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

In our previous article, we used the die for dropping the powder, which also belled the case slightly to create an appropriate size to hand-fit the bullet to the case. When adjusting the bell of the case, you only want this diameter to be large enough. Overstretching the case can reduce the number of times a cartridge can be reused.

Bullet-loading data contains an OAL dimension, which is the total length of the assembled bullet. This naturally varies by caliber. The seating die has two adjustments. The lower adjustment sets the depth the bullet will sit in the case, while the upper adjustment sets the total overall length of the cartridge.

Insert a bullet into the mouth of a prepared case and carefully run the case into the seating die with the bullet-seating plug. You feel the bullet contact the seating die and get pushed a little way into the case. Stop there.

Withdraw the case from the die and note how far the bullet protrudes from the case. It is probably sticking out too far. Slowly run the case back into the seating die and gently seat the bullet a little deeper. Repeat this step until the bullet is seated to the correct overall length as specified by your reloading manual.

Adjust the seating die for the overall length, then refine this with the depth the bullet will seat in the case. For checking operations, a caliper is a valuable tool to measure the overall cartridge length.

If you have a similar factory-loaded cartridge handy, the process of adjusting the die can be simplified. First, loosen the seating plug lock nut and back the bullet-seating plug as far out as possible. Second, place the factory load into the shell holder and run it all the way into the seating die. Third, screw the seating plug down into the seating die until you feel it stop against the bullet in the factory load. Tighten the seating plug lock nut.

Another great tool in checking the finished cartridge is a gauge. You plunk the cartridge in, and the gauge checks the overall diameter and length of the cartridge. If you do not have a gauge, another trick is to use barrel of the gun you will be using for this ammunition and plunk the cartridge into the barrel's chamber to test for fit.

This series of articles has addressed straight-sided handgun cartridges. I do not crimp the bullet when reloading as this also reduces the number of times a case can be reused.

Reloading is not rocket science. However, it is vital to follow common-sense safety rules and stay focused.