5 Best Reloading Manual: Reviews + Buyers Guide

by Tom Moore

March 29, 2024



From my experience as an avid shooter, I’ve had the opportunity to test out various reloading manuals. Each one brings something unique to the table. Some are ideal for those just starting their journey into reloading, while others offer in-depth information that seasoned reloaders will appreciate. However, with the many options available out there, it can be confusing to pick the right one for you. But don’t worry, in this updated best reloading manual review, I’ll help you figure out which one suits your needs best.

What Is a Reloading Manual?

Think of a reloading manual as your go-to guide for reloading ammunition. It’s packed with detailed instructions and information you need to get the job done. From bullet types to powders, primers, and casings – it’s all in there. Plus, it walks you through the process step-by-step, so you can reload cartridges safely and effectively.

How I Chose the Best Reloading Manual

With over a decade of experience in shooting sports like NRL22 and IPSC, I’ve come to value a solid reloading manual. It’s a must-have for anyone looking to reload their own ammo as it gives you step-by-step instructions and data for different calibers and loads. Now, I’ve got the know-how to pick the right reloading manual for any situation.

But I wanted this guide to be more than just my opinion. So, I asked my shooter friends for their advice. They have extensive knowledge when it comes to reloading techniques, equipment, and safety precautions. Their collective insights helped me put together this list of the best reloading manuals.

Now, I know that choosing the right reloading manual is highly dependent on personal circumstances. It depends on what calibers you’re reloading and what level of detail you need. Keeping that in mind, I’ve made a list ranking the best reloading manuals to help you find what works best for you.

Mathew Unruh, the owner of Round 2 Brass, sorts through fired ammunition to be reloaded or remanufactured in his garage-shop in Leander, Texas. Austin Price/Reporting Texas

Best Reloading Manuals: a Rundown

Okay, so now that we covered that, let’s jump right into the top reloading manuals in order from best to worst.

  1. Lyman 50th Edition Reloading Manual
  2. Sierra 5th Edition Rifle Handgun Reloading Manual
  3. The Beginner’s Guide to Reloading Ammunition
  4. Lee Precision Modern Reloading 2nd Edition
  5. Hornady 11th Edition Handbook of Cartridge Reloading

Best Reloading Manuals

Lyman 50th Edition Reloading Manual
  • First Lyman reloading handbook made in full color
  • Include data from other brands into its guide for a fuller picture
On Amazon
Sierra 5th Edition Rifle Handgun Reloading Manual
  • Presented as a 3-ring binder, allows for note-taking
  • Contains a non-traditional chapter with FAQ answers
On Amazon
The Beginner’s Guide to Reloading Ammunition
  • Only book on this list that isn’t technically a manual
  • Most affordable option on Amazon
On Amazon
Lee Precision Modern Reloading 2nd Edition
  • Over 1,000 load combinations
  • Good for beginners and veteran reloaders alike
On Amazon
Hornady 11th Edition Handbook of Cartridge Reloading
  • Covers 200+ different calibers that feature multiple load combinations
  • Can be acquired through the Hornady Reloading App
On Amazon

Best Reloading Manual Reviews

Okay, now that we’ve gone over this list, in the below section, I’m going to cover why I placed them in that order, and give some details on each. That way, if you’re on the fence or not sure why one is listed over another, you can check this out.

1. Lyman 50th Edition Reloading Manual


Lyman 50th Edition Reloading Manual

The first Lyman reloading handbook to be printed in full color. It also contains info from other brands.

Lyman 50th Edition Reloading Manual

Considered a “must-own for every reloader,” Lyman manuals have a long-standing tradition of providing comprehensive information about the reloading process. The Lyman 50th Edition Reloading Manual continues that tradition.

The Lyman manual is jam-packed with valuable information for reloading enthusiasts like myself. The first thing that struck me was the colorful presentation and the detailed imagery. Compared to its predecessor, the Lyman 49th Edition, the visuals in this edition are much clearer and more engaging.

This manual contains the largest selection of bullets, powders, and cast bullets out of any competing reloading book. This is thanks to the data given from brands like Hodgdon, Nosler, Speer, and Creedmoor.

One thing I really liked was the emphasis on not just providing data, but also on teaching how to apply that data effectively. For example, the section on bullet coefficients and sectional density not only explains what they are but also provides practical insights into their application in reloading projects. That’s the kind of practical information that sets this manual apart.

