Need some suggestions/advice on reloading equipment.

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    Member Array mjp's Avatar
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    Need some suggestions/advice on reloading equipment.

    I would like to learn how to reload. I've been looking at various types of reloading equipment and at this point am kind of overwhelmed by it. Any help or suggestions as to what I should buy and how time consuming it is would be greatly appreciated. I have just begun to shoot on a regular basis and over two days learned just how expensive this hobby can become, but I like it!
    Thanks

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    Member Array Skippymjp's Avatar
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    A good place to start is to decide for yourself how you'll be reloading. Myself, I'll reload after firing a couple hundred rounds, so a simple single stage press works fine for me. If you think you might fill a bucket with empty brass between loading sessions, then a progressive rig is definitely in order. Give yourself an honest evaluation on how much and how often, and that'll answer a lot of your questions right there. :)

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    Conventional wisdom is "start with a single stage" - and I won't contradict that advice. But - if you shoot several hundred rounds a month, if you have a technical orientation, and you can rub your head while patting your tummy, then a progressive is certainly an acceptable choice.

    That's just a start - feel free to ask more questions.
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    I like my turret press for being able to crank out ammo , or to just make a few for testing. When I first started out I used the turret press as a single stage to give full attention to each stage a verify I was correct/safe. Not sure how much you will save but you do get to shoot more with reloading.
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    Distinguished Member Array Jaeger's Avatar
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    Even though I'm a subversive, and love bucking conventional wisdom and making the powers that be upset or uncomfortable, I have to go with single stage for your first press. It's allot cheaper, I think you gain a better understanding of what's going on by doing the same stage over and over without all of them going at once, and if you ever want to shoot distance or need the consistency of match grade ammo then reloading one at a time is the only way to go. I think it's also better and easier in the beginning to have to set each die up and tune the press for that one stage than to try and make all of them run right your first dozen times. I'd buy a kit with everything you need, because, again, it's allot cheaper.

    Granted, if you're reloading hundreds or thousands of rounds progressive is the only way to go, and if your like me you'll end up with several presses, but by then you can afford to buy more with all the money you saved on store bought ammo. If you have a group of friends who shoot a press can pay for itself in no time at all. Most of my friends have ARs, and I can assure you they appreciated my reloading hobby for the last year or so.

    I've got 5.56s down just to $.19 per round reusing brass and buying the inexpensive primers and powder. Now that Graff's shelves are full again there will probably start to be deals occasionally, and if you capitalize on sales and specials you can get it down further. I think it's kind of fun to get out my calculator and see just how cheap I can make plink ammo.
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    Starting out reloading on a progressive can be a bit like using a Harley to learn to ride a bicycle. it can be done but may not be the best route.

    How much shooting do you do on a monthly basis? How much reloading do you intend to do? How much at a session, 200-300 rounds at a time?

    Reloading is a sizeable investment at best, at least for most, even more so with the upper level progressives. I suggest starting out with a single stage or possible a turret press. If you decide your needs exceed the capabilities of the press, it's always resalable. You may find that reloading is not for you, and then you wouldn't want to be stuck taking a hit on $400-500 worth of expensive gear.

    As for the initial expense, you'll recoup that fairly quickly, depending on number of rounds reloaded. The upside to the investment is the equipment rarely wears out or breaks. The downside is . . . there's always one more gadget to be had!
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    Member Array mjp's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the suggestions and I think I will probably check out a single stage system first. As to how much I shoot, not as much as I would like at 27.00/50 rounds plus range fees. Most of what you all talked about is completely "greek" to me right now, hopefully once I get the materials I need I will understand the process much better. I have shot just 50 rounds each time at the range but I cannot do that more than once a week unless I do my own ammo. I have been saving my empty cartridges.
    Thanks again

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    VIP Member Array BigJon10125's Avatar
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    Definitely save the brass. Once you decide on a press, start looking into the dies. It took me months to find\get a die set for .45 acp. Not sure if it is getting better or not, but I would buy a reloading manual or 3 and start reading those while you wait for the other stuff. I got a press for Christmas and have yet to reload one round because of supplies being hard to come by. I finally got the last component needed and will be reloading my first soon, that being said, the amount of variables are seemingly endless, so write down your options BEFORE you go to a store and become overwhelmed.

