How to Handload for Beginners (basic)

Updated: May 17, 2020

What Do I Need To Start Reloading?

1. Reloading press

2. Dies

3. Powder scale

4. Calipers

5. Trimmer for brass

6. Vibratory or wet tumbler for cleaning brass

7. Media for your tumbler/solution

8. Case gauge

9. Chamfer and deburring tool

10. Lube for brass

11. Brass

12. Bullets

13. Powder

14. Primers

15. Hand primer (not needed but highly recommended)

16. Manual

Before we start, this article is aimed at brand new reloaders. I've written this with the idea of not putting too much information on here that will ultimately confuse you. Instead, I've created what you need to know to get started.

P.S. If you don't like reading, theirs a link at the very end of a video tutorial.


One of the best investments a handloder can make is investing in a good manual and a solid single stage press to learn the "ropes" of reloading before they jump right into anything like a progressive press or a turret.

I recommend a single-stage press because it allows you to familiarize yourself with every single step of how the cartridge is resized, when to put your primer in, when to pour the gun powder in, when to seat the bullet, and when to crimp.

So, what are the differences between single, turret and progressive presses? I highly recommend you take a look at our post: "What Reloading Press Should I buy?" before pulling the trigger on anything. Moreover, most "professional" reloaders and even very experienced ones all started with a single-stage press.

Let's back up a second. When you go to the range and use the brass of the factory ammo you just shot, you have to clean the brass casing. Next, you'll have to run it through your resizing die and then check the OAL. If it is too long, you will have to trim it. Then you will chamfer and deburr the casing. After that, you will prime your case, check your load manual for the appropriate amount of powder you need to use, fill your case with that amount of powder, install your seating die, seat your bullet, then if you are required, install your crimp die and crimp your finished round.

Don't freak out if that all sounded like a foreign language to you. Let me explain the process.

What the hell is resizing?

Resizing your brass casing will allow you to resize your brass back into specifications that are usable in your rifle or pistol so that you may use it again in the first step of handloading. The resizing die also allows you to deprime your case. Deprimming is the process of removing your "spent" or "used" primer in your case. Moreover, the resizing die resizes and deprimes your brass casing all in one step.

However, before we resize, you want to make sure that each case has the proper amount of lube before inserting it into your resizing die. Otherwise, it will get stuck and you will have one hell of a time trying to get it out. I apply it around the shoulder of the brass, a tiny bit inside the case mouth, and some on the body of the brass.

Starline 300 blackout brass

Now that you have taken all of your brass and resized it. You now will want to take your case gauge and drop your brass inside of it.

What does a case gauge do?

A case gauge shows if you are properly resizing your brass to the right size. One of the most common problems people will run into is not having their reloads chambering in their gun because they failed to follow instructions on how far the resizing die should be screwed in. Most resizing dies tell you to screw it all the way until it touches your shell plate-the shell plate is the contraption on the ram that holds your brass in place. But, I’d recommend reviewing the die manual that tells you if you have to turn it 1/4 of the way more or even back it off a little bit.

Lyman case gauge, Starline 300 blackout brass, cutting edge ballistics 190 grain

Lyman case gauge, Starline 300 blackout brass, cutting edge ballistics 190 grain

Lee Breechlock press

Back to the case gauge

Most case gauges have one opening for you to drop your newly resized brass into and other more expensive ones have multiple holes that will help you speed up the process. What you'll want to see is that once the brass is placed inside the case gauge, it should be flush. If it is not flush with the gauge and the brass is sticking out, you most likely resized the brass wrong. Make sure your resizing die is properly installed into your press. Follow the instructions very carefully and check that you have a decent amount of lube on your brass.

Now that our brass is resized and checked with a case gauge

Use your calipers to measure the O.A.L (overall length) of your brass casing to make sure it's not too long. In order to find this measurement, you will need to check in your reloading manual. Once you have finally trimmed your brass, you will chamfer and deburr the case mouth in order to make it "smoother" for the projectile to later be seated inside the case.

You'll now want to swap out your already installed resizing die and install your seating die-given that this is for rifle reloading and not pistol, if it's for pistol you will put in your powder/ bell die which will be before the seating die- and follow the instructions from the manufacturer on how to install the die properly.

Now, take your brass and "prime" it. The process can be done with the step of resizing on presses like lee, but I prefer using a hand primer because its faster and easier in my opinion. You'll take your hand primer and insert your primers inside the mechanism and get to work priming your brass. Here's a short video showing you how below.

After you have put primers in your brass, you'll want to get ready to put your powder inside your cases.

How much powder do I put inside my cases?

Arguably one of the most important things to have on your bench is a reloading manual. This manual will tell you what types of powder you should be using, how much powder you should use, to how much you should trim your brass and other GREAT instructions on how to reload. It includes hundreds of different cartridges from old to new, and are always updated when newer powders and cartridges come out. I recommend you read this article here for choosing which manual you will want: "Comprehensive Guide of Reloading Manuals." However, if you don't end up reading it, I recommend purchasing the reloading manual that matches the bullets you are using. For example, If I am reloading with Hornady bullets, you should buy a Hornady reloading manual.

Now that you have looked in reloading manual for your cartridge page, you'll want to find a starting and maximum "load"

I recommend when hand-loading you perform a ladder test as seen in the video below. This is a quick rundown of performing a ladder test

Once you have established how much powder your cartridge and rifle likes by performing a ladder test, fill your cases to that amount. Double-check, hell, quadruple check that you have powder in them. You don't want a squib in your barrel and follow up with extra shots.

Now, you are ready to start "seating" your projectiles into your cases.

Since you have already installed your seating die, you will want to check inside your reloading manual and see what your O.A.L is, or, Overall Length of your cartridge is. This will tell you how far you should be seating your projectile into your case and at the end what the overall length from the base of the brass to the tip of the projectile should be.

But wait, didn't you previously say O.A.L was used for the measurement of how long my casing should be, and if it's too long I trim it?

Yes, in your reloading manual this term is commonly used. Most reloading manuals have a diagram of your cartridge and in writing what your trim length and maximum and minimum seating depth should be.

I normally start by adjusting the "seating stem" which is the adjustable rod or knob at the top of your die in very slowly while seating my projectile into my casing. After each time you seat your projectile further into your casing, you should check it with your calipers. You will most likely notice it is way too long. Adjust your seating stem again further and seat again. Once you repeat this process till you get to the correct OAL of your hand-load you are ready to rock and roll. Here's a picture below of a seating stem knob on a lee die

Go ahead and start seating your projectiles into your cases now that you have set your desired length.

At the very end, I highly recommend you check your OAL on your reloads. You will most likely notice a variance in lengths even though your first reload was spot on.

Rest assured, this isn't your fault. What happens is when projectiles are made during the manufacturing process, the tip of the projectile, or melplat, are not always perfect. This can cause variances in the lengths of your newly finished bullets. Go back to your reloading manual and check what the minimum and maximum OAL length is from the base of the brass casing to the tip of the projectile. I recommend measuring by OGIVE, but it requires a few more gadgets on your bench. Here's an article we published and created a video for on OAL vs OGIVE. This will fix that problem right up for you.

Now that your bullets are seated, you want to take your case gauge again and drop your finished rounds inside it. If everything is flush, you are good to go!

Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of things that still need to be covered, but this will help you off to a great start. Here's a video to show you the steps of handloading if you're more of a visual learner: How To Handload Video Tutorial

As always, be safe, shoot straight, happy reloading!


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