Recreational Firearms Shooting. It's one of the SAFEST sports.




Are you interested in learing the pleasureable and rewarding art of reloading your own ammunition?
Clinics will cover Basic reloading up to Advance levels.
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The cap-and-ball or the flintlock enthusiast is a handloader in the nature of things. Being an enthusisast, he enjoys the loading process almost as much as the shooting. We could compare him to the trout fisherman who finds the darkest winter months brightened with glow to the east, that promise, invisible to some of us, that spring is mustering her forces for the grand march. He is busy with fly-tying, rod-winding and reel-tuning, or he is, if he likes to do things for himself.
No less hopelessly hobby-gripped is the pistol shooter who handloads. The gleaming empty centertfire cases flung through the ejector port of his semi-auto or punched from the cylinder of his sixgun are "golden numbers"in thier promise of enjoyment ahead. At times, some of us have shot mainly for empties to reload.
It's fun, and it's healthful relaxation, this careful unhurried handling of the components-cases, bullets, powders and primers. Bigtime match shooters and those on their way to such skill have complained about the labour involved, even when they used quqntity production tools. To me, some of those wails lacked the ring of sincerity. I pitied the winners equally for the toil of keeping their long rows of medals bright and shiny! One evening I put up several hundred 45ACP with a slow old tong or nutcracker tool. Plain honesty now recreates this chore as having ninety percent pleasure.
Handloading is economical: the tools pay for themselves in a few hundred rounds, unless our eyes are bigger than our stomachs and we buy a more elaborate outfit than our shooting will justify. Unless the tools are downright poor-and few are-their design and weight and power mean very much less in quality production than the skill and the care we use when operating them, We can develop the skill, and without the care we have no right to use them at all.
Any gun accident affects not only the shooter who is guilty of it, and perhaps innocent bystanders, too, but also our whole circle. Accidents get publicity, and almost everyone reads the news. Accidents give us shooters a bad name.
Digitizing your reloading Room

Reloading is an old-school art that is often passed down through generations.  It’s most common to start reloading because you have a family member who teaches you.  Most people are surprised when they start reloading to see just how old some of the methodology and equipment really is.  There are few, if any, digital tools in basic reloading setups.   Most reloading setups contain a sliding scale, a pair of calipers, and a powder thrower.  These relatively simple tools allow an experienced reloader to create ammunition to very precise specifications.

There is nothing wrong with using the old school tools and techniques of reloading and many old timers may refuse to change what’s worked for them for decades.  However, the old way isn’t always the best way just because it still works. New technology and equipment has allowed reloaders to bring their precision to an entirely new level.

The benefits to digital and electronic material are self evident.  Using digital and electronic equipment in reloading allows you to reload both faster and more precisely.  Faster is better, because it allows you to load more rounds in less time.  This can be very important when loading range ammo.   When you’re able to load more precisely, however, you will see the benefits downrange.   This is important if you handload your ammunition for match or hunting purposes.

Many serious shooters can improve their reloading experience with a few simple pieces of equipment from RCBS.

RCBS Electronic Digital Calipers
Regular dial calipers are a mainstay of reloading.  They allow the reloader to precisely measure the dimensions of the rounds they are working on.   It is all but impossible to reload without a trusty set of calipers.   However, a downside to dial calipers is that they’re somewhat slow to use. And they don’t always provide the most accurate measurement without staring at the little hash marks and counting off where you’re at.

RCBS has changed that with their Electronic Digital Calipers. These calipers are quick and easy to use, instantly displaying your measurements in both either the imperial or metric systems out to three decimal places.  These calipers allow you to measure internal, external, depth and step measurements.  They also include a sturdy carrying case for storage.

Digitizing Your Reloading Room

Electronic Digital Caliper

RCBS Electronic Digital Micrometer
While most reloaders are content with their set of calipers, a micrometer is what can take their handloads to the next level.  Typically, more serious reloaders include a micrometer in their process for measuring the smaller variables, which can effect accuracy.  A micrometer can be used to measure anything from your bullets to case head expansion.  Micrometers are typically much more precise than calipers due to the way in which they are constructed.   RCBS’s Electronic Digital Micrometer is no exception.  It features an easy-to-read screen, which can display values out to the .00005-inch or 0.001mm with an accuracy of .0001-inch/.0025mm.  A good micrometer is a great tool to have in your reloading toolkit, especially if you care about loading the most accurate rounds possible.

 RCBS Chargemaster Combo 120 Vac
A typical reloading setup uses a powder thrower and trickler in order to measure charges.  The thrower is the most common option, and can measure powder charges with reasonable accuracy.   Shooters requiring extra precision can use a trickler to get the final few tenths of a grain in order.   With a thrower, it’s common to only actually weigh your charges every certain number of powder throws, and to trust the thrower to do its job accurately.

Once again, just because this method works does not mean it is the best option.  RCBS’s Chargemaster Combo 120 Vac has everything you ever wanted for accurately charging your cases.  The Chargemaster will work with any powder and can accurately dispense loads quickly.  The hopper will hold up to one pound of the powder and it will dispense 60 grains of extruded powder in 30 seconds.   The Chargemaster can accurately dispense loads from 2 grains to 300 grains to an accuracy of 0.1 grain.  And it includes the Chargemaster 1500 electronic scale.

Digitizing Your Reloading Room

RCBS Rangemaster 2000 Electronic Scale and RCBS Chargemaster Combo 120 Vac.

RCBS Rangemaster 2000 Electronic Scale
A quality scale is necessary to any reloading setup.  Serious shooters will often weigh each component of the reloading process, and it is important that the scale they use functions accurately and quickly.   With a standard mechanical sliding scale, it is hard to measure numerous components and charges quickly, and it takes a lot of experience to do it both accurately and quickly.

Electronic scales vary greatly in quality and often times you get what you pay for.  However, the Rangemaster 2000 from RCBS is a great choice even on a tighter budget.  The scale electronically measures your components to an accuracy of 0.1 grains quickly and accurately.  Included with it are two calibration weights so that you can calibrate your scale as often as necessary to achieve peace of mind.   The scale is capable of working both from A/C or with a nine volt battery.  Additionally, for the left handed reloaders out there, RCBS has included an ambidextrous scale pan.

Digitizing Your Reloading Room

RCBS AmmoMaster Chronograph

RCBS AmmoMaster Chronograph
Every reloader needs a chronograph.  They are simply the best way to determine if you’re getting what you are supposed to out of reloading.  So what sets RCBS’s offering apart from the rest?  Well, right off the bat there’s the appearance.  The unit is manufactured to look like a bullet, but that’s not just for show. All of the parts to the
Ammomaster Chronograph fit within its body.  Additionally, the “bullet” part of the chronograph separates from the “brass” part and will sit at your shooting station, linked to the chronograph by wires.  This is a great feature.  Any shooter who has used a chronograph knows they both work best in bright sunlight, but that is also when they’re hardest to read from your shooting station.

The ability to have the readout right in front of you is very nice.  The AmmoMaster will also do some simple math functions such as calculating string averages so that you can record your data quickly and accurately on the range.   The unit itself is quite sturdy, and it uses plastic side supports for its diffuser instead of metal ones.  RCBS also sells the side supports separately online, because while none of us will admit it, we all know that accidents happen with chronographs.

Goodbye Brass

Let’s skip the appetizer and get right to the meat and potatoes of a manufacturer’s claims for a new cartridge case technology to replace the 150-year reign of brass. Here’s what Shell Shock Technologies (SST) says about their two-piece, nickel-aluminum-stainless steel 9mm Luger NAS3 cases:

  • Stronger, cheaper and half the weight of brass.
  • Greater corrosion resistance.
  • More internal volume.
  • More consistent ignition.
  • +P velocities without +P pressures.
  • Cases won’t stretch, no trimming required.
  • Withstands 40 or more reloadings.
  • Picks up with a magnet.
  • Can be anodized different colors for instant ID.


The NAS3 requires unique flaring and sizing dies (left to right) that use a synthetic rod “spring” to push cases, rather than pull them, from the dies.

Taking the last two claims first, OK, it would be pretty handy to effortlessly pick up our brass with a magnet after shooting a match stage. Coloring our cases means we can instantly separate our brass from that of other competitors. Plus there’s that unquantifiable “cool factor” of nonchalantly bringing something interesting, useful and attention-getting to a match. Many pistol competitors are also handloaders, so the other claims—did I mention “40 reloadings” and “no trimming?”—are of eyebrow raising interest to us.

