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Thread: Pistol or rifle, what's easier to start with?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2012

    Pistol or rifle, what's easier to start with?

    While pistol and rifle reloading share some common tools, equipment and techniques, they also differ in case preperation, and amount needed to be loaded.

    A loading session of pistol ammo can be from a few boxes to an ammo can (or more) full, where rifle rounds used for hunting, or some target shooting may not have the same amount of production required.

    While both rifle and pistol ammo reloading are similar, there are more requirements as far as case preparation and equipment required for rifle than pistol.

    It would be easier to show the diffrences starting with pistol ammo first.
    Pistol ammo in this example will be straight wall low pressure ( compared to rifle) rounds in 9mm, 38 special, and 45 acp as that is what I'm most familiar with.
    ( yes there are higher pressure pistol rounds like 10 mm and 40 s&w)

    Straight wall lower pressure pistol brass does not generally lengthen like rifle brass when resized, therefore trimming is either not done or is minimized. So the trimming, chamfer, debur that is done with rifle brass is not done as well.
    Pistol ammo &;usually uses carbide dies so it does not need to be lubed like rifle brass.
    Pistol ammo is usually shot at closer distances so primer pockets *may* not need to be as clean as rifle primer pockets for accuracy.

    Pistol ammo usually does not have crimped in primer pockets that need to be swedged or cut to replace the primers like on military 5.56/223 and 7.62/308, but I have seen some.
    38/9 mm/45 has case capacity that will allow a double charge (or more) of powder depending on how "fluffy" the powder is.
    38/9mm/45 all use "fast" burn speed powders, and can be loaded with some (a lot)  shotgun powders if need be.
    While there are a lot of powders that can be used in 38/9/45, I'm most familiar with bullseye, and it works in all 3.

    This is not to say that there are not other powders that burn a bit cleaner than bullseye, but it has been used for a lot of years and there is a lot of data for it.

    Cast bullets (or powder coated or plated) are the cheapest option to load these.

    Note: polygonal rifling does not play well with uncoated/plated lead bullets.

    So about 11 cents for 38/9mm, or 14 cents in 45 in your brass is what I load these.

    While any of the press types can load pistol ammo, it *may* be a consideration to look at your anticipated volume needs before deciding.
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    Rifle has additional steps involved for case preparation due to higher pressures, and when full length sizing the case length grows a little, so it would either need to be checked for length, and if need be trimmed. If trimmed, the neck would have to be chamfered and deburred. I clean my primer pockets on rifle brass.
    Before I size them I lubricate them so they do not stick in the die.
    Military brass and some commercial 223/308 cases have crimped in primers.
    Crimps can be taken out by numerous methods.
    Swedging,or cutting usually. (But it only needs to be done once)

    My rifle reloading production rate is less than my pistol production rate, on the same press.
    I am more concerned about the accuracy of the rifle rounds than the pistol rounds.
    on rifle I am more in control of the case sizing, and bullet overall length than in pistol.

    This is not to say that the pistol rounds have the bullets jammed in the rifling, or don't fit the chamber,
    I check to make sure that they do chamber anything I use them in.
    Last edited by mapper; April 5th, 2017 at 06:58 PM.

  2. #2
    I like the "science" behind reloading accurate rifle ammo. I just wish, I had more time and a place to test close to me. Once I'm comfortable loading rifle ammo, I'll look for a progressive press for large quantities of handgun ammo. Handgun ammo look easier to reload, but rifle ammo, is giving me the knowledge I need to become a better reloader. Also, having knowledgeable people to ask questions is a big+++

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