We noticed that here in Virginia shotgun shells have been getting harder to find. We’re not sure why there seems to be a shortage but we couldn’t think of anything worse than not having enough shells when the ducks show up. One solution to this problem is reloading your own shotshells. Reloading your own shells is cheaper and it allows you to create exactly what you want your shotgun shell to be. Here are some simple tips that will make your reloading experience easier, faster and safer. This is not a complete guide to reloading. Always study the owner’s manual that comes with each loader, and purchase a quality reloading manual as well.
1. Use Good Hulls
You will need to make an initial investment to get set up to load your own shells. The first thing is quality hulls.
The best hulls on the market today are Winchester AA and Remington STS. They have strong plastic hulls and brass heads that last for a few reloads.
Cheaper hulls eventually won’t resize properly, the crimps open up, they’ll break in the loader or you’ll end up with a bunch of shoot-offs. This is when the end of the case separates and shoots down the barrel.
Don’t buy hulls with nickle heads or a ribbed case.
2. Choose the Right Loader
A single-stage machine will work best for hunters experimenting with different loads for different seasons. Progressive loaders require too much setup and are best for trap shooters.
Consult the manufacturer of your loader when you change loads, especially if you change powders or shot sizes. You will probably need a new charge bar bushing, and sometimes a new charge bar.
Your charge bar measures in volume the specific weight of shot and powder. It might not drop the right amount if you change different grain size powder or a different size shot,
For waterfowl hunting you will want a machine that can handle high brass hulls and harder steel shot pellets
3. Find a Multi-Purpose Powder
If you are loading multiple gauges it is best to use a multi-purpose powder that can be used for different loads safely. You can find these univeral powders at Hodgdon Powder Co.
This reduces the chances of accidentally loading the wrong powder in different guages
4. Keep Records, Label Loaders, Stay Safe
Things change so you want to write the powder you’re using on a piece of tape and stick it to the powder bottle. This will let you double check that you’re adding the right charge. Check every 5th or 10th load to make sure you are adding the accurate amount. You can never be too safe.
5. Mount it Securely
Bolt you loaders to a bench. If you can’t then bolt it to a base of 3/4 inch thick lumber that is 3 to 4 inches wider than the base and 6 or 8 inches longer. Leave room in front of the machine to clamp the board with a C – clamp to your bench.
6. Listen While You Work
Listen for bad shells. If something sounds off stop and inspect your shell. The same goes for how the handle feels. If it becomes hard to pull, you may have some shot or trash stuck where it doesn’t belong. If you don’t hear the sound of the charge bar snap back and forth then loose powder might have slipped out of the bar and is creating friction.
7. Work Slow, Stay Organized
Don’t wait till the last minute and rush to reload your shells for the morning shoot. Mistakes happen when we rush and this could result in damaging your gun or getting hurt. Take it slow and double check everything and you shouldn’t have any problems.
Keep everything organized. Keep your hulls and wads in different containers, sweep up loose powder and clean messes as soon as they happen.