Guest Blog By Jack Landis
AGI Tech Services
Manager and Editor, GunTech Magazine
One of the questions I have most often fielded from AGI students and prospective students over the last several years is; “When are you folks going to do a comprehensive reloading course?”
Well, the stars finally aligned and we convinced Fred Zeglin to take the few weeks he had off between the courses he was instructing and his latest writing projects to use his impressive knowledge of reloading and cartridge design to teach this course.
Fred has an extensive background as a professional custom gunsmith, cartridge designer, and author. His books Wildcat Cartridges, Hawk Cartridges, and his AGI instructional video course, Taming the Wildcat are well worth studying by students of the subjects.
This new course is almost eight full hours of the information any reloader needs to know. As he says in the introduction, “There is something for everyone here. If you’ve never handloaded, everything you need to know to assemble safe, effective handloads is here. If you’ve loaded for years, odds are you will still find out things you never knew, considered, or completely understood.” Let’s take a look at what’s actually under the hood . . .
Disk 1 – Brief History of Reloading: This is no exhaustive history of every step in the evolution of loading firearms and cartridges, but rather a concise explanation of how we got to what we actually do today.
Reloading Components: Here Fred shows the various types of cartridge cases, bullets, primers, and powders. He explains their differences and the reasons why those differences exist. Why are spritzer bullets pointed?
Why are some powders shaped like little rods?
Ignition Theory: What happens from the moment the firing pin strikes the primer to the exit of the bullet from the barrel is carefully explained and shown in drawings.
Pressure Curves: A PressureTrace Internal Ballistics System is used to show the real-time gas pressure rise and fall from primer ignition until the bullet leaves the barrel, approximately 1.5 milliseconds. Fred draws curves
which demonstrate what the pressure curves would look like in the Fred Zeglin, Cartridge Designer
case of a dramatic overload, high pressure caused by an over-length case, and powder detonation which can
occur if a very small charge of slow burning powder is used in a large case.
Resource Books: Fred explains why the Cartridge Comparison Guide belongs in your library as well as other books
that give you information on a huge number of cartridge’s dimensions, shapes, ballistics, and terminal performance. The reference books discussed will help you decide what cartridge you might want in your next gun.
Reloading Manuals: Reloading without these “must have” sources is like driving with your eyes shut, a real recipe for disaster. You need more than one so you can cross reference loading data to make sure the load you are
contemplating is safe.
Disk 2 – Developing a load plan: What IS a loading plan and why do you need one? Have you
decided what the load you’re thinking about creating is supposed to accomplish? Do you have a purpose for loading it? What is it? Is it reasonable?
He explains to you why you shouldn’t be “That guy” who just searches for the hottest published load for his cartridge and doesn’t “Waste time” with Starting Loads. “Hey, if it’s published it’s safe, right? These guys always leave a safety
margin, right?” Why you need to keep a complete notebook recording loads, velocity, accuracy, etc.
The Bench: Where should it be, how should it be constructed, how sturdy does it have to be, how high should it be, and why. Press and Die Set-up: Learn how to properly set up the dies, shell holders, and decapping pins from a two die set in your press.
Prepping the Brass: Cleaning, Reaming Inspection: Why you need to clean and inspect your brass, chamfer ream the case mouth and clean out the primer pockets.
PressureTrace Internal Ballistics System
What’s in a “Complete loading kit?” Fred opens a big box from Hornady that contains everything you need to load quality ammo, other than cases, primers, bullets, and powder. Why these make sense for the beginner.
Lubrication: Fred shows you several different methods and products to lubricate the cases prior to resizing, and
why you need to do it.
Full-Length Sizing Dies vs Neck Sizing Dies: Ever wonder what the hoopla about neck sizing from accuracy buffs is all
about? Fred explains why you might want to do it, what makes you able to do it continuously with some cases, why you’ll have to eventually full-length size, and how to avoid “Over-sizing.” Do you know what guns you should not only
never neck-size for, and moreover why you’ll need a “Small base” die? What IS a small base die?
Sizing the Cases: By this time, you will be all set to make those cases like new again.
Priming the Cases: Fred shows you four different priming methods, and why some are better than others in his opinion.
Measuring the powder: Several different scales are shown and how to set them up. After that Fred dips, throws, trickles, weighs, and finally stands and watches a machine do it all.
Disk 3 – Charging Cases: Now we actually begin to load cartridges. Attach the powder measure to the press, verify it is throwing the correct weight, adjust the die so the case is just partially re-sized, and dump the powder into the case. Watch Fred set-up the bullet seating die for no crimp, set the bullet on the top of the case and feed it into the die, adjust its seating depth, and . . . voila!! A real live reloaded round of ammunition made by your very own self.
