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Old March 20, 2010, 07:40 PM   #1
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Right cartridge for a first-time handloader?

Up until now, I've shot a decent amount of a variety of calibers, but the only things I own are a Ruger Single Six .22 and a Marlin Model 60. Shooting anything else is damn expensive(especially for a poor college kid) so I want to start handloading. Since I only own .22s, I will need to purchase a firearm to fit the caliber I choose. I'd like to keep this cost in the $250 or less range.

My priorities are economy, ease of reload, and variability in reload(being able to load light for low recoil or heavier for more potent than factory loads) in that order.

Since I want to stay cheap, I imagine pistol calibers will be cheaper to reload, so that's probably the route I'll go, but I'm interested in rifles too. From what my research has told me, I'm looking at 2 main cartridges

1) .38spl/.357 mag
Revolver cartridge means headspacing on the rim will allow for more tolerance
Popular load so supplies are readily available
Getting to do two load, but only buy one gun

2) .32 acp
I just like this round a lot. I'm partial to autoloaders, and I plan to carry an LCP or P32 in the near future, so that kills two birds with one gun purchase.
Smaller round equals less powder and smaller bullet, so in theory, cheaper supplies. On the other hand, it doesn't seem like many people reload this caliber, so there probably won't be much data/materials available. The autoloading round will probably be less tolerant of my beginner mistakes.

So what's the collective idea on these calibers as intro reloading calibers? I know I can get the p32 or LCP for $250-300, but it seems like a used .357 will cost more than that. Any other calibers that are worth considering, given my criteria? Thanks for any input and sorry to be so long winded.

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Old March 20, 2010, 07:49 PM   #2
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You should have no issue reloading the .357. I recommend picking up a carbide sizing die.
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Old March 20, 2010, 08:00 PM   #3
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None of the pistol rounds are rocket science, but revolver cartridges are more forgiving, and some of the 32 autos can be downright persnickety when it comes to ammo they won't choke on. Get a 357 mag revolver, and you can load light or might in it.

I started out loading 45 colt for a Ruger Vaquero and a Marlin lever gun, and both take anything from mouse fart to bull roar. The mouse fart loads are a hoot to shoot at a hundred yards or more; just about the time you've convinced yourself you missed the gong, the reassuring clang makes its way back to tell you otherwise.

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Old March 20, 2010, 08:04 PM   #4
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Not to distract from the thread, but what are some good, inexpensive .357 revolvers?
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Old March 20, 2010, 08:25 PM   #5
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I might get shot for this but, Tuarus make some nice 357 that dont cost an arm and a leg. Or a nice Ruger GP100 or SP101 but you'll have to spend a few dollars more.
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Old March 20, 2010, 09:19 PM   #6
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32 ACP. Except to fanatics, it is a worthless round.

If you can get a decent used Ruger, S&W 357 that would be an excellent way to go.

I plan to go to the range tomorrow and shoot an older S&W M586.

I really like the flat shooting and excellent accuracy you get with a 357. You can easily download the round to moderate recoil levels, and it is easy to reload.
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Old March 20, 2010, 09:23 PM   #7
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Done right the .357 mag round is one of the most accurate I've ever shot. I own a mid-90's Ruger Gp100 with a 6" barrel and it outshoots many of the other pistols I shoot. Although, I do a lot of silhouette so that makes a difference.
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Old March 20, 2010, 10:14 PM   #8
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Buy a used .357 revolver and load .357 cases to .38 Special velocities using cast bullets.
" in theory, cheaper supplies..." Nope. Less powder is used to be sure, but bullets are about the same, if you can find .32 cal bullets. They're not all suitable for the ACP either.
"...what are some good, inexpensive .357 revolvers?..." Whichever revolver fits your hand and budget best. Fitting your hand is most important.
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Old March 20, 2010, 10:16 PM   #9
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Heh - if you're looking for an RCBS competition carbide 357 die set contact me off-list.

I recommend you get a good book on reloading for revolvers in general - but 357's not a bad spot to start.
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Old March 20, 2010, 10:25 PM   #10
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"...carbide 357 die set..." There is that. Don't bother with anything but carbide. No offense to you javven, but dies don't have to be 'competition'.
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Old March 20, 2010, 11:42 PM   #11
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.357 over 32 ACP every time.

