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picksbigwagon

Reloading for Metallic cartridges

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First off, I want to say that I wanted this to become a hobby for me, and like all hobby’s, there are always new things to get and new “have to have” gizmos to try. As I describe my reloading process , thoughts and procedures, I will try and let you know what has worked for me and what hasn’t..

Step one: Buy a reloading manual or 3 and read them, before you buy one piece of equipment used for reloading, buy some manuals and read. I went with the Lee Reloading manual, the Hornady reloading manual, and I also borrowed a copy of the ABC’s of reloading. After reading these books and mentally digesting it, I went to purchase my equipment. I opted for the Lee classic turret press. I reload for both rifle and pistol and I like the option of being able to do both with the same press. I personally feel that Lee makes a good if not great product. This is like Ford/Chevy/Dodge here, RCBS, Lyman, Hornady and others make great presses, and come with all you need starter kits, etc. My Lee Kit was cost effective and from my research on line in different forums, I felt like I was getting a good piece of equipment.

Step Two: Equipment, what is necessary and what can I do with out…..

Most starter kits will include the press (necessary) a powder dispenser, a balance scale, and depending on the kit, other various parts and pieces. You will need to also purchase: dies (to reform the brass case, seat the bullet and crimp the bullet if you desire) powder, bullets, primers, case cleaner/tumbler, calipers, case cleaner media, reloading blocks, case primer, and cases if you have not been saving your cases up to this point. You will also need to find a designated area for reloading. I built a table from a kit available at most hardware type stores. A couple of 2x4’s and a sheet of plywood (2’x4’ in my case) and you have a table to mount your press to.

My reloading area:

P1020119.jpg

My table top with press and scale:

P1020112.jpg

Cleaned cases, reloading books, reloading logs and my dies:

P1020109.jpg

Step Three: If you are choosing to clean you cases (I will be referring to preparing rifle cases from this point out, I will talk about reloading pistol rounds later) you will need to put them in your vibrating case cleaner. I usually let my cases run for about 2 hours if they don’t lay on the ground or are excessively dirty. I separate the cases from the media and either store them in containers marked for appropriate calibers, or put them into reloading trays to begin the reloading process.

Dirty case, maybe 100 mixed 223, 308, 243, 45 acp and 10mm

P1020128.jpg

Clean cases in media:

P1020129.jpg

Clean cases in media separator:

P1020130.jpg

I will place the cases in an old towel after separating them, just to wipe of any dust or residue before moving onto resizing.

Step Four: Following the manufacturers directions, I install my sizing die in my press (I have a turret press so my dies are always ready to be used and I do not have to remove each die individually between the reloading steps) as per manufacturers directions. At this point I lube my cases. There are many different lube options to go with. I use Hornady One Shot Case lube, the only lube I have ever used. I spray my cases 2 times, spinning the reloading block 180 degrees so both sides of the cases are sprayed. I allow the cases to dry for about 10 minutes, and then repeat the process. The directions on the can only say to spray the cases once, I like overkill……..I also make sure that I try to keep a 45 degree angle on the spray so I get some of the spray inside the case mouth as well. I like to spray a little One Shot into the resizing die while I am spraying the cases, that has resulted in less stuck cases while reloading. Stuck cases are not a good thing.

Cases in reloading block being lubed:

P1020131.jpg

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Part 2

Step Five: Once your resizing die is installed and your cases are lubed, you are ready to begin resizing the cases. I install the correct size case holder into my press, lower the ram, insert a case into the case holder, place a case in the holder and slowly lower the handle and resize my case. If I start feeling resistance and feel like I am “forcing” the case into the die, I stop and lower the ram. I then re-spray some One Shot into the die, let it dry and continue. Sometimes I do this every 20 shells, sometimes every 50. There is some force necessary to resize the brass, but it is not excessive. My five year old can pull down on the ram arm and resize brass. DO NOT FORCE THE LEVER AND WEDGE A CASE INTO THE DIE. Once the case has been resized, I place it into the vibrating case cleaner. I do this to get rid of the case lube before adding primer, powder and bullet. Some case lubes contaminate powders, so it is always best to clean off the cases after resizing.

Case being resized:

P1020132.jpg

Step Six: Your cases are re-sized, you put them in the tumbler to clean them off and you have separated them from the cleaning media and you are ready to trim them. Lee makes a really good (and cheap) hand held case trimmer. It is possible to connect the lee hand trimmer to a cordless drill or screwdriver. After trimming 100 cases by hand, you will start looking at a bench top case trimmer. Either way, you need to trim your cases back down to a length that is under the maximum case length. The case lengthens when it is resized due to it being forced back into spec. Now on to de-burring the flash hole and cleaning the primer pocket. Once the flash hole has been de-burred one time, it doesn’t have to be done again. I clean my primer pockets every other reload or whenever they look really bad. Last step is to ream the inside and outside of the case mouth. If during this process you notice any splitting in the case mouth, recycle it, do not reload it.

