Making Reloads On A Press

Reloading Ammunition
 By Mike Coviello (Tanner)

Brass cases are the only part of a round of ammunition that you can reuse. You can buy them new or pick them up from the range floor.

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Reloading 9MM Brass Cases


Brass for reloading refers to the brass case that holds the primer, powder and bullet that make up a round of ammunition. It is formed to exact specifications and is the only reusable component of a round of ammunition capable of being reloaded. You can either use new cases or those that have been previously fired. Previously fired cases are those that you fire yourself and save or that those that you pick up from the range floor. They must be cleaned and polished before you reload them. This removes the old gun powder and brings out the shiny brass color.

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Pre-Fired Cases Are Dirty And Out Of Shape

The firing of a round of ammunition creates high pressures that expand and deform the brass case to an out of spec condition. The first step (after polishing and cleaning) in reloading a case is to resize the case back to factory specifications. This is done with a reloading press and associated dyes.


How A Brass Case Is Reloaded

Reloading a brass case can be done in a few seconds (depends mostly on your equipment and experience). The steps to reload a case are as follows.

  1. Remove the old primer from the primer pocket and reinstalling a new one.

  2. Resize the case to factory specifications.

  3. Widen the mouth (top) of the case to accept a bullet.

  4. Fill it with the right amount of gun powder.

  5. Place a bullet on top and press the bullet down to the correct depth.

  6. Flatten or crimp the case against the bullet.

  7. Inspect for imperfections.


Do 9mm Cases Need to be Trimmed?

No. Straight wall pistol cases do not need to be trimmed. Trimming cases is primarily done on rifle cases. Repeated shooting and sizing of bottleneck cases will cause the brass to stretch. Straight walled pistol cases don't stretch in length or if they do, isn't enough to worry about trimming them. See Trimming 9mm Cases at bottom of page.


Are 9x19 Cases the Same as 9mm Luger Cases?

Yes. 9X19 = 9mm Luger = 9mm Parabellum = 9x19mm Parabellum (abbreviated 9mm, 9x19mm or 9x19) cartridge. Cases identified with the markings, 9x19, is also called the 9mm Luger or the 9mm Parabellum and is the world's most popular pistol cartridge.

  •  9X19 describes the cartridge by its diameter and length in millimeters

  •  9mm Luger describes the cartridge by the name of it's inventor Georg Luger

  •  9mm Parabellum describes the cartridge by its purpose 9mm for war (The name Parabellum is derived from the Latin: Si vis pacem, para bellum ("If you seek peace, prepare for war")

Brass that I picked up from the range floor.   9mm Luger brass cases after polishing.  9mm Luger case.  Assortment of 9mm cases showing different primers and head-stamps.  
Brass that I picked up from the range floor.  9mm Luger after polishing.  9mm Luger case.  Assortment of 9mm cases showing different primers and head-stamps.  
9mm Luger case that I cut in half showing what the inside looks like.   Case after it has been de-primed.   The case on the right is 9mm, the other two are 380's.  Case with a G.F.L headstamp. 
9mm Luger case that I cut in half showing what the inside looks like.  Case after it has been de-primed.  The one on the right is 9mm, the other two are 380's. G.F.L headstamp. 
 Berdan case on left.   Berdan case on left.   Berdan case on left.   Range Pick-ups.
Berdan on left.  Berdan on left.   Berdan case on left.   Range Pick-ups.


Rectangular Marks On Bottom Of 9MM Cartridges

Did you ever pick up some range floor brass and notice a rectangular impression on the bottom of a 9mm case? I used to think that it was part of a firing pin impression. Turns out, it is a breach face impression and is characteristic of Glock pistols. It is caused by the fired cartridge being forced back against breech-face* firing pin hole (may not be correct terminology but it's the hole where the firing pin come out of). The force of the cartridge against the breech-face leaves the impression of the rectangular "hole" on the primer. If you look at the pictures you can compare the rectangular hole with the impression on the case (or primer) and see that they match. *Breech-face is the front side of the breech block which is the structure that holds the round in the chamber. The breech-face contacts with and absorbs the rearward recoil force of the cartridge when the round is fired, preventing the cartridge case from moving.


