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Old October 29, 2011, 03:58 AM   #1
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Holy bleep - do I need all that?

Newb here. I went through the comprehensive "For the New Reloader" sticky.

I'm planning to start loading .30 carbine ammo. This is an expensive way to save money! I'm planning to get a Lee basic single stage press, a set of 3 dies, a bullet holder, brass tumbler, and powder scale. I already have the calipers, and I think I will just check the brass and get a trimmer when I have enough stuff out of spec.

If I buy new brass, the cost for the first go-round is the same as for factory ammo, so I don't think I will get new brass. I will have to check it for size and clean it. I don't see a lot of used equipment out there, but I will check what one guy 30 miles away has.

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Old October 29, 2011, 04:43 AM   #2
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You buy something new only once. After that you’ll know what you have during all the following reloading.
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Old October 29, 2011, 06:57 AM   #3
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Jimmy, if you think it's expensive getting started imagine what it takes to keep it going for 25+ years!!!! But, eventually you'll have everything you could possibly need and some that you absolutely don't need....
Look at it as another hobby.....
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Old October 29, 2011, 07:33 AM   #4
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This is an expensive way to save money!
Didn't you read the fine print in the reloading manual?
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Old October 29, 2011, 07:42 AM   #5
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.30 carbine now....but later it'll be much more.
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Old October 29, 2011, 09:00 AM   #6
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This is an expensive way to save money! -Jimmythegeek

You really catch on fast! Reloading tools are (for the most part) precision tools that will last a considerable time with careful use, many will outlast you. Favorite joke among some of us is how much money we save but if I break it down into individual projects like loading bulk pistol ammo then yes, sometimes we can save money. Other times we amuse ourselves loading ammo that's better than we can buy and buy new tool$ to make it a tiny bit better. You've got the basics covered, after perusing the manual one more time jump in there and have fun, just be careful. Safety is a very serious subject at the loading bench.
I'll admit I got into reloading nearly 30 yrs ago to save money, even fiured out where the "break-even point" was. Somehow I've misplaced it.
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Old October 29, 2011, 09:13 AM   #7
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I’ve been reloading for 15 years now and still do not have a tumbler. Never found the need to be honest. So you could save the money there and get the trim to length tools. A hole in a target or a harvested game animal doesn’t care if the bullet came out of less then perfectly clean piece of brass. I do have a Lee Zip Trim device, and clean rifle rounds with it and a piece of very fine steel wool when needed. But I never clean pistol brass, unless it gets fished from a mud puddle, and then I use a soapy water bath.

Consistency is the key to accurate reloaded ammo. Consistent length brass is more important then bright and shiny brass as far as I’m concerned. Now there are people out there that feel shinny beautiful brass is necessary, and shows pride in their work reloading. That’s fine. But me and my dingy brass get 0.5 inch 100 yard groups from all my center fire rifles, and that’s good enough with me.

I guess what I’m saying is, a brass tumbler is on the bottom of my list of reloading equipment. So far down on the bottom, I haven’t got there yet.
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Old October 29, 2011, 09:27 AM   #8
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I don't see a lot of used equipment out there
look at ebay, gunbrokers, gunsamerica and even here from time to time. There is a lot of used gear but be careful about the price. There will ALWAYS be another one at a better price.
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Old October 29, 2011, 10:51 AM   #9
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I would suggest some other auction sites than ebay. I've seen prices for used equipment (not collectable) higher than new. Here's a link to an article about low cost start-up... Prices are old but the idea is still the same. BTW This is how I started in '69; Lee Loader, 1 lb. Bullseye, a small box of CCI primers, some generic lead bullets, and the empties from 2 boxes of .38 Special. Oh yeah, and a yellow hammer. This outfit kept me in ammo for several months (had to buy primers though). I addded tools/equipment as I could afford (a Lee powder dipper set was next) and soon had all the goodies I needed to produce good, accurate, safe ammo. Plus, there's a lot of tools you;ll likely already have (I used a 1/2" drill bit to champher case mouths, and flared the case mouths with a center punch). Today I'd suggest using the info in the article but using a single stage press instead...
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Last edited by mikld; October 29, 2011 at 11:00 AM.
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Old October 29, 2011, 11:07 AM   #10
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I just use a Lee Hand Press and save even more money. My entire reloading setup for one caliber is around $120.
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Old October 29, 2011, 11:17 AM   #11
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First, buy used when ever you can. I like RCBS equipment. The stuff holds up and if anything does break it can be replaced.

