Good Reloading setup???


October 12, 2011, 12:10 PM
OK so i am a college student in Idaho and i LOVE to reload... i want to reload every caliber i shoot... 9mm, .380 acp, 45 acp, 40 sw, .223 rem, 30 30, .38 sp, 357 mag.... the problem is i live in a small 2 br apartment and have no space to do it... heres what ive been thinking and i need some advice on whether its a good idea... i can get a storage unit here for about $30/ month and i know the guy who owns it and he wouldnt mind... the problem is that here in idaho its freezing weather between november and may every year... i figure ill have a container where i keep my powder and primers at my apartment. would leaving lead (i plan on casting) brass, dies, and loading and casting tools in the storage unit be ok???

i loaded with my dad from when i was 4 years old... i love loading and now that i have enough firearms and calibers where loading will make a difference i really want to... and i just got the go ahead from my wife... let me know what you guys think. and if you have any gear you dont use and are willing to sell!

Also i have been looking at the lee handloading kits... i shoot alot but not a ton... maybe 500 rounds a month in two sessions... i have the stuff i need to cast bullets and im wondering if i should just go the handloading route until i have sufficient room to get myself a good setup...

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October 12, 2011, 12:48 PM
While I can't speak to the legality of your idea, I can remind you that a storage shed is likely not very much difference, in environment, than a garage. Light and electricity may be an obstacle.

I usually do keep powder/primers in the house to store them in a less volitile (temperature) place. In regards to reloading tools stored in a garage, I've found the large temp. swings contribute to condensation and rust if left unlubricated. I've found even in my low humidity environment, rust can set on pretty quick if I'm not careful.

October 12, 2011, 01:03 PM
yeah for sure i will take those things into account... i would be sure to keep everything lubricated... thanks aton for the advice!

October 12, 2011, 01:26 PM
A couple more thoughts on the subject. I load with a Lee single stage press. It works great and the speed is fast enough for me with rifle calibers. However, loading pistol calibers, something you likely will want to do with way more quantity is a slow and tedious process. IMO the right way to load high volume is with a progressive or turret press.

I made up a batch of 1,000 9mm rounds single stage. It took hours and hours and hours, I can't tell you how many, but I would have been better off working for minimum wage and simply buying factory ammo. If you want to learn and perhaps plan to upgrade later a single stage is great.

I bought my equipment for low volume, precise rifle calibers. I would have never chosen this equipment for high volume work. The only reason I load 9mm is because I have the equipment.

October 12, 2011, 02:02 PM
I would recommend a Lee Classic Cast turret press. Why? Because for your pistol rounds, you can crank out quite a bit in a quick hour of loading. You can also run it single stage for your rifle rounds. Honestly, with the case preparation needed with bottle neck rifle rounds, you can have a big tupperware container full of sized/trimmed/primed brass and all you need to do is to drop powder, then seat the bullet on the press and you're done, never a worry about missed or double charges.

As for set up, you can get a Black and Decker Workmate bench which folds up neatly, and bolt the press to a piece of 2"x6" wood where the bolt heads insert from the bottom with wide "fender" washers and are countersunk so it sits flush with the table. Use "C" clamps to hold the fixture to the Workmate bench.

Your set up and breakdown time should be only about 5-10 minutes each and you can sit or stand while loading depending on whether or not you extend the bottom legs on the Workmate. Everything can be stored in a plastic milk crate or a couple of cardboard file boxes.

$360/year down the drain for a storage space could pay for a lot of shooting components instead.

October 12, 2011, 04:32 PM
rsrocket1, speaks truth.

Lee Classic Cast turret press + Black and Decker Workmate = ammunition factory



October 12, 2011, 05:54 PM
hey thanks aton and great idea with the workbench... ill definitely look into that cause that is something i could for sure fold up and store int he closet when im not reloading. great ideas! thanks! i let you know what i end up doing...

October 12, 2011, 06:15 PM
What school you going to?

October 12, 2011, 06:30 PM
I'd try to keep the set-up inside if I were you. If I had to leave my home to go reload a few hundred rounds it would never get done.

