Sunday, November 23, 2014

Speer reloading manual #10, Hornady handbook & Modern Reloading (Lee load manual) : Manuals to learn by

Continuing on with the reloading manual theme we move on to what a lot of re-loaders would consider "meat and potato" manuals. Now I'm not sure how many reloading manuals the average re-loader owns....I'm willing to risk a wager that its around 1 actually. As I've stated in a previous post it is unacceptable to not have any PHYSICAL copies of a reloading manual within your reach. I happen to have an abundance of reloading manuals that span 7+ decades of development and cartridges. If you start to load some odd or variations on a given safe load then you will find older manuals a gold mine of information. Also older manuals give a lot more information on how to figure your own ballistics and other highly interesting information not otherwise covered.  In this post I will cover 3 manuals off my bookshelf, first a Speer manual (#10 to be exact) printed 1979. Second, Hornady handbook printed 1973. A newer manual is the 3rd choice here covering a good amount of data and if one wished a SINGLE manual for their reloading needs this is one I would tend to lean towards that can still be had on store shelves, " Modern Reloading second edition" By Richard Lee.


This Book is one I obtained really without thinking about it, I remember now I was at a gunshow and a vendor had  a haphazardly organized box of books under his table. A friend and I inquired as to prices and the guy just said "oh $1 each I guess"....we both filled our bags pretty well if I remember correctly. Later on this "Speer manual" would become one of my favorite reference manuals. I would actually read the front half of  between college well as look up load data while waiting for laundry to dry at the laundromat.  The book has more than 100 pages of detailed information on the anatomy of the cases, (speer) bullets, primers and of course all the reloading equipment as well. What makes this book interesting is that it covers the history of Speer, RCBS and CCI and gives the reader insight into their inception.

Getting into the reloading data itself the book covers not surprisingly only Speer projectiles, those weights are the most common still yet today in a myriad of calibers so it isn't as big of a issue as you may think. One of the hallmarks I believe of a COMPLETE reloading manual is a brief history of each cartridge prior to its data. This gives the re-loader a little more information on their pet caliber. A separate section on loading handgun calibers gives some tips on loading accurate handloads.

This book is over 550 pages long! it packs and incredible amount of information into a rather small volume. The last 130 pages are filled with ballistic drop charts (something one HAD to use before the advent of  personal computers) as well as other reference charts that one would find exceedingly helpful in reloading. If you can find a copy I highly recommend picking it up especially if you load for calibers that have not been introduced since the late 70's no WSSM calibers here.

Speer #10 is a compact quality manual offering a lot to the beginner.


First off I'll admit up front here that I think this is supposed to be a 2 volume set, as the new Hornady manual series I have is also a 2 volume set. One book contains load data and the other contains very complete ballistic charts. I have volume II which contains the load data (as well as some ballistic charts in the I'm wondering what volume I actually contains?) and its worthy of some mention. The 40 some odd page "preface" as they call it contains the good reading material on mechanics and reloading. Although for a beginner there are better books out there for a "beginner's book". The point to mention on this particular book is the load data seems to cover more calibers, Usually we start with 22 hornet in most books but in this particular book we start with not one but 4 .17 caliber cartridges.  A brief half page history of each cartridge is presented in most cases and bullet selection is again as in Speers case, only Hornady bullets.  As with many of these older books you will have some frustration as you find powders are discontinued as well as perhaps some of the bullets.

The Hornady manual is a good addition to ones shelf but as above I would not recommend it as a re-loaders only manual to have on hand.

The Hornady Handbook makes for a excellent reference on jacketed projectiles but another manual would be desired if cast projectiles and a broader spectrum of weights are to be used.


"Modern Reloading second edition"....This book is one I picked up at a Cabela's some time ago while on a road trip, I had a gift card burning a hole in my pocket and I needed some reading material. First off this book is hefty at 700+ pages, it is no light weight and is not something you will be tempted to use as a doorstop because you will always be picking it up referencing it. My particular copy is the 2008 reprint, since then a revised edition is available as I understand it. The book starts off with reason one may re-load... to save money, for accuracy (very true) and of course for fun! It will not take long for somebody to realize while working their way through the first 200 pages....yes 200 pages of instructions, information and how to's that you are pretty much reading a treatise on why one should use lee products in their re-loading.  Full blown instructions on the use of nearly each of Lee's products available at the time of printing are covered which is handy as sometimes information is more complete than in the little leaflet you get with the particular product. Lets say you want to load very accurate ammo for a bolt action and you have never owned a Lee product before, reading through the book you will learn Lee offers many specialized die sets to help you get better accuracy out of your rifle, or to make highly reliable and consistent hunting loads for a semi auto. Their factory crimp die for rifle is one I find particularly impressive. So 200 pages of various information from casting your own bullets to figuring out chamber pressures of a given cartridge (page 158 in my book) you will find this book can be very useful to the re-loader who wants to learn more about what it is he can do. After that you have 500 pages of load data on all kinds of calibers. The book is organized from smallest caliber on up. Not split up into sections containing rifle and handgun loads as most other books are.  As the book is assembled by a company that sells reloading products (as well as bullet molds) one will be VERY pleased to find that the projectiles listed are not only jacketed but also cast, so one will find that they have a very very complete manual in their hands so long as their cartridge of choice is listed (No short history of each caliber however). Much to my disappointment lately has been the lack of .500 S&W Magnum data which came out in 2003....perhaps data is in the new revised edition. I should want to find out before I make a purchase however.

