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When Reloading Brass Fails- Part 2

My initial learning curve was about 150 rounds. To begin with, I slipped a single piece of brass into the shell plate and cycled it through each station individually to gain a better understanding and “feel” for the cycle of operations. Doing this for the first 50 or so rounds was helpful to get the hang of how the press worked. I then slowly started increasing the number of cases in the press each time.

My first 100 rounds were challenging. Because I had not quite set the resizing/depriming die correctly, operation was not smooth and required constant readjustment. This was borderline anger management therapy and entirely operator error. Once I set the depth of the die correctly (as indicated in the directions … “Oh, that’s what they meant!”) and tightened down the locking rings and decapping rod, the clouds rolled back, the sun shone onto the press, and the angels’ chorus could be heard softly in the distance.

In those first few boxes of ammo, I made a number of mistakes, all preventable and part of the learning process. Rounds without primers, crushed case mouths, etc. My failure rate would have gotten me fired from any respectable business.

But by the time I was at 250 rounds, I had a solid sense of the process and my errors decreased to the occasional hiccup as my production speed increased. By my seventh loading session, I could feel each stage simultaneously through the press and had smoothed out the little movements: this hand grabs empty case and slips it into shell plate, that hand grabs bullet and places it while standing precisely there, gives best reach to the components and leverage to smoothly cycle the handle.


By 500 rounds I was very confident in the whole process and was able to move some parts of the operation away from conscious effort. I was cranking out a box of 50 rounds with no errors in about 15 minutes, or 200 rounds an hour.

I was swapping back and forth between 9mm and .38 Special, and at this point—with the dies all well adjusted—the outstanding Hornady Lock-N-Load bushing system let me swap between calibers in four minutes or less. The dies slip into the press with a simple quarter turn to lock, much like an AR bolt locking into the barrel extension, requiring only the correct shellplate to be bolted in and the length of the powder drop adjusted for the caliber.

As I crossed 1,000 rounds, I had swapped back and forth between the calibers regularly and easily and set each die for a variety of bullets and charge weights. I next timed myself at about 1,200 rounds and was putting a box of 50 together in right at 10 minutes. Of course, accessories exist to speed production even further, but this rate exceeded my initial expectations and is working out well for me so far.


I tested the loads primarily in a Glock 34 and a Ruger GP 100 Match Champion that I had on hand. As a baseline, I shot each with Hornady’s American Gunner loads. The American Gunner line uses the XTP hollow point, which has a well-deserved reputation for accuracy. That proved out here as well. The Glock put the 124-grain 9mm +Ps into 1.65 inches at 25 yards. The .38 Special American Gunner XTPs did 1.48 inches at 25 yards from the new Ruger.

My first box of 9mm reloads were 124-grain XTPs that stepped out at 1,150 feet-per-second (fps) from 5.2 grains of Alliant’s BE86 powder with Winchester Primers. A composite of three groups had the best nine shots in 1.4 inches at 25 yards. Five-shot inclusive groups hovered around 1.75 inches. It definitely inspired confidence to have the first load attempted do so well, since many pistols will never see a 1.75-inch group with any load, let alone a newbie’s homebrew.

In part three, I’ll tell you about finally shooting my first rounds and if my initial goals were met.