I recently wrote about the importance of using a rifle case gage when loading rifle ammunition. Well, it’s equally as important to use a case gage when loading pistol ammunition, so that’s what I’ll cover in this post! I’ll demonstrate using a case gage for both autoloaders (using 40 S&W as an example) and for revolver cartridges (using 44 Magnum as an example).
L.E. Wilson makes a fine set of pistol case gages, and that’s what I use in the reloading shop, so that’s what I’ll use to demonstrate the use of pistol case gages in this article. The fundamental difference in these case gages has to do with headspacing (what the cartridge stops against when its loaded into the chamber). For rimless autoloader cartridges like 40S&W, the case mouth is used to headspace the cartridge. Rimmed revolver cartridges are different in that they headspace using the rim itself. The L.E. Wilson pistol case gages are designed accordingly.
These cases gages measure and check pretty much the same things however:
- Bullet diameter
- Case body diameter
- Case trim length
- Cartridge overall length
- Case rim thickness (for rimmed revolver only)
Using the case gage is very simple. Here’s what you do:
- Drop the cartridge into the case gage bullet end first
- Verify that the back of the case is at or slightly below flush with the back side of the gage
- Set the case gage on a flat surface: verify that the back of the case does not protrude up from the back side of the case gage
If any of these checks don’t pass fully, you can then verify proper chambering in either a revolver chamber (in the cylinder), or in the barrel (removed) of your autoloader. In the following video I demonstrate these concepts:
Using a case gage is very simple, and I would reccomend that you add one of these gages to your reloader’s tool chest for each of the pistol cartridges you reload. It may just save you a lot of time and hassle. Peace of mind is hard to put a price on!