Reloading tricks and tips

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Since I'm a newbie at reloading and I see so many other people getting into it, I thought I'd call up on (beg) experienced reloaders for some of their tips.

I am a home DIYer and don't want to spend money when I don't need to.
However, I will spend more money on a better product if some rational justification can be made.

So what I have read so far:

1. Throw some used dryer sheets in with your cases when tumbling to get rid of static.
2. A colander with holes drilled out will work as a media seperator. Media seperators run around $40+ so you can save some money here.
3. Buy Walnut Shell Media from a pet store for cheap. Tumble with this concoction:
1 capful (not cupful) of NuFinish liquid car wax
1-2 capfuls (not cupfuls) of kerosene, turpentine, or paint thinner
Allow the wax and solvent to mix for 15-20 minutes before adding brass. Then, add brass and allow to buff for a couple of hours
4. Mixing your own case lube:
One tube of Lanolin Hydrous...about $2.50 (1 ounce)

One bottle of 90% or better Isopropyl Alcohol. (16 ounce bottle)

Squeeze the entire contents of the tube into the bottle of alcohol (you may have to pour out a little to make room, but save it for cleaning other things)
Leave some headspace for aggitation when shaking.

Cap the bottle tight and put it in a sink full of HOT water and shake around until the solution warms up well.
Then shake well until the lanolin goes into solution and the liquid appears a yellow color. You now have enough lube to do thousands of rifle cases. Put it in a spray bottle and use just like Dillon lube.
If you encounter separation, run the bottle under hot water and shake well before use.
5. You may be able to find a place that sells sandblasting corncob for cheaper.
6. Save and write your load information on your target. Put these in your reloading area as reference
7. Make dummy rounds ( no primer and no powder) so you can use them to re-adjust your seating die should you need to clean it.
 
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Fixxah

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There is a place in Lowell that sells sandblasting media (corn cob) for short money. I am not sure where but it is better than the lizard litter. Comes in 50lb bag. EC and Patriot know the place.

I may try the lanolin trick, much better than Lyman lube which is PITA to clean off of a bucket full of rifle cases.
 
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center442

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I'll add some obvious ones.

When you start reloading make up dummy rounds with the bullets that you're using. Just case and bullet, no primer or powder. These will come in very handy if you have to clean your seating die and need to reset it for a particular bullet, or if you're using the same seating die with a variety of bullets.

Those large plastic coffee containers from ground coffee (Folger's, etc) are great for storing quantities of brass. Wash them out and let them air dry. They'll last for years.

When you're working up a load, trying different powders and bullets, save your targets. Write all the pertinent information (date, gun, powder, bullet, etc.) right on the target. Keep them together with a large spring clip in your reloading room. I hang mine on the wall. Your memory will fade as time goes by, the target won't.

Get a small plastic parts box with interior compartments to keep in your reloading room. It will be very handy for keeping various springs, screws, decapping pins, etc. from your reloading equipment all in one place. Harbor Freight has these for very little $$.

Use one of those dial type lamp timers to control your tumbler. Set the plastic stops for the amount of time you want the tumbler to run. The actual time of day doesn't matter. Plug it in and turn the dial until the tumbler starts. I like to start mine when I go to bed. The next morning I just unplug it. No excess noise when I'm reloading and no wasted electricity. BTW, get the timer with the three prong outlet. It will cost a couple of bucks more then the the others, but most tumblers use a grounding plug.

Buy quality gear. The most expensive isn't always the best, but it frequently is. If you buy cheap, you'll buy twice. In the long run, it will cost you more.
 
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center442

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Thanks for the tips, I'll be reloading by next month.

How many times can you safely reload a shell casing??
That depends on a number of things, meth0d, there's no simple answer. Quality of the brass, how hot the loads were, how much the neck was stretched and crimped, and so on.

Generally, cases will show signs of failure in two ways.

