Lyman 50th Edition Reloading Handbook
WHY YOU NEED
by Duane Thomas
If you’re a handloader, one of your most invaluable pieces of equipment will be your reloading manuals. These are books containing load “recipes,” combinations of bullet type, bullet weight, bullet shape, powder, powder charge weight, recommended overall length of the loaded round, trim-to length of the cartridge case should that be necessary (mostly a consideration when handloading rifle casings, which tend to stretch more under use than pistol casings), and sometimes even recommended crimp-to dimensions.
Let’s pick a simple example: You’ve decided to handload for your .45 auto, and want a mid-range load. You grab your load manual and turn to “.45 ACP.” That’s a popular cartridge so there will be multiple pages of recipes. You want to load 230-grain hardball, so you flip through til you find “230-grain, Round Nose.” Choosing a powder can be a topic all its own, but let’s say you’ve picked Winchester 231 because you know it’s one of the classic .45 ACP powders. You scan down the load recipes til you find “W231.” You see recommended starting and maximum loads. You pick a number in the middle. You have your load recipe.
I used this example, because that’s exactly what I did, for my very first handloads, lo these many years ago. You’ll note I did not mention overall length, but at the time I was using a little manual-everything hand die set (having not yet upgraded to a Dillon progressive) so basic that adjusting overall length wasn’t an option. Since you, being smarter than I, have decided to go Dillon right off the bat, you’ll be checking for a recommended overall length, too.
You’ll notice in the title I said “manuals,” plural. As you become an experienced handloader, you’ll find you need more than one manual. As useful as any one book might be, they tend to cover, for any cartridge, only the most popular bullet types/weights and powders for that cartridge. If you need data on anything not covered in a particular manual, there’s a great advantage to having more than one.
Should you want to use a particular powder that’s not in any of your big load manuals, fear not, powder companies produce dedicated manuals filled with loads for the powders they make. For instance, you won’t find very many loads for Finnish powder company Vihta Vuori in the typical load manual, but Viht itself produces a load manual covering every powder they make. Most load manuals do precious little on lead bullet loads, but Laser Cast, a lead bullets company, produces a load manual filled with lead bullet loads.
These days, a lot of this data can be found online, still a lot of it can’t, and having a collection of paper load manuals you can grab and page through as you’re deciding which bullet type, bullet weight, powder, powder charge, and overall length to lavish on your latest masterpiece of handloading is an invaluable resource.