Clay Learns to Reload: Ep. 1 Taking a Class

Everyone has to start somewhere. So, you might as well invest a little time and money and take a class. Learn from someone who knows what they’re doing.

I saw something on the schedule at a local gun range that caught my attention last week, so I decided to write a column on it. Independence Indoor Range, here, in Boise offers a basic reloading class, at a very reasonable price. I dropped by to see how it was taught and came away a very happy camper.

To the majority of the GunsAmerica audience, maybe this isn’t so important. If you learned how to reload from your dad and have decades under your belt, you may have forgotten what it is like to have no idea what you are doing.

But from a rookie perspective, it can be extremely difficult to get started. Some people learn well from a video, but I’m not one of them. Hands-on tends to stick better and it is nice to have a real human to ask a question.

You’re not going to learn everything in one class.

But you will, hopefully, learn enough to get you started down the right path.

The class was fantastic and covered the basics of rifle and pistol. The instructor was a consummate professional, with a depth of experience well suited to teaching. We learned on RCBS rock chuckers, though the instructor was quick to point out that any brand of single stage press would work. None of the class felt like a sales pitch for this product or that product.  And the bare necessities were stressed.

Most importantly, we covered the nitty-gritty of what it’s like to set up a press.  As a noob, figuring out the dies is probably the most stressful part of reloading and after two hours I left confident I could handle it.

Some of the resources and tools you’ll need to have on hand. More on this in future episodes.

Every student in the class took several rounds through sizing and depriming, case prep, and all the steps back to loaded ammunition. Along the way, we learned how to read the reloading manual, and performe safety checks as the batch progressed.

A few rounds were even loaded incorrectly so that we could see what an error looked like. As a side benefit of having the class at an indoor range, we were able to test fire our work.

Not pretty. But at least we know how to avoid more of these.

The proof, as they say, is in the pudding.

Teaching people the skills of reloading is one of the most important things we can do. It cuts the cost of our hobby down considerably, as well as instills a sense of self-reliance. I don’t know that I am likely to beat Gold Medal Match for accuracy anytime soon, but with advanced skills, it can be done.

I would encourage other ranges with the space and tools to follow the example set by Independence. The more shooters we have invested in our rights, the harder they are to take away.


If you’re like me and you’re ready to dive headlong into reloading, I suggest you start with a class to get your feet wet.  As mentioned, while print and video tutorials are helpful, they’re no substitute for the classroom experience, especially at the outset.

Yes, I will be filming my journey into reloading.  Going step-by-step to show you what I’ve learned and what works for me, my process, my tools, my press, etc..  Consider this forthcoming series on reloading a supplement to your individual efforts.  We will conquer this discipline together.

Reloading is not only cost-effective, it makes one even more committed to the 2A cause.

About the author: Clay Martin is a former Marine and Green Beret, retiring out of 3rd Special Forces Group. He is a multi-decade and -service sniper, as well as 3-Gun competitor and Master ranked shooter in USPSA Production. In addition to writing about guns, he is the author of “Last Son of The War God,” a novel about shooting people that deserve it. You can also follow him on twitter, @offthe_res or his website,

{ 20 comments… add one }
  • UncleNat March 24, 2018, 9:04 am

    Great timing! I am just beginning to start reloading myself, primarily for my new 6.5 Grendel build. I look forward to the series.

    • KBSacto March 26, 2018, 2:30 pm

      The larger the caliber, the greater the material cost savings, not to mention the benefit of custom loads that cannot be purchased in a store. Target shooters hand load exclusively as one can be more precise on bullet and powder weight, and crimping consistency.

      My recommendation would be to start with a single stage, and consider the RCBS Rocker Chucker Supreme ($300). It is easy to learn on, has everything you need to begin, and the internet is full of how to videos; you’ll just need to get a tumbler for cleaning spent brass. Reloading powder data is free from the manufacturers online. After several years, I bought a Hornady LNL AP progressive loader. For handgun ammunition, it is much faster than a single stage, however a lot more can go wrong with all five stages (i.e., depriming/reshaping, repriming, powder charging, seating, and crimping) happening all at once. I reload my rifle and large caliber revolver ammo solely on the single stage.

