Some Tips on How to Reload Ammunition
(part 1)

Kraig J. Rice

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Introduction Choose your firearm
Get Your Firearm's Factory Info Buy a Good Reloading Book
Buy a Gun Press or Lee Loader Resize your brass
Push out the old primer Install the new primer
Measure and Load the Gun Powder Loading With Lee Scoops
Insert the (lead) Bullet Water Proofing Your Ammo
Buy a Leather Tote Bag Reloading Shotgun Shells
Tips on Using Black Powder  

Have fun with this hobby


Thank you for visiting my web page. I used to load a lot of ammo. I did it safely and I never had a major problem. I want to pass along a few tips to you so you can do it safely as well. This is a fun and rewarding hobby!

My Viking relatives came to the colony of Massachusetts in 1638 with a gun in one hand and a Bible in the other. Later, the United States had a Revolutionary War. There were 13 colonies trying to break away from the tyranny of England. A strange command came down to each of the patriotic families in the 13 colonies from the Continental Congress. Each patriotic family was ordered to keep their chickens in their outhouse for the duration of the war. This would help the war effort and every patriotic family obeyed those orders. The reason for this order is given towards the end of this web page.

So, you want to save money?

Let's take a brief look at costs. A factory made rifle shell (fully loaded) costs a considerable amount of money at some local sporting goods shops. You may buy a box of 20 and it might cost you an arm and a leg. Ouch! If you do a lot of shooting this hobby can get expensive real fast. Reloading your own is the way to go. You can save roughly 50% or one dollar out of every two. If you buy military surplus you can save even more. Not a bad way to go but you have to be careful if you load your own. I'll try to give you a few tips I learned from when I loaded my own rifle, pistol, and shotgun shells as well as black powder guns.

Choose your firearm (If Necessary):
Take your time and choose your firearm carefully. There are different strokes for different folks. Some guns are louder than others, some kick more than others, some cost more than others, and some don't look the same as others. Choose the gun that is right for you. I had a fellow offer to sell me a .45 automatic pistol one time. I wanted to fire it first to see if I liked it. I'm glad I did. I fired it and it kicked hard and was real loud. I didn't like it. It was a man killer alright but I wasn't hunting any men. I passed on the deal. Instead, I settled for a 9 shot .22 revolver that I could take to the target range or use as a close-range backup gun when I went hunting. It was just more fun to shoot for me.

Some folks like a pistol. Some like a rifle. Some like a shotgun. Some like all of these. Some like to shoot smokeless powder, and some like to shoot black powder. Some like old guns. Some like foreign guns. Don't be in any hurry to purchase your gun. Instead, go with some of your friends or relatives out shooting. Fire their guns. See what you like and what you don't like. Once you know what gun you like, try to find the best buy on it that you can.

Making out your shopping list will depend on how much money you want to spend. Purchase the the finest gun for your use and go for what makes you comfortable and happy. There are fine pistols, fine rifles, and fine shotguns on the market. And you might find one on sale! And no one will think the less of you if you load your own ammo for it.

Sometimes you can save money and get a real good gun by buying military surplus. And the same holds true for purchasing military surplus ammo. I recommend that after you purchase your new firearm you buy some factory made ammo for it and go to the target range and learn how to shoot it. For example, if you buy a new military surplus rifle from the U.S. government make sure you wipe all of the cosmoline (military vaseline grease) off of it and especially clean the cosmoline out of the gun barrel first before you fire a round through it. Cosmoline keeps the weapon from getting corroded while in storage. Other than that, your shopping list is going to include most all of the items listed below.

Purchase the right firearm for what you are going to use it for. If you want to hunt ducks and rabbits then buy a shotgun because thats the best gun for that sport. If you go big game hunting then you aren't going to use a small caliber gun but a large one. If you want to "plink around" then you don't need a large caliber gun for that but a small one. Check with the laws in your area for what shooting is permissable there. Always abide by the law(s) in your respective area.

Get Your Firearm's Factory Information:
Determine what kind of a firearm is in your possession. If you are going to reload rifle casings for your particular gun then you need to do some research on the maker of your rife to find out what the reloading specs (specifications) are for that model. Loading a .30 06 rifle casing is going to vary from how you load a .50 caliber rifle casing. The same is true if you own a pistol, or shotgun. The same also holds true for black powder guns that use shell casings.

If you own more than one firearm and are going to reload ammo for each one then realize each one is different and has to be treated differently. You don't use the same primers for multiple caliber guns, you don't use the same (lead) bullets for multiple caliber guns, and most of the time you don't use the same powder for multiple caliber guns. For example, you can't shoot a .30 caliber lead bullet from a .50 caliber gun. As the old expression goes, "every lid has to fit the pot."

To get the reloading specs for your particular gun you can write to the manufacturer and request them. Most manufacturers are pleased to share this info with you because they want well satisfied customers as they know that you will be sharing their gun with others you are shooting with and this may make others want to buy their product.

