It’s the Little Things That Count on Your Loading Bench
Date: May 04 2021
While your loading bench will have all the big-ticket items like a new turret press, an automatic machine that prepares cases for loading, or up-to-date precision dies, if you look around, you will see it’s actually the little things that count within your work area.
Starting out, primer pocket cleaners are perhaps the smallest thing you use, but are very important to accuracy and consistent velocities in your handloads. Primer pocket cleaners come in a variety of sizes from the smallest ones I use, to the attachments that can be interchanged with those handles that also employ the use of Allen wrenches, or may be part of a multi-operation on a powered machine. In my photo, the primer pocket cleaners on the right come in handy for use in both small and larger primer pockets; the device on the left checks the primer hole for debris while checking the overall length of the cartridge in one motion. Cleaning pockets does allow for a better seating of the primer in the case, a technique seemingly used by more rifle than handgun shooters.
On the list of essential equipment, while the primer flipper seems to hang in the background, it is an important tool to have. While nothing more than a plastic tray with grooves, it does have the ability to flip over the primers as to allow an easy way to fill the primer tube on your press. If you plan to store ammunition for a long period of time, this device will keep your fingers from handling the primers since that could add a trace of contamination to the sensitive compound located with the body of the primer. Inexpensive to purchase, don’t work on your bench without one.
With handloading, we all have to be careful not to install the wrong powder or bullet weight on the case. However, it does happen and you can save everything by having an inertia bullet puller on your bench. With an adjustable collet on one end, and a felt insert on the other to save the bullet, one or two raps on a hard surface will dislodge the bullet and powder from the case in rapid order.
After sizing and cleaning cases, trimming is next followed by cleaning up of the case mouth. This is done easily by the use of a deburring tool that on one end is used to clean up the inside of the mouth, while on the other end will do the outside of the mouth. While the simplest of tools are shown in the photos, they are available as a hand cranked tool or even those mounted on a motor-driven bench machine depending upon your workload or the number of cases you need to work on in one sitting.
Funnels are important to help get the complete powder charge in the cartridge case without spilling. Most of the funnels I’ve run across are made out of plastic, with the exception of an aluminum one with a really small neck to accommodate the smaller calibers like the .14 or .17 cases. Like everything else, there is a wide variety of funnels for handloading, so when you are looking to purchase one, make sure the mouth of the funnel will fit on all the cases you intend to fill and load.
Cartridge trays are a good investment. When working with loading, I use mine to serve a number of steps by simply moving them around the tray. Pulling new cases out of the box, I go through the usual routine of sizing, checking them for length, cleaning primer pockets of flash, and then I place them in the tray upside down. When they are primed, they go in the tray bottom first ready for powder and a bullet. Trays come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes from plastic to wood and for the most part, are sized for a particular cartridge. I like those the best as when placed into the tray; they stand tall without the chance of wobble or spilling. Still others are “universal” in size and will accommodate small to larger cartridges – in a sense, one size fits all.
While the title of this piece deals with the little things, a caliper to me is a big thing and absolutely an important part of handloading. Measuring cases in the various stages of handloading, checking the diameter of bullets and checking cases in between loadings for pressure signs make a quality caliper a must on any bench. The smaller caliper was from my father, who was a supervisor in a machine shop, and I treasure it today for a number of tasks. For checking cases, you need a dial caliper available in either a manual or a digital readout. Most of the common reloading companies sell them, if not; purchase one at the tool section of any hardware store.