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Hand loading safety tips

Let's take a minute and talk about safety on the loading bench. It's a topic that's often overlooked by many hand loaders. But yet, it's very, very important.

These are the key takeaways:

  • Don't forget to wear your safety glasses each and every time you go on the loading bench. You don't want a primer going off showering sparks in your face. If you do happen to ignite powder on the bench, you don't want to char yourself by not having your safety glasses on.
  • Everybody should have a fire extinguisher on the loading bench in the event of emergencies. Remember, you're dealing with flammable items here, powder, primers that can cause your house to go up in flames or even put your eye out. Having a fire extinguisher within reach on the loading table, very important.
  • For those of you that are really conscious to toxicity levels, maybe a good set of latex gloves. Latex gloves are really important especially if you're working with lead-based bullets, okay. In the pistol industry, a lot of cast bullets going on, don your latex gloves, make sure you wash your hands at the end of the day or frequently throughout the day.

Only work with one powder at a time.

When I'm loading, I like to use a 3 by 5 card, I'll write the powder on it, insert it in my powder hopper so if I get interrupted and I come back in an hour or a day or a week, I know exactly what powder is in the hopper, I'm not confusing it with something else that could cause a dangerous problem if I put the wrong powder in the wrong cartridge case.

Distractions.

Don't let any distractions disrupt your loading techniques. Turn the TV off, turn the radio off. Don't be bickering or arguing with someone during the reloading cycle. This can cause you to make mistakes that may indeed be fatal.

Storage of Ammunition Components.

Powder and primers, are explosive items and need storing carefully. Indeed, there may be specific local regulations for the storage of ammunition, powder and primers (not to mention fire regulations), so it is a good idea to check with the local authorities when getting started. Often there are limits on the amount of loaded ammunition, powder and primers you can legally store in one place and it may also limit different locations.

Storage tips:

  • Store powder and primers separately away from each other.
  • Store powder and primers in a cool, dry location, away from but accessible to your bench
  • Put primers, in their original container packets, into metal ammo. cans as an extra safety precaution.
  • Keep powder in its original container, with the cap on tight.

Safety checklist:

  • Never smoke or have any naked flames anywhere near the reloading bench.
  • Always wear protection, the minimum being eye protection glasses. Consider also using gloves in all or parts of the process.
  • Never just use someone else’s recipe for a cartridge, especially from an unknown source. Every rifle is different, you could easily load to too higher pressure if you simply copy someone else recipe, good safety would always have you to do load development. Trust but verify!
  • Always use the reloading manual thats best suited to the ammunition you are creating.
  • Always have a fire extinguisher on the bench in case of a fire.
  • Never reload while you are stressed or not paying full attention, this avoid making mistakes like over powdering a case with too much powder, or no powder. Both are very dangerous and easy to do if you don’t pay attention.
  • Be picky about your brass selection and be aware of bulk brass issues, such as once-fired military brass. Watch for the likes of primer issues with crimping, and also damage to the brass as this type of brass is often machine gun brass and as such is highly “stressed” in use. It’s best avoided.
  • Powder Storage in Powder Measurer. Powder left in the reloader's powder measurer for extended periods, overnight or several days, should be avoided. Powder needs to be stored in original containers only, when not in use.
  • Never mix any two powders regardless of type, brand, or source. Never substitute any smokeless powder for Black Powder or any Black Powder substitute.
  • Sweep up spilled powder with a brush. Not a vacuum cleaner, never use a machine with a danger of sparking. Sweeping is safest.
  • Document and label your loads. Record details of your loads before you finish and label the ammunition you've produced. Save yourself later puzzlement by noting powder charge, bullet weight, primer, and reloading session date before you finish up.
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