Reloading Questions/Advice

Reloading Questions/Advice

This is a discussion on Reloading Questions/Advice within the Reloading forums, part of the Defensive Ammunition & Ballistics category; For a few years I have wanted to get into reloading but have not yet taken that great leap. Before I start I want to ...

View Poll Results: I set up a poll as a simple way for people to answer my few questions

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  • Classic Lee loader to start for basics

    12 34.29%
  • Just get a Single Stage Press for ease/speed

    23 65.71%
  • 9mm

    15 42.86%
  • 38SPL

    19 54.29%
  • Sonic Cleaner

    1 2.86%
  • Tumbler

    16 45.71%
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Thread: Reloading Questions/Advice

  1. #1
    VIP Member Array rammerjammer's Avatar
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    Reloading Questions/Advice

    For a few years I have wanted to get into reloading but have not yet taken that great leap. Before I start I want to get some advice from the experienced reloaders as well as to get some basic questions answered.

    To start off, I am not mechanically inclined to say the least. I don’t have an aptitude with tools and that probably won’t change. I want to start reloading but am hesitant because of the initial costs and requisite mechanical abilities for reloading. To start, I only plan to reload for 38SPL and 9mm Luger and I am only looking to start with making basic plinking rounds, nothing special or customized loads…yet.

    I have already saved up thousands of 9mm casings and about 1000 38 SPL once fired casings. So beyond reloading equipment, I need to pick up primers, powder and bullets and something to clean my spent casings.

    So, I am considering just starting off with the most basic setup, the Classic Lee Loader aka nutcracker system. I can get one for $30 from Cabelas and basic costs for primers, powder and bullets should be around $100 so I could possibly give reloading a try for $130 plus the cost of something to clean the cases I already have. I would also pick up a bullet puller and calipers but am not really factoring them as a major cost. I have watched a few videos on the Classic Lee Loader and I think that even I can figure that one out. It looks fairly slow and laborious but it would be a baby-step towards fully getting into reloading and if I don’t like the process I can load up the supplies I’ve invested in it and call it quits or if I like reloading, $30 is not much to waste when I may eventually get a more advanced reloading setup. So, enough backstory, on to the questions.

    1. Is it worthwhile to start with the Classic Lee Loader aka nutcracker or should I just keep saving to get a Single Stage Press kit? I am not set on brand, no use debating brand, just basic setup, Hand load or Single Stage Press?

    2. Which is easier to start reloading, 9mm or 38SPL?

    3. Do you recommend getting a Sonic cleaner or tumbler for the cases? If I get a tumbler, do I need a media separator?

    4. Can the same powder and primers be used for 9mm and 38SPL?

    I setup a multiple choice poll as a simple way for people to answer my few questions. Any advice and info is appreciated.
    "Was there no end to the conspiracy of irrational prejudice against Red Ryder and his peacemaker?"

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  2. #2
    VIP Member Array StormRhydr's Avatar
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    OK, first off you dont NEED to buy a device to clean your brass. The various devices, (tumblers, or sonic cleaners DO work well), but its an expense you CAN avoid. See the following video. I have used this technique Cleaning Brass for Reloading (Without a Tumbler) - YouTube

    You look to be trying to do this as cheaply as you can, which is in no way a bad thing. If you WANTED a sonic cleaner, Id look at a Harbor Freight brand. I do know that lots seem to use them, at least people who want to save money, and they seem happy with theirs.

    As far as the lee hammer type set, I think its no bad idea. My father and I started out that way for shotshell loading many years ago. I still have that set, and yes, they do work. Once we found out that it worked, and how much we saved over new shells, AND that we enjoyed it, we bought a MEC press (shotshell only, not for what you want to load).

    Saying that, if you like reloading, you will want to buy a real press one of these days. But who knows if you will like it or not? AND the all in one cheap hammer em out set you can throw in a bug out bag, if you like.

    As re #4, the answer is PROBABLY, HOWEVER BUY A LOADING MANUAL. This is the one area I think you should spend some money on. The lee load data manual is actually a good one. Saying that, your lee loading kits will have at least ONE load recipe included with it for each kit you buy. Saying that, I like having a number of load data books on hand.

    Rammer, heres the problem I ran into this year; Normal stocks of things were not to be found. So pretend that ordinarily one would use one or two brands and types of powder. They were likely not to be found. So you would look for other choices...and they were not to be found. In some cases, you had to look for obscure powders for something you could both find, and would work. For that you sure as hello needed load data manuals, or good info.

