Beginners Guide To Reloading, Part 2: Inspection, cleaning, and resizing

Mike R
by Mike R

Welcome to Part 2 of TFB and LYMANS series on reloading for the beginner. If you missed Part 1, you can find it here: At the end of Part 1, I list all of the components you should need to get started.

First I want to address something I learned from the comments of our readers most important: Reloading is EASY. The fundamentals are pretty simple, and the rewards are immediate. Yes, it really is not “rocket science”. Follow me in loading some .45 ACP, and you can turn around and load some .44 magnum. The same rules apply, and it is just as easy. My efforts to be thorough were likely interpreted as making it sound harder than it really is. Now, precision loads….that’s where the science comes in.

Today we are going to start the actual process of reloading. I am going to start with brass collected at the range. If you have purchased new brass this is still information you will want. Our first step is the most important. So important in fact, you should be repeating at every step along the way. I am speaking of case inspection.

When I pick up a case at the range I first check the caliber and head. If it is a caliber I use, what is the condition of the head? A damaged head can cause extraction issues. A heavily damaged head immediately disqualifies the case for reloading.

Note the 40 S&W casing in the middle has a crease near the top-be aware of details like this.By Martin1998cz [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons
Next comes the body of the casing. This will be my main focus. Mildly out of shape is not too big of a concern. What I am really looking for are creases and cracks. When the powder burns and converts to expanding gasses, the casing itself will expand then it will contract. A crack (or a weakness from a crease) can cause a case to break and you end up with a case stuck in your chamber.


After you have collected acceptable brass, you should sort by caliber and clean them. Some people will clean them again after removing the primer (depriming) to get the primer pocket clean. That is fine, but you need to clean them prior to passing them through depriming/resizing die. The resizer die returns the casing to proper specifications while removing the primer. This where a dirty die can cause a casing to be stuck (kind of like a liberal arts grad flipping burgers). This a fiasco all in itself. Avoid it.


I prefer wet cleaning. A wet cleaner will agitate the casings in a wet soapy medium with stainless steel pins. Lyman was nice enough to send me their cyclone cleaner. A huge upgrade to the small foreign made deal I had. I add the casings, fill with water and add a tablespoon of dish soap with a teaspoon of LemonShine© on top. Run cleaner for 30-60 minutes. (LemonShine is not a sponsor but is very well touted in the reloading world. It is at the grocery store with the dishwasher detergent).

Opening it you will find filthy water and beautiful brass. Filter the pins and water out. With the cyclone, I received a sieve to collect the pins. Next, rinse and dry. Many people put them out to air dry.

The Lyman Dual Sifter System makes cleaning and separating a breeze

To speed up the process and give a thorough, even drying, I suggest the LYMAN drier.

no more waiting overnight for evenly dried brass

If you air dry, make sure they are completely dry, as moisture inside the casing will result in powder clumping and sticking to the wall of the casing. Not the type of environment into which you want to squeeze or press a bullet.


Now the fun starts with your press. First, insert the case holder into the press, it should snap right in. Push down on the press handle, bringing the press to its highest point. Then screw your resizing die all the way down until it touches the press then back it off. I was taught a half turn, but Lyman instructions say “until the dies’ bottom edge is just the thickness of a matchbook cover away from the shell holder.” Not backing it off could cause damage to the die.

If you have a carbide die for a small casing like .45 you do not need to lubricate. But, if you choose to, it’s fine. Rifle casings, however, will require lubrication. Anytime you lubricate, you only want a slight layer. Consequently, too much lube can cause a hydraulic effect when air is trapped between the die wall and casing. The only place there is any give will be the casing, and the result is a dented, weakened casing. Although more of an issue when reloading a shouldered cartridge, practice it now, and it will pay off later.

The case is in the case holder, the die is set.

Now push down on the press. You should only get smooth, moderate resistance. Near the bottom of the press stroke, the old primer should pop out. Your casing is now deprimed and reshaped into its proper specifications.


Rather wordy, but all we did was clean and dry the brass then set up the press and passed a case though. So easy a crusty old paramedic can do it! Those of you who are thinking about starting up, I encourage you to take the dive.

Resized and deprimed brass. These took me 30 seconds. Note the front right casing. minor head damage, but it should still feed fine

Next week we reprime, expand the case neck, and start dumping powder!

As always, please leave some comments below and feel free to ask questions!


Mike R
Mike R

Mike spent his entire adult life riding an ambulance throughout the Southwest US. He found humor in long in-depth philosophical conversations with crack heads and other urban street survivalists. His highest point was being invited to instruct for some "special" medics in the military. He spent almost 10 years there. A 30 year gun enthusiast, he started down the path of reloading to keep up with his desperate need of more ammo. Reloading is like medicine, you never stop learning.He can generally be found at the local range picking the brains of the old timer, looking for brass, and banging away at gongs. He reloads everything from .32 to .45, .223 to 7 rem mag.

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5 of 35 comments
  • Georgesteele Georgesteele on Jun 16, 2018

    Ages ago, I bought some Interarms surplus 9mm. It has been sitting for years, and I recently brought it out to try with a new 9mm I bought. No sale. Centered and deep firing pin primer strikes, but no fire. Case headstamp, if it is a date, is November 1952. Not one to waste anything, my thought is to use my hammer (inertia) bullet puller to open the cases, recover the bullets, powder, and brass, deprime and reprime with new primers, and try again - although there's red goop (waterproofing glue, most likely) around the case neck and primer pocket edge that might make an inertia puller tough to use AND the primers tough to decap.

    Problem is, decapping live primers - even those that have consistently and reliably failed to fire - sounds like a fool's errand, especially with that red goop gluing them in. Seems to me there ought to be some chemical I can immerse the empty primed cases in that will dissolve the priming compound or deactivate it so that they can be safely deprimed. Any ideas? Never ran into this before, so thought it might interest some of the readers rather than me doing the Googling myself.

    • See 2 previous
    • Biff Biff on Jun 16, 2018

      @georgesteele You almost have to use an inertial puller on handgun bullets. Most FMJ can’t be gripped with a collet.

      As long as you wear eye & ear protection I wouldn’t worry too much about decapping live rounds. I’ve done it before and never had a problem.

  • NnoMoodU NnoMoodU on Jun 18, 2018

    Nothing against wet tumbling, seems just a little overkill to me. For longer than I care to admit, I never even considered tumbling my brass. Never a problem, but I would only process my own brass, fire-forming to my chamber, adjusting the dies accordingly, de-capping, neck sizing only, staying off the shoulders. As an aside, in over 5 decades of reloading, I've never gotten any brass stuck in my dies, (although, I do go through a couple de-capping pins per decade). I've also busted a couple "kinetic" bullet pullers, very kinetic when they let go. Time came when I started loading for my other rifles, and got a deal on a dry tumbler and media from Midway back when Larry was still in the old shop. Separation is easy, no waiting, no drying, media and treatment last for almost ever, and the coin I saved on a "dryer" appliance went towards powder, primers, and x-bullets. Same principle when it came to trimmers, bought a Lee case trimmer/cutter and collet for less than $10, and even with all the mandrels for each of my chambers I've got less than $50 in the whole process. Helpful hint; less clutter on the bench is a very, very, good thing. KISS applies, and it's often cheaper.