With a quick introduction, the aim of this article is to help guide beginners or experienced individuals on which manuals to buy, the pros and cons, information provided, and maybe how it could even benefit you on the reloading bench.
Let's get down to it:
Lee Precision has provided one of the most in-depth manuals with over 28,000 loads and 167 cartridges that has been supplied by various powder companies. In addition, this manual even provides comprehensive calculations for reduced loads, while also providing information on the effects of reducing or increasing charges. For the subsonic and casters hand loaders, this will be a great addition to your bench.
My Favorite thing about the book: The manual has tabs that provides an easier way of finding data.
My thoughts: This manual does truly provide a lot of information that some reloading manuals lack. However, most manuals cover the necessities. This manual will go into more detail regarding your cartridge. If you only want one manual, this would be an excellent choice.
2. Berger Bullets, 1st Edition $31.99
This manual provides 829 pages tailored specifically to the Berger Bullets line of projectiles. It will include range, field, and competition tested hand-loads in 71 different cartridges with a variety of powders. Bryan Litz (author of Applied Ballistics and champion shooter), John (Owner of Deep Creek Press & Rifles and recipes), Eric Stecker (Executive Vice President of Berger Bullets) and of course, Walt Berger all had a part of this tremendous manual.
My favorite thing about the book: Not only is this written by some of the leading industry experts, it provides a great chapter in the book called, "Hand-loading Basics" for the new individuals in reloading. Even though, a lot of other manuals also include a section like this. However, online they have some of the best ballistics calculator to mess around with. I know that’s not manual related, but, I recommend you check it out anyway
My thoughts: This manual has very specific information in regards to Berger bullets. Even though that's the obvious, most individuals who are new should know that if you plan on loading only Berger Bullets, then this manual is a must for you. In respect to general reloading guides, like the Lyman or Lee series, one must understand that those two provide accurate data, but not as accurate as the manufacturer of the projectiles manual you will be loading for. As an analogy, it's the difference between buying a manual of all the industries Ar-15's, or going out and purchasing a manual that is specific to your AR platform that provides data from the company who made it. Nobody knows their product better than the creator themselves.
Sierra Bullet's has generously provided a 5th edition manual that has kept up with industry innovations by updating, yet again, their data to accommodate newer powders and projectiles added to there line. Not only is this a great manual, they have also included reloading processes, tools, and firearm cleaning techniques in the manual.
They even went so far to include a section to answer common inquiries from customers from their technical service representatives. A total of 1,152 pages that covers rifle and handgun data.
My favorite thing about the book: It has a lot of other information besides just loading data. Whenever I purchase a reloading manual, I'd like to see other information that can aid myself and other individuals in various situations they might find themselves in with reloading and shooting. Also, the little things are always the best, specifically the big three rings. Those who have the manual know what i'm talking about. The book is pretty sturdy and doesn't deteriorate over time.
My thoughts: I have had the generous opportunity to meet some of the bullet technicians at Sierra and tour their factory in Sedalia, Missouri. Yes, they used to do tour's at one point and unfortunately do not anymore (last time I heard). I can personally say that their processes of testing various projectiles, reloading room, and testing facility is top notch. Duane Siercks is one of the most cool people to talk to there. If you ever get the chance, pick his brain on reloading and you will be amazed of all the things you did not know about. Their technicians are highly qualified for all of your reloading questions if you ever decide to call them and ask them questions.
Nosler has yet again to improve their products with some of the best projectiles in the industry. As most manufactures should do, they have have yet again updated their manual with new projectiles in their line and powders. They have added Accubond Long Range data, 26, 28, and 30 Nosler data, and new Cartridge introductions that Nolser has made.
My favorite thing about the book: Nosler's name speaks for itself. They have set the bar high on this manual by providing burn rate charts, highlighted powders in red to show that they are discontinued, and highlighted further on their Accubond, Ballistic Silvertip Varmint, and Bonded performance rounds. They also included which powders are the most accurate for your cartridge (that they have tested through their own platforms) for your needs. Some other manufacturers like Sierra highlight most accurate powders when testing as well.
My thoughts: Like previously stated, if you are reloading these projectiles in any of your cartridges, then you need this manual. Nosler has literally been one of most favorited by consumers for a long time. However, their are just as good and ofcourse better bullets out there. That’s why you have to love innovation! every year, one of these companies come out with something bigger and better.
