I have had a few people ask me questions about getting started in reloading so pretty much here it is in all it’s simplicity, pictorial format…. so you know what you need… others who do reload…. feel free to add/comment.
I will demonstrate with a single stage press with straight walled handgun cartridges.
I tried to be as thorough and simple as possible so people can understand not only the steps involved but the minimum equipment involved.
- Single stage press (RCBS Rockchucker)
- Reloading manual (Speer)
- Appropriate caliber die kit with shell holder (10mm lee 3 die set)
- Appropriate powder (Power Pistol)
- Appropriate primers (CCI Large pistol)
- Bullets (195-200gr .40)
- Loading Block X2 (Green RCBS/ Red LEE)
- Calipers (Harbor Freight)
- Debur tool (RCBS)
- Primer Pocket cleaner (RCBS)
- Primer Tool ( Lee Hand Press)
- Scale ( Pact Digital/RCBS Beam/Frankfort Arsenal Digital)
- Powder Measure ( RCBS)
- Powder Dispenser (RCBS)
- Funnel (Lee)
- Case Gauge ( Dillon)
I will start using some swaged 195-200gr 10mm bullets. Simple straight walled pistol cartridges.
CLEAN the brass
Brass. You must have it. You must separate it by caliber. Then you must clean it. I use a frankfort arsenal tumbler, I use corn cob you buy at big box mart for pets and I put some auto polish ( nu finish ) in it and I tumble for 2-6 hours depending upon how dirty the brass is. The I use the frankfort arsenal bucket and separator to get the brass out.
Gather all reloading materials ( dies, bullets, primers, brass)
I decide the powder I am going to use, and research loads. In this case I used the Speer Book which is my favorite and researched in a few locations: glocktalk 10mm loading forum, castboolits, and handloads.com. I also have some hornaday book info I cross referenced.
The load I decided on for the swaged 195-200gr bullets is 7.3gr of power pistol using cci large handgun primers.
RESIZE the brass
Count out the cleaned brass and put it in the loading block
Install the shell holder from your die kit into the press.
Now install the resizing die in your press and adjust it accordingly. Instructions found with the dies, on the web, and in the book. RCBS has a great tutorial website on this @ http://www.rcbs.com/guide/step_by_step_reloading.aspx#
Re-size the brass using the die….. NOTE: with necked cartridges you will need to use your case lube pad and lube to lube the cases before this occurs…. this is typically not needed with straight walled cases. If cases are sticking, the main culprit could be a dirty sizing die. I suggest using carbide dies if at all possible.
After you re-size the brass you need to do two things:
1. Inspect for cracks or anomalies
2. Measure with calipers or use a case gauge like the Lyman e-z case gauge. I used a caliper to measure and ensure it has not exceeded maximum length. I use the Speer book for reference.
CLEAN the primer pockets and DEBUR
De-burring is not really needed unless you have to cut the cases, but I like to do it anyway. I use a standard deburr tool to run over it once on each side.
Then I clean the primer pocket with my cleaning tool. One side is for large primer, the other for small. Some people skip this step also.
There are many different tools to do this with. I have an RCBS hand priming tool but I prefer to use my Lee hand press to do this for large primers and the RCBS hand primer for small primers during step 5…. that way I don’t have to change the priming rods. I already have the large one on the hand press….. and the small one on hand primer….so for large primers ( 10mm,/45ACP), I take the shell holder from the rockchucker press and put it on the Lee hand press. For small primers (.357/.38/9mm) I do the same with the RCBS Hand Primer. If you have just one, it will just take an extra step of changing out the primer rod each time you need to switch. There is also a priming tool on the rockchucker itself. They also make a priming unit to hold multiple primers for it. I do not like it, so I do not use it.
So I get my primers together and use the Lee Hand press to install the primers.
EXPANDING and POWDER
Note : This is the most important step and requires some serious attention to detail and care.
Now, I am not really sure if a straight walled case needs much expansion so I set it up and back it off to a minimum level… sometimes I hack a case or two adjusting it so make sure you have extras to properly adjust the die, especially if you are just starting out. I make sure it expands just enough to allow the bullet to seat in it without falling out.
The first thing I do is calibrate my scales. I use a PACT digital. I also have a cheap frankfort arsenal digital that I have used before verifying accuracy with the beam scale.
I verify every five powder loads with the RCBS 5.0.5 scale I have which is slower but always dead on. I am more into slow and safe than fast and many. I suggest if you are just starting out, this is the approach you take. Any mistake made during this step can be catastrophic to the firearm and or you.
Install the expanding die and adjust accordingly. Again instructions are included and can also be found on the manufacturer’s website.
You can see here I over expanded this case on the first adjustment.
I use this step to add the powder as it is a flow through die…. I install my funnel and get to measuring. I have funnels from Lee, Hornaday, and RCBS. I like to use the manufacturer funnel for the die I am using, They fit better.
At this point is where I use separate color loading blocks… RED Lee = needs powder…. the green RCBS loading block = step completed and has powder. For me, this is just an extra step to ensure you are not giving something a double charge. Whatever works for you. Just make sure you PAY ATTENTION during this step.
I adjust the RCBS powder dispenser. I also re-verify my zero constantly. I want to take my time here…. it is important and I want to be personally involved with every powder charge to ensure accuracy and safety. Distractions are discouraged during this step. So make sure nobody is talking to you or you aren’t watching TV. Mistakes here can be costly in both equipment and health.
Verify and re-verify!
Take case from red block…press the case into the expanding die, add powder…. remove case…. place in green loading block…. repeat until finished.
Now because these are home-made swaged bullets, I took the care to measure all of them out separately to get 35 of the closest weights possible…. some were on the 200 end some were in the middle, and some were on the low 190’s end. I took 35 that fell from 194.5 to 196.5
I install the bullet seating die…. I adjust accordingly, following manufacturer instructions, and I press the bullet into the case.
Once done, I measure the COAL and see if I need to adjust the seating die….. if it is within specs in the book, I drop it in the case gauge and if it passes, it is done. Dillon makes good case gauges to ensure the finished cartridge will fit.
Common beginner errors are over crimping causing case bulging and a cartridge that will not fit in the chamber. This error can be made with either a resizing die over adjusted or the seating die. Case gauges ensure that these cartridges never make it to the firing line. I suggest them highly. They are not that expensive.
If you have a three die set, crimping is done with the seating die, some four die sets have a separate crimping die. So there is one more step involved:
I install the crimp die and crimp the cases and inspect and test each case in a case gauge.
Finished product…. (35) 195-6gr custom swaged 10mm rounds with 7.3gr of Power pistol pushing 1100+ FPS out of my handgun on a chronograph.
I hope this tutorial is helpful to you.