Cartridge on the right shows rectangular breech-face marks on the primer. Breech-face on my Glock 26


Markings On Fired Cartridges

Marks that you find on fired cartridges generally come from three different sources and are generally caused as a result of the cartridge being fired in a gun. These markings are helpful in identifying the gun with which the cartridge was fired from.


Types of Cartridge Markings

  1.  Firing Pin Impressions - This is a common mark or impression that you will find on the primer. It is created when the firing pin strikes the primer.

  2.  Breech Face Impressions - Breech marks are a common mark or impression that you will find on the case. It is created when the spent cartridge is forced against the breech face during firing.

  3.  Ejector Marks - These marks are sometimes created when cartridges or cartridge cases are ejected from the action of a firearm.


More Pictures

9MM Lugerl and 22LR Cases 9MM Lugerl and 22LR Cases 9MM Lugerl and 22LR Cases 9MM Lugerl and 22LR Cases Brass Cases 9MM Lugerl and 22LR Cases 9MM Luger and 38 Special Cases 9MM Luger and 38 Special Cases

Feedback & Comments


Sent: December 12, 2012
Subject: Marking On The Back Of Casing

What does nr mean on the back of the casing Also how do you tell if a casing can or cannot be reloaded? Tom

Reply - Tom, Sorry for the delay in responding. I don't think I have ever seen an "nr" on the back of a casing (I only reload 9mm), so I don't know what it means. With regard to 9mm Luger, If the case has no visible defects (cuts, scars, bulging, abnormal discoloration, etc..) I reload it. I reload only range pickups and It's rare that I find one that I reject. Best regards, Tanner


Sent: March 28, 2011
Subject: Trimming 9mm Cases

Please help me understand: All hand loading sources say it's imperative to trim 9mm cases to uniform lengths before loading them. In all of my testing, and use of the 9mm I have discovered that 9mm cases get shorter(not longer) each time they are fired and reloaded. Please explain this phenomenon. I have purchased new brass that ranged from .748 to .743 so, to uniform them I have to trim all to .743 then, by the time they`re shot and reloaded a dozen times they are .738 which is shorter than allowed for reliable functioning and safety. So, why would I want to trim cases that are as short as you want them anyway, knowing that they are going get even shorter each time I use them. Sure, uniform lengths are nice for uniform expanding and crimping but this can be compensated for by using certain expanding dies (Redding or Lyman M) and certain crimp die/s (Hornady, maybe others).

Response - Larry,

When I first started reloading 9mm cases I did my research and it showed that you don't need to trim 9mm luger cases for reloading. Which hand loading sources are you referring to?

I have reloaded over 8,000 rounds of 9mm WITHOUT EVER trimming one case. I have only used range pickups for my reloads. They are cases from an assortment of different manufacturers. I have never had a problem with my reloads (except one squib) not related to the case I used.

I thought that only cases that are tapered like that of rifle cases required trimming. 9mm luger cases are straight wall cases and have no taper. I could be wrong, but it is my understanding that the taper of a case gives the pressure inside the case something to push longitudinally against which causes the elongation. Since straight wall cases have no taper there is no elongation. Don't take my word for it. That's just my understanding.

As far as 9mm cases getting shorter with each firing. I think I can provide an explanation.

It is my understanding that when a round is fired the pressure within the case pushes against the sides of the case (as well as the bottom of the bullet) causing the sides to expand and the diameter of the case to increase. If the diameter expands the length has to decrease (the metal has to come from somewhere).

I just measured the length of three 9mm luger range pickup cases. I then resized each case in my press and in each case the length increased.

case #1: .7410" before, .7495" after
case #2: .7455" before, .7515" after
case #3: .7445" before, .7505" after

I also measured the diameter of two 9mm luger range pickup cases. I then resized each case in my press and in each case the diameter decreased.

case #1: .3900" before, .3730"after
case #2: .3840" before, .3735" after

This supports my understanding.