Like you I am stuck in an apartment for the time being. I'm in a one bedroom apartment with my wife, I took over part of our closet and built a small bench into the wall. Its not big by any means but it gets the job done until I can buy a house.

October 12, 2011, 06:35 PM
I have to say that you should check out a dillion 550b.
I love mine.

October 12, 2011, 06:49 PM
oh sweet man awesome setup! haha yeah i never even considered it until the reply about the collapsible workbench... im thinkin im gonna go with that! and as for closet space... im already limited to my two shelves that my wife has so graciously said i could use haha. but i definitely think i could do the collapsible workbench and just store everything in a couple tubs under the bed... im excited to start reloading again!

and im going to school at BYUI in Rexburg... and my father in law was mayor of genesee for a while a few decades back

Lost Sheep
October 12, 2011, 08:58 PM
Seedtick and rsrocket1 are right on.

My entire loading bench fits in three toolboxes (largest is 23x9x10 inches). They go on a bookshelf and all components fit easily on the lower shelves.

My current setup consists of a Lee Classic Turret and a 2x6, seven sets of dies, a scale, a couple of powder measures and a number of other miscellaneous tools round out my loading bench. Add a Stanley or Black & Decker folding worktable and I can set up anywhere (including going over to a friend's house) with just three trips out to the car (two carrying the gear and one carrying the components) I make more trips to the car preparing to go to the range. It would cost about $500 to duplicate my setup, but I want for nothing.

Lee Classic Turret Press
7 Die sets (all mounted in their own quick-change turrets
3 Auto-Disk powder measures (only two fit in my toolboxes, though)
bullet puller
Primer Pocket cleaner
Case mouth Chamfer Tool
Safety glasses (shooting glasses would do, but I keep a dedicated pair)
Balance Beam Scale
Powder trickler
A set of Lee Powder Dippers
Tweezers and other small hand tools
A half-dozen loading manuals (don't keep them in the toolboxes, though)
Dropcloth (not in the toolboxes, either, but covering them

With the dropcloth, I can set up in the living room with the press mounted on the folding workbench or mounted on the 2x6 clamped onto a coffeetable (padded) or wedged into an end table drawer.

Setup is a matter of minutes, as well as takedown.

Now, casting lead, I would not do in my living room.

Good luck

Lost Sheep

October 12, 2011, 10:24 PM
Yep Lost Sheep, Seedtick and rsrocket1 are in my school of thought. Check this thread out (if you haven't already) for more bench ideas.

October 13, 2011, 10:00 PM
lost sheep, thanks aton for giving me your setup! so how many rounds can you put out in an hour on the lee classic? im looking at that or the loadmaster but it seems like with caliber changes the classic would be easier. And with the folding workbench... i did a search on google shopping and there is a table at about $100 that has a flat table top and another that looks like it has two movable boards... and that one is only like $30. do you think the cheaper one would work? or should i just dish out the extra cash?

Miata Mike
October 13, 2011, 10:31 PM
You need to buy the one that is the most solid for a bench.

Lost Sheep
October 14, 2011, 10:20 PM
lost sheep, thanks aton for giving me your setup! so how many rounds can you put out in an hour on the lee classic? im looking at that or the loadmaster but it seems like with caliber changes the classic would be easier. And with the folding workbench... i did a search on google shopping and there is a table at about $100 that has a flat table top and another that looks like it has two movable boards... and that one is only like $30. do you think the cheaper one would work? or should i just dish out the extra cash?
1) Loadmaster:
I retired and traded off my two progressives (Lee Pro-1000) partly because of the inconvenience of caliber changes. (And the primers dropping on the floor and the poor primer feeding) But the main reason is that I never, in 30 years, ever got comfortable with trying to watch three things happening at once. So, I would stroke the press, watching primer movement and try to see the powder drop at the same time. Stroke, feel the primer seat, stop, check the bullet seating, remember to put a fresh bullet on the next case.

I resorted to writing a checklist that I posted above the press so I would not forget any step or get one in the wrong order. I even reduced the checlist to few enough syllables that I could chant it as a mantra. (No beat to it, though. I am apparently rhythm-challenged.)

I never got used to my progressives, so they are gone and I am happier now. Your results will probably be different.

