So you’re looking to get into reloading?
Reloading (or handloading) is an excellent way to create custom loads for that Once-In-A-Lifetime hunt you have coming up, a light recoiling load for your son or daughter or just an easy and fun way to save money – all while being able to customize loads to shoot out or your particular rifle resulting in better accuracy than what you can get from most premium loaded ammunition at the local sporting goods store.
Now, to get into reloading there will be some start-up costs and the first time you start looking into reloading kits you may start to suffer from sticker shock. Nonetheless, there are press kits to fit any budget, like the Lee Breech Lock Challenger Kit for around $150, to kits like the RCBS® Rock Chucker Supreme Master Reloading Kit that hovers around the $500 range.
A person should expect to spend around $300 to get a setup with all the appropriate equipment needed for a particular cartridge. The nice thing is that a basic kit that “gets the job done” can be purchased affordably, then as your skill increases you can continue to incrementally invest in better and more specialized equipment. This investment should pay for itself if you shoot a lot and continue to reload. Additionally, most presses are extremely durable and will be able to load thousands of rounds without ever having a mechanical issue.
Here is a list of the basic tools you’ll need in accordance with the Barnes Reloading Manuel Number 4:
- A sturdy Bench
- Reloading Manuel
- Reloading Press
- Die Set
- Shell Holder
- Hex Key Wrench Set
- Case Loading Block
- Case Lubricant and Pad
- Case trimmer
- Deburring Tool
- Primer Tray
- Reloading Scale
- Powder Measure
- Powder Measure
- Powder Trickler
- Powder Funnel
One of the most important tools of the ones mention above is a reloading manual. When reloading will be handling extremely combustible propellants, also known as powder. A good reloading manual like Barnes Reloading Manual Number 4 contains tested load data that reloaders can use to create their loads. It is necessary for handloaders to research load data so they reduce the risk of injury while reloading. Additionally, the Barnes Reloading Manuel also contains a valuable “Introduction to Handloading” section that walks you through everything from brass preparation to powder burn rates.
To learn more about reloading or the Barnes Reloading Manual Number 4 visit BarnesBullets.com
If you don’t have time to reload – learn more about Barnes VOR-TX® ammunition; a factory loaded ammunition with handloaded precision.
The chronograph is one of those tools that is not critical, but is very useful during load development to personalize reloading data. After using one, you may find it becomes as “critical” as a good rest when testing your handloads. Often times, the actual muzzle velocity (MV) you get from a specific handload or even factory ammunition is different than what is published in the book or printed on the box. This velocity can vary by as much as 150fps or more. There are many factors that account for this, from lot numbers of components used to the condition and length of your barrel. The important thing is that you know exactly how fast YOUR bullet is leaving YOUR barrel.
The chronograph I use is the new AmmoMaster from RCBS. It sells for around $125. To me, that’s a bargain price for the wealth of information you get. I like this model because it is completely contained for easy transport and has a detachable display with a cord long enough to reach your shooting bench.
So here are some helpful tips when using a chronograph. These tips will help assure that you get the best information used in conjunction with reloading data to create the best custom handload for your rifle:
Distance: Most manufacturers recommend keeping the chronograph 10’ away from the muzzle. If you are closer, the muzzle blast and any remaining powder will give a false reading. If you are shooting a magnum cartridge and getting poor readings, try backing up a few feet.
Line of sight vs. line of flight: Keep in mind that your sight/scope may sit between 1” and 2 1/2” above the bore. You may see a clear shot through your scope, but the barrel may be pointing directly at your skyscreen. If you’re looking for a reason to buy a new chrono, this will do it. It is also a good idea to use a rest to steady the firearm to lessen the chance of hitting something unintentionally. This is especially true with handguns.
Lighting: Having either too much light, or not enough light will give inconsistent readings. Chronographs work by seeing a shadow as the projectile passes over the skyscreen. The time it takes to cross each screen is calculated internally and you see the magic number appear on your screen. Very sunny days can “wash out” the shadow. Conversely, Days with poor light, or shooting indoors will have too little light for good contrast. On sunny days, use the diffusers to soften the light. Shooting during sunrise or sunset will also give bad readings due to the low angle of light. Try shooting mid day when the sun is overhead, and use the diffusers when needed.
Battery: Keep fresh batteries on hand. When the power starts to fade, you will often get bad readings. This is sometimes hard to diagnose so change them out regularly.
Drop that first shot: The first shot through a clean barrel will often times give a different velocity than subsequent shots. It is usually a higher velocity, but can be lower depending on your specific firearm. I like to shoot one or two shots, wait for it to cool, and proceed with my testing. On this note, give the gun sufficient time to cool between shots. As the chamber and barrel heat up, velocities will rise.
The proof is in the pudding: Don’t just lob rounds through the chrono to test speed, but actually shoot groups as you are testing. This will cause you to shoot more slowly, helping prevent the barrel from heating up and also give you another tool to determine the best load or ammo for your gun. The highest velocity or even the lowest deviation will not always be the best group. I will give up a few fps any day for better accuracy.
Test that dope: Last but not least, don’t trust the latest and greatest ballistics program to tell you where you will be hitting at 500 yards. Use the program to get you on paper, and then go practice at the distances you intend to hunt. Minor inaccuracies in your trajectory program input or a slight difference in your actual zero will cause a big change in actual point of impact.
Hopefully this information helps you next time you are on the range. Refer to the owner’s manual of your specific model for more detailed instructions. You can find out more information about the AmmoMaster at www.RCBS.com.
If you are starting from scratch and are looking for a starting point with your handloading visit Barnes reloading data.