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Old December 16, 2000, 08:18 PM   #1
Jorah Lavin
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Okay, here is the setup... I'm wanting to get into reloading so that I can afford to shoot enough to improve my shooting with my .45ACP and .38 special.

I want to get quality, but I don't have a ton of money to spend. After searching TFL for a while, I've settled on a Rockchucker. I've got a Lyman (47th) reloading manual and I know I'll need at least one other. I'm not interested in working up particular loads... just one that approximates the Speer Lawman I shoot in my Kimber right now.

I may want to reload for my .30-30 at some point, but that isn't a big concern at the moment.

So... I want to narrow my shopping list to include everything I need, while excluding things that I can get along without for the first 3 or 4 months.

After I get the list nailed down, I'll start shopping for the best prices on the more expensive items. If any of you have time, could you trim this list, or suggest must-haves that I've missed?

My thanks in advance... I'm sure you'll be hearing from me with problems once I actually get started.

Rockchucker press
Die sets (planning to get the kind that don't need lube)
Case-neck brush
Primer tray
Powder scale
Powder funnel
Dial calipers
Case trimmer
Case trimmer pilot
Deburring tool
Powder measure and stand
Primer pocket cleaner
Case cleaner setup (corncob media, tumbler, cleaning stuff)


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Old December 16, 2000, 09:13 PM   #2
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Kinetic bullet puller - "hammer" type ... might be handy.
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Old December 17, 2000, 12:49 AM   #3
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While I don't have any experience with .38 special, .45 ACP cases are unlikely to need trimming before they disappear. You may be able to skip the case trimmer in the short run and buy one when you start reloading for rifles.

Don't skimp on the quality of the scale or caliper.

A Lee autoprime is a good time saver.
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Old December 17, 2000, 01:05 AM   #4
Mal H
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I agree with Dial1911 (great name!), you can skip the trimmer for a while, it will just gather dust as you reload your pistol rounds. If you get a hand primer (Lee or RCBS), you can also skip the primer tray. I would add a loading block or 2 (or 3). Otherwise you have a pretty complete list to get you going.
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Old December 17, 2000, 10:45 AM   #5
Jorah Lavin
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Second List...


I went back to RCBS and have a new, edited list for you to review.

Given that I can "fill in the blanks" in a few months, (second round, below) what do you think of this as a bare-bones (but good quality) shopping list.

First Round: (keeping in mind that I already have the Lyman Manual)

Rock Chucker Press........................$ 138
5-0-5 Reloading Scale....................... 79
Shellholder ...................................... 6
Die set............................................ 42
Dial calipers ..................................... 66
Hand Priming Tool............................. 40
"Little Dandy" powder measure ........... 30

Total: $401

Second Round:
Cabela's Tumbler Kit (tumbler, media, sifter)....65
Speer manual ......................................... 20
Bullet puller and collet...................................27
"Uniflow" powder measure and stand ..........104

Total: $216

Now, I introduced a new item... the "little dandy" powder measure tool. There is an old timer at the local range who swears by this tool. I'd love to hear other opinions. Since I'm not interested in working up custom loads, can I get away with using something like this tool?


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Old December 17, 2000, 01:44 PM   #6
Steve Smith
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You can cut your costs even more. Here's your list:

Rock Chucker Press........................$ 138
5-0-5 Reloading Scale....................... 79
Shellholder ...................................... 6
Die set............................................ 42
Dial calipers ..................................... 66
Hand Priming Tool............................. 40
"Little Dandy" powder measure ........... 30

Total: $401

How about change these items:
Rock Chucker: Check used---Ebay

5-0-5 Reloading Scale--one is on Ebay right now for $10 with no reserve...I'm sure it will go up, but it's won't be near $79 for it. Also, there are many really good used scales for sale there.

Die Set
The Lee dies are fine, and they run for about $20-$25.
Dial Calipers--Try $25 from a Midway, $29 from Dillon, of $20 from Harbor Feight Salvage (lust make sure they return to 0 every time they close).

