Reloading Manuals


Reloading manuals are an important, if not necessary, “tool” for loading ammunition. Most reloading manuals contain step by step instructions of the reloading process, and various reloading tips and troubleshooting pointers. In addition, the manuals typically include reloading data for numerous cartridges that specifies the bullet type/weight, specific powder, the powder charge weight, and often the specific primer, brass case manufacturer, and overall length of the finished cartridge.

Most bullet manufacturers publish reloading manuals that include the information above for their bullets, and also include information on the suitability of their bullets for various applications like varmint hunting, small game hunting, medium/large game hunting, dangerous game hunting, and target shooting. Most powder manufacturers also publish reloading data (without much additional reloading information) in booklet form and/or online on their websites. Western Powders, who market Accurate, Ramshot, and Norma smokeless powders includes a good step-by-step reloading section in their 6th edition Reloading and Load Data Guide. It’s about the size of a typical magazine and is available from their website for about $3.

There are probably more calibers being loaded today than at any time in the past. As a result, it’s not very practical to include all calibers in a typical sized book. So the bullet manufacturers seemingly choose to provide reloading data that matches their bullet offerings among the most popular calibers at the time of printing. If there is a particular caliber you need reloading data for, particularly if it’s new or uncommon, don’t assume it will be in any/all of the reloading manuals. Do some checking ahead of purchasing. Some of the manufacturers list which cartridges are included in their reloading manuals on their websites. Otherwise contact the manufacturer or look at a copy of the manual before buying.

It’s a similar situation with powders, of which there well over 100 available to today’s reloader. As with the selection of represented calibers, the powders represented are also limited due to practicality. So each reloading manual will have data for a limited number of powders for each cartridge.

At one time most reloading manuals included bullet trajectory tables. Nowadays it seems most reloading manuals no longer include them. The Speer manual contains an abbreviated one, but the other manuals reviewed here containing no trajectory tables. Personally, I seldom use them and perhaps the bullet manufacturers believe reloaders would rather have more loading data than trajectory tables.

To become familiar and knowledgeable of the reloading process, every reloader would do well to have least a couple of reloading manuals from different manufacturers on the shelf and familiarize him/herself with them. I have several myself, and offer my comments on some of the more popular reloading manuals published by bullet manufacturers below. (Note: Lyman does not manufacture bullets, but does manufacture molds for casting bullets.)




Speer’s 14th edition manual, released in 2007, is an excellent reloading manual. The Speer manual:

1) Thoroughly explains each step of the reloading process

2) Contains reduced rifle loads for turkey hunting (or reduced recoil in the case of larger rifle calibers)

3) Contains reduced handgun loads for most of the large magnum handgun calibers

4) Identifies loads where the powder charge is compressed during bullet seating (compressed loads)

Speer has some bullets designed specifically for lower velocity loads and includes loading data for these bullets in short barreled handguns (that are more commonly used in carry weapons). In some cases, velocity data is given for more than one barrel length for these short barrel loads (a very nice feature).

The Speer manual also has limited data for cast bullet handgun loads using bullets cast from RCBS moulds (mostly 44 and 45 cal revolver cartridges).

Also included are chapters on problems encountered in reloading, fine tuning loads, a section about loading on progressive machines, and a chapter about loading for Cowboy Action Shooting. There is also a chapter explaining some of the reasons why loading data varies among the different sources.

In an uncommon departure, Speer’s 14 edition manual utilizes CCI small pistol primers for the 22 Hornet. In the past, many 22 Hornet users have reported accuracy improvements using small pistol primers in place of the normal small rifle primers. For the first time (that I’m aware of), a bullet manufacturer developed their loading data using small pistol primers in the Hornet, and cites performance improvements as the reason.

Speer does not manufacture .17 caliber bullets, so no loads for cartridges utilizing .17 caliber bullets are included in the manual. Speer does make a .20 caliber bullet, but data for .20 caliber cartridges are not included in the manual. However, Speer does offer loading data for the .204 Ruger, and other newer bullet/cartridge combinations on it’s website.

All in all, a thorough reloading manual.