Now, If you ask me, I’d say the most impressive thing about the Lyman manual is its universal appeal. Whether you’re just getting started on your reloading journey or you’re a seasoned reloader with years of experience under your belt, this manual has something to offer you. It’s designed to be user-friendly and accessible, which makes it a great choice for reloaders of all skill levels.

Sierra 6th Edition Rifle Handgun Reloading Manual Review

Sierra’s extremely popular 5th Edition Reloading Manual just got an upgrade. Now available in a convenient three-ring binder format, this hefty 1,368-page manual is designed in a user-friendly way for reloaders of all skill levels.

Within the manual, you’ll find a wealth of detailed information covering many topics such as cartridges, terminology, bullet types, powders, and more. But that’s not all. It’s got an updated section that covers the reloading process, the tools and equipment you’ll need, and how to take care of your bore and firearms.

Also, if you’ve got questions, chances are you’ll find the answers in their unique Q&A chapter. It covers the most common (and some not-so-common) questions that Sierra’s technical service line gets asked.

Although you might ignore this option if you don’t use Sierra ammo, it still contains a lot of unique information about bullet dynamics, firearm cleaning, and much more.

Sierra makes exceptional bullets. If you use their ammo, this reloading handbook will make a valuable addition to your bookshelf.

3. The Beginner’s Guide to Reloading Ammunition

The Beginner’s Guide to Reloading Ammunition_best-reloading-manuals

The Beginner’s Guide to Reloading Ammunition

This tome of knowledge isn’t really a manual. It’s more of a guide, and it’s the most affordable book of its type on Amazon.

The Beginner’s Guide to Reloading Ammunition Review

This is an excellent addition to your collection if you’re just getting started in the reloading practice or if you are wary of spending too much money. The Beginner’s Guide to Reloading Ammunition is more of a self-help book than a reloading manual.

It is an easy read and a good starting point for beginners interested in reloading ammunition

The book provides detailed chapters about primers, cartridge cases, gunpowder, and bullets, explaining in layman’s terms what they are, the variations you’ll encounter, and the characteristics of each.

It also covers the different aspects of case preparation, the characteristics of the gunpowder, and which types work best with bulk measurements.

Safety is key when it comes to reloading, and this book helps ensure a safe, profitable, and enjoyable experience from the very beginning.

Although this is the only reloading book on this list without loading data, it is a helpful tool for beginners and the dollar-conscious.

4. Lee Precision Modern Reloading 2nd Edition

Lee Precision Modern Reloading 2nd Edition_best-reloading-manuals

Lee Precision Modern Reloading 2nd Edition

Good for beginners and veteran reloaders alike, this manual has over 1,500 load combinations.

Lee Precision Modern Reloading 2nd Edition Review

Lee Precision’s 2nd Edition Modern Reloading manual is written in an easy-to-read format with many helpful drawings and diagrams. It’s primarily written for handgun owners who are just starting to reload.

I had previously read the first edition of this manual and it seems that author Richard Lee has put a lot of effort into revising and reformatting this edition. It includes an in-depth analysis of load data given by the powder companies themselves and it covers a wide range of topics, from the basics of reloading to more advanced techniques like bullet seating for accuracy and priming.

One aspect I particularly liked was the author’s anecdotes and recommendations add a genuine touch to the book, making it feel like you’re receiving advice from a knowledgeable friend rather than just reading a manual

Although it may not be the best option for rifle owners, the Lee manual is still one of the best options for those looking for an in-depth introduction to all things reloading.

5. Hornady 11th Edition Handbook of Cartridge Reloading

Hornady 11th Edition Handbook of Cartridge Reloading_best-reloading-manuals

Hornady 11th Edition Handbook of Cartridge Reloading

Covers more than 200 different calibers with multiple load combinations and works well with the Hornady Reloading App.

Hornady 11th Edition Handbook of Cartridge Reloading Review

The second book on our list to acquire a recent upgrade from their popular 10th edition (already a significant update from their 9th edition), Hornady released their 11th Edition manual filled with over 1,000 pages. 1,500+ load combinations were shot and tested to guarantee reliability.

