7 Steps to Reloading Ammo: A Beginner's Guide – Foundry Outdoors

7 Steps to Reloading Ammo: A Beginner's Guide

You can learn how to reload ammo in 7 simple, but important, steps.

Shooting sports are part of the heart of traditional rural American culture. Our country was founded by people who recognized the usefulness and importance of firearms. In the old days many people hunted to meet their subsistence needs, while few hunted only for pleasure. These days the tables have turned, and most families won’t go hungry if tags are left unfilled. That being said, firearms are still an important piece of our cultural heritage. Preserving that heritage is nearly as important as putting meat in the freezer. Part of that heritage is passing down your knowledge of firearms, and part of that knowledge may be reloading ammo.

In the old days of simple muzzleloading rifles and smoothbore flintlocks, reloading ammo was easy. You could either buy powder, or make it yourself, and melt lead to make your shot. Jam it all down the barrel and you were ready to go. These days reloading ammo is a little more complex and time consuming. That being said, reloading your own ammunition has some real appeal. First off by reloading your own ammunition you can save on cost. The most expensive part of any bullet is the brass, and the cost savings comes in by reusing that component. Secondly, reloading offers you more customization of your shooting loads. If you buy off the shelf, you only get what the manufacturers want to sell. If you make your own ammo you can tailor it to your specific gun and shooting situation.

If you have ever thought about reloading your own ammunition, here is a brief guide of what to expect.


The first step in reloading ammo is to inspect each and every brass you are going to load. Cartridges are put under tremendous pressure when the trigger is pulled, and over time this can cause damage. Look over the cartridges for cracks, dents, bulges, or other areas that may cause the cartridge to fail. If you are deciding to reload your own ammunition, you are accepting the responsibility that comes along with it. Part of that responsibility is using common sense and throwing away a cartridge that looks suspect.


Cartridge TumblerOnce you have inspected your brass you are ready to clean them for the reloading process. The easiest way to clean them these days is by using a cartridge tumbler. These handy devices are filled with some sort of cleaning compound like crushed walnut or corn cobs. After adding the brass they are activated and begin to vibrate. The vibration causes the cleaning material to polish the brass as the mixture sort of boils on itself. Other than making sure there is enough cleaning compound to cover your brass, you really don’t have much to do in this step. Let the tumbler do its thing for at least a half hour, or as long as an hour.


Once your cartridges have been inspected and cleaned, they are ready to be resized. As mentioned earlier, during each shot the brass is put under immense pressure. That pressure changes the size and shape of the brass after each shot. During the reloading process your job is to get each cartridge back to the same dimensions it is supposed to be.

In order to resize your cartridges you will need a sizing die and a reloading press. The die is a metal mechanism that spreads and contracts the shell to a standard dimension. The reloading press centers the cartridge and applies the pressure necessary to form the brass. By attaching the appropriate die for your particular cartridge size and using the press, you can ensure your cartridges are fairly uniform before continuing.

4. Trimming and Finishing

Trimming JigAs mentioned, the resizing die gets the cartridges fairly uniform. The final step to make them identical is trimming. Trimming involves removing tiny bits of brass from the end of the cartridge. Cartridges that are too long will not load properly and can cause problems. The trimming jig is similar to the reloading press, in that if you set it up correctly you don’t have much to worry about and it is a simple process. To make sure each cartridge is the correct size it is almost mandatory to have a set of calipers to measure with.

For finishing you can spend a few seconds with each brass and remove any burs that formed during the trimming process. You should also inspect and clean the priming pocket to ensure the primer sets itself properly in the next step.

5. Priming

From here on out you are actually going to be rebuilding the cartridge starting with the primer. In order to achieve this you can use either a handheld priming tool or an auto priming press. Both are adequate for the job, and deciding which to use likely depends on your budget and the amount of reloading you plan to do. As with each step when reloading ammo, it is important to inspect the seated primer and make certain it set flush with the bottom of the brass. Any primer that has been seated incorrectly must be removed before continuing with the process.

6. Adding Powder

This step is likely the step that gets people into the most trouble. It is of extreme importance to load your cartridge with the correct type, and amount, of powder. The only reference you should trust is published load data from a reputable source. Manufacturers will only advise you to use powder measurements that are proven safe for your firearm. Use a powder measurer and double check the amount before adding it to your cartridge. Even a few extra grains of powder could potentially have awful repercussions. Again, it is worth noting that you are responsible for any decisions you make during the reloading process. It shouldn't scare you away from the process, only heighten your awareness to detail as you pour your powder.

7. Seat Your Bullet

The final step when reloading ammo is to seat the actual projectile. As with several other steps in the process, the best way to achieve this is to use a seating die to guarantee each is seated correctly. The reloading reference book you choose to use will have the measurements you need to be aware of. Cartridges that are both too long or too short can cause issues. Make sure to follow the specifications and you will once again help yourself from experiencing problems in the field.

In the end, reloading ammo is not a difficult process, but it is a process that must be followed carefully. Even what seem like small changes in the measurements can cause large failures when put to the test. If you choose to reload your own ammunition you can expect to invest some money up front, with the hopes of saving some money down the road. Not only that but you can learn more about your firearm and the projectile you shoot. Understanding all aspects of hunting and shooting have always been part of the shooting tradition. Although this may be more difficult with our complex modern ammunition, it still is a process anyone dedicated can learn.


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