A blog by Bob Rich. Squirrel Hunting, Henry Rifles, Reloading, Range Shooting and More!


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Basic Reloading by Bob Rich

The following is the step by step method that I'm using to reload 44 magnum. I've only been doing this for about a month, so don't look to me as an expert. Proceed at your own risk and consult a good reloading manual. Now that I'm no longer responsible for blowing you up, let's get started. I'm starting with new brass, so there's no need to knock out the old primer, clean out the case, etc. Let's assume you just bought a bag of brass as I just did. 100 cases go for about $25 and Lee claims you can use them up to 100 times! The Classic Lee reloading kit sells for only about $25, so you can't beat that to get started in the hobby.

Today I loaded 20 rounds, taking these photos along the way. The first photo shows the components required to load 20 rounds: 20 brass cases, 20 bullets and 20 primers. Click the photos to get an enlarged view.


STEP 1 - Size the case: Put the brass case in the 'sizing die'. You'll need a mallet with a plastic end for this. I've tried it by putting a piece of wood between the die and the hammer, but it's a pain so don't even bother. Go to Home Depot and buy one. I found that hammering on a table vice or a chunk of steel is much easier that hammering on a flexible surface like wood. I've been living in my house for ten years, and last week when I was going through some old cubby holes in the basement, I stumbled across a perfect block of steel to hammer on. The guy who used to own my house made wine here and had a press in the basement. This looks like part of it. It's been recruited into service on my reloading table.

Take the plastic mallet and hammer the case all the way into the die. It takes about 5 good hits.

STEP 2 - Seat the primer: Pick up the 'priming chamber'. It's a cylindrical gizmo with a screw in one end. It has 2 functions; the first being to set the primer into the brass case. Put the priming chamber on your working surface with the silver disk facing up. Now take a primer and drop it into the hole in the center with the flat side down. I'm using Winchester WLP large caliber handgun primers.

Turn the die over so the side with the back of the brass case is facing down. Place the die on top of the priming chamber. We are now going to hammer the case down onto the primer to the primer fits into the back of the brass case. There's a steel rod that comes with the kit called the 'priming rod'.

Put the rod into the die (or 'body') and let in sit over the primer. This will seem a bit scary the first couple of times, but it's no big deal after that. It the rod about 5 times until the case starts coming out of the die and the primer is pushed into the case so both the base of the case and the primer are flush with each other. You'll likely need to pick it up and examine it, then put it back and hammer it some more until it's seated properly. You quickly get the feel of this and it will be 3 whacks and it's in. This step works MUCH better if it's done on a solid surface such as a table vice or a slab of steel. The more solid the base, the easier it is to feel the primer seat into place. You really can't feel it if your work surface is flexing. You might want to wear leather gloves for this in case the primer blows. I had one go off in 120 cartridges, and I believe it was my error since it was during my first 50. It made a bang that no one upstairs heard and made my fingertips black. Don't put your face over the case when hammering, just in case.

 Step 3 - Remove the case from the die: Once the primer is flush with the case, get the 'decapping chamber' that's in the kit. It's a cylinder with a hole on the middle. It allows you to hammer on the cartridge without the primer coming in contact with anything. Now put the die with the brass case in it case down, resting on the decapping chamber. Now put the Priming rod into the case as you did when you set the primer and dive it a few whacks with the mallet. The case will fall out of the die and will stay in the decapping chamber.

Now put the die back over the brass case. notice that one side of the die has a ridge circling the tube. That's the crimping end, so keep that side up and put the die once again over the case.

Step 4 - Add the powder: Now here's where it gets complicated and where you should do your own studying. I have a reloading manual called 'The complete reloading manual for the .44 magnum', which is part of the One Book / One Caliber series. You can buy this for about $7 and it includes info only on your caliber from various reloading manuals. I've been using Hornady bullets, and in this case, 265 grain. The powder I want to use today is Accurate No. 9, and to achieve 1400 FPS (which is a moderate load), it requires 17.7 grains of powder according to the manual. Now it gets confusing.