This manual is made primarily for Hornady bullets and equipment. If you intend on purchasing their well-acclaimed presses or reloading kits, this would be a wise addition to your library.

What really stood out to me was the inclusion of over 200 different cartridges, including recent introductions like the 6mm ARC, 6mm Creedmoor, and the 6.5 and .300 PRCs. It’s not just about the new cartridges though; this handbook also features a wide range of popular designs like the .224 Valkyrie and 350 Legend.

I also liked the addition of new bullets and a variety of previously unused powders. This made sure that I had all the resources I needed, whether I was experimenting with new setups or refining existing ones.

Although there are many books on this list for novices, I’d say that this reloading handbook is helpful to veterans and beginners alike.

Advantages of Reloading Manuals

A reloading guide offers must-have advantages, like step-by-step instruction on modern reloading, increased safety knowledge, and confidence that you’re the best reloader you can be.

The reloading process requires lots of components and tedious adjustments, some of which are easily forgotten. A quality handloading manual teaches you every facet of the process that you need to know, and it’s structured in a way that allows you to easily digest information.

I recommend that beginners choose a handbook that covers a wide variety of load data, as well as the step-by-step safety precautions for just starting out.

On the other hand, experienced reloaders should purchase a reloading book that focuses on the reloading information they want to become more familiar with. For example, an expert may need specific load data on rifle calibers or details on a section of a shotshell.

How to Safely Reload Ammo

As a beginner, it’s important to know that reloading ammo isn’t something you can learn overnight. It takes practice to get it right, and doing it wrong can be unsafe. I suggest getting a reloading manual before you start to make sure you’re doing everything safely and efficiently. Below, I’ll share some tips for reloading so that you can reload yours as a beginner.

5 safety tips for reloading:

  1. Use enough gunpowder. By not putting enough powder in your case preparation. If there’s not enough powder, the bullet can get stuck in the barrel. If you try to shoot again, the gun can literally explode. Always put enough powder in your casings.
  2. Take precautions to prevent a fire while reloading. The best way to prevent any sort of fire or accidents when reloading is to always follow the instructions in a reloading manual and the guidelines given by the ammo manufacturers. Also, avoid nearby open flames or heating filaments.
  3. Do not reload while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It can impair your judgment and coordination, which increases the chances of errors like incorrect powder measurements or assembly mistakes. Also, let’s not forget the legal consequences. If you have an accident while reloading under the influence, you could face criminal charges, get sued, and be held responsible for any harm caused.
  4. Always wear eye protection. It’s an easy way to minimize the risk of eye irritation.
  5. Do not store primers in bulk. Also, don’t force primers into place or into a container, as it can lead to accidental detonation due to their sensitive nature.

Choosing the Right Manual

One of the most important aspects to look for when choosing the right reloading manual is an extensive section on load data. Load data varies in each manual, due to the specifications of bullet brands, such as powder manufacturers’ recommended measurements and new cartridges.

What are some of the most popular powders to reload with? Some of the most popular powder brands to reload with include:

  • Hodgdon
  • IMR
  • Alliant
  • Winchester

While you may use general information within the text universally, most manuals are exclusive to their own products when it comes to the specific recipes and procedures for making different types of ammo.

Free Reloading Manuals [Online PDF Downloads]

Planning on purchasing a reloading press? A reloading manual is a must-have.

If you are interested in checking out some more basic or out-of-date reloading manuals, Lyman 44th Edition and PBC’s Basic Reloading Manual are available as free online downloads.

Buyers Guide for Best Reloading Manual

There are several factors to consider when choosing a reloading manual, but some factors are more important than others. Here’s what I look at when I get myself a new reloading manual:

Content and Coverage: When selecting a reloading manual, first check if it covers a wide variety of bullets, powders, and reloading methods. Next, verify that the manual includes data from reputable brands and manufacturers, as this will ensure the accuracy and reliability of your reloading process. Finally, take into account the depth of information provided for each caliber and load combination, as this will help you meet your specific reloading requirements.

Compatibility and Relevance: Make sure the manual works with your reloading equipment like presses, dies, and scales. Pick the one that talks about the kind of ammo you’re reloading, whether it’s for handguns, rifles, or shotguns. Also, look for newer editions or manuals with the latest improvements in reloading technology. It’s all about finding what fits your gear and needs best.

