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Handloading and Reloading

Home > Small Arms Ammunition > Shotshell Assembly > Loading > Handloading and Reloading
reloading equipment on a workbench

Handloading Equpment - l-r powder measure,
pre cartridges, red shotshell loader, case
trimmer, kinetic bullet powder

Individual shooters may handload or reload their own ammunition, using hand tools to perform the tasks done by machines in commercial ammunition factories.

The process is nearly equivalent:

  • Handloading is the process of assembling ammunition from components, typically for personal use.
  • Reloading is the process of assembling ammunition using previously fired cartridge cases as well as some new components: propellants, projectiles, and primers.

There are several reasons to handload or reload ammunition:

  • Economy -  over the counter ammunition is more expensive.
  • Enhanced accuracy - the accuracy of handloaded or reloaded ammunition precisely loaded by a hobbyist typically exceeds industry standards.
  • Customized loadings - the variety of combinations of bullet and powder loads specific to the needs of the shooter and the firearm are much greater than the limited offerings of commercial loadings.
  • Obsolete cartridge types - commercially available ammunition for obsolete or historical firearms is limited.

The essential ammunition components for reloading are:

  • Smokeless powder appropriate for reloading (handgun, rifle, shotgun)
  • Primers of the appropriate size and type
  • Projectiles for the type of ammunition
  • Cartridge cases manufactured for Boxer primers (used cases if reloading)

The first three are typically new, unless the loader is casting new lead bullets. Cartridge cases may be acquired new or used. Used cartridge cases have undergone dimensional changes as a result of the effects of exposure to internal pressures and obturation.

Used cartridge cases must be

  • compressed to original factory specifications using a resizing die,
  • trimmed lengthwise at the mouth to meet specifications,
  • expanded at the mouth to fit the bullet to be inserted.

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