If you don't want to contact the manufacturer and the ammo you are reloading is from a fairly popular gun, most reloading books contain factory load information for you. The amount of gunpowder you place in a shell can be compared to the amount of gunpowder that an ammo factory places inside of it. This is called "the factory load" or more commonly "the maximum load." Many reloaders want each of their shells to contain the maximum load. When reloading any ammo, never exceed the maximum load amount of gunpowder. If you do you could get hurt.

One time I purchased a .30 06 Springfield rifle that once belonged to my late uncle, Wilbur Hale Rice. I called him Uncle Hale. He was my father's brother and had been crippled with polio from the age of 6. He was a good Christian man and I was proud to call him my friend. As an adult he could get around pretty well with crutches and he devoted a lot of his time to his rifle. He reloaded his own ammo for it. He fixed the wood stock so that it only touched the metal in two places. He explained to me that a warped wood stock could effect the metal and thus the accuracy of his shooting. He had a 4x (4 power) scope mounted on it and could easily hit a one inch in diameter disc at 100 yards. He practiced with it a lot and went deer hunting in Texas where he would sit in a hunting tower waiting for his prey.

In order to reload .30 06 shells for it I had to do some research. The rifle was made by the U.S. government and was standard government issue circa World War I. Since it was a popular caliber gun I bought a reloading book at a local gun shop that had all of the reloading info in it that I needed. It had the maximum load info in it that I needed to keep from getting myself into trouble. I never loaded beyond the maximum load amount.

Whether you write to the factory, find the info on the web, or look in a book that has the information- you need to find out the specs for your gun. If you have an old gun or a foreign gun and can't get the factory specs then try corresponding with other gun enthusiasts or getting the information from someone else who has it. If you are not sure about your gun's specs then don't reload any ammo for it nor shoot any factory ammo through it. Old guns were loaded differently than modern guns. They shot different powder for one thing and they used different length brass for their bullets.

I inherited a single shot shotgun from my maternal grandfather. He loved to shoot ducks in Texas during the Great Depression days. It had a Damascus steel barrel but was in other bad shape as well- the wood stock was falling off of it and it was rusty. It hadn't been fired in a long time. I placed a plastic case standard .12 gauge factory loaded shell in it and fired it. The breach blew open on me and some gun powder blew back into my face. It didn't hurt me but needless to say I was not happy with it and I sold it to somebody who thought they could fix it. Some of those old guns weren't chambered for today's longer plastic shells but paper case shells instead- so check out your respective gun and try to get the specs on it before you hurt yourself or others.

This is one example of a reloading book

Buy a Good "Reloading Book":
The reloading manual or book is one of the most important tools that you can own when it comes to loading your own ammunition. Why? Because of safety. Gun powder explodes and when it does it can harm you and no one wants this to happen to you. Inside of most reloading books there is information to help you load your ammo in a safe and sane way. Some books use charts, some use tables, and some use both. I recommend that you look at several to see which is the easiest one for you to understand because some manuals are written for advanced shooters, professional hunters, and competition shooters. If you are a beginner reloader you will need a book that is simple and easy to understand for you and there are many on the market.

Most books will include bullet weight in grains, ballistics info, different types of smokeless powder and how much to use, diameter of bullets, velocity of the fired bullet measured in feet per second, and pressure gradients.

Most important- it will have a maximum powder load amount. Never load any amount of gun powder in a casing beyond this weight as this weight is set as the equivalent to a factory load. The weight of the powder will be in conjunction with the weight of the bullet that you are loading.

Many loading handbooks have all the information you will need to correctly load a specific caliber. Often there are overall length measurements for different types of bullets, crimp diameters, chamber pressures, velocities, and even certain quirks or problems that a specific caliber may have when loading.

Reloading Steps and Equipment:

I am going to explain how to reload using a Lee Loader kit and it will be generally the same thing using a reloading press except you will use different dies for each step when using a press.

Buy a Gun Press or Lee Loader Kit:
You need a tool or two in order to put all of these component parts together. The kind of tools that you buy will depend on how much money you want to spend, and how much loading and shooting you plan on doing. If you only shoot occasionally and you only need one box of ammo at a time, I recommend that you purchase a Lee Loader kit. This is a simple hand loading kit that is efficient, yet inexpensive and it is easy to store away and use. I used a Lee Loader kit for my .30 06 shells and another Lee Loader kit for my .12 gauge shot gun shells at first until I started shooting more. You will need a Lee Loader kit to match each gun caliber that you plan on reloading. Lee Loader makes a respective kit for nearly every popular caliber gun- rifle, pistol, and shotgun.

The Lee reloading business began in the home workshop of Richard Lee in 1958 with the invention of the famous Lee Loader for shotgun shells. Lee Loaders, for rifle and pistol ammunition, were invented in the early sixties.

