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Old March 10, 2000, 11:58 PM   #1
Join Date: July 2, 1999
Posts: 93
Lately I've been hearing a lot about reloading and people making their own handloads. I must say that it sounds damn fun. I'm thinking about getting into it for myself. I have a few questions though...

Whats a realistic amount of money I should expect to spend to get started in reloading? Seeing as Dillon makes the best presses, I would want one of them (even though Id be a beginner), although not the top of the line model. What are the components I would need? Are they pricey?

Currently I own only one AR15 (no more for me, Kalifornia), so is it really worth it to get into reloading for only one gun? I plan to buy others, of course, but later on. Do the costs outweigh the benefits? I dont hunt or shoot matches either. Last, but not least, are reloads really cheaper than factory loads? Its extremely difficult for me to buy bulk ammo, so saving money would be a big plus. I know that if/when I start reloading I will shoot a lot more (a BIG plus! ).

Im looking at getting the RL550B press. I guess I could get the case tumbler, and calipers, and other stuff from a cheaper source. I need a chronograph too dont I?

I would *really* like to keep this setup at or very close to $500. Would that be possible?

Sorry for the long post, but I hope you gentlemen can help me out. Thanks for any and all help!!

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Old March 11, 2000, 12:36 AM   #2
Bud Helms
Join Date: December 31, 1999
Location: Middle Georgia
Posts: 13,155

It's always good to see a shooter get interested in reloading. I am still amazed at how few reloaders there are on this BB, with registered members approaching 5000.

The Dillon is probably the best press you can buy ... in my most humble opinion. Not because the other brands have any deficiencies, but because of the features of the Dillon and the customer service ... unbelievable!

I started with Lee brand presses. Inexpensive and it allowed me to spend more on accessories and components. I didn't get to a Dillon for many years. If you do decide on a Dillon, I can recommend the 550B. I got started for abou $120. Starting out with a Dillon will run that up closer to $420-450.

Yes it is cheaper to reload per round. Even so, it is getting more and more difficult to exceed the quality of factory ammo these days. You can, with practice, still routinely meet or exceed the accuracy.

Yes, you will need a caliper. No, in my opinion, you will not need a chronograph, but it would be nice. A case tumbler? Take a look at Lee's new Zip-Trim.

Buy QUALITY dies and take care of them. But the first thing you should do is get started on a library of reloading manuals. This is absolutely essential!

Read a couple of them from cover to cover before you start the first cartridge. My first manual was a Hornady and my second was a Lyman. I avoided some very serious misconceptions by reading first. Most reloading books are either by powder mfgs or bullet mfgs. You can't have too many sources, IMHO. In fact, I'd get at least one reloading book and read it good before I spent another penny.

I am passing on to you the same advice that I received when I started. I don't load for the AR, but if I can ever help, use my email.

Be Safe. Welcome to reloading!


"Get your mind right and the body will follow." - Shino Takazawa, sinsei, hachi dan, Keishinkan do.

[This message has been edited by sensop (edited March 11, 2000).]
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Old March 11, 2000, 11:03 AM   #3
Join Date: March 11, 2000
Posts: 71
I have been reloading for about a month 1/2 now. I have reloaded about 1500 rounds and shoot every weekend with my two sons. I load 40SW and 45 ACP. I started with a Dillon 550B (government graciously let me keep some of my own money) after spending many hours researching all different types of presses, capabilities, and warranty. Dillon 550B is not the least expensive to start out with, however, very worth the investment IMHO! Agree with SenSop on all and that having a good reloading library is very important to safety and understanding of the hobby. It is at least as much fun as shooting. I always look forward to rating my weekly reloads to see what works best in each caliber for powder, bullets, primers, & cases. I think all totaled I spent about $650 for everything Dillon 550B, extra dies and tool heads, powder, bullets, primers, cases, scales, tumbler & media, calipers, & reloading manuals. Great fun and becomes more cost effective as you shoot! 1000 rounds of good 40 & 45 ammo is around $600, you produce better quality with your own reloads.

Good luck and welcome to realm!
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Old March 11, 2000, 11:57 AM   #4
Senior Member
Join Date: April 19, 1999
Posts: 567
I just started myself. I bought a Lee kit and dies and am very happy with it. (I had to keep my costs WAY below $500) Currently I am loading 9mm and just started working on some .270 loads. I will eventually be loading for at least a half dozen more calibers, and will probably at some point buy a progressive but I decided that to get started a single stage was safer and easier to learn on, and I will load all of my hunting ammo individually. If you get a steady pace established you can cycle through a bunch of brass pretty quickly, though not nearly as fast as a progressive.
Sensop was right on in his advise to buy at least one manual or book and read it before you buy any other equipment. I already have the Lee, Nosler, and Hornady manuals, as well as the small freebie load data pamphlets from several companies.
A buddy of mine mostly uses Iosso (sp.?) case cleaner rather than his tumbler, you just soak the cases in it and swish them around then rinse and dry, gets them clean but not polished. I will probably buy a chrono soon, as I will be really looking for consistency as well as velocity in the hunting loads for my .270, .30-06, and a couple of other rifles.
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Old March 12, 2000, 11:53 AM   #5
Bill in NM
Join Date: January 21, 2000
Posts: 95
Welcome to the hobby.
First of all, follow the advice already given and get at least one, preferably 2 or 3 good reloading manuals.
One thing you don't say is how often and how much you shoot. If you only shoot 100 rounds once a month, it will take quite a while to recoup the expense of a Dillon press with all the accessories. Please don't misunderstand me, I started on a Dillon a little over a year ago and absolutely love it!
I would hold off on a chronograph right now. They are nice, but I would rather see someone spend that money on quality equipment that's more essential.
I do load for my AR-15 and AR-10. Semi-auto rifles take a bit more case preperation than bolt rifles or pistols. For one thing, cases must be full length resized and trimmed every time. Trimming and deburring the cases is the most tedious aspect of reloading for a semi-auto rifle. The only reason that I bring this up at this point is to let you know that you will want a quality trimmer. A hand crank trimmer will take you forever if you have a fair number of cases. An inexpensive option is the Lee setup that has a shell holder that goes into a power drill, and you insert a hand-held trimmer into the case. The Dillon RT1200 power trimmer is VERY nice, but expensive (~ $200 w/die).
One other thing to consider. If you've been shooting Winchester 5.56 ammo or any other "mil-spec" ammo, there's a good chance that your brass has a crimped primer pocket, which means that you'll have to remove the crimp before attempting to prime the case. This can be done witha deburring tool.
All that being said, here's a non-brand specific list of things you'll need.

