~Ultimate Reloading Setup~


June 12, 2008, 10:08 PM
I am looking for a reloading setup that will last for my lifetime! I want something I can load rifle and pistol ammo with. What would be the ultimate setup for reloading? money is not an issue, but list things that are reasonable, I am mainly just trying to get an idea of what to set my sights on in future purchases.

List everything that you would need to reload! and list approximate price of you "Ultimate Setup" :rolleyes:

EDIT: mainly looking for suggestions on an press and powder handling system

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June 12, 2008, 10:38 PM
However you set it up, for it to be called "ultimate", it must have a Giraud trimmer.


June 12, 2008, 10:47 PM
I'm not the leading expert in this field. But, I'd venture a guess that the "ultimate" setup largely depends on what your primary goals are!

A benchrest competitor and an IPSC shooter may both want an "ultimate" setup, but they are probably defining two very different animals based on their chosen path within the sport.

I'd give you more, but it would merely be guessing on my part. Others can speak better about top-end sport specific equipment!

June 12, 2008, 10:55 PM
Best powder measure I've ever used is the C-H, made by ch4d.com- about $100 now.Mine's 19 yrs. old....I don't know much about ultimate equipment- most of mine is either low-buck or ancient! But yesterday I got a new Sinclair catalog in the mail dream/drool/slobber.

June 12, 2008, 11:40 PM
no one else wants to reply?

June 12, 2008, 11:57 PM
no one else wants to reply?
Way too many unidentified variables to elicit many replies. IMHO, COLORADOKEVIN gave you an excellent reply in Post #3.

I'll use ....a reloading setup that will last for my lifetime as as example. Most of my equipment is Lee and I expect it to last MY lifetime, but I'm 65 years old. If I was 25, my bench probably wouldn't be so "red".

June 13, 2008, 08:44 AM
More info will get you a better answer. But for pistol and high volume, Dillion is hard to beat. My 550 has kicked out a bit over 1,000,000 rounds now and keeps on rocking.

June 13, 2008, 08:48 AM
Agreed, we need more information.

For example,

last for my lifetime

How old are you now? What is your family medical history? ;)

June 13, 2008, 09:15 AM
Rock Chucker press should last a lifetime or two. Why not just start with a RCBS kit? and go from there

June 13, 2008, 09:20 AM
I have the Dillion 550B--it's a decent machine and the most popular out of the Dillion lineup. But if I had a chance to do it all over again--I would have went with the 650 (I hope I got the number right). You can do a bit more and I believe that it comes with the electric brass loader thing. But you can always purchase it seperately with the 550B. I've never had any major issues with the Dillon. I once screwed the machine up (about 1.5 years after buying it). I sent it to Dillon for repair. Within 3 weeks, it was as if I had a brand new machine. All it costed me was the postage of sending the machine to them.

June 13, 2008, 10:07 AM
RCBS Pro 2000 and a Rockchucker - All anyone ever needs.:D
Just kidding. I've had really good luck with all the reloading companies products and just decided the Pro2000 was where I wanted to put my money. It will last a lifetime, I have no doubt at all.

Figure on spending between $500 and $2,500 on all the reloading equipment a person could want. Lee, Dillon, Hornady, RCBS, Lyman, Redding, you really can't go wrong.

What type of reloading do you intend to do?
Casual, few hundred rounds a month? Any single stage or turret will be fine. Pick a color, any color.
Competitive at a local level, ~1000 rounds a month? Most any progressive will do. Lee Pro1000 would work just fine, slight tinker factor.
Competitive at a high level, 2000+ a month? Dillon 650/1050, RCBS Pro2000 or Hornady LNL

June 13, 2008, 10:15 AM
I would suggest you plan to own several presses. I'm not a serious bench-rest shooter, so I have "only" got 2 single stage presses and a Dillon XL-650B. I think the PACT electronic scale is hard to beat. I also find the RCBS Uniflow to be completely satisfactory, but, again, I'm not a bench-rester. I still like the el-cheapo Lee hand primer, but I'm starting to warm up to the RCBS version.

