Sooner or later, every gun owner hears about handloading. However, there's a right way of doing it. Read more about it below.
Handloading Mistakes to Avoid
Many find the allure of a rewarding hobby that can theoretically lower your cost of shooting too seductive to pass up.
But not all of them are aware of just how exacting and demanding a task handloading can be before diving in… and end up learning the hard way.
There’s no reason for you to be one of them!
We’ve put together a quick guide to all of the basic handloading tips and no-nos that you ought to know.
You Need Less Space Than You Think
Handloading ammunition can seem like a task that requires a fairly large workspace.
And granted, having a regular-sized workshop or tool shed dedicated to handloading can be great, but it isn’t necessary.
We’ve heard of people using a 3-foot by 3-foot bench with a bench plate and finding it just as easy to work with as taking up a whole basement!
You can even get portable reloading stands that can fold up for easy storage if a semi-permanent solution is still going to take up more space than you can afford.
Start with a Single Stage Press (and Never Get Rid of It)
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Equal part basic tip and no-no here.
When you’re starting out with handloading, using a single-stage press allows you to focus on the basic task and improve your output quality without the complications of using a progressive press.
But that doesn’t mean you should rush out and get a progressive press as soon as you feel you’ve mastered the single-stage one.
And it definitely doesn’t mean you should go ahead and sell your single stage press to help pay for the more expensive progressive press!
Progressive presses are great for high-production calibers.
Equally so if you’re handloading high quantities of a caliber, justifying the need to set up the dedicated tool heads.
But when it comes to calibers you don’t use often, working up a new load, or dealing with precision ammo, a single-stage press is more often than not the better choice even as a handloading veteran.
When It Comes to Reloading Dies, Bargain Hunting is Worth It
A lot of people want to stay loyal to a particular brand, and that’s fine.
But when it comes to reloading dies, it can cause you to end up spending more money than you need to.
All of the major manufacturers make high-quality reloading dies that will last decades if you take care of it.
And all of them will fit on any other major manufacturer’s press.
So don’t let brand loyalty become a no-no because you pass up on a bargain that will save you money when buying new reloading die!
Don’t Forget the Powder Measure
A high-quality powder measure is at least as important as having a handloading press.
And with some powders, it can very realistically be the difference between a safe load and a trip to the emergency room.
As a general rule, you want to run a few test loads at the beginning of any handloading session, to make sure your powder measure is properly calibrated.
Ideally, you should also have a dedicated powder measure for each tool head you have if you’re using a progressive press.
Finally, don’t forget to recheck the calibration every 25 rounds when using a single-stage press, 50 rounds with progressive presses.
Buy the Latest Loading Manual and Follow the Starting Load Recommendations
If you’re interested in handloading, you need to learn how to read and follow the instructions you’ll find in the most recently updated loading manual.
Yes, this means buying a book and reading it religiously.
But if you don’t, you might as well not bother with the quality powder measure, because you’re going to end up losing a hand (or worse) if you don’t.
Ammunition manufacturers have put tons of time and money into finding the most accurate load to use with a particular powder and/or cartridge.
And even though the starting load recommendations are typically about 10% less than the maximum load (which you’ll find in the same manual), they tend to be closer to that “most accurate” figure.
Don’t get cocky.
If you’re using a new powder or starting with a new caliber, use the starting load recommendations before you experiment with approaching the maximum load recommendation.
Always Check Your Brass for Signs of Stress
You might be surprised to hear that when you fire a gun, the brass casing expands to seal the chamber.
This prevents combustion gases from hitting you instead of propelling the projectile forward.
But with repeated use, the stress of expanding, contracting, then being pressed back to its working size can cause the brass to crack.
And a cracked casing won’t hold your bullet firmly or seal the chamber when you pull the trigger.
It might even separate, blocking your chamber at best, severely damaging your firearm and injuring you at worst.
As a general rule, if a casing goes through your press with very little effort, there’s very likely a crack.
Inspecting your casings before and after putting them through your press takes time. But in the long-run, it’s more than worth it.
Start with the Basics
There are some more in-depth tips and no-nos that should be considered when handloading.
But to keep this post accessible, we’re going to stick to the basics we’ve already covered.
The more you get to know about handloading ammunition, the more you’ll realize that most of it is simply using common sense and following the loading manual!
What our handloading tips do you have for beginner gun owners? Share them in the comments section!
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on July 26, 2020, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.