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Old December 3, 2006, 09:30 AM   #1
Johnny Guest
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For the New Reloader: Equipment Basics -- READ THIS FIRST

Written by DaveInGA
Staff Note: Dave previously wrote this excellent post in reply to a thread on 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.
Johnny Guest
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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.)
Speer Manual
Modern Reloading 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.

Last edited by Brian Pfleuger; August 14, 2013 at 11:45 AM. Reason: Update Links
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Old December 3, 2006, 10:03 AM   #2
Johnny Guest
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Join Date: August 28, 1999
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Part 2

Written by DaveInGA

4. A powder scale, no matter single stage, turret or progressive, you'll need one of these. I like the RCBS 505 and 1010, the Hornady and the Dillon scales. I have a Redding, but wish I had gotten another brand because the fine adjustment is hard to see and can be bumped out of adjustment accidentally. My plan is to replace the Redding with an RCBS 1010 when I can, because of the positive fine adjustment on the RCBS 1010. Others like the electronic measures, but I haven’t found as mainly a progressive reloader the cost justifies the expensive for no more than I use my scale. (I use mine as a check for my powder measures, not to weigh out powder charges.)

5. A set of calipers to measure your cartridges with. I have a Frankford Arsenal set that's done well for me. I have recently replaced it with a 6” digital set I bought at Harbor Freight Tools (It’s done a great job since I’ve had it and I really like the digital feature.). Other folks spend a lot more money, but these have been more than accurate enough for everything I've loaded, including high-power rifle cartridges for competitive purposes.

6. A reloading manual- I have and like Speer, but Hornady, Lee and a couple other folks make excellent ones. I haven't heard much about Lyman's reloading manual, but their lead bullet manual is pretty good. A good loading book on the basics like the ABC's of Reloading and Metallic Cartridge Reloading can help you understand the process a lot better. Read them a couple times it will get you to a good understanding. Read the directions that come with your press, dies etc.

7. Some snap lid plastic storage containers with bins to store all the little pieces and parts from the equipment. It might not be a bad idea to look at plastic fishing tackle boxes, as they have lots of storage compartments.

8. Some Akro plastic bins to hold your brass, bullets and loaded cartridges while you're in the process of reloading. If you're loading single stage, you might need some cartridge blocks to regain the brass in various stages of production. Buy the cheapest bins out there, such as Harbor Freight; they're all plastic so you gain nothing by paying more. For reloading on a single stage, you’ll need loading blocks for the period where your cases are charged with powder and are waiting for bullets.

9. A couple of adjustable wrenches, one six inch and one eight inch. There may be other hand tools, but if you have a toolbox, you may already have them. Or you can identify the correct size wrenches you need for a better fit when adjusting things.

10. Bullet pullers, both kinetic and collet types, to correct your mistakes. Why both? The kinetic puller to cover oddball calibers you decide to buy and load and the collet puller to cover the calibers you load the most. I had the kinetic made by Frankford Arsenal in the past, but because of price changes, I now recommend the RCBS one, because of their excellent warranty (They’ll exchange it if it breaks, no matter how long you’ve owned it.). BTW, the collets for the Frankford Arsenal fit the RCBS. I like the Hornady and RCBS collet pullers, because of their operation speed and they don’t spill the powder everywhere.

11. A brass trimmer. I have an RCBS Trim Pro automated version and have recently added the head that chamfers. Makes it real nice if you’re processing large quantities of brass that need trimming and chamfering. I used to compete in high-power rifle, reload lots of rifle cartridges that need to be trimmed to length occasionally. For smaller quantities of brass, a hand trimmer would be sufficient and much more fun to use. You will need to check your brass is not over the maximum allowed length. After trimming, you will need a de-burring tool cleans up the inside and outside necks so the case-mouth isn't sharp and bullets insert smoothly without damage. RCBS offers the Trim Mate to automate this, as well as the chamfering heads for their Trim Pro. Most automatic pistol cartridges do not need to be trimmed. If you[‘re doing a serious volume of competitive shooting, you may want to take a look at the Giraud and Gracey trimmers.

12. Cartridge gauge. These are nicely convenient to check to see if your reloaded cartridges are within SAAMI specification. They are especially useful when reloading pistol cartridges I’ve found.

13. Case lube - I use Hornady One Shot on my rifle cartridges, but I find it and their cleaner lube handy for lubricating moving parts on my progressive that I don't have grease and oil getting into. For rifle cartridges you can lube with a pad and case lube (such as the one included in the RCBS kit) or use something like Hornady one-shot or try out Imperial Sizing Die Wax, which I hear is another excellent product. My recommendation is the One Shot or the Imperial wax over the messy lube pads.

14. Brass - I recommend you research and buy a better brand of brass, particularly what the majority of folks shooting your caliber are loading, it'll generally be (but not always) the best compromise of quality and price. Occasionally something new comes along that whips the "standard" pretty badly. Though sometimes, it’s about the same price to buy preloaded cartridges, shoot them and reload the brass. You come out about the same cost wise, but get to shoot it more. Range pick up can be nice at times as well. If you’re not sure about a brand of brass, ask on the reloading forums. Thoroughly inspect any brass you decide to reload in order to identify problems with that brass.

15. Powder - Again, start with the "Ole standby" for your cartridge (if one exists) and then move out to other brands as you gain reloading experience. Post on the net and folks will provide you with what the “Ole standby” is for any particular caliber.

16. Bullets - FMJ is great, but lead is cheaper. I'd advise buying them in bulk, 500 to a thousand at a time. You'll want to learn how to reload before you even think about making your own lead bullets. Depending on the caliber you're shooting, this will certainly result in significant savings. This is for range practice. For hunting, go with the best bullets you can afford for the type of animal you’re hunting. Once you’ve learned how to reload, you can also cast and “roll your own” bullets as well.

17. Safety glasses, wear them while you're reloading, just like you do when you're shooting. There is nothing like making a mistake; then blowing up a primer and losing an eye to ruin one’s day.

18. You will need to clean the brass. Bose's Guns, ( has a Frankford Arsenal combination that does well, it's the one I have. Another more expensive alternative would be the Dillon combination ( Other manufacturers make other good ones as well. The ones mentioned are the ones I’m familiar with.

Finally, build yourself a nice, stable reloading bench. Some make their bench huge, with lots of surface area. I suggest to you that rather than do this; you make the bench just big enough to set up a reloading operation with AKRO plastic bins (bought cheaply from an industrial supply outfit in large quantity). You will need a single "universal" reloading tray to hold the cartridges while they are primed and charged, waiting for bullets.

Having owned both large and small bench setups, I've found setting up two or even three smaller benches and making shelving units to store the accessories and reloading components works better for me.

I've had to move a time or two and the huge benches were a real problem. With a bench narrower than the width of your doors, if you have to move, you don't have to disassemble it (Much more convenient not to have to disassemble when you're busy as hell trying to get ready to move.) Also, make it short enough you can move it around corners within your house.

Some links:

Dave In Statham, GA

Last edited by Brian Pfleuger; August 14, 2013 at 11:45 AM. Reason: updated links
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