Need equipment advice - please help

Discussion in 'Reloading' started by alphaco, Dec 15, 2010.

  1. alphaco

    alphaco New Member

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    Dec 15, 2010
    Ok, so I have been shooting and hunting for many years. I’m just getting started in reloading. I will be loading 5.56 – 223 & 7.62x51 – 308. I have been killing myself trying to research products. I live by the axiom “you get what you pay for”. I would much rather pay once for high quality.


    So I have decided to go with:
    • Forster Co-Ax Press
    • RCBS Trim Mate™ Power Station
    • RCBS ChargeMaster Powder 1500 Scale/Dispenser Combo
    • Thumler's Tumbler Ultra Vibe 18 Tumbler

    I need advice on die sets.
    • Do I go with Redding Series A Competition Seating Die Sets or Forster Bench Rest Seater Die & Forster Bushing Bump Neck Sizing Die Sets.
    • If Forster do I need both the seater and bump neck? Other recommendations also welcome.
    • Do I need a case lube kit with the above dies?
    • Which loading books do you recommend?
    • Other than trays, funnel, canister/bins what else do you recommend I purchase?
    Open to and grateful for all advice
     
  2. CLICKBANGBANG

    CLICKBANGBANG Well-Known Member

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    Nov 24, 2010
    For extra gear you might look at getting the Hornady headspace gauge and bullet comparator. It is nice to check fire formed brass to only bump the shoulder just a little. And bullet seating depth is always critical. Also a good caliper. I like having a digital and dial around.

    For reloading manuals, I would pick the manufacture of the bullets you are going to want to load. A Speer or Hornady is a good place to start, as you will end up with more than one. Also I would highly suggest getting The ABCs of Reloading. It was a big help for me when I was starting out.
     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2010

  3. BIG MO

    BIG MO Well-Known Member

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    Good decision to get into reloading. It will pay significant dividends in performance for you. Personally, I enjoy it almost as much as shooting.

    Highly recommend a hand priming tool. I use an RCBS. Priming goes much faster and you get a good feel for seating the primers properly. Also, a Hornady COAL gauge with .223 and .308 modified cases, so you can determine how far your bullet is seated from the rifle lands. Also, flash hole de-burring tool. If you are not going to use Lapua or Norma brass, I would get a hand held outside neck turning tool. +1 on the digital caliper.

    Dies- I am totally satisfied with standard Redding dies. You probably would be too. I have some benchrest die sets etc., but for most applications the standard dies work just as well for me and I have shot some of my smallest groups using them.

    Lube- you will have to lube the brass before full length resizing, I like to roll mine on an RCBS lube pad and have used other methods with good success.

    Loading manuals- I have them all. I would go with the manufacturer of the bullets I was loading. Hornady, Sierra, and Nosler manuals are my favorites.
     
  4. MSLRHunter

    MSLRHunter Well-Known Member

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    I like your choice of press and powder dispenser. You will need a case trimmer (wilson), a hand primer. As for dies, will you be neck sizing or full length sizing? If neck sizing go with the Redding S bushing dies, if full length just a redding or forster full length sizing die. Regardless of neck or full length sizing, I would by the Redding competition seating dies. They are the easiest dies to adjust quickly and accurately.
     
  5. WRG

    WRG Well-Known Member

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    I like to follow the same philosophy however Lee dies will do as good a job as any of the dies you list for a lot less money so I feel that rule doesn't always apply in this case.

    In the past, I have always preferred to use bullet manufacturers reloading manuals, Nosler, Swift and so on. I am currently waiting on the Quickload program to come in so maybe they will no longer be needed and I can make more room on my bench.

    You may also want to look into the headspace gage at Innovative Technologies. Perfect tool for measuring shoulder bump back.

    www.larrywillis.com
     
  6. BigSkyGP

    BigSkyGP Well-Known Member

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    I don't know how much you already know about reloading. I've been reloading for 20 yrs, and I'm still learning things. Just a heads up.

    Any manual will be a great investment, reading it will be priceless!
     
  7. alphaco

    alphaco New Member

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    Dec 15, 2010
    Thanks for the replies! A couple of questions that came up:
    I have no practical experience reloading
    I have read the ABC's of reloading cover to cover :D
    I was actually thinking about going with the Forster Case Trimmer but will take a look at the Wilson.
    Thanks for the tip on the headspace gage & bullet comparator
    Totally forgot about the flash hole de-burring tool
    Going with full length dies as almost all rifles are clip fed.


    A couple of new questions I now have:rolleyes:
    1. Who makes a good Digital Caliper? Was looking at the RCBS.
    2. I thought the CO-Ax was a primer set too? Recommendation on a good hand primer?
    3. I thought that I read if you get Redding dies you did not need to lube?
    4. Exactly what is the difference between
    a. Seating Die Sets
    b. Bench Rest Seater Die
    c. Bushing Bump Neck Sizing Die Sets
    Have read ABC again but I’m still unclear on this…Can’t wait for my new books from Amazon to arrive…

    Thanks Again!
     
