As careful as we want to be, loading-bench mistakes are just about certain at some point. Here are 3 thoughts to help you avoid them, and also some ways to put a mistake behind you.

Glen Zediker

Standard Bullet Puller
Forster Standard Bullet Puller

This isn’t going to be a “troubleshooting” guide of epic proportions because following along with the suggested ops and processes, using the suggested tooling, there’s not a lot that can go worng. But sometimes even when everything is right, things can go awry. We all make mistakes. There may be a few confounding eventualities that will arise.

No case lube
You might forget or overlook putting lube on a case. Well. Lube each case, each time. Lube a case over each time it’s run through. Don’t think it hangs on. A stuck case remover is tool you don’t want to meet, and here’s to hoping you never see one. However, go ahead and buy one because it’s less embarrassing than borrowing one. Ha.

stuck case remover
Here’s to hoping you never see one of these… It’s a stuck case remover, and this is from Hornady. Folks, there’s a drill bit involved… Lube your cases!

“Ooopsie” on the propellant charge
Don’t do that. Check two or three times before calling a meter “set.” This was gone over thoroughly in another article. And read the load two or three times, and check your scale setting at least that many times as well. A mistake like that can be disastrous. Too little propellant can likewise create huge problems. Pay special attention to propellant supply level when using a meter, and even more attention when using a progressive press. Fortunately, loading most of the propellants wisely suitable for .223, .308, or most other popular rifle cartridges, it’s easy to notice a short charge. The propellant is, or should be, easily visible within the case neck. It’s a real issue with pistol loading: some of those propellants don’t reach halfway up the inside case walls.

bullet puller
There are different forms bullet-pullers take, and I prefer the slower but somewhat more “gentle” and likewise more secure collet-types. This is a Forster “Universal.” Bullet pullers grip the bullet in the jaws of a collet, which is tightened using a handle or nut, and then withdraw the case, dislodge the bullet. Simple. I do not like the “kinetic” pullers, which are essentially hammers that rely on intertia to dislodge a bullet after beating it a few times. They’re effective but daggone obnoxious in operation.

Triple-checking settings and notes
Same advice goes for indexing to any recorded setting. Powder meters, bullet seaters, anything. Just give it two sober checks before proceeding to shuck away. I’ve put the wrong setting on a bullet seater a few times… I learn all this the hard way, I freely admit, and here’s to hoping you can learn from me.

The wrong load
So what do you do if you realize there’s been a mistake made in a batch of ammunition? Of course, it depends on the mistake and what it might mean. If it’s not over-pressure, it’s probably best to just go ahead and shoot it up and reuse the cases. If it’s a bullet seated too deeply, same advice.

As long as safety is not a question, just shoot it. But there are times that’s not wisely possible.

Breaking down a loaded round requires removing the bullet. Of course, there are tools. Bullet pullers are tedious, as you might imagine. They also purport to allow for the reuse of bullets, but I sho don’t take that seriously. Removing a bullet, having already been seated, and then reseating it, there’s bound to be some compromise somewhere, or more, in the bullet integrity, accuracy at the least. The grip of the puller isn’t going to be benignly harmless either.

Before you pull a bullet, set it a little deeper. Makes this op on easier. Adjust the seating die down another five or ten thousandths. That breaks the “seal.”

Pay attention to what you are doing! For every moment you spend doing it. And write down what you did…

Check out choices at Midsouth HERE and HERE (bullet pullers and stuck case removers, and don’t forget to check HERE to avoid the last one)


sooty case neck
Soot means there wasn’t complete sealing there in firing. Don’t worry about the little ding you see here either. Just shoot it again.

Sooty cases. You might see sooty case necks and shoulders. That’s common, and that’s not really a problem. The reason is pressure, lack of it, that has then meant the case areas did not fully (fully) expand. Sometimes this is unavoidable. Just clean it off and use the case again. A little more: because it is necessary to create gaps between cartridge case and chamber wall, some leakage is just about a given. Excessive leakage, again, usually just means the load is a little on the lighter side. The combination of case and chamber also might mean it’s uavoidable. Thinner case neck walls (which means a little smaller net case neck outside diameter) in a more generous chamber might mean there won’t be idealized conformation to the chamber neck area. I see this often on case necks that have been full-circumference outside turned.

