Reloading: Lubing Your Cases

To lube or not to lube, that is the question… Strictly speaking, when resizing straight wall pistol cases, modern carbide resizing dies don’t require any lubricant on the case to prevent sticking. In fact, when I started reloading, I didn’t use case lube for exactly that reason. It wasn’t required. But… there are a number of advantages to using an appropriate lube, including more accurate ammunition!

To find out why, and see a demo of how I lube my cases, hit the jump below…

The biggest benefit of using case lube is a drastically reduced level of force required to resize the case. This is easily felt in the handle of the loading press. The smaller diameter the case, the more it helps (the smaller circle has greater strength, and thus resistance to squeezing). That leads to a smoother action on the handle, and results in more consistent operation of the press. On a progressive reloading press, this consistency of operation gives you another benefit – consistency of ammo. The powder gets bumped the same every time, giving you a more consistent powder drop. Bullets are seated just a bit more consistently, and crimped just a bit more consistently. In addition, the reduced force means less wear and tear on your body from cranking the handle – and, in the end, faster ammunition production rates, too. That sounds like a win, all the way around, doesn’t it?

The downside is, the lube is still on the loaded rounds, and the lube can collect grit and dirt, and potentially cause a reliability issue. You can resolve that problem by either wiping the rounds down in a towel after loading, or giving them a quick pass through the case tumbler. Contrary to urban myth, a short time in the tumbler will not cause a dangerous situation with your ammo – if it did, you wouldn’t be able to ship ammunition (the truck ride acts just like a tumbler, vibrating those powder grains around). In fact, ammo manufacturers finish clean their ammo in a tumbler before shipping it out! How do you think it’s all so shiny? Elves? Be careful with hollow points, though – the hollow point cavity can collect media from your tumbler and drop out into the gun while feeding, resulting in a death jam. If you’re loading hollow points, I recommend cleaning by towel only for that reason. I don’t usually bother to clean practice ammo in this fashion, but I do clean match ammo.

So, how to apply the lube? Here’s how I do it, with Hornady’s One Shot case lube. I’d apply the Dillon lube similarly, though, possibly in a deeper box or in a bag, instead of the paper box lid….

I’m pretty generous with the lube. The more evenly it gets applied, the more consistently I can operate the press.

One Shot is more of a wax, and I like it better for pistol reloading than Dillon’s lube. Dillon’s lube is basically lanolin and alcohol, and works a lot better than One Shot for rifle reloading. In fact, you can actually make something similar yourself using 99% isopropyl alcohol and anhydrous lanolin. I’ve read proportions ranging from 1:4 alcohol/lanolin to 4:1 alcohol/lanolin – basically, whatever consistency you like works. Just use 99% isopropyl and anhydrous lanolin for best results (that gives you the smallest possible water content, and less work trying to get the solution to stay mixed). Both work fine for pistol stuff, though.

The important thing with a case lube – especially on a progressive press, where you can’t clean the case between resizing and then priming the case and charging it with powder – is to use something non-petroleum based. Sure, you could dip all your cases in motor oil, or WD40, and they’d size just fine. But as soon as you put a primer or powder into the case, you’re going to have a nice chemical reaction between the priming compound or propellant and the lube. The result? A dud, or possibly a hang fire. Neither one is a good plan.

So, I say, lube! Liberally and repeatedly…

About the author


USPSA Grand Master, NRA Instructor, http://re-gun.com/about/

Permanent link to this article: http://re-gun.com/2011/05/reloading-lubing-your-cases/


  1. w says:

    what method do you use to remove the case lube ?

    1. DaveRe says:

      I don’t really worry about it, but when I need to remove it, I put a couple handfuls of ammo at a time into a towel, bundle it up so no ammo can escape, and then work the ammo around the towel to wipe the lube off. Another technique that works fine if you’re loading non hollow point bullets is to just tumble the ammo for 15 minutes or so (it’s a wives tale that this will cause issues with the ammo). It works for hollow points, too, but the corn cob can get stuck in the bullet noses, and then drop out into the gun, which can cause jams… no bueno!

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