By Andrew Skousen – via The World Affairs Brief
Learning to reload ammunition yourself can be daunting. After all, we are talking about assembling cartridges for a controlled explosion that will launch a bullet at high velocity. But there is more than just safety in the learning curve. There are many brands and varieties of reloading materials including the various weights, shapes and material used for bullets of even the same caliber. If that wasn’t enough there is a lot of technical details to making accurate ammunition including balancing the complicated physics involved. Not enough powder for the size of bullet can affect the accuracy and force of the bullet. Too much powder and you could damage your firearm. Bullet and powder manufacturers carefully research the best balance of these factors to give shooters accurate and safe loads, and they publish this load data, which is essentially a recipe with precise measurements for the type and amount of powder for each caliber and bullet weight. A good reloading manual can help you navigate all these hurdles and catalog most of the load data for common rounds.
Reloading manuals are most often produced by makers of reloading equipment or materials and consequently favor that manufacturer’s products, sometimes with fewer details about the other options. On the flip side, the best information for a specific product line is the one produced by the same company.
I started with Modern Reloading by Richard Lee ($20), maker of the prevalent LEE reloading presses. His impressive 720 page manual focuses on the value and benefits of his reliable and cost-effective presses which still have a strong following. His explanations at the beginning describe how to reload in a very easy to read fashion with many in-depth, practical tidbits about the potential problems to look for and avoid in any reload. Don’t be put off by the size; the bulk of the manual is a very comprehensive set of load data (the “recipes” or tables showing amount of powder to use according to caliber, powder type, and bullet) covering all the most common bullet and powder types—and many of the uncommon ones as well. I was disappointed with the lack of index and it could stand a glossary of terms for those unfamiliar with everything ballistics, but overall it is a respected guide among even experienced reloaders.
The Lyman Reloading Manual is also a popular manual, often called the “gold standard.” They strive to stay up to date and are currently in their 50th Edition ($25, but the 49th Ed. sells for $11). At 450 pages it covers the most common loads and has data for many cast bullets as well (Lyman sells bullet casting molds among other things). Reviewers were disappointed; however, that some common calibers only had information for metal jacketed bullets and left off other common types of bullets.
The powder company Hodgdon also produces an annual guide with 140 including load data. The 2016 Annual Reloading Manual is only $9 making it the cheapest option. It has popular reloading articles and seems more like a large magazine with an expansive table of load data. Most reloaders like to use this as a good 2nd reference manual for a second opinion about loads.
For more general reloading advice I recommend The Beginner’s Guide to Reloading Ammunition: With Space and Money Saving Tips for Apartment by Steven Gregersen. This has an easy to read style but is still very informative including when to resize the casings and the differences in powder types. It does not have load data so you will need another manual like those mentioned above.
I recommend buying a manual early in the reloading process and referring to it often when buying supplies and equipment to verify you have the right load data. As manufacturers develop different varieties of bullets and powder, your manual may go out of date. In this case just download (and print out) the more specific information for any specialty bullets or powder you buy that is not covered in your manual.
Once you learn the basics, you will find that reloading is not difficult, but it does require careful work and attention to detail. Experienced reloaders like Richard Lee provide invaluable advice, but nothing compares the trial and error of doing it yourself and finding what tools or information you were lacking to get the job done right. Get them before hard times hit