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November 29th, 2022

Better Pistol Cartridge Reloading — Advice from Starline

pistol cartridge reloading Starline brass

Starline Brass offers a series of videos with helpful reloading tips. Focused primarily on pistol cartridges, these short videos can help anyone get started with metallic cartridge reloading. If you load pistol rounds on a progressive, this video series is particularly helpful. The on-camera host is Hunter Pilant, son of Carroll Pilant of Sierra Bullets.

Preventing Double Charges
Tip: Use a bulky powder that fills your case more than half way with a correct charge. This will overfill the case if it is double-charged, making it very difficult to seat a bullet.

Tumble New Brass Before Loading the First Time
Tip: Tumble new pistol cartridge brass in used media for 30 minutes before loading for the first time. This will add enough graphite (carbon residue) to smooth case entry into dies. You can also lube the case mouths with graphite, or use spray lube.

Powder Through Expander — How to Eliminate Hang-ups
Tip: When loading pistol brass with a progressive press, sometime the powder-through expander is hard to remove, especially with short cases. There are two fixes — first, try deburring the inside of the case mouth on your cases. Second, the radius of the powder through expander plug can be modified to smooth entry and exit (see photo). Starline will do this modification for free.

modified powder through expander starline

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October 6th, 2022

Loading Accurate Pistol Ammo — Smart Tips from the USAMU

Accurate Reloading hand loading handgun pistol progressive 9mm .45 ACP
Photo courtesy UltimateReloader.com.

The U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) has published a series of reloading articles on its Facebook Page. In this article, the second in a 3-part series, the USAMU covers the process of loading competition pistol ammunition. The authors focus on two key elements — the taper crimp and the quality/uniformity of the original brass. If you shoot pistol competitively, or just want to maximize the accuracy of your handguns, read this article. The taper crimp tips are very important.

Pistol Reloading USAMU taper crimp Brass
Accurate Reloading hand loading handgun pistol FN 509 LS 9mm

Loading Accurate Competition Pistol Ammunition — Part 2 of 3

Today, we resume our series on factors affecting accuracy in pistol handloads. Readers who missed Part One can visit our USAMU Facebook Page. Scroll down to March 28, 2018 to find that first installment which is worth reading.

One often-overlooked aspect of handloading highly-accurate pistol ammunition is the amount of taper crimp used, and its effect on accuracy. (NOTE: this article pertains to loading for semi-autos – revolver crimp techniques involve some quite different issues.) Briefly, different amounts of taper crimp are used with various handloads to obtain best accuracy. The amount is based on bullet weight, powder burn rate and charge, plus other factors such as case neck tension. During machine-rest testing of experimental Service Pistol ammunition, many variables are examined. Among these, our Shop often varies a load’s crimp in degrees of 0.001″ when re-testing for finest accuracy.

How to Measure Taper Crimp on Pistol Cartridges
One question that often arises is, “How do I measure the taper crimp I’m putting on my cartridges?” Using the narrow part of one’s dial caliper jaws, carefully measure the case diameter at the exact edge of the case mouth on a loaded cartridge. It’s important to take several measurements to ensure consistency. Also, be sure to measure at several places around the case mouth, as case wall thickness can vary. After measuring 2-3 cartridges with a given crimp setting, one can be confident of the true dimension and that it can be repeated later, if needed.

Accurate Reloading hand loading handgun pistol progressive 9mm .45 ACP

However, for good results, one must use brass from one maker due to variances in case wall thickness. For example, the same degree of crimp that imparts a measurement of 0.471″ with Brand X brass may result in 0.469″ with Brand Y. Thus, for best accuracy, using brass from the same manufacturer is important — particularly for 50-yard Slow Fire. In a perfect world, it is better still to use brass from one lot number if possible. With the popularity of progressive presses using interchangeable tool heads, keeping separate tool heads adjusted for each load helps maximize uniformity between ammunition lots.

Brass Uniformity and Accuracy
Brass is important to pistol accuracy. While accurate ammunition can be loaded using brass of mixed parentage, that is not conducive to finest results, particularly at 50 yards. It is important for the serious competitor to pay attention to his brass – even if only for the 50-yard “Slow Fire” portions of “Bullseye” matches and practice. By segregating brass as described above, and additionally keeping track of the number of times a given batch of cases has been fired, one can ensure case neck tension and case length are at their most uniform.

Accurate Reloading hand loading handgun pistol progressive 9mm .45 ACP

Given the large volumes of ammunition consumed by active pistol competitors, using inexpensive, mixed surplus brass for practice, particularly at the “short line” (25 yards), is understandable. In NRA Outdoor Pistol (“Bullseye”), the 10-ring is relatively generous — especially for a well-trained shooter with an accurate pistol and load. However, for the “long line” (50 yards), purchasing and segregating a lot of high-quality brass to be used strictly for slow-fire is a wise idea. To keep track of your brass on the line, use a unique headstamp marking with 1 or 2 colors of marking pen ink.

Uniform Cartridge Overall Length is Important
Cartridge case Overall Length (OAL) uniformity as it comes from the factory is important to achieving utmost accuracy. More uniform case lengths (best measured after sizing) contribute to greater consistency of crimp, neck tension, ignition/burn of powder charge, headspace (rimless cartridges), etc. Cartridge case-length consistency varies noticeably by maker and, with lesser manufacturers, also from lot to lot. Some manufacturers are more consistent in their dimensions than others, and also in the hardness/ductility of their brass. Similarly, pay attention to primer brands, powder lot numbers, etc.

Consider Using a Lock-Out Die with Progressive Presses
When reloading pistol ammo with a Progressive press, we strongly recommend the use of a lock-out die, or other system that can detect double charges or low charges. If your progressive is manually advanced, the possibility of a double charge is very real — and that can have disastrous consequences.

On UltimateReloader.com website you’ll find an excellent two-part series on the function and set-up of the RCBS Lock-Out Die. This die prevents loading if a high or low powder charge is detected. The video below shows setup of the RCBS Lock-Out Die on the Dillon XL-650 progressive press.

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August 27th, 2022

Expand Cartridge Brass in Stages with Progressive Press

Darrell Jones DJ's Brass Service expanding brass 6mmBR 6BR BRX 30BR Hornady press
Photos from DJ’s Brass Service.

Have you ever expanded a .22 or 6mm cartridge all the way up to .30-caliber? If so, you know this can be a difficult procedure that stresses the case necks and neck-shoulder junction. A significant neck-size expansion done in one big jump can increase run-out, cause doughnuts, or worse yet, even split the brass. Therefore you want to proceed in increments, increasing the neck diameter in stages. One smart way to do that is to use a Progressive Press. This article explains how…

The most successful short-range benchrest-for-score cartridge is the 30 BR. That cartridge, as well as 30 BR variants such as the 30 BRX, all start with the 6mmBR Norma parent cartridge, typically with Lapua 6mmBR brass. To get a nice 30 BR case you want to expand in stages, increasing the inside neck diameter incrementally from .243 to .308.

