Ammunition Loading

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So, it's inevitable that I'm going to start loading my own ammunition. I know some of you guys do it, and have probably been doing it for a long time. I know pretty much nothing about it, other than just the basics. Hopefully we can get a discussion started, and some of you who have been doing this for a while can help us newbies avoid some of the pitfalls you may have run into. So, here are some of my questions: - What all will I need to get started? I know I need a press, and to choose a method for cleaning brass (tumbler or ultrasonic, which is better?). I know I'll also need a good manual and an accurate scale. I already have a set of digital calipers. I know very little about different types of powder. - What is the best equipment, for the money? I typically don't cheap out when it comes to buying stuff that I'm going to keep and use forever, or, at least, for a long time. But, I also don't have to have the absolute top of the line. I figure that some of you may have bought certain equipment, only to learn later that there was something better out there, performance-wise, for the money. Hoping you'll be willing to share what you've learned here. Thanks in advance for the information!
 
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I've been reloading for 45 years. IMO the most important part is to reload in private without any distractions, measure powder exact and make sure it's never double loaded. Don't experiment and do as the loading manual states, start low and work your way up to max, most likely you'll find that max loads aren't the best so don't be in a hurry to get there. Also guns are not the same, max in the book may be overload in the gun. Study the signs of pressure and you will soon learn what max is in your gun. As for equipment ? what is it that you are going to load ?
 

john_pifer

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Originally Posted By: FastGame
I've been reloading for 45 years. IMO the most important part is to reload in private without any distractions, measure powder exact and make sure it's never double loaded. Don't experiment and do as the loading manual states, start low and work your way up to max, most likely you'll find that max loads aren't the best so don't be in a hurry to get there. Also guns are not the same, max in the book may be overload in the gun. Study the signs of pressure and you will soon learn what max is in your gun. As for equipment ? what is it that you are going to load ?
I have pistols in 9mm, 10mm, .357 and .45, so I would like to reload for all of those calibers. Also have a Ruger Mini-30 (7.62x39mm).
 
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I would get a Dillon reloading press setup for your calibers, will cost $ but in the long run well worth it (did I say well worth it ?, yes) and you can sell it easy if you decide reloading isn't your cup of tea. I don't reload rifle anymore so there might be something cheaper than the Dillon for that, the guys I work with in the gun shop use the Dillon for everything (except shotgun). Powders ? I like ball powders, they drop the most consistent of all IMO. More guys will be posting good advice. smile
 
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Reloading since '86. To start, press, dies/shell holder, primers, powder scale, bullets. Optional but needed eventually, case trimmer, and case tumbler, digital caliper to ck case length and OAL, and a powder throw, primer flip tray. Tumbler- a regular vibratory tumbler (not ultrasonic) works the best. I have a Lyman that is about 25 years old that uses walnut shells and a little brass polish once in awhile. You can get them at Harbor Freight now. After that, it kind of depends on what you want to load. If you are going to load both rifle and pistol,I would invest in a basic press beginner's kit, die set and powder/primers. Later you can get a progressive if reloading will become more than a passing thing. If you are going strictly pistol, then it might be more economical (in the long run) to get a progressive press kit first instead of a single stage press. Personally, I like a single stage press at first so you learn the basics (safety). It is easier to make a mistake on a progressive, even though there are safeguards. With a single stage setup you can learn what "feels" right (like primer seating)assuming you aren't using a hand primer tool. Everyone will have a different opinion. Brands, I have a vintage mid 70s RCBS Rock chucker ($35 used), an old Lee 1000, and a Dillon 650. The Dillon was a present, and while I do appreciate it, no way in heaven I would spend $900+ on a setup like that.....but the wifey loves me.....and she actually paid for it. The old Rock Chucker gets all the rifle ammo, except 5.56 on the Dillon, and the old cheapie Lee gets pistol ammo. Get carbide dies, or the equivalent (titanium nitride) dies for pistol cases so you don't have to bother with case lube. Generally best bang for the buck is Lee Precision stuff. Low end, but it works. Upper end is Dillon, and they are proud of their equipment, and they will nickel and dime you to death. When I got into this, I got completely set up initially for ~$200 including powder, primers and bullets to reload for my 44mag. Now, I would think twice before reloading and making a big investment. Look around at component cost and AVAILABILITY, equipment prices and see how many thousand, or tens of thousands, of rounds it will take you to amortize your initial investment. I used to burn through 600+ rounds/month of .45, and ~100 rounds of 44/month when I was younger. Now I am lucky if I do that in a year. EDIT: Just to reiterate what FastGame posted in his first reply- safety. Find a quiet place, no distractions, no incessant phone calls etc. You are doing something that can potentially take a finger or hand off when it goes "kaboom". I have gotten in a rush before and ended up pulling a whole tray of reloads just because I wasn't sure of the powder charge.
 
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Originally Posted By: punisher
Reloading since '86.When I got into this, I got completely set up initially for ~$200 including powder, primers and bullets to reload for my 44mag. Now, I would think twice before reloading and making a big investment. Look around at component cost and AVAILABILITY, equipment prices and see how many thousand, or tens of thousands, of rounds it will take you to amortize your initial investment.
That is some of the best advice you will get in this thread....you will need to shoot a lot of ammo to justify high end loading gear. If you are going to load for the fun of it and save a little bit of money then get the single stage/turret press gear that punisher recommended. And be safe !
 
