Difference between handloading and reloading- handloading for performance, reloading for value
Handloading and reloading is the same activity – a person making their own bullets.
But reloading is the re-use of spent brass. You take previously used case, clean it up and put everything in it to turn it into a fully functioning bullet again – save money.
Handloading – handloader can either make cheap ammunition or custom spec bullets – save money in the long run.
The purpose of this article is I’m going to discuss hand loading in general and basically the steps that it takes to get a completed rifle cartridge from spent brass to completed ground.
What I thought would be interesting is to share a basic overview, some of the equipment that you’ll need to accomplish the task.
Below is a list of a good number of the equipment you’re likely going to need to hand load.
- Reloading press
- Reloading Dies
You can get away with much less than this list, but this is just to let you guys know that basically shotgun clay shooting or anything related to ammo is a serious hobby to undertake.
If you’re gonna do it, you should do it right.
Since what we’re talking about is Rifle reloading, we’re gonna discuss a few things about that and try to keep it streamlined within this article concept.
- 1 Reloading Press
- 2 What happens when a cartridge is fired?
- 3 Why Handload?
- 4 Reloading Dies
- 5 Lubricating Cases
- 6 A few basic case prep tools
- 7 Calipers and Scales
- 8 Digital Caliper
- 9 Powder Measures
- 10 The components of a cartridge
- 11 Case Tumbling
- 12 Quality Control of Brass
- 13 Installing your shellholder and resizing die
- 14 Sizing Case
Of course, you’ll need a reloading press. Rock checker supreme is a great press. This is used for processing your brass, resizing, decapping, seating bullets, flaring brass, waging bullet, sizing bullets you name it.
Just about every operation that the reloader does, you’re gonna do it on a quality press.
What happens when a cartridge is fired?
When a cartridge is fired, what happens is the primer ignites the powder and as the powder is ignited and burned it gives off a rapid release of energy which pushes the bullet out of the barrel.
What happens is the case expands to the chamber and then contracts a very small amount in order for you to be able to extract it.
Therefore, when you have difficulty with extraction of a case it’s either due to headspace and excessive brass flow or you have imperfections in the chamber. Which when that brass flows into those imperfections and contracts the imperfections are enough to flow the brass and make burst on it to where it’s difficult to extract.
Basically, the whole process of reloading is taking the spent cartridge using the tools I have listed above, maybe more maybe less depending on your specific needs and turning those pieces of brass into something that you can use again.
You may find different reasons to reload. I mean everyone has to decide for themselves, what purpose they’re going to hand load for. For some of them with handgun cartridges, it’s a matter of saving money and shooting in volume.
We’re talking about rifle cartridges here so most people that reload rifle cartridges they want the best accuracy.
You either want better accuracy or you want to shoot more volume and save money obviously. Which you’re really not going to save money, you’re just going to spend the same money but you will be able shoot more.
So, getting into hand loading for saving money is kind of an oxymoron. In my case, one of the reasons I hand load rifle cartridges mainly is because I’ve shoot a lot of obsolete stuff.
We’ve got a 43 Beaumont which uses 59 sharps casings that are formed and trimmed and of course this is a cartridge that if you had to buy would cost you at least six or seven dollars a shot.
Casting your own bullets is a great way to save money as well with Rifle reloading and a lot of people choose to do that. We’ll get into casting at another point or maybe we’ll talk more about it in detail on other article.
So, in terms of Rifle reloading you can see that there is a money savings depending on what calibre you reload.
Let’s move on to some of the equipment. When it comes to buying hand loading equipment, the first purchase that most of you will likely make will be reloading dies.
We’ve talked about having your press already. your Reloading Dies are basically the thing that you use to form all of your cases, seat the bullets and other operations.
Reloading dies in general can cover a wide range of tasks. For instance, this particular die right here is set up to size bullets to specific diameter. when I cast bullets, I can push them through this die and size them to specific diameter and seat my gas Tech’s on my cast projectiles.
So, I use the press for that purpose.
But the thread pitch is exactly the same as any other reloading die.
This die is a universal flaring die which has different pilots in here that you can change out and all it does is it flares the mouth of the case to accept some of your odd diameter cast bullets without shaving the case.
So you have specialty dies like that, then you have just your regular old reloading dies which is the
bread-and-butter of everything. This particular die is the small base resizing and decapping die.
You’ll know that the capping die because they’ll have the pin sticking out of the bottom. That pushes the old primer out and of course while the casing is inside of the dies being sized accordingly.
In general most of your rifle reloading dies are going to come in two different types. You’re going to have standard full-length size which is the 77 arasaka die and then you’ll have small base dies which this sizes all the way down the casing as far as it can possibly go in there.
