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Old March 10, 2012, 01:25 PM   #1
Pond, James Pond
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What is the bare minimum I need to get started?

I don't mean models, or brands, I mean simply the individual pieces of apparatus that I would to be able to assemble my own cartridges.

The additional items that either it easier and/or faster can wait for the time being.

Brass, primers, powder and bullets are a given.

What bits need to be on the bench for those to come together successfully?

PS
A member of TFL already kindly provided me with an extensive list of reloading gear: I just want to focus on which bits should be my priority!
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Old March 10, 2012, 01:43 PM   #2
Lost Sheep
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Physically, Press, Dies, Scale. Everything else can be improvised or done without (at least for a while).

http://thefiringline.com/forums/showthread.php?t=478883

http://thefiringline.com/forums/showthread.php?t=478036

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(edited to add) The knowledge contained inside loading manuals is also essential, but that is not what you asked. The minimum PHYSICAL tools to assemble the "little bombs" mentioned by Oneounceload in post #9 are not enough to be safe, accurate, reliable or very productive. But those tools allow you to load quality ammo, or to blow yourself up in style .

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Old March 10, 2012, 01:45 PM   #3
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First, kudos on the response time: one of the fastest yet, for me, and second thanks for the links!!
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Old March 10, 2012, 03:25 PM   #4
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You can indeed make do without a bunch of stuff, but other than the bare essentials I have found a dial caliper and a vibratory brass cleaner to be necessities for me.
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Old March 10, 2012, 03:45 PM   #5
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Another tact would be a Lee Loader and a hammer...
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Old March 10, 2012, 03:57 PM   #6
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I used Lee Loaders for a decade before jumping in deeper...

After that I bought a set of Lee Dippers (with powder chart), a Lee Hand Press, a few sets of dies, and a priming tool...

The only things I have added over the years are a Redding scale, and a case trimmer...

I still use the hand press exclusively, weigh each charge, and immediately seat a bullet...

I do not worry about dropped charges being out of whack, and I certainly do not worry about double charging...

Slow, but it works for my needs...
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Old March 10, 2012, 04:08 PM   #7
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Craigslist

Don't forget to check www.craigslist.org in your community. You may be able to pickup a used press and other equipment. And if you're lucky you may get a teacher/mentor for free.

If you have an Harbor Freight Store near you they have decent calipers and brass cleaners at reasonable prices.
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Old March 10, 2012, 04:32 PM   #8
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Hello, James Pond. Well, a Leeloader & a set of dippers will get you going..thats how I got into it. Made my own wooden ctg. blocks.
Or an original Ideal or later Lyman 310 tong tool will do the same..they neck size only.
Again for bare-bones..neck sizeing only..use what the bench rest boys use..a Wilson chamber type seater & neck-sizing die..this uses interchangeable bushings..a small arbor press & your in business. Later you can spring for a powder measure..but I would buy a good scale even with the dipper set.
I use a Wilson chamber type seater for .22 Hornet & .222 Rem. bullet seating..I find I can seat with pressure from palm of hand. I installed the Sinclair micrometer top for precise bullet seat depth. Best of luck and have fun!
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Old March 10, 2012, 04:33 PM   #9
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The MOST important things are MANUALS, which no one mentioned - without which you are making little bombs with no idea what to expect. Since you want to go as cheap (and as dangerous) as possible, do yourself and those in your will and buy some books
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Old March 10, 2012, 06:42 PM   #10
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At the risk of getting flamed, I bought the Lee Anniversary package which includes just about everything you'll need. On top of that, I purchased the Lee zip trim, a digital calipers and a vibratory tumbler. Granted the scale and some of the other items are a little on the cheap side but you can make accurate loads with it. I've since purchased a better beam scale (old Pacific brand). The zip trim may be nearing it's end as the gears don't catch as well as they used to so I may upgrade that piece.