Cases being trimmed by hand:

P1020123.jpg

Cases being reamed inside:

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Cases reamed outside:

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My new case trimmer, still unused, but not for long:

P1020127.jpg

Step Seven: Priming the cases is the next step. Primers are nothing to mess around with, I still wince once in a while when I get lazy and end up with the hand held primer pointed towards my face. Don’t believe me? Take a primer out to the garage, put on hearing protection, and hit on the floor of the garage with a hammer. Once your cases are primed (read manufacturer’s directions) you are ready to start measuring out your powder.

Priming the cases:

P1020164.jpg

Step Eight: There are a couple different routes you can go when measuring powder. Some kits come with a powder dispenser that will drop a load of powder with the turn of a handle. This can be a pretty accurate way to measure your powder if you measure a load every 10 loads or so. I have never done it this way because I choose to weigh each and every load I do to hopefully ensure consistency. I got a balance scale with my Lee press kit and have never used it. I bought a digital scale and used it and a powder trickler to measure out each and every load I build. I know own an RCBS 1500 Chargemaster that will automatically dispense my entered powder weight, each and every time I push the dispense button.

Powder being dispensed by RCBS Chargemaster:

P1020142.jpg

Cases receiving the powder: (Funnel is not necessary but does help):

P1020143.jpg

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Part 3

Step Nine: Once the cases have received their powder, they are ready to have the bullet seated. With my seating die in the press, I back the seating die out a couple turns and seat the first bullet for the first time. Now without getting to technical, the reloading manual with give you a minimum case length, that is the shortest the completed bullet can be. I will take a commercial round for my caliber and use that as my starting point for my OAL (Overall Length). There are chamber gauges out there that will measure the headspace in your chamber which will allow you load your bullets so that they are just off the lands in your barrel. With my AR-15 in .223, I have a maximum length of 2.260” due to the space in the magazine. I currently load my .223 rounds at 2.258” with is close but it fits in the magazine and tip of the bullet is just touching the lands, the round is not lodging into the barrel but it is very close to the lands.

Bullet being seated:

P1020145.jpg

Checking for overall length (digital calipers are the easiest route to go here):

P1020146.jpg

Step Ten: To crimp or not to crimp. Most factory ammunition comes with a factory crimp and a sealed primer. This basically waterproofs the bullet. There is debate on whether to crimp rounds or not, I currently crimp my rounds, and I have not noticed a difference in crimped rounds and non-crimped rounds either in accuracy or on a chronograph. If the bullet has a cannelure (stippled edge/crimp groove around some bullets) then you should crimp the bullet. Once you have finished crimp, if you choose to, you are done, go and shoot…….

Extras: I can’t over emphasize safety, you are working with smokeless gun powder and primers, use eye protection when reloading, just in case. Get into good reloading habits. I don’t have a TV in my reloading area. I might have a radio or my ipod going but it is background noise only. I do not sit down to reload unless I have a designated 1-2 hour block of time.

There are a lot of online resources geared for reloading, don’t trust someone’s extra special recipe for a bullet load. Go by the manufacturers recommendation and NEVER EXCEED THE MAXIMUM CHARGE!!!!!!

Load Development: when I begin a load development, I will start at the maximum powder charge, subtract .2 grains, and then back down in order 10 powder charge weights, lowering it .2 grains each time (i.e. 25 gr. Max, so I start at 24.8 and go down in .2 grains, 24.6, 24.4, 24.2, 24.0 etc)

When I shoot my load developments (this is knows and ladder development) I will shoot 3 shot groups at 100 yards at a single target. I don’t worry about scope adjustment, just make sure you aim at the same point every time. I have found that ¾” round garage sale stickers work awesome for this, I take a standard sight in target and place five stickers on it to allow 5 different groups to be shot. You will notice that in little as .2 grains of powder will blow a group from .5” to 1.5”, it really becomes a challenge to see how small of a group you can get.

Ladder developmental load, notice the labelinging by powder weight:

P1020162.jpg

I can’t/don’t/won’t have all the answers, I have only been reloading for the last year, but I will answer what I can. I currently reload the following calibers: 45acp, 10mm, .223, .243 win. and .308 win. I will eventually start reloading 38 special and 357 Magnum but the new case trimming machine I bought pushed that setup back a few more months. Reloading can be cost effective, like I can reload .223 rounds for less than 25 cents a piece for very accurate ammunition, compared to buying a 20 round box of Hornady for 22 bucks. But when you factor in equipment needed, it will take a while for me to see that cost effectiveness.

