This is the second part of a series on reloading ammunition: Reload your own | Getting started | Polishing the brass | Depriming | Dropping gunpowder | Pressing the bullet

I recently explained the motivations and reasons to reload, including cost and ammunition shortages. If you've made the decision that reloading is right for you, let's take a look at the steps needed to get started.

First off, there are two primary accidents you must watch for in reloading: bad cases and the wrong amount of power (loading too much or not enough).

If reloading a caliber new to you, consult a reloading book. There are many excellent brands on the market. Do not depend on Internet hearsay. The type and weight of the bullet, overall cartridge length, type and weight of powder (measured in grains) are all crucial to a safe load.

Always wear safety glasses when reloading, and consult commercial reloading manuals for safe loads. Do not smoke. Do not become distracted while reloading.

Clean your brass

Whether you decide to use brass you have shot or brass picked up from the range, you need to clean it. Plus, I like the shiny stuff, and most of my range pickups are dirty and tarnished.

After cleaning your brass, separate it by caliber and examine for defects. Brass may be used multiples for times, but you need to inspect it for splits, deformity and obvious problems. If loading rifle cartridges, you also need to check your case length. Some people deprime (remove the old primers before cleaning). Your choice.


Eject the old primers. There are many hand tools for taking spent primers from cartridges, or you can use a die on your press to accomplish this same task. I usually do all of my cases I am reloading in the same step. I take the cases and remove primers from all of them before moving on.

A progressive press can crank out a lot of cartridges in a hurry. Although I have a turret press, I run each step to all of the cases, inspect and then proceed to the next step for my own peace of mind.

Drop powder

Whether you use a balance beam or a digital scale, the precise amount of powder is crucial in making a safe load. Depending on equipment, you will need to weigh powder for each cartridge or use an automatic powder drop.

If using an automatic, you need to stop once in a while and check the weight of the powder you are dropping. The automatic powder drop (several brands) saves a lot of time in reloading.

As with depriming, I run all of my cases. Carry them out into good light and visually inspect the finished result. A double drop of powder will overstress and destroy the barrel of the gun just like missing a powder drop will create a squib, which will jam a bullet in the chamber.

Bullet press

Set your seating die so the overall length of the round matches the OAL specification. Depending on caliber, some people also crimp the neck of the case.

A handy additional tool is a cartridge gauge. This enables you to check the conformity of the finished rounds and ensure the round will chamber properly.

This is a boring endeavor, and it sometimes seems like you need a distraction such as a TV or radio to occupy your mind. However, distractions cause you to miss or repeat steps which is dangerous. Always inspect your work when finished.

The next article will go into further detail about cleaning the brass.