Don't overlook the single action .357 Magnum. Since you already have a Ruger Single Six, a Ruger Blackhawk seems like a natural. And with the Blackhawk, you can get the convertible model with the two cylinders, for 9mm and 38/357.

With any autoloader, you will have to stay within a narrow power range in order to cycle the action, 32 ACP components are less widely available than 38/357, simply because the revolver chambering is 1) more common and 2) more popularly reloaded.

To my mind, it is a no-brainer. (And yes, I know how that could be its own punch line.)

Good Luck, happy reloading and don't pinch your fingers in your press.

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Old March 20, 2010, 11:50 PM   #12
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The annoyance of trying to locate those tiny 32 cases after they have been ejected from an auto pistol is on something I would volunteer for. Besides, you can find brass and bullets for 38/357 everywhere.

Sometimes there's a reason why the popular choice is popular.
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Old March 21, 2010, 12:17 AM   #13
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Nothing wrong with the Taurus .357model 66(at least not mine), I am sure some will chime in otherwise.
The other option is a used S&W, not really a bad alternative. S&W makes a good product also, just more costly!

OT: the .38spcl or .357 magnum (it also uses .38spcl) is one of the least costly options, for reloading and shooting!
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Old March 21, 2010, 12:47 AM   #14
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45ACP is another easy round to reload. Lots of leeway with powder charge, bullet just seats right in there with no fuss. Skip the 32, you really have to watch your powder grains with that caliber as the case is so tiny.

I started with 9mm. Not terribly hard, but 45 is definitely better for a beginner IMO. So is 38/357.
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Old March 21, 2010, 01:40 AM   #15
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An "inexpensive 357" would be a "Rossi" it is made by Taurus and is reasonalbly well made and has the same lifetime warenttee that the Taurus has. The next up would be a Taurus or Ruger. Both are reliable and very well made. The next up would be the Smith and Wesson guns, but they are expensive and I feel overpriced for 50 year old technoligy, they have come up with some new designs in the last few years, but nothing that I would call earth shaking.

Your best bet for the dollar is the Ruger GP100, not cheap but not overly overpriced. Your best value for the dollar would be the Taurus.

Caliber 357 mag of course, can be used for 38 special also.

Dies - Lee Deluxe Pistol Dies best value for your money and less expensive than any others.

For a first gun on a budget, I would say go with the Rossi. I also would not recommend a used gun for the first time buyer. The first question I ask when looking at a used gun, "is why did the person get rid of it" a used gun is just that used, not pre-owned, not reconditioned, not a factory second, but something that has seen 50,000 miles or more on it. I do not believe in buying someone else's problems. The one exception is those you might fine in a pawn broker store. There the reason was they needed the money. But unless you know what you are looking at and what problems they may have you are safer with your money to buy new.

Just an opinion from a gun owner for the past 50 years.
Good luck.
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Old March 21, 2010, 08:49 AM   #16
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Were I you, I'd stick to rimmed, revolver type cartridges for starters. The 38/.357 family is great, but don't overlook the .41 or .44 family. As a handloader you can make cream puff loads or full house rounds, so recoil is controlled during the loading phase. A .44 Mag rifle makes for a fine short to medium range rifle too and if you plan to hunt you are covered for 90% if not more of the shots hunters take.
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Old March 21, 2010, 09:47 AM   #17
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For your limited budget, you might want to consider a .38 Special and forgo the .357 for now. Taurus makes a Model 10 clone that looks pretty good, and you can often find used good Model 10's or Model 64's (stainless). Any of these should be well under $250. It is very easy to reload .38's (or .357), and as was noted above cast or swaged lead bullets are cheap. Of course, if you can find a nice .357 at your price, go for it and shoot the .38's out of that. +1 on staying away from .32 ACP. I actually like the caliber, and I often pack a "mouse gun". But take it from my experience, the only larger pistols you will find will be vintage Colts (I want one) or PPKs, and the ones I've seen were pricey. It is a pain to load that tiny case. Having a .38 is like having a 30-30; it will never go out of style.
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Old March 21, 2010, 10:08 AM   #18
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I don't take offense. That's the series as RCBS calls it. I'm sure their marketing dep't thought it was a good idea. I've never bothered to ask them about it.