    Good luck!
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    Quote Originally Posted by mjp View Post
    Most of what you all talked about is completely "greek" to me right now, hopefully once I get the materials I need I will understand the process much better.
    Purchase a good reloading manual and it will explain all the terms, equipment, and the process of reloading. Then you'll have an idea of what's involved equipment wise. Speer and Hornady are just a couple to begin with, the Speer set me on the path to reloading righteousness.
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    Member Array MoMike's Avatar
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    My reloading is a little different than most on here. You see, I HATE TELEVISION! My reloading comes in the winter evenings when I have nothing else to do. I load all winter to be able to shoot the rest of the year. For that reason, I have accumulated enough brass that I can load all winter and shoot all summer. For me, a standard old RCBS Rockchucker press works just ideally. It is slow, but I still think it's the best way to learn reloading.
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    Member Array Wolfiesden's Avatar
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    Ok, I can give you some perspective here from someone who just started reloading. The experience is fresh to me so I can give you some feedback from a similar perspective that you are going to be seeing shortly.

    First step:
    Abcs OF Reloading THE Definitive Guide FOR Novice TO Expert Step BY Step Instru 1440213968 | eBay

    Seriously. I don't care where you get it. Just get it. Its on Amazon. Its at walmart. Its probably at Borders or Barns. Get the newest edition, the one pictured in the link above.

    This book will be the best $17 you will spend on reloading equipment. Get it first. Get it now. I can't stress this enough.

    Honestly, start with the ABCs book. It will explain the equipment, the process and the safety issues. Its a pretty good read to be honest. It has a lot of very interesting tidbits and facts in it. And it will help you make decisions on what equipment you may want.

    The book covers the general process as well as detailed sections on pistol, rifle and shotgun reloading processes. There is information about primers, powders, bullet types and inspecting cartridges. Its really a good collection of info for someone starting out.

    And after reading it, if you don't want to take the leap into reloading, well you are only out $17. Take it to a used book store or sell it to a local for a few bucks and you are out even less.

    In the mean time, keep shooting. Keep buying ammo. SAVE YOUR BRASS. Pick up brass off the range when you are there too. Even the stuff you won't reload or you think is damaged! You can clean and deprime it and sell it at various places and make a buck or two. Or, you can do like my 9yr old does, she is a range vacuum. She scoops up everything brass including spent rimfire (not reloaable). She is also my chief #1 brass sorter. She picks out what I tell her I want (calibers) and she gets to keep everything else. And once a month I take her to the metal scrap yard and she walks out with $10-$25 of cash in her pocket for her efforts and a big grin on her face. In the mean time, you are building up your brass stock. And if you decide not to reload. Sell it off, no harm no foul.


    I will hit you with the biggest piece of equipment you need to decide on. The press. There are basically only two core types of presses available to the consumer reloader. A single stage press and a progressive press.

    A single stage press requires you to do a vast majority of the operation yourself. You load and remove the casing/round. You pour powder in the case. You place the bullet on top of the casing. You pull the handle many times to complete a single round (usually 3-4). Sounds like a lot of work. It is. But its detail work that you MUST learn to do to make this safe. This is the bicycle as someone above so eloquently stated. They ARE cheaper. But thats not the reason you should start with one. By putting your hands and head into every operation, you learn what happens when you fail at one. You learn to do each stage to the best of your ability before progressing onto the next stage. Thats good. That builds experience and knowledge.

    A progressive press is usually auto indexed meaning you simply feed it supplies and it does all the work. In general each pull of the handle will complete a round. These produce finished rounds far faster than a single stage press can. But when you screw up, you don't just screw up a single round, its usually 3-5 that are hozed. Since every operation (de-priming, priming, charging, seating and crimping) happen with every handle pull, setup can be very daunting for a fresher like you and I. Can you and I start here? Sure. Not the best place though.

    This is the reason most suggest beginning on a single stage. Later you can add a progressive press and all the experience and knowledge gained using a single stage press carries into the progressive. But keep your single stage when you do! You can fall back to it for some quick custom test loads before you change your progressive. Or leave 9mm on your progressive and run a few 40's on your single stage for a buddy.

    For single stage presses, those come in two basic styles. True single stage like Lee Reloader, RCBS Rock Chucker, Redding Big Boss II and the Hornady Lock-N-Load Classic. The second type is called a turret press. They lie between the true single stage press and a progressive. Typical ones are Lee Classic 4 Hole Turret Press, Redding T-7 Turret, RCBS Turret Press and Lyman T-Mag 2. Turret presses offer a varied number of holes from 4 to 7. The number of holes determines the number of possible dies you can have attached at any one time. Some offer additional head plates you can easily switch out so you can have your dies all set and just switch out the heads.