Darrell Jones of DJ’s Brass Service creates thousands of 30 BR cases each year. He has found a clever way to speed up the process — Darrell uses a Progressive Press. He runs his 6BR brass through four (4) separate Hornady neck-sizing dies with expander mandrels. First there is a .257 die, followed by .264 (6.5mm), .284 (7mm), and then .308. Then a fifth and final K&M die provides one last, slight expansion so the newly-fashioned 30 BR cases perfectly fit the arbor of Darrell’s neck-turning tool.

So to repeat, the case starts as .243 (6mm), then moves in up stages .257, .264, .284, and .308, with a final “finishing” step prior to neck-turning. You can see the expansion in this video, which starts with 6mmBR brass that was first hydro-formed to 6 BRX:

Watch 6mm Cases Expanded to 30-Caliber (6BRX to 30 BRX)

For this demo video, Darrell expands just one case at a time. However, he can also put multiple cases in the progressive — one per station. This takes a little more effort, Darrell says, but the results are still excellent. Darrell tells us: “I do put multiple cases in the progressive to save time. The results are the same — I just wanted to show a single-step process and how it reduces run-out by not stressing the shoulder with one big expansion from 6mm straight to 30 caliber. Doing the operation in multiple stages avoids binds and helps keep the shoulders concentric.”

This same multi-stage procedure can be use to expand other cartridge types. For example you could take .221 Fireball brass in stages up to .308 to create 300 Blackout brass.

Darrell Jones DJ's Brass Service expanding brass 6mmBR 6BR BRX 30BR Hornady press

Darrell uses caliber-specific, Hornady neck-sizing-only dies with elliptical expanders. Darrell tells us: “The Hornady elliptical expander has a reduced bearing surface that puts less strain on the brass when expanding the necks to the next size.” The fitting at the bottom of the die is the Lock-N-Load die bushing that allows fast die changes.

These particular cases used in the video were first hydro-formed to 6BRX then expanded to 30 BRX before neck turning. DJ’s Brass offers hydro-forming for many popular wildcat cartridges such as 6 PPC, 6mm Dasher, and .284 Shehane.

Darrell Jones DJ's Brass Service expanding brass 6mmBR 6BR BRX 30BR Hornady press

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July 12th, 2022

Precision Pistol Reloading — Good Advice from the USAMU

USAMU Service Pistol Handgun Tip Advice Reloading
SSG Greg Markowski of the USAMU at Camp Perry, Ohio.

Today, July 12, 2022, pistol competition commences at the National Matches at Camp Perry. Many of the best pistol shooters in the country will be on the firing line, including members of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit Service Pistol team. After the last pistol match on Sunday, July 17th, trophies and awards will be presented to the top shooters.

Camp Perry 2022 pistol matches
Camp Perry 2022 pistol matches

If you want to compete in top competitions like this, you’ll need good ammo. The following USAMU article provides rock-solid reloading advice, explaining how to load accurate, reliable handgun ammo.

Camp Perry Pistol competition 2014
Camp Perry NM pistol firing line from CMP Photo Archives.

USAMU Service Pistol Handgun Tip Advice Reloading

The U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) fields pistol teams as well as rifle and shotgun competition squads. Consequently the USAMU’s Reloading Shop loads tens of thousands of pistol rounds every year. In this article, the USAMU’s handgun experts talk about reloading for handguns — with smart tips on how to achieve superior accuracy with 100% reliability. This article, which offers important insights on COAL, primers, crimps and more.

USAMU Service Pistol Handgun Tip Advice Reloading

Precision Pistol Reloading — Recommended Methods

Optimize the Taper Crimp
One often-overlooked aspect of handloading highly-accurate pistol ammunition is the amount of crimp and its effect on accuracy. Different amounts of taper crimp are used with various handloads to obtain best accuracy. The amount is based on bullet weight, powder burn rate and charge, plus other factors. It is not unusual for our Shop to vary a load’s crimp in degrees of 0.001″ and re-test for finest accuracy.

USAMU Service Pistol Handgun Tip Advice ReloadingUse Consistent Brass
Brass is also important to pistol accuracy. While accurate ammunition can be loaded using brass of mixed parentage, that is not conducive to finest results, particularly at 50 yards. It is important for the serious competitor/handloader to use brass of the same headstamp and ideally one lot number, to maximize uniformity. Given the volumes of ammunition consumed by active pistol competitors, using inexpensive, mixed surplus brass for practice, particularly at the “short line” (25 yards), is understandable. However, for the “long line” (50 yards), purchasing and segregating a lot of high-quality brass to be used strictly for slow-fire is a wise idea.

Importance of Uniform COAL
Uniformity of the Case Overall Length (COAL) as it comes from the factory is also important to achieving utmost accuracy. More uniform case lengths (best measured after sizing) contribute to greater consistency of crimp, neck tension, ignition/burn of powder charge, and so on. Cartridge case-length consistency varies from lot to lot, as well as by maker. Some manufacturers are more consistent in this dimension than others. [Editor’s note: It is easy to trim pistol brass to uniform length. Doing this will make your taper crimps much more consistent.]

Primers and Powders — Comparison Test for Accuracy
Pay attention to primer brands, powder types and charges. Evaluating accuracy with a Ransom or other machine rest at 50 yards can quickly reveal the effect of changes made to handload recipes.

Bullet Selection — FMJ vs. JHP
Bullets are another vital issue. First, there is the question of FMJ vs. JHP. A friend of this writer spent decades making and accuracy-testing rifle and pistol bullets during QC for a major bullet manufacturer. In his experience, making highly-accurate FMJ bullets is much more difficult than making highly-accurate JHPs, in large part due to the way the jackets are formed. Small die changes could affect accuracy of FMJ lots dramatically.

The CMP now allows “safe, jacketed ammunition” in Excellence-in-Competition (EIC) Service Pistol matches, although wadcutter ammunition is prohibited. Thus, the option to use very accurate JHP designs simplifies the life of CMP Service Pistol shooters in pursuit of the prestigious Distinguished Pistol Shot badge.

Hopefully, these tips will be helpful to any pistol shooters interested in accurate handloads, not just “Bullseye” shooters. Small tweaks to one’s normal routine can pay big dividends in improved accuracy and make practice and competition more rewarding.

Stay safe, and good shooting!

TOP IMAGE: SSG Greg Markowski, a shooter/instructor with the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit and native of Poland, fires his pistol during the 2018 Civilian Marksmanship Program’s National Pistol Matches at Camp Perry, Ohio July 13, 2018. At that event, Markowski claimed the General Mellon Trophy, General Patton Trophy and the General Custer Trophy. U.S. Army photo by Maj. Michelle Lunato/released by Defense Visual Information Distribution Service.