Point being, if you don't have a very big budget, this can get you going. You can get a lot of use out of it and upgrade certain items down the road.
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Old March 10, 2012, 07:24 PM   #11
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My first set up was also a .44 Lee Loader, a hammer and, just to be fancy, a small vise.
The only load data was the info sheet that came with the loader.
Didn't blow myself up, not even once.
Today a Lee Challenger or Classic Turret would be a better choice.
While a scale would be ideal, if money is a problem, those dippers work mighty good.
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Old March 10, 2012, 10:39 PM   #12
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The bare minimum is getting Lyman #49 and reading its beginning chapters. They will tell what to get and how to use it.
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Old March 11, 2012, 02:13 AM   #13
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Quote:
Since you want to go as cheap (and as dangerous) as possible
When did I say that?

Not wanting to buy everything all at once is not the same as going as cheap. Quite the contrary, if I shorten my shopping list, i can afford to buy better kit on that list....

Quote:
The bare minimum is getting Lyman #49
Got that already. Well, actually it is sitting in a parcel at my Dad's place and I'll get my hands on it next week...
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Old March 11, 2012, 02:28 AM   #14
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I can't speak for everyone (obviously), but I see an awful lot of "buy a reloading manual" suggestions as a first step, then "come back to the forum with specific questions" as the second step.

I think it is probably because there is a really good explanation of the reloading process, and equipment, in the start of these manuals. This can be 50 pages or so.

(What follows is necessary, but incredibly dry by comparison, reloading data which makes up maybe 500 pages.)

It isn't really possible to summarize the material in those 50 pages in a forum format.

And all reloaders need to read those 50 pages...

So, wait until you can do that. All will be clear...
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Old March 12, 2012, 09:01 PM   #15
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The minimum would be a reloading manual. Get an education on the process and the tools to do the job, then start assembling your tools. Most will tell you to start with a good quality single stage. Even if you decide later on Togo with a progressive, most guys still keep a single stage around for a multitude of other tasks. The RCBS Rock Chucker Supreme kit included a great press, a really good scale, a great powder dispenser, and an excellent manual, along with some other handy tools. Buy a set of dies and a shell holder in which ever caliber you want to load with and away you go.
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Old March 12, 2012, 09:08 PM   #16
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Quote:
What is the bare minimum I need to get started?
Between $250 and $300.

Jim
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Old March 12, 2012, 09:12 PM   #17
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My start was a Lee Loader ($19.00), a ball peen hammer, and a room-mate. After hammering about 100 .45 ACP rounds together, he gave me a Christmas present of a Lee turret press, for the sake of his own ears...

A press, a set of dies, a set of powder scoops, and probably a powder scale is a good start. One overlooked "almost neccesary" thing is a case tumbler. Clean cases load better and chamber better.

I agree on buying a loading manual first. Does not need to be a new one, a manual that is 30 years old will still have tons of useful information. Read it cover to cover, read the ballistics tables, and really understand them, and you'll have a far better education than most shooters. My 30+ year old RCBS manual is a trusted friend.



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Old March 13, 2012, 12:25 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Willie Sutton
My start was a Lee Loader ($19.00), a ball peen hammer, and a room-mate. After hammering about 100 .45 ACP rounds together, he gave me a Christmas present of a Lee turret press, for the sake of his own ears...
That is precious. I think that is how I got my vibratory brass cleaner. My shooting buddy was embarrassed by my grungy-looking brass.

Yep, watching someone put together "little bombs" with a mallet is nerve-wracking and the noise is unnerving, too.

Great story.

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Old March 13, 2012, 12:33 AM   #19
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10 Advices for the novice

I have thought of a few things I think are useful for handloaders to know or to consider which seem to be almost universal, so I put together an arbitrary list that I think is illuminating. I call them my Ten Advices for the Novice Handloader.

So much is a matter of personal taste and circumstance, though. So, all advice carries this caveat, "your mileage may vary".

For comparison purposes, here is the focus of my experience. I load for handguns (44 Mag, 45 ACP, 45 Colt, 454 Casull, 9mm, 357 Mag, 480 Ruger) a couple hundred per sitting and go through 100 to 400 centerfire rounds per month. I don't cast....yet.

When I bought my first gun (.357 Magnum Dan Wesson revolver), I bought, at the same time, a reloading setup because I knew I could not afford to shoot if I did not reload my own ammo. It cost me about 1/4 of factory ammo per round and paid for itself pretty quickly. I did not use a loading bench at all. I just mounted my press on a 2 x 6 plank long enough to wedge into the drawer of an end table.