This article is adapted from Glen’s newest book, Top-Grade Ammo, available at Midsouth HERE. For more information on that and other books by Glen, visit

13 thoughts on “RELOADERS CORNER: Common Problems”

  1. Glen, First I am a big fan. Bought your book and had you sign it. Really like reading your stuff. Just reading this blog and really did not understand your comment on inertia bullet pullers. ” They’re effective but doggone obnoxious in operation” What does that mean? I have used one for 30 – 40 years and always caught the bullet & the powder to evaluate what was wrong etc. Am I missing something. Thanks, I hope to see you writing for one of the big gun magazines soon. Keep up the great work. Boomer28

  2. John Mount

    I think the “Obnoxious” part that the author is referring to is the loud pounding needed to unset the bullet in the inertia (Hammer) bullet puller

    I have both types, collet and inertia and I will grab the “Hammer” if I only have 1 bullet to pull instead of unpacking my collet puller

    The first time I used the inertia type, many years ago, for the first time after I was married, my wife yelled “What the heck are you doing?” up the stairs and

    I had a stubborn bullet so I didn’t answer her so my wife came upstairs to my gun room and asked again so I showed her what all of the noise was about and she asked, before she left “Do you have to be so loud?”

    My wife found out what loud was all about when I put up my target butt behind the house and started 15 years of shooting, a lot, in my back yard

    1. John Mount

      Sorry for the long reply, my meds are being over active tonight so I guess I could have just typed the words “Obnoxiously loud”

  3. After breaking 3 bullet hammers, I gave up and ordered the Hornady Cam-Lock puller and a .30 caliber collet.
    Because I loaded up 100 rounds of .308Win using once fired 7.62X51 NATO brass and they would not chamber in my Savage Axis. Even after a full length resize.
    I finally discovered the the brass was fired in a machine gun, so the case shoulder was stretched.
    Comparing the NATO brass to a real .308Win brass, the difference was actually visible. The neck above the shoulder was very slightly shorter than the .308Win brass, thus keeping it from chambering all the way.
    Problem. The die with the decapping pin installed would not resize the neck properly.
    After pulling the bullets TWICE, I removed the decapping pin and resized the brass again and then they chamber.
    Here is a closeup photo of the two cartridges.
    Actual .308Win brass on the left, 7.62X51 NATO on the right.
    Next time I will only order .308Win brass, no more NATO brass.

    1. With brass new to you use a small base resizer. Decapping pin should always be set just deep enough to pop the primer out when the Sizing stroke is bottomed out. With SB die it goes down metal to metal and cams over. Then trim cases to trim length uniformly. Military cases tend to weigh more and have thicker walls so take less powder to build pressures.

  4. I pulled some hornaday premium 44 mag bullets that had been slighty crimped in the chanelure with a rcbs bullet puller. They came out fairly easy but when I tried to reload them I discovered they had stretched from .430 to .418 . Not really visible but they would not seat properly.

