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How To Reload Pistol Brass

Many shooters choose which gun to purchase based on many factors, one of which is the ease at which to reload brass for that caliber. That’s why we wanted to take some time and look at the cartridges that offer the most ease with reloading brass.

Since most rifle and pistol cartridges are easy and straightforward to reload, future reload ability is not usually a major concern when selecting a new gun. Still, some cartridges are a little better than most from the reloader's standpoint, and a few are more difficult than average. I will try to touch briefly on the reasons for this.

In this first part, we will look at handgun cartridges and which style works best for the reloader. If you’re interested in rifle cartridges, read part two of this series.

Primer sizes

All cartridges suitable for reloading must use standard diameter large (.210") or small (.175") Boxer type primers. It is not worth attempting to reload Berdan primed cases or cases using odd diameter primers.

The most important thing to understand is that, in general, most common smokeless powder cartridges are pretty easy to reload. Problems such as thin (weak) brass and unusual cartridge designs do exist, but they are rare.

Handgun Cartridges

The easiest and most straightforward handgun cartridges for the reloader are the rimmed, straight wall, revolver cartridges. Examples of such cartridges include the .32 H&R Magnum, .38 Special, .357 Magnum, .41 Magnum, .44 Special, and .44 Magnum.

Most of the magnum revolver cartridges are fairly modern creations and are based on fairly thick-walled cases that offer long brass life. These are excellent handgun cartridges for the reloader as they offer an excellent return on investment as they allow you to reload the brass multiple times. Also, revolvers have the added advantage of retaining fired cases in the cylinder for convenient removal.

On the other hand, auto pistol cartridges and very small cartridges are the least desirable for the reloader. For one thing, the guns eject the brass automatically, scattering it everywhere. For another, most headspace on the case mouth, preventing the use of a straightforward roll crimp. Small cases are always more hassle to handle and reload than larger cases. Combine an autoloading pistol with a small case, such as the .25 ACP, and you have the worst of all possible worlds for the handgun reloader.

Another reason why many reloaders tend to prefer revolvers over semi-auto pistols is the need in semi-autos to auto-cycle. There’s a very fine line between a round that will auto-cycle and a round that won’t. This line usually hovers over the powder charge and condition of the reloading brass.

Another problem is that many semi-autos will leave an abrasion on the brass when it is ejected. This can cause serious issues with the reloadability of that casing, especially if it is reloaded multiple times. That’s not to say that every semi-auto pistol will do this. And, if your specific gun is doing this, there may be a way to resolve the issue. Still, this doesn’t become an issue with a revolver.

In the end, any handgun round can be reloaded, as long as you have the experience and the right reloading manuals. However, if it’s an easy road you’re looking for in reloading handgun brass, follow these guidelines.