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Drawing from decades of experience, author
Philip Massaro provides detailed instructions to GunDigest
help you successfully reload your own rifle and


pistol ammunition.

Inside this practical guide:

■ Step-by-step instructions describe how to reload

rifle and pistol ammunition for recreational shooting,
competition and hunting
■ Hundreds of photos support detailed
descriptive instructions
■ Hints and tips help you avoid common mistakes
With the experience and guidance shared in this book,
target shooters and hunters alike can enjoy the benefits
of hand-tuned ammunition.

[Phil’s] writing is lively and fresh, bringing both

feeling and humor to a subject that has traditionally
been dealt with in staid, textbook
fashion. Because of that, because of
Phil, you will not only learn from this
book, you will enjoy it.”
– Craig Boddington
Philip P. Massaro is the President
of Massaro Ballistic Laboratories,
LLC, a custom ammunition company
comfortably nestled in between the
Hudson River and Catskill Mountains
of upstate New York. He has been
handloading ammunition for more
than 20 years.

US $19.99

T0032 (CAN $21.99)

ISBN-13: 978-1-4402-3988-5
ISBN-10: 1-4402-3988-6



Gun Digest Books



An imprint of F+W Media, Inc.


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Copyright ©2014 F+W Media, Inc.

All rights reserved. No portion of this publication may be reproduced

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Published by

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Krause Publications • 700 East State Street • Iola, WI 54990-0001
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or visit us online at

ISBN-13: 978-1-4402-3988-5
ISBN-10: 1-4402-3988-6

Edited by Jennifer L.S. Pearsall

Cover Design by Dane Royer and Nicole MacMartin
Designed by Nicole MacMartin

Printed in USA

This book is dedicated to the men and women who have given life and limb
in the defense of the United States of America, and thereby given us all the
opportunity to enjoy the use of our firearms as a free people. It is a debt that
cannot be repaid, and I personally wish to express my sincere gratitude to them.
Philip P. Massaro is the President of Massaro Ballistic Laboratories, LLC, a custom
ammunition company comfortably nestled in between the Hudson River and Catskill
Mountains of upstate New York. He has been handloading ammunition for more than 20
years and has created a wide range of pistol and rifle ammunition from the lightest plink-
ing loads through the heaviest-hitting cartridges designed for animals that are measured
in tons. Having been taught how to shoot as a very young man, he soon developed a love
for firearms and their paraphernalia. He is a veteran of three African safaris and dozens of
North American hunts, and enjoys quality time spent afield in the quiet, wild places. He is
a Licensed Professional Land Surveyor by trade, a musician by choice, and usually reeks
of Hoppes No. 9.

4 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

As with any book that pertains to a specific field, there are a multitude of influences that
gives an author the initiative to take on the task in the first place. Reloading is no different.
I’d first like to pay homage to those who gave birth to the industry as we know it.
Names like Bruce Hodgdon, Vernon Speer, Joyce Hornady, John Nosler, Bill Hober, and
too many more to name have provided us with the building blocks to make great ammuni-
tion. Then there are those who have built the tools we use during every reloading session.
The great folks at RCBS, Redding, Hornady, Lyman, Lee, Forster, Dillon, et al, make our
job of creating good ammunition not only possible, but much easier, as time goes on.
Then there’s the writing end of things. Honestly, I am a reloader who writes, not a
writer who reloads. There are many authors who have mesmerized me for countless hours
with their stories, be it about hunting or reloading. Roosevelt, Hemingway, Ruark, Cap-
stick, and so many others are certainly among those who’ve intrigued me with their talk of
hunting adventure and firearms facts. Of them all, there is one writer who’s held my atten-
tion for decades, and I’ve been fortunate enough to call him a friend. Craig Boddington,
thank you for all the encouraging words, both in print and in conversation.
And, there are those in the industry who make the author’s life easier by simply being
available to discuss and explain. Chris Hodgdon of Hodgdon Powders, Bill Hober of Swift
Bullets, Randy Brooks of Barnes Bullets, the good folks at North Fork Bullets, Carroll
Pillant of Sierra, Kent Sakamoto at RCBS, and last but most certainly not least, my friend
Robin Sharpless at Redding Reloading Products, have all helped in the gathering and
presenting of this information. Gentlemen, I raise my glass to you.
Last, there are those in your life who help to shape things along the way. I was taught
to reload by my dad, Philip J. Massaro. He’s a damned good handloader in his own right,
and I’d like to thank him for showing me what goes where. Donald B. Thorne, Jr., USMC,
known better as Col. Le Frogg, broke me from the thought mold of one caliber, one bullet,
one powder. I’d like to thank you, Le Frogg, for being a mentor and a second father to me,
and for showing me the wide world of rifle and pistol calibers. J.D. Fielding, whose im-
ages are throughout this book, and who is a wonderful human to work with. My pals Dave
de Moulpied, Mark “Pig-Newton” Nazi, Marty Groppi, Steve Darling, Jarrett Lane, Bill
Loëb, and Kevin Hicks, thank you gents for the countless hours spent talking boldly, as
men do, about guns, hunting and reloading. And special thanks to my wife, Suzie, who has
been so supportive during the hours I’ve sat in front of the computer keyboard, wondering
if I could really do this. I love you sweetie.—Philip P. Massaro

This is Phil Massaro’s first book. This fact is important not so that we can forgive
any imperfections or lack of completeness; these may or may not be present, but,
after all, Webster’s Dictionary is still a work in progress. Absolute perfection and
total completeness, regardless one’s first book or last book, are impossibly beyond
reach and cannot be expected.
Undoubtedly, there are some things you or I may wish had been included and,
since The Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading is very much a hands-on, how-
to book, there may even be things we might do differently. It’s perfectly okay to
disagree, but let’s keep in mind that this is Phil Massaro’s book, not yours or mine.
That said, it is a complete book, a valuable tool for anyone interested in improving
their reloading techniques and repertoire, and improving the performance of their
firearms. The methodology is sound and up to date, and Phil’s knowledge of the
subject is clearly there.
I have written many books over a long career, but I would be the first to say that
this is not a book I could write. I started handloading about 1964, the same year I
saw the Beatles on their first tour (I put that in because, although Phil is also an ac-
complished musician, he’s a bit too young to have seen the Beatles!). My family was
comprised of shotgunners and bird hunters who had absolutely no familiarity with
centerfire rifles, so Dad turned me over to a friend, Jack Pohl, of the old E.C. Bishop
and Sons gunstock company in Warsaw, Missouri (“Gunstock Capitol of the World”
said the sign on the city limits). The deal was that before Jack would teach me (and
Dad) rifle shooting, we had to first learn how to reload.
The propellants were post-World War II bulk from Hodgdon, stored in smoky
glass jars, but the principles of the practice were pretty much the same, as were
the most basic tools. A major difference, of course, is that today have a lot more
powders, bullets, and primers to choose from than we did back then, along with a
bewildering array of data. A more subtle difference is that precision techniques and
specialized tools have advanced tremendously in the last half-century. I freely admit
that I have made no effort to keep up—so there is no way I could even attempt to
write this book. Phil Massaro could, though, and did. He is at the same time both
a student and professor of reloading, master of the classical form of the art, and
experimenter in the emerging technological alchemy. Although I’ve been doing this
stuff for a very long time, this is a book I will learn from and often refer back to.
I stated at the beginning that this was Phil’s first book. This is important for him,
because a first book is a major milestone for any writer. It is a long and grueling pro-
cess, and the first book is the hardest of all. It begins with the seemingly impossible
task of convincing a publisher that you have something to say. In fact Phil Massaro

6 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

does have something to say—quite a lot and of value, as you will see. Ah, but once
having made the sale, the writer now has to produce the goods. As he sets to the task,
he reminds himself constantly to “be careful what you wish for.” It seems like it will
never be finished, and, indeed, many books that are started are never finished. This
one obviously was, and it’s a good book, full of valuable information on its subject.
This last is why the book is important to you—but it should also be important to
you that this is Phil Massaro’s first book, because I am certain it will not be his last!
I met Phil at the massive Harrisburg Sports Show a few years back. I liked him, and
what’s not to like? Still a young man, I found him energetic, passionate, and amaz-
ingly knowledgeable about shooting and hunting. We’ve traded information back
and forth, and I’ve called upon his Massaro Ballistics Laboratories to solve some
vexing ammo problems—with consistently superb results. He knows his stuff.
The Gun Digest publishing house has presented many books from many writers
for many years. So it is and should be expected that Phil knows his stuff. That is
almost a given. Here’s the challenge: This is not a subject that is easy to write about,
nor is it normally easy to read. Let’s face it, reloading, though an enjoyable and re-
warding pastime, is a fairly dry subject! Even with the required detailed knowledge
(which Phil surely has), technical stuff is hard to write and harder to make enjoyable
to read. This is a difference that you will find in this book, Phil Massaro’s first (but
surely not his last).
When I met Phil, he told me he was doing some writing and would like to do
more. Of course, I hear that a lot, but I liked him and offered what encouragement
I could. He had the technical knowledge and the passion, two great prerequisites in
this specialized field, but here’s what I didn’t realize for a while: He also has the tal-
ent! His writing is lively and fresh, bringing both feeling and humor to a subject that
has traditionally been dealt with in staid, textbook fashion. Because of that, because
of Phil, you will not only learn from this book, you will enjoy it. This, I suspect, will
make you refer back to it more often, rendering this book even more useful. Whether
a first or last book, The Gun Digest Shooters Guide to Reloading is, thus, a milestone
work on the subject: Not only packed with useful information, but also readable and
thus even more useful. I am very pleased that it’s his first book rather than his last,
because I am convinced that we will be reading—and enjoying—a lot more Phil
Massaro in years to come!—Craig Boddington

About the Author. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Acknowledgements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5
Foreword . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9
Chapter 1: A Reloading Overview: Why Do I Want to Do This? . . . . . . . . .10
Chapter 2: The Cartridge Components . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17
Chapter 3: Reloading Tools . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .49
Chapter 4: Case Work . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .77
Chapter 5: Putting Your Handload Together. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .96
Chapter 6: What to Buy. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 111
Chapter 7: The Right Combination for the Job . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 164
Chapter 8: Why Didn’t This Work Out? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 197
Chapter 9: Specialty Situations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 214
Chapter 10: Success Stories . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 232

8 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

Once upon a time, a little boy watched his father sort out the spent brass casings from his
.308 Winchester, after returning from a trip to the shooting range to sight in the rifle for the
upcoming deer season. The questions came forth immediately.
“Dad, why are you saving those?”
“Because you can reload them and shoot them again.”
“Dad, can we do that?”
“Yes we can. I’ll have to pick up some bullets, powder, and primers.”
“Dad, can we do that now? Pleeeeeeeease?”
As you can see, this youth was enamored with the idea of spending time with his
father making ammunition (he still is), and he had an immediate thirst for knowledge of
the subject. Long tale made short, the boy and his dad did make those .308s come alive
again and, when the little guy got to be a bigger guy, a love affair with both firearms and
the experimentation with ammunition would just about drive his father off the deep end.
That boy is me. I say is, and not was, because I’ve never lost that boyhood feeling
of excitement when it comes to creating special ammunition that cannot be purchased,
whether it’s a plinking load for a pistol or some dangerous-game ammunition that gets
me one step closer to being in the hunting fields I love so much. I still get excited about
the polished gold or silver colored cases, the sharp tips of spitzer bullets, the parallel-
sided solids, and the mystique of hunting strange places with stranger names, with these
components in hand.
This book is a how-to manual, in that, when you are done reading it, you will know
the basic principles and proper methods of loading a centerfire pistol or rifle cartridge. I
also hope that it inspires the reader to further probe into the endless possibilities, when it
comes to choosing a combination of bullet and powder that will make you proud and con-
fident in your choice of firearm. Reloading ammunition gives the shooter an opportunity
to spend additional time at the range with their guns, and that enhances the bond between
the shooter and the tools they use.
While most instructional manuals can be legally classified as a cure for insomnia, The
Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading was written in an attempt to convey the techni-
cal message in a real-world manner based on real-world experiences; I’ve done my best to
demystify some of the scarier terminology and nomenclature associated with ammunition
and the practice of reloading it. This book is not designed to standalone. It will require the
wealth of information found in the quality reloading manuals published by others to be
fully useful. Yet this book will be very helpful in clearly and simply explaining the reload-
ing processes and get you out of trouble should something go awry. Too, if you have already
been a loader for some time, you may find some helpful tips and new products that are
available to whet your appetite within these pages. For those new to it all, please soak it in
and enjoy your new hobby!—Philip P. Massaro



Reloading is a highly rewarding activity. (Photo courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

t happens often. I’ll be at a party and I end up in a conversation that
or some type of gathering, and sounds like Chinese algebra to the
one of the crew starts talking bystander. Folks look on in wonder
about reloading. We’re gun folks, (or is it pity?) as we debate powder
it’s like that. If more than one of burn rates and sectional densities and
the crew is assembled, it gets pretty idly prattle on about secant ogives. I
deep. There have been nights where must admit, it’s a bit nerdy, but once
Mark “Pig-Newton” Nazi (yes, that’s you take the plunge into the world
really his last name), Marty Groppi, of creating and controlling your own

10 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)
All types of centerfire cartridges can be reloaded.

language and mathematics that can

make so many shooters feel dizzy at
the thought of reloading. I shall do
my best to explain it plainly, without
you either running for the hills or
nodding off.
The first question you may have is
“Why would I want to reload?” Good
question, because today’s factory am-
munition is good stuff, hands down.
It’s available in many different calibers
and with the choice of many differ-
The process of reloading a rifle cartridge.
ent bullets. But not all rifles or pistols
perform well with factory ammuni-
ammunition, it can be downright tion. Some give poor accuracy. Others
addicting. It will help you better give a level of recoil that is unpleasant.
understand your firearms and how to With custom ammunition, handloaded
better use the right tool for the shoot- by you, both accuracy and speed (and,
ing situation at hand. Also, know therefore, recoil), can be tailored to
that if you’re already terrified after suit your needs.
reading the phrases “sectional densi- Reloading can be likened to a suit
ties” and “secant ogives,” rest assured of clothing: Sometimes a suit fits just
that, within the covers of this book, right off the rack, while other times
I hope to dispel much of the arcane you’re going to look and feel your


best with a suit that is custom-made known as “Colonel Le Frogg,” has a
to your measurements and in the Winchester Model 70 rifle he loves,
style and color you like. I get a sense one that’s chambered in the venerable
of pride when I take the walk to the .264 Winchester Magnum. This is a
target board and see good accuracy wonderful cartridge, but long ago lost
and tight groups, or when I cleanly the popularity contest to the 7mm
and quickly take an animal in the Remington Magnum; subsequently,
hunting fields with ammunition of factory ammunition for this round
my own creation. was dropped by most ammunition
Another reason to reload is that companies. Le Frogg ordered a bunch
many hunters and shooters own of cases, some suitable bullets, and
and enjoy rifles and pistols that are reloading dies. Together, he and I
chambered for cartridges the ammu- created all the ammunition he will
nition companies have dropped from ever need. As a custom ammunition
their product lines. Then what? Well, shop, my company Massaro Ballistic
don’t retire that gun so quickly! By Laboratories has been honored to
purchasing the necessary tools and provide some rarities to our clients,
components, you can make a lifetime so they can enjoy their older or near-
supply of ammo for your old sweet- obsolete firearms. With the guidance
heart. My dear friend and mentor, contained in this book, you can do
Donald B. Thorne, Jr., USMC, better the same for yourself.

Cases are invaluable to the reloader. (Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

12 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

Reloading, also known as hand- Reloading is cost effective, an-
loading, is the process of creating am- other reason to give this an honest
munition. Sometimes this means using try. Let’s face it, premium ammuni-
spent casings, which you’ll need to tion has become very expensive,
reform to their original specifications. and that’s when you can find it at all.
Sometimes reloading means you’re For many years, I have created my
assembling all new components. It’s a own premium ammunition for target
rewarding hobby either way and one shooting and hunting, at a fraction
that allows you to spend time with of the cost of purchasing factory
friends and loved ones. I learned from stuff. The bigger calibers (which I
my father, good ol’ Grumpy Pants, and really enjoy shooting) are particularly
have made many friends and acquain- expensive to buy. Some of my safari
tances while discussing the various rifles shoot cartridges that cost more
aspects of loading ammunition. In fact, than $200 per box of 20 rounds! Only
Massaro Ballistic Laboratories came through handloading could I afford
to fruition after many years of hobby to practice and hunt with these rifles.
handloading all sorts of rifle and pistol Those of you who enjoy time at the
ammunition for family and friends. shooting range can shoot more often
You can learn, too, and, as long as you when ammunition is more economi-
are careful and diligent, you’ll have a cal. And more time shooting is a very
great time doing it! good thing!

A box of
Massaro Ballistic
Laboratories .270
Winchester Short Magnum
ammunition. MBL is a custom
handloader, and what the folks
there do, you can, too.


(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

Instruction at the bench. It’s always helpful if you have an experienced reloader who can help you
through your first rounds and troubleshoot any problems you might have with your initial press setup.

Introducing new shooters, includ- nique. The handloader can produce

ing youngsters and the many women reduced-velocity ammunition that will
who are learning to enjoy the shooting allow the new shooter to ease into the
sports these days, can be a frustrating feel of the rifle or pistol and develop
proposition for both instructor and good habits and shooting skills.
student, when the recoil of the firearm By handloading and developing
is too severe to promote good tech- the proper loads for your particular

14 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

Left to right, the author, Colonel Le Frogg, and his father, a.k.a. Grumpy Pants, discussing some new
handloaded ammunition for their next hunt.

firearms, you not only create ammuni- behind the sights of your firearm and
tion that is best suited for the shoot- know that you have a combination
ing situation at hand, you become of gun and ammunition that shoots
much more confident in your gun. like an extension of your arm. That’s
The added time spent at the bench something invaluable to me.
developing these loads will allow you A thorough knowledge of reload-
to become much more familiar (and ing can also help aid in the choice
therefore safe!) with your chosen of future firearms. Knowing the
firearms, work out any potential ballistics of a myriad of cartridges, as
hardware problems along the way, listed in any good reloading manual,
and may make the difference when will help you sift through the old
the trophy of your dreams presents wives’ tales and rhetoric about the
itself or when those precious tenths performance of certain rounds. With
of a second mean the difference in that knowledge replacing myth,
the gun games. Gaining a thorough you’ll be well educated and fully
knowledge of your chosen cartridge’s capable of making an independent
capabilities by loading the ammuni- decision to purchase the firearms that
tion for it will certainly be an aid best suit your needs.
in maximizing the potential of your Finally, there are often times you
rifle or handgun. Seeing the repeat- simply can’t purchase the cartridge/
able results produced by consistent bullet combination you envision.
handloads will allow you to settle in Sure, there are lots of choices avail-


able, hundreds even, but, if, you want A cartridge case, if previously
a particular new whiz-bang bullet in fired, must be resized back to its
a cartridge you are simply enamored original dimensions. This is ac-
with, you may have no choice other complished with “reloading dies,”
than to assemble it yourself. I’ve had with the mechanical advantage of a
the privilege of working with several “reloading press.” Once the case is
professional hunters, in conjunction properly sized, the spent primer is
with major bullet manufacturers, to removed and a new one is installed.
create ammunition for specific pur- An appropriate powder charge is then
poses, including the hunt for danger- poured into the case and the new bul-
ous game. This ammunition is not let seated. It’s that simple. It is also
available in stores, but our handloads infinitely complex, when you start
suit the purpose at hand perfectly. to get into the subtle nuances and
As I write these words, in the fall customize the performance of your
of 2013, we shooters are experienc- handgun or rifle. There are many
ing the biggest ammunition shortage rules and details, which we will dis-
in living memory. Store shelves are cuss, but that’s the general gist of it.
bare, ammunition is back-ordered, The particular reloading setup you
and though the ammunition facto- choose can be as simple or complex
ries are running at full capacity, the as you choose to make it. It does
demand seems still to be growing require a particular level of respect
faster. Reloading your own ammuni- (gunpowder is a highly flammable
tion is a means of making sure you substance), diligent record keeping,
always have a supply of ammunition and your undivided attention. We will
on hand for your firearms. Powder cover the components, the tools need-
and primers need to be purchased, ed, the physics of this process, some
but cases can be reused. Bullets can helpful hints and scenarios, new
even be cast from lead. products available, and many other
I’ll break down the process in detail points in the pages to come. So, have
in the chapters that follow, but, for the a seat, and allow me to introduce you
present, here’s the basic process of to the world of reloading. Promise,
creating a single round of ammunition: we’ll have some fun.

16 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading



(Photos courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

The components, in exploded view.

THE CARTRIDGE CASE the primer is struck by the firing pin,

The brass cartridge case is simply sending a shower of sparks through its
a combustion chamber. It holds the flash hole and into the powder charge.
primer, powder charge, and bullet and The resulting combustion creates a
withstands the forces of firing. It is pressure level that forces the bullet to
a rugged, durable means of loading leave by its only point of escape, out
and reloading a rifle or pistol. The of the cartridge and down the barrel.
cartridge, fully assembled, is loaded What you are left with is a an empty
into the rifle’s or pistol’s chamber; cartridge case (holding the now spent
the gun’s mechanism securely locks primer), which is now expanded to
the cartridge in place by means of a a mirror image of the chamber. The
bolt, breech, falling block, or cylin- cartridge case is the only component
der. When the trigger is pulled and of this process that can be reshaped
the gun’s hammer comes forward, and reused.


(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

The simple, yet effective cartridge case.

18 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

A case with a cracked
neck from repeated
firing and resizing.

All standardized
cartridges in the U.S.
are approved and
regulated by SAAMI,
the Sporting Arms and
Ammunition Manufactur-
ers’ Institute (www.saami.
org). Founded in 1926,
this organization defines the
standards and specifications for
a particular cartridge. These stan-
dards include precise dimensioning
and pressure limits. SAAMI offers
highly detailed drawings of most any
case it’s approved, which can aid you
in case preparation and resizing.
Most of the reloadable cartridge brass; titanium and
cases in use today are made of brass carbide dies help solve this
or nickel-coated brass. Brass is used issue. Please note: Some of the more
because it is a malleable metal and inexpensive ammunition is produced
can be reformed many times before it with steel cases, and these should
becomes brittle and cracks. not be reloaded. A small magnet will
Although brass is malleable, it easily identify these cases, so they
tarnishes easily, especially in wet may be discarded.
weather or when handled frequently There are two styles of primer
by sweaty hands (the salt and acids pockets seen in centerfire cases.
in your sweat tarnishes brass). This Boxer primed cases are the most
led to the development of nickel- common and are the type used here
coated brass. Nickel is still mal- in America. They have a centrally
leable enough to be formed and located flash hole, through which
resized, but it doesn’t tarnish. I like the spark is delivered to ignite the
nickel brass, but the only caveat I powder charge. Berdan primed cases,
would offer to using such cases is in which there are two off-center
that nickel brass can scratch conven- flash holes to deliver the spark when
tional reloading dies after prolonged the primer is crushed against an anvil
use, as it’s a harder metal than is in the primer, is more rare here in the


States, but are still popular in Eu- to achieve a diameter suitable for
rope. As reloaders with conventional holding the bullet. There are different
tools, we can only use and reform loading techniques for each, which
Boxer primed cases. You should we will discuss in chapters four
never try to resize or reuse any and five. Rifle cartridges use both
Berdan primed case without the very types of cases. The .458 Winchester
specialized tools made for these, as Magnum, .38-55 Winchester, .45-70
you will damage your conventional Government, .444 Marlin, and .405
reloading tools. Make sure to care- Winchester are some examples of
fully segregate any cases that may be straight-walled cases, while the .22-
Berdan primed, to avoid any confu- 250 Remington, .30-06 Springfield,
sion or broken gear. 7mm Remington Magnum, .270 Win-
Cartridge cases are constructed chester, and .375 Holland & Holland
in two styles: straight-walled, in Magnum are examples of bottle-
which the sides of the case are either necked cartridges. For pistols, most
parallel or very slightly tapered from cases are straight walled. The 9mm
bottom to mouth; and bottlenecked, Luger, .45 ACP, .38 Special, and .44
in which the cartridge diameter steps Remington Magnum come easily to
down/in at what we call the shoulder, mind. There are a few exceptions,

(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

Rimmed pistol and rifle cartridges. Left to right, .45 Colt, .38 Special, .30-30 WCF, .348 Winchester,
.45-120 Sharps, and .500 Nitro Express.

20 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

Rimless cartridges. Left to right, .22-250 Remington, .270 Winchester, .308 Winchester, .30-06
Springfield, and .35 Whelen.

such as the bottlenecked .256 Win- saw that coming!). This extended rim
chester and the .357 SIG. serves to hold the case in the cham-
Among the different cases avail- ber. It also serves as a positive depth
able, there are different types of rims. guide for headspacing. The earli-
The cartridge rim is located at the est cartridge designs were rimmed,
base of the cartridge; the primer is designed for single-shot and early
located centrally within it. The rim lever-action rifles, as well as the first
serves as the portion of the case that’s revolvers. Some rimmed cartridge
grabbed by the bolt face of the pistol examples are the venerable .30-30
or rifle upon loading and is used by WCF, the .357 Magnum, the .303
the extractor to extract the fired case. British, .32 Winchester Special, and
There are five main classifications of .45-70 Government.
rims, as follows: A rimless cartridge, despite its
A rimmed cartridge is one that has moniker, actually has a rim, but it’s
a rim that extends beyond the diam- the same diameter as the case body,
eter of the case body (bet you never with a groove machined into the area


(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)
Rebated rim cartridges. Left to right, .270 WSM, .300 WSM, .284 Winchester, .300 Remington Ultra
Magnum, and .500 Jeffrey.

just in front of the case head. Rimless Possibly the rarest type, a semi-
cases headspace on either the car- rimmed cartridge has a very small
tridge shoulder (for a bottle-necked amount of rim extending past the di-
case) or the case mouth (for some ameter of the case body, but not nearly
straight-walled case). The firearm’s as much as a rimmed case. It was
extractor grabs the case by the groove designed for the positive headspacing
in front of the case head. This design capability of the rimmed cartridge,
greatly facilitates cartridge feed- while coming close to achieving the
ing from a spring-loaded magazine. ease of feeding from a magazine that
These cartridges saw the light of day the rimless cartridges possess. Ex-
in the late 1880s. Some examples amples of semi rimmed cases are the
of rimless cases are the .308 Win- .25 ACP and the .444 Marlin.
chester, .30-06 Springfield, 5.56mm A rebated rim case is one that uses
NATO, .45 ACP, .40 S&W, 7x57mm a rim dimension smaller than the
Mauser, and .25-06 Remington. diameter of the case body, but this

22 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

rim’s only purpose is of one to serve ing the positive headspacing from
extraction. This is a feature seen on the rim, rather than the shoulder (a lá
the Winchester Short Magnum series rimmed). The British firm of Holland
and the Remington Ultra Magnum & Holland first offered this case de-
line, rounds designed to have huge sign in its .375 Velopex (which never
case capacity for high velocities. caught on) and used it again, in 1912,
Other examples of rebated rim in its .375 Belted Rimless Nitro
cartridges are the .50 Beowulf, .500 Express (better known as our African
Jeffery, and the .284 Winchester. classic, the .375 H&H Magnum).
The belted magnum case, dating This case led to the development of
back to 1910, has a “belt” of raised the Super .30, or .300 Holland &
brass ahead of the extractor groove, Holland Magnum, in 1925, and it was
yet has a case head designed similar- this belted case design that would be
ly to that of rimless cases. The theory the basis for nearly every case that
behind this design was to provide had “Magnum” in its name, includ-
the easy feeding from a rifle’s box ing those in the Weatherby line, until
magazine (a lá rimless), while offer- the Winchester Short Magnums and

Belted magnums. Left to right, .264 Winchester Magnum, .300 Winchester Magnum, .338 Winchester
Magnum, .375 H&H Magnum, .416 Remington Magnum, and .458 Winchester Magnum.


Remington Ultra Magnums came diameter (actually 0.458-inch); the
along at the turn of the twenty-first “70” is the weight of the black-
century. These newer Magnum cases powder charge (70 grains); and the
are primarily based on the beltless “405” is the weight of the projectile
.404 Jeffery. (a 405-grain bullet). Many car-
tridges existed using this method
nomenclature. Indeed, a few are
CARTRIDGE NOMENCLATURE: still hanging around today. In 1895,
WHAT’S IN A NAME? the .30-30 WCF was Winchester’s
Perusing through Grumpy Pants’ proprietary baby. The WCF stands
(henceforth known as GP) hunt- for “Winchester Center Fire,” where
ing magazines when I was a young the .30 is the bore diameter (0.308-
man, I would read about the various inch), and the powder charge was 30
cartridges the authors used and be grains of blackpowder. The .38-55
consumed. It was like finding the works the same way: a .38 bore (ac-
secret words to a magic spell—.30-30 tually 0.375-inch, to be picky), with
WCF, 7x57 Mauser, .375 Holland & a 55-grain powder charge.
Holland Belted Rimless Magnum, As blackpowder stepped off
.250-3000 Savage, .44-40, 7mm-08 stage to let smokeless powder into
Remington, .264 Winchester Mag- the spotlight, the labeling changed.
num. The names captivated me. How- Peter Paul Mauser developed the
ever, part of the mystique was born 7x57mm, known better to the
of my own ignorance. I just couldn’t sporting world as the 7mm Mauser,
make sense of where the names 7x57mm Mauser, and even the .275
came from nor what they stood for. Rigby. The cartridge uses a 7mm
An evening spent with my dad and a bore diameter (measuring the rifle’s
reloading manual (a 1970 Sierra edi- lands; the groove diameter is 7.24mm
tion that I cherish and he still uses), or 0.284-inch), and the case length is
demystified the jumbles of numbers. 57.0mm. This led the way for nam-
If you already have a good handle on ing most of the cartridges from the
it, bear with me. If you don’t, please European Continent. The 6.5x54mm
allow me to explain. Mannlicher-Schoenauer, the 8x57mm
The development of metallic car- Mauser, the 9.3x74R (the “R” stands
tridges required a different means of for rimmed), and the 6.5x55mm
naming the particular case that the Swedish Mauser are all examples of
rifle used, as there were many dif- the metric “Continental” designation.
ferent cases that used the same bore Some included the name of the pro-
diameter. An early and still com- prietor or inventor, others did not.
mon example is the .45-70, often Sportsmen in Great Britain and
referred to as the .45-70 Govern- America would have none of that
ment. The original designation for metric nonsense. It was decimal
this cartridge was the .45-70-405. portions of an inch for those in the
It works like this: “.45” is the bore UK and the USA or nothing. This

24 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

A Lapua
case head.

honestly makes no sense to me, as cases use a bullet diameter larger

it sort of blends different systems than the name suggests. The .303
of measurements, but who am I British, for instance, uses a bullet
to question it? The divide was so of 0.311-inch diameter, the .318
pronounced that, when the firm of Westley-Richards uses a bullet diam-
John Rigby & Co. started to distrib- eter of 0.330-inch, the .404 Jeffrey
ute the 7x57mm Mauser cartridge in uses 0.423-inch bullet, and the .500
its sporting rifles, it deemed a name Jeffrey uses a 0.510-inch bullet, just
change was in order, and so we have to name a few.
the .275 Rigby—but even that’s not Clear as mud, right? Then it
as simple as it may seem. shouldn’t come as any surprise that
Most British cartridges (but there are exceptions to all the nam-
certainly not all, as I will illustrate), ing rules. The most glaring example
are named for the diameter between is the famous .375 H&H (short for
the lands of the bore’s rifling, not the the firm of Holland & Holland)
grooves as we Americans do. The Magnum. Its bore diameter is exact-
bullet (and therefore groove) diam- ly 0.375-inch and that is the diam-
eter of the 7x57 is 0.284-inch. The eter of the bullets used. The popular
land diameter is 0.275-inch and, so, .416 Rigby also fits this bill, with a
the .275 Rigby was born. bullet diameter that is exactly 0.416-
Now, just when you think you inch. These exceptions are why you
may have it all figured out, you need need to read your reloading manual
to know that many of the British thoroughly for each cartridge you


intend to load. An assumption could Sometimes, metric designations
be catastrophic! are converted to English units for a
The Norwegian .30-40 Krag was new name. The 7x57 Mauser, 7mm
adopted by the US Government in Remington Magnum, .284 Win-
1894, using a 220-grain bullet and chester, and .280 Remington all use
40 grains of nitrocellulose (smoke- 0.284-inch bullets. The .280 Rem-
less) powder. It is one of the few ington was even renamed the 7mm
cases to use smokeless powder, but Express Remington for a while, to
be named in the style of the black- further complicate matters!
powder cartridges. Next came the Because of the wide array of
case voted “most likely to succeed” .22-caliber centerfire cartridges avail-
by the very universe itself: the .30- able, the number or caliber portion of
06 Springfield. Based on the naming a cartridge name is often adjusted so
system I’ve just discussed, you’re as to differentiate one from another.
probably going to tell me that the Within the selection of cases that use
name means .30-caliber with 06 0.224-inch bullets, for instance, we
grains of powder. Nope. This is just have the .218 Bee, .219 Zipper, .220
another wrench in the works. The Swift, .221 Fireball, .222 Remington,
U.S. Army designation was “Ball .223 Remington, .224 Weatherby, and
Ammunition, .30-caliber, Model the .225 Winchester! Woof!
of 1906.” Somehow the name was Sometimes the company that
shortened to the .30-06. developed the case gets its name
My fellow Americans tended to be involved, such as with the .270
a bit more creative with the naming Winchester, 6mm Remington, or .300
process, sometimes rounding off the Weatherby. Other times it’s the last
bore diameter, other times actually name of the developer or a tribute
using a false one to differentiate the to the developer. The .35 Whelen
numerous cases for one bore size. is named for famed gun writer and
Some examples of this are easy to cartridge developer Col. Townsend
pick up on. One of our most popular Whelen, and the .257 Roberts
bore sizes in America is the great (known often as the “Bob”) is a tip-
.30-caliber, or 0.308-inch. Many o’-the-hat to developer Ned Roberts.
cases use this size bullet but go by Then there are the times the case
different monikers. The .308 Win- name comes from the combination
chester, .300 Savage, .308 Norma of an existing case changed to hold a
Magnum, .300 Holland & Hol- bullet diameter different than that of
land, .307 Winchester, .30-40 Krag, the original. These cases began life
.30-06 Springfield, .300 Winchester as “wildcats.” Here in America, when
Magnum, .300 Weatherby Magnum, we name a wildcat cartridge, the new
.309 JDJ, and .300 Remington Ultra bullet diameter is listed first, then the
Magnum all use the 0.308-inch bullet parent case is referenced. The .25-06
diameter, but the cases are in no way Remington is one: it is a .30-06 case
interchangeable. resized to hold 0.257-inch bullets.

26 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

A Lapua
case head.

The .22-250 Remington is a .250- Then there’s the stuff that can
3000 Savage case necked down to only be called weird. Savage in-
hold 0.224-inch bullets. Seems easy troduced the .250-3000 Savage,
enough, but this method of naming in 1915. Using light-for-caliber
gets a bit strange now and then, as in 87-grain bullets, it was the first
the case of the 7mm-08. This is a .308 cartridge to break the 3,000 feet per
Winchester case necked down to hold second (fps) mark. This was so im-
7mm projectiles. I believe the proper portant to the Savage Arms Company
terminology would have been 7mm- that it included the figure in the case
308, but that’s not how it happened. name: A .250-diameter bullet—okay,
In Great Britain, it works in the op- technically it’s 0.257-inch, because
posite manner. Instead of putting the all of this isn’t confusing enough—
bore diameter in front of the parent exceeding 3,000 fps.
case, the parent case bore diameter is However you slice it, fascinating
placed in front of the new bullet size. to bewildering a general familiarity
The classic .450/400 Nitro Express is with the naming of cartridges is im-
a .450 NE resized to hold a 0.405- portant to avoid a possible confusion
inch bullet, and the .577/450 Martini- when loading and/or shooting. I now
Henry is a .577 Snider case necked return you to your regularly sched-
down to hold 0.455-inch bullets. uled programming.


No. 4 primers.

THE PRIMER anvil self-contained within the primer

That tiny metal cup in the center itself.
of your cartridge case head, struck As a side note to the discussion on
by the firing pin, is the first spark in primers, know that care must be taken
the chain of combustion that leads to when firing old (WWII-era or earlier)
a bullet being launched. The spark military ammunition. Years ago, the
is created by the reaction of lead, priming compound contained fulmi-
barium nitrate, and other chemical nate of mercury, which is a corrosive
compounds being crushed against the substance. While commercial sporting
anvil located within the primer cup. ammunition made the switch to non-
This explosion sends sparks through mercuric primers around the turn of
the primer’s flash hole and into the the twentieth century, the U.S. military
powder charge. The design is really did not make the official switch until
just an upgrade on the first percus- after the Second World War. If you
sion caps used in the muzzleloading find such ammunition and your pre-
rifles of the mid-nineteenth century; liminary inspection shows it to be in
the percussion cap, too, needed to be sound, fireable condition, be sure and
struck against an anvil, in this case clean your rifle with a good solvent
the nipple on the percussion lock. So, after shooting it. When my pal Hicksy
the modern configuration of primers bought “Autumn,” his sweetheart .30-
for centerfire cartridges features an 06, we had a surplus of WWII military

28 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

Primer varieties.
(Photos both pages courtesy
Massaro Media Group & J.D.
Fielding Photography)

Large and Small

rifle primers.



ammunition, which we used for prac- Large Pistol primers are 0.210-inch
tice and sighting in. After taking the in diameter, while Small Rifle and
rifle to the range one day, he neglected Small Pistol primers are 0.175-inch
to clean it until several days late—he in diameter. I’ve heard the myth of a
could barely fit a patch down the bore “medium” primer measuring 0.204-
because of the corrosion caused by inch, made by the Frankfort Arsenal
those old primers. That was the last in Pennsylvania, but I’ve never seen
time we shot that old ammo without one with my own eyes.
cleaning immediately! Thankfully, Primer designations can be con-
today’s primers are non-corrosive. fusing, so you must make a habit of
There are two types of primers, checking and double-checking your
for our purposes, in the discussion of reloading data manual, so you have
reloading metallic cartridges: Rifle the correct primers for the cartridges
primers and Pistol primers. Each you’re loading. Here are some ex-
variety comes in Large and Small amples of primer nomenclature:
sizes, just as each size has a Magnum
variation that has a hotter spark. Rifle • Large Rifle: CCI 200, Federal
primers have a thicker metal cup, 210, Remington 9½, Winchester
due to the higher pressures at which WLR
they operate. Pistols operate at much • Large Rifle Magnum: CCI 250,
lower pressures and, so, the primer Federal 215, Remington 9½ M,
cups are thinner. Large Rifle and Winchester WLRM

30 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

CCI primers
for military

• Small Rifle: CCI 400, Federal community. Several companies also

205, Remington 6½, Winchester produce “military primers,” which
WSR have the thickest cups. These are
• Small Rifle Magnum: CCI 450, designed for use in the AR platform
Federal 250M, Remington 7½ and other military-type rifles and
• Large Pistol: CCI 300, Federal are made to military specifications.
150, Remington 2½, Winchester The CCI 34 (Large Rifle) and CCI
WLP 41 (Small Rifle) are two examples.
• Large Pistol Magnum: CCI 350, These primers are designed to avoid
Federal 155, Winchester WLPM a slam fire, something infrequently
• Small Pistol: CCI 500, Federal associated with the protruding firing
100, Remington 1½, Winchester pins of military firearms.
WSP Always use the type and brand
• Small Pistol Magnum: CCI of primer called for in the reloading
550, Federal 200, Remington manual you are referring to for load
5½, Winchester WSPM data, as a change in primers can result
in a change in pressure. Never substi-
There are several varieties of tute. It is also a good idea to have only
“Match” primers available. These one type of primer brand and size on
have been shown to give the most your reloading bench at one time, to
consistent results and are readily avoid any confusion and a possibly
embraced by the target shooting dangerous situation at the bench.



