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Reloading Process

Home > Small Arms Ammunition > Shotshell Assembly > Loading > Reloading and Handloading > Reloading Process

The reloading process is similar for handgun and rifle ammunition with minor exceptions:

  • Removing the old primer using  a decapping die (depriming)
  • Cleaning the cases  using soap and hot water or a commercial case cleaner
  • Optional polishing using a cleaning medium in a tumbler or vibrating cleaner
  • Inspecting cases to ensure physical integrity
  • Lubricating the cases prior to resizing in a cartridge case resizing die
  • Resizing the cases
  • Trimming the case to length, if necessary
  • Priming the cases (swaging used military cases)
  • Charging the case with the correct amount of powder
  • Seating the bullet using a bullet seating die
  • Crimping the cartridge case mouth into a bullet cannelure used as a crimping groove
  • Inspecting the result for physical flaws
  • Testing the ammunition for accuracy

Reloading equipment provides a mechanical advantage and the dies to form the cases and assemble the components. The basic tool is the single-stage press, which produces one completed cartridge at a time. More advanced reloading machines have multiple die stations set up on a rotating base allowing several operations to be performed with a single stroke of a lever.

These operations include the following:

  • Depriming
  • Resizing
  • Expanding the case neck
  • Seating the primer
  • Charging with powder
  • Seating and crimping the bullet

The dies and tools used in these operations can leave unique, identifiable toolmarks on the ammunition produced. Firearms/toolmarks examiners and crime scene personnel should realize the implications for associating fired or unfired ammunition with reloading equipment.

Potentially identifiable striated or impression-type marks on cartridge cases may be produced by

  • the cartridge case holding tool, which secures the base of a cartridge case in the reloading press,
  • resizing dies used for returning expanded cartridge cases to their original dimensions,
  • crimping tools used at the mouth of some types of cartridge cases.

Reloading marks on bullets may result from bullet-seating dies and may be in the surface of a bullet, especially the nose.

Shotshell ammunition reloading is similar to handgun and rifle ammunition reloading using either a single-stage press or a semiautomated operation. However, fewer potential toolmarks are left by the equipment. The toolmarks of interest would be on the brass base of most shotshells made by a resizing die.

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