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April 9th, 2022

Saturday at the Movies: Seven Progressive Presses in Review

ultimate reloading progressive press review dillon Mark 7 rcbs lee hornady

With the high cost and reduced availability of factory ammo, more shooters are loading their own ammo. When good 9mm pistol ammo was $10/box, it might be hard to justify handloading. Now that 50 rounds of factory 9mm can run $25 or more it certainly makes sense to reload. The same is true with rifle ammo if you shoot large quantities, or if you simply can’t find your preferred ammo for sale these days.

To increase productivity when reloading large quantities of ammunition, many shooters are thinking of getting a progressive press. Because multiple operations take place with a single pull of a lever, a progressive press can produce way more ammo in a given period of time than any single stage press. With a progressive, on the ram up-stroke, the multiple stations can simultaneously remove spent primer, full-length size case, drop powder, seat bullet, and crimp (if desired). Most progressives are also set up to prime cases with the ram in the lower position — though some guys prefer to prime manually.

Progressive presses aren’t just for high-output pistol ammo or bulk rifle ammunition. Good progressives can be adapted to do certain reloading tasks for top-on-the line match ammo. You might use a progressive for decapping, priming, and sizing, then throw powder and/or seat bullets separately. Some Champion shooters do use progressives to load their match ammo! For example 5-Time National Long Range Champion John Whidden and 2020 Berger SWN F-Open Champion Jay Christopherson both use progessive presses for some (but not all) operations.

To help you get started with progressive presses, here are six videos from UltimateReloader.com that cover seven popular machines, from the elite Mark 7 Evolution to the affordable Lee Loadmaster. With many of these machines you can add separate vertical bullet feeder systems that further increase loading efficiency. Machines Covered: Lyman Mark 7, Dillon XL-650, Dillon XL-750, Dillon RL-550c, RCBS Pro Chucker 7, Hornady Lock-N-Load AP, and Lee Load Master.

Mark 7 Evolution Press — Distributed by Lyman

Dillon XL-650 vs. Dillon XL-750

RCBS Pro Chucker 7 with Bullet Feeder

Dillon 550C with 6mm Creedmoor and 9x19mm

Hornady Lock-N-Load AP Progressive

Lee Load-Master Features and Loading 9mm

SAFETY BONUS — Why You Need a Lock-Out Die


The RCBS Lock-Out Die can also be used with some Dillon and Hornady progressive presses.

If you load pistol or rifle ammo with a progressive press, we strongly recommend you get a Lock-Out Die from RCBS. This unique reloading die will prevent your progressive press from advancing if the dispensed powder charge is more or less than about 0.3 grains too high or too low. The Lock-Out Die really works.

The Lock-Out Die works by using a central die detection rod that sets its vertical position based on the height of the powder column in the case. Through an ingenious design, if the powder column height is too low or too high, the rod locks in place as you start to pull the press handle. This halts the press before the ram can lift and the cartridge plate can advance. Unlike a beeping alarm system (which can be ignored or defeated), the Lock-Out Die physically stops the movement of the press ram and prevents a bullet being seated in the “problem” case.

RCBS Lock-out die RCBS Lock-out die

It takes a bit of tweaking to get the Lock-Out Die detection rod setting just right, but once it is correctly positioned, the Lock-Out Die works smoothly in the background. The Lock-Out Die won’t interfere with the loading process unless it detects a high or low charge — and then it positively stops the progressive loading cycle.

While crafted for use in RCBS progressive presses, the RCBS Lock-Out Die can also be used on a Dillon XL Progressive or Hornady Lock-N-Load progressive — though it does take up one station which could otherwise be used for a final crimp die (after the seating die). This Editor has used the RCBS Lock-out die very successfully on an RCBS 2000 progressive press for many years.

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March 21st, 2022

Precision Reloading for Competition Pistols — Tips from USAMU

USAMU Service Pistol Handgun Tip Advice Reloading
SSG Greg Markowski of the USAMU at Camp Perry, Ohio.*

USAMU Service Pistol Handgun Tip Advice Reloading

The U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) fields pistol teams as well as rifle and shotgun competition squads. Consequently the USAMU’s Reloading Shop loads tens of thousands of pistol rounds every year. In this article, the USAMU’s handgun experts talk about reloading for handguns — with smart tips on how to achieve superior accuracy with 100% reliability. This article, which offers important insights on COAL, primers, crimps and more.

USAMU Service Pistol Handgun Tip Advice Reloading

Precision Pistol Reloading — Recommended Methods

Optimize the Taper Crimp
One often-overlooked aspect of handloading highly-accurate pistol ammunition is the amount of crimp and its effect on accuracy. Different amounts of taper crimp are used with various handloads to obtain best accuracy. The amount is based on bullet weight, powder burn rate and charge, plus other factors. It is not unusual for our Shop to vary a load’s crimp in degrees of 0.001″ and re-test for finest accuracy.

USAMU Service Pistol Handgun Tip Advice ReloadingUse Consistent Brass
Brass is also important to pistol accuracy. While accurate ammunition can be loaded using brass of mixed parentage, that is not conducive to finest results, particularly at 50 yards. It is important for the serious competitor/handloader to use brass of the same headstamp and ideally one lot number, to maximize uniformity. Given the volumes of ammunition consumed by active pistol competitors, using inexpensive, mixed surplus brass for practice, particularly at the “short line” (25 yards), is understandable. However [at 50 yards], purchasing and segregating a lot of high-quality brass to be used strictly for slow-fire is a wise idea.

Importance of Uniform COAL
Uniformity of the Case Overall Length (COAL) as it comes from the factory is also important to achieving utmost accuracy. More uniform case lengths (best measured after sizing) contribute to greater consistency of crimp, neck tension, ignition/burn of powder charge, and so on. Cartridge case-length consistency varies from lot to lot, as well as by maker. Some manufacturers are more consistent in this dimension than others. [Editor’s note: It is easy to trim pistol brass to uniform length. Doing this will make your taper crimps much more consistent.]

Primers and Powders — Comparison Test for Accuracy
Pay attention to primer brands, powder types and charges. Evaluating accuracy with a Ransom or other machine rest at 50 yards can quickly reveal the effect of changes made to handload recipes.

Bullet Selection — FMJ vs. JHP
Bullets are another vital issue. First, there is the question of FMJ vs. JHP. A friend of this writer spent decades making and accuracy-testing rifle and pistol bullets during QC for a major bullet manufacturer. In his experience, making highly-accurate FMJ bullets is much more difficult than making highly-accurate JHPs, in large part due to the way the jackets are formed. Small die changes could affect accuracy of FMJ lots dramatically. The CMP now allows “safe, jacketed ammunition” in Excellence-in-Competition (EIC) Service Pistol matches, although wadcutter ammunition is prohibited. Thus, the option to use very accurate JHP designs simplifies the life of CMP Service Pistol shooters in pursuit of the prestigious Distinguished Pistol Shot badge.