2) You mention the Lee Classic:
Please note that the Lee Classic and the Lee Classic Turret are two completely different presses. (Lee could use some advice in their naming conventions, but they have not asked me.) The Classic is a single stage and comes in two varieties, One with 7/8 -14 die threads and one that uses bushings. The Lee Classic Turret is, of course, a Turret Press (which should not be confused with the Lee Deluxe Turret, which is an older design than the Lee Classic Turret and not as nice.) See, I told you they could use some advice.

Lee Classic Press: Cast Iron Single Stage
Lee Classic Breechlock: Cast Iron Single Stage using the VERY convenient bushings
Lee Deluxe Turret: Aluminum base, early model drops primers on the ground often
Lee Classic Turret: Cast Iron base, the acme of Turret evolution in the world (to date)

3) What to mount your press on?
I have the one with the two moveable boards that crank together like a vise. But you can get by with even less sophistication than that if you are on a budget. I mentioned earlier that I used my Rockchucker mounted on a 2x6 that I wedged into an end table. It helped to have 50 lbs on the end table, but with one hand on the press and one hand on the operating lever, I never had any trouble keeping everything steady even with no weight on the table. You started out bemoaning your lack of space. Knowing no more than that, I would recommend the one that folds up into the smallest package. Add weight (books, lead, bricks, cooperative spouse, whatever) if you need more stability.

4) On processing speed:
The first time I loaded more than a few rounds, I clocked myself for 100 rounds. I had my press set up with with dies and powder dispenser mounted and ready to go, but everything empty. My balance beam scale was set up and zeroed. Components were within reach but boxed up (except the brass, which was fresh from my tumbler).

I started the clock and sat down. I opened the primer box from the shrink wrap and filled the primer feed device, filled the powder hopper and set the bullets and brass on my workbench and the floor, respectively. was able to fill the primer feed device, dump 100 cartridge cases into a bowl, open a box of bullets and pour the powder into the hopper. Threw a few charges to check the weight. (Did not have to change the disk in the dispenser-that would have blown the timed run for sure.)

I took a cartridge case from the box on the floor and inserted it into the press, and did the four strokes to load it. Bullets were on the same level as the press, so the reach there was easy. As each cartridge was completed, I took it out of the press, put it into a waiting ammo box on the floor next to my empty brass bowl and got the next case.

47 minutes later, I had two 50 round ammo boxes filled, closed and ready to take to the range. Powder poured back into its original powder container and all the gear exactly as it was when I started, ready to put away or to continue.

That was my first time out. I have not timed myself since, but expect I might be only a little faster.

I went into such detail describing my loading algorithm because the steps you include or leave out have an effect on the speed figures. Loading primer tubes takes a LOT of time. Loading Lee's primer tray takes a significant (but less) amount of time. Weighing every charge, or every 5th, 10th or 25th charge will make you slower than someone who only checks charge weights every 50 or 100 charges. Leveling the comparison field is important.

Some people claim much higher throughput, but some have also specified that they start with cartridges already primed or with other shortcuts in play. That's no slam on their claims, just realizing that a downhill bicycle race is going to yield higher speeds than an uphill race.

I used to do 50 rounds per hour on my single stage press. So, I figure my benchmark is 100 rph. I am happy with my bar set that low. It compares favorably with what I got out of my progressives (though I was handicapped by not having a the case collator).

It makes no sense to go for speed for its own sake. I load carefully. I take absolute care in assembling my tiny bombs. Caution is one corner I NEVER cut, NEVER compromise. I use speed as a gauge of how skilled I am at exercising caution. I put exactly 100 grains of caution into every cartridge I make. If I make 98 cartridges in one hour or 103, that is a measure of how well I am doing. If I make 120 sloppy cartridges, the production rate measures nothing of value (such a measure in not useful for comparing my apples and oranges and is therefore of no interest to me), not to mention the danger.

As a past handloader, I figure you know this already, but I mention these things so that anyone reading (expert to novice) will know exactly where I am coming from, understand my perspective, and hopefully, benefit.