I bought a Lee scoop set and it comes with a sliding powder chart. This chart has all major brands listed and how many grains of powder each Lee scoop holds. Here's what the chart says:

The 1.00cc powder measure holds 15.2 grains of Accurate #9. The 1.30cc powder measure holds 19.8 grains of Accurate #9.

To double check this, I put one 1.30cc scoop of powder on my scale (thanks again for the scale Dirk). Instead of the weight being 19.8 grains, the scale reads 21.1 grains. That's a moderate load at 1700FPS with a 200 grain bullet, but with a 265 grain bullet it's in the range of a maximum (and possibly dangerous) load. Maximum load is 22.1 grains; only 1 grain difference.

Next I weighed the contents of the 1.0cc scoop, which the chart says holds 15.2 grains. The scale read it at 15.4 grains, which is close. 15.4 is halfway between 14.8 (the minimum load) and the next load up - 16.3 grains. That sounds like a good place to start, so I'm going with that. The moral of this story is DON'T TRUST THE LEE CHART. Use a scale to verify the Lee figures.

I find it interesting that the larger the bullet, the smaller the amount of powder is required. Example: here's 3 bullets using the same powder. Note the bullet size and the powder required to achieve a starting load:

200 grain bullet 19.7 grains of powder at 1600 FPS
240 grain bullet 17.2 grains of powder at 1400 FTP
265 grain bullet 14.8 grains of powder at 1200 FTP

Big bullets travel slower and require smaller powder loads to stay safe. Keep this in mind.

Now that we know how much powder to add (one level 1.0cc scoop), put the decapping chamber on the table with the primered brass case sitting in it. This assured that no matter how much you hammer on the bullet, the primer has only air under it. Now slip the body or the die over the case. The case now fits the die so well that when powder is dumped into the die, it only falls into the case and nothing falls to the sides onto the table. Now fill up the yellow scoop with powder, then take a business card and run it across the top of the scoop so the powder is level and not piled over the scoop. Don't pack down the powder!

I find it's easier to pour the powder from the bottle into a soft plastic container such as a cottage cheese container. That way you can dip in the scoop and keep it level as you pull it up and out. Now carefully pour the scoop of powder into the die so it pours into the brass case.

Step 5 - Drop in and seat the bullet: Next drop a bullet into the die so it follows the powder into the brass case. Remember that priming chamber you used at the beginning to set the primer into the case? You are now going to use that screw thing that sticks out perpendicular to the cylinder. First, I suggest bringing out a store bought cartridge that you can use as a model. You are about to hammer the bullet down into the case so it makes the cartridge the correct length.

Take the rod/screw end and drop it into the die so it touches the top of the bullet. The cylindrical priming chamber is now on top of everything. Take your plastic mallet and give it a few taps so you feel the bullet being hammered down into the case. Stop and check the bullet depth. There are grooved rings that run around the bullet. You want to hammer the bullet down until you can just see a bit of that ring sticking above the top of the case. Once you get near the correct height, but your cartridge next to the store bought one and see if they are the same height. Once the correct bullet depth is achieved, put the rod back into the die and adjust the locking ring so that the depth of the next cartridge will be preset. Then all you'll need to do is drop in the bullet, drop in the bullet seating rod and hammer away until it stops. The bullet should be set to the correct depth.

Be sure to check this on every cartridge since it will slowly move out of position and will require a tiny bit of adjusting. Seating the bullet too deep will cause increased pressure in the cartridge and can be dangerous.

Step 6 - Crimp the case: Next, crimp the case by lifting off the die, turning it over and once again dropping it over the cartridge. This time it will stop at the neck of the case and won't travel down to the decapping chamber. Now give it a few whacks, but be sure the cartridge is in the decapping chamber and not sitting directly on the table!! You don't want that primer going off when you're hammering. You now have a completed cartridge.