Each kit comes with one scoop spoon only. Sometimes this one scoop will not be efficient enough. If not, you might want to purchase a set of scoop spoons or a gun powder measuring scale for increased accuracy when loading.

On the other hand if you do a lot of shooting then you will be better off purchasing a reloading press. A good reloading press is usually set up in a spare room somewhere in your house or in your garage. A separate little house away from your main house might be better in case of fire if you plan on storing significant amounts of gun powder there.

A reloading press has a lever that operates a die. One die will press out the old primer. Another die will seat the new primer. A rifle press will usually have just one tube up on top of it for gun powder while a shotgun press will usually have two- one for gun powder and another for shot pellets. The press instructions will allow you to pre-measure the powder that you are using so that the same amount is placed inside of each casing. You manually insert the shotgun wads inside of each casing. Some presses are more advanced than others in this regard depending on how much you are willing to pay. You manually insert the (lead) bullet inside of the casing if loading rifle or pistol ammo. The last step involves crimping the end of the shot gun shell to hold the shot in place. Once you get the hang of it you can go pretty fast. But there is a danger here. If you get going too fast you just might get a little confused and accidentally load a double powder load in one casing. This might happen if you get interrupted while in the middle of loading a shell. If you even suspect that you might have done this then throw that whole box of shells away. You can't take the chance of having your gun blow up in your face. If loading rifle or pistol ammo you have to crimp the brass against the (lead) bullet. There is a special tool in the Lee Loader kit for this. If using a reloading press there is a special die for this.

A friend of my father's invited me over to his house one time. Him and I were going dove hunting together and he wanted to show me his reloading set up. He only shot .12 gauge shotgun shells. He took me in his spare bedroom as his kids were grown up and had moved away. He showed me his "bench press" (reloading press) as he called it and then he told me that he had 1,000 boxes of loaded shells there in that room. He had numerous dressers there and he opened drawer after drawer and showed me his collection. He had boxes of regular loads but also boxes of magnum loads. He loaded all of them himself on his press. He showed me how his press worked and how he could load a box in a short amount of time. I was so impressed that I went out and bought me my own press and reloaded a lot of shotgun shells for myself. Me and him went dove hunting together. Our shells fired perfectly but we didn't hit any doves. Maybe we should have spent more time practicing on the skeet range than at the reloading press.

A brass shell casing being resized inside a press tool

Resize your brass
A shell casing is simply described as an empty bullet. Most refer to it simply as "brass." You can purchase empty shell casings from your local gun store. You can get empty brass casings from a firing range but be sure to get permission first before picking them up. You can save your own empty casings after shooting, or you can purchase casings from others. Most rifle and pistol casings are made of brass and can be reloaded several times.

If you purchase new brass it will come already sized so you can omit this resizing step. However, if you reload brass that has already been used then you must resize it. Brass expands after it has been fired due to the extreme heat and pressure. It rarely goes back to it's original size but stays larger around in diameter. It also expands length-wise and then has to be trimmed in length. Brass casings get brittle and get verticle cracks caused from expansion, heat, and pressure. Never reload a brass shell casing that has a verticle crack in it.

Take your empty brass casing and place it into the Lee Loader tool. In most cases it will not go all the way down- that's because of it's expansion. Take a mallet (rubber) hammer and tap the casing until it is all the way seated. The casing is now resized but leave it in the tool.

Using a rubber hammer is much preferred over using a steel hammer when gently tapping on brass for two reasons:
one, you want to reduce the risk of causing sparks around gun powder, and
two, you want to treat the brass in a more gentle fashion (because brass metal is soft and easily cracked) and you don't want to damage it.

This press tool fits inside the casing and pushes out the old primer

Push out the old primer
Set the Lee Loader tool with the casing still inside of it on the special small round base tool that has the hole in it. The hole will allow the old primer to come out. Take the long steel rod that has the narrow steel end on it and drop it down into the empty casing. Move it around until the narrow steel end penetrates into the small hole at the bottom. Gently tap on the long steel rod until you knock out the old primer. Remove the long steel rod but keep the casing inside of the tool.

Never extract a live primer- this is one way of getting hurt! If you have a live primer in an empty brass casing, place the casing inside of your gun and fire it. It will sound something like a child's cap pistol when fired. Then de-primer the casing.

A primer that has been fired

A new installed primer

Install the New Primer
A primer is a small round metallic object, but it's actually a small explosive device. It is mostly harmless but never hit one with a claw hammer. It fits in the cartridge base. When the gun's firing pin hits it, it explodes. The "explosion" travels through a small hole in the cartridge base which in turn ignites the gun powder and explodes it. This "explosion" expels the bullet or shot out of the gun's barrel.

Make sure you get the right size and kind for the shell casing that you are reloading. Most come in a small box of 100 and you can purchase them at your local gun store. Check with your local gun store owner if you have any questions as most are very knowledgeable in their field. Some primers for regular loads may not be suited for magnum loads. Make sure that the primer fits tight into the shell casing, otherwise, a loose primer may fall out of the casing. If it fits loose throw away the brass. Never try to glue a primer into a shell casing.