Convenience and coolness aside, SST NAS3 may be the most significant advance in cartridge case technology since brass replaced the paper cartridge around 1870. Yes, steel, aluminum and polymer are options for cartridge cases, but all are “throwaway” technologies. Aluminum is too soft to safely reload; the Berdan primers are there to discourage reloading. Polymer cases get the same Berdan treatment for the same safety reason. Steel cases are also universally Berdan primed and comparatively difficult to work through dies, even if you are set up for reloading with Berdan primers.

Which of SST’s claims for their new 9mm cases can we check for ourselves? And which are really important to the handloader? Let’s take ‘em by the numbers.


Manufacturer tested at more than 65,000 psi—that’s almost 7.62 NATO proof load pressure—the NAS3 cases are incredibly strong. SAAMI standard for 9mm is 35,000 psi; 9mm +P is 38,500 psi. While we’re talking about this, let’s point out that though the NAS3 case is plenty strong, handguns are not built to take rifle cartridge pressures. The NAS3 case strength is no license for handloading foolishness.

NAS3 case heads can be color anodized.

The NAS3 case is a nickel-stainless steel alloy cylinder crimped to a nickel plated aluminum case head. Stainless steel does indeed have a higher tensile strength than brass and so the case material doesn’t “flow” forward on firing and eventually need trimming, like a brass case, and it can withstand much higher chamber pressures than brass. For the handloader, however, we must redefine “stronger.” The crimped joint between the NAS3 two-piece case head and body is a weak point for handloading. Though I just called the case body a “cylinder,” perhaps “funnel” would be a more descriptive word. The base of the stainless steel cylinder has a hollow tube extension that forms the primer’s flash hole channel; the end protruding into the case head is flared and crimped to bond the two pieces together.

Upon firing any cartridge, the chamber walls and the breech face support the case; gas forces expand in all directions but of course are directed by design to drive the bullet forward. There is no force of consequence that pulls the cartridge case forward on firing, so the NAS3 case/head crimp has no firing stresses applied that would tend to pull that joint apart.

However, standard dies utilize the shellholder to pull the case out of the resizing and expanding dies; the NAS3 case requires use of special SST sizing and flaring dies that don’t stress the crimp with that pulling action. The dies accomplish this by pushing the case from the dies with a compressible synthetic rod that acts like a spring.

During testing I found that pulling bullets will also overstress that head-to-case-body crimp because inertia and press-mounted bullet pullers apply force in that forward direction, essentially pulling the head and case body in opposite directions. Pulling bullets leaves a visible gap between the case body and head, indicating the crimp is loosened and necessitating discarding cases to avoid possible case head separation upon firing or extraction.

I brought this matter up with SST spokesman Andrew Vallance. “In the near future Shell Shock will be releasing a simple attachment accessory to eliminate this issue and enable the use of NAS3 cases with inertia pullers,” he said.

Life is full of trade-offs, so while we’re on the die subject I’ll mention another caveat to accompany the special dies: even though the SST resizing die has a carbide insert, the NAS3 stainless steel 9mm cases still require lubrication (though brass cases do not).


MSRP for SST NAS3 cases is $60 for the first 500, 12 each, with price reductions for larger quantities. An online check shows new 9mm brass cases run from 14 to 17. Price advantage: NAS3.


Yep. An average of 10 NAS3 cases weighed in at 29.7-grains each, compared to a mixed batch of 10 brass cases at 58.8-grains—almost exactly half the weight of brass.

Resist corrosion

The stainless steel portion of the SST case is corrosion-resistant.

My informal method comparing corrosion resistance to that of brass was to leave a couple cases in a saltwater solution for two weeks, expose them to the outside air for another two weeks, then compare them to similarly treated brass. The NAS3 nickel-stainless steel case body survived just fine, but its nickel plated aluminum case head corroded as much or more so than brass. A claim refutation, it appears, but let’s have a reality check: the test result satisfies curiosity but means nothing in the real world unless you store your cases in a saltwater solution.

More volume

SST claims two percent more case volume over brass due to the squared bottoms at the case head versus brass having rounded inside corners. The common method of measuring volume is to weigh an empty case, then fill it with water and weigh it again. Scales only promise a +/- .1-grain accuracy, so checking 9mm case volume would be inconclusive unless you measured about 100 NAS3 cases and then 100 brass cases from each of several manufacturers (after trimming all to the same length)—say, 400 cases total—and compared the results. Feel free, I’ve got a life to attend to. I’ll concede this one to the manufacturer.

Consistent ignition

An extension from the steel case body crimps into the nickel alloy case head to also form the primer flash hole.

This derives from beveling the flash hole from inside the case, a well-recognized accurizing trick used in precision shooting like NRA Long-Range and High Power competition. SST also enlarges the flash hole, not for shot-to-shot consistency, but helpful for reliable ignition when reloading with lead-free primers for indoor shooting. The enlarged flash hole is possibly desirable from a manufacturing standpoint, an aid perhaps in crimping the body-to-case-head joint.

We can infer consistent ignition from chronograph extreme spread/standard deviation (though other factors are also at work), but independent testing by munitions specialist H.P. White Laboratory has already done this work for us, finding fantastically low standard deviations of 0.093 fps and extreme spreads of only 3 fps with 124-grain FMJ bullets and 4.2-grain of Titegroup.

+P velocity without +P pressure

Without access to a pressure measuring facility, we can’t verify this with absolute confidence. However, we might make an inference that would also infer some veracity for the two percent volume claim above. We can load NAS3 and brass cases identically and fire them; Boyles Law says that the NAS3’s greater volume will result in lower pressure compared to brass cases, which should result in lower velocity, and velocity we can measure with a chronograph.

No trimming, 40 reloads

Pulling bullets overstresses the crimp, making cases unreloadable.

The last two claims regarding case stretching and 40 reloads are simple to check; though tedious and time consuming, they’re worth the effort. For the sake of alacrity in presenting you the SST case here and now, allow me some time (and pleasant weather) to attend the range with calipers and loading press to see whether we can get those 40 reloadings from a single case. Stay tuned for a report with reloading and chronograph results in the not-too-distant future. For now, let’s summarize the pros and cons of SST’s cases for the handloader.


No case stretching—hence no trimming is necessary.

  • Flash hole beveling—an aid to uniform powder ignition and hence accuracy—is factory applied.
  • Flash hole is enlarged for “lead-free” primers. While not widely available to handloaders yet (only Fiocchi Zero Pollution small pistol primers come to mind), we can expect more in the future.
  • Lower initial cost than brass, plus reloading each case five or 10 times more than brass cases is a significant saving.
  • Color coding bases for instant load ID.
  • Handloaders can get +P velocities without +P pressures. L-Tech Enterprises loads its 124-grain Full-Stop bullet in the SST case at nearly 1,200 fps and reports pressure below 38,500 psi.
  • Half the weight lightens our range bags, and we can sweep up fired cases with a magnet. Plus there’s the simple “cool factor” of unique-looking ammo, especially with color anodized case heads.


Resizing cases requires lubrication. Adding this step back into the handloading process negates one of the joys of clean, rapid reloading on the progressive press with carbide dies.

  • Pulling bullets necessitates throwing away the weakened cases.
  • Proprietary dies are required. Though any bullet seating die will work, the unique sizing and flaring dies are available only from SST, MSRP $99.99 for the pair.
  • New technology. As with anything new, there will be some wrinkles to iron out, sure to be discovered by a base of handloaders and shooters actually employing the technology over time.

So, let’s load up and find whatever wrinkles might need ironing … 

The 9mm Luger is SST’s debut case—and more calibers, including bottleneck rifle cases, are in the works. You can learn more about SST at

Coated Bullets

WARNING: All technical data in this publication, especially for handloading, reflect the limited experience of individuals using specific tools, products, equipment and components under specific conditions and circumstances not necessarily reported in the article and over which the National Rifle Association (NRA) has no control. The data has not otherwise been tested or verified by the NRA. The NRA, its agents, officers and employees accept no responsibility for the results obtained by persons using such data and disclaim all liability for any consequential injuries or damages.

There has been a revolution with lead bullets. No, they don’t now have Go-Onto-Target guidance systems to help you score a perfect hit every time (but that would be nice), it’s what they’re lubed with. The traditional lube is a dry, waxy compound that fills the lube groove(s) of cast bullets or is applied to the outside of the entire bullet, cast or swaged. The wax prevents the lead from sticking to the bore.