  8. BigJakeJ1s

    BigJakeJ1s Well-Known Member

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    Oct 4, 2008
    The co-ax has a primer seater, but you feed it one primer at a time by hand. Most hand priming tools have a tray or tube to hold and dispense the primers for you, and are much easier to use while providing excellent results. I recommend the RCBS Universal Hand primer. It has universal jaws, so it does not need a shell holder, just like your co-ax. The large square tray detaches easily from the handle and lays flat on the bench for loading.

    I second the Wilson trimmer. It's method of holding the case body eliminates neck pilots, yet holds the case perfectly square to the cutter. Sinclair offers some really nice accessories for it, but they are not really necessary. I hold mine in a small vise on the corner of my reloading bench. BTW, a small to medium sized vise is very useful on the reloading bench.

    Any rifle full length sizing die needs lubrication. Only carbide or TiN sizing dies for straight-wall pistol cartridges don't need lubrication. There are a few carbide rifle dies, but they are for increased durability in commercial loading operations, not for avoidance of lubrication.

    The Redding Competition seating die is a direct copy of the Forster Ultra benchrest micrometer seater, made after Forster's patent expired. Forster's Benchrest seating die has exactly the same internals, just without the micrometer adjustment, so you can save a little money, and get the exact same seating accuracy.

    If you want to neck size only, I prefer the Lee Collet neck sizing die. If you want to crimp your cartridges, I prefer the Lee Factory Crimp Die for rifle cartridges (collet style). Mine have worked better after a little polishing of the collet/closer contact area, and you'll want to replace their lock rings with Forster or Hornady rings. These are the only Lee dies I recommend, since they are the only Lees that offer improved performance over other brands, at least after a little extra work.

    Andy
     
  9. Trickymissfit

    Trickymissfit Well-Known Member

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    Personally I like the Forster press better than any two of the rest put together. You'll never wear it out, and no press loads better ammo period. They are a little more money, but you get what you pay for.

    Forster makes national match .308 dies if that fits your needs (what are you loading for?). I do recommend full length dies for something like an AR15 or M14 over neck dies. And if the chamber is very tight you may want to order in small base dies sets (mostly for semi automatic rifles), but know a lot of folks that use regular dies for their AR15's. If it's a bolt action rifle then of course you can neck size, and gain the advantages of course. Redding makes a bump die to push the shoulders back for these calibers. Redding, Forster, and Hornaday all sell bushing neck dies, and the choice if yours. For a seater, I'd say right up front that the Forster seaters are the best. I also like the way the Forster does a full length sizing better than the others (better alignment in the necks). But there's nothing wrong with the Redding stuff; except the price tag.

    Personally I'd suggest that you order in a simple powder measurer for a start. The RCBS does a fine job, but I don't recommend it for beginers. (by the way a PACT is the samething as PACT makes them both). The Lyman #55 is relatively cheap and does a fine job on fine grained powders. You'll need a trickeler (I use an RCBS) for the long grain stuff you'll probably use in the .308. I use a PACT electronic scale (they also make the RCBS), and have not used a beam scale in many years.

    Just buy a simple case trimmer for starters. I own three different ones, and all do a fair job in the nitch. I normally use a Wilson or an older Forster, but do all my revolver ammo in a Lyman. Forster has a new one that looks like it maybe a best buy for 95% of the reloaders.

    Reloading manuals seem to be made by everybody. I find that I use the Accurate as much as any these days. And if you are shooting NRA high power or service rifle this is a good one. I also use a Speer, a Hornaday, and a couple from Hogdon (one is very old but important). I also use the Sierra and Lee CD's, and recommend these!

    For case lube, I use Imperial Die Sizing Wax as much as anything (I do use others but not with regular dies). I do recommend buying a good four or six inch dial caliper for measurments (I use a Mitutoyo most of the time, but actually own eight pairs). I also recommend buying a good one inch micrometer that reads in .0001". If you using military brass you'll want to buy a primer pocket tool for each primer size. I use a K&M. I also prime either with the setup on the Forster press (very good one) or a K&M priming tool. Down the road you may want to add tools here and there like a concentricity gauge, and loading trays. as you need them.
    gary
     
  10. Trickymissfit

    Trickymissfit Well-Known Member

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    * here's the deal on cailipers for making measuments. You can do nicely with a good pair of digital ones (forget the Chinese ones), but do just as well with a analog dial set.. Sinclair will tell you to buy the Starretts, and I'll tell you not to! (I own two or three pairs of Starretts). The Mitutoyos are the easiest to recalibrate when they get out of sync! The accuracey is the same between all the major brands. You have no real need for a six inch pair (more money), and a four inch pair will do everything well.

