The next step is to add primers. The first thing to be considered is which size of primer you will need (small or large rifle). If you have selected .308 then you are likely to need the large rifle primers (unless you are using palma brass). If you are reloading .223 then you will need small rifle primers.. Check which you need in your reloading manual or with your local dealer. That is the easy bit!! Now you must scratch your head wondering which brand or specific type you require.. All I can suggest is that you try some different primers yourself and see which works well when you load test. Personally I have used Remington, CCI, Federal and they all worked just fine.
Priming the brass.
I like to use a hand primer from RCBS. Some people prefer to utilize their press which may have a priming feature. I find using the hand tool allows you to get a good feel as primers go in. If I come across one that feels overly tight or loose then I can set that aside as a plinker or if it were really loose dispose of the case altogether. It is rare I have issues with priming but friends of mine have suffered with loose primer pockets and ill fitting primers. I believe that was due to them running overly hot loads which enlarged the pocket or from using tools to optimize the primer pocket when they did not need to. If you find the pockets loose on new brass then something is very wrong with the brass. I have heard of this happening before so do not be shy in taking the brass back to the supplier and swapping it for a different batch. Never think “hmm it is dodgy but it will be ok”.. It will not be ok and may lead to injury or worse.. Not just bad for the individual but also shooters as a whole. Owning a firearm is a big responsibility, always treat it as such.
Sorting out primers using the RCBS hand primer.
Hopefully you have by now chosen a propellant which is suitable for your calibre and application. Do not just use any old powder.. Again the results could be explosive in a bad way. Always start your charges at the minimum recommended charge from your reloading manual.. Double check that data with online info to ensure it looks correct. For measuring I use an RCBS powder dispenser. Powder dispensers can be adjusted to drop a set ammount of powder in grains. It takes a little practice to get accurate results – an extra little tap on the handle will change the weight so it can end up being quite Zen like.. Hurray!! Obviously suits me as I find reloading very calming and find it focuses the mind.
GnZ Reloading station in the corner of the bedroom! Notice the beam scales on the middle shelf. I set them at a height which allows me to stand and look at them square on very closely. It is important as even a small error can have a big impact.
Check your drop weights with an accurate beam balance or digital scales (or both).. The charge weights need to be bang on. Even a few specks of powder make a difference when your shooting at a 10″ plate over 1000yds away. Changes in velocity from imprecise measures result in vertical dispersion on the target.. That 1″ flier at 100yds becomes a 10″ miss at 1000yds. I drop a slightly lighter measure into the weighing pan than I actually need. That way I can trickle the last few grains myself using either gloved fingers or a trickler. That way you can get the perfect weight. It is a real pain if you drop to much powder into the pan – you have to pick it back out which is fiddly and time consuming.
Some of you may be lucky enough to own or use a machine that does all the dropping and measuring for you. I must be honest and say that machines like the RCBS chargemaster are a definite time saver. Many new reloaders may think “meh time, I have loads of that”.. Believe me, once you have reloaded a couple of thousand rounds you will value your time! If you can afford one, get one. What I do not recommend is thinking some cheap scales and a spoon or dropper will be ok. There is no way that you will end up with accurate ammunition using imprecise weighing methods and the speed of your reloading will be greatly reduced (adding possibly hours to your time at the bench).. Frustrated people cut corners and make mistakes. Be prepared and use your time efficiently.
I use a digital caliper to measure the overall length of the ammunition from tip to base. There are more accurate options but this will work well enough for a new starter.
Once you have funneled your weighed powder into your prepped and primed brass it is time to seat the bullet and complete the process. It is important to know how long your cartridge needs to be from tip to bottom of case. You might be constrained by magazine length.. If so then I would suggest seating the bullets to achieve manufacturers recommnded length for use in said magazine. If you are shooting single loads then the best accuracy can often be found seating the bullet a little longer and closer to the lans of your rifle. When fired the bullet moves into the rifled barrel. The first part of the barrel which touches the bullet is known as the lans. Many bullets prefer a certain ammount of jump to the lans which is tricky to measure because we are dealing in small distances! There are several ways to measure ideal bullet seating length which can be complex and a little hit and miss for new reloaders. My suggestion would be to follow the OAL (overall length) suggested in your reloading manual. Once you become confident with reloading you can start altering seating length and record your results for the most accurate.
You seat your bullets using a press. Fit the bullet seating die following manufacturers guidelines. The die can be adjusted to seat bullets to any length you like (within reason). I suggest starting the die at its longest length (usually controlled by screwing a knob on the top). Place to bullet into the open part of the brass and then sit the cartridge in the die. You may need to hold the bullet steady. Slowly operate the die until it has achieved full range of motion. Examine the finished cartridge and then use a caliper to measure the overall length. You will hopefully find that it is longer than you wanted. Simply make a small adjustment on the dies knob and action the press again. The bullet can be seated shorter a little at a time until you get to the length you require. If you go to short then things become a real pain. You will need a kinetic hammer/bullet puller to remove the short seated bullet and start all over again. Pulling bullets is tedious and not for the feint hearted so try to avoid it at all costs.
Pulling a bullet with a kinetic hammer..
Once you have set your desired length you can just leave it and continue seating the remaining ammunition. If you keep measuring OAL with the caliper you may find they keep differing. Do not alter your die! This is likely due to slight inconsistencies with the nose of the bullet (paricuarly with open tip varieties). You can overcome this with specialised comparator gauges ect but for now I would not panic over it.
So there we go. If you followed the advice you should have your first batch of consistent, handloaded ammunition. Again I urge you to double check EVERYTHING before you go and use what you made. Do not forget to record the data when you fire these. As you progress in reloading you will cherish such data as it will allow you to accurize in future.
I hope you all found the basic guide here useful. We will at a later stage deal with more complex concepts within reloading but until then have great fun shooting your own ammunition. It really is a cool feeling when your hitting long range targets consistently with rounds you made at home..