The thunderous boom and massive power of the .50 BMG cartridge is loved by long-range shooters and feared by enemies on the battlefield. Reloading your own .50 BMG ammo allows you to customize loads, shoot more often, and save money.
This comprehensive guide will walk you through every step of the reloading process to help you safely handload accurate .50 cal ammo.
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Reloading .50 BMG requires a heavy duty single stage press, quality brass, proper .50 BMG dies, slow-burning powders like H50BMG, proper priming, and large rifle magnum primers.
Always follow reloading safety rules and work up test loads to find the most accurate charge for your rifle.
An Overview of the .50 BMG Cartridge
The .50 BMG cartridge, also known as the .50 Browning Machine Gun, is a powerful and versatile ammunition used in various applications. It has a rich history and offers excellent ballistics, making it a favorite among shooters and military personnel alike.
.50 BMG History and Origins
The .50 BMG cartridge was developed by John Browning in the early 1900s for use in the Browning M2 machine gun. It was designed to provide long-range firepower and penetrate armor, making it ideal for military use.
Over the years, it has gained popularity among civilian shooters for its impressive performance.
Originally, the .50 BMG was used primarily in heavy machine guns and anti-aircraft guns. However, its versatility and power soon led to its adoption in various other applications, including long-range sniper rifles and sport shooting.
Modern .50 BMG Rifle Applications
Today, the .50 BMG cartridge is widely used in military and law enforcement sniper rifles. Its long-range capabilities and impressive stopping power make it an excellent choice for engaging targets at extreme distances. Snipers can effectively engage targets over a mile away with the .50 BMG.
In addition to military and law enforcement use, the .50 BMG is also popular among civilian shooters. Some enthusiasts enjoy the challenge of long-range shooting, while others use it for hunting large game such as elk or bears.
Its ability to penetrate armor also makes it a popular choice for those interested in personal defense.
Basic .50 BMG Ballistics
The .50 BMG cartridge is known for its exceptional ballistics. It typically fires a heavy bullet weighing around 650 grains at a muzzle velocity of approximately 2,800 feet per second. This combination of weight and velocity results in a high level of kinetic energy, allowing the bullet to maintain its trajectory and penetrate various materials.
At long distances, the .50 BMG bullet experiences less drop and drift compared to smaller caliber ammunition. This makes it easier to hit targets accurately, even in challenging wind conditions. Additionally, the .50 BMG has significant energy transfer upon impact, often resulting in devastating terminal performance.
It’s worth noting that the .50 BMG cartridge is not suitable for all firearms due to its size and power. Specialized rifles chambered in .50 BMG are required to safely and effectively fire this ammunition.
Required Reloading Components for .50 BMG
A reliable and sturdy reloading press is essential for reloading .50 BMG ammunition. The press is responsible for resizing the brass, inserting the primer, and seating the bullet. It is recommended to invest in a heavy-duty press that can handle the large size of the .50 BMG cartridge.
The dies used for reloading .50 BMG ammunition are specifically designed for this caliber. They are responsible for resizing and shaping the brass, as well as seating the bullet. It is important to choose high-quality dies that are compatible with your reloading press.
Brass casings are the foundation of a properly loaded .50 BMG round. It is essential to use high-quality brass that has been properly prepared and inspected. Look for brass that is specifically designed for reloading .50 BMG ammunition.
Choosing the right bullets for your .50 BMG reloads is crucial. There are a variety of bullet options available, including full metal jacket (FMJ) bullets for target shooting and hollow point bullets for hunting. Consider the intended use of your ammunition and select bullets accordingly.
Primers and Powder
Reloading .50 BMG ammunition requires large rifle primers and a suitable powder. The type and amount of powder you use will depend on the specific load data you are following. It is important to follow established load recipes and use reliable sources for load data.
When selecting components for reloading .50 BMG ammunition, it is important to prioritize quality and safety. Always follow proper reloading procedures and consult reputable sources for load data. Websites such as https://www.hodgdonreloading.com/ and https://www.alliantpowder.com/ provide valuable information and resources for reloading enthusiasts.
The .50 BMG Reloading Process Step-by-Step
Full Length Resizing and Decapping
The first step in reloading .50 BMG ammunition is full length resizing and decapping. This process involves removing the spent primer and resizing the brass case back to its original dimensions. This is important to ensure proper chambering and extraction of the round.
The decapping pin removes the old primer while the resizing die reshapes the case.
Clean and Inspect Brass
After full length resizing and decapping, it is crucial to clean and inspect the brass cases. Cleaning the cases removes any dirt, debris, or residue that may hinder the reloading process. Inspecting the brass helps identify any defects or damage that may compromise the safety and performance of the reloaded ammunition.
It is recommended to use a case tumbler or ultrasonic cleaner for thorough cleaning.
Lubricate and Powder Charge
Once the brass cases are cleaned and inspected, the next step is to lubricate the cases and add the appropriate powder charge. Lubricating the cases ensures smooth resizing and prevents excessive wear on the reloading equipment.
