My first post, I wrote this for another forum that is gone now.
So Reloading may be in your future:
Reloading has been a fun pastime for me for several years now. I got into reloading because I didn't like the way certain factory ammo companies load and test their cartridges, and reloading is still cheaper to do than buying factory ammo. Reloading is also very precise, and when done correctly, a rewarding hobby for someone who enjoys an accurate firearm. This is not a hobby someone with no knowledge of precision instruments is going to jump into; you have to have some back ground with instrumentation. Being able to read a Vernier Caliper and/or a micrometer is necessary in order to get precise measurements and accurate loads. This can also be a very dangerous hobby if not done correctly. Being distracted is one way to lose track of how much powder you put in a shell case, which can either not allow the bullet to exit the barrel or blow up in the gun when fired, injuring not only you but bystanders as well.
First things first, what tools will you need to get started
1) A place to work (undisturbed) and a sturdy, well secured bench.
2) Good press. A used press in good shape is fine.
3) Set of dies and case holders for the calibers you are reloading
4) Reloading manuals
5) Case trimmer and collets to fit the necks of the cases you are reloading and a Vernier caliper.
6) Deburing / chambering tool
7) Good set of scales and scale weights, quality is more important than gadgetry. I don't use electronic scales but you can.
8) Powder measure and trickier
9) Case lube and lube tray
10) A stuck or broken case remover
11) Case tumbler
12) Handheld priming tool
13) Depending on the State you live in, a powder storage container may be required.
Ok that is the list, so letís tackle them one at a time:
1) A Place to Work (Undisturbed) and a Sturdy, Well Secured Bench.
The place you work needs to be a place where you can shut out all outside interference; nothing should distract you from what you are doing. A mistake here can cost you your life or someone else's, it's that simple. This place should also be dry. Put a de-humidifier in the work area to be on the safe side. The bench needs to be sturdy and level. There are many places online that offer reloading benches, but mine is built from scratch. That way, I can build into it what I want. The operation of the press(s) puts a lot of pressure on the bench and the up and down motions will shift a poorly-secured bench and make it not level.
I constructed my bench with a 2x4 frame deck screwed to the wall with 4" screws. The top is one layer of 5/4 boards screwed to the frame every 6", with 2" deck screws and then a piece of 0/." one-sided plywood glued and screwed to the 5/4 boards. The legs are 5/4 X 6" boards deck screwed to the floor with a center brace screwed to the wall and floor. It does not move when acted upon by the presses. The location in which you set up your reloading equipment is also important. Once a process is started it should be run to its completion without distraction, so locate your bench and supplies in a remote area of your home, or an out building. No phone or television!
2) A Good Press.
The manufacturers of the tools used in reloading are all very good with respect to quality. The choice of whose name is on your gear is up to you. Some people have multistage units for faster reloads; I don't go agree with faster myself, but to each his own. Quality presses and die sets are a must! These do not have to be new; a used press that doesn't have a lot of side to side motion when the ram is raised and lowered, and that doesn't have worn out pins, can do the job just fine. I use 2 different types of presses and they are both were both used when I obtained them. The first is an RCBS Single Stage press that I use to size and decap my cases, and the other is a LEE 3 Stage press that I use for pressing the bullet into place. The reason for the LEE 3 Stage is that I reload different calibers; I can set up the bullet seating dies for each caliber, and just rotate the turret to the proper die without have to reinstall another one.
3) Set of Dies and Case Holders for the Calibers You are Reloading.
All die sets are manufactured with the same thread pattern any will work in your press. Again, quality is of the same importance throughout. Hornady New Dimension Dies just seem to work better, in my opinion. As with the presses, it is not necessary for you to buy new. A well-cared for used set will work very well. Shell holders are different for some calibers, so you will need to have the proper ones for the calibers you are reloading.
4) Reloading Manuals
It cannot be stressed enough how important these are in reloading. Manuals will give you more insight into what you need to know than any other source. When starting out read every handbook you can get your hands on. Some of them even have some great stories in them about hunts or target matches. Follow their recommendations for loads to the letter. A friend said once, "Always know exactly what the answer is." What he meant by that was, if you had a question in your mind about any part of the process, it should be answered before continuing to load. It is never safe in this hobby to guess. Know exactly what you are doing and how you are doing it.
5&6) Case Trimmer and Deburing Tool.
The case trimmer is necessary because after firing and resizing a case, it tends to stretch and needs to be shortened so it will not bind in the chamber when loaded. There are also the electric powered trimmers. What you pick is up to you. The Deburing tool is for cleaning off bits of the case after trimming, and for making the placement of the bullet into the case easier.