The Lee manual has a lot of great information, it does seem at times you are reading nothing but lee advertisements but they are more than that really. At first I was disappointed at this fact when I got the book, but as time has gone on I'm pleased the information is there at my finger tips as I find myself using more and more Lee products at my bench as their QC has seemed to improve greatly. The book itself is a great one book resource for somebody just starting out and I highly recommend it.....but for the love of Winchester get a RCBS single stage press (read steel frame) and not a aluminum one from lee (though I think they are making a steel one now...I would much prefer green) when you are first starting out.

"Lee book" offers a great deal of information in its substantial number of pages and could open up new possibilities to those wishing to advance from beginner status which are also covered within its pages.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

First thing's second: ABC's of Reloading , Possibly your best place to start.

Wait why are we doing book reviews? If you are curious as to why I am doing book reviews I urge you to read at least the first paragraph of the post that preceded this one.

In all honesty we should have started with this book in our series of reviews as this is what the beginner (as well as the advanced re-loader) should be picking up to familiarize oneself with the process of reloading and please remember the internet is not always a good resource for these kinds of things where misinformation can cause serious injury or worse. Even though I consider myself an advanced re-loader I still pick up this book from time to time and re-read sections I am wanting to review. I learn something new most every time even though I have read it once or twice already (yeah I am thick headed like that). "The ABC's of reloading" is as its cover states a "definitive guide to cartridge and shotshell reloading" and for once the claim on the cover does not lie. My copy being a 7th edition (mother purchased it for me from B&N sometime in 2004) probably does not have some of the updates the newer editions surely have, but is still valid in all the set up and safety information contained within.

In depth as well as a wide range of topics makes this book a fine place to start if one wishes to learn more about reloading. 

Say you are at a book store (as rare as they in physical form) and you have picked up your monthly firearms magazine (the periodical type, not the USGI type) and you flash back to the last time you picked up a box of ammo for your CCW or off the shelf varmint rifle and the hurt of the price tag. You think to yourself "I should look in the sporting section for a book on reloading"....why gun stuff is in always in the "sports" section and not the "lifestyle" section is always beyond me. You wonder on over and spy a few books with some interesting titles. Ones pieced together from magazine articles others by possibly a bullet or powder company, you pick them up and see that they have a few pages of "instructions" and a lot of data but not really what you are looking for. You see a copy of "ABC's of reloading" and pick it flip to the first section and you see it covers....Safety!....well that is a great place to start you think and you begin to read through the get a great (not just good) overview of differences in ammo types and a good many things to look out for. You look around and spot a empty plush chair at the end of the isle so you wonder over and take a seat, flipping to the next section on Cartridge cases ..."how much to them could there be?" you think to yourself. You read on in soaking up all the information before your eyes, "oh that is how they do that" is muttered a few times as you are pleased with the content of the book and what you have learned so far. You notice then you have been reading the book for almost 20 minutes....and at this point your wife or significant other has started to hunt around for you and finding you asks if you are ready to go. You decide to buy the book as your wife has a small stack of a new vampire series and you only have a single magazine.

Through the next few weeks you read a little at a time and really start to pick up momentum. "ABC's" lays a good foundation and slowly feeds advanced information in as you go. Proper terminology and vocabulary are thoroughly covered in the numerous illustrations and pictures. A section on powders gives good descriptions and uses of the myriad of powders a re-loader could use at his bench. Primers, bullets  casting, loading for accuracy the chapters continue to greater depth and skill level. Rifle, handgun and shotgun sections reveal nuances that are specific to reloading for the various case designs and purposes. Want to reload for a old few old black powder cartridge guns as well? that is covered.

Illustrations & instructions from lots of manufactures as well as lots of terminology defined lend to this book being a valuable resource.

Pretty much this book is what could be recommend as a great place to start if you were thinking about starting to reload or have been reloading for a number of years and may want to pick up a few tips and tricks. Advanced books do not always give safe advice and as we may sheepishly realize from time to time it really is the basics...the "ABC's" if you will that create a quality and safe end product.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Lyman Cast Bullet Handbook 4th Edition : or : Lyman Cast Boolit Handbook

As part of my move I spoke about recently I will be doing some extensive book reviews on various publications that are (what I believe to be) foundational to the gun culture as a hobby and a way of life for us shooters, collectors, DIY'ers  and competitors (Though a lot of us I suspect are all the above and then some). The following reviews/overviews of various books are what I believe to be mandatory reading or reference for those who are mildly interested in the various topics they cover. I will only cover books that are firearm themed in these posts. Though fact is many other books could apply to our theme as knowledge is power but alas I will be limiting it simply to books intended for the gun culture. On with the first overview/review.

