Best pistol caliber to start reloading.....?


W Turner
December 24, 2003, 01:55 PM
I have the good fortune of receving a Lyman reloading kit for Christmas and I was wondering what ya'lls recommendation would be for the best pistol caliber to cut my reloading teeth on.

Here are my options:
.45acp- RIA 1911
10mm- Glock 20
9mm- CZ75
.357mag- Ruger GP-100

I would think that the best option would be the Ruger because it seems that it would have the greatest margin for error. This is based on Ruger's reputation for strength and that there are no concerns with feeding/extraction in a revolver. Does this sound right to everyone?

My other line of thought is that I should learn to reload the caliber that I will be reloading the most for. In this case it will be the 10mm as it is the most expensive locally.

So I would like for those more experienced than I to weigh in here.

Thanks guys,

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December 24, 2003, 01:59 PM
Good Question.

I'm not into relaoding yet, but I'm going to be w/in 6 months and I'm going to start with 357/38.

Later I'll move into 45 and 9mm but the 357/38 is the reason I want to start loading.

Brian Williams
December 24, 2003, 02:03 PM
I suggest that you start with 38/357 cause it is very in expensive. but get ready to do 45 and 10mm cause they are expensive to buy.

Lee dies are very good and inexpensive.
RCBS dies are good but lifetime warranty

Peter M. Eick
December 24, 2003, 05:07 PM
10mm because it is the most expensive to buy commercial for and the cases are big so they are easy to get into and out of the press!

December 24, 2003, 06:05 PM
45ACP. Low pressure round, easy to load and a good one to cut your teeth on. Provided you keep the powder and cartridge length in specs, will function well. Tons of data.

Once you get that down, then you can start playing with the high pressure loads, powder speeds, mag vs. std primers, crimps, etc.

Lets get some experience in a safer environment, then we can look to save money (Yeah right. You won't save a penny, you'll just shoot more. :D )

Zak Smith
December 24, 2003, 07:23 PM
I've loaded 9x19, .44MAG, and .45ACP. Of those, 45 is marginally better to start on because pressures are very low - around 20,000 PSI - compared to the others which are more like 35,000 PSI.

44MAG requires a little more finesse crimping, but low-power loads (like 8gr Titegroup with a 200gr plated bullet) have lots of margin.


December 24, 2003, 08:40 PM
I would reload for the .45ACP and/or the .357/.38 which ever you feel you will shoot more of. As for the 10MM remember GLOCKS shouldn't be reloaded with lead bullets unless you have an after market rifled barrel and not a stock polybored or whatever they call their stock barrel. All the others can be loaded with lead ( the cheapest usually). I would stick with round nose on the auto's to start with , what your trying to do when you start, is duplicate a factory load that works well in your gun so you can shoot lots, with a round that has close to the same point of aim and recoil as your serious factory loads. I would check out the bargain bins for DIES AND MANUALS at larger sporting good stores, K-marts , Wal-Marts or any large store that handles reloading dies. For me LEE DIES have been the least expensive, just be sure to get LEE CARBIDE RESIZING PISTOL DIES, they save the step of lubing the cases and are supposed to last longer. LYMAN'S RELOADING MANUAL FOR CAST BULLETS or LYMAN'S RELOADING MANUAL would be a very good purchase before you even buy dies ,powder or anything. By studing the manual you may be able to buy one powder that may work in more than one gun, as well as giving you most of the info you need to reload. GOOD LUCK in your reloading, it can be cheaper to reload but I think we just shoot more and say it's cheaper, but it sure is fun.

December 24, 2003, 08:50 PM
If you are starting off then I'd always suggest 38/357 .... load and use loads of 38 spl's ... then try some moderately hot 357's. The long parallel cases are easier to use IMO to start with and .. just add a slight roll crimp.

Then for sure ... progress to 45 acp .. where of course, careful with (taper) crimp ..... and 10mm will be very similar to load too.

9mm is no prob but they are small and fiddly - plus, remember, a high pressure round and so great care with seating depth consistency etc.

