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Reloading Safety
Discussion regarding the reloading of ammunition and tuning of loads for accuracy
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Super Member
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Joined: Apr 08, 2011
Posts: 1052
Location: Canada

PostPosted: Thu Jul 11, 2013 2:43 pm    Post subject: Reloading Safety Reply with quote

I am inspired to start this thread by PaulS and his post on procedures and its wandering into this topic. I am the first to admit that my reloading experience level only spans a few years but in that time I have educated myself as best I can through reading books and articles written by those with many years of experience. I also qualify as "Anal" when it comes to safety. I guess that comes from decades of using firearms both recreationally and professionally. In all that time I can only recall one "Kaboom" moment and that was caused by the shooter cranking in another round after what he assumed was a misfire. It turned out to be what some call a squib.

So what do I think I have learned to do to avoid the dangers inherent in reloading?

1. Only shoot rifles, pistols or revolvers that you know are designed for the load to be used. This is really important for the calbers which can be used in different guns and actions. The firearm must be maintained and clean. Stick to those that are manufactured to SAAMI or CIP or equivalent respected specifications. If you shoot customn firearms then know your firearms specs.

2. Only use load recipes from reliable sources and use a least two to check for the possible mis-print. If two sources disagree and you can't find another source use the more conservative recipe and work up.

3. Work up all loads. If you change one component or setting then start at the bottom and work up again.

4. Use extrapolation with extreme caution. Changing one variable doesn't mean this is carried over in a straight line relationship with pressure. So a minor change in seating depth for instance can result in a major change in pressure.

5. If you run everything at maximum you have only the proof test pressure of the firearm and the strength of the case as the points before it enters the failure zone. That is for one shot. Hammer the gun repeatedly with over-pressure loads and its failure point drops. Cases reloaded to maximum fail faster. So if you like to live on the edge maximize powder weight, compress it till the bullet can't be seated deeper, give it a heavy crimp and use a hot primer. THE FOLLOWING IS A QUOTE NOT WHAT I CONSIDER TO BE RIGHT "Of course you can seat to the lands and fill the extra space with more powder because the lawyers have given the powder manufactures lots of extra room in max loads to avoid liabilities." If you hold to this opinion please buy lots of insurance.

6. Check and recheck everything as if your life depended on it. Pay careful attention to every detail. Confirm each component is correct against the printed and verified recipe that is in front of you as you make this check. Inspect cases when they are clean, make sure the primer is the right one and seated properly, verify the correct powder is being used and that no powder was left in the dispenser from a previous loading session. Verify the powder measure and check and recheck throw weights. Recailbrate your scale for every loading session. Use a well lighted location so you can see if a serious over or under charge has been made. Confirm OAL with calipers, a micrometer or comparator.

7. Give reloading your full attention. Multi-tasking increase the chance of error.
If I have missed any salient points please tell me.

La a'Blair s'math n Cairdean
(Friends are good on the day of battle)
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Joined: Feb 18, 2006
Posts: 3667
Location: South-Eastern Washington - the State

PostPosted: Thu Jul 11, 2013 10:37 pm    Post subject: Re: Reloading Safety Reply with quote

Mac, everything you said is right on the money but I feel you left out one important message.
If you are changing the seating depth OUT from the case and that is the only change you make, DO NOT reduce the powder charge back to the minimum and work up from there. IF you are extending the overall length keep the powder charge the same as you had it worked up to with the shorter overall length and then work your new load up from there.

Expanding the powder space and reducing the powder charge can cause squib loads or detonation. Squib loads are only dangerous if they leave a bullet lodged in the bore and you fire another round without clearing it. A detonation can ruin the case, the rifle and your whole weekend.

That is the only one that you missed at least in my quick assessment.
Good job!! - especially about getting approved data. Thanks and God bless!

Speer, Lyman, Hodgdon, Sierra, and Hornady = reliable loading data
So and So's pages on the internet = NOT reliable loading data
Always check data against manuals
NEVER exceed maximum listed loads
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Joined: Dec 26, 2007
Posts: 981
Location: Illinois

PostPosted: Fri Jul 12, 2013 4:57 am    Post subject: Re: Reloading Safety Reply with quote

I have the following posted on the wall in my loading room and hand out a copy to anyone that starts loading for the first time. I call it my "Seven deadly Sins of Reloading."

Ø Never use data that is unproven. Loading data offered on the Internet or by a friend should be carefully researched and then reduced by 10% before starting. Always use data from a reputable manual or manufacturer’s Internet site and follow their strictures carefully. The powder and bullet manufacturers have much more experience, many more resources and far more expertise than “Cousin Clem” or an unknown source on the Internet and are far less likely to lead you astray.

Ø Smoking or alcohol and reloading don’t mix. Keep all open flames or cigarettes away from the loading bench when reloading is in progress. Flames and/or sparks are a bad combination to add to your powder selection. If you wish to drink, stay away from the bench. Alcohol is not contributory to making wise choices or assisting in attention to detail. Loading requires your undivided attention for the safety of self and others.

Ø Never change components without reducing powder charges accordingly. Bullets of similar weight from different manufacturers can, and usually do, have differing jacket composition, bearing surfaces or core material. These differences severely affect pressure and can turn a reasonable load into a potential disaster. Even a change in primers could feasibly create sudden pressure spikes that can change a safe load into one that can potentially damage or destroy a firearm…or yourself.

Ø Never assume that powder from a different lot number than the one you have been using will have the same burning and pressure characteristics. Powder formulations are updated regularly and can easily be much hotter than the previous batch. When using powder from a different lot number than previously used, drop your charge by at least 5% and work up slowly.

Ø Never assume that all powders with similar names are equal as to burning rate. IMR 4895, H 4895 (Hodgdon) and AA 4895 (Accurate Arms), though reasonably close in characteristics, are not the same powders nor do they have identical burning rates. A maximum load with one can well become a serious problem with another.

Ø Never try to make a “super-magnum” out of your cartridge. SAAMI pressures have been carefully calculated for any given cartridge for good reason; attempting to exceed these pressures is the short road to disaster. If you want a .300 WSM, buy one. Don’t try to overload your .30/06 in a futile (and stupidly dangerous) attempt to match it.

Ø Never use unidentified powder from an uncertain source. There is no way to determine its burning characteristics or applicability to the cartridges you may wish to load. Leaving powder unmarked in a measure can also be a danger. Your memory of what you last used can easily be faulty and there is no way of accurately determining the powder type by appearance. Keep all powders safely marked and stored in appropriate containers. If you find a quantity of unknown powder, dispose of it. Keeping it around to try in the interests of frugality only spells “stupidity”. Powder can safely be spread in a thin layer on a driveway and ignited with a long match for disposal. NEVER place cans of powder in refuse bins or garbage for disposal. Some unwitting soul may well be an innocent victim seriously injured or maimed by your carelessness.

If you can't hit it with one, you probably can't with two either!

The biggest problem with a closed mind is that it never seems to come with a closed mouth.

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Joined: Sep 20, 2010
Posts: 2984
Location: Iowa

PostPosted: Fri Jul 12, 2013 2:24 pm    Post subject: Re: Reloading Safety Reply with quote

Very good list SSL.


Limitations are but boundaries created inside our minds.
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