Good luck

October 15, 2011, 10:31 AM
hey lost sheep, thanks aton again for all the info. its nice to hear exactly how people reload so i can decide what i want to do. i am going to go with the lee classic cast turret press. i think it will best suit my needs (i.e frequent caliber changes, reliability) and since im not looking to pump out 1000 rounds in an hour i will be pleased with the turret. and while i just getting back into it it will be nice to only have to focus on 1 thing happening at a time. and i am going to go the cheaper route on the work station set up... i figure its only temporary till we can buy our house next summer and then i can build a reloading table. so im going with the table with two boards that act as a vise. i am also getting a couple of big rubbermaid tubs to store all of the goods in that will slide under the bed.

so do most you reloaders nowadays cast their own bullets too?? i know when my dad reloaded way back when he did cast his own bullets and im hoping he still has some molds laying around. haha. anyway it seems like that is the only way to really save alot of money reloading. i work at a truck tire retreading plant and definitely have and unlimited supply of free lead i could get my hands on... so i figure why not.

anyway... thanks aton for all your help and happy reloading!

October 15, 2011, 10:44 AM
I reload only plated or FMJ, but IMHO you do not wa
nt to be melting lead and casting in your apartment because of the fumes?

Store bought pre-lubed lead bullets are a pretty economical option - or going over to a buddy's place for the occasional well ventillated casting party?

October 15, 2011, 11:42 AM
haha yeah i know i already cast 9mm and 38/357 for my brother and i do it in back portion of our parking lot... hahaha

October 15, 2011, 12:30 PM
Excellent - NOT a slam on you but there are a lot of newcomers to every hobby and when I post an answer or suggestion on web boards I cannot 'assume' prior knowledge - lol

Every year a number of garages go up in flames because 'somebody' thought it would be a good idea to do the deep fry turkey out of the wind.

October 15, 2011, 12:36 PM
If you can find a good used C&H model 333 press on eBay or craigslist, it is an ideal starter press, and it will mount to the top of a sawhorse or a wooden stool where you can move it around or stick it in a closet when you're not using it. It's a single-stage press that holds 3 dies and 3 shellholders at once. C&H still makes a 4-station press like that, but new ones are really expensive.

October 15, 2011, 12:37 PM
The temperature swing in an unheated unit will create condensation and rust on anything steel or iron you leave there.

Like the press ram (and even the press if CI), your dies, any any other steel reloading tools.

You can easily mount a press on 2x lumber that can then be clamped to a solid table for actual use.
A couple F-clamps are all you need to attach.

chris in va
October 15, 2011, 12:39 PM
I load everything on my Hand Press. My entire reloading setup is to the left of my recliner.

October 15, 2011, 02:15 PM
Before I got a dedicated reloading area I used a B&D Work Mate for my "bench". A scrap piece of counter top with a 2x4 screwed to the bottom and my press anf vise mounted to the top. Clamp the 2x4 in the Work Mate and load away! Remove top, fold up "bench" and shove it under your bed or stick it in a closet. The counter top and weight of the press helped make the set-up sturdy/stable enough for all my reloading. I did this for a few years...

(I tried to upload a pic on my "bench", but since it was uploaded in another post, site won't allow another pic??)

October 15, 2011, 04:09 PM
haha no worries RandyP! had i not known id a been glad you said something seeing as my wife is pregnant and we already got a 2 year old... that stuff is bad for adults but absolutely horrible for children... thanks a bunch!

October 15, 2011, 08:55 PM
I agree with everyone related to the Lee Classic turret press. This press fully outfitted with all extras isn't very expensive and is about the most bang for the buck press on the market. The absolute best compromise of cost vs. speed on the market.

And get the bigger black and decker work bench. You'll be glad you did. Especially ten years down the road and you're reloading on a reloading bench you built - using the black and decker work bench to build it, along with all the honey do projects you'll use it for. Don't ask me how I know all this.

Just my .02,


Rory McCanuck
October 15, 2011, 10:30 PM
I have to agree with DaveInFloweryBranchGA, get the bigger workmate bench.
It will be more stable for reloading, and better suited to all the other tasks
it will be asked to perform. One of those cases of spending a little more
really pays off.

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