Now, here are my Ten Advices.

Advice #1 Use Reliable Reference Sources Wisely - Books, Videos, Web Sites, etc.

Study up in loading manuals until you understand the process well, before spending a lot of money on equipment.
I found "The ABC's of Reloading" to be a very good reference (though earlier editions, from before 2000 seem to be getting better reviews than later ones). Short on data, yes, but full of knowledge and understanding of the process. Check out copies in your local library. "ABS's" has the advantage of being compilations of many different authors with different writing styles.

Richard Lee's book "Modern Reloading" has a lot of food for thought, and does discuss the reasoning behind his opinions (unlike many manuals, and internet postings). Whether right or wrong, the issues merit thought, which that book initiates. It is not a simple book, though and you will find it provocative reading for many years.

Lyman's manual seems to be the one most recommended in the forums I haunt.

Other than those, every powder manufacturer, bullet manufacturer and equipment maker has a web site (many of which have load data) and many of those companies publish load manuals, the early chapters of which all have "how-to" chapters.

Read as many manuals as you can, for the discussion of the how-to steps. What one manual covers thinly, another will cover well. As far as load data in older manuals, the powder manufacturers and bullet manufacturers may have better information and their web sites are probably more up to date. But pay attention to what the ammunition was test-fired from. (regular firearm vs a sealed-breech pressure test barrel, for example)

The reason you want more than one or two is that you want to read differing authors/editors writing styles and find ones that "speak" to you. You also get better coverage of the subject; one author or editor may cover parts of the subject more thoroughly than the others.

Only after you know the steps can you look at the contents of a reloading kit and know what parts you will use and what parts the kits lack.

The public library should have manuals you can read, then decide which ones you want to buy.

There are instructional videos now that did not exist in the '70s when I started.

Advice #2 To kit or not to kit?

Almost every manufacturer of loading equipment makes good stuff; if they didn't, they would lose reputation fast and disappear from the marketplace. Better equipment costs more generally. Cast aluminum is lighter and less expensive. Cast iron is more abrasion resistant and lasts practically forever. Lee makes good equipment, but is generally considered the "economy" equipment maker, though some of their stuff is considered preferable to more expensive makes. Lee is innovative far beyond its "economy" image. Just think about what you buy.

Almost every manufacturer (and most major retailer) assembles a kit that contains everything you need to do reloading (except dies and the consumables). A decent way to get started without too much prior experience. Eventually most reloaders wind up replacing most of the components of the kit as their personal taste develops (negating the savings you though the kit gave you), but you will have gotten started, at least.

The though processes you give to assembling your own kit increases your knowledge about reloading. You may get started a couple weeks later than if you started with a kit, but you will be far ahead in knowledge.

Advice #3 While learning, don't get fancy.

While you can learn on a progressive press it is easier to learn on a single stage press or a turret press than on a progressive. Too many things happening at the same time are hard to keep track of. Mistakes DO happen and you want to watch for them ONE AT A TIME until handloading becomes second nature to you.

Learning on a progressive can be done successfully, but it is easier to teach an infant to walk in shoes than on roller skates.

On the Turret vs Single stage the decision is simpler. You can do everything on a Turret EXACTLY the same way as you do on a single stage (just leave the turret stationary). That is, a Turret IS a single stage if you don't rotate the head.


Advice #4 Find a mentor. There is nothing like a tutor, or better yet, a mentor.

There is no substitute for someone watching you load a few cartridges and critiquing your technigue BEFORE you develop bad habits or make a dangerous mistake. (A mistake that might not have consequences right away, but maybe only after you have escaped trouble a hundred times until one day you get bit, for instance having case lube on your fingers when you handle primers 99 times, no problem because primers are coated with a sealant, but the hundredth primer may not be perfectly sealed and now winds up "dead")

I started loading with the guy who sold me my press showed me how to load three rounds, explaining each step as I watched, then watched over my shoulder as I loaded my first 3 as I explained each step back to him and to make sure I did not double charge, load a powderless cartridge or set off a primer in the press.

