Reloading 101 | The Primer

Burk Cornelius

Regular guy
Staff member
See what I did there, with the title?

Tony has a great thread about whether you reload your own match ammo.

Let's take it one step further.

If someone wants to get into reloading, what do they need to know? What do they need to get started? Do they have to spend hundreds of dollars?

We like to say we are a website of resources. Let's make this thread one of those resources

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Matt1911

Cyrwus Jr.
Welllllll, you can save a lot of money with reloading, but the initial cost will bite and you also have to have the time to do it.
I've paid off all my reloading equipment at least thrice by now with the amount I've shot in the past 5+ years since I got into reloading, but having a small child in the house makes it difficult sometimes to get large batches done.

I reload everything I shoot except for shotgun and .22 and don't see that changing anytime soon. Couple hours here, couple hours there and I've got myself stocked up for a bit.
 

Wall

El Diablo
Staff member
I don't even try to stock up.
I just go out to the press & make a few hundred for the upcoming weekend or weekends.
As long as I've got components, I can make ammo in a pretty short time.

But as Matt said, the cost to get to that point wasn't cheap
 

Burk Cornelius

Regular guy
Staff member
What kind of outlay of capital are we talking about?

Maybe a list if MINIMUM components needed.

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dennishoddy

Moderator
I started with an RCBS special, beam scales, Shell holder, and dies. Loaded thousands of rounds of pistol and rifle with that rig, but I couldn't afford anything more. Second buy was a Lee precision shotshell loader. $25 in 1980, but it had every powder and shot measure with it. Actually did a pretty good job with quality hulls and could load 3" shells.
My goal was to shoot more, and spend less on equipment. BUT, as time went on, and the volume increased, started buying items to cut the time down, like the Lee hand primer loader, Inserting primers while watching TV in the evenings. Brass was cleaned with a Lee shell holder mounted in a drill motor and 000 steel wool one at a time.
Now there is a RCBS Grand shotshell loader, progressive centerfire loader, two vibratory tumblers, Case prep centers, digital scales and powder measures, and motorized case trimmers.
The RCBS special loader is mounted right next to the progressive to do quick one off loads to test at the range, and to pull bullets if needed. The Lee special shotshell loader still gets a little use if I need a box or two of premium shotshells for the pheasant fields.
 

Matt1911

Cyrwus Jr.
You could buy one of those crappy jam-o-matic Glock pistols with extra mags, belt and holster for the cost of a good progressive setup and components. But if you actually shoot and not just have paperweights, then it'll pay for itself.
 

Wall

El Diablo
Staff member
something is better than nothing.
If you can, get quality.
If you just don't want to spend the money, well then you get what you get.

If you start out with a base level machine, someone else will be ready to start when you're ready to upgrade.
Just don't expect to get near the resell you'd get for a Dillon or Hornady.
 

Burk Cornelius

Regular guy
Staff member
dennishoddy said:
I started with an RCBS special, beam scales, Shell holder, and dies. Loaded thousands of rounds of pistol and rifle with that rig, but I couldn't afford anything more. Second buy was a Lee precision shotshell loader. $25 in 1980, but it had every powder and shot measure with it. Actually did a pretty good job with quality hulls and could load 3" shells.
My goal was to shoot more, and spend less on equipment. BUT, as time went on, and the volume increased, started buying items to cut the time down, like the Lee hand primer loader, Inserting primers while watching TV in the evenings. Brass was cleaned with a Lee shell holder mounted in a drill motor and 000 steel wool one at a time.
Now there is a RCBS Grand shotshell loader, progressive centerfire loader, two vibratory tumblers, Case prep centers, digital scales and powder measures, and motorized case trimmers.
The RCBS special loader is mounted right next to the progressive to do quick one off loads to test at the range, and to pull bullets if needed. The Lee special shotshell loader still gets a little use if I need a box or two of premium shotshells for the pheasant fields.
Some of that makes sense. Other terms are space talk. What does a person HAVE to have to start reloading pistol ammo?

