Learn the Ins and Outs of Ammo Reloading

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Ammo reloading (also known as handloading) is when you assemble firearm cartridges or shotgun shells from scratch instead of purchasing them already assembled. This means you will be assembling the components (case or hull, the primer, powder, and the shot or bullet) one by one from the cases or shells you have previously shot.

Why Should You Consider Ammo Reloading?

While you may have never considered ammo reloading something that you’d like to pursue as a hobby, I have a few reasons why you may want to consider it:

Dollar Bills In The Glass Jar

Saves Money

If you shoot frequently, you are aware of how costly ammunition can get. By reloading your own ammo, you can cut the overall cost of purchasing ammo by a lot. Let’s say you normally purchase a box of 50 44-magnum cartridges.

You’ll probably spend roughly $32. However, if you reload your used cartridges, you can have the same amount of ammo for about $8.

Greater Control Over Dimensions, Ballistics, Quality, and Consistency

Reloading your own ammo gives you numerous possibility in the type of ammo you shoot. Maybe you usually shoot .38 special rounds in a .357 magnum. You could try loading .38 special loads into a .357 magnum case.

This will get rid of the rings in your chambers, but also streamline the loading process. If you shoot rifles and you want to achieve maximum accuracy, you can create a combo of bullet, powder, and cartridge length to give you the desired performance on the range, and even with a concealed carry for defense.

You Can Play With Gun Powder and Unique Tools

If you’re someone who likes to get their hands dirty and experiment, you’ll love ammo reloading. There are always things to try and new ​parts to learn. With every new gun you get, the opportunity to experiment increases. Just make sure you’re aware of the proper storage of your ammos, so as to avoid any accidents from taking place.

The Tools Required for Ammo Reloading

If you are interested in ammo reloading, you will have to make an initial investment in equipment. These pieces of equipment include:

Reloading Manual

You should always read a reloading manual before you start reloading your ammo. These manuals are essentially guides that have countless “recipes” for every kind of caliber, powder type, primer type, bullet variety, and weight. These books are offered by companies that make reloading components and equipment.

Some of the most notable manuals come from companies like Hornady, Speer, Barnes, Lee, and Sierra. You should always follow the recommended guidelines for every one of your reloads!

Cartridge Case Cleaner

A fired brass cartridge case is going to be pretty dirty. It will be important that you ​clean your gun and the cartridge of any powder residue and other dirt your brass picked up from the ground.  The brass doesn’t have to be shiny.

But, it does need to be dirt and powder free so the reloading die doesn’t get damaged and the ammo functions properly. Think of it as maintaining your hand guns so they don’t accidentally misfire when you’re shooting. The same goes for the cartridge case.

Learn the exact process for cleaning your bullet casings here.

Ammo In Cartridge Case Cleaner

Reloading Press

This is the piece of equipment that you have to have if you want to reload your ammo. I’ve actually done an article about best press for reloading ammo reviews, but basically, these tools ​press all of the components of your ammo together into usable ammunition. You can do a variety of functions with these tools such as:

  • Press brass cases against a decapping pin to remove the old primer
  • Press a casing into a resizing die that will jam the brass back to its original form
  • Press a new primer into the empty primer pocket
  • Press the casing against an expanding die to open the mouth wide enough for a new bullet
  • Press the bullet into the casing
  • Crimp the casing around a bullet and remove the bell from the expansion step

Die Set

A die set is basically a collection of reloading dies that are used like inserts that you’ll use with your reloading press. These dies are screwed into the reloading press, and the press will push the cartridge case into the reloading die to perform the function of said die.

Powder Scale

When reloading ammo, you don’t want to have too much (or too little) powder in your cartridge because it can be quite dangerous. The recipes outlined in the reloading manual use weight measurements to indicate how much gun powder is needed. The powder is measured in grains, which is 1/7000th of a pound.

Some of the basic reloading kits will include a scoop that indications various measurements, but it isn’t always the most accurate. Always make sure you’re accurate by using a powder reloading scale. This could be a beam scale or an electronic one.


Calipers aren’t usually included in starter kits, but they are an essential item. Whether they are digital or analog, these measuring devices will let you to accurately measure the overall cartridge length.

Holding Digital Calliper In Hand

The cartridge length is crucial. You want to make sure your bullets are seated far enough to feed reliably, but not so much that will reduce the volume inside the case. This could result in over pressure. Remember, the reloading manual will tell you how deep every caliber and bullet type requires.

Rifle Cartridge Case Trimmer

If you want to reload rifle cartridges, it is going to stretch a little bit each time you reload it. You will want to invest in one of the best case trimmers that will remove the excess brass from the mouth of the case so the ammo works properly.

Final Thoughts

While ammo reloading may seem like it is going to cost more money because of all the equipment you need to purchase, it’ll be worth it in the long run. This is especially true if you’re an avid shooter and go through a lot of ammo!

If you aren’t sure if this is something you’d like to do, but you want to give it a shot, I recommend finding someone who already refills their own ammo. Ask if you can run their set up first. You may be surprised by how relaxing ammo reloading can be!

James Forrester is a lifelong gun and firearms owner, and an even bigger advocate for gun safety. He created KeepGunsSafe.com with the purpose of sharing helpful tips and educating others on how to keep guns and weapons safe and secure.