Figure 1. Traditional lead bullets are cast (left) or swaged (right). Both are lubed with a waxy lube.

Another method is to coat the bullets with a non-waxy lubricating compound such as nylon, molybdenum disulfide (moly), polymer and other compound. Moly coated pistol bullets have been around for a while, so it’s not new. Moly is also applied to jacketed rifle bullets, though the formulation and procedure for applying them are different.

Polymer is the hot, new coating for lead bullets. Well, that should read relatively new. Polymer is relatively new to the U.S. market, having been around a couple of years, but it has been used in other countries for some 20 years. But it’s catching on here in the U.S. and is quickly becoming the lubricant of choice by many lead bullet manufacturers.

There are several types of polymer coatings, but the most common is Hi-Tek coating made by J&M Specialty Products P/L in Australia. This coating has been used Down Under for some 20 years, but has only been used in the U.S. for a couple of years. But if you search the web for bullet-makers that use polymer coatings, the Hi-Tek brand is the most commonly listed. Hi-Tek coating compounds are also available to individuals who cast their own bullets and want to apply it themselves.

Some companies use their own proprietary polymer or non-polymer coating and are rather tight-lipped about its formulation, except to say that it is not the Hi-Tek brand, or to say whether it is a teflon, moly or polymer coating.

Coated bullets have also been used in factory ammunition. Federal loaded a nylon coated lead bullet, named Nyclad, for many years, but they have been discontinued (as per email communication with Federal).  Most recently, Federal has marketed a new polymer coated bullet that goes by the name Syntech.

Figure 2. Prior (Nyclad) and current (Syntech) coated bullets in Federal ammunition.
From the user’s point of view, there is not a huge difference in the appearance of most coated bullets. They cover the bullet completely, with some exceptions that don’t cover the base. They might be offered in a range of colors from some manufacturers, from white to black and everything in between. I must say that the variety of colors is pretty cool, and adds some fun to an otherwise fairly dull subject.
Figure 3. Coatings come in a variety of colors.

The use of coatings instead of waxy lubes means that the bullet no longer needs a lube groove. Many manufacturers have changed or added molds to their lineup that offer bullet designs with no lube groove.

Figure 4. Some coated cast bullet makers include a design with no lube groove in their lineup (right) in addition to the traditional design with a lube groove (left).

There might be some differences in the maximum velocities that these coatings should be limited to. Generally, the coatings are good for velocities in the 1200-1500 fps range, similar to copper plated bullets, which covers the speeds of most handgun cartridges. Some polymer coatings can reportedly be driven to 2000 fps or better, such as claimed by Eggleston Munitions, which makes them a possible choice for some rifle loads.

Many, but not all, of the coated bullets can be used in Glock’s polygonal barrels, according to the manufacturers.
Check the bullet manufacturer's website for details.

Generally, one can use lead bullet data for load development. My experience has been that they produce about the same velocity as cast bullets with the same powder charge, but may be a little slower.


Coated bullets offer several advantages for handloaders. Coatings that cover the entire bullet, including the base, reduce or eliminate the exposure to lead during handloading and airborne lead particles when shooting. It also means you no longer have to scrape out built-up wax lube from your seating and crimping dies.
lead bullets comes from the waxy lube. The smoke can be so bad you might think you’re shooting black powder. Sometimes the target disappears in the smoke after a few rapidly fired rounds. Coated bullets reduce or eliminate this smoke. They might not be as smokeless as copper jacketed or plated bullets, but they’re dar
Figure 5. Waxy lubes can build-up in dies. Coated bullets eliminate this problem.

Smoke is reduced or eliminated. Most of the smoke from shooting traditionally lubed n close.

Some coated bullets smell a little funny when fired. People have likened the smell to burning plastic. I don’t find it objectionable, and sometimes don’t smell anything at all. It might depend on which brand of coating you’re shooting, and which way the wind blows.

Considerations when handloading

The coating is thin and some precautions must be taken during loading to prevent the coating from scraping off. First, be sure the case mouth is sufficiently flared. Poorly flared cases can result in the coating being damaged when the bullet is seated. Second, use a minimal crimp. Like plated bullets, too much crimp can damage the coating. You want the coating to remain intact so it can properly encapsulate the bullet to prevent bare lead from coming in direct contact with the bore to prevent leading.

Donny Miculek from Hi-Performance Bullet Coatings made the following comments with respect to Hi-Tek coated bullets. Miculek used to own Bayou Bullets and sold the company not long ago, and is now concentrating on selling the coatings.

  1. Hi-Tek bullets must be sized properly to the bore of the firearm they are being used in, just like every other lead bullet out there.
  2. Care must be taken not to remove (scrape) the coating off the bullet as it is being seated.
  3. If the bore of a firearm is rough due to poor maintenance or poor machining, Hi-Tek will not work as intended.
  4. Care must also be taken not to undersize the bullet while crimping. This destroys bullet fit and decreases accuracy and increases fouling.
  5. Sometimes a gun doesn't like a particular bullet/load, and it takes time to find a combo that works, be it cast, coated or jacketed.
  6. Finally, it is up to the maker of the bullet to apply coatings correctly for best results.

How do they shoot?

The burning question is how well coated bullets will shoot compared to the traditionally lubed bullets that we are used to.  I tested this by using the same bullet design made by the same manufacturer who offers the bullet in two forms, traditionally lubed with wax, or coated with a polymer coating (in this case Hi-Tek). I tested this in two calibers, 9mm Luger and .45 Automatic. For the 9mm, I loaded 125-grain SWC cast bullets made by Missouri Bullet Company with 4.0 grains of Vihtavuori N340 loaded to 1.065-inch overall length. They were fired from a 1911-type pistol with a 5-inch Kart barrel. For the .45 Automatic I loaded 200-grain SWC bullets from SNS Casting with 4.2 grains of Bullseye loaded to 1.240-inch overall length.  The guns were 1911-type pistols with 5-inch Kart barrels. Testing was done at 25 yards with the guns mounted in a Ransom Rest. Velocity was recorded with a Shooting Chrony chronograph at about 10 feet.


Figure 6. Traditional wax lubed and identical coated bullets used for accuracy comparison
The velocity, an average of 15 shots, of the two types of bullets was nearly the same though the coated bullets were a little slower. The 9mm wax-lubed bullets averaged 1080 fps and the Hi-Tek coated bullets averaged 1071 fps. The .45 Automatic wax-lubed bullets average 799 fps and the Hi-Tek coated bullets averaged 777 fps.

The figures show 15 rounds fired into a single group for each bullet. The wax-lubed and polymer coated groups are nearly the same size, but the coated bullet groups are smaller. I’ve repeated the 9mm comparison with another barrel (Rock Island Armory) and another powder (Power Pistol), and found the same result: the polymer coated bullets shoot a slightly smaller group. The bottom line is that the coated bullets shoot at least as well as the wax-lubed variety.

Figure 7. The polymer coated bullets produced slightly smaller 15-shot groups than the wax lubed bullets.

I’ve checked the bore for leading after firing coated bullets and have been amazed with how clean it was. Really. In some cases it looked like a brand new barrel off the production line. In one instance I had fired around 200 rounds through a .38 Super at 1200-plus fps. The barrel was so clean that if not for a few flakes of gunpowder reside, it looked like it had never been fired.

I’m a fan of coated bullets. No more waxy lube on my hands or reloading dies, less smoke, no leading, non-abrasive and excellent accuracy. And the colors are awesome. What’s not to love? If you haven’t tried them, give them a shot. They might just be your next favorite bullet.

How often to clean?

The more I test and use handguns, the more respect I have for the operating reliability of these machines. Tolerances held by Kimber, Colt, Glock, Ruger, Smith and Wesson, SIG, and CZ are excellent. When we fire these handguns on the range, we should have every confidence that they will fire time after time without any type of problem. After all, many of these handguns are based on service pistols that were designed to function in horrific situations.

Bob Campbell shooting a pistol

Test firing and practice are essential. Maintenance follows.

The Colt 1911, as an example, is famous for operating when soaked in mud or snow. The SIG P226 came out on top in a rigorous test in which 228,000 cartridges were fired in a grueling program. Just the same, these handguns need maintenance. They need cleaning and lubrication. Many will run dirty, but they will not run dry.

If a handgun isn’t cleaned properly, eccentric wear will impede function. Normal wear is simply even wear. The finish is worn and the pistol becomes worn as it is used. The springs eventually wear and need to be replaced. The bore becomes worn. Eccentric wear is different.