The only problem you have in trying NOW to determine what you want to wind up with THEN is that newer and often better stuff keeps coming out.

Keep buying components. It's hard to believe that the current prices are going to hold, but it's unlikely they'll retreat to what they were 5 years ago, either.

The Bushmaster
June 13, 2008, 10:15 AM
Do a lot of research by reading and any other way you are acustom to researching...No one on here can answer your question without being a bit prejudist in their opinions. Not every system is for everyone. Some drink the blue cool-aid and think it's god sent and others drink the green or red cool-aid and will feel that it is god sent. Only you can decide what will work for you. All is of good quality and will last you a life time if properly cared for...

June 13, 2008, 11:14 AM
. . . but reloading, reloading needs, and "ultimate" are personal choices. "Most expensive" doesn't necessarily mean "ultimate" for all reloaders.


These plus a MEC 28-gauge reloader represent my version of the vision. Adopting special gadgets, tools, tricks, & methods serve to enhance and refine any set-up. For precision rifle ammo, I do like my Forster Coax press & Herrell powder measure.

June 13, 2008, 12:15 PM
Your first step is buying the best reference book or what I call Reloading for Dummies or The ABC's of Reloading from Krause Publications. Read it cover to cover, and then read it again while taking notes! Look for a mentor at your local club, range, or purveyor of supplies! Another more technical book, is Handloading for Competition by Glen Zediker.

There are several great reloading manuals of the real kind not the freebee ones! Freebee manuals are good for cross referencing data, at times. For meaty manuals a person can not go wrong with the Lyman48th, Hornady, and Sierra. One must always look up loads when you compare/cross-reference data. Especially in larger calibers as some data might be using different brass from yours. Case in point before the Hodgdon website upgrade they Hodgdon used WW brass to work up loads with, whereas Sierra used Fed cases in their 308 Winchester loading information. Now, Hodgdon does not list what brass the loads were worked up in.

Press - Single Stage or Turret presses are the best way to learn before advancing to any kind of progressive press. You will always have need for a single stage press. Redding and RCBS are good sources of all kinds of presses. RCBS Rockchucker Supreme for a single stage and Redding T7 for a turret press are basically the gold standard for the two different types.

Dies - I like Redding Dies, and I would get the carbide expander ball upgrade for bottle neck rifle cases. Dillon makes carbide rifle sizer dies, but you still need to use case lube and make sure you lube the inside of the case neck, too. I would just stick with regular dies for rifle cartridges. Dillon makes die sets specifically for their press so to speak, meaning that it does not come with a case mouth belling die; Redding makes a set of dies for progressive presses, too. I like Forster competition seaters, and they can be had as an individual item. Dies are pretty much threaded universally, except for Lyman 310 dies, and Dillon dies for the Square Deal B. Accuracy nuts will use hand dies, and they require an arbor press be used.

Shell holders (if the die set doesn't have them like Lee) or the appropriate shell plate for the progressive press. Remember that many shell holders work for more then one cartridge. I would do some home work, especially if you get a Dillon. Some cartridge conversions might only require you to get powder funnel for the new cartridge.

A tumbler will be a good investment, as clean cases will not harm you dies. There are vibratory and rotary tumblers out there. I like corn cob media treated with some Iosso case polish. You can get walnut in bulk at Petco or Pet Smart. Bulk corn cob grit is a great way to reduce the cost of commercially supplied media, because you pay through the nose for the treated media from other vendors.

MTM makes great loading block tray that handles most cartridges.

Case Lube is great for both conventional dies, and to treat your brass used in a progressive press even with carbide dies. That extra lubricity makes the cycling of the press a tad slicker! Dillon spray lube works well for shake and bake application. I like Imperial Die Wax for rifle cartridges when FL sizing.

Case Neck Brush to clean bottleneck rifle cases

Dial Calipers

Case Trimmer (Lee works, but Possum Hollow is better, Wilson makes the best hand powered Lathe trimmer, and Giraud is the best powered Trimmer)

Deburring/Chamfering Tool

Primer Pocket Cleaner and uniformer

Primer Flip Tray is needed for loading pick up tubes for some primer systems like the Dillon.