    If nothing else, you can use the single recipe that comes in your lee kits. It will tell you what powder, etc to use.

    Good luck, and have fun

    I DO think you should have a scale, but being honest about it, I didnt when I started. I used the lee measuring scoops included in the kits, and followed their recipe.
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  3. #3
    VIP Member Array Rob99VMI04's Avatar
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    1 I would go with the lee turret.
    2 there both super easy.
    3 neither....rock tumbler using stainless media, if not that then a tumbler.
    4 depends on powder most likely yes.

    If you go slow shouldn't be to hard!
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  4. #4
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    My first suggestion is to start with a good reloading manual such as this one. Lee Precision Modern Reloading 2nd Edition New Format: Richard Lee: 0734307902773: Amazon.com: Books

    The first few chapters will explain everything you will need to know to start reloading.

    I started out with the Lee Classic loader and while it did work well it was just too slow for me and I went to a single stage press that I have used for over thirty years. Here are two kits I would recommend since they contain everything you need to start in one package.

    Lee Challenger Breech Lock Single Stage Press Kit

    RCBS Rock Chucker Supreme Master Single Stage Press Kit

    Almost all of my equipment is RCBS, being just down the road from the RCBS plant when I was stationed at Travis that was about all we had to choose from.

    And yes you can use the same powder and primers for 9MM and 38/357 but you will need different bullets since 9MM are .355 and 38/357 are .357.
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  5. #5
    VIP Member Array Rob99VMI04's Avatar
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    Btw is it just me or does your poll make zero sense.

    What's the question?
    “Are you a thermometer or a thermostat, do you reflect or become what is happening in the room or do you change the atmosphere, reset the temperature when you come into the room”?--Chuck Swindoll

    Its not about guns...Its about Freedom!

  6. #6
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    I also started with a Nut Cracker in 38Spl, which I still have. First things first. Get one and if possible two reloading manuals. Read all you can about the two cartridges you want to load first before buying anything else, starting with the general notes in the front of the manual. You will discover some common areas such as powder and bullets in the books. There are many combinations that will be very similar. Always start with the lowest powder charge and then work your way up. The 38Spl will likely be easier to start with as you will crimp the bullet into the case. The 9MM will be a friction fit that will require some skill to get right along with seating depth. Both use small pistol primers which makes that selection easy. The powder will likely get a bit more of a challenge. As Stormrhydr said some things may be hard to get such as Primers and powder. To start with you need to look at 1lb of powder, 100-300 primers, and 100-250 bullets. Universal Brand Powder can be used in both calibers and I use it in both. It can be used in other calibers also. There are many powders that will work in several calibers on the market. Smallest quantity to buy is 1lb. Getting powder and primers locally will eliminate the HazMat fee that someone shipping to you will also charge. Unless you buy in quantity powder and primers at this time would be costly. Two important things to get right after the reloading manuals are a powder scale and a micrometer to measure seating depth of the bullets. There is nothing wrong about asking questions as there is alot of talent on this board who can and will give you good advice.
    Good Luck in your venture.
    rammerjammer and StormRhydr like this.
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  7. #7
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    1. I'd invest in a real single stage press. They aren't that expensive and you'll want one once you realize how great reloading is anyway!
    2. You could do either 9mm or .38. The mechanics of reloading either one will be virtually the same. The only possible benefit to starting with .38 is you don't really have to worry about high pressures if you seat too deeply. You do have to worry about double charging because there's a lot of case and you only use a little powder, so it's really neither here nor there.
    3. Just get a regular tumbler, and you really don't even need that. I clean up my cases in one but I know guys that don't even bother and they don't have problems because of it. A media separator works well but you don't need anything fancy. A plastic colander from walmart will take care of your needs.
    4. Primers yes. Powder probably. Some powders work better with some calibers than others. Win 231 works well with both 9mm and .38. I've not used anywhere near all the pistol powders out there but I don't know of any that wouldn't work for both calibers.
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  8. #8
    VIP Member Array rammerjammer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob99VMI04 View Post
    Btw is it just me or does your poll make zero sense.

    What's the question?
    I thought it may be confusing.

    The first two are your basic options for the 1st question, the next two are for my second question and last two options refer to my 3rd question.
    "Was there no end to the conspiracy of irrational prejudice against Red Ryder and his peacemaker?"