    So whats the difference between a true single stage and a turret? Well, the number of dies you can have attached. Basically. In general they both operate virtually identical. They have a single shell holder (holds the round being loaded). They each operate a single die at a time on that single round. The benefit of a turret style press is that you don't have to remove your perfectly adjusted die and replace it with the next one in the process. You can have your sizing/depriming die in one hole, your flaring die in the next and your seater in a 3rd hole. All adjusted, all ready to go with a simple turn of the head plate. With a single stage press (non-turret), you install your deprime/sizing die. You adjust it. You run all your empty casings through. Then you remove that die and screw in your flaring die. You adjust that. Then you run all the cases through that die. Then you remove it and attach your seating die. Etc. Then the next time you want to run a batch, you have to put the depriming/sizing die back in and readjust it, again. Time after time. ALL of that is eliminated on a turret press. You adjust the dies ONCE and you don't have to putz with them again. Unless you need to remove them to chage calibers (see comments later on this).

    So, your initial decision is really between types of presses, Single Stage, Turret, Progressive. As a firt time reloader, progressive may not be the best choice. Yes, many do start with them and yes you can. But the progressive is the Harley, single stage is the tricycle and the turret is the bicycle from the earlier analogy.

    Here is a great overview video for general concepts of reloading from a guy who has clearly run a few cases through a press.
    Reloading Basics (Decisions To Make) - YouTube


    My choice? Redding T-7 turret press. It has 7 die holes. Each die set contains anywhere from 2 to 4 individual dies. For example, my carbide 38 set has 3. My 223 set has 2. My 30-06 has 3 or 4 if I choose an optional factory crimp. So why do you need 7? You can you install more than one caliber! I have a 3 die set of 38 special and a 3 die set of 9mm and a universal decapper on one plate. On another I will have (when the plate arrives from the store) my 30-06 and my 223 sets on it. One center bolt comes out and the entire head plate comes off and I can go from loading pistol rounds to rifle rounds in less than a minute. There is no need to re-adjust any dies once installed on the head (unless you remove them from the head).

    The Redding T-7 is probably the most expensive of the turret presses listed. But you would be hard pressed to find anyone not happy with theirs. Most of the others have both pro and cons. Lee had the most people disliking them in reviews and forums. RCBS and Redding were probably the highest rated as far as companies go. Other than Dillon but thats the Ferrari of companies. Redding is probably the Cadillac. Lee is probably the Hundai of reloaders.

    I guess it wouldn't be fair not to mention the hand loader option. Its not a real press. You are literally reloading without a true press. It involves a hammer and pounding rounds together. It does work. You can do it VERY cheap, <$100 for just about everything you need. But its really not the most accurate nor the best way and is probably the lowest method out there short of standing in Walmart waiting for the ammo gods to smile on you. The advantage is its cheap. And its really very portable. And it might be an option for you to explore.

    If you do decide to commit to reloading....

    Your next purchase should be a load manual. I highly recommend the Lyman 49th edition. Its available at Midway, Cabela's and likely any LGS that carries supplies. This manual also has reloading information about equipment and instructional sections on the overall process. But its most valuable section is the 3/4 of it that lists load data for specific rounds. You are probably thinking why this first? Yea? You have no equipment but you do have load data. Seem backwards doesn't it. Well, right now reloading components are harder to come by than equipment. And choosing which load, powder, primer and bullet has ZERO to do with which press you are going to load it on. But it does matter in TIME. You are likely to be hunting for materials. So making a list of specific powders, primers, and bullets you will need requires a load data manual. So look up your loads. List the powders, primer, and bullets you want. You can jot them on a pad of paper but I put mine in the notebad app in my smart phone. Then when I drop by Cabela's or LGS shops and they do have some powder in stick, I can quickly reference my shopping list to see if they are on it. No mistakes. No trying to remember what the book said. No guessing. And if its in your phone, its always with you :) So, you can start picking up a pound here or a box of primers there or some bullets over there and accumulate some supplies. Before you have your equipment. Nothing worse than having a bench full of equipment and spending a month trying to scrounge for supplies eh?

    Try to get supplies locally if possible. Ordering on the net always has a hazmat fee for powder and primers. Bullets no.


    So, I have covered the main piece of equipment you will need, the press. There are many more pieces and in general they are cheaper than the actual press. Pick up the books I suggested. Read them a chapter a night. They will help you ask the questions you are very likely to want to ask. They will also give you most of those answers. But importantly, they will help you make decisions in buying equipment and proper safety procedures to follow once you start.

    There are two avenues of thinking when looking at reloading equipment. Buy cheap and then upgrade later. Study what you need and buy good equipment at the start. Either way, you started out well by recognizing you needed help to choose. It is overwhelming. There is a lot of varieity out there and a lot of market speak. There are lovers and haters of specific brands and you can become jaded by some of that. For me, I chose to study and buy good stuff to start with. I asked for suggestions. I asked for reasons behind them. If all I got was "because I like them", well its worthless info. Why does it work or not work. Why is A better then B.

