HGR 003 - Reloading Handgun Cartridges

HGR 003 - Reloading Handgun Cartridges

Ryan discusses some basic reloading techniques and some popular & economic ways to reload handgun cartridges.

Brought to you by the Firearms Radio Network

Welcome to episode 3 of Handgun Radio! I’m your host Ryan Michad from the wilds of Central Maine and this is your home for all the news, discussion and information in the handgunning world.

Review of the Past Week:

  • Launched the website, iTunes feed, and Facebook page for Handgun Radio. Give us a like on Facebook and also subscribe to the show in iTunes!
  • Received some great feedback on the first two episodes. Thanks to all the listeners & all the people who gave us feedback on our first two shows!
  • The email has changed.  To send feedback, comments or anything about the show, shoot me an email at ryan@handgunradio.com

Discussion: The Importance of Awareness & The Determined Mindset

  • This may not be totally related to handguns, but it is an important consideration for those who are going to or have obtained their Concealed Carry license.
  • Recently, a college student in Boston was abducted, brought to several ATM’s in broad daylight, then taken to a secluded area and murdered.
  • She did not have the means to protect herself, as carrying firearms in Massachusetts is severely restricted.  You need a FOID card just to purchase Pepper Spray & Mace.
  • Having the mindset that you are going to fight your abductor until you escape is KEY when facing this situation, especially when unarmed.
  • Statistics have said that during an abduction, if you are taken away from the original area where the attack began, your chances of survival drop to less than 10%.
  • Given this statistic, you need to FIGHT! From the very beginning, do not let up, do not give in.  You have the capability to incapacitate someone long enough to get away. Don’t give them any slack; they won’t give you any.
  • The long-held advice saying “give them what they want” did not seem to help the case in Boston.
  • I am not a trainer, nor am I pretending to be. I am just an observer who is giving his opinion that the greatest way to survive an attack/abduction is to have that determined mindset of “I will fight until I can no longer”

Main Topic: Reloading Handgun Cartridges

Reloading Basics:

  • Reloading is a fun and rewarding hobby that can greatly improve the time you get to spend shooting. It is also a potentially dangerous activity that requires your full, undivided attention.
  • Safety when reloading is #1! Follow ALL reloading recipes to the letter using a reputable reloading manual produced by one of the powder or bullet companies. Do not smoke while reloading. Do not reload when you are under the influence.
  • One of the best ways to get started reloading is to purchase one of the pre-packaged reloading kits that will contain all of the things you need to begin reloading except for your components, reloading dies, and loading manual.
  • If you are just beginning your reloading hobby, take it slow. DON’T go for redline maximum loads right off. Try to find someone who has reloading experience who you trust to help you when getting started.


  • Standard cartridge cases are typically made out of brass. You will see some budget-priced ammunition loaded with steel or aluminum cases, but these are typically non-reloadable.
  • The brass case is put through a sizing die when reloading to bring the spent case back to the factory dimensions for whatever caliber you may be loading. When a cartridge is fired, the brass case swells to the dimensions of that particular firearm’s chamber. Some chambers may vary in dimensions. By bringing the cases back to a uniform size standard, you ensure that the reloaded round will fit in all guns of that caliber.
  • Brass cases can be reloaded many times, so while they may be expensive (if you have to buy them, that is) they are reusable. (I have some .38 Special I’ve loaded with light target charges and I’ve reused the cases 8 or so times so far.)
  • Pay attention to the case mouth area, watching for any cracks forming in the brass.
  • When using redline magnum loads, also look around the case head area (bottom of the cartridge, just above the rim) for a shiny ring around the diameter.  This can indicate stretching and a possible case head separation.


  • Bullets come in many different shapes and weights. The weights are measured in grains and the appropriate grains for any given caliber will be found in a reloading manual.
  • There are several different types of bullets, from Copper Jacketed, to Semi-Jacketed Lead, to Plated Lead and finally hard cast lead bullets.
  • For economy sake, plated lead bullets and hard cast lead bullets are best for practice.
  • When you need performance, a jacketed or semi-jacketed bullet will probably suit your needs.
  • Some great bullets for economical plinking and target shooting are cast lead wadcutters (a soup can shaped bullet with or without a hollow base) or a semi-wadcutter bullet (Shaped like an upside-down clay plant pot).
  • DO NOT substitute bullets intended for a different caliber unless it says you can do so in the reloading manual (i.e, don’t use 9mm bullets (.355” dia.) in a .38 or .357 Magnum load (.358” dia.). NEVER change recipes from the reloading manual.

Smokeless Powders:

I’m only going to talk about the powders that I have had experience with, as I don’t want to give any incorrect information.

  • IMR Trail Boss: By far this is my favorite powder.  I measure my powder using a Lee Dipper set and a properly calibrated scale.  Using Trail Boss is great, especially for the beginning shooter because it is very difficult to double-charge a case without it being very obvious that something isn’t right.  Trail Boss was designed for large volume revolver cartridges used in Cowboy Action Shooting.  With the light loads used in that sport, very small charges of dense powder would not fill the case and you had powder position issues.  Trail Boss is a very bulky powder and helps to mitigate these position issues and offers uniform ignition.
  • HP-38: This is my go to powder for 9mm Parabellum and .32 ACP. I have used it in .38 Special also and it performs well in that role too.  A flake powder, HP-38 is very clean burning and doesn’t need very large charges of powder to get the desired performance.
  • 2400: Formerly known as HERC 2400, this powder is one of the original Magnum pistol powders.  I use this powder when reloading really hot .357 Magnum loads.  2400 is not as sensitive as other Magnum powders such as H110, and you get good performance out of this powder for that purpose.
  • H110: This is the powder that shows the true potential of the .357 Magnum cartridge, along with .44 Magnum and others.  H110 is definitely not a beginners powder, as the margin between maximum and minimum loads is quite small.  H110 also does not like to be loaded down any more than 10% below the minimum charge; it requires a certain operating pressure to burn cleanly and efficiently.


  • Primers come in two sizes: Small Pistol Primers and Large Pistol Primers. They also come in two varieties: Small Pistol Magnum Primers and Large Pistol Magnum Primers.
  • The difference between standard and magnum pistol primers is the “brisance”, or force and power the primer exerts when it is set off.
  • Only use magnum primers if it is specified in the reloading manual.

Final Tips:

  • Using Berry’s Plated Bullets for .357/.38 and Trail Boss powder, you can reload light target ammunition to use for plinking.
  • MTM Case-Gard cartridge boxes are very useful when storing your reloaded ammunition.
  • There are many great kit manufacturers out there for getting your reloading hobby set-up. I have been using a Lee Classic Kit for the past three years and have encountered no problems with it.



  • Thank you to everyone who checked out the show in its first week!
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  • Check out all the other great shows on the Firearms Radio Network.
  • Questions or Comments? Email us at ryan@handgunradio.com

Thank You and Safe Shooting!!!!