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Josh Smash

Well-Known Member
Burk Cornelius said:
What kind of outlay of capital are we talking about?

Maybe a list if MINIMUM components needed.
http://www.basspro.com/Lyman-Crusher-Expert-Deluxe-Reloading-Kit/product/10200318/

For the past five years, this kit has served me well. The press serves as the priming tool and the powder dispenser works very well.(The one Lee dispenser I used worked, but trickled powder everywhere) In addition to bullet components and the kit linked above, I have added-

General-
A Good Caliper
Appropriate Die Set(s)
Tumbler w/ Media

Rifle-
Toss the case lube pad and buy some Hornady One Shot Case Lube.
Stuck Case Removal Kit
And this thing- http://www.cabelas.com/product/shooting/reloading/case-preparation|/pc/104792580/c/104761080/sc/549388080/lyman-universal-174-case-trimmer-power-adapter/731756.uts?destination=%2Fcatalog%2Fbrowse%2Fcase-preparation%2F_%2FN-1114305%2B4294383328%2FNe-4294383328%2FNs-CATEGORY_SEQ_549388080%3FWTz_st%3DGuidedNav%26WTz_stype%3DGNU
 

dennishoddy

Moderator
Burk Cornelius said:
Some of that makes sense. Other terms are space talk. What does a person HAVE to have to start reloading pistol ammo?

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Space talk? What part? Its hard to put 36 years of reloading into a paragraph.
 

Burk Cornelius

Regular guy
Staff member
dennishoddy said:
Space talk? What part? Its hard to put 36 years of reloading into a paragraph.
Understood. I'm trying to put together a pretty good starting point of equipment for a beginner. And also help them figure out what each component does and why.

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drmitchgibson

The white Morgan Freeman
You need to figure out what kind of shooting you like. Reloaders who plink a bit on a few weekends a year outnumber reloaders who shoot 400 rounds per hour of training time by 50 or 100 to 1.
Most reloaders are making rifle cartridges that they want to be ballistic laser beams. And then they go shoot 3-round groups.
 

TerryKendell

Well-Known Member
Here is my list of equipment progression.
Lyman 310 Tong Tool
RCBS Jr Press
Lee 3 Hole Turret Press
Dillon Square Deal
Dillon Upgraded it to a Square Deal B (For Free)
Dillon 650 with case feeder
 

dennishoddy

Moderator
Mitch Gibson said:
You need to figure out what kind of shooting you like. Reloaders who plink a bit on a few weekends a year outnumber reloaders who shoot 400 rounds per hour of training time by 50 or 100 to 1.
Most reloaders are making rifle cartridges that they want to be ballistic laser beams. And then they go shoot 3-round groups.
That's very true. The majority of reloaders don't use progressive presses as they don't shoot the volume of ammo that a competition shooter does.
Their goal is to get that one shot one kill load developed that overlaps at 100 yds or further in groups.
 

DD78

Well-Known Member
This is a great topic, and since I went through this just about 3 years ago, it's still fresh in my mind, and will hopefully help others trying to jump in and get started.

About 3 years ago, I picked up a bolt action 308 that I wanted to build into a long range rifle. After buying it and seeing how much match grade ammo costs, and getting tired of spending $25-30 per 20 rounds, I started to look into reloading by asking an uncle who is a reloader, and looking into it myself. The first thing he told me to do is buy the book "ABC's of Reloading" as a first step, then buying a load manual and reading that as well.

After reading those books, and doing a bunch of research on the web, I settled on a Lee single stage press setup. It came with some very basic tools needed to start reloading, but the scale was garbage so I went ahead and picked up a digital scale, and a set of cheaper calipers.

The only things missing from the kit from Lee aside from what I've mentioned above are a method for cleaning brass, dies, brass prep tools, and components.