      The other advantage is ammo availability. I have a 10mm Glock and finding ammo retail was at times difficult before the last election, however all the components (brass, primers, bullets & powder) were readily available. For those who shoot large caliber rifles, the cost savings are staggering. Brass is most expensive, but is recycled. Bullets are next, with powder depending on the charge; and primers cost the least at about $3 for 100 count. I can reload 44 magnum at about $10 for a box of 50 rounds if I have the brass, as compared to $30 retail.

      It is not a trivial investment in equipment or time, but if you shoot a lot, reloading can become a very cost effective hobby. Have fun.

  • JD Flowers March 23, 2018, 9:57 pm

    Hey Brother-

    I always enjoy your articles… But you have to do something about that root beer belly..:)
    It is unbecoming of your stature as a “Bad Ass” “Gun Writer, Kick Ass Military Guy”….
    Keep Up The Good Articles.

    • Ralph March 24, 2018, 8:42 pm

      Didn’t your mother ever teach you that if you don’t have something nice to say, STFU!

      • Stevie March 28, 2018, 9:42 pm

        My mother used better language than that.

        • Jonny5 April 7, 2018, 2:40 am

          …not when I was doing her in the dirter.

  • Bobs yer uncle March 23, 2018, 1:43 pm

    It seems like yesterday, but I started reloading about 50/60 years ago. I was given a copy of Col. Townsen Whalens book, titled “why not reload your own” my copy was printed in 1935. The main thing to remember with the older books is the data has changed over the years, for example loading data from 1935vs2018 would be completely different and dangerous, as all the components have changed, burn rates for the powder, primers,etc. all different. The basic information on reloading hasn’t. I would recommend getting several books on reloading data and compare them to what ever caliber you are reloading, lots of factors play a part, bullet weight, powder charge, barrel length, rate of twist and on and on. Safety first have fun.

  • Sgt. Pop March 23, 2018, 12:57 pm

    Clay, I’ve been reloading since 1969, after coming out of the Army from Germany with HVA .270, I picked up in the Rod & Gun Club. The .270 Win. was kind of scarce in rural Alabama even then, so got a Lyman C press and started loading. Didn’t take long and I realized I liked to reload. Few years later, loading for 1/2 dozen calibers, and even though it wasn’t much in savings, I found I just plain liked to load my own. Now almost 50 years later, still reload because I like to. Due to liability reasons, only load for sons, grandkids and couple friends, however 3 of my grandkids are fire-forming, loading their own 7×30 Waters, and appear to enjoy it also. Shooting SASS and GSSF, you almost have to reload, but again the main reason I load my own is the feeling of using you own ammo and the ability to adjust or tweak you loads to a particular situation. I actively load for 14 calibers now and you may find, as I have, reloading gives as much enjoyment and satisfaction as shooting.

  • Al March 23, 2018, 11:53 am

    Ok, whatever.
    I wonder who taught Wilbur and Orville how to fly?
    It ain’t rocket science, and if you feel the need, fine, I have no issue with that.
    But an intelligent person with good common sense, some mechanical attributes and safety in mind can reload by simply reading and using their head.
    Basic reloading is actually quite simple, there is no mystique here, just simple science and mechanics.

    • Boomer Taylor March 24, 2018, 7:20 am

      What you say is certainly true. I grew up a hands on, learn through doing person who had a father (and WW2 vet) who grew up the same way and tought me about handling weapons and all that’s involved wit them. I, then, brought my son up in kind. BUT… As a military trained munitions specialist and small arms expert who has trained his fair share of exuberant newbies, I, also have seen what disastrous results can befall upon eager but unqualified (no common sense or natural mechanical ability) hands.
      My issue is with your being so dismissive “Ok, whatever.” I say this because, unfortunately, the required “common sense” (a wholy different beast from being tech-savvy or the type of common sense it takes to navigate modern, “citified” society) and the basic mechanical attributes to which you refer have dwindled to the likings of the Dodo bird amonst a large portion of our younger populous. A sad statement but, true nonetheless. You have seemingly been blessed with the natural ability to reason and learn your way through such an endeavor. To presume that because one person has such a natural ability, so should everyone else can be a dangerous mindset.
      I fully encourage anyone without hands-on experience in using machinery or tooling (not just reloading equip) to seek such a course. Things like accurately measuring, sizing and trimming cases, accurately measuring and safely handling powder and the feel of handling the reloader itself can be quite foreign to many otherwise capable shooters.
      The average shooter today, though they may be competent on the range and send lots of well placed practice rounds down range (hence the desire to “roll their own” aren’t always going to be the mechanically enclined, safety and procedurally experienced type needed to undertake such a venture as reloading unless they have a well seasoned hand guiding them through the challenges of learning how not to blow up their trusty firearm or, for that matter, their entire reloading room.

