Hands-On Beginner’s Guide to Reloading

RE Factor was fortunate enough to host Frankford Arsenal at our shop last week and learn how to reload our own ammo from empty brass to capped shells with bullets. As intimidating as it was to learn how to reload our own ammo, Frankford Arsenal made it seem so much easier than it previously looked. 

I had very minimal experience, but I was always under the impression that Hornady made the best reloading supplies. We were shown that there are many reasons why Frankford Arsenal deserves a shot to become your one-stop-shop for reloading tools. This blog will explain how to reload from the very beginning with empty, dirty brass, to charged ammo, ready to shoot. 

Frankford Arsenal Intellidropper

What Do I Need to Start Reloading My Own Ammo?

This is one of the most popular questions that gets asked across the world of ammo reloading and one that I started the workshop with. To keep things simple for everyone, I included a list that explains the tools you need to reload your own ammo. For this section, I’m going to include the tools that you must have to start your reloading and will get into the optional tools later in the blog. 

  1. Ammo Boxes/Reloading Trays
  2. Rotary Tumbler 7L
  3. Brass Cleaning Media
  4. Brass Cleaning Solution
  5. Single-Stage Reloading Press
  6. Intellidropper Electronic Powder Measurer
  7. Perfect Seat Hand Primer
  8. Calipers (I prefer the digital model)
  9. Powder Funnels
  10. Universal Bullet Seating Die
  11. Hand Deprimer
  12. Case Trim & Prep Center
  13. Case Prep Expansion Tools

I Have a Bucket of Brass, What’s Next?

One of the biggest issues with reloading your own ammo is most people don’t know what the hell they’re doing or how to start. If you’re anything like me, you save your ammo cases from the range and you have multiple buckets of 9mm or 5.56mm cases and have no idea what to do. 

Until Frankford Arsenal came to the office, I was incredibly intimidated to even start trying to reload my own ammo. The last thing I want is to pull the trigger and have a bullet blow up in the barrel and maim me for the rest of my life. Talking with many of my friends, they all feel the same way. So hopefully, we can relieve that stress and show you it’s not as hard as it seems. 

Coaxial M-Press Reloading Press Frankford Arsenal

The first thing you need to do is prepare your tumbler based on the amount of brass you have. I prefer to use the 7L Platinum Series Rotary Wet Tumbler because it can clean up to 1,000 shells of .223 or 5.56mm at one time. If I’m being honest, I don’t really even shoot my AR very often, but I try to shoot as often as I can with my pistols and hunting rifles. With that being said, I can easily fit 1,000 rounds of 9mm brass in my tumbler.

Step 1- Inspecting Brass

Anytime you’re considering reloading, you need to inspect the cases before you try to clean and reload the brass. According to Frankford Arsenal, there are 7 easy steps to consider when inspecting a case.

Follow these 7 steps and place your brass into the bucket so you know that the brass is ready for cleaning. I always inspect the brass I either pick up from the range or the brass I personally use before I place it in the bucket.

Bullet inside Frankford Arsenal VLD Stem

The reason I prefer to inspect the brass before I clean it is simply because you don’t want to clean the brass then find out you can’t use it. According to Jarrod, you should always inspect the brass after you clean it as well to ensure the brass is clean, but also just in case you missed something at the beginning. 

Pro-Tip from Jarrod, Brand Manager of Frankford Arsenal

If you ever see a casing that you’re not sure of, but you think might work, don’t use it. There is no point in trying to load brass that is potentially suspect because you can cause serious injury or death if a damaged case blows up in your face. 

