Getting Started Reloading 500 S&W Magnum

There’s a first time for everything, and as a reloader, there can be many “first times” when you enjoy taking on new cartridges. For a while now I’ve wanted to load 500 S&W Magnum, and today I got that chance. My friend Dale Miller picked up a Smith and Wesson 500 S&W Magnum revolver a while back, and it’s fun (but EXPENSIVE) to shoot. Dale has been amassing the required components, and I got a hold of the required equipment, and today our schedules finally aligned.

We decided to pull out the Lee Classic Cast Iron Turret since it’s easy to setup, and I didn’t have a shellplate for the progressive press I would want to use (we’ll save progressive 500 S&W magnum loading for later 🙂 ). We started to setup dies, and in no time had the sizer/depriming die adjusted. Then came time to figure out what to use for expansion and charging. I decided to use the expander from the Lee die set (with funnel cap in place) in “expansion only” mode, and to install the Hornady Lock-N-Load AP powder measure after the expander in the sequence of holes in the turret. Finally, we dialed in the seating/crimping die from the Lee 3-die pistol set to finish things off.

Dale Miller Loading 500 S&W Magnum – Image Copyright 2012 Ultimate Reloader

Hmmm, I thought to myself: what do we use for primers? After looking in multiple loading manuals, and on, we settled on Remington # 9 1/2 Large Rifle primers (non-magnum). Since we didn’t have factory ammo on hand, we deformed a couple bullets getting the seating and crimping settings dialed in at the same time (same station). If I had a factory round on hand I would have had a much easier time- here’s how I normally do it:

  1. Put factory (or completed/reloaded cartridge) in shellholder/shellplate
  2. Back out seating plug
  3. Raise ram to top of stroke
  4. Screw down die until it seats on cartridge (crimp ring on crimp if everything is proper)
  5. Screw die down just a bit further
  6. Screw seating plug down firmly in contact with bullet face/profile
  7. Tweak die depth and seating plug depth as needed

…but in this case we just had to try and get the crimp and seating depth dialed in by trial and error. This is why having separate seating and crimping dies is so nice (especially with lead bullets).

We decided to start with 50 to see how these initial loads performed. We’ll do more later and perhaps change the load to suit Dale’s preferences.

Here’s what we ended up with for load data (always cross reference with published load data, Ultimate Reloader can not be liable for erroneous data, use at your own risk)

  • 325 grain hard cast Penn bullets
  • 36.0 grains Alliant 2400
  • Remington # 9 1/2 Large Rifle primers
  • New Starline 500 S&W Magnum brass

Anyone else out there loading 500 S&W Magnum?



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21 thoughts on “Getting Started Reloading 500 S&W Magnum”

  1. I will be interested not only in the loading process and components but your assessment of the Lee Classic Turret for a large caliber pistol cartridge. Loading a heavy cartridge with a 36 grains of 2400 on top of a 325 grain bullet seems much different than loading less than 10 grains of powder in a .45 with 230 or lighter ones.

  2. I’ve been loading this for a while, trying different powders, and bullets. My favorites are 36 grains of Lil Gun, with 375 grain Sierra HP. I like 38 grains Lil Gun with 275gr FP Rainier Plated Bullets. I have tried other powders, but none work like Lil Gun does for the big magnum. I use Winchester LP Magnum primers on the Lee Loadmaster press. This really makes it affordable to shoot this hand-cannon!

  3. i purchased a 500 mag about 4 years ago and have never purchased ammo for the gun,I chose to rather made it from scratch from the beginning.I started with the berrys 350 fmj and 43gn of h110/win296 (same thing) and then moved on to try alpost anything i can get my hands of my favorite loads is the hornady 300 grain FTX bullet on top of 50 grains of win 296, it barks like a howitzer but due to the lighter bullet recoil is considerably lighter that one would think. for shear power nothing beats the 700gr semi jacketed saber tip from strong arm ballistics, he specializes in .50 call projectiles and has quite a selection of off the wall stuff, it is worth a look. 500 S&W mag,long live the king!!

  4. I have been loadind it for a while and am still sneaking up on my load. I have tried many bullets and so far the Hornady XTP Hollowpoint is my favorite. I also really like 296 Winchester powder.

    I have not got any of the Lil Gun yet but have been wanting to try it. I have always used 2400 and 296 on my magnums.

