There are only a couple of reasons to reload:

  1. You can’t find the cartridge you want
  2. You want to save money
  3. You want to improve your rifle/ammunition’s capability
  4. You want to have another skill

If you want to step up and improve your weapon system’s capabilities, I’m the wrong person to be listening to. I reload for cost and availability.

WARNING never trust random internet information on reloading! Always use trusted sources. Those are printed (modern) reloading manuals and the manufacturer’s published reloading tables.

Don’t trust me. If you make a mistake or copy a mistake from me, you can kill yourself or others. You can break your firearm. Don’t trust the web in this!

You will need some equipment before you can start.

  • Reloading manual(s)
  • Reloading Press
  • Scale that reads in grains
  • Calibers that read in inches
  • Priming tool (on press or off)
  • Dies
  • Loading Trays
  • Powder Funnel
  • Trickler

For your first press, you should get a single stage press. The only consideration in which of the many you get is that you should get one that allows you to quickly change dies. It will improve your life.

So which single stage press should you get? The blunt answer is that at this point, it really doesn’t matter. Lee will be the lowest cost, but RCBS, Lyman, Hornady all make great single stage presses. On my wish list is a Foster Co-AX single stage press.

Figure on spending around $200 for your press.

Your scale is what keeps you safe. I have four or five different scales. I would get one of the good mechanical scales AND a digital scale. The mechanical scales work regardless of power and are very accurate. They can actually tell you more than a digital scale. The downside is that they can be slower than a digital scale and might require some practice to read.

For perspective, I’ve not used my mechanical scale in years. I still have it as a backup.

Keep with the name brands on your scale. Lee, Frankford Arsenal, Lyman, RCBS, Hornady are all good names. Of course, there are more expensive, high-quality scales available.

In looking at Amazon offerings, I found a scale that claims to be 0.1gr(ain) accuracy. But the actual accuracy is plus or minus 0.3gr. That means that it could tell you that you had a powder charge of 4.7gr, and it could actually be as high ad 5.0gr or as low as 4.4gr. That 0.6gr movement can be the difference between safe and dangerous.

You will also need a set of 6 inch calibers to read the lengths of cases and cartridges.

Here I strongly suggest dial calipers. Digital calibers can be great if you pay for great. If you aren’t paying for great, you are unlikely to get the reliability and usability you require. Starrett and Mitutoya are top of the line, and you can’t go wrong with them. Fowler is also a known good brand.

I’ve heard good things about Accusize. My reloading calipers are made by Grizzly.

Figure $25 to $125

You will need a way to install primers. Most presses have an on the press option. If you can, pay for this option. There are times when you will need the control and leverage of the press. I have multiple systems. I have a Frankford Arsenal hand priming tool. For me, the advantage of doing it manually while being with my family was the selling point. On the other hand, I used the on press priming tool for almost all of my 5.56 because I was having issues.

You will need a set of dies for each caliber you are reloading. You will need a way of getting powder into each case as well.

For organizational reasons and safety, having reloading trays that match the caliber you are reloading is another requirement, in my mind.

In addition to all of the above, you are going to want (not need, at least at first), brass processing tools, brass cleaning tools, gauges, small paint brushes, wrenches, and a host of other things. This is just the equipment you need to load your first cartridges.

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By awa

11 thoughts on “Reloading: Why do it? – Part 1”
  1. And go SLOW. I personally also don’t listen to music or a tv while loading. Think about each step. Check check check, especially powder.

  2. Presses. Lee Classic Turret is also a good possibility, and eliminates the need for reloading trays. (They’ve also go a “Value Turret” now, which looks pretty similar, just slightly sturdy, but I don’t see much about it in the way of reviews, and have no experience with it.) They can be set to manual advance. by removing the indexing rod.

    I see folks talking about starting with a progressive. Bad idea. There’s just too much going on for a noob to keep all of it in his mind while the process is going on.

  3. Point of order on item 2:
    2. You want to save money

    Nobody saves money reloading. You may shoot more for the same costs – but it will not decrease your budget.

    – reloading can quickly become it’s own hobby. We reload to shoot, but there can be a sort of Zen to it as well.