Turn over the special small round base tool that has the hole in it on one side so the solid side is facing up. By hand, place a new primer inside of the empty primer hole at the bottom of the shell casing. If it doesn't fit too good that is ok as you want it to fit tight. Then take another long Lee Loader tool that has a hole in one end of it and insert it down into the shell casing. Place this unit on the special base and gently tap on the tool seating the primer into place. The reason the long tool has a hole in the end of it is so that the tapping won't cause the primer to explode. I never had a primer explode on me from this kind of operation if done right.

Make sure the new primer is seated all the way down into the casing. If a new primer will not fit into the brass then double check to make sure you have the right sized primer for that brass. Never try to make a rifle primer fit into the brass of a pistol shell or vice versa unless your reloading book says it is ok. Use the right primer design for the gun design. Never glue a loose primer into a brass shell casing or use clear nail polish to hold a loose primer in place. Throw away any brass that will not hold the right sized primer tightly.

Be aware that there are different kinds of primers:
There are primers for small pistols
There are primers for large pistols
There are primers for small pistol magnums
There are primers for large pistol magnums
There are primers for small rifles
There are primers for large rifles
There are primers for small rifle magnums
There are primers for large rifle magnums

The simplest way to get the right primer is to ask the clerk at your local gun shop. Other than that you can ask a reloading friend, or consult a re-loading handbook manual.

If you are using a press you may have a primer-flip tray. Add primers to the primer hopper. This usually involves some type of primer pickup device (often a long tube with plastic on either end and a pin). Be sure the primers are oriented correctly in the hopper.

Remove the casing from the tool
Take the long Lee Loader tool that has a hole in one end of it and insert it down into the shell casing again. This is the same tool you used to help insert the new primer. Place the casing unit on another special base that has a large hole in it. This hole will allow the casing to come out. Gently tap on the long tool knocking the brass casing out of it's steel holding container.

Measure and Load the Gun Powder:
During World War 2 smokeless gunpowder was named Cordite and it was made a little different than today. Today it is made from nitrocellulose and nitroglycerine. Try not to buy gun powder that is really old- some of the explosive components within the powder tend to dissipate in time. Smokeless gun powder comes in small containers of various shapes and sizes. Mostly it is sold in one pound containers or smaller. As a general rule of thumb you can use the same gun powder in shotgun and pistol shells. However, rifles use a slower burning gun powder.

The weight of a (lead) bullet as well as the weight of gunpowder is measured in grains in the United States and Canada. The grain in the year 1758 was the weight of a seed from the middle of an ear of barley. "Grains" is the smallest unit of weight in the English system. This method of measuring weight relied on the relationship between the number of grains of wheat that were equal to one pound. Gunpowder scales for handloading measure in grains:
bullets are generally measured in increments of 1 grain,
gunpowder in increments of 0.1 grains.

Look in your reloading manual or on your powder chart to determine what amount of powder you are going to use. You can either load by weight with a reloading scale or by volume using Lee scoops. I have loaded both ways and each is ok.

Always know what kind of powder you are loading and always know what the factory recommended maximum load is for that powder in connection with the weight of the bullet that you are loading. Never exceed the maximum load limit.

Never load any gun powder of any kind unless you know specifically what kind it is. The safety rule applies here: when in doubt throw it out.

Never substitute smokeless powder for black powder or for black powder substitutes.

Never mix together any two powders, regardless of type, brand, style or source.

We use the Troy ounce when loading gun powder by the grain.
A troy ounce is 480 grains, somewhat heavier than an avoirdupois ounce
(437.5 grains). A grain is exactly
64.798 91 mg; hence one troy ounce is exactly
31.1034768 g, about 10 percent more than the avoirdupois ounce, which is exactly
28.349523125 g. The troy ounce is the only ounce used in the pricing of precious metals, such as gold, platinum, and silver. The grain, which is identical in both the troy and avoirdupois systems, is used to measure arrow and arrowhead weights in archery and bullets and powder weights in shooting. In troy weight, there are 12 ounces in a pound, rather than 16 as in the more common avoirdupois system. The troy ounce may be abbreviated to ozt. In the normal pound (16 oz.) that is used now in the United States, there are 14.58 troy ounces.

12 ounces= 1 pound; or 5760 grains= 1 pound; or
373.241 721 6 grams= 1 pound; 15.43 grains= 1 gram

Buy a Good Powder Scale:
The measuring scale or gun powder scale measures the weight of gun powder. You will have a reloading book that let's you know the weight of a specific gun powder you can use with a certain bullet that weighs a specific amount.

