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Old November 8, 2012, 10:53 AM   #1
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If you were just starting to reload now..

and knew then what you know now... what are some of the things you would do differently....

In your process?

In your purchases?

In your preconceptions?
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Old November 8, 2012, 11:03 AM   #2
Brian Pfleuger
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I just started about 3 years ago and I learned everything I needed to know about it right here on The Firing Line.

The only changes I'd make is to be sure that I had everything I needed picked out ahead of time. I probably spent $150 extra in shipping fees compared to getting everything in one or two orders.
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Old November 8, 2012, 11:44 AM   #3
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If I were buying a single stage press I would go with a RCBS Rockchucker, that's really about the only thing. Can't really complain about my Lee single stage but I just like the looks of the Rockchucker better.
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Old November 8, 2012, 12:39 PM   #4
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Wow, I made some mistakes along the way ....been doing this off and on for around 50 yrs ( started as a kid with my grandpa, in school and service - didn't reload ...

....working full time - bought my own single stage loader in the mid 1970's ( RCBS) ----- then went to Dillon SDB - then to Dillon 425...

.....had a bunch of MEC shotshell presses - 650 Jr, - then Grabber

Finally upgraded to Dillon 650 with case feeder and powder check ....and MEC 9000 HN's for shotshells.
I would have bought the Dillon 650 sooner ...primarily because of the powder check me that extra margin of safety. 650 gives me higher quality - and speed / 800 - 1,000 rds an hour easily. Easy press to use.

I would have bought MEC 9000 series loaders sooner. 15 boxes an hour easily off 9000-HN series. Easy press to use...

b. On metallic talked into picking different powders for each caliber. In hind sight ....I would have been just fine with one powder for 9mm, .40S&W, .45 acp, .38 spl, .357 mag and .44 mag ( Hodgdon TiteGroup or Hodgdon Universal are 2 good ones today ).

c. settle on one bullet ....for me, its Montana Gold bullets....

d. found out late about using "case gagues" as I box up my reloads. Case Gague acts like the chamber in your barrels ....if a round drops in and out easily checks sizing, length, etc.../ makes everything run 100%. I pick up the occasional burr on a case - that might jam in a gun .....or a small crack in case, that opened up after I seated a bullet...etc....

e. as you expand your operation ...its more important to stay organized. I keep better logs now / easy on a spreadsheet ....for bullet, powder, etc. I keep my scale, when not in use, in a tupperware container with a lid..keep dust & junk out of it. I have dedicated shelves and storage bins....for brass, manuals, etc....

f. Light - proper light a big deal. Multi adjustable "drafting lights" are really nice ...good Halogen bulbs....

g. I keep a "QC" box - for each caliber I reload. In the QC Box ...I keep one factory round by caliber ( like a MagTech .357 mag 158 gr round, and a Win and a Federal cartridge, etc ) to evaluate overall length, etc - I keep a sample bullet for each mfg I reloaded at one point (a Berry's, a Rainier, a Montana Gold - for each weight of bullet in that caliber...) I can always go back to what I used to use a reference....

h. spare parts...extra dies ....all that stuff seems to just grow ...and tossing it all into one drawer doesn't work. I have a small tupperware box for my set of punches, my allen wrenches for my press ....I have a separate box for my press maintenance parts, extra parts....a box for my powder bushings in my MEC presses, etc...

i. I used to reload standing up ....but over time, I figured out the bench at counter height is better...and a good bar stool to sit on a big plus.

j. a spot to dump sort them...etc ( I have a 4' by 2' table on my drill press in my shop / and I put a cheap terry cloth towel on it ....that's where I dump my reloads - for sorting and boxing. I also clean my guns there, work on my guns...( good light, good height, towel absorbs all the crud (toss it out when it gets nasty about 6 mos ) - put a new one on (garage sale towels are great).

and I could go on for another hour....but you get the point....
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Old November 8, 2012, 12:57 PM   #5
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First I would be honest about whether I should make the investment in time and equipment. If you are not shooting 5000 rounds a year then you would be better off buying ammo at Walmart.

