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Thoughts About Ammo Reloading
Some recent posts in various threads talk about light loads for reduced noise/recoil/range whatever. Want to start this diatribe by warning about a possible hazard with light loads and some powders---detonation.

Gun powders (propellants) are designed to rapidly burn to produce gas and not explode (detonate). However, under some conditions detonation becomes a possibility. If/when it happens, the explosion can produce a huge pressure peak and blow the gun up in your hands. Bottom line: Always best to stay within the data in your loading manual.

I always recommend folks NOT buy off on every new hot shot load some "expert" has written up in a gun magazine or on the web. Best to stick with your tried and true and within the upper and lower limits by bullet weight listed in reputable loading manuals.

With that said, the remainder of this is primarily aimed at newbies to reloading. I've been at it for 50 plus years and made some serious mistakes and myriad minor goofs. Sheer luck and only that has kept me from being badly injured so I wanted to pass on some lessons from the good old "school of hard knocks." I won't go into a "how to" on reloading. You get that from your manuals, mentors, and experience.

1. Couple of initial observations (my views only). There are two distinct types of reloaders and a hybrid.

- Type ONE is the average guy who wants to shoot more for less money. This person is likely also a hunter. He/she is really not interested in super accurate loads, weighing powder charges out to the tenth of a grain, using a micrometer on bullets, and all the other super precision stuff. These folks just want quantities of quality ammo generally equal to or a bit better than what you can buy over the store counter.

- Type TWO is the bench rest and/or extreme accuracy folks. They do use every trick in the book and each round out of their loading equipment is a gem. I would guess much of the improvements in ammo over the years has had it's genesis with these skilled and patient people. A Type One would crank out a hundred rounds in the time it takes a Type TWO to produce one or two.

- Of course, there are also folks, and I'm one of them, who have dabbled in both. I started out reloading for rifles and went the super accuracy route for a while. Then I devolved into handguns and rabid handgunners shoot a lot! Also, with the shorter barrels of handguns and the variance between chambers in revolvers plus varying lockup of auto pistols, extreme accuracy becomes moot. Three inch groups at 50 yards are considered great. However, at some bench rest rifle matches, the experts fire ten rounds into the same hole! The winner is decided by counting to ensure there are ten holes in a moving disk or paper tape behind the target which keeps the shooters honest. Then the ONE bullet hole from the ten rounds is measured with an optical device and the smallest diameter hole wins. It's incredible and a lot of fun for those "into" it.

2. Considering the fact most of us are Type ONEs, following are some tips and safety warnings.

PRIMERS, the most hazardous component.

- When you reload ammo, you're working with gunpowder and live primers. The primers are the most dangerous component. They come in several types and sizes, i.e., small rifle and small pistol, large rifle and large pistol, standard and magnum, and so on. ALWAYS ensure you have the correct type primer as specified by your loading manual for whatever caliber you're reloading! Don't substitute!

- When handling primers you MUST wear eye protection and have clean, oil free hands. Contamination of primers with oil or moisture can result in a dud round or even a hangfire (when the primer doesn't fire instantly and may take as long as a few seconds to go off). If you had a hangfire round part way out of the gun when this happens you could be in serious trouble. TIP. Never immediately eject a round that has failed to fire. Count SLOWLY to 15, then go ahead and eject. If your gun is of the type that permits it, recock and try to fire the round a second time. If it still doesn't fire, do the slow 15 count before ejecting. If this happens with a revolver, you can't recock because you'll move that cylinder chamber over where the bullet of that round is now facing the frame of the gun. You do NOT want it to fire at that point because it will severely damage or destroy your gun and very likely seriously injure you. Proper primer handling and seating in clean cartridge cases with also clean primer pockets and flash holes ensures good ammo ignition.

- If you drop a primer or several on the floor (and who hasn't?) immediately stop what your're doing and find them! There have been cases of persons stepping on a live primer which then fired and actually blew fragments through their shoe sole and into their foot. The power in even a standard small pistol primer is incredible for such a tiny item. I often load plastic bullets into .38 special and .357 magnum cases with no powder and only the primer. These go off with a bang loud enough to ring your ears and shoot the plastic bullet through a cardboard box. Kid you not.


