Easiest pistol cartridge for reloading?


March 5, 2008, 05:24 PM
I've been thinking about my first centerfire pistol purchase, and to go along with that, getting into centerfire metallic reloading. That being said, between 9mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP, are any of the three easier to reload for?


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March 5, 2008, 05:28 PM
Each can present its own difficulties with more advanced loadings, so it's difficult to say. Any of those you list *can* be difficult to handload depending on what you plan to do with it. With 9x19, .45 ACP and the like you have very strict tolerances if you're shooting from a semi. If you load .357 or .44 mag for a wheelgun you don't have to worry so much about precise bullet weight, OAL, ogives, and so on. You have more wiggle room and you don't have to worry about gumming up any loading mechanisms.

All things considered, I'd say .44 Magnum is about the most forgiving cartridge I've loaded. It's big enough to manipulate in hand and move around, but it's not so big that double loads are likely. It will operate fine with either magnum or standard primers. It can be loaded with an array of powders, and loads for it are very easy to find. It doesn't seem to care very much if you get everything perfect. Of course you *can* get into overly high pressures with it if you're careless, but the weapons it's chambered for tend to be overbuilt so there is some extra safety margin.

March 5, 2008, 05:58 PM
Of the three you listed, .45ACP is definitely the easiest to reload.

1. The case is big enough to handle easily, as are the bullets.

2. It's a (relatively) low-pressure round, therefore more forgiving of errors such as bullet seating depth, LOA, crimp style and amount, etc.

3. Further to being a low-pressure round, if firewall recipes are not used the brass can be used almost indefinitely.

4. Time-tested recipes for it abound--for example, recipes for the 200 gr LSWC / 231 "accuracy" loads.

OTOH, while reloading recipes have now been worked out fairly well for 9mmP and .40 S&W, these are high-pressure rounds. Minor variances in LOA can have greater impact on pressures (and accuracy), and the range of recipes is more limited (IMO).

.45ACP makes a wonderful beginner's cartridge to start with--in the long run, even with bullet costs running more, it might well be the cheapest to reload, and it certainly allows greater "experimentation."

Jim H.

March 5, 2008, 06:03 PM
Of the three calibers you ask about, I'd have to vote for the .45 ACP.

The only reason is, it's just bigger then the other two, and my fumble fingers don't drop as many, spill powder in the loading block, and have to dump them all and start over quite as often!

Myself, I really much prefer to load any of the longer revolver calibers because they are much easier to handle.

.38 Spl / .357 Mag is good.
But so is .44 Spl./.44 Mag & .45 Colt.


March 5, 2008, 06:05 PM
Definitely the .45 ACP, for several reasons.

March 5, 2008, 06:05 PM
+1 .45ACP is the best place to start. Works great with inexpensive hard cast lead bullets and the cost savings pay for your equipment the fastest.

I'd vote .38Special as the second easiest, followed by the rest of the revolver rounds.


March 5, 2008, 06:10 PM
I just started reloading several months ago. I've loaded for .45acp and 9mm Para. In my limited experience, there isn't much difference. Pick a recipe. Start at the bottom.

I can see how someone with bigger hands would prefer the .45, but it makes little or no difference for me.

I don't see others post this often (if at all) but I know for me, a mentor who could have watched over my shoulder the first few times I reloaded would have been super helpful. It would have sped up my learning curve by a lot. If you can find one, do it. Otherwise, just follow the instructions (to the letter), take your time, and ask for help.

March 5, 2008, 06:27 PM
Of the three you listed, I must agree that the .45ACP is definitely the easiest to reload. However, there seems to be an underlying question that you should ask, since you appear to be a novice handgun shooter.

You should be asking, "Which of these three will be the easiest to learn to shoot well?" Not knowing your "constitution", I have seen people starting with the 45ACP develop bad habits that sometimes will never be controled. Starting with a 22 handgun then moving to a lightly loaded 9mm has been the progression I have seen work best. In addition, the 9mm will be the least expensive to shoot in order to become an accomplished handgunner.

Good shooting!!!!!

March 5, 2008, 06:32 PM
If you do not go super max all 3 can be fairly easy to reload. Good components and double checking will make good ammo.
No matter which you choose it can/will be fun.

March 5, 2008, 06:33 PM
For getting started into metallic cartridge reloading, revolver rounds will be easier to load due to not having to go up a feed ramp like auto cartridges do. I feel the .38 Special is the easiest to load. It can be loaded from mild to wild, it is brutally accurate, and inexpensive to shoot.

