Reloading ammo is a good way to shoot more and control exactly what you’re putting in your gun. However, if you decide to reload pistol ammunition, there are a few things that you will need.
Here is what you need to reload pistol ammo:
- Reloading Press
- Dies and Shellholders
- Primer Pocket Brushes
- Powder Measure
- Powder Scale
- Cartridge Gauge
- Reloading manual
- Brass Cases
Having these things will help you produce reliable and safe ammo that you can be proud of. In this article, I’ll cover what you need to know about each of these items and why they’re so important.
The first thing that you will need when reloading pistol ammo is a good reloading press. It will be instrumental at almost every stage of the reloading process.
For beginners, I recommend starting with a single-stage press, such as the RCBS Rock Chucker. Using a single-stage press allows new reloaders to become familiar with the reloading process and catch potential mistakes easier.
The main problem with this type of press is that it is slow. Single-stage presses can only perform one function at a time, one case at a time. You’ll need to switch out dies for each step of the reloading process.
Turret presses, such as the Redding T-7, are similar to single-stage presses in that they only perform one function at a time. However, using a turret press is more convenient since you can keep multiple dies installed on the press at the same time. After your dies are set up, simply rotate the turret to switch over to the next die that you need.
Progressive presses are the fastest kind of reloading presses. They can perform several steps of the reloading press each time the operator pulls the handle. The main drawback to progressive presses is that they are complicated. New reloaders may become overwhelmed with their complexity or make mistakes because there is so much going on at once.
Dies and Shellholder
The next thing that you will need to reload pistol ammo is a good set of dies and a shellholder. Reloading dies allow you to perform the most important steps of the reloading process, and a shellholder allows you to insert and remove your brass from the dies.
When reloading pistol ammo, I strongly recommend purchasing a four-die set. A four die set for pistols will include the following:
- A resizing and recapping die: This will return your brass to its original dimensions. It will also remove the old primer.
- An expander die: Expander dies flare the case mouth which makes it easier to seat a new bullet.
- A bullet seating die: This is the die that inserts the new bullet into your brass. It is adjustable so that you can seat the bullet to the proper depth.
- Crimp die: A crimp die will remove the flare that you added to the case with the expander die. This will help ensure that the new round feeds into the gun reliably.
My favorite pistol die sets are made by Lee Precision. They include all of the dies listed above along with a caliber-specific shell holder. You can find them by clicking here.
Related: How to Set Up Reloading Dies
Primer Pocket Brushes
The next thing that you will need to reload pistol ammo is primer pocket brushes. These will remove residue left behind from the spent primer.
Cleaning primers is important for two reasons. The first is that it will make it easier to seat a new primer into the brass. Having a consistent “feel” from case to case will help you know if there is an obstruction when trying to seat a new primer.
The second reason you should clean your primer pockets is it can help you spot flash hole obstructions. The flash hole is the small hole between the primer pocket and the rest of the brass case. If this is obstructed, the cartridge may not fire properly.
Primer pocket brushes are available in two sizes: large and small. If you are reloading a cartridge that uses small primers, then you need to use a small primer pocket brush. Cartridges that use a large size primer will need a large primer pocket brush.
Related: Essential Reloading Equipment
The next thing that you will need to reload pistol ammo is a powder measure. A powder measure is designed to dispense a consistent amount of powder each time you move its handle.
Having a good powder measure will allow you to quickly charge your cases with gunpowder. They usually include adapters that allow you to dispense powder directly into a case.
Related: How to Reload 9mm Ammo
Another tool that you need to reload pistol ammo is an accurate powder scale. This will help you ensure that you are loading the proper amount of powder into your cases.
Loading the correct amount of powder into your ammo is extremely important. Loading too much powder can result in unsafe pressure that could damage the firearm or cause bodily injury.
Loading too little powder can cause your pistol to malfunction, or in extreme cases, cause a squib load. A squib is when a bullet goes partially down the barrel without exiting. If you continue to fire and another bullet hits it, the barrel could bulge or explode.
Loading the right amount of powder, and doing so consistently will also help your reloads to be more accurate and reliable.
A cartridge gauge is another useful tool to have if you are reloading pistol ammo. Mine is made by Lyman and is a machined steel cylinder that tells you if your case or completed cartridge is in spec. It is important since it will help you ensure that your ammo is the proper size, reducing the risk of malfunctions.
I like to use mine to make sure that my brass is still the correct length. When placed in the gauge, the case’s head should not protrude over the top of it and should just fall back out when I turn the gauge over. You check a complete cartridge the same way.
You should also have a good set of calipers when reloading pistol ammunition. This will help you achieve a proper seating depth when placing the bullet on your brass. Improper seating depth can cause malfunctions and even unsafe pressures. Calipers are precision instruments that are capable of measuring down to a thousandth of an inch.
A good reloading manual is another item that you will need to reload pistol ammunition. It includes all the information that you will need to piece together good reliable ammunition.
Reloading manuals tell you things like which gunpowders to use and how much, along with other things like how long your brass and complete cartridge should be.
If you plan on reloading multiple types of bullets (FMJ, hollow points, etc.) then you should have reloading manuals for each bullet manufacturer that you will be using. This will ensure that you seat bullets to their proper depth.
The next thing that you will need to reload pistol ammo is a good supply of brass cases. If you don’t already have any of the other equipment that you need, go ahead and start saving your brass. This will prevent you from having to buy some to get started.
Ammo brass from all of the major manufacturers such as Hornady, Winchester, and Remington are all be fine to use. However, do not attempt to reload steel cases since they aren’t designed for it.
Another thing that you will need to reload pistol ammo is gunpowder. Which gunpowder you will need will depend on what is suitable for your caliber and bullet weight that you will be reloading. Use your reloading manual to determine this.
Primers are another component that you will need to reload pistol ammunition. They come in two sizes: large and small. Again, the size that you use will depend on the caliber you are reloading and can be determined by consulting a reloading manual.
There are also magnum pistol primers but these are not usually used in calibers designed for pistols. They are used in calibers, such as the .44 Magnum, which is most commonly found in revolvers. However, there are some semi-automatic pistols that fire such rounds as well.
The next thing that you will need to reload pistol ammo is bullets. Most reloaders choose to use FMJ (full metal jacket) bullets when reloading since they are inexpensive and a good choice for target shooting. Hollowpoint bullets are used for defense, and in some cases, hunting.
(Note: There is some debate as to whether or not using reloaded ammo could cause the user some legal troubles if used in a defensive situation. If this is something that you are concerned about, consult a lawyer where you live.)
There are a couple of things that you don’t necessarily need to reload pistol ammo but will make your life a little easier. They involve cleaning and processing the cases prior to sizing. Cleaning cases is good because it makes the ammo look better, is better for your dies, and will help you spot potential problems with your brass.
A case tumbler is a special machine that uses either rotation or vibration to clean cases. In vibratory tumblers, fast vibrations move the brass cases through corncob or walnut media. This will scrub the cases clean and polish them.
A rotary case tumbler can use either dry media (corncob or walnut) or stainless steel pins in a liquid cleaning solution. They are very simple machines and the good ones can last decades. I have a Thumler’s Model B tumbler that belonged to my grandfather that still works today. You can find one by clicking here.
After your clean your brass you will need to separate it from whatever cleaning solution or media that you used. A media separator has a rotating basket that holds the brass but allows smaller items to fall to the bottom of it. It will make your life much easier than trying to sift them through a colander.