Priming Tool (I like the RCBS (now even better with universal shell holder, but Sinclair makes the best)

Powder Scale - remember that is always better to have a mechanical scale as a back up to any electronic scale.

Powder Funnel kit with drop tubes especially if you intend to use powders like Varget.

Powder Trickler (used to tweak powder charges)

Powder Measure (nice for faster powder charges it does require a bit of learning curve to get consistent powder charges sort of rhythm thing) standard with progressive presses, but the RCBS Uniflow is nice! Redding makes a better one, and Harrell is the gold standard!

Hammer Type Bullet Puller (for taking down the boo boo's)

Ammo boxes and labels

A notebook for recording your results! Saves covering the same ground twice!

A chronograph is great when working up loads, but is more a luxury in the beginning.

June 13, 2008, 01:23 PM
I am 15, so im trying to find something that will last quite a few years. I already have the Lee anniversary kit which has worked great but I want something I can grow into as a reloader, like a Dillon or something. I am planning on keeping the single stage Lee, and it has taught me alot about reloading but I doubt I would be the best If I ever want to start reloading pistol rounds.

June 13, 2008, 01:37 PM
I'm not sure you 'grow into' a press.

The dillion presses allow a higher volumn output than a single stage.

Back to the real question - do you want volumn (make a whole lot fast) vs. precision (time is not an object).

I have 2 Dillon Square Deal Bs - they handle every thing I need for IDPA competions (high volumn, reasonable price, but that press only does straight wall pistol calibers). I also have a RCBS rock chucker - for rifle ammo - I don't need a lot of rifle ammo and I'm willing to take the extra time to make it pretty precise.

What do you want to do that you cannot do on your Lee press?

June 13, 2008, 02:02 PM
volume! It produces Rifle ammo plenty fast, but It is slow, so using it for pistols would be very time consuming.

June 13, 2008, 02:16 PM
I'm not qualified to judge something "ultimate", but in my opinion you would be pretty close with this press: http://www.ch4d.com/catalog/?p=61

And this powder measure:

If you ever get into high-volume pistol reloading, you'll probably want a progressive press, but the CH press can load about as fast as a turret press. I've loaded a hundred 9mm cartridges, starting with clean but unprepped brass, in a half hour with my old CH press (just like the one I linked to, but has 3 holes instead of 4) But that was going too fast, 150 per hour is probably pretty easy. I don't have the automatic primer feeder, I just put feed them in one at a time by hand from the flipper tray.

You will eventually have multiple presses, even if the first one was perfect. Don't ask me how I know this. :)

June 13, 2008, 10:06 PM
The ultimate single stage press is the Forster Co-Ax.

Progressive presses are a chevy vs ford debate, but I like Hornady LNL AP.

I'm not a big fan of turret presses, but lots of people think they're in between a single stage and a progressive in terms of speed and complexity/cost. Depending on how you will use a turret press, a co-ax will be just as fast. Many other single stage presses can be fitted with the Hornady LNL adapter to make changing dies in them very quick and easy too.


June 13, 2008, 10:17 PM

June 13, 2008, 10:19 PM
looks good :)

June 13, 2008, 10:57 PM
volume! It produces Rifle ammo plenty fast, but It is slow, so using it for pistols would be very time consuming.

Maybe I'm missing something here, but I produce pistol and rifle reloads at about the same pace. Can you expand on what you mean by this?


June 13, 2008, 11:56 PM
Well I mean that I usually shoot alot more pistol rounds in a range time than rifle...so therefor the speed that works for rifle will not produce as many rounds as I need. There are only 2 ways to fix this I think

1. New press

2. More time

June 14, 2008, 05:56 AM
Well for my money, if I was looking for volume in pistol calibers with the option of reloading rifle calibers in volume at a later date then I'd go with a Dillon XL650 or a Hornady LNL AP. With a casefeeder either will generate more volume in ammo than I can shoot. They're a bit more complex than a single stage and I find that I like to get one setup and then load everything I need for a year and use a single stage for experimentation. The nice thing about either of the presses above is that you can add an automated case trimmer if you want, etc. (if you decide to go for volume in rifle calibers) The big knock on the dillon at least is the cost of the caliber conversions.

