Reloading Ammo: A Case of Combustion

Spend less on spent shells by learning how to efficiently and quickly resize, charge, and package casings for rifles and handguns.

1. Defective cases: cases damaged during projectile insertion (top), split case neck (middle), and bulges (bottom).

Reloading your own ammunition has many benefits, not least of which is a sense of self-sufficiency and satisfaction in putting meals on the dinner table with ammunition you loaded by hand. On a more practical level, reloading your ammunition will increase the accuracy of your firearm and give you the ability to create ammunition for multiple uses, such as hunting and recreational shooting. In the process of reloading ammunition, you’ll also increase your knowledge of firearms. Plus, it’ll make firing your weapon more sustainable, as you’ll be recycling brass cases and cartridge packaging. Finally, you’ll cut the amount of money you spend on ammunition by one-half to one-third, no small amount when it comes to ammunition.

I began reloading when I got my first traditional muzzleloader rifle in the early 1980s. With a muzzleloader, every shot is loaded by hand. (For more information, see my article “When the Smoke Clears,” November/December 2017.) I started reloading modern centerfire rifle and handgun cartridges when my father-in-law gave my son and me an all-in-one reloading kit. Using that kit, I discovered that reloading modern ammunition was fun and rewarding. I soon bought more equipment and began reloading for multiple firearms.

2. A Caliber-sized brush works for case neck cleaning.

A Guide on Guns

A cartridge is made up of a primer, gunpowder, and a projectile all enclosed in a case (see Photo 16). Before shooting, the cartridge is locked into the chamber of the firearm. Squeezing the trigger sends the firing pin into the primer. This creates sparks, which ignite the gunpowder inside the cartridge. The rapidly burning gunpowder creates expanding gas. This gas pressure propels the projectile out of the cartridge neck and down the barrel of the firearm.

Case resizing. For a cartridge to fit into the chamber of a firearm, the cartridge’s dimensions have to be a little smaller than the chamber. The gas pressure that’s generated by shooting propels the projectile out of the barrel, and pushes the walls of the case against the chamber, deforming its width and length. The deformed case must be set back to its original width and length. A resizing die resets the width and a case trimmer resets the length.

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