For autos, the .45 ACP is the most forgiving, but keep an eye on proper taper crimp and overall length, both necessary for reliability.

Just my .02,

Ala Dan
March 5, 2008, 07:13 PM
.45 ACP~! ;)

Its fat enough to grab hold of~! :D :D :D

Peter M. Eick
March 5, 2008, 07:14 PM
10mm, the chargest are fuller and the case is easier to handle because it is longer then the 45.

March 5, 2008, 10:52 PM
Hmm, lots of votes for .45 ACP. It appears that I need to supply some additional info:

1) I won't be doing max loads. I'm just looking for reliable recipes that will allow me to shoot enough to get proficient with the handgun.
2) Shoney: You bring up a good point. I'm 165 lbs, 5'9", so I'm not big, but I'm not frail either. I was all set on 9mm until I shot a H&K in .40 S&W, and then my friend's Colt 1911. I did a good job keeping them on target, and then started to research stuff like operating pressure, which leaned me more towards .45 ACP.
3) I'm not a revolver kind of guy, so while I understand that those calibers would be easier to reload for, I'm pretty set on a semi-auto pistol.


March 6, 2008, 05:38 AM
For the reloader, semi's provide great exercise. You get to shag brass all over the range.

evan price
March 6, 2008, 05:54 AM
9mm is the cheapest, and free brass is everywhere. $3.50 per box is my cost right now.

.45 is the most tolerant of mistakes as long as you don't get totally stupid. $4.15 per box is my cost right now.

I never liked .40 so I never bought a .40 firearm.

March 6, 2008, 06:04 AM

March 6, 2008, 02:41 PM
The first auto I reloader for was the 45 acp and I think it is probably the easiest to load for.

March 6, 2008, 06:07 PM
i vote for a staright wall pistol cartridge like 38spl or 44 spl/mag, followed by 45acp and 9mm.

March 6, 2008, 11:28 PM
I'm surprised to be disagreeing with Cosmoline. Although light loads for .44mag don't stretch cases, the round inherantly pushes most that reload for it to push the limits. Sometimes before they're ready. Is it easy to reload for? Yeah. It's big enough to handle and when you look at a batch of loaded rounds you know you've done something. But just as I've started my boys out with rimfire guns, I surely didn't hand a big magnum to my wife when it was time to teach her to shoot.

Until I saw that you're not a wheel gun fanciear, I was going to suggest a .357mag, but that you start by loading .38spl for it. Even warm loads, or loads with a smart powder, (one that a double charge won't even fit in the case), it does lend a lot of room for 'inaccuracies'.

I don't think I've ever had to trim a .38spl case. I know I've never trimmed a 9mm or .45acp case. Back to low pressures.. The .45acp is probably the safest. Yes, it is big enough to grab ahold of, where-as 9mm and smaller can be a pain to manipulate. As with .44mag, the .45acp uses a large pistol primer. Not that you handle them with your hands often, they are easier to see when you spill them. Sorry, I'm just not a .40 guy so I won't comment about them. 9mm brass grows on trees. .45acp brass is best scrounged by digging to China.

If I was the firt post, not following the advice of our peers, I would have and still suggest the .45acp, and especially a Colt 1911. Which one? I suppose that's for another thread.


March 6, 2008, 11:34 PM

I am a brand new reloader and started with 45 ACP. It is not difficult to reload at all, and the large bullet and case size makes it easy to handle and see the powder in the case. If you like hollowpoints, choose your gun wislely. Some 1911 (I have one) don't like hollowpoints. Mine (and my friends Sistema) seem to feed them just fine, but not all are like that.

I fully agree with Bensdad that having a mentor is very, very helpful. I learned on my friend's single stage how it all goes together and that was very helpful.

Good luck. This forum is a huge resource.

March 6, 2008, 11:40 PM
Thanks for all the input. While .45 ACP is going to have a steeper learning curve, I like that it's the easiest to reload, and just like with 30-06, I like the history behind it.

My friend has a Colt 1911, so I'm going to shoot it some more before I decide between a 1911 or a XD-45. Given my budget though, I'll probably go the XD route, as I'd rather not buy a "budget 1911".


March 7, 2008, 12:04 AM
"as I'd rather not buy a "budget 1911". "


Good Idea,You are learning already
My vote is for .45 of the calibers you listed for.
I reload for .38, .357, .41Mag , and .44,my Fav calber to load for is the .38spcl. I have no Idea why either. My Sig line will clue you in on my Fav. Caliber.


P.S. Yes I know there are "Budget" 1911's out there....

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