Hopefully, these tips will be helpful to any pistol shooters interested in accurate handloads, not just “Bullseye” shooters. Small tweaks to one’s normal routine can pay big dividends in improved accuracy and make practice and competition more rewarding. Stay safe, and good shooting!

TOP IMAGE: SSG Greg Markowski, a shooter/instructor with the USAMU, fires his pistol during the 2018 Civilian Marksmanship Program’s National Pistol Matches at Camp Perry, Ohio. At that event, Markowski claimed the General Mellon Trophy, General Patton Trophy and the General Custer Trophy. U.S. Army photo by Maj. Michelle Lunato/released by Defense Visual Information Distribution Service.

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March 1st, 2022

Guide to Auto-Indexing Progressive Reloading Presses

USAMU Progressive Press auto  self-advancing

The U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit regularly publishes reloading “how-to” articles on the USAMU Facebook page. One very good article, part 5 of a 6-part series, focused on Progressive Presses. This article explains proper procedures for Auto-Indexing Progressives, which advance the shell-plate with every pull of the handle. Auto Progressives are very efficient, but they also require special attention and focus, because so many things are happening at once. You need to train yourself to watch every station. If you run a progressive press now, or are considering getting a progressive, we recommend you read this article. Visit the USAMU Facebook page for other helpful handloading guidance.

Progressive Loading Presses — Self-Advancing Shellplate Type

USAMU Progressive Press auto  self-advancing
Photo courtesy UltimateReloader.com.

Recently, we addressed manually-operated progressive presses for the beginning handloader. This type press requires one to manually advance the shellplate after each handle stroke. An advantage for beginners is that nothing happens at any station until the loader wants it to. This helps users avoid problems from clearing malfunctions without noticing that the shellplate has advanced itself. (Read Previous USAMU Article on Manual Progressives.)

The next, more luxurious type progressive press advances the shellplate automatically whenever the handle is cycled. [Editor: This is also called an “Auto-Indexing” Progressive Press.] Typically, each stroke automatically sizes and primes a case, operates the powder measure (if used) and seats a bullet. Some also have case feeders that automatically put a new case in the shellplate with every cycle. Others require the loader to insert a case each cycle. With both types, the loader usually puts a bullet on each sized/primed/charged case.

[CAVEAT: While our Handloading Shop has several progressive presses, ALL of our powder charges are thrown/weighed by hand. We do not use powder measures on our presses. Our progressives are used for brass preparation, priming, seating, etc., but not for fully-progressive loading.]

The manually-advanced press can be a boon to beginners, but as one gains experience it can be a mixed blessing, depending on one’s style. If one pays close attention to every operation and loads without distractions, the manual press is very reliable and allows full scrutiny of each round as it is loaded. However, if one easily drifts into day-dreaming, or isn’t focused on paying careful attention at all times, the manual progressive can be a bit of a liability. The opportunity for forgetting a powder charge, leading to a squib load, is ever-present. [Editor: A lock-out die can help reduce the risk of a squib load, or a double-charge. See below.]

The automatically-advancing progressives help prevent this by ensuring a powder charge will be dropped each time the handle is operated. Experienced handloaders often appreciate this feature due to the savings of time and effort. Individual preferences between the two press styles are influenced by several factors. These include one’s comfort with more- vs. less-complicated mechanisms, how often one changes calibers (case feeders often must be converted, in addition to dies and shellplates), how many rounds one loads annually, relative ease of changing primer mechanisms from small to large, etc. Automatic progressives and their caliber conversion kits tend to be significantly more expensive than manual progressives and caliber conversions from the same maker.

One USAMU handloader, who likes simple, bullet-proof machines and maximum efficiency when converting presses, owns two manually-advanced progressives. One is set up for large primers, and the other for small primers. He can change calibers in the twinkling of an eye. As he loads for many different calibers, this fits his style. Another handloader here is just the opposite. He loads for a few calibers, but in larger quantities. He much prefers his self-advancing press with case-feeder for its speed. He makes large lots of ammo in a given caliber before switching, to improve overall efficiency. His caliber conversion kits are more expensive than those for the manually-advanced progressive, but he uses fewer of them.

Whichever type one chooses, it is VERY important to buy quality gear from a manufacturer with a long, well-established track record for quality, durability and good customer support. Avoid jumping on the “latest, greatest” model until it has a proven track record. For example, this writer knows a loader who got a brand-new, expensive, self-advancing model press some years back, shortly after its introduction. As is too often the case these days, the manufacturer released it before all the “bugs” were worked out.

Better Safe Than Sorry — the RCBS Lock-Out Die
RCBS Makes a “Lock-Out Die” that senses the powder charge. This will halt the Progressive press if you have a double charge, or an undercharge. Your Editor has the Lock-Out Die on his RCBS Pro 2000. It has “saved his bacon” a half-dozen times over the years. It can be used on Dillon and Hornady progressives as well as RCBS machines.

It would not fully seat primers to the correct depth. No amount of adjustment, extra force, or fiddling would do better than to seat primers barely flush with the case head. Any inattention could result in a slightly “high” primer, protruding above the case head. It created a risk for slam-fires, particularly in semi-autos without spring-retracted firing pins, such as the M1 or M1A. In desperation, he had a machinist buddy study the problem and machine a new part to correct it. No dice. Its engineering didn’t permit full primer seating, even with extended parts. He now wishes he’d heeded his shooting buddies’ advice to stick with the “tried and true,” reliable performer they all used.

Whichever press one selects, see if the maker has a kit or list of commonly-replaced parts. Having needed springs, pins, etc. on hand in the rare event that one breaks or “goes missing” can save the day when one is busy loading for a match! Another tip for improving one’s overall loading efficiency (rounds loaded with minimal set-up/tear-down time) is to plan one’s handloading by primer size. For example, if your machine is set to use small primers, load all the calibers that you intend to that take small primers, before converting the press to load large-primer calibers.

In our next chapter, we’ll discuss peculiarities of progressive loading for rifle cartridges, with remedies for problems such as excessive cartridge-case headspace variation when sizing, tips for ensuring best powder charge consistency, and so on. Until then, be safe, and good shooting!

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October 13th, 2021

7 SAFE: Seven Vital Safety Tips for Reloaders

seven reloading safety tips powder primers brownells manual

You can never be too safe when hand-loading your own ammunition. This helpful Brownells video outlines the Seven Fundamental Reloading Safety Tips. This is important information for novice hand-loaders and a good refresher for those with reloading experience!

Summary of the Seven Safety Tips:

1. Store your reloading supplies in a safe and dry location, away from children and away from any possible source of ignition. It is also smart to keep your powder and primers separate.

2. Get and use respected reloading manuals, especially for new cartridges. Start low and work up slowly while watching for warning signs of pressure and/or case fatigue.

3. Locate your reloading activity where you will not be distracted. If you get interrupted, stop. (Distractions will eventually lead to mistakes.)

4. Do NOT mix powders. Keep your powders clearly marked and dated. You can use masking tape to write the date on the container.

