Always refer to your manual for your overall length for that particular bullet in your chambering. Once you’ve become more experienced, you can start seating the bullets in relation to how far they’ll travel before they engage the rifling, but for the new hand loaders, I strongly suggest using the published length in the manuals.
The dimension listed in the reloading manuals is called the “Case Overall Length” and is generally abbreviated “C.O.L.” Technically, it is generally what it says – the maximum length of the overall cartridge from the base of the case to the tip of the bullet. This dictates the seating depth.
While the C.O.L. is technically described by most manuals as the “maximum,” it is also generally accepted as the correct length for that cartridge unless there is a very good reason to seat the bullet further in or out. Changing the seating depth, however is for more advanced and experienced reloaders. The seating depth should never be changed unless you know why you are changing it and know how much to change it.
No. Tumbling your brass is not mandatory. It is, however, a good tool to have at some point. Occasionally, you’ll obtain some brass that is dirty and a tumbler is a good way to clean them up before you put the dirty cases into your dies.
Not necessarily. SAAMI specs are fairly broad when talking about empty case length. As long as you’re within specs, trimming is not necessary. If you measure the case, and it is longer than the max length in the books, then you should trim to the minimum length. As rifle brass is fired, it will stretch slightly each time, therefore trimming to the minimum length will allow room for it to stretch a few shots before needing trimmed again. Pistol brass does not need to be trimmed.
The rule of thumb I tell new reloaders is “you want it to feel lubed, not look lubed.” Too much lube is still better than not enough. Too much lube will often cause dents to appear in the shoulder of the brass rifle cases. That’s ok because they will fire-form out as soon as you pull the trigger. Having too little lube can possibly allow a case to become stuck in the sizing die and you don’t want that! I dab a little lube on my index finger and apply it with my finger and thumb to the neck and shoulder area.
Not with straight walled handgun brass. And, although the 9 mm Luger is technically a tapered case, the taper is so slight that it will behave the same as true straight walled cases from the standpoint of not needing lube if you are using carbide dies.
You must still use lube, however, on all rifle brass and all bottlenecked handgun cases.
There is a little debate and disagreement on this subject. Lyman suggests you use a dry lube, such as graphite powder. They suggest you put a little in a bowl or some similar receptacle and just stick the case neck in.
Hornady feels strongly about their One-Shot spray. When spraying the outside of the cases, if you’re careful you can get a little on the inside of the case neck.
RCBS and others make pads that you put lube on to roll the cases across when you are lubing the outside of the case. Some people just press the case neck lightly on the pad. Others use a brush that comes with the pad (two different diameters). Roll the brush on the pad and then run it into the case neck.
And finally, there are those of us who lube the outside of the rifle brass with a paste lube on our fingers. It’s easy to just touch the case mouth and deposit a little on the inside of one edge of the case mouth. A number of companies make lube that is intended to be applied using the finger tips. Hornady makes a good paste wax in the tub, and Lee sells a lube in a tube that’s a little softer.
It’s not important that you cover the surfaces of the inside of the case mouth, especially when trying to do so risks getting entirely too much lube inside the case neck. If you have just a tiny amount of lube on the inside of case necks, the lube has a tendency to spread around the expander plug inside the die (which is what the lube is intending to keep from getting stuck in the case neck). If you have too much inside the cases, it can clump on the expander plug and these clumps can come off from time to time inside some cases.
A good habit to get into, at least until you get the feel of how much lube is the right amount, is to run a Q-tip® inside the cases when you have completed sizing and tumbling (if you tumble) This will show you if there is debris in the cases (lube clumps with particles of corn cob or walnut husk embedded.)
If you have too little lube in the case neck, extracting the cases from the die will feel more difficult. If one gets stuck, you definitely are using too little lube. If you have much “junk” inside your cases after you have sized and cleaned them, chances are you are using too much. Experiment until your rifle cases size comfortably without a lot of debris left inside the cases.
No. Studies have been conducted numerous times that prove there is absolutely no difference in performance between cases with clean primer pockets and cases with pockets that were not cleaned. The only real adverse effect from not cleaning primer pockets is limiting the depth at which the new primer can be seated, however I’ve never seen a case that had that much carbon build-up in it. It simply boils down to personal preference.
The exact equipment will depend on what type of ammo you plan to reload. Shotgun ammo requires some different equipment than rifle and pistol ammo. Most of the major equipment manufacturers offer kits that include just about everything you’ll need to get started. That will include a press (at least a single stage press, but some come with a turret press), a powder dispenser, a scale of some kind, case prep tools such as primer pocket cleaners and chamfer/deburring tools, primer dispensers for large and small primers, as well as priming tools for each size. For the rifle and pistol ammo, you’ll also need caliber/cartridge specific dies. There are several different types of dies so learn the difference before you purchase any so you’ll know what to buy. You’ll also need powders designed for the ammo you’re reloading, too. Shotgun and Pistol powder is not suited for rifle cartridges, generally speaking, and vice versa. And a very important addition to any reloader’s bench is an assortment of reloading data manuals. Manuals are invaluable assets to have. They contain a plethora of information that everyone should read and study