  5. John, sounds like you are using a kinetic bullet puller, and you are right. They are harmless to the bullet unless the bullet has an extremely soft lead tip. I’ll bet you are using a Quentics puller. I’ve been using the same puller for about the same amount of time. I think it was the only made back then. I think the puller the author is talking about is a collet puller. You put the bullet in, then squeeze the collet tightly onto the bullet, so when you remove the case the bullet stays in the collet. These can be very sensitive. To loose and the bullet pulls out of the collet. Usually scratching it. To tight and the bullet is marred or deformed. However properly adjusted they can pull a bullet without harming it at all. I just bought 1000 .223 bullets that were sold as “pulled bullets”. They were considerably discounted and I expected to have some that were unusable, or at least scratched. Not so. They could have repackaged these bullets and sold them as new and no one would have been able to tell the difference. They’re are a good company to do business with. We have to remember though that there is some stress put on the bullet when it is seated. Even more if it is crimped. Puling it out and doing it over again may also contribute to what the author is talking about. Geoff, what I am about to say is going to sound critical. I promise you it is not meant to be, but when you only have text to work with, no facial expressions or voice inflection, it is hard to show your true feelings. Please accept this as advice from a 60 year old man who taught himself to reload 45years ago and has been learning every since. You need to back off on your reloading and do some more reading, or if possible reload with some old timer that has been doing it for years. If you broke three kinetic pullers you are doing it wrong. Even the cheap ones will pull a heavy .30 caliber bullet with out a lot of effort. You must hold the handle loosely in your hand so it can bounce, and you must impact a hard surface. Not a wooden workbench or floor. I have a concrete stoop I have been using since 1989. Before that I used a workbench with a Formica surface. Except for one occasion, where I had to pull an entire box (100)of .32ACP, I probably haven’t pulled more than twenty bullets over the years. However I have pulled everything from 220 grain .30 caliber bullets to 55grain .223 bullets with a cannelure crimp. Because of the light weight and the crimp the .223 took some effort and several whacks, but the puller was unaffected. As mentioned earlier I have done it all with the same puller. Next…. if your decapping pin is preventing you from sizing your brass it is not properly adjusted. It is also keeping you form properly sizing the .308 brass. you are just getting by with it because you are firing it back in the same gun or one with a slightly looser chamber. The resizing die should contact the shell holder. Most die and press instructions say to raise the ram, with the shell holder installed, all the way up. Then screw the die in until it contacts the shell holder. Then lower the ram and screw the die in another 1/8th turn to take up any play that may be in the press linkage. If you do that then the decapper should be irrelevant to sizing. If the die is properly adjusted and the decapper is hitting the brass the decapper needs adjusted. The only time the decapper contacts the case is when the expander ball goes back through the case neck as you extract the case from the die. My last comment is about military brass….I looked at your pictures and it is obvious there are some problems with the die adjustments. Once properly adjusted you should be able to use all the NATO brass you want. There are some things unique to military brass you need to be aware of. First, you can’t decap them in your sizing die. The primers are crimped in and if you try to decap them with the pin in your sizing die you will eventually damage the pin. There are several techniques out there that involve a separate tool. I use the decapper out of an old Lee Loader and a mallet. Once you have the primer out you have to debur the primer pocket to remove the crimp. You can skip this step if you want, but you will damage some of your new primers or even cause one to go off. Once the primer pocket has been deburred you can load the brass through the normal process from then on. The most important thing to keep in mind about military brass is, the brass is thicker. The walls of the case are thicker gauge so they aren’t easily damaged be abuse. The outside of the case can’t be larger and meet chamber specifications. Therefor the inside of the case is smaller. The reduced case capacity means that any load you use in commercial brass will produce higher pressures in military brass. If those loads are near maximum in commercial brass, they could be catastrophic in military brass.

  6. Glen, concerning leakage/soot. “….a little on the lighter side….” You might have mentioned that about any case coming out of a gas gun will be nasty, including the entire body length, regardless of how light, regular, or even excessive the charge is. Reloads or factory stuff. Any of our AR’s create some of the nastiest looking fired cases, whereas, our bolt guns’ brass comes out clean, mostly, only with a slightly dirtier neck.

    1. Sounds like your AR’s are getting a little to much gas. The bolt needs to stay closed longer. Try an adjustable gas block or get a heaver buffer, 4oz or more. You can replace the steel weights in your buffer with tungsten weights as well. I found that the tungsten is almost as much as a new buffer and prices varies so shop around, I found three for the price that some were asking for one. Below is a link for three 1.5oz weights totaling 4.5oz.

    2. That’s completely true, there’s usually some soot on any semi-auto spent case; I was referring to an unusual amount, additional soot compared to the gunk that’s already there. Honestly, though, I don’t see it with my competition loads in my ARs. The chamber neck area is a little smaller on those barrels, and the pressures are, uh, healthy…

  7. Glen,
    I always enjoy reading your articles. They improve my reloaded rounds and help me avoid “learning the hard way” more often than not.
    I have used the hammer-type and the collet style bullet pullers. I have since found something far far faster, easier, and more certain.
    I have no affiliation with this device, other than as a customer.
    It’s the Grip-N-Pull. I got the Standard Rifle size, which covers .17-.30 caliber bullets.
    It’s like a simple pliers to grip the bullet (in caliber specific slots) as it pokes up through your press (die removed).
    The pliers flat is against the top of the press, and the handle’s upward motion pulls the casing down (by way of the shell holder) EXTREMELY easily.
    As a side benefit, you get a really good feedback on the ‘feel’ of your neck tension.
    I obviously recommend it. I no longer use the other pullers.

    1. I’ve not used one of those. I’ll look into it. I used to pull a lot (a lot) of bullets back in the day from LC Match to replace them with an SMK 168. For that I used a Forster Superfast. And that’s also where I got the trick of seating them all a little deeper prior to pulling. Worlds easier. Truly, my goal is NEVER to have to use a bullet puller…

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