If you’re at the range every weekend, at the very least, once a month, then you know how quickly your ammunition box runs dry.
Reloading your own ammunition is the art of taking the old casings, and loading new bullets inside of them, along with the necessary primers and powders.
It’s a money-saving hobby that helps you plan for just about anything. Ammunition shortages are on the horizon.
We know this because they’ve happened before, and with more people shooting than ever before, it’s getting more and more expensive to buy fresh rounds.
Instead, you can forego all the hassle by reloading your own bullets.
It not only puts the fight in your hands, but it also allows you to customize your rounds with specific powders and really make the bullets your own. Just be sure to stock up on plenty while you can get all of the components and choose storage bins that will protect them from the elements.
If you enjoy shooting as much as we do, then reloading your own ammo is going to be well worth the time spent.
What Exactly Is Ammo Reloading?
Ammunition reloading is taking the old brass casings that come off of your gun, and reloading them with new bullets, gunpowder, primers, and sealing them so that they’re just as good as brand new rounds.
With ammo reloading, you have a long process ahead of you, especially since—even with a reloading press—you have a few steps that you have to do manually for every single casing.
You’re required to clean off your brass casings before you even attempt to load new rounds into it.
When you fire a gun, a small explosion happens when the hammer hits the primer of a bullet.
That explosion has been measured, down to the literal grain of gunpowder, to perfectly fit that casing.
Your bullet travels at the optimal speed without causing too much of an explosion in the gun barrel.
So it’s an exact science.
But the problem is, your brass casing has now had an explosion inside of it. It’s not exactly the most sturdy metal; it’s actually fairly malleable.
When you’re reloading ammo, you have to account for the fact that the casing is going to be expanded. That’s where your reloading press will come into play.
If your casings completely split at any point, those are duds and cannot be reused. Those may have had a few grains too much.
Above all else, ammunition reloading is considered a hobby.
It’s the act of using all of the aforementioned components to rebuild a bullet from the ground up, thereby making your own custom ammunition.
Types Of Reloader Presses
There are three main types of presses.
Knowing the difference between these is a matter of convenience. Some are better, some are cheaper; it’s a toss-up. Either way, here they are.
Progressive Reloading Press
Progressives are basically the number one type of press you can buy.
They come with a casing hopper, completion bin, simple operating lever, and a power measurement system.
They take the guesswork out of reloading. This allows you to reload faster and save time, though it is at a higher upfront cost.
Progressive presses may come with a variation of the attachments we mentioned. For instance, some may not include a casing hopper, but you may be able to add one later on.
Progressive presses are the hardest to maintain due to the extra parts, but a worthy investment nonetheless.
Just as it sounds, a single-stage press isn’t exactly the most efficient. You use the lever to drive the ram through the shell holder.
That goes up to a die (on most models), and then you’ve reloaded your bullet.
These are considered to be slow because you can only do one bullet at a time, and you have to regularly switch out your die.
As far as completing rounds per hour, this is going to be very time-consuming.
Turret presses aren’t all that more advanced than a single stage. They use a similar process with a lever, die, and shell holder, but they’re a bit bulkier.
Some turret presses will have a clamp system that allows you to position it to the table.
You will still have to reload the shell each time, but the rotating multiple die spots will allow you to work faster to create more bullets per hour.
Which one is right for you? To find out, visit our comprehensive buying guide to determine your next press.
Why Should You Start Reloading Ammo?
There are a few reasons, but let’s cut to the chase regarding the biggest one of all: saving money.
If you shoot as often as possible, you’re going through tons of bullets. The more you shoot, the more money you’re poised to save over a period of time.
If you’re going to spend $100.00 on bullets (let’s say, that’s 100 rounds for the sake of an example), then you’re going to have a hundred casings left over when all is said and done.
That’s provided that they don’t split, but as it stands, that’s a rarity.
Even if you do have some casings split, it’s still cost-effective as long as you’re getting over 80% of your casings back.
You spend money on the bullets, gunpowder, and new primers. Out of those hundred casings, you spend about $65.00 on new materials, sometimes upwards of $80.00.
Even at the top end of that budget, you’re saving $20.00 per hundred rounds.
You have to factor in the cost of your press, though.
That, and the time you’re spending. Better press (progressive) means faster reloads and less time, hand presses or single-stage units mean longer time spent for a lower upfront cost.
Personally, I’d always choose time over cash. It’s still a win-win though because even with a more expensive progressive press, you’re still going to save money. It’s just going to take a little bit longer.
As for the second reason, it comes down to the understanding that we will not always have boxes of ammunition on the shelves.
You and I like to shoot recreationally, but we also never deplete our stock in case SHTF.
Well, who are they going to restrict from buying ammunition when we run into shortages?
The recreational shooters.
But that’s okay because you planned ahead. You got your own reloading press, started making your own bullets, and took the fight into your own hands.
When it comes down to it, you won’t have to rely on anybody else to continue protecting your family.
Once you learn how to make your own gunpowder on top of it, you’re basically unstoppable.
Critical Information On How To Reload Ammo Properly
Once you learn how to use your reloading press and you reload your first round, it all comes down to handling the steps of reloading ammunition properly. Experience comes with time.
Select your rounds carefully. Look for any minor splits or serious degradation. Certain rounds that are known to split more than others are 9mm shots.
Start with good casings, clean them off thoroughly, and lubricate them before and after sizing.
That step is important because if you don’t, you could be the one that splits the casing.
Reloaders will sometimes lubricate the casing at the beginning, during the sizing stage, and not do it again during the priming stage. This step is to ensure everything carries on smoothly.
Second, use the right primers. Every bullet manufacturer and gun caliber has a different requirement, and it’s going to make a huge difference.
