Reloading Brass For Handguns-Part 1
As the title indicates, in this two-part series, we’re going
to look at how to begn reloading brass for handgun shooting. I'm going to
assume that you already want to reload, and have some idea of the advantages of
so doing. If not, there are many articles on our site that will help show the
advantages of reloading your own ammo.
If you have just began to research reloading brass, and
starting to look at reloading handgun cartridges, it probably seems like a
complicated and mysterious process; one that requires a degree in chemistry to
master. However, with only a little practice you will discover that reloading brass
is actually quite simple. Care and attention to detail are required, but the
process has only a few steps. Once you master those steps, you’ll be reloading
ammo with the best of us.
A reloading press is the basic machine used to reload
centerfire metallic (rifle or pistol) ammunition. What the press essentially
does is to hold the dies that reform, prime, and eventually reload the case and
provide the mechanical leverage that allows the operator to accomplish these
Many of us older shooters started reloading with a Lyman
Tong Tool (a hand held reloading press resembling a large nutcracker) or a Lee
Loader (a set of reloading dies into which you literally pound the cases with a
mallet). You don't see these makeshift devices very often anymore, although Lee
Precision still markets both the Lee Loader and a tong-style tool called the
Hand Press. I strongly advise ignoring these devices in general, at least until
you’ve mastered the process. I do, however, still use my hand-held tools when
I’m feeling nostalgic.
Most reloaders use what are called single stage presses.
These are not automated, you have to push or pull a handle to accomplish each
task in the reloading process. Good single stage presses have a long lever with
a lot of mechanical advantage for a handle and are quite easy to operate. Cheap
ones sometimes require a lot of force to resize cases. Yet, don’t think you
have to spend a small fortune to get started; these cheaper ones are quite
alright if you’re just beginning.
A separate powder measure, which dumps a preset amount of
powder into each case, is a practical necessity, and a hand priming tool is a
great convenience. Centerfire metallic cases are reloaded in batches and a
single operation is performed on all of the cases to be reloaded before moving
on to the next step. If you are reloading 50 cases, for example, the first
operation is performed on all 50 before moving on to the second operation.
Performing the same operation on all cases before moving to the next operation
saves time and effort.
The first step in reloading a batch of pistol cases is to
clean and inspect them. Look closely at the case mouths, as this is the area
most likely to be damaged or show incipient splits. Also look for a light ring
around the head of the case, which indicates potential case head separation.
Discard any cases that are not perfect.
To actually reload straight walled handgun cartridges the
following steps must be performed (not always in exactly the same order):
resizing, decapping (removing the spent primer) and belling the mouth of the
case to accept a new bullet, priming, powder charging, and bullet seating and
crimping. With the exception of the priming and powder charging operations,
these operations are carried out using a set of three reloading dies, which
screw into the top of a single stage press.
To hold the case, a shell holder slides into top of the ram
(the part of the press that elevates the case into the reloading dies when you
pull the handle). The shell holder must match the case to be reloaded.
Different cases require different shell holders.