The finish or the handgun’s parts are gouged by foreign material. Dirt, grit, and unburned powder make for eccentric wear. If the tolerances are such that good accuracy is guaranteed, the pistol simply will not be as accurate if the operating mechanism is filled with powder ash from firing. Lead buildup is even worse.

The question that is often asked is how often should we clean the handgun? The answer really depends upon the firearm. .22 caliber rimfire handguns should be cleaned most often. Due to the powder used in this caliber, the .22 is the dirtiest cartridge in common use. Few .22 handguns will go more than 300 rounds without a malfunction if they are not cleaned.

Fieldstripped SIG Sauer P Series pistol

The SIG P series is easily field stripped.

A modern 9mm self loading, firing good quality factory jacketed bullet loads, may go several thousand rounds before function begins to become sluggish due to the buildup of unburned powder—but we really don’t wish to abuse our firearms. Even handguns that will perform well without cleaning at a high round count still demand lubrication.

Revolver springs seem to never go out of whack, as they are not compressed when in storage. Self-loading pistols should have their recoil spring changed every 3,000 to 5,000 rounds in the case of the 1911 .45 at a similar event with the Glock, SIG, Beretta, and other quality self-loaders.

We all know of handguns that have been going since World War II without changing the springs, but this simply isn’t optimal performance. We purchase high-end pistols so we will not have to worry about reliability, true, but maintenance is part of every firearm.

View down the barrel of a pistol

This is a nicely clean and mirror polished barrel.

The Browning, Ruger, and Smith and Wesson .22s are recreational firearms and cleaned as needed. When the chamber begins to look cruddy and the bolt seems greasy with lubricant and powder ash, I clean the MKIII. When the pistol is clean, lubricant is applied for function. When powder ash is present there is a muddy soup. When you go to the range you will lubricate the handgun more heavily because you may fire hundreds of rounds of ammunition. A carry gun is best served with a thin application. I fieldstrip, wipe down, and lubricate the carry gun after every practice session. It gets a thorough field strip and inspection every 500 rounds or so. When you are faced with a critical incident, the events have gotten out of control and there are many factors beyond your control. One thing you can control is that the handgun will be clean, ready, well lubricated, and in top firing condition.

Field Stripping

Owner’s manuals usually have good information on field stripping the handgun. Field stripping simply means removing the slide from the frame of the self-loading handgun and then separating the barrel, spring, and recoil guide from the slide. Revolvers usually do not need to be field stripped at all, although you will need to learn to remove the cylinder from a single action revolver for proper cleaning.

A professional will learn detail stripping, in order to properly maintain the trigger action, but a hobbyist has no need to do so. Most agencies have an armorer to maintain issue firearms. If you seek to modify an issue handgun, let’s hope you and the Chief are on a first name basis.

REar view of a pistol barrel showing unburnt powder

This is a dirty barrel! In addition to affecting accuracy, dirt and grime can cause certain parts to wear prematurely.

It is quite easy to damage the ejector, extractor, or firing pin through attempting to disassemble the firearm without knowledge of the correct procedure. As an example, it is easy enough to field strip a Series 70 1911. The firing pin simply slips out after removing the firing pin stop. A modern Series 80 with a firing pin block is another matter.

Some pistols have blind holes and other variances that really make a difference. There is only one correct way to do things and that means study. Something as simple as allowing a spring to launch across a room may not be serious, but small parts may take flight and not be found.

As a rule of thumb, the better quality firearms are simpler. As an example, Smith and Wesson revolvers follow a template that hasn’t been changed in many years save for an upgrade to a transfer bar ignition. Less expensive clones of the Smith and Wesson have small parts that are easily lost, and which do not make sense such as springs in blind holes on the sideplate that complicate disassembly. On the other hand, Ruger has made the revolver simpler, more durable, and has taken the SR 1911 automatic and permanently attached the plunger tube. This results in one less item of concern in this venerable design. Take each handgun as a problem unto itself, and be completely familiar with the design and take down. Take down and disassembly is found in several tiers of difficulty.

semi-automatic pistol spring with broken shock buffer

Check your springs often. The shock buffer shown came apart and could have ended the pistol’s function.

Possibly the simplest to take down and clean are the Beretta 92, SIG P226, and Walther P 1-type self loaders. Unload the handgun, press a takedown lever forward and move the slide forward and you may perform routine maintenance. The CZ 75 is a little more complicated and the 1911 even more complicated, although not difficult. The smaller the handgun, the more difficult in some cases as downsizing parts results in design compromise. Depending on the handgun, the difficulty in fieldstripping may be a deciding factor when choosing your handgun.

When you begin to care for the handgun, get in the habit of setting aside a designated work area. The cleaning materials you use can be dangerous in some instances, although the primary concern is the strong smell. This odor is more pronounced in a small work area. A well ventilated area is important. You are dealing with chemicals that have certain properties intended to cut through lead and powder deposits.

A heavy plastic covering over a table is a good idea. Even a trash bag will work well. A wastebasket will serve to handle your cleaning patches when you are done with the chore. Cleaning is necessary and should be learned properly.

Two revolvers, one with the cylinder removed

Revolver chambers must be cleaned, and you must understand how this is achieved.

Before you clean, be double certain the handgun is unloaded and the ammunition isn’t in the same room. Many of the chemicals used in cleaning, kill the ammunition’s priming compounds so keep the material used to clean the handgun well separated from ammunition. Double-check the handgun’s chamber after unloading. Be certain the magazines are unloaded; they will need attention as well.

Wear eye protection. There will be droplets of solvent thrown in the air as you vigorously clean the barrel. Do not clean over an expensive table cloth! Field strip the pistol into its basic components. If cleaning a revolver, simply swing the cylinder open. Carefully remove the stock or grip panels before cleaning if you are going a bit deeper than fieldstripping.

The bore of the handgun is where most of the cleaning is needed. Powder and lead deposits are found in the grooves of the barrel. It takes a bit of effort to clean the bore even if you have used only full metal jacketed bullets and do not use lead. There is nothing wrong with lead bullets, they are both accurate and economical, but they do leave more deposits in the barrel.

Modern hard cast bullets such as those available from Magnus Cast Bullets are very hard and not really similar to factory swaged lead bullets. I use such bullets exclusively in my handloads. I run the brush into the solvent bottle and get it sopping wet.

Magnus hard-cast pistol bullets

Magnus hard-cast pistol bullets offer relatively low leading in the barrel.

I run the brush through the barrel several times, loosening the deposits in the bore. A mixture of solvent and powder residue will run from the barrel. I switch to cotton patches next. These patches are run through the barrel. Some of the first patches will be black with powder ash. Keep going until the patches come out clean.

If the deposits are very heavy, you may move back to the bore brush. If fairly light but consistent, then soak the cotton patch in solvent and run it through as well. But the last patch should be a dry patch. The final patch should have a light coating of gun oil. This helps preserve the bore from rust.

The procedure is modified with the revolver. While the barrel is cleaned in the same way each individual chamber of the revolver cylinder is cleaned. The area at the chamber step often collects powder and lead residue and should get particular attention. The recoil plate of the revolver gets dirty and may impede function.

When cleaning the self-loader, wipe the slide rails and long bearing surfaces. The feed ramp and the outside of the barrel should be clean. Check the cocking block and locking lugs. The cocking block is the section of the slide toward the rear that cocks the hammer during recoil. The locking lugs are the part of the barrel that locks into the slide.

Look for collected grit, powder ash, and lead. The firing pin channel collects powder ash and even brass particles, so clean the firing pin tunnel occasionally. The breech face of the self-loader gets dirty and must be addressed as well. This area should be cleaned often. You do not have to bathe the handgun in solvent, but be certain that you use an adequate amount in cleaning. Once you have cleaned the handgun, it should be lubricated.

The self-loading pistol should be lubricated on the long bearing surfaces where the metal comes into contact. Some handguns—such as the 1911—need to be well lubricated, the Glock needs a single drop of oil. Heavy lubrication is needed when shooting a match or during long practice sessions. Lighter lubrication is needed for carry. After cleaning and lubrication, reassemble the handgun and wipe the slide and frame off with a clean rag. And that’s it. Get it down pat and repeat as necessary, and you will have long service from the handgun.


Lee single stage press

Dillion Precision
Dillion CV-500 Tumbler

Dillion Precision
550 Progressive Loaderwww.

Reloading for personal satisfaction and bullet performance depends on how much time you would like to put into your project.
You are the person in control, just remember to follow all safety rules and guidelines.

