Ammunition Reloading Components

Obsolete Arms and Ammo
By Bob Shell

Editor Note: This is part three of Bobs Shell’s Articles Series on Ammunition Reloading. You can find links to all related articles at the end  of this page.

Ammunition reloading components
Ammunition Reloading and Components
AmmoLand Gun News
AmmoLand Gun News

Apache Junction, AZ –-(  Once you have your cases processed it is time to select the ammunition reloading components that you are going to use.

First off are the Primers: You have two sizes and various types.

You have handgun and rifle then large and small. Then you have standard and magnum plus some specialty types including military and target. It is not a good idea to mix them. A rifle primer typically has a harder cup and more compound. The reasons are the firing pin spring is stronger and the compound is meant for a larger amount of powder then typically found in handgun ammo.

Choosing the wrong primer can either over or under ignite the powder both bad situations.

In addition, the rifle primer is taller which would make it more difficult to seat properly. If you have chosen the wrong primer then you ammo quality will suffer. There are a couple of exceptions to that rule also. One instance is the 454 Casull uses small rifle primers while the 460 and 500 S & W uses large rifle. The reason is since they operate at rifle pressures rifle primers are required. Like everything else your reloading data book will give you the info needed to select the correct primer for the job at hand.

Die set for loading handgun ammo with the inserts removed.
Typical Die set for loading handgun ammo with the inserts removed.

There are various tools out there to seat primers in the case. I generally use my press with the setup but there are other options that may be quicker for you. I usually load small amounts of test or obsolete ammo so the press works fine for me. The important this is the primer must be seated in the case in such a way that it doesn’t stick out even a little. That will cause misfires and inconsistent ammo. In a revolver it will stop the cylinder from rotating. You should have a certain amount of feel but too little or too much is usually a problem. Too little might mean that the primer pocket has expanded and too much may indicate a military crimp present. If the pocket is loose there isn’t much you can do about that except future prevention. The expansion usually occurs when cases are loaded hot. Military crimps have to be removed in order to seat the primer. If you try and force it you will ruin the primer and cause the compound to leak out. Priming might seem insignificant but it has to be done correctly to insure good ammo. After all that is your ignition system. Done properly priming is a safe operation but it is a good idea to wear safety glasses in case one goes off.

38 wad cutter bullets
38 wad cutter bullets great for target practice

Once you have your cases primed the real fun begins. You need to figure out which powder and bullets you are going to use. There are over 150 types of powder and the selection of bullets is mind boggling . Here again the reloading book is the best place to start. The manuals list between 10 and 15 different powders for a certain weight of bullet. There are three types of smokeless powders, ball, flake and extruded. Perhaps later on we will discuss the differences.

Cast Bullets
Cast bullets work fine in handgun and rifle.

When you look up a specific cartridge there will be some powders that are suitable for that particular round. These loads are developed by professionals in well equipped labs. Don’t deviate from the types and amounts recommended as that will cause all types of problems – some dangerous. Besides the powder used it will list a type and weight of bullet which should be followed also. Powder is weighed in grains, in which 7,000 makes a 1 lb. So a grain doesn’t sound like much but a grain over max can cause dangerous pressures. Never go over max recommended loads and in fact start a grain or two below. Every gun reacts differently to the same load so a load that is OK in one might be too hot in another. In addition, when putting powder in the case a loading block is helpful. That will allow you to eyeball each load and see that the same amount of powder was dispensed to each round.

Keep one thing in mind. Any problem can be fixed at the shop a lot easier then out in the field. That is where paying attention to detail is vital.

Selecting Bullets
Selecting a bullet can be confusing as there are a lot of styles and price ranges. For starting I wouldn’t worry about the high tech slugs. They add unnecessary cost and for most purposes are not necessary. If you plan on loading a lot of ammo for one caliber there are deals where you can buy the bullets by the case. That usually means from a thousand to over twice that amount depending on the caliber. For some guns cast bullets work fine and are less expensive then their jacketed brothers. If I were loading 9 mm or 45 I would buy some plated bullets from a company such as Ranier ballistics. I have used a lot of their products and they always produced good results. Later on if you want or need high tech bullets by all means get them.

Reloading Powder Types
Powder types from left extruded, flake and ball

Seating bullets to the correct length.
The loading manuals give you a recommended length but you might want to note what firearm they used to develop their loads. Some magazines might require them to be seated deeper so you want to run them through the magazine and action before you take them out shooting. Most folks have heard that if you seat the bullets in a rifle out so they touch the lands accuracy will improve.

If you are shooting precision bench rest rifles that may be true but not in a regular rifle. Seating bullets out to the lands can cause a couple of problems.

One is if you extract the round the bullet may remain in the rifling while the rest of the round extracts. It may increase pressure if the load isn’t adjusted for that type of seating. The idea is to make ammo that is safe and feeds through the gun at hand. Later on when you get the basics down you can experiment with various components, keeping safety first and foremost.

Test Small Ammo Batches First
Before you take your ammo out test feed it through your firearm first, keeping in mind to point the gun in a safe direction, just in case. Also I would not recommend that you make a large amount on ammunition, because if there is a problem you might have a lot of bad ammo that needs to be pulled.

After you establish that the ammo is OK then make as much as you want. Keep in mind if you change something then the ammo will have to be tested again. Now start reloading!

Rifle bullets and 30-40 Krag brass.
Rifle bullets and 30-40 Krag brass.

Read more on reloading live ammunition in the following articles:

About Bob Shell
A Custom Reloader of Obsolete and Antique Ammo, Bob Shell, writes about the subject of Guns, Ammo, Shooting and Related Subjects. Visit:

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