Friday, June 29, 2012

Cartridge Reloading

One of the things you can do to improve your self reliance is to reload your ammunition. Reloading enables you to recycle the most expensive part of a cartridge - the case - many times. It also allows you to tailor loads to your gun for best accuracy, or to load cartridges that are not commercially available.

The general process of reloading involves these basic steps:

1. Resize and deprime the used cartrdge case.
2. Reprime the case with a new primer.
3. Charge the case with a measured amount of the correct type of gunpowder.
4. Seat a bullet and crimp it in place.

Obviously, it's a bit more involved than that but boiled down to the basics, that's what you are doing.

Reloading tools can range from very basic to very complicated and expensive. At the low end is the Lee Loader. The Lee Loader has been around for five decades and the cartridge-specific kits can be used to handload ammo ranging from pistol (9mm is the current smallest caliber for which the Loader is available) on up to .45-70.

However, the lowest end loading tool I'd recommend would be Lee's Hand Press. I have one of these and while it works OK for pistol cartridges, it's slow. If you have the space go for a workbench-mounted press.

In order of ascending complexity, the different types of loading tools are:

1. Lee Loader
2. Single stage bench press, e.g., the RCBS Rockchucker.
3. Turret press, e.g., the Lee Classic Turret or Lyman T-Mag.
4. Progressive press, e.g, any model from Dillon Precision.

When I lived with my folks I used my father's RCBS Rockchucker single stage press to load .38 Special for my S&W Model 15 and .30-06 for a Garand. Until recently, however, I didn't have space for a bench-mounted press here at Casa Dave, so all I had was a Lee Hand Press. Now that I have my shed/workshop with an 8' long workbench, I ordered a Lee Classic Turret press, along with a spare die plate and other reloading accessories. Although I've reloaded ammo in the past it's been awhile since I've done it regularly. I did not want to deal with the complexity of a progressive, nor did I want to spend the money for one.

I'll initially be setting up the Lee press for .38 Special and .44 Magnum. The .38s will be used in my assortment of .38 and .357 revolvers, while the .44 Magnum is for the Marlin 1894 that I traded for a couple of weeks ago. The next caliber I'll tool up for probably will be .45 Colt, to use in the Remington 1858 which I fitted with a Kirst Konverter earlier this month.

Getting into handloading/reloading your own cartridges does require and initial outlay of money to acquire equipment and components, but if you shoot a lot you'll bring your price per cartridge down dramatically, allowing you to shoot more. Lyman has great introductory piece, "Getting Started In Reloading" (3 MB PDF file) if you want further info.