by B.B. Pelletier
This report is intended to show an easy method of reloading metallic cartridges. The cartridges loaded in this lesson have already been fired with accuracy at 25 yards, so the question of whether or not they’re “good enough” has been answered. They certainly are. I normally use more advanced reloading equipment, however I do not necessarily make more accurate rounds with it. Often, it’s just faster with no other advantage. The beauty of what I’m showing here is that you can reload while watching television, though any distractions that are apt to confuse you are not good. Make sure you’re watching something mindless and that there’s no requirement for conversation.
Reloading is not an art, nor is it a science. It’s a straightforward process not unlike cooking, which, when done right, produces good and repeatable results. It’s safe to the extent that the person doing it is safe. I’ve reloaded for the past 45 years and never have I had an accident during the process. However, I’ve made every mistake in the book; and if you start reloading to the extent that I have, you probably will as well.
Step 1. Making the fired case ready to reload.
In the first step, you need to remove the spent primer from the cartridge. You also need to resize the cartridge that expanded when it was fired. There are several versions of resizing, but I’ll show the most universal one, which is to resize the cartridge along its full length so it’ll function in any firearm of the same caliber.
I normally tumble the deprimed cases until they sparkle like new, but that step is unnecessary. I eliminated it in this lesson.
To decap and full-length resize, we use a full-length resizing die with a decapping pin. I’m installing this die in a Lee Breech Lock Hand Press, which is a modern version of a reloading tool used by sportsmen in the 1880s. It accepts standard reloading dies and doesn’t need to be fastened to a bench. You can hold it in your hands, which means you can load cartridges anywhere. It will decap and full-length resize pistol cartridges with ease. I use a sizer die with a carbide insert so the cases do not need to be lubricated for reloading.
This is a set of reloading dies for the .45 Colt cartridge. The sizer with priming removal pin is on the right, the cartridge mouth bell-forming die is in the center and the bullet seater and crimper is at the left. The small circular piece is a shellholder.
The dies and shellholder attach to this Lee hand press. It’s very inexpensive.
This is a .45 Colt cartridge case that’s been fired. You can see the indent in the primer at the bottom.
The empty case is inserted in the shellholder and the press handles are squeezed together, resizing the case and decapping at the same time.
The primer was removed when the cartridge was resized. But that crud in the primer pocket has to go.
The primer pocket was scraped clean by a small flat-bladed screwdriver. It took 5-10 seconds. This case is ready to accept a new primer.
The reloading components
You need three things to reload cartridges: gunpowder, primers and bullets. I buy primers by the thousand, and Russian primers are now on the market at $19/thousand. That’s less than two cents per cartridge. I buy powder by the pound, and a pound of Unique that I’ll use today costs about $20 regularly, but Cabela’s is selling it for $15 a pound. I’ll use 7.5 grains of powder per cartridge, which will give me 933 reloaded cartridges. At $20 a pound that’s just over 2 cents per cartridge. The bullets I cast myself from lead that’s free. But there’s a cost for the lubricant, so let’s say a bullet costs me a penny. That means I am reloading these cartridges for $5.00 per hundred. The over the counter price is at least $40.00 for the same quantity.
This is the Unique gunpowder I’m using. Two of those yellow dippers filled level with the top equals 7.5 grains of powder, and it won’t vary by so much as a tenth of a grain. This load is so safe that I do not weigh every charge. But I did verify that I’m using the correct dipper every time I reload by checking it on an electronic powder scale.
Here are five new primers to go into the cases. At the lower right is the spent primer I just removed.
These are 200-grain lead bullets that I cast, sized and lubricated myself. They’re soft lead, so they don’t lead the bore of guns, as long as the velocity is held below about 950 f.p.s., which my load does. In this enlargement, I even see a flawed bullet that got through my inspection. There’s a void in the nose of the bullet at the top right.
Step 2. Prime the case
In this step, a new primer is inserted into the cleaned pocket of each cartridge case. I use a Lee Auto Prime tool that gives me incredible feel over the process. After the case is primed, I run my index finger over the base, feeling for the primer standing proud. If I can’t feel it, the case passes.
The Lee Auto Prime tool makes priming cartridges fast and accurate.
The primer has been inserted and lies below the level of the case base.
Step 3. Bell the case mouth
In this step, the primed case is run into the belling die. A flare is put in the mouth of the cartridge so that when the soft lead bullet is pushed home the brass case doesn’t shave lead from the side of the bullet.
The case on the right has had its mouth flared slightly to accept the lead bullet without shaving lead from the sides. Case on the left hasn’t yet been belled.
Step 4. Put powder in the case
In this step, you put a measured charge of gunpowder into each primed case. I’m shooting a 200-grain lead bullet, so I chose to use 7.5 grains of Unique powder. That makes a very light load that will be safe in all modern guns of this caliber. The bullet will travel just over 900 f.p.s. at the muzzle and will group very well at 25 yards.
I’m using a powder scoop when loading this load. I normally use an adjustable powder measure that’s set to deliver the correct charge, but neither method is more accurate than the other.
Step 5. Load a bullet
In step 5, a bullet is placed in the loaded cartridge case, then the case is run into the bullet seating die that also crimps the case mouth around the bullet.
The bullet seating die pushes the bullet into the case to the exact point that the crimp can squeeze the case mouth into the crimp groove on the bullet.
This finished round took about one minute to make.
This has been a quick look at reloading cartridge ammunition. There are many other topics I did not touch on, like case trimming and so on, but this has shown you the basics. For under $100 startup cost, you can be reloading your favorite cartridges just this easily.