5. If you load the same cartridge type for different firearms, make sure your ammo headspaces properly in each gun.

6. Check cases frequently. Look for split necks, case head separation or other signs of fatigue and excessive pressure.

7. If reloading military brass, be aware that case capacity is usually reduced, and initial loads should be at least 10-15% lower than published data.


Here are some other tips that will help your avoid making costly mistakes (such as using the wrong powder, or undercharging a case):

  • Powder Type — Always double-check the label on your powder containers. After placing powder in the powder measure, put a piece of tape on the measure with the powder type written on it. Some guys write the powder type on a card and place that right in the hopper.
  • Scale Drift — Electronic balances can drift. If you are using a digital powder scale, calibrate the scale with a test weight every 50 rounds or so.
  • Case Fill — If you throw more than one charge at a time, look INSIDE every case before seating a bullet. Squib charges can be dangerous if you don’t notice them before firing the next round.
  • Progressive Presses — When using a progressive press, consider using an RCBS Lock-Out Die. This will detect a low charge and stop the machine. These dies will work with RCBS, Hornady, and Dillon progressives.

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July 18th, 2021

Precision Reloading for Handguns — Smart Tips from the USAMU

USAMU Service Pistol Handgun Tip Advice Reloading
SSG Greg Markowski of the USAMU at Camp Perry, Ohio.

Today is the final day of pistol competition for the National Matches at Camp Perry. Many of the best pistol shooters in the country will be on the firing line, including members of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit Service Pistol team. Today, July 18th, the handgun phase of the CMP National Matches concludes with the Oliver Hazard Perry Pop-Up Pistol Match, Military & Police Pistol Match, 1911 As-Issued Pistol Match, and Glock Match. After the last match, trophies and awards will be presented to the top shooters.

If you want to compete in top competitions like this, you’ll need good ammo. The following USAMU article provides rock-solid reloading advice, explaining how to load accurate, reliable handgun ammo.

Camp Perry Pistol competition 2014
Camp Perry NM pistol firing line from CMP Photo Archives.

USAMU Service Pistol Handgun Tip Advice Reloading

The U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) fields pistol teams as well as rifle and shotgun competition squads. Consequently the USAMU’s Reloading Shop loads tens of thousands of pistol rounds every year. In this article, the USAMU’s handgun experts talk about reloading for handguns — with smart tips on how to achieve superior accuracy with 100% reliability. This article, which offers important insights on COAL, primers, crimps and more.

USAMU Service Pistol Handgun Tip Advice Reloading

Precision Pistol Reloading — Recommended Methods

Optimize the Taper Crimp
One often-overlooked aspect of handloading highly-accurate pistol ammunition is the amount of crimp and its effect on accuracy. Different amounts of taper crimp are used with various handloads to obtain best accuracy. The amount is based on bullet weight, powder burn rate and charge, plus other factors. It is not unusual for our Shop to vary a load’s crimp in degrees of 0.001″ and re-test for finest accuracy.

USAMU Service Pistol Handgun Tip Advice ReloadingUse Consistent Brass
Brass is also important to pistol accuracy. While accurate ammunition can be loaded using brass of mixed parentage, that is not conducive to finest results, particularly at 50 yards. It is important for the serious competitor/handloader to use brass of the same headstamp and ideally one lot number, to maximize uniformity. Given the volumes of ammunition consumed by active pistol competitors, using inexpensive, mixed surplus brass for practice, particularly at the “short line” (25 yards), is understandable. However, for the “long line” (50 yards), purchasing and segregating a lot of high-quality brass to be used strictly for slow-fire is a wise idea.

Importance of Uniform COAL
Uniformity of the Case Overall Length (COAL) as it comes from the factory is also important to achieving utmost accuracy. More uniform case lengths (best measured after sizing) contribute to greater consistency of crimp, neck tension, ignition/burn of powder charge, and so on. Cartridge case-length consistency varies from lot to lot, as well as by maker. Some manufacturers are more consistent in this dimension than others. [Editor’s note: It is easy to trim pistol brass to uniform length. Doing this will make your taper crimps much more consistent.]

Primers and Powders — Comparison Test for Accuracy
Pay attention to primer brands, powder types and charges. Evaluating accuracy with a Ransom or other machine rest at 50 yards can quickly reveal the effect of changes made to handload recipes.

Bullet Selection — FMJ vs. JHP
Bullets are another vital issue. First, there is the question of FMJ vs. JHP. A friend of this writer spent decades making and accuracy-testing rifle and pistol bullets during QC for a major bullet manufacturer. In his experience, making highly-accurate FMJ bullets is much more difficult than making highly-accurate JHPs, in large part due to the way the jackets are formed. Small die changes could affect accuracy of FMJ lots dramatically.

The CMP now allows “safe, jacketed ammunition” in Excellence-in-Competition (EIC) Service Pistol matches, although wadcutter ammunition is prohibited. Thus, the option to use very accurate JHP designs simplifies the life of CMP Service Pistol shooters in pursuit of the prestigious Distinguished Pistol Shot badge.

Hopefully, these tips will be helpful to any pistol shooters interested in accurate handloads, not just “Bullseye” shooters. Small tweaks to one’s normal routine can pay big dividends in improved accuracy and make practice and competition more rewarding.

Stay safe, and good shooting!

TOP IMAGE: SSG Greg Markowski, a shooter/instructor with the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit and native of Poland, fires his pistol during the 2018 Civilian Marksmanship Program’s National Pistol Matches at Camp Perry, Ohio July 13, 2018. At that event, Markowski claimed the General Mellon Trophy, General Patton Trophy and the General Custer Trophy. U.S. Army photo by Maj. Michelle Lunato/released by Defense Visual Information Distribution Service.

Permalink Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Handguns, Reloading 2 Comments »
February 11th, 2021

Progressive Presses — Six High Output Progressives Reviewed

ultimate reloading progressive press review dillon Mark 7 rcbs lee hornady

With the high cost and reduced availability of factory ammo, more shooters are loading their own ammo. When good 9mm pistol ammo was $10/box, it might be hard to justify handloading. Now that 50 rounds of 9mm can run $40 or more it certainly makes sense to reload. The same is true with rifle ammo if you shoot large quantities, or if you simply can’t find your preferred ammo for sale these days.

To increase productivity when reloading large quantities of ammunition, many shooters are thinking of getting a progressive press. Because multiple operations take place with a single pull of a lever, a progressive press can produce way more ammo in a given period of time than any single stage press. With a progressive, on the ram up-stroke, the multiple stations can simultaneously remove spent primer, full-length size case, drop powder, seat bullet, and crimp (if desired). Most progressives are also set up to prime cases with the ram in the lower position — though some guys prefer to prime manually.