While reloading your ammo is supposed to save you money, if you use cheap primers that aren’t fit for the caliber of the bullet, you’ll end up with duds and will have wasted money.
Step-by-Step Ammunition Reloading Guide
There are two main different types of reloading presses: single-stage, and multi-stage. We are writing this guide to apply to either press type.
Start with clean cases and line them up neatly to optimize your time.
Lubricate your cases. Using the sizing die, load your shell onto the plate/stand, and ensure it’s aligned properly to meet the die.
Either use the hand press or lever on a multi-stage to send the casing onto the die.
You have now resized your casing. Inspect it to ensure there is no further damage, and put it off to the side in a tray or lined up on your workbench.
You can either relubricate your cases immediately after they come off the die, or you can wait to do it until they have all been resized.
During resizing, your primer will have popped off. Your casing is now ready for a new primer, which is the component that helps actually create the ignition of gunpowder.
These are a part that can’t be recycled as the hills can. Using your primer die, seat the new primers on the bullet shells.
Now comes charging. Charging your cases, quite simply put, is filling them up with gunpowder.
This is where a bit of customization comes into play with reloading your rounds.
Gunpowder is measured by the grain, so if you’re fortunate enough to have a gunpowder hopper on a multi-stage unit, this step will be expedited.
If not, charging will take considerably longer. For this, there are a couple of things you should do.
- Find information from the manufacturer regarding the usual gunpowder grain amount, and use that as a base to work on.
- Make a few dozen custom rounds and make them accordingly with different grain sizes. You can easily do this with small pieces of paper and an ammo holding tray. Test each one out and see which ones split, which ones feel the best when firing, and go from there.
- One of the beautiful things about this is making your own custom rounds. Use this step to find the most cost-efficient method of reloading ammunition of your specific caliber, and save even more money on gunpowder in the process.
It’s time to seat the actual bullet. This step is going to be trial and error and will vary from gun to gun.
One important aspect of seating a bullet is accounting for the case length, or how long the entire casing is with the bullet attached.
You have to make sure it has clearance inside the gun, and that you haven’t seated the bullet too far forward.
Overloading your rounds with gunpowder can sometimes produce this effect. Once the bullet is seated properly, move on to the next step.
Crimping your bullets. For this, get protective eyewear and be cautious during this stage.
Using your crimping die, load the charged and seated rounds onto the shell plate or stand. Put your bullet to the crimping die with the hand press or lever.
Most presses have a failsafe so you can’t over crimp, but it’s still a possibility that you have to account for.
Once the bullet is crimped, give it a tiny shake to ensure that gunpowder isn’t leaking out of anywhere and that the bullet is seated properly.
You’re done—you’ve just reloaded your first round properly. Eventually, this becomes muscle memory and you will be able to reload quickly and effectively.
Additional Tips To Remember
We’ve seen the play-by-play, but now it’s time to drop in some helpful information to ensure you stay safe while reloading ammo, and so you understand a bit more about the whole process.
This is something that you usually learn by trial and error. Over crimping can ruin a bullet just as much as under crimping.
When you load the crimp die into your reloader, you’re pressing parts of the brass together to close off the Remaining opening in the casing.
There’s still a bit of room in the casing for the gunpowder to erupt, and it’s important.
Slow and Steady
When you’re first starting out with a new press (especially if you’ve never reloaded ammo before), it’s important to start off slow.
In the beginning, it’s far more important to load a round correctly than it is to load it quickly. Double-check every single step along the way, and don’t be afraid to toss out around if it doesn’t work.
You’re learning a skill, and nobody ever became fantastic at a skill just because they had a good piece of machinery. Start off slow and steady, and you’ll win the race.
Keep Gunpowder Secure
As a general safety tip, keep your gunpowder in an appropriate container and away from direct sources of heat.
It takes roughly 801° F to ignite gunpowder, though smokeless powders can sometimes ignite in lower temperature ranges.
If you are reloading in the garage, like many of us do, keep this away from heaters and direct sunlight.
Garages get hot in the summer, so if yours isn’t ventilated, consider moving the gunpowder to a cooler spot during those months.
You can reload a shell as many times as it will let you. If it reloads a dozen times, great. If it only reloads once before splitting, that’s a shame, but it happens.
There’s no formula to detect how long a round will last, though thinner shells, such as on 9mm rounds, may last for less time than .50 caliber rounds.
Even though the explosions are bigger in a .50 cal shell, they’re designed for it.
You don’t get a .50 cal rounds aren’t sold in the same high quantity as 9mm rounds, so manufacturing quality is different.
Use an Actual Reloader
You’ve spent all this time actually reloading the rounds, and in our opinion, it’s wise to also get a magazine loader when it fits.
Mag loaders can fully load a 9mm clip in 2-3 seconds, as opposed to thumbing them in on your own.
Reloading and tending to your guns needs to have a schedule associated with it, so you can actually spend time shooting them when you’re all done.
You’re making custom ammunition here. Experiment with the gunpowder grains, bullet weight, dies, and everything in between to get a custom round.
If you shoot at close range, you can sometimes skimp on a bit of gunpowder and retain 10-20% extra of your stock for more rounds, and a smaller budget.
Cut corners where you can, because you’re not confined to a single wholesale price from a bullet manufacturer.
Reload, Save Money, Repeat
Saving money, customizing your rounds, and being ready when SHTF—what could be better about reloading your own ammo?
Keep these tips and tricks in mind when you take up at-home reloading, and before you know it, you’ll be able to plan ahead for ammunition shortages in the future without killing your wallet in the process.
Ammo shortages are coming, but you’re going to be prepared for them so you can protect your family, and continue hunting to put meat on the table.