Shotshell Reloading


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TxAg
March 7, 2013, 09:41 PM
So I'm considering starting hand loading shotshells and would love any advice those here that are experienced with reloading shotshells can give. My situation is that I bird hunt a lot. I probably go through 3 to 4 cases of dove loads a season and at least a case of duck loads. This doesn't count shooting sporting clays in the offseason which I would like to do more of. I would like a progressive press for dove/skeet loads and a separate single station reloader for duck loads.

I am thinking of a P/W 800 plus for 12 and 20 gauge light loads and a P/W 375 for loading 12 gauge 3-1/2 for duck and goose. I don't mind spending for value and have heard really good things about P/W. I also have a few diehard buddies that won't mind sharing cost.

Any good books/resources you would suggest?
Suppliers? Loads?

Thanks for your help,
J

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Birdhunter1
March 7, 2013, 09:59 PM
I have heard the PW presses are THE best for shotshell, but I don't think you will want to change them to another gauge once you have them set.
I load with MEC presses. Lymans' 5th Edition shotshell reloading, best book on shotshell reloading there is, was and will be till the 6th comes out:
http://compare.ebay.com/like/400428048662?var=lv&ltyp=AllFixedPriceItemTypes&var=sbar

rsnell
March 7, 2013, 11:10 PM
The lyman presses are good choices. Changing gauges on the 800 plus is not a problem. Get the Lyman shotshell book, read it, and follow the directions.

TonyT
March 7, 2013, 11:24 PM
I have used PW 375's in 12 and 20 ga. I finally opted for the MEC progressve without the auto advance feature. Changing between auges on either press is a pain in the neck. I have a press for every shotgun caliber I reload (12, 16, 20, 28 & 410).

cfullgraf
March 7, 2013, 11:35 PM
I have heard the p/W presses are good, but I have never used one. I use MEC 600jr's, one for each gauge but when I was shooting alot of skeet, it was still no where near your volume.

At least the MEC 600jr presses are a pain to change to a different gauge which is why I have four of them. Changing shot or powder charges are easy.

The Lyman book is good and the powder manufacturers have shot shell loads. The most important thing on shot shell loading is do not substitute components. Follow the recipe exactly. Frequently, the data will include different loads for different components so usually with mainstream components, loads can be found.

Some wads, like Claybuster wads, are interchangeable with Remington or Winchester wads. This information is included on the wad packaging.

Hope this helps.

gacajun
March 7, 2013, 11:36 PM
I have a Mec 9000 progressive that auto advances...has the autopromer feed. It has a multi-station crimp....makes pretty shells and makes them at a pretty good rate. If you really have money you can spring for the hydraulic "handle puller thingamajig."

hAkron
March 7, 2013, 11:50 PM
The MEC 9000 is what I use. It can be a very nasty bird if you get it out of its cycle. It's pretty easy to dump 1 1/8oz of shot all down into every nook and cranny the soft under parts of the press. It's just as frustrating when you dump 18gr of powder all over the place. When you get it running good though, it runs like a scalded dog.

oldfortyfiveauto
March 7, 2013, 11:55 PM
I have two MEC 9000's and 4 MEC 600's. The 600's are great, but the 9000's are fickle as all @%$#%@.

If I was going to do over again I'd would have gotten RCBS's progressives.

huntsman
March 8, 2013, 12:29 AM
I was checking out Graf&sons and they're out of everything so it may take you awhile. But Ballistic products is showing PW in stock

OldTex
March 8, 2013, 05:55 AM
I used to be eaten up with the clay bird games and put hundreds of thousands of shells through P-W and MEC machines over 15-20 years. I'll try and condense my experience to help you choose but it will take a while to fully explain what the problems were.

I started with a single stage MEC Sizemaster. A nice machine that just won't keep up with league or tournament volumes. It is nice to have around for making relatively small lots of odd shells for a particular use. I use one to make loads for my wife's 20 ga.

P-W. The older machines were problematic because of timing problems. In the mid-90's they switched to a cam instead of the star-gear underneath the machine and that fixed the problem. These are really nice machines. I had two and loved them.....up to a point. They are almost indestructible. I sold one machine that had loaded maybe 75,000 shells and the buyer wouldn't believe I had used it that much because it had almost no wear marks anywhere on it. Still tight on all bushings, etc. I added the optional head to mine that would allow me to switch bushings without draining the reservoirs (this may be standard on current machines). And I bought an adapter that let me use MEC powder bushings instead of the more expensive and harder to find P-W or Hornady bushings.