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  9. #9
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    Also I might add that it's really best to use a scale to measure your powder. I know you could use those Lee dippers but a scale is a much better, more accurate way to go. You could pick up a Lee reloading kit for $125 with all the basic stuff you'll need (press, priming tool, scale and powder dispenser) and they even have a $20 coupon going right now at Cabela's, so that helps too. I, personally, wouldn't want to reload without a priming tool and powder dumper; some things are just not worth trying to do without.
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  10. #10
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    As silly a notion as this may sound, what do you want from reloading? Do you want to reload so you can shoot hundreds of rounds a week at the range? Do you want to just do some target practice on a regular basis? Do you want to save money? Do you want to practice defensive drills? I'm not trying to be facetious, but those are some of the questions you need to answer for yourself. I've been reloading for years and it's become such a habit that I wouldn't consider not reloading. I even buy new guns based on their caliber and do I already the dies on hand. During the latest ammunition famine, I still went to the range and shot as much as I ever did. I had enough powder, primers, brass and bullets (I cast my own) to weather the storm. All that being said, let's address your questions:
    1. I started with a classic Lee Loader. It was effective and did the job, slowly, but it did the job. If you want to start into reloading just to see if you're going to like it, it will cost you less than $30 to go with the Lee Loader. The big draw back is it doesn't fully resize fired brass. That's not a horrible thing, but it's recommended that you only use brass that you have fired from the gun you are reloading for. There's is nothing wrong with starting with a single stage press. I was loading almost 200 rounds an hour with a single stage...and it will do a full resize on your brass. That will increase your sources for brass. I went to a Lee turret press and it is a step up from the single stage and is a big time saver. I no longer have to de-prime my brass before I start reloading. I can resize, de-prime and insert a new primer all in one operation. Love it.
    2. 38 and 9mm are both easy. The 38spl is probably the easiest of the two.
    3.Franklin makes a durable, inexpensive tumbler. I got mine from Midway a couple of years ago and it's been great. I probably use it about 12 hours a month. Go to a pet store and get crushed walnuts and lizard litter for your matrix. Cheap and will last forever.
    4. If you're going to go with Lee, get a Lee reloading book. The majority of the charges in the book will have the corresponding Lee dipper and/or Lee autodisk size to use for a charge. Using dippers to throw a charge is very accurate and don't let anyone tell you they aren't. You just have to be very careful to use the right dipper with the right powder. Get a good scale to check your charges. I use a Lee safety scale. Had it for years, and I love it. The primers will be the same for both loads, small pistol primers.

    I hope you enjoy your new hobby. I've always found it to be very relaxing. good luck
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  11. #11
    Member Array grbr's Avatar
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    Lee classics are fine for pistol rounds.

    Rifle on the other hand they suck for. I tried to start out rifle reloading with one. By the time I got this or that so that I could effectively load a decent rifle round with it, I found the only part of the kit I was still using was for priming. Str8upguy says not to let anyone tell you the dippers for getting the charge isn't accurate. For pistol rounds he's probably right. But let me tell you, if you're trying to load a half accurate rifle round, go buy a scale.

    Sounds like you're doing pistol though. Get a Lee classic kit. You'll do great. Just heed my warning: don't think that just because it's working great for pistol you can go get another classic kit and start making halfway decent 30.06 rounds with one. If you ever move up to rifle reloading...start getting presses and dies. There's some out there that are still pretty cheap.

  12. #12
    Distinguished Member Array dangerranger's Avatar
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    For me 38 is easier to load than 9mm, only because the case is bigger. Get the single stage press, you will be so much better off. Mechanical ability isn't as important as focus on detail. I clean my cases in the kitchen sink, juice from one lemon, one tablespoon of dawn dish soap, and about 300 cases in a ziplock bag of hot water, will make most cases shine. I give them a good shake, let them set for a min shake them again, and rinse well. if you deprime first the primer pockets will be cleaned also. Good Luck DR

  13. #13
    Senior Member Array flintlock62's Avatar
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    I didn't vote in the poll because a single stage press is not for speed, turret presses are.

    If you are going to get Lee dies, get the Deluxe set which is carbide.

  14. #14
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    Given your professed lack of mechanical aptitude, I'd say go with a single-stage press. This will be more flexible in the long run than the ultra-basic Lee nutcracker. With progressive presses, you really need to be able to rub your tummy and pat your head, because you're watching multiple operations with each swing of the press handle. Keep things simple until you're ready for more complex operations.