A longer mentoring period might have changed my reloading style, but I learned a lot in those first 6 rounds. Then I educated myself after that.

After you have been mentored, mentor someone else. Not necessarily in loading or the shooting sports, but in SOMETHING in which you are enthusiastic and qualified. Just give back to the community.

Advice #5 Design your loading space for safety, efficiency, cleanliness

When I started reloading, I did not use a loading bench at all. I just mounted the press on a 2" x 6" plank long enough to wedge into the drawer of an end table My loading gear all fit in a footlocker and spread out on the coffeetable and the lid of the footlocker. Good leverage meant the table did not lift or rock. I still use the same plank, but now it is mounted in a Black & Decker folding workbench. A loading bench "bolted to the center of the earth" (as some describe thier setups) would be more stable, but I do not feel deprived without it.

You will probably spill powder or drop a primer eventually, so consider what you have for a floor covering when you pick your reloading room/workspace. I would not try to vacuum up spilt gunpowder unless using a Rainbow vacuum which uses water as the filter medium.

A dropcloth will be much appreciated. Use cloth, not plastic. Less static, quieter and dropped primers don't roll around as much.

Advice #6 Keep Current on loading tecnology

Always use a CURRENT loading manual. Powder chemistry has changed over the years. They make some powders differently than they used to and even some powder names may have changed. However, if you are using 10 year old powder, you may want to check a 10 year old manual for the recipe. Then double check with a modern manual and then triple check with the powder maker.

Read previous threads on reloading, here are a some I recommend.
http://thefiringline.com/forums/showthread.php?t=230171
http://thehighroad.org//showthread.php?t=238214
http://forums.accuratereloading.com/eve
http://www.rugerforum.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=13543
http://www.rugerforum.com/phpBB/view...fbd5ae1f754eec

Advice #7 You never regret buying the best (but once)

When you buy the very best, it hurts only once, in the wallet. When you buy cheap (too cheap) it hurts every time you use the gear. The trick is to buy good enough (on the scale between high quality and low price) to keep you happy without overpaying. "The delicious flavor of low price fades fast. The wretched aftertaste of poor quality lingers long.

Advice #8 Safety Always Safety All Ways.

Wear eye protection, especially when seating primers. Gloves are good, too, especially if using the Lee "Hammer" Tools. Children (unless they are good helpers, not just playing around) are at risk and are a risk. Pets, too unless they have been vetted (no, not that kind of vetting). Any distractions that might induce you to forget charging a case (no charge or a double charge are equally dangerous).

Imagine everything that CAN go wrong. Then imagine everything that you CAN'T imagine. I could go on, but it's your eyes, your fingers, your house, your children (current ones or future ones - lead is a hazard, too). About lead: Wash after loading and don't eat at your bench. Enough said?

Advice #10 Double check everything.

Verify for yourself everything you learn. Believe only half of what you see and one quarter of what you hear. That goes double for everything you find on the internet (with the possible exception of the actual web sites of the bullet and powder manufacturers). This advice applies to my message as much as anything else and especially to personal load recipes. Hare-brained reloaders might have dangerous habits and even an honest typographical error could be deadly.

(10 Advices, 2012 revision)

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Old March 13, 2012, 02:47 AM   #20
Pond, James Pond
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Great pointers, everyone (Lostsheep, particularly: great detail!!)

My first manual (Lymans 49th) is waiting for me at my dad's. After that the "best" I can get will largely be dictated by what is available. I have found one place that sells, so far. Possibly another, too.

Almost all reloading gear is aimed at hunters, so now brass and bullets becomes a problem, even powder: I've only seen Vihtvuori on sale, so far!!

We'll see: small steps for now!
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Old March 13, 2012, 09:21 AM   #21
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my 1st post

like you I am new to this but I just wanted to share what I've done over the last few weeks and possibly it could help you or anyone else that is new.

I purchased a Ruger Super Blackhawk Hunter in .44 and quickly decided that at almost $1 a shot that reloading was going to be a necessity, but where to start...