I went the dillon route and I'm very happy but I find that I load pistol rounds on it and rifle on my single stage. YMMV

June 14, 2008, 08:58 AM
Any of the equipment you buy will last dang near forever. Some is prettier than others. ALL of the brands of dies will load good ammo. All of the presses will do the same.

Don't get caught up in spending a fortune to start. It is unnecessary. Get a Lee classic turret press kit. It will do you right and you won't have to spend a ton.

Now, later down the road when you want all the extra little doo dads and gadgets and can't live without the shiniest, fanciest load machine, then you can hock everything you have to get it. ;)

Your 15, you need a VW bug, not a Ferrari.

The Bushmaster
June 14, 2008, 09:49 AM
I agree with Walkalong except get the Lee Clasic CAST Turret. A few bucks more, but well worth it...

June 14, 2008, 11:25 AM
Going off topic here...
Hey 308sc, did your daddy buy you that AR-15 yet?

June 14, 2008, 11:35 AM
308 is only 15?? I all of a sudden feel very uncomfortable about this. I feel about the same as if we were on a Beer/alcohol forum right now and we are teaching a 15 year old how to make the ultimate margarita. No offense, to anyone including 308sc. I think I'll just excuse myself from this thread. Again, no disrespect.

PS: this is my fault, I missed the post where OP said he is only 15.

June 14, 2008, 12:09 PM
As long as there is parental supervision, I don't see a problem with a minor reloading ammo...but I understand your concern.

The Bushmaster
June 14, 2008, 01:37 PM
Besides...I know some 15 year olds that are smarter them a bunch of 40 year olds. As long as he reads and heeds what he reads and listens to his experienced elders (and not necessarily us) he'll have little problem learning this habi...Aah...hobby...

June 14, 2008, 03:39 PM
I reload just about everything you can think of. Besides the basic, here's what I'd recommend.

Giraud case trimmer: hands down the best out there. Makes reloading shouldered rounds a pleasure.

Redding T-7 Turret Press: Even if your not into match prep, load commonly used dies or anything else into it. Built like a tank and best IMO.

Rock Tumbler: Much quieter than a vib type.

Electronic scale-dispensor: rcbs or lyman

Dillon 550b: blue is the way to go for progressives. For high volume loads, pistol or rifle. 650 will do auto-indexing.

RCBS Ammomaster: best single stage press around, easily does BMG. If not BMG, do the rock cruncher. Honorable mention is Lee Classic '0' type press.

MEC Sizemaster for development, RCBS 2000 for production of shotshells.

Amost anything Sinclair makes: from primer pocket reamers to headspace length guages to neck micrometers.

Cordless Drill.

Lee handheald primer.

Redding competion shellholders: expensive but definatly worth getting for headspace hassles.

It really depends on what you want to do. But the Giraud is listed first for a reason. Hands down, it was the best investment I've ever made. If you don't care about match prep, a good progressive will serve you well. If you do care, then a series of single stage presses are in order.

IMO, any handloading is better than factory loads. You can't lose.

Almost forgot... Get a s-load of those Horanday lock rings and put them on your dies. I hate tap screws that mess up the threads or rubber-o-rings that aren't consistent. They're cheap and worth it.

June 14, 2008, 04:24 PM
Its ok I have reloaded over 300 rifle rounds without a problem, I learned from the best...he uses a Dillon :).....I have read alot of manuals...the sad thing is I have kinda had to figure it out myself how to reload...(I taught my dad) so for awhile I was on my own with reloading. My only two sources of helpful information where

1. Interenet

2. A friend in Virginia

I am very responsible with guns...and have taught myself alot about each one that I own. So just because im 15 does not mean I'm not capable of reloading, or anything else...but I do understand your concern.

also while we are on the subject of my age...all the guns you see listed below or mine or my dads...I bought the savage, 10/22 and Mosin, and when you see me ask for suggestions on guns...it is so I can research what me or my dad will acquire next.



