Reloading, also called hand-loading, allows you to customize the cartridges you shoot. If you are careful you can make more accurate ammunition than you can buy. In addition there are savings to be had. Ammunition you hand-load will cost less than half of what commercial ammunition costs.
Another benefit is that you can make ammo that is not readily available. Ammo for antique or obsolete guns for example.
Most competitive shooters load their own ammo. Sometimes a small tweak in the load will improve accuracy for a particular gun.
Caution: Always use load data from a reliable source. This data has been tested to be sure chamber pressures fall within safe limits. Excessive chamber pressure can be very dangerous! Stick to the data!
What follows is an overview of the process of reloading. It is not a substitute for hands on training or a good manual. You have to pay attention to the details in order to reload safely.
At a minimum:
Nice to have:
You need to have the following on hand:
Caution: Primers are impact sensitive and more powerful than they look. Handle them carefully. Wear safety glasses. Keep them in their original boxes. Store them away from powder and other flammables.
Use your priming tool to seat a primer in each case. Primers should sit slightly below flush. High primers are hazardous as they may ignite during feeding or rough handling with disastrous results. But, on the other hand, be careful not to crush them.
Develop a feel for how they press in and what they look like. A loose primer might indicate a worn out case. If they pop out during firing they can jam your gun, burn the bolt face, or cause injury. If they are tight they will be damaged and may not work properly. Tight primers are almost always because of failure to remove the crimp or dirty primer pockets.
Different powders come in different shapes. Some are balls, some are rods others are disks. Some meter (dispense consistently) better than others. You must develop a technique that will ensure the powder you are using will be the correct weight. You may have to weigh every charge for powders that don't meter well.
Set your scale to zero and be sure it balances. Adjust as needed. Now set your scale to the correct powder weight. Dispense some powder and weigh it. Adjust your dispenser as needed.
Most powder dispensers dispense right into the case. If you are using a different system you may need a tiny funnel. Make sure all the powder gets in the case.
When you have powder in all your cases, peek into each case and judge whether the level of powder looks the same. Re-weigh any that look different. I have had some of the powder meant for one case get stuck in the funnel and end up in the next case, along with all the powder meant for that second case. When I performed the "peek in" test one looked low and the other looked overfilled, which was in fact what happened.
The bullet seating die also does the crimping, when crimping is needed. The purpose of crimping is to keep the bullet from moving in the case during feeding, handling, and recoil. Don't crimp if you don't need to, and only crimp bullets designed to be crimped. Keep the die clean to avoid alignment problems between the bullet and the case.
First set the die to crimp, if needed, or to just barely not crimp. Then set the bullet seating depth.
Place a bullet on top of a filled case and run it gently into the bullet seating die. Measure the over all length. Check the crimp or lack of crimp. Check to see if jacket material is being shaved off the bullet. If so you might need a smoother, or more uniform, or bigger chamfer on the case. Adjust as needed.
Develop a feel for how the bullets press in. Any that feel different should be suspect. Loose might indicate a split neck, or a case that was not resized. Tight might be a bad bullet, or a mis-adjusted expander in the resizing die, or a bad chamfer on the case, or an alignment problem between the bullet and the case.
Remember that rimless, straight walled cases (most semi-auto pistol ammo) headspace from the case mouth so a crimp is undesirable.
Headspace is the distance between the chambered cartridge and the closed bolt. It is measured from the Datum Point. The datum point is the part of the chamber that stops the cartridge when it is chambered.
This datum point may be:
Headspace is important. Too short and the cartridge won't chamber. Too long and the case may rupture, causing injury and firearm damage.
Your resized cases must fall within tolerance to headspace correctly.