Reloading Safety – A basic primer

If you are like me, the thought of playing with gunpowder and bullets is inherently interesting. It goes without saying that it is also very dangerous. I personally feel lucky to have all of my fingers, toes, and other appendages intact (thinking back to 4th of July as a kid). I’d be happy to keep the use of my eyes, ears, and hands for the rest of my life!

While reloading can be dangerous, it doesn’t have to be. If you observe some basic rules of safety the chances of a reloading room or shooting range mishap are greatly diminished. So let’s take a look at some basic methods for avoiding safety issues.

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The RCBS Lock-Out Die - cheap insurance! - Image Copyright 2010 Ultimate Reloader

Rule #1: Be sure of your reloading data, work up loads

It is very important to be absolutely sure of the load data you are using. If the wrong components or measures/quantities are used, the results can be catastrophic! If for instance you used load data for one powder (say, H-110 for pistol) with the wrong powder (say W-231) you could blow up your gun, and your face. With careful load selection based on the capabilities of your gun and cross-referencing, you can avoid these dangers. If you are loading for a Smith and Wesson 38 special revolver from the early 1900’s, you may want to stick with lighter bullets and softer loads. If you have a Ruger Super Redhawk .44 magnum, you don’t have to worry about any “factory listed” loads since this gun is “overbuilt”.

Here’s what I do:

  1. Select the components you want to use and the intended use for the load
  2. Start with online load data from the manufacturer or load data from a reloading manual
  3. Check online data submitted by users (as a cross-reference) – sometimes you can get some great accuracy tips this way
  4. Double check your loading manual or online manufacturer’s data (feel free to triple or quadruple check, you can’t be too careful!)
  5. Keep careful and detailed records of load data

Rule #2: Wear eye protection while loading

A simple rule to follow is to always use eye protection while loading in case you have a primer explosion. I personally use prescription wrap-around safety glasses as they are not much different than wearing my “normal” glasses.

Rule #3: Keep a clean bench

When I load, I typically clean the bench before-hand. I also am sure to keep only one canister of powder on the bench, and type of primers on the bench as well. I also have labeled “remnant” containers for extra primers (old plastic bullet boxes work well). This precaution will ensure that you don’t mix components accidentally.

Rule #4: Don’t be in a hurry

Just like when you’re backing a trailer, if you are patient and take your time, you can help to avoid disaster. Taking your time applies to planning, setup, each stroke of the press, labeling your ammo, and cleanup. It’s not worth it to be in a hurry! I also find that I enjoy myself much more in the reloading room when I’m not in a hurry.

Rule #5: Use a powder check system

There are really two types of powder check systems- mechanical, and visual. Mechanical powder check systems come in the various forms of powder check die systems (I’ll cover each in detail in subsequent blog posts). The visual powder check system is only reliable if you use a powder that fills the case more than half way, which will result in an overflow if there is a double charge. Note that the visual system will not prevent squib loads (no powder) if you happen to forget to look in a case when the powder system is not working or empty. Personally, I advocate powder check systems for all reloading when practical, especially on progressive reloading presses. It’s the best money you’ll spend on your reloading gear! In addition to using a powder check system, read the instructions for your reloading gear and be careful to observe the proper operating procedures.

There we go- five rules to keep your guns, body, and house safe. These rules are really just a starting point to ensure safe reloading. Do you have other important safety tips? Please share.


6 thoughts on “Reloading Safety – A basic primer”

  1. Gavin,
    A picture of why you should not be stupid around powder can be found on the website gun zone warning they are very graphic.


  2. Gavin, I watched all your reloading videos and they are great. I do have a question in regards to how to best take advantage of the Hornady LNL progressive. When set up with the depriming and sizing die it seems followed by the flaring die, powder die and bullet seating die seems like you would be disregarding the condition of the primer pocket and bullet casing size. At what point would you set up to resize casing and primer pocket. Would you only do it ever few reload cycles. It seems like if you had to deprime and then remove the casing to inspect the casing and primer pocket that it would be taking away the efficiency of the progressive press. On the other hand, if you want quality reloads you would want to inspect and condition your cases every time.


  3. S&W.triple lock .455 Webley MK2- How much may I thin .45Colt brass to enable the cylinder to close without creating problems for my revolver or myself?

  4. I have a Glock 10-mm I am having trouble finding the proper ammunition. Can anyone of you please recommend a low-budget ammunition for me? I must have been crazy when I bought the 10 millimeter over the 9 millimeter.

  5. After using H110 for my 500 S&W, I left the powder hopper filled with powder and unlabeled. My father was unaware that I had changed his Varget, and I had failed to either label the hopper, or better yet, empty it when finished. Quick Load estimated that 25 gr of H110 in a .223 Rem produced around 120,000psi and is why brass and bolt face fragments remain in my father’s forehead today.(His glasses are the only reason he didn’t lose his sight.) Gavin could not be more on point: Start with a clean bench and only use components that you pour for charging and have selected from the original container. The small things have huge consequences.

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