I've found that it goes faster if I set all the primers at one time, then load the cases. You'll also have a bunch of primered cases ready to go if you want to quickly make a new load. Keep your cartridges in a plastic case made specifically for that caliber. You can find these boxes wherever reloading supplies are sold. Most hold 50 rounds. Be sure to label the box with the bullet type and weight, type of powder used and the amount of powder. Now have fun comparing one load to the next at the range to see which load works better for your firearm.

The next time around you'll need to knock out the old primer first and clean up the case. Here's a few photos of some really inexpensive gadgets to clean out the primer pocket, and trim the case. I'll save that for another time. Have fun and stay safe.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009 

Regarding underloading W296 

Here's some great info from Kevin on a question I posted for him (see my previous post):


Mike just got a hold of me about your concern for W296. W296 is identical to Hodgens H110 which I use. H110 was sold by Hodgen when they didn't own Winchester Powders...if you look at the load charts they are identical. only difference is that on volume H110 is .00005 gr less... A safe rule of thumb is to never load less than a standard reduced load to start. Reduce load is generally 10%. H110 and W296 can build up some heavy pressures when the case load is reduced too much. Remember, Heavier the bullet the less the powder volume... your Lee 1.3 dipper loads 19.8 grains which is above the reduced load limit of 19.35. You're fine even if your COL is a little long. Just double check if your unsure and seat your loads at or slightly below the COL.

From what I remember, you must be loading around a 270 gr bullet right? anything lighter you need more powder in H110 or W296. you will notice that they make more noise...

If you were loading an OLD 44 mag, I would say don't get close to the starting load...just in case. with a modern firearm you should be fine even at the starting load.

270 GR. SPR GDSP Hodgdon H110 .429" 1.600" 19.5 1502 29,300 CUP 21.5 1637 37,700 CUP Rifle load
270 GR. SPR GDSP Hodgdon H110 .429" 1.600" 19.5 1295 29,300 CUP 21.5 1421 37,700 CUP Pistol load
270 GR. SPR GDSP Winchestr 296 .429" 1.600" 19.5 1295 29,300 CUP 21.5 1421 37,700 CUP Pistol

FYI ... Reduced loads are some times used to reduce the recoil of a round but it doesn't always work that way. I think the warnings are more to keep someone from under loading a round to help a new shooter or one that is afraid of recoil... We're Men, we can handle a teenie ol 44 Mag. Reducing loads can also be used on ammunition that is not rated to velocities that max loads would push them. XTP mag loads are designed to handle the stress. plain lead could deform from a heavy load and would not be accurate at longer distances. Hope that helps. -Kevin

Friday, March 13, 2009 

Important WARNING on Winchester 296 powder 

I just purchased a Lee measuring cup kit, and it comes with a sliding measuring calculator. Printed on it there's a notice not to use Winchester 296: "Do not use powders that cannot be reduced such as Winchester 296". "Wonderful", I thought. I just bought a container of it last week and loaded 25 rounds. What does 'cannot be reduced' refer to? Does that mean that you can't create a load with less than the minimum load? Are these rounds safe to shoot?

The chart says that the 1.3cc scoop that comes with the 44mag Lee classic loader kit equals 19.8 grains. According to my reloading manual, the minimum load is 16.1 grains and the maximum is 23.8. That puts me a bit on the low side but somewhere in the middle. I shouldn't have to worry about the load being too low, but you should be aware of this info.

I wrote Lee about it yesterday and I just received a response from their tech department: "My understanding of that warning is Winchester 296 is sensitive to reduced loads. If not enough pressure is developed, 296 will not burn completely or even squib, in which it is possible to stick a bullet in the barrel. If you didn't notice it and tried to fire another cartridge this could obviously create a dangerous condition." I'm guessing this would only be a catastrophic problem in a semi-auto pistol, because I can't imagine shooting a squib in my lever gun and not knowing it. In a semi, you could do a double-tap and have the second round blow the gun apart in your hand. I'm sure it would be a major problem to have an underpowered bullet get stick in the barrel of my rifle, but it shouldn't be a life-threatening failure. I sure wouldn't use it in any firearm that cycles quickly, which could even include a revolver.