Seating Bullets with a Crimp: Here you will learn how to set the seating die so it will crimp the case mouth into the bullet’s cannelure just as the bullet reaches the correct depth, and why and when you sometimes need to do this.
Using the Lee Loader: Robart Schaefer demonstrates the use of the basic Lee Loader. Many of we “Senior” reloaders started with one of these tools. It gives you everything you need to load one caliber of good quality ammo for ~ $28. Just supply brass, bullets, primers, and powder. The box holding the tools will fit in the back pocket of your jeans, assuming you don’t fill them as full as some of us.
Fred at the bench demonstrating proper die set up
Next up is Robart Schaefer again, this time with the Lee Hand Press. This is basically a bench type press that
you can use sitting in your La-Z-Boy while watching football. And I have. While it won’t full length resize large
cases, it will do everything else. I probably used it more than anything else with a Lee decapping die, got
my youngest to do a bunch too, and then primed those cases with a Lee Auto Prime. Yep, thousands of them. Got them both for under $50 more than a couple of years ago.
Reloading Cartridges with a Three Die Set-up: Fred explains the use of three die sets. The third die is used to bell the mouth of straight wall cases and pour the powder charge through into the case.
Annealing Brass: Working (sizing) makes it hard and susceptible to cracking. Heating it softens it again and allows more loadings. Fred shows how to do this and gives several alternatives and cautions.
Case Trimming: Here’s where you learn how to trim those over length cases back to the correct size with a couple of different tools and ways of measuring.
Additional Case Prep Procedures: Learn about vibrating, tumbling, and ultra-sonic case cleaners. Learn how and why we uniform primer pockets and flash holes.
Reloading Cartridges Using a Progressive Press: Fred demonstrates a progressive loading press, and describes what happens, and how, at each station.
Disk 4 – Tools and Accessories: Fred wraps up the cartridge reloading portion with a “Show and Tell” of some specialty tools that will make your reloading easier. Shown are extended shell holders to ease the loading of really short cases, a competition shell holder set whose heights vary by .002 inches to allow you to set the exact amount of case sizing you want, powder measure baffle and drop tube, and neck lubers for neck sizing. Specialty dies include neck sizing dies with interchangeable bushings to adjust neck tension, Lee Factory Crimp dies, in-line feeding and micrometer seating
dies, and bullet pulling dies. An impact bullet puller is demonstrated as well.
Bullet Casting: Robart tells us why we should consider casting our own lead bullets and shows what tools and equipment are needed for the process.
Lead: What kinds of lead alloys are needed, where to scrounge what you need, or buy it pure or ready alloyed
if all else fails. The characteristics of the various alloys are discussed and their uses explained.
Pouring Ingots: How and where to heat your lead safely, why and how to flux, and cleaning the dross off the top. It’s kind of cool to see the steel wheel weight clips floating on top of the lead. How to pour the cleaned and alloyed lead into
smaller, easily handled ingots . . . into what looks like corn cob shapes in a jello mold. Why you can never have water around hot lead.
Casting Bullets: Now we get down to actually pouring lead into the molds. How to tell by looking at the bullets whether the lead, mold, or ladle is too hot or cold. He pours from a ladle into the top of single and double molds, and from the bottom into a six bullet mold.
Testing Hardness: Here is a tool the tests the Brinell hardness of the cast bullets and explains how you can determine how hard they have to be based on the chamber pressure of the cartridge they are going to be fired from.
Sizing and Lubing Bullets: Why cast bullets need to be sized and lubed after casting, and how it’s done. What to use for bullet lubes is a choice made based on the bullet’s expected velocity The Lube Sizer Press: This press has a heating
element that heats the lube before it deposits in the lube grooves, seats a gas check, and sizes the bullet, all in one
smooth stroke of the handle.
Final Thoughts on Bullet Casting: Robart wraps up his discussion of bullet casting with a reiteration of why it’s a cool thing to do, and repeats the cautions earlier expressed. Have fun and be safe!
Epilogue: Fred closes by showing a bullet neck concentricity gauge and explains what it tells you and why it is important as a lead-in to a discussion of why learning even more advanced techniques can improve your abilities as a reloader and shooter. If you have never reloaded a single cartridge, you can do so with success and confidence after watching this video course. You will also be able to make informed choices on what tools and equipment will fit your needs and budget.
As a bonus, AGI put Darrel Holland’s Advanced Reloading Techniques course in the package too!
Reprinted courtesy of Hot Brass Magazine