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Safety Tips

 Reloading

Invest in one or more quality reloading manuals and read them thoroughly before attempting to reload. These manuals can help guide equipment and supply purchasing decisions, and they will insure an understanding of reloading process and why it must be done in a specific way. Reloading is safe and easy, but only if you’re informed.

Only use smokeless powder, black powder or Pyrodex® as directed by a recognized source of reloading data. Do not mix powder types or attempt to substitute one for the other; smokeless powder generates much higher pressures. Do not use unidentified powder and do not use powder that has become mixed on the bench or contaminated by other substances.

Follow loading recommendations exactly. Don’t substitute components for those listed. Start loading with the minimum powder charge in the loads shown. Small changes in powder charges, varying bullet weights and primer types (i.e. large rifle vs. large rifle magnum), as well as large changes in ambient temperature can significantly alter cartridge pressure and accuracy. Bullet of the same weight, but different type or manufacture may not be substituted. Jacket hardness, coatings and small dimensional variations require independent load workup.

Smaller capacity cartridges are more sensitive to variances in powder charges, bullet weights, primer performance, crimping pressure and bullet seating depth. Exercise even greater care when loading handgun cartridges in particular.

Stay alert when reloading. Don’t reload when distracted, disturbed or tired. Reloading is not difficult, however, it takes a good amount of concentration to yield quality results. If you are unsure if you’ve completed a specific step in the process, back up to a step you are confident you have completed.

Prevent missing & double charges. Use powder level checking does when ever possible, keep an eye on the powder dispensing station of a progressive press and visually verify powder levels when cases are placed in a loading block. Don’t back up a progressive press or make partial strokes with the operating handle.

Organize your work area, and work in an organized fashion. Once you’ve found a sequence of operations that you are comfortable with, stay with it. Consistent steps and consistent methods lead to consistent loading results. Label components and reloads for easy identification.

Set up your reloading bench so powder and primers will not be exposed to heat, sparks or flame. Try to arrange your work area so combustible items are isolated from one another, as well as from the reloading press. Don’t leave open powder and primer containers on the bench when not in use.

Always wear safety glasses. Don’t smoke in the area. Keep everything out of the reach of small children. Keep your area clean and uncluttered. Do not eat or bring food into the area. Keep the area locked when not in use. Always wash your hands after reloading; powder, primer compounds and lead are only some of the toxic materials you encounter when reloading.


Handling Smokeless Powder


Never mix powders of different kinds. Powder burn rates are measured under very controlled conditions. Combining powder types will not yield blending or even predictable results. Follow the data as presented in your reloading manuals.

Store powder in a cool, dry place and in it’s original container. Smokeless powder is very stable material and will not deteriorate over a very long period of time as long as reasonable care is exercised in storage and use. When setting up for a reloading session, only pour out enough powder for the session and return it to its original container when the session is completed.

Ideally, powder charges should be measured by weight, however most dispensers meter by volume. Once you have your volume dispenser calibrated for a specific load at the beginning of a reloading session, scale check periodically to verify charges are remaining as calibrated. If you find metering  has changed, stop and back up through your work until you are sure you have removed any incorrectly charges cartridges.

Smokeless powder is not classified as an explosive, however it is extremely  flammable. Consult you reloading manual for proper methods of disposal. Do not use a vacuum cleaner to pick up spilled powder. Sparks from the vacuum’s motor may ignite the powder.


Handling Primers


Primers types vary a great deal in the amount of energy they produce and the effect  they have on a given powder charge. Primers that may have  the same external dimensions may have a completely different internal compound. Follow instructions, as they appear with load data, and do not attempt substitutions such as using magnum primers in place of standard primers. Don’t use primers you can’t identify.

Primers fire through compressing. Do not force primers into position. If excessive resistance is felt while seating, stop the operation and identify the problem. Do not attempt to decap live primers in your press. Fire them in the appropriate gun, then decap.

Don’t not alter flash holes in primer pockets. This will change the firing characteristics of the primer and cause a change in cartridge pressure.

Keep primers in the original packaging until used. Return unused primers to the same package. Don’t dump together and store in bulk. There is a risk of mass detonation if one is ignited. Primers will deteriorate if improperly stored. Keep them in a cool, dry place. Don’t handle primers with oily or greasy hands; this type of contamination can cause the primer not to fire.

Primer compound accumulation in press primer tubes and similar equipment can pose a fire hazard. Empty and clean this equipment after each use.


Handling Lead


Lead is known to cause birth defects, reproductive harm and other serious physical injury. It must be handled with extreme care. Handle lead bullets or lead shot only in a well ventilated area and always wash hands after handling lead and before eating.


Rifle & Pistol Case Handling


Spend enough time reviewing your manual’s case inspection section to become proficient at identifying  high pressure signs and subsequent case failures, including those that occur internal to the case and are not externally detectable.

Always thoroughly clean and examine cases before reloading, discard those that are defective. Make sure all casings are properly resized and dimensionally correct, including those  that need length trimming, neck reaming or outside neck turning. Deburr and chamfer case mouths prior to seating bullets. Cases grow longer in use and, when exceeding specification, can make contact with the end of the firearm’s chamber, excessively grip the bullet and create excessive chamber pressures. 

Try to keep this cases in lots or batches, categorized at least by number of times reloaded and manufacturer. Cases, by manufacturer,  vary in thickness and therefore in the way they react to specific loads.

Treat new brass as used brass when loading for the first time. New brass frequently has a light oil coating that will contaminate powder, and may require sizing to be brought into dimensional spec. New brass may also have burrs in primer pockets and dented case mouths from bulk packaging.