I assume you are measuring the .738 cases before you resize them in your press? See what they come to after you resize them. Let me know if that solves your length problem.

Hope that helped.

Best regards,


Follow-up Message

Thanks a lot. It was very kind of you to take the time and effort to help me. I should have said "some sources" instead of "all sources". Lyman 49 says to trim and all articles on 9mm loading that I`ve read in gun magazines say "do trim". I`m with you, I think trimming is dumb. It was my impression that it was a must and everyone else was doing it but me. What sources do you have that shows you don`t have to trim --- that`s what I`m looking for. I know that 9mm cases are considered "straight wall" but they actually have some taper to them. Does this taper have any effects on headspace or reloading or anything? All the measurements you gave me are true, but I should have mentioned that all of my case length measurements are taken after resizing. I have found that 9mm cases shrink about .0005 in length after resizing them after each firing. Have you ever noticed this? How short can a case be before it`s too short to use? The experts say cases should be no shorter than .744 and that any shorter will result in headspace and safety woes. I`ve loaded 9mm cases that were .732 (after resizing). Am I OK doing this? I`ve never noticed any performance difference in cases that were .732 or .748. Like you, I use any 9mm cases I can get and I don`t sort them either, but the experts say this is taboo. How do you get uniform expanding and crimping when your case lengths are not uniform? What is the best powder and charge weight for a +P defense load using a 124 gr. JHP?
What is your name please? Thanks,

Response - Larry,

Over the internet and for my website I use the name Tanner Smith (not my real name). Tanner was my dog's name.

I don't personally know that many people that reload ammo, but from those that I do know, no one trims their 9mm Luger cases.

I don't know of any official sources that says not to trim, but I have scanned and attached a few paragraphs from Lee Modern Reloading Manual (Second Edition).

When I first started reloading my research (mostly from gun forums) seemed to indicate that trimming 9mm cases was not necessary (from what I can remember). I do not have specifics to tell you but here are a few links to forums on this topic (you have probably already read these).
The vast majority seem to be in favor of not trimming 9mm Luger cases.

I can't answer your technical questions because I don't know the answers without doing a lot of research.

I also can't answer your questions about powder and charges because I only reload 115gr. FMJ bullets with Titegroup powder. I only shoot my reloads at the range and I only would use factory ammo in my gun for defense. I don't want to mess around with +P loads for reloading.


Here is the SAAMI spec for 9mm Luger.

The above specs for 9mm Luger cases state .754" - .010" for the case length dimension. This would agree with your "experts" saying no less than .744". It would probably NOT BE A GOOD IDEA to load a case that was not to spec.

I am a little confused. It sounds like some of the new brass that you purchased was not within specifications.

You stated that "I have purchased new brass that ranged from .748 to .743".
Are your range pickups this short as well?

I just did another quick check on the length of 10 of my cases, and 9 were .750 or greater, the other one was .749.

It's odd that your cases are so short.


Follow-up Message

Man, thanks a lot for all your help. Before I buy any more new brass I`m going to make sure that they are not short to start with. Yes, the real short brass I have came from the range. I`m sure they were cases that were trimmed by folks that didn`t know any better, and as I said, I used them without any trouble. However, I`m not going to take chances any more, so I will go through my brass and pitch all the short ones. I did read on one of the forums you sent where a guy said "9mm cases actually get shorter over many loadings, so at least I know It`s just not something dumb that I am doing. If you ever come by any more tips on the 9mm, please pass them on to me. Thanks again



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Mike Coviello is a former aerospace engineer, now Web Designer/SEO Consultant. Hobbies include shooting zombies & reloading ammunition.






Reloading Equipment
1. Equipment
The Components Of Ammunition
2. Components
Cleaning Brass Cases For Reloading
3. Brass Cases
Making Reloads On A Press
4. Know How