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And finally, how the cartridge exits the gun affects how sizing lubricant is applied. The cartridge web should get the heaviest application. Because of all of the reloading accidents over the years, new products have been developed to make this process safer. These include powder measures to insure that precise amounts are poured. Different types of powder for very specific types of firearms and uses. So why are we still not having trouble locating recent gory images of blown apart guns and people on the internet?

Among the many, many mistakes that shooters make with gunpowder, these stand out:. The vast majority of accidents involving gunpowder are due to misuse by shooters. Every single step in the process of reloading is important and needs to be done correctly. Data from the FBI indicates that hundreds of injuries and more than 50 deaths per year occur as a result of powder mishandling.

Handloading - Wikipedia

Many of these accidents happen in and around homes. Fortunately, the fix for these gunpowder mishaps can be as easy as reading. Shooters reloading, transporting, and storing gunpowder should start by reading and carefully following all instructions. But remember that too little gunpowder can also cause problems, such as ammunition failing to discharge. One can be a little short of the desired powder amount and still be all right. But this shortage should never exceed 10 percent of the correct amount.

Trimming down cartridge cases that are too long to meet certain gun specs. And some guns often fire just fine without doing this. At first. Bolt action rifles can often handle firing out of spec cartridges. But if cartridge necks become too long, they can cause a compression effect in the chamber. Most AR pieces have problems right away with oversized cartridges.

Jamming severe enough to warrant gun dismantling often results. This lengthening can potentially cause dangerous levels of pressure to build within chambers. Shotshell presses are generally a single unit of the "H" configuration that handles all functions, dedicated to reloading just one gauge of shotshell. Shotshell reloading is similar to cartridge reloading, except that, instead of a bullet, a wad and a measure of shot are used, and after loading the shot, the shell is crimped shut. Both 6 and 8 fold crimps are in use, for paper hulls and plastic hulls, respectively. Likewise, roll crimps are in use for metallic, paper, and plastic hulls.

The shotshell loader contains stations to resize the shell, measure powder, load the wad, measure shot, and crimp the shell. Substitution of components is not considered safe, as changing just one component, such as a brand of primer, can increase pressures by as much as PSI, which may exceed SAAMI pressure limits.

Reloading Ammo vs. Buying Ammo – Cost Saver or Time Waster?

Reloading shotshells is therefore more along the lines of precisely following a recipe with non-fungible components. Where shotshell reloading remains popular, however, is for making specialized shotgun shells, such as for providing lowered recoil, when making low-cost "poppers" used for training retrievers before hunting season to acclimate hunting dogs to the sound of a gun firing without actually shooting projectiles, for achieving better shot patterning, or for providing other improvements or features not available in commercially loaded shotshells at any price, such as when handloading obsolete shotshells with brass cases for gauges of shotshells that are no longer commercially manufactured.

Rifle and pistol reloading presses are usually not dedicated to reloading a single caliber of cartridge, although they can be, but are configured for reloading various cartridge calibers as needed. In contrast, shotshell presses are most often configured for reloading just one gauge of shotshell, e. Hence, it is common to use a dedicated shotshell press for reloading each gauge or bore of shotshell used.


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Due to this large increase in the price of lead shot, the economy of reloading 12 gauge shotshells vs. In contrast, the reloading of shotshells that are usually not available in low-cost, promotional pricings, such as. These smaller bore and gauge shotshells also require much less lead shot, further lessening the effect of the rapid rises seen in the price of lead shot.

The industry change to steel shot, arising from the US and Canadian Federal bans on using lead shotshells while hunting migratory wildfowl, has also affected reloading shotshells, as the shot bar and powder bushing required on a dedicated shotshell press also must be changed for each hull type reloaded, and are different than what would be used for reloading shotshells with lead shot, further complicating the reloading of shotshells.

With the recent rampant rise in lead shot prices, though, a major change in handloading shotshells has also occurred. That this change has also resulted in minimal changes to scores in the shooting sports such as skeet and trap has only expedited the switch among high volume shooters to shooting 24 gm. With the recent shortages over — of 12 gauge shotshells in the United States among all other types of rifle and pistol ammunition , the popularity of reloading 12 gauge shotshells has seen a widespread resurgence.

Field use of the International 24 gm. Since shot shells are typically reloaded at least 5 times, although upwards of 15 times are often possible for lightly loaded shells, this transition to field use of 24 gm. Shotshell presses typically use a charge bar to drop precise amounts of shot and powder. On the other hand, some charge bars are drilled to accept bushings for dropping different fixed amounts of both shot and powder e.


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  • For the ultimate in flexibility, though, universal charge bars with micrometers dropping fixed volumes of powder and shot are also available; these are able to select differing fixed amounts of both powder and shot, and are popular for handloaders who load more than just a few published recipes, or, especially, among those who wish to experiment with numerous different published recipes.

    Fixed charge bars are rated for either lead or steel shot, but not for both. Universal charge bars, on the other hand, are capable of reloading both lead or steel shot, being adjustable. Like their pistol and rifle counterparts, shotshell presses are available in both single stage and progressive varieties. For shooters shooting fewer than approximately shells a month, and especially shooting fewer than shells a month, a single-stage press is often found to be adequate. For shooters shooting larger numbers of shells a month, progressive presses are often chosen.

