Any advice for an aspiring handloader?


December 25, 2002, 09:04 AM
How DOES one get started in this craft? Starter kits? Progressive press? Aaaaagh, I'm confused!

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Steven Mace
December 25, 2002, 09:41 AM
Mike it would help to know which calibers you intend to reload to give you a complete answer.

But to start, I would encourage getting a copy of The ABC's of Reloading - 6th Edition, by C. Rodney James. Also look for a copy of the Lyman Reloading Handbook - 47th Edition. These two books have basic reloading instructions that can helps anyone get start.

You will also want to your shooting buddies and ask them questions on what their experiences are in the reloading world. They can probably tell you what does & doesn't work for them as far as equipment & components. They shouls also be able to enlighten you are far as the basic steps used for a proper reloadfing process.

Also, I would strongly recommend buying at least 2 different reloading manuals that covers the calibers you intends to reload. This will hopefully give you some perspective on how different bullet & powder manufacturers present their information and you'll be able to compare recommend loads for your applications. Hope this helps!

Steve Mace

December 25, 2002, 09:47 AM
You can also get a small Lee handloader for the caliber(s) you are starting with. These are simple little loaders where you do each step manually, pop the old primer out, seat the new primer, add powder and seat the bullet.

After you are a little more into it, you can get one of the more expensive progressive loaders that makes most of the task automatic.

December 25, 2002, 09:49 AM
I also recommend the Lyman Reloading Handbook. Gives lots of helpful background and loads from jacketed to lead bullets of all weights. Very helpful. Reading this book should answer most if not all of your questions.

Some other manuals only list the makers particular bullets. Not particularly helpful, imho. You can also get free mini reloading manuals at your local gun store from Hodgdon, Winchester, Accurate, and other component manufacturers.

Steve Smith
December 25, 2002, 11:48 AM
Good advice above. To add, try to evaluate how much ammo you'd like to shoot every month. Reloading will most likely not save you a dime, but you will shoot a lot more...a whole lot more, for the same money. What will the ammo be used for? And finally, how mechanically inclined are you? Some folks swear up and down that everyone should start with a single stage. I'd guess that most of those folks are not mechanically inclined, so they are speaking from their own experiences. I started on a progressive and never looked back. I use a turret for unique operations, but 99% of all my loading is done on a Dillon...including all my match ammo. I have proven to myself that the ammo is capable if High Master level accuracy at 600 yards, so I don't worry about the supposed "higher accuracy" of a single stage.

Gary H
December 25, 2002, 12:10 PM
I started by using the search function on TFL. Can't do better than that.

Sleeping Dog
December 25, 2002, 12:20 PM
I started with a RCBS master reload kit, plus a caliper to measure cases and overall cartridge length. And Lee Deluxe Rifle dies. And a tumbler for cleaning brass. And a SOLID workbench.


December 25, 2002, 12:47 PM
The most helpful thing to me, getting started, was to hook up with an experienced reloader and see if they'll let you sit in on a session. Ideally, when setting up for a different caliber.

That way you really get a handle on the process. It makes it a lot easier to decide what kind of gear to get - what is truly necessary, what is time-saving, and also what you don't think you really need.

December 25, 2002, 12:56 PM
My advice is to evaluate how much you may reload and what the chances are that you may want to expand the operation at a later date. If you think you'll expand over time (easy to do without even trying) then I suggest staying away from the little stuff like hand presses and the smaller budget presses, go with something substantial like A RCBS Rockchucker press which you'll never outgrow.

H&K Fan
December 25, 2002, 02:05 PM
Spare decapping pins, a good set of calipers, formally configure some sort of reloading log so you have an idea of when you are low on powder or primers. Be on a first name basis with your primer/powder seller. In the long run a chronograph is a good idea but not essential to making quality reloads. Good lighting in your work area is a good thing as is 3 or more reloading manuals. It is amazing how far apart even major reloading manuals can be in terms of minimum and maximum amount of powder for a given load. If you reload rifle ammo use some sort of spray lube instead of strictly relying on the old roll the case in a case lube pad routine. You will like your reloads so much more when there are no embarassing little dents on the necks courtesy of using too much case lube. Watching a veteran do all this stuff is also a good idea as several of my ideas above were learned the hard way. Take notes and read them about what works for your set up and what does not. Carbide dies for pistol reloading, you will really save time when you aren't lubing the cases before resizing them.