1) The primer pocket will become enlarged to the point where you can seat the primer with just finger pressure or when the primer falls out of the primer pocket by itself. I always discard my brass before it reaches this point.

2) Cracks will develop in the brass, usually near the mouth or neck, but not always. See this thread. The picture in post #11 will give you an idea of what to watch for.

There is actually a third way that a case will let you know when it has reached the end of its useful life; that is when the case completely fails upon firing - a complete case rupture. When this happens you'll be very aware of it. I have never experienced this in all my years of reloading, mostly for handguns. I try to err on the side of caution when it comes to case life. I have some pistol cases, notably .38sp, that have been reloaded for literally decades. They're used for light charges, "powder-puff loads." Like the Energizer bunny they just keep going and going. When I have to discard one of these it's like losing an old friend. [sad2]

Be observant, use common sense, and wear shooting glasses. You'll be fine. The first time you fire a cartridge you loaded yourself and see the hole appear in the paper is a feeling like no other! [smile]
 
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Take a sheet of bounce and fold it up and put it in the powder measure on top of your powder. It eliminates static and moisture.

Use a pet food dispenser on your reloading bench with your bullets in it.

Keep only the bottle of powder that's in your press on your bench.

Always weigh your loads when you come back to you press after being away for a little while. I learned that the hard way.

If you add powder to your measure, check the weight of the drop. Another thing I learned the hard way. Check the weight of your charge as the powder level gets a little low. I learned this the hard way too.

Slip a Mc Donald's straw over the center rod in your tumbler. Mc Donald's straws are huge and will fit most of them and it makes the tumbler a lot quieter. The shells aren't bouncing off it.

Keep a can of compressed air on your bench, use it to blow out stuck primers in the primer tube's and to keep the press clean.

Running powdered graphite through your powder measure helps it run smooth, just don't catch it with your scale pan. It stains plastic. Put some under your shell plate. You can dip necks of shells in powdered graphite it won't affect the powder.

Use Franklin shell boxes and Keep a pad of paper on the bench and write the OAL and what powder you used and how many grs you used and put it on top of the rounds in the box.

If the press seems stuck DO NOT FORCE THE RAM DOWN !!!!! you might have a primer stuck under the shell plate and it could explode and then fly across the room and bury it self into the wall. When this happens you also fall off your stool with a load of poop in your pants. You will know if your alright, if you hear your wife screaming, what the f#$% did you do now. Don't ask me how I know this, just trust me on this one.
 
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That depends on a number of things, meth0d, there's no simple answer. Quality of the brass, how hot the loads were, how much the neck was stretched and crimped, and so on.

Generally, cases will show signs of failure in two ways.

1) The primer pocket will become enlarged to the point where you can seat the primer with just finger pressure or when the primer falls out of the primer pocket by itself. I always discard my brass before it reaches this point.

2) Cracks will develop in the brass, usually near the mouth or neck, but not always. See this thread. The picture in post #11 will give you an idea of what to watch for.

There is actually a third way that a case will let you know when it has reached the end of its useful life; that is when the case completely fails upon firing - a complete case rupture. When this happens you'll be very aware of it. I have never experienced this in all my years of reloading, mostly for handguns. I try to err on the side of caution when it comes to case life. I have some pistol cases, notably .38sp, that have been reloaded for literally decades. They're used for light charges, "powder-puff loads." Like the Energizer bunny they just keep going and going. When I have to discard one of these it's like losing an old friend. [sad2]

Be observant, use common sense, and wear shooting glasses. You'll be fine. The first time you fire a cartridge you loaded yourself and see the hole appear in the paper is a feeling like no other! [smile]
Thanks! +1
 

wiskie762

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There is a place in Lowell that sells sandblasting media (corn cob) for short money. I am not sure where but it is better than the lizard litter. Comes in 50lb bag. EC and Patriot know the place.
.
I think you mean here
Beede
24 Payton St.
Lowell, MA
978-452-8906
Hours: 9-5 M-F - closed Noon-One

Andersons Grit'-O'Cobbs 1014
 
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What do you guys use for presses? I was thinking about getting either the Hornady Lock-N-Load AP or the Dillon RL 550B.