I started with some google searches (which brought me here) and watched some you tube videos on how the process worked. I just wanted to know HOW to do it before I went any further.

I read several posts on several forums but I ended up coming here more as I liked more of the responses people were getting. I hate the troll forums where people seem to always give new members grief about asking the new questions, we all start off somewhere and I think some people forget that.

Once I had the process down I started researching equipment. I decided to go with a Lee "kit" to start. I wanted a base to learn from, I can always add to my "kit" in the future and replace the bargain basement stuff as I progress and venture into larger production runs and other calibers.

I bought a Lyman's 49th and then ordered some things from Midway USA and have been EXTREMELY impressed with the ordering process. Great prices and fast shipping. I found a local shop/range that sold primers and powders and decided to buy those there rather than paying hazmat fees AND shipping .

I plan on setting everything up this weekend and maybe trying to load a few rounds to boot but it may be a few more days as the garage may end up with some spring cleaning during setup lol.

I'll post a list of everything I've bought so far below and where I go it.

Lyman's 49th Reloading Manual at a gun show for $30, you can get it for less than $20 at Midway I just wanted to study it before I ordered anything.

Lee Challenger Breech Lock Single Stage Press Anniversary Kit I decided on the single stage rather than the turret but the turret maybe a better deal if you want to invest a little more to start.
Lee Deluxe Carbide 4-Die Set 44 Special, 44 Remington Magnum
Frankford Arsenal Electronic Caliper 6" Stainless Steel
Lee Breech Lock Quick Change Bushings Package of 2 I got 2 packages of these so that I can quick change all my dies.
Frankford Arsenal Impact Bullet Puller because I know I'll make some mistakes
Frankford Arsenal Perfect Fit Reloading Tray #6 you can use old ammo box trays to save a couple bucks here
MTM Slip-Top Ammo Box Square-Hole44 Remington Magnum 50-Round again, recycle your old ammo boxes

this was $216 delivered

I then bought some cases and bullets from Powder Valley your mileage may vary so I won't post exactly what I got but you can see prices on their site.

I spent $140ish here but I bought way more than I needed and wanted to try several different bullets.

and finally I bought some powder and primers from a local shop: 1lb of IMR-4227 and 1lb of 2400. Some CCI and some Federal Large Pistol Primers.

This was about $65.

So I'm sitting at about a $400ish investment and along the way decided that this wasn't just going to be a way to spend less shooting but to add to my hobby and in fact create a new one that I feel will reward me in more than just savings. You could easily cut $50-$100 off what I spent.

Hope this helps, I'll let you know how it works out for me.
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Old March 13, 2012, 09:26 AM   #22
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oh and per the advice in the sticky on this forum, I bought the "ABC's or Reloading" before I looked for a manual or any supplies. GREAT book, easy to understand and follow. I used it while I was watching videos too for reference.
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Old March 13, 2012, 10:02 AM   #23
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My start in hand loading was a Rockchucker press, a 5-0-5 scale and a set of 45 dies. I'd pour Unique into a cereal bowl and scoop it out with a spoon, and tap tap tap it into the scale pan to hand weigh each charge. I set bullet depth by if it would fit in my 1911 Mag.
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Old March 13, 2012, 08:45 PM   #24
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Here's a little kit that I put together to reload at the range or the cabin: Lee hand press, Lee scale, an old RCBS priming device, Lee dippers and a Lyman powder trickler.



I use it for testing loads at the range mainly, but it's basically all you need to get started in reloading. I don't think the components will cost more than $50 or $60. And with the dippers, scale and powder trickler, you can weigh your powder charges accurately and reasonably quickly.
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Old March 14, 2012, 10:27 AM   #25
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New reloader

As stated in the second post take you time in learning the craft. read everything. I started on a Lee Turret press. I bought several reloading manuals, they are the bibles for reloading. I made a lot to dummy round before I dropped powder. Develop a routine when loading, knowing what each hand is doing. have cases, bullets, primers within ease reach. keep the reloading area clean. sweep up spilled power, and mop the floor after. Reloading in safe if you follow one simple rule Concentrate on what you are doing. Get the equipment you can afford. Red, green or blue it will all work.
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