You know the feeling: You are reloading some ammunition, and things just aren’t going smooth. The less smooth things go, the more impatient and irritated you feel. This is certainly not the way I like to work in the shop, but it inevitably happens from time to time. For me, there are two ways that I tend to deal with a situation like this: I can either increase my focus and continue the task, or step back and re-think what I’m doing, or how I’m doing it.
Today we’ll consider the second approach: Carefully considering our setup and workflow and intentionally thinking through the reloading process. By taking the time to pro-actively fine-tune our process and workspace, we can both enjoy the process more, and attain a higher rate of efficiency. Some times I go a bit overboard on organization and process, so for this exercise I’ll keep things simple. By considering a few key things, we can improve things greatly. So here goes!
1. Create an Organized Workspace
An organized workspace is critical to a smooth and safe production operation of any kind. Without the proper space and organization, your reloading process will be both slow, and dangerous. If you don’t know what powder is in your measure, or what primers are in your primer feed system, you have an accident waiting to happen. On the contrary, if you have copious bench space, a spot for every tool and component, your production rate will be higher, and your chance of a reloading accident will be much lower. Some of the components of this organizational system are for: reloading equipment and accessories, tools, components (powder, primers, etc), and reloading boxes for completed ammo.
2. Invest in Proper Equipment Setup
Setting up equipment is really a two phase process: initial setup, and per-use setup. When you buy a reloading press, the first setup task is to properly (read: solidly) mount the press to the stand or bench where you plan to use it. In addition, you may want to perform additional tweaks like installing a spent primer collection cup, etc. This up-front setup and “dial-in” work will pay huge dividends in the long-run. The second type of setup task is performed when you go to actually use your equipment for a reloading session. Placing/securing the press (if stored elsewhere), and installing shellplates/dies/priming parts, and adjusting dies are all examples of per-use setup. By taking your time and doing this setup right, you will help to ensure that you have an enjoyable and productive reloading session.
3. Focus on the Task at Hand
Once you get your equipment setup and running, it’s important to stay focused on the task at hand and to avoid interruptions when possible. I some times listen to music while reloading, but I don’t watch TV because I know I’ll be tempted to periodically look at the TV to see what’s going on (likely with Les Stroud – Survivorman). These kinds of distractions can result in anything from slower loading, to an equipment malfunction, to (worst-case) a double charge. The risks are not worth it! If I need to hear what’s going on, or if I need utmost concentration, I’ll just keep the shop quiet. If I’m “cruising” – then I’ll crank up the stereo. If you do need to take a break, it’s a good idea to finish your current task, and to leave your bench in a “known state”. If you’re progressive loading, this could mean emptying all of the stations. That way, when you resume loading you’ll know where to pick things up.
4. When Something Goes Wrong, Investigate and Rectify
When things go wrong- it can be extremely frustrating. There’s always the temptation to “use a bigger hammer” when something won’t work. Rarely is this a good idea. Instead, if you pause for a moment (count to 5 while your face goes from red to its normal color) you will gain perspective on what’s going on. If you can get into a systematic mindset and get to the “root cause” of the problem, you’ll have a better chance at rectifying the situation. Once you’ve fixed the issue, you can go back to your loading, and hopefully enjoy trouble-free productivity.
5. Keep Good Records
There are a couple of records-keeping activities that will serve you well when reloading. First would be equipment and process records. This could include how you setup your reloading press, how you measured COL on a rifle (and the resultant measurement), and more. These notes will be an invaluable resource the next time you go to load. The second type of records are your load data and corresponding range data. By recording the specifics for your loads, you’ll have something to reference the next time you load (what worked, what didn’t, etc). Having shooting impressions (recoil, etc), chronograph data, and accuracy data you’ll have even more to go on. Another idea for records would be hunting performance for your loads (game taken, loads used, effectiveness, saved bullets/fragments, etc). All of this data is likely to be a big help to friends as well when they want to get into reloading or compare notes.
While these five steps are not by any means all-inclusive, they should serve you well in terms of helping to ensure an optimal reloading experience.
Do you have tips that you feel belong in a “top 5” list for reloading effectiveness? Please share!