Reloading Ammunition For WTSHF- Part 2, by S.B.

Having removed the spent primer, you now need to insert a new one. There are specialty tools available for this, as well as attachments to do this on your press. How your particular setup will work depends entirely on what equipment you buy, but all methods insert a new primer into the primer pocket in the base of the brass case. Exactly which primer you need depends on your cases. For example, some 45 ACP cases use small pistol primers, and some use large pistol primers. Your specific round formula ca be found in your reloading manual (e.g. standard or magnum primers). Once a new primer is inserted you are ready to charge with propellant.

Charging is accomplished by pouring a measured amount of propellant into your prepared case. Your reloading manual will have charts showing a starting load and a max load for various propellants when used with particular bullet weights and types. Use the chart, and start with the starting load and work your way up until you find a load you are happy with. How you measure the charge depends on your equipment and the type of propellant.

In general, most reloaders either weigh their charges or use a volumetric powder measure. For precision, weighing charges is most accurate. A charge is measured in grains. This is an English measure, wherein there are 7000 grains in one pound. That’s pretty small. I started out weighing my charges for accuracy. Eventually, I set up the volumetric powder drop by making minor adjustments until a dropped charge weighed almost exactly what I wanted it to be for my round. I still spot check while loading, to make sure the measure stays the same during the whole loading process. Consequently, I only use my powder drop for pistol rounds, because that is what I shoot the most. That way I don’t have to readjust every time I change to reload rifle rounds. Some propellants are not well-suited to volumetric measures. Some propellants, including my favorite for .308, are extruded. This means the propellant looks like a bunch of small sticks. These tend not to flow well into some powder drops, including mine, so I prefer to weigh charges when reloading using these propellants.

Once you have a charge measured, you pour it into your case mouth. I use a funnel. Take care to make sure you only have one measured charge in your case. I don’t have to worry too much about this, because for every round that I reload one charge of propellant fills the case well over half-full. It is enough so that a double charge would overflow the case. This is not the case with all propellants, and I still do a visual inspection of every charged case to make sure they all look the same. A double charge is very dangerous and can cause catastrophic failure of your firearm and serious injury. Take all reasonable steps to avoid one.

Once the propellant is in the cases, I don’t like to leave them sitting around for too long. Some people will charge one case, then move immediately to seat a bullet on that case; if that works for you, go for it. It seems more efficient to me to work in batches. I will charge a batch of 100-200 cases, having them all stacked neatly in old factory ammo boxes or reloading trays, and then the whole batch will be ready to seat the bullets.

Your reloading die set will have a seating die. You will want to set this up according to the manufacturer’s instructions and to accommodate the overall length of your completed cartridge, which is found, you guessed it, in your reloading manual. Then it is simply a matter of putting the case, which has been charged with propellant, onto the ram of your press, putting a bullet on top, and guiding it into the die. Many people, myself included, will run a couple of un-charged cases through to seat bullets first, just to make sure that the length adjustment is right on. You also need to use caution when changing any component of your round. I once switched from 55 grain full metal jacket bullets to 55 grain pointed soft point bullets in the middle of a .223 run, because I had run out of FMJs. Despite the bullet similarity, my cartridge length was off by a significant amount until I readjusted my seating die.

After the bullet is seated, there is the question of whether or not to crimp your bullet into the case. Mostly this is done to prevent bullets from getting set-back into the case as a result of a myriad of factors (recoil under fire, rough handling, et cetera). There are several schools of thought here, but it all boils down to what type of firearm you will be using the round in and how you will be storing the round until you use it. I typically put a light taper crimp on my completed rounds, and this is accomplished by adjusting the seating die to crimp at the same time that it seats the bullet. Some others use a separate die for crimping. Please note that revolvers are different, and rounds for revolvers typically have a serious crimp called a roll crimp. I don’t have any revolvers, and thus I have no experience reloading for them, so I will leave that topic to someone who does have that experience.

Now that you have a completed round of ammunition (or several of them), you need to store them. There are many ways to store ammunition, and I won’t pretend that mine is the best, but this is what I do, just as an example.

The place I buy my pistol projectiles ships them in batches of 500 (with space to spare) in fairly sturdy cardboard boxes. Once I had reloaded a bunch of pistol ammunition and determined that I had filled all of my available small containers, I started looking at these cardboard boxes lying about. I can comfortably fit 350 completed rounds in each of these boxes that originally held 500 projectiles. The box weight is close enough that I don’t worry about breaking the box, and they are packed tightly enough that I don’t worry about them rattling around too much. Three hundred and fifty rounds is a good amount of ammo for one or two range sessions for me, so I don’t have a bunch of partial boxes, making it hard for me to keep a handle on my inventory. I do use USGI and plastic ammo cans but not usually for bulk ammunition storage. A USGI ammo can would likely hold over 1200 rounds of 9mm, if packed in bulk. That is too heavy for me to throw in the range bag and go shoot.

My .223/556 ammunition is stored in reused factory boxes of 50, with a few 50 round plastic storage boxes in the mix, and then combined into .50 cal. USGI ammo cans or large plastic ammo cans. I have only recently exhausted my supply of used factory boxes, so now I’ll have to find another option. I am really not a fan of storing pointed rifle rounds loose in bulk boxes, so I suspect that I may buy used stripper clips and store my .223 ammo on those. As a bonus, it makes it quick to reload AR-15 magazines.

My .308s are in used factory boxes of 20 and a couple of plastic storage boxes of 50. The factory boxes combine well into USGI and plastic ammo cans, but the 50 round boxes are a little bulky. So far I still have plenty of used factory boxes, as I don’t go through too much or produce much with a .308 bolt action. However, one of my other hobbies is building ARs, and I envision increasing .308 production once I finish my AR-10 build.

Once you have gotten the hang of reloading, the opportunities to improve your shooting are endless. For example, I once traded for a bolt action rifle that I planned to use for hunting. I got a great deal on it. When I shot it, I discovered why: My group at 100 yards with factory ammo looked like a shotgun pattern. It was terrible. Rather than swearing and throwing the rifle off a bridge, which was my first inclination, I decided to do a ladder test. This is loading three rounds with a starting charge of powder (from the reloading manual), and increasing the powder charge by small steps, like a ladder, to determine if there was a “sweet spot” for this rifle. I fired my first three round group with the starting load, and through the spotting scope it looked as if I had missed the target with two of the three rounds. As I approached the target, I found out that, no, all three rounds had hit in basically the same hole. The guy who traded the rifle to me probably did so because he couldn’t get acceptable groups with factory ammo. It just turns out that the rifle liked a load slightly less hot than most factory loads.

There is something rewarding about being able to produce your own ammunition. The process is not hard, and there are plenty of resources available to help you. I encourage you to evaluate your own circumstances to see if reloading is appropriate for you. If you do take the reloading plunge, I hope that this has shown how reloading can be accomplished without spending a ton of money or having a great deal of space. Also, nothing that I do or described above requires any electricity, so it is perfect for someone who lives off the grid, or for WTSHF. Until that time, keep your powder dry and God bless.