When it comes to products that make loading safe, accurate and economical ammunition a routine practice, reloaders have never had it so good.
Reloading ammunition involves preparing metallic cases by bringing them back to original dimensions after the cartridges have been fired. It also involves replacing the spent primers, adding accurately determined powder charges and seating bullets in the cases.
Like many other tasks, reloading ammunition requires tools to perform the various operations, and the range of available equipment is enormous. Moreover, as a result of new designs and manufacturing methods, upgraded items appear on the market frequently. Reloaders have never had it so good when it comes to products that make loading safe, accurate and economical ammunition a routine practice.
Loading cartridges is not an overly complex process, but one must make decisions regarding components. Those decisions are based on experiments carried out under controlled conditions to determine which powders are suitable for certain cartridges, how much powder can be used, etc. For over a century, Lyman has published such data from results carried out in the laboratory.
The most recent product is the 50th edition of the Lyman Reloading Manual. One of its desirable features is that pressures are published for loads that were fired in special pressure barrels. The Lyman manual is very comprehenisive and lists loads for all popular calibers, as well as some that are not so popular. There is also a section that gives loads for Thompson/Center firearms and, in some cases, the velocities are listed for barrels of different lengths. For the reliable data needed to produce safe loads, the Lyman Reloading Manual is a bargain.
New propellants are introduced frequently, and new calibers become the latest rage. In order to keep up with these changes, bullet and powder companies update their loading manuals from time to time. In keeping with this tradition, Hornady has recently released the 10th edition of its popular Hornady Reloading Manual.
One thing that can be said about this book is that virtually no cartridge is neglected. Data is included for some old-timers, classic big-game cartridges and the new rounds, such as the 300 Whisper and 6.5 Creedmore. Although bullet selection is limited to Hornady products, that line is enormously extensive, with numerous choices in most calibers. The Hornady Reloading Manual, 10th Edition is a treasure trove of data.
MSRP: $42 (hardcover); $20 (iBook, Kindle)
Various devices have been designed to seat primers in cartridge cases. Long ago, the makers of presses incorporated a movable arm that could hold a primer at the upper end. Swinging the arm to a position under the case and drawing the case downward inserts the primer. This operation was slow and did not always provide a good “feel” to the process. Tools were developed that involved seating the primer by a squeezing motion that moved the primer upward. A later development had a saucer attached that held numerous primers so that a single primer did not need to be inserted each time.
Now comes a priming tool from Lee Precision that can be mounted on a bench or a special Lee Bench Plate System. The primer feed allows one primer to move from the reservoir to a position under the case, and by slight pressure, the seating ram forces the primer into position. This might well be the most convenient tool for putting primers in cases.
Forster Products of Lanark, Illinois, is long recognized for producing quality items for the reloader, and its case trimmers have become the standard for comparison. When a cartridge is fired, it is a common occurrence for the case to lengthen slightly. If cases longer than normal are reloaded, firing such a cartridge can prevent expansion at the mouth, which can result in increased pressure. A case trimmer is used to reduce the length of a case by trimming off the excess metal. The case is held rigidly, and a rotating cutter trims metal from the case mouth to give the desired length.
One of the most popular case trimmers is the Forster Original. Think of it as a miniature lathe. Setting the length and rotating the crank handle trims the cases to the appropriate length. A case holder and a pilot of appropriate diameter are required, but the Forster Trimmer is flexible enough to work with almost any case. The Original Case Trimmer is for .17 to .460 calibers, and the Classic Case Trimmer is for large-bore and black powder calibers. The case trimmer is also available in a .50 BMG model. Forster also offers kits that include collets and pilots.
MSRP: $112 (Original); $135 (Classic and .50 BMG); $155 (Original kit); $176 (Classic kit)
The process of trimming cases results in a raised wire edge on both the inside and outside of the case mouth as brass is displaced. This raised material must be removed in order to allow a bullet to be inserted easily and so that the outside of the case mouth has a smooth edge. Simple hand tools are available, but if one processes a large batch of cases, the hands get cramped and numbed.