Good luck either way.
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Old March 21, 2010, 10:51 AM   #19
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i load 357 on a dilllon sq deal and 32 on a lee 4 hole

dillon is progressive and requires constant attention for its multi-functions. loads 400+ per hour. potential bad is you can not see into the case at the powder station. good is that in 20 odd years, 7 different calibers and a quarter million rounds--it has not ever thrown a double charge. nor missed one either. Lee can make up to 150 rounds per hour and do rifle also. and you can see powder levels of each case. it can operate as a single stage ( for learning /rifle) or a turret for faster production.

32 is a small case & bullet making it perhaps not the best 1st caliber to learn loading on. 45acp followed by 9mm has me to thinking more proper.
which ever you chose--read lymans' latest and another manual of your chosing. if it happens that you have a creative thought concerning the recipe for a cartrage--DON'T.
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Old March 21, 2010, 11:32 AM   #20
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Used Ruger Blackhawk chambered in .357 Mag are very reasonably priced.
Lee single-stage press [may be found on eBay for $25]
.357 Mag Dies may be used to load .38 Special

Lee also offers their neat little Lee Loader kit which retails for like $30 shipped
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Old March 21, 2010, 11:42 AM   #21
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I agree with most of the above.
The .38/.357 is easy to load and covers a huge range of charge and bullet weight options. Good used revolvers can be found in this caliber ranging from police turn in S&Ws to the South American products.
From personal experience, the .32 ACP brass is a relatively rare range pick up. In the course of 10 years, I have picked up thousands of 9mmP , .40S&W, .45 ACP, .38, .357 but only a few hundred .32 ACP. This tells me that the brass is going to be a significant cost factor. If, as the experienced guys above note, the .32 pistols can be finicky, then reloading this caliber will be challenging (plus if you have good sized hands, tiny stuff is frustrating).
I started with .45ACP for reloading but the components(bullets,large pistol primers)) are a bit more costly than the smaller calibers. 9mmP is probably going to be the cheapest round to reload, followed by the .40S&W.
I reload .380 ACP, 9mm Makarov, 9mmP, .38 S&W, .38 Spec, .357 Mag, .40S&W, .44Mag, and .45 ACP and the ones that I reload/shoot the most of are .38 Spec and 9mmP.
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Old March 21, 2010, 05:29 PM   #22
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On the range I shoot at .38 and .357 brass are on the ground free for the picking. (not as often as it once was) A Ruger Blackhawk is a great starting point. A lot of people low rate Lee equipment but they make decent stuff and it works.
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Old March 28, 2010, 03:51 PM   #23
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Lee stuff

+1 on the Lee stuff. If I wasn't 64 and have difficulty seeing some little stuff, I could use the Lee scale, but I can't see those little marks and that was the first thing that I replaced. Otherwise, I still use all the stuff from an Anniversary Kit.
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Old March 28, 2010, 04:10 PM   #24
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Another vote for .357. You can load mild to wild. My target loads are so light I could probly throw in a double charge live to tell.

Don't overlook the .45ACP. Low pressure round, pretty safe. Everything about it is more expensive, though. I love the .45, but IMO the .357 is more versatile.

At the moment, .357 brass is VERY hard to come by. If I see WWB .357 at WalMart I'll buy it for the brass...
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Old March 28, 2010, 04:25 PM   #25
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Cast my vote for the .38 Special revolver. Easy to reload, fun to shoot, and there's usually a lot of prime once-fired brass laying on the floor of the range if you're willing to stoop to that (pun intended). My Taurus model 82 cost me $340 new, and my reloading setup cost $299 including Lee 50th anniversary press kit, carbide dies, 1000 CCI primers, 1000 LSWC bullets, 1lb. of powder, and a reloading manual.

I've been reloading for about 4 months now, and the reloading equipment has already paid for itself at least twice, with the amount of shooting I do.
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