  1. Examine each cartridge to see if it conforms to the proper cartridge specification.
  2. Look at case material: aluminum, brass, or steel (green, lacquered, or gray in appearance). Only reload the brass.
  3. Check the headstamp (may have manufacturer listed, or date case was manufactured.)
  4. For handgun brass, check for a slight bulge on the side of the case.
  5. Check to see if the case is meant for a Berdan, two-hole primer, or a Boxer, single-hole primer. If brass has two holes (Berdan) then it cannot be reloaded.
  6. Check for splits or cracks and dents in the case of the brass and throw them out.
  7. Check for crimped primer pockets on the military rifle and pistol ammo. If so, you’ll have to swage the pocket out to fit a new primer

Step 2 – Brass Cleaning

Pour the bucket of brass into the tumbler and then pour the stainless steel media into the tumbler with the brass. Once your media and brass are inside the tumbler, you can put the water and cleaning solution inside as well.

There are multiple lubes or cleaners you can use, but the experts at Frankford Arsenal use the brass cleaning solution. This step is incredibly easy and all you have to do is follow the instructions on the bottle or tub like a Traeger grill, set it, and forget it. 

Many people are immediately concerned with how long you should clean your brass, but with the 7L model, you can set your timer so you don’t have to worry about that.

Frankford Arsenal Tumbler soap draining

The ammo expert that everyone calls Jarrod, suggests setting it for 3 hours and doing whatever else you need or want to do during that time. If you’re concerned that your brass will be too clean, you’re stressing about nothing.

Frankford Arsenal Platinum Series Rotary Tumbler

at Frankford Arsenal
Prices accurate at time of writing

How Do I Know When My Brass is Clean Enough?

Something Jarrod told me was that the brass should be shiny and any carbon, oil, or dirt should be cleared off. If you set the 7L tumbler to 3 hours, your brass will be good if you follow the directions. He suggests that you should wipe off each round before you’re ready to start with the more technical steps, such as load data and gunpowder. 

Pro-Tip from Jarrod, Brand Manager of Frankford Arsenal

He suggests the night before you want to reload, you put your brass through the tumbler so you can let it dry through the night and have it ready for the day. He’s a competitive shooter that competes every weekend in the United States Pistol Shooting Association (USPSA). One thing he does to save money is to continually have a bucket of brass ready for his tumbler so he can reload when he’s ready.

After 3 hours, turn the tumbler off and simply pour everything into the Frankford Arsenal Platinum Series Wet/Dry Media Separator. After it’s separated, spread the brass out on a workbench or table and let it dry overnight.


Frankford Arsenal Platinum Series Wet/Dry Media Separator

at Brownells
Prices accurate at time of writing

Step 3 – Case Prep

Once the brass is trimmed properly, the only way to know with certainty is to measure with the calipers. I’m not proud of my math skills and I can get easily confused when we’re talking 10,000/inch. For this reason, I recommend using the Frankford Arsenal Electronic Calipers instead of the dial model.

If you’re good with numbers and trust doing math in your head or on a calculator, the dial calipers are what Jarrod uses and he likes them more than the electronic model. Simply, it’s a matter of going with what works best for you, for me, that’s the digital version. 

As we get into the load data of the gunpowder, you need to make sure that you know the size specifications of the brass you’re using. One way to do this is by looking up the bullet manufacturer and seeing their exact specifications. Once you know the specs, you measure them with your calipers to verify your measurements are within 20,000th of an inch. The easiest way to do this without guessing or using math is the electronic calipers. 

Pro-Tip from Jarrod, Brand Manager of Frankford Arsenal

As you finish with the case trim and prep center, it’s important you feel around the mouth of the case to ensure that there are no burs or spots that catch your finger. If you find those spots put the brass back in the chamfer and get it smoother on the outside of the mouth. 

Frankford Arsenal Case Trim and Prep Center

Continually inspect the brass before you put each piece into the tray holder or ammo box. Jarrod uses multiple sources for load data and case data, but he suggests going to the manufacturer’s website and they will post their specific load data for the bullet and case you’re trying to reload.

Frankford Arsenal Electronic Calipers

at Frankford Arsenal
Prices accurate at time of writing

Step 4 – Sizing and Depriming

When sizing and depriming your brass, you can do it in a few different ways, but the easiest and most efficient way is the Frankford Arsenal Single Stage reloading press. Since your brass is already clean all you have to do is use the Frankford Arsenal Spray bottle to lightly coat each piece of brass. Once you apply it to the entire case (including the mouth), let it dry for 5 minutes and you’re ready to size your brass. 

