Another "I need help setting up for reloading thread"

Another "I need help setting up for reloading thread"

This is a discussion on Another "I need help setting up for reloading thread" within the Reloading forums, part of the Defensive Ammunition & Ballistics category; So, I want to start re-loading. I have taken a reloading class to understand the process, and have been saving brass for years, so I ...

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Thread: Another "I need help setting up for reloading thread"

  1. #1
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    Array buckeye .45's Avatar
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    Another "I need help setting up for reloading thread"

    So, I want to start re-loading. I have taken a reloading class to understand the process, and have been saving brass for years, so I have a bit of it.

    Ideally I would like to set up for 9mm, .45 and .38 Special for pistols, and 5.56 and .308 on rifles.

    I am going to start with a single stage press. It seems to me that everyone should have a good single stage press. So, which single stage do the more experienced reloaders prefer? I see that some are aluminum, and some are cast iron. I would think the cast iron are more durable, although heavier. I am leaning towards RCBS, but am open to suggestions.

    Aside from that, I know I will need a powder measure, scale, case trimmer, and priming tool. I am probably just going to buy a kit if possible. As well as manuals.

    I realize I will need large and small rifle and pistol primers in order to fill my caliber wants.

    If I wanted to get a "one size fits all" pistol powder for creating range ammo, any suggestions? How about W231?

    What about for rifle powder?

    Thanks everyone for the input!
    Fortes Fortuna Juvat

    Former, USMC 0311, OIF/OEF vet
    NRA Pistol/Rifle/Shotgun/Reloading Instructor, RSO, Ohio CHL Instructor


  2. #2
    Member Array mkphillips's Avatar
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    I have a Lee and a RCBS single stage press. For function they both work the same. I currently have the Lee set up as a de-prime station. I reload 9mm, 45acp, 38 special, .223 and 243.
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  3. #3
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    I just started reloading less than 2 years ago, so the memories of getting started are pretty fresh.

    I deliberated long and hard about single stage vs progressive; I chose progressive but I'd still flip a coin today if I was starting over. You won't regret a single stage, and in fact I know there's one in my future for running up small batches (say, under 100 rounds of a given load).

    Realistically, any of the 'name' presses will serve you well, but among my reloading friends the RCBS "rock chucker" seems to be the most popular, and conversely, the Lee presses the least. I don't think there's a notable difference between cast iron (probably cast steel, actually) and aluminum presses; you don't care about the weight difference if it's mounted to a bench, and any modern aluminum press is going to be strong enough by design.

    I think people do get pretty picky about dies, and with reason. I've got Lee, Hornady and RCBS. The Lee dies have a relatively short threaded shank so they may not have the full range of adjustment on non-Lee presses. My handgun caliber dies are Hornady and my rifle cal dies are RCBS. If you're loading for rifles other than bolt actions, you want the "small base" dies which resize the case almost all the way down to the rim. Lever guns, pumps and autoloaders don't have the camming action that a bolt gun does, so you'll end up with stuck cases if you use a standard die.

    You'll probably never need to trim handgun cartridge cases other than magnums, but rifle cases, you will. I got the Forster "original" trimmer kit and mounted it on a 1x4 board that clamp to the bench when I need it. You'll also need a case mouth chamfering and deburring tool; there are a few combination tools on the market that have the ID chamfer on one end and the OD de-burr on the other, about 15 bucks... that's all you'll need. A primer pocket brush is handy; probably won't need it for pistol cases but you will for rifle, and you'll need two - one for large primer pockets and one for small.

    I got a Hornady powder measure with my Lock'n'Load progressive press, it came with powder drums for rifle (large volume) and pistol (small volume), and it works well for me. I can't offer advice on others, but maybe read the customer comments on the Midway site for the different brands of measures.

    One of the other tools you will invariably need is a bullet puller! I got a Lyman simply because that was the one available.

    For scales, I'd skip the electronic ones in favor of a beam balance. The digital ones are sensitive to drafts and almost all of the "affordable" ones (like under $200) tend to drift when left on for a couple of hours. I'm happy with my RCBS 5-0-5, but understand that you need to re-level/re-zero any scale whenever it's moved (takes just seconds). Get some calibration/check weights around the lightest charge weight you'll need (say 5-10 grains) and the heaviest (maybe 50 grains?) and maybe one in between. If you have access to a precision industrial scale, you could make your own check weights with stainless steel wire or washers; just set them aside and keep 'em clean.