Now, if you just want to "dip a toe in the water" consider the "Lee Loader". It is an all in one set that sells for about 35 bucks. They work well. A bit slow but nothing dreadful.
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Old October 29, 2011, 11:41 AM   #12
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Any ammunition that you can by for about the cost of reloading yourself doesn't make sense to reload UNLESS you are looking for a load you can't get commercially.

So far I haven't been able to reload pistol rounds that perform any better than factory rounds, and I don't have a progressive press to reload them in bulk so I don't load a whole lot of pistol rounds.

On the other hand, I reload a lot of rifle and each of my reloads is around half the cost of factory or less. So instead of a buck a bang when I shoot it usually runs around 40 cents a bang....

Anyways, getting into reloading can be as cheap or as expensive as you make it.

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Old October 29, 2011, 12:12 PM   #13
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You only have to buy the equipment once, if you do it right. It's been said many times before, regarding many items: "Don't spend too much, but spend enough."
Learn about the various presses, dies and other equipment, and keep an eye toward the classifieds. You can save a ton of money. Good reloading equipment is hard to wear out.
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Old October 29, 2011, 12:29 PM   #14
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There's a lot you can do without

Look at your list and ask, for each piece of equipment, "Do I ABSOLUTELY need this to assemble a cartridge?"

Only three things are physically required. Others are required by sanity. Others are optional or at least deferable.

Physically required:

Press. Fingers are not strong enough to shape metal.

Dies. Fingers are neither strong nor precise enough to shape metal.

Some way to mete powder. Eyeballs are not accurate enough. (a powder scale, a dispenser/measure or dippers)

Some think it suicidal to load without a scale, but powder CAN be effectively meted out with small measuring spoons, scoops or dippers. The trick is to know which scoop will deliver what weight of which powder. At least one manufacturer sells a set of scoops accompanied by a table containing that information.

Sanity required:

Safety glasses, especially when working with primers

Loading manual(s) have a lot of "how-to" in their early chapters and the load recipes in them have been vetted for safety and performance.

Optional or deferable: Those things you can get by without, at least for a while. You can also make some of the items yourself.

Bullet Scale: Commercially made bullets are generally the weight the package says.

Funnel: This $3 item can be substituted for by one made of a sheet of paper.

Bullet puller: If you have a cartridge that needs the bullet pulled, you can simply put it aside until you get a bullet puller. I loaded for several years
without one, and another several years before ever needing to use it.

Dedicated priming tool: Most presses have some kind of priming ability. I have used different priming tools and still prefer to prime on-press anyway.

Micrometer: The chamber of your gun will tell you most of what you need to know. Most components are sized properly from the manufacturer. If something does not fit properly, set it aside until you get a micrometer. I loaded for over 30 years before I needed one. Not to say I would not have used it if I had one, or even that my ammunition might not have been of better quality. But it went "Bang" and delivered groups equal to what I got with factory ammo, so I was happy.

Vibratory Brass Cleaner or Tumbler: I loaded for 30 years without one. I wiped any foreign material from my brass with a soft, absorbent cloth. Now that I have a cleaner, I spend more time separating the cleaning media from the brass than I did wiping my brass with the cloth. But they do LOOK prettier. They shoot the same as ever.

