How to Select Reliable Sources for Reloading Data

Reloading is not just for rocket scientists. And there's nothing magical involved, either. If you have a modest measure of mechanical ability and a healthy dose of common sense, you're an excellent candidate. However, the process details you need to know and follow to assure your continued good health and to make safe and reliable ammo are not inherently obvious. Thoroughly reviewing as many load manuals as you can before you try your hand at reloading is recommended.

There are several excellent ones to choose from, including the latest editions published by Barnes, Hornady, Lee, Lyman, Nosler, Speer, Sierra and Swift. (There are four new-for-2013 manuals that I'll get to in a moment.) These are what I refer to as "full-service" reloading manuals because they include detailed narrative (often with illustrations) describing each step in the process from A to Z. They also provide cartridge descriptions, dozens of tested recipes for each bullet or propellant product, and often bullet ballistic data.

You might think, "These manuals cost money, right? Why can't I just get on the Internet and read about it?"


You're correct. A manual may cost you $25, but it's well worth it! Everything you need is in one place, and after perusing several chapters, the whole handloading mystery is revealed. In addition, you'd be ahead of the game if you ask around and find someone who reloads to give a simple tutorial and demonstration. They should have one or more of these manuals on hand that you might borrow. If they don't have at least three of the latest editions, seriously reconsider their handloading acumen and, preferably, find another mentor.


You have to be wary of load data shared on the Web, especially from individuals. I'm an engineer; have reloaded for 40+ years; and have all my fingers, both eyes, and can still hear pretty well. I load for 85 cartridges, including several wildcat rounds. I have the latest editions plus dozens of old loading manuals that I refer to constantly.


I've either read about or experienced most of the pitfalls handloaders are likely to encounter, but I've also learned that it's prudent to verify every load recipe by researching and comparing data from several reliable sources. The emphasis is on the word "reliable." These include the companies mentioned above and the Accurate, Alliant, Ramshot and Vihtavuori reloading data booklets. They're all fully engaged in 21st-century media technology, including comprehensive websites.

Unlike the way it was when I started reloading, almost all of these companies have fully equipped and staffed ballistic labs. They test-fire tens of thousands of rounds each year to develop new load data and also to revalidate previously published data.

That's not necessarily so on Web threads. I look at a few sites occasionally just to see what topics seem to be of interest. When I see someone asking for load data for a common, everyday cartridge, I cringe. Often there are several responses that usually include why this or that "favorite" load is the best. Remember, these data are coming from complete strangers. So why would any sane person assemble ammo using an unsubstantiated recommendation, chamber a highly energetic .44 Magnum or .30-06 cartridge in their favorite revolver or rifle, grasp the grip or press their face against the stock firmly, and then squeeze the trigger?


Just remember, the latest edition reloading manuals are the most reliable sources for safe load data.

Recommended for You

Crimson Trace enters the riflescope business with the Crimson Trace CTL-3420 4-20X 50mm. Optics

Review: Crimson Trace CTL-3420 4-20X 50mm

Joel J. Hutchcroft - April 29, 2019

Crimson Trace enters the riflescope business with the Crimson Trace CTL-3420 4-20X 50mm.

Like situational ethics, standards of accuracy vary according to circumstances. How-To

Accuracy: It's All Relative

Terry Wieland - May 09, 2019

Like situational ethics, standards of accuracy vary according to circumstances.

The joys of handloading are many, and one of them is sharing the experience with a novice. Reloading

Share the Handloading Experience

Lane Pearce - May 19, 2019

The joys of handloading are many, and one of them is sharing the experience with a novice.

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Hornady 6MM Creedmoor

Hornady 6MM Creedmoor

Tom Beckstrand and Neal Emery of Hornady highlight the 6MM Creedmoor ammo.

Skills Drills: 3-Second Headshot

Skills Drills: 3-Second Headshot

James Tarr runs through the 3-Second Headshot drill.

Tactical Solutions Introduces New X-Ring Takedown SBR Rifle

Tactical Solutions Introduces New X-Ring Takedown SBR Rifle

Keith Feeley of Tactical Solutions sat down with Michael Bane at SHOT Show 2018 to talk about the new X-Ring Takedown SBR .22LR rifle.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

A half-century in the making, the new DGX Bonded is Hornady's best-ever dangerous-game bullet. Ammo

Danger Tamed: Hornady DGX Bonded Hunting Ammo

Joseph von Benedikt - May 23, 2019

A half-century in the making, the new DGX Bonded is Hornady's best-ever dangerous-game bullet.

Harvey A. Donaldson may be best known for his .219 Donaldson Wasp wildcat cartridge, but during his lifetime he was popularly called the “pioneer benchrester.”  Gunsmithing

Harvey Donaldson: Pioneer Benchrester

Joel J. Hutchcroft - May 07, 2019

Harvey A. Donaldson may be best known for his .219 Donaldson Wasp wildcat cartridge, but...

The joys of handloading are many, and one of them is sharing the experience with a novice. Reloading

Share the Handloading Experience

Lane Pearce - May 19, 2019

The joys of handloading are many, and one of them is sharing the experience with a novice.

See More Stories

More Reloading

Using Speer Gold Dot rifle bullets for ammo reloading provides optimal performance in AR-type rifles and carbines. Reloading

Handloading Speer Gold Dot Bullets

Lane Pearce - April 09, 2019

Using Speer Gold Dot rifle bullets for ammo reloading provides optimal performance in AR-type...

The Winchester 572 powder was designed for 20- and 28-gauge shotshells, but it's also perfect for loading pistol cartridges like the 9mm Luger and 38 Super. Reloading

38 Super and 9mm Load Data for Winchester 572 Ball Powder

Charles E. Petty - July 22, 2019

The Winchester 572 powder was designed for 20- and 28-gauge shotshells, but it's also perfect...

It's been 10 years since Speer put out a new reloading manual, but this new edition was worth the wait. Reloading

Speer Handloading Manual Number 15

Lane Pearce - October 11, 2018

It's been 10 years since Speer put out a new reloading manual, but this new edition was worth...

See More Reloading

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.