Sinclair International Introduction to Reloading – Using a Reloading Handbook
This Article reproduced from Sinclair Internationals Blog The Reloading Press
Fort Wayne IN- -(Ammoland.com)- There are several good reloading handbooks on the market today.
They are generally updated every few years and contain valuable information on new cartridges and new components.
Most new reloaders start out with one handbook but most find themselves acquiring additional titles because of cartridge or component voids in their first book.
Most reloading handbooks provide two functions;
- They provide the basic steps of metallic cartridge reloading
- They provide the basic recipes (loads) for most common metallic cartridges
A few of my favorites are the Hornady Reloading Handbook, the Sierra Reloading Manual, the Nosler Handbook, and the Speer Manual. A unique concept in reloading manuals is the Hodgdon Reloading Manual. Hodgdon produces their reloading manual in a magazine format that they can update every year with the latest cartridges, powders, and other components.
Each reloading manual is developed differently but they usually include the basic testing information that is important to look at and compare to your own particular situation.
Some of the important points to take note of in any reloading manual.
Are as follows:
- What temperature was the load data tested? For example, the data in the Hornady Reloading Handbook was developed and tested at 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure you take the temperature into account that you will be shooting your reloads in. Higher temperatures will usually increase pressure and velocity. Lower temperatures will usually create lower pressures and reduce velocities.
- Most reloading handbooks will detail the specifications for the firearm that the data was tested in. They will usually list the action, barrel length, and twist rate.
- Another factor that is usually listed for each cartridge is the primer. In most cases the reloading handbook developer will use standard primers but in larger cases with slow burning powders they may choose to use a magnum primer.
Each cartridge section will usually contain some brief history about the cartridge such as the date it was developed, the original purpose it was developed for, and suggested applications. Most manuals will also list what loads were most accurate in their test firearm and sometimes will list the best hunting load.
Each cartridge will have several bullets listed that are appropriate beginning with the lightest weight bullet. The spread of bullets may not apply to your firearm because the twist rate of your barrel may be different. It could be that you can shoot heavier bullets because of a faster twist rate but generally the handbook provides a great starting point.
Some other valuable data will include the cartridge dimensions that are useful when comparing one cartridge versus another. The maximum case length is usually listed, which is the maximum length you should allow the case to grow to before trimming. The trim length is of course shorter than the maximum length and is the recommended length to trim your cases to when trimming. Failure to pay attention to case length can lead to extreme pressures and can end up crimping the bullet in the case when the round is chambered.
Some things to take note of in the detailed data are the style of bullet. Many reloaders will ask if they can use the data for the same weight bullet even though they are using a different brand of bullet. An example would be using a Hornady manual which is going to list Hornady bullets, of course, then choosing to use a Sierra bullet for a particular application. In most cases you can use the load data if the bullets are of the same style, but if they are of different styles it is advisable to reduce the load slightly. I definitely recommend reducing an established charge and then gradually working upward to a new load for a new bullet while watching for indications of high pressure.
Generally, the data listed in a reloading handbook under a specific bullet will include the various powders tested by the authors and increasing velocities (in Feet per second – FPS) with the amount of powder in grains listed below each velocity. Most manuals will highlight the maximum loads and provide warnings to be careful when using these loads. Remember, the velocities listed were obtained with the particular lot of powder used in testing, the test rifle, the primers used, and the environmental conditions existing during testing. Velocities are expressed as muzzle velocities.
Other valuable data in many reloading handbooks would include cartridge overall length for a particular bullet, sectional density, and ballistic coefficient. The cartridge overall length is the dimension from the base of the case to the tip of the particular bullet. These dimensions are obtained from SAAMI (Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturer’s Institute). SAAMI is charged with providing the standard specifications for both cartridge case dimensions and chamber dimensions. This overall cartridge length is valuable to use especially when loading for use in magazine fed rifles. It can be exceeded when loading rounds on top of the magazine follower in single shot mode. As the bullet is loaded further out, the reloader needs to pay close attention to the position of the bullet with respect to the beginning of the rifling since pressures can dramatically increase as the bullet is loaded further into the throat. There are special tools on the market such as the Sinclair Seating Depth Tool and Bullet Comparators that can help you determine how far out you can seat the bullet with respect to the beginning of the rifling.
The sectional density is a relative value among bullets and is expressed as the ratio of the weight of the bullet in pounds with respect to the square of its diameter in inches. Bullets with a higher sectional density compared to other bullets of the same shape will usually retain their velocity and energy better.
The ballistic coefficient (B.C.) is an index of the manner is which a bullet decelerates while in flight. This index is a means to express the ability of a particular bullet to overcome air resistance in flight. Ballistic coefficients are very useful in comparing bullets but shouldn’t be the last word in determining whether one bullet is better than another. B.C.’s can change with velocity, altitude, temperature, humidity, and atmospheric pressure. B.C.s are extremely valuable when utilizing ballistic programs to calculate wind drift and bullet trajectory.
A couple of points I want to bring special attention to are the use of military surplus brass or recycled military brass and the use of solid bullets. First, military brass usually is more robust than commercial cases and generally will have thicker walls. Once sized, the case capacity of this brass will usually be smaller and reduced loads should be adhered to. I would begin with around 15% less powder than a load used in commercial brass. Again, as stated before work your way up with the load.
Solid bullets such as Barnes are great bullets but special consideration to the loads used should be given. Refer to a reloading manual (Barnes would be best) that has specific data for these bullets. They usually require reduced loads.
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