Nosler’s, list the most accurate powder tested. My choice for the 165-gr. .30-’06 Sprg. load of IMR-4350 is listed by the Nosler Reloading Guide No. 4 as the most accurate powder tested. It’s listed as producing the third highest velocity, while the Speer No. 13 manual lists it as second highest. Each of those lists a different powder for the highest velocity.


The Necessities

You will need a press. A simple, single-stage model is the best type to start with. For now, stay away from progressive loaders. There are many good presses on the market, and I can personally recommend a couple. First is the RCBS Rock Chucker. I have one that my parents gave me for Christmas when I was still in junior high school. It has served me well for more than three decades, much of which included some pretty intensive competition shooting. It was not uncommon to load and shoot more than 10,000 rounds a season in those days, and that press never let me down.

Recently, I have also been using Hornady’s Lock-N-Load Classic single-stage press with great success. The quick-change Lock-N-Load feature eliminates the need to thread each die in and out every time you make a change. It may not sound like a big deal, but over the course of several loading sessions, you will come to appreciate this feature a great deal. Regardless of which press you choose, don’t under-buy. Get a good, high-quality press, and you will never regret the few extra dollars.

Perhaps the single most important tool is the scale. Electronic scales have dominated in recent years, but they are a little costly when you are starting out. They primarily offer speed and ease of use rather than any enhancement in accuracy over a quality balance-beam scale. Those will cost much less and are a better place to start.

Much More:

Okay, here's a tip I learned early on. DON"T DRINK AND RELOAD! There is no joy in using a bullet puller the next day when you realize you can't be sure that you didn't double charge some rounds **nononono* Don't ask me how I know.

Here is the extent of my reloading, I save the brass I used and put it in the collector for others at the range to collect and use.


--- Quote from: Sighlass on September 21, 2022, 05:49:02 pm ---Here is the extent of my reloading, I save the brass I used and put it in the collector for others at the range to collect and use.

--- End quote ---
Back in the day when I occasioned indoor ranges some them would get all pissy when I gathered up my once fired brass from the floor, they seemed to think that they owned what hit the floor so that they could reload it and make profit. I applaud you for your consideration.

Most of my reloading has been for revolvers, single shot Contenders, lever and bolt action rifles so saving brass was easy. I have used lots of purchased once fired brass.


[0] Message Index

Go to full version