THE POWDER Friar Roger Bacon was the first

Warm apple pie, evergreens European to record the mixture for
in November, puppy’s breath, my gunpowder in the thirteenth century,
wife’s perfume—these are among although it is a widely held belief that
my favorite scents. All of them pale Chinese culture had it long before
in comparison to the wonderful, that. Regardless, that blissful blend of
acrid scent of burnt gunpowder. You sulphur, charcoal, and saltpeter called
either know what I’m talking about “blackpowder” certainly changed the
or you don’t. world. It ruined the effectiveness of
So what is that magic stuff? What metal armor, diminished the security
is that mystical dust that makes of the castle, and leveled the playing
the sound of a tiny maraca when field between strong, brave soldiers
you shake your favorite cartridge? and their more diminutive and cow-
Some shooters never need or want to ardly counterparts.
answer this question, but, being the Blackpowder hasn’t really changed
curious human I am, I had to know. in its makeup over the last century
Hours in my youth spent thumbing and is still going strong. However,
through my dad’s reloading manual it burns dirty and leaves a corrosive
admittedly left me more confused residue throughout the firearm’s
than enlightened, but that’s reversed bore that must be removed quickly
now, so allow me to shed a little light to prevent rusting and pitting. Today
on this wonderful substance. there are cleaner burning substitutes

32 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

available that have made the job of This was known as “guncotton.” It
cleanup easier. Hodgdon’s Pyrodex was capable of producing pressures
and 777 are among these. Blackpow- and velocities much greater than its
der is generally measured by volume, blackpowder counterpart, and it took
not weight, and its substitutes are also a bit to develop gun steel that could
measured this way. Blackpowder is withstand those higher pressures.
graded and identified by the coarse- Later, in 1887, Alfred Nobel invented
ness or fineness of the granules; Fg nitroglycerine. When mixed with
is very coarse cannon and shotgun nitrocellulose, it created a plasticized
powder, FFg and FFFg are finer and substance that was a stable com-
used in many rifles and pistols, and pound. Cordite, an early British ver-
the finest, FFFFg, is usually reserved sion, was the propellant du jour for
for priming flintlock actions. many of our classic cartridges. One
Progress was made in the scien- of Cordite’s little peculiarities was
tific field of powder in the 1840s, the fact that it was very sensitive to
when nitric acid was put upon temperature fluctuation. The cartridg-
cellulose to produce nitrocellulose. es that were developed in England

(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

Flake powder grain structure.


(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)
Stick powder.

and Continental Europe often had slows down the decomposition of the
pressure increases, when brought to compound.
Africa and India. The Tropics showed The shape of the powder granules
the flaws, from extraction troubles is usually one of three types: flake,
to cracked receivers, and this is why stick, and spherical. Flake powder
some of the huge cases like the .416 is usually shaped like miniature
Rigby and the .470 Nitro Express pancakes. Many shotgun and pistol
came about. They needed that kind powders are in this configuration, and
of internal case volume to keep the some contain colored flakes. Alliant’s
pressures low. Green-Dot, Bullseye, and Unique are
Our modern single-base and three examples of flake powder.
double-base smokeless powders have Stick powder is one of the most
resolved that issue, and the issue popular rifle powder shapes. The
of temperature sensitivity has been compound is extruded into long,
diminished greatly. Single-base pow- spaghetti-like rods, then cut to the
ders are usually comprised mostly of desired length. Examples of stick
nitrocellulose; double-base powders powder include IMR4064, IMR4350,
are a mixture of nitrocellulose and Hodgdon’s Varget and H4831, and
nitroglycerine. Powders are coated Alliant’s Reloder 25.
with a deterrent and a stabilizer. The Spherical powder is just what you
deterrent slows the burn rate to a think it would be, a round ball, or at
desired amount, and the stabilizer least a slightly flattened round ball.

34 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

These take up less space than stick products of months and years of pres-
powder and can help achieve good sure testing under strict laboratory
velocity in a case with limited capac- conditions, and an attempt to exceed
ity. Some of the spherical powders the published values can result in
include Hodgdon’s H380 and BL- your untimely demise. Start at the
C(2), Winchester’s 760, and Accurate published minimum charge weight
Powder’s No. 9. and carefully increase the charge as
Powder is measured in grains, not you shoot through your loads. Always
to be confused with grams. There are stop when you see the first signs of
7,000 grains to the pound. Depend- excessive pressure (bulged cases,
ing on the cartridge being loaded blown primers, cases that won’t
(and especially pistol cartridges) a extract, etc).
variation of as little as a tenth of a The powders available to the
grain can make the difference be- handloader are referred to as “canister
tween a safely loaded cartridge and a grade” powder. They are each unique
dangerous one that produces exces- in their burn rates. Fast-burning
sive pressures. It is imperative that powders are (generally) used in
you strictly adhere to the load data shotshells, small case rifle cartridges,
published by reputable manufactur- and many of the pistol cartridges. The
ers! I cannot stress that point enough. medium-burn cartridges work well in
The various reloading manuals are standard rifle cartridges and some of

Hodgdon’s H335 spherical powder.


the bigger magnums. The newly de- necessary to push their bullets as fast
veloped slow-burning powders really as they do.
shine in the huge overbore cases. The Today’s powders go by many dif-
velocity kings like the .30-378 Weath- ferent names. Some are just names,
erby, 7mm STW, .338 Remington like Bullseye, TiteGroup, Varget,
Ultra Magnum, and .270 Winchester Red Dot or Unique. Others are just
Short Magnum all develop their high numbers, such as Accurate Arms’
speeds from very slow burning pow- No. 5 and Winchester’s 760 and 748.
ders, which develop the high pressure Some are a combination, such as
IMR7828, H380, N160, Reloder 15,
etc. It is important that you are pretty
well versed in the different powders,
so as to avoid confusion and pos-
sible injury. An example: There are
three different powders, from three
different manufacturers, that contain
“4350” in their names: IMR4350
(“IMR” stands for Improved Mili-
tary Rifle), H4350 (Hodgdon) and
AA4350 (Accurate Arms). All have
slightly different burn rates and are
not interchangeable. Strict attention
must be paid to ensure that you have
the powder in hand that the reloading
manual specifies. This rule must be
Storing powder is not a big deal,
but common sense should prevail. It
should be stored in a cool place, with
no risk of exposure to open flames
and stashed far away from children.
I store my powder in a wooden box,
clearly labeled, with a lockable lid.
You never want to store powder in
a container that will contain pres-
sure; in the event of a fire, powder
that is not under
pressure will burn
Alliant Reloder
25 is a very rapidly, but, put
slow-burning it under pressure
powder designed
for magnum
and you’ve made
cartridges. a bomb. Always
store powder in

36 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

Some powders can be used in
many different applications. For ex-
ample, I use Unique and TiteGroup in
many different pistol cartridges, from
9mm Luger to .45 Long Colt. Now,
the .308 Winchester rifle cartridge
is the first round I learned to reload.

(Photo courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

My dad, GP, insisted that a 165-grain
bullet on top of IMR4064 was the
only way to go, and anything else
was near blasphemy. In his world, at
that time, there was no other powder
(or cartridge, for that matter). I have
used IMR4064 (because we had a
ton of it) in .22-250 Remington,
.243 Winchester, 6.5x55 Swedish,
.270 Winchester, 7x57 Mauser, .308
Winchester, .30-06 Springfield, .300
Winchester Magnum, .375 H&H
Magnum, and my sweetheart .416
The very versatile Remington Magnum. This doesn’t
IMR4064 powder. mean that this is the only powder that
will work, nor the best powder in each
of those cartridges. It just means that
its original canister and never try it is a powder that has a wide range of
to relabel another container. I mark applications.
the date of purchase and the date I Conversely, a single cartridge may
opened the canister, so as to use the be served well by a large number
powder in the order in which it was of different powders. The venerable
purchased. .30-06 Springfield, that classic of
Choosing a powder can be time classics, can be fed a wide range of
consuming. Reloading manuals offer powders with a wide range of burn
several selections per cartridge/bul- rates and provide great results across
let combination and will sometimes the board. For example, depending
highlight or recommend the powder upon bullet weight, the following
that worked best in their test rifle or powders are well suited for use in
pistol. Every barrel is different, and the .30-06: IMR3031, IMR4064,
while the most accurate load in the IMR4320, IMR4350, IMR4895, and
manual may work perfectly fine in IMR 7828; Hodgdon Varget, H414,
your firearm, sometimes you need H380, H4350, and BL-C(2); Alliant
to experiment. Too, you will inevi- Reloder 15, Reloder 17, Reloder 19,
tably end up owning more than one Reloder 22, Reloder 25, and 4000-
manual, but start with just one. MR; Winchester 748, and 760—you


get the idea. It may take trying sev- In that little dust-up of the mid-
eral types of powder before you find 1770s, the British Army was outshot
the accuracy you so desire. by Revolutionaries who had firearms
with rifling. The Brits, of course, had
smoothbore muskets. Our soon-to-be
THE BULLET Americans had embraced the idea
From the earliest days of firearms, that spinning the projectile made
where the smooth lead ball was the it easier to hit distant targets; the
only projectile available up though smoothbore Brown Bess muskets
the Civil War era of the Minié ball often threw lead knuckle balls. Later
and on to today’s super-premium, in ballistic history, the concept of
secant ogive match bullets, the bullet the elongated bullet took accuracy to
and only the bullet is what touches yet another level. Long, heavy-for-
our game or target. Therefore, it caliber, cast lead bullets accompanied
deserves a great deal of attention. frontiersmen across our continent.

A lineup of many different rifle bullet types.

38 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

Buffalo hunters made their living was born! The concept of a copper
with them. jacket filled with a lead core is still
In the 1880s, as smokeless powder the most popular today, a design
evolved and pushed rifle velocities to most often seen in the common soft-
the region of 2,200 fps or so, the cast point bullet so many of us use.
lead bullet had some trouble handling There are many types and classifi-
the pressures. Major Eduard Rubin, cations of bullets today for rifles and
of Switzerland, had the bright idea to
put a harder gilding metal (copper)
on the outside of the bullet, for it to
better take to the rifling and provide pis-
better accuracy at these
new, previously unimag- The round
ined speeds—behold, our ball, the first
modern cup and core bullet projectile.

(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)


The classic round-nose bullet.

Hornady’s 170-grain flat-points were designed for the .30-30 WCF.

40 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

tols. As you peruse a bullet catalog, front of it in the tubular magazine
you will see nomenclature like of lever-actions during recoil from
round-nose, flat-nose, spitzer, spitzer a fired round, something that can set
boat-tail, hollowpoint, full metal off a chain-fire reaction. Today, many
jacket, and more. Really, the list goes pistol bullets are flat-tipped ,to pro-
on and on. Let’s take a look at some vide a improved frontal diameter to
of them. better transmit energy at the target.
A round-nose bullet has, you A spitzer is a severely pointed
guessed it, a rounded nose or “me- bullet, one whose name is a de-
plat” (meplat is a fancy word for the rivative of the German word spitzge-
front or nose portion of any bullet). schoss, which roughly translates to
These bullets usually have quite a bit “pointy bullet.” The pointed end of
of exposed lead at the nose, to provide the bullet allows it to slice through
good expansion, and are generally the air better, resist slowing down
employed for use at shorter distances. and, therefore, have a flatter, better
A flat-nose bullet will have a blunt trajectory (we’re going to discuss all
nose. The rifle variety of these bullets the physics in just a moment).
was designed for the tube magazine A pointed bullet whose base
of many lever-action rifles. The flat- has been angled is called a spitzer
nose concept came about to ensure boat-tail. The angled base improves
that the nose of one bullet couldn’t aerodynamics, so they resist air drag
pierce the primer of the cartridge in even more than a regular spitzer.

(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

Traditional flat-based spitzer bullets.


(Photos this page courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)
The boat-tail on a these bullets helps reduce air drag.

Most long-range match bullets for Many indoor pistol ranges require a
rifle competition or other distance bullet to be totally encapsulated in
applications are some form of copper, so as to minimize the amount
spitzer boat-tail, be they hollowpoint of vaporized lead in the air.
or otherwise. A bullet with a hollow cavity at
A bullet that has no exposed lead the nose is, aptly, a hollowpoint,
at the nose is one that’s considered to and it’s a design created to rapidly
have a full metal jacket. The copper expand upon striking its target. In a
casing completely surrounds the bul- rifle, spitzer hollowpoint bullets can
let, except at the base. Military rifle be wonderfully accurate (although
and pistol bullets are mostly of this their fragile construction often
type (due to the Hague Convention). precludes them from being used for
hunting), and can provide the target
shooter with some of the best results.
In a pistol, the hollowpoint configu-
Full metal jacket
pistol bullets. ration is often used for its terminal
performance as warranted in defen-
sive situations.
A pistol bullet that is a squared
slug and without a taper to the nose
is called a “wadcutter.” The name is
derived from the wad the bullet cuts
out of a paper target.
A close cousin to the wadcutter
is the semi-wadcutter. This pistol

42 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

bullet has the rear portion of the is defined as the ratio of a bullet’s
wadcutter design, but a nose section mass to its cross-sectional area (i.e.,
tapered slightly to assist in feeding its caliber). The higher the SD, the
from a magazine. longer the bullet is. This is impor-
Now that we have a handle on the tant to hunters who want to be sure
primary bullet styles, let’s discuss
bullet weight. Within any one caliber
(which, simply stated, is the diameter
of the grooves in the barrel), there
is always a range of bullet weights
to choose from. Let’s use the clas-
sic .308-inch diameter bullet as an
example. Common .308 bullets range
from 110 grains at the lightest to
250 grains at the heaviest. Since the
diameter of the bullet must remain a
constant, it is, therefore, the length of
the bullet that must change. Within
caliber, the heavier the bullet the
longer it will be. This is described
in the industry
as “sectional
A full metal jacket
density.” Sec- (FMJ) rifle bullet,
tional density shown sectioned.

pistol bullets.
(Photo courtesy Massaro
Media Group & J.D.
Fielding Photography)


These are .357-inch diameter 148-grain wadcutters.

their bullet will be heavy enough to shooting,” it is usually achieving

match the game being pursued, so as higher than standard velocities. The
to penetrate and make a quick kill. It bullet of such a cartridge will “shoot
is important to target shooters who flat,” because it can cover more dis-
want to be sure the bullets will stabi- tance before the gravitational pull of
lize (rotate) properly for an accurate, the earth has inflicted its full effect.
long-range shot. Now, there is more than the force
A brief explanation of the physi- of gravity at work on that poor bul-
cal effects on the fired bullet and let once it’s sent downrange. The
how those effects can be controlled meplat or nose design of a bullet
through bullet choice is needed here. has quite an affect on the down-
Once fired and out the end of the range performance of that bullet.
barrel, the bullet immediately stops Air drag is an awful thing. The more
gaining velocity and begins to drop surface area we try to push down-
at the same rate it would if you held range, the greater effect air drag has
it in your hand and dropped it to the on velocity reduction. This is why
ground. That is known as “gravita- spitzer boat-tail bullets have a flatter
tional acceleration.” The faster the trajectory. They slice through the air
object is traveling, the further it can more efficiently and resist the effects
go before contacting the earth; imag- of air drag, thereby covering more
ine a small child throwing a baseball ground before nasty old gravity does
versus a Major League pitcher. When its thing. A round-nose or flat-nose
a cartridge is described as being “flat bullet has more surface area for the

44 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

These are 158-grain .357-inch semi-wadcutters.
(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)


air to act upon and is, thus, slowed with the terrible recoil—for every
down faster, so it cannot cover as action there is an equal and opposite
much distance before Mr. Gravi- reaction—and muzzle blast. Only
tational Pull yanks it down to the you can decide where the threshold
ground. For pistol cartridges, whose lies in a cartridge that is the perfect
velocities are generally lower, this combination of recoil, flat trajectory,
effect is minimized, plus the barrel wise bullet choice, and one you can
length of pistols tends to limit them handle effectively.
to shorter ranges, compared to the I talked a bit about the basic bullet
barrels of rifles. styles, but there’s more to a bullet
To compare and contrast the than just its external profile. In the
various shapes of bullets, ballisti- hunting world, the construction of
cians developed the term “ballistic the bullet is very important to the
coefficient.” This is the measurement quick and humane kill we all desire.
of a bullet’s ability to overcome air The bullet must be suited to the task
resistance in flight. The higher the at hand and for the velocity at which
ballistic coefficient, or BC, the more it is delivered. Careful planning
aerodynamic a bullet will be. If your and judicious handloading can and
hunting shots are all at very long will maximize your hunting trip and
ranges, a spitzer boat-tail might make put your smiling face in the trophy
an awful lot of sense. If your shoot- picture. For those of us who pursue
ing is done at closer ranges, you’ll the most common game animal, the
be just fine with a round-nose or whitetail deer, for instance, the tradi-
flat-nose bullet. Most rifle shooters tional cup-and-core soft-point bullet
who are serious about accuracy on delivered from a classic cartridge is a
paper targets prefer the hollowpoint perfectly suitable choice. The bullets
spitzer boat-tail bullets in a “match” expand well to create a large wound
configuration, where the design toler- channel, and because the whitetail
ances are kept very tight. deer is a relatively thin-skinned ani-
There’s been a trend in cartridge mal, they penetrate into the vital or-
size and bullet choice that’s really gans to ensure a quick kill. But, not
accelerated recently, but it’s one all game animal or hunting situations
that’s really been taking place for are the same, of course. Bears, hogs,
the last 50 years. It’s the concept of kudus, elands, moose, and elk are
super-magnum rifle cartridges burn- just a few of the animals who have
ing immense amounts of powder and densely corded muscles or gristle
attaining unprecedented velocities. plates that must be penetrated before
These big cases can make long-range a bullet can reach the vital organs. In
shooting a bit easier, because the the case of the largest game animals,
bullets cover much more distance such as moose, bison, Cape buffalo,
before the drop starts. However, and elephant, the animal’s sheer size
they come at a price. To achieve requires a different bullet construc-
these high velocities, we must put up tion, one that will not only kill the

46 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

Early premium bullets.
(Photo courtesy Massaro Media
Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

animal, but also stop it rapidly, so no jacket, no core, just a single piece
that no one gets hurt. This is where of metal that expands and penetrates
the premium bullets come into play. wonderfully. It has since evolved into
John Nosler was frustrated by today’s TSX bullet.
the performance of traditional cup- Some hunters wanted the accuracy
and-core bullets on a large moose advantage of the target shooter’s hol-
he hunted in the 1940s. As a result, lowpoint bullet, but in a configura-
he pioneered the development of tion tough enough to effectively take
premium bullets by adding a copper game. Several companies answered
partition in the middle of the bullet, this demand with the idea of a
something that helped ensure deep polymer tip inserted into a hollow
penetration was achieved. The Nosler point bullet that had a thicker jacket.
Partition became a mainstay in bullet The Nosler Ballistic Tip is a tradi-
designs created for hunters, and it is tional cup-and-core hollowpoint with
still used with good effect today. The a sharp polymer tip and boat-tail.
Swift A-Frame took the concept one The Hornady Interbond and Swift
step further by chemically bonding Scirocco have the hollow cavity
the copper jacket to the lead core, and polymer tip, but with the jacket
still with the partition inside. It is a chemically bonded to the core to
very strong bullet, capable of taking prevent bullet breakup. These, among
some of the largest and most danger- others, are wonderfully accurate bul-
ous game available. lets that can handle large game.
Randy Brooks, of Barnes Bul- The hunters of the world’s most dan-
lets, decided that the lead core was gerous game, the African elephant, of-
altogether unnecessary and made a ten require a bullet known as a “solid.”
solid copper hollowpoint bullet that Years ago, that meant simply a bullet
expanded into four petals and, so, the that had a round nose and a full metal
Barnes X bullet was born. There is jacket. Essentially, they were copper-


clad steel with a lead core, a construct copper jackets, uniform weights,
that guarantees penetration through the and very tight tolerances, are readily
2½-foot-thick honeycombed cranium available to the target shooter, in both
of Loxodonta Africana. Today, that rifle and pistol form. Berger Bullets,
same style bullet is produced, along with its proprietary J4 jacket, Sierra’s
with a revised offering, a bullet design line of MatchKing bullets, and Hor-
known as the mono-metal solid. These nady’s Match line are just a few of
bullets are usually a round-nosed or the projectiles available to the serious
flat-nosed, parallel-sided homogeneous target shooter.
metal, which will not deform, rivet, or The cast lead bullet that started this
break up. conversation about projectiles is and
On the other end of the spectrum will continue to be alive and well. Pis-
from the elephant hunter, varmint tol shooters find these bullets econom-
hunters want a very accurate, yet ical, especially when high volumes of
very frangible bullet. Many bullet ammunition are to be expended, and
companies now offer a special line of they are readily available in many con-
bullets that have very thin jackets and figurations. Rifle shooters, primarily
are specially designed to meet the those aficionados of the nineteenth-
varmint hunter’s needs. century lever-action and single-shot
Target shooters are accuracy firearms, love them for their nostalgic
hounds. They fine-tune their rifles look and performance. The cast lead
and pistols and loads to produce the bullet requires a bit more attention to
tightest groups possible. Such am- load, but can produce a very satisfying
munition must use the finest bullets finished product.
available. Since, as we shall see, What all this talk about bullet
consistency is the key to producing types and design boils down to is
accurate handloads, the bullets for this: Make sure the bullet you choose
target shooters must be held to ex- is appropriate for your shooting situ-
tremely tight tolerances. The match- ation. If you do that, you’ll have a
grade bullet, with very concentric lifetime of success and fun.

48 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading


ow that you have an under- list of tools available to the reloader;
standing of what a cartridge some are a necessity and some sim-
is made of, let’s look at ply make life easier. The setup you
the tools you’ll need to reform and choose can be as simple or complex
assemble a cartridge. There’s a long as you’d like, so long as it is effec-
tive, and by effective I mean
that whether you’re using
all new components or
brass cases that have been
previously fired, you will
need to be able to control
the dimensions and weights
of the components you are
going to use.
First thing you’re going
to need is a clean, quiet
place, one removed from
distraction, in which to do
your loading. A workbench
with good lighting is what
I prefer. Beyond that, let’s
look at each of the neces-
sary tools individually.
(Photo courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

Your reloading press is
the important piece of gear
used to obtain a leveraged

The Lee Turret press

that has served the
author for decades.

(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

This is a single-stage RCBS Rockchucker.

50 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

An inexpensive Lee “C”-style press. The strong frame of an “O”-style press.

mechanical advantage, something is usually more inexpensive than an

that’s needed for resizing brass “O”-type press, and they are not gen-
from its fired dimensions back to its erally as strong, because some flex
original specifications, and also for can occur under high pressure in the
properly seating a bullet in a sized “C”-type designs. Since the “O”-type
case. Presses come in many shapes press can’t flex, it is much stronger
and sizes and are produced by a num- (and also heavier). I also like the
ber of companies. single-stage press for the manner in
For most of my rifle loading work, which it seats the primers. This level
I prefer a “single-stage” press. The of attention can deliver the consis-
single stage press performs only one tent results we accuracy hounds are
operation of the various reloading always yearning for.
steps each time the handle is worked. There are also “progressive
For me, the single-stage allows me presses,” which perform multiple
to “feel” the resizing operation and operations every time the handle is
ensures the bullets are seated the cranked. I really like these for pistol
same way every time. Most single- cartridge loading. Depending on the
stage presses are of the “C”-type or model you choose, the cartridges are
the “O”-type, named for the shape of de-primed, resized, re-primed, flared,
their respective frame. The “C”-type charged, and a new bullet seated, all

(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)
The simplest reloading setup: The Lee Target Model kit. Requires no press, just a mallet!

in a single press stroke. For the pistol in a true single-stage press. I have a
shooter who likes weekend time at Redding T7 turret press that I dearly
the range or shoots in competition, love and I can attest to using a Lee
ammunition can be expended rather turret press with my dad to load tens
quickly, thus the progressive press of thousands of very accurate rounds.
can greatly help in replenishing sup- To each their own. Whatever press you
plies. In my shop, our RCBS Auto- choose, make sure it is securely bolted
2000 progressive press can quickly to your bench, in a comfortable place,
generate accurate pistol ammunition. and that you are thoroughly familiar
In addition to progressive presses, with its operation before you set your
many companies offer a turret press. first case in the first die.
While still technically a single-stage
by definition, the top portion of the
press contains a rotating turret, which RELOADING DIES
can hold three or more reloading dies Your reloading dies are the screw-
at once (we’ll get to dies in a min- in tools that reform spent brass into
ute). This turret allows the reloader its proper dimensions, punch out the
to perform three or four operations spent primer (the process known as
without changing the dies, as you “decapping”), flare the case mouth in
would have to do in a straight-forward the case of straight-walled cartridges,
single-stage press. Some folks have and seat the bullet into the case. A
frowned upon the turret press, for hav- set of dies is specific to the cartridge
ing too much play in the turret and not you are reloading and, save for a few
holding to the tight tolerances found pistol cartridges, are not interchange-

52 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

able. Reloading dies are a precisely die. The press (using its mechanical
machined image of a cartridge’s advantage) squeezes the fired brass
specified shape within the tolerances into the die and, because brass is a
allowed by SAAMI specifications. malleable metal, the steel (or carbide)
So what happens with the dies? die reforms it back into proper shape.
The first die you’ll use is the resizing The resizing die also has a centered

RCBS rifle reloading dies.

A dissembled seating die, with dummy round.

(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)
An RCBS three-die set for pistol cartridge reloading.

decapping pin, used to remove the Next up is the bullet seating die.
spent primer, and this pin is located This die is used for the final step in
below the expander ball. cartridge assembly. It has a depth-
The process of resizing and decap- adjustable cup, centered in the die,
ping works like this. On the upstroke that pushes on the bullet’s nose (its
of the press’ ram (the ram moves up “ogive”) when the ram is raised.
when you lower the handle of the This allows for precise adjustment of
press), the brass case is driven up into the seating of a bullet into the case.
the die body and the neck or mouth This die is also capable of installing
portion (depending on whether it is a crimp of the case mouth onto the
a bottle-neck cartridge or straight- bullet, to further hold the bullet in
walled cartridge), is squeezed down to place. Whether or not you want to
a dimension smaller than caliber size. put a crimp on a cartridge depends
On the downstroke of the ram (when on the case you are loading and the
you raise the press’ handle back up), situation at hand. Your reloading
the case is drawn over the expander manual and the cartridge’s specifica-
ball to open the case neck or mouth to tions should dictate which policy
a dimension of 0.001-inch or 0.002- is correct for your round and load.
inch less than the bullet diameter so For instance, rifle cartridges that are
that, when the bullet is seated into the loaded for use in tubular magazine
reformed case, there is proper tension lever-action firearms, those that are
between the bullet “shank” (its sides) heavy recoiling, and most pistol cas-
and the sidewalls of the case. es often require either a roll crimp or

54 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

taper crimp. Again, reading the spe- rifle’s chamber. The thing to know
cific cartridge requirements listed in if you are going to go this route and
your reloading manual and becoming substitute a neck-sizing die for a
thoroughly familiar with these re- full-length sizing die, is that your
quirements is of utmost importance. reloaded cartridges are usable only in
Finally, note that most bottlenecked the bolt-action rifle from which those
cartridges require a two-die set: there cases were originally fired. The bolt-
will be one for full-length resizing action and only the bolt-action has
and de-priming and one for bullet the camming power to seal the cham-
seating. Straight-walled cartridges ber on a neck-sized-only cartridge.
require a third die that will flare the Neck-sized ammunition should never
case mouth to receive the new bullet. be fired in any other action type.
There is also a fourth kind of die There are some specialty die
known as a neck-sizing die. This is types, such as small base dies.
a special die, one usually reserved These are designed for resizing
for bolt-action rounds. It resizes only brass for military-style autoload-
the neck portion of the cartridge ers, and they fully resize the entire
and is used in lieu of the full-length length of the case body. This will
resizing die. The rest of the cartridge ensure the cartridges feed properly
is left as a mirror of the bolt-action from the magazine, without jams or

Redding dies
come equipped
with an Allen key
for adjusting and
securing the lock
ring, as well as a
spare decapping
pin, in case the
original breaks.
The box can
even be used as
a loading block!

chambering issues. as the dies are in good working order,
All reloading dies come with a you can make good ammunition with
“lock ring,” to hold the die at the them. An occasional cleaning with a
depth you choose for full-length small brush and some good solvent
resizing and bullet seating. The lock and a light oiling should see that your
ring butts up against the top of the dies give you a lifetime of service.
reloading press. Some are held by
tension alone, while others have a
set screw that keeps the lock ring in SHELLHOLDERS
place. I prefer a lock ring with a set Shellholders are another tool you
screw, to ensure my dies will not eas- will need. These are variously sized
ily come out of adjustment. attachments that usually slide into
There are many different grades the mouth of the press’ ram. They
of reloading dies, some of the most are machined to hold the head of a
basic construction and some made to particular cartridge and are num-
hold very precise tolerances. Some bered according to the size of the
are simple while effective, and some case head. Thus, one shellholder will
have deluxe features like blued steel often fit many different cartridges. It
with micrometer adjustments to allow is very important that you have the
for very precise tolerances. Like most proper shellholder for the cartridge
things in life, you get what you pay you are loading, or you can tear off a
for, but, with diligence, you can create rim or stick a case in a resizing die—
very accurate ammunition with some not good times!
of the more inexpensive tools. I prefer
Redding and RCBS reloading dies,
but use dies made by many different PRIMING TOOLS
companies, including some that were There are two ways to re-prime the
made by companies that have long cartridge case, either in a handheld
gone by the wayside and are cali- priming tool or in a priming device
brated for obsolete cartridges. As long attached to a reloading press. Using

are specifically
made for a
particular case
head dimension.

56 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)
I keep my shellholders organized on a board that is well labeled, to cut down the time spent searching
for the proper one.

the handheld primer, the case is have nice trays that store dozens of
loaded into the device, a new primer primers. Lee offers a simple and ef-
inserted, and a lever is squeezed to fective handheld primer that requires
seat the primer into the case. When you to place one primer at a time into
the priming tool is attached to the the hand primer. Either way and what-
reloading press, the primer is inserted
into the priming cup and, on the up-
stroke of the press handle, the primer
is seated into the case.
I most often use a priming tool
attached to my press. It allows for a
more efficient and faster operation
and I can still “feel” the primer seat
to the slightly recessed level I prefer.
Primer seating should be flush to the
case or the little bit deeper I prefer,
but you must be careful about go-
ing too deep. Your press can create
a whole bunch of force, sometimes
more than you need and something
that will seat your primer too deep in
the case. I have also used handheld
priming tools to great effect. The Ly-
man and RCBS models in particular A Lee handheld priming tool.

ever priming tool you choose, if you charge can result in destruction and
go on to become and avid reloader of death. Nope, I’m not trying to scare
multiple cartridges, sooner or later you into taking up quilting instead,
you’ll need priming tools in both just being up front about what can
Large and Small primer sizes. go wrong. If you take what I say to
heart, the chances of destruction (or
worse) are remote at best. So, with
POWDER MEASURING TOOLS that in mind, an accurate means of
Measuring powder is a process measuring powder is a necessity.
that requires the utmost and serious The traditional method for weigh-
attention. An undercharge or over- ing powder and the one I most often

Redding and RCBS beam reloading scales.

(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

A good set of scale weights help to ensure the scale is measuring properly.

58 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

The RCBS ChargeMaster 1500 electronic scale.

employ is via the beam scale. It is CASE TRIMMERS
capable of measuring weights down to Another tool you will need is
a tenth of a grain. Gravity never wears a “case trimmer.” Brass is mal-
out, and a well-calibrated beam scale leable and, over repeated firings, will
will become an old friend. My RCBS stretch or “flow.” When the cartridge
505 scale has been with me for a long case becomes too long, it must be
time and it a great value. I also love the trimmed back to the proper length. It
Redding Model No. 2 for its ultra-du- is crucial that the brass you intend to
rable construction. I highly doubt you load be trimmed to the correct, speci-
would wear out the hardened chrome fied length.
bearing surfaces in a lifetime of load- Trimming the brass is an impor-
ing. Whatever make or model you tant step in making good ammuni-
choose, a set of calibrating weights can tion. It ensures the proper dimensions
help to keep things in working order. of a reloaded cartridge. Some case
There are also many good digital trimmers are a hand-cranked affair,
scales. They display to the nearest the device bolted down to the reload-
tenth of a grain and can be easily ing bench and carefully set to the
calibrated. But, because they work proper measured length. Others are a
on piezo pressure, rather than true machined tool of specific length and
gravitational weight, digital scales tend diameter, screwed into a cutting piece
to need to be zeroed often. I have an
RCBS ChargeMaster that is among the
best of the digital scales, and though I
verify its reading often with a reweigh
on a balance beam scale, it has yet to
give me an erroneous reading. One
benefit of any scale you choose is
that it can also be used to weigh your
bullets, should you choose to pursue a
higher level of accuracy.
(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

Should you decide to purchase a

mechanical powder dispenser—there
are both mechanical dispensers and
hand “tricklers” that allow you to con-
trol the finest increments of a powder
charge—to make the loading process
quicker, the powder scale should be
used to check the charge being dis-
pensed at frequent intervals, in order
to avoid a charge that is too light or
too heavy. Check and check often is a
good mantra no matter what measur-
ing tools you use. An RCBS motorized trimmer.

60 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

Using a micrometer to measure a completed cartridge.

and inserted into the case to then trim A micrometer capable of measur-
it to proper length. Several flicks of ing to the ten-thousandth of an inch
the wrist will do the trick. There are is what you want to own. Before the
also some great motorized trimmers, digital age dawned, micrometers used
like the RCBS Case Preparation Sta- a dial to represent the measurement.
tion, which can be fine-tuned to trim Today, there are plenty of microm-
to very precise dimensions and take eters with digital readouts. Some are
the wear and tear off of your hands of plastic construction and others
and wrists. They cost a bit more than are of metal. I prefer the metal type,
the hand-powered models, but, if you as they have less room for play and
get the loading bug (and you will!) maladjustment. Please don’t skimp
they save an appreciable amount of on the micrometer, you’ll use it
time and give wonderful results. more often than you think. As your
Being able to observe the dimen- handloading techniques become more
sions of your resized case is necessary. intricate, you’ll rely on the microm-
A micrometer is a precise measuring eter more and more.
tool designed to measure in inches
and decimal portions of an inch. Case CHAMFER/DEBURRING TOOL
length, cartridge overall length (COL The chamfer/deburring tool is a
for short), neck diameter, and rim little brass cutting wonder designed
diameter are a few of the dimensions to remove any burrs on the inside and
you will want to be able to verify. outside of the case mouth, while, at the

same time, putting a nice, beveled edge PRIMER POCKET CLEANER
on the inside of the case mouth. This The primer pocket cleaner is a
bevel is referred to as a “chamfer.” The steel scraping tool that removes the
chamfer tool has a tapering diameter, burnt residue left behind by the fired
so as to be used in case mouths from primer that was in residence before
.17-inch to .500-inch or bigger. you decapped your case. Many of
A few twists will clean up the these cleaners are dual-sided, with
outside of a burred case mouth easily. one side for large primer pockets and
A clean, well-chamfered and -deburred the other for small. Some other mod-
case mouth will aid in seating the els are constructed of small steel wire
new bullet and in the chambering of a brushes, which will clean the pocket
cartridge. There are handheld models in a rotary action, rather than scrape
that work very well, but they can give the debris away. Cleaning the primer
you blisters and sore wrists, if you’re pocket will ensure that the spark of
loading a lot at one time. Some models the new primer can easily reach the
mount to motor-driven case prep fresh powder charge and help to see
stations and not only speed up the pro- the new primer is properly seated.
cess, but save hand fatigue. The cham-
fer process is usually only necessary on CASE CLEANING
bottlenecked cases, but I like to deburr TUMBLER TOOLS
all my cases, including the straight- Brass is a malleable metal, yet tar-
walled rifle and pistol cartridges. nishes very easily. It must be cleaned

An RCBS chamfer/
deburring tool.

62 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)
A two-sided pocket cleaner takes care of work on both large and small primer pockets.

before being resized, to make

sure your resizing dies give
you a lifetime of good service.
Using an abrasive media, such
as ground corncobs or crushed
walnut shells, the case tumbler
vibrates a load of dirty brass
in its vessel until that brass is
once again shiny and clean.
There are also many chemical
solutions that can hasten the
brass cleaning process, and I
often use these in conjunction
with corncob or walnut media.
Tumblers come in a variety of
sizes, with some capable of
holding up to 1,000 pistol cases
at a time. The type of reloading
you intend to do should dictate
the size tumbler you require.
There are ultra-sonic clean-
ers available, like the Lyman
A Lyman Turbo 600 vibratory cleaner. Turbo Sonic Cleaner, which

The ultrasonic
cleaner can
save time and
clean your
cases both
inside and out.

vibrate the cases in a solution. These You place the dirty brass in the pouch,
work much faster than traditional dunk it in the chemical cleaner for 20
media tumblers. The big thing I like to 60 seconds, and then rinse in clean
about cleaning ultrasonically is the water. Simple, easy, and effective,
way these machines clean the inside though I’d recommend a light tum-
of the brass cases. Having the inside bling after any chemical or ultra-sonic
of the case cleaned can greatly affect cleaning, to put a nice shine on your
the accuracy potential of your cases, cases. Neatness counts.
in a good way, as the case volume
becomes more uniform when the
burnt residue from the previous firing CASE LUBE
is removed from fired cases. An added Before squeezing a fired case into
benefit to ultrasonic cleaners is that a reloading die, that case must be
they can also be used to periodically lubricated. If not, you risk having the
remove the grit, brass, lube, and other case getting wedged in the resizing
accumulated dirt from your reloading die during the process. Case lubricants
dies. (You’d be shocked to see what come in waxes, sprays, gels, etc. Lots
comes out of them!) I found a chemi- of options. Most gels and sprays are
cal cleaning solution available from required if you choose to use a lube
Iosso, which removes almost all the pad, a sponge-like material upon
residue from your dirty brass. The kit which the cases are rolled, the lube in
comes with a cheesecloth-style pouch. the pad thereby evenly dispersing it-

64 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)
RCBS Case Lube and Lube Pad.

self on the entire case. This process of CASE LOADING BLOCKS

lubrication is a fickle thing. Too much Case loading blocks can be a great
lubricant and you will have hydrau- aid. They are designed to hold the
lic dents in the shoulder section of a cartridges you are loading, simple as
bottlenecked case. Too little will result
in a stuck case. I have always used the
RCBS Case Lube and a lube pad. I
know how much to use, and the lube
comes off the cases rather easily, with
just a light wiping after sizing. It will
take a bit of practice and experience
to judge the proper amount of lube,
when you’re first learning to load.
Nonetheless, it is a necessary step in
the resizing process.

These little gems, of varying
calibers, will help remove any excess
lube or media from inside the case
neck of your clean cases. They’re
kind of self-explanatory. A Tipton case brush.

Loading blocks prevent
cases from rolling all
around, especially
under your bench!
(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro
Media Group &
J.D. Fielding Photography)

that. Case blocks are a small platform POWDER FUNNEL

or tray in which holes have been Once the powder charge has been
drilled or formed to a specific rim weighed, getting it into the case
diameter, so that the cases don’t fall requires a funnel. I like a qual-
over or roll off the reloading bench. ity plastic funnel that resists static
They can be made of pre-formed electricity. Such a funnel eliminates
plastic, or you may make your own any powder clinging to the funnel
by drilling properly sized holes into a walls. Most of the common funnels
wood block. are dimensioned for use in cases
of .22-caliber through .45-caliber,
though there are specialty fun-
FLASH HOLE REAMER nels, too. Loading the diminutive
The flash hole is the only means .17 Remington (as Col. Le Frogg
of getting the primer’s flame into the has me load so often), requires a
powder charge. While most of today’s special funnel with a smaller hole
cases are manufactured to high in the end, to make sure the pow-
tolerances, sometimes small burrs or der doesn’t spill out around the
slightly out-of-round flash holes ap- mouth of the tiny case. If you load
pear. A reamer or a drill bit of exact any of big .470s or .500s, you will
flash hole diameter (0.08-inch) can need a bigger-mouthed funnel.
clean up the flash hole and make sure Some cases, such as the Winchester
you get consistent ignition. Short Magnums and Remington

66 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

A pair of funnels
from RCBS and
MTM Case-Gard.

Ultra Magnums, have a very sharp hand-operated variety works like this:
shoulder and short neck, so the most On the up crank of the handle, the
common funnels available will give adjustable chamber is filled with pow-
you headache. Because of the length der; on the down crank, that charge is
of the common funnel’s mouth, pow- dispensed out of the lower tube and
der can spill around the cartridge onto the pan of the scale.
shoulder. Years ago, after spilling The electronic age has seen the
powder all over the bench, GP and development of automated powder
I customized a standard funnel we measurers with digital displays.
nicknamed “Stumpy,” by cutting the The operator punches in the desired
funnel mouth length down until we charge weight and, via an electronic
had no spillage. Today, these funnels motor, the machine dispenses the
are available for purchase, properly powder onto a digital scale until the
sized for the aforementioned cases. exact amount has been poured out. I
do appreciate and use the digitized
devices, but I am still a fan of hand-
POWDER THROWER weighed charges and beam scales.
A powder thrower is a dispenser The Redding Model No. 3 powder
of powder. It uses a large plastic vial measure and the RCBS UniFlow pow-
to hold the store of powder and has a der measure are a couple of my favorite
mechanism to throw a predetermined, models, as they are easy to use and
measured amount of powder. The throw a very accurate amount of pow-

An RCBS UniFlow Powder Measure.