Reloading manual(s)
Press (Dillon 550 will run about $320 new)
shell holder / or caliber conversion kit
case trimmer
Deburring/chamfer tool
Case lube
Powder funnel
caliper that reads to .00x, preferably a metal one, as plastic ones tend to flex a bit.

As far as cost of rounds, here's a very basic rundown.
New .223 = ~$4.50/20 rounds = ~22.5 cents each, or $225.00 per 1000.
Reloading with brass you already have, figuring powder at $20.00 per pound (there are 7000 grains to the pound).
Average for .223 is ~25 grains = ~7 cents of powder, 2 cents per primer, 7 cents per bullet. Now you're looking at ~16 cents per round, or $160.00 per 1000.
These are very rough numbers, but thought I'd give you something to go by.
You might be better off looking at the Dillon AT500 press, which can be upgraded to a 550 later on.
Let us know if you need any other information.
Good luck,

[This message has been edited by Bill in NM (edited March 12, 2000).]
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Old March 12, 2000, 02:43 PM   #6
Join Date: July 2, 1999
Posts: 93
VERY detailed and great responses guys, Thanks!

Im going to get me a couple of manuals in the next couple days, so thats taken care of.

I dont shoot that much now, *only* because of ammo price/avalibility. I know that I WILL shoot more once I start reloading. An AR15 can be difficult to feed, and I normally shoot about 200 rounds on an outing.

Since Im a poor college student, would you guys mind contributing to a reloading fund? J/K
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Old March 14, 2000, 08:33 PM   #7
Art Eatman
Staff Lead
Join Date: November 13, 1998
Location: Terlingua, TX; Thomasville, GA
Posts: 24,097
Welcome to a really neat part of the sport of shooting!

My uncle got me started in July of 1950, so I guess I can say I've grown with the sport... They didn't have affordable progressive reloading tools in those days, and I can tell you that a thousand rounds of anything was time consuming!

Any of the standard dies will work with the Dillon or a "C" or "O" press. If money is a consideration, look for a good used press. Save up for the Dillon, later. If you get into hunting, and wind up with rifles or pistols you don't shoot all that often, a "C" press will do just fine.

Initially you can spend your money on good scales, a powder measure, the miscellaneous "stuff" that's needed or helpful...And watch gun shows for this sort of stuff.

There is a major gun show coming up in Las Vegas, April 28-30, at the LV Convention Center. This show is the one moved from the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds.

It would be worth the trip...

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Old March 19, 2000, 11:20 PM   #8
Junior member
Join Date: January 23, 2000
Posts: 467
If you don't want to reload now but plan on reloading in the future, be sure to save your brass! It'll save you a fortune in the future. I'm sure you're aware of this but don't bother saving CCI blazer aluminum casings or the Russian steel junk.

BTW. Get a Dillon, you won't be sorry.
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Old March 21, 2000, 12:08 AM   #9
Senior Member
Join Date: June 7, 1999
Posts: 3,844
for loading the small amount of ammunition that you mentioned, a single stage press will serve your current needs. The dies will fit any press, they are all 7/8 x 14 these days. Sometimes, a progressive press will get you into a lot of trouble, faster. You might be better advised starting out slowly, and going to fancier equipment later on.

I still have an old RCBS Jr. press, purchased in 1967, that has probably loaded about 100,000 rounds of assorted rifle and pistol cartridges. It was slow, but it got the job done, with a little planning.
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Old March 21, 2000, 10:14 AM   #10
Senior Member
Join Date: February 12, 2000
Location: Birmingham, AL
Posts: 1,124
Wish I'd found this thread earlier. I think you've gotten very sound advice from both the "Single Stage Press" guys as well as the "Dilloneers". I have both, and wouldn't be without both. It is MUCH easier to do load development on a single stage press, as making small, incremental changes in powder charges on the Dillon is a b... booger. Once the sweet spot for a load is found, however, the Dillon can crank 'em out.

A very valuable book is "The ABC's of Reloading" by Dean Grennell. It is not a "recipe book" like the reloading guides you need, but a primer on how to begin, including load planning, the loading process, and other hints and tips. Can't say enough good things about it. Good luck on your new hobby.
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