- There are MANY brands. I won't even attempt to go into all the various kinds. Basically they boil down into two types, fast and slow burning. Whatever powder you use, rifle or pistol, should be tailored to the weight of the bullet you're shooting and the barrel length of your gun. This is another real advantage of reloading---you can tailor the load for your particular gun and especially handguns. Commercial ammo is sold as a "one type fits all" product. The manufacturer doesn't know or care if your handgun has a two inch or ten inch barrel. Commercial pistol ammo is generally formulated for an "average" barrel of four to six inches in length. If you have a snubby with a two inch barrel this means you're blowing a lot of unburned powder out into the atmosphere and it isn't pushing the bullet. If you have a ten inch barrel, the powder is consumed within the first six inches or so and the remaining barrel length becomes a friction brake to slow the bullet down. As a reloader, you can tailor your loads. Use fast burning powders such as Bullseye or Unique for short barrels and slower powders, H110 and 2400 for long barrels. If you happen to own a short barreled .44 or .357 magnum, shoot it in the fading twilight and see how much countryside you're lighting up. If an observer to the side can see all sorts of sparkles in the air when you fire, this is powder burning out of the barrel and it sure isn't pushing the bullet.

- IMO, the correct powder, with the exception of the fast burning types like Bullseye and Unique, should fill the cartridge case just to the base of the bullet, and this is a given for rifle cartridges. You'll find the loads in your manual for powders like 2400 and H110 for .357 and .44 mag rounds do this. The correct load fills the case to just about the base of a properly seated bullet. To tailor such a round for a shorter barrel you do NOT reduce the charge of powders such as 2400 and H110. Instead, you go to your manual and select a faster burning powder. Remember the detonation hazard. Of course, the bullet weight also influences the choice of powder. Check and follow your manual!

- Old time reloaders generally settle on a few basic choices of powders. In my case, I use Unique, 2400, and H110 for ALL pistol loads. I use 3031, IMR 4320, and a couple of others for ALL rifle loads. I've learned to avoid all the marketplace claims for wonderous results from new powders. I also don't have a tedious selection process to go through every time I load X cartridge. I know what's worked for me for years so why change it? As a related point, by all means stay away from magazine articles and gun writer BS that you can make your .308 or .30-06 perform like a .300 Win mag. Ain't so! Don't push it! Stay within the book limits for your caliber. If you want hotter performance, buy a new and bigger gun! DO NOT, NEVER, PUSH YOUR EXISTING GUN TO LIMITS IT WAS NEVER DESIGNED FOR! I must, at this point, tell a "war story." A customer brought a commercial sporter Mauser .30-06 into my shop that was misfiring. This Mauser sporter was actually the old Mauser military 98 in civilian dress, a fine and strong rifle. About the first thing I did was dissassemble the bolt. The striker spring was full of carbon---a sure sign the shooter had been blowing primers and expelling gas back into the bolt. I telephoned the guy, told him what I'd discovered, and asked what he was shooting. His reply? "Well, I like to go 15 or 20 percent over book max. Those Mausers are strong guns." I asked if he'd considered metal fatigure over time and so on. He got quite irate and told me I didn't know what in hell I was talking about. I cleaned his bolt up and when he came for the gun, told him to never bring it back to my shop and please stop so grossly overloading his .30-06 ammo. He paid me, cussed me out, and left. A few weeks later he was killed when that same rifle blew up on on him and put the bolt back through the right side of his head! Folks like him are the reason I cut way back on my smithing business---I can't afford the lawyers nor time spent testifying in court.


- Heavier bullets mean less powder; lighter bullets mean more. Check your manual each and every time you start to reload. I force myself to do this. I really do. I know as sure as I'm sitting here on my duff writing this what powder charge I use in my pet .44 mag loads with 240 grain bullets. B-U-T, I have learned to NEVER trust to memory. I sometimes feel stupid as I do it, but I go over to the bookshelf, take down my loading manual, look it up, and VERIFY the powder type and charge. Please, please, all you folks get in the habit and do the same. We need more, not fewer Hoodlum members and for sure not blind or one handed Hoodlum members.

