Biggest Beginner Reloading Mistakes
Reloading can be a terrific way to engage with your enthusiasm for firearms and to customize your cartridges for your next session on the gun range. However, beginners have lots of confidence and not enough experience, which can cause them to make several common mistakes that more wizened reloaders know to avoid.
Let’s go over the biggest mistakes that beginners make when they start reloading, and explain how you can save yourself from the same trouble.
Making an Error with Your Powder Charge
Figuring out the right type of powder charge to use with your bullet, and figuring out how much powder use in a casing, is some of the most technically complex work that any hand reloader will do over the course of a reloading session. It’s no stretch to say that figuring out the right powder charge is critical if you want to put together good cartridges.
However, beginners are often inexperienced. So they’ll often accidentally load the wrong powder into a casing or they may even use too much powder into the casing. Let’s go over both in brief.
Using the wrong powder in your casing and potentially cause serious damage or injury to occur, both to your weapon and to your body. Certain types of powders are specifically designed for use with different types of casings, bullets, or firearms. They’re chemically formulated for different types of force, ignition methods, and envisioned to expel a particular amount of explosive energy.
You should always check your reloading manuals or recipe books when combining bullets with powders. Never try to reload without a powder recipe book; most major reloading part manufacturers have at least one book available. It gives you all the modern combinations between bullets and powders you could ever need.
Secondly, be very careful not to over-load a casing with too much powder. Putting too much powder into a casing can result in an explosive accident, damaging or destroying your weapon and threatening your health.
To avoid this mistake, we’d recommend always inspecting every casing individually after putting powder inside. Check all the casings next to one another to make sure that you put the same amount of powder in every casing. It’s also recommended that you always use a powder measuring scale instead of trying to eyeball it, or even using a hand scale. Getting precise powder measurements is key to long-term success and safety.
Finally, be sure to keep all of your powders separate and correctly labeled so you don’t accidentally ask powders with different projectiles or casing types. Take a little while setting up your reloading station to label everything properly so there aren’t any mix-ups.
Seating a Primer Incorrectly
Of course, it’s very important that you seat every primer into a casing correctly. The primer is the component that sparks the explosive reaction that’ll expel your bullet from your weapon barrel. Thus, making sure the primer is in the right place is necessary if you want your weapon to fire properly in the first place.
You don’t seat your primer correctly, it can potentially lock up the action of your weapon. Additionally, the very slightly protruding section of a primer is extremely sensitive by design – after all, the idea is that it should explode relatively quickly after pulling the trigger. This is especially true for any semiautomatic firearms where fresh cartridges are pushed towards the chamber with significant force.
To prevent accidental discharges, you should always keep every primer pocket clean whenever you are preparing casings for priming. Getting rid of any buildup or gunk in the primer pocket will prevent the primer from being seated incorrectly. You should always try to seat your primer a few thousandths deeper than the case head’s plan. In some situations, you may need to use hand tools and take a little extra time. It’ll be worth it in the end when you don’t have an accident.
Similarly, take care not to be too aggressive whenever you seat your primers. That means don’t push the primer too hard into the primer pocket. In some cases, you can accidentally force the anvil to crush the primer compound ahead of schedule. This makes the primer even more sensitive than it already is, which could cause a misfire or explosion before you pull the trigger.
Seating a Bullet Incorrectly
Just like how you can accidentally seat a primer incorrectly, you can also seat a bullet in such a way that you ruin all your efforts. You can accidentally put the bullet in too far to the casing or not far enough. Either way, you could easily damage the action or barrel of your weapon.
The best way to avoid accidentally seating your bullet incorrectly is to use a tool and/or magnifying glass to make sure you guide the project into place as precisely as you can. You should also double-check every bullet you seat after crimping the case.
Using a Cracked Casing
Naturally, you should never use a cracked casing. This means you should take the time to inspect every single brass casing you plan to use, especially for “micro” cracks that may be more difficult to see with the naked eye.
A crack of any length or depth can be catastrophic the next time you try to fire the bullet. In some cases, gas from the chemical reaction can seep into the action of your rifle or even into your face, causing damage. In other cases, a cracked case can completely rupture or explode. This not only causes significant damage to your weapon – as well as leaves brass shavings in your chamber, which are difficult to clean up – but it can even propel fragments of the case out of the action and into your hands or face.
Again, avoiding all these potential mishaps is as simple as carefully inspecting every case you plan to reload.
Trimming a Casing Poorly
The above also means you should be very careful when trimming your casings. While it’s time-consuming and a bit boring, trimming every casing you plan to use carefully and without cracking the casing in question is critical if you want your reloading to go smoothly.