I started off with a Harbor Freight ultrasonic cleaner and it quickly became obvious that it wasn't doing what I needed it to, and the volume of cases I could clean was pretty limited. The brass would get extremely tarnished so I started looking at options other than the standard corn cob/walnut tumblers and came across stainless pin wet tumbling. I picked up a Rebel 17 and haven't looked back since. It cleans the brass to the point where it looks brand new. It does add some time to your overall loading process because you really need to deprime before wet tumbling. I've seen people buying dehydrators and using ovens to dry their brass, but I just let it air dry on a towel.

Since I was mainly reloading to save money on match grade 308, my first foray into prepping brass led to a number of blisters since I was using a Lyman hand tool kit along with the cheap Lee case trimming tools. I quickly bought an RCBS case prep center, along with an LE Wilson micrometer brass trimming kit. That made brass prep far more enjoyable.

The first round I fired that I loaded myself was amazing. I fired a group that could fit under a nickel at 100 yards, and it just got better from there on out. This then led me to buy dies for everything I owned, along with powder. At the time, powder, specifically pistol powders were almost impossible to find and so were components. I'd find them here and there and just buy in bulk because I wasn't sure when I could find them.

Reloading on the single stage was okay for my needs since I didn't shoot a whole lot in volume in one calibers, and would shoot a couple hundred in multiple calibers, then reload them again.

My needs changed drastically when I began shooting 3 gun and USPSA. I just couldn't realistically keep up with what I needed and was spending way too much of my time loading. It took me about 6.5 hours to load 500 rounds of 9mm. I would spread that out throughout the week, but it was getting to the point where I felt like I was doing nothing but reloading during the week.

At this point I went ahead and ordered a Dillon 650 with case feeder set up in 9mm and couldn't be happier at this point. In the same time I spent loading 500 rounds on my single stage, I could have 4000K rounds loaded on the Dillon lol. I've since purchased another toolhead and set it up for 45 ACP. I'll probably buy another soon and do my 55 grain 223 as well.

For someone shooting competitively, don't even think about getting anything other than a progressive, unless you have loads of spare time and don't mind spending it loading on something slower. My spare time is extremely valuable to me so spending most of it reloading isn't going to fly. I do enjoy reloading, but when you're spending hours every night on it, it quickly becomes a second job. Having the Dillon allows me to spend an hour and load enough to last me a week or two. I'm actually spending this winter loading in bulk so that I don't have to spend any time this summer reloading. I'm sure I'll have to, but I want to limit that time.

For a list of required equipment:

- Press
- Case prep (trimmers, chamfer and debur tools, tumbler)
- dies
- caliper
- digital scale
- good powder measure
- components

You can get started relatively inexpensive with a single stage, but this is one of those buy once cry once sort of deals. Just jump right in and get a progressive if the volume you're shooting warrants it. If you're not shooting a lot, then get the single stage. If I was forced to put a number of rounds needed to justify the progressive press, I'd say 5K in one caliber per year. Using my example above, to load 5K in one caliber on a single stage you're talking 65 hours of work. On my Dillon, that would take 10 hours going slow. It's probably closer to 7-8 hours in reality.

It's gotten to the point where I dread each time I have to reload on my single stage, but I have cartridges that I don't shoot very often, and maybe 200 rounds per year so spending $250 for a new toolhead is unrealistic. I still load on it, and I'm sure eventually I'll have a toolhead for everything. My problem right now is having the space to store everything. I live in an apartment so until that changes, I'll keep doing what I've been doing.

The nice benefit you get to rolling your own is improved quality. You can tailor your loads to your guns, or to power factor, and use powders that "feel" better. I've fallen in love with VV powders for my pistols. It's so soft shooting it's unbelievable. I had a bunch of N-320 back when pistol powders were hard to find and it's such a great powder that I will continue to use it as long as I can find it. I can probably save an extra $10 per 1500 rounds or so using a cheaper powder, but once you factor that $10 across 1500 rounds, is it really worth it?
 

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