I may be a little biased because I own the Frankford M-Press, but I’ve used the Hornady model and Frankford makes a much better press. Before I digress too much, the Frankford Press de-primes your shells and sizes them in accordance with your desired specifications. 

How Do I Know the Correct Size of the Brass?

Fortunately, Frankford thought about guys like me that need a little more assistance before I feel comfortable shooting a reloaded round. The M-Press comes with a case gauge for the most common bullet calibers to help you eliminate the guessing game. As you put your die block in and adjust to the right setting (watch the video below), place your clean and lubricated brass inside and press and de-prime and size your brass. As you take your brass out, place it in the case gauge and follow along with the video for exact instructions. 

Frankford Arsenal Universal Reloading Tray side view

Pro-Tip from Jarrod, Brand Manager of Frankford Arsenal

It becomes much easier after you load a few times, but this step is vital to ensuring you reload brass that doesn’t jam or feed properly inside your gun. Use the proper gauge and you shouldn’t ever have to worry about the case is too long. However, if the case has expanded beyond proper measurements, follow step 5.

Step 5 – Case Trimming, Chamfering, Deburring (if necessary)

Once your ammo is inspected, clean, and dry, the next step is to ensure your brass is the correct size, the primer pocket is clean and uniform, the length of the case is trimmed to the proper specifications of the manufacturer, chamfering the inside of the case mouth, and finally, the outside of the case mouth (top hole where gun powder goes in) is deburred.

When Jarrod told me all this, I was immediately overwhelmed and became anxious that I couldn’t do this step. Luckily, he showed us how to use the next piece of equipment, called the Frankford Arsenal Case Trim & Prep Center

Pro-Tip from Jarrod, Brand Manager of Frankford Arsenal

It can be intimidating when you’re talking about taking metal off the case, so you need to follow the directions. As you place the brass into the trimmer, you’ll feel it cut the case. The case is properly cut after about 3-5 seconds. You’ll notice there is no give and it’s smooth inside the Case Trim and Prep Center. 

Frankford Arsenal Case Trim & Prep Center

at Frankford Arsenal
Prices accurate at time of writing

Step 6 – Primers

Now we’re finally getting into the actual reloading of the brass with gun powder and prep for the bullet press. The last thing we need to do is get the primers set into each piece of brass and place them into the trays or ammo boxes. The Frankford Arsenal Perfect Seat Hand Primer is the best way to get your primers put in as quickly and easily as possible. 

The thing to consider in this step is to ensure that you don’t touch the primers with your fingers and get your oily skin on the primer. It can attach dirt and dust, and cause the primer to not seat perfectly, which can be dangerous to the shooter. Once your brass is primed, you’re free to place them into your trays and place them near the Frankford Arsenal Intellidropper powder measurer and scale.


Pro-Tip from Jarrod, Brand Manager of Frankford Arsenal

The hand primer case that holds the primers has little bumps inside that kind of feel like reading braille. These little bumps are designed to catch the rough side of the primer and as you shake it (lightly) they will turn over to the smooth side. Always make sure your primers have the shiny side up and NEVER touch them or turn them with your hands. Let the tools work for you. 

Frankford Arsenal Platinum Series Perfect Seat Hand Primer

The best way to use this tool is to put the handle face down toward the ground as you prime each shell. This will ensure that your primers feed correctly each time and you’re not getting double feeds or jams. Another consideration is to never force the primer shut, if it’s not closing with the regular amount of force, there is an issue with the feeding and you need to relax. Simply lightly shake the hand primer and keep putting light pressure on the handle until you feel the extra stiffness go away.