Monday, March 9, 2009 

Some reloading observations 

As you know, I'm new to reloading as you might be, so as I come across something that works for me I'll pass that info onto you. I have 100 rounds that I need to reload after last week's shoot, so yesterday I hammered out the primers all in one step. This is my new method of production line assembly. Instead of reloading the cartridges one at a time, I'm doing each step 100 times. It requires that I juggle tools less and allows me to get into a rhythm. When I'm doing something messy like lubricating the cases, I only have to wipe my fingers off once instead of 100 times. 

Trying a heavier bullet 

I loaded another fifty 44 magnum rounds yesterday which exhausted my bullet supply, so after work I had to pick up another 100. I was hoping to find 240 grain Hornady, but could only locate 265 gr. That's OK because the load is similar. Using 1 Lee scoop of Accurate #9 (equal to 17.5 gr), I'll be very close to the center velocity in the chart which is 17.7 gr = 1400 FPS. That's 200 FPS slower than the 200 gr bullet I was shooting... or maybe not. Don't forget that I was loading those cartridges light, so the velocity might not be all that much different. I'll be using the same amount of powder since the 200 gr bullet required a minimum of 19.7 gr and I loaded them light at 17.5 gr. That could have brought the velocity down to around 1400 FPS, which would match the 265 gr bullet. This cartridge is going to kick butt when it meets a coyote.

A New load and a range date

Today I went to buy another bottle of Accurate #9 and guess what? They're all out. I flipped through the gunshop's Hornady book, located my 200 grain bullet and found another powder. '2400' has almost the same burn rate at #9 so I picked it up. The manual says that it takes 20.5 gr. of powder for a velocity of 1600. #9 takes 19.7 gr. I measured 20.5 on the scale and it's slightly more than the Lee scoop. Since it's the first time firing the load, it wouldn't hurt to be a bit under, so I loaded a single scoop.

 I've been spending about an hour a night for the last three evenings learning to reload. The more I do it, the faster and easier it becomes. I've discovered tonight that I don't need to lube or flare these new cases, and that's saving me seconds per round. I wasn't trying to race against myself, but developed a natural rhythm which makes the process move along faster and easier. They're taking somewhere around a minute per cartridge, so I decided to turn the camera on again to show you how simple the process is. If you're not reloading you really should consider doing so. Especially for expensive rounds like the 44 magnum.

I just loaded my first half dozen 44 mags with my 'Classic Lee Loader', which is the kit that goes for around $25 (which is an amazingly low price in my opinion). As I began loading I discovered what I didn't have; case lubricant and a plastic mallet. I made due with candle wax, a block of wood and a regular hammer. I'll buy a mallet tomorrow. Figuring out the correct amount of powder was a bit confusing. The sheet that comes with the loader says to use 1 scoop of powder (1.3 cc's), but it also shows in grains how much powder to add. Every bullet/powder combination listed a different amount of grains, but they all say one scoop. Is the single scoop the starting load for all component combinations? The chart listed 19.8 grains for a 200 grain jacketed bullet with Accur #9 powder. I set my scale for 19.8, filled the scoop, dumped it on the scale's tray and it didn't balance. I had to add another 1/3 scoop to make it level. I've been watching YouTube videos and they all show that I should be using 1 level scoop so I wasn't comfortable adding more. The second time I weighed a scoop it came very close and I'm not sure why. Who knows, it's an old scale and it could have gotten stuck. With these light weights I'm sure it doesn't take much to hang it up. Once I got this settled in my head, I was ready to load.

Bought reloading components for the 44 magnum. 

OK guys. I've been trying to figure out this reloading thing and it sure isn't easy. I bought a book from Cabela's 'One Book / One Caliber 'The Complete Reloading Manual for the .44 Magnum'. The bullet powder combinations in this book do not match the charts on the manufacturer's web sites I've been checking. I'm guessing that the info in the book is correct but the new info is more up to date and possibly has more refined component combinations.

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