Rifle Bullets

Shot Shells

It's never too late to get started.


Its hard to prepare accurate reloads without the right equipment and the right surroundings. I will try to focus on your loading location, whether it is at home or in the field. Most reloading activities take place in the home at a workbench, in the garage, basement: attic or even at the kitchen table. I will discuss reloading in the field later. So for now, I will focus on reloading at home.


I have spoken to hand-loaders who load in very tight surroundings, where space is limited. I knew of one individual who had about 500 square foot bunker dedicated to reloading and firearm maintenance, along with a shooting range. Regardless of your own situation, lets talk about some basics for a reloading area and some nice to have features.


The number one priority on your list should be to choose a location for your reloading, where you can work undisturbed. Reloading, especially precision reloading: requires your complete and undivided attention to the task at hand. Its fine to sit in front of the TV and do some case preparation chores, but when you are actually loading (handling powder or primers) try to give it your undivided attention. This is why a corner of your basement or garage is a pretty good location.


Your next priority is a solid reloading bench. The general rule of thumb is to make it as thick and as sturdy as possible. It doesnt have to be a big work area, but you need to fasten it to the floor if possible or, at a minimum, secure it to the wall. By eliminating bench movement you have eliminated another variable in your reloading equation. Make your bench as comfortable as you can. If you are serious about your hobby you will end up spending countless hours loading and trying new things. If you can make your bench at least five feet wide you will have plenty of room. Make sure it is at a comfortable height for you. It should be at least 38 inches high which enables you to use it standing or sitting on a standard 24 inches stool.


Pre- built workbenches are available almost anywhere, including home centers, hardware stores just to name a few sources. Be careful of these ready-made benches, as some of them can be quite shaky and would not be suitable for reloading unless they are beefed up considerable.


When you have located your reloading bench in the right spot, surround yourself with as much pegboard and sturdy shelving as you can. Prior to bolting any equipment in place, you may want to clamp your big tools down for a short time until you can get the feel of where to put everything.


Reloading is a popular hobby among shooting enthusiasts and is a great skill for frequent shooters.

Of course, safety is always the most important thing to consider, and there are safety precautions reloaders should always follow. For example, always wear safety glasses while reloading and anytime you are handling primers (e.g. loading primer tubes). Powder spills will happen. And always keep the reloader, the area around your reloader and the floor under it free from spilled powder.

If you are completely new to reloading, there are a variety of books and online information to help you get started. This article discusses some reloading tips and tricks I've learned over the years through my own experience and that of others.


Powder generally comes in five basic forms:

  • extruded tubular kernels
  • cut round flakes
  • cut sheet flakes
  • round ball
  • flattened ball

From time to time, manufacturers will modify the formula for a given powder, so always use load information from current reloading manuals or the powder manufacturer's online data.

The powder's shape and density directly affects how it will pack and then flow from your powder measure's reservoir. With some powder shapes, you must maintain a consistent fill or pack in the powder measure's reservoir to ensure each charge the measure throws has the same weight. I refill my powder measure when it reaches the three-quarter mark anytime the powder I'm using has cut round flakes or cut sheet flakes.


You must always visually confirm that the powder level is consistent in each and every case as you load — this is the single most important reloading step. If you find a load for a particular application that uses a bulky powder that fills the case more than halfway, all the better. Experience will help you calibrate your eye and enable you to detect differences in powder charges.

Inconsistent powder charges can cause serious problems. For example, when you fire a round with no powder or too little powder in the case, you will typically have a bullet lodged in the barrel. If you hear a slight "pop" instead of a bang when firing a round, stop, properly clear the firearm and make sure the bullet exited the bore.

With pistols and rifles, be careful about automatically doing a "tap/rack" and trying to fire another round during a match or in training. If the bullet did not exit, firing another round will likely cause a bulge in the barrel at best and may destroy the firearm and cause injury if the barrel bursts. In the past several months I've seen shooters destroy three barrels (and one pistol) due to reloaded ammunition with no or too little powder in the case and the shooter automatically doing a "tap/rack."

The other side to that coin is the dreaded double charge. A double charge can literally destroy your firearm and may cause serious injury. If you believe you have double charged a case and it got by you, you must not shoot any suspect rounds in that batch of reloaded ammunition. If you do, you may end up with a blown case at best; at worst, you can end up with a destroyed pistol or severe injury.

You can certainly pull all the suspect rounds; however, another means to find the suspect cartridge is to weigh every round in that batch. Any round that is overweight by more than a grain should be segregated and the bullets pulled.

The picture below shows a 9mm case that experienced a catastrophic failure on firing. It is possible that this round was double charged and the pistol could not handle the pressure. No one was injured in this incident, but the pistol was destroyed — an expensive round of ammunition.

Weight the charge

Weight at least three charges to ensure you are throwing a consistent charge weight when you first set the powder measure. With most powder measures, the charge weight should not differ by more than 0.1 to 0.2 grains across the three measurements. If I get a spread of 0.2 grains or more, I continue to weigh charges until I get a consistent reading.

Certain powders (e.g., long grain extruded and stick rifle powders) may not meter as uniformly due to their grain size and the fact that you often cut grains as you throw the charge. Experience weighing a lot of powder charges will teach you how to consistently throw accurate charge weights.

I have found that using a device to gently vibrate the powder measure helps maintain consistency in charge weight. I use an aquarium aerator pump which vibrates gently and is not excessively noisy to perform this function (see image below).

Polishing the interior of the powder measure body can also aid in maintain powder charge consistency. The polished surface helps powder flow more easily into the powder bar. This is easy to do yourself and several instructional examples of the process are posted on the internet.

Aftermarket powder measure accessories can help you throw consistent charges. A number of manufacturers offer micrometer meter inserts or powder bar kits that can significantly ease the process of achieving consistent measures (see image below).

One example that I use consistently throws charges of flake pistol powder within .01 to .02 grains of accuracy that's hundredths of a grain. My normal powder scale will not even measure to that degree of weight. I used a special gem scale to check its consistency.

Consistent stroke (OK, no giggling)

Another factor in consistent powder charges is cycling the powder measure or press using consistent force. Varying the amount of force you use as you cycle the powder measure or press can result in slightly more or less powder in the charge.

Additionally, on a progressive press, a heavy-handed operator who slams the lever hard against the stops can cause the powder to settle a bit more and/or bounce out of an already filled case, which will result in inconsistent charge weights. If you notice that powder has bounced out of a case, dump that charge and refill the case with a fresh powder charge.

If am interrupted during the reloading sequence, I always place the handle fully down before I deal with the interruption. When I am ready to begin the loading sequence once again, I raise the handle and then visually confirm the status of every station on the press (I use a progressive machine), ensure the powder fill is correct, that I have primed the case in the priming station, etc.

New brass

New brass can be harder to size, prime and seat bullets in than fired brass at times because the brass may be lacking lubrication. Sometimes the powder-thru expander can be hard to get back out of the case when dealing with new brass, particularly with short cases. This happens due to the brass being stripped clean and polished during the manufacturing process.

On progressive presses, the lurch when the case pops free from the die can upset powder drop consistency and bounce powder out of filled cases.

Brass residue buildup on the expander can also cause this problem. Periodically cleaning off the brass residue using a Scotch-Brite pad (or similar product) will restore smooth operation.

You can also tumble your new cases in used media for half an hour before reloading. The powder residue in the tumbling media will add just enough lubrication to the brass to ease the loading process. Another option is periodically swab a small (less than a drop) of lube on the expander.

Check your brass

When brass cases are reloaded a number of times, the brass will eventually develop splits upon firing. With pistol cartridges, these splits often (but not always) occur at the case mouth.

The picture below shows a piece of 45 ACP that split further down in the case body. The 300 AC Blackout case experienced a similar split. The 9mm case however, has a very unusual split pattern. This split may have resulted from using an ammonia-based cleaning solution to clean the brass.

Check your rounds

I check every round in a chamber checker. There are a variety of chamber checkers on the market, and they are well worth the money.

Prior to the advent of chamber checkers, it was common for pistol shooters to remove the barrel and check every round by hand. You can still do this; however, the chamber checker has made this step easier. A chamber checker's dimensions replicate the chamber of the barrel in your firearm. If your reloaded round does not easily go into and drop out of the chamber checker, then that round is suspect.

The picture below show several rounds that failed the chamber check.