(Hope I'm not jacking this thread, but I figured I'd ask n00b questions in here rather than start up another for such a related topic.)
 
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I have a 550B, and I would recommend checking the bolts on the powder measure to make sure they are not coming undone. When one of the bolts starts to get loose the plastic spacer on the powder bar will come out and the bar will not reset.

Using used dryer sheets will keep down the static on the measuring pan on your scale. I also use swiffer sweeper sheets (mainly because the last tennent left then in the house) in my tumbler to keep the dust down when I unload the machine.

To separate the media from the brass I just use a plastic bowl with holes drilled out and a trash can lid.

Winchester and CCI primers do not need a primer flip tray. Save an empty primer tray, the plastic ones the primers come in. Line up the empty tray with the full one, dump the primers from one to the other so that they flip over, re-sleeve the tray, flip over on your bench, pull the tray from the sleeve and lift the plastic tray. Now your primers are ready to be picked up with the primer pick up tube. This doesn’t work with Federal Small Rifle Primers, but since no one has them in stock, that is a moot point.
 

Bob J

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What do you guys use for presses? I was thinking about getting either the Hornady Lock-N-Load AP or the Dillon RL 550B.

(Hope I'm not jacking this thread, but I figured I'd ask n00b questions in here rather than start up another for such a related topic.)
+1 for the Dillon
 

RKG

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For those who use a powder measure:

Always fill the hopper to the top, even if you're only loading a few rounds.

Before throwing charges "for record," throw 10-15 back into the powder jug, to settle the powder in the hopper.

Re-fill the hopper to the top by the time it gets to 1/4 to 1/3 of the way down.

As you move the lever to dump powder into the case, give it a good knock and do it consistently with each throw. This insures that no powder gets hung up in the drum cavity.

After charging every 20th case, dump the caseful into the scale and throw it again. This way, if the measure setting has moved, you only have to re-do 20 rounds.

As you take each case to be charged, up-end it and tap it gently on the bench. This will knock out anything that shouldn't be in the case and is a pretty good way to avoid a double charge.
 

drgrant

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Rule #842. Stay the hell away from shitty digital scales. There is a lot of
junk out there.

A lot of digital scales are bleeping terrible. I'd only buy one that a fellow reloader has vouched for. I've seen some of these scales that suck so
badly that merely taking the dish off and then putting it back on with the same powder in it results in a different reading!

The nice things about balance beams is if used properly, they tend not to lie
to you very often. [laugh]

-Mike
 

Fixxah

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Hornady LnL is a quality machine and while there are many followers of the Blue press, the 550 needs to be manually indexed which is one more reason to get something else if you want true progressive.

Try anything you can before you buy, I am sure every press made is represented by the board members. To each his/her own.
 

DukeInFlorida

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Amen to that, brother!

Havin been through a couple of crappy ones, I finally got a deal on a really good digital scale. It runs on batteries, PLUS has a wall converter, which allows the machine to stay on, and not shut off every ten seconds. It comes with TWO calibration weights, and a simple calibration process. It's dead nuts on.

It's a PACT BBK II

I got a deal on it at Cabelas bargain Cave. It was missing the manual, which was easily downloadable from the manufacturers site.

Rule #842. Stay the hell away from shitty digital scales. There is a lot of
junk out there.

A lot of digital scales are bleeping terrible. I'd only buy one that a fellow reloader has vouched for. I've seen some of these scales that suck so
badly that merely taking the dish off and then putting it back on with the same powder in it results in a different reading!