Progressive presses aren’t just for high-output pistol ammo or bulk rifle ammunition. Good progressives can be adapted to do certain reloading tasks for top-on-the line match ammo. You might use a progressive for decapping, priming, and sizing, then throw powder and/or seat bullets separately. Some Champion shooters do use progressives to load their match ammo! For example 5-Time National Long Range Champion John Whidden and 2020 Berger SWN F-Open Champion Jay Christopherson both use progessive presses for some (but not all) operations.

To help you get started with progressive presses, here are five videos from UltimateReloader.com that cover six popular machines, from the elite Mark 7 Evolution to the affordable Lee Loadmaster. With many of these machines you can add separate vertical bullet feeder systems that further increase loading efficiency.

Mark 7 Evolution Press — Distributed by Lyman

Dillon XL-650 vs. Dillon XL-750

RCBS Pro Chucker 7 with Bullet Feeder

Dillon 550C with 6mm Creedmoor and 9x19mm

Hornady Lock-N-Load AP Progressive

Lee Loadmaster Features and Loading 9mm

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December 25th, 2020

Christmas Video Showcase — 8 Great Videos from F-Class John

Nancy tompkins book f-class john videos
This image is from multi-time Nat’l Long Range Champion Nancy Tompkins, author of Prone and Long Range Rifle Shooting. Nancy loves to photograph the Aurora Borealis.

As a Christmas present for our readers, today we showcase eight very informative videos from AccurateShooter Forum member F-Class John. A talented F-Class competitor with a smart, technically-focused mind, John has created a series of videos about reloading and precision loading tools, along with rifle and shooting accessories. Many of John’s product reviews are the most thorough and detailed you’ll find in video format. You’ll find over 120 informative videos on F-Class John’s popular YouTube Channel.

SEE ALL F-Class John YouTube Videos HERE »

Nancy tompkins book f-class john videos

21st Century Hydro Press and Arbor Press — Product Review

Many of the world’s top benchrest, long-range, and F-Class shooters prefer to seat their bullets using arbor-type presses with inline dies. This allows smooth, repeatable bullet-seating with very low run-out. One of the very best arbor-type seating presses ever created is the 21st Century Hydro Press. This offers plenty of leverage driving a precision ram. The Hydro Press also features a hydraulic line to drive a precision seating force gauge. Along with the Hydro Press, John tests 21st Century’s standard arbor press.

Cartridge Case Separation — Tell-Tale Warning Signs

If you reload and haven’t experienced a case separation yet then you are fortunate. It’s a fact of life in the shooting world. A bad case separation can have very unfortunate consequences. Therefore you need to watch for warning signs on your cartridge brass, so you stay safe. The video above shows what to look for — and how to recognize signs of incipient separation. One important factor leading to case head separation is improper head-spacing causing growth. To learn more about case head separation watch F-Class John’s follow-up video Case Head Separation Causes, identification and prevention.

Accuracy One Concentricity Gauge — Product review

Every person who makes precision hand-loads should have a quality concentricity gauge to measure run-out of case-necks and loaded rounds. Here John tests one of the best such tools on the market, the Accuracy One Concentricity Gauge. This measures the internal and external neck runout of cartridge cases as well as seated bullet runout. It can also measure the runout of the ogive, bearing surface, and boat-tail of individual bullets and can even measure primer pocket runout. John notes: “I think most precision shooters should have one of these to make sure their ammo is within their specs they’re happy with.”

How to Use a Barrel Tuner to Improve Accuracy and Repeatability

Erik cortina e.c. Tunner f-class john videosIn this video, John works with a barrel tuner created by Erik Cortina, a member of Team Lapua/Brux/Borden. A tuner can be useful in modulating barrel vibrations and that can translate to smaller groups on target. Sometimes the positive effects are quite noticeable. Tuners have been popular with short-range benchresters for many years and now they are becoming more common on top F-Class and Long Range rifles.

John says: “I’ve been using Erik’s E.C. Tuner for a while now and I really like what it’s done to help as my final step in load development. Just remember, a tuner is a tool, not a magician. You still need good load development practices, good brass prep, and solid skills but the tuner does help make great loads even better.”

Teslong Rigid 26″ Borescope with 4.5″ Monitor — Product Review

There are a variety of affordable Teslong digital borescopes for inspecting your barrels and diagnosing issues. All Teslongs deliver impressively sharp images/video. Some units plug into a laptop or tablet, while others work via a dongle to communicate wirelessly. Here John tests a 26″ rigid model borescope that comes complete with its own 4.5″ viewing screen. Priced at $129.99 on Amazon, this system is completely self-contained — you don’t need a laptop or smartphone. You don’t have to worry about connections and there are no Apps to install or configure. John says: “Teslong now offers a 26″ rigid rod model with a 4.5″ monitor. This allows you to use the unit without the need for any mobile device or computer.”

Dillon 550 vs. Dillon 750 for Precision Reloading — Pros and Cons

Progressive presses are not just for bulk reloading these days. Many top shooters, including 5-time National Long Range Champion John Whidden, use Dillon progressive presses to complete many cartridge loading operations more efficiently. Even in the F-Class world, Top Guns such as Erik Cortina have found ways to use Dillon progressives for bullet pointing, case prep and other repetitious tasks, even if a precision arbor press is used for final bullet seating. In this video, F-Class John compares two Dillon options: “If you’re deciding between a Dillon 550 or 750/650 reloading press for precision reloading, here are some pros and cons of each. Both are capable of producing high quality ammunition but each has their own quirks so knowing your capabilities and loading style is important when choosing one over the other.

AutoTrickler V3 — General Set-Up and Operational Advice

In this video, John offers some general advice for setting-up the AutoTrickler system. He notes that you want to set the initial drop weight (from the powder measure) in an optimal range: “When you set the original drop you need it to be about 1 to 1.5 grains below. Some people set it too close to the final weight they want and it actually doesn’t let the trickler unit work as efficiently, consistently and accurately as it will if you start 1 to 1.5 grains low.” John also explains how to hook up the cords and how to position the trickler unit. John places his AutoTrickler on a 30-lb piece of granite, with a thin polymer “anti-static” pad on top. John also uses a line conditioner and grounding wire to provide the best electrical flow to the scale and trickler. John also shows how the angle of the trickler unit can be adjusted. If you own an AutoTrickler or plan to purchase one, we definitely recommend you watch this entire video.

ShotMarker Power-User Tip — How to Test Unit without Shooting

The ShotMarker is an advanced system that plots shot location using electronic sensors mounted on a frame. ShotMarker arrays are now used in many competitions because they are reliable, precise, and much more affordable than competing systems. Invented by Canadian Adam MacDonald, the ShotMarker plots bullet entry on target using sensors activated by the bullet’s soundwaves.​ Using 8 high precision MEMS microphones placed in the corners of your frame, ShotMarker precisely measures the point of impact and down-range velocity of each shot, so that you can analyze your groups and shoot for score in competition. In this video, John shows how you can quickly and easily test your ShotMarker before deploying it at the range: “Here’s a quick and simple way to ensure your system is working 100% before taking a shot on it.”

