I am not entirely a novice when it comes to reloading. I took a skeet shooting class in college as an elective, and we were taught how to reload our own ammo (Ponder THAT thought for a moment….) Once the whole family got into trap shooting, reloading became necessary to help contain costs. This is important….Reloading will NOT make shooting cheaper. It will only allow you to shoot more, or more of you to shoot, depending on your situation. When I bought my first pistol, I knew that reloading would be key to me getting the kind of trigger time I wanted.
I was very fortunate in that someone gave me a reloading press and dies. I poured over the Lee Reloading book, so I could understand the in’s and out’s of reloading pistol cartridges. There are a lot of things that you aren’t told, or maybe I didn’t catch on. Either way, I learned a more by doing.
So, I bought some 185 grain JHP’s made by Zero Bullets, some CCI Large pistol primers and a bottle of Hodgdons Titegroup. I think I also loaded up some 200 grain LSWC
The Lee Manual called out 5.0 grains of powder as a minimum, so I calibrated my powder drop, and started loading bullets. 100, 200, eventually 500 rounds of beautiful JHP’s were cranked out. Same with the 200 grain semi-wadcutters, those called for 4.2 grains of Titegroup.
What’s the problem you ask? Well, they didn’t friggin work. I didn’t know that the pistol I was shooting, a Springfield XD .45, does not like LSWC. And by does not like, I mean it wouldn’t consistent feed them. Fortunately, I only loaded a couple hundred of these.
The JHP’s were a different story altogether. The first 50 or so ran ok. They didn’t eject as well as factory loads, but I knew that I was using charges that were 10% off the max charge for the powder. But then I started having squib loads. Let me tell you, nothing can ruin range time faster than a squib, especially when the damn bullet gets stuck in the barrel, and you don’t have any tools to push it back out.
I bought a bullet puller, and started checking the powder charge. Some of them were right on the money, but some were very reduced charges. After much experimentation, I determined that my powder drop wouldn’t consistently charge the case with the desired amount. I have a feeling it had something to do with the volume of the powder I was loading. The problem now is that I have about 500 rounds that I have zero confidence in. Its been over 2 years, and I’m still pulling bullets. Shooting bullets in large quantities is fun. Pulling bullets, in large quantities, is not.
So what were my mistakes?
1) I should have only loaded a couple dozen or so and taken them to the range for testing. There I would have discovered that the XD does not load LSWC bullets.
2) I may or may not have discovered the reduced charges by shooting them, but I should have been better about checking the powder charge before seating the bullet. I now pull a case before seating the bullet and weigh the charge, just to make sure that they are loading consistently.
I have since switched to Accurate #7. The reason I switched to this powder is because it fill the case better than Titegroup. According to the Lee book, the useful case capacity of .45 ACP is 1.22cc. If you start with the minimum load of Titegroup (5 grains), you will use approx. .42cc when loading for 185 grain JHP’s. 10.8 grains of Accurate #7 will fill .70 cc. This means that if you accidentally double charge a case, Accurate #7 will spill over the sides of the case. Titegroup will not. It also means that its easier for me to see if the case is being properly charged.
The other thing I do differently is that when I use a new powder, I will load a a couple dozen bullets with different charges to see how they perform in the gun. For example, when I started loading Accurate #7, I started with 10.8 (the minimum charge according to the Lee book), and then loaded some at 11.0 grains, and 11.2 grains. By doing this I could see how they group on the paper, how they well they cycle the slide and eject the case. For my .45 ACP loads, when using a 185 grain JHP bullet, I load 11.2 grains of Accurate #7