      • Al March 31, 2018, 6:11 pm

        If what you say is true, are you sure they can be trusted with the very firearm itself????????
        Think about it, the making of the ammo is NOTHING compared to the handling of a firearm.
        As to ‘blowing up’ the entire reloading room, are you sure you know what you are talking about?!?
        With modern smokeless powder, blowing up an entire room?!?
        hmmmmmm. HIGHLY unlikely.
        To the point of near improbable.
        Again, Whatever.

  • Zupglick March 23, 2018, 9:09 am

    Old Chinese proverb. “Eyes see, ears hear, hands learn.”

  • Tom March 23, 2018, 8:59 am

    If he is as lax with reloading as he is with his personal grooming, then he’d better leave it alone and buy his ammo.

  • KCshooter March 23, 2018, 8:32 am

    So the guy who’s been writing the articles about long range shooting doesn’t even know how to reload??

    At first glance that was surprising, but now that I think about it, that sound about right for this website.

  • Martin March 23, 2018, 7:31 am

    Very nice write up. I’ve been reloading for 30 years and am always surprised how many high volume shooters do not. But, to your point, making your own ammo can be a daunting thought if it’s not something you’ve had experience with before.

    Just wait until you get into turret and progressive presses… you start to really feel like an ammo factory then.

    Good luck and stay safe!

  • triggerpull March 23, 2018, 7:17 am

    Welcome to the brotherhood of hand-loaders. Once you get a few hundred done you will soon realize the mechanics of hand-loading is the simple part–the evolution of your study of ballistics is the really complicated part. In the words of a Hornady engineer–it really is rocket science. ; ) One great myth that will soon be dispelled is that you save money–probably not nowadays. lol Keep in mind hand-loading, done incorrectly, is a good way to invent your own hand grenade that detonates in close proximity to hands and face. I’ve blown up one of my AR’s in my time due to a second’s inattention. You will soon learn what the “sweet spot nodes” for your home-rolled ammo are and the satisfaction of seeing your goupings drop to .5 MOA and under is really the great reward of hand-loading. It’s a great hobby too. BTW–absolutely positively get yourself a labradar to chrono your velocities and a copy of Quickload software to get an idea of what your load’s boundaries might be. My motto is “brass always tells the story” so , IMO, spending the time to learn how to read “the signs” of what is happening with your brass will tell you alot not only about your cartridge but also how your weapon is functioning (or malfunctioning). Have fun!

  • August Bender March 23, 2018, 7:12 am

    Dude, you’re looking distinctly unkempt. It’s time for a haircut and a shave. There’s a grooming accessory you’re apparently not familiar with: a comb. If you’re not going to cut your hair, at least comb it. Also, you might want to consider wearing something more presentable than the old gray T-shirt. I’d suggest a nice long sleeved sport shirt or dress shirt with a collar and cuffs. Just these few things would make you look much more presentable and professional.

    • Jonny5 April 7, 2018, 2:44 am

      FFS! This is a Hillbilly gun website for er… Hillbillies… if you want personal grooming, subscribe to GQ or The Chap.

  • Dr Motown March 23, 2018, 6:17 am

    I’ve urged my local range/gun shop to do that, but they haven’t been excited about it. It really wouldn’t cost them anything since they can hire an outsider to come in with his equipment, and charge for his time and their room space. They already have other independent contractors teaching various classes, so why not reloading?

  • Jay March 23, 2018, 6:16 am

    Welcome to reloading Clay! As you progress you’ll find out some of the most accurate ammunition comes from patience and practice by using a bit of experimentation and many what seems to be minor adjustments to tailor loads to a specific firearm.
    You’ll soon have a lot of written reloading manuals on hand, or should, and read them all. Like you said it’s great to have a real person to ask and there are many a re-loader to ask once you get into reloading! Stay safe! Have fun!.

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