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October 24th, 2020

Loading Accurate Pistol Ammo for Competition — USAMU Tips

Accurate Reloading hand loading handgun pistol progressive 9mm .45 ACP
Photo courtesy UltimateReloader.com.

The U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) regularly publishes a weekly reloading article on its Facebook Page. In this article, the second in a 3-part series, the USAMU covers the process of loading competition pistol ammunition. The authors focus on two key elements — the taper crimp and the quality/uniformity of the original brass. If you shoot pistol competitively, or just want to maximize the accuracy of your handguns, read this article. The taper crimp tips are very important.

Pistol Reloading USAMU taper crimp Brass

Loading Accurate Competition Pistol Ammunition — Part 2 of 3

Today, we resume our series on factors affecting accuracy in pistol handloads. Readers who missed Part One can visit our USAMU Facebook Page. Scroll down to March 28, 2018 to find that first installment which is worth reading.

One often-overlooked aspect of handloading highly-accurate pistol ammunition is the amount of taper crimp used, and its effect on accuracy. (NOTE: this article pertains to loading for semi-autos – revolver crimp techniques involve some quite different issues.) Briefly, different amounts of taper crimp are used with various handloads to obtain best accuracy. The amount is based on bullet weight, powder burn rate and charge, plus other factors such as case neck tension. During machine-rest testing of experimental Service Pistol ammunition, many variables are examined. Among these, our Shop often varies a load’s crimp in degrees of 0.001″ when re-testing for finest accuracy.

How to Measure Taper Crimp on Pistol Cartridges
One question that often arises is, “How do I measure the taper crimp I’m putting on my cartridges?” Using the narrow part of one’s dial caliper jaws, carefully measure the case diameter at the exact edge of the case mouth on a loaded cartridge. It’s important to take several measurements to ensure consistency. Also, be sure to measure at several places around the case mouth, as case wall thickness can vary. After measuring 2-3 cartridges with a given crimp setting, one can be confident of the true dimension and that it can be repeated later, if needed.

Accurate Reloading hand loading handgun pistol progressive 9mm .45 ACP

However, for good results, one must use brass from one maker due to variances in case wall thickness. For example, the same degree of crimp that imparts a measurement of 0.471″ with Brand X brass may result in 0.469″ with Brand Y. Thus, for best accuracy, using brass from the same manufacturer is important — particularly for 50-yard Slow Fire. In a perfect world, it is better still to use brass from one lot number if possible. With the popularity of progressive presses using interchangeable tool heads, keeping separate tool heads adjusted for each load helps maximize uniformity between ammunition lots.

Brass Uniformity and Accuracy
Brass is important to pistol accuracy. While accurate ammunition can be loaded using brass of mixed parentage, that is not conducive to finest results, particularly at 50 yards. It is important for the serious competitor to pay attention to his brass – even if only for the 50-yard “Slow Fire” portions of “Bullseye” matches and practice. By segregating brass as described above, and additionally keeping track of the number of times a given batch of cases has been fired, one can ensure case neck tension and case length are at their most uniform.

Accurate Reloading hand loading handgun pistol progressive 9mm .45 ACP

Given the large volumes of ammunition consumed by active pistol competitors, using inexpensive, mixed surplus brass for practice, particularly at the “short line” (25 yards), is understandable. In NRA Outdoor Pistol (“Bullseye”), the 10-ring is relatively generous — especially for a well-trained shooter with an accurate pistol and load. However, for the “long line” (50 yards), purchasing and segregating a lot of high-quality brass to be used strictly for slow-fire is a wise idea. To keep track of your brass on the line, use a unique headstamp marking with 1 or 2 colors of marking pen ink.

Uniform Cartridge Overall Length is Important
Cartridge case Overall Length (OAL) uniformity as it comes from the factory is important to achieving utmost accuracy. More uniform case lengths (best measured after sizing) contribute to greater consistency of crimp, neck tension, ignition/burn of powder charge, headspace (rimless cartridges), etc. Cartridge case-length consistency varies noticeably by maker and, with lesser manufacturers, also from lot to lot. Some manufacturers are more consistent in their dimensions than others, and also in the hardness/ductility of their brass. Similarly, pay attention to primer brands, powder lot numbers, etc.

Consider Using a Lock-Out Die with Progressive Presses
When reloading pistol ammo with a Progressive press, we strongly recommend the use of a lock-out die, or other system that can detect double charges or low charges. If your progressive is manually advanced, the possibility of a double charge is very real — and that can have disastrous consequences.

On UltimateReloader.com website you’ll find an excellent two-part series on the function and set-up of the RCBS Lock-Out Die. This die prevents loading if a high or low powder charge is detected. The video below shows setup of the RCBS Lock-Out Die on the Dillon XL-650 progressive press.

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October 7th, 2020

Powerful Progressive — Dillon RL-1100 with 8 Stations

Dillon R1100 RL 1100 progressive reloading press MR. bulletfeeder Double alpha 9mm ammo

Factory-loaded ammunition has become very hard to find, particularly pistol ammo. Concerns over social unrest, personal security, and the upcoming election have spiked demand for loaded ammo. Everyone is asking “where has all the ammo gone?”

Dillon R1100 RL 1100 progressive reloading press MR. bulletfeeder Double alpha 9mm ammoPistol Ammo Hard to Find
In particular, 9mm pistol ammo flies off the shelves as soon as it arrives, and even major online vendors such as Midsouth Shooters, MidwayUSA, and Natchez have very limited supplies.

Need Ammo? Load Your Own…
One answer to the ammo shortage is to load your own. And if you want to produce a large quantity of ammo in a short amount of time, the progressive press is the answer. There are many progressive press systems, from modest Lee progressives to high-end, automated systems from Mark 7 (Lyman). In this article we feature the “latest and greatest” progressive press from Dillon — the new eight-station RL 1100 Press with Case-Feeder.

Our friend Gavin Gear of UltimateReloader.com got his hands on Dillon’s impressive new RL 1100. In two videos, Gavin shows how to set up the RL 1100 and then he demonstrates how to produce 9mm pistol ammo with this impressive 8-station press.


Gavin says: “My Dillon RL-1100 is cranking out the 9mm, and in this video we bring it up to ‘full tilt’ speed” [with the MR. Bullet Feeder and the Dillon Case-Feeder]. If you watch the video, you’ll see Gavin produce 9mm ammo at a rate of nearly 50 rounds per MINUTE!

Gavin equipped his new RL 1100 with two cool products from Double Alpha Academy (DAA) — the Mr.Bulletfeeder® as well as an advanced, Magnetic Powder Check. When loading ammo you can never be too safe, so we definitely recommend the use of powder-check dies (we use a conventional RCBS powder-check die on our progressives). The DAA bullet feeding system is an important add-on that significantly increases output rates when used in concert with the Dillon Case-Feeder (blue funnel).