68 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)
der. The Redding LR-1000 is designed sure beats scooping out 100-plus grains
for the shooter who loads powder of powder for each case!
charges upwards of 100 grains, and it
can be a great asset to the shooter who
is loading for the big safari magnums POWDER TRICKLER
or something like the .338 Lapua. It I mentioned a powder trickler
before, but here’s more on
what this tool does. While
weighing powder charges,
whether you scoop the
powder out or use a powder
measure to throw powder
onto the scale’s pan, you
will need to add in that last
little bit to make the charge
weight perfect. This is where
the powder trickler comes in.
Shaped a bit like an hour-
glass, it has a longitudinal
tube threaded like a worm
screw, which delivers small
amounts of powder when
you twist the knob. The
last few tenths of a grain
are precisely delivered into
the pan. I have a well-worn
RCBS powder trickler that
has served me very well for
more than 20 years.

Primer trays are de-
signed to hold the primers
you intend to seat in the
cases. A handy tool like
this eliminates the awful
chore of picking up prim-
ers off the floor on hands
and knees once you’ve
dropped them. I’ve done it
and, inevitably, you will,
A Redding LR-1000 powder measure.

(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)
An RCBS Primer Tray.

too. There are better ways to pass the RELOADING MANUALS

time than searching under the bench I use the plural in this title
for the last three or four lost primers, because, sooner or later, you will
so the cost of these simple trays is a need more than one. Nearly all the
worthwhile investment. manufacturers of component bullets
and/or powder offer a reloading
manual for sale; for those
produced by bullet makers,
those manuals are specific
to each company’s bullets.
The loads are developed and
The RCBS researched on high-tech pres-
Powder sure testing machines, using
a variety of powders that
are viable with a particular
cartridge. Such data can tell
you which powder performed
best during the company’s
testing and provide you with
the velocities obtained in
the test rifle. Each cartridge
covered usually comes with
a brief history, and some will
provide some helpful loading
Note that not every pow-
der that can perform well

70 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

A good
of reloading
manuals is
a must.

is tested by every company. Most ping your shooting immediately if

often, the ballisticians choose what it occurs. The same idea applies to
they feel are the powders that should older versions of annual and semi-
perform well in a given case and test annual manuals. They are well worth
those. This can pose a problem, if keeping around, because they can
you have a great quantity of a pow- provide data for powders that are no
der that you like, yet the Whiz-Bang longer produced, but that you still
Bullet Company’s manual didn’t have a supply of (and is still safe
test its new 154-grain polymer-tip- to shoot). I have found several very
bonded-core-blessed-by-the-gods- accurate loads hiding within manu-
boat-tail bullet with that powder als that are older than I. Personally,
you so love. If you have a different I hoard them for their inherent value
manual that provides load data with and actually enjoy reading them (this
a comparably shaped projectile of might be a touch of geekdom) for
the same exact weight, you can the insight they provide. They are
use the starting load and carefully also a valuable source of loading
increase the charge, looking for the data for cartridges that have or will
first slight sign of pressure and stop- become obsolete.

When you pick a bullet and powder combination is tested, but
powder charge for the cartridge the data provided can be invaluable.
you intend to load, compare the test I often consult the information on
firearm data to the firearm you are these websites in conjunction with the
loading for. The difference between printed manuals, either as an alternate
the barrel length of the test gun and source of loading data or to confirm
your gun may result in a change in the loads printed in the manual.
the velocity you receive from the
published data. I load many differ-
ent types and makes of bullets, so I ODDS AND ENDS
like to have as many of the differ- While what you’ve just read cov-
ent company manuals on hand as I ers the necessities, there are many
can, be they in hard copy or digital additional tools that can make life
form. Whether you start with just on the reloading bench easier. Pli-
one manual that satisfies your needs ers both regular and needle nosed,
for loading just one or two different screwdrivers, wrenches, Allen keys,
calibers or you opt for several, I’ll and other common tools come in
reiterate, read the manual for the handy for adjusting presses and dies.
cartridge/bullet combination you Small brushes are great for clean-
choose and be sure to double-check ing away the little bits of brass that
it during your loading session. accumulate on the press or to clean
We’re lucky to be reloading in the up a spill of spent primers. Blank
twenty-first century. In addition to stickers are great for labeling your
the hard copy books, most companies stores of brass and finished boxes of
that produce bullets and/or powder ammunition. Plastic boxes for car-
provide a wealth of reloading data on tridge storage and for storing tools
their websites. Not every bullet/case/ and other accoutrement should also
(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

A good
selection of
tools always
comes in handy.

72 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

Lapua cases
nestled in an
MTM Case-Gard
cartridge case
storage box.

come in handy. Construction date, and I also keep an “.xl” file on my

charge, bullet, etc., labeled on the computer, along with a well-orga-
cartridge box will help keep things nized backup version of my load-
well organized. ing data. This recorded data should
include the cartridge, brand of case,
number of firings through that case,
DATA NOTEBOOKS the bullet make, model, and weight,
A means of keeping an accurate the primer used, the type of powder
record of your loading trials and er- and charge weight, and the cartridge
rors, successes, and overall results is overall length (COL). Guard your
very important. I use two methods. I loading notes well, for they are ir-
keep my very precious notebook, in replaceable and represent the only
which I describe all the load data and record of all your hard work.
notes regarding each load, so that I
may replicate it at any point in time, ***

Keeping accurate records is a must in reloading.

Now that we’ve discussed the tools and rod all the way out of the die,
for cartridge construction, let’s cover or as far as possible, so the drill bit
the “erasers,” those tools that can undo doesn’t break the decapping pin or
the mistakes we all make along the way. damage the expander ball when it
drills through the cartridge’s web.
I’ve forgotten to do this and broken
STUCK CASE REMOVER the pin and damaged the ball to the
Sooner or later, it will happen to point where I’ve had to order a new
you. A case too lightly lubed will one. Talk about ending your reload-
stick in a resizing die and, on the ing session. Sheesh.
down stroke of the press arm, the rim
of the case will rip off. This immedi-
ately ends your reloading session. BULLET PULLER
The stuck case remover can heal Let’s say you’ve seated your bullet
your woes. It is a simple tool set, but too deep in the case or, worse, forgot-
with it you can drill and tap a large ten to install a primer into a case in
hole through the flash hole and web which you’ve charged and seated
of the case. Then, using a large screw, a bullet. What now, throw it away?
the tool draws the case out of the Nope, not at all. The bullet puller
sizing die. erases this mistake in short order.
A quick tip for use with this tool. There are two common types of
Be sure to back the expander ball bullet pullers: The inertia-hammer and

74 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

Using the case remover to back out a stuck case.
(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

(Photo courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

An RCBS collet-style bullet puller.

the press-mounted model. The ham- uses a collet in the same location
mer model looks like a hammer, with where you would screw in a reloading
a screw cap on the rear portion. An die. The collet bites on the bullet and
appropriate collet is placed around the the down stroke of the press separates
cartridge rim, the cap screwed back on, bullet from case. Voila! You’re back in
and you swing the hammer down onto business! You may not be able to reuse
a block of wood. A couple swings later the bullet, and you may need to resize
and the bullet pops out, along with the case, but it’s better than wasting all
the powder. The press-mounted model the components.

76 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading



kay, folks, there you are
with all these fancy reload- The first and easiest part of the
ing tools and a happy pile of program is the initial visual inspec-
spent brass on you reloading bench. tion of each case. I primarily check
Now is the time to use those tools all the case heads, to make sure I am
to turn that brass into clean, shiny, using and cleaning only one particular
reformed cases suitable for loading. caliber at a time. It’s not hard to mix
Habits, be they good or bad, are eas- up .308 Winchester with 7mm-08
ily formed, so let’s form good ones. Remington, a .38 Special with a .357
Are you ready? Let’s go! Magnum, a .30-30 WCF with a .32
Winchester Special, or a .25-06 Rem-
ington with a .270 Winchester, and the
reloading dies sure won’t like it if you
screw this up. A quick glance at the
inscription on the head of the cases
will solve this problem.
At this point, go ahead and also
inspect the cartridge head. A bent
or damaged rim can cause a case to
become stuck in the shell holder or,
worse, jammed in a firearm. Those with
damaged rims should be discarded.
Your cases will be cleaned to
(Photo courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

remove any minor surface corro-

sion, but any severely corroded cases
should not be used. A ruptured case
can be the result of loading a case
that has become too thin, due to
excess corrosion. The case neck can
often split, either in a line parallel
with the case body or perpendicular
to it; sometimes, excessive pressure
will cause a split in the case body. A
Rigorous case inspection is a must. magnifying glass and good lighting

Crushing a case that is unusable prevents it from making it back into the “good brass” pile.

will reveal these slight cracks. Destroy a good thing. A paper clip or other
and discard any split case. Brass cases piece of similar wire, bent to a right
can be reused several times, but, at the angle at the end, can make a good
first sign of an unsafe situation, they “feeler-gauge.” Stick the wire in the
should be destroyed and discarded. case and, if you feel a detent on the
When I find cases that are unsuitable inside of the case wall in the area of
for use, I crush the case mouths closed the shiny ring, do not use that case
with a pair of pliers and toss it into the any further.
metal recycle bin, so that they have no
chance of being reused.
Some cases have stretched too CASE CLEANING
much from repeated firings. When Spent cases can be not only
this happens, they develop a very become tarnished, but downright
bright ring near the web of the case. dirty. They often fall onto the
This ring is caused by the case metal ground after being fired and, so,
becoming thinner in this area, and it collect dirt and dust. Burnt powder
can result in case head separation. residue adds to the gritty mixture.
The case can actually break in two Either way, cases must be cleaned
or partially split, neither of which is to ensure they do not damage the

78 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)
Once-fired cases in the tumbling media.

resizing die or feed improperly

into your firearm. I use a vibratory
brass cleaner, often referred to as a
tumbler (some cleaners actually do
tumble the brass, while others sim-
ply vibrate it among the media). The
vibratory cleaner usually consists
of a motor beneath a plastic tub,
though sometimes it’s a belt-driven
tumbling chamber that resembles a
small clothes dryer drum.
To use the tumbler/vibratory
cleaner, cleaning media, such as
ground corncobs or crushed walnut
shells, is dumped into the tub, along
with your dirty brass. Once the lid is
in place, the vibratory or tumbling
action scours the brass cases clean.
A chemical cleanser, like Lyman’s Sifting out the tumbling media.

Turbo Brite and even good old Bras- the media from the cases by hand. Ei-
so, can be added to help speed up ther way, the cases must not have any
the cleaning process. A couple hours media or other foreign substances
of your brass happily dancing in the inside them. Finally, a case brush will
whirlpool of media should have it all help to loosen any media stuck to the
shiny and ready for action. side of the case walls.
It is not uncommon for the media Ultrasonic cleaners cut the clean-
to become packed into the case, when ing time down considerably. They use
they’ve been in the tumbler. It is ab- a cleaning solution, often sold as a
solutely necessary to be certain that concentrate, to clean both the inside
all the cleaning media is removed and outside of the cases. Often the
from the cases. You can sift your cleaning time is 10 minutes or less,
brass around in an old colander, so and these cleaners do a very good job.
that the media can drop through the I believe the ultrasonic cleaners are
holes and back into the tub, or a good the wave of the future for cleaning
old paper clip can be used to remove brass. I know my Lyman 2500 model

The ultrasonic
cleaners clean
both the outside
and inside of the
brass cases.

(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

Turbo Brite works

well with most
cleaning media.

80 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

Rolling the cases to be resized across a lube pad.

does a great job. I still toss the clean LUBRICATION

cases in the tumbler for a brief time Brass cases that are to be resized
once they’re out of the ultrasonic, to must first be lubricated, so they can
give them a good polished shine. be worked over the expander ball and
Some slight tarnish marks that removed from the die without stick-
are not removed by the cleaning are ing. The sizing die is really a forcing
acceptable. If you’re a stickler for cone, and the press has the ability to
having things bright and clean, so be really wedge those cases into the die
it, but I’ve shot some very impres- if there is not enough lubricant pres-
sive groups with brass that had my ent to enable their removal.
fingerprints tarnished into them. The Lubricants for cases come in
goal is to have clean brass that is many forms. Gels, sprays, and
free from dirt or grit, not necessarily waxes are among the most popular. I
to have a shine good enough to win prefer the gel lubricants, like RCBS
a best brass contents on the range. I Case Lube. The gel is spread evenly
usually wipe down all the cases with onto a sponge-like lube pad and
a clean rag and reinspect the cleaned then the cartridge cases are rolled
cases as a last step before resizing. over it. Make sure the lube pad is as
One thing to know is that nickel- free from dirt and grit as possible,
coated cases need not be tumbled. as such debris can transfer onto the
They require only a simple wiping, to cases and foul your resizing die.
be sure no grit remains on the cases. Spray lubricants come in an aerosol
They do need to be lubricated later on can and can lubricate a large number
though, (unless you’re using carbide of cases simultaneously. Case wax
pistol dies). can be rubbed onto your fingers

and then applied to cases. I’ve even that’s the type of die most bottleneck
heard of some folks using car wax cartridges require. For most pistol
or shoe polish as a lubricant, but I cartridges, however, tungsten carbide
can’t verify the results. I recommend dies are where most reloaders tend
a lubricant from a reputable reload- to lean. These dies usually don’t
ing supply company. require a lubricant to resize the cases.
It will take a bit of experience to It should be noted that carbide dies
achieve the proper level of lubrica- are designed to be used without the
tion. Too much and you will hydrau- “cam-over” (which we’ll talk about
lically dent the cases. Too little and in the next chapter), and should be
you will get the case stuck in the set up to just make contact with the
die. Don’t forget to add a very small shellholder. The carbide insert is also
bit of lubricant to the case mouth. more brittle than traditional steel
Also note that your resizing die may or aluminum dies, so take care not
have a vent hole that allows trapped to drop them onto hard surfaces, as
air and excess lubricant to escape they may shatter. You should read the
during the resizing process. Make manufacturer’s specifications, if you
sure this hole is free from obstruc- choose to use carbide dies, and fol-
tion so that the die will function low them to the letter.
properly. A paper clip end seems to
fit well and makes a good cleaning
tool for this vent. RESIZING AND DEPRIMING
Dies come in steel and carbide It is now time to start using the
(and some aluminum). You will press and dies, even though, at this
most likely start out with steel, and point, you’re not reloading. Rather,
(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

A disassembled resizing die, showing the expander ball and decapping pin.

82 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

these next steps are actually a continu- thread-adjustable parts. The depth
ation of the case preparation process. of the decapping pin is adjustable,
Your press should be securely as you’ve just seen, as is the overall
bolted to the bench and you should depth of the die itself. To make your
have the following tools assembled: adjustment, the press’ ram should be
reloading dies and the necessary fully extended upward, with the shell-
tools to adjust them; proper shell- holder inserted in place. Next, the
holder for the cartridge you’re resizing die should be screwed down
reloading; case lubricant; and your until it firmly meets the shellholder.
pile of spent brass. I like to neatly Depending on the manufacturer of
place the brass to be resized into a the dies you chose, this may suffice
loading block. for full-length resizing.
Before I install the resizing die, Every resizing die and press is a
I unscrew the rod that holds the ex- little different. RCBS recommends
pander ball and decapping pin. Take that once the ram is fully extended
the expander ball portion of the die upward and contact is made with the
and remove any of the rust inhibi- shellholder, the ram is then lowered
tive material used for shipping, then and the die screwed down another
lightly lubricate it. Reinstall the rod quarter-turn. This will force the press
and lower the decapping pin within to squeeze the case fully into the
the die body until it protrudes from die body, resulting in a full-length
the bottom portion of the resizing resizing of the shell. Redding dies
die somewhere between 3/16-inch require that the die body just touch
and a ¼-inch. This is far enough
below the bottom of the die for it to
reach through the case’s flash hole
and push out the spent primer. If the
decapping pin extends any further
than this, the case web may damage
the expander ball during resizing. A
few cartridges, such as the .22 Hor-
net, require a lesser amount of the
decapping pin be exposed. With your
decapping pin set, slide a shellholder
of the proper size for your cartridge
into the ram of the press, at the slot
at the top of the ram.
The next step is to set up the
resizing die to function properly. Be
certain to read and re-read the in-
structions that come with your brand
Unsightly hydraulic dents in the shoulder portion
of reloading dies, for proper resizing of these .308 cases show signs of using too
adjustment. The die will have several much case lube.

(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)
Annealed Hornady brass, showing the annealing marks created during the manufacture of the new case.

the shellholder. It is very important If you’re resizing a bottlenecked

to read the literature provided with cartridge and, upon removal from
your particular die set and follow that the resizing die, you see little dents
company’s procedures to the letter. in the shoulder area of the case, you
Lower the ram all the way down have over-lubricated the case. These
and slide a lubricated case into the dents are called “hydraulic dents,”
shellholder. Lever the press’ handle and they are a result of the lubricant
down, lifting the ram and driving having no means of escape from
the case up into the die. Expect to within the die. If the dents are not
meet some resistance as the case is severe, they will “shoot out” upon the
returned to its original size, just as next loading and firing, as the case
it was before firing. With the case will be forced once again to expand
firmly up in the die, the spent primer to the size of the firearm’s chamber.
should now pop out of the primer They are unsightly, but not necessari-
pocket. Raise the press’ lever and, on ly dangerous, unless you are working
the down stroke of the ram, the case near maximum pressures—which you
neck or mouth is now drawn over should not be, as a new reloader. If
the die’s expander ball to return it to you have any doubt, do not load these
caliber diameter. cases again.
If all went well and the die was set Cases that have been previously
up properly, your case should now be fired will certainly need the resizing
resized. Still, this is your first case, procedure described above, but I also
and there are a few common prob- give the same treatment to new brass.
lems that should be covered here and Often times, new cases will have
should be corrected. dented case mouths, that damage

84 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

incurred during the shipping process, do not fear the slight discoloration of
so these new cases can benefit from good annealed new brass.
being resized and then trimmed to a Finally, if you press a case up into
uniform overall length. Now, if you the resizing die and are unable to re-
receive your new cases, especially move it or, even worse, rip off the rim
bottlenecked rifle cases, and you portion, you’ll need some help. The
notice a rainbow hue to them, espe- removal of the stuck case is covered
cially in the region of the mouth and in a later chapter.
the neck, do not fear. This is a sign Okay, let’s say you got through
of annealing during the manufacture your first round of brass resizing
of the case, rather than the sign of problem free. At this stage, I reinspect
an over-pressure load that you would the cases, looking for neck cracks and
see in previously fired brass. Anneal- other problems. Destroy and discard
ing of brass is the process of rapidly any that are not satisfactory.
heating the metal to soften it. Brass,
when worked by hand, becomes
brittle, yet, when heated and cooled, NECK SIZING
it becomes softer. Some compa- This process, in which only the
nies, like Hornady, will anneal their neck portion of the case is resized,
unprimed cases to give the longest is usually reserved for reloads being
case life possible. Annealing your used in bolt-action rifles. Neck sizing
own brass is a tedious process and only works when preparing ammu-
beyond the scope of this book, but nition for the rifle in which it was

Neck sizing
usually requires
a dedicated die.

Lever-action rifles lack the camming power to close the action completely on neck-sized ammunition.
The practice of neck-sizing only should be reserved for brass to be used in bolt-action rifles only, and
only the rifle from which the brass was obtained in the first place.

previously fired. Because they are case will provide tighter tolerances
not fully resized, meaning the body and, therefore, better accuracy.
of the case is still a perfect reflec- If you are a bolt-action rifle shoot-
tion of the chamber of the rifle it er and choose to only neck resize,
was fired in, these neck-sized cases enough of the neck should be sized
are usable only in the rifle in which to provide good bullet tension within
they were fired, i.e., they may not be the case neck. A special neck-sizing
used in any other rifle of the same die is usually used for this function,
chambering. although a full-length resizing die
The process of neck sizing is can be backed out of the press by
rather simple, because only the neck one turn or so to achieve a similar
area (or a portion of the neck area) of result. Your goal is leave the body
the case is resized to hold the bullet, and shoulder area alone, and it may
while the shoulder and case body are take some experimentation with your
left alone. The logic in this is that the dies to do just that (and, so, you can
case body has been custom-formed see why a dedicated neck-sizing die
to its rifle’s chamber and, so, by not saves some of this hassle). I’d like to
resizing this portion of the case and, note once again that only bolt-action
instead, leaving it as a “fire formed,” rifles have the ability to “cam” the
mirror reflection of its rifle’s chamber, chamber closed; slide-action, lever-
upon chambering as a reload, that action, and semi-automatic rifles do

86 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

not have this ability. Also know that, will scrape out that residue and allow
with neck-sized ammunition, upon the new primer to be seated in a clean
loading the cartridge and closing the environment.
bolt, you will probably meet more The flash hole should now be
resistance than you would on a new inspected to assure that no debris
or fully resized cartridge. That’s the or cleaning media has been lodged
improved tolerances you are feeling. within it. I use a small drill bit of the
When lubricating the brass for a same diameter as the flash hole to
neck-sizing die, only the neck portion remove any slight burrs, but make
of the case needs be lubricated. A sure you don’t enlarge the flash hole
properly set up neck-sizing die will when you perform this task. A clean
not make contact with any other por- and uniform flash hole will give a
tion of the case. constant ignition, getting us one step
closer to good accuracy.


Now your cases are resized and TRIMMING THE BRASS
their spent primers are pushed out, Every cartridge has an established
so it’s time to pay attention to the case length, as defined by SAAMI.
primer pocket now that it’s exposed. Your reloading manual will tell you
You should see some of the burnt this measurement, and it is important
residue from the fired primer in the to have your cases meet this value.
primer pocket. With a few twists of Brass tends to flow or stretch upon
the wrist, the primer pocket cleaner firing, and the first place you will

(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

A clean primer pocket is an absolute necessity.

notice it is in the length of the case. A bench-mounted rotary case trim-
Your micrometer will allow you to mer can be set to the desired length
accurately measure the cases, and any and the cases then trimmed down.
that are longer than acceptable length The Lee Company makes a neat little
must be trimmed down. device using a universal cutter and a

Using a micrometer to measure your trimmed brass will give the best degree of accuracy.

(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

Lee makes a very sensible tool that quickly provides well-trimmed brass.

88 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

steel length gauge that features a pin Now, there are several newfangled
that slides through the flash hole. The gadgets that do many of these steps at
length of the steel gauge is in accor- once. As an example, the RCBS Case
dance with the SAAMI specification. Preparation Station is a rotary, elec-
The case rim is held in place by a tric motor-driven tool that takes care
shellholder-type clamp. You can trim of the trimming, primer pocket clean-
by hand or insert the shellholder into ing, and chamfering in one concise
a portable drill and trim your brass to unit. The trimming portion is adjust-
the proper length. These steel gauges able via two set screws and a microm-
are cartridge specific, so you’ll need eter and is capable of trimming the
one for each cartridge you intend to brass to very precise dimensions. The
load. The bench-mounted trimmers, spring-loaded shellholder will hold
whether hand-crank or electric motor- cases of any and all case head dimen-
driven, are a bit more universal in sions, and the cutter face will see
their application. that all the case mouths are trimmed
Once the cases are all trimmed to squarely. Then, on the top of the unit,
the proper length, the chamfer/de- six rotary attachments help with the
burring tool is used to smooth out the remaining steps. There are stainless
inside and outside of the case mouth. steel brushes in both large and small
This tool cuts the brass a bit, leaving primer pocket sizes that spin away to
a cleanly shaped case mouth for the clean the dirty primer pockets of your
bullet to be seated into. Finally, the cases. Next, the rotating chamfer/de-
case brush is used one more time, to burring tool awaits the case mouth of
remove any small pieces of trimmed your sparkly clean cases and removes
brass from the neck of the case. any and all burrs there to ensure

The inside of the case mouth should be chamfered, for smooth bullet seating.

(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)
Make sure there are no rough brass edges on the case mouth after trimming.

The motorized trimmer has many different The rotating steel brush primer pocket cleaner.
caliber pilot sizes, for accurate trimming.

90 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

smooth bullet seating. In a nutshell, length will be reduced. Whether or
this little device and others like it not this has a dramatic effect on per-
can save you many blisters and sore formance is arguable, but I always
wrists, while producing well-trimmed trim my brass to the SAAMI specifi-
and cleaned cases ready for loading. cation. Either way, I recommend you
Some loading manuals suggest keep all your brass a single uniform
that you should trim your brass to dimension, so, as you develop your
a smaller dimension than specified loads, you don’t change any aspect
by SAAMI. This method allows for of the finished cartridge and keep the
the stretching of your brass upon pressures to a safe level.
firing. If this makes sense to you,
that’s fine. I think there are two
potential problems with this trick. FLARING THE CASE MOUTH
In the bottlenecked cartridge, in (STRAIGHT-WALLED CASES ONLY)
cutting shorter than SAAMI spec, Straight-walled cases must be
you are reducing the amount of neck flared at the case mouth in order
tension on the bullet. In a straight- to properly load a bullet into them.
walled cartridge, this shorter trim Loading a bullet into a straight-walled
will slightly reduce the case capac- case without the proper amount of
ity, as you must crimp the bullet on flare often results in a crumpled case.
the case mouth and the overall case This is especially true with the full

The chamfer tool atop the RCBS Case Deburring the case mouth.
Preparation Station.

metal jacket bullets so popular with until you see the case mouth flare no
shooters using indoor ranges for pistol more than 1/16-inch down the case. If
practice or competition. In fact, the you flare a case too much, it can-
sharp, square, rear portion of the FMJ not be returned to proper dimension
must be seated into a flared case. in the seating die. Over-flaring also
The flaring die is the third die results in a diminishing of case life,
included in most sets of dies for as the mouth of the case is worked
straight-walled cases. It has a slightly too much and, so, will become brittle
larger-than-caliber plug in place of prematurely. I flare all the cases I
the spot where the decapping pin intend to load at one time and place
would be, which will flare or open the them into the loading blocks for the
mouth of the case to a bigger diam- loading process.
eter than the bullet to be loaded. The There’s one last step to perform
flared case may look strange at first, in your case preparation before you
kind of like a colonial blunderbuss. begin the actual reloading process.
Rest assured, upon seating the bullet At this stage, I give the cases a good
in a properly adjusted bullet seating wiping with a clean rag, to remove
die, the flared portion of case mouth any lubricant or brass filings that may
will return to its proper dimension. have adhered to the case.
To flare a straight-wall case, adjust I would like to note that a progres-
the flaring plug down within the die sive reloading press can perform

(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

A .38 Special case before flaring. The same .38 Special case after flaring.

92 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

From left to right, the case before flaring, the properly flared case, and an over-flared case.

A flaring plug
within the
flaring die.

The shellplate and frame of the RCBS Pro2000 Auto Index progressive press.

many of these operations simultane- progressive press does not afford the
ously. Each stroke of the press’ ram attention to detail that many reload-
can perform several operations at ers both need and enjoy. It is ulti-
once: resizing, depriming, flaring, mately up to you to decide whether
priming, powder charging, bullet the single-stage process, as outlined
seating, and crimping. There are above, or the progressive route will
usually five different stations to a work best for you.
progressive press, along with a base For most of my rifle work and
plate that rotates the case around to some of my pistol work, I prefer the
each station in the order of reload- single-stage process. My end results
ing progression. The dies need to be are often more uniform. I do use a
properly adjusted for this and the progressive press for some pistol
powder dispenser needs to be cali- calibers, and I like what mine does. It
brated to throw the exact amount of is a great help when you are shooting
powder required. Primer seating must 300 to 500 pistol rounds in the course
be inspected at that particular stage, of a week, but the progressive press
to verify that the primers are seated is not perfect. If you do use one,
to the proper depth. you should weigh the powder charge
Sounds great, right, getting all being dispensed every 10 rounds
those steps done with one pull of the or so, to be sure it is on the mark.
lever? It is, to an extent. However, a Progressives also often use a primer

94 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

feed tube to deliver the primers to the result in excessive pressures. Even
correct position and, if a primer isn’t with all those cautions in hand, the
fed properly, the risk of primer deto- progressives of today, made by Red-
nation is real. One primer exploding ding, Dillon, RCBS, and others have
can set off others, and that is a dan- certainly come a long way. Toler-
gerous proposition. I actually prefer ances are tighter and, therefore, the
to use a hand primer, as it gives me loaded cartridges are more uniform.
the surety that all primers are seated Constant inspection, measuring, and
to a uniform depth and eliminates the checking will help avoid any poten-
risk of multiple primer detonation. tial problems.
Bullet seating depth, explained in The application should dictate the
the following chapter, is also an area type of process that will work for
to be watched, as is the crimp of the you. Either way, all of the steps out-
case mouth. Uniformity is crucial, lined above are necessary. Providing
especially in a pistol cartridge, where that you followed them, you are now
a deviation of 0.1 or 0.2 grains can ready to being the loading process!



Alcohol and
do not mix!

et’s make some cartridges! or weight of bullet can create a very
If you’ve followed the steps dangerous and sometimes deadly
in Chapter 4, your cleaned combination. The loading of am-
brass is resized, de-primed, trimmed, munition requires your undivided
and flared if necessary. It is time to attention and the rules and recipes
bring your creation to life (insert mad must be followed strictly. This means
scientist maniacal laughter). no cell phones, no TV, no distracting
The very first thing you need to children, no cigarettes/cigars, and
do is make sure that only the compo- certainly no alcohol or other forms of
nents you intend to use are on your impairing recreation.
reloading bench, to avoid any pos- Reading the loading notes for
sible mix-ups. Using the wrong type your cartridge in the reloading
and/or wrong amount of powder, the manual thoroughly will help you to
wrong primer, or the wrong caliber understand which components were

96 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

used during testing to arrive at the
published data. While you may be
able to change components once you
become a more experienced reloader
(and know that changing any of the
components in the published recipe
requires you to lower the powder
charge down to the starting weight,
so excessive pressures are not pro-
duced), as a new reloader, this is not
the time to experiment.
You’re going to assemble your
cartridges in the same order in which
the firing process takes place: primer
to powder to bullet.

Priming from the press.


Using the appropriate type of Pistol primers, likewise Small Rifle
primer called for in the reloading and Small Pistol. I place my selected
manual and count out the number of primer’s in the primer tray, to keep
primers you’ll need for the cases you the little buggers from rolling all over
are going to load. Double-check that the bench. Be sure you a using the
they are the correct type, as Large Ri- correct priming tool size to install the
fle primers are the same size as Large primers, be they Large or Small.

(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

Hand priming can give a good “feel,” when it comes to proper primer seating depth.


(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)
These .308 Winchester cases in the loading block have been primed and are ready for the next step
in the reloading process.

If you are using the type of prim- vantage, it takes quite a bit of time to
ing tool that attaches to your press, get the consistent results you’re after.
insert the correct shellholder into the Use just enough force to seat the
ram, place a clean case into it, and new primer into the case either per-
extend the ram upward by lowering fectly flush or just slightly recessed.
the handle. Place a new primer into Be careful, because a primer that is
the priming tool, push the priming recessed more than 0.004-inch (see,
tool into the slot in the ram that’s I said just slightly) could render the
under the resized case, and lower the primer useless, because the anvil
case onto the new primer. If you are will be crushed. (Your firing pin
using a handheld priming tool, slide might also not make contact with
the case into the shellholder built a primer seated too deeply, even if
into the tool, place a new primer that deep seating didn’t crush the
in the holder, and give the device a anvil.) I like primers that are seated
good squeeze. flush to the bottom of the rim face,
As much as I use the priming tool as there are no worries about protru-
on my press, I would honestly recom- sion or crushed anvils. You never
mend that you begin with a handheld want a primer to extend past the
primer. You’ll be able to “feel” the face of the rim. This is a dangerous
seating better. Too, while the press situation, as the possibility of an
gives an enormous mechanical ad- accidental discharge exists when the

98 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

bolt face closes on the protruding I have screwed down on my reload-
primer. Checking each primed case ing bench. Any case that does not sit
for proper seating depth is a neces- perfectly on the board or rocks in the
sary step. I run my fingernail over slightest bit is inspected to ensure
each case after I prime them, then that the primer is properly seated. I
set them on a piece of Melamine that prime all the cases I am going to load
at one time during that session and
place them into the loading block,
mouths up, and then move onto the
next step in the reloading process.
If, for some reason, a primer is in-
stalled incorrectly, you can very, very
gently use the resizing die to push the
primer out of the resized case. You
should safely discard the primer that
was installed incorrectly, rather than
try to reuse it.


It is now time to place a new
powder charge into the case. You’ll
need a supply of the powder you
intend to use (remember, only one
type on the bench at a time), a static-
free powder funnel, a powder scale
(either beam or digital), and your
Keep only one powder at
a time on your reloading
bench, to avoid any
possibility of confusion.

This RCBS 505 scale is

slightly out of zero and
should be adjusted.


reloading manual to confirm you Check the zero of the scale every
have the correct powder weight. 10 rounds or so when using a beam
Becoming completely familiar scale, more often for a digital scale,
with your powder scale is paramount. as some of the inexpensive digital
Read and reread the instruction scales tend to drift from zero easily.
manual on zeroing and weighing If you are using a mechanical
until you are completely confident powder dispenser, it must be cali-
in how to do this. This is the one brated to drop the correct amount
reloading tool you don’t want to fail of powder. There is usually a set
on you. The results could be deadly. screw or micrometer that displays the
Have no fear of being overly cautious amount of powder being dispensed.
regarding your scale. While most This is a rough guide, as the dif-
will give you a lifetime of service ferent types of powder—spherical,
without issue, it always pays to check stick, etc.—will dispense differently.
and recheck. With these dispensers, the powder
Once your powder scale is set up, is dumped into the tray on the scale.
be sure to zero the scale. This assures The powder must then be weighed in
that the powder being measured is order to be sure it is truly an amount
the required amount and not a false consistent with that required. I like
reading. A set of accurately calibrat- to set the dispenser to give a bit less
ed scale weights will help boost your than the desired amount, and then use
confidence in the accuracy of your a powder trickler to dial in the exact
scale. They are a worthy investment. amount required.

(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

Scooping powder by hand.

100 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

The mighty RCBS ChargeMaster.


In lieu of a dispenser, I scoop charge. Even with all the advan-
powder into the tray by hand. I have tages this device offers, I still check
several manufactured scoops and the dispensed weight of powder on
homemade varieties to choose from, my balance beam scale every five
depending on the cartridge for which or 10 rounds to be sure the digital
I’m loading. For example, the .38 scale hasn’t lost zero or drifted at
Special uses somewhere around all. As much as the electronic age is
3.5 grains of powder, the .30-06 convenient, I’m a firm believer in the
Springfield somewhere in the 50- to philosophy of “gravity never wears
55-grain range, while the .416 Rigby out,” and I trust the simple beam
and .460 Weatherby use well over scale above all else! Call me old-
100 grains of powder, so different fashioned, I guess.
scoops for different applications. Now, when you have the correct
Once I get the charge weight close, I weight of powder on the scale, the
finish it by using the powder trickler powder funnel is placed over the case
for that last tiny bit of powder. mouth and the powder is carefully
Some folks (including me) enjoy poured into the case. Keep a small
using a digital powder dispenser, brush and dust pan in the area in
such as the RCBS ChargeMaster. case you have any spills; never use
It combines an electronic dispenser
and digital scale into one unit. It has
a large plastic hopper to store the
powder you are using and a worm
screw-style threaded tube that spins
to dispense the powder into the tray.
Overall, it looks very similar to
the powder trickler device, but it’s
activated by an electronic motor.
You simply enter the charge weight
desired on the keypad and the ma-
chine dispenses that exact amount. It
is easily programmable and capable
(Photo courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

of storing a number of your favorite

loads. It also has a feature I like very
much, a repeatable dispensing option
that refills the powder tray every
time you empty it. It even keeps
a count of the number of powder
charges dispensed, so you can com-
pare it to the number of cases you’ve
filled. Again, the digital scale on
the unit must be frequently zeroed
to maintain a consistent powder Carefully dispense the powder into the case.

102 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

a vacuum for gunpowder or primers, large enough to blow up the barrel
as the static electricity can cause an and, maybe, the shooter. A cleaning
ignition within the vacuum. rod (and a mallet) safely removed
At this time, I’d like to talk about the first bullet, and you can bet the
a practice I’ve developed over the shooter was happy to leave with his
years, one I’m sure I’m going to only injury being a dent to his pride.
get some flak from the high-volume The way I load powder—one case
pistol reloaders. I charge only one at a time and then seating the bul-
case a time and then move on to seat let—allows me to visually inspect the
the bullet. It’s a tedious way of doing load before seating the bullet. I have
things, but here’s a scenario that may to see an empty case before I use the
make you adopt this practice. funnel, then I have to see powder in
I’ve seen (at my local Sheriff ’s the case before I seat a bullet.
office) a .45 ACP handgun liter-
ally blown in two. The cause was a
case that was double-charged with SEATING THE BULLET
powder. The .45 ACP and many other Now that you have the proper
pistol cases have the capacity to hold amount of powder in your case, let’s
more than twice the recommended move onto the last phase.
powder and, if you are slightly For this step you will need the bul-
distracted or simply count which let seating die and the tools to adjust
cases you’ve charged incorrectly, it, along with your micrometer and
you have a bomb in your hands. The enough bullets for the cases you are
opposite applies to rifles. I’ve seen going to load.
a shooter at the range fire his rifle, When I’m first starting a loading
only to hear a funny “pop” instead session, I often make a dummy round,
of the usual loud report. The shooter a case without a primer or powder
ejected the case and saw that the (and plainly marked so), so that, if
primer was struck and the bullet was my seating dies need to be adjusted,
gone. My dad, ol’ Grumpy Pants, I can establish the proper length
started screaming at the guy to stop, with a minimum of effort. If I load
when the gentleman started to load several different bullets for the same
another round. The poor fella looked cartridge, I make a dummy round for
shocked, had no idea why GP was each bullet, labeling accordingly.
yelling at him. See, that particular With the ram extended upward,
round he’d just fired had no powder the bullet seating die is screwed
in it. But the force of the primer down into the press until the rim of
had been just enough to lodge that the die touches the shellholder. The
round’s bullet into the rifling of the die is then backed off at least one full
barrel. Had he squeezed off another turn. The die’s lock ring should now
round, the second bullet would have be tightened to secure the die’s depth.
slammed into the first and, quite Loosen the seating plug rod located
possibly, have created pressures on the top of the die, then raise (un-


The bullet seating process. The finished product, a newly created,
properly dimensioned cartridge!

screw) the rod until the bullet seater the cartridge and, using the microm-
is at its highest position. eter, measure the cartridge overall
Gently place a bullet into the case length (COL). Compare the measured
mouth and extend the ram upward. length to the COL figure given in the
Lower the bullet seater until you reloading manual for the load you’re
feel it make contact with the meplat using. If the cartridge is too long, you
(nose) of the bullet. Next, lower the must lower the seating die until you
ram and screw the bullet seater down achieve the proper length—yes, this
two or three turns. Raise the ram is step by step, trial and error pro-
again, now seating the bullet further cess. If the bullet has been seated too
into the case. Lower the ram, remove deep, I use the bullet puller or inertia

104 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)
This .38 Special case wasn’t properly flared. As a result, the seating process tore the case wall.

hammer to remove the bullet from with no over-length issues that will
the case and start the procedure again either prevent you from properly
until I have achieved a cartridge of closing the cylinder or have the re-
the proper COL dimension. volver lock up thanks to a pulled
Once the die has been properly set bullet. (A “pulled” bullet, also known
up to give the desired seating depth, as a bullet that’s “pulled crimp” is
you can start the process of seating one that unseats and moves forward
bullets into the cases that have the slightly out of the case during the
powder charge in place. Measure recoil generated from another car-
each cartridge for length with the tridge being fired. It’s a phenomenon
micrometer and place the loaded that mostly happens with large-bore
cartridges into your storage box. revolvers, and, when it does, the bul-
For the pistol calibers, it is ex- let can extend past the cylinder face,
tremely important that you strictly preventing the cylinder from turning
adhere to the COL published values, and even from being opened up with-
especially when they’re being used in out some serious force applied. In all,
an autoloading pistol. This dimension you really don’t want this to happen.)
will allow the cartridges to feed prop- For rifle shooters, bullet seating
erly and keep pressures in line with depth can have a great affect on the
the manual. In a revolver, following performance of the rifle. A wealth
the published data will give you car- of information has been exchanged
tridges that fit the cylinder perfectly, about the benefits of seating the bul-


(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)
Mono-metal bullets are usually longer than their copper and lead counterparts, as they are
constructed of a lighter metal than lead.

let in the case at a depth of 0.015- of safety and accuracy can be found
inch or less off the lands and grooves with a proper COL and the habit of
of the rifling, in order to attain supe- weighing out your projectiles into
rior accuracy. The idea is to mini- uniform groups, and I like to adhere
mize the amount of “jump” the bullet to overall lengths that do not exceed
has from the case mouth to the rifled the SAAMI specifications.
portion of the barrel. This is a very Note that, in addition to the
complicated technique and, if done general rule of keeping your COL to
improperly, can result in a pressure that recommended in your reload-
spike that can be detrimental to your ing manual, some of the all-copper
health and your rifle. You never want or gilding metal rifle bullets such
the bullet to be touching the rifle bar- as the Barnes TSX, Hornady GMX,
rel’s lands before it’s been fired. Too, or Nosler E-Tip can be very sensi-
seating the bullets too far out will tive to seating depth. With these
often prevent your cartridges from premium bullets, a slight variation
fitting into the magazine of your of the seating depth of the bullet can
rifle. Forward-seating rifle bullets have a drastic effect on accuracy. Yes,
is a technique best left to the most some experimentation with differ-
experienced loaders. Heck, I fall into ent seating depths is often called for
the “most experienced” category and, when the magic depth is found,
and I avoid the practice altogether. these can be among the most accurate
I firmly believe that the best level bullets available—but sometimes an

106 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

adjustment of 0.1-inch will make or seat the bullet so that the case mouth
break your group. I suggest you con- is halfway up the cannelure from the
tact the bullet manufacturer for their base of the bullet. This depth of seat-
recommended seating depths and ing is most often the one the bullet
safe practices with these mono-metal company used when it performed
bullets, if the SAAMI maximum its testing; if you’re using a reload-
length does not give you the accu- ing book produced by your bullet’s
racy you desire; when you do find maker, you should find that the data
the proper seating depth with these in the reloading manual will closely
particular bullets in your rifle, be sure match your own findings.
and keep accurate records, so you can
reproduce the recipe!
Seating your bullets too deep in a CRIMPING
rifle cartridge case is a problem for Some cartridges require that
any rifle bullet. Doing so will cause their bullets be crimped into the
pressures to rise, so, again, be sure case mouth, to ensure the forces of
to use the micrometer to maintain a recoil or rapid loading don’t force
COL consistent with the test data in the bullet to move. The rimmed and/
your reloading manual. or straight-walled cases that are so
If a bullet has a “cannelure,” that popular in the lever-action rifles are
ring around it near the base that’s one example, and many of the com-
often grooved, I believe it is best to mon revolver rounds are another.

