Letter Re: Loading Your Own Ammunition

Mr Rawles,

I’m writing to make a few points about the article Ken in Montana wrote about reloading, as there are some issues I have with it. I’ve only been reloading since 1999, but . . . .

First, Winchester primers are also brass in color, so anything other than silver doesn’t automatically mean they’re Remington. Additionally, people who are just getting into reloading should ask around about the reliability of the primers they’re going to use, as some primers have harder cups and don’t detonate reliably. I generally only use Winchester and CCI.

I’d be interested to know where Ken is getting his “dies.” I’ve never seen a die sold for $2–even at an estate/garage sale. Ken’s description sounds more like the Lee loading tools sold for people who do not have reloading presses. Those don’t even sell for that price, and are extremely slow tools to use for loading–even slower than using a single stage press.

If you want to clean your range brass and don’t have a tumbler, the best way I’ve found is to soak it in a sink or pail full of water, then run it under a tap or hose in a mesh bag to flush away the debris.

If you use a lubricant for your cases, take care not to get it into the mouth of the case, as it will contaminate the powder and could make it fail or only partially ignite. A best practice for those not using something like Hornady One Shot would be to clean the cases a second time after depriming.

Ken left out one category of primers–match primers. Match primers are generally a bit more sensitive than regular primers, to decrease issues when firing precision rifle and pistol matches. More on this in a bit, but most people will not need match primers for general purpose applications.

For magnum primers, readers should be aware that the reason there is more priming compound is to consistently ignite the generally larger powder charges found in magnum loads. Additionally, some companies, like Winchester, make the same primers for normal and magnum pistol loads.

My main issue with the article is in the primer handling and seating section. Unless you have a great deal of dirt or oil on your fingers, simply touching a primer will not cause it to fail. I’ve been using my fingers to flip primers for well over a decade with no bad results. Novices should not discard primers simply because they’ve touched them.

When seating a primer, a primer pocket loose enough to simply press primers into with hand pressure is probably one loose enough to have the primer shake loose under recoil. I would probably discard a case like that.

Additionally, because of the prevalence of surplus brass on ranges and in purchased ammunition, a reloader should NEVER strike a case mouth the seat a primer–this is an inherently dangerous practice, since primers are detonated in firing by impact. Military brass primers are crimped into place, and the crimp makes the primer pocket mouth smaller. Trying to seat a primer into a crimped primer pocket by striking the case could detonate the primer. There are multiple tools designed to remove the crimp from primer pockets. Many surplus cartridges can be identified by a circled cross on the head stamp (the base of the case where the manufacturer, year of manufacture, and caliber are stamped). Additionally, striking the mouth of the case could deform it, requiring resizing the case mouth or discarding the case if it is damaged badly enough.

When selecting a loading manual, novices should really buy one published by a powder or reloading equipment manufacturer, rather than by a bullet manufacturer. Contrary to the writer’s claim, all bullet manufacturers do NOT publish load data–this is especially true for regional manufacturers and those who make bullets that are not jacketed. The reason I say this is because powder and reloading equipment manufacturers will publish data for a type of bullet (like a 230 grain full metal jacket), as opposed to a specific model of bullet (like a Hornady 230 grain XTP). While it’s generally acceptable to use load data for bullets of the same weight and type by different manufacturers, novices may not know that.

The author’s method of seating bullets is a little suspect as well. Tapping it into place with a mallet could lead to placing the bullet off-center, potentially damaging the case mouth. Additionally, if the case mouth is not belled during the loading process, you may shave the jacket or some lead off of the bullet. This could change the bullet’s profile and potentially lead to issues with headspacing (especially for pistol bullets) if not the shavings are not cleaned off. Finally, I’ve noticed the author doesn’t cover crimping the case mouth, which is very important. Bullets not crimped into the case can pull under recoil, and not crimping the case mouth can cause failures to feed–especially in cartridges that headspace from the case mouth (like the .45 ACP).

The author’s rather cavalier attitude about overall length is slightly less alarming than his attitude about priming. Bullets seated too deeply into the case can also cause excess pressure and damage the gun and injure the shooter. A ruler is not accurate enough, and different bullet styles will not look similar enough to judge proper seating by eye. Get a set of calipers which show the measurement to the thousandth. Sincerely, – Kent from Illinois

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