Some novice reloaders try to skip trimming their casings because they don’t want to spend the time and they might’ve gotten lucky and fired off a few rounds with untrimmed cases. But this is just temporary good fortune, and you can bet that it’ll run out sooner or later.
The fact of the matter is that brass casings naturally expand every time you fire them and require trimming if you want to use them again to their best extent. Furthermore, you should trim your casings because firing casings multiple times without trimming in between can eventually cause cracks as the casings expand over and over.
Using Sizing Lube Incorrectly
Many novice reloaders will make excessive use of sizing lube. While this isn’t the worst idea, using too much lubricant can actually cause divots to appear in brass casings. This is especially common in bottlenecked rifle cases.
The majority of reloading dies have a small venting hole that’s designed to help any extra lube escape. But sometimes you just put too much on the die and extra lube that doesn’t go through this hole can eventually build up in the die or case shoulder area. Sizing lubricant is hydraulic, so it isn’t compressible, which means it eventually builds up and dents the brass casing itself.
Be sure to inspect your casings after resizing them and clean away any extra lubricant to avoid this problem.
Making Mistakes While Crimping
Beginners often struggle with many aspects of the reloading process. One of the trickiest parts to get down correctly is crimping.
Many reloaders will either crimp their cartridge case too much or not enough. Crimping the case too much will cause issues when your weapon tries to cycle a new cartridge. In a nutshell, it creates a bulge in the case that can catch on the inside of your chamber and cause a jam.
On the flipside, not crimping your case enough can cause your bullet to unseat itself from the casing. As you can imagine, can cause a serious mishap when it comes to loading, cycling, or firing the cartridge.
You can avoid this by not trying to seat and crimp the bullet at the same time. Seating your bullets separately, then crimping is the best way to go about this part of the process, especially if you are just starting out. Then you should inspect every casing before moving on to the next step.
Using a Shaved Bullet
Novice reloaders might think that new and unfired cases are ready to go, requiring little to no work before they can be loaded up. But this is incorrect. In fact, many factory-made, unfired cases – and even a majority of factory cases that have already been fired once – have a very crisp, almost sharp 90° inner edge to their mouths.
This mouth sharpness will accidentally shave small amounts of copper from a bullet jacket as you seat a bullet into one of these cases. This can interfere with your accuracy and cause your shots to miss even if everything else was done correctly. If you’re having accuracy trouble with new factory-made cases, this might be why.
You can avoid this by chamfering the inside of any new rifle cartridge case mouths you purchase. Purchase an affordable hand tool for chamfering and run along the inside of any new case mouths. It doesn’t take too long and can pay off in dividends for your accuracy.
Putting Away Materials Incorrectly
So far, we’ve done over more technical mistakes that beginners can make when they start reloading. However, there are also some mistakes you can make revolving around your reloading workbench or setup.
One of the most common mistakes beginners make is putting away the materials incorrectly. We touched on this a little earlier when we talked about using the wrong powder for your projectiles. This is incredibly easy if you don’t store your powders and other materials in an organized way.
Furthermore, you should always take steps to protect your powder and other volatile components from environmental hazards. For instance, powder can go bad if you let it get too wet or hot, so it needs to be stored in a cool, dry place.
Similarly, your primers are literally small explosives that can and will go off if you suddenly drop them from a tall height. To that end, storing your primers apart from one another and low or close to the ground is a good idea. Keeping your primers separate prevents one from accidentally going off and setting off a chain reaction where an entire box goes up in flames.
Finally, be sure to keep all your reloading materials away from kids, for obvious reasons.
Eating or Drinking While Reloading
Some folks and reloading hobbyists think that lead poisoning is a myth, at least when it comes to their reloading habits. But it’s not.
In fact, lead particles can get into the air in all sorts of ways when you reload. There’s lead on your bullets (in fact, lead makes up your bullets), on casings you scavenge from the gun range, on the primers you use to fire your rounds, and so on.
All this is to say that eating or drinking while you’re at your reloading bench or surrounded by your reloading materials is a recipe for a health disaster. It’s all too easy to ingest lead particles in such an environment. Save all your eating and drinking for when you are away from your reloading stuff, and after you’ve taken a shower.
In fact, we’d also recommend changing your clothes before doing anything after a reloading session.
All in all, these common mistakes are easy enough to avoid entirely by practicing good patience and having discipline throughout every step of the reloading process. Don’t rush ahead and try to skip to when you can fire your new cartridges. This will go a long way toward ensuring you spend the right amount of time inspecting and preparing each casing before loading them into your weapon.
Good luck and good hunting!