Loading With the Lee Scoops-
I recommend that you purchase the Lee scoop kit that has plastic scoops in it if you don't want to purchase and use an expensive powder scale. Most gun shops sell this kit. These are yellow plastic scoops that hold a certain amount of powder, and are calibrated in cubic centimeters (cc). Each kit usually contains 15 different powder scoops which can be used for 1300 different loads! For example, a rifle kit includes a sliding chart that shows which scoop is used for which load. The 15 different scoops range from .3 cc's to 4.3 cc's. Complete instructions are included in each kit.

You dip the little scoop spoon into the gun powder and load it into your empty shell casing. However, when you do this you always have to make sure that you never exceed the maximum load. One must pay very close attention when using these scoops, because a scoop of one type of smokeless powder will not weigh the same as a scoop of another type.

How do these things work? When using the scoops you are esentially loading smokeless powder measured by volume. The 15 scoop set comes with a conversion chart for equating the volume of gun powder with it's weight. Ok, let's say I am loading for my .30 06 rifle. The reloading book reveals that I need 13.5 grains of Unique powder. The Lee conversion table converts weight to volume. The chart reveals to me that I need to use a 1.6 cc Lee powder scoop to give me this load. Only place one level scoop full of powder into every shell casing as it doesn't take much. This is a nice load and will work just fine when shooting.

Never overload any shell casing. Use a flashlight to look down at the powder level inside of each casing to make sure you don't have an overload before you load the (lead) bullets.

One fellow I knew bought a Lee Loader kit for his rifle. He didn't want to spend a lot of money at the time. He loaded this way for a long time and shot some deer with his reloaded ammo and so he was a "happy camper."

Insert the (lead) Bullet
Lead is kind of a nick name for bullets- that's because at one time all bullets were made out of literal lead. That's not always the case now. Now there are bullets made of different materials. Some metals are alloy metals including hardened steel and copper. The grain of a bullet is it's weight- so a 168 grain boat-tailed hollow point will weigh 168 grains.

You have to purchase or make the right kind of bullet for the brass that it is going to fit in. You will need a .30 caliber bullet for .30 caliber brass. Don't expect a .30 caliber bullet to fit into a .40 or .50 caliber brass casing- it just isn't going to work. Most bullets come in a small box of 100 or so at a time and can be purchased at your local gun store. Your local gun shop will probably have various boxes of bullets on sale. These might be boat tailed, or sharp point, or armor piercing, or round nose, or wad cutters, or plastic, or what-have-you. You can save money by buying bullets on sale.

There are different types of bullets. A traditional solid bullet will do what it is designed to do. A hollow point bullet will mushroom out when it hits it's target causing more damage. A boat tailed bullet is considered streamlined. An armor piercing bullet will penetrate deep into and through some steel plating.

Don't place a .30 caliber rifle bullet inside of a .30 caliber pistol cartridge. Always match the design of the bullet with the design of the gun. One time a friend of mine loaded some sharp point bullets for his .30 30 rifle. I asked him why he did that and he said that he was out of round nose bullets so he was using what he had. At the firing range I saw him loading 5 sharp point bullets one after another single file into his rifle. The cartridges were lined up inside of the rifle so that the sharp point of one was against the primer of the one before it. I don't think he realized what he was doing- just one good improper jolt and a cartridge could fire that was not seated in the firing chamber. That's a good way to get hurt yourself and maybe hurt someone else as well. I brought the matter to his attention and he unloaded that gun in haste and then shot the bullets in single shot fashion which was safe.

The weight of a bullet is very important. Some bullets are light and some are heavy. Some are meant for close range shooting and some for long range shooting. One thing is important to remember, you have to use the correct amount of powder for the weight of the bullet. Don't falsely assume that all weights of bullets use the same amout of powder. The weight of each bullet will place it somewhere on what is known as the shooting curve. For shooting competition this is critical. You can contact each of the bullet manufacturers for what information they have on the weight of each of their bullets and where each lines up on the shooting curve.

Insert the bullet inside of the casing by hand. When you do this make sure that the bullet is seated at the appropriate depth inside of the casing. Some factory bullets have an indented line groove around them marking this depth. It's not a good idea to have a loaded ammo round that is too long or too short for the gun's chambering. That's why it's not a good idea to use .30 caliber rifle bullets when loading .30 caliber pistol casings. Once the bullet is inserted to the right depth inside of the casing you have to crimp the brass around it tightly using the Lee loader tool for this. Crimping allows the bullet to stay in place. No one wants their ammo to fall apart on them when depending on it for a trophy buck!

I don't recommend that you dismantle old bullets- pulling the lead and pouring the old powder out of the brass unless you know what you're doing. I used to purchase old .30 06 bullets for pennies on the dollar at the local gun shop. Each of those bullets was at least 50 years old and government surplus. They were left over from World War 1. They had black powder inside of them. They smoked when fired and they were corrosive but I knew better than to try to dismantle each one and then reload it. It was easier and safer to shoot them and then reload the empty brass.

