By Mark V. Lonsdale
Your reloading process should begin by clearing the bench of any powders or primers from the previous caliber being loaded. More than a few shooters have had nasty accidents by loading the wrong powder and blowing up their guns.
The powder keg behind the hopper serves as a reminder of which powder is in the measure. This bench is set up left to right – case prep, priming, powder measure and scales, bullet seating
The next step is to inspect all the components, beginning with the brass, paying particular attention to the neck and primer flash hole. With virgin brass I will use a mandrel to clean up the roundness of the neck and then de-bur inside and outside. Serious shooters may also sort their cases and bullets by weight prior to beginning reloading.
Powered de-burring tool used to clean up the case necks before priming
After priming, I set the measure to throw two or three tenths of a grain less than the targeted load. For example, if my load is 135 grains for 375 CT, I will be throwing 134.7 or 134.8 grains and then making up the final 0.2 with the trickler to exactly 135 grains. Slow, but simple and accurate. There are more expensive options but this seems to work for me.
Manually trickling up to exactly 135.0 grains
After adding the powder, visually verify that there is powder in each cartridge before seating the bullet. The last thing you need is to jam a bullet in the barrel with just the primer when there is no powder in the case. The cartridge overall length (COAL) may be driven by the magazine dimensions, if shooting a magazine fed rifle. But if shooting single shot, then 0.020″ off the lands is a good starting point for OAL development.
Using Whidden dies in an RCBS Rock-chucker Supreme to seat Cutting Edge 400 grain Lazers into virgin Peterson brass.
The finished product. 50 rounds of 375 CheyTac running Cutting Edge 400 Lazers in Peterson Cartridge Co. brass
The press to the right is a Lee Precision (90998) 50BMG to load .416 Barrett. Saves time by having a press for each caliber and only $106 for the press on Amazon.
A note on safety. Reloading, like skydiving, is not an activity that should be approached casually or absentmindedly. A lapse in judgement can be fatal.
- Before getting into reloading, do your homework and background reading.
- Have a competent reloader teach you how to reload safely. There are also several good videos on YouTube.
- Organize your reloading bench and work with a calm, organized approach.
- Keep a log and detailed notes on each caliber, to include case length, type of primer, powder charge, lot numbers of powder and bullets, and seating depth (COAL). Then log any changes in accuracy seen with each load.
- Do not push the limits when starting out. Begin with a load that is well below the recommended maximum; then work your way up to the required velocity and accuracy.
- Don’t be in a rush to develop a load. Take your time and do it right.
- Use a quality chronograph in conjunction with your load development. This will give you a direct readout of Extreme Spread (ES) and Standard Deviation (SD). Low ES and SDs equates to low vertical spread on the target at longer ranges.
- You cannot develop accurate loads with an inaccurate rifle. Have a realistic expectation as to the accuracy you can expect from a lightweight factory hunting rifle versus a custom heavy barrel target rifle.
- You cannot develop accurate loads if your foundational shooting skills are poor. If you are a novice shooter, take a class and get some coaching from a competent shooter.
- If you are getting into ELR shooting, you will find the other shooters very helpful, but before you post rookie questions on facebook, do your own research. Google is an incredible tool for ballistics research, as are the books from Applied Ballistics
Finally, loading your own ammunition can be very satisfying, especially when you see the improved accuracy over factory ammunition. There are cost savings too, but most reloaders are loading for accuracy not cost.