June 14, 2008, 05:19 PM
RE: the age of the OP ...

I started reloading when I was 13 or 14, and I was pretty much self taught as well, my Stepdad did check out what I was doing though... I started with the most basic tool out there, the Lee Loader.. the old hammer the round together one. Graduated to a Lee Challenger press from there. One of my "jobs" during the summers before I was old enough to get a "real job" was to work up handloads for his / our rifles and pistols. I'd work up a load for a particular gun, testing it out back (we lived on 30 acres in the country), and when he got home I'd have a mag full for him to test. I'd show him what I did, what the load was, and he'd go out back and try it out. Granted, I was very meticulous (yeah, a bit nerdy), and was very careful. I see nothing wrong with a teenager learning this skill, sounds like he has supervision. I really did most of the reloading for the household when I was there... I was more careful than my Stepfather was when reloading (he likes to push the envelope a bit further than I do) ... he kept those experimental items separate from the stuff I loaded.

Regarding the original question ... I've got what I consider the ultimate for my needs... well, almost. I quit reloading when I moved out of the house and went to college, but got back into it about 3 months ago... have a shooting buddy that I've known since I was a teenager, and we've been doing bulk ammo buys... and after the last one, I looked at the math and it just didn't add up. Then he pipes up and says he's finally started setting up his Dad's old reloading equipment in the little shed behind his house (his Dad passed away a few years ago)... anyhow, I decided to get onboard (at the age of 32, it's been a while since I pulled a press handle).

I have a progressive setup .. Hornady LnL (Blue is Great... but the Hornady Red is pretty darn good too), scale (beam scale), Hornady / RCBS dies, heavy Craftsman bench with overhead light, digital calipers, Lyman tumbler, a few reloading manuals. I do have one more thing coming to complete the setup, a Lyman case trimmer (for when I get into reloading my .300 Wby). Since I'm mostly reloading pistol, haven't needed the trimmer yet, and all my .30-30 brass is in spec. I can afford whatever I want (not bragging, just don't have a wife or kids to deal with / plan for, and probably won't ever), but I like getting value for my money. The only thing I will probably end up adding is a decent single stage or turret press, probably a Lyman Turret, a Hornady Classic LnL, or an RCBS rockchucker... haven't decided on that yet.

Anyway, to the OP, good to have you here and in the hobby. Always good to have "new blood" in the sport / hobby.

June 14, 2008, 05:37 PM
Me and you are very much alike. I just don't have 80 acres..I wish I did though....I live on a 3/4 acre lot in a neighborhood. I develop loads for all of the guns we have....I am just better with mechanical stuff than my dad and he admits it. There are quite a few things he is better than me at though...but when It comes to guns its pretty much just me.

well no that we have the pretty much cleared up about age..

I gather that Hornady or RCBS is the way to go...How much harder is a progressive/turret press to operate than a single stage? What are the main differences?

June 14, 2008, 06:12 PM
308, you're about 20 years away from wearing out your present press.

Any iron press is as good as any other iron press, be it Redding, RCBS, Lyman, Hornady or Lee. The only "superior" press is the Forster Co-Ax and that is not by much.

If you really want more volume get a progressive, a simple turret offers little or nothing over a single stage but no turret is as precise as a single stage.

June 14, 2008, 06:56 PM
interesting point.

June 14, 2008, 07:49 PM
Otto: My Dad has not bought the AR-15 yet.....but he is very close....once he lands a new job..(long story)

June 14, 2008, 08:07 PM
I gather that Hornady or RCBS is the way to go...How much harder is a progressive/turret press to operate than a single stage? What are the main differences?

Good question. I'll assume you're reloading 308 win.

