Can I substitue components?

Discussion in 'Ammunition & Reloading' started by theflyguy, Jan 21, 2013.

  1. theflyguy

    Beaverton, Oregon
    Active Member

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    Ok guys,

    I've read two reloading books. Picked up some RCBS Carb dies for two different loads I want to load (9mm & .40 SW)…I’ll slowly get the components needed to start reloading.

    A couple of questions come to mind right off....

    The books state "not" to substitute ingredients (case, primer, powder, & bullet).
    Example 9mm Luger:
    .....Case – Federal
    .....Primer – CCI 500
    .....Primer size – Small pistol
    .....Powder – XXXXX

    So if I cannot find a specific primer brand or case brand I can’t use another brand?

    What if I don’t have “Federal” cases….I may have Winchester, Magtech, Remington…is it a big difference if I use a different case for reloading?

    From my reading it appears it is very important to match bullet weight to powder load…that much I understand. I get the point that I need to use suggested powder grains and not to exceed Max load grains.

    Second major question.

    I picked up a “3 die sets” yesterday for my 9mm and .40SW. Don’t really understand yet what each does (in the loading process) and there wasn’t any real explanation in the directions…maybe I’m getting old! I imagine I’ll learn as I keep reading but will I need any add’l dies for reloading?

    At the store I saw boxes marked “Group A” and “Group B”. The salesmen couldn’t answer my questions….so what’s the diffence?

    Thanks guys….hate to keep asking….but I want to learn the right and safe way of reloading.
  2. Nwcid

    Yakima and N of Spokane
    Gold Supporter Gold Supporter

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    I am only going to touch on one part of this.

    If you don't even know what a 3 die set is and what they are for you have a real problem since this is BASIC stuff that you NEED to know to reload. A good reloading book should easily be able to answer all the basic questions like this and will give you so much more information that you dont even know you are missing.

    I hear the ABC's of Reloading is a good book. Most of the larger load books, that you will need anyhow, will have all the basic information about reloading in the first half with load data in the back half.

    This answers the "group" question, it is just how RCBS does their dies.
  3. theflyguy

    Beaverton, Oregon
    Active Member

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    Since posting I finished reading the books and have learned what the dies are use for.

    My BIGGEST concern is can I substitute components? From my reading not all cases are the same and if the book calls out a specific case and I don't have those available can I use the same grain measurements for a difference case?

    Please bare with me I'm new at this and am trying to learn.....

  4. sneakboxer

    NW OR
    Active Member

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    Yes, no and maybe. I'd advise starting low and working up till you find something that cycles and shoots accurately. If you are running at the MAX and start changing components dangerous high pressures could a result. In addition to that when you on the red line there is less room for errors.
    Can you use different cases with everything else the same? A large number of people use mixed brass for pistol loading, i do. Will it change anything? Well the capacity of different brass varies with manufactures, less room = more pressure. So it could.
    When changing primers it is recommend to re-work the load. Mag primers should only be used when called for, they can change pressure pretty quick.
    Bullets of the same weight and construction are similar to the eye but differences in jacket strength, contact area, and case space occupied will change things. Don't think a Barnes copper XXgr is going to work just like a XXgr FMJ or Noslers XXgr FMJ.
    Lastly powder, NO SUBSTITUTIONS of powder without data and reworking the load. IMR xxx and AA xxx might look close but don't try it without data.

    The moral of the post: Use published data and start at the listed low(but not lower) and work up, If you need to change anything (primers, powder, bullet, COL) start back at the low and work up. Try to use two sources of data to check your thinking. Don't shoot for the sky the paper won't know the difference in 100fps. Resist the temptation to try to turn your 40 in to a 10mm or 9mm to a 357sig. Take it slow and enjoy the other side of the shooting hobby.
    moose and (deleted member) like this.
  5. Izzy

    Active Member

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    They say "do not substitute components" for liability reasons! That being said, WHEN YOU DO substitutions (case or primer brand), start with the minimum load & work up from there. Case brands are not that big of a deal when dealing with pistols. Different primer brands can give very different results.
  6. moose

    Rock, Hard Place
    Well-Known Member

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    This post is excellent advice.
  7. Otter

    Well-Known Member

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    You can swap out cases without much concern. Just start at the lowest recommended powder charge and work up looking for signs of pressure the way you normally would with any load development. If you have a ball micrometer, measure the neck wall of a few different brands of cases and you will see some brands are thicker than others. Cases that have thicker brass will have less internal volume, and you will hit max pressure at a lower powder charge.