3. Final comment. Thought I'd never quit, didn't you? I recommend you NEVER rapid fire your reloads in a revolver. Why? Because if you have a "squib" (usually a round without powder) the primer will force that bullet an inch or two down the barrel. Then, when rapid firing, you may be unable to stop yourself from pulling the trigger a second time. If/when you fire that next round down the blocked barrel, you have, to put it mildly, a problem! I did that, more than 50 years ago, with a fine Officer's model Colt .38 revolver. I was lucky, I had a scrap gun and sore hand but no other damage to me. The backstrap was bulged and the cylinder was cracked and missing a chunk. And, yeah, I still rapid fire once in a great while to show off but I have that queasy feeling when I do so and it's damn seldom. Best to time fire and save the "show off" stuff for commercial ammo only. Better yet, don't do it.

Regards, LASTO

good post, I believe that all people learning to reload should check out this message


Hopefully the S won't HTF and I pray every day that it won't. It would not be fun.

I have a high art..I wound with cruelty, all who wound me...Archillocus; 650 B.C.
Most of the old timers know to be careful but I have seen one lcky fellow who survived loading a .270 cartridge into his 30-06 the blowback particles tatooed his face and blew his huquavarna up a bit. New shooters should hear some tales of Darwinism to let them know to be cautious.

Thanks again

Hopefully the S won't HTF and I pray every day that it won't. It would not be fun.

I have a high art..I wound with cruelty, all who wound me...Archillocus; 650 B.C.
Yup... Good stuff... Thanks LASTO, for the effort.

I would add that it is a good idea to keep meticulous records. I recorded EVERY DAMN THING I did... If I lowered the die by 1/2 turn to adjust the OAL, I recorded it. I kept every batch of ammo seperate from the others, and assigned a lot number to each one.

Many times I went back, after not loading for a while, and had to refer to my notes to remember something. The memory is never accurate enough.

If something happens, and you blow something up (like yourself, or someone else) you have a detailed record of your meticulous loading practices, and can show how you took every possible opportunity to ensure a safe reload.



Thanks for the info. I've been thinking about reloading. I inherited a Lee precision press from family that moved out of state. Dont know much about it so I'm not ready to jump in. But I'm planning space for a reloading bench as I am enclosing a carport for a second garage/storage room. I figure I lean toward the type one but I dont have a death wish, and am cautious.

Question: The press I have is a multi stage one. Should a newbie begin with a single stage? Should I bother buying a single stage if I already have the progressive?

I appreciate old timers passing along their experience, so keep it coming. As for taking pride in your posts, its well deserved. Its quite an accomplishment for someone to be collect years of knowledge, distill wisdom from it and then pass that on to others. Lots of other Hoodlums are doing that and thats one of the things that make this forum such a rich resources. And the stories are what makes learning interesting and entertaining.
The Lone Ranger's Creed (1933, GW Trendle, F. Striker )

"I believe...

That to have a friend, a man must be one.

That all men are created equal and that everyone has within himself the power to make this a better world.

That God put the firewood there but that every man must gather and light it himself.

In being prepared physically, mentally, and morally to fight when necessary for that which is right.

That a man should make the most of what equipment he has.

That 'This government, of the people, by the people and for the people' shall live always.

That men should live by the rule of what is best for the greatest number.

That sooner or later ... somewhere ... somehow ... we must settle with the world and make payment for what we have taken.

That all things change but truth, and that truth alone, lives on forever.

In my Creator, my country, my fellow man."

I started with a used Dillon 550. I had only a slight clue of how it was done, and I broke a few parts and crushed some brass, talked to dillon, read some more. Re-did my area a few times. Now I load good HG rounds. I have not bought .45 in years, and consider most factory Fmj inferior to mine.

I started reloading 308 as surplus got my way of thinking, why sink $250 in 1/K of ammo, when the same amount of components can net about 2500 rounds, and the brass can be reloaded again to boot?

As long as you take advantage of every source of info, Lee customer service(reputed to be great), read the directions carfully, and understand what you are trying to do you will do fine with a progressive press.

I still use my lee hand press, too, for stuff i can do on the run.

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