    One other measurement tool you definitely need is a dial caliper. Don't go too cheap here (like skip the Harbor Fright specials... the gears are soft steel and don't wear well); Brown & Sharpe and Starrett are nice, but really pricey these days. I'd look in the McMaster-Carr catalog and see if you can find a Mitutoyo or similar for $50 or so. And a loaded case gage to check your finished cartridges is a big help, especially for autoloader cartridges and especially when you're dialing in that crimp.

    I think that covers my "beginner notes" on equipment. For manuals, I got the Lee, Lyman and Hornady books and I've found them all useful. Invariably, the load you want either won't be listed with the bullet or powder you're using, OR - more likely - the overall length for the listed load will be different than what you need. This is where cross-checking the recipes between cookbooks is helpful, and even so, cautious and common-sense extrapolation will still probably be required.

    About powders... lots of debate. Everyone has their favorites they swear by. I got lucky at the start and chose Titegroup for my .45 ACP and .38. It's pretty economical and burns clean, and it'll work for 9mm and .40 if I start loading for them, too. I think 231 is equally versatile. Rifle powders seem a lot more specialized; so far, I'm only reloading for a Garand so IMR 4895 was a pretty easy choice (with tons of reference literature to guide me).

    Lastly, I'd recommend starting out loading for .45. Reasons? It's a low-pressure round, so even if you screw up and throw a double charge, it's unlikely to damage the gun or you (squib loads are sneakier and more dangerous, I think). The case is short and fat and it's easy to look inside and see the powder charge. The bullet is likewise fat and easy to handle, as in seating it in the case.

    So... all this is worth exactly what you're paying for it, but I hope it helps!
    BamaT and darbo like this.
    Smitty
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  4. #4
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    I've always had a single stage press on my reloading bench, I still load all my rifle cartridges that way except for 223. I've always had an RCBS press filling that role. My current that I have now for the last 20 years or so has been a Rockchucker II. I used RCBS Jr presses for years and they worked great also (don't even know if they make it any longer) only switched because I needed the longer stroke to load my really long 45-2 7/8 cartridges for my Shilohs. RCBS has a warranty as good as Dillon that I doubt you'll find a lot of need of for years down the road. The only time I used it was mostly for used equipment that I bought that was missing parts and they sent them to me at no charge no questions asked.
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  5. #5
    Distinguished Member Array airslot's Avatar
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    Rcbs and Hornady both have starter kits with the essentials to get started. I have switched to Hornady dies after some issues with the RCBS dies.

    Rifle powder: Varget, Benchmark, BL-C2

    Pistol powder: W231, W296, Unique

    I load 38spl, 357, 45ACP, 223, 308.

    I'm also using LEE factory crimp dies for every caliber.
    The situation will NEVER BE THE WAY YOU WANT, it WILL BE THE WAY IT IS. You must be FLEXIBLE ENOUGH TO ADAPT and just "DEAL WITH IT".

  6. #6
    Senior Member Array FLSlim's Avatar
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    Honestly, all of the name single stage presses will get you started. My first, 30 yrs ago, was a Lee and it is still on my bench and quite functional, but I don't really use it too much any more. Find something within your budget and get going. Sometime in the future you might want to upgrade, so stay with something of decent quality that you can still use after that upgrade. For getting started, I'd be much more concerned about getting a quality scale, whether beam or electronic, that will be utterly reliable and easy to use.
    Chose a weapon that goes bang EVERY time!

  7. #7
    VIP Member Array high pockets's Avatar
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    Winchester 231 and Hodgdon HP-38 are both the same powder from 2 different divisions of the same company. Both are very versatil and would work well in the pistol calibers you mentioned. If you decide to load any magnum pistol rounds wyou would definitely need to change powders.

    I agree that RCBS has the reputation for being one of the best single stage presses. I, too, got into reloading on a progressive press and have never regretted the decision. If you decide to go with a progressive press, I cannot recommend Dillon highly enough. I encourage you to go to the Dillon website: Dillon Precision: Reloaders, Reloading Equipment, Bullet Reloading, Bullet Reloaders, as they offer RCBS single stage presses as well as their own progressive models.

    Good luck to you, and be safe and follow the reloading specs posted in the better reloading manuals.

    Speer, Hornady, Hodgdon, Winchester, Accurate, and Vihta-Vouri are just some of the firms that put out great information on loads. Berry's Mfg www.berrysmfg is also a great place for information as well as some great bullets.
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  8. #8
    VIP Member Array glockman10mm's Avatar
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    The kit I purchased many years ago, and the one I still use today, was the Lee Anniversary Kit, contains everything you need except dies. It will also except dies from other makers.

