The dangers of chasing published velocities: I’ve seen it here in this forum - A guy with all new gear trying to get a certain speed from his rifle because his manual showed those results. So, he loaded them and kept going until his chrono showed that speed. Why was this a big deal? He was shooting a rifle with a 20” barrel, and the test data was a 26” barrel. This goes back to understanding the whole picture I touched on in the last section. I can guarantee he was at much higher pressures than he thought he was. Safety first, folks.
Changing Components: If you have a favorite recipe but have to change one of the components like type of brass or primer, the safe thing to do is to back off your powder charge and work your way back up incrementally. Differences in bullets, brass thicknesses and primers can all push you over the top in terms of pressure, particularly if you’re anywhere near maximum loads. You’ll get a better feel for this the more you start reloading and putting your work over your chronograph, but you can still be surprised. Back off and work back up.
Other things you should know that I’m not getting into here: As I said before, know what pressure signs look like. Try to find a manual that shows CUP or PSI pressures with the loads. That will all help your understanding. You also need to understand the concept of headspace and what’s happening in a chamber. Read about it in your reloading manuals, and then read about it again. It’s important.
Some final thoughts: Thanks to Garander for pointing out to me that I should add a comment about frame of mind when reloading... It's probably not a good idea to reload if you just had a huge fight with the wife, just found out you're getting audited, your dog died or any other time you aren't likely to give it your full attention... And despite Jack talking about scotch in the reloading room, it's pretty stupid to play with small explosive charges and propellants under the influence of alcohol or anything stronger than aspirin. Turn the cell phone off, don't get distracted and enjoy your new hobby.
Next thought - It seems natural for new reloaders to want to hot-rod the snot out of a given load. I’ll ask that instead of trying to get a barn-burner out of your .357 mag, get a .44 mag and load in the mid range of the data. It will outperform the .357 mag and it’s safer for you and your gun. Swap whatever cartridge you wish into my last statement. .30-06 vs. .300 mag… whatever. The point wasn’t .357 vs. .44, the point was you should try and strive for better performance at lower pressures when it’s at all practical. I’ve said it before (and forgot who I stole the saying from): you can pull a horse trailer with a V6, but it has to work a lot harder than a V8. It’s not worth it to push the envelope. There are old reloaders, and bold reloaders, but you don’t see old, bold reloaders.
Ultimately, nobody here is going to help you if you blow your fingers off. Just like crossing the street – you reload at your own risk. It’s a safe hobby if you are cautious. My intent here was only to address some common misunderstandings with people new to reloading and to help de-mystify things a little. When I started, manuals and this place were all I had. Since then, I’ve come to realize that GT’s Reloading forum is one of the coolest places on the internet. I’m glad to have you in the forum. Again, don’t hesitate to ask questions. I still do. Be safe, remember consistency is the key and soon you’ll be shooting match grade ammo at less than half the price of factory ammo.
Last edited by Zombie Steve; 05-18-2011 at 00:35..