For my .30 06 I bought a box of 168 grain boat-tailed hollow point bullets. The weight of this bullet put it in the middle of the shooting curve. This is a perfect sniper's bullet and is accurate within 500 yards. It's a great bullet for big game hunting or target practicing.

Buy a Bullet Holder:
After you finish hand manufacturing each of your bullets you will need a safe place to temporarily keep it while you are making more. Most gun shops carry plastic bullet holders that you can use for this purpose. Pistol bullets are shorter so those containers will be lower in height. Rifle bullets are longer so those containers will be higher. Shotgun shells are greater in diameter so those containers will be wider.

Buy Some "Water Proofing" For Your Ammo:
The American revolutionary war soldiers would always cry out, "keep your powder dry." This is a good idea no matter what time period you may be living in. Are you going to be hunting in the rain? Will you drag your rifle through water infested swamps or travel through damp terrain? If so, it's a good idea to keep your powder dry. This also might be a good idea if you want to make 1,000 rounds of ammo for every gun that you possess and store it for a long period of time. Survivalists live by this idea. How do you waterproof your ammo?

Each gun shop should have some water proofing material on hand for you to purchase. If they don't then you can use the old stand-by: clear nail polish. Place clear nail polish around each primer where it joins to the brass and around each bullet where it joins to the brass. These are the only 2 places where water could seep inside the loaded bullet. Be liberal but don't over-do it. Let this polish dry thoroughly before storing your ammo away. And make sure that you wipe all oil, grease, or vaseline off of each bullet before applying the polish so it will seal and not peel.

One time I was deer hunting alone in the California Sierra-Nevada mountain range. I was at the bottom of a deep gully making my way along. I had my .30 06 rifle with 4x scope. I saw a deer through my scope that was well within range but it's head was stuck inside a large clump of brush so I couldn't tell if it was a buck or a doe. I only had a buck tag and I didn't want to shoot a doe as my co-hunters would laugh at me. So, in a case like that what is the rule? The rule is not to shoot unless you first make sure of your target. So, I didn't shoot. Then it started pouring down rain on me and I was drenched by the time I got back to our camp. I was sure glad I had ammo with me that day that I knew was water-proofed. To this day I don't know if that deer was a buck or doe...but I know I did the right thing...

Buy a "Davy Crockett" Leather Tote Bag:
A friend of mine is a member of a black powder shooter's club. He has so much to carry that he has to have a leather bag (pre 1840). I guess it's like a "Davy Crockett" leather tote bag. He keeps his shot, flints, and wads in it. He can also keep some beef jerky and dried fruit in it. However, he keeps his black powder in a powder horn. That doesn't leave him much room for his tomahawk and Bowie knife.

If you are going out in the sticks to do some hunting you will need a bag of some kind to help haul around your ammo you plan on shooting. Using a bag will save you from cramming your pockets full of bullets. Some hunters use a pack on their back and some carry a kind of hand-held traveling bag that is waterproofed. I haven't seen any deer hunter with a bandalier of bullets extending from his shoulder to his waist.

Reloading Shotgun Shells

If you shoot cardboard (paper) shotgun shells you can only reload these a couple of times before they fall apart. Use non-plastic over-the-powder wads and over-the-shot wads when reloading these. If you use black powder with these paper shells the wax coating on the outside of the shells will melt off after a couple of shootings. The plastic shotgun shells are a little more durable and I recommend them instead of the paper shells.

Let's say I want to load a .12 Gauge 2 3/4 inch shell with 1 1/8 ounces of shot using a Federal 12S3 wad. The casing contains a CCI 209 primer. The book reveals that I can safely load 20.0 grains of Red Dot powder into that casing. I measure out the specific weight of this powder on the powder scale and then place it into the empty shell casing.

Of course, the empty shot shell casing is held securely by a plastic shell holder so it won't fall over and your powder spill out. You can use a little funnel or scoop for pouring the powder into the casing if you want to. Once all of the casings are loaded use a flashlight to look down at the powder level inside of each casing to make sure you don't have an overload before you load the wad and then the shot.

The steps for reloading shotgun shells are nearly the same as for a pistol or rifle- resize the brass, knock out the old primer, insert the new primer, and load the powder.

But shotgun shells require you to insert an over-the-powder wad for the next step. These come in plastic or non-plastic. Non-plastic 1/8", 1/4", or 1/2" thick felt wads are brownish in color and these have to be seated inside of the shell directly over the powder. Press each one down with some downward force but before you do this place the cartridge on the Lee Loader base that has the hole in it. This keeps the primer from accidentally firing. These wads are treated with a fire retardant so they don't catch on fire after shooting. Never use tissue paper or newspaper as makeshift over-the-powder wads as this material will usually catch on fire after shooting.

