Getting started in reloading isn’t difficult. In fact, reloading isn’t difficult. Reloading is the best way to save a few bucks and squeeze every bit of accuracy from a long gun. You can create custom range loads for your favorite handgun and the store is never closed when you realize the ammo cabinet is closed and you want to bust a few clays in the morning. Not if you have a few simple tools and the right supplies.
With a little luck, you have been saving your brass—if not, once-fired brass isn’t that difficult to come by. There are several ways to learn about reloading. In my case, almost everything I learned about handloading came from books; although there were a few very influential friends that allowed me look over their shoulder as well.
The tools, dies, measures and scales come next. Don’t worry, it sound more daunting than it is. Several companies offer starter kits with everything need except the shell, bullet and powder. You’ll also want a clear space—a carefully laid out loading bench with all tools in easy reach is important. For some, reloading is a necessity for the volume of ammunition used in varmint hunting or competition. For me, personal development and training demanded time at the loading bench.
Picking a Press
The press is the first piece of equipment you’ll need to select. I would not recommend beginners invest in a progressive reloading outfit. Progressive presses require require more experience than a beginner is likely to possess. It may well bring more headaches than solutions. After years, decades really, many reloaders do most of their work with a turret press. The multiple position turret press is a great place to start.
A single-stage press will get the job done. You may wish to get your feet wet with an inexpensive Lee single stage press such as Lee’s Breech Lock Challenger Single Stage Press Kit. If you are loading a few rifle rounds and concentrating more on accuracy than volume, the single stage may be the only press you’ll ever need. Just the same, the turret press may be the best investment for the long term.
Single Stage Press
One station, the dies are changed for each operation. You may resize the cases—100 or so—then change the dies and complete the operation with the second rifle die. Pistols require three dies.
All dies mount on one “head.” The head rotates as the cases size, powder charges and the bullet crimps in place.
The mechanical press is hand powered and moves the head with each pull of the handle—and you load a cartridge with each pull of the handle. Everything else revolves around the reloading press.
Next, you need a quality powder scale. You must weigh the charge, both for safety and consistency as well as accuracy. There is nothing wrong with an old school balance beam-type scale. They work just fine, but technology keeps knocking and eventually you may want to look into a digital model. Either way, recalibrate the scale from time to time. Getting lazy could mean too much powder and dangerous powder levels during load development. Always keep the scale on a flat, level surface.
You’ll want a powder measure. The powder measure dumps each powder charge. You’ll take sample dumps and weigh each on the scale to calibrate the measure.
You will need a set of dies for each caliber you want to reload.
The process will go something like this:
- The spent cartridge case is resized.
- The spent primer is ejected.
- The cartridge case is reprimed with a fresh primer.
- The powder charge is dropped.
- The case mouth is flared for insertion of the projectile.
- The bullet is seated and crimped in place.
Other Tools and Necessities
There are other tools you will wish to use. A block of some type to hold the cartridges at different stages of completion is often desirable. A cartridge mouth-chamfering tool is a good touch. A primer pocket cleaner is one item you may need, particularly in accuracy work. As you progress, you will know which tools you need, and which ones make the day go faster, but experimenting and developing you own style is half of the fun.
You need to acquire in a good supply of gunpowder. There are excellent all-around gunpowder selections. As an example, for most economy and target loads in handguns, Winchester 231, Hodgdon Titegroup and Alliant Unique cover just about anything you’ll need. Moving to the Magnum revolver cartridges more thought is needed, and H 110 is never a bad choice. In rifle cartridges, H4895 is a standby; Varget covers just about everything.
You will know in a few months whether you enjoy reaping the economic rewards of reloading. If the bug bites, you’ll seek out bulk purchases for cost saving, but the accuracy bug is the one to watch for. Start experimenting with a half-dozen types of gunpowder and you’ll really see what accuracy potential has been in your gun safe.