    9mm vs .38 Special is a tossup. I find the .38 bullets and cases a little easier to handle than the 9mm, but they really aren't much different in size. The .38 is a lower-pressure round and the revolvers that use 'em are less fussy about feeding (compared to automatics), so I suggest you get your feet wet there first.

    A tumbler is a nice way to clean your used brass, but it's not an absolute must. Ultrasonic cleaners aren't even on my radar screen. For starting out, I'd get a lingerie laundry bag, put your brass in that (maybe 200 cases or less), and run 'em in the dishwasher. I experimented with that and it works just fine; your cases just need drying time, compared to a tumbler.

    Both 9mm and .38 Spl use Small Pistol primers.

    Powders: there are SOME powders which cross over nicely between the 9 and the .38, but a single powder will be a compromise. I load Titegroup (a nice, economical powder that meters well) for my .45, but it uses such a small volume it's easy to screw up and throw a double charge. I did just that a year ago with .38, and ruined a nice S&W cylinder in the process. With good guidance from a fellow mod here I moved to the less-dense Unique for .38 with surprisingly good results. Realistically, the powder you choose needs to accommodate the type of bullet you load (swaged, cast lead, plated, or jacketed), the bullet weight, and the velocities you hope to achieve.

    I strongly suggest that before you invest in reloading equipment, you FIRST invest in TWO reloading manuals. Get Richard Lee's excellent "Modern Reloading, 2nd Edition" (on sale right now at Midway for $14) and read the introductory "how to" chapters TWICE before buying any equipment. Then when you start to but gear, invest in a second loading manual, with my suggestions being the Lyman and/or the Hornady manuals.

    That's a start... get that under your belt, then come back and ask lots of questions here.
    rammerjammer and msgt/ret like this.
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  15. #15
    Senior Member Array flintlock62's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rammerjammer View Post

    1. Is it worthwhile to start with the Classic Lee Loader aka nutcracker or should I just keep saving to get a Single Stage Press kit? I am not set on brand, no use debating brand, just basic setup, Hand load or Single Stage Press?

    2. Which is easier to start reloading, 9mm or 38SPL?

    3. Do you recommend getting a Sonic cleaner or tumbler for the cases? If I get a tumbler, do I need a media separator?

    4. Can the same powder and primers be used for 9mm and 38SPL?

    I setup a multiple choice poll as a simple way for people to answer my few questions. Any advice and info is appreciated.
    I didn't read most of your post earlier because my glasses are broken. I didn't intend to be rude

    1. I would think you'd be better off with a RCBS single stage press. It costs more, but they are bullet proof. You could run over one with a bulldozer.

    2. 9mm cases are tapered, so you need the extra leverage of a RCBS press. The 38spl is a straight walled case. Neither is difficult to reload though.

    3. A vibrating cleaner that uses walnut hull or corn cob is good enough, but a tumbler with stainless steel pins do a great job, they cost more though. However, the SS pins will last forever, and walnut hull media will have to be replaced ever so often. Yes, you need a separator.

    4. Both the 38spl, and 9mm use small pistol primers. There are several powders that will work with both calibers. Winchester 231, and HP-38 (Hodgdon) are excellent powders for both calibers.

    You need to invest in a couple of reloading manuals. Take what an individual says about loads/powder with a grain of salt. Your really need to know what the powder manufacturers have to say about their powders.

    Hodgdon, Winchester, IMR, Aliant, and Accurate all make good powders. I'm partial to Winchester and Hodgdon, but everyone has an opinion. I also don't like flake powders in calibers with small case volumes such as the 9mm. Unique is one example of a flake powder. Win 231/HP-38 are ball powders, although they aren't actually balls, they are flatened spheres. Powders such as these meter much better than flake powders.

    You will also need a scale to weigh your powder, and a good set of calipers to measure the length (OAL) of your completed cartridges.

    As I stated earlier, if you go with Lee dies, get the Deluxe set. Actually, with carbide dies, you don't need to have your cases squeaky clean. If you don't use carbide dies, you must lube all the cases so they don't get stuck. On the 9mm, (because they are tapered) even with carbide dies, you need light lubrication. What I use is furniture polish. I lay the cases down on their sides, and give them a very light mist. Spray from the base end so you don't contaminate the inside of the cases.

    I can help more later, but I need to get to the eye doctor and get my glasses fixed.

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