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Optimistic Cynic
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OK, so I'm sure I'm not the only one who has had the idea that hand-loading/reloading ones own ammo is one way to address the current shortage. Components do not seem to (yet?) be suffering from the same "out of stock" virus as finished ammo. But for those of us who are thinking about getting started, there seems to be a steep initial learning curve, with many answers to newbie questions that are hard to find.

Such as:

Given that there are a number of popular "systems" available, how are they distinguished? Obviously, cost, and availability in the caliber(s) you want to reload are an important factor. However, what are the distinguishing features and why would one choose X over Y as an initial starting point? Here are the various manufacturers/systems for which equipment seems to be in ready supply:

Frankford Arsenal

Notes on relative expense, quality, ease of use, etc. would be appreciated.

Obviously, there will ba a lot of personal preferences expressed here, but I'd be interested in knowing why someone feels "X is the best!" or "Y sucks rocks," rather than just the bare statement.

Also, should a newbie consider starting out with a production-style press (progressive or multi-stage), or with a single-station hand press. Obviously, having the latter available for working up loads, etc. could be useful even if you are more oriented to cranking out thousands of rounds, but I am strictly talking about entering the activity and getting experience.

I am aware that interchangeability, e.g. of dies and presses, is an important factor in choosing a system. What other pitfalls should a newbie look out for?

Is there a book/manual that is generally regarded as the "bible" for those getting started? Most of these I've casually examined seem to be oriented towards promoting a particular manufacturer/system, and (coincidentally?) published by that manufacturer.

Bullet casting seems to be its own, separate activity with a lot fewer participants. Should a newbie consider exploring this, or is the learning curve probably too great to entertain both?

Any general advice would be appreciated as well, especially from those who have long experience in reloading. If it matters, I am looking at reloading popular pistol and rifle cartridges for non-critical purposes (i.e. not for extreme accuracy, super long range, etc.) Spending less on ammo is a desirable result, but not a critical one, I am aware that it would take many rounds to recoup the cost of a press and related equipment.

Thanks in advance for your wisdom.
Posts: 4177 | Location: NoVA | Registered: July 22, 2009Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Web Clavin Extraordinaire
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Sadly, I would disabuse you of the notion that components are still available. They're gone. Primers are sold out everywhere, bullets are scarce (for common calibers like 9 and .223). Locally, at least, powder is the most available component, but a specific brand/type is hit or miss.

According to Gavin Gear from Ultimate Reloader, something like 99.7% of primers are being funneled into loaded ammo to deal with the backlog, so reloading primers are simply non-existent.

To answer your basic questions, though:

If you're not looking for super accuracy, there's nothing wrong with starting with a progressive. (Not that you can't get super consistent results from a progressive, mind you.) That said, if you are not very mechanically inclined or possessed of a good amount of patience, the learning curve for a progressive can be steep. They require more attention to detail and a knowledge of how they work to diagnose a problem (e.g. if the press binds up or primers aren't seated correctly, etc.). If you don't like to fiddle, you won't like a progressive.

If mechanical aptitude and/or patience for troubleshooting are up your alley, though, a progressive will let you much more quickly churn out ammo once you've got everything dialed in. It's wonderful to be able to hit the reloading room and easily crank out 250 rounds in less than an hour with almost no set-up or tear-down time. You won't get that with a single stage press.

Having a quick change tool head (like on a Dillon) is an amazing convenience...but also an added expense if you want to leave a bunch of calibers set up.

Bear in mind that a progressive press will probably "persuade" you to purchase a lot of accessories, which equals $$$. I find single stage presses to be more straightforward.

If you do go single stage, I'd highly recommend getting one with quick-change die capabilities like Hornady Lock 'n Load or the Frankfort Arsenal M-Press. While I find my RCBS Rock Chucker to be fine, tinkering with dies sort of drives me batty.

Press choice aside, know that you will need a certain amount of stuff just to begin. You'll need a powder scale and calipers at the very least, not to mention a tumbler, perhaps case lube (if bottle neck cases are being loaded) and obviously dies. I'd recommend looking for a starter kit. RCBS does/did offer one, Dillon has one, and I imagine Hornady and others do as well.

You will also want a reloading manual for data. Most of your manufacturers will print one and there are also places like Dillon that will publish data books for specific calibers. (Not to mention powder manufacturer websites nowadays.)

There is a book called The ABCs of Reloading that gives a good overview of the whole process.

On top of that, you need a bench and space. While you can get away without a super beefy bench (I loaded for years and years on a plywood top on a Black and Decker portable work table), you probably want something as sturdy as possible. Longer cartridges require more leverage, so bear that in mind, which means a more stable bench is important.

Can't really tell you much about the intricacies of casting, as I don't do it myself. It's not difficult in theory, but it's even more stuff to buy, takes more of your time, and takes up more space...nor would I go smelting lead inside my house.... If you've got easy access to scrap lead and really only want to shoot low velocity cartridges and really love to clean your barrels, then maybe consider casting.


Chuck Norris put the laughter in "manslaughter"

Educating the youth of America, one declension at a time.
Posts: 19015 | Location: SE PA | Registered: January 12, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Plowing straight ahead come what may
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I’m a Dillon fan...but I do use other presses ranging from an RCBS Partner and the Inexpensive LEE C press For specific usages like depriming and cast bullet sizing...and loading small batches of rifle ammunition...that being said I just bought a Lyman Brass Smith All American 8 turret press and I’m so very pleased with this press (You have 8 stations to install and set up your dies...that is clutch IMHO). I’ve never had issues with LEE dies per say but I have Dillon and RCBS...all work well. For a powder scale...a manual balance beam is my choice (I’m old school) and have used an RCBS 502 from the early 80s...the Dillon and Lyman pretty much the same scales...many will choose an electronic digital scale, but being an old fart I’ve never been comfortable using them..but that’s just me Wink
I hand prime using the Frankford Armory Hand priming’s easy to use and it comes with everything you need to prime (or you can use the on press priming built in to most presses)...
Overall it sorta is depends on your budget...check into the kits...but remember that you will add stuff not included in your initial purchase...
Basic reloading manuals...Modern Reloading by Richard Lee is a great one to start with followed by the Hornady #10 for good reloading data...
Bullet casting is a whole nother’ story Wink


"we've gotta roll with the punches, learn to play all of our hunches
Making the best of what ever comes our way
Forget that blind ambition and learn to trust your intuition
Plowing straight ahead come what may
And theres a cowboy in the jungle"
Jimmy Buffet
Posts: 10228 | Location: Southeast Tennessee...not far above my homestate Georgia | Registered: March 10, 2010Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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One has to decide on a course of action, then look for supplies. If just starting out, pick a simple cartridge then get going, the 38 spcl comes to mind.

Will the builder with the most expensive tools build the best barn? Maybe, maybe not. Does one need the most expensive of everything, I’d say no.

I’d start with a reloading manual.
Posts: 4547 | Location: WI | Registered: February 29, 2012Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Dances With
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You might try the Reloading Section SigForum Reloading Section Link
Posts: 9523 | Registered: October 26, 2009Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Optimistic Cynic
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Originally posted by OKCGene:
You might try the Reloading Section SigForum Reloading Section Link
D'oh! I swear I went looking for a reloading sub-forum before I posted, but missed it. Maybe it was something I did too much of in my youth that made me go blind?

Thanks anyway for those that have replied in this thread!
Posts: 4177 | Location: NoVA | Registered: July 22, 2009Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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