You can whittle $100-$200 off your startup costs by doing this, and still have the same quality products.

Good luck!
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Old December 17, 2000, 02:33 PM   #7
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Be sure to check around for prices--Midway, Natchez, or Midsouth will probably be best.

Natchez has the rockchucker for about $85.00 this month. They are at

Best, weegee.

PS. You might consider getting a GOOD (IE Mitutoyo MyCal) electronic caliper. Easier and faster to read. Best price: MSC industrial supply.
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Old December 17, 2000, 04:10 PM   #8
Steve Smith
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Moss, as many disagreements are on TFL now (one that I'm personally involved with) I hesitate to disagree wtih anyone here in the reloading forum (my personal favorite of all TFL forums)...however, I personally have found that I can be pretty darn fast with my dial calipers...familiarity helps a lot. When I first started, they were slow, but I really feel like they're just as fast as digital ones now. Also, a recent reloading article asked one of the big-time gun makers and handloaders about calipers. (I've forgotten who) He said he always bought the $20-$30 ones because they are just as accurate, and when you drop them on the floor, you don't cry. I agree. I've seen the $300 sets, and I'd jsut hate to break them...I'm a real clutz!

Oh yeah...I totally agree with DialONE911 you won't need that case trimmer 'till you start on rifle cases.
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Old December 17, 2000, 09:07 PM   #9
Jorah Lavin
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What a difference a day makes...

Whoo, boy.

On the suggestion of a list member, I did a search on and ended up with the winning bid on a Square Deal B (used) with a NIB "eliminator" scale, and some extras like the low-powder sensor, primer tray, and so on.

On another bid I got a set of stainless steel calipers for $19.00 and went ahead and ordered a tumbler kit from Cabela's for $65.

Quite a day. I didn't intend to spend any money at all today. I thought I'd spend the day repairing web pages...

Thanks for everyone's advice. After I get started, I'm sure you'll be hearing from me again.


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Old December 18, 2000, 01:09 AM   #10
Ala Dan
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Hello All:

As a starter, why not save big time money by purchasing
the RCBS Master Reloading Kit; as it contains most of the
accessories that you mentioned, in your post? Price range=
$249.95 to $279.95, depending on what dealer has it.

Seasons Greeting's,
Ala Dan, N.R.A. Life Member

PS: Years ago I started out with the RCBS Jr. press (no longer in production), loading for one caliber; the Remington .41 Magnum, using Sierra's 170 grain jacketed
hollow cavity bullet traveling at approximately 1300 fps.
Powder being used was Winchester-Western 630P, ball powder.
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Old December 18, 2000, 05:36 AM   #11
Jorah Lavin
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Why NOT the Master?

Several people suggested that I go with the Master kit from RCBS. I had done a lot of reading on their site, and had come across the Master Kit. It just seemed to me that they were "larding" the kit with stuff they wanted to get rid of. I was trying to narrow down a list to the _bare_ minimum.

Back when I was studying locksmithing, I would see "starter kits" of lock picks for sale, 80% of which would never be used. Turns out that most locksmiths use two or three picks and a few different wrenches. The kit-makers wanted you to think that if you just bought the 55-pick set you'd be better able to tackle the next lock you came across.

I suspected that something similar was true with the RCBS Master Kit, and discussion here and on an email list seemed to bear that out. The kit seems to have more than you need for pistol reloading, while lacking other things.

Obviously, being brand new to this, I'm talking though my hat. But would you say that I could have headed to the store, bought the RCBS Master kit, some bullets, powder, and primers, and started turning out finished rounds?

Even if this is true, I would have been spending (as people pointed out here) almost as much as I needed to get the SDB.