    You can swap out brands of primers, again starting out low and work up, looking for signs of pressure. You can't interchange pistol and rifle primers. You can use a magnum primer if it calls for a regular primer, but again start low and work up. I will use a magnum primer if I am using a fine ball powder even though I'm not reloading a magnum caliber.

    Never swap one powder for another even if the burn rate is in the same range. Never swap one brand of power for another, even if the numbers are the same. Best you don't swap bullets either even if they are the same weight...find a load recommended for that brand of bullet and weight. That isn't always possible, especially with a wildcat caliber, in which case I will use a recommended load for a different bullet, but I always start low and work up to max load.

    Hope this helps.
  8. Throckmorton

    Florence,Ore ah gone
    Well-Known Member

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    when you 'start low and work up',don't load a zillion of anything,just a few of each,say ten or so.The u won't be pulling apart the ones u don't like,or shooting up components just to get the brass empty.
    I too don't worry about using mixed headstamp brass,and mixed primers of the same type,just different brands.
    Do come back and ask questions,tons of knowledge here to draw on.
  9. deadshot2

    NW Quadrant WA State
    Well-Known Member

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    Most of the Competition Shooters I've run into will limit their load workups to three rounds until they find something that looks good. Saves a lot on wasted components or pulling down rounds you shouldn't shoot.

    As for substituting components, yes, it's NOT recommended when using published loads. Basic rule is that whenever you change a component you need to back off the load and work up again.

    There are exceptions that one will learn as they get more experience. An example will be cases. Case capacity can both be identical or greatly different between brands. A simple "water capacity" test will show which cases have the same internal capacities and in turn similar performances with the same powder charges.

    Keeping good notes and load development records are important so one can learn which components are similar and which are greatly different.

    Let's face it, with today's hysteria, there will be lots of substitution. Nothing wrong with it as long as the basic "rules" are followed. Back up charge and work the load back up.

    A final note of caution. With powder shortages people are going to start trying powders that were not intended for the given cartridge. BEWARE!!! Some powders will have to have such reduced charges there can be the risk of Detonation. This occurs when there isn't enough powder to fill the case and the exposed surface of he charge ignites far too fast. If you go to a powder manufacturer's website and don't find a powder listed for your specific cartridge, it's it a good idea to not use it. If you do, then don't use charges lower than the recommended start weight for the listed bullet weight. At least until you have more experience and know what does and doesn't work.
  10. tcs#1


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    RCBS/Speer is the only manual I've noticed that stresses 'No Substitutions' However it is also one of the better ones for the how-to load info in the front of the manual and it is worth a beginners read, I started loading years ago with the Speer #11 and it is worth finding a copy for your library as it explains how to figure a lot of data the old fashioned way with pen, paper, calculator, as there were no fancy computer programs back then....

    As far as substituting components? It's possible and these days a necessity with components drying up...The only time I follow strict component rules is when I'm using Barnes bullets then I load by the book (Barnes Book)

    I would suggest you follow the manuals as close as possible until you get a little more experience and confidence and keep asking lots of questions

    As an 'Old Timer' I have picked up a lot of tips and tricks over the years that were passed down from other old timers who weathered far worse 'Component Droughts' than me...and we're all willing to share with experienced hand loaders

    This is a fun, relaxing and rewarding hobby but underneath it all lies a deadly seriousness as a mistake can ruin a day at the range for you and everyone around you..Go Slow

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