December 25, 2002, 02:25 PM
Otherwise you'll find yourself scrambling to remember the load you worked up a while ago that shot so well. ;)

December 25, 2002, 05:23 PM
this was covered in detail many times and there's lots of answers in a hurry

As with Steve, I started with a Dillon. I'm too poor to afford cheap stuff. If you're doing pistol, I'd go straight to progressive (Dillon or Hornady). For most everthing you'll need, Hornady will be about $350 and Dillon about $500. Single stage RCBS, Lyman for rifle only. May want to check e-bay for used stuff, though a lot of times it is about the same price as new.

I bet if you'd ask, an Alumni here (of TFL) would be happy to help you out.

December 25, 2002, 07:28 PM
Hi Mike,

Don't overlook the power of your computer. It is the most powerful information gathering tool you own. First, if you don't have this program, go to ( and download Copernic Agent. It is a great search tool that uses multiple search engines to find things for you.

Once you have this program, you can search on terms such as handloading, ammunition reloading, etc. It often helps if you throw in the word 'tutorial'. You will discover tons of information on the subject.

You should specifically look for a. reloading instructions, b. reloading supplies, c. reloading catalogs, and d. reloading equipment. Several great catalog companies represent key sources for buying materials and equipment at the most attractive prices.

For example, on of my favorite sources for buying once-fired brass is ( Similarlarly, there are sweet sources for reloading tools, dies, bullet moulds, powder measures, scales, dial calipers, etc.

Personally, I like turret presses such as Redding's T-7 model. I don't think a progressive press is the best choice for a beginning reloader, although this may be a direction to take in the future.

So, you need to: a. visit the reloading web sites, b. get the important catalogs that are available., and c. read up on the subject.

Must-have catalogs are these:

1. (
2. (
3. (
4. (

See too:

MDSmith ( (
ShootGuns (
ReloadingBench (

You get the idea. Search and you will find.

Wishing you all the best.


Standing Wolf
December 25, 2002, 10:41 PM
My single best piece of advice: never believe anyone who tries to tell you you'll save even a single shiny Truman dime!

I'm sure people do save money, but I've found loading my own ammunition a.) just encourages me to shoot more, and b.) encourages me to find more reloading gadgetry, plus spares, plus things I might need down the road, plus more gadgets on sale, plus...

After several years—and a divorce—it occurred to me to regard loading ammunition as another hobby in and of itself, and let it go at that. It's not a hobby if it can't bankrupt you.

December 25, 2002, 11:04 PM
Thank-you to all who chimed in! Great advice all around.

December 26, 2002, 02:45 AM
but what you actually have to have to put together ammunition, just the bare necessities.

When you actually 'need' something new, then buy it, save you from coming up with drawers full of junk that is rarely if ever needed.


December 26, 2002, 08:04 AM
I just got back into reloading after years away from it. I purchased the RCBS Master reloading kit and also purchased some extra's and I'm now reloading again and having fun doing so.


Dan Shapiro
December 27, 2002, 02:57 AM
Ask around at your local club or gun shop. There’s bound to be a reloader that would love to show you the ropes. Books are great, but at least for me, nothing beats hands on experience. You might even end up with some free ammo if you bring some brass.

1) Records, records, records. Keep good records on all ammo lots. I find using a “sharpie” marker around the primer survives shooting and the colors allow me to shoot multiple lots w/o picking up the previous lot.
2) Don’t scrounge range brass. You never know what’s been done to it. And when in doubt about the condition of your own brass, chuck it.
3) Buy a bullet puller (hammer). It’ll be your best friend in the beginning.
4) Being anal is a good thing

December 27, 2002, 10:16 AM
There is no doubt that reading a good reloading manual is a good thing, but talking with people that actually reload is also a good thing. You will get all kinds of advice, both good and bad. Read the manual first, get tips from your friends, sort out the good tips and bad tips according to your reading.