This is to facilitate proper feeding in semi-automatic rifles. Most people that shoot semi autos are going to use small base dies to size their casing so they get 100% reliability.
You also have a collet neck sizing die, it basically has a collet and fingers inside of it and a separate piece the shell holder of the die presses up on it and sizes the neck down to precise roundness.
So basically the point of neck sizing is where you would leave the brass fire form to the chamber of the rifle and then size the neck only to accept the new bullet.
The whole idea behind that is to increase case life and basically just get longer life out of your casings.
In terms of seating dies, you have a lot of different types of seating dies too.
This is CBS seating die which uses just a basic stem inside of it that suggested with the knurled nut on the top and then you have a basic adjustment with the threaded rod, very simple and straightforward.
The lead style of seating die has just a threaded nut on the top stem that you turn which is much simpler to use. Lead dies are typically cheaper than the CBS dies across the board.
One interesting thing about lead dies when it comes to especially rifled brass, when you guys are going to be sizing cases, especially forming brass and other obsolete things , it has a slip fit style – decapping pin that basically the nut on top acts kind of as a collet and squeezes the decapping pin assembly.
If too much pressure is exerted on it or if a case gets stuck, it’ll simply slip out of its grasp and preventing you from otherwise breaking the decapping pin. That’s one nice thing about lead dies.
So, that’s really the ins and outs of dies for rifles in general.
We do have other specialized dies. For instance, Forster makes a bench rest seeding die that has a micrometer adjustment on top of it to allow for very precise changes in bullet seating depth to as little as half of a thousandth.
Okay that’s for your competition bench rest suitors and things of that nature.
For most shooters are just going to full length resize and then have your seating die. So most Rifle reloading operations can be accomplished simply with just a full-length sizer and a seating die.
You also have with each die set,the shell holders that fit a specific family of cartridges. The number two is generally known for most of your thirty-aught-six (.30-06 ) type head diameter cartridges and it’s probably the most common shell holder you’re gonna encounter .
You got your press, you got your dies, now we have to talk about a few other things.
Prior to sizing a case through your resizing die, all of them will need to be lubricated. There’s a few different options you have for lubricating your your casings.
Probably the best option that for lubricating your rifle cases is a product called Imperial sizing wax. It’s designed from the ground up as the sizing wax. There are some spray Lube out there that you can use to spray your cases down and they work very well but since I do do a lot of case forming, I tend to prefer the Imperial sizing wax because you can just put some on your fingers as you go, wipe your casings and off you go.
It’s a great product for that purpose. 1/10 of this stuff will last you literally like two years.
If you wanted to use the more traditional method of looping your cases, you can use the CBS case loop pad which is basically almost like a die pad for stamps. You can spread your lubricant out on the pad, lay your casings down and roll them and that will suffice.
Just be careful on the Lube because you will get oil dents if you go a little bit too excessive on the Lube.
One nice thing about the sizing wax is that you hardly ever get oil dents in your casings. Tt’s just a great product.
A few basic case prep tools
Here’s a few basic hand tools that your average rifle reloader could have laying around.
1. Ball grip cutter
Your will need to have the ball grip cutter assembly that Lee makes for trimming cases. You will need to trim most of your rifle brass at one point or another. That’s just the bottom line that trimming is inevitable.
The cases do stretch when being fired and trimming will be necessary. This ball grip cutter has different overall length gauges that you can add to it and your brass is put into a device and you put it in your drill and spin the drill and of course trim the brass.
That’s one option for trimming brass. The other option is to use a case trimmer which is much more convenient and much more precise.
2. Bearing chamfering tool
A chamfering in the bearing tool is a very necessary thing to have on your reloading bench. This one is made by le Wilson and it’s great. You can pick these up for about 16 dollars.
3. This small tool is deceptively simple. Its job is to clean out your primer pocket. Lee makes this little tool and it works great. You can also use a flathead screwdriver blade and it does the job just fine.
4. This tool is basically just one of the RCBS tool holders. You can put a nylon bristle brushes on it to scrub the inside of the neck to make sure it’s clean.
That’s all that’s for, you can add just about any kind of tool that will fit to this thing for scrubbing your necks and what-have-you.
5. This tool was a Lyman flash hole uniforming tool and all it does is the collet that adjusts to the mouth of the case and the small taper drill blade on the end cuts the burr from the inside of the flash hole that has developed when the cases are drawn.
Calipers and Scales
For rifle reloading you’re going to need a scale to weigh your powder charges. They come in just literally tons of different types. You have balance beam scales, electronic scales, some of the electronic scales are automatic dispensing and so forth.
