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Reloading your own rifle ammunition


Reloading is an economical way of providing
ammunition for your rifle. And because handloads are potentially more accurate than factory
loaded ammo, you can customise your loads to suit your rifle and its purpose, be it
hunting or target shooting. Above all, reloading is easy and safe and, for many shooters, an enjoyable and relaxing past time. Almost every centrefire cartridge can be reloaded. While dies and cases for some obsolete calibres are still around, they may be hard to find. Ammunition consists of the cartridge case,
the primer, the powder or propellant, and the bullet or projectile. The cartridge cases, or the ‘brass’ as
it’s called, can be bought new or sourced from firing off factory-loaded ammunition.
Be careful buying secondhand cases though, even those labelled ‘once-fired’. I prefer
to use new brass that I know where it comes from. Because brass is reusable, keep a record of
the number times it’s been loaded and always inspect it closely before each loading session.
As the brass ‘grows’ in the chamber when it’s fired, check the case length and trim
if necessary. And most importantly, look for splits in the case or neck and signs of weakened brass that could lead to potentially dangerous case separation. Now there’s some other things you can do
to prepare your cases for reloading and there’s dozens of theories about which ones are essential
and which ones are not. It’s up to you to weigh-up the benefits and decide how much
time and effort you want to spend on reloading. For instance, using previously fired cases,
you can tumble-polish them, clean them in an ultrasonic bath, clean the residue out of the primer pockets, and chamfer the case mouth. And the list goes on. There’s a wide range of powders available
from several manufacturers, as there are bullets and primers. Reloading is all about getting
the best bullet, powder, primer combination that suit your needs and your rifle. Now at this point, you have to do some research
to find the load that suits your purpose. That means a lot of reading and talking to
people who are already reloading and preferably using the same calibre that you are. Most manufacturers of bullets and powders
publish loading guides to get you started. Reading this information is an absolute must.
You need to be safe when reloading and firing your handloads, so always follow their advice,
especially about ‘start loads’. Very simply, the steps to reloading your own
ammunition are: prime the new cartridge case, fill it with a measured amount of powder,
and put in the appropriate bullet. Now let’s look at that process in detail. Always check the manufacturer’s instructions
with every piece of reloading gear you buy and make sure it’s installed as they specify. The first die you need is the decapping and
sizing die. This pushes out the used primer and draws the case back to its original shape. There are two types of sizing die: the full-length
die sizes the whole case and the neck. The other type of die sizes only the neck of the
case back to original dimensions. You would use just a tiny amount of lubrication on the case. The second step is to insert a new primer. There are a number of tools you can use for this operation. The third step is to weigh out the powder
charge. Alternatively, you can use a powder thrower that drops the powder directly into
the case. The final step is to place the bullet in the
case neck and push it in to a predetermined depth using the seating die. Use calipers
to check the cartridge overall length. Too long and the cartridge may not fit in the
chamber or the magazine. Too short and it could affect accuracy. Again, reloading manuals
have all the information about seating depths. Note-taking is an important part of reloading,
especially when you’re developing, or ‘working-up’ a load at the range. There’s many things you can change to fine-tune your loads for accuracy. Whatever methods you choose to reload your
ammo, it’s important to develop good house-keeping habits such as keeping your work area tidy
and organised, and avoiding distractions. Over time, you’ll develop systems and routines
that will make your reloading easy, enjoyable and safe. This was a very basic introduction to reloading. Read all the information you can get your hands on. Buy the best gear you can afford
and develop good habits. Above all, keep it safe.

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