Case Length Trimmer: Generally not needed for straight-walled cases. For
bottle-necked cases, not at first, but eventually. You will want a proper case
length gauge and/or micrometer as well. But in the meantime, those cases can simply be set aside.

Lost Sheep
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Old October 29, 2011, 12:31 PM   #15
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Consider the cost in terms of boxes of bullets

Consider the cost of getting set up to reload:

If you shudder at the $250 to $350 for a decent starter setup (capable of producing very precise ammunition in moderate quantities - 50 to 150 rounds per hour), consider the cost in terms of boxes of ammunition.

A decent mechanical powder/bullet scale will cost about 3 boxes.
A good press will cost 3 to 6 boxes
Dies will cost 1 to 2 boxes
Two good manuals will cost a box apiece.
Miscellaneous other small tools and such will cost 3 to 5 boxes
Two pounds of powder will cost 2 boxes.
1,000 primers will set you back 1 box
1,000 bullets for pistol (or your .30 Carbine) will be 2 or 3 boxes, 500 bullets for rifle, about the same.

So, for the price of about 20 boxes of loaded ammunition, you can get 20 boxes of your own reloads (re-using your own brass from prior retail purchases).

Your hardware is paid for after the first 20 boxes. After that, your ammo is
pretty much 1/4 to 1/2 the cost of over-the-counter.

Because rifle cartridges usually come in 20-round boxes and handgun cartridges in boxes of 50 (but cheaper per round), the financial calculation applies pretty much the same to rifle ammunition as it does to handgun ammunition.

It all depends on how you look at it.

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Old October 29, 2011, 12:41 PM   #16
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Jimmy, here's a little bit of caliber specific help. I'm guessing not many of these guys load .30 Carbine, or if they did, none of them mentioned that:

You can't, CAN NOT load .30 Carbine without using case lube. Yes, buy .30 Carbine carbide reloading dies. That will help. Even so, because it's a harshly tapered case, you must use lube. If you don't use lube, you'll size one, maybe two cases, then you'll violently rip the rim of one case and never extract it from the size die.

Also, .30 Carbine stretches, so you really ought to get your trimming tools along with your other gear. .30 Carb brass stretches and eventually won't chamber fully OR it'll try to make your rifle fire out of battery (which it should NOT do) but if it does happen, you might get hurt. And if you should happen to be loading .30 Carb for a Ruger Blackhawk .30 Carb, you will sieze up the revolver the moment you use even one piece of brass that's too long.

The cheapest way to handle case trimming is the Lee tools. You'll spend like ten bucks and they'll work fine. Slow, and hard on the hands, but they work great.

Also, when it comes times to buy component bullets, I highly recommend Berry's plated bullets in .30 Carbine. They are velocity rated to 1,900 FPS. They are accurate for my in my B'Hawk and save me a lot of dough over all the other .30 Carb bullets on the market.

For powder, I'm absolutely married to Alliant 2400 and small rifle NON-magnum primers. There are other powders that will work, but 2400 is my favorite.

A brass tumbler will not only keep your dies cleaner, but it'll make your entire experience cleaner and it will give you pride in your ammo. For the cost, I highly recommend you get a tumbler and clean your brass. I went many years without it and shortly after I got mine, I realized what a cheap fool I was for so long.
Attention Brass rats and other reloaders: I really need .327 Federal Magnum brass, no lot size too small. Tell me what caliber you need and I'll see what I have to swap. PM me and we'll discuss.
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Old October 29, 2011, 12:57 PM   #17
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Some sites to visit

Grab a cup of coffee, cocoa or whatever you sip while thinking and visit these sites:

I composed a longish article, "My 10 Advices for the Novice Handloader" which you can see here as post #7

Post #8 shows a selection of threads that have a lot of good information, not just my posts, either.

Good luck

Lost Sheep
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Old October 29, 2011, 12:58 PM   #18
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30 m1
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Old October 29, 2011, 02:24 PM   #19
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"Funnel: This $3 item can be substituted for by one made of a sheet of paper."