Good reloading .......... and shooting!:)

December 25, 2003, 03:38 PM
.38sp/.357mag to start. Others after you cut your teeth on the rimmed variety. Quantrill

Ala Dan
December 25, 2003, 09:51 PM
Greeting's All-

Mino my friend- you have a world of great unknowns
before you. With that said, my reasoning is the fact that
I started with very inexpensive equipment (R.C.B.S. "Jr."
press) and the non tungsten carbide R.C.B.S. dies. I was
kind'a restricted as to caliber; cuz I only owned a Smith
& Wesson model 57 .41 magnum.

With the help of expert advice from life long friend, and
fellow TFL and THR member CAPBUSTER, we got
off on the right foot! :D And soon there afterwards, I
started adding a variety of handgun and rifle caliber's
to the mix. All this too say, as I look back on thing's
and provided I had the right firearms; I think I should-
could- and would have started with the .38 Special and
.357 magnum. ;)

Revolver cases being straight walled cases, makes the
handloading chore really easy; often times adding up
to hours of great fun. :uhoh: Then. with your mind now
geared to the "GO" mode, you will want to start casting
your very own lead bullet's. :) Again, this is loads of fun
as there is nothing like one seeing his/her finished
product punching neat holes right in the middle of the
X-ring of a NRA B-27 target.

So yes, I would start with the .38 Special/.357 magnum
and a good set of tungsten carbide dies! If you need
any assistance, feel free to dial me up at: Good Luck To You-

Best Wishes,
Ala Dan, N.R.A. Life Member

W Turner
December 26, 2003, 10:05 AM
Thanks for all of the replies. I spent about two hours yesterday sorting my collected .45acp casings.

The majority here seem to think that I should start with the .38spl and I was leaning this way anyway, so that will probably be the first.

I guess I will sort all of my .38spl.'s tonight.

BTW- Recommendations on powder? I will probably go with 158 gr. lead semi-wadcutters out of a 4" tube. Preferably this powder will also do well for .357 too.......


Jim Watson
December 26, 2003, 10:56 AM
I don't think it is possible to load good standard velocity .38 Special and full power .357 Magnums with the same powder.

I have loaded .38s with Winchester 231 for years. There are others of similar burn rate that will do as well. Whatever you pick, the same powder will be fine for .45 ACP.

The .357 will call for a much slower burning powder for full or near full power loads. And why load .357 down if you have .38s? I have used 2400, 4227, H110, Blue Dot, and N105. There are others you can get or look up recommendations for.

I have no experience with 10mm, but a quick look at the load data indicates you could get full power 10mm and near full power .357 out of the same powder, something like Blue Dot or Power Pistol.

You COULD just load everything with the appropriate amount of Unique and get by, but you would not be at full power with the 10 and 357.

9mm is so cheap to buy that you might not think it worth your time to reload. I do, but I am retired and have the dies and lots of cheap-to-free brass.

December 26, 2003, 10:58 AM
Howdy, minotaur -

I started with Unique because of its bulk. It's fairly easy to spot a double-charge, although it won't overflow the case on a .38 the way it will on a 9mm. Others may have some different recommendations.

Looking into each and every case after the powder has been dropped is a VERY good habit to develop. I mounted an inexpensive lamp that shines directly into the cartridge case so that the powder charge is easy to see.

Happy reloading!


December 26, 2003, 11:22 AM
The easiest cartridges to load well, IMHO, are 38 special and .223 Remington.

The .223 does not care what powder or bullet, it just wants to shoot accurately.

The 38 allows one to roll crimp.
That is allot nicer than a taper crimp on a cartridge the headspaces on the mouth, like a semi auto pistol.
With fixed sights, if the pistol shoots low, get a heavier bullet [the recoil brings the muzzle up]
158 gr bullets and light charges of Bullseye or Unique are accurate for me.

Also, when starting out or just a putz like me, do the seating of the bullet and the crimping of the case mouth in separate steps.

