Every gun enthusiast knows how expensive purchasing ammunition can be, but not everyone knows how to reload their own ammunition. It’s a delicate process that takes time and dedication, but once you have the equipment and the know-how, you can save time and money by reloading your own ammunition at home. However, before you start, you need specific reloading equipment and materials that are specially designed for reloading your own ammunition.
The first step is setting up an area to reload your ammo. Typically, this means you’ll need a flat, sturdy surface such as a table to mount your reloading press, in a room where there is both adequate lighting and shelves where you can store your newly reloaded ammo. Ideally, a shop or garage with enough lighting and shelves to work should suffice.
Next, you’ll need equipment. Purchasing the right reloading products for the first time can be difficult, especially if you are unfamiliar with what to buy. Below is a list of what you’re going to need to start reloading your own ammunition, allowing you to get out to the range more often and at a lower price than buying a new box of ammo every time.
What to buy:
- Gun Powder: The essence of any ammunition, gun powder is integral to making the bullet move out of the gun.
- Primer: The primer is what ignites the gunpowder after the pin hits the back of the cartridge
- Empty Cartridges
- Reloading Press: This piece of equipment ensures that everything is in the casing properly, which in turn ensures that the bullet isn’t going to get stuck, or worse, backfire in your rifle or sidearm.
- Calipers: For measuring the length and diameter of the empty cartridges.
- Scale: For measuring out the correct amount of gun powder.
- Reloading Manual
- Case Tumbler: Case tumblers are used to assist in cleaning out empty cartridges, making them like new again.
- Reloading Funnel: This funnel is used to put the gunpowder into the empty cartridge.
- Bullet Puller: A simple device that allows the separation of bullet, powder, and cartridge using kinetic energy. Looks like a hammer, and is relatively inexpensive.
- Media Separator: Allows you to separate cleaned casings from cleaning solution easily.
- Flash Hole Uniformer: A flash hole uniformer, or a flash hole deburring tool is use to remove burrs and imperfections from the flash hole (near where the primer usually sits). Burrs around this area can cause significant variance in bullet performance.
There are also reloading kits you can buy that have many essential items to reload your own ammunition. Some are very basic kits with just the essentials, while others contain lots of tools and items that are more geared toward experienced ammo reloaders. No matter how familiar you are with reloading your own ammunition, don’t settle for cheap kits; a good kit should only need to be purchased once, and it will save you hundreds of dollars down the road.
A good place to start looking for your reloading needs is Lee Precision, which has a wide variety of tools and equipment to get you on your feet. Lee reloading presses are especially handy to have around, as they are fantastic quality and relatively inexpensive for the first-time reloader. They even have full and complete kits that include a reloading press at a great price.
Method - How To Reload Your Ammo
Now that you have bought all of the equipment you need, it’s time to get started with reloading your ammunition. This is a fairly complex and tedious process, so it’s a good idea to make sure you’re comfortable.
Clean your shell casings. First, ensure that your casings are empty, free of gunpowder, bullets, and primer. It is exceptionally dangerous to work with any bullet that has any of these three things inside, as you could unintentionally fire into yourself. Once you are sure that the casings are empty, check each of them over for cracks, dents, or corrosion. Imperfections such as these can and will affect the integrity of the firing process, and may cause damage to the firearm or yourself.
After checking your casings, you should clean them thoroughly with an ultrasonic case cleaner or a case tumbler. This is also where you would utilize your media separator, which makes it easier to get all of your casings clean at once.
Resize your shell casings. The next step is resizing the shell casings to the correct size. When a bullet is fired, the casing expands and warps as a result of the explosion within. Naturally, the casing in this state can cause problems later on down the road, so you want to put it back to the correct size.
Using your calipers, measure the length of the casing. By using the reloading manual and a powered case trimmer, trim the casing to the correct size. This is a very exact process, as different caliber firearms require different size casings.
Prepare the flash hole. With your case now cleaned and to the correct size, you now need to use your flash hole deburring tool (or flash hole uniformer) to remove burrs and imperfections from the flash hole and case mouth. This allows for easier placement of the primer, and later, the bullet. Do not attempt to deburr the case if there is primer already seated in the case.