The powder charge is carefully measured and added to each case according to the desired load specifications. It is important to follow the recommended load data to avoid dangerous overloads.
Seating and Crimping
After the powder charge is added, the next step is to seat the bullet and apply a crimp if necessary. Seating the bullet involves carefully aligning it with the case neck and using a reloading press to press it into place.
The crimp, if required, helps secure the bullet in the case and prevents bullet setback during feeding and chambering. It is essential to use the proper seating depth and crimp technique for optimal accuracy and reliability.
Final QC and Testing
Once all the components are assembled, it is crucial to perform a final quality control check and testing. This includes checking the overall length, inspecting for any visual defects, and verifying the weight and consistency of the powder charge.
It is recommended to use a quality reloading scale and calipers for precise measurements. After the QC check, it is advisable to test the reloaded ammunition for accuracy and reliability at a shooting range while following all safety protocols.
Advanced .50 BMG Reloading Considerations
When reloading .50 BMG ammunition, case trimming is an important consideration. Over time, the cases can stretch and become longer than the specified length. This can affect the chambering and accuracy of the ammunition.
Therefore, it is crucial to regularly trim the cases to maintain the proper length. A case trimmer specifically designed for .50 BMG cases is recommended for this task. It ensures that the cases are trimmed uniformly and to the correct length.
Annealing is the process of heating the brass cases to a specific temperature and then cooling them slowly. This helps to restore the elasticity of the brass and prolong its lifespan. In the case of .50 BMG ammunition, which is known for its high pressures and intense heat, annealing becomes even more crucial.
It prevents the brass from becoming brittle and reduces the risk of case head separations. There are various methods of annealing brass, including using specialized annealing machines or torches.
Load Data and Development
Load data and development play a vital role in reloading .50 BMG ammunition. It is essential to use reliable and accurate load data from reputable sources. This data provides information on the recommended powder charges, bullet seating depths, and other important factors.
One such trusted source is the manufacturer’s reloading manual. Additionally, online resources such as www.hodgdon.com also offer load data specifically tailored for .50 BMG ammunition. It is crucial to follow the recommended load data precisely to ensure safety and optimal performance.
Specialized .50 BMG Dies
Reloading .50 BMG ammunition requires specialized dies to handle the larger dimensions of the cartridge. These dies are specifically designed for resizing, expanding, and seating the bullets in .50 BMG cases.
They are often made from high-quality materials to withstand the pressures involved in reloading this powerful ammunition. Some popular manufacturers of specialized .50 BMG dies include RCBS, Hornady, and Redding.
These dies ensure consistent and accurate reloading results, making them a valuable investment for reloaders.
.50 BMG Reloading Safety
When it comes to reloading .50 BMG ammunition, safety should always be the number one priority. The sheer power and size of the .50 BMG cartridge demands extra caution and adherence to specific safety guidelines. Here are some key safety considerations to keep in mind:
Heavy Duty Press Requirements
Reloading .50 BMG ammunition requires a heavy-duty press that is specifically designed to handle the immense pressure and size of the cartridge. A regular reloading press simply won’t cut it. Look for presses that are specifically labeled as suitable for .50 BMG reloading.
These presses are built to withstand the forces involved and ensure a safe reloading process.
Extra Large Components
One of the unique aspects of reloading .50 BMG ammunition is the use of extra large components. The bullet, primer, and powder used for this cartridge are significantly larger compared to other calibers.
It is crucial to use the correct components designed specifically for the .50 BMG to ensure proper fit and function. Using incorrect components can lead to dangerous malfunctions and potentially catastrophic consequences.
Another important aspect of reloading .50 BMG ammunition is the use of slow-burning powders. These powders are specifically formulated to match the performance characteristics of the .50 BMG cartridge. Using faster-burning powders can result in excessive pressure and pose a serious safety risk.
Always consult reputable reloading manuals or trusted online sources for recommended powders and load data for the .50 BMG.
Due to the size and power of the .50 BMG cartridge, there is an increased risk of fire during the reloading process. The high volume of powder required and the potential for sparks or other ignition sources means that proper fire safety precautions must be taken.
Make sure to have a fire extinguisher nearby, work in a well-ventilated area, and avoid any potential sources of ignition such as open flames or smoking.
For more detailed information and specific safety guidelines, it is highly recommended to consult reliable sources such as National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) or Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute (SAAMI).
These organizations provide valuable resources and guidelines to ensure a safe and successful reloading experience with .50 BMG ammunition.
With some heavy duty equipment and components, reloading .50 BMG can be very rewarding. The ability to customize every load to your rifle’s preferences can wring out every bit of long-range accuracy. Just be sure to keep safety as your top priority when working with such massive cartridges.
Follow trusted load data and work up test loads carefully. With caution and care, you’ll be driving tacks from your .50 BMG in no time.