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john_pifer

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I can appreciate that sentiment. But one thing I hate is having to buy something twice because I didn't buy what I should have bought the first time. I don't typically sell something, once I buy it. That's why I am consulting people who have been in this game for a long time. I want to be sure I get the right equipment on the first go-round. Owning firearms, for me, is not just a matter of self-defense. I have bought several guns in the last 13 years, and plan to continue collecting and shooting them for the rest of my life. It's not going to be a passing interest for me. I also believe whole-heartedly in the 2nd Amendment and want to support and defend that RIGHT by owning firearms and being involved in the gun community. So, as I say, I don't mind spending some $$$ on a nice setup. BUT I don't require the ABSOLUTE best. I like products that offer a LOT of value for the money. There are products that are pretty expensive that are a great value, and there are products that are relatively INexpensive that DON'T offer a great deal of value. Example: A Glock 19. I can order a brand-new Glock 19 for $400 plus shipping and transfer fee. I consider that a really good value. You can't find a USED one for very much cheaper than that. Can you find one used for $300? Probably, but I'd rather pay a hundred more bones and get one brand-new that I'll be the first person to fire. OK, I may have digressed a little bit there, but hopefully that opens a little window into my thought process. Thanks for the replies!
 
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RCBS, hornady, Dillion are all good brands. I have a few sets of hornady dies and am very happy with them, My press and accessories are RCBS mostly. I bought the intro kit, single stage press. Added a powder measure and digital scale. I'd start loading with 38/357, as your oal isn't as important. A good single stage press is always worth having. If you shoot one caliber more than the others, then a dillon press or hornady progressive makes good sense. I have a few lee pieces, but I'm careful about which they are. Unless you like to tinker, save you time and buy solid quality. Their rifle dies seem to have a following. I'd never buy a lee progressive press. I used to have a lee single stage that came with the load data book for free. It worked, and I kept it set up as a depriming station, a friend wanted to get started reloading, so I gifted it to him. He used it for quite a while. A quiet place without distraction is important, reloading can be quite rewarding. Something zen-like in the repetition. And when your done, you have shiny new loaded rounds. Enjoy!
 
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The lee book is worth having. It's a good read on basics and has decent data. There's quite a bit of sales talk in it, but still good.
 
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Like most have posted, I too, have been reloading for more than 2 decades and have tried most all of the equipment out there. I started with an RCBS Rock Chucker, moved to a Hornady Projector, and then purchased a Dillon RL550B. Without a doubt the Dillon is the way to go--yes; it does cost more, but you can upgrade it in stages. The RL550B is the most versatile and can load the maximum type of cartridges of any press in the Dillon line (note I did not say quantity of cartridges per hour--I said types). Dillon recently introduced a BL550 which is similar to a single stage press except it can be upgraded over time to an RL550B. The nice thing about Dillon (outside of their 100% no baloney warranty) is they all use tool heads to hold the dies and so you can have one set up exactly the way you like it for each cartridge type you load. No more having to adjust the dies each time you want to load, just drop the tool head in and away you go. There are some who may tell you to start with a single stage press, but unless you are getting it for free, my advice is to spring for the Dillon (even if it is the BL550) and you will never have a wasted investment. I would go progressive no matter what brand you purchase simply due to the time savings. Once everything is prepped, a loaded cartridge will drop from the machine after the 4 or 5 pull of the handle. There are countless tools and gadgets that you will need, but here is a short list of some basics (in no particular order): - Caliper (MidwayUSA has a nice selection); you will need this to check various measurements on the cases to ensure you are within specification. - Reloading manuals or online sources of same; this contains the basic recipes for the different loads/powders/primer/bullet combinations out there. - Powder scale (digital or beam style) so that you can ensure you are using the proper quantity of powder. If you are going to load “non-progressive” then a powder measure may be in order. Else, the RL500B comes with a powder measure. - Brass cleaning equipment (tumbler with walnut/corn cob media or ultrasonic): dirty brass will ruin your dies and firearms in short order. - Bullet puller (either die based or inertia style); even the most tenured of us make mistakes and this will allow you to reclaim your bullets and powder. - Case lube (if you are loading bottle neck cartridges); this is a must because the case will become stuck in the dies and will require some work to remove it. I use spray lubes (MidwayUSA brand has worked well for me through the years). - Primer tray (either flip style or automated); this is need to turn all of the primers cup side up so that you load them into your primer tube. There are electric models that will load this for you, but I have never invested in them simply because this is not a time consuming or difficult task. - Primer pocket cleaners; the newer ultrasonic cleaners do a great job of removing carbon and the like, but if you use media one these will help remove it as well. - Stuck case remover; at some point this is happened to all of us and this toll will save your dies. - Dies (there are a zillon out there); I have used RCBS, Lee, Hornady, Redding, and Dillon. Hornady has been the best bang for buck through the years, the pistol dies are carbine (no lube required) and the expanders in the rifle cartridges do the same with having to lube the interior portion of the neck on these cases. Dillon dies are great too, but are a bit pricey. Redding Competition Bushing dies are what I use on my varmint rifles because it minimizes working the brass too much. - A solid workbench; this is often overlooked in the list of things needed, but it cannot be stressed enough. You will be exerting some force on to resize and you do not want the bench to move around. The bench needs to have plenty of space too so that you are not cramming everything together. - A log book or electronic file; you should work to keep religious records of your loads to the point of overkill. While you may know what you loaded the day you did it, in six weeks you may not, therefore all loads should be well documented and all cartridges sufficiently labeled. - Online forums; these can be valuable areas of knowledge to be shared and can help you avoid pitfalls. Of course, always qualify the information that is posted—not everyone follows the rules. The above is not all inclusive and there are many "gadgets" you will acquire over the years to aid in making the overall process more efficient and easier. Last, but not least, over time, depending on how much you shoot, you will save enough money to pay for the equipment (mine has been paid for in savings many times over). But the other great thing is that you will be able create cartridges which are more accurate than any off the shelf ammunition. You will be able to custom tailor the load and bullet to your exact wants and needs. You can also have a stockpile of ammunition for those dry spells. This latest “frenzy” did not bother me in the slightest because I had stocked up on bullets/primers/powders while they were cheap. Not to be political, but with the latest shift in the tide, I am guess that prices will again drop to “normal” and that is time to stock up again. Hope this helps and have fun and enjoy yourself!
 