These .45 Colt cartridges were roll crimped, so the bullets won’t move out of the case under
recoil, when fired in a revolver.


(Photo courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

A heavy roll crimp was placed on the case mouths of this .458 Winchester Magnum (left) and the
noticeably bigger .500 Nitro Express.

108 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

Most of our favorite lever-action Then, back the seating plug (turn
rifles feature a tubular magazine, and it counterclockwise) out of the die
the bullets, while lined up nose to to its highest setting. Next, with
tail in the magazine, can be driven cartridge and ram extended fully
into the case mouth from the recoil upward, loosen the lock ring and the
generated from firing. In the case of seating die, then screw the seat-
the revolver, as I’ve already noted, ing die down until you feel the top
the opposite holds true: the bullets of the die barely “bite” on the case
can move out past the case mouth mouth. Lower the ram and screw the
from the recoil. die down an eighth of turn. When
To combat the movement of the you extend the ram upward again,
bullets, the very edge of the case you should see the roll crimp on the
mouth is rolled into the bullet’s can- bullet cannelure. It may take several
nelure. This is known, aptly enough, tries (and several cases) until you get
as “roll crimping.” The hard-recoiling it right. Don’t get upset, you’ll iron it
“safari” cartridges are often crimped, out. Once the roll crimp is adjusted
to be sure that the bullets don’t move properly, raise the ram again and
in the case when in the magazine of lower the seating plug until you just
a bolt-action rifle or in the second feel it touching the top of the bullet.
barrel of a double rifle. Many early Now, back the ram off and lower the
reports of the .458 Winchester Mag- seating plug an eighth to a quarter of
num claimed that the heavy recoil a turn. The next cartridge you make
of this cartridge would often drive should both seat and crimp in the
the bullets down into the cartridge same stroke. Use the micrometer to
case, resulting in heavily compressed verify the COL.
loads, which produced much lower Be careful and read your reload-
than normal velocities. I’ve never ing manual, as not all cartridges can
personally experienced this, but I be roll crimped. The uber-popular
also have no reason to doubt the .45 ACP, for example, headspaces off
stories. Oh, and one thing more than the case mouth and must use a taper
worth noting about this subject: I crimp to ensure proper loading and
want to state here that any bullet that firing. The taper crimp doesn’t roll
does not have a cannelure should the brass over into a cannelure, rather
never be crimped, as you can damage it squeezes the mouth portion of the
the case and bullet trying to do so. case tightly against the bullet. This
In order to use your seating die to technique firmly holds the bullet in
seat the bullet and place a roll crimp place, yet maintains the square-cut
on the case, follow this procedure: case mouth that allows the case to be
With a cleaned and resized (and properly headspaced in the firearm’s
flared, if necessary) case, seat the chamber. Several companies make a
bullet as described in the section taper crimping die, separate from all
above, so that the COL is as desired. the others previously described.


For all your loading sessions, be sure and record your work. It will
be a great reference for the future and help you keep track of how
your loads performed when you take them to the range. For example:

17 October 2013
.30-06 Springfield, Winchester 55.0 grains IMR4350
Model 70 Featherweight
COL = 3.340 inches
Remington cases, third load-
Range results: 100-yard three-
ing, 20 cases
shot group spread of 0.85-
CCI 200 Large Rifle primer inch, 2,725 fps on chrono-
graph, no pressure signs.
Nosler 165-grain Ballistic Tip

22 October 2013
.30-06 Springfield, Winchester 52.5 grains of Reloder-19
Model 70 Featherweight
COL = 3.340 inches
Federal cases, first loading,
Range results: 100-yard three-shot
20 cases
group average spread of 2.5
Federal 210 Large Rifle primer inches, 2,420 fps on chrono-
graph, slight pressure signs.
Hornady 220-grain InterLock
Not very inspiring, can do better.

Entries such as these will help you replicate the best results and
eliminate the clunkers. It will also give you an idea of how many fir-
ings you’re getting from your brass, what loads your guns like best,
whether or not your loads are approaching dangerous pressure, and
so on and so forth. My notebook is invaluable to me.

110 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading


n Chapter 5, I covered the basic in your loads and how they perform in
process of loading a cartridge. your firearms.
Now I wish to discuss the numer-
ous types of components currently
available to the loader, help explain PRIMERS
their differences, and discuss some For the most part, the primers of
ways to use them effectively. The 30 years ago are relatively unchanged
reloading process itself has remained today. This is a good thing. Be-
relatively unchanged since the days ing able to count upon consistent
of O’Connor and Keith, but some of ignition, without corrosion, is often
the components we have available taken for granted. Whichever of the
to us today would have gained their major manufacturers’ products you
attention in a heartbeat! choose, I believe you can count upon
What follows is a cross-section of a repeatable scenario. CCI, Federal,
some of the advancements and chang- Remington, and Winchester all make
es in reloading products. Hopefully it very reliable products, for a wide
will help you decide on a place to start range of applications. Some smaller
as a new handloader, then provide a and lesser known companies also
pathway for experimentation, as you have primers available as compo-
learn and become more confident both nents. TulAmmo and MagTech both

Federal Gold
Medal Large
Rifle primers.
(Photo courtesy Massaro
Media Group & J.D.
Fielding Photography)


(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)
A wide variety of .375-inch caliber bullets.

make a full line of rifle and pis-

tol primers, while Fiocchi (best
known for its shotgun ammuni-
tion), also offers Small Rifle
and Small Pistol primers.
The bottom line to primers
is this. Primers are the ignition
system of any cartridge and,
without a healthy supply, you’re
out of business. They can’t be
reused or refurbished. Once you
settle on a brand and type that
works for you, I advise you pick
up at least a couple thousand to
be sure you have a good supply
The classic
on hand. Keep them in a cool, Remington
dry place and they’ll stay good Core-Lokt.
almost indefinitely.

sion of light-for-caliber bullets to

RIFLE BULLETS dispatch game. Elmer Keith liked the
Unlike primers, bullet technology deep penetration of heavy-for-caliber
has progressed leaps and bounds in the bullets to take large animals. Both
last three decades. There’s a lot to cover camps have their followers, kind of a
here. Let’s look at rifle bullets first. Chevy versus Ford thing. I subscribe
Some gun writers, like Jack to both, in varying degrees and de-
O’Connor, trusted in the rapid expan- pending on the job at hand.

112 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

An early box of Winchester
Silvertips, in .348 Winchester.

SilverTip, they are still

with us. (The Winchester
Speer bullets
have always been SilverTip was a traditional
a good value. cup-and-core bullet, with
the nose covered by a harder
metal to ensure deep penetration.)
The classic bullets that started The Grand Slam from Speer uses
it all are still with us, very much a lead core of varying hardness,
alive and well and still well-loved so as to better hold together for
and much used to this day. These deep penetration. This bullet is still
include Hornady’s Interlock, Si- available, and it performs very well.
erra’s GameKings, Pro-Hunters, and Speer’s Hot-Cor bullet is also still
MatchKings, Winchester’s Power- available, and Speer has introduced
Point, Remington’s Core-Lokt, and a new bonded-core Deep Curl bullet,
Speer’s Hot-Cor, to name a few. I can for higher weight retention. Speer’s
remember ol’ Grumpy Pants waxing TNT line of varmint bullets possess
poetically about the premium rifle the frangible qualities a good varmint
bullets of his youth: The Winchester bullet should.
SilverTip, the Nosler Partition, and The late John Nosler was very
the Speer Grand Slam. unhappy with the shallow penetration
They were and are great bul- of traditional cup-and-core bullets
lets and, with the exception of the run out of his .300 Holland & Hol-


land and impacted on
the shoulder of a large
moose. Necessity being
the mother of inven-
tion, he drilled out a
copper rod from both
ends, crimped the nose

(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)
section, and filled the
jacket with lead, leav-
ing a copper “partition”
in the center. The front
half of the bullet would

The Nosler Partition, the premium bullet that started it all.

An array of Barnes
bullets, including
the TSX and TTSX.

114 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

expand in a familiar manner, while Barnes X, now updated to the Triple
the shank portion of the bullet behind Shock (TSX). Fred Barnes founded
the partition would continue to pene- the company, priding himself in
trate deep into the game animal. This creating heavy-for-caliber bullets that
performance was unprecedented. would penetrate. The company went
Today, the Nosler Partition continues through hard times and was eventu-
as a staple in the hunting world, and ally purchased by Randy and Coni
it’s one I use to this day. Brooks, in the 1980s. Randy Brooks
In more recent history, there have had a revolutionary idea whilst
been some innovative and down- hunting brown bears: Remove the
right wonderful new bullet designs. soft lead from the equation and use
Perhaps the most radical has been the only the harder copper gilding metal.
That design was offered in a hol-
lowpoint configuration, which would
expand upon contact and create what
resembled the letter “X” after expan-
sion. Overall, the bullet offered a
combination of rapid expansion and
deep penetration.
I must go on the record as saying
that the initial design of this bullet
intrigued me, but I couldn’t get it to
shoot well. It also left an extraor-
dinary amount of copper fouling in
my rifle’s bore; being all copper and,
thus, lighter than lead, the bullet was
longer than its cup-and-core coun-
terparts and, so, had more bearing
surface on the rifling. I tried several
different calibers and bullet weights
of the Barnes X, but to no avail. I just
could not get the accuracy level out
of them I demand from my rifles and,
because of this, I abandoned them for
a good while.
Things might have changed for
me and the Barnes bullet. Several of
my customers have recently ordered
some of the revised Triple Shock
(TSX) projectiles, which, in effect,
forced me to take another look at the
idea. As explained in a recent con-
versation with the good Mr. Brooks,


(Photo courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)
Expanded and recovered .416-caliber 400-grain bullets, used to take a Cape buffalo, in Zambia.

he revamped the design by cutting when loading the lighter-for-caliber

grooves in the bullet’s shank of the recipes, as they will attain the high
bullet, thereby reducing fouling. It velocity of a light bullet, yet still hold
not only did that quite well, accuracy together and penetrate like a much
was greatly improved! Overall, the heavier bullet. The 130-grain .308-
TSX from Barnes is an accurate, inch diameter, 160-grain .338-inch
deep-penetrating, and dependable diameter, and 235-grain .375-inch
big-game bullet. It has a great reputa- diameter are among my favorites.
tion across the globe. We now also Building upon the idea of a
have the Barnes TTSX (Tipped Triple partitioned bullet, Swift’s Bill Hober
Shock X), a similar all-copper bullet, decided to improve their performance
but with a pointed polymer tip. Both by chemically bonding the copper
designs will deliver the dependable jacket to the hard lead core. Presto!
penetration we hunters all desire, The Swift A-Frame was born. The
easily reaching the vitals, and, when front portion expands to two times
properly loaded, they will deliver pin- the caliber, and the portion behind
point accuracy. I think the only bone the partition almost always rivets
of contention I have with them is that during penetration. Weight retention
the seating depth has a great deal of is often over 90 percent. I have taken
influence on their accuracy, but, once dozens of species of game on the
the proper depth is found, you’ll have North American and African conti-
a lifetime of good accuracy and kill- nents with this bullet, and I believe it
ing power. I really enjoy these bullets to be one of the best available to the

116 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

Jack Carter’s brilliant idea, which essentially A polymer-tipped version of the Trophy
blends the Nosler Partition and Barnes X bullets. Bonded Bear Claw.

big-game hunter. This bullet can pro- rifle for use on larger game, this is an
duce sub-MOA groups, even in the excellent choice.
big safari calibers. I can best describe Jack Carter also modified the
this bullet as “meat resistant,” that partition idea, this time by remov-
is, the more meat it hits, the more it ing all the lead behind the partition
opens and disperses its energy. to leave nothing but solid copper in
I’ve used a 300-grain, .375-inch the rear of the bullet. The Trophy
diameter Swift A-Frame bullet Bonded Bear Claw is what’s known
on an 1,800-pound bison on the as a “bonded bullet,” with lead in the
Great Plains, recovering the bul- nose area only and solid copper billet
let at 92-percent weight retention. in the rear. It hits hard and holds to-
This same bullet whistles through a gether very well. The Bear Claw is an
diminutive African steenbok, produc- accurate bullet. It is currently loaded
ing little expansion or meat damage, by the Federal Cartridge Company
yet still killing quickly and cleanly. and available as a component. There
In my humble opinion, the 400-grain is also a polymer-tipped variety, engi-
.416-caliber Swift A-Frame, deliv- neered to give a better B.C.
ered from either a .416 Remington For many years, big-game hunt-
or .416 Rigby, makes the ideal Cape ers envied the benchrest crowd’s
buffalo medicine. The A-Frame really accuracy with their “match-grade”
shines on the bigger and nastier crea- bullets. These bullets were often hol-
tures and, if you’re looking to beef up lowpoint boat-tails, constructed with
the performance of your favorite deer nothing more (and nothing less!)


Swift offers only
two bullet types,
the A-Frame and
the Scirocco
II. Both are
among the
hunting bullets

Nosler has a wide selection of premium bullets, enough to satisfy the whole gamut of shooters’ needs.

than precision in mind. Penetration and a sharp polymer tip in the hollow
and expansion mattered not, because cavity intended to initiate proper ex-
paper was the intended target. Some pansion. Today, hunters have been en-
hunters tried using uber-accurate joying the Ballistic Tip for more than
match bullets on game, with poor two decades. It is best used on game
result; the bullets lacked the strength from the size of pronghorn antelope
for suitable penetration. Enter the to caribou; bullets for bigger, tougher
good folks from Nosler again. They game are best left to the Partition
used the hollowpoint boat-tail design, realm. Ballistic Tips are exception-
but this time with a thicker, jacket ally accurate.

118 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)
North Fork bonded-core semi-spitzers and cup solids.

There is also another similar when uber-accuracy is desired.

Nosler offering called the Accubond. Bill Hober at Swift wasn’t done,
It looks quite like a Ballistic Tip, but, when he created the A-Frame. His
instead of a nose tip color-coded by Scirocco II could be described as a
caliber, the Accubond is bedecked Ballistic Tip on steroids. Designed as
in white and the core is chemically a hunting bullet with a much thicker
bonded to the jacket to prevent sepa- jacket than other bullets and, like the
ration. From the small- and medium- Nosler Accubond, with a chemically
game calibers to the mighty .375- bonded core, this long lean beast is
inch bore, the Accubond is capable of also exceptionally accurate. Weight
good accuracy and trajectory, while retention is not that far behind the
still holding together. Nosler also A-Frame, and the very high ballistic
has its Custom Competition series, coefficient makes the trajectory flat.
specifically created with the target I’ve seen some hunting rifles give
shooter in mind. These are comprised benchrest accuracy with these bullets,
of precision drawn jackets and a long and they hit hard. I used a 180-grain
boat-tail for the high B.C. paper- Scirocco II out of my .308 Winchester
punchers love so much. They are a to crumple a 200-plus-pound Cana-
match-grade hollowpoint, designed dian black bear like he’d been a piece
for use on paper only, and are not of typing paper.
recommended for hunting applica- Originally out of Wyoming, the
tions. They are a serious contender North Fork Bullet Company of Or-


The Scirocco II is capable of producing very fine accuracy.

120 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)
Hornady’s FlexTip bullets, with pliable nose section.

egon has some rather unique designs the classic, straight-line penetration
in its lineup. The flagship of the fleet of a solid bullet. I like this idea for
is the Bonded Core Soft Point, a a follow-up shot on Cape buffalo,
semi-spitzer that balances its weight because everyone knows how cranky
toward the front of the bullet. The those guys are when they’ve got a
shank of the bullet has a series of bullet in them and haven’t decided to
minute grooves, designed to reduce die yet. North Fork also offers a Per-
fouling and keep pressures low. cussion Point, a bullet scored at the
These bullets are constructed of pure nose to initiate more rapid expansion
copper and pure lead, for deep pen- on the great cats, thus imparting
etration and weight retention. They hydrostatic shock to dispatch lions,
are a great hunting bullet choice. and leopards, notorious for being
For those headed across the pond undead when you least need them
for the big nasties, North Fork offers to be. They would also make a great
a Flat Point Solid and a Cup Point deer bullet, in my opinion.
Solid. Both are mono-metal bullets, The folks at Hornady have been
but the Cup Point has an indenta- busy lately. I think its FlexTip line is
tion in the nose section, creating an a really neat idea. Ammunition for
“expanding solid,” if you will. The lever-action rifles and their tubu-
goal is to have a slight deformation lar magazines has been limited to
in the frontal section for larger-than- flat-tipped or round-nosed bullets, to
caliber expansion, while retaining eliminate the possibility of having


(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)
Hornady’s line of premium bullets are a great choice for the hunting fields.

the pointed nose of a sharp spitzer a whole new take on life, and I’m
bullet punch the primer of the bullet even seeing these classic lever guns
in front of it in the tube and causing on the Great Plains used for hunting
a chain-fire magazine detonation. pronghorn!
The problem with round- and flat- Hornady also has revamped its
nosed bullets is that they lose their bigger caliber bullets, introducing
velocity and, therefore, their energy, what it calls the DGX and DGS bul-
rather quickly downrange. That’s why lets (Dangerous Game eXpanding
most lever-actions are considered to and Dangerous Game Solid). They
have limited effective range. That all are loaded in Hornady’s factory
changed when Hornady developed a ammunition and are also available
pliable, rubbery nose and put it on a as component parts for the African
spitzer bullet, thereby solving both hunter or those looking to pursue the
the problems of magazine chain-fire great bears.
and limited range. There is no risk of While famous for its cup-and-core
magazine detonation, and the classics InterLock bullet, which is an old, prov-
now benefit from the better trajectory en faithful, Hornady has now added
and striking energy of the spitzer bul- the SST, essentially the Interlock with
let. Grandpa’s old .30-30 WCF gets a red polymer tip that prevents any

122 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

All three are all approved for use in
those areas that ban the use of lead
bullets. Both the GMX and E-Tip are
polymer-tipped spitzers, and accurate
ones at that. Like the TSX, the GMX
and E-Tip are longer in any given
caliber/weight than a cup-and-core of
the same weight, but, loaded prop-
erly, they are very effective bullets.
The folks at Sierra have been
making wonderfully accurate bul-
lets since the late 1940s. The Sierra
MatchKing series is, in a simple turn
of phrase, the benchmark of rifle
accuracy. They have been available
for decades, originally offered as a
Hornady 150-grain GMX bullets loaded in the FMJ configuration and now revised
.270 Winchester Short Magnum. to the very well-known boat-tail or
flat-base hollowpoint design that
has set so many target records and
damage to the lead nose and improves been responsible for some incredible
the downrange ballistics. I’ve found long-range shots. The .30-caliber
this bullet to be very accurate and just 168-grain MatchKing is, perhaps,
hell on deer-sized game! the most inherently accurate of the
There is a movement to ban the bunch. My bud Mark “Pig Newton”
use of lead-core ammunition, spurred
on by a large, long state on the West
Coast. Without getting politi-
cal, the unfortunate reality
is that there may very well
be a lead ban in many other
places in the near future. Some
answers to this, and certainly
options for those target shoot-
ers and hunters doing what they
do where lead ammo restrictions
are already in place, the Barnes
TSX is pure
copper, as is the
Hornady GMX The 168-grain
Sierra MatchKing,
(Gilding Metal the .30-caliber
eXpanding), and wonder bullet!
the Nosler E-Tip.


Nazi has a .308 Winchester that puts at me and said “Nuthin’.” When I
these into ¼-MOA, and my .22-250 laughed he said “We can’t keep up
Remington absolutely loves launch- with customer demand for the bullets
ing the .224-inch 53-grain flat-base we already offer. There’s no time to
hollowpoint MatchKing through her develop a new one.” Another way
barrel. When I am developing a load of looking at it is that Sierra bullets
for a rifle I feel might have a ques- work so well there really isn’t much
tionable barrel, I reach for a Sierra need to develop anything new. The
MatchKing in that caliber and start Pro-Hunter series of flat-base (both
the testing there—they’re that good. round-nosed and spitzer) bullets are
While they are not recommended for a solid choice for hunting, and the
hunting applications, I can tell you GameKing spitzer boat-tails have a
that the 53-grain MKs are devastating well-earned reputation for long-range
on coyotes and foxes, when properly accuracy and hitting hard. There is a
placed from my .22-250. polymer-tipped BlitzKing available
Sierra’s hunting bullet lineup has for the lighter calibers and designed
become an old standby. It’s kind for rapid expansion, along with many
of funny. I was chatting with my hollowpoint designs to round out a
pal Carroll Pillant, from Sierra, at full line of varmint bullets.
a trade show and asked him what One of my favorite bullets from
new products were coming out this Sierra is Part No. 2140, the .308-inch
year. Completely deadpan, he looked 165-grain HPBT GameKing. It’s

Sierra makes a great

line of products,
including the
165-grain GameKing,
second from left.

124 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

Woodleigh .458-inch
diameter 500-grain soft-
points and solids.
(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro
Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

designed after the 168-grain Match- British Kynoch ammo, we turn to

King, but with an appropriately thick Woodleigh for bullets that are of
jacket for hunting. The hollowpoint proper dimension. You see, Kynoch
nose is crimped shut, sort of in the was out of commission for a few
form of an “X.” Bottom line, this decades, and Woodleigh filled the
is a devastating deer bullet. Kevin niche. It allowed the collectors and
Hicks uses it in his WWII-era 03-A3 shooters of those classic guns to
Springfield named “Autumn,” and drag them out of mothballs and get
I’ve used it extensively in my .308 them out to the range and game fields
Winchester. Both rifles print well again. The Woodleigh Weldcore is a
under a single MOA with it and have round-nosed bonded-core bullet that
accounted for numerous deer in Up- has gained a respectable reputation
state New York. It has great accuracy, going up against heavy, thick-skinned
with good penetration and expansion. animals. I have also read about a “hy-
Good job, Sierra! drostatically stabilized” solid that has
Woodleigh Bullets from Australia a cupped front and a banded shank,
isn’t a new company, and while you designed for a large wound channel
may not have heard of them, they and straight-line penetration. To the
hold a very important place among African hunter, the bullet choices
the bullet maker crowd. For those have never been better!
of us with vintage rifles, especially Berger Bullets are one of the
double rifles of European design newly popular companies offering
and which were regulated with the both match-grade target bullets and


results in rifles of this bore size. They
feature the Berger J4 jacket (renowned
for its accuracy), and bullet weight is
held to extremely tight tolerances.
John Lazzeroni, famous for the
proprietary magnum rifles that bear his
name, has produced his own projectile
designed to work well in the cartridges
he designed. The LazerHead bullet is
an all-copper hollowpoint boat-tail,
very similar in construction to the
Barnes TSX. I haven’t used them yet,
but, after speaking with John and hear-
ing his tales of some very, very long-
range success stories, I look forward to
using them.
Norma has some cool bullets avail-
able. The Oryx is a semi-spitzer with
a pure lead core bonded to the jacket.
Berger 6.5mm (.264-inch) 140-grain VLD The jacket is thinner towards the front
bullets. Long and lean, these bullets have a of the bullet, getting thicker toward
very high B.C. and are wonderfully accurate.
the rear to retard expansion and retain
weight. Many of my friends who hunt
in Africa swear by this bullet. The
extremely accurate hunting bullets. Norma Kalahari is a lead-free hol-
From The VLD (Very Low Drag) line lowpoint bullet of revolutionary shape.
of hunting bullets to the very heavy- The front portion is designed to break
for-caliber boat-tail match offerings, into six frangible petals to create a
Berger Bullets and its J4 match-grade large wound channel, while the rear
jackets can and will produce impres- portion is designed to penetrate deeply.
sive results. I have had very good re- The Norma Alaskan is a round-nose
sults with Berger bullets in my friend soft-point that performs well and
Le Frogg’s .17 Remington, especially penetrates deeply. It makes a great
with the heavier 30-grain model. It choice on larger game at close ranges.
easily creates the deadly “red mist” Norma’s Vulkan is a pointed bullet
on woodchucks out to 350 yards. with a squared meplat, and the jacket
These bullets are very consistent and is folded over and crimped into the
well known for their accuracy. core at the nose. The flattened point
Precision Ballistics is a maker of gives rapid expansion, while resisting
hand-swaged and -assembled premium deformation. Finally, for the largest of
bullets for the competition shooter. They African game, Norma offers its own
are available in 6mm and 6.5mm only, Solid bullet. It has a very good reputa-
but produce some extremely impressive tion among African Professional Hunt-

126 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

Left to right, the Norma
Oryx, Norma round-
nosed Alaskan, and the
flat meplat Norma Vulcan.

Left to right, the Lapua

Scenar, Lapua’s Mega,
and Lapua’s Naturalis.

ers and would make a good choice for construction that benchrest shooters
the travelling hunter. They are offered love so much. They are a very accurate
in calibers between 9.3mm (.366-inch) target bullet and well respected in the
and the behemoth .500 Jeffery and benchrest community.
.505 Gibbs. The Secnars aren’t the only bullets
Lapua offers bullets that are on par Lapua makes. The Mega and the Natu-
with the quality of its legendary brass ralis are both hunting bullets that are
cases. The Scenar and Scenar-L are often used in Scandinavia. The Mega
among the best target bullets avail- is a long, lean, cup-and-core blunt-
able, both offering extremely tight nosed hunting bullet, offered in 6.5mm,
tolerances and boat-tail hollowpoint .308, and 9.3mm bore diameters and


designed for high weight retention. The bullet made for straight-line penetra-
Naturalis is comprised of 99-perecent tion without expansion. It should
copper, with a hollowpoint capped prove to work well where a solid is
with a green plastic tip. It’s a bit more warranted. The Safari Raptor is a brass
rounded than the Nosler Ballistic Tip hollowpoint bullet with six petals that
or Swift Scirocco II, but still initiates open upon impact. There is an optional
expansion on the same basic principle. polymer plug that can be inserted into
There is a, well, rather radical bullet the hollow cavity to further initiate
company from Pennsylvania named expansion and improve the ballistic
Cutting Edge Bullets, and it isn’t afraid coefficient of the bullet.
to step out of the box. It offers some These are but a few of the newer of-
long-range bullets in the typical con- ferings. I couldn’t possibly cover them
figuration of a boat-tail hollowpoint, all, and I intend no slight to anyone’s
but these feature a “Sealtite” band. product I haven’t mentioned, but the
This single band rides on the rifling point remains: As hunters and shooters
and forms a positive gas seal, which who load our own ammunition for our
aids in utilizing all the burning powder rifles, we can tailor our choice of bullet
in the barrel. There are different con- to the job at hand, and that is the most
figurations, where the Sealtite band is fun part of handloading for our rifles!
located in different positions depend-
ing on its use in a magazine bolt-action
guns or for single-shot rifles where the PISTOL AND REVOLVER BULLETS
bullet can be seated further out of the Pistol bullets have also made
case. Very interesting concepts! great progress. One of the areas with
Cutting Edge’s Safari series is the largest degree of advancement
constructed of brass. The Safari Solid is in the realm of those intended for
is a parallel-sided, solid, flat meplat self-defense.

Handgun bullets.

128 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

There are many bullets designed the proven features of the XTP, but
for self-defense, such as the Hornady it lacks the cannelure and folded
XTP (eXtreme Terminal Perfor- copper jacket needed for controlled
mance), the Speer Gold Dot, and the expansion. Otherwise it has the same
Federal Hydra Shok. The Gold Dot is dimensions, but it’s designed for
really nothing more than a very well- the very smooth feeding that target
constructed jacketed bullet, and it’s shooters require.
available in most common handgun Many shooting clubs with indoor
calibers. Hornady’s XTP and XTP ranges don’t allow the use of bullets
Mag feature a very heavy jacket that with exposed lead, in order that lead
helps to control expansion, as well vapors can’t become an issue. Rainier
as help the projectiles stand up to Bullets (,
higher velocity. My .45 Colt shoots from Washington State, makes pistol
the 300 XTP very well. They are bullets that are entirely covered with
strong enough to be used for backup a copper jacket. According to its
while hiking or for use during a bear
hunt. Finally, the Federal Hydra
Shok handgun bullet features a
center post, and the jacket is notched Speer GoldDot
to promote expansion for a high handgun bullet.

energy exchange upon striking the

target. Any and all of these are good
choices for defense rounds.
For the competition pistol
An expanded
shooter, Hornady’s HAP (Hor- HydroShok, with
nady Action Pistol) has many of its center post
clearly visible.
(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

The author’s sweetheart Ruger Blackhawk .45 Colt with ammunition loaded with 300-grain Hornady
XTP bullets.


Falcon Bullets has a literature, this can reduce lead vapors
full line of hard-cast
lead pistol bullets.
by up to 95 percent.
(Photo courtesy Massaro Media
Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)
Cutting Edge Bullets has neat
pistol bullets, too. The HG Solid,
PHD (Personal Home Defense) and
Handgun Raptor bullets are com-
prised of all copper. Both have three
or four driving bands on the bullet
shank, and while the HG Solid is a
solid-copper bullet, the PHD (Per-
sonal Home Defense) bullet is a
hollowpoint with a deep cavity and is
actually designed to be very frangi-
ble. Four copper petals open rapidly
upon impact and eventually separate
from the rear portion of the bullet,
for maximum hydrostatic shock. Af-
ter that petal separation, the rear por-
tion of the bullet continues to drive
through, for a devastating wound on
the front end of impact, followed by a
deep, caliber-sized wound channel.

(Photo courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

This is Cutting Edge’s pistol bullet after impact. The “petals” break away for an initial wound area, then
the base travels further for deep penetration.

130 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

In this day of ammunition and well. I have used them with great
component scarcity (compounded results, in both my .38 Special and
by the rising cost of copper-clad .45 Colt revolvers. I have also loaded
pistol bullets), the pistol shooter who them in my .45 ACP ammunition and
enjoys putting a large amount of lead printed very good groups. They are
downrange each weekend can find available in a wide variety of calibers
themselves in a quandary. Hard-cast and profiles.
lead pistol bullets can provide an It is also possible to cast your
available and less expensive answer own lead pistol bullets, to keep costs
for the weekend pistolero. Falcon down. Lyman and Lee, among others,
Bullet Company, from Tennessee, make good and affordable pistol (and
makes great hard-cast lead bullets, rifle) bullet molds that are fun and
which are affordable and shoot very simple to use. A good supply of lead,

An The Swift
A-Frame pistol
bullets, shown
in section and

The Barnes
XPB, shown
in section and


some wheel weights for hardness, ing Handgun Pistol bullets, both
and a place in the fresh open air to well constructed. Swift offers the
melt the lead can yield a healthy famous A-Frame in many popular
supply of pistol bullets for the range. hunting handgun calibers, providing
(I mention to do this in the open air the reliable penetration and expan-
for a reason. You should never cast sion needed for those who bring
lead bullets indoors. Inhaling the their favorite handgun to the hunting
fumes will have you drooling in your fields. Hornady makes the FTX bullet
oatmeal before you know it. Follow in many popular revolver calibers,
the guidelines for the proper mix- for use in both pistols and rifles that
ture of lead and antimony, melt and are chambered for those handgun
mould outdoors, and you should have cartridges. The Flex-Tip gives a bet-
a bunch of fun shooting your home- ter ballistic coefficient than round- or
made creations!) flat-nosed bullets, yet is perfectly
For those hunters who prefer to safe to use in a tubular magazine.
pursue game with a handgun, there Use them in your handgun and they
are lots of great new hunting bullets will give you a bit flatter trajectory.
available, many constructed in the
same manner as rifle bullets.
The Barnes XPB is a pistol variety POWDER
of the all-copper bullet Barnes is so Powders, along with bullets, have
famous for. Nosler offers the Sport- made some huge technological leaps,
ing Handgun Revolver and Sport- but it’s worth examining those that

Modern powder
comes in an
amazing variety.

132 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

Left to right: Hodgdon’s H4831SC grains are cut shorter to flow better in the powder measurer;
Alliant BlueDot is very useful in handgun loads; IMR7828 is a fine choice for magnum cases, as its
slow burn rate helps develop high velocities. (Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

came before them, because it’s not and well. It is the powder of choice
like the powders of yesteryear were for .22-250, in this author’s humble
bad or inferior. Heck, I use many opinion, yet is versatile enough to
powders that have been with us produce very accurate loads in .308
since before my dad was born; the Winchester and even the new kid
IMR series of powders is a classic on the safari block, the .375 Ruger.
that instantly comes to mind. The H4831 is now offered as H4831SC,
IMR3031, IMR4064, IMR4320 and the SC standing for “short cut,” a
IMR4350 of my father’s youth are shorter-length stick powder designed
still here, still as good as they ever to better flow through a powder mea-
were, and I use them for my own sure. Burn rate and load data remain
loads and my clients on a daily basis. the same as the older version, yet it is
Hodgdon’s many fantastic pow- easier to work with.
ders are still around, although in Winchester’s venerable powders
some improved variations. Its H380, like W760 are still thriving, due to
a spherical military surplus powder the fact that Hodgdon is in charge
named for Bruce Hodgdon’s famous of not only its own powder line,
.22-250 load of 38.0 grains of powder but also now produces the IMR and
topped with a 55-grain bullet, is alive Winchester lines.


Left to right: IMR8208XBR is very uniform across a wide range of temperatures; Alliant’s Power Pro
4000-MR is a good choice for larger capacity cases; Made in Finland, VihtaVuori’s N550 is a great
option for fueling the venerable .30-06 Springfield and its ilk. (Photo courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

The old Hercules Company was IMR has also released another
bought up by Alliant, and man, this new powder, one that should prove
company is making great stuff! The clas- very interesting: IMR8208XBR.
sic Reloder series still thrives, as does Designed to be insensitive to tem-
the pistol/shotgun powders like BlueDot, perature fluctuations, it has a burn
GreenDot, Unique, and Bullseye. rate slightly faster than IMR4895. It
Old and faithful standbys aside, will work well in the smaller cases
some of the newer powders have like the .223 Remington and .308
brought both old and new cartridges Winchester, as well as the large-bore
to the forefront, by giving them the magnums like the .458 Winchester
power to show off their case capacity Magnum. Famed writer and shooter
and/or giving them a velocity boost Jim Carmichael used this powder
that was previously unobtainable. to win the International Benchrest
IMR7828, introduced to reloaders in Shooters National Championship
1985, can gather very high velocities Heavy Varmint division, in 2009.
out of magnum cases, something that Alliant has recently developed
couldn’t be done with the old IMR some cutting edge powders. The
powders. This new one is a very slow aforementioned Reloder series is
burning powder and functions best in now made more versatile on the
the big magnum cases and guns with high and low end, with the inclu-
longer barrels. sion of Reloder 25, designed for the

134 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

overbored magnum cartridges like which is designed for the Winchester
.30-378 Weatherby, .300 Remington WSM series and the Remington
Ultra Magnum, and their ilk, and SAUM line. I haven’t loaded an aw-
Reloder 15, which is perfectly suited ful lot of Accurate’s powders, but I
for medium burn rate cartridges like have friends who swear by it, and I
the .308 Winchester and .375 H&H have no reason whatsoever to doubt
Magnum. Reloder 7 is designed for their data. Accurate’s sister company,
the small varmint calibers, like the Ramshot, has some great powders
.22 Hornet and .222 Remington, but being made in Belgium. Big Game,
it also works very well in the larger Magnum, and Terminator powders
straight-walled cartridges like the will fill a wide variety of rifle cases,
.45-70 Government, .458 Winchester while the True Blue and Silhouette
Magnum, and .444 Marlin. are good pistol powders.
Alliant has some specialty pow- Hodgdon has introduced an
ders for new cartridges, too. Reloder entire line of “Extreme Extruded
17 is a perfect fit for the Winchester Powders” for rifles. They are cut
lineup of WSM cartridges, and in grain lengths that will flow well
Reloder 33 is designed to perform in through the variety of today’s many
the long-range .338 Lapua case. The powder measuring devices, and
Alliant Power Pro series of powders these powders also show insensitiv-
changed up its configuration from ity to temperature fluctuations. The
stick to spherical, and the new 4000- powders H322, Varget, Retumbo, and
MR has given very good results in H4831SC are all part of this series.
our 7mm Remington Magnums and Consistency being the key to accu-
.300 Winchester Magnums. I’ve also racy, the minimal variations in these
used it in the .270 Winchester with powders makes them a very good
great accuracy. choice. They are designed to be less
VihtaVuori is a powder company affected by temperature variations
from Finland, whose products are and, therefore, give a more uniform
gaining a solid reputation in the velocity, regardless whether you’re
States. I had a good time experi- shooting in Texas or Manitoba.
menting with N550 in our .30-06 Hodgdon’s TiteGroup is a newer
test rifle, achieving respectable powder, one designed for a wide
velocities and accuracy. VihtaVuori range of pistol cartridges. Its pur-
has a complete lineup of powders pose is to obtain standard velocity
in varying burn rates, making them with less powder than would nor-
suitable for reloading nearly any of mally be anticipated with an older
your favorite cartridges. powder style. It does just that and is
Accurate Arms Powders is another very accurate!
company delivering great powders. While chatting with Chris Hodg-
It offers a full range of burn rates, don about some of the new develop-
from fast pistol powders up to and ments coming along, he was very
including the company’s MagPro, excited about a new powder called


(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)
Hodgdon’s TiteGroup will work in most common pistol calibers.

CFE223. The “CFE” portion stands save your empty factory brass for
for “Copper Fouling Eraser” and, ac- reloading, as the manufacturers of
cording to Chris, this powder actually new component brass were few and
removes a good portion of the copper far between. Things have certainly
fouling in your bore as you shoot. It changed, and brass makers now make
was designed to have a burn rate a bit up their own little industry, pandering
slower than IMR4064 or Varget and to us handloaders. This is good.
it works fine in any cartridge that will The major ammunition manufac-
handle a medium burn rate powder. turers were among the first to offer
Chris explained it was named for new brass to the handloader, and now
the .223 Remington, and that round we have a wide array of choices to fill
is indeed a great application for this our needs. Remington still produces
powder. A CFE pistol powder will brass with the “R-P” headstamp,
also be unveiled soon. Exciting stuff, harking back to the Remington-Peters
especially if it does in fact make the days. Remington brass has to be
chore of cleaning an easier prospect! among my absolute favorite to load.
It gives great accuracy and great lon-
BRASS gevity, these cases capable of being
Component brass is being made reloaded many times. Winchester still
by more companies than ever before. makes component brass, but, instead
It used to be the case that you would of the “Super-X” or “W-W Super”

136 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

Premium brass
cases are things
of beauty.

Early Remington
component brass, this
being the venerable
speedster .220 Swift.


headstamp of years ago, it now for good reason: All three companies
simply reads “Winchester” or “Win.” make a good product in a wide selec-
These cases are, as they always have tion of both pistol and rifle brass and
been, quality component cases. The in all the common calibers available
Federal Cartridge Company contin- today. A good percentage of it is
ues to produce its great brass, and it also available as nickel-plated brass,
is a favorite of many shooters, myself which is resistant to tarnishing. The
included. brass produced by these companies
The big three companies more is often sold in bulk bags and must
than likely comprise the majority of be properly sized (and sometimes
the brass that is on hand today, and trimmed) before being loaded. The

Modern Remington cases.