December 26, 2003, 11:56 AM
I highly recommend starting with the 357. Start with magnum cases and load them using middle to top loads listed for 38 Special. You are not likely to get into trouble with over pressure rounds unless you double charge a case. To minimize the potential for double charging, use a powder with a medium burning rate such as Unique. Unique is good for fairly light loads up to loads that are just a couple hundred feet per second below the maximum velocities possible with the slow burning powders. Unique is highly versatile powder and you do not need magnum primers with Unique, standard small pistol primers work very well.

Once you are comfortable with your reloading abilities, tackle the 10mm. Again, you can use Unique in this caliber.

And by the way, it is not just the putz's that seat and crimp in separate steps. The long time reloaders do it because it results in more consistant and accurate ammo. Taper crimp the semi-auto pistol rounds and you usually do not need to trim semi-auto brass. Roll crimp the revolver rounds and I do trim my revolver brass to get the most consistant crimp possible. Revolver brass, unlike rifles, needs only to be trimmed before the first reloading, I have not seen any case stretching in revolver or semi-auto pistol brass.

Ala Dan
December 26, 2003, 01:03 PM

I use a lot of Alliant (formerly Hercules) Bullseye
and Unique for anything from light target loads, up
to the moderate level. Bullseye is a old favorite of .38
Special fans; and the .357 magnum just loves Unique.
Comparing the two, Bullseye is very clean, and
Unique is quite the opposite; leaving firearms VERY
dirty, and in desperate need of a good cleaning!

WARNING: Bullseye is a very fast burning powder; and requires only small amount's when loading .38 Special cases. ALWAYS double check charges before seating a bullet! A double charge will result in the destruction of your firearm, and could cause you bodily injury!

For the slower burning powder's in magnum cases, I prefer
Hodgdon's Universal Clay's. Its excellent in the .357,
.41 and .44 magnum's.

Best Wishes,
Ala Dan, N.R.A. Life Member

December 26, 2003, 01:19 PM
All those cartridges are good to learn on. I started on .44 Mag, so I'll recommend starting with the .357. It's just a matter of time before you're loading for all of them anyways! :)

As far as loads, get a couple of reloading manuals if you haven't already. I use the Speer and Lyman editions. Also, search here for loads, lots of knowledge here for pretty much every load.

I like Blue Dot for milder loads, and H110 for the big boomers.

December 27, 2003, 12:17 AM
38/357 use the same bullets.

Once you get your technique down, you'll be turning out 700 fps .38 wadcutters that are a blast at the range and 1350 fps hot 125 gr. magnums...or in between, salt to taste.

From paper punchers to serious 2 and 4-legged critter elimination, the .38/.357 offers it all.

In a sturdy L or N frame Smith or a GP100 you can fire almost anything you concoct with confidence in the gun.

December 27, 2003, 01:33 PM
In a sturdy L or N frame Smith or a GP100 you can fire almost anything you concoct with confidence in the gun.

Within reason, just don't try to turn a 357 into a 41 or 44 Magnum. Safety is the number one thing to remember with reloading. When in doubt, consult your reloading manuals and you can always come here with your questions. Happy reloading.

By the way, if you think you are going to save money reloading, forget it! I never saved a penny, I just got to shoot three times as much ammo as my friends who shoot only factory stuff!:D

January 11, 2004, 11:24 PM
Among other powders, I load Bullseye in .38, .45, and 9mm. If you are just starting out, I'd stay away from Bulleye. Its one of the hottest powders and contains the highest proportion of nitroglycerine.
I started using Bullseye for two reasons. It VERY accurate in target shooting(I compete with the .38 and .45) and because its a hot powder, you need less of it, which means lots of loads can come out of an 8000 grain Bullseye container.
Since the powder fills so little of a case, a moment's inattention can cause a double charge, which, depending on how hot a load you've started with, can very from an unpleasant surprise, to pieces of the gun flying all over the place and personal injury.