I agree with the rest of that list but not this one. We can make a paper funnel easily enough but powder funnels properly flare both ways so they can sit on top of empty cases; get the right thing.
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Old October 29, 2011, 02:45 PM   #20
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this is such a great forum!

Seriously, this is what makes the internet worthwhile. A [email protected] post generates tons of substance in reply. Thank you.

I'm glad to see the endorsement of the Lee Classic. That does seem like a good place to start to reload a couple of boxes at a time.

Also, thanks for the specific warning about the need for case lube for .30 carbine. That seems like an expensive lesson I don't have to learn on my own.

I saw a deal on Craigslist. For $300 I'd get a pretty complete setup including a mixed lot of 1000s of brass, 400 bullets, a Lee turret press, dies for 9mm, and .380 (both of eventual interest) and 7mm-08, which I had never thought about. This is another way reloading gets expensive: I'm now considering another rifle so I can use the dies and the 400 bullets. But I think I'll pass, and go minimal for now. $30 seems little enough to toss aside when I upgrade. I need some time to set up my lab anyway.

My best guess is I can save around $.16/round and keep my otherwise idle hands occupied.

Thanks again, folks!
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Last edited by jimmythegeek; October 29, 2011 at 02:53 PM.
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Old October 29, 2011, 03:29 PM   #21
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Just to echo and somewhat consolidate what others have said:

To just load for one specific caliber so I could shoot more for the same $$$ and not for doing serious load development I think I could get away with the following:

Dies + shellholder
hand priming tool
powder scoops

If you buy Lee dies then they come with the appropriate powder scoop and a set of recommended safe loads to use that scoop with.

I would strongly suggest adding an extra $30 and getting a powder scale. Weighing individual charges is slow, but having the scale adds a world of flexibility to your load development by not being tied to only the powders that work with your scoop. It also allows you to customize your own scoops to quickly dispense your favorite load.

You'll notice I put a hand priming tool in the list of essentials. To be strictly accurate it is possible to prime on the press, but the little Lee priming tool speeds up the process tremendously.

When I started reloading in 1980 I had a Lee Loader in 357 magnum, the Lee powder scoops and a RCBS powder scale. 31 years later I'm still using the same RCBS scale and I even occasionally use one of the powder scoops. I think I paid $35 for the RCBS scale back then and it sure felt like a lot of money, but now it works out to $1.13 per year. I'm pretty sure I've gotten more than $1.13 per year of value out of it. You have to think of these tools as lifetime investments, because it's doubtful you'll even need to replace them.
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Old October 29, 2011, 04:23 PM   #22
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Just don't tell the mrs. or there'll hell to pay... if my wife knew one fourth of the money me and my boy's spend on reloading, she'd shut me down right now!
Thanks for coming!
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Old October 29, 2011, 07:52 PM   #23
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I always recommend the Lee Classic Anniversary Kit for starting out. 100 bucks gets you everything you need but dies and components. Another 30 for dies and 20 for a set of calipers gets you in business.
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Old October 29, 2011, 11:12 PM   #24
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Just wait till that Lee press doesn't cut it anymore. Then you buy a Dillon 550b and 30 carbine dies, 9mm set up, 40 smith set up, 45 acp set up, 308, 223, 243, ect.... That is when your money saving gets spendy.

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Old October 29, 2011, 11:26 PM   #25
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The cheapest way to handle case trimming is the Lee tools. You'll spend like ten bucks and they'll work fine. Slow, and hard on the hands, but they work great.
Chuck it into a 3/8" drill or cordless screwdriver, and it is fast and easy on the hands.

As for a case cleaner, if you use the Lee case lube and Lee case trimmer set-up chucked into a drill, just wrap a terry cloth around the case and give it spin after you have trimmed, chamfered and de-burred..... takes the lube off and leaves the case shiny and clean. No need for the case cleaner.
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