Once I decided to make the plunge I would get a progressive press and everything needed to produce a better than factory round in the shortest time possible, within reason.
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Old November 8, 2012, 12:58 PM   #6
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I started 24 years ago and wouldn't change much. Got steered in the right direction by friends.

I'd get an RCBS Partner or Rockchucker press KIT. The Rockchucker is more expensive, but the Partner works just as well and takes up less space if that matters.

Powder measure. I like the RCBS Uniflow.

Hand primer tool. I like the Lee Autoprime.

RCBS dies for the calibers you intend to reload. Three die sets, taper crimp for auto calibers. Resist the temptation to get cheaper sets, 4 die sets or dies with magical factory crimp properties. IMHO.

Decent digital caliper.

Max case gauges for any auto calibers.

Speer and Lyman manuals plus ABCs of Reloading.

If you're going to do rifle calibers, then you need, in addition to dies, a power case trimmer. I like the Possum Hollow. Also a little finger operated Wilson chamfer/deburr tool.

Tha's most of it. Lots of little goodies in the kits.

An inexpensive vibratory case cleaner. Load 50/50 with corn cob and crushed walnut media with 1/2 cap of Nu-Finish car polish.
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Old November 8, 2012, 12:58 PM   #7
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Twenty years ago I started with a Lee single stage press but after a month or so I realized that I had made a mistake and went with a Rock Chucker.
Back then, I didn't have the luxury of consulting the Internet, it didn't exist.
Lesson learned...don't go cheap.
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Old November 8, 2012, 01:01 PM   #8
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I keep better logs now /

I got lucky with my press purchase, an RCBS Rockchucker. Happened onto the best single stage press money can buy (in that price range). I was organized, I bought good tooling, had patience and did not put the cart before the horse...but my record keeping was non exisant so to speak. I wrote down the bullet, primer and powder. That's it!

My logs don't leave anything out now. A couple years ago, my ammo shelf gave way and dumped ~ 1000 rounds onto the floor all mixed up. Because of my record-keeping, I was able to rebox every single round without mistake.

I log bullet, alloy, size, lube, brass brand X fired, X trimmed, powder, hand weighed (HW), or powder measure thrown (PM), primer, how many rounds and date of loading. Beautiful and worth the effort.
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Old November 8, 2012, 01:09 PM   #9
Brian Pfleuger
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Originally Posted by DragonHeart2
If you are not shooting 5000 rounds a year then you would be better off buying ammo at Walmart.

That's insane. I spent just over $500 on all my equipment.

Rifle rounds:
I load hunting rounds with TTSX bullets that cost me about $17/20. Factory ammo with that bullet is $47/20. I save $30/20 rounds.

Typical lead-core, copper-jacket bullet and varmint rounds for $7/20. Factory ammo is at least $19/20 and as much as $30 or more in some cases.

Handgun rounds, I load for 357sig and 10mm. Factory ammo cost is at least $31/100. I can load those rounds for about $18/100 using Monatana Gold bullets.

So, if I shoot 1000 handguns rounds, I have saved at least $130. If I shoot 100 rifle rounds, I save at least $60, and as much as $150.

The whole $500 is back in my hands within a year, at no where remotely close to 5,000 rounds a year. In fact, it could be no more than a few hundred rounds.

Besides which, my ammo shoots much better than any factory ammo I've ever used. I'd pay the $500 just for that.

