By John Taffin
“Cartridge cases must be separated by manufacture and headstamp.” I have a tough time with this one. My eyes were opened very recently when I was testing a brand-new .45 ACP 1911 with several types of factory ammunition. One box of .45’s happened to be re-manufactured ammunition from Black Hills with cartridge cases of various manufacture as well as some being nickel and some brass. At the end of the testing that particular box of ammunition proved to be the most accurate. I do not separate .45 ACP and 9mm brass by manufacture/head stamp as there are so many available. I still cling to separation of head stamps with sixgun cartridges. Probably not necessary, but I can’t break the habit.
“Cartridges from the last quarter of the 19th century such as .44-40 and .38-40 are too difficult to load, and especially so on progressive presses.” It’s simply not so. I always load these two cartridges on my RCBS Pro2000 Progressive Press. I apply plenty of spray lube as carbide sizing dies are not available for these two cartridges. I also use four dies instead of three, and this is one of the great advantages of a progressive press with four stations. This allows me to head off the number one complaint about these older cartridges with their very thin case mouths — that they are likely to crumple when the bullet is seated and crimped. This is easily avoided by seating and crimping in separate operations.
Reloaders never outgrow the need
for a good single stage press.
“When casting bullets leave the last bullet in the mold to prevent rust.” The only thing leaving the last bullet in the mold accomplishes is to trap plenty of rust in between the bullet and the mold. When I was living in a high humidity area, I found it was easier to oil the molds, then spend some time degreasing them before putting them back to use. I now live in a very dry climate and even though I have a shed out back dedicated to casting, I keep all of my 300+ molds in the house. I don’t leave a bullet in them nor do I oil them, and have no rust issues.
“With the arrival of progressive presses, single stage presses are no longer necessary.” I load thousands upon thousands of rounds every year on my progressive presses but I have never outgrown my need for a single stage press. I started reloading in 1956 with a hand tool which was exceptionally slow and hard on the hands. It was so slow it taught me not to waste ammunition. When I got my first bench-mounted press it was a great step forward, and another occurred with the arrival of progressive presses. But I still use my single stage press when I’m only loading a small batch of ammunition. I also want the single stage press any time I’m using powder which takes up so little case capacity a double charge is possible. By using the single stage press and placing each charged case in the loading block and then examining each one before seating the bullet, there is no possibility of a double charge.
Long gone are the days when only round-nosed FMJ’s work in
semi-autos. All of these feed and function well in most 1911’s.
FMJ’s & 3-Die Sets?
“Semi-auto cartridges should only be loaded with round-nosed full metal jacket bullets.” When I started reloading this was definitely gospel. In the 1950’s it was rare to find a semi-auto pistol which would operate with anything else. I have a circa 1911 Commercial Model .45 ACP and a Government Model .45 ACP and if these were the only two .45’s I had this method would still be true. When S&W introduced the Model 39 chambered in 9mm, shooters quickly found full-metal jackets ruled.
Custom gunsmiths began modifying the 1911 so it would accept other bullet nose shapes. First came the round nose cast bullets, then SWC cast bullets, followed by jacketed hollow points. Today it’s a rare semi-auto which will not handle virtually any bullet shape.
“Three-die sets are adequate for loading all handgun cartridges.” Even when loading on a single stage press it’s often advantageous — with some cartridge cases and particular bullets — to seat and crimp in separate operations.
Another cartridge case which definitely requires four dies is the .32-20. These little cartridges must also be separated as for some reason there is a great variation between manufacturers when it comes to cartridge length. All three of these have one thing in common — they are bottleneck cases with very thin case mouths. However, there are other cartridge cases and bullet combinations which will work much better if they are seated and crimped in one operation.