Written by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Rich Machholz
As some of you know I teach a 5 day reloading class titled Reloading A-Z at Trinidad State Junior College (TJSC) in conjunction with the NRA Summer Classes held at the TJSC Gunsmithing School in Trinidad, Colorado.
Each year is unique in that the mix of students is different year to year and the experience level is varied also. The 2016 class was unique for sure in that several students had brand new RCBS reloading kits and another pieced his together featuring Forster equipment while yet another brought a brand new Lee Classic Turret outfit. We even had a Dillion 650 in class. In amongst all this new equipment was 5 old timers and their RockChuckers.
The first morning is devoted to basic basics. Redundant you might say but not if you have but one new reloader in class because as practicing reloaders we sometimes overlook some basic setup operations. And that is brought to the forefront every year it seems.
Something as simple as press placement can be an issue. Let’s say you are right handed naturally, does that mean you pull the press handle right handed and feed the shell holder left handed or pull the handle left handed and feed the press right handed? This isn’t a problem if you have a whole 4 or 5 foot bench top available for press placement, you just put it in the middle and there it is. But is it, really? I’m right handed but feed the press left handed and operate the handle right handed. That means that my empty cases waiting to be resized are on the left and end up on the right after sizing or maybe even further left. Simple enough but what about bullet seating? Now the left side is getting a little crowded with processed and primed cases and bullets waiting to be seated while the loaded rounds end up somewhere over there also. So in actuality you need more counter top on the left than the right. Press location can and should be a prime consideration. A close examination of how you actually work is helpful but as a newbie with no experience the placement of tools in the beginning is even more important. If you batch load, meaning you perform one operation at a time, your requirements will be different than if you take one case through the entire process going from empty to loaded before going to another case.
Another interesting question that comes up in class, “When do you clean your cases?” Well, normally, you’d think you’d want to do that before you resized the cases to be sure no dust or grit got in the die. Okay, I agree but that means that the primer pockets don’t get touched because the spent primer is still in the pocket and the primer pocket will have to be done separately. Now, if you are using a dry media type tumbler or vibratory method this might be the best procedure because you don’t have to worry about the flash holes being plugged with errant media but what if you wish to use a ultra-sonic method, stainless pin media or just prefer to clean decapped brass and don’t want to run dirty brass through your full length die there is an issue. It is time to consider a universal decapping die. This die allows you to perform the decapping operation only and is not caliber specific nor does it require lube. It will require a small diameter decapping pin for .060″ flash holes if you are using small flash holes however.
Again we have a space issue. Where in the world do you put all this stuff? But it gets more complicated. I’m lucky enough to have access to all sorts of equipment, some useful and some not so much. I have come up with a procedure that works for me for my competition brass which is generally not real dirty. First I decap with a universal die or tool and fire up the ultra-sonic machine, mine is a Lyman using the proper solution (Lyman or Bore Tech) and cook until clean. Now there is the drying issue and it has been addressed in many ways. I like shiny so I get as much solution off the cases as I can shake off and throw them in a vibratory tumbler with untreated nut shell media for a couple of hours. When I take them out they are clean, dry and very shiny.
That’s my story for this month. See ya on the range. – Rich