  5. Been playing with this 500 for a couple months now.. this pistol has completely taken over my reloading time , I love it!
    Made up my own “500 Special” even my daughters shoot.. 33 grs of AA5744 under 350 gr XTP’s, CCI Lg Rifle primers……reasonably mild to shoot considering ..
    I also like the H110, and AA#9 in this loading.

  6. have not tried any reloads as of yet…any safe loads….not max, and source would be more than appreciated…thanks…it is one heckuva gun, have shot it, but not with reloads…again thanks.

  7. I have been reloading this cartridge for 4 years now, tried all kinds of powders. Inhaled used h110, 296, and others all leave a lot of black and unburned powder in the barrel and around calender. I have came up with a load I truly love. I use a hard cast 325 gr. Round nose flat point with 20 gr. Of unique. Get 1500 ft per sec. Low recoil and can shoot many rounds no black and clean barrel. I also have the lever action rifle and get 2000 ft per sec with this load because of the 18 inch barrel. I use unique with the Hornady xtp 350 gr.

      1. It’s below max by a couple grains. The pressure is around 40,000 lbs, but gun performs best in that range. The factory Hornady 350 gr. Are 50,00 psi. + recoil is about like a hot load in 44 mag. I shoot 40 to fifty rounds quite frequently no problem with recoil.

  8. I found that when I ran out of Accurate #9
    10.5 Grains of HP-38 with a Win Lr Primer and Hornady Brass and 350 Gr Lehigh Defense bullets is an Excellent load for 75 yards or less.

  9. I have been reloading this cartridge since the X frame was first introduced to the general public(me)!
    After many different load/projectile combos with somewhat unsatisfactory accuracy I Had to go back to the drawing board. After some trial and error, I have found adjusting the crimp will bring the accuracy in. This cartridge has to have a heavy crimp to properly function.
    So that being said rather than giving up on a specific combo, try different crimp adjustments and you may be pleasantly surprised.

    My 2 fav loads are :
    41.8gr H110 with a 350 grain Hornady XTP and a fed 210 primer with Starline brass

    37.0gr H110 with a 440 grain CPB and a fed 210 primer again with starline brass.

  10. I am having a heck of a time. I get 20% to 80% misfires. The problem seems to be the primers. I have tried Remington and Winchester in both LR and LRM. I have replaced the firing pin, spring and retaining pin in the pistol. This actually seemed to make issue worse. I loaded new Starline brass with Winchester large pistol primers (no powder or bullet). They seat too deeply but fire 100% of the time.

    At the price of factory ammunition, I cannot shoot this weapon and I reload lots of other cartidges.

    Any suggestions??
    What to do??

  11. You might try turning up the tension on the hammer spring.
    The hammer spring adjustment screw is at the base of the grip.

  12. This is a stout load, but very accurate: NOE 380 Grain hard cast lead flat point with gas check, Hornady 500 S&W brass, 39.7 grains W296, Winchester LR magnum primer. Remember the minimum load for W296 in this loading is 39.0 grains, don’t go below that as light loads with this powder can detonate; 42.5 grains is max. This just barely flattens the primers with no cratering. About 20 of these will probably be about all you’ll want to shoot in one session. 😉

  13. Help, please. Started out shooting Federal Fusion 325 gr. Gun worked flawlessly although occasionally difficult extraction. Used the brass for reloads using 41.0 gr. H110 and Berry’s 350 plated bullet. CCI LRM primers. Had a few squib loads and one hang fire. Quite an eye opener, that. Switched to W LRM primers and tightened the Lee Factory Crimp die. Got several fail to fire, although first round would fire normally. Tried firing rounds single shot and they worked fine. Except ones that may have been in cylinder and subject to recoil. Factory rounds still fire flawlessly. Tried with 43.0 H110 and 40.0 gr. 2400. I suspect recoil may be setting primers back in the used Fusion brass, so I’ve ordered new Starline brass to try. I’ve measured the primer pockets and can’t tell if they’ve expanded any until I get some new brass to compare. Any ideas?

  14. I just stumbled across this post and wondered where you got the data that uses 2400 with your .500? Neither of my manuals list 2400 for the .500 which always makes me a little leery.

  15. I have some of the Federal Fusion ammo and I was wondering if the primer pockets are large rifle or large pistol pockets? Haven’t measured, but Starline brass I have reloaded has the “R” on the headstamp for rifle primer pocket….the Federal brass has no such designation. May be the cause of some ignition problems listed above?

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