A single stage press is just that, you do one stage at a time. You'd change dies for each process: decapping, sizing, seating. This is no big deal if your doing mach prep brass since you want to size and do other things to the brass between stages. Most doing competitive shooting use single stage.

A turret is a step up. Arguably, single stages are more accurate. With a turret you load your dies and and there is one press that does one round and one process at a time. You can do all processes at once, or do one process at a time. For instance, say you only want to decap, size, then trim and do other brass processes, then continue with bullet seating.

All your dies are set up with a turret. Some turrets are auto indexing meaning you don't have to manually rotate the head, and some are not.

Advantages of turrets are you can use the shellholders from single stages. I use a turret for 'non critical' steps in match reloading.

Progressives will do multiple processes with each pull. They come with a 'gang' shellholder and with each pull will size, prime, charge and seat. Progressives come with a number of 'stations'. The Dillon has five. Progressives can be auto indexing or manual. It is possible to remove a round in the middle of the process to do something else to the brass.

You can crank out lots of rounds with a progressive, but, IMO you should get the basics down with a single stage first.

June 14, 2008, 09:32 PM
Which is better auto indexing or manual...I assume the manual gives you more flexibility, but the auto is faster?

June 14, 2008, 09:41 PM
Which is better auto indexing or manualWhich is better, an automatic transmission or a stick-shift? (sorry, maybe you are too young to understand this analogy, no offense)

Did you look at the press in that ebay auction I linked to in your other thread? IMHO, those old 'H' style presses have all the advantages of a single-stage press, and most of the advantages of a turret press. The only down-side is you need multiple shellholders (but shellholders are cheap, and you *can* get by with just one.)

June 14, 2008, 11:32 PM
ahh I see so an old H style is the best of both worlds?

June 14, 2008, 11:42 PM
IMHO, if you're comfortable and competent with a single stage, and are looking for more volume, a progressive is probably the next step. there's nothing wrong with a turret press, but I don't feel that it really increases the volume of production much... the turret is more convenient to use than a single stage, though.

I went from using a single stage 15 years ago, with no reloading in between then and now, and straight to a Hornady LnL AP a few months ago. So long as you take your time working out the quirks (the folks on this forum and others were very helpful), I don't see any need for the intermediate step. As far as asking what would I buy if I were able to do it again, I wouldn't change a thing, except I would've started back a year ago. For progressives, I'd only look at Hornady, Dillon, or RCBS. No offense to the Lee folks, a lot have them and like them, but they sure seem to need more tinkering to keep going.

June 15, 2008, 05:57 PM
It really boils down to what you want to do.

If your the average hunter and only use ten rounds a year for deer hunting, then a single stage is more than enough. There's no need to spend big bucks on something that will only collect dust.

If your shooting competition, the same applies. Your shooting more, but you want to match prepare everything. Progressives don't lend themselves to that, although some very good shooters use progressives.

If you shooting 200 rounds a week plinking and want to speed thing along, a turret, autoindexing turret or progressive is in the cards.

Now if your have an M-16 with full auto, you'll definatly want a progressive with auto indexing.

Here's what I do. I shoot a lot of competition that uses 223, 308, 45 colt and 12 guage. 223 and 308 are match prep so I use a turret for non-critical steps and a single stage for the critical steps. 45 colt isn't match preped so a manual progressive is used, same for the 12 guage. At one time I was shooting 1000 rounds a week in 45 acp so for that I used an auto-indexing progressive (dillon square deal).

For my match prep rounds, each batch is processed one step at a time. All decapped, all sized, all neck sized, all trimmed, primer pockets cleaned, all primed (by hand) then finally, all charged and seated.

You're not going to lose a lot of time using auto vs manual indexing, especially with a blue machine.

I'd recommend getting a 'kit' of sorts that includes a good single stage like the rockcruncher or lee '0' type press (with the good hand primer). Then start loading be it pistol or rifle rounds. Then do some match prep brass and then decide if you need anything else. When you decide, you're not out much since you can always find a use for that single stage or use it for backup.

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