Out of all the reloading that I’ve done hand loading, I prefer the RCBS 505. It’s a great little scale, it’s very accurate and best of all it’s relatively inexpensive.
You’ll need a set of calipers for measuring your overall length on your casings, checking bullet diameters etc. I mean a ton of uses. The ammunition you create to a degree in terms of quality control is only going to be as good as the method you’re using to measure everything.
The better set of calipers you can afford, the better off you’ll be.
This is MituToyo’s digital caliper. It is not incredibly cheap. You’re looking at atleast a buck and a quarter or more to get a quality set of Mitutoyo digital caliper like this. So just bear that in mind that’s part of the expense you’re looking to incur.
When it comes to dispensing your powder, there’s a lot of options for that as well. One of the best powder measures is the lee perfect powder measure. To be honest with you guys, this is a bottom rung, absolute cheapest powder measure that money can buy.
I’ll tell you what, I’ve done a lot of experimenting with various powder measures. For my personal preference as long as it’s not a ball powder, this lee perfect powder measure throws a pretty dang reliable charge of powder. The RCBS powder measure is probably one of them I’m going to look to upgrade to soon but for now I use the lee perfect.
I’ve never had any issues with it, it’s a great little powder measure. It has a drum on the side that is adjustable and basically it throws the charge by volume.
That’s why you weigh the charges on a scale and then you tear it out, make sure that you weigh eight or ten or twelve charges to make sure things consistent. As long as you actuate this measure the same way each time you use it, it’ll throw a consistent charge.
Not to keep this long but you will need some sort of a powder measure and the Lee perfect is a good choice for the money. You may want to look at other ones, Forrester makes an excellent one, Hornady, RCBS, Lineman, the list goes on.
There’s tons of good powder measure out there and a lot of them are very reasonably priced that pretty much covers our basic tooling.
The components of a cartridge
Now we’re going to move on to components and we’re gonna load up a few rounds necessary the overall process that you can expect to run into.
This article is not intended to be nowhere near comprehensive to tell you everything you need to know. This is just to cover a basic overview of the equipment you need and a basic overview of what it takes to get a completed cartridge.
A rifle round consists of;
That’s your components that you’re looking to work with. In the previous section I didn’t talk about case tumbling. That’s another area of reloading that you probably want to look into.
The purpose of tumbling your cases obviously is to make sure they’re clean and serviceable. Once a case is nice and clean, it allows you to check for any imperfections which could you know be a factor as to whether or not the case can be used again.
There are two basic types of media for tumblers. The first one is a walnut media which is more for cleaning and the other one is a corn cob media which is more for polishing.
All you are gonna need to do is just throw your casings in tumbler and tumble the. You are gonna let the brass case sit in there probably about a half hour.
Quality Control of Brass
This is the first step in the quality control process of making your ammo, got to make sure that the brass is clean.
When you have gone through and gotten your casings tumbled up then its ready to load. When you’re inspecting your casings, there are a few things that you want to look for. You will need to look for any kind of rings around the webbing that would indicate case head separation.
You need to have just a rag with you and if you see any kind of dirt or residue that may remain on the case from the tumbling process go ahead and wipe it off as best you can.
You also need to look for split necks and that’s really about it. For the most part you want to look for primer setback if the primer is protruding out of the base of the case after you’ve fired it that could indicate several problems to include excessive headspace in the rifle.
But, the main thing is you definitely don’t want loose primer pockets. So, if you’re getting primers setback that could be one indicator that your casings are approaching the end of their usable life.
Installing your shellholder and resizing die
Begin by placing your shellholder into the rim with the opening of the shell holder facing at about a 35 degree angle.
1. Full length sizer die
– Put it into the press
– Raise the RAM all the way
– Allow the RAM to over cam, so basically just lower thearm of the press all the way down and the RAM will go up.
– You need to bottom out the dieuntil it touches the shellholder
– When the dies touching the shellholder, thelock ring is backed out.
– Lower the RAM and bring the die in about maybe an eighth of a turn.
– You want the press to over cam just alittle bit.
What that does is ensures that all of the slack is taken out of the shellholder. While the RAM is all the way up go ahead put a little pressure on it, tighten it down as tight as you can get using finger tight.
That’s it, now you’re ready to size some casings.
Now, get your imperial sizing whacks, take just little bit using your finger. It’s about all you need to do one case. Wipe the outside of the case real well.
You could maybe just take the neck and just dip it into the wax, just a little bit but you don’t have to do that with every single casing. I would do it about every fifth or six.
After the waxing is done, go ahead and place the casing to the shellholder and press it up into the resizing die.
Always have your rag handy to wipe lubricant off the outside of the case.
You are going to repeat all of this process until you size all the casings you’re going to use.