Never mind the fact that I am instantly freed to choose any cartridge I might want, rather than worrying about whether or not I can get ammo. THAT is worth $500 in my book.
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Old November 8, 2012, 01:18 PM   #10
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I shoot a lot ....4 - 6 boxes of metallic a week / call it 300 rds and 150 shotshells a 15,000 cartridges a yr / 7,500 or so shotshells a yr...its a primary hobby for me...

because I reload my metallic ammo( with a premium bullet from Montana Gold ) -- 9mm is around $5 a box ---.357 mag ammo is around $8 a box call it $45 a week for handgun ammo....and
$ 24 a week for shotshells - so say, $70 a week...for my ammo budget using my reloads..../ where that same $ 70 ...would only buy half as much ammo retail ....maybe less.

None of us that reload - really save money / we just shoot more on the same ammo budget. Time isn't a factor on a good progressive press....I loaded 250 rds of .357 mag on my press this morning, listening to the radio, in less than 20 min....

Reloading to me, is another primary part of the gun hobby ...and I'd reload even if the savings were a push. I like to reload .....I like tailoring my ammo to what I want it to do ....velocity, the grain of bullet ...the amout of shot, the velocity in a shell....etc..../ and I know I can reload a much higher quality round than I can buy at the lowest retail level....

so its fun to reload...
I shoot more...
I have better ammo ..and better shells...
I can tailor my ammo - to what I want it to do / sometimes my retail options are limited in what I can buy....
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Old November 8, 2012, 07:00 PM   #11
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just getting into reloading I'd say no to it.My reason why is that I have a hard enough time trying to buy what I need now so why talk some one else into it.

No just kidding getting into reloading is the way to go.The other who have replied have given you great answers so no need to add more.
life is great but its better when you can own as many guns you wish to own.for me I haven't bought enough yet.
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Old November 8, 2012, 07:07 PM   #12
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Knowing what I know now back when I started out wouldn't change much of anything.

I started out helping my pop load his rounds as far back as I can remember, but it was sometime around the late 60's. As I grew, I also became more interested in shooting and as such he got me started loading my own bullets when I was around 8, (he kept a VERY watchful eye over my shoulder. )

That all said I hit my stride in my mid 20's when I got into shooting my handguns for hunting. I shot easily 2-300 rounds a week through several revolvers. I then would load up all my empties on the weekend using the old single stage Wells press.

I managed to purchase an RCBS 4x4 back in the early 80's and stil have and use it for bulk ammo, but I still load more rounds on my newer RCBS Rock Chucker.

So as for what I know now that is actually relevant, I would determine what my overall goal was to start off with. If hunting, target, or simply plinking loads were going to be the bulk of my work.

Once that was determined I would purchase at least three different manuals, as well as download as much available manufacturer load data as I could assemble for the calibers I would be loading. Once I had this info I would put together a list of the top recommended powders for the loads I intended to use. This would be further culled down into the one or two powders which would cover the most loads for each or all calibers. While they might not be the utmost in velocity in some or accuracy in another, it would still allow me to load for more than one caliber with the same powder.

I would also do a similar thing for the bullets I intended to use, culling the variety down into a smaller and smaller lot until I had only one or two listed to accomplish my intended goals.

As for equipment I would go with one of the above recommendations on picking up the complete kit which would have just about everything in it I would need to load. I would still need the dies in most cases and would probably pick out a set based upon user reviews or customer service in case I ever needed any assistance.

When I had everything narrowed down I would look around at the numerous on-line supply places and try my best to get everything I could from one vendor. Just a LOT easier if there is a problem and I need to return something. With the components, I would probably look locally to see if I might be able to find what I had picked out and purchase a one box quantity in order to do load development. Once I found I either liked the particular combination or not I would not be stuck with a large number of components I probably wouldn't use. Once I DID find what I wanted, I would most likely purchase powder, primers, cases, and bullets, if possible in bulk. If the powder was good across most if not all I was loading I would get it in an 8# jug, primers in 5K lots, and brass in a lot of 500 for each caliber.

Just as a "for instance", I did almost this exact thing and ordered an 8# jusg of H-4895 as it was the most versatile powder that I could use across the board with almost every caliber I load for in one form or fashion. It might not be the top end performer in some, but in others it is, and to be honest I haven't found any of them that I didn't get an accurate load as a result of using it.

