A few weeks ago, we learned from C. Rodney James, author of ABCs of Reloading, that some people are better advised to not take up ammunition reloading. As it turns out, James knows from first-hand experience what can happen:
The loading process is not terribly complicated, though it does involve a number of steps. Each step is there for a reason. It may not be apparent to the beginner, at the outset, why those steps are there. This often seems to be a good excuse to take a short cut and eliminate a particular step. This author was once one of those people. He started reloading cases in what he thought was a very safe manner. Each cartridge case was sized and decapped, just as this book tells you to do. Then he inserted a new primer, also according to the manual. He carefully weighed his powder charge on a good scale (he was assembling precision ammunition) and he even weighed his bullets to make sure there was no more than +/- half a grain in weight difference. After weighing the powder charge to an accuracy level of less than one tenth of a grain difference, he put it directly in the case and immediately seated the bullet.
Everything worked fine with this system until the day he was in the process of loading and someone came to the door. He left a cartridge case sitting on the loading bench. It was charged with a small amount of fast burning powder that disappeared in the dark bottom of the cartridge case. After dealing with the visitor, he returned to the bench to continue loading. He picked up where he thought he'd left off. He carefully measured out a charge of powder and funneled it in the case. He was wary of accidentally getting two charges in one case so he immediately seated a bullet and added the finished cartridge to the box he had been filling.
Two charges is exactly what he loaded! Every instruction manual will warn you not to do this. Use a loading block. Loading block? A small, molded-plastic tray that holds cartridge cases – heads down. They cost a couple of bucks, or you can make your own by boring proper sized holes through a piece of plank and gluing a flat bottom on it. A loading block is a safety device allowing the reloader a second chance to inspect charged cartridges before seating a bullet, because there might be the slight possibility that one of those cartridges got too much powder.
The author discovered his error the following weekend while target shooting. The double-charged case wrecked a nice old Springfield, the purchase price of which would have bought an amazing number of loading blocks. The author was very lucky, because the people who had designed and manufactured that Springfield built in some good safety features. These saved his eyesight. Many reloaders owe a lot to those who designed and built their guns — people who were smarter than they are.
Everybody who loads will throw double charges. The careful ones won't do it very often and they will catch their mistakes before they are fired. Once is all it takes to ruin a gun. Once is all it takes to ruin your face, eyesight, hearing, and if you are really unlucky, to kill you.
Follow the steps listed in the reloading manuals – all of them in the proper order. They are there for a good reason.
Don't ruin your gun. Or your face. Click here to get a copy of ABCs of Reloading by C. Rodney James. The book covers those things that are critical to the craft but not found in reloading data manuals.