7) Scales and Weights
Scales are one tool that needs to be set and rechecked often. The ability to get the same amount of powder in each case depends upon a good scale. I recommend getting a set of weights first then go to your retailer and a scale. Zero the scale out, and place the weights one at a time to check the accuracy. Buy the most accurate scale available; often this does not mean electronic or most expensive.
8) Powder Measure and Trickier.
These items are a must have, both are indispensable. A good powder dump can save a lot of time trying to weigh out loads by hand. Powder Measures may not always dump the same amount of powder, but they are very close. After the powder is dumped into your scale pan, use the trickier to add it in minute amounts until the desired weight is reached for each case.
9) Case Lube and Lube Tray
The case lube and lube tray are where I differ from some folks. I don't use a tray to lube my cases; I prefer to hand lube each case. I not only save money this way, but lube also.
10,11,12) Stuck or Broken Case Remover, Case Tumbler, and Handheld Priming Tool
These items are something people recommend, and are items that can also be purchased new or used. Because it is helpful and not a necessity, a broken case remover is handy However, if you lube the case you should not need one.
The case tumbler is also a tool some say is necessary and some say not. There are two sides to every road and this is not exception. Tumbling cases is said to be good for cleaning them however; some people say that tumbling cases causes deformities when they run into each other. I have a case tumbler that I built, and have seen no imperfections caused by this process. The hand held priming tool is not necessary, due to the fact that most presses have priming mechanisms built in. I prefer a handheld tool because I can feel when the primer is seated more easily than I can with the long handle of the press.
13) Powder Storage Container
This item is totally up to you and your state requirements. Check with your state police or local authorities for any laws regarding this item. Some states are very strict on how much powder you may store and the manner in which you store it.
So, in conclusion, run out with your list and get all the items listed here! Again, all the items are available on the Internet; check there for prices and then look local to see if you can get a better deal. This will be a 2-part segment. If you are interested, in the interim, read everything you can about reloading and we will get together to talk about what you have learned.
Okay, so you have gone out and made the necessary purchases. You are looking at all your new stuff and asking yourself, "Now what?" Now what is that you get those reloading manuals out and you read them; and I mean every page! The Manuals are the bibles of reloading, they will keep you from making mistakes which could seriously injure, or even kill you or someone else.
I am not going to go through all the little nuances of reloading in these articles, as it would take forever to do so. I will show you where to go and the best way to get there though; the rest is up to you. After reading your manual(s), get yourself a place to build or set up your bench. Remember, this is your place; no one should be running in, no radio, no TV, nothing distracting you period. Distractions are dangerous! Now that you found that perfect place, and you have your bench in kit form or the materials to build it, securing it to the walls and floor is important, as you are going to be putting a lot of pressure on the bench when resizing your brass. Your top must also be strong. The bench I built has a 2X4 base secured to the wall and floor, with 5/4 boards and % plywood top. Yes, it is too sturdy; I like it that way. Now how you setup your bench is as personal as the clothes you wear; the only thing I would suggest is that you put everything in the order of operation. You don't want to have to move around a section of the bench to get to another operation. By this, I mean you don't want to go around the press to get to powder scales, etc...
When working up a load for your weapon of choice, I recommend you start with the lowest amount of powder and slowly go up from there. I use case boxes and mark the loads with different color markers on the primer ends. I always shoot five shot groups, so I load the five rounds for each weight of powder, and then I shoot them at the range to see how they group. The manuals will have what they consider the "maximum load". That term is both good and bad, do not assume that your gun will hold the max load; their maximum load could be too much for your particular weapon, and blow it up in your face. Even a brand new gun could be damaged by too much powder, so start low and check for signs of extreme pressure (i.e., bolt stuck when trying to eject the spent round, one sign that there is too much pressure/powder in the loads). Remember the fastest bullet may not be the most accurate. Part of reloading is being meticulous about doing the same thing, the same way, every time. This makes for good accuracy, and accuracy is why you or I reload. Anyone can go to the local department store, buy a box of shells and shoot them. Now to put 5 bullets in the bullís eye at 100yds or shoot a half inch group at the same distance: that takes meticulously-hand loaded ammunition.
I probably should have mentioned it before this but: Do Not Assume Anything! If at any time you are unsure of what you have done, or are about to do, STOP AND START OVER! It is better to have wasted some time than to get hurt because you didn't know what was going on. When I got into this hobby, I asked an old friend of mine named Leo, "Should I full-length size or just neck size my cases?Ē in reference to my 22-250. I had some cases that were shot from another gun. Anyway, I said I didn't know, and he stopped me right there. "Full length size all the cases because you don't know. Always know!" I have never forgotten what he said. Therefore, if there was a number one rule, it would be "Always know!"
Well I guess you are on your way up the reloading road. Remember: read the manual (s). They are your best source of information. As always, if you have a question I can help you with, please contact me at my E-mail address.