Round 1 is clearly out of spec and may have been the result of a high-pressure load fired in a pistol with a chamber configuration that does not fully support the chambered cartridge case, Round 2 has the primer upside down (a condition that might have gone unnoticed without checking the rounds), and Round 3 is questionable and will likely not chamber.

The four rounds in the bottom row passed. As you can see, they sit flush or slightly below the chamber checker opening.

Reloading can be very satisfying and can save you money. I hope you've found these tips and tricks useful, and I welcome tips from readers

F class reloading

Most hunters start reloading to save money, but wind up reloading primarily to develop accurate loads for their favorite rifles.

However, reloading for long range shooting, bench rest or F-Class shooting is a different story. We don’t know any world-class centerfire rifle shooters who use factory loaded ammunition. The commercial stuff is fine for regular hunting distances, but when you stretch it out to 500 yards or more, it fails miserably. Hence, it is necessary to reload for accuracy.

Before we list the reloading equipment that you need, hang on to your wallet and sit down. The costs are sure to give you heartburn. However, once you have taken the initial plunge on equipment, it doesn’t cost appreciably more to load match-grade ammo than your favorite deer or elk loads. And, if you use the same techniques and equipment for reloading your hunting stuff, you will be amazed at the newfound accuracy of your favorite rifle.

Reloading for Long Range Shooting

The additional equipment for reloading match-grade ammunition has as much to do with the rifle as the ammunition. The chamber tolerances of competition rifles are very precise for maximum performance. Most factory rifles are manufactured with somewhat less precision due to the necessities of mass production. As such, they easily accommodate the variations in factory ammunition. While it is true that factory ammunition meets the minimum specifications of each caliber, the +/- tolerances vary from company to company, as well as from lot to lot.

Such variances, while satisfactory for hunting rifles, are not acceptable in a competition or long range hunting gun.

Most competition shooters re-load one cartridge at a time and have no need for multi-stage turret presses. As such, if you have a good single stage press you are in business when reloading for long range shooting. If not, we would suggest the Redding Big Boss II to handle some of the newer match dies with 1 ” threads. The Boss II is supplied with a steel bushing for use with standard 7/8” dies. The bushing can be removed to handle 1” dies.

The number of tools that you will need for brass preparation depends upon the brand you select. If you decide to use Lapua or Norma brass, you won’t need buy a concentricity tool or flash hole reamer. But, if you use Winchester, Federal, R-P or Hornady brass, you would be well advised to purchase those tools to “true up” your brass before loading. The reason is that their cases are softer, with thinner walls. Softer brass “flows” more readily during firing and needs to be brought back to specs prior to reloading (Lapua and Norma brass also flow, but to a lesser extent). If a hunter reloads softer brass without “truing” the neck and flash hole, accuracy will be in the neighborhood of 1” at 100 yards. That’s quite acceptable for most big game hunting, but not good enough for long range hunting or competition shooting.

One thousand yards is a long, long way out there.

Susannah shooting an F-Class match in New Mexico
Susannah long range shooting an F-Class match in New Mexico

Before everyone gets on my case about brass, we know an NRA Master shooter who uses .308 R-P brass because he can squeeze an extra couple of grains of powder into the case due to it’s thinner wall. But, he has to turn and trim the necks after every firing, check them with a concentricity gauge (throwing out a fair number of cases), ream out the flash hole and debur the flash hole inside the case before reloading. That’s a lot of extra work for a slight gain in powder capacity. As of this writing, his loads have not been more accurate than folks using Lapua or Norma brass.

1000 yd Targets Through a 45x Spotting Scope
1000 yd Targets Through a 45x Spotting Scope

You get what you pay for. Lapua is considered the “standard” for brass quality, and Norma is superb if you aren’t worried about cost. Susannah and Mary use Lapua brass because we don’t want to spend the additional time on case preparation required with inexpensive brass.

Sinclair International Priming Tool
Sinclair International Priming Tool

Many reloaders use the primer attachment on their press for seating their primers. That is great for hunting, but problematic for competition. Match primers need to be seated snugly against the bottom of the pocket, but not compressed. This is difficult to do consistently with a press. Most competition reloaders use a hand priming tool. These vary in price from the $14.95 for the Lee Auto Prime to $33.60 for the Hornady Handheld Priming Tool and finally $119.99 for the Sinclair Priming Tool. We do not recommend the Lee tools as they are not manufactured to hold up under extensive use. We prefer the Hornady or Sinclair tools. They will all do what is required after you develop the “feel” for them. Jim bought the Sinclair tool due to it’s stainless steel and aircraft aluminum construction. You can’t break it and it’ll last a lifetime.

After carefully priming each new case with the hand tool, you are ready for the powder.

You can use just about any powder measure. They range from $30 up to $300, depending on their accuracy. Jim actually uses an vintage Pacific volumetric measure that cost $15 when it was new. Why not a more expensive one? He weighs every load, even when using his friend’s Harrell Classic Culver measure. Ok, he's picky. But, he wants every load to be within +/- 0.05 of a grain. Because each charge is weighed, there is no reason to spend money on a more accurate powder measure.

With that being said: If you don’t want to weigh every charge, then buy the most accurate measure you can afford. The Harrell powder measures are very accurate and range in price from $200 to $350. However, the most convenient device around is the RCBS Chargemaster Powder Dispenser/Scale Combo at $350. It dispenses your powder and simultaneously weighs the charge.

An RCBS Chargemaster Gun Powder Scale is very handy when reloading for long range shooting.
An RCBS Chargemaster Gun Powder Scale is very handy when reloading for long range shooting.
Gempro 250 Precision Powder Scale
Gempro 250 Precision Powder Scale

When reloading for long range shooting, buy a good digital scale if you are going to weigh each charge. We realize that a lot of folks swear by the balance scales, but they have some issues which can affect their accuracy. When shopping for a digital scale, DO NOT buy an Asian knockoff. There are a lot of them around (internet auction sites abound with them). These cheap copies are inaccurate, break easily and carry no warranty. Buy your scale from a reputable dealer. Don’t go cheap, as your rifle (and life) depends on an accurate load. Among the best scales are RCBS, Dillon and Sinclair, with prices ranging from $200 to over $300. We have used a My Weigh DuraScale for several years with no complaints. However, the GemPro-250 from Sinclair is hard to beat for accuracy. This scale weighs your loads to within 0.02 grain. It costs $150, but is well worth the price if you are going to do a lot of reloading.

Your choice of bullets depends on the caliber of rifle and barrel twist that you are using. For example, in 6.5mm x 284 Norma, the 142 grain Sierra HPBT (MK) or 139 grain Lapua Scenars are most commonly used (1 in 8 twist), while in the 6mmBR, the 105 grain Berger VLD or 107 grain Sierra HPBT (MK) are preferred (1 in 8 or faster twist).

When reloading for long range shooting the choice of bullets for the .308 Win and .300 WSM is the subject of an ongoing debate among competition shooters. That also applies to seating depth, and whether you are going to “jam” your bullet into the lands or “jump” it. Our suggestion is to seek out an experienced F-Class or Bench Rest shooter and get their advice for the rifle and twist that you are using.

Now comes the fun part. You have fired your new brass once and are ready to prepare it for reloading.

Please read through these reloading steps for long range shooting, several times, before beginning.