The nice things about balance beams is if used properly, they tend not to lie
to you very often. [laugh]

-Mike
 
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1 capful (not cupful) of NuFinish liquid car wax
1-2 capfuls (not cupfuls) of kerosene, turpentine, or paint thinner
Allow the wax and solvent to mix for 15-20 minutes before adding brass. Then, add brass and allow to buff for a couple of hours
Out of curiosity: Are you allowing to mix for 20 minutes strictly for he sake of mixing or are there other reasons? I've read that certain polishing compounds have ammonia in them that makes brass brittle. Therefore you have to let it sit out for a while so that the ammonia evaporates. Does this hold true for the NuFinish?

Also I've heard that you do not want to use real turpentine because it's too tough on the brass (chemically speaking). Mineral spirits (such as Turpenoid) apparently are the preferred method.

Always fill the hopper to the top, even if you're only loading a few rounds.
Why?

Generally, cases will show signs of failure in two ways.

1) The primer pocket will become enlarged to the point where you can seat the primer with just finger pressure or when the primer falls out of the primer pocket by itself. I always discard my brass before it reaches this point.

2) Cracks will develop in the brass, usually near the mouth or neck, but not always. See this thread. The picture in post #11 will give you an idea of what to watch for.

There is actually a third way that a case will let you know when it has reached the end of its useful life; that is when the case completely fails upon firing - a complete case rupture. When this happens you'll be very aware of it. I have never experienced this in all my years of reloading, mostly for handguns.
I believe you've said this in another thread but just so that it's included here:

For your third sign, there is usually a waning that comes before that. This warning is in the form of a ring near the base or head of the cartridge. If you see a pronounced ring down there, you should probably not reload that cartridge. If you can run your finger along and feel a bulge or imperfection near the ring, you should definitely not reload it. And of course if you can actually SEE a bulge, you shouldn't be reloading if you think that's ok. [laugh] [thinking] [sad]

I just had this exact warning go unheeded at the range by a friend of mine. Sure enough, he fired off a round and when he pulled the bolt back, only the back half of the case came out. The rest of it was in the barrel.
 

DukeInFlorida

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Yes, the 20 minutes is to allow the mixture to... well... MIX... I've made the mistake of dumping in the polish, and the solvent, and then the brass right away, and had some of the polish get INSIDE the cases, where it was a bear to get out later. So, now I always mix it up first, and then put the brass in later.

Brass is brass. Petroleum based chemicals don't bother it. So, as long as it's a petroleum based solvent, it doesn't matter.

The NuFinish isn't bothering my brass, even some of it that was polished six months ago, and is still sitting there waiting to get stuffed with powder/bullets. It's all still bright and shiny. I don't think there's any ammonia in NuFinish.

Filling the hopper to the top is important because it's not JUST the media that does the cleaning and polishing. It's the weight of the brass in there, grinding the media into the other brass that helps speed it all up. So, the more, the merrier, as they say in brass polishing.


Out of curiosity: Are you allowing to mix for 20 minutes strictly for he sake of mixing or are there other reasons? I've read that certain polishing compounds have ammonia in them that makes brass brittle. Therefore you have to let it sit out for a while so that the ammonia evaporates. Does this hold true for the NuFinish?

Also I've heard that you do not want to use real turpentine because it's too tough on the brass (chemically speaking). Mineral spirits (such as Turpenoid) apparently are the preferred method.
 
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center442

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>Snip<

Filling the hopper to the top is important because it's not JUST the media that does the cleaning and polishing. It's the weight of the brass in there, grinding the media into the other brass that helps speed it all up. So, the more, the merrier, as they say in brass polishing.
Duke, your point is well taken. I think RKG was talking about filling the hopper in the powder measure, though. If I've misunderstood either of you please correct me. Here's part of his post:

For those who use a powder measure: Always fill the hopper to the top, even if you're only loading a few rounds.
>Snip<
For the new reloaders: When you use a powder measure you normally fill it up and set it using a good scale. The chamber in the powder measure will fill a certain way with that amount of powder in the hopper. As the amount of powder in the hopper decreases the chamber will have less 'pressure' pushing the powder down and it won't fill the same way.