.300 Winchester cases with Winchester’s “W-W Super” headstamp.

138 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

case mouths are often slightly dented in many of the common calibers,
or out of round, a hazard of shipping as well as some of the hard-to-find
in bulk bags. A quick trip through rarities such as the .264 Winchester
the resizing die and a good inner Magnum, 8mm Remington Magnum,
and outer neck chamfer will get the and even the .280 Remington Ackley
brass right into shape and ready to be Improved (with a 40-degree shoul-
loaded. These cases are usually very der). I’m a big fan of Nosler brass.
uniform and can produce some great Hornady threw its hat in the
shooting ammunition. component brass ring years ago
Some of the major bullet manu- with its Frontier line of brass and
facturers have hopped onto the brass ammunition, which was good stuff.
case train. Nosler produces its own It is now marketed with the Hor-
line of rifle brass, now, and it is nady headstamp, and the cases are
wonderful stuff. The cases are held to good-quality, very consistent cases.
very tight tolerances and sorted out Hornady is the best source of cases
by weight. Flash holes are checked for the Ruger line of cartridges,
for proper alignment and all burrs including the RCM (Ruger Compact
are removed. The case mouths are Magnum), and the .375 Ruger and
chamfered inside and out, so these .416 Ruger cartridges so popular in
cases are ready to be primed and gun maker’s Hawkeye rifle series.
loaded right out of the box. They are Hornady also produces affordable
a bit more expensive, but they are brass for large classic double rifles,
well worth it. Nosler offers its brass such as the .450-400 3-inch and

(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

Nosler Custom brass is among the finest available. These 8mm Remington Magnum cases are
increasingly hard to find, but Nosler provides component brass for many such rarities.


the .500 Nitro Express. I really like the behemoth .50 BMG. I haven’t had
the way the Hornady .416 Rigby the opportunity to load and shoot Mr.
brass shoots out of my CZ550 rifle. Browning’s beast in Hornady form,
Hornady also produces good pistol but I can certainly attest to the qual-
brass, mainly for the larger pistol ity of the Hornady .308 Match cases.
rounds like my favorite .45 Colt, the I loaded them with IMR4064 and a
big .454 Casull, and the bigger yet Federal Gold Medal Match primer,
.460 S&W. Working in conjunction launching 150-grain Swift Scirocco
with Sturm, Ruger & Co., Hornady II bullets to print 100-yard three-shot
helped to develop the big, honkin’ groups that average between 0.3-inch
.480 Ruger pistol round and make and 0.25-inch from my Suzie Q’s 20-
available component brass for this inch barreled Savage bolt-action rifle.
cartridge, as well. It has also worked You really can’t ask any more than
with the Marlin Company to help that from an out-of-the-box hunting
develop the .308 Marlin Express rifle and a 3-9x scope!
and the .338 Marlin Express, which Norma, of Sweden, has produced
help to improve the ballistics of the great component brass for years.
classic lever-action gun. Hornady is Strict uniformity, along with an-
a great source for the brass for these nealed case necks, make for a long-
cartridges. lasting product that will serve you
In addition to the variety already well for years. More often than not,
noted, Hornady produces a line of Norma cases come ready to load
Match Brass in .308 Winchester and out of the box. As a habit, I usu-

Hornady brass cases.

140 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

(Photo courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)
The beastly .338 Lapua, a long-range affair par excellence.

ally run the for most, but not all, the popular
necks over the rifle calibers. Its lineup includes
expander ball some rarities that can be used as the
of the resizing die parent case for many wildcats. For
Norma brass just to give the best example, the .220 Russian case is
is a loader’s concentricity, and I able to be made into the .22 PPC and
give them a quick 6mm PPC, and the .221 Fireball is
inside and outside a great base case for the .300 AAC
chamfering, but Blackout cartridge. The Lapua .308
that’s about it. Norma cases have Winchester cases are an excellent
given me stellar accuracy in both means of making that already inher-
my .22-250 Rem. and my .300 Win- ently accurate cartridge really shine,
chester Magnum. I had a friend’s and the .30-06 brass from Lapua can
.243 Winchester that went from goat wring that last bit of accuracy out
to hero, just by changing his brass of your old, favorite, big-game rifle.
to Norma’s. Lapua also manufactures handgun
Lapua, originating from Finland, brass for the .32 S&W Long and the
is also a producer of premium brass ever-popular 9mm Luger pistols. All
cases. The firm is famous for its Lapua brass has proven to me to be
long-range powerhouse .338 Lapua of the best quality available. If you’re
Magnum, which is well-loved by a serious accuracy hound, you really
military snipers and benchrest can’t go wrong in choosing Lapua
shooters alike. Lapua offers brass brass for your load development.


(Photo courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)
Lapua cases. Very high-quality stuff.

Starline makes only pistol brass, adhere to the SAAMI specifications,

but it is among the best. The head- so a thicker case will result in a
stamp features a clever *-* on the smaller inside dimension (capacity)
rim. My .45 Colt revolver shoots very and, therefore, a smaller combustion
well with Starline brass and, frankly, chamber. Pressures will rise higher
regardless the caliber, I’ve never had and at a faster rate in thick-walled
a bad experience with it. Not an aw- military cases, given the same load-
ful lot to discuss, just a continuously ing for a non-military case. You must
dependable product. I recommend it be sure to sort any military brass
for the handgun hunter who wants a into a separate lot, so that it may be
higher level of accuracy. loaded correctly.
Lake City brass is of military MagTech makes a great lineup of
origin and offered for sale by many handgun cases for both pistols and
of the major reloading retailers. revolvers, in addition to military rifle
It’s great way to feed your .308 brass. Brass for the .223 Rem., .308
(or 7.62mm NATO) or your .223 Winchester, .30 M1 Carbine, and .50
(5.56mm NATO). Being designed for BMG are all available unprimed.
military use, the case walls are often When you shoot a rifle that is
thicker than the sporting variety, so chambered for a “proprietary” round
either use load data developed for (one that is not chambered by any
that thicker military brass or reduce other company than the one that
the loads as recommended in the re- developed it), the availability of
loading manuals. Here’s the thought ammunition and brass is limited.
process behind this practice: The Components, therefore, are precious.
cartridge outside dimensions must Weatherby was in this category for

142 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

a long while. The Weatherby-brand
brass and ammunition has always
been produced by Norma, and though
other companies produce ammuni-
tion and components for Weatherby
calibers, if you want that Weatherby
headstamp, Weatherby is the one to
offer it in component form. (Com-
ponents for some of the less-popular
Weatherby calibers are produced for
Weatherby through Norma alone.)
Lazzeroni is another propriety
cartridge company that produce
its own brass cases for its unique
cartridges. As far as I know, no
other company makes cases for the
Lazzeroni calibers. The same holds
true for Dakota lineup of cartridges.
The 7mm Dakota and .300 Dakota
are probably the most popular among
these chamberings, but you’ll have to
invest in Dakota brass if you choose
to shoot these cartridges. Brass from
any of these makers is of good qual-
ity and just as capable of having a
long reloading life as that from other The Hornady
makers, if properly taken care of. Classic press.

For years, I only had access to one and load development for my many
press: my dad’s Lee Turret press. He rifles, not to mention all the loading
bought it when I was an infant, and that press did for friends and rela-
he later taught me how to load on it. tives! That says a ton for the durabil-
It is still in his possession, and it still ity of this product.
works fine. It doesn’t hold the tightest I graduated to a pair of RCBS
tolerances in the world, but, if I could presses once I set up my own bench.
pile up the cartridges it has produced, Both the Rockchucker and Rock-
your head might spin! It’s made chucker II still sit on my bench,
rounds for three African safaris for along with some others. The RCBS
yours truly, not to mention numerous Rockchucker was and is the industry
hunts across North America and the standard, in my opinion. It is a simple
thousands of rounds spent in practice design, with a cast iron “O”-shaped


(Photo courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

The classic RCBS Rock Chucker, a press that still sits proudly on the bench at Massaro Ballistic Laboratories!

144 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

frame and a steel ram. It is a single- Partner is an inexpensive, entry-
stage press, holding only one reload- level press constructed of a cast alu-
ing die at a time, and this simple minum frame. While not as strong
design is the beauty. It can produce as cast iron, it is a good press for
very good ammunition with very those just getting into reloading and
tight tolerances, and the press is built is offered for sale as a kit containing
ruggedly enough to last a lifetime or almost all the other necessary equip-
more. There are many designs like it, ment you need.
such as the Lyman Orange Crusher RCBS also has a revolution-
2 and the Redding Big Boss. With ary new press on the market, the
all of them, heavy, durable frames, Summit. This press changes the
sound-fitting hinges and pins, and the entire mechanical idea of the clas-
ability to prime cases on the press sic reloading press by moving the
all add up to a great value for the reloading dies on a large, two-inch
loader. For my single-stage work, I diameter ram downward over the
like this design. The cast iron frame case, rather than the ram raising the
gives enough rigidity to ensure case into the die. It has a handle
tight tolerances, and the steel ram that’s able to be moved to either
withstands the leverage needed for side of the press for right- or left-
camming-over brass cases to resize hand use, and its massive ram has a
them properly. built-in grease fitting to keep it well
Hornady offers the Lock-N-load lubricated. It obtains great leverage,
press with a cast alloy frame offset at and if I had to find one fault with the
30 degrees for ease of access to the press it is that it doesn’t have a prim-
case. Lee makes two similar presses, ing attachment. You must prime your
one called the Challenger Breech cases with a hand primer. All said,
Lock, the other the Classic Cast. I’ve really grown to like this press
The Challenger is made from solid and use it often.
aluminum, while the Classic Cast is Redding Reloading has long been
of cast iron. All three come with a known as a producer of rock-solid
built-in priming tool, and the Breech loading equipment. The Big Boss
Lock has a quick-change die system press I’ve mentioned is one example,
that allows you to easily swap out the Ultra Mag press another. A large,
dies without unscrewing them. cast iron “C”-frame press, this beast
In addition to its classic Rock can easily handle the longest car-
Chucker Series, RCBS has devel- tridges. The location of the linkage
oped some new models in the “O”- attachment at the top portion of the
style design. The Reloader Special press takes away the possibility of
5 is built with tall rods connecting press flexure, and the wide space
the top and bottom of the press, an available makes loading the big
arrangement that provides enough Sharps-style cases like the .45-110
space to load the .50 BMG cartridge and .45-120, as well as Nitro-Express
and everything smaller. The RCBS cases like the .450 NE and .500 NE,


(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

The RCBS Summit press, an entirely new idea in press design.

146 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

The Redding T7 Turret Press.

an easy proposition. Redding presses play. It is probably the fastest method

feature the company’s Smart Primer of changing dies in any single-stage
Arm, which swings out of the way on press. Forster has also removed the
the upstroke of the ram. need for a shellholder, by creating a
Forster has a really neat press set of spring-loaded jaws that grab
called the Co-Ax, which uses two the shell by the recessed cannelure
long rods to accurately guide the low- at the shell’s base. This allows the
er portion of the press up toward the press to grab a shell of just about any
area that holds the dies. In addition, design and helps to precisely center
the press doesn’t use a threaded bush- the cartridge. I can attest to the level
ing to hold the dies. Instead, there’s of precision and accuracy this press
a slotted recess in the upper portion can produce; some .308 Winchester
where the dies snap in. They’re held ammunition made on a Forster shoots
in place by the lock ring, without in the realm of ¼-MOA, repeatedly.
requiring the die threads to come into Turret presses are a great aid to


the pistol reloader, and even the rifle ties of very good ammunition, nearly
reloader, because the die holder can along the lines of a progressive.
hold three, four, or even seven dies Speaking of progressive presses,
or accessories at once. Simply turn these can be the pistol cartridge
the turret on the top of the press and reloader’s best friend. Such a press
you have a resizing die, a flaring performs multiple functions every
die, or seating die. There is little to time you pull on the handle, working
no need to screw in and unscrew with a rotating plate that will move
dies. The Lee Classic turret press I the case from station to station.
mentioned earlier has served me and Progressive presses are set up to
my dad very well, making both pistol work in this order: Station 1 will dep-
and rifle cartridges with relative rime and resize in the resizing die;
ease. Lee still produces it, and it is many will re-prime on the upstroke,
a good value for the budget-minded as an automatic primer feeder deliv-
reloader who doesn’t want to shell ers the new primer from underneath.
out for a progressive. Station 2 will flare the case mouth
Redding makes the T-7 turret press of the pistol cartridge. Station 3 is a
and, like most of its products, it is a case-activated powder dispenser, ful-
solid piece of gear. In addition to cast ly adjustable so as to deliver a proper
iron construction, a seven-hole turret, powder charge. (I still advise that
and the ability to automatically feed you check it often against your scale,
primers, this press features com- especially when loading the smaller
pound leverage and the same Smart pistol cartridges, where a half-grain
Primer arm as the Big Boss and the of excess powder can cause excessive
UltraMag presses. It has plenty of and dangerous pressures.) Station 4
clearance for long rifle cartridges. seats the bullet and, depending on
The Lyman T-Mag II is also a whether you choose to use a separate
well-made turret press. It features crimping die, may crimp on the same
a six-hole removable turret for ease stroke. Station 5 can be your separate
of caliber change, as well as a turret crimping stroke. Once everything is
handle for both turning the tur- set up properly, five strokes on the
ret quickly and removing the tur- handle should give you a properly
ret itself. The T-Mag II comes with loaded cartridge, with a new one on
a priming arm and spent primer every pull thereafter.
catcher, as well. Progressives are produced by most
Dillon Precision has a turret-style of the major reloading companies.
press called the BL550 and, like most The RCBS Pro2000 Auto Index is a
of Dillon’s products, it’s a winner. well-made piece of gear, with a cast
It can be used as single-stage type iron frame and a five-station top.
press, with the benefits of the turret It comes with the RCBS Uniflow
capability, or upgraded to an auto- powder measure (which has a stellar
priming and powder-dispensing behe- reputation), and a removable die
moth that can crank out vast quanti- plate. That’s a convenient feature if

148 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

you load more than one caliber, as
you can leave the dies all set up on a
plate and simply swap it for the one
in the press as needed. Shellholder
plates are sold separately, but the
priming strips are included. The only
issue I have with this press is that
the plastic primer strips can gum up
the works if they are not perfectly
aligned, and then it’s a pain in the
proverbial arse to get the piece of
plastic out of the machine. Priming
issues aside, it’s a damned good ma-
chine. I also understand there’s a
metal tube priming system
available for conversion,
but I haven’t as yet
looked into replacing
the primer strips on
my own press. Being
an auto-indexing
machine (the raising
and lowering of the
ram turns the shell plate
counter-clockwise), you must
work the ram fully each time, so
that the same amount of powder is
dispensed and the shells are equally
resized, flared, etc., in each of those The RCBS
respective stations.
Auto Index
Hornady sells the Lock-N-load progressive
AP progressive press, which has press.

many features similar to those of the

Pro2000 from RCBS. Made with a
cast alloy frame, it has a slightly dif-
ferent indexing mechanism, moving
halfway to the next station on the Lee Precision makes products
downstroke and halfway on the up- that are among the most affordable,
stroke. Hornady offers a die bushing if not the fanciest. Its progressive
system that allows for quicker changes presses are a good value; Lee offers
of dies. Once you get your dies two models aimed at the high-
properly set up, you simply release the volume reloader. The Lee Pro 1000
bushings and switch the dies. press is designed to load handgun


cartridges. It has a three-hole top the cases mouth up into the feed
similar to those on turret presses, a tube, and a powder check device
ProDisk powder dispenser, and an assures you don’t double charge or
automatic primer feeder. Cartridges forget to charge a case. If it detects
can be loaded one at a time for fine a significant change in powder level,
adjustment, and the primer will feed an alarm goes off to warn you and
only if a case is present at that sta- prevent a possible tragedy.
tion. Lee warns that only Remington The Dillon Square-Deal B has a
or CCI primers will function properly unique square-shaped ram, ma-
through the priming system. To use chined brass link arm bearings, and
other brands, you must purchase a smaller rotating shell holder. The
the “explosion shield.” Um, not for primer feed operates on a slide, and
nothing, I’d personally stick with the the finished cartridge is ejected down
Remington or CCI primers. I’m not a a chute into a hopper. Both presses
fan of words like “explosion shield.” come with a full set of tools to adjust
Maybe it’s just me. things, and Dillon offers a lifetime
The Lee Loadmaster progressive warranty, whether you purchased the
can handle either rifle or pistol cases. press new or used. I’ve yet to meet
It has a five-hole top that can be a reloader who hasn’t been thrilled
removed or replaced (for multiple die with Dillon products.
sets), a bigger steel frame, and a cast Whichever brand of progressive
aluminum handle. It’s a good press press you choose, be sure and do an
for the money. The Loadmaster and awful lot of homework before you
Pro 1000 can be purchased as kits, invest your money. Make sure that a
complete with the appropriate die press’ operation isn’t too complicated
set and shellplate necessary for the for what you’re after. In fact, I rec-
caliber chosen. ommend watching as many tutorial
Dillon Precision Products makes videos as possible on all the differ-
the Cadillac of progressive hand- ent makes and models. Seeing the
gun presses. The XL650 is a no- press you want in action can be very
nonsense, five-station progressive to valuable. Many reloading forums,
which you manually feed the cases too, will have some brutally honest
and bullets. The cases are fed mouth reviews and helpful hints to make life
up into a tube that sets them into the easier with such machines.
shellholder. The frame is huge, so
flexure is never an issue. The powder
dispenser is case-activated, so there’s RELOADING DIES
no chance of powder spilling all over These pieces of machined bril-
the bench. Overall operation isn’t liance are the unsung heroes of the
all that much different than with any reloading process. They get little or
other progressive, but the add-ons none of the glory, but can and will
are wonderful. There’s an electronic make or break your day. Quality
case feeder that automatically places dies set up properly in a good press

150 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

(Photo courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)
Dies for the .33 Winchester, made by Pacific, a predecessor of Hornady reloading dies. Old is not
dead. These give good service.

are the ticket to accuracy. Mis- Most if not all companies use a
aligned dies or inferior quality dies standard 7/8-inch/14 thread on the die
will make ammunition that won’t bodies, unless you bump up to the
fit your gun at worst, or won’t shoot big safari calibers like the .450 Rigby
well at best. and .500 Nitro Express. These bigger
Older dies, if well cared for, are rounds use dies with a thread size of
just fine to use. I have an old set of 1-inch/14, and you will need to buy
Pacific dies for the obsolete .33 Win- an adapter bushing for your press to
chester that I found for sale at a gun use these. The basic design of the re-
show. Pacific is long gone, but these sizing, flaring, and bullet seating dies
dies looked new in the box and they haven’t changed all that much, but I
work just fine. My Dad’s dies, other think there are some advancements
than needing some cleaning, also that should be highlighted.
still make great ammunition. Still, For the bolt-action fan, there are
like most other components I’ve neck-sizing dies available for just
covered, reloading dies have made about every bottlenecked cartridge.
progress and benefitted from better The advantage of the neck-sizing die
technology. is that the body of the case doesn’t


(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)
Lee Carbide pistol dies, shown here in .45 ACP.

become over-worked, thereby ex- much shorter. No sticky lubricant to

tending the life of your cases, plus apply or remove, just crank the cases
the case is perfectly formed to the through the resizing die. Again,
chamber of the rifle in which it was most companies offer a carbide
fired. The drawback is that it is rifle pistol die set.
specific and can’t be used in any Competition-style dies for rifle
other rifle of the same caliber. Red- cartridges are definitely a worth-
ding, RCBS, Hornady, Lyman, and while investment. The bullet seating
most others offer neck-sizing dies. It dies have a micrometer adjustment
will be a bit more difficult to close on the top of the die that provides
the bolt on a neck-sized cartridge, but for precise seating depth. This al-
that usually comes with an increase lows complete control of cartridge
in accuracy. overall length, and the spring-loaded
Carbide pistol dies are a won- micrometer holds adjustment much
derful advancement. The long and better than the traditional threaded
the short of these is that they don’t rod style.
require the cases to be lubricated. Redding competition dies rate
There’s a carbide insert inside the among the best, and there are no
pistol die, and it is much harder than flies on the RCBS or Forster models,
traditional steel. These dies make either. Hornady offers a replacement
the high-volume pistol loader’s job seating stem for its Dimension seating

152 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

dies, which convert a standard seat- .35 Whelen is nothing more than a
ing die into a micrometer-adjustable .30-06 Springfield necked up to hold
seater. Neat idea! .358-inch diameter bullets, so, if you
I came across a little reloading die wanted to make some brass for your
company out of Georgia by the name Whelen out of .30-06 brass, this ex-
of Whidden Gunworks. This com- pander ball will work the neck more
pany offers a micrometer-adjustable slowly, thereby reducing stress. I like
seating die with a floating bushing this feature, and Hornady sells it as a
that not only allows precise seating replacement part for RCBS-type dies.
depth, but also increases bullet con- Another Hornady feature I ad-
centricity. I like the way this up and mire, though small it may be, is its
coming company thinks! lock ring. All lock rings have wrench
Each brand of dies has its own flats, which aren’t a bad thing, but
unique features, and I’ll do my best the part I like about Hornady’s is
to briefly outline them here. that the screw to lock the ring down
Hornady has some interesting die doesn’t fight against the die body
features. The first I like is the ellipti- threads. The ring is split, so the
cal expander ball, in which the diam- screw tightens the ring against itself.
eter of the ball grows as you raise the Because of this design, there’s no
case into the die. The one place I find risk of marring the die body threads
this most useful is during the creation if someone gets gorilla because the
of wildcat brass. For instance, the lock ring won’t move.

Redding .308 Winchester competition dies.


A Hornady
three-die set,
with split
lock rings.

One feature I’m on the fence an impressed ring around the bullet,
about is Hornady’s floating bullet about halfway down the ogive. Per-
seater. It is designed to seat bullets haps I had a set of dies that were out
more concentrically, because it rides of adjustment for some reason, but
on the case neck and the bullet. I’ve it made me insane. When I loaded
had good and bad experiences with round-nosed bullets, there were no
it. The good times worked out just issues whatsoever.
fine, but, with bullets that have a Redding Reloading, from my
long ogive, I’ve had this rig leave home state of New York, makes some

(Photo courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

Hornady dies, with a floating bullet seater.

154 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

of my favorite dies ever. The toler- sorry for choosing them. The plastic
ances are very tight, the machine die box even doubles as a loading
work is clean, and the structural block, with recessed holes to hold
integrity is about the best you’ll find. the cartridges. When it comes to
Redding uses very good steel in its producing very accurate ammunition,
dies. The standard adjustment at the Redding knows how to pay attention
top of the dies are made of blued, to fine details. The company also has
knurled steel, and all the die sets a great customer service department,
are shipped with a spare decapping with folks more than willing to help
pin and a hex wrench for adjusting and answer your questions.
the lock rings. The lock rings are RCBS has long been the industry
held in place by placing a piece of standard for many reloading tools.
lead shot between the set screw and It sort of set the benchmark, back
the die body, so the threads can’t be in the day. Standard RCBS dies are
boogered up. The inside of the dies a great value and, with proper care,
are all polished to a bright sheen, should last you a lifetime. They are
ultrasonically cleaned, and coated in available in almost every caliber,
a rust preventative for shipping. The from the teeny .17 Remington up to
rust preventative must be removed the big .500 Jeffrey and .505 Gibbs;
with a solvent before using the dies, the RCBS custom shop will go far
but that is a relatively simple process. beyond that. Die adjustments are held
I find Redding dies to be among the in place with a ¼-inch nut, and the
finest you can buy, and you won’t be set screw on the lock ring is made of

(Photo courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

Redding dies are among the very best constructed reloading dies available.


brass so the die’s body threads won’t brass cases during the sizing process
be mangled. Lock rings have wrench by using a special mandrel inside the
flats and, generally speaking, the resizing die. This design limits the
de-priming pins are interchangeable. amount of brass that flows forward
RCBS is a great source of forming into the neck during sizing. While
dies that are used to convert brass I haven’t used these dies myself, I
from one case to another. If you have have friends who report that they
a firearm chambered for an obsolete do reduce the amount of brass flow,
cartridge and brass is impossible enough to almost eliminate the need
to come by but can be made from to trim brass. I have found RCBS
another case with common attributes, customer service to be impeccable.
these dies can breathe new life into Lyman has produced great reload-
the that old gun. ing tools for many years, and its
Where applicable, RCBS offers many tools have been relied upon
two seater plugs for its seating dies, by legions of shooters to make great
for loading either spitzer-point bul- ammo. Lyman Precision reloading
lets or round-nosed bullets. This is a dies are no exception to the compa-
good investment if you load for both ny’s solid reputation. Made of quality
types of bullets, as it won’t mar or steel and well polished, they are
crush the bullet meplat. RCBS also available in most popular calibers, as
produces a series of X dies that are well as in the blackpowder calibers
designed to stop the elongation of of the late 1800s, like the .45-70, .45-

An RCBS rifle reloading die set, shown here for the .270 Winchester Short Magnum.

156 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)
Lee pistol dies.

90, .45-110, and .50-90. One product plication) unlike any other, and I use
from Lyman I particularly enjoy is it often, especially with my .45 ACP
the Universal Decapping Die, as it ammunition. It leaves the case mouth
has a hardened decapping pin and nice and square for proper headspac-
assembly that work perfectly for ing, yet holds the bullet as snugly as
punching out the crimped-in primers if it were a babe at mother’s bosom.
in military brass. Dillon has some innovative
Lee Precision offers a plethora features in both its pistol and rifle
of dies. They are made to be afford- dies. The unique feature of the rifle
able, using a rubber gasket to lock dies that I enjoy is the placement of
down the dies in lieu of a set screw, the expander ball. Instead of placing
aluminum lock rings in lieu of steel, it at the bottom of the die near the
etc. This affordability should not be shellholder, as many others do, it is
construed as inferiority. Lee dies are higher in the die, where the leverage
very capable of producing quality of the press is much stronger and
ammunition. They are a great value, can be better utilized. This allows
for each die set comes with a shell- for smoother expansion of the case
holder, powder scoop, and charge neck. Dillon pistol dies feature a clip
table of appropriate and suitable retainer on the top of the seating die,
powder charges. I am a huge fan of allowing you to change bullet seaters
the Lee Factory Crimp Die. It gives a from round-nosed to semi-wadcutter
roll or taper crimp (depending on ap- or the like in a flash. Remove the


clip, switch seaters, and your die is have come leaps and bounds.
still perfectly adjusted for the case Redding leads the field in ultra-
you’re loading. I’ve seen these Dillon accurate powder dispensers, in my
dies in action on the Dillon 550B opinion. Machine work on the mov-
progressive, and they work just fine. ing parts is held to extreme toler-
ances, and Redding has different
models to cover a variety of loading
POWDER MEASURERS needs. The powder charge adjust-
The ability to dispense powder in ment has a high-quality micrometer
a quick and accurate manner is very that won’t suffer backlash or come
helpful, especially to the shooter out of adjustment. The Model 3BR
who needs to produce large quanti- is a flexible unit, with two chambers
ties of ammunition. I’m old fash- available. The pistol chamber throws
ioned, and often I still scoop powder between one and 10 grains, and the
by hand when making rifle loads universal chamber throws between
that are destined for the hunting five and 100 grains. The Bench Rest
fields or for accuracy testing from model, the BR-30, throws 10 to 50
the bench. However, the IDPA pistol grains and was designed to work well
shooter or a shooter who wants to for large-capacity handgun cases
shoot 3-Gun competition wants large and medium-sized rifles cases. The
quantities of ammunition that might Competition Model 10X is formatted
not possess hair-splitting accuracy, around pistol and small rifle volume
but will suffice for the job at hand. capacities, those between one and 25
A powder measure can certainly grains, while the LR1000 is designed
speed the loading process along, and for the large magnum rifle cases like
the powder measures of today are the .416 Rigby and .338 Lapua, this
capable of dropping a very precise model being capable of throwing up
charge. Most are threaded to fit the to 140 grains of powder. Redding’s
7/ -inch/14 threads needed to mount Robin Sharpless and I had a great

on a reloading press. conversation about powder measures,

The basic construction of the pow- and he indicated to me that the best
der measure hasn’t really changed and most accurate results occur in the
over the years, but its overall con- middle third of the capacity of the
struction and accuracy has. Now, I’ve measure. You can see that Redding
never shot in a formal, officiated ben- offers a measure for just about every
chrest competition, so I was shocked application, so you won’t be stretch-
to find out that the serious benchrest ing the limits of the capacity.
folks don’t weigh their charges, RCBS still produces the venerable
rather they measure by volume from UniFlow powder measure, and it’s as
a powder measure. Why? The large good as it ever was. It has large and
plastic hopper that holds the powder small micrometer adjustment screws,
is still the same as it was in yester- for use with different size chambers,
year, but the adjustment mechanisms and throughout the range of the two

158 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

Redding’s powder measure.
(Photo courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)


can throw up to 50 grains of powder. specific powder charge (measured
It is threaded to be used in a reload- down to 0.1-grain) into the pan of
ing press. The RCBS Competition an electronic scale. My buddy Mark
powder measure has a micrometer “Pig Newton” Nazi sang its praises,
adjustment (unlike the UniFlow), and Mark is a loader whose opinion
which can be used to accurately I respect. Still, being a traditional-
observe the setting for your powder ist, I didn’t buy into the idea until I
charge of choice and reproduce the tried it. Well, it worked so well that
load to save time in the setup of the not only could I not find fault with
powder measure. The RCBS Quick it, I went out and got one for myself.
Change measure gives the most flex- I picked up the same one Mark had,
ibility in the line; with the pull of the RCBS Charge Master 1500, and
a pin and a change of the metering gave it a workout.
assembly, you can load light pistol Simple to assemble, I zeroed the
loads one minute and heavy magnum scale, added my powder of choice,
rifle loads the next. punched in the desired charge weight,
Lyman offers the No. 55 powder and voilá! I checked the charges
measure, which measures up to 200 thrown on my trusty ol’ beam scale,
grains of powder, and Lee has its and they were spot on. I know digital
Perfect Powder Measure that displays scales have a reputation for drift-
the volume in cubic centimeters. ing from zero and are supposedly
Hornady has a powder measure in affected by barometric pressure, but
its Lock-N-Load series of reloading I haven’t had a charge thrown that
tools, with a broad range of 0.5 to 75 didn’t measure properly on a beam
grains of powder. scale. I do zero the electronic scale
Whichever measure you choose, often, but the loads are very consis-
look carefully and be sure it will dis- tent. I love the feature that automati-
pense powder in the range of weights cally dispenses another charge once
you intend to load. Keep your measure you’ve replaced the pan and the
clean and well lubricated and it should scale reads zero, plus the fact that
give you many years of good results. the display even gives the count of
the loads dispensed (a good way to
double-check how many cases you
ELECTRONIC POWDER DISPENSERS think you’ve filled, if you’re filling
I don’t easily leave the path of many cases as a group before moving
traditional reloading gear. Such tools on to bullet seating). The machine is
were the ones I was taught with, they capable of storing your favorite load
worked for me, and, so, I saw no real weights for recall the next time you
reason to change it. One piece of gear load, and, if a charge is thrown more
has brought me around, though, and than 0.1-grain on the heavy side, an
that’s the electronic powder dispens- audible alarm notifies you. The only
er. These are simple, really. A motor- warning I could give you about this
driven powder dispenser dumps a tool is to make certain you close the

160 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

(Photo courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

The RCBS ChargeMaster 1500 electronic scale and powder dispenser.

little rotary port that drains the pow- if they’re made as well as the older
der out of the reservoir. If you don’t, Lyman models, the company has two
you’ll dump powder all over your winners. My pal Steve Darling has an
bench, just like I did! older model Lyman electric dispenser
RCBS isn’t the only company that gives great results. Hornady has
making this type of rig. Lyman makes a Lock-N-Load electronic dispenser
its GEN5 and GEN6 models and, complete with all the bells and


(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

The digital display and powder pan of the ChargeMaster 1500.

162 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

The plastic powder hopper.

whistles you might want, like speed I’ve never had it happen to me, but
adjustment, a large display, and more. I’ve seen photos, so I’d recommend
The speed of these machines is a that you empty the hopper immedi-
huge time-saver, as long as you keep ately after you conclude your loading
an eye on things like the electronic session. Better to be safe than sorry!
scale and weigh the charges on your Oh, and, one more thing: Never
beam scale every so often. Just one use a powder dispenser to measure
little note about the manual and blackpowder. Never! These dispens-
electronic dispensers that use a plastic ers are capable of producing static
hopper to store powder (and that electricity, which will very easily
pretty much includes all models I’m ignite black powder. These tools are
aware of). I’ve read numerous reviews designed for smokeless powder only,
and comments about certain types of and there are special tools out there
powder “melting” to the plastic if left for measuring blackpowder, which
in the hopper for long periods of time. feature no plastic parts.





(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

A tight group from the .338 Winchester Magnum, less than one MOA!

ith the wide variety of dear reader, you pick up several
powder companies and reloading manuals and you read the
powder shapes and powder ink off the pages. Not every manual
burn rates, combined with what is tests a particular bullet weight/car-
likely a larger variety of projectile tridge combination with every single
shapes and sizes and construction, available powder suitable for it, so
what do you do with it all? Well, only through diligent studying will

164 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

you gain a thorough knowledge of careers have been made (or broken)
powders that have a burn rate ap- debating them.
propriate for your intended use. As a As a comparison, target shooters
handloader, you owe it to yourself to want the most consistent and accu-
build up your loads safely, so as not rate product available. Bullet weight
to exceed pressure limits. We are all should be held to very tight tolerances,
after the same end result: To deliver usually in a configuration conducive to
the bullet to the target accurately and long-range accuracy. The long, sleek,
consistently, whether that target is a hollowpoint bullets reign supreme in
paper bull’s-eye target or the game this realm. Berger VLDs and Sierra
animal of your dreams. MatchKings quickly come to mind,
There is a lot of fun in the quest as favorite choices. Both have a long
for your own custom load, and dur- ogive (or curved nose section), and
ing the processes you’ll meet many feature a boat-tail design. This aids in
people and make some great friends minimizing the affects of wind drift
who enjoy handloading as much as and drag for better trajectory.
you do. One thing is for certain: once The true target bullet does not take
you achieve a level of accuracy you into account the ability to kill game,
haven’t experienced before and the for that is not its intended purpose.
sense of pride when you shoot that Rather, they are made to fly truer than
sweetheart of a rifle you’ve loaded for, true, with repeatable results. Often the
you’ll never look at factory ammuni- bullets themselves are (or should be)
tion in the same light! weighed, to hold tolerances even tight-
er, as are the cartridge cases. These
LOADING FOR THE HUNT cases are hand trimmed to a precisely
The benchrest shooter who aims uniform length, using the best brass
only at paper targets isn’t often con- money can buy. Match grade primers
cerned with the structural integrity get the nod, and all powder charges are
of the projectile, so long as it deliv- weighed on a scale. This will yield the
ers the accuracy they’re longing for. best results. The powder charge and
Hunters, on the other hand, have a type is experimented with, (adhering
second part to the equation, and that to the safe guidelines of the loading
is how a chosen bullet will perform manual, of course), until the most ac-
once it’s been delivered to the target. curate results are found; variations of
Will it over- or under-penetrate? as little as a tenth of a grain of powder
Will it quickly and humanely dis- can produce appreciable differences
patch the game animal? Will it un- in accuracy. This often requires an
necessarily destroy the meat or pelt? awful lot of time at the bench, and
Is the cartridge chosen suitable for once that “magic” load is found, it is
delivering the proper amount of kill- guarded like a beautiful girlfriend at a
ing energy on the game animal at the nightclub. Copious amounts of notes
distances anticipated? I will briefly are kept, regarding weather conditions
touch upon these points, as entire at the range, pressure signs, seating


The Hornady GMX is
a stoutly constructed
bullet, one capable of
good accuracy and
neatly dispatching
game animals, as
evidenced by its fine
ability to mushroom.

depth, accuracy, etc. Many times, the a complicated task. In spite of all the
benchrest shooter will end up with wonderful scopes, rifles, camouflage
three or four different loadings for a patterns, bullets, boots, and knives
particular rifle, using different brands available, our goal as hunters has
or weights of bullets. remained the same from time imme-
One of the major differences in morial: to quickly and cleanly dispatch
the ammunition I produce at Massaro the game animal we are pursuing.
Ballistic Laboratories is that I treat As rifle and pistol shooters, the
all my clients’ hunting rounds in the bullet and only the bullet is the single
same manner I would treat benchrest part of the equation that touches the
target rounds, and that makes a big animal. As handloaders, we can and
difference in the performance of their should tailor the bullet and cartridge
hunting rifles. It also imparts an awful to the job. I will offer the following as
lot of confidence to the hunter, when a loose guide to choosing the caliber/
the shot presents itself. Of course, bullet combination for different hunt-
the hunter must take into account the ing scenarios. Please don’t send hate
structure and strength of their chosen mail if you have a different combina-
bullet and determine if it’s proper for tion that works well for you. I under-
the intended quarry. This is sometimes stand that everyone has their favorite

166 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

setup and, with sensible parameters, instantaneous kill. Speer TNTs, Berger
there’s no wrong answer. Still, I make VLDs, and Nosler Ballistic Tips are all
my living assembling handmade good choices for this kind of hunting.
cartridges, and much of my work is for The second type of varmint bullet, one
hunters pursuing dangerous game in popular with serious varmint hunters
Africa. Since the lives of those hunters who pursue the furbearers, is the full
depends, in large part, on what their metal jacket. These provide almost no
bullets do when they make contact expansion whatsoever, so as to poke a
with something higher on the food caliber-sized hole through the animal
chain than them, what I have to say and best preserve the pelt.
should at least carry some weight. The most popular varmint calibers
For the varmint hunter, two types of run from the .17 Remington up though
bullets are predominant. The extreme- the .25-caliber bores. Some folks
ly frangible hollowpoint will decimate enjoy using their favorite deer rifle
prairie dogs, woodchucks, and ground for varmints and, with proper bullets,
squirrels. Made to break apart easily, that combination can work just fine.
they offer up a whole bunch of hydrau- Usually, varmint hunters like a flat-
lic shock to create the famous “red shooting cartridge, as prairie dogs and
mist,” which generally means a fairly coyotes can present distant shots. Be


(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)
Winchester .224-inch 55-grain FMJs can be a useful tool for the varmint hunter who wants to
preserve the pelts.

cautious developing your handloads, which shoots similar groups using

watching for pressure signs, as you Hodgdon’s H335 backing the same
try to eke the most velocity you can bullet I use in the .22-250, though at
from your chosen varmint caliber. A a slightly lower velocity. Our friend
boat-tail bullet can help buck the wind, Col. Le Frogg is a proponent of the
especially with lighter caliber bullets, .17 Remington, and he shoots the di-
which are more affected by wind drift. minutive cartridge very well. The tiny
These loads often require a higher 25- and 30-grain Berger hollowpoints
level of accuracy, in order to reliably at almost 4,000 fps certainly create
connect on the smaller targets that the red mist, and pelt damage is mini-
varmints present. mal. In windy conditions, he favors a
I spent quite a bit of time develop- .25-06 with 87-grain bullets.
ing loads for my own .22-250 Rem- Whitetail deer, mule deer, and
ington, using Hodgdon’s H380 powder pronghorn antelope-sized game can be
and 53-grain Sierra HP MatchKing and often are taken with a wide range
bullets, until it printed three-shot of cartridges and all sorts of bullets.
groups of 3/8-inch. My rifle has a In the South, where deer tend to be
sporter-weight barrel, so it heats up smaller, the .22 and 6mm calibers
faster than the bull barrel so common are very popular. These cartridges
among varmint rifles. My dad likes a are also often the first rifle of young
full-pipe bolt-action .223 Remington, shooters, because of the low level of

168 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

recoil. When it comes to hunting deer- cartridges. Historically, the .250
sized game, based on my own experi- Savage, 7x57mm Mauser, .30-30
ences, I think these cartridges are Winchester, and .308 Winchester
best reserved for the well-seasoned have earned great reputations for
rifleman who will wait for the perfect being “easy shooters.” They bring
broadside shot. I also feel that a rifle to the table a classic blend of killing
in a .25-caliber through the .270 bore, power, accuracy, and low recoil. All
loaded down to reduce recoil, is a bet- (with the exception of the relatively
ter choice for the beginner, as they of- slow .30-30), can be used to 300-plus
fer a heavier bullet. Still, if the .22 or yards by an experienced shooter who
6mm is your choice, I feel it would be has familiarized themselves with the
wise to take advantage of the newer rifle and load, yet none should cause
developments in bullet technology the dreaded flinch. These all have
and use a premium mono-metal or become classic deer calibers, in no
bonded-core bullet to make sure the small part because a standard cup-
bullet reaches the animal’s vitals with- and-core bullet performs very well at
out premature breakup. For longer their moderate velocities.
shots, say out beyond 250 yards, the Stepping things up a bit, the .25-06,
light bullets made for these calibers .270 Winchester, .280 Remington, and
can be more drastically affected by .30-06 Springfield all have a larger
the wind, so, if such conditions are case, which equates to more powder
what you anticipate, try and choose a capacity and, therefore, higher veloci-
bullet to build your handloads around ties. This higher velocity creates three
that will best buck the wind and help things: more energy, flatter trajec-
you hit your target. tory, and more recoil. Speeds in these
The deer and antelope cartridges rounds have not yet reached the point
that make the most sense to me are where bullet breakup is a problem,
between .257-inch and .308-inch in but the use of a premium bullet is not
diameter. Each of the calibers offers a ridiculous prospect. For all-around
mild, medium, spicy, and raucous use, this class of cartridge makes an

The sweet-
shooting .308
Winchester is
known for its


(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)
A great, flat-shooting deer round, the .25-06 Remington is a very accurate cartridge. This tight
group was delivered from a Tikka T3 rifle.

awful lot of sense. You can choose per second. Powder consumption also
the bullet diameter you like best, and increases by 30 to 40 percent or so.
there’s probably going to be a case This is where the use of standard cup-
based on the .30-06 for you. I’ve never and-core bullets can make a mess on
been on a hunt where the use of the deer-sized game, when used up close
.30-06 Springfield has been frowned at full-house velocities. Truly, these
upon, if any .30-caliber was deemed cases call for the premium bullet.
suitable for the intended game. There’s Magnum primers are usually required
nothing wrong with Jack O’Connor’s to ignite the large powder charges.
pet .270 Winchester, either, and, with When it comes to long-range
the bullets available today, I’m certain shooting, the rounds in this last-men-
he’d be grinning like a Cheshire cat. tioned class are my favorite balance of
Performance on game has dramatically flat trajectory and acceptable recoil.
increased with this round, thanks to Yes, in the Northeast deer and bear
the availability of projectiles that will woods where I live, a case of this
stay together once fur is breached. capacity is usually unwarranted. The
Crank it up another notch to the lighter cases already mentioned will
.257 Weatherby Magnum, .264 Win- do the job, when shots are within 200
chester Magnum, .270 WSM, 7mm yards. But, follow my thinking for a
Remington Magnum, and my favorite, second: As a handloader, I can safely
the .300 Winchester Magnum, and and effectively reduce the velocity
velocities increase 200 to 350 feet of my Winchester Model 70 in .300

170 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

These .300 Winchester Magnum cartridges were loaded with the 180-grain Swift Scirocco II, a bullet
tough enough to easily withstand the high velocities the case is able to produce.

