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Basic Reloading with an RCBS Single Stage Press


With the primer flipping tray now inverted, remove the upper half of the tray and there you have it....100 primers all sitting nice and pretty and ready for you to put them into the primer tube.

The primer tube usually has a little spring loaded clip (or sometimes a plastic tip) in one end.  It allows you to push the tube down over the top of a primer which gets the primer "stuck" in the end of the tube until the next primer pushes it all the way in.  This process allows you to very quickly "load" the primer tube with a box of primers and you never touch a single one.  Pretty good process if you ask me! 

So with the primer tube loaded, you use your favorite priming tool or press and prime away.  If you are incorporating the priming step with the expander step, these are then done together.  (again, consult your reloading press documentation or your "How to reload ammunition" reference book)

So you now have several hundred or thousand brass cases that have been resized (and deprimed), the mouth has been expanded, and the case has a new primer seated in it.  You can see a properly set primer in the case on the right.  You do NOT want your primer to protrude from the surface of the shell casing.  It should be every so slightly " below grade", so to speak. 

Next comes the powder charge.  Two items are needed for accurately and efficiently measuring and dispending powder, a scale and a powder measure/dispenser of some type.  There are two types of scales in common use, balance beam and electronic, with the latter sometimes combined with the dispensing process to make an automatically weighed and dispense powder charge.  The RCBS Chargemaster Combo provides such a result.  I've been using one for some time now when loading precision rifle cartridges and have enjoyed it.  I'll be talking about the balance beam scale here. 

Balance beam type scales can be obtained for a reasonable price ($50 to $85).  I've had this one since my first reloading session and it continues to do everything I need.  It is accurate to 1/10th of a grain (there are 7000 grains in a pound of powder) which is as accurate as the reloading manuals present their powder data.  If the old fashioned balance beam doesn't cut the mustard for you, you can opt for the more expensive digital electronic scale. 


Regardless of your choice of scale, balance beam or electronic, you should have a set of scale calibration weights to verify your scale is working correctly.  The set shown in this photo is the deluxe set from RCBS.  It provides you with 510.5 grains of various check weights.  The largest being 200 grains and the smallest just .5 grains.  They are a MUST have for electronic scales and I would highly recommend a set of check weights for balance beam scales too. 


The scale in the above photo has been set for 6.5 grains (5 grain position on the left + 1.5 grains on the right).  Powder is put into the brass pan (on the right) and the amount is adjusted until the balance beam is reading zero (balanced).  With this type of scale, you can tell at a glance if the powder charge is too light or too heavy.  What you can't tell, without moving the weights around, is exactly how far above or below the desired amount you are.  An electronic scale gives you a digital readout so knowing the exact weight is immediately known.

Weighing each and every powder charge for the practice rounds of your favorite range pistol would take considerable time (not to mention that it would probably drive you crazy).  Semi-auto pistols can chew through a lot of ammo in a very short time so your time spent reloading needs to be efficiently applied to the entire process and not spent all day in the powder weighing department.  I'm not advocating that hand weighing each round might not be warranted.....just saying that it is usually not required, especially if your powder charge is not near or at the maximum load weight.

What to do? 


How about an adjustable powder measure?  Here is one made by RCBS, the "Uniflow Powder Measure" as it is called and runs about $95.  The powder measure dispenses each powder charge by a measured volume versus a measured weight.  The powder measure has an adjustable stem on it that varies the size of the internal powder cylinder in order to change the amount of powder released with each stroke of the handle.  It comes with 7/8"x14 threads so you can use the press if you wish to hold the powder measure while using it.  Doing so allows you to save the $20 on a powder measure stand.

To setup the powder measure, you dispense a charge into the scale's pan and then weigh the pan on the scale.  Continue adjusting the powder measure until the dispensed charge is consistently weighing the correct amount.  The above powder measure will throw accurate charges of powder (well within .1 grains) and provides you with a relatively fast and accurate method for dispensing powder.  To maintain a fairly constant pressure on the powder that goes into the measuring cylinder (and thus an accurate weight being dispensed), I usually keep the plastic reservoir between 1/4 and 3/4 full.  When I am done dispensing powder, any left in the powder measure is immediately returned to the original container for safe keeping.  It also reduces the chance of my accidently loading a cartridge with the incorrect powder next week when I forget just which type of powder I have in the powder measure.  Many powders are very (exactly?) similar in appearance.

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