After you insert your over-the-powder wad you have to add the shot. Shot comes in lead or steel pellets. These pellets are of different sizes. Pellets about the size of BB's are close to #5 size shot used for rabbits and squirrels. #7 or #8 size shot is smaller and is good for shooting game birds like quail and pheasants. Double ought buckshot or size #00 is used for deer hunting in heavy brush. The police also use this in their shotguns for self protection. Some states have made it illegal to hunt big game with a shotgun, and some states want a hunter to use steel shot that after fired will eventually rust away.

The Lee Loader comes with a metal shot-scoop. You can manually load 7/8 ounce, 1 ounce, or 1 1/8 ounce, etc. weight of shot inside each of your shells. If you use a shotgun press the powder and shot are measured and inserted easily. The next step is to crimp each shell so the shot does not fall out. Now you are ready to shoot.

I can't get the end of my plastic shotgun shells to crimp. They just keep on popping up and then my shot runs out of the shell. What can I do?

I can tell you what NOT to do. My friend had the same problem. He took candle wax and placed this wax over the end of each shell. The wax worked well enough to keep the shot from leaking out but he soon developed another problem. We were up in the hills shooting one day when he told me that his shotgun had quit working and that it wouldn't fire anymore. When we got back to base he took his trigger housing mechanism apart and found that it was frozen up with hard wax. The wax had melted into liquid from the heat of the firing chamber and had run down into his trigger mechanism where it hardened. If you can't pull the trigger you can't fire the gun. He had to do a lot of cleaning to get his shotgun back into good shape again.

Some folks use a slender cardboard wad- called an over-the-shot wad to place over the shot inside of every shell they reload. That way if your crimp comes loose on you while you are in the sticks hunting you won't loose your shot.

Can I fire anything other than bird-shot through my shotgun?

Yes. Shotguns often fire large shot or solid slugs out of a smooth bore or unrifled barrel, although some shotguns have rifled barrels. Be careful if your shotgun has a full choke built in at the end of the barrel that might obstruct a large slug from passing through it unhindered. Check with your gun's manufacturer to see what kind of slugs or other items they advise you against shooting through their gun. You can purchase a shotgun with no choke at all, a full choke, or a modified (partial) choke.

Plastic or rubber bullets are sometimes shot by the military and in law enforcement. And during the Great Depression days old farmer McDonald used to load rock-salt in his shotgun to "pepper the back-side" of young thieves swiping his watermellons.

Some Tips on Using Black Powder

I have owned a double-barrel black powder shotgun and a .36 calibre black powder six-shooter revolver pistol. I have also shot my friend's .45 calibre black powder rifle.

Black powder guns come in two different categories: flintlock and percussion cap. Flintlock guns were used in the U.S. Revolutionary War while percussion cap guns were used during the U.S. Civil War. What's the difference? It's the firing mechanism that ignites the black powder. The flintlock uses a flint that strikes metal and causes a spark to ignite the powder. A percussion cap mechanism uses small external fitting primers that explode when struck with a mechanism hammer.

Using a shooting flask or powder horn are good ways to carry black powder with you while shooting. The traditional method of measuring black powder is by volume. You can also carry along a predetermined volume container that you can pour your powder into so you get the right volume for shooting. Some folks call this a "powder jigger." Place your shot or bullets, primers, and wads in your "Davy Crockett" leather tote bag that you sling over your shoulder. You can also keep some beef jerky and dried fruit in it for a snack. A small flask of water might also fit in it, too, that makes it a little heavier and the shoulder strap might start cutting into your shoulder.

You can use pre Lubed 1/8" felt wads safely in your muzzleloader that resist catching fire after being shot.

You can purchase a black powder gun from .30 Caliber up to .58 Caliber.

If you are shooting black powder (without a brass shell casing) a round lead ball is mostly used. You can use it in pistols, muskets or in rifles. The lead balls also vary in size. Just remember a .30 caliber round ball is not meant to be shot from a .50 caliber black powder rifle. Bullets for blackpowder, or muzzleloading firearms, were classically moulded from pure lead. This worked well for low speed bullets, fired at velocities of less than 1000 feet per second. Lead is also cheap, easy to obtain, and melts at a low temperature, making it easy to use in fabricating bullets.

If you shoot blanks in a reinactment event you can use wax, paper, plastic, and other materials that are used to simulate live gunfire and are intended only to hold the powder in a blank cartridge and to produce noise and smoke. Your reinactment club will have certain rules for you to follow in this regards so that no one gets hurt.

The main problems with black powder relative to smokeless powder are:
1. Black powder takes up more room in the shell than smokeless powder.
2. Old guns often have short chambers- the shells must be cut short to     match.
3. Plastic shells melt and paper shells rip.
4. Smoke- sometimes your friends object if you shoot it around them.
5. Rust and corrosion result if the gun is not cleaned soon after firing.

Paper shells work fine- they were originally designed for black powder. I normally use plastic shells as they are easier to obtain and they are easy to trim and crimp.

Black powder can be purchased in various sized containers and is extremely corrosive inside of your metal gun, so some shooters use Pyrodex, a substitute gun powder for black powder. Pyrodex is not as corrosive as black powder.