Winchester Magnum (that fits me Grumpy Pants picked up a .300 RUM

like a glove) to perform like a .308 for long-range caribou on Quebec’s
Winchester or .30-06 Springfield. I tundra, and it works fine. He and I often
cannot do the same in reverse with butt heads about whether I can make
either of those latter two cases. Are the same long-range shot he can with
you starting to get the gist of this that big case, if I’m shooting my .300
chapter, now? Winchester. He insists the 180-grain
Bring the dial to Nigel Tufnel’s bullet leaving the muzzle at 3,350 fps
proverbial “11,” and you’ll see folks allows him to all but eliminate hold-
hunting deer-sized game with the big over out to 300 yards, while I maintain
sticks: 7mm STW and 7mm Remington that my 180-grain bullet flying at a
Ultra Magnum, .300 Weatherby Mag- muzzle velocity of 2,950 fps is enough
num, .300 Remington Ultra Magnum, for me to hit the target with a six-inch
and the beastly .30-378 Weatherby holdover at the same distance. I know
Magnum. These are some huge cases, my rifle as well as he knows his, and I’d
ones with capacities that sometimes like to think I can shoot as well as he
exceed 100 grains of powder. Their can. His rifle kicks a hell of a lot harder
velocities are way up there. If these and seems to waste more meat, but him
tickle your fancy, so be it, I won’t being my dad, I often shake my head
judge, but be sure and use only the and walk away muttering.
best of bullets, so you have something Some guys love the bigger bores
to eat after you pull the trigger! Ol’ (yup, count me among them), and like


(Photo courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

The .45-70 Government with a 305-grain hollowpoint makes a great deer and black bear load for the
thick woods, where shots are at close range.

172 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

to use them on deer-sized game, sim- .45 (Long) Colt are better choices,
ply because they are such fans of the as they throw heavier projectiles.
rifles. If this is you, the 8mm Magnum Being proficient with your weapon
and .338 bore fans, you can effec- and having great confidence in your
tively use your favorite rifles on deer- ammunition is a must for any hunter,
sized game by choosing the lightest but particularly so for the handgun
bullets available. The 180-grain hunter. Hours spent shooting at the
bullets of any manufacture are avail- bench at different ranges with your
able for the 8mm bore, and there is a handloaded ammunition will help you
decent selection of .338-inch diameter guarantee success.
bullets suitable for deer hunting; the Let’s move up the ladder to the
Barnes TSX in 160- and 185-grain next size of big game, to the brown
and the Nosler Ballistic Tip 180-grain bear, elk, moose, and the large
bullet come quickly to mind. In the African antelope species, such as
.358-inch caliber, Hornady, among wildebeest, kudu, and eland. Game
others, makes a great 200-grain bullet of this size is what originally started
that can be served up at deer-worthy the great Elmer Keith versus Jack
velocities without damaging too O’Connor celebrity death match,
much meat, and even the venerable back in the day, the big-slow-bullet-
.375-inch bore has a 235-grain listing for-penetration versus the speedy-
that provides a great opportunity for light-bullet-for-hydraulic-shock
taking your big gun out into the deer argument. Where does this argument
woods. I like a Barnes TSX 235-grain stand now?
in my .375 H&H Magnum for deer If, today, we had access only to
and bear in my native Adirondacks. the bullets available in the 1940s and
Many .45-70s see duty in the deer ’50s, I would have to have taken the
woods, too, and although limited in side of Elmer Keith and big/slow.
range by the round’s rainbow-like tra- Of the standard cup-and-core bullet,
jectory, this old classic has accounted Keith praised its virtues as being
for more than its fair share of game. A capable of penetration. I agree with
305-grain hollowpoint has performed him. O’Connor, on the other hand,
just fine in Dad’s Browning Model believed that a standard bullet from
1886. Again, choosing a bullet to suit a smaller caliber, when placed in
the task at hand is part of the fun of the proper location, would kill just
being a handloader! as well. He wasn’t totally wrong,
Handgun hunters who choose to because that was a man who could
pursue deer-sized game should prob- slip a bullet exactly where it needed
ably look to cartridges in the .357 to go—but many hunters lack the
Magnum class as a minimum, using patience to pick the shot the way Jack
heavy-for-caliber bullets of good O’Connor did.
construction, to be sure the vitals are I’ll leave the judge’s decision to
reached. The .41 Magnum, 10mm history, but what I do want to say is
Auto, .44 Magnum, .45 ACP, and this: The .270 Winchester about which


The author’s .300 Winchester Magnum, loaded with 200-grain Swift A-Frames, worked just fine on
safari, in South Africa.

174 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)
A sampling of available .338-caliber bullets.

O’Connor waxed so poetically has where instructed. For that adventure

much more muscle now, thanks to ad- with my .300, I chose the 200-grain
vanced bullet technology that simply Swift A-Frame (to hedge my bets
wasn’t available back in O’Connor’s against the largest of antelope, the
time. Whereas the venerable Keith eland), and had a great time with it.
poo-pooed the idea of using .270s This combination would also very
and even .30-06s on Elk, today’s stout effectively take moose and elk here in
bullets such as the Swift A-Frame, North America.
Hornady GMX, Barnes TSX, Nosler The .338 Winchester Magnum has
Partition and Accubond, and North long been a favorite for elk hunters,
Fork will make that .270 or ought-six and that makes sense. The larger-
into a perfectly viable rifle for all the diameter bullets, those weighing
above mentioned species. between 200 and 250 grains, have
I was shocked, while research- a more dramatic effect on the large
ing my first safari, one in pursuit of cervids and antelope. The .338s and
gemsbok, kudu, eland, etc., to find .35-caliber rifles also make a great
my guide recommended bringing my choice for black bear. Yes, I’m fully
favorite deer rifle, a .300 Winchester aware that many bears are taken with
Magnum. Surely I thought I would common deer calibers, but, if you’ve
need a much bigger rifle for the pur- ever had to look for a wounded bear
suit of the larger African plains game in the willow thickets of Quebec,
species! Nope. Modern bullets had you might understand why I prefer a
already proven to my PH that the .300 heavier projectile. Bears have teeth
had adequate killing power, and my and claws, after all! The .338s and
familiarity with the rifle would ensure .35s can be loaded with 200-grain
I could place the bullet precisely bullets for lighter game, then revved


(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)
Flat-point and cup-point North Fork solids in the .375-inch caliber, both weighing 300 grains. Both
are suitable for the largest African game animals.

up with a 250-grain bullet for moose ating a sensible amount of kinetic

and eland. If you don’t plan on leav- energy to handle these huge animals.
ing the North American continent on The various .35 calibers, like the .35
your hunting adventures, a .338- or Whelen, .350 Remington Magnum,
.35-bore rifle can make a great com- and the .358 Norma Magnum, are
panion to your favorite deer rifle to also well suited, as is the venerable
round out your arsenal. .375 Holland & Holland Magnum.
The biggest mammals on Earth No one wants to face a wounded
require a large-bore rifle with ad- grizzly bear in an alder thicket, so
equate killing power. In this group of be sure and use something befitting
animals I shall include bison, brown these great bruins. For these powerful
bear, hippopotamus, Cape buffalo, and cartridges, the Nosler Partition, Swift
elephant—the dangerous game. Here A-Frame, Barnes TSX, Woodleigh
in North America, we normally don’t Weldcore, and Speer Grand Slam are
have a legally established caliber mini- all great choices for the biggest of
mum, but they certainly do in Africa. North American animals.
The sheer size of bison and the fe- The dangerous game of Africa
rocity of a brown bear should indicate present a unique conundrum. Most
that something large is required, and African countries require a mini-
I think that the .338-inch diameter mum bore diameter of .375-inch for
cartridges are a sensible minimum. hunting the Big Five or Dangerous
They can launch a high sectional Seven, and I think this is a sensible
density, 250-grain bullet at velocities minimum. The 9.3mm (.366-inch
from 2,400 fps to 2,800 fps, gener- diameter) cartridges are allowed

176 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

in some places, Zimbabwe comes burning powder, that velocity can be
to mind, but, generally speaking, I easily reached. I like to load my .375
believe the power of the .375 H&H H&H with IMR4064, IMR4350, or
Magnum or .375 Ruger is what is Reloder 15. Many powders in this
needed to cleanly take these very realm can produce both excellent
large creatures. Certainly, leopard velocity and accuracy.
and even lion can effectively be taken Buffalo can live up to their reputa-
with lesser calibers, and that is legal tion as “Black Death.” To take them
in some countries. But, the Cape buf- cleanly and quickly demands a pre-
falo and, especially, elephant, require mium bullet. The same bullets I men-
a large bore and a good bullet. There tioned for brown bear and bison will
are many big-bores to choose from perform well on Cape buffalo. For the
for game like this. The most popular, African elephant, using a .375 solid (a
far and away, is the aforementioned bullet constructed of a homogenous
.375 Holland & Holland Magnum. metal, or appearing as a steel-covered
It is a flexible cartridge with a wide lead bullet), is most definitely re-
range of bullets ranging from 210 quired. The skull of an elephant has
grains up to and including some more than two feet of honeycombed
African-made 380-grain bullets. The bone that must be penetrated to reach
classic combination uses a 300-grain the brain. A Barnes Banded Solid,
bullet driven to about 2,500 feet per Hornady DGS, North Fork Solid, or
second. Using a medium- to slow- Woodleigh Solid should do the trick.

The .416 Remington Magnum is a good choice of cartridge for the biggest game. It is shown here
with 400-grain Swift A-Frame bonded-core bullets.


(Photo courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)
The .458 Winchester Magnum and the huge .500 Nitro Express, two cartridges designed for stopping power!

There are several cartridges that .416 Remington Magnum (.416-inch)

step up the velocity in the .375-inch are all reputable dangerous-game
diameter, such as the .375 Weatherby, guns. They offer a heavier bullet of
.378 Weatherby, and .375 Remington larger diameter and are more effective
Ultra Magnum. As with any case that on the big guys, yet you might say you
increases the velocity, a premium start to lose the flexibility of the .375s.
bullet will always perform better, It is in this class of cartridge that you
due to the higher velocities that ac- really start to see the financial benefits
company impact. The real beauty of of loading your own, as factory ammu-
the .375s is their flexibility, espe- nition can get very expensive.
cially when you handload for them. I like the .416s, as they have a
They have manageable recoil, while good selection of bullets. I believe
producing over 4,000 ft-lbs of muzzle they are just about ideal for buffalo.
energy. They can be flat-shooting My own sweetheart is a Winchester
with 250- and 270-grain bullets for Model 70 in .416 Remington, affec-
plains game and, yet, with a proper tionately named “Cocoa,” for its dark
300-grainer, can effectively be used stained stock. I’ve spent a lot of time
on buffalo and elephant. at the bench with this rifle; with the
The next step up from the .375 1.5-5x20mm scope, I can consistently
bores are the .40-calibers. The .404 print one-inch three-shot groups with
Jeffery (.423-inch), the .450/400 it, pushing the 400-grain bullets to an
(.411-inch) and the .416 Rigby and even 2,400 fps on the chronograph.

178 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

This equates to 5,000 ft-lbs of energy Jack Lott enhanced the .458
at the muzzle, a recipe for success, Winchester design by elongating the
when pitted against any large thing case to the full H&H length of 2.850
with four feet and a heartbeat. I’ve inches, making the job of handloading
used this combination on buffalo much easier. The .458 Lott has some
with great success and anticipate an cool features. For one, it’s much easier
elephant hunt using 400-grain Barnes to load for, having a larger case capac-
Banded Solids. The venerable .416 ity than the .458 Winchester. Because
Rigby produces the same ballistics, of this, you can obtain higher veloci-
but at the cost of burning over 100 ties than with the .458 Winchester.
grains of powder in that big case. It is Finally, in a pinch, you can shoot
an undeniable classic, but I will say it .458 Winchester ammunition in the
has more recoil than the comparable Lott chamber without issue. Hornady
Remington design. makes good .458 Lott cases.
The .45-caliber safari rifles are even As you might imagine, when you
more specialized, and they are usu- start pushing those huge 500-grain
ally reserved for the biggest species. bullets, the recoil ramps up tremen-
They can launch a 500-grain bullet at dously. My advice is this: sight in
velocities of 2,100 to 2,600 fps. The your rifle and develop your load on
.458 Winchester Magnum is among the the shooting bench and then get off
most popular in this caliber range, ca- it! These big guys are much more
pable of being loaded in a long-action comfortable to shoot offhand or off
(.30-06 length), and of pushing the shooting sticks than they are to shoot
500-grain bullets to 2,100 fps. from the bench. Also, buy the best
There is one drawback to the .458 quality scope you can afford, because
Winchester, its case capacity. The a .458 will chew up cheap optics faster
case is based on the .375 H&H, cut than you can buy them!
down and blown out to be nearly What al this boils down to, if you’re
straight-walled. With this design, the looking for a battery of rifles to cover
handloader is almost always forced the entire world and load for them,
to use compressed loads of powder pick a sensible, medium caliber be-
to achieve acceptable velocities; a tween .270 and .308 diameter and cou-
compressed load is one in which there ple it with a big-bore of .375 through
is no room for the powder to move .458. With the selection of bullets
in the case, as the bullet physically and powders available today, you then
compresses it during the bullet seating have a common-sense, complemen-
process. Many stick powders take up tary pair of rifles suitable for hunting
too much room in the case to get the anywhere in the world. These days,
500-grainers to that 2,100 fps mark. my own one-two punch consists of a
One powder that worked out very well .300 Winchester Magnum and my .416
for me was Hodgdon’s H335. It is a Remington Magnum. I sometimes use
ball powder that gave uniform veloci- different rifles when hunting around
ties and good accuracy. my home, but, when traveling to hunt


abroad, I grab this combination more buy a super-magnum 20x scope, take
often than not. a glance at a drop chart, and proclaim
themselves a shooter capable of killing
LOADING FOR LONG-RANGE at these distances. Your chosen setup
There’s a trend in hunting and must deliver enough energy upon
shooting these days, one I’ve been see- impact to ensure a humane kill. It’s
ing for a number of years. This trend not nearly as easy as some make it out
highlights and encourages shooting at to be.
very, very long ranges. The hunting debate aside, let’s
Competitive shooting is a won- discuss some loading techniques for
derful sport, and the greatest risk to hitting distant targets.
participating in it is that your feelings First, you must have an understand-
are hurt when you don’t shoot as well ing of the cartridge you’re shooting.
as you wanted to. In the hunting world, What is the cartridge’s safe velocity
though, it is a much different game. potential? Higher velocity results in
Long-range shots at unwounded game a flatter trajectory, and that lessens
can be, simply put, unethical. I’ve seen the holdover (the amount of elevation
television shows and magazine articles above the target needed to allow for
that claim one-shot kills at 700-plus the gravitational effect on the bullet).
yards. I’m not saying this can’t be Which bullet should you choose to re-
done, but I have a hard time with the sist wind drift and retain energy? How
casual attitude. One does not simply do you get precise accuracy?

(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

Best-quality rifles and optics are required for true long-range shooting. The Leupold scope shown
on this .338 Lapua is one of the best available and will hold up to the terrific recoil of the round
without losing its zero.

180 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

Large-diameter “bull” barrels are often employed on long-range target rifles.

I’m going to start with the last Now, this minute of angle is a pro-
question first. Accuracy is measured jecting cone, one that gets wider as the
in “minutes of angle.” There are 60 distance gets further. Thus, MOA at
minutes in one degree, so a minute of 200 yards is 2.094 inches, at 300 yards
angle is an arc of 1/60-degree. When a it’s 3.142 inches, and so on. Most rifles
rifle is said to be capable of shooting considered good for long-range use
minute-of-angle groups, it is under- will shoot three-shot groups under 1
stood that the extreme spread (center MOA and, preferably, ½-MOA.
to center) of a three- or five-shot group What we want to do, when we
will be no more than the sine of one know we’ll be shooting at distance, is
minute of angle at the distance to the create ammunition that will keep that
target. At 100 yards, the equation group spread to a minimum, obviously
works like this: so that we can more efficiently and
The measure of one minute is reliably place the bullet on the target.
expressed as a decimal portion of a To do this, every step in the loading of
degree (divide 1 by 60) and the sine your ammunition must be done much
of that number is taken. You then more precisely than the ammunition
multiply that number by 300 feet (100 you would produce for shorter ranges,
yards) and then again by 12 to convert as any error or deviation will be mag-
feet to inches. If my abacus is correct, nified at those greater distances. Let’s
one minute of angle (MOA) at 100 get down to the nitty-gritty.
yards is equal to an extreme group Cases should be trimmed to a
spread of 1.047 inches. uniform length and checked with a


micrometer. I like to use the cases you must examine the rifle to eliminate
of the same headstamp and often the other factors that may hinder you from
same lot, so that the case capacity hitting your target. While this is not a
is as uniform as possible; different book on rifles, it must be stated that the
brands of cases can be made to differ- best ammunition cannot function well
ent thicknesses, so the volume of the through a rifle that is not well tuned.
case (inside dimension) can vary. By Examine the rifle’s trigger and
using the same brand or lot of cases, make sure it has a clean, crisp pull,
you can remove as much of that varia- not too heavy, not too light, with little
tion as possible. creep or over-travel. A gunsmith can
When installing primers, some tune or replace your trigger if need
precision shooters prefer a handheld be. Make sure the action is properly
priming tool, so that they can feel the bedded and that the barrel isn’t hitting
primers being seated to a uniform the stock in a way that will affect ac-
depth. For certain, every individual curacy. Be certain the scope bases and
powder charge must be weighed and rings are installed correctly and tight-
tolerances held strictly. When seeking ly enough so as not to come loose,
this level of accuracy, I also weigh and that the rifle scope is mounted so
the bullets I have chosen and separate that the vertical crosshair is perfectly
them into groups, using only bullets aligned with the centerline of the
that have the same weight within a bore—in no way should the reticle be
limit of 0.1- or 0.2-grain. canted. If perfectly aligned, the bullets
Bullet seating depth uniformity is will drop on a plumb line, when hold-
critical. Once the load data has been ing over the bull’s-eye. If not, at long
established at the shooting bench, all distances, your shots will drop either
future ammunition should be loaded to the left or to the right, depending
to these specifications, to reproduce on how the reticle is canted.
the accuracy. Seating depth variations Choosing the proper bullet for
can change the accuracy, so I use a long-range shooting is mandatory.
micrometer to verify that my seating You’ll want something with a high
die hasn’t come out of adjustment and ballistic coefficient, so as to retain as
seated my bullets either too deep or much velocity and energy downrange
out too far. There are several compa- as possible. A boat-tail bullet often
nies that make “precision” or “com- gets the nod. Round-nosed and semi-
petition” dies, on which the seating spitzer bullets have too much drag,
plug has a dial-adjustable mechanism and their velocities (and therefore
to allow for better control of seating energies) drop off much faster than
depth. For ultra-precise ammunition, the boat-tail spitzer design. Most
I feel these are a worthwhile invest- long-range shooters tend to choose
ment. Redding Competition Seating a heavier bullet weight, even though
Dies are one of my favorites. they cannot be loaded to be fired as
Now that you’ve adhered to the fast as a lighter bullet of the same
stringent loading of your ammunition, caliber. The heavy bullet invariably

182 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

bucks the wind better, and wind drift for adequate killing power on differ-
at long ranges can pose quite a prob- ent size game animals. I personally
lem, especially when the wind varies like to adhere to this general idea, as
along the bullet’s path (which it will). best as possible.
Doping the wind is almost an art
form. If I’m in a situation where the
possibility of a true long-range shot LOAD DEVELOPMENT
exists, I usually choose a bullet that As you ponder the possibilities of
will best resist wind drift and increase building the perfect load for your rifle
my chances of shooting where I’m and shooting situation, you must be
aiming. Many of the polymer-tipped sure that the chosen combination will
boat-tail bullets I’ve previously provide the accuracy and velocity you
described will fit this bill, as will the desire. This process is known as “load
lineup of hollowpoint boat-tail bul- development,” and it’s really what this
lets suitable for hunting. If you need chapter has been leading up to. I’ll use
something for very long-range hunt- the popular .30-06 Springfield as a
ing (and by this I mean more than 400 hypothetical example.
yards), take a long look at the energy Let’s suppose my goal is to develop
the bullet will have at the longer rang- a good load for deer-sized game. I don’t
es. A good loading manual will give need a super-tough bullet, yet you want
this information. There are oodles of good expansion and penetration. After
sources for accepted minimum energy settling on the Sierra 150-grain spitzer,

(Photo courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

Reloading manuals provide a great wealth of information about the possible bullet and powder
combinations for each cartridge. Shown here is the Sierra Edition V manual.


a standard cup-and-core bullet with a because there’s such a wide range of
good reputation for deer-sized game, I charge weights I can use, I’d recom-
resize and trim up a bunch of once-fired mend a starting load of an even 45.0
Federal ’06 brass. grains and load six rounds for two
Sierra’s Rifle & Handgun Reload- three-shot groups. I’d then place them in
ing Manual, Edition V indicates that a plastic bag and label the bag with the
the data was developed using a Federal load data. From there, I load in batches
210 Large Rifle primer, so I pick up a of either three or six rounds, increasing
couple hundred of those primers to start the powder charge for each batch by
with. Now I must choose a powder. The one grain, until I’ve reach a load of 52.0
Sierra Manual offers more than 20 to grains (just under the maximum). Each
choose from. Also offered in this manu- load batch will be placed in its plastic
al are recommendations for an “Accu- bag and clearly labeled with its load.
racy Load” and a “Hunting Load.” Now it’s time to hop in the ol’ fam-
The first uses a load of 59.6 grains ily truckster and head to the shooting
of Hodgdon’s H4831 SC, giving 2,800 range. Rifle, ammunition, targets,
fps, and the latter uses 53.4 grains of hearing and eye protection, cleaning rod
Ramshot BigGame powder for 2,900 and patches, sandbags or some other
fps. If you like either of these, so be rifle rest, and a notebook are gathered
it, but both the loads are on the high together for this venture. I like the rifle
side of the listed charge weights for to be thoroughly clean at this time, but I
these powders, so you must start with toss some fouling ammunition—rounds
a lighter weight to be sure there are no that won’t be included in the accuracy
pressure issues with your particular test, but will warm the barrel a bit and
rifle. Because of that, I’m going to deposit some minimal residue—in the
choose a more universal powder for my bag, too. Fouling rounds can be some
hypothetical loading: IMR4064. It’s a leftover factory rounds or other odds
middle-of-the-road powder, useful in and ends. Doesn’t matter, just keep
a wide variety of other cartridges, and them separate from your for-group
(usually) readily available. With this rounds. At the shooting bench, I shoot
powder, the manual gives us a charge one fouling round to blow any oil out of
range of a minimum of 44.9 grains the bore and foul the bore. Now I can
(2,600 fps) to a maximum of 52.1 start to assess the accuracy potential of
grains (3,000 fps). (Remember that, the loads we’ve made.
just as you should never load past the I fire a three-shot group of the low-
maximum recommended charge, you est powder charge load and assess the
should also never load below the listed group size. It doesn’t matter where on
minimum. Under-loading a case is actu- the target the load hits, as I’ll ultimately
ally quite possibly more dangerous than adjust the scope for my pet loads, but
overloading one!) you would like to see a group.
The bullets will be seated to Sierra I’ll repeat this for each batch, allow-
Manual’s test COL of 3.225 inches. ing the barrel to cool between groups,
Since I’m looking for distance work and so that barrel heat doesn’t open up my

184 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

groups wider than they should be, and (and so long as I don’t exceed the
recording the group results against the manual’s listed maximum load or go
load data. I make certain that the rifle is above the charge weight that gave me
well rested into sandbags or whatever high pressure signs). Repeat the three-
other rifle rest I’ve a mind to use. Also I shot test data and, with any luck, I’ll
make sure the fore-end of the stock isn’t have found the accuracy I like. If not,
clamped down into anything, so that the it’s time to repeat the test process with a
barrel can move freely during the shot. new powder and/or primer brand.
This is where my (and yours!) shooting When I finally settle on the load that
technique requires the utmost atten- gives me the accuracy I’m after, I then
tion—take your time! Finally, every 10 to break out the chronograph and shoot 10
15 shots, run a dry patch down the bore shots of that particular load, to establish
to avoid a dirty bore, but I don’t want it a good average velocity. I try to observe
squeaky clean. the velocity as close to the temperature
When I’m running load develop- at which I’ll be hunting or shooting, to
ment tests like this, I keep a series of minimize the effects that temperature
notes in my notebook, recording the has on powder. If the velocity is not
group size of each different load, and I where I want it, I may have to try a
watch for pressure signs such as sticky different powder that will give higher
extraction or cratered primers
along the way. If I find pressure
signs, I will not shoot any of

the loads with a heavier charge
weight, because I have found
my rifle’s maximum pressure
for that bullet/case/powder
X When loading for a particular
combination. What I’m after,
cartridge, it truly pays to do as much
with this rather rigorous testing,
research on that case as you can.
is accuracy. The charge weight
Some cases have a powder that suits
that gives the tightest group is
it very well. For example, the .22-250
the one I look at, much more
Remington and Hodgdon H380, the
than I do the velocity it gives.
.308 Winchester and IMR4064, and
My personal theory is this: It is
the .270 Winchester and H4831 are
more important that the bullet
be delivered where it needs to known, proven entities. That is not to
be, than whether I’ve squeezed say that other powders won’t work well,
the last 100 fps out of the case. but these combinations have stood the
If the smallest of the groups still test of time and, more often than not,
don’t meet my accuracy require- provide a good starting point. The re-
ments or expectations, I will load loading manuals in print toady tell a tale
more rounds, varying the powder born from thousands of hours of testing
charge by 0.2-grain above and and should be respected for that.
below the tightest group weight


velocities at acceptable pressures, while have four or five different loads for a
still delivering the accuracy I need. I particular rifle, especially a rifle that is
carefully record the case brand/powder asked to perform many different tasks.
type/charge weight/primer/bullet combi- That .30-’06 we’ve been talking about
nation for that rifle in my loading notes may be loaded with 125-grain bullets
and can then reproduce the accuracy for coyotes and other varmints, or load-
I’ve worked so hard to obtain. ed with 220-grain bullets for bears and
Once the group size and velocity other large beasts A simple adjustment
have been established and are accept- of the rifle scope is all that’s needed for
able, I look up the trajectory of the each load, once properly developed.
specific bullet in question at the velocity This is only one example of load
given by the chronograph. I usually development. There are many bullet
make a drop chart on the back of a weights to choose from and experi-
business card, telling me how much ment with for the .30-06, just as there
holdover is required for shots beyond are for the myriad other cartridges we
the distance that rifle is zeroed. Let’s say have today. This kind of load devel-
this particular Sierra 150-grain bullet opment, then, is a good part of why
I loaded is moving at 2,850 fps at the you’ve chosen to handload in the first
muzzle, according to the chronograph. place. Another reason is that each rifle
The Ballistic Coefficient of this bullet is or pistol will have minute differences
right around 0.340 and, when I consult in their construction and slight varia-
a trajectory chart, I’ll find that the rifle tions in the barrels. Some are “tight” or
is likely best zeroed for 200 yards; this smaller than specified bore diameter.
means the arc of the bullet will rise and Others are “loose,” larger than specified
then lower to strike the bull’s-eye of the bore diameter. The tight barrels often
target at 200 yards. The same chart will produce higher velocities, but reach
indicate that, with such a zero, I must maximum pressures sooner than the
sight the scope to have the bullet strike loose ones. When handloading, it is im-
the target 1.9 inches high at 100 yards, portant to build each load specific to the
hold eight inches above my point of firearm you intend to shoot it through,
aim to hit a target at 300 yards, and 24 to avoid damaging the gun or, worse,
inches high at 400 yards. This trajectory hurting yourself or others. Common
curve also tells me that, if I align the sense should always prevail and safety
scope as described, a shot at 100 yards should always come first. Observing the
will strike no more than two inches rules will keep your guns happily fed
high, yet a 225-yard shot will only be for a lifetime.
two inches low. Most hunting shots are The load development process must
taken at ranges under 225 yards, and be repeated for each type and weight
a laser rangefinder will aid in making of bullet you choose to use. It is not
those long-range shots. uncommon to have four or five differ-
The same process must be repeated ent loads for a particular rifle, espe-
for each type and weight of bullet you cially a rifle that is asked to perform
choose to use. It is not uncommon to many different tasks.

186 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

(Photo courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)
These are 10mm Auto cartridges, with 155-grain Speer Gold Dot bullets. These fed very well
through a Dan Wesson 1911-type pistol.

Load development for your pistol Once you choose the bullet for
or revolver, unless you’re a com- your pistol, your load development
petitive shooter of the NRA-regulated proceeds much the same way it was
bull’s-eye crowd, generally doesn’t outlined in the .30-06 example above,
revolve around hair-splitting accuracy except that I would load two-dozen
as much as it does creating rounds for rounds or so for each powder charge
consistent, reliable functioning. Just batch. Once I had assured myself
as it is with rifle load development, that the pressures were safe and the
you must look at the job you intend accuracy acceptable, I would then
your handgun handloads to perform. If shoot two or three magazines of the
you want a .38 Special wadcutter for favored load, to ensure I have reliable
punching paper, the approach will be feeding. Most pistol shooters know
different than it is if you’re cooking that many semi-autos seem to have
up some heavy loads for deer hunting. an objection to certain bullet pro-
Another example would be loads for files. My pal Bill Loëb, for instance,
the many pistol shooters who partici- has a Dan Wesson 10mm semi-auto
pate in time-based competitions. These that loves the 155-grain Speer Gold
folks want a lighter load that will Dot loads I made for him, yet has
allow them to get on target quickly an aversion to feeding the 180-grain
after the gun recoils, and they also lead truncated cone profile. More
need reliable feeding. Jams cost pre- than likely, the feed ramp just doesn’t
cious seconds. The balance for such agree with the bullet design, but you
a shooter is one between accuracy won’t know this until you work up
(enough of it) and reliability. your loads and do the work.


The custom
engraved Leupold
VX6 2-12x40
rifle scope on
the author’s Among big-game hunters, the 7mm and .308-
.300 Winchester
Magnum. inch bore diameters are universally recognized
(Photo courtesy Massaro
Media Group & J.D. Fielding as being among the most versatile rifle calibers

available, with both offering a wide range of bullet

weights. The 7mm bore has common weights from
100-grain to 175-grain, while the .308 bore uses
110-grain through 220-grain bullets. I have loaded
for many different 7mms, and, while I respect them
very much, I have actually spent most of my hunt-
ing days behind the trigger of a .30-caliber rifle.
With the exception of the bullets heavier than 180
grains, the two calibers are very similar in the fact
that they have a selection of bullets suitable for
hunting game animals from varmint size through
large bears.
One of my favorite rifles is a Winchester Model
70 Classic Stainless chambered in .300 Winchester

188 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

Magnum and nicknamed the “Silverback.” It has a stainless
steel barreled action and a composite stock, making it just about
impervious to adverse weather conditions. I bought it used, in
2004, and it just so happened to fit me like a glove.
One of the beautiful features of the .300 Winchester is that it
can be loaded to its maximum potential to be a serious long-
range rifle, yet can also be loaded down to the same ballistics
as the .308 Winchester or .30-06 Springfield for hunting in the
northeast woods where the average shot is under 125 yards. I
have done exactly that with this rifle. Because of the variety of
hunting situations where I carry my .300, I require a versatile
rifle scope, one capable of handling very close shooting in the
dark conifer woods of the Catskill and Adirondack Mountains
in my native New York, yet also suitable for long-range shoot-
ing on the wide-open terrain outside of Quebec, on the windy
plains of Wyoming, or for plains game in a place like the Kafue
Flats, in Zambia. I settled on a Leupold VX6 2-12x42mm with a
30mm main tube. A true 2x on the bottom allows me to shoot at
distances as close as 10 yards with no problem picking up the
target, yet the top end of 12x is enough magnification for the
furthest distances in which I feel confident shooting.
The game animal I hunt most often is whitetail deer. Now, I
certainly know you do not need a .300 Winchester to kill a deer,
but no one would scoff if you used a .308 Winchester or .30-06
for a deer rifle. Here, in New York, with the exception of some
power lines and farm fields, our shots at deer tend to be rela-
tively close, so, again, I require neither a very heavy bullet nor a
ton of speed. For this kind of hunting, I chose a 150-grain Sierra
flat-based spitzer that gets seated over 68 grains of Reloder 19.
This gave me a velocity of 2,850 fps, which is right on par with
the .30-06, and even a .270 Winchester pushing a 150-grain
bullet. This handload works perfect for deer, even though it is on
the light end of the round’s loading data.
I’ve taken my .300 with me on several long-range hunts. The
pronghorn antelope is known for its uncanny eyesight and the
wide-open treeless prairie it inhabits. Getting close to them is no
easy task, and the plains of the American West are notorious for
their windy conditions. I wanted a bullet fast enough to produce
a relatively flat trajectory, yet heavy enough to buck the wind. I
worked up a load using what I feel is the ideal bullet weight for a
.300 Magnum, the 180-grain. I tried several and got good results
with a Sierra boat-tail and a Hornady flat-base, but the Swift


Scirocco II gave the best results of all in this par-
The .300
Winchester ticular rifle. I actually had two loads that worked out
Magnum, with the perfect for this bullet, one using Reloder 19 again,
180-grain Swift
Scirocco II seated and then the one I settled on that used 68.5 grains
over IMR4350. of IMR4350 in a Remington-Peters case backed
(Photo courtesy Massaro
Media Group &
J.D. Fielding Photography)
by a Federal 215 Large Rifle Magnum primer. This
load will print three-shot groups of 0.3-inch, if I
do my part on the bench. That work both in load-
ing and bench time ended up being very effective
in Wyoming, on a recent pronghorn. I stalked him
to within 215 yards, in very windy conditions, and
dropped him in his tracks. Could I have made this
shot with factory ammo? Sure. But that’s not really
the point. What makes the difference is that I’ve
worked through the bigger variety of possibilities
and load combinations that only reloading can pro-
vide, and I know what my best loads will do. That’s a
kind of confidence that doesn’t come so easily with
factory fodder.
My first African Safari was in 2004, to the Re-
public of South Africa. As is my usual habit when

190 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

I travel, I brought two rifles with me. I had become infatuated
with the .375 Holland & Holland Magnum, but I brought a .300
Winchester along in the event of longer shots. Now, one thing
about Africa is that you never know what you may see while
afield. In pursuit of an impala, you may stumble across the
eland of your lifetime, or, while tracking zebra, you may see
a wonderful tiny duiker. Point is, you’ll need a rifle capable of
swiftly taking the biggest animal you intend to hunt. To meet
this range of shooting possibilities, I loaded the .300 Win-
chester with a bullet I feel is well suited to the broad spectrum
of African plains game, the 200-grain Swift A-Frame. My rifle is
happy with this bullet over 75.0 grains of Reloder 25, in a W-W
Super case lit up by the Federal 215M Match Large Rifle Mag-
num primer. Group sizes average just over one-inch. The chro-
nograph tells a tale of a muzzle velocity at 2,750 fps, so I made
a drop chart, zeroed the rifle scope accordingly, and packed
my bags. That first safari was wonderful and the .300 did its
share of the work, claiming my very first head of African game,
a splendid gemsbok bull with 33-inch-long, well-broomed
horns. The heavy, stout bullet in the .300 Winchester used on
that gemsbok would suffi ce for any of Africa’s antelope, and
it’s been used by others many times over on game as tough as
grizzly bear and lion.
Even with that safari, I wasn’t done putting the .300 Win-
chester through the ringer. I had been studying way too many
books on old rifle calibers and the wheels were grinding. I’d
read the praises of the .318 Westley Richards, a round using a
250-grain .330-inch diameter bullet at a muzzle velocity of 2,400
fps, and how, at that weight and velocity, the penetration and
knockdown power had earned the favor of early twentieth-centu-
ry hunters. Well, finances being what they were, I couldn’t afford
to buy a .318 WR, but I did have some long, 220-grain, .308-inch
round-nosed bullets and a .300 Winchester! If I couldn’t buy a
.318, maybe I could build the next best thing!
I grabbed my Hornady Interlock 220-grain round-nosed bullets
and thumbed through some old reloading manuals looking for a
load that would give me 2,400 fps. It wasn’t long at all before I saw
that 53.0 grains of IMR4064 would yield exactly that, and I proceed-
ed to fill some Remington-Peters nickel-plated cases with that very
load. I had some Remington 9½ primers on hand, and that combi-
nation worked out very well. Group size hangs around an inch, and
the bullet performs very well. I have cleanly taken a black bear and


several deer with it, including an 11-point whitetail that
The .300
Winchester with
weighed 175 pounds after field dressing. I call this
220-grain Hornady load “I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-a-Westley.”
bullets. It’s the By now, it should be plain just how versatile one
author’s favorite
rifle can be, thanks to handloading. Of course, no
load for hunting
deer and bear in one would ever call the .300 Winchester Magnum a
New York. small round, so, it’s not for everyone. For the shooter
(Photo courtesy
Massaro Media Group &
J.D. Fielding Photography) who pursues lighter game or wants a target rifle
that will be more wind resistant than the .22-caliber
centerfires, the .243 Winchester is another example
of a versatile caliber for which you should handload.
The 6mm bore diameter offers a wider range of bullet
weights than the .22-calibers, and it is well suited to
performing as both a varmint-class rifle and a good
deer/antelope gun. The case is efficient, one based
on the .308 Winchester necked down to hold 6mm
bullets, and it has the inherent accuracy potential of
the .308. It makes an awful lot of sense for the hunter
who wants only one rifle for varmint to deer-size
range of animals.

