Ammunition reloading manuals
These reloading manuals all have excellent and trustworthy information, yet their data often doesn't match. Why?

The problem with powder

There is nothing difficult about loading accurate, reliable rifle cartridge cases but you have to know exactly what you are doing. Above all, obey the rules of sensible reloading. 

New reloaders should read thoroughly at least two different reloading manuals so they understand the various processes completely.

The first problem you’ll encounter when both those reloading manuals list the same cartridge, projectile and powder combinations but with different maximum powder loads. The explanation is simple: it is highly unlikely that any two companies would use exactly the same components and the same testing equipment.

Fair enough but how do you overcome the problem? 

When I faced this very question, I averaged out the maximum loads of powders or their equivalents, which became the new maximum that should not be exceeded. I’ve used this system for more than 30 years without any excess pressure problems.

The other quandary comes when the projectile you want to use is not used in any of the manuals, or if if it is, the loads are different. Again, average them out. 

An example: ADI’s manual and the .270 Winchester cartridge. The 130gn Hornady soft point is named in the manual, it has a maximum load of AR2209 powder of 54.3gn. The Hornady manual, on the other hand, shows a maximum load of 60gn using the same powder equivalent (IMR 4350). Nick Harvey’s manual nominates only a projectile weight of 130gn and quotes a maximum load of 54.5gn. 

Reloading ammunition
Left: Safe reloading can produce results such as this if you obey the rules. Right: This power/projectile combination provides excellent accuracy in the .243 Ackley, but how much powder?

The average of the three is 56.3gn. Providing you respect this maximum and work up from a lower starting figure, you should not get into pressure problems.

You must be aware of rising pressure signs such as partially flattened primers, difficult case extraction and ejector marks on the case head. 

If any of these occur, you must stop using that load immediately. The exception to this rule is if you have deliberately used the softest primer in initial loads. 

I’ve often uses the softest primer on the grounds that if there are any potential pressure signs, they will show up with the softest primer first. 

If this in fact occurs, I would then shoot the load again with a harder primer. If no flattening is present, I would use that load, all other factors being equal. 

On the bench, be very careful of how you handle powder. The old rule of having only one can of powder on the bench at a time applies. Using the wrong powder, particularly pistol powder in a rifle cartridge, is a recipe for disaster.

All powders should be stored in a cool dry place and out of reach of children. Although there is no legal reason to do so where I live, I choose to keep my powder under lock and key. 

Always account for spilled powder and sweep it up, then dispose of it safely: do not let it become an ignition hazard. 


There is much free information on the internet about reloading. You should be aware that all such loads need to be checked against a reputable reloading manual before use. Much of the information is just plain dangerous if used incorrectly.

Thankfully, it appears that reloaders are responsible citizens and reports of problems or accidents on the reloading bench are rare. Let’s keep it that way. 




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Ron James