Frankford Arsenal Perfect Seat Hand Primer

at Frankford Arsenal
Prices accurate at time of writing

Step 7 – Measuring Gun Powder

The most technical part of ammo reloading is going to be measuring and loading the gun powder in each piece of brass. Fortunately, it’s not as hard as it sounds if you’re using the Frankford Arsenal Intellidropper. Not only does this machine measure and dispense your gun powder, but it learns and remembers your previous load data so you don’t have to reset it all if you’re reloading the same ammo. There are very few machines that are capable of this feature and Frankford Arsenal is the only one that I know of that can keep track of multiple load data points for multiple calibers. 

Frankford Arsenal Intellidropper

I can try to explain the entire process, but the Ultimate Reloader did a great video on how to use the Intellidropper and I think it’s better than what I can explain to you through text. Follow along with the video below and he will show you exactly how to set it up.

Step 8 – Charging Your Brass

There are multiple ways of doing this, but the easiest way (by far) is using the Frankford Intellidropper. Once your powder is measured for the load, make sure you use the Frankford powder funnels to ensure you get every grain inside your case. If you follow the video of the Ultimate Reloader, he does an incredible job of showing you how to use the Intellidropper. As you charge each piece of brass, you’re ready to get your bullets loaded in (We’re in the home-stretch!).

Pro-Tip from Jarrod, Brand Manager of Frankford Arsenal

The Intellidropper is incredibly sensitive because it has a built-in scale that measures to the exact grain. A measurement so small requires a sensitive scale. If you have a workbench that is wobbly or you have a fan running around you while you’re measuring the gunpowder, you can get an inaccurate reading. 

When we were practicing in the warehouse, we had to turn off the fan and make sure the machine was stable. As hot as it was in Denver, the best way to get an accurate reading was to ensure that no environmental factors impacted the Intellidropper. Once our environment was controlled, we didn’t have any problems. 

Frankford Arsenal Intellidropper

at Frankford Arsenal
Prices accurate at time of writing

Step 9 – Loading Bullets

Whew! I know it seems like a lot, but we’re almost done and the best part is loading your first bullet into your case. The video below explains how to set up each case so you can load your bullets to the exact specifications you need. Once each round is loaded, measure the finished product with a previously (correctly) loaded bullet or the factory bullet you’re trying to emulate. The digital calipers will get you to the exact measurement you want if you follow the video instructions below. 

Step 10- Final Inspection & Storage

Before you store your ammo, it’s imperative that you check your ammo for any extra oil, dirt, grit, etc… Simply wipe off each round to ensure that no residue is on your bullets and you’re ready to store your reloaded ammo!

When you store your ammo, you want to make sure they’re stored properly in environmentally controlled rooms and in proper containers. The easiest way to do this is to spend $15.00 and get a few Frankford Arsenal ammo boxes. The worst thing you can do is put them in a plastic baggie or leave your ammo rolling around on your workbench. For a few dollars, you can properly store your ammo anywhere in your house without drawing attention to the cases. 


Following our 10-step guide to reloading will relieve and eliminate the stress and anxiety that comes with starting to reload your own ammo. The best part about this guide is each step comes with a video showing you exactly how to do each step. As an educator, I pride myself on providing multiple learning methods because we all learn in different ways. 

Stay tuned for future blogs, as we get into the specifics about each product and tips and tricks from the experts. If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to us or Frankford Arsenal, at 833-784-5524.

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Table of Contents

  • What Do I Need to Start Reloading My Own Ammo?
  • I Have a Bucket of Brass, What’s Next?
  • Step 1- Inspecting Brass
  • Step 2 – Brass Cleaning
  • How Do I Know When My Brass is Clean Enough?
  • Step 3 – Case Prep
  • Step 4 – Sizing and Depriming
  • How Do I Know the Correct Size of the Brass?
  • Step 5 – Case Trimming, Chamfering, Deburring (if necessary)
  • Step 6 – Primers
  • Step 7 – Measuring Gun Powder
  • Step 8 – Charging Your Brass
  • Step 9 – Loading Bullets
  • Step 10- Final Inspection & Storage

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