    * The Forster press has a built in priming device that seats the primer about .004" to .005" under the face of the case head. This is very good. The K&M is used for feel and very accurate priming. 95% of the folks have no real need for this. Sinclair sells a very expensive hand priming device, but the K&M can be bought for a fraction of the price tag. I see no real difference between them other than color.

    * the only seater better than a Forster ultra seater is a Wilson, and it won't work in a conventional press

    * if you want a bushing die there are many. Forster uses their own bushings, while Redding uses a Wilson replica. About the same quality, and the call is yours. But with a full length die the Forster is better. But if your serious about neck sizing, you'll use Wilson dies in an arbor press

    * now I have not used the newer Forster trimmer, but I'm hearing a lot of good stuff about it. I use a much modded Wilson, and have had it close to twenty years. I added the micrometer stop long before I ever saw one for sale. I revised the clamp twice before anybody else did. I also changed the grind on the cutter, and it really cuts better now (the one from Wilson is setup for steel, and reground it for brass). I'd just buy the Forster and live with it.

    * I do recommend buying the precision reloading book from Sinclair. Fred gave me a copy when I got my first catalog from him (he's since added a ton more data to it). That was my start. I used to call him a couple times a month with questions (before we had email!). Never be afraid to ask a question!

    * I also recommend you kinda put off neck sizing for awhile. It's not for beginers, and can get you in trouble fast. When you start you'll probably want a neck turning tool. I use a Sinclair, but honestly don't like it all that well. I'll probably buy a K&M sometime in the near future.
    gary
     
  11. BIG MO

    BIG MO Well-Known Member

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    The RCBS universal hand primer and digital caliper have worked great for me.

    Your going to give yourself a headache trying to figure out all this neck, bump, collet, crimp, creepy, jeepy, sophisticated specialty reloading die information. Just get the standard full length die sets from Redding or Forster and be on your way to reloading some precision ammo. Each set will have a resizing die and a seating die and will produce excellent ammo.
     
  12. BigSkyGP

    BigSkyGP Well-Known Member

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    +1 what BIG MO says.
     
  13. Trickymissfit

    Trickymissfit Well-Known Member

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    just food for thought, and what can happen. If your shooting a AR based rifle or an M14 / M1 based rifle, you need to be a little more carefull with the way you prime. A high primer or in some cases a flush seated primer can spell disaster! I like the primer to be under the face of the base of the cartidge case. None of this touchey feely thing here. I have an RCBS, two Lee hand tools, a K&M, and a cigar box full of others. Plus I've owned a Sinclair too in the past (my old hands don't work well with their setup, but it's as good as it can get). I always had problems with the RCBS hand tool, but it's OK. Never could get into the Lee, and I use a lot of Federal primers (not a good match). For a hand tool, you simply can't do wrong with the K&M. But on therhand the Forster setup is extremly consistent, and you couldn't mess up unless you put the primer in the cup upside down. It always seats the primer .005" under the face. If I were buying a bench mounted tool, I'd but the Forster. It's simple and it works very well. If I wanted a hand priming tool, I'd look no further than the K&M. There's no plastic parts, and it's all steel. But it's a little slow if that matters. But I'm from the school that devices like these are not for the novice. If you can be comfortable with an RCBS, then go for it. I wasn't.

    Now here's how I bought my first round of equipment. I went to the NRA convention! They had a row of presses setup to size .308 military brass (must have been forty). My brother and I used every press several times, and ended up with the one I bought (he bought an RCBS). We looked at dies, and at the time they all looked the same to us (we got smarter). Priming tools, scales, and even a small handfull of measurers. I liked the Belding & Mull, and have moaned and groaned for eons that I didn't buy one! Got home and called the guy I bought firearms from and bought the Forster press. He said I was nuts for paying $80 for it!! When it came in, he called me up and asked me if he could load a few rounds with it to see how it worked. The next day he orders five more presses from Brownells. Last time we talked he said he must have sold a hundred of them. Yet on the otherhand I have gone thru all kinds of priming devices and a handfull of powder measurers. (I've yet to find one better than the Lyman for fine grained powders).
    gary
     
  14. texasdave

    texasdave Well-Known Member

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    I must say everyones advice has been first rate and you would do well to follow what has been stated here. I am going to give you one more source of loading info I use when I want to see everyones load on a bullet I am trying. It is

    Steves reloading data. He has posted all the different manuals info in one easy to look up web site. Sure saves me time .

    Steve's Reloading Data Warning Page

    Hope this helps and good luck in your new journey. As someone said here it is as much fun loading as shooting. I must add its as addictive as can be too.
    Best of Luck !!!