Step 1: Place your fired brass into a tumbler for cleaning. Use a mildly abrasive media like ground corn cob. Adding a little brass polish will not only enhance the cleaning, but will extend the life of your media.
Step 2: After removing the cases from the tumbler, make sure that all media is out of the case and clean the inside of the case neck with a neck brush to remove any powder or media residue.
Step 3: De-prime the brass with your de-capping die (or universal decapping tool), making sure that you adequately lubricate the case prior to inserting it into the die. A stuck case can damage your die, not to mention the frustration you experience. However, sooner or later, you are going to get a stuck case. Thus, we recommend buying a
Stuck Case Remover if you don't already have one. These handy tools are inexpensive and well worth the price. Some match die sets combine de-capping and full length sizing into one operation to save time. If you have this type of die set, Step 3 and 5 will be combined.
Step 4: Use a primer pocket uniformer to cut the depth of the primer pocket to the correct SAAMI specs, as well as clean carbon out of the pocket. This step is essential for proper seating of the primer. Use a flash hole deburring tool to clear and clean the flash hole from inside the case. Check the flash hole in the primer pocket to make sure that it is completely clear.
Step 5: Full length resize the case with your match dies. If you can’t afford Alan Warner’s custom dies, which are absolutely the best in the world (they cost about $500), then we would use the Redding Type S Match FL Die Set with titanium nitride coated bushing at $190. Match dies cost more than twice the price of “regular” dies, but they are essential if you want to obtain maximum accuracy in your reloads. Again, make sure the cases are properly (but not excessively) lubricated before using the FL die to avoid sticking.
Step 6: Measure the diameter of the case neck with a micrometer and turn it down to original tolerances with a neck turning tool (if needed). Here again, it may not be necessary with Lapua or Norma brass, but will definitely be needed with the other brands. There are several good neck turning tools on the market, ranging in price from $80 to $110 dollars. Sinclair and K&M turners are among the best.
Step 7: Measure the case length with a set of calipers and trim to specification. Just about any regular case trimmer will work. Here again, you have a variety of choices from Redding, Lyman, RCBS, Holland's, Forster, Wilson and Sinclair. Prices also vary, from $50 to $150. We use Jim's original Forster with new pilots for our 6mmBR and 6.5mm x 284 Norma.
Step 8: Deburr the case mouth and slightly chamfer the inside to more easily accept VLD or boat tail bullets. Most reloaders have an inexpensive deburring tool @ $20, but the chamfer tool will cost you an extra $25.
Step 9: Prime your prepared case, using the hand priming tool. Be careful not to compress the primer, but make sure that it is seated level in the bottom of the pocket.
Step 10: Select your powder, pick your load and charge the cases as outlined earlier.
Step 11: Select the correct bullet for your caliber and seat it to the desired depth, using a match grade seating die, like the Redding Competition Seating Die @ $125 – $175, depending on caliber. For details about bullet seating, refer to your manual and/or seek the advice of a known expert.
Step 12: Go out to the range and practice, practice, practice–then come home for more reloading! And yes, the order of some of the steps for reloading for long range shooting can be changed. I simply laid out how we do it, because it works for us.

For the purposes of this article, we have assumed that you already have the tools found on most reloaders bench, such as powder funnels, powder trickler, case neck brushes, case lub pad, case lubricant loading blocks, case tumbler, etc. If you are just starting out, they can be ordered online along with the other reloading tools.

Those of you considering reloading for long range shooting are ready to go back to the beginning of the article with a calculator and start adding things up. To save you a bit of time and trouble, we have included the following reloading equipment list. The prices are estimates (subject to change over time), some tools will be higher and others will be lower, but the bottom line is that you are looking at almost a thousand dollars to get set up properly for reloading for long range shooting. Once these tools are on your bench, you have the satisfaction of knowing that everything is a one-time purchase. From now on, all you have to buy are primers, power, bullets and new cases (after 3-4 firings), pretty much the same as you would for your “regular” ammunition.

Cleaning your revolver

The Ultimate Guide to Revolver Disassembly and Cleaning

The Ultimate Guide to Revolver Disassembly and Cleaning

When it comes to cleaning firearms, gun owners tend to fall into one of two categories: the “I’ve never cleaned it and never intend to” group and those who clean whether the gun needs it or not. How often firearms should be cleaned depends on frequency of use and what they’re used for, but that’s a discussion for another time. The purpose here is to go over a few of the common revolver designs on the market and how to field strip them for maintenance.

Disassembling your revolver to this extent is not necessary on a regular basis but is meant for repairs, parts upgrades and annual in-depth cleaning. Armed with this knowledgepun intendedyou’ll be able to clean and maintain your revolvers.


  • Manual and/or revolver assembly and maintenance guide (just in case)
  • Gun mat or towel
  • Non-marring hammer (check out Brownells 1-inch Nylon/Brass Hammer)
  • Magnetic-tipped gunsmith screwdriver set (try Brownells Magna-Tip Screwdriver Set)
  • Allen key/hex wrench set, if applicable (try this Bondhus Gorilla Wrench Set)
  • Rebound slide tool (S&W Rebound Slide Spring Tool)
  • Tweezers (try the Tweezer/Magnifier pack from Brownells)
  • Pin punch (try the Starrett Pin Punch Set)
  • Safety glasses (check out SSP Eyewear)
  • Gun CLP or lubricant
  • Kit with cleaning rod, jags or loops, patches and brushes
  • Rag or paper towels
  • Q-Tips (handy for small areas)

I'll illustrate the disassembly and cleaning procedures with a Smith & Wesson Model 686, which is built on the company's L-frame.

Step One:

As always, make sure your revolver is unloaded. Follow the four golden rules of gun safety when checking: keeping your finger off the trigger, aim the gun in a safe direction and open the cylinder. Empty the cylinder, if need be. Also take the time to ensure the barrel isn’t obstructed in any way.

Step Two:

Remove grip panels or sleeve. This step is one reason why it’s important to use gunsmith-specific screwdrivers. When the screwdriver bits do not precisely fit the screw, they can easily slip and damage the gun. On the other end of the spectrum, if they’re too large, the overhang could scrape at the edges, causing damage. Oversize bits also will not fit if the screw is recessed.

If a grip panels sticks after screws are completely loosened, use the tip of your finger or a soft, non-marring tool to gently nudge the panel loose. Prying at the edges of the panel with metal implements might scratch or gouge the panel itself or the frame beneath.

Step Three:

Remove side plate screws. Depending on its age and model, your revolver may have three, four or five screws, the fifth of which is located at the front of the trigger guard. Between 1905 and 1955, many revolvers were manufactured with five screws. The uppermost side plate screwthe “bug screw"was discontinued around 1956 and after approximately 1961, the screw in front of the trigger guard was also eliminated. Today, most Smith & Wesson revolvers are made with three screws, although there are some being produced with the “classic” five-screw design.

As you remove the screws, lay them on your mat in specific order to ensure they are replaced in the correct location. Some screws are different sizes and only fit in certain holes but with time even screws that are supposedly the same size might fit more precisely in the space they’ve occupied for so long. Hold the gun securely while working with the screwdriver to avoid slipping and scratching the revolver’s side plate.

When the side plate screws are removed, it’s time to remove the side plate itself. Holding the grip in one hand, use your non-marring hammer to tap the trigger guard and grip frame until the side plate loosens (use the nylon end of the hammer). Once it is loose, lift the side plate free and set it aside.

In the process of removing the screws and side plate, it is possible to remove the cylinder. Open the cylinder and slide it forward to remove it. Certain newer revolverstypically DA models such as the pictured Smith & Wesson 686have a hammer block. The hammer block is used as an internal safety mechanism and can fall out once the side plate is removed. Lift the hammer block free from the gun and set it aside with the other parts. Do not disassemble the cylinder. There is rarely a need to do so. You may clean the cylinder and related parts without separating them from one another.

Step Four:

Remove strain screw from grip. After removing this screw, which is found at the bottom of the grip, the main spring will also come free. Set strain screw and main spring aside. In some models and variants, the main spring assembly will include an actual spring and require different removal methods. For those cases, please refer to Ruger Super Redhawk summary below.

Step Five:

Remove the hand. This can be accomplished by levering the upper end out of the frame and working the lower end up and out of the trigger. In some models, the hand is removed as a part of the trigger assembly rather than separately. In such cases, the hand should stay within the trigger assembly, in part because its pins are holding a spring in place within the assembly. Pulling the hand free could result in the spring coming free and launching itself across the room.

Step Six:

Remove the hammer. Do this by using your support hand to pull the cylinder release back. Continue holding the cylinder release back and pull the trigger. This allows you to lift the hammer free from the revolver’s frame, a process that may require carefully wiggling the hammer up over the hammer stud holding it in place. On models like the pictured Smith & Wesson 686, the main spring stirrup will be hooked onto the hammer but not attached. In those cases, be sure you pay attention to the direction in which the mainspring stirrup is mounted to the hammer, since it can easily fall off during removal. Having done so, slowly release the trigger.

Step Seven:

Remove rebound slide and internal spring. The rebound slide is a small rectangular bar containing a spring located behind the trigger and below and behind the hand. This part must be removed with caution, not only because of its internal spring but because it works in tandem with the trigger lever. Do not force the rebound slide straight up or you might damage the lever. Work slowly.

If you picture the hand and rebound slide as a backwards upper-case “L,” the rebound slide would be the base. Cover the open end of the rebound slide with the finger of one hand to contain the spring within during removal and use the flat of a standard screwdriver to carefully lift and remove it. When setting it aside, leave the spring inside for safekeeping.

Be cautious when removing or replacing springs. I once had a moment of mad ninja skills and snatched a spring from midair as it attempted to escape but since those instances are rarer than we all wish, take the time to ensure your springs stay where you want them.