    I load everything, even some exotics.

    Unique powder will work well for just about any pistol cartridge. It's all I use, unless I want full magnum potential in magnum cartridges.

    H-335 is excellent in the 5.56. It may work for the 308 also, however I would look at BL-C for it giving best results.

    These will be all you really need to start with. Keep it simple and you will slowly discover what works best for you as you develop your own loads.
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    Good advice so far. I still use the antique Herters single-stage press. It gets the job done with no issues. It's loaded .38s, .357s, 9mms, .41 Mags, .45 ACPs, .223s, .243s,, .30-06s to name the more common ones.

    You can't go wrong with RCBS. My 505 scale has worked flawlessly for many years. Most of my equipment is a mix of RCBS and Lee. The only thing that ever wore out is my Lee hand primer (the original model) and I'm going to request the RCBS model for Xmas.

    As for the WW231 and HP-38, I've always found the -38 to be a couple of bucks cheaper. Good luck, and please take your time starting out.
    Retired USAF E-8. Lighten up and enjoy life because:
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  10. #10
    VIP Member Array dukalmighty's Avatar
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    I use unique for everything from 380 acp to 44 magnum,I also use reloader 7 or 15 for 223,You can save some money by buying powder and primers online,but plan on getting around 20,000 primers and 16 pounds of powder to offset the cost of hazmat and shipping charges,which is gonna cost you between 5-600 dollars,but you will pay almost double buying 1# of powder and 100 or 1000 primers at a time locally
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  11. #11
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    Thanks everyone for the responses so far, I really appreciate the time and thought put into the responses.

    It looks like the RCBS is a favorite single stage.

    I do like the beam scales better than the electronic, they seem a bit more precise and repeatable, even if they do require a little more effort to set up.

    .45 was probably going to be my beginning round, I have lots of cases for it, and it is the most expensive to shoot, along with my favorite handgun round.
    Fortes Fortuna Juvat

    Former, USMC 0311, OIF/OEF vet
    NRA Pistol/Rifle/Shotgun/Reloading Instructor, RSO, Ohio CHL Instructor

  12. #12
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    You'll like the savings, and the likelihood of more accurate ammo is a bonus. I'm currently loading .45 ACP for under 13 cents a round (using brass already on hand), and .30-06 around 40 cents a round, depending on the bullets I use. I was very pleasantly surprised when my .45 reloads easily outshot the Win generic ball I'd been using for years!
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  13. #13
    VIP Member Array dukalmighty's Avatar
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    If your gonna load 45 acp and you can find used Lead Wheel Weights at your local tire shops then invest in a LEE 20# bottom pour lead pot and a 6 cavity mold,you can cast bullets fairly cheap and then use the Liquid Alox bullet lube to tumble lube them,It's cheaper at first than having to buy a lubrisizer and the lube/size dies and hard lube.
    My cast bullets cost me about .02 each
    "Outside of the killings, Washington has one of the lowest crime rates in the country,"
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  14. #14
    Member Array wiguy's Avatar
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    Find a good deal & get started. Starting with the 38 spcl is about as simple as it gets. One of my common handgun powders is H Universal. Get a manual & start reading.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Array darbo's Avatar
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    Wow you have received a ton of great information! There are a lot of knowledgeable folks here and it's awesome they are willing to share their info and experience.

    I am a newbie and have been reloading for about 4 months now and really enjoy it. It's like finding another hobby that I enjoy and it supports my other hobby of shooting! Win, win!

    This is what I got started with. I bought the Hornady Lock and Load Classic kit. Midway had a great sale on this kit when I was looking. The only part of the kit that I didn't care for was the little electronic scale. It drifted a lot. Since then I bought Hornady's upgrade electronic and it works well. However I do think I would have been better served with a good balance beam....live and learn! One aspect I really like about the Hornady system is the Lock and Load die system. Just makes it really quick and easy to change dies.

    I started with 9mm, then added .45ACP and finally .223. For the pistol cartridges I use W231 or HP-38 and for the .223 I use Accurate 2230. I got started with the powders based off of others recommendations and they have worked well for me. As time goes on and money allows I will try other powders and develop a wider data base of my own.

    I use the Hornady book and the Lee book and a couple of websites for load charts.

    Components can be a little hard to find right now. Hopefully that will change soon! Good luck with your new venture!

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