Look in the manuals for loads that are well under the maximum and see how much of a given type of powder it takes. You might start out with a powder where a double charge WILL overfill the case, which is the ultimate safeguard. I'd suggest you start with a single stage press for a number of thousands of rounds to get comfortable before moving on to a progressive where lots of things are going on all at the same time.

January 12, 2004, 12:07 AM
I am by no means an expert, but do have a couple of years experience reloading. Still searching for that magic ideal minimum inventory of bullets and powders to fill the spectrum of loads.

You will need a fast powder (like Bullseye) for low velocity loads, a slow powder (like BlueDot or AA#9 (for the full power loads) and something in the midrange (like AA#5).

45acp is comfortable to start with because the cases and bullets are relatively large. 38spl is good too, but it do feel strange putting just that wee bit of Bullseye (3.0gr or less) into that long case (originally designed for black powder).

January 12, 2004, 08:46 AM
Of those you mentioned, I'd start with .357 magnum.
If you want to start with light bullets, I'd use blue dot, and with mid/heavy bullets, I'd use 2400 or H110. Both with CCI magnum primers.
The cost savings, safety margin, ease of starting out, and fun factor all point that way.
After that, .45 auto is next, those big bullets are really easy to reload.
10mm is easy to reload too, but it's easy to get carried away, and start really wrecking some brass with that glock.
I got a sweet setup and all the stuff to start reloading 10mm, but I still find myself buying blazer aluminum cased stuff, just because I don't want to share loads between my G20, my razorback, and my smith 610.
Keeping track of which brass belongs to which gun just sounds like too much of a PITA.

January 12, 2004, 02:28 PM
Doesn't really matter. They're all reloaded the same way. Which one do you shoot most? Start with that one. Read the manual.

Johnny Guest
January 12, 2004, 05:11 PM
- - I'd vote for the .38 Special cartridge, to be fired in the .357 revolver, for the learning process.

The smaller volume of the shorter .38 Spl case makes it easy to keep up with what you're doing. You can look in and SEE the powder level easier than with the long magnum case.

While not as plentiful as they were 20 years back, .38 SPL brass is still pretty cheap and easy to obtain. Because most shooters fire 50 to 100 .38s for every cylinder full of mags, it is pretty available as used brass for sle, or as range pickups.

You can load both .38 Spl and .357 on the same set of dies - - Get the .38, because some, especially the older, .357 dies won't adjust down far enough to properly crimp the .38 Spl case.

I m a great fan of the autoloader for defensive work, but the revolver is KING when it comes to reloading. The cases are not mangled during the ejection cycle, and they don't hit the pavement or range furniture.

You can load low power, pleasant to shoot, target and plinking rounds, right on up to +P in .38 Spl. Cast bullets are cheap and easy on the bore of your revolver. The difficulty of cleanup is highly overstated.

Win 231 or Alliant Unique powder will serve for a WIDE variety of loads, and also work in your autoloaders later on. there are better slam-bang magnum powders, and some which are better for gilt-edge accuracy with poofter loads, but, across the board, these are two GREAT powders.

Do yourself a favor and read, and I mean REALLY read, every word in the handloading manual, before you yield to the temptation to "Just load a few - - It looks so simple." Well, it IS simple, but it can be a little subtle, as well. Learn from the mistakes of others. No, you probably won't blow up your GP100 through a minor error - - But you can really become very frustrated if you get ahead of yourself.

Welcome to the wonderful world of recycling empty cases. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have for nearly 40 years. :D Very best of luck to you.


Tony Mig
January 18, 2004, 08:52 AM
I was faced with the same decsission not that long ago as I'm also new to reloading. My chices were .40 S&W, or .38/.357, and I went with the .38/.357 mainly because I shoot the Ruger GP-100, and it's reputation for being the handloaders handgun. Plus with revolver ammo, case length isn't a critical issue especially when you're loading .38 Spl's to shoot from a .357 Magnum wheel gun.

I'm also not all that happy with the Beretta 96FS I have in .40 S&W, and may end up trading it for another .357 Magnum revolver....(I just like wheel guns more)

As for reloading dies, I like Lee's carbide pistol dies.

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