Barnes again provided a great manual of their line of projectiles including the most recently introduced: Maximum-Range X (MRX) hunting bullets, Varmint Grenades (one of my favorites), Triple-shock X-Bullets, XBP handgun projectiles, and their Banded Solids. However, some individuals had mention they "failed" to include more than a few data lines for some cartridges. However, they had went beyond and above by making the data available online here: http://www.barnesbullets.com/load-data/
I believe Barnes goal was to switch from the 8 year old manual to look towards the future of going paperless. Having the manual online in a printable free version is fantastic for reloaders.
My favorite thing about the book: I like the book, but the online version is tremendous. They have included icons with various types of animals underneath each projectile to tell the reloader which is the most optimal for hunting. They also can update the website anytime they like, which means that you always have the most current version of load data without having to pay a cent.
My thoughts: I love Barnes projectiles. I have been using them for years. With the online reloading manual you literally can not go wrong. If you want a hard copy, all you have to do is print it out and throw it in a $1 binder. Plus, with the rapid change in the industry, Barnes can update their manual at anytime. They might notify you if it changes when you sign up for their email, but I am not sure on that
Swift has developed a book designed for hunters. The manual itself has 475 pages that go over 86 different cartridges. In addition, the manual includes ballistics for each load and the latest powders that are optimal for hunting. This book does a tremendous job on talking about the challenges of long range shooting and ballistics down range. It includes formulas for calculating ballistics while explaining how you find it and what it means.
My favorite thing about the book is that like unlike some manuals, this manual will lay flat on your table. I know you are probably thinking, "really? that's your favorite thing?" To be honest, yes. If you ever get a new manual, you'll understand what it's like to look at the data, and as soon as you take your hands off the page to find your components, your book will close right up. That’s also why I like Sierra‘s manual. Some of the newer books have super tough binding because of all the pages and for the first few weeks or months, depending on how much you load, that book will close as you take your finger off the page.
My thoughts: If you shoot swift bullets, you will defiantly want this. However, it is nice to have some explanation for the guys who don't shoot very far and want to learn how to "improve their game" a little bit more. Moreover, this book does have great information from experienced hunters who are worth reading what they have to say.
With over 1,000 pages and over 1,300 load combinations, this bad boy is a must on your bench. The manual itself has 200 different calibers with the most recent powders to date. The book obviously uses Hornady projectiles. However, if you hand-load you most likely have some Hornady projectiles on your bench. Their name speaks for itself and provides everything you will need to get started.
My favorite thing about the book: Although Hornady does not let you know their secret recipes -best or most accurate loads- they do make up by it for providing in depth explanations on hand-loading and safety tips.
My thoughts: Just like projectile manufacturers who make load manuals, this one is great if you are a Hornady bullet shooter. It is also a great book to learn how to reload and shows you some extra steps and techniques you could use on your bench to get you started. It is also very helpful that they include some of the newest cartridges that older manuals don't. For example, the 300 Blackout.
Lyman has been writing some pretty awesome hand-loading manuals for a long time. In this edition, they have yet again included a fantastic introductory on how to reload for the beginners. They have also included a few articles: "Barrels-looking into the unknown" by Ryan Newport, "Advanced Case Preparation Techniques" by John Haviland, "What is a Ballistic Coefficient and How Do you Use It?" by Dave Emary and Lane Pearce, "The History of Modern Lyman Handbooks" by Ed, Matunas, Ken Ramage and Tom Griffin.
My favorite thing about the book: Lyman was one of my first books and also the first reloading manual I picked up as a hand-loader. This was many years ago, so it was a different edition at that time.
However, like all Lyman books, they have included a great mini series inside to teach beginners how to reload and guide you through pretty much everything you need to know while going over components.
My thoughts: The book is great, but incredibly outdated. Unfortunately they did not include most of the industries newer powders but did include some new cartridges. If you are new, this book is a really good choice because it guides you through everything you could potentially run into, but ultimately lacks a lot of information in regards to powders and cartidges.
Overall, here is what you can take away from this:
1. If you are reloading anything, you should invest in the bullet companies manual you plan on using.
2. Along with the specific projectile manufactures manual, if you are new, invest into a manual that talks about reloading and how to do it, safe practices, and tips.
3. You can never have to many load manuals. The more you have, the more power to you.
4. If you are loading for shotgun, some of the more specific projectile manufacturers will not have data. Your best bet is to look into universal manuals or even shot-shell specific manuals, like this one here
5. Always get the most updated version of a manual. You never know when your buddy gets you into another cartridge and later you have some explaining to do to your wife why the hell their was a $1000 charge on your credit card from the gun store.
I know I missed some other manuals, but these seem to be the most favorited or mainstream among shooters.
If you want to checkout any other data online, I highly suggest you DO NOT go to forums. Instead use powder manufacturers website like http://www.hodgdonreloading.com/
As always, shoot straight, and happy reloading!
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