Set the primer. This is the next big step, and requires some very precise maneuvering. You have to seat the primer in the primer pocket in such a way that it is flush with the case head. Care must be taken during this process, as you do not want the primer to come into contact with any oils or solutions. Contact with external contaminants may soil the primer and cause it to not fire correctly.
Load the gunpowder. Once you’ve set the primer, you need to put in the gunpowder, which will help propel the bullet out of the case and into the target. Using the reloading manual, find the exact amount of gunpowder to put into your specific cartridge. Putting too much or too little will cause the bullet to fire incorrectly (if at all), and may cause undue injury to yourself or those around you. Use a gunpowder scale to accurately measure out exactly how much gun-powder you need, then use a reloading funnel to put the powder into the casing. Use extreme caution; at this stage of the reloading process, you have a primer that could potentially fire if the back of the casing is struck.
Seat the bullet. Finally, with the primer and the gunpowder set in the casing, you can now seat the bullet and begin to finalize your ammo. Using the reloading manual again, find the correct depth which to seat your bullet. Once you have found the right depth, use your reloading kit’s shell holder to hold the casing in place, and then use the reloading die to correctly seat the bullet into the casing at the right depth. Double check the depth of the bullet using your calipers, and adjust as needed. Pistol rounds and some rifle rounds will need to be crimped along the edges to ensure a secure fit.
After all of that, you now have a fully functional piece of ammunition! With time and practice, this process becomes considerably easier.
Choosing A Reloading Kit
As stated above, reloading kits don’t have to be extremely expensive, but they do have to be of good quality. Choosing a reloading kit also depends on your needs, what kind of ammo you are reloading, and how often you plan on reloading your own ammunition. All of these factors determine what kind of kit (and what kind of price range) you would be looking at.
When purchasing a reloading kit, you want to make sure that it contains everything you need. Many kits, such as an rcbs reloading kit, contain everything from the press to the instruction manual and everything in between. This kind of kit is great for beginners, as it means there are less things to buy separately. Items like reloading powder, or a special reloading bench may need to be purchased separately if you don’t already own these items.
As for where to purchase, there are numerous sites such as Amazon and Lee Precision which has ample reloading equipment for sale, and often at a great price. Many mid-tier kits run for a little more than $200, while industrial quality tools can get upwards of $600.
Best Reloading Kits
RCBS Reloading Kit
Available on: Amazon for $290.00
The RCBS Rock Chucker reloading kit has everything that a beginner needs. It features a scale and powder measure, a deburring tool, a hand priming tool, a universal loading block, and a manual. This kit can help you reload your .308 brass in under an hour, and is perfect for anyone looking to get into reloading. Not only is it inexpensive, it’s easy to use and maintain, and easily available from Amazon, the RCBS official site, and other gun specialty stores.
Hornady Reloading Kit
Available on: Amazon for $300.00 (classic kit) or $470.00 (deluxe kit)
Hornady is a well known name for gun and ammunition enthusiasts, so it only stands to reason that their reloading kit is nearly top of the line. This reloading kit comes in two “tiers”: classic and deluxe. For beginners, the classic does just fine, but more experienced firearm users may prefer the deluxe set, simply because it has more tools to get the job done.
The classic set features a single stage reloading press, a handbook, a powder measure and an electronic scale, along with a funnel for putting powder into your casings and many other small tools. The deluxe set contains everything the classic kit does, but also features a bullet puller, a shell holder pack, a caliper, and a vintage tin sign.
If you aren’t looking for a whole kit, and just want to look for a loader, the MEC reloader is a great tool to have around for a simple and easy reloading process. It features a virtually all-in-one system that rivals factory packaging. The Lee loader is another great choice if you just want a reloader, and is perfect for individuals that are on a budget.
Not everything that you need will be found in a kit. For example, shell cleaners and solutions need to be purchased separately, as well as casings for your particular model of firearm. Scales specifically made for gunpowder is an absolute must, as is a caliper. Not all kits contain these items, so it is imperative that you find them and purchase them separately. Stores such as Amazon, Cabela’s, and Lee Precision are a great place to start for all of your ammo refilling needs.