Handloading ammunition, also called reloading or RYO (Roll Your Own) is an engaging hobby that people do for any number of reasons. Thrift, developing a load for higher accuracy, making ammunition that is not available commercially, and the fun of mastering and using a skill are all reasons, and the reasons combine differently for everyone.
This article will be far too short for even a brief overview of the topic, but an excellent, well-detailed overview can be found on Wikipedia. All that we’ll have room for here is for me to answer a few frequently-asked questions and challenge some common misconceptions.
How Many Times Can I Reload My Straight-Wall Pistol Brass?
Until it cracks, or you lose it in the high weeds.
For bottleneck rifle ammunition, the answer is not so simple, because there are several factors to consider, and some important safety issues that shouldn’t be ignored. But pistol ammunition does not deal with the pressures that rifle brass does, crimping does not case-harden brass nearly as much as resizing a bottleneck case does, and case head separation isn’t a factor with reloaded pistol ammo.
Simply inspect your brass for splits before you reload it, and you’ll be fine. If you do miss a split, you’re not risking the pistol being speed-disassembled in your hand, you’re risking a slow, inaccurate round.
If someone tries to anneal their pistol brass to cure casehardening, of course, all bets are off. The case head is hard for a reason, and annealing that is likely to cause problems.
I Wish I Could Reload the Pretty Nickel-Plated Brass.
So reload it. Nickel is not quite as ductile as brass is, but it’ll reload just fine. I’ve heard from a few fellows that they’d reloaded their .38Spl brass so many times that the nickel plating was wearing off, without ever having any problems with it.
Some people claim that nickel is too rough on the reloading dies, but that’s speculation, not experience. I’ve never heard anyone report that this wore their dies. If you’re really worried about it, lube the cases.
Not only are they pretty, but nickel is a bit slipperier than brass, so it seems to chamber easier in automatics.
Can You Really Anneal Your Brass With A Torch In A Pan Of Water?
The idea here is to stand the cases up in a cake pan, with water covering the lower 2/3 to act as a heat sink. Then you use a torch across the tops, knocking them sideways into the water after they start to glow. This ignores how hard it is to evenly heat the brass like this.