Hand Loading Handbooks
T he first thing you need 1reloading is a set of two or three reloading manuals. I prefer those published by Hodgdon, Hornady, Speer, and Nosler. I have found that they are the most dependable when giving loads and velocities.
If you are using Barnes bullets you will need a Barnes manual, also, because Barnes bullets are of completely different construction.
Once you have your manuals, read them from cover to cover. They have a lot of very valuable information on reloading in general and on the specific cartridges you will reload. When you start working up any new load, consult all the manuals to see whether they agree. Often they do not. If not, pick the one with the lowest recommended starting load and work up from there. It is always better to be safe than sorry.
Never start with the top load. A blown up gun is not pleasant.
After the reloading manuals, you will need to buy either a starter kit or gather the equipment you will need to start reloading. At first you will need a press, a powder scale, a loading block to hold the cartridges you are working on, a set of dies for the correct caliber, and a set of brushes to clean and lubricate the inside of the case necks on rifle cartridges.
With these few tools you can begin reloading your own cartridges. I began with just that. I poured my powder into a porcelain bowl and dipped it out with a spoon, to spoon it into the pan on the powder scale.
Pretty quickly, however, you will find that there are other gadgets that make it much easier to reload your ammo. I would recommend a powder trickler, a powder measure, a case trimmer, primer pocket cleaning tool, dial caliper, a case chamfering and deburring tool, and a lube pad. A caliper, case trimmer and deburring tool will be mandatory in short order if you are loading rifle ammo, as your rifle cases will lengthen and require trimming.
First thing you do, once you have all your tools, is to set the dies. This is easy when you know how, but can be awfully tricky if you have never done it before. It is, however, well described in most of the reloading manuals, and most dies come with instructions in the box.
After you have your dies set, the first thing is to resize your fired brass. If you are using new unprimed brass, check to see that all the case mouths are nice and round. If you are using fired brass, brush and very, very lightly lubricate the inside of the case —a tiny amount of case lube rubbed on the brush is the best way.
Now lubricate the sides of the case, but not the shoulder, resize it in the resizing die, then check to see whether it is the correct length. It probably won’t be, so separate the cases that are too long and trim them back to proper length, making certain they are all the same length. Differing lengths in a batch of brass will generally not shoot well, and brass that is too long will raise chamber pressure.
Now that you have all your brass trimmed to the right length, deburr the inside and outside of the case mouth, wipe the sizing lubricant from the case (I use an old cloth soaked with rubbing alcohol), and replace the primers.
Be absolutely certain that you do not get any lubricant on the primer, as that can render it inert in a hurry. Now you have cases that are ready to reload with powder and bullets.
Again go to your reloading manuals and choose a powder that balances well with the caliber and bullets you have chosen. For instance, I use a 130-grain Speer bullet in my .270, and my favorite powder in this situation is Hodgdon’s H-4831.
Pick the starting load, set your powder scale, and load, say, 10 rounds with the starting load. Then fire the loads, looking for signs of over pressure and accuracy. If you like the performance of the load, and there are no signs of excessive pressure, you can then begin working your way up, loading a half-grain more powder each time—each time looking for signs of too much pressure. When you get to a point where you get the velocity you desire, record the load and make notes of its performance. Such as:
12/12/15 – .270 Winchester – Model 700 Remington
130-grain Speer Hot-Cor – Winchester brass – CCI 200 primers.
58.0 grains of H-4831 – Over All Length (OAL) 3.350 inches
Estimated muzzle velocity 2,850 – no signs of over pressure – accuracy 1.2-inch average for three shots @ 100 yards.
As you progress, you will probably decide you need a chronograph because you will discover that the reloading manuals do not always agree on the velocity a certain load produces.
In fact, it is darned seldom they agree with each other, and even more seldom that the velocity listed in the manual is the same as the actual velocity produced in your rifle. Each rifle is different. Half the fun is working up loads to find the one your particular rifle likes best. Almost never does a rifle shoot best with factory ammunition.
That’s all for now, but be sure and check next month’s Texas Fish and Game magazine for my article on Advanced Reloading. If you have any questions you can contact me at the email address below.
Email Steve LaMascus at
Email Steve LaMascus at ContactUs@fishgame.com