Very good stuff. Thank you DominickDD78 said: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:
- Case prep (trimmers, chamfer and debur tools, tumbler)
- digital scale
- good powder measure
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?