Muzzleloaders can be safely fired with black powder, Pyrodex, Triple Seven, Black Mag3, Pyrodex pellets, and Triple Seven Pellets.

Black powder, Pyrodex, Black Mag3, and Triple Seven loose powder are all in the category of deflagrating powders. "Deflagrating" is just a fancy way of saying "fast-burning." These powders burn just as fast as they can as long as they can.

British military gunpowder in the 18th century was 75 parts saltpetre to 10 parts sulphur to 15 parts charcoal. High quality, refined sulphur was preferred, as was charcoal made from willow or alder, although birch and beech were acceptable too. In black powder the fuel is carbon- we are burning charcoal. Black powder is horribly inefficient as only about 50% of its mass turns into gas. The rest is solid residue that is forced out the muzzle as white smoke.

My father told me that as a combat infantry soldier during World War 2 fighting through the hedgerows in Normandy shortly after D-Day that the U.S. soldiers were shooting ammo left over from World War 1. This ammo was loaded with black powder. But the Germans were using smokeless powder. My dad said that the Germans knew exactly where the American front lines were due to the smoke from the black powder ammo they had fired. An american artillery cannon could hit a target the size of a bed sheet five miles away. That's how accurate they were. The Germans could do the same with their 88's (cannons). So they poured down their artillery shells right on top of the Americans. There were heavy American casualties in the Second Infantry Division as a result.

Use common sense in handling all firearms and ammo

How much room does black powder take inside of a shotgun shell?

When I used to load paper and plastic shotgun shells with black powder it took three times the volume of smokeless powder. There wasn't enough room in the shell to use plastic power piston wads. I had to use fiber wads for over-the-powder and also thin "cardboard" wads for over-the-shot. But they fired good.

What does the "F" designation on a can of black powder stand for?

The grain size of black powder controls its burn rate. The "F" designation is just the screen size used in manufacture and the resultant grain size (coarseness). FFFF black powder is very, very easy to ignite- that is why the common application is as pan powder for flintlocks. FFF black powder is used often in .45 caliber or smaller bore muzzleloaders and sidelocks, FF is the standard for .50 caliber muzzleloaders.

Why are Black Powder and Smokeless Powder Measured in Different Manners?

One author explained it this way:
"Different Powders are Measured Differently. Why, and how?
Note: The term smokeless powder does not refer to black powder substitutes such as Pyrodex, Triple Seven, Clear Shot, and so on, but to modern propellants meant for use only in modern firearms intended for such use. For information on how to measure a black powder substitue, contact the manufacturer of the propellant in question.

Some folks wonder why black powder is not metered the same way that smokeless powder is. To further confuse the issue, both measurements are quantified using the same unit of measurement (grains), even though the measurement processes are quite different. Here is some information which may help clear up the confusion about measuring different kinds of powder.

Both black powder and smokeless powder are measured in grains- but black powder is measured by volume, and smokeless is measured by weight.

The reason is that black powder is a simple chemical compound (made of sulphur, charcoal, and saltpeter) of a given grain size (Fg, FFg, FFFg, etc), and can be relied upon to produce consistent loads when measured by volume.

A volumetric measure (one small scoop, for instance) of FFg black powder can be expected to contain the same amount of powder- therefore the same explosive potential- time and time again.

Smokeless powder, on the other hand, is made in many variations- and the little particles of powder are made in many different shapes and sizes. One type of smokeless powder will be composed of small short cylinders, and another type made of tiny grains resembling grains of sand.

Being composed of differently-shaped particles would be enough to cause volume to be an unreliable measure of smokeless powder, but besides that reason there's also the fact that each type of smokeless powder is chemically different from the other- so a pinch of one vs. a pinch of another will not produce the same pressures and burning characteristics...even if each pinch weighed the same as another."

Please do not email me with any specific questions regarding guns, ammo, or reloading.
Rather, please check with your local gun store owner or other shooters. Thanks:)

In the light of the current litigious state of our society-
The information contained in this website is for information purposes only and you must assume full responsibility and all risk for the appropriate use of any information, on this site or linked from it. There may be omissions or inaccuracies in such information. The information could include technical or other inaccuracies or typographical errors. This website does not warrant the accuracy, completeness, correctness, or fitness for a particular purpose of the information available through the website, or the website itself, or any other information which is referenced by or linked to from the website. In no event will the owner of this site, or those that have submitted material to it, be liable to you or anyone else for any decision made or action taken by you in reliance on such information or for any consequential, special or similar damages, even if advised of the possibility of such damages.

Some of the information in this web site suggests the use of guns and explosives, amongst others, that could be exceedingly dangerous if not handled properly. Not everyone is equally skilled or talented in the use of every potentially dangerous item or task. I urge you to take all precautions when dealing with anything suggested here. If you have any doubts about your ability to fully understand or implement any of this information, seek help from a professional.

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    As of November 21, 2007