So there's my .02, it worth every bit what you paid for it.
Mike / TX
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Old November 8, 2012, 10:26 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by JimDandy
If you were just starting to reload now..
and knew then what you know now... what are some of the things you would do differently....

In your process?
I am not sure. Have not given it any thought, as there was no advantage to it.
Originally Posted by JimDandy
In your purchases?
I have a rather long post that addresses exactly that question
Originally Posted by JimDandy

In your preconceptions?
When I started loading, I had no conceptions whatsoever.

Lost Sheep
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Old November 8, 2012, 11:01 PM   #14
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Buy quality, don't compromise.

Stick with the basics, until you decide you need more-
Don't buy a case trimmer, until you need one.
Don't worry about specialty dies (X-dies, collet dies, bushing dies, etc), until you understand basic dies.
Don't buy every powder listed in your load data, but don't think you can use just one, either.

Buy used, if you can find a good deal.

Don't believe anything on an internet forum.
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Old November 9, 2012, 12:04 AM   #15
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lll Otto lll
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Twenty years ago I started with a Lee single stage press but after a month or so I realized that I had made a mistake and went with a Rock Chucker.
Back then, I didn't have the luxury of consulting the Internet, it didn't exist.
Lesson learned...don't go cheap.
Internet is a tad older than twenty years.
Ebay is nearly twenty years old.
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Old November 9, 2012, 03:00 AM   #16
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Do not let Reloading become a higher priority than shooting.
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Old November 9, 2012, 05:00 AM   #17
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I would build a better bench from scratch. This would include better powder, primer and case storage.

I would load with my press higher...closer to eye level.

I would wall mount my scale on an isolated shelf.
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Old November 9, 2012, 07:45 AM   #18
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In 1987 my brother sent me what turned out to be my first data loads, it was 30-06, using a 150 grn Sierra Gameking, and four different powder weights of IMR 4350. At the time all I shot from my rifle,( Remington 700) was 180 grn Core-Lokts.
With the loads, (5 rnds each) he sent me pertinant instructions on how to fire these loads, and under no circumstances was I do anything other than he wrote.
In the end I found that my rifle loved the # 4 loading which was 58 grns of IMR 4350, at 100 yds you could cover all five with a quarter, and at this time I still shot "open sights".
That's when I got hooked, and in 1989 I moved back to my families neighborhood and we started loading all kinds of cartridges.... whoooo hoooooo.
It's fun but not cheap, but it's real rewarding.
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Old November 9, 2012, 03:08 PM   #19
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First and foremost, I would keep a very detailed log of everything I have produced at the bench. I do that now, but it took me a few years of learning (making the same mistakes more than once...) to figure it out. These days I can EASILY refer to anything I've made and repeat it if I choose, or avoid it if I now know better.

In tools, I'd have skipped the powder dippers and the other powder measures I used and gone straight to the Lyman 55. I also would have bought TWO .38/.357 die sets, so I wouldn't have put off .357 Magnum for so many years simply because I didn't want to "adjust" my .38 dies.

For the more advanced in tools -- I would have done better research before I bought my chrono. I bought the Chrony Beta Master and the interface is horrific. The chrono does exactly what it is supposed to do and measures every round I shoot through it, and I like the way it packs up and it works well, but the user interface is perhaps the worst of any electronic device I've ever encountered.

Lastly, I would have bought a tumbler a lot sooner than I did, and I'd be sure to go directly to the Berry's tumbler because it's a terrific tool and better than the Frankford Arsenal I started with.
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Old November 9, 2012, 03:37 PM   #20
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If I had it to do over again I would have gotten more heavily into it sooner.