192 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

On the lighter end of the scale, for woodchucks, prairie
dogs, and coyotes, there are a good many varmint bullets avail-
able for the .243. Hornady’s 58-grain V-Max, Nosler’s 55-grain
Ballistic Tip, Berger’s 69-grain Match Flat Base, and Speer’s
70-grain TNT hollowpoint come to mind. These bullets are very
frangible, meaning that will expand easily, a design perfect for
varmint hunting.
I like two very different powders for the .243 with these bul-
lets, IMR3031 and IMR4350. A suitable load of IMR3031 with
the Hornady 58-grain V-Max and a good Large Rifle primer like
a CCI200 will yield muzzle velocities in the neighborhood of
3,800 fps. This is performance very close to the .22-250 Rem-
ington or .220 Swift, both of which are classic varmint calibers
really best suited/limited to that hunting classification. Try and
develop your loads so they will give at least MOA accuracy (and,
preferably, smaller), and you should be able to consistently hit
coyotes and woodchucks out to almost 400 yards with some
practice. In fact, I’ve used a .243 Winchester with lighter bullets
to produce some very impressive groups (some ¼-MOA). Hunt-
ing varmints out to 300-plus yards (and providing I do my part
behind the trigger), the results are always impressive. Several
coyotes have gone down “bang-flop.”
Many hunters reach for the .243 Winchester when it comes
to hunting deer and antelope. I’ve stated that the 6mm car-
tridges are on the lower end of the spectrum for this job, as far
as I am concerned. However, in the hands of a cool shot, I know
for certain that the .243 can be very effective. I recommend
using only the 85-, 90-, and 100-grain bullets, and I’d have no
problem with a hunter reaching for one of the premium projec-
tiles in this caliber. The Hornady 85-grain Interbond, a 90-grain
Swift Scirocco II Nosler AccuBond, or maybe a 100-grain Speer
Grand Slam or Nosler Partition should be looked at as viable
candidates for deer hunting.
My family friend Col. Le Frogg has a Ruger Model 77 in the
matte grey and laminate stock Target/Varmint configuration that
loves a 100-grain Nosler Partition over 40.0 grains of Reloder
19, with a CCI200 primer in a Remington case. The Nosler
leaves the muzzle at 2,850 fps. This is a very accurate load
(and one that makes me believe that Reloder 19 is among the
best powders for the .243 Winchester with the heavier bullets).
Like most other calibers, if you’re looking for retained energy


at long distances, look to the long, sleek, boat-tail
The .243
Winchester and bullets. They will need less holdover when you get
hollowpoint bullets out past 250 yards, and they drift less in the wind.
make a very
potent varmint Just in case you’re not convinced that reloading
(Photos both pages courtesy
Massaro Media Group & J.D.
can give you the kind of flexibility you would mostly
Fielding Photography)
likely struggle to get with factory fodder, and just
in case you think this belief is only applicable to
“common” cartridges, let’s look at the .375 Holland
& Holland. This African classic was developed by
the prestigious firm of Holland & Holland, in 1912,
and was originally loaded with Cordite. It had the
privilege of being the first successful belted cases
(one that headspaces off the front of the belt,
rather than the rim or the shoulder), blending the
best features of both rimmed and rimless cases. It
gained a respectable reputation immediately.
The big belted case was originally offered with
three bullet weights, a 235-grain, a 270-grain,
and a 300-grain, but today’s bullets are better. I
got my first .375 just after the turn of the twenty-
first century, a push-feed Winchester Model
70, with the idea of an African safari in mind. I
gathered some Federal 215 Large Rifle Magnum

194 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

primers, Winchester cases, and the Grumpy Pants-approved
IMR4064 powder.
Initial load development didn’t go so well with this rifle, but it
turns out the rifle had a severe bedding problem. Once I had Hill
Country Rifles iron that little wrinkle out, I sat at the bench with
my handloads and got good groups with the Speer 235-grain
HotCor and Sierra 250-grain boat-tail bullets. Both are good
choices for lighter game in both Africa and North America, and
I’ve loaded them for many friends who hunt on both continents.
The Sierra 250-grain load I developed worked very well on
African plains game. It sat on top of 68.5 grains of IMR4064 that
propelled it to 2,750 fps and shot right at MOA accuracy. Dad
took a great kudu and gemsbok with my rifle and this load on
his first safari. The 235-grain Speer shot very well, also, but is
a bit too soft on deer-sized game. The whitetail deer Dad and I
have taken with it had a large amount of blood-shot meat and a
huge wound channel. I now reserve these bullets for paper. I’ve
recently loaded some of the Barnes TSX 235-grain all-copper
bullets for some clients, with great results. Accuracy is as good
as you can expect, being under MOA, and the mono-metal bullet
will not come apart. Using Reloder 15, a powder the .375 H&H
likes very much, and a 235-grain Barnes TSX, you have a pretty
flat-shooting, yet low-recoil combination that’s well suited for
plains game in Africa, or elk, moose, and bear in North America.
Head up the weight scale to the heavier bullets, and you have
in your hands a raging beast capable of taking all game on earth.
The 270-grain Barnes TSX and
Swift A-Frames are great bullets
that give good results at lower
recoil levels on the largest of
mammals, but go on to load
the .375 H&H with a premium
300-grain bullet and it will really
shine. Many African Profession-

IMR4350 gave
excellent results in
the .375 H&H case,
printing three-shot
groups of less than
one MOA.


al Hunters swear that no other cartridge will pene-
The .375 H&H
Magnum, with
trate as deep as a 300-grain .375-inch bullet. My pet
300-grain Swift load uses 77.0 grains of IMR4350 under a 300-grain
A-Frame bullets.
(Photo courtesy
Swift A-Frame, set off by a Federal 215M primer in
Massaro Media Group &
J.D. Fielding Photography) a Remington case to give me a muzzle velocity of
2,510 fps. This particular load worked wonders for
me in South Africa, as well as on a bison hunt in
South Dakota.
One of the wonderful properties of the .375 H&H
is the ability to put many bullets of different make
into the same point of impact. That’s important
when hunting dangerous game, where a mixture
of solids and premium soft-points will be used. My
.375 would put 300-grain Swift A-Frames, 300-grain
Hornady round-nosed, and 300-grain Hornady
Solids all into the same bull’s-eye. I once shot a
three-shot group, using one each of the three bul-
lets above, into a group that measured 1.1 inches.

196 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading



(Photo courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

n this chapter, I’m going to delve from the mistakes of others without
into some of the problems and having to make them yourself.
pitfalls that come with loading If you’re like me, you’ve done
your own ammunition, from the dis- your best to adhere to all the rules and
appointing to the dangerous. Hope- guidelines that have been outlined so
fully, this will allow you to learn far. You’ve read the reloading manu-


als, learned the history and design your cartridge choice in the major re-
of your particular cartridge, tumbled loading manuals. Listen to the people
the cases until they are shiny, resized who wrote these tomes, as they do
them properly, picked out the bullet, research for a living. That said, it may
primer, and powder that tickle your take some experimentation to find
fancy, and assembled it all to the best your recipe, that magic combination
of your ability. As you head to the of components that provide the level
range, you’re as giddy as a five-year- of accuracy you’re happy with. Don’t
old on Christmas Eve. Then, after set- be afraid to try a different type or
tling into the bench, stuffing the shiny brand of powder (if it’s listed in your
little fellas into your sweetheart pistol manual), and certainly don’t get mar-
or rifle, and holding and squeezing, ried in the first place to a particular
the walk to the target shows disap- powder. There are many websites,
pointing results. The groups are much social forums, and blogs that discuss
larger than you’ve expected. This is the best starting points for a par-
the most common problem, and here ticular cartridge, and the reloading
are some of the causes. manuals, old and new, provide a great
resource for choosing powders. A
change in powder has many a time
POWDER CHOICE resulted in a rifle shooting sub-MOA
As I’ve previously outlined, there groups where before it was minute of
are many different types of smokeless softball. By the bye, I found the magic
powder on the market today, for both recipe for Dad’s .300, using Reloder 25
pistols and rifles. Some have been powder and 200-grain Swift A-Frames.
around for more than 70 years, while He is, finally, a happy moose hunter.
others are just a year or two old.
Rifles, to a greater degree than
pistols, are finicky creatures. I’ve POWDER CHARGE
owned and loaded for some that The reloading manual will give
would happily and accurately digest you a range of powder weights for
just about any powder I stuffed in the your cartridge, from the start weight
case. Those kinds of guns are a joy. (being the lowest) to the maximum.
Then, there have been some, like Dad’s It is always best and safest to start at
Ruger Model 77, chambered in .300 the lowest weight and slowly increase
Winchester, that seemed to be unhappy the load while watching for pres-
with everything I brewed up. sure signs. Finding the sweet spot is
The fact of the matter is, every usually a matter of diligent trial and
barrel is different. Accuracy comes error. Sometimes a small adjustment
from one thing, and that is consistent, in the powder charge can result in a
repeatable barrel harmonics. The dramatic change in group size. My
same thing applies to pistols. .416 Remington printed 2½-inch
There will usually be some sug- groups with my initial loading. This
gested powders in the overview of was acceptable, the rifle being in-

198 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

tended for the large vitals of the Cape while others prefer flat-based bul-
buffalo, but I’m not one to settle. An lets, either round-nosed or spitzer. I
adjustment of one grain of powder spent a lot of time and money (not to
brought the 100-yard group size mention stomach lining), chasing my
down to about 0.9-inch. Now, to me, tail and wondering why my .22-250
that’s pretty impressive for a rifle of would not print the 52-grain boat-tail
that caliber and a 5x scope. The same hollowpoint match-grade bullets into
scenario presented itself in my .308 the tight little groups I wanted. I tried
Winchester and, this time, a 0.2-grain various powders, different cases, hu-
adjustment made all the difference. man sacrifice (kidding), all with no
When I’m getting close to the luck. My colleague and mentor, Col.
accuracy I want via the load develop- Le Frogg, overheard my complain-
ment process described in the last ing one day and solved the problem
chapter, what I usually do is make immediately.
cartridges in groups of six (for two, “Your barrel’s crown is a bit
three-shot groups), with various pow- imperfect,” he said to me. “Switch to
der charges in half-grain increments, the 53-grain flat-base and call me in
then fine-tune the load until I find the morning.”
that which the rifle likes. He was spot on. Switching to the
flat-base gave me 3/8-inch three-shot
groups, with the same powder charge
BULLET CHOICE I’d been using with the 52-grain
I enjoy using many different bullet bullets. Le Frogg had been right,
makes and models. Some of my rifles the crown was (and still is) ever so
prefer long, lean, boat-tailed spitzers, slightly out of round, and the gas-

Sierra’s flat-base MatchKing

made all the difference in the
accuracy of the author’s .22-
250. You have to experiment.
(Photo courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D.
Fielding Photography)


ses were affecting the flight of those
boat-tail bullets because of that
crown imperfection. I could have had
it re-crowned, but it shoots those flat-
base bullets so well I haven’t both-
ered. Lesson here: If you’re unhappy
with your rifle’s performance with
boat-tails, try a flat-base bullet. The
difference in long-range trajectory is
minimal at most sane hunting ranges,
but the accuracy usually improves
The same applies to the pistols.
Some barrels prefer the jacketed
hollowpoints we love so much, while
I’ve also seen some snub-nosed .38
Specials that will print wadcutters
into very tight groups. A finicky
1911 .45 ACP I had would only print
230-grain round-nosed ammuni-
tion well; no matter how we loaded
185-grain jacketed bullets, it wasn’t
happy. Bottom line is, it may take
some time to find the particular bul-
let for your rifle or pistol. Let go of
“loving” a particular powder or bullet
if it’s not working though your gun,
because why would anyone want to
keep barking up that tree and getting
crappy results? That just doesn’t
make sense. Experiment, switch
things up. When you get to the load
that sings, you’ll be a confident and
happy shooter.

After hunting moose in Quebec,
glassing across those long, wide
lakes and finally seeing the sheer size
of those Kings of Deer, I promptly
headed to my local gun shop and
purchased a rifle I felt worthy of
Alces Alces, the .375 Holland & Hol-

200 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

Quality bases, rings, and
optics help to evaluate
accuracy, taking mechanical
issues out of the equation.
(Photo courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D.
Fielding Photography)


land Magnum. Proud as a peacock, of frustration. Bases that loosen
I bought a set of dies, a couple from vibration and rings that don’t
hundred rounds of brass, and some properly hold the scope or are simply
bullets I really liked the look of. But, improperly installed can drive you
no matter what I did, regardless my crazy. Purchasing the best bases and
procedure, I had the same issue: I rings you can afford is worth every
would put the first shot on paper, penny you spend. If the hardware
the second would hit three inches up won’t hold zero, the best handloaded
and to the right, and the third would ammunition in the world won’t make
land within an inch of the first. Being a bit of difference.
new to handloading at the time and
unwilling to settle for that degree of
accuracy, I made a phone call to a LOADING DIFFICULTY
custom rifle shop in New Braunfels, At the bench, target all set up,
Texas, that specializes in fixing these hopes higher than Heaven, you load
sorts of problems. They told me that your firearm—except the bolt won’t
my loading wasn’t the problem, rather close, the pistol won’t chamber a
that the barreled action wasn’t bedded round, the autoloading rifle won’t go
properly into the stock (an inher- into battery. Now what?
ent problem with my particular gun It’s time to reexamine the cases.
model). The rifle was shipped to them Did you properly resize them? A bolt-
and re-bedded and, lo and behold, the action rifle has the strength to cam-
problem was solved. That big stick over on a slightly over-sized cartridge,
now prints under one-inch groups but pumps, levers, and auto-loaders
with 250-, 270-, or 300-grain bullets. do not. Full-length resizing, described
Another rifle I had, a military in Chapter 4, is imperative, when
Mauser conversion, wouldn’t group it comes to the pump-action, lever-
below 2 MOA. Different bullets, action, and auto-loading rifles (and
powders, and primers were used, all pistols). The partially sized case can
with the same results. The culprit? be the bane of the handloader. You
A military trigger. Creepier than an must make sure all your resizing dies
old man in a van, the trigger broke at are properly adjusted, to ensure the
about eight pounds. It was virtually ammunition you’ve worked so hard to
impossible to keep the rifle on target make works properly in your firearm.
while getting this trigger to break. If loading problems do rear their ugly
The solution? A premium replace- heads, try switching over to small
ment trigger. I ordered one from base sizing dies, which will resize the
Timney, took my time installing it, cases all the way to the base.
and ended up reducing the groups to
minute of angle or better, depending
Lesser quality optics and/or Okay, it loads fine. You take two
bases and rings can also be a source deeps breaths, let the last one half-

202 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

The primer on the left shows acceptable pressure. It has the same appearance as a new one, with
the exception of the firing pin mark. The primer on the right has been flattened and the firing pin
mark appears “cratered,” showing signs of excessive pressures.

(Photos courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

The author’s dad, a.k.a. Grumpy Pants (right), explaining the effects of a canted reticle on long-
range shooting. He knows what he’s talking about!

way out, hold, and gently squeeze … more than a pressure “chamber.” It
bang! But, the action won’t cycle. The is made of brass, a malleable metal,
bolt won’t open. You can’t extract the and is designed to hold a specific
cartridge. What does this mean? charge of propellant in order to pro-
You, my friend, have a pressure pel the bullet or shot when ignited.
problem. Pressure is funny thing. It’s If you exceed that pressure limit for
also a very, very dangerous thing. It which the cartridge was designed,
can result in a damaged firearm at excessive pressure will show its ugly
best, or loss of life at worst. It works face. In the revolver, it can result
like this: Every cartridge is nothing in a cracked cylinder. In a rifle, it


A steady, comfortable
rest that does not impinge
the rifle’s fore-end is a
must to properly evaluate
the accuracy of your
handloaded ammunition.
(Photo courtesy Massaro Media Group &
J.D. Fielding Photography)

204 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

becomes a stuck bolt or, perhaps, a
broken extractor. I don’t ever want
you to experience this, so allow me
to identify some symptoms.
If you are able to extract the
cartridge but with difficulty, examine
the struck primer. If the mark left by
the firing pin appears to have a raised
crater around the edges or the edges of
the primer don’t have the nice rounded
appearance they did when you seated
them, the pressure has become exces-
sive. This means that, for the particu-
lar firearm you are holding, the load
is too hot and it has created excessive
and unacceptable pressures.
But, wait, Phil. I loaded these .270
Winchester cartridges in accordance
with the manual of the bullet manufac-
turer. Everything should be fine, no?
In theory, yes, but, there are
variables you might not be aware of.
First, what is the barrel length of your
firearm in comparison to the barrel
length of the firearm used in the test
data? For every extra inch of barrel,
you gain around 25 fps of velocity and
the pressure increases accordingly.
An example: The test data shows
the loads for the .270 Winchester
were fired in a 22-inch barrel, but
you’ve got a 26-inch barrel. This
will result in an increase of roughly
100 fps, so the powder charges that
proved safe and acceptable in the test
rifle have shown excessive pressure
in your rifle. Reduce the charges and
work up, carefully, until you have a
load that is sufficiently accurate and
shows no pressure signs.
Another example: My .357
Magnum had its cases stuck in the
cylinder one day at the range. I used


an appropriate load for the bullet
weight, but was still getting pressure
problems. I have a six-inch barrel,
but the data was tested in a four-inch
barrel. Once again, it is imperative to
compare your firearm to the test fire-
arm and be aware of any differences.
Many people contact me wonder-
ing why their particular rifle or pistol
doesn’t measure up to the advertised
velocities of the ammunition com-
panies or reloading manuals. Often
times, the barrel length is again the
issue: the advertised velocities were
established in a longer (read higher
pressure) barrel, and, for you, having
a firearm equipped with a shorter
barrel, it is only logical that your
velocities should be lower. When
dealing with Magnum cartridges,
they often reach their potential only
in long-barreled rifles and pistols, so
keep this in mind when you plan a
firearm purchase.
Sometimes, groups delivered to
the target aren’t what we wish for. We
blame the load. We blame the trigger.
We blame the wind. We blame the
fact that Orion isn’t aligned with
Cassiopeia. It has happened to me,
and I’m sure it will happen to you.
We just need to be honest enough to
admit the ugly truth to ourselves. Say
it with me, “I’m not shooting well
right now.”
When trying to develop and assess
a load you’ve created, you will need
to call upon your best shooting skills.
The goal is to try and evaluate wheth-
er the rifle or pistol delivers consis-
tent results (group size) and, to do
that, we have to remove as much of
the human error as possible. Shoot-

206 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

A .38 Special
on sandbags.
(Photo courtesy Massaro
Media Group & J.D.
Fielding Photography)


ing from uncomfortable positions or I still hear his voice in my head, as
off a shaky rest will not allow you to if I were 11 again, whether he’s with
obtain the true accuracy potential of me at the bench or not. You don’t
your handloads, and it will keep you want to know when the gun is going
awake at night wondering if the fire- to go off, so that you don’t tense
arm/load combination is the problem up and send the shot awry. A slow,
or if it was your shooting. Grumpy smooth trigger pull with “follow-
Pants taught me the basic shooting through” (imagine trying to see the
mechanics at a very young age. bullet rip the paper), will give the
“When you get the rifle settled,” best results. Jerking or slapping at the
he’d tell me, “take two deep breaths, trigger will not give good accuracy.
let the last one halfway out, and When developing loads for hard-
slowly squeeze the trigger.” kicking rifles or pistols, I bring my
favorite bolt-action .22
Long Rifle with me.
Shooting that rifle in
between groups of big-
game rifles or pistols
helps prevent me from
developing a flinch, a
tough habit to break
once it sets in. With
the rimfire rifle, which
has virtually no recoil,
you can actually see the
bullet hit, so it helps
me to keep my shooting
skills sharp.
I like to shoot from
a comfortable bench,
built sturdily, and off of
sandbags. The sandbag
rest allows the rifle to
settle down and is, in
my opinion, the best

The Bullseye
Camera System.
(Photo courtesy Massaro
Media Group & J.D.
Fielding Photography)

208 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

way to eliminate the human element Hey, speaking of the shooting
from the equation. Sometimes I use bench, I found a new company that
one sandbag under the fore-end of the makes a rather innovative product.
rifle, other times I’ll use one under the Bullseye Camera Systems has a
fore-end and one under the butt of the wireless target camera that you set
stock. When I use only one, I like to up about 10 feet away from your
hold the rear portion of the stock with target, align the laser pointer to the
my left hand (I shoot right-handed) center of the bull’s-eye and, when
to help steady the rifle, leaving the you switch it on, the device interfac-
fore-end comfortably nestled in the es with your Windows-based laptop
sandbag. The goal is not to impinge computer, iPhone, or iPad. In other
the barrel in the fore-end of the stock, words, the target images are deliv-
thereby allowing it to move freely ered to the device you choose, at the
throughout recoil. bench, and the 100-yard shuffle is
There are vice-type shooting rests a thing of the past! You can isolate
available, and they can be a help to individual shots or groups of shots
hold steady, so long as the fore-end on your device, record group size,
of the rifle is free to move. You never etc., out to 600 yards with the basic
want to put a force on the firearm that model and out to 2,000 yards with
won’t be there under normal shooting the extended range version. Now,
conditions. Doing so will affect the not only is it really cool to have the
point of impact and group size. group size and image recorded on
Several shooting friends use a your phone or laptop, but think about
Lead-Sled to absorb the recoil from how much time you’ll save waiting
hard-kicking rifles. I haven’t ever for your heart rate to slow down after
used one myself, and I’ve heard you’ve walked 100 yards (or more)
mixed reviews. Some guys swear to the target and then again for the
by them, because the lack of recoil return trip. It really pays off at the
allows them to shoot much bet- 300-yard plus ranges. This is a truly
ter, while other guys tell me about ingenious product. I am a bit spoiled,
cracked stocks from the way the having a personal 200-yard rifle
device holds the firearm. Again, I range on premises, but I can imagine
haven’t used them, but if you plan to, that these camera systems will be a
please do your research. hit with just about any rifle or pistol
When developing pistol loads, I club in America!
use the same one-sandbag and two- Now, let’s examine some problems
breath technique described for rifle as they occur at the reloading bench.
shooting, put I usually place my left There’s nothing worse than a
hand under my right, for the steadiest stuck case. You seat the case in the
hold. This grip works well for me. shellholder, work the press handle,
The goal in either case is to hold the and bam! You simply can not remove
firearm as steady as possible, to give that dirty bugger from the sizing die.
repeatable results. Maybe you’ve even ripped off the


(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

A T E D ? !
F Follow thve a stuck case
e s e s i mp l e s t e ps

t o r em

210 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

1. Case rim ripped away, you stare
at a case stuck in the resizing die.
2. A specific-size hole must be
drilled through the case web.

3. That hole must be tapped with

the supplied tapping tool.
4. The hardened screw is threaded
into the tapped hole in the web.
case rim trying. Ten seconds ago you cases in just the proper fashion is
had a great new hobby, now you’re important. Not enough lubrication and
reaching for the rocks glass and two the cases will stick in the die like pea-
fingers of bourbon. You’re asking nut butter to the roof of your mouth.
yourself, Why me, Lord, why me? Too much lubricant, and the cases de-
Well, friend, we’ve all done it. velop those funky little shoulder dents
In fact, this happens so often that that can ruin the appearance of your
many companies have marketed the shiny, wonderful little creations.
solution: the stuck case remover. I Cartridge cases, as I’ve said, are
use an RCBS model. With it I take generally made of brass or nickel-
the provided drill bit to drill through coated brass. Brass is used primar-
the flash hole and into the case’s ily because of its malleability, or
web, and then I use the provided tap ability to mold, bend, and flow. It is
to thread the newly drilled hole. The much less rigid than steel, and the
kit includes a hardened screw that cases can be reused several times.
threads into the tapped hole and, one However, they don’t last forever. It
crank at a time, it draws the stuck is important to keep a record of how
case out of the resizing die. many times the cases have been fired,
Why did it happen? An insufficient resized, and reloaded. When brass
amount of case lube. Lubricating the cartridge cases have reached the end
(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

The neck of
this .22-250
has split from
being fired and
resized too
many times.
Toss it away!

212 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

of their days, they lose their malle-
ability and become brittle. When this
happens, they are prone to split in the
neck. When you see this symptom,
it is crucial that you remove and de-
stroy these cases. They are not safe.
As expensive as cartridge cases are
these days, there is no reason to use
unsafe components.
Sometimes, after running the
case through a seating die set up to
give a roll crimp (e.g., the .45 Long
Colt, .357 Magnum, .45-70 Govern-
ment, and many hard-recoiling safari
calibers), you may see that the case
appears crumpled or that the shoul-
der area is bulged or rolled. The
problem? The seating die is adjusted
too low, giving too much crimp and The .458 Winchester Magnum on the right is a
actually crushing the case as it does victim of too much crimp and not enough flare.
That caused the case to crumple.
so. You don’t ever want to try and fire
ammunition that is bulged or has a
rolled shoulder, as it can be danger- prevent the problem in the first place?
ous to the weapon and the shooter. When I’m starting a new load, I often
Obviously, if you have this prob- use three or four dummy rounds (bul-
lem, you need to adjust your seating let and case, no primer or powder) to
die. But why not cut to the chase and adjust the dies properly.



et’s get into some of the differ- There are a couple things you need
ent situations that are note- to keep in mind about military brass.
worthy and discuss the ins and First, the case walls are generally
outs of dealing with them, though in thicker than in the sporting version
no particular order. of the same case. Second, the primers
are crimped and often sealed into the
primer pocket.
MILITARY RIFLES Let’s handle the second problem
AND MILITARY BRASS first. A tedious inspection of all mili-
Military brass can be of great tary cases is in order, as sometimes
value to the reloader. The surplus, these cases are not manufactured to
once-fired brass can often be had at a the same tight tolerances as you’ll
small fraction of the cost of purchas- usually find in their sporting counter-
ing new brass. But those shooters parts. I tumble my military brass first,
who shoot military ammunition or use before resizing, so I can better inspect
military brass for their rifles need to the cases for split necks, severe dents,
pay special attention to the techniques or rims that are bent from heavy
necessary to prepare these particular extraction. After that’s done, I move
cases for reloading. to the primer.

Most military brass

has a crimp to hold the
primer in. The case on
the left has the crimp
ring, the case on the
right does not.
(Photos both pages courtesy
Massaro Media Group &
J.D. Fielding Photography)

214 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

On military brass, there is a small There are two methods used to make
band of brass at the rim of the primer this little obstruction go away: either
pocket, designed to hold the primer cut it out or swage it out.
in place during the most rigorous There are many hand tools that will
battle conditions and rough handling cut or ream out the military crimp.
of military ammunition. This poses Some are very simple, like the Hor-
a pair of problems to the reloader. nady or Lyman pocket reamer, while
One, it is more difficult to remove others work on a hand crank principle,
the spent primer. Two, the crimp ring such as the L.E. Wilson reamer that
must be removed before installing a works in conjunction with the compa-
new primer. ny’s case trimming device. Some cut-
I recommend installing a hardened ting tools used to remove the military
decapping pin to help remove those crimp are built for use with electric
wedged-in military primers. You’ll feel case preparation machines. The RCBS
the difference in the first few rounds of case-prep station, for instance, has
military brass you try to resize; there an attachment specially designed for
is a considerable amount of extra re- removing the military crimp from both
sistance when you try and pop out that large and small primer pockets. It uses
primer. The hardened pin will not bend the rotating heads on the top of the
or break as easily as a standard pin, machine and easily cuts out the crimp
so it lets you get a bit more “gorilla” at the higher rpm settings. Hornady
when removing the primer. offers a similar tool for its case trim-
Once that primer is removed, you ming machine.
have to get rid of that little crimp ring The second method, swaging,
that’s built into the primer pocket. squeezes the brass ring back into the

The Dillon Super

Swage 600 easily
swages out the
military primer
crimp ring.


case head, with little or no problem at the primer pocket. Now you’re look-
all. Some swaging tools mount to the ing for excess primer sealant, which
press and use the leverage of the press must be scraped out, as well as a flash
to squeeze out that crimp. My favorite hole that is burred and has metal
tool for swaging military brass primer protruding into the primer pocket. You
pockets is a separate bench-mounted see, most military brass has a punched
device. The RCBS Bench Mount flash hole, unlike sporting brass cases,
Primer Pocket Swager is a fine tool, which have a reamed flash hole. When
but my particular tool of choice is the a flash hole gets punched through
Dillon Super Swage 600. The simple the case web from the mouth, it
little unit uses leverage to swage that sometimes leaves ragged brass in the
crimp right out of your hair and works primer pocket, so the primer pocket
quickly and effectively. Either tool is scraper is almost essential here, to re-
available in the small primer pocket move excess sealant and also any bits
size (for .223/5.56mm) and the large of brass left over from the punching
primer pocket size (for .308/7.62mm process. I would also at this time use
NATO and the .30-06 Springfield). a flash hole tool to true-up the hole
Once the brass is clean and well and ensure you have a concentric flash
inspected and the primer crimp is hole for perfect ignition.
removed, you must look still further at Now onto the first issue with
military brass, it’s thicker walls. The
Hodgdon’s H335 is a outside dimensions of the cartridge
great choice for .223 case, even in military brass, must be
loading in the military-
held to the same SAAMI specifica-
style rifles. tions as the thinner sporting brass, but
the thicker case walls of military brass
reduce their case capacity. Because
of this reduction in allowable volume,
you must load with an appropriate
reduction in your powder charge.
Generally, a 10-percent reduction
should work out just fine, but an even
better idea would be to consult a re-
loading manual that produced its test
data using military brass. The Speer
Reloading Manual No. 13 (which
is a manual I consult often), used
Israeli Military cases for its test data
in both the .223 Remington and .308
Winchester listings. Such sets of data
would, therefore, require no reduction.
Another consideration. The
semi-automatic action of the popular

216 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

Redding .308 Winchester bushing dies. (Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

military-style rifles that we sportsmen recommends using a Redding bush-

and -women enjoy can be rather harsh ing die, so I grabbed the telephone
on ammunition, especially during and gave my pal Robin Sharpless at
the phase in which the cartridge is Redding a jingle, to further discuss
picked up from the rifle’s magazine this issue.
and delivered into the chamber for the The goal is to have the best neck
next squeeze of the trigger. This action tension possible on the bullet, to hold
treats the unfired cartridge much like it in place during the cycling process.
the inertia hammer does when you are What Robin told me the bushing dies
trying to pull bullets out of a case. The provide is a series of bushings, in
Sierra Rifle & Handgun Reloading 0.002-inch increments, which do not
Data, Edition V tells the tale of bullets overwork the neck portion of the brass
being pulled out of their cases between any more than is absolutely necessary.
0.002-inch and 0.007-inch during After measuring the outside dimen-
loading from magazine to chamber. sion of the brass you intend to use
This can dramatically affect accuracy. with a bullet installed, the bushing of
A crimp on the case mouth could help an appropriate size in installed in the
prevent that bullet from moving, but die and, upon resizing, the case neck
putting a crimp on a bullet that has no is squeezed down a minimum dimen-
cannelure is never a good idea. Sierra sion before being worked over the


expander ball. This process allows the loading rifles. This is a good thing.
brass in the neck portion of the case Jams are awful.
to live longer. Another thing to consider is that
By not overworking the neck many of the military rifles your cases
(because it is a thicker military case are loaded for use a firing pin that
wall in a conventional die), you will protrudes during the loading process
get a longer case life and the brass and, as violent as the cycling is, your
will remain concentric longer. Bet- ammunition should use a primer that
ter concentricity equals better neck is of military specification. The CCI
tension and, therefore, reduces the No. 34 Large Rifle primer and the
amount of the “inertia hammer” effect. CCI No. 41 Small Rifle primer have
Sharpless knows of what he speaks. much harder cups than their sporting
I also believe that, when resizing counterparts (the CCI 200 and CCI
brass, military or otherwise, for the 400, respectively), and are designed
auto-loading military-style rifles, you for this application. I believe these
should be using a small-base resizing harder primers greatly reduce the
die. The small-base dies will resize chance of a slam-fire (an accidental
the case completely, all the way to the firing when the rifle goes into bat-
base, to prevent any jams in your auto- tery). These primers have a magnum

RCBS Small
Base dies for the
.223 Remington.
(Photos both pages courtesy
Massaro Media Group &
J.D. Fielding Photography)

218 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

A .45-120 Sharps
case waiting in the
loading block for
blackpowder to be
dropped through
the brass tube.

primer spark, yet should be fine for all tools and more experimentation than
military rifle applications. does loading with smokeless powder.
Unlike smokeless powder, the
BLACKPOWDER CARTRIDGES BATFE classifies blackpowder as an
Our classic lever-action and single- explosive. It burns much faster than
shot cartridges were originally loaded any smokeless powder and is suscep-
with blackpowder. They can still be tible to reaction with static electric-
loaded that way. However, handling ity. Therefore you should never use
and loading blackpowder requires an any plastic measuring device with
entirely different mindset, as well as blackpowder. All the tools used for
some special loading techniques. handling blackpowder should be made
The loading of blackpowder from brass, although, oddly, I’ve seen
cartridges is a small world unto itself, aluminum products pop up for sale by
and entire volumes have been writ- major manufacturers. That aside, I like
ten on the subject. I’ll do my best to to stick to brass components, as they
enlighten you on process, but I highly have been used safely for well more
suggest you do all the research you than 100 years.
can and ask many questions before Modern blackpowder substitutes
you start. These procedures are fin- like Triple Seven, Pyrodex, or Ameri-
icky, and they require both different can Pioneer are all loaded in the same


(Photo courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

The brass drop tube, used to load blackpowder cartridges.

220 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

manner as true blackpowder. How- needed to achieve a more uniform
ever, the after-shooting gun cleanup is compression. Again, the use of all-
a whole lot easier with the substitutes. brass loading components is very
Either way, all of them clean up with important to eliminating the chance of
soap and hot water (and a bunch of a static electric charge developing.
elbow grease), and the sooner you In a bottleneck cartridge, like the
clean after shooting your firearm, the .30-30 WCF, .32 Winchester Special,
better off you’ll be. Blackpowder is or the .38-56 Winchester, the powder
very corrosive, both real and substi- is filled to a point about halfway up
tute, and will both make a mess of the the case neck and the bullet is then
bore and eat up your brass cases if installed to give 1/16- or 1/8-inch of
left unclean. powder compression. Filler wads cut
Choosing a primer for a blackpow- to the specific diameter appropriate to
der case is a bit of a process. Some of the cartridge are installed at the base
the smaller cases (say .40-caliber and of the bullet, to give uniform compres-
below), can use a Large Pistol primer sion and to help reduce lead fouling in
in lieu of a rifle primer. The smaller the gun’s bore by preventing the burn-
spark is still sufficient to ignite the ing powder from melting the lead at
charge of very fast burning blackpow- the base of the bullet. These wads can
der. There is also some discussion of be made of vegetable fiber (available
the pistol primer actually improving from most retailers who sell reloading
accuracy, as the lighter spark moves components), or punched from milk
the powder column less upon ignition carton material. It is very important
than a hotter spark from a rifle primer that, when you load a bottlenecked
or magnum rifle primer would. I can’t blackpowder cartridge, you do not seat
attest to an actual improvement in the bullet too deeply, otherwise the
my rifles, but I know enough to listen wads will fall below the case neck and
to the masters in this field. As you you’ll lose all that uniformity.
get into the bigger cases and larger When you load for the straight-
powder charges, the rifle primer will walled blackpowder cartridges like the
certainly come into play. Again, read .38-55 Winchester or the ultra popular
the books on this topic to become the .45-70 Government, the same case flar-
most proficient. ing and crimping techniques will apply
Now, unlike their smokeless pow- that you use in a straight-wall smoke-
der fueled counterparts, blackpowder less powder loading. You’ll want to
cartridges have their charges measured measure the amount of powder needed
by volume, instead of weight. The goal in the case to give the necessary level
is to load the case with a slight com- of compression, again, 1/16- or 1/8-inch
pression of the blackpowder, so that once the bullet is seated in the case. If
there is no air space in the case. you want to reduce the load, either be-
The powder is loaded into the cause of a lack of accuracy or a surplus
case with a brass drop tube, usually of recoil, the space can be (carefully)
one about 24 inches long, that length filled with a specially made mate-


rial called Puff-Lon. This substance .40-calibers usually like to use FFFg,
is specifically made for the filling of and the bigger cases can effectively
extra space in blackpowder and other use FFg. I know some blackpowder
cartridges. I’ve read of folks using shooters who use Fg (usually classified
Dacron, cotton balls, and even dry, as a cannon or musket powder), in the
uncooked Cream of Wheat cereal to fill big .45-120 and .50-140. The brand of
up the case, but I do not recommend powder is also a personal choice, but
using anything other than Puff-Lon. some powders have different loading
To obtain proper compression of recommendations. Goex, Swiss, Ele-
your blackpowder load, use a compres- phant, and Schuetzen are all reputable
sion die instead of using the bullet to brands that have delivered consistent
compress the powder upon seating. results to blackpowder shooters for
The results are well worth the extra many years.
step. Bullet seating in the lever-action Bullets for blackpowder metal-
rifles, for instance, dictates that you lic loading should be of soft lead and
must adhere to the COL of the pub- coated with a bullet lube to keep the
lished cartridge, but, in the single-shot lead fouling soft inside the bore. Many
Sharps-style rifles, you can experiment blackpowder shooters use a blow tube
with seating depth and COL. Never let to deliver moist breath into the bore be-
the bullet touch the lands of the rifling, tween shots, as the humidity will soften
in order to keep pressures safe, but lead fouling. This tube is especially
you can get close to them if that gives handy when shooting in a very dry cli-
better accuracy in your rifle. mate, as lead fouling becomes a prob-
Whether to use FFg or FFFg will lem much sooner. Soft (moist) fouling
depend on the cartridge you are load- is okay for a while, but hard fouling
ing. The blackpowder cases of .30- to will affect accuracy much sooner. (Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

The .300 Winchester Magnum and its short neck.

222 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

The author’s neighbor Dave and his .350 Remington Magnum.

SHORT NECKS AND LONG BULLETS everyone. What it did was move the
There are a few situations you’ll shoulder further forward, which gave
run into while loading, where the the case a length of 2.620 inches. This
SAAMI-specified COL won’t al- still allowed it to fit in the long-action,
low you to load certain bullets with but gave additional case capacity.
a long ogive. A couple examples It also left it with a neck length of
come quickly to mind in the .300 0.264-inch, which doesn’t sit well
Winchester Magnum and the .350 with some folks, being less than one
Remington Magnum. caliber in length; it’s purported the
When Winchester developed neck doesn’t give proper tension. I’ve
its .300 Magnum, it used the basic never had an issue with that, but, what
formula that had worked so well with this new configuration did leave us
the .264, .338, and .458. It took the with was very little room between the
.375 H&H case, shortened it to fit in case mouth and the maximum COL.
a standard long-action (.30-06-length) If you have a new long-range bullet
receiver, and necked it to hold the ap- with a sleek secant ogive, you may
propriate diameter bullet. Well, when have an issue. Problem is, if you load
the fourth in the series appeared, that bullet to the maximum COL listed
everyone expected it to have the by SAAMI, the short neck portion of
same case length as the predecessors, the case will be sitting on the curved
2.500 inches, but Winchester fooled ogive of the long bullet, rather than the


(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

The shorter .35-caliber bullets work very well with the stubby .350 Remington Magnum .