    A single stage press can typically reload hulls in approximately an hour. Progressive presses can typically reload upwards of or hulls an hour. Shotshell presses are most commonly operated in non-batch modes. That is, a single hull will often be deprimed, reshaped, primed, loaded with powder, have a wad pressed in, be loaded with shot, be pre-crimped, and then be final crimped before being removed and a new hull being placed on the shotshell press at station 1. An alternative, somewhat faster method, often used on a single stage press is to work on 5 hulls in parallel sequentially, with but a single processed hull being located at each of the 5 stations available on a single stage shotshell press, while manually removing the finished shotshell from station 5 and then moving the 4 in-process hulls to the next station 1 to 2, 2 to 3, 3 to 4, 4 to 5 before adding a new hull at the deprimer station 1 location.

    Both these modes of shotshell reloading are in distinct contrast to the common practice used with reloading pistol and rifle cartridges on a single stage press, which are most often processed in batch modes, where a common operation will commonly be done on a batch of up to 50 or cartridges at a time, before proceeding to the next processing step.

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    This difference is largely a result of shotshell presses having 5 stations available for use simultaneously, unlike a single stage cartridge press which typically has but one station available for use. In general, though, shotshell reloading is far more complex than rifle and pistol cartridge reloading, and hence far fewer shotshell presses are therefore used relative to rifle and pistol cartridge reloading presses.

    Reloading presses for reloading. Dies are generally sold in sets of two or three dies, depending on the shape of the case.

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    A three die set is needed for straight cases, while a two die set is used for bottlenecked cases. The first die of either set performs the sizing and decapping operation, except in some cases in the 3 die set, where decapping may be done by the second die. The middle die in a three-die set is used to expand the case mouth of straight cases and decap in the case where this is not done by the first die , while in a two die set the entire neck is expanded as the case is extracted from the first die.

    The last die in the set seats the bullet and may apply a crimp.

    Special crimping dies are often used to apply a stronger crimp after the bullet is seated. Standard dies are made from hardened steel , and require that the case be lubricated, for the resizing operation, which requires a large amount of force. Rifle cartridges require lubrication of every case, due to the large amount of force required, while smaller, thinner handgun cartridges can get away with alternating lubricated and unlubricated cases.

    Carbide dies have a ring of tungsten carbide , which is far harder and slicker than tool steel, and so carbide dies do not require lubrication. Dies for bottle neck cases usually are supplied in sets of at least two dies, though sometimes a third is added for crimping. This is an extra operation and is not needed unless a gun's magazine or action design requires crimped ammunition for safe operation, such as autoloading firearms, where the cycling of the action may push the bullet back in the case, resulting in poor accuracy and increased pressures.


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    Rimless, straight wall cases, on the other hand, require a taper crimp, because they headspace on the case mouth; roll crimping causes headspacing problems on these cartridges. Rimmed, belted, or bottleneck cartridges, however, generally can safely be roll crimped when needed. Three dies are normally supplied for straight walled cases, with an optional fourth die for crimping. Crimps for straight wall cases may be taper crimps, suitable for rimless cartridges used in autoloaders, or roll crimps, which are best for rimmed cartridges such as are used in revolvers.

    There are also specialty dies. Bump dies are designed to move the shoulder of a bottleneck case back just a bit to facilitate chambering. These are frequently used in conjunction with neck dies, as the bump die itself does not manipulate the neck of the case whatsoever. A bump die can be a very useful tool to anyone who owns a fine shooting rifle with a chamber that is cut to minimum headspace dimensions, as the die allows the case to be fitted to this unique chamber.

    A hand die has no threads and is operated—as the name suggests—by hand or by use of a hand-operated arbor press. Hand dies are available for most popular cartridges, and although available as full-length resizing dies, they are most commonly seen as neck sizing dies. A shellholder, generally sold separately, is needed to hold the case in place as it is forced into and out of the dies. The reason shellholders are sold separately is that many cartridges share the same base dimensions, and a single shellholder can service many different cases.

    Shellholders are also specialized, and will generally only fit a certain make of reloading press, while modern dies are standardized and will fit a wide variety of presses. A precision scale is a near necessity for reloading. While it is possible to load using nothing but a powder measure and a weight to volume conversion chart, this greatly limits the precision with which a load can be adjusted, increasing the danger for accidentally overloading cartridges with powder for loads near or at the maximum safe load.

    With a powder scale, an adjustable powder measure can be calibrated more precisely for the powder in question, and spot checks can be made during loading to make sure that the measure is not drifting. With a powder trickler, a charge can be measured directly into the scale, giving the most accurate measure. A scale also allows bullets and cases to be sorted by weight, which can increase consistency further. Sorting bullets by weight has obvious benefits, as each set of matched bullets will perform more consistently.

    Sorting cases by weight is done to group cases by case wall thickness, and match cases with similar interior volumes. Military cases, for example, tend to be thicker, while cases that have been reloaded numerous times will have thinner walls due to brass flowing forward under firing, and excess case length being later trimmed from the case mouth.

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    Single stage presses often do not provide an easy way to prime cases. Various add-on tools can be used for priming the case on the down-stroke, or a separate tool can be used. Since cases loaded with a single stage press are done in steps, with the die being changed between steps, a purpose made priming tool is often faster than trying to integrate a priming step to a press step.

    A purpose made tool is also often more consistent than a model that fits on a single stage press, resulting in a more consistent primer seating depth. Beginning reloading kits often include a weight to volume conversion chart for a selection of common powders, and a set of powder volume measures graduated in small increments. By adding the various measures of powder a desired charge can be measured out with a safe degree of accuracy.