Go ahead and buy a good press. If you are really serious about your shooting, go ahead and buy a progressive to start with. I won't get into the choice of press brands. You will get plenty of advice on that. Run the press slow and make a lot of length and weight checks to make yourself pay attention to detail. As you get acustom to your press and the routine, you can spread out your checks, and pick up some speed.

December 28, 2002, 01:04 AM
There is no substitute for a good reloading manual, and for learning the basics I don't think you can do better than a quality single stage press lik the RCBS rockcrusher. The master reloading kit contains just about all you'll need to get started. Depending on how much you shoot you may at some future time upgrade to a progressive for pistol calibers, but you will still have the Rockcrusher for rifle. Take your time, eyeball every round at every stage of the loading process, follow the manual and you'll have embarked on a lifetime hobby.

December 28, 2002, 02:55 AM
I started by buying a Lyman 47th Edition manual and reading it cover to cover. Then I bought a Speer manual and read it cover to cover. Then I traded for my Dillon RL550B, bought some components and started reloading.

If you buy a progressive press you can still load just one round at a time until you get a feel for what you're doing. Some folks seem to think that a single-stage press is the way to go, I think that's like buying a Pinto to learn how to drive a Corvette. You could, but why?

Stratford Holdings
December 28, 2002, 02:47 PM
I started by taking a reloading class at my local range. Charged me $70 but I thought it was well worth it. The course was about 2 hours for 5 days. I was also handed a reloading guide to help my understanding.

As a beginner, I went with the Dillon Square Deal B. It is a progressive press but it only does one caliber. You can probaly find it for $250 or so. This includes preset dies. It has everything you need except powder, primers, and the bullets. Since I only shoot 45, this was perfect for me.

Another thing you might want to invest in is a brass cleaner. Once I had everything I needed, I spent about $550, I think.

$250 - Press
$110 - Brass Cleaner and Case Seperator
$100 - Digital RCBS Scale
$12 - Primer Flip Tray
$60 - Digital Calipers
The rest for Sales Tax.

Now I want to load some rifle rounds and I'll have to pick up a new press in order to do that.

December 30, 2002, 12:14 AM
Wear safety glasses EVERY TIME you touch something other than your books.

You'll see why................

December 30, 2002, 11:28 AM
Dillon 650 and as many different reloading manuals as you have space for.

December 30, 2002, 03:01 PM
I've got two different Lee singe stage presses that I will give to any THRer or TFLer who wants to pick them up just a wee bit west of Indianapolis. These are low-end, cheap presses that I got when I was plotting a poor-man's progressive setup, but eventually I traded some other stuff for a Dillon. I bought them used but haven't used them myself.

You can buy dies, a scale and components to go along with it, and if you decide to move up to a progressive, you can use the stuff you purchased in your progressive press without having wasted money on a single stage. If you figure out reloading isn't for you, you didn't waste a dime on the press. I think I've got some Lee "Ram Prime" dies that I'll throw in with the first one that gets picked up.

To those of you who are thinking about making the Oleg/Betty pilgrimage, consider dropping by Indiana and picking up some free stuff.

December 30, 2002, 04:05 PM
Try poking around on this site:

The 'NRA Guide to Reloading' is excellent. It is a "how to," not a load data manual. Only about ten bucks. Here's the deal - figure out what you're gonna be loading long before you get out the credit card. That way you'll only be getting the equipment you need to start SAFELY. Get a mentor, if possible.

What Weshoot said, SAFETY GLASSES. sundog

Peter M. Eick
December 30, 2002, 06:50 PM
Best advice is read a lot, ask a lot of questions and document EVERYTHING! You cannot learn if you do not know what you did.

January 4, 2003, 02:18 AM
I advise not rushing into anything. find someone who will teach you using equipment they own, then decide what equipment you want to buy.


January 5, 2003, 03:05 AM
When you've read the basics, and are proceeding safely, then it's time to take it to the next level, and for that you need Pet Loads by Ken Waters. It's sold by the folks who publish Rifle and Handloader magazines, where Waters wrote for many years. It is a gold mine of information on every caliber under the sun.

January 5, 2003, 03:45 AM
Originally posted by Cordex:
I've got two different Lee singe stage presses that I will give to any THRer or TFLer who wants to pick them up just a wee bit west of Indianapolis.

You have mail! :D

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