Flow vs Batch

I have a couple of handloading books, most notably the 18th edition of “Handloaders Digest”, wherein there is an article by Patrick Sweeney, “Reloading in Volume”.

The big takeaway for me was the need to kind of abandon my batch-like loading limitations. I got the Lee Pro 1000 specifically to load faster, then I end up still working in a kind batch mode, loading one box at a time, just faster. I tended to sort out 50 alike headstamps, load 50 rounds, put 50 rounds in a box and do the next 50 rounds.

Following much of the advice in Sweeney’s article, I instead loaded the press up with 200 primers and a full powder measure. I had all the components close at hand. I cranked out rounds until my plastic output bin was full. Having at this time just the one such bin, I stopped and transferred two and a half boxes, labeled them with the load info. I topped off the powder and primer hoppers and resumed cranking them out until I reached a reasonable stopping point.

In the end, I had loaded 5 full boxes and had about 1/3 of box in the output bin in just under an hour. With the “one box at a time method”, I could finish a box in 13-15 minutes, but I didn’t time the preparations done between boxes.

The Lee Case Collator makes loading the case tubes much faster. Putting 200 primers in the primer hopper mean that process stops less often. I found that having very close, the box of fresh bullets, the output bin and the press, arranged in a gentle arc meant I could watch the press for problems, such as the primer chute not staying full or approaching the end of a case tube while blindly reaching for a bullet. As the carrier assembly approaches the bottom of the stroke, I check to see that the column of primers moves at the proper point. At the bottom of the stroke, I feel the primer set, visually verify that the right powder charge was dropped, sweep out the occasional completed round that didn’t fall all the way to the bin, set the bullet, turn the case feeder if needed and begin the cycle again.

The only interruption was to reload the case tubes and the occasional primer glitch. Most often, this was because I missed that the chute was not being replenished from the hopper and got too low. If the column of primers is not high enough in the chute, it does not feed the primer. Actually, it most often misfeeds the primer by half, meaning the priming stroke crushes a unit under the shellplate, requiring a full stop to clear the damaged primer out before resuming. Consequently, I am irritated with myself when that happens.

The hour worth of reloading I did was in two separate 30 minutes sessions, performed while I was waiting for horses to eat. I intentionally reached a stopping point and just stopped, walked out of the shop and returned hours later to feed the horses again and resume where I left off, with no specific preparation for the 2nd session. I imagine that I can streamline the operation a little bit more if I have a couple of continuous hours. And a bigger output bin.

I want to cycle through all this 40 S&W then set the press back up for 10mm and run through that batch. By then, I expect to have a 9mm batch to load.

10mm uses a large primer… ’til it doesn’t….

I’ve shot a lot of 10mm. Probably not a lot compared to, say, the FBI, but quite a bit of it. I’m also familiar with the story of the development of the round, as well as it’s shorter brother, 40 S&W. The 10mm utilizes a large pistol primer, much like the 45ACP.

When I was sorting and measuring the 10mm brass, I stumbled across a few cases with small primer pockets.

Note the “NT” on the headstamp. Turns out that Federal Cartridge makes the a line of non-toxic ammo. Seems counter intuitive to think of non-toxic pistol ammo, but they mean non-toxic to the shooter, especially frequent indoor range shooters. Lead free (or at least completely encased) bullets, powders, primers, etc. I’m not sure what the small primer advantage is, especially since the product webpage above indicates that the round uses Federal 150 primers, which are large pistol primers. Shrug.

There is also some discussion on the ‘net about manufacturers finding that with today’s primer and powder chemistry, there is no particular advantage to large primers. If you have to buy a few million of two sizes when could get by with a few more million of one size, it starts to make monetary sense.

Once I got through all the brass, there was just barely short of 1 box of these particular cases. I’m gonna load’em.

Note that the small primer was crimped in. I will need to ream the primer pocket, but I have the technology.

back in ’84…

Ages ago, I did a little handloading…

I had always been interested in firearms, particularly pistols. I eventually purchased a S&W Model 28 with an 8-3/8″ barrel. It was a tack driver. My wife acquired a Model 19 and we became the Magnum couple hehehe

I loved the Model 28, but I wanted a 1911, too. I eventually saved and purchased a Llama IX-A, a workalike clone of the 1911. It was not a bad pistol, thought it could have used some work that I wouldn’t learn how to do until after it was traded off.

I vividly remember the day my buddy Buddy and I went out to shoot the Llama the first time. We lined up a few plastic jugs filled with water. I shot one of them, a half gallon size laundry detergent bottle and was disappointed to the point of dismay. The magic all-powerful 45 knocked the jug over without penetrating and to add injury to insult, a piece of the copper jacket hit my left shin. It was with the force of a thrown saltine, so there was no actual injury except to my soul. Other shots fared better, but none actually had the effect I was looking for. That moment made it clear that I needed to handload.

Being young and only a notch or two above broke, I got a very basic Lee single stage press and dies for 38/357 and 45 ACP, and those yellow scoop powder measures. I had the Hornady reloading manual, which I could every nearly quote after a few weeks. I worked up a couple of  45ACP loads using Unique (which was then “Hercules Unique”), though what I really did was make 10 rounds with an entry charge, 10 rounds of the next higher charge, etc, until I had about 100 rounds of 230gr hardball and 50 rounds of 185gr hollow points, each ramping up in power. It was time to go shoot.

I took it pretty seriously, recording the feel and examining the brass for each of the 15 loads. I did not have a chronograph. Luckily, that first round of handloading worked up to a decently hot load that I would later verify was just almost as hot as I could go before I started getting some signs of over pressure. Even then, slightly flattened primers was the only sign. However, the same essentially undamaged detergent bottle suffered the appropriate degree of damage for an estimated 1000 fps 185gr hollowpoint. My faith in the 45 was restored.

Handloading with a single stage press is an exercise in repeating details in groups of 50. Set out 50 ready-to-load cases on a reloading tray. Prime each case, placing it back in the tray. Throw a powder charge into each case. Press and crimp a bullet in each case. Box’em up. Shoot.

Handloading/reloading allowed me to shoot much more than I would otherwise have been able to afford, even then. Unfortunately, various influences took more of my time and eventually, the reloading equipment was scattered or damaged and discarded.

Today, ammo is more expensive, and frequently, the shelves are empty, particularly of popular types. Handloading components are also higher and frequently out of stock. For the casual shooter, it’s hard to beat some of the bulk ammo prices. As I write this, Cabela’s has PMC 40S&W for about $21 a box. I can’t buy the new components and handload them for much less. Some types are cheaper than that.


My favorite round these days is the 10MM Auto. At $32 a box for commercial ammo, I can start to make a difference handloading, especially with once fired brass.

I found a seller on Gunbroker that had a couple thousand once fired 10mm cases for about 15 cents each. I gathered the other components and a Lee Pro 1000 press from various sources. At the time, primers and powder was the thing everyone was out of, but having a local Cabela’s that is not very far out of the way home meant I could essentially stop there every day and eventually, they had the stuff.

I’m not quite as broke as my younger self was, so I have a few other non-critical but very nice tools and resources such as a digital powder scale, a vibratory tumbler for cleaning brass and a chronograph for tracking my results and a home on 12 acres in the country for shooting

I deprimed and cleaned the 10mm brass shortly after receiving it. Various things delayed the actual commencement of handloading, but in the last couple of weeks, it is finally underway.