getting started with ammo reloading

Getting Started Reloading Ammo

Interested in reloading ammo? Good on you - the DIY ethic should remain alive and well. For people who do a good amount of shooting, it's a great way to save some cash. For people who like to experiment responsibly and have particular requirements of their ammunition, it's a good way to ensure you get what you want.

If you're careful, that is. As many upsides as there are...a lot can go wrong!

So how do you get started? Find out…

First You'll Need Reloading Equipment

To start reloading, the first thing you need is reloading equipment. Granted, reloading equipment can be had for relatively cheap.

Instead of buying equipment piecemeal, a lot of people start with a reloading kit. Plenty of quality kits are out there and plenty of people who reload ammo use the kits for years without issue.

Purchased new, reloading kits generally start around $300 or so, give or take a bit. You might be able to find one for closer to $200. Said kit is going to take up a decent amount of space, so you need some sort of workspace to do your reloading in.

For newbies, it's suggested to get a used reloading kit or an entry-level kit before going for the best reloading kit money can buy. That way, you don't go broke before reloading to save money.

Try A Lee Ammo Loader First

A Lee Ammo Reloader

Let's say you don't necessarily want to spend that much money or devote space to reloading equipment. Try a Lee Loader!

The Lee Loader is a classic reloading kit that's been around for decades. It isn't expensive (they start around $30) and the whole kit is about the size as a set of drill bits. The only thing you'll need besides the kit and consumables is a plastic mallet.

The Lee Loader includes dies, taps, and a couple of other bits. You can use it to deprime, resize, prime, load and crimp a cartridge by hand. A few taps of the hammer and you're good. Clean your cases first, but they actually work.

Watch it in action here:

Thing about Lee Loaders, though, is that you have to buy one for the caliber you're going to be reloading.

Want to do 9mm reloading? You'll have to buy the loading kit for it, but you can start turning out 9mm rounds. Same goes for .45 ACP, .357 Magnum, .38 Special and more.

There are also Lee Loaders for rifle ammunition.

.30-06 reloading? Want to give a 150-grain Nosler Partition a bit more zip? Totally doable.

Want to do .223 reloading? Same thing...but there is a caution. Lee Loaders only size the neck of the round. Semi-auto, lever-action and pump-action rifles require the entire case to be sized, so the AR crowd is going to have to invest in a reloading kit that will size the whole case. That said, semi-auto pistol and bolt-action rifle rounds are fine.

So, want to get started in reloading without breaking the bank? That's how.

Reloading: What Supplies Will I Need?

supplies for reloading ammo

As far as reloading supplies, there are a few consumables that you'll need to have on hand.

You'll need brass. You can either get spent brass at the range or from friends and reload that way, or purchase reconditioned or new empty cases.

You'll need primers. Primers come in a variety of sizes, including small pistol, large pistol, small rifle and large rifle. If you reload a wide variety of rounds, you'll need to have all the appropriate primers on hand.

You'll also need gunpowder, and you'll definitely need the kind of projectiles that you're looking to reload. Some people only reload hardball for practice, but buy factory hollow points for defense ammo. Others handload all of their ammunition, though this is a bit more common for the most singularly obsessed riflemen.

That guy who sneers at anyone that doesn't shoot match-grade .408 Chey Tac that no one likes to talk to? That's the guy we're talking about.

Get A Reloading Manual

A manual for reloading

Another must-have is a reloading manual, which will give you the details on how to reload the ammunition you're making.

Making ammunition is following a recipe. The basic idea is X grains of Y powder with a Z-grain bullet will yield such-and-such velocity at a particular pressure out of a particular barrel length of gun.

Now, the recipe and the yield depends on the reloading manual that you consult with.

For instance, a recipe for standard .45 ACP hardball might read something like this:

.45 ACP 230 gr FMJ bullet seated on either, say, 4.6 grains of Alliant Bullseye or 5.6 grains of Winchester 231 will get you 830 feet per second out of a Government (5-inch barrel) 1911 and produce around 20,000 psi.

Make sure to carefully note all details of a reloading recipe. Guns have pressure tolerances, and exceeding them can have disastrous consequences. Handloading is very popular among the magnum revolver crowd, but some magnums are just built as tough as others. (We won't say who, but it's rumored that "Schmaurus" and "Pith and Schmesson" revolvers should not get regular diets of hot handloads.) That said, the phrase "Ruger handloads" exists for a reason.

Again, the recipe is going to depend on which reloading manual you get, but you get the general idea.

How To Reload

how to start reloading

How to reload? It's actually pretty simple.

Ammunition isn't the most complicated thing in the world. You have a primer which ignites the powder charge, which explodes and sends the bullet out of the barrel. That's a grand total of 4 components: the case, the primer, the powder and the bullet.

Prior to reloading, clean all brass. You can do it by hand, or get a wet or dry tumbler to do it for you. If you use a tumbler, don't ever mix calibers at the same time; do them in batches. Use gloves as much as possible to minimize lead exposure.

  • Step One: Remove the spent primer, if applicable, by pushing it out with a punch.
  • Step Two: Seat a new primer. The round is now primed, and can be loaded. Make sure the primer is flush with the rim of the case by tapping it carefully with a mallet.
  • Step Three: Size the brass, either by resizing the neck or the whole case with the appropriate die. A proper seal can now be formed when you crimp the round.
  • Step Four: Insert the appropriate amount of powder. Use a funnel or dipper to ensure powder only gets in the case.
  • Step Five: Lock the case in place, if using a press, and seat your selected bullet and crimp to seal the round with the crimping die.

All done! Not exactly rocket surgery, is it?

Make sure to clean all equipment after reloading, and make sure that no gunpowder gets anywhere except inside the case or the container the powder comes in.

It's a great way to save cash on your shooting, and if you're picking up spent brass it's also good for the environment. For those desiring to customize their ammunition, it's a must.

Sam Hoober 

About The Author

Born in southeastern Washington State, Sam Hoober graduated in 2011 from Eastern Washington University. He resides in the great Inland Northwest, with his wife and child. His varied interests and hobbies include camping, fishing, hunting, and spending time at the gun range as often as possible.

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