CT8

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I would recommend buying a 550B Dillon There is no other press that is simple enough to learn on yet has the ability to load 300+ pistol rounds per hour instead of 50 rounds per hour on a single stage press. I used a single stage press from 1979 to 1991 when I bought the Dillon. The Dillon advantage,, I just finished a binge loading session or 4,000 9mm rounds loading about 500 rounds per session and a Saturday with 2 sessions of 500 rounds. Buy a couple loading manuals and study them first. Loading is fairly simple. Take it in baby steps.
 

OVERKILL

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I did my first loads today for my .338LM. It is pretty easy once you get the hang of it, it is the initial setup and orientation with the equipment that is time consuming.
 
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Just starting out and getting a Dillon progressive reloader? That seems like a stretch to me. At most I'd get a 'turret' press or that Dillon that's upgrade able to progressive. Safety is more important than production per hour. One also needs reasons besides just the thought of saving $$$. That would depend on how much you shoot, types, etc.. It's an enjoyable hobby, more savings for the higher round shooters. The very first step I would take is to get a manual or some books to look through. Any if the big names will get you started, Lee, Hornady, Sierra, Lyman etc... Then maybe 'The ABC's of Reloading'. I'd start with lighter 38 SPCL, 357 or 45 acp loads. I'd start getting supplies, one of the tightest right now is handgun powders. Even Armslist for your area may have a local seller. A powder like Winchester 231 can be used in a wide variety of handgun loadings, almost impossible to get now though. Once you start reading a manual you will see what tools and then powders listed over and over for different loads. A contact who reloads would speed you along too.
 
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I started out by buying a few reloading manuals and becoming familiar with the process, consumables and things to watch out for. I don't like to re-buy equipment so I pieced my stuff together as I could afford it. Mainly a RCBS rock chucker, Redding dies and powder throw, a digital scale, etc.... Reading the manuals and becoming familiar with the above is the best thing you can do for you enjoyment and safety.
 
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Originally Posted By: Mr_Joe
Just starting out and getting a Dillon progressive reloader? That seems like a stretch to me.
In the end, by buying a single stage or turret and the powder measure and associated gear, you will have wasted that much of the money towards the Dillon. I know because I followed that same path. If I had to do it over again, I would only bought the Dillon. Just because a machine is capable of large amounts of loads per hour does not mean you have to load at that rate. I wish the BL550 would have been available when I bought my Rock Chucker, I would not have had to "re-invest" towards to the Projector and then finally the RL550B. OP, if funds are tight, your money would be well spent in the BL550; it is a single stage that has an eventual upgrade path to the progressive RL550B. Current pricing shows the BL550 is $259, a Redding Turret is $286, and the Rock Chucker is $149. The Redding is not upgradable to progressive loading and you would have spent more right off the bat than for the Dillon and while the Rock Chucker is $110 less, it also cannot be upgraded. The BL550 is a "hybrid" single stage because you do not have to swap dies between operations and while the same can be said for the Redding, it costs more. Just my experience and opinion...
 

CT8

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Originally Posted By: OVERKILL
I did my first loads today for my .338LM. It is pretty easy once you get the hang of it, it is the initial setup and orientation with the equipment that is time consuming.
Yeah it costs only $3,59 per shot!!! laugh
 

john_pifer

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Well, guys, my mind is made up. I'm going with a progressive reloader. Not going to waste my time on a single-stage when it seems that everyone who starts out single-stage eventually goes progressive anyway. I just watched a Hickok45 video and he also confirmed this... So, now that I've decided that, should I just buy a Dillon and be done with it??
 
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