If I were just starting now, it would take me a several years to get where I am at now, It used to be a hobby, now it's really a necessity for me, I make less money, pay more in taxes (how does that work?) and the ammo prices are through the roof, the only way I can afford to shoot my guns often is to load for them. Fortunately I have alot of good equipment that is now essentially priceless to me.
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Old November 9, 2012, 05:36 PM   #21
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I got the RCBS rockchucker reloading kit when I started reloading in 1999.

1) Rockchucker press .. don't use it anymore, I now use Co-ax presses with shellholer jaw housing redesigned, and an RCBS Partner press.
2) "Speer 12" reloading manual... loads in it are a joke, I find my start load with Quickload software.
3) Bottle of glycerin for lube... don't use it any more, now use Redding imperial die wax.
4) Pad for applying glycerin... don't use it, I use my fingers.
5) Brush for lubing inside of case neck.. don't use it any more, I remove the expander ball so I don't need inside lube.
6) Loading tray made of plastic... don't use it. I seat bullets as soon as I charge the case, with a second press.
7) Wire brush for cleaning primer pockets. Don't use it.
8) 5-0-5 scale [Ohaus OEM]... I still use it.
9) Uniflow powder measure.... I still use it.
10) Inside outside neck chamfer [ Wilson OEM] I still use it.
11) case trimmer, don't use it anymore. I now use a Forster case trimmer or RCBS 3 way in the vertical mill
12) Funnel, don't use it, I use a Frankfort Arsenal or MTM funnel.
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Old November 9, 2012, 06:33 PM   #22
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It's questions like those in the opening post which make me thankful for this forum. Did the prelim homework of reading ABC's of Reloading, two other manuals, the reloading sticky notes and reviewed quite a number of the threads prior to purchasing equipment and supplies.

Tickled pink that I've experienced so little wasted time or money.

Only regret is I didn't start sooner!
A lack of planning on your part does not necessarily constitute an emergency on my part.
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Old November 9, 2012, 06:41 PM   #23
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I wish I couldve resisted my urge to be cheap and bought the right tools the first time. Like all the different gadgets I bought to remove primer crimp, trim cases and chamfer. The tools I use now are expensive but work the best. you get what you pay for
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Old November 9, 2012, 07:17 PM   #24
David Bachelder
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I started with a Rockchucker I still have it and my son uses it. I'd still use it if needed, it's one hell of a press.

Then I bought an RCBS Turret. I like it a lot but wish I had gone ahead and bought a progressive. I think the Turret is an unnecessary step between single and progressive.

Dont get me wrong, I use the Turret a lot, and I enjoy it. With RCBS customer support helping out with the things I break, I never have a problem that goes unsolved. RCBS support is astronomical. I recently bought a set of LEE dies, they perform well but in reality they are not supported in the fashion I have become used to. If I break a decapping pin I write RCBS and they replace it, no problem. I don't know for sure but I'd guess LEE would tell me to go suck an egg (and I wouldn't blame them). I have never used LEE customer support, so I can only guess.

So heres what I've learned.

Your first press most likely needs to be a single stage. You will use it the rest of your reloading years. The second press needs to ba a progressive, It seems like RCBS and Dillon lead the pack.

Just my opinion, OCYMMV.
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I load, 9mm Luger, 38 and 40 S&W, 38 Special, 357Magnum, 45ACP, 45 Colt, 223, 300 AAC, 243 and 30-06
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Old November 9, 2012, 11:38 PM   #25
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Funny, because that is exactly what Im doing. Have a post on here explaining that I had to get rid of my equipment and am looking to replace it.

The internet helps out now. Which I don't think it did back in the day. Or internet was just starting.

I would do it the same way now, except for:

No neck sizing die: I like to go out to the range and pick up peoples spent brasses. My neck sized wouldn't work or didn't work back then. I really don't know if it is worth all the hipe. Better accuracy? Was having a hard time seeing it back then.

Look for powders that work in a bunch of guns. instead of having 13 different powders laying around for different guns.

Find the sweet load in the gun and stick with it. Don't keep looking for a better load after you already have a great.
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