224 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

The longer .358-inch
diameter bullets
can’t be used in
the short .350
Remington Magnum
case, as the case
mouth cannot seat
parallel sides of the bullet. on the bullet ogive.
This situation is dangerous, because
the bullet can actually fall into the case
without enough neck tension on the
bullet. The same concept applies to the
.350 Remington Magnum, as its COL some of the longer, sleeker bullets
is limited by the magazine length. and stick with the round-nose and
If it is a single-shot rifle and the semi-spitzer bullets. A particular test
bullet does not come in contact with rifle I use from time to time is my
the lands and grooves, it is perfectly neighbor Dave’s Remington 700 Clas-
acceptable to seat bullets out past the sic, because we gain a bit of room in
SAAMI maximum dimension, but, in the magazine length over the tradi-
a bolt-action magazine rifle, you are tional Remington Model 7 that is nor-
limited to magazine length. There are mally chambered for this cartridge.
bullet companies that have come to the The dilemma is a little different with
rescue, such as Nosler, which recog- this one, in that, when we maintain
nized this problem, especially in the the maximum COL the magazine will
.300, and produced its famous Parti- allow, the longest 250-grain spitzers
tion bullet with a “Protected Point.” In in .358-inch caliber will sit so deep
this, Nosler rounded the nose slightly, into the cartridge case, the case
allowing the handloader to move the mouth is well into the bullet ogive
bullet forward and ensure that the and the bullet can fall into the case
proper neck tension was produced, and, even if it didn’t, there wouldn’t
thus eliminating all chances of the bul- be enough case capacity to attain
let falling into the case. proper velocity. In this particular
With the .350 Remington case, case, we want to use bullets that keep
I’ve found I have to stay away from their weight forward and their shape


more rounded. North Fork 225-grain- long axis. Instead of making a perfect
ers, Hornady 200- and 250-grain In- caliber-sized hole in the paper, it hits
terlocks, and other bullets of similar sideways (or radically off axis) and the
shape and style will help you find that tear is elongated, like a keyhole. The
perfect balance between case capac- bottom line is that the .308’s 1:12 twist
ity, velocity, and overall length. rate doesn’t spin the long, 220-grain
bullets enough to hold them in an
on-axis rotation. The .30-06, on the
TWIST RATES AND ACCURACY other hand, with its 1:10 twist, will
Sometimes you’ll read about barrels stabilize them just fine. Understanding
or cartridges that won’t stabilize certain how twist works, then, with my .308
bullets. The .308 Winchester, when Winchester loads, I utilize (very well,
it was introduced, had a twist rate of I might add), the lighter-for-caliber
1:12, that is, the rifling in the bore will bullets, those between 125 and 180
make one complete revolution over 12 grains. Simply put, use the right tool
inches of barrel. When compared to the for the right job.
.30-06, which generally featured a 1:10 This same issue was very detri-
twist rate, the .308 Winchester with its mental to the early sales of the .244
slower rate of twist wouldn’t stabilize Remington. The .244 was a .257 Rob-
the long, heavy 220-grain bullets. As a erts (or 7x57 Mauser case), necked
kid, I couldn’t make sense of this. Why down to hold 6mm bullets. The beauty
wouldn’t it stabilize a bullet designed of the 6mm cartridges is that they
for the same bore dimension as the .30- are capable of pulling double duty on
06? Why would the designers develop a both varmints and deer/antelope-sized
barrel that wouldn’t work with all bullet game. The only issue was that the twist
weights within a certain caliber? rate in the barrels for the .244 was
Ol’ Grumpy Pants was such a pro- 1:12. This twist worked very well with
ponent of the .308 Winchester (largely the lighter varmint-weight bullets, like
based upon his experience in the the 55-, 60-, and 70-grain bullets, but
Army National Guard basic training, would not work well with the deer/
in 1968), he convinced me the .308 antelope-weight bullets, the larger 90-,
was more than sufficient for anything 100-, and 105-grainers, because the
I would ever hunt. That didn’t quell twist rate was too slow.
the burning curiosity of this young The closest competition to the
man—I simply had to know what I .244 Remington, the .243 Winchester,
was missing. was based on the 51mm-long .308
It took a while, but I figured it out. Winchester case. When you compare
The longer a bullet is, the faster it the case capacity between the .244
must be spun in order for it to arrive Remington (with a 1:12 twist rate)
on target without turning sideways, or and the .243 Winchester (with a 1:10
“keyholing.” This term derives from twist rate), the .244 is the clear winner.
the imprint made on a target when But the .243 Winchester is the more
a bullet is no longer rotating on its versatile of the two, because it would

226 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

stabilize, although at a slower veloc- ally, renaming the cartridge the 6mm
ity, the bullets suitable for deer and Remington. The new twist rate would
antelope hunting. stabilize any 6mm bullet within the
Remington took eight years to cor- realm of sanity, but, unfortunately for
rect the situation, revising the barrel Remington, the rot had set in. The
twist from 1:12 to 1:9 and, eventu- marketing world is a finicky thing,

(Photo courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

The author’s dad, ol’ Grumpy Pants, is actually happy, when he has his .308 Winchester in hand.


and, by the time Remington revised two measurements. This gives you the
the twist rate and name, the .243 Win- exact amount of bore travel it takes
chester had caught on like wildfire. to make one revolution. Boo-yah,
This is why, among the 6mm cases, you’ve got your rifles rate of twist! Of
the .243 reigns supreme and some course, you could pick up the phone,
younger hunters haven’t even heard of call the manufacturer, read them the
the larger cased .244 Remington. serial number, and ask them what they
What in blazes does this have to do installed on the gun. Either way.
with our task at hand? An awful lot.
Don’t try to drive nails with a screw-
driver. In other words, if the reloading OH, THE NORTHEAST WOODS!
manual tells you a round requires a cer- Where I hunt, in the woods of up-
tain twist rate to stabilize a particularly state New York, our primary big-game
long bullet, believe it and don’t waste quarry is the whitetail deer. Unless
your time trying to disprove the data. you have access to wide-open farm
This kind of knowledge has great fields or hunt the cut power line rights-
relevance in the AR platform that of-way, your shots here will average
enjoys target-grade .223 bullets. I like less than 100 yards. We are permitted
the heavy-for-caliber 62- and 69-grain to hunt with a rifle in most of the Hud-
bullets, but they require a 1:10 and 1:9 son Valley, as well as in the Catskill
minimum twists, respectively. If your and Adirondack mountains that I love
barrel has a slower twist rate (1:12 or so much. There the woods are thick
1:16), these bullets are off-limits to and getting thicker. The use of a rifle
you. Stick to the 45-, 50-, and 55-grain scope will give you an advantage, as
projectiles. Do the research and know it allows you to see the tiny branches
your barrel’s twist rate. It will save you and ends of limbs that might deflect
a ton of time and money in trying to your bullet.
get your rifle to perform well. As the ranges are relatively short
Wait, how do you determine the in such a setting, the use of a boat-
twist rate of the rifle you own? Why, tail spitzer isn’t necessarily needed,
I thought you’d never ask! Take a but please don’t overlook the good
cleaning rod with a freely rotating old round-nosed bullets! They have
handle and a tight fitting patch, and several advantages, when the shots
insert it a couple inches into the bore. are on the closer end of the spectrum.
Place a piece of tape on the rod just First, they keep the bullet weight
ahead of the handle, place a mark on forward, which means that a round-
the very top of it, and measure the nosed bullet will be shorter than its
distance from the edge of the receiver spitzer counterpart. This will give
to the front of the tape. Then insert more room within the case, so load
the rod through the bore until that density doesn’t become an issue.
mark revolves around to the top of Simply, the bullet takes up less of
the rod. Measure the distance from the case, so there’s less need for a
the edge of receiver and subtract the compressed load.

228 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

These are .30-caliber
bullets, a flat-base
220-grain (left) and a
boat-tail spitzer.
(Photo courtesy
Massaro Media Group &
J.D. Fielding Photography)

Second, and this is purely my own nosed bullet, with the weight held
observation, I believe that round- toward the frontal portion of the bullet
nosed bullets hit harder or, at least, (or at least more so than a spitzer or
they have a more pronounced impact hollowpoint), will “pull” through the
on an animal. Many times, when I’ve animal, much like the two wheels on a
hit a deer, bear, or whatever with front-wheel-drive car pull their vehicle
a round-nosed bullet, I can see the in a straight line. This gives the bullet
animal shudder upon impact. That’s deep penetration, often a complete
certainly not to say that the spitzer pass-through. The hollowpoint or
bullets work less effectively, it’s just spitzer bullet, with its weight toward
that I feel that the additional meplat the rear of the bullet, will tend to
diameter of the round-nose bullets “push” through the animal, like a rear-
has a different hydraulic effect on wheel-drive car, and tend to rotate or
game animals. fish-tail once resistance has been met.
There’s another theory, which, Now, it would take an extensive
in my mind has some merit and at amount of well-controlled scientific
the very least deserves some further research to either prove or disprove
investigation. The good folks at North this theory, and the results could
Fork and I had an interesting conver- easily be debated for hours on end.
sation about bullet meplat design and Lacking that, what I do know is this:
its effect on game. The results of that I like round-nosed bullets. After
talk became the theory that a round- 200 yards, they can’t hold a candle


to their spitzer relations, as far as hand-prime all your pistol cases, the
retained energy and velocity are con- risk is more easily avoided, as the resis-
cerned, but, within that distance, they tance will be felt immediately. But, if
are very impressive. you use a press priming system, which
Think about our classic calibers has a huge mechanical advantage but
like the .30-06 Springfield, 7x57 less feel, the risk is much greater. Even
Mauser, .30-40 Krag, .30-30 WCF, and worse, should a case with the small
so on. They have all made their repu- primer pocket get into the mix when
tations on game with round-nosed bul- using a progressive press, you risk the
lets, and for good reason. They work! I possibility of detonating multiple prim-
can get them to shoot to at least MOA ers. This is definitely not a good thing
in my rifles, which is accurate enough and, in a small space and with powder
to thread the needle in the Northeast in the dispenser, this is the kind of
woods, and I appreciate their perfor- disaster you want to avoid at all costs.
mance on game. Give ’em a try! The solution is to sort the daylights
out of your brass. You really want to
be certain that none of those cases
THE .45 ACP: SMALL OR with the small primer pockets are
LARGE PRIMER POCKET? allowed to mingle with the other large
There’s a bunch of .45 ACP car- pocket party guests. Segregate them
tridges on the market that are using and, if you choose to reload them, be
a small primer pocket and primer sure and prime them separately. Keep
in lieu of the standard large pocket. them in a different container that’s
Most of them utilize the lead-free clearly marked, so as to avoid any and
or “non-toxic” priming compound, all confusion between the two types
for use on indoor pistol ranges. The of brass. It is perfectly fine to load the
majority of common primers feature brass with small primer pockets, using
a small amount of lead in the priming a Small Pistol primer and good load
compound, and the goal with many data, but safety is paramount.
indoor shooting facilities today is to
minimize airborne lead vapor by using
bullets that are totally encapsulated HOT LOADS, DUDE
with copper, as well as these Small To me, it’s like nails on a chalk-
Pistol non-toxic primers. I’m all about board. Invariably, someone will want to
safety and not suffering the effects of talk about reloading and the question
lead poisoning, but it leaves us with spills forth from their lips like an un-
the minor dilemma of dealing with .45 controllable belch: “Hey, man, can you
ACP brass having a different primer make me some hot loads?” Um, no.
pocket sizes. Wait, let me double-check that for you.
There is an inherent danger in try- Yup, yeah, it’s still no. Nope. No way.
ing to stuff a Large Pistol primer into The reloading manuals have estab-
a Small Pistol primer pocket, and that lished their pressure limits through
danger is primer detonation. If you rigorous testing, so there is no reason

230 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

There is such a
thing as too much
of a good thing.
(Cartoon courtesy of
Bill Gaither)

whatsoever to exceed it. Trying to ly (a result of excessive pressures),

push the envelope of safe pressures to that they needed to beat the bolt open
attain higher velocities or energies or with a mallet! There is no, none,
flatter trajectories puts your firearm nada logical reason to do this. If the
and your current anatomical configu- cartridge you’ve chosen cannot deliver
ration in decided jeopardy. I’ve seen the ballistics you’re looking for when
pistol shooters try to push the loads loaded within safe parameters, you’ve
into the realm of “+P” (high-pressure chosen the wrong cartridge. A .30-06
factory loads), and have the results be Springfield isn’t a .300 Weatherby, a
cracked cylinders, broken grips, and .38 Special is not a .357 Magnum, and
so on. I’ve seen rifle shooters with a .45 ACP can’t be made to shoot like
loads that are way over maximum have a .45 Colt. Don’t think about it. Don’t
their bolt-action guns lock up so tight- tinker with it. Just. Don’t.



fter all the diligent proce- should be grinning from ear to ear!
dures have been followed For you and for all the others like you,
and the proper combination I’d like to dedicate this chapter to your
of case, powder, primer, and bullet success stories and hunting memories
have been chosen, you head down that have derived and will derive from
the range and look at the target with diligent handloading.
pride, when you see a tiny little clo-
verleaf group you just put there. Joy!
Be it a varmint rifle, hunting re- THE LEARNING CURVE
volver, carry pistol, deer rifle, or safari When I was introduced to han-
gun, the joy from a well-placed group dloading, I latched onto more as a
on the target is a thing of beauty. You matter of economics than a desire for

(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

Federal Premium ammunition is a very well-made product, but, as a young man, it was out of the
author’s price range. He doesn’t miss those days!

232 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

The author’s dad insists on a 165-grain bullet over IMR4064 in his .308 Winchester loads. They don’t
suck, for the record.

supreme accuracy. Put bluntly, I didn’t Rifle primer. Both guns printed three-
have a pot, let alone a window to toss shot groups of about 1½ inches at 100
it out of; a box of premium factory yards, which was perfectly good for
cartridges was very expensive for a the both of us. Many deer fell to those
20-year-old hunter. loads and many great memories were
My Dad and I split the cost of some made in the deer woods—but then
reloading gear and, as we both shot something happened.
.308 Winchester bolt-action rifles for I started reading about reloading.
deer, spent some great time together Our level of accuracy, at least to me,
developing a load that would suffice was unacceptable, and I had to start
for both of us. We chose the 165-grain my load experimentation immediate-
Hornady spire point, 43.5 grains of ly! Ah, the beginnings of an addiction.
IMR4064 (Grumpy Pant’s “official” I drove Dad insane on a daily basis
powder—seriously, the guy ought to with statistics on new powders, pre-
be sponsored), and a CCI200 Large mium bullets, loading techniques, etc.


I simply couldn’t get enough. I even 19 and a Sierra 180-grain boat-tail
had the audacity to leave behind the gave wonderful accuracy, and it was
blessed combination of a 165-grain with this load that I took my first head
.308-inch bullet over IMR4064, much of “exotic” big game: a caribou bull,
to GP’s chagrin. in Quebec, dad alongside me. Good
The first load I ever personally times, for sure!
developed used the 125-grain Nosler Developing a load for your firearm
Ballistic Tip and (gulp!) IMR4320. is a process of trial and error. There are
The only way I sold it to Dad was to nearly infinite combinations of primer/
prove to him that the factories used case/powder/bullet, and having your
IMR4320 as fuel for the cartridges he own unique load is part of the fun.
used as a youth. That particular load Many times a rifle or handgun will like
still prints ¾-inch groups, and, al- more than one load, and I often have
though light-for-caliber, they kill very on hand three or four different loads,
effectively, when properly placed. each using different combinations, for
They are hell on both deer and coy- my firearms. Start at the low end of the
otes. Approaching 3,000 fps, they are scale within the manual, work up slowly
also very flat shooting. Imagine my and, odds are, you’ll eventually find the
pride, when I showed my dad I could combination to provide the accuracy
develop a load all by my lonesome! and velocities you’re looking for.
This was awesome!
It was GP’s turn next to break
stride from the family .308 load. AN AFRICAN CLASSIC
Whilst preparing for a caribou hunt Throughout this book I’ve men-
in the northern reaches of Quebec, he tioned my .375 H&H Magnum. It is a
wanted something that shot a bit flatter push-feed, post-’64 Winchester Model
than the revered .308 Winchester. He 70. I’ve spent an awful lot of time
couldn’t quite leave the .30-caliber in behind the trigger of that rifle, first
and of itself behind (that would come because it had a structural issue and I
some years later), and, so, chose the couldn’t get it to shoot properly, and,
.300 Winchester Magnum. second because I just simply loved it
After the first hunt, using his by the time I did get it to shoot right.
165-grain bullets (which delivered me- I took that .375 with me on that afore-
diocre accuracy, but ultimately yielded mentioned caribou hunt, because I just
the caribou), I began to read. I dis- had to test it (it worked just fine). I
covered that the .300 was best served also lent it out to GP for his first safari
with 180-grain bullets. This discovery to South Africa. I built him a load
coincided with my thirtieth birthday, around the 250-grain Sierra boat-tail
upon which I received mine own .300 GameKing, with a charge of IMR4350
Winchester as a birthday gift. sparked by a Federal Magnum Rifle
Once again, load development was primer, and got that big gun to shoot
done with my dad. We found that an well under one inch. Dad had a great
appropriate load of Alliant’s Reloder safari, taking both a 39-inch gems-

234 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

bok and a 53-inch kudu on the same bull drifted back on the wind, I began
day. The bullet was a good choice for jumping up and down like a man
African plains game, and to say I was who’d just won the lottery! Ecstatic,
both honored and proud that Dad took overjoyed, proud, and euphoric would
my rifle and my handloads on safari is all be adjectives applicable to that mo-
an understatement. ment. The PH was equally jazzed, pro-
My own safari was to come two claiming, “I’d really hoped you’d make
years later, and I brought both the .300 that shot!” Later he confessed he’d
and the .375 across the pond. I was never have taken it himself—rascal!
jonesin’ for an eland, the largest African Point is, without having developed that
antelope, one that can weigh up to a ton. load personally, putting it through the
That’s an awful lot of antelope! I cooked chronograph, and spending the time at
up a load using the 300-grain Swift A- the bench learning how the cartridge
Frame in my .375 H&H, and this load performed, I never, ever would have
shot so well, it would be pretty much even attempted that shot. Nonetheless,
the only formula I would use in this rifle that beautiful eland bull sits with pride
for a decade. I still shoot it. in my trophy room, preserved eternally
Well, long story short, the only shot as a pedestal mount, and holds a place
my eland bull would present me was of honor among my hunting trophies.
one at 400 yards, though at least it You know what the really cool
was over very open ground. It was the thing about that hunt was? The .375
preparation for this safari and the time H&H is not considered a long-range
spent at both the reloading bench and cartridge by any means, but, through
the shooting bench that allowed me to handloading, I connected on the
make that shot, the longest I’ve made longest shot I’ve ever attempted. That
to date. I’d printed ¾-inch groups with rifle has three loads that work well at
that bullet and chronographed the load, distance using 235-grain Barnes TSX
so I knew the trajectory very well. I’d bullets, Sierra 250-grain spitzer boat-
zeroed the rifle to be dead on at 200
yards and prepared a drop chart on a
laminated card, so I would know the
drop out to 400 yards, which I imag-
ined was well past the limits of my
shooting. With a bit of encouragement
from my Professional Hunter, who had
seen me shoot for almost a week by
the time the shot on the eland came,
I leaned the old girl against a termite
mound, in the prone position, held for
the appropriate amount of holdover,
and adjusted for the crosswind. The author’s big eland bull that fell
to the 300-grain Swift A-Frame, in
When the sound of the bullet South Africa, in 2004. (Author Photo)
hitting the shoulder bone of that big


The long-barreled
Ruger Blackhawk
on the sandbag.

tails, and 300-grain Swift A-Frames tion of which is a lengthy process here
or Hornady Solids. It’s a pretty versa- in New York. I immediately drove to
tile setup, if you ask me. my local gun shop and ordered what I
considered to be a really cool revolver,
a Ruger Blackhawk chambered in .45
WHEELGUNS ARE WONDERFUL! (Long) Colt, with a stainless finish,
It wasn’t long after this safari that I 7½-inch barrel, and adjustable sights.
received my pistol permit, the acquisi- This is a fetchin’ iron!

236 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

(Photo courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

The factory loads I purchased had lation of bears exists. I wanted a heavy,
255-grain lead bullets, but didn’t im- stiff bullet that would get me out of
press me with their accuracy—I knew trouble with a black bear, one that was
I could do better with that long barrel accurate enough to place itself where it
and adjustable sights to work with. needed to go (provided I did my part,
It was my intention to carry this of course). I settled on the 300-grain
wheelgun as a sidearm on my hunts in Hornady XTP bullet. Then I read an
the Adirondacks, where a healthy popu- article in the Nosler Manual No. 4, writ-


The author’s .45 Colt
loves 300-grain Hornady
XTPs and 255-grain cast
lead bullets, but it was
handloading that got him
to that level of affection.
(Photo courtesy Massaro Media Group &
J.D. Fielding Photography)

ten by none other than Hank Williams, cleaning chore, when the pistol will
Jr., indicating that the .45 Colt liked to ring steel out to 75 yards with my ag-
be fueled by Alliant’s Unique powder, ing eyes. It’s great to get together with
so I topped that XTP with a Large Pistol friends and show them what this gun
Magnum primer and a liberal dose of is capable of, and, as a sidearm in the
Unique stuffed into a Starline case and, northern woods, I feel very confident
after load development, was printing about staying alive, should a bear pose
impressive groups with the hand- a problem while hiking, camping, or
cannon. Turns out that Hank Junior was otherwise. Later, I bought a bunch of
spot on with his powder choice. those 255-grain cast lead bullets that
Although Unique tends to burn a the factory ammunition was loaded
bit on the dirty side, I don’t mind the with and, with a different charge

238 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

weight of Unique, also got them to placed a season on coyotes from
shoot quite accurately. They make an October through March. We routinely
economical choice for practicing with shot ’yotes during deer season as op-
my Ruger revolver, whether plinking portunities presented themselves, but
or target shooting. soon we began actively pursuing them
to extend our time afield. My .308
SMALLBORE SUCCESS Winchester worked fine for this, and I
In the 1990s, the coyote popula- noticed that the coyotes were none too
tion in upstate New York exploded. dead, but pelt damage was severe. Not
Sightings during deer season had really needing an excuse to purchase
become common. With an overdose another rifle, I perused the loading
of deer predation looming, the State manuals and settled on the .22-250


The author’s favorite varmint rig, a Ruger Model 77 MkII in .22-250 Remington, with a Hogue over-
molded stock and a Leupold Vari-X III 6.5-20x40mm AO scope.

Remington. Flat-shooting, minimally gun could do better, but I still had one
recoiling, and with a reputation for issue with the hardware: The trigger
hair-splitting accuracy, I felt this Ruger put in the Mk II broke at about
would be the coyote gun for me. six pounds. In the inimitable words
I’ve been very happy with that of Pink Floyd, “This shall not do.” A
choice. I ordered a Ruger Model 77 quick phone call to Timney Triggers
Mark II with a sporting-contour barrel solved the dilemma. In fact, a replace-
and topped it with a Leupold Vari-X ment trigger was such an improve-
III 6.5-20x40mm scope that has an ment over the factory version that the
adjustable objective lens. It’s a serious groups were cut in half.
varmint rig, right there, gotta tell you. Now, in my quest for accuracy, I
In hindsight, I probably should discovered there was a powder that
have ordered the rifle with a bull bar- went hand in hand with the .22-250
rel, to avoid barrel heat buildup, but Remington, Hodgdon’s H380. This
I’ll get to that in a minute. The initial powder was a WWII military surplus
load I developed used the Winchester powder that Bruce Hodgdon fell deep-
55-grain FMJ over IMR4320, travel- ly in love with, so deep, in fact, that he
ling at 3,350 fps. Group size is usually named the powder after his pet load:
around ¾-inch, and while that load is 38.0 grains under a 55-grain bullet. So
fine for coyotes and foxes, I knew the H380 was born, and I am here to tes-

240 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

tify that this powder works very, very some two and half hours of semi-
well in this case. I started with Mr. intelligent discussion, we had settled
H’s chosen load, but it needed some upon a date, time, and place to have
tweaking in my gun, so I prepared a shooting competition. Those in the
groups of three cartridges with powder know would gather their accoutre-
charges that varied, up and down, by ments, their prized rifles, the best
0.1-grain. It didn’t take long before I handloads they believed they could
found what I was looking for. My own produce, and congregate to test their
pet load for my .22-250 is 38.4 grains various mettles. The competition was
of H380 over a 53-grain Sierra Match- divided into two classes: Smallbore
King flat-base hollowpoint. Group (.17-caliber through 6.5mm) and
size averaged 3/8-inch and the round large-bore (.277-caliber through .375).
travelled at 3,550 fps. Coyotes and The range would be 200 yards, with
foxes fell like the French Army. three-shot groups from a benchrest,
on a beautiful September Saturday.
I brought the .22-250 along for
THE HANDLOADERS SYNDICATE the smallbore competition, to be
Let us fast forward, with the same placed in the battle next to a .223 and
rifle in mind, to a friendly handload- .243, both in Remington 700s with
ers’ competition. The best handloaders full one-inch pipes, and a Weath-
in my area congregated at our local erby Vanguard Sub-MOA in .257
brew pub and, upon conclusion of Weatherby Magnum. Nothing was at

(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

The Handloaders Syndicate: a meeting of the minds.


Pig-Newton’s sweetheart .308, a Remington Model 700 Police Special, with Leupold scope and
McMillan stock. It is deadly accurate.

stake but my bragging rights among Damned fine handloading, and a bit
my peers and some dignity, so I’d of decent shooting on my part, led to
prepared the best of the best, using the “championship.”
Norma cases, Federal match-grade That same good loading technique
primers, and my own developed load came back to bite me in the bottom
based on H380. I hand-trimmed the in the large-bore competition. Well,
cases, weighed out the Sierra Match- sort of. I’d sold my good friend and
King projectiles, and did my best to neighbor Dave DeMoulpied a 1959
cobble together the components. Colt Coltsman chambered in .300
It worked. The .223 fell victim Holland & Holland and helped him
to my handloads first, and then the develop the load. We used Reloder 22
.257 Weatherby. My pals couldn’t powder, a Federal GM215M primer,
believe the sporter-weight barrel was and the Swift Scirocco 180-grain
shooting better groups than the bull bullet. When we tried out the load on
barrels and specialty rifles. Even the the range the day before the shoot,
.243 fell, though it didn’t go down Dave printed a 1.2-inch group at 200
easily, as the shooter was a worthy yards, aiming through a 9x hunting
adversary, but, in the end, the pencil- scope. I had serious competition, as I
barreled .22-250 reigned supreme. knew my buddy Mark “Pig Newton”

242 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

Nazi was bringing his Remington 700 GO BIG OR GO HOME
Police Special in .308 Winchester At the meeting of our local chapter
and, between those two rifles, it of SCI, in Oneonta, New York, some-
would take everything I had to remain thing happened to me that never, ever
competitive. Mark’s .308, with its bull happens. I won a raffle. A raffle for a
barrel, would routinely print less than rifle! Well, at least money toward any
½-MOA. My .300 Winchester was rifle I wanted. I had a .22-250 Rem-
good, but the field was tough. ington, .308 Winchester, .300 Win-
In the end, neighbor Dave put me out chester Magnum, and a .375 Holland
of the running, when I admittedly pulled & Holland. So what to order.
the third shot of my group and, so, it I thought long and hard about a
came down to the other two rifles for the .25-06 Remington, but my love for
championship. Pig Newton beat Dave, big-bore rifles ultimately won out and
but it took the micrometer to prove it. I ordered a Winchester Model 70 in
Either way, there was something to be .416 Remington Magnum. I had aspi-
said for both the guns, especially the rations to hunt Cape buffalo, a beast
accuracy of the .300 H&H in a hunting- affectionately known as the Black
grade rifle. I didn’t win the large-bore Death. These brutal bovines have a
trophy, but I’d helped a friend develop reputation for soaking up copious
a crazy-accurate hunting load! To me, amounts of lead, so, as a hunter, you
we’d all won—but I never should have want to hit them hard. I really don’t
sold that rifle. believe there’s a rifle that is too large

(Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

The champions of the Handloader’s Syndicate, left to right, Mark “Pig-Newton” Nazi, large-bore champ,
and yours truly, the smallbore champ.


for these buffalo, so long as you can were two factors I wasn’t a huge fan
put the bullet in the vitals. Shot place- of, so the .416 Remington kind of
ment is paramount—they’re just not leapt out at me. It burns about 75
gonna die from an “okay” shot. percent of the powder the .416 Rigby
I’d spent some time loading the does, while delivering identical ballis-
.458 Winchester with this quest in tics. The parent case is the .375 H&H,
mind, but its case capacity and recoil which is readily available in a pinch,

244 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

“Cocoa,” the author’s
beloved Winchester
Model 70 in .416
Remington Magnum. The
Leupold QR mounts allow
quick access to the iron
sights, if they are needed.
(Photo courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

and the Winchester 70 platform is well this rifle for buffalo, I chose a low-
known to me. I saw no point in load- powered 1.5-5x20mm Leupold VXIII
ing anything less than the 400-grain with a heavy duplex and mounted it
bullets, as these made the .416’s in Leupold QR mounts. These mounts
reputation, plus, I already had a .375 would easily give me access to the
H&H for throwing 300-grain bullets rifle’s iron sights, and the scope has
at other game. As I was going to use enough magnification to make longer


The author and his .416 Remington at the bench.

shots, if necessary. The initial setup A-Frames and Hornady round-nosed

complete, it was now off to the reload- solids for the buffalo. Some nickel-plat-
ing bench to start load development. ed Remington cases were handed over
I chose a trio of bullets to use, the by the UPS man, and I reached for the
Hornady 400-grain round-nosed Inter- Federal 215 primers and Grumpy Pant’s
lock for practice and smaller animals, favorite powder, IMR4064.
and a combination of 400-grain Swift The first loading through the brand
new barrel printed
three-shot groups
of just over two
(Photos this page courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)

inches, which,
as GP indicated,
would have been
well suited for

A one-inch group
from the author’s .416
Remington, not too
shabby from a 5x scope
and a big-bore rifle.

246 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

(Author Photo)
A nice Chobe bushbuck taken with a 400-grain Swift a-Frame, in Zambia.

buffalo hunting, as shots on them are the rifle and reinstall it without losing
rarely over 100 yards and the buffalo’s zero. Well, turns out they work and
vitals very large. But why would I ever work well. In fact, they work so well,
settle for that level of accuracy, when they sparked an idea.
I had the capability of loading the am- I’ve had scopes fail on a remote
munition to give better results? hunt before. When that happens, more
Back at the bench, I changed the often than not, you’re out of business.
amount of IMR4064 in the case by Now, on this rifle, destined for Africa,
one grain, up to an even 78.0 grains, I could remove the scope if it broke
which was near maximum, according and use the iron sights, but I thought
to the reloading manuals. Four groups that purchasing an extra set of rings
of three shots verified that I had no and a spare scope, one already zeroed
signs of excessive pressure, and the and carried in my day pack, would
accuracy was much better. Group size save any aggravation. So, in addition
averaged 0.9-inch, which, with a 5x to the 1.5-5x, I picked up a fixed 2.5x
scope, is just fine by me. Leupold and zeroed it to use as my
The chronograph displayed 2,405 spare. This has worked perfectly, and
fps, on par with factory ammunition. though I haven’t had any issues with
I was initially skeptical about the the main scope, I’m ready if there’s
Leupold QR mounts and the claim of a problem. The ammunition, too,
being able to remove the scope from worked perfect in Africa, and, in fact,


The author with a large
Zambian Cape buffalo
bull, taken with his .416
Remington Magnum.
(Photo courtesy Massaro Media Group &
J.D. Fielding Photography)

248 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

this rifle has accompanied me across well. I needed to get her a rifle that
the pond twice, on safaris to Tanzania was better stocked to her dimensions.
and Zambia. It accounted for my first While at the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania,
Cape buffalo, a 36-inch-wide bull with annual outdoor sportsmen’s show, I had
a huge body and well-worn and hard- a visit and a chat with the folks from
ened bosses. The bull required only Savage Arms. They told me about a
one shot, one placed right through the new development in their lineup, the
heart, but my PH insisted I “pay the Savage Lady Hunter. It has the same
insurance” with a second A-Frame. great barreled action that Savage has
Both bullets were recovered against always produced, but with a scaled
the offside skin and retained more than down instead of cut down stock. This
90 percent of their initial weight. This is a huge advantage for Suzie Q, as she
same ammunition also allowed me to has strong yet small hands and requires
take a rare Lichtenstein’s hartebeest, a much shorter length of pull than any
in Tanzania’s Selous Reserve, at 300 of my big-game rifles can offer her.
yards across a large pan of water. When I saw the Lady Hunter, I
Once again, the laminated drop chart knew what Mrs. Massaro was going to
card came into play and allowed me receive for her birthday, but I debated
to take a longer than normal shot with long and hard about the choice of
the big gun. calibers. I knew that it would have to
This is, without a doubt, my favor- be relatively universal, as Mama had
ite safari rifle, especially for truly big indicated she didn’t want a bunch of
game, but I’ve also used it on warthog, different rifles (silly girl), but also that
bushbuck, puku (another rarity), and she had aspirations to hunt both the
on a wild hog here in the States. The game of North America and the Afri-
other nice feature of this rifle is that can antelopes, especially sable. I fig-
all three of the bullets I choose to load ured a .30-caliber would fit the bill, but
in it will print to very nearly the same had to choose between .308 Winchester
point of impact. I really couldn’t be and the venerable .30-06 Springfield.
happier with this rifle! Since the rifle would already be scaled
down and feature a shorter barrel,
MAMA NEEDS A RIFLE I reasoned that the .308 Winchester
After our safari to Zambia, my would give a lighter overall package
darling wife, Suzie, decided she (due to a shorter receiver), and still
wanted to start to hunt and shoot with perform well in the shorter tube. I also
me. Absolutely! I couldn’t wait to had plenty of component brass and
spend time afield with my best friend, some good loads developed for my
even though it cost me almost half my own .308, so the shorter cartridge was
hunting gear. the way to go.
Now, I’m almost six feet tall, but When the rifle arrived, I was very
my dear bride is only all of three pleased with the walnut stock; nice
inches more than five feet, so most of grain, a decent wood-to-metal fit, and
my rifles and shotguns don’t suit her that awesome Savage barrel. Mama


Suzie Q at the bench with her Savage Lady Hunter in .308 Winchester.

250 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

picked out a Bushnell 3-9x scope that and touch a large Canadian whitetail. I
was lying around, so I mounted it on decided to use Suzie’s rifle to develop
her rifle and we were off to the range. the load. I trimmed up some Hor-
The barrel break-in stage showed nady Match brass, weighed out some
that accuracy was not going to be 150-grain Swift Sciroccos, grabbed
an issue, as the loads I’d developed some Federal Gold Medal Large Rifle
for GP’s rifle worked well in Suzie’s, Match primers, and cobbled them
giving her about 1 MOA. Indeed, my together with (yet again) IMR4064.
wife shot her rifle well right out of the I thought the first three-shot group
gate and she soon used her fetchin’ was a fluke, as I watched the single hole
iron to take a big, black, wild boar in the target just get wider—0.3-inch
in Florida, with a 165-grain Nosler wide from center to center, to be precise.
Partition and an appropriate load of “Gimme three more. That had to be
IMR4064. Then something happened a coincidence.”
that really showed the true accuracy The second group printed 0.35-
potential of this rig. inch, the third the same. Wow, just
My pal Ronnie Hardy, owner of wow. The chronograph gave an
Hardy’s Custom Calls and an avid average of 2,865 fps, something that
hunter, called me to develop him a would certainly give the trajectory
load for his T/C Icon in .308 Win- Ronnie was looking for. I made him
chester. He had asked for a flat- a couple boxes and sent them out. A
shooting 150-grain bullet to reach out phone call later that week confirmed

A very good group from the Suzie Massaro’s .308. You really can’t ask for more than that from a
hunting rifle. (Photos both pages courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)


(Photo courtesy Massaro Media Group & J.D. Fielding Photography)
Suzie’s chosen load for her pet rifle is a .308-inch, 150-grain Swift Scirocco II loaded in Lapua cases.

that his rifle had liked them as much Jeffrey, one with near parallel sides
as Suzie’s had. He’s since taken many and necked down to hold .308-inch
deer with that gun and load. diameter bullets. That round was the
It’s wonderful to introduce new .300 Remington Ultra Magnum. It
shooters to the sport, and, if you have was among the first cases to have the
plans of taking your significant other “magnum” moniker, without having
or children to the range, you can make the raised belt of brass associated with
some handloads that are on the lighter the .375 Holland & Holland Mag-
end of the spectrum, so that harsh re- num. This round is capable of driving
coil won’t create bad shooting habits. a 180-grain bullet at velocities past
I made some of these reduced-velocity 3,300 fps, which gives it a very flat
loads for Suzie, so she could get com- trajectory, and it produces more than
fortably acquainted with the way her 4,000 ft-lbs of energy at the muzzle.
rifle shot, the feel of the trigger, and My friend Pieter had a Remington
use of the safety. It wasn’t long until Alaskan Wilderness Rifle chambered
she had developed a good shooting for this cartridge, topping the gun with
technique, and those skills stuck with a Swarovski high-magnification rifle
her when we switched to the full- scope with the TDS reticle, a very
house loads for hunting big game. useful setup for long-range shoot-
ing. Pieter is a very good shot and an
A BIG THIRTY WITH AN experienced hunter who knows his
ATTITUDE PROBLEM rifle very well. This big stick liked fac-
The late 1990s saw the release tory ammunition using the 180-grain
of a case based on a blown out .404 Nosler Partition. However, with the

252 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

great ammo crunch of 2013, factory
ammunition was simply unavailable at
any price. Pieter had tried several dif-
ferent lots of handloaded ammunition,
but none of them came close to giving
the accuracy his factory loads had
given him. He gave me a call to see if
I could solve the problem.
I had developed the load that my
dad uses for his .300 RUM, so I had a

(Photo courtesy Pieter Wolfe)

good idea where to start. I first made
Pete a couple of loads on the lower
end of the spectrum, to check for
pressure signs. We had none, and the
accuracy started to tighten up, but we Cody Wolfe, Pieter’s son, with his trophy
weren’t where we wanted to be yet. Colorado elk, taken with handloaded 180-grain
Swift Scirocco II shot from his dad’s .300
Pete uses this rifle for long-range elk
Remington Ultra Magnum.
hunting out west, so we had to have
accuracy somewhere below MOA, to
be sure and he could make clean hits practice, as I’ve discussed previously,
on distant targets. is reserved for bolt-action rifles only,
As we worked through the loads, as they alone have the mechanical
barrel heat was a bit of an issue, thanks advantage of being able to close the
to the bullets moving at this velocity, chamber on a cartridge with dimen-
so we kept the groups to three shots. sions that are slightly larger than
We were getting close to the accuracy SAAMI specifications.
we wanted with the 180-grain Swift
Scirocco II and Reloder 25 powder
backed by a Federal 215 Large Rifle NEIGHBOR DAVE REVIVES A CLASSIC
Magnum primer, that combination This is a brief tale of a 1959 Colt
yielding around 1 MOA. Still, I knew Coltsman .300 Holland & Holland
we could do better, so I pulled out Magnum bolt-action rifle that has
the old neck-sizing die, resizing the been passed around. I purchased it
necks only on Pete’s once-fired brass. from Col. Le Frogg and didn’t have
That did the trick. Three shot groups an awful lot of time to develop a good
hovered around 5/8-inch, with velocities load for it, so it sat in the cabinet.
around 3,350 fps. Pieter is now once When my neighbor Dave offered
again a happy shooter, knowing he has to purchase the old girl from me, I
access to a constant supply of ammuni- agreed, knowing it would “stay in the
tion his rifle likes. family.” Well, not only did neighbor
Sometimes neck sizing can make Dave have her cleaned up and the
the difference when you’re looking stock bedded, he cooked up a load that
for that last bit of accuracy. But the is most impressive in a hunting rifle.


Using Reloder 22, Federal Large I don’t shoot a .270 Winchester
Rifle Magnum primers, and a often, but my pal Marty Groppi does,
180-grain Swift Scirocco II, this gun and it’s one of his favorites. So, I
printed a 1.2-inch three-shot group asked for some classified information:
at 200 yards, during the previously his pet handload recipe.
mentioned “Handloaders Syndicate” Marty obliged. The load uses a
competition. The 3-9x glass this rifle Sierra 130-grain spitzer and IMR4895,
wears is on the light side for target and while I’ve promised not to divulge
shooting, but this gun is a shooter. the particulars, this load solved the
Velocities from this rifle are about problem for my customer. The for-
2,900 fps, which makes for a very flat- merly finicky rifle now prints three-
shooting, hard-hitting combination. A shot groups just over MOA, and the
bit faster than the .30-06, yet with re- client is very happy. Point is, keeping
coil that is very comfortable to manage diligent records can help others when
from the bench, it makes a wonderful they have a problem rifle. Marty had
all-around caliber. The long, sloping spent the necessary time at the bench
shoulder of this classic case makes for and found a load that worked well in
very smooth feeding, and even though four or five different .270 Winchesters,
the rifle is more than a half-century and that load proved to be a winner in
old, it is with Dave’s care and load- my client’s gun, as well.
ing that it has truly come into its own.
Dave uses it in the hunting fields with ***
great effect, and I hope it sees many From old guns to new, accuracy
days afield. Old is not dead! you can live with to accuracy you can
be proud of, and problem guns turned
to faithful treasures, these are the sto-
MARTY’S FAVORITE .270 LOAD ries that handloading makes possible.
I have a customer who has a Get involved, experiment, get good
particularly finicky .270 Winchester. behind your rifle or handgun as only
This gun didn’t perform well with any handloading can make you. After all,
factory ammunition, and the first trial isn’t that kind of success what we all
handloads didn’t help, either. want with our guns?

254 Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Reloading

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Drawing from decades of experience, author
Philip Massaro provides detailed instructions to GunDigest
help you successfully reload your own rifle and


pistol ammunition.

Inside this practical guide:

■ Step-by-step instructions describe how to reload

rifle and pistol ammunition for recreational shooting,
competition and hunting
■ Hundreds of photos support detailed
descriptive instructions
■ Hints and tips help you avoid common mistakes
With the experience and guidance shared in this book,
target shooters and hunters alike can enjoy the benefits
of hand-tuned ammunition.

[Phil’s] writing is lively and fresh, bringing both

feeling and humor to a subject that has traditionally
been dealt with in staid, textbook
fashion. Because of that, because of
Phil, you will not only learn from this
book, you will enjoy it.”
– Craig Boddington
Philip P. Massaro is the President
of Massaro Ballistic Laboratories,
LLC, a custom ammunition company
comfortably nestled in between the
Hudson River and Catskill Mountains
of upstate New York. He has been
handloading ammunition for more
than 20 years.

US $19.99

T0032 (CAN $21.99)

ISBN-13: 978-1-4402-3988-5
ISBN-10: 1-4402-3988-6



Gun Digest Books



An imprint of F+W Media, Inc.


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