User-Friendly Format: Opt for manuals that are well-organized and easy to navigate, with clear instructions and diagrams to aid comprehension. You can choose between traditional printed manuals and digital formats based on your preference and convenience.

Load Data Accuracy: When reloading, it’s important that you have accurate load data. This is because the safety and performance of your reloaded ammunition depends on it. If the measurements are off, it could lead to dangerous situations like overpressure, which can damage your firearm or cause injury. So, make sure the manual provides exact measurements and advice for each load combination. Also, go for manuals that do a lot of testing to make sure their load data is reliable.

Safety Information: When choosing a reloading manual, safety should be your top priority. Look for manuals that give clear safety guidelines and precautions to help you avoid any risks when reloading. It’s also important to check if the manual has safety tips and warnings, especially for handling things like primers, powders, and other components.

Budget and Value: Consider your budget and think about what you’re getting for your money with each reloading manual. Look at the content, features, and quality to see if it’s worth the price. Make sure you’re getting enough detail and usefulness for what you’re paying. It’s about finding the right balance between affordability and what the manual offers to make a cost-effective investment.

Additional Resources and Support: See if the manual provides extra resources, like online access to more data, FAQs, or video tutorials. Also, look for manufacturer support or community forums where you can get advice from experienced reloaders. These additional resources can be really helpful when you need extra guidance or information.

Do You Need a Reloading Manual?

Yes, you need a reloading manual if you are new to reloading or want to improve your reloading skills. No matter your reloading experience, both beginner and advanced reloaders should own a reloading manual.

If you’re worried about the accuracy of manually reloading ammo, don’t worry—it’s very precise, especially with a single-stage reloading press. Even though it’s slower, it offers greater precision. Additionally, tools like precise powder scales, powder tricklers, and a detailed reloading manual can further improve accuracy.

With factory-made bullets being different across brands, lots of enthusiasts like making their own ammo for consistency. Whether you’re new or experienced, going slow and learning each step is super important. Having a manual is key for getting better, especially if you’re into competitive shooting or long-range aiming.

Also, if you are entirely new to guns and need a place to start, Gun University has a helpful introduction to get you started.

Best Reloading Manual – FAQs

What is reloading data?

Reloading data is the info you find in reloading manuals. It tells you exactly what you need and how much of it to reload ammo safely and correctly. This info usually covers things like bullet weights, types of powders, primer types, cartridge lengths, and recommended powder amounts for different calibers.

Where can I find reloading data?

You can often find reloading data in manuals from reputable companies like Hornady, Lee Precision, and other bullet manufacturers. These manuals provide all the information you need for specific calibers and bullet types, along with clear instructions and safety guidelines for reloading.

Can I use reloading data from different manuals interchangeably?

While reloading data from reputable manuals like the Hornady manual and Lee reloading manual generally provides consistent results, it’s important to be careful when using data from different sources. Things like bullet design, types of powder, and the specific gun you’re using can affect how your reloads perform. Make sure to check data from several sources and start with lighter loads before trying maximum charges.

What should I consider when using loading manuals for reloading?

When you’re using reloading manuals, consider a few things. Check if the publisher is reliable and well-known. Make sure the manual has lots of load data and follows safety rules. See if it works with your equipment and covers the kinds of ammo you’re reloading. Also, double-check data with trusted sources and always put safety first when reloading.

What is the best reloading manual?

There’s no better option than the Lyman 50th Edition Reloading Handbook. Due to the extensive coverage of reloading data on its pages, Lyman’s most updated manual is widely considered the best reloading manual available in the market.

Is reloading cheaper than buying ammo?

Yes, reloading is cheaper than buying ammo, particularly if you’re on the range a lot. Reloading allows you to catch deals on components along the way, and remember, ammo prices don’t seem to be going down.


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About Tom Moore

Tom is one of our content writers at Gun University. When Tom isn't behind the keyboard, he participates regularly in NRL22 and IPSC. You'll often find him out hunting with his mates or camping with his family.

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  1. I don’t trust any writer that uses the words “you” and “your” when writing.
    That is an arrogant writer who assumes they know you and can read your mind.
    Writing, “let me tell you what you know don’t” is a sociopath.
    Trying to insert the reader in scenario is how children write.
    You need to rewrite this in a professional manner and remove all the “you” and “your” words.

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