RL 1100 Reloading Stations with Powder Check and Bullet Feeder

Dillon R1100 RL 1100 progressive reloading press MR. bulletfeeder Double alpha 9mm ammo

RL 1100 Stations shown above:
1. Case inserter
2. Sizer/De-Primer
3. Swager (with hold-down)
4. Priming (no die)
5. Powder charge and expansion (expansion for pistol cartridges only)
6. Double Alpha Magnetic Powder Check
7. Mr. Bullet Feeder bullet feed die
8. Bullet seating and Crimping

Note: In order to accommodate the magnetic powder check die AND the bullet feed die, bullet seating and crimping were combined at the last station.

The RL 1100 has some very impressive features that allow faster and easier ammo production. An Eccentric Roller Bearing Drive System reduces friction. The RL 1100’s heavier frame provides greater rigidity for more efficient cranking. The RL 1100 also boasts an improved shellplate indexing system. Priming is enhanced through a spring-loaded Priming Station Locator and Upgraded Primer Pocket Swager.

Dillon RL-1100 Set-Up Video:

Loading with the “Turbocharged” Dillon RL-1100
Gavin was very impressed with his RL-1100: “This reloading setup is [great]. Every crank of the lever yields a completed cartridge, and the attainable speeds are AMAZING. The case feeder and bullet feeder had no trouble keeping up with my quick pace using this setup. And it is great to know that every powder charge is being checked.

This press is very reliable and smooth, bridging the gap between lower cost home set-ups and six-figure commercial loading equipment packages. What’s next? I’ll be performing a caliber changeover to .308 Winchester.”

The DAA Magnetic Powder Check can be used on a variety of Progressive Presses.

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August 2nd, 2020

Expanding Cartridge Brass in Stages with Progressive Press

Darrell Jones DJ's Brass Service expanding brass 6mmBR 6BR BRX 30BR Hornady press
Photos from DJ’s Brass Service.

Have you ever expanded a .22 or 6mm cartridge all the way up to .30-caliber? If so, you know this can be a difficult procedure that stresses the case necks and neck-shoulder junction. A significant neck-size expansion done in one big jump can increase run-out, cause doughnuts, or worse yet, even split the brass. Therefore you want to proceed in increments, increasing the neck diameter in stages. One smart way to do that is to use a Progressive Press. This article explains how…

The most successful short-range benchrest-for-score cartridge is the 30 BR. That cartridge, as well as 30 BR variants such as the 30 BRX, all start with the 6mmBR Norma parent cartridge, typically with Lapua 6mmBR brass. To get a nice 30 BR case you want to expand in stages, increasing the inside neck diameter incrementally from .243 to .308.

Darrell Jones of DJ’s Brass Service creates thousands of 30 BR cases each year. He has found a clever way to speed up the process — Darrell uses a Progressive Press. He runs his 6BR brass through four (4) separate Hornady neck-sizing dies with expander mandrels. First there is a .257 die, followed by .264 (6.5mm), .284 (7mm), and then .308. Then a fifth and final K&M die provides one last, slight expansion so the newly-fashioned 30 BR cases perfectly fit the arbor of Darrell’s neck-turning tool.

So to repeat, the case starts as .243 (6mm), then moves in up stages .257, .264, .284, and .308, with a final “finishing” step prior to neck-turning. You can see the expansion in this video, which starts with 6mmBR brass that was first hydro-formed to 6 BRX:

Watch 6mm Cases Expanded to 30-Caliber (6BRX to 30 BRX)

For this demo video, Darrell expands just one case at a time. However, he can also put multiple cases in the progressive — one per station. This takes a little more effort, Darrell says, but the results are still excellent. Darrell tells us: “I do put multiple cases in the progressive to save time. The results are the same — I just wanted to show a single-step process and how it reduces run-out by not stressing the shoulder with one big expansion from 6mm straight to 30 caliber. Doing the operation in multiple stages avoids binds and helps keep the shoulders concentric.”

This same multi-stage procedure can be use to expand other cartridge types. For example you could take .221 Fireball brass in stages up to .308 to create 300 Blackout brass.

Darrell Jones DJ's Brass Service expanding brass 6mmBR 6BR BRX 30BR Hornady press

Darrell uses caliber-specific, Hornady neck-sizing-only dies with elliptical expanders. Darrell tells us: “The Hornady elliptical expander has a reduced bearing surface that puts less strain on the brass when expanding the necks to the next size.” The fitting at the bottom of the die is the Lock-N-Load die bushing that allows fast die changes.

These particular cases used in the video were first hydro-formed to 6BRX then expanded to 30 BRX before neck turning. DJ’s Brass offers hydro-forming for many popular wildcat cartridges such as 6 PPC, 6mm Dasher, and .284 Shehane.

Darrell Jones DJ's Brass Service expanding brass 6mmBR 6BR BRX 30BR Hornady press

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May 7th, 2020

Progressive Presses — Video Showcase of Six Machines

ultimate reloading progressive press review dillon Mark 7 rcbs lee hornady

COVID-19 stay-at-home orders have created abundant free time at home for millions of Americans. To fill otherwise empty hours, we know many readers have been reloading ammo — LOTS of ammo. And quite a few of you folks are thinking of getting a progressive press to increase output. Because multiple operations take place with a single pull of a lever, a progressive press can produce way more ammo in a given period of time than any single stage press. With a progressive, on the ram up-stroke, the multiple stations can simultaneously remove spent primer, full-length size case, drop powder, seat bullet, and crimp (if desired). Most progressives are also set up to prime cases with the ram in the lower position — though some guys prefer to prime manually.

Progressive presses aren’t just for high-output pistol ammo or bulk rifle ammunition. Good progressives can be adapted to do certain reloading tasks for top-on-the line match ammo. You might use a progressive for decapping, priming, and sizing, then throw powder and/or seat bullets separately. Some Champion shooters do use progressives to load their match ammo! For example 5-Time National Long Range Champion John Whidden and 2020 Berger SWN F-Open Champion Jay Christopherson both use progessive presses for some (but not all) operations.

To help you get started with progressive presses, here are five videos from UltimateReloader.com that cover six popular machines, from the elite Mark 7 Evolution to the inexpensive Lee Pro 1000. With many of these machines you can add separate vertical bullet feeder systems that further increase loading efficiency.

Mark 7 Evolution Press — Distributed by Lyman

Dillon XL-650 vs. Dillon XL-750

RCBS Pro Chucker 7 with Bullet Feeder

Dillon 550C with 6mm Creedmoor and 9x19mm

Lee Pro 1000 Features and Operation

Better Safe Than Sorry — the RCBS Lock-Out Die
RCBS Makes a “Lock-Out Die” that senses the powder charge. This will halt the Progressive press if you have a double charge, or an undercharge. Your Editor has the Lock-Out Die on his RCBS Pro 2000. It has “saved his bacon” a half-dozen times over the years. It can be used on Dillon and Hornady progressives as well as RCBS machines.

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