Written by DaveInGA
Staff Note: Dave previously wrote this excellent post in reply to a thread on TheHighRoad.org board. At my request, he has reworked it slightly and consented to having it floated at the top of the H&R forums, both at THR and on The Firing Line. I believe it will save new loaders a lot of time and money.
I'm posting this to help the new reloader figure out what they need in the way of equiment and to help them get started reloading safely and with a reasonable amount of knowledge. If anyone has any suggestions to add to this or changes to make to the below to improve this, please post or send me a PM and I'll be glad to have constructive criticism to improve the information.
Before you get any of the reloading equipment on the equipment list below, you’ll want to do some reading. You won’t need all of them, but here’s are some good manuals to start with:
The ABC's of Reloading
(I strongly advise starting with this one.)
Metallic Cartridge Reloading
(I strongly advise buying this one second.)
by Richard Lee
Lyman Metallic Reloading Handbook
Hornady 5th Edition Reloading Handbook
(2 volume set)
1. A reloading press
for what you're doing. You’ll need to know what type of cartridge and in what quantities you want too shoot before a press can be advised, so think on how much you think you'll shoot. This is the most important set of decision making you have regarding selection of equipment – how much?, what type? and in what quantities? are questions you need to start with.
Generally speaking, a single stage press may be better for more accurate cartridges in rifle and providing solid control of the reloading process for a new reloader. The only drawback is the volume of produced rounds versus the effort required can be low. The RCBS Rock Chucker, the Lee Classic Cast Press, Redding Boss and Forester Coax are all excellent choices. (However, the new Lee Classic Turret Press, capable of 200 rounds or better per hour, is beefy and may very well be a good choice for rifle as well as pistol.)
I should note you can easily reload smaller calibers like .223 on most progressives, but for ultimate accuracy, the competitors seem to go with a single stage for their long distance round building.). If you go with the Rock Chucker or Lee Classic Cast press, I'd suggest also getting a Hornady Lock N Load bushing conversion kit for the Rock chucker or Lee Classic Cast press with another 10 additional bushings. The Lee is the least expensive of the bunch, is the latest single stage out and has compared favorably with the Rock Chucker and like the Rock Chucker, will accept the Hornady Lock N Load Conversion Bushing kit.
With the Lock N Load bushings, you adjust your dies once, tighten down the lock ring and next time you want to change dies, you just insert, twist and snap/lock in and you're done changing dies in about 2 seconds. I used these on my Lee Classic Cast press and I have found them to be wonderful. BTW, you can use a single stage press to do specialized tasks and to reload quantities of less than 100 rounds at a time, such as hunting rifle ammunition, so it’s useful even if you do have a progressive.
For reloading pistol, you’d want to consider a turret or progressive press. If you are new, a turret would likely be the better choice (Unless you desire to reload large quantities in excess of 200 rounds an hour or a 1000 rounds a month.), to have a bit more control and to get an understanding of what’s happening, though a progressive is “do-able,” you run a larger risk of making a mistake that could harm you or damage your pistol/rifle. Good brands of turrets are Lee Classic Turret Press (4 station, automatic advance), RCBS (88901, cast iron) and Redding (T7, cast iron). For the lowest price, the Lee will do an excellent job, providing 200 plus rounds per hour and will get you started at a very affordable price. If you decide to stay with it, you may want to go progressive and keeping your Lee Classic Cast Turret will provide you inexpensive caliber changes for guns you don't shoot a lot.
If you find you reload a large quantity of rounds and want to go full blown progressive, excellent brands are Hornady Lock N Load (5 station fully automated; I have one and love it.), Dillon 550 (4 station semi-automated turret, quite popular with many folks.) or 650 (5 station fully automated, buddy of mine has one and loves it.), (Dillon’s SBD is a good press if you're only going to reload pistol, but it’s dies won’t fit anything other press, nor will any other dies fit it, so you’re stuck with Dillon dies and it doesn’t reload rifle.) and the RCBS 2000 (An excellent cast iron semi automated press comparable to the Dillon 550, it has an excellent primer feed - owners who post seem to love theirs. I have no personal experience).
Very Good economy brands are the Lee Pro 1000 and Loadmaster (A very fast press, the Loadmaster, buddy of mine loves his and I've enjoyed reloading on it.). The Lee’s are less expensive and may take some tweaking and adjusting, but it can be done and it’s way less expensive to purchase, a serious consideration if your money is tight. You should be aware that if you buy the Lee’s, you’d need to adjust them properly to get good operation. Here’s a good how to website for Lee equipment and Lee Precision’s own website has excellent “how to” mpegs on it as well:
2. Reloading dies
for the caliber of your choice. I have Hornady, Lee, Lyman and RCBS dies, but I wouldn't hesitate to buy and use Dillon, who also load excellent ammo and were specifically designed for progressive reloading. Many posters who own them say Redding is the Cadillac of dies, but they tend to be pricey. I would only explore the Redding and other higher priced dies if your plan were to reload for serious competitive or long range hunting purposes.
For pistol, you'll want to buy carbide or TiN coated dies, so that you do not have to lubricate your brass to prevent it sticking in the die. For a single stage press (Or Lee Turret press), you'll need a shell holder that matches the caliber you're loading. For a progressive, you’ll need a shell plate.
3. A Powder measure/dispenser
(Many kits include these.) I like the Hornady, RCBS and Redding brands for these. I have both the Hornady and Redding brands. Of these, the Hornady and RCBS have an automated version I’ve found to be more consistent because of the automated feature. Mine came with my Hornady Lock and Load Auto Progressive Press.
For more automated powder dispensing, the Lee Auto Disk, the Hornady Lock N Load and the Dillon measures offer case activated powder dispensing and expanding capabilities, which are very desirable if you wish to load pistol. All three work very well on a progressive press, giving consistent powder dispensing. Some powder measures work better when you use powder the measure "likes," so be aware and ask about which powders which measures work with with before you buy.
(STAFF NOTE: This post was too long for the format used on TFL. It is continued in PART 2, below.