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Getting Started Reloading

Filed in Articles, Getting Started Reloading by on June 25, 2011 • views: 3497

So you want to get into reloading? This article provides you with a list of everything you need to get started. Keep in mind that I haver my own biases and opinions and this article reflects many of them.

Also, almost all my experience is RCBS-centric so that’s what you’ll find here.

You will Need:

1. The Rock Chucker Supreme Master Reloading Kit is about $300.  The Hornady Lock-N-Load Classic Reloading Kit is about the same price.  I recommend one of these two because they contains the scale, powder measure, and all the miscellaneous little stuff you’re going to need.

2. You’ll need a set of dies for each caliber. For pistol I recommend the RCBS die set that includes a carbide sizing die. It will allow you to resize the cases without lubing them first. (Otherwise you’ll be smearing lube on your cases prior to resizing them and then wiping the lube off afterwards – messy)

What If you are shooting a semi-automatic rifle then you’l want the die set with the full-length (FL) sizing die.

3. You’ll need a shellholder for each caliber (about $8 each, I think)

4. If you are reloading rifle brass that is military surplus (.223 or .308) (or you are buying ammunition intended for military applications)  then the primer pockets have been crimped and after removing the old primers you’ll need to ream or swage the primer pocket. I’ve tried many tools and the Dillon Super Swage 600 ($110) is so good you shouldn’t waste time or money on anything else.

5. You’ll need primers.
Winchester and CCI are the two most popular. I use Winchester. You can buy them in a package of 100 but I recommend you buy a carton of 1000. As I write this, a carton of a thousand primers is about $32 at Sportsman’s warehouse.

6. You’ll need powder.
You should probably start with a pound each of the powders you choose. RIfle and pistol usualy require different powders. The reloading manual that comes with the RCBS Rock Chucker Supreme Master Reloading kit will provide you with a list of powders. Currently, for 45ACP I use Alliant Unique. For 223 I’ve been using up my supply of Winchester 748 and will be switching to Hodgen Varget. Once you settle on specific powders you will want to buy them in larger quantities.

7. You will need bullets. If you are firing 223 through an AR style rifle then I would start with 55 grain Full Metal Jacket Boat Tail (55gr FMJBT) bullets.

If you are firing 45ACP through an older 1911 pistol then you should probably stick with 230 grain jacketed round nose to start. Newer pistols – even newer 1911s – will feed almost anything, but I’d suggest keeping it simple and buying 50-100 230gr jacketed round nose as a starting point.

Most of us buy our bullets in large quantities. For example Montana Gold sells 3500 223 55gr FMJBT bullets for $273.

Progressive vs Single-Stage Press

A single-stage press like the Rock Chucker performs one operation (resize the case, seat the bullet, etc) each time you pull the handle. A progressive press can perform multiple operations with a single pull of the handle. So for example, the first station might be set up to remove the spent primer and resize the case.  The second station might bell the case moth to accept the bullet.  The third station might drop powder in the case, etc. A progressive press can produce ammunition at a much higher rate. The penalty is complexity. A progressive press is a very Rube Goldberg-ish contraption with lots of moving parts that must all be working just right.

There are many good progressive presses available, but I always recommend a single stage press for the beginner:

1. It allows the new reloader to get his feet wet and see if reloading is for him for a smaller investment.

2. Though I plan to migrate to a progressive by year-end, I’ll never get rid of the Rock Chucker. There are lots of miscellaneous tasks (pulling bullets, for one) that make it ideal for those times when you don’t want to disturb your setup on the progressive.

3. I know it’s possible to start reloading on a progressive, but in the beginning there is so much to learn that doing it on a single stage keeps things a lot simpler.

An experienced reloader had this to say on one of the online reloading forums: “The XXXXX manuals are just about as terrible as the ones from YYYYY, just in a different way. If you have never reloaded you have no idea what you are trying to accomplish so good luck figuring everything out.”

From my own personal experience: tho I had reloaded 45ACP for years, I had never reloaded 223, and had never heard of crimped primer pockets. During that little bit of learning process, there was a period of time when I didn’t know what the heck was going on. (About every 5th case had a crimped primer pocket, so I’d have four or five cases get primed just fine, and then I’d hit one that wouldn’t) Now imagine a newby trying to deal with that at the same time powder is dropping, and bullets are seating, etc.

4. If you move to a progressive press you can always sell the single stage and recoup almost all your money.

5. The RCBS Rock Chucker Master Reloading kit (Other manufacturers offer something similar) provides the newbie with almost everything they need in a nice neat little package. RCBS DOES offer a similar ‘kit’ that includes the Pro2000 progressive press but it has a list price of $1200. And I don’t think Dillon offers such a ‘kit’ at all.

6. There is no perfect progressive press. They all have their pros and cons. And buying a progressive press is a significant investment. I think it’s wise to get your arms around the whole reloading process first. Then you are in a more educated position and can better judge which features and functions are important TO YOU and which are not. You can therefore make a much more informed and wiser buying decision about which progressive press to buy.


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