    In the end, I bought a Redding T-7 press. I bought a RCBS powder dispenser and electronic scale. I bought the RCBS case prep center. I bought a good set of calipers. And I bought a LE Wilson trimmer. Its not likely I will have to scrap any of those and replace them. Ever. I bought the Redding because I had a hell of a time finding anyone saying anything negative about it other than the price. I bought a turret for the above mentioned reasons, multiple calibers at once, easy change head and less changeover time from caliber to caliber. I bought the powder dispenser/scale combo because its 1/10th grain accuracy, no need to manually measure powder, built in trickler and ability to have it dispense while I am seating a bullet. I bought the case prep center because I plan to process rifle rounds, many are military brass and need the primer pockets reamed out. I didn't want to sit there with a hand reamer, I have better things to do with my time, like go shooting. I got a good set of calipers because measuring cases and overall load lengths is critical for precision rifle rounds and if I can't measure them accurately, whats the point in measuring them at all. I decided on the LE Wilson trimmer because it seems to be one of the most accurate trimmers out there. And again, my goal is for precision rifle rounds. Case length differences in the thousandths matter at 600yd. I also liked its simple, no-nonsence design.

    Those are MY reasons and choices based on MY goals. I have no idea what your goals are. You do though. And if you decide those things I chose don't fit your goals, well, don't buy that piece of equipment! Buy what fits your goals and your budget.

    I don't know what your budget is but buying everything I need to load 9mm, 38spcl, 223, and 30-06, I am in for about $1200. Yes, you can get going with the basics for $200-$400. You can. But I decided to get good stuff that I don't have to throw away. Stuff that I can create precision rounds with that I can take out eventually to the 600yd rage. My first batches of 223 pulled in groups smaller than a dime at 100yd. And i can work that down smaller as I experiment. Its not likely I would be doing that with the hand loaders and probably not budget equipment or dies. I made the mistake in buying 2 sets of Lee dies trying to save money. Both sets made me regret that. You have to make your own choices but I will stick to RCBS and Redding dies from now on. But thats me.
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  13. #12
    Senior Member Array sonnycrocket's Avatar
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    buy a Dillon and dont look back
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    Distinguished Member Array Jaeger's Avatar
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    Wow Wolfiesden. That was really well written and I think a hell of a lot of good advice for a beginner. I couldn't have done that because I was rolling cases and using a hand deprimer years before I was ever allowed to touch an actual firearm. Sitting in my dad's shop, listening to Jack Buck call a Cardinals game, and loading cartridges and shells while he smoked menthols and sipped whiskey from a highball glass is how I learned, and it was not as thought out and deliberate as your experience. It was something I will cherish though. Years later when I came back to reloading and read some books I was a little shocked that an agitator/polisher was not a necessary piece of equipment, because my dad made every metallic cartridge gleam, and I always thought it was somehow important.

    I never had to buy a press, because the last few generations of my family seemed to collect them. Being poor and comming from the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas meant that anything you could do yourself without paying someone else to do was what was done. Self reliance in all things was a maxim. My Dad could buy whatever ammo he wanted, but I think he reloaded because that's what he did with his dad, and my grandfather with my great grandfather (though their reloading probably involved a ramrod).

    I think that all this CCW is an incredible thing, because it is getting so many young people into shooting, and this recent ammo shortage is getting more people into reloading. The more of us there are the less chance "they" have of destroying what we consider our way of life. Now, If we could just break the addiction to these plastic guns and get more people to appreciate the myriad of callibers beyond 9mm (and shooting past 21') we might usher in a new age of American Marksmanship.
    “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive." C.S. Lewis

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    Senior Member Array Zralou's Avatar
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    I'm only one step ahead of you, i've got the equipment. I went to Midway, bought a Lee Turret press, 9mm 4 die set, digital scale, tumbler, powder feed and primer feeder. My total including shipping was right around $300.

    I haven't done any reloading yet, i'm currently reading a book on the subject that a manager at work loaned me. I'm also working on finding a local supplier of consumables (primers, powder, bullets). Also, my home is currently under renovation, so I don't have a permanent setup room yet.

    Good luck with your reloading, i'm sure you'll enjoy it, i'm pretty sure i'm going to. Just take your time, read a LOT, avoid distractions during the process, and above all else.... HAVE FUN!!.

    Sara Lou
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    Member Array Mjr_Fail's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sonnycrocket View Post
    buy a Dillon and dont look back
    +1. I started reloading handgun loads a few months ago with the RL550B because I like to shoot at least once a week. In my case I went right to the press I figured I would want eventually anyway. YMMV.
    "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." --Benjamin Franklin

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