A good practice is to add more powder when the level in the hopper starts to drop by 1/3 or so. What you really don't want to do is set your powder measure with only a little powder in the hopper and then fill it up. As you add the weight of the new powder the powder charge will tend to increase - not a good thing if the load you're using is already on the heavy side. With most loads it won't make a major difference, but why take the chance?
 
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Rule #842. Stay the hell away from shitty digital scales. There is a lot of
junk out there.

A lot of digital scales are bleeping terrible. I'd only buy one that a fellow reloader has vouched for. I've seen some of these scales that suck so
badly that merely taking the dish off and then putting it back on with the same powder in it results in a different reading!

The nice things about balance beams is if used properly, they tend not to lie
to you very often. [laugh]

-Mike
I have been reloading for over 30 years and have replaced almost everything I started with except the cheap-o Lyman beam scale that came with my first reloading kit. It simply works too well to replace. Why spend hundreds of dollars when a $50 scale will work just as well?
 

RKG

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On scales:

When finished with the scale, I always move the heavy weight to the left (hundred grains or so). This does two things: it prevents the beam from moving on its knife edge (thus minimizing wear on that edge while the scale is out of service), and it forces me to reset the scale each time I use it (thus avoiding any potential to rely on an assumed "last setting").

When finished with the scale, I put a very light piece of plastic over the scale, in order to keep dust out of its crevices.

My scale is mounted on its own shelf mounted on a concrete block wall, so as to isolate it from any vibrations from operations on my bench or from the tumbler.

Many years ago, I sequestered a jacketed pistol bullet, weighed it, and put it in my small parts drawers. From time to time I take it out and weigh it again. So long as it keeps on weighing the same, I know that nothing gross has happened to my scale. (Poor man's check weight.)
 

Patriot

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I have both the RCBS 10-10 balance beam scale and the Dillon digital scale. The balance
beam scale sits quietly in my cabinet while the Dillon scale does yeoman work on my bench.
Of all my reloading equipment other than my dies, this scale is the one piece of equipment
that I use when reloading that has never let me down. My RCBS BB scale cannot come close
to the performance of my Dillon digital.
 
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EddieCoyle

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Filling the hopper to the top is important because it's not JUST the media that does the cleaning and polishing. It's the weight of the brass in there, grinding the media into the other brass that helps speed it all up. So, the more, the merrier, as they say in brass polishing.
This is excellent advice. Fill the tumbler with as much brass as it will hold.
 
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Label all primers (tape the lid and write on it with marker) if you tend to leave them in your primer feed.

If you use a Lee priming system, tape the lid on. Even the lids with the little plastic tab lock doesn't always work and your primers end up everywhere!

Another Lee trick... tape the tops of your powder measures. They tend to fly off a lot.

Make sure you have a lot of bench space. I have a 4 ft bench with 2 presses and it's tight working. I also mount my 12GA press in the middle sometimes... That jams up all available space.

Store your components properly. Get bins for boolits, label them and try and keep all flammable stuff together in a locked metal cabinet.

Keep spare decapping pins. They are cheap and you will break one sooner than later.

I add a cap of water and a cap of NuFinish to polish brass.

I cut some PVC pipe and use that to hold my Turrets with tie dies I use most often. That keeps them in a safe place and also protects the decapping pin.

Here is an older pic of my setup .I have added a LOT more since this pic.

 
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I found out the hard way to keep only the bottle of powder on the bench that you are using. I empty the powder hopper after each session so there can't be a mistake on which powder is in there. I found that pan pizza baking pans will hold around 600 bullets each pan and still be able to stack.[smile]


I built these to keep my turrets off the bench and give me more room.





And the last thing is that a three ball is a lot more comfortable than a wooden ball.[rofl]



 
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