3 shots, 100 yards, .223 with a 60 grain Hornady Vmax bullet:

P1010164.jpg

3 shots, 100 yards, 243 with a 58 grain Hornady Vmax bullet:

P1010163.jpg

Finally, I keep a log of all the bullets I reload for, I keep track of the number, size of bullet, powder used, charge weight, primer used, seating depth, and any comments I noticed after shooting them. I suggest you do this, it is much easier to check back on your records than forget what powder you used to punch a 1 hole, 5 shot group.

Reloading Log:

P1020140.jpg

As the kids say at school after sharing at Morning Meeting, I am ready for questions or comments………….

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I guess I do have a question, how many different powders do you have for one caliber? I am going to only reload .308 so I don't need a huge variety of powders but how many do you have for your 308?

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3 or 4 depending on the bullet. I believe I have used Varget, IMR 4064, Reloader 15, and I think I also tried Benchmark with some 125 speer TNT's. My friend (his 308, I don't have one, yet) wants me to load only 180 grain bullets for him so my powder is limited. I believe the manual lists about 10 per bullet weight. Gander and the Big C have these little booklets that have Most of the major bullet makers suggested starting and max loads in it. They are great, way better than buying a reloading book from Hornady, Speer, Nosler, Sierra, etc. Definately pick up a book or two or go to the local library and see if you can get a couple from the public library system in MN.

Definately buy a book or two of your own.......

Powder is cheap, bullets in the 308 are what get ya, depending on maker. ALSO, hang on to your brass, no matter what you are shooting, Brass is outrageous right now

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I'm really leaning towards the barnes TSX bullets, from what I have heard they are the cat's you know what. My .308 is really finicky so I want to be able to reload and get the same results every time.

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I'm really leaning towards the barnes TSX bullets, from what I have heard they are the cat's you know what. My .308 is really finicky so I want to be able to reload and get the same results every time.

I've been hearing that people are having trouble stabilizing the all copper bullets, especially in the .308. The higher the copper content of a bullet, the longer it is. Longer bullets are harder to stabilize and require a faster twist rate. I don't have any experience with these bullets yet, this is just what I've been reading in the gun mags.

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I believe the box from Barnes says it needs a 1:11 twist or faster. and yes the 180 gr. TTSX is an extremely long bullet. It is also one sexy looking bullet too...........if bullets can be sexy

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I'm really leaning towards the barnes TSX bullets, from what I have heard they are the cat's you know what. My .308 is really finicky so I want to be able to reload and get the same results every time.

Picks - that is one outstanding post. Very nice job with the description and the pictures. Well done!

Brassman - I've loaded TSX's in my 22-250 (Encore Pro Hunter), 25 WSSM (Browning A-Bolt), and 270 WSM (Winchester M70). All have proven very accurate and the 22-250 and 25 WSSM have both been used on deer already this year (4 total). Like Picks said, they're more expensive but the accuracy and performance have been stellar in my guns. I also loaded some 270's for 3 friends and they shot well in those guns (Inter-Arms, Remington 700, Browning A-Bolt). Finally, I shot factory 150 grain TSX's in a .308 this summer and they were minute of sheep accurate.

Good luck!

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Lou, Minute of Sheep accurate? That must have been a fun study to participate in......

I figured you'd pick up on that. Actually, it wasn't as much fun as you'd think. Between deer flies, stinky sheep, and hard-kicking 12 gauge slug guns, I'd pretty much had my fill pretty quickly. Of course, there are now a lifetime of jokes and it was easy to choose a halloween costume this year.

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I would have used a lead sled, that many shots would have given me a permanant flinch......

We're too cheap. I ended up using a PAST pad towards the end.

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I second the lead sled, makes shooting a breeze even with my .308 in 150 grain bullets, which I would start with on the tsx's once I finally get enough money to afford some reloading gear, I have to figure out what I need first. That lead sled makes sighting in easy too, nice rock solid rest makes the human variable almost obsolete.

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I believe the box from Barnes says it needs a 1:11 twist or faster. and yes the 180 gr. TTSX is an extremely long bullet. It is also one sexy looking bullet too...........if bullets can be sexy

Oh yeah! bullets are waayy sexy! Great post by the way.

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thanks picks this will really help me cause I just got a 308 and was thinking of reloading for that and my 30-06,243 and my 41 mag. this helps me tremendously

BTW what kind of 308's you guys shooting

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I used to never like the .308 and always wondered why anyone would want to shoot it? Then I read some bullisticts and millatary reports of it and thought that maybe I should own one the gun that I have is not the first choice of rifles that I want but this was a screamin deal so I bought it.

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