The Hornady Case Prep Duo is essentially a cordless/rechargable drill that features a dual head: One cutting tool chamfers the outside of the case neck; the other deburrs the inside. The Case Prep Duo can also accommodate case neck brushes and primer pocket cleaners. It has a grip that swivels 180 degrees—the straight configeration works in conjunction with the integrated rubber feet for benchtop use, and in the bent configuration, it works like a handheld power tool. The spindle head can be removed so the tool can be used as a power screwdriver.
If there is one parameter that most reloaders like to vary in their reloads it is the propellant. Some propellants have burning rates that make them suitable for use in small pistol calibers, whereas others are suitable for use in large magnum rifle rounds.Known as Red, Blue, Green, Target and Unequal, the new powders from IMR are intended for shotgun and handgun loading. The new IMR family of powders burns green, clean and more efficiently. IMR Target is advertised as suitable for .25 ACP, .32 S&W Long, .38 Special, .44 Special and .45 ACP. IMR Blue and Green are shotgun powders. Unequal is listed for shotguns, as well as handguns ranging from .32 ACP to .44 Magnum—including 9mm Luger, .40 S&W and .45 ACP. IMR Red is listed as suitable for use in .38 Special, .44 Special, .45 Auto, .45 Colt and 12-gauge shotgun. This new series of powders covers a lot of possibilities for reloaders.
MSRP: $20–$25 per pound
Delivering powder charges that are accurate and reproducible is essential to producing accurate reloads. Some reloaders weigh charges on a powder scale, which assures that these criteria are met, but it is a slow process. Powder measures that dispense a charge with the pull of a handle have been around for a long time. They generally rely on a rotating drum that with a cavity, the volume of which can be varied to measure the desired amount of powder.
A quantum leap forward in this type is the RCBS ChargeMaster Lite that can be set to throw charges that weigh from 2 to 300 grains with ±0.1 grain accuracy. Unlike some older measures, in which the charge delivered was adjusted by means of screws, the new RCBS measure allows the user to make settings digitally. Despite its compact size, it holds just under a pound of smokeless powder for uninterupted use. This ultra modern powder measure is fast and accurate.
Producing ammunition of the greatest precision is a major goal for many reloaders, who will go to almost any lengths to gain even a slight improvement. When you are trying to hit a half-inch circle at 100 yards with every shot, it is necessary to do all the little things right.
A product that can assist in that regard is the Forster Products Bushing Bump Neck Bench Rest Sizing Die. With it, the user can make adjustments that allow the neck to be resized the desired amount to control bullet tension. Rather than full-length resizing or even resizing the complete neck of the case, the necks can be resized partially while still “bumping” the shoulder to control headspace for cartridges that headspace on the shoulder. The advantage of this method is prolonged case life, because the neck is sized down as little as possible. Bushings are available that make it possible to adjust neck sizing to within 0.001 inch. When ultimate precision is the goal, this specialty die is worth it.
MSRP: $84 (die only); $126 (die plus three neck bushings)
There are those who load large quantities of ammunition intended for casual shooting. At the opposite end of the spectrum are those shooters who try to squeeze the ultimate accuracy out of their guns. The latter group will go to almost any length to shrink a group by one-tenth of an inch. Because bullet seating is so important to accuracy, seating dies that incorporate a micrometer in the seating die are a popular accessory.
Redding now offers premium die sets that include the Seating Die with Micrometer Seat Stem for precise bullet-seating depth to 1/.001 inch, as well as a Carbide Expander Button for reduced stress on the case neck during expansion. As a result, these premium die sets offer the critical reloader two important advantages. Available in many popular calibers. New for 2017 are .22 Nosler and 6.5 Creedmoor.
MSRP: $151 (full length); $195 (deluxe)
Picking up empty cases that have been thrown about by auto-loading firearms is a pain in the back. As a result, a device that could collect them from the range floor/ground would be welcome. Now, there is such a tool.
The Ammo-Up Compact uses “fingers” that allow the cases to squeeze between them. These polymer-coated fingers provide sufficient traction to hold the cases securely. Rolling the device as one would a lawn mower makes brass recovery simple. It works on grass, sand, dirt, asphalt and concrete. Once collected, a pump of the handle ejects the brass into the collection container.
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the August 2017 print issue of Gun World Magazine.