Step Eight:

Remove the trigger. Be aware there is a small spring in this area that is quite difficult to replace if it is removed or flies free. Be attentive and deliberate as you work.

Step Nine:

If your revolver is a 4 or 5-screw model your next step will be to remove the fourth screw which is located on the face of the trigger guard. The cylinder stop and spring are part of this step, so proceed with caution. The spring is small and under significant pressure.

If applicable, remove the fourth screw. Then, using either the edge of a screwdriver or a punch, slowly push the edge of the cylinder stop down through the opening in the frame so it can be removed. It is helpful to use tweezers to assist in the removal of the cylinder stop, but do not use pliers because it is too easy to accidentally squeeze and damage the small part. Keep the finger of one hand over the spring to stop it from coming loose and flying off, never to be seen again. Set aside cylinder stop and spring.

Reassembly Tips:

Cylinder stop: Use a prick punch or other slender tool to press the spring into the frame to allow you to install the cylinder stop.

Rebound slide: The task of replacing the rebound slide and spring becomes much less daunting with a rebound slide tool, which is slotted to allow for compression of the spring around the rebound slide stud. A standard screwdriver can also be used.

Side plate: To replace the side plate, simply press it into place with your hands. It won’t be completely flush with the frame yet but when you put the screws in, it should finish the process.

Cell phone: Remember, taking pictures as you go is an excellent way to ensure you do not forget where something goes or what direction it should be facing. (It also lets you know what happened if you finish the job with mysteriously left-over parts.)

Summary of field-stripping the Ruger Super Redhawk, a large-frame magnum revolver:

1) The main spring assembly is removed by cocking the hammer and placing an appropriately-sized disassembly pin or nail into the hole at the base of the hammer strut. Controlling hammer with thumb, slowly pull trigger and remove main spring assembly. Do not remove the pin or nail from the strut.

2) Pull trigger and hold in rearward position to remove hammer pivot from base of hammer and then lift hammer from frame before carefully releasing trigger.

3) Use the rounded end of the strut from the main spring assembly to press the trigger guard lock plunger. Plunger is located within the gun’s frame at the top of the grip, behind the trigger guard. Once plunger is depressed fully, lever trigger guard assembly from frame. (If the strut is too difficult to maneuver you can use a screwdriver, punch, or other object to depress the plunger.)

5) Press cylinder release to swing cylinder assembly open and remove entirely from frame.

If you count every revolver model and variant on the market, your numbers will reach not into the dozens but into the hundreds. If you have one of the countless Smith & Wesson L, J, K, or N-frame revolvers, this guide will be a complete resource for you. If you have another model entirely, no worries. Think of this guide as a starting point, and go from here. Manuals and properly executed revolver books are your friend. Go forth and field strip, and learn to maintain and fire your revolvers from the inside out.

Reloading is a great way to enjoy the shooting sports.

You are the engineer of your bullets performance

All materials and videos are supplied, chronos are supplied for field tests.

These are one day clinics, cost is $40. non refundable per session.

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Hard Primers/Soft Primers.
One of the most persistent myths in shooting is that there are hard primers and soft primers. This isn't true. The real issue is primer sensitivity or-more frequently-something within the firearm or loading process which causes the firearm to go click instead of BANG.
All four of the major ammunition manufactures make primers and they all do it the same way.
Thin brass or steel in huge rolls are bought from a supplier. From it, primer cups and anvils, respectively, are stamped by simple presses. Every manufacture does it this way. A soapy lubricant is used in the stamping operation, both cup and anvil are then washed, dried and proceed to become primers. Some primer cups receive a thin nickle plating. While there may be some small differences in specifications for the raw material from one maker to another, none of it is hardened.It could'nt be stamped correctly if it was.
It is commoon knowledge that brass-work hardens with bending, but the only place this could happen to a significant degree would be along the radius where it rounds out from bottom to sides. There is no need to worry much about hardness in that area since it isn't where the firing pin strikes. There have been instances where that area became so hard as to be brittle, and there could be tiny perforations when the primer was fired. Some makers include an annealing step to prevent this possibility. But since there is no "work" done to the bottom of the cup, it is much less affected and remain essentially as it came from the mill. Still everyone who reloads has probably experienced a misfire, and found that the firing pin impression on the primer was much smaller than normal. It is perfectly to conclude that the primer was hard, but the trouble can almost always be traced to other causes. Very often that primer will fire if it is hit again. 
Remember you can save a considerable amount of money if you have the time and patience to do your own reloads.

You also have control of the performance of the ammunition you make.

If you are looking for quality bullets, maybe you should contact Wolf at WOLF BULLETS. For more information click here.

Here are more bullet suppliers you may want to contact.

 If you are looking for a good gunsmith click here.

Are you in the market for reloading supplies, you should consider checking out The reloaders Bench.

Phone # 613 332 6589 

Whether you are new to reloading or an expert we can learn from each other.

From time to time I will highlight a particular cartridge, we can discuss it or develop loads for best performance. You may also suggest a cartridge of your own.

Contact me.

Why clean your firearm barrels.

Cleaning firearms have changed so much in the past few years that it is sometimes even hard for shooters to keep up with all of the new miracle concotions that claim to be the perfect cleaning product. There is no single cleaning product available.

Cleaning today still takes elbow grease, the right solvents, the correct equipment and a routine procedure. The introduction of coated bullets, have reduced the cleaning requirements for some rifles, but it has not eliminated the need for proper cleaning.

Rifles are cleaned more often now than they have ever been in the past. We all realize by now that copper fouling in the bore is bad news and detrimental to continued accuracy. Many new rifles which were considered "shot out" have had accuracy restored by simply giving them a good cleaning. When a bullet is fired through a barrel under pressure of 45,000 psi. or more, the bullet swages its way through leaving a coating or layer of jacket material in the bore. In addition the residue of burned powder. The next fired round leaves another deposit of material over the powder residue and compresses the bottom layer of copper. This sequence of events occour every time a bullet passes through the bore.

This compression takes place at around 45, 00 psi. and at extremely high temperatures. As repeated shots are fired this sequence lead to bore conditions that are detrimental to accuracy. Only proper cleaning will restore accuracy.

All the fancy actions, reloads, triggers, and custom stocks are meaningless to accuracy if they are not attached to a clean, well maintained barrel. Competitive shooters know that one characteristic of a good quality barrel is that the bore is uniform from one end to the other. Bore diameter tolerances on match grade barrels are held to 0.0001". This is great if the bore is kept clean, without regular cleaning fouling takes place building up in the grooves.

Attention! Do reload your own ammunition? then read on.
 The criminal code dictates that a person in possession of explosives reveal the location of the explosives and if not he/she has committed the crime of failure of duty to warn.
Firstly, the gunpowder has to be placed in a wodden container, this container should be no less than 3/4 of an inch thick and should not have any ferrous hardware.
It should be kept locked and print the word "EXPLOSIVES" on it in LARGE contrasting letters The box can contain no more than 10kg of powder. Smokeless and black powder are aggreated.
Then place the explosive box in a place where it can be easily removed in case of an emergency.
You should then notify the local FIRE DEPARTMENT where the box is and it's contents. BE SURE YOU ARE TRUTHFUL.
Because ammunition is considered an explosive it should be kept in one place as well. The limit is 225kg of powder contained in "SAFETYCATRIDGES". This is just the weight of the powder exclusive of the bullet shot, brass, primer and hull.

The Following is the most recent release from the Natural Resoruces Canada 

NATURAL RESORUCES CANADA - Explosives Regulations Project

July 28, 2006 - Ammunition Update - Hand loading Regulations


Currently, the government will not be proceeding with any new

Hand loading regulations.


Hand loading, when properly practised, has been shown to be a safe

activity and it has a good safety record. Any potential amendments that are made to the regulations will only be done after a need has been established and extensive consultations have been conducted.


Making major with CFE pistol powder.


IPSC and USPSA Open Division shooters will find the new Hodgdon CFE Pistol gunpowder (CFE) of interest. The spherical powder has a double base medium burn rate listed between Winchester AutoComp and Ramshot Silhouette on Hodgdon's burn rate chart. Hodgdon's published data for .38 Super and 9mm Luger indicate that it produces similar velocities and pressures as AutoComp (AC). For these reasons, reloaders will be eyeing it as a potential powder for making Major power factor in .38 Super, 9x23, 9mm Luger and 9x21 because AC is also popular for this purpose.


Reloading 101>>