This newest generation some say is the most educated ever, I would tend to disagree with that notion on several fronts....knowledge and implementation of knowledge are vastly different..."no mayonnaise" still seems to cause them much confusion but I digress. The fact is information has been at our finger tips and nearly instant for more than a decade and a half, most of this unprecedented access is thanks to the internet. If you want to learn about something like how to fix your oven, what that weird bump is on your leg, how to build a trebuchet or the distance to the moon in arshins you turn to the internet without thinking twice least most of us seem to. One thing that always seems to surprise me is the amount of people reloading their own ammo with not a single manual in their domicile. They glean the data off the internet from forums and run with if you are new to reloading and I say run 30gr of bullseye in a .223 Remington behind a 80gr match bullet and you go out and do have your own ass to blame for taking the advise of a keyboard expert. When somebody tells me they are getting into reloading I always ask them what manuals they have on hand.....half the time the reply is "none"....well that is unacceptable. Safety is the name of the is knowing your decap dies from your seater and your belling dies. Knowledge is power....power can keep you alive. The first few books we will cover are reloading manuals published by Lyman. The time honored name of "Lyman" graces many of the products on my reloading bench (Lyman 55 powder measure being my favorite) well as bookshelf.

Old vs New the left book is circa 1973 The book on the right is 4th edition 2010

The Old -

My Father is a bibliophile in the worst way and it doesn't run it gallops in the family. One of the reloading books I have always seen out on his desk is the old  Lyman cast bullet handbook pictured at left above. Like any good reloading manual it has a introduction that gives a primer on reloading as a process as well as how to cast your own bullets. The book then goes into the data after only 40 pages starting with .22 Hornet and going up from there. Now the book does show some of its age in that some of the powders listed are no longer in production as well as molds that are no longer in production. However, this can also be a boon for those with older molds who can not find data...or obscure powders or their equivalents. Though powder formulations have stayed the same over the years (except for 2400 I have heard in a few places) you still need to cross check data between at least 2 books, I usually dig through a few books until I find data in two different books that agree with each other. This book is great for finding loads that made the Magnums the Magnums. But as always you will work up to those powder start low and go up....can't go back once you've blown up the gun. This book is the bible for old casters who like to flip to the back to the vast catalog of bullet molds once made for all the various calibers, guns and purposes. In this book alone I count 44 molds for the .38/357 line of calibers. I don't think I have enough fingers and toes and rocks to count all the 30 cal molds in this book either but its a lot (50+). You know the data within the book covers the molds listed in the catalog for the most part. My original copy of the 1973 Lyman cast bullet handbook is falling apart at the binding its so well used and for good reasons.

The New-

 Then there are the reissues of the manuals....and lawyers get involved. The new book 4th edition pictured above right is a nice large book with a good introduction to reloading and various how to articles by "Mike Venturino" who should really just have a lot of the gun magazines on the rack today named after him he seems to have so many articles floating around...most of which seem to be recycled quite a bit? Anyways the book has several chapters of "how to load ammo" in basic form. We don't actually get to any reloading data until page 100 and these are not small pages either. Now when we hit the load is where the new book starts to gently pull ahead of the old book as its been published more recently it has newer calibers in it. In fact its the only book I have with .500 S&W data in it. BUT it seems the lawyers got ahold of this one and really tore the max load values way down.....Elmer Keith's famous long time proven .44 mag load is not even in here and over the few years I have used this manual I have noticed a few other loads I have established long ago that are above max are not in here? What gives? Well for one safety...but more over if you have been reloading for awhile you know how to read pressure signs and when you can go above book published data...the book does not bind you..but it should guide you. The really nice surprise about this particular edition of the Lyman Cast Bullet handbook is the fact that bullet data is not JUST bullet molds from RCBS/LYMAN But also Saeco and Lee....I mean WOW. Lyman makes everything that Lee does and yet they published data using Lee bullets. That was big of them....well probably because they quite making a lot of the molds as well. A look at the back shows a lot of nice data charts...but the bullet catalog this time (only showing RCBS/Lyman molds) only shows 9 molds for the .38/357 and 11 molds for the 30 cal stuff. Variety is down because demand is down. But also because we have culled out the more useful molds over the years and gotten rid of the more novelty molds. 

The Conclusion-

If you are looking to get into reloading, bullet casting or just curious about the process I would suggest you pick up one or both of these books to staff your shelf with. Even with as much reading as I have done I learn something new with every manual I get. Check back here often as more books will be covered as time goes on. I have more reloading manuals to cover as well as more (oddly) specific niche books that you may find interesting!

As this is the first of my posts on books and I hold books very dear to me I will leave you with a quote I made up a number of years ago when I was thinking just how much I have learned from books and how they have improved my life.

"Read, re-read, watch, learn, practice and's how we do good work". ~Ben Wolf

Lyman 55 Powder measure my choice of powder measures.  For those curious the blue mark is a reference line to fill the powder when it gets below that level. Doing so insures accurate drops of powder to bench rest accuracy.