The Joy of Shotshell Reloading with the MEC Grabber

Posted: June 29, 2009 in Reviews

Last month, I wrote about refusing to participate in the ammo shortage noticing that target grade shotshells being available. This month, I want to focus attention on reloading fired shotshells using the MEC Grabber reloading press (manual here) http://www.mecreloaders.com/documents/ownermanuals/grabber.pdf

The version I am using is over 30 years old and still cranking out shells every week. It has outlasted two, Remington 1100 receivers that I have cracked from shooting close to one million shells since 1980 and at least one 1100 trap barrel with a barrel extension I cracked from over use.

What made me think about writing about reloading has been the 50 days of rain we’ve had during the last 58 days. On those evenings where
no one is shooting and the field sits vacant as the rain fills the walkway to the traphouse, the MEC 76 is turning and burning recreating newly reloaded shells for the next day out on the trap fields.

The book says you can load 500 in an hour. I’ve NEVER seen that happen. Perhaps that is the mechanical cyclic rate the machine is capapble of. Realistically, a careful reloader, following proper procedures can turn out a box every 12-15 minutes. Last night, I loaded four boxes in 45 minutes.

It is crucial to follow the instructions for operating the machine AND following the published loading data for your components! It is also crucial to have a well versed routine and pay attention to detail as you load. Given these requirements, reloading shotshells can be a satisfying pastime, potentially saving some money and result in BETTER and more consistent shells than the factory turns out.
By “better” I don’t mean more powerful, I mean more CONSISTENT from shot to shot.

When setting up for a reloading session, be sure to have a properly calibrated and pre-set POWDER SCALE. Set the weights back to zero and adjust the wheel so that the marks line up – now you are zeroed. Following the loading data prescribed, measure the first ten or so shells – you may find the first few shells coming out slightly lighter than the data state, but still within prescribed levels. This is because the settling of the powder affects the volume the charge bar captures into the powder bushing until the press has been cycled a few times. After about four or five shells, you will notice the powder charge being right on the money or within a couple tenths of a grain.

This will stay until the volume in the powder bottle depletes past the half way mark getting toward one third full. Then you will notice the charge weights going a few tenths of a grain lighter again. Solution? Top off the powder bottle about mid way through your loading session or after about every third box of shells.

The lead shot level in the shot bottle can effect the powder dropping, too. Not from volume being in a different bottle, but from the vibration and timing of the charge bar cycling. When the lead shot level gets down to about a quarter full, top it off to just about half way or slightly over half way full in the shot bottle. Be sure to use different plastic funnels for each.

Also, if you use different powders for different loads, use different powder BOTTLES and clearly label each with a sticky label or paper tape.
Avoid residues of different powders mixing together. That can result in potentially dangerous situations. For me, my 12 guage reloading is done strictly with Alliant Red Dot powder. Consult the manual at: http://www.alliantpowders.com for data. And ALWAYS follow the published data – do NOT substitute components not listed. If it’s not listed – there’s a reason why it’s not listed. It’s not good for your gun or you!

Get together with an experienced shooter who knows good reloading skills and follows good practices. Also consult the technicians at both MEC and Alliant. I have found interacting with them very helpful.

Shotshell reloading is very simple, less involved than reloading for rifle or pistol cartridges and can be very rewarding once you master a few simple rules and practices. Now if the sun would stay out long enough for a good weekend of shooting, I can enjoy the few dozen boxes I’ve loaded up this month!

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