In the kit, I knew I didn't need this stuff:

Speer Reloading Manual #13
Trim Pro Manual Case Trimmer Kit
Hex Key Set
Case Loading Block
Case Lube Kit
Deburring Tool

Which is a good chunk of what is _in_ the kit. I still needed the caliper, dies, and shell holder

In effect, I was trying to build my own customized version of the Master Kit... and still would be if I hadn't gotten a reasonable deal on eBay (and I'm just praying that the unit is everything the guy claimed it is... there is a reason I like to buy new stuff if I can)

It may be that the Master Kit's components are so deeply discounted that I couldn't have done any better on my own. If so... live and learn! It does irk me to buy stuff I don't need, just because it is in a kit. I'm sure I'll be looking that kit over again in a few months when I have a better idea what all this is about. Maybe then I'll realize that I should just have gone ahead and gotten the kit!

Meanwhile, the voices the "Square Deal B Fan Club" on this board and the 1911forum were very persuasive... Dillon should be paying a referral fee to you folks!

Thanks again for all the good advice.


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Old December 18, 2000, 10:14 PM   #12
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Pistol calibres...

Why the rockchucker? Since it's a single stage press, it's going to take a pretty fair amount of time to load a few blocks...

At least take another look at the Lee turret press. It'll go faster, and the rounds won't come out any less accurate. It's also quite a bit cheaper. And you'll continue to find uses for it, even after you buy other equipment (and you will... I don't care if you start out with top of the line Dillon and RCBS, you'll buy other stuff eventually). The Rockchucker is a great press, but it frankly is overkill for most of what it is used for. I see more than a few benchrest shooters with RCBS partner presses, etc., and these are folks who actually worry about a few ten thousandth's of an inch in deflection, etc... You can get a Partner for $50, and the Lee O-Frame (challenger?) for $30. They're both more than adequate for .30-30. But you'll be happier with the Turret press for the handgun calibres. Trust us.

The Lyman manual is a good start. I'd also recommend Lee's or Speer's manual. They've both got lots of loads, and it is Very Nice to have two manuals to check against each other.

Get the Lee carbide die sets. They're inexpensive, and they do the job as well as the more expensive ones. Wipe your cases with 0000 steel wool or NevrDull, and you'll be fine. The Lee dies come with shellholders (#5 for the .45, #2 for the .38/357). You don't need a case neck brush - use an old cleaning brush. You don't need a primer tray. The primers are either in the tool (The Lee hand autoprime is very nice. Don't get the press-mounted version. I shoot benchrest, where consistency counts, and if I weren't using a $40 K&M primer (one at a time) tool, I'd be using an autoprime) or in the original container. FWIW, I see a lot of expensive priming tools at benchrest matches - I also see a lot of Lees - Don't see a lot in between.

The Lee powder scale is more than adequate. I own two Lee beam scales, one Dillon/Ohaus beam scale, and one Pact BBK scale, and the Lees are more sensitive. I rarely use the Dillon/Ohaus scale, and generally just use the electronic scale for bullets and brass.

You only need a powder funnel if you're going to buy powder in jugs with little holes in the top. While I'm at it, ask other folks here for lines on surplus powders. You can pick up 5 pound containers of surplus AA2 and AA5 for around $10/pound - That's a lot better than $18/pound... And it works just as well.

A good set of dial calipers is a must. The ones that Midway sells for about $30 or so are good. Don't get plastic ones. They're not consistent. You can pay more than $30, but you don't absolutely "need" to - I see a lot of benchresters with the Midway calipers. If you're going to get heavily into the thing, a good micrometer is a plus - You can get a decent one for about another $30. Sinclair sells a good one. Again, you can spend a lot more...

The Lee case trimming system is okay. You get a thing to hold the case, and a pre-set-to-length trimmer for each cartridge. Darn near impossible to screw up. I like it. However, you're probably not going to need to trim your .38 or .45 cases. That can wait until you're playing with the .30-30.

You likely won't need a deburring tool until you start trimming .30-30 brass. It won't hurt, but it won't help a lot. The RCBS/Wilson design sells for about $15. Lee's el-cheapo gizmo works almost as well.

