The Shotgun Reloading Process: Shotshell Reloading Basics for Savings and Custom Loads

Shotshell reloading basics are straightforward. Most reloading presses have five stations that perform eight steps – depriming, resizing, priming, powder drop, wad insertion, shot drop, pre-crimp and final crimp.


Basic Shotshell Reloading

A reloading press allows shotgunners to manufacture shells. It consists of a series of stations through which the reloader moves the round as it is assembled. The press has one main lever that operates all stations. A charge bar contains a powder bushing that meters out a specific amount of powder and throws a specific amount of shot. The reloader installs different size bushings and charge bars depending on the tested recipe they are using.


Accurate Reloading Scale

Before reloading a single round, it’s critical to know what amounts the powder bushing and charge bar are throwing. For the exact number of grains of powder in a recipe, reloaders refer to a table showing which bushing throws that amount of powder. Because each powder varies in density, the same bushing throws different amounts of various powders. These tables come with the press and are online.

Experienced reloaders always double-check powder drops to make certain they’re exactly what the recipe requires. This step demands a sensitive reloading scale to get the powder drop just right. A larger or smaller bushing may be substituted to throw the right amount.


Hornady G2-1500 Electronic Powder Scale 1500 Grain Capacity
Hornady G2-1500 Electronic Powder Scale 1500 Grain Capacity


Depriming and Resizing

At the first station, a punch protrudes from the bottom of a mandrel that fits snugly inside the hull. When the lever is pulled, the punch pushes the spent primer out of its pocket in the hull’s base.

Resizing is done in the same stroke. Sliding between the mandrel and an outer cylinder, the hull’s plastic body is firmly reshaped. At the bottom of the stroke, a resizing ring slips over the brass base, restoring it to factory dimensions.


Priming the Shotshell

At the second station, a new primer is pressed into the hull. The reloader places a primer in a spring-loaded cup. The hull is placed on a hollow rammer tube. When the lever is pulled, the rammer guides the hull onto the primer. The cup’s spring gives way, seating the primer in the empty pocket.


Charging with Powder, Wad and Shot

Three operations happen at station three. The lever inserts a drop tube into the hull. The reloader pushes the charge bar to the left, which moves the powder bushing from beneath the powder bottle and drops its load down the tube into the hull. This also positions the charge bar beneath the shot bottle, filling the shot receptacle.

The lever is lifted and a wad is placed over the bottom of the tube. When the lever is depressed again, the tube seats the wad on top of the powder.

The lever is lifted slightly and the charge bar is pushed back to the right, moving the shot receptacle over the tube and dropping shot into the wad’s shot cup. The shot column is now complete.


Shotshell Pre-Crimp

This station starts the crimp, setting the proper folds in the plastic hull but leaving the end slightly open.


Final Crimp Station

Here, the crimp is fully closed by a punch that also gives the top of the shell a slight recess. This station also tapers the shell slightly so it will enter the shotgun chamber without force. Now complete, the shell is ready to fire.

Proficient reloaders can make several boxes of shells per hour on a basic press. More advanced presses turn out a shell with each pull of the lever, markedly increasing production.

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