Lyman’s 49th edition manual, first published in 2008, is a very good reloading manual. The Lyman manual:

1) Thoroughly explains each step of the reloading process

2) Includes cast bullet reloading data for most cartridges

3) Contains a small section on bullet casting, and another small section on barrel cleaning

4) Identifies loads where the powder charge is compressed during bullet seating (compressed loads)

5) Often includes comments on which powders gave the best results in their load development/testing

Since Lyman does not make bullets, their manual offers little information on which bullets are appropriate for various uses (varmint, small game, medium game, large game, target). But that information is available from the bullet manufacturers in their loading manuals or on their websites. Lyman does make recommendations about the use of bullets cast from their molds in some instances.

The Lyman manual features a larger page format (roughly magazine size pages as opposed to typical book size pages) that makes for somewhat easier reading.

Another thorough reloading manual.

Note: At this writing, Lyman recently released their 50th edition of their loading manual.




Sierra’s 5th edition manual, released in 2003, is another good reloading manual. The Sierra manual:

1) Thoroughly explains each step of the reloading process

2) Utilizes a three ring style binding that will lay flat on a bench or table when opened to any page

3) Includes a section on loading for gas powered semi-automatic firearms

4) Includes sections on cleaning rifles and handguns

Where applicable, Sierra’s manual lists suggested hunting and accuracy loads for each cartridge and bullet weight. The suggested accuracy load emphasizes accuracy over velocity, while the suggested hunting loads typically maximize velocity at some expense of accuracy. This is a nice feature.

The three ring binding format of the manual does allow it to lay flat on top of the reloading bench and stay on the intended page. However, the ring binding style does make it about twice as thick as other manuals, a small price to pay for it’s convenience.

Sierra does not manufacture .17, or .475 caliber bullets, so naturally their reloading manual contains no loads for rifle or handgun cartridges utilizing bullets of those diameters. Sierra does make a .20 and .50 caliber bullets, but data for cartridges using those caliber bullets are not included in the manual, nor did I find any such data on their website.

The Sierra manual is yet another thorough loading manual




Hornady’s 9th edition Reloading Manual was released in 2012. Unfortunately I cannot recommend the manual for those just getting started in reloading since it lacks the necessary detail regarding the reloading steps, and even omits the case mouth expanding step necessary for straight wall rifle and handgun cartridges.

Hornady manufactures perhaps the widest variety of bullet calibers among the bullet makers represented in this write-up. And the Hornady manual:

1) Contains loading data some of the less common calibers, including a few 50 caliber rifle cartridges

2) Often comments on which powders gave the best results in their testing

3) Contains loading data for several of the new cartridges released in recent years

If you plan to do some loading with Hornady bullets and just want loading data and are already familiar with the reloading steps themselves, Hornady’s 9th edition manual will serve that purpose just fine.




Nosler’s 8th edition reloading manual is another good resource and was released in 2015. It represents represents the latest reloading manual I own.. The Nosler manual:

1) Explains each step of the reloading process

2) Identifies loads where the powder charge is compressed during bullet seating (compressed loads)

3) Indicates the most accurate powder charge of each powder tested for each cartridge and bullet weight combination

4) Also indicates the most accurate powder for each bullet weight in each cartridge

As mentioned above, loads where the powder charge is compressed during bullet seating (Compressed loads) are identified. In addition, the Nosler manual lists the loading density (the percentage amount the powder charge fills the case) for each maximum load. Loading density numbers listed that exceed 100% represent the amount the powder is compressed. Loads which fill the case are often among the most accurate, so the loading density can be a good place to start when choosing a powder for a specific cartridge and bullet combination.

The Nosler manual is the only one among those reviewed here that lists the loading density, most accurate powder, and most accurate charges of each powder listed for every combination of bullet weight and cartridge. With this data, it seems the Nosler is trying to point the reloader to good starting points for choosing an appropriate load for each cartridge.

Nosler does not currently make any bullets larger than .45 cal., so no loads for cartridges utilizing bullets above .45 caliber are included in the manual. It may also worth noting that though Nosler makes 45 caliber bullets for revolvers, only data for the 45 Colt is included. There is no data for other 45 caliber handgun cartridges like the 454 Casull or 460 S&W Magnum.



If you currently reload, or plan to reload, make sure you have a couple of good reloading manuals among your reloading “tools”. It can’t hurt and is likely to add to your reloading skills and knowledge.