Lee's pistol powder measure is very nice with the addition of the metering charge bar. You see, if you're loading pistol rounds in a semi-progressive fashion, you're decapping and sizing with the first stroke, belling and charging the case with stroke #2, and seating and crimping on the third stroke. The measure screws into the top of the belling/charge die, and doesn't use a stand. Make sure you get the adjustable charge bar. For the rifle, get the Lee Perfect powder measure - It's been tested next to custom benchrest measures, and if you're consistent in how you operate it, it'll throw consistent charges. There's not really a lot of difference in powder measures...

You can clean primer pockets with anything you can fit in 'em. For scraping out crud, the little Lee thing works okay. So does a (used) wooden match. Or a whittled piece of wood. Hard to get cheaper. FWIW, I don't really like the brush gizmo that I got from RCBS. I generally use a carbide primer pocket uniforming tool I got from Sinclair's, but then I'm a little anal about some things.

Clean your cases with steel wool or NevrDull, until you decided that you absolutely have to have a tumbler. Midway's is about the cheapest, and works well. FWIW, I don't tumble any of my rifle brass except for my .223 blasting stuff...

Get your loading blocks at the range. They'll be in the trash can, and will look like the inserts in the ammo boxes that folks toss away.

Approximate prices follow
The Lee deluxe pistol kit - $80
(includes one trimmer, powder measure, scale, deburr & pocket tools)
Adjustable powder charge bar - $10
.38 Dies - $22
.45 Dies - $22
Dial calipers from Midway - $30
Auto prime - $15
Lee manual - $15

Don't wait to buy the manual later. I own manuals from Lyman, Lee, Sierra, Speer, Hodgdon, Nosler, and at least one or two others...

The Little Dandy measure requires separate measuring chambers. 1) hassle; and 2) cost. Old timers don't necessarily know everything.

You don't need a bullet puller yet. Get a gallon jug or a soda bottle, write "goofs" on the side, and chunk 'em in. When you get enough of 'em to warrant the hassle (you'll know...), get one of the kinetic pullers.

FWIW, I own a Lee turret, a Lee Challenger, and one of the el-cheapo little c-frame presses. I also have an RCBS JR-3 and a Redding Boss. I routinely use a friend's Dillon 550. I'm not "married" to any one brand - I just use what's best for the job at hand.

Oh. Just read further down. Be advised that your new Dillon Square Deal does NOT use standard dies. You've gotta buy 'em from Dillon, and they cost... That press also isn't hugely suited for rifle calibres. HOWEVER, it's a good press for doing handgun calibres. If you like it, keep it. I myself wouldn't turn one down... You may want to look into getting a single-stage press for doing your .30-30 rounds...

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Old December 19, 2000, 01:12 AM   #13
Jorah Lavin
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Location: Indian Land, SC USA
Posts: 593
I suspect a single-stage is still in my future...

... but probably a few months away.

I know for a fact that handloaded .30/30 is more accurate than store-bought, -- even in my worn-out old lever-action, -- so I'll be wanting to build 100 now and then.

I'm setting up the payment for the SDB tonight... I might have the press some time before the new year if I'm lucky.

I probably will get the Dillon dies for the .38 eventually, too. I like shooting my Model 10! I think it may be older than I am (and I'm not exactly a spring chicken)

For now... if I go with W231 powder, the 225 grain RNL bullet... what brand primer should I use in the SDB? I did a search on the list, and it looks like I'm going to just have to pick up a small amount of several different brands and try it out.


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Old December 19, 2000, 09:20 AM   #14
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FYI... The Master Reloading Kit is only $219 at Natchez. Its one of their weekly specials. its been up for a while so I don't know how much longer the Super Sale will be on. But thats a great price. I bought the master reloading kit, dies, Midway Stainless Calipers, and a kinetic puller from Natchez for $11.99 and I am set to go. Later, Larz
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Old December 19, 2000, 01:06 PM   #15
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Moss, I've read through the thread, and maybe I missed it. If I did, this is just reinforcement:


Don't even think about reloading without them.

Also, the best tool on your bench is your brain. Use it wisely, and do not allow distractions while you are loading.

NRA Certified Metallic and Shotshell Reloading Instructor
safety first
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