  4. On the accuracy of tools (like the scale, or for that matter the calipers): I wonder if part of that is missing the difference between “resolution” and “accuracy”. A scale may read out to 0.1 grains but be off by far more. It’s not unreasonable for the accuracy to be several times the resolution; that just amounts to saying that the quantization error of reading the value doesn’t add significantly to the error. But it does mean you need to know the actual accuracy, and not assume that every digit displayed is believable.
    Of course, one problem with Chinese devices is that there’s no reason to believe anything about them, the specs least of all. If you have accurately known references to check against, that may be less of a problem — provided stability of calibration isn’t a concern. If you don’t, you may be measuring with a device that doesn’t have a sufficient connection to reality and no way to tell.
    With a caliper, one way to check them would be to use them to measure known-size objects. Some gauge blocks borrowed from a friendly machinist would be perfect; good quality drills might work. A headspace checking gauge should also work as a reference, though its shape (tapered, at least in a number of them) might be a bit tricky.

  5. I started reloading in 1977. The bulk of my tools are RCBS. I worked the retail floor at Huntington’s in Oroville CA circa 2011-2012. (Sadly, they recently closed.) For customers looking to start reloading, speaking just to the money part of the discussion, I would tell them that to get properly set up to reload a single rifle cartridge would cost around $500 including components for 100 rounds. Then would say, “Ask yourself how much ammo you could by for that amount, and how long would it last you?”.

    To add to above comments, yeah reloading is labor intensive. Constant focus without distraction is critical. It is also repetitive, doing the same motions over and over and over, leaving you open a sort of “white line fever”. Load 20 or so rounds, then take a short break. Use the break to re-check your work.

    I do have a mini-stereo connected to the PC on my work bench. Sometimes I will play something like this in the background–

  6. I got started reloading at the beginning of the 2020 panic, although I was moving that way regardless. .308 Winchester is expensive enough that you can amortize the costs over a few hundred rounds. The same applies to .38 Special, plinking ammo is still $30 a box when 9mm is less than half that. While I have loaded 9mm and 5.56 as proof of concept and have components the majority of reloading is .38 Special and .308 Winchester because both offer the best ROI and .38 is sometimes scarce.
    My mostly RCBS setup was about $600 all in with a press, dies, scale, brass tumbler and oddments. I use a volumetric powder measure which is fine for pistol ammo, surprisingly consistent for .308 rifle loads and a PITA for 5.56 rifle loads because the case neck is too small.
    One useful item for military rifle calibers is a primer pocket swaging tool to remove the crimp around the primer. This makes priming much easier. I always use a hand priming tool since handling primers on the press is very fiddly.
    My next steps are a digital scale and trickler or possibly an RCBS Chargemaster to automate charges.
    I sometimes listen to music when processing brass but keep total focus when measuring charges and seating bullets since those are the most likely to cause kaboom.

      1. I have a Lee turret press, 3 hole. Got it at a yard sale in 2010.. a 3 foot square box of reloading stuff for $40 bucks. They are great presses! I can do a 100 rounds an hour with it.
        The powder charging stage is the most dangerous part, I sometimes listen to music during the other stages. During the covid panic when gubmint was handing out money, they paid for a Dillion XL750. Nice tool, tedious as hell to set up. Been loading since the late 70s. Yard sales are exellent places to get reloading and or gun stuff!

  7. Let me also cast a vote for a turret press as the first press. Without auto advance it can function exactly like a single stage and with auto advance it has the advantage of finishing each round before starting the next with the attendant advantage of reducing the chance of double charging or missing a charge. By purchasing extra turrets, you don’t have to adjust your dies every time you change over the press to another cartridge. A 4-hole turret press is minimum because it lets you seat and crimp in separate operations if you wish, or use the 4th position for a charge verification die, and I wish they made a 5-hole model so I could do both. I am a strong proponent of the Lee Classic Turret Press but I started with the Lee Value Turret Press (loaded over 30,000 rounds with it without a failure) and it is really better for small pistol cases since it has a shorter stroke. The longer stroke of the Classic Press allows me to do .223 in the auto-index mode and I also load .30-06 with it in manual index (single stage) mode.

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