But the P-W had two faults that drove me crazy and I sold both machines over this. The first is more of a nuisance. You place the wad into a little arm that then swings it into place under a ram that drives it into the hull. The shot drops through this same ram. The problem is that some wads out of every bag have fingers that are a little warped - they don't open fully and bloom out to let the ram and shot easily go down the center between them. In fact, some wads are warped and the fingers don't open up at all. When this kind of wad goes into the P-W, you get a mess. You get shot wads that are smashed down into the hull at funny angles, or shot that is not inside a shot cup at all, just laying on top of the smashed cup fingers, etc. It's not a safety issue but you sure aren't going to get a reliable pattern with those shells. You can minimize the issue by watching closely and trying to manually make sure the ram goes down between the fingers, but the machine doesn't give you any room to get your fingers in there and you can spend 10 minutes jacking with one wad and still not get it right. About the best you can do is set all the funky-looking wads off to one side until you have a big pile, put them in a pillow case, and throw them in a dryer for a few minutes. They tend to return to the shape the factory gave them when they get hot (but not always). It's not a magic cure but it helps. BTW, a Hornady 360 machine will give you this same problem for the same reason - the design of the swing arm that holds the wad.

The P-W problem that broke the camel's back for me had to do with crushed shells. Here's how it works: Each empty hull feeds up into a shell-holder from the bottom, and that shell-holder carries the hull around the cycle until the loaded shell is ejected. When each hull goes up into the holder, the brass base is resized by being squeezed into the lower ring of the shell-holder. When the loaded shell comes around to be ejected, it is shoved downward out of the shell-holder by a plunger. Occasionally, the downward force of the plunger would crush the upper part of the shell instead of punching the shell out of the holder. When this happens, the top of the shell smashes and balloons out and becomes too wide to fit down through the shell-holder (the shell stands maybe half an inch taller than the top of the stainless shell-holder). Now you are stuck and the machine is jammed.

The only ways to get that shell out is to cut the top of the shell off, which gets shot everywhere down into the guts of the machine (requiring a tear-down and clean out) or to use hand tools to try and drive the shell out. I would sometimes use a screwdriver to beat the top of the shell inward all around the circumference until I could drive it down into the shell-holder, but this took some time.

The problem was that the brass base of the hull was stuck into the holder so firmly that the plastic top of shell would crush before the brass would break free from the sizing ring. I thought maybe my holders were dirty, etc. I cleaned and reamed and polished those holders until they were like mirrors but could never fix the problem. At one point I even tried lubing the brass on each hull like with metallic reloading. Nothing worked. I found some after-market tools that were specifically made to help get crushed shells out of the holders without using a knife or my trusty screwdriver, so it couldn't have been just me that had these problems. Those tools made it easier to get out of a fix, but they still destroyed the shell and took several minutes to get the jam fixed.

I finally sold my last P-W around 2001. Maybe they've fixed the problem by now. Maybe with the internet (which was just getting going good by then) there were other cures that you might find today that weren't widely known back then. All I can tell is what happened to me (and all the other P-W users at my club). This problem was more common with AA hulls than it was with Federal Gold Medals, but the Federals were harder to clear because the plastic up top was thicker and tougher. I can't tell you how many times I had to tear that machine down to clear out a jam, and believe me, tearing the machine down with hulls in all the shell-holders is a royal pain and could take an hour or more when things got bad. And you can't get the partially-loaded hulls out of the holders, either. And it never happens until you have a tournament tomorrow and you need 4 more boxes of shells.

There were minor irritations with the P-Ws like spent primers all over the floor because they didn't pop out into the little cup or primers that got flipped out of position, etc., but you run into this kind of thing with any progressive reloader I've ever used, metallic or shotshell. It was the crushed hulls that killed the deal for me. The P-W is like a fancy sports car. When it's running good it's a dream, but when it goes bad you'll sure wish you'd bought that Ford.

When I was getting discouraged with the P-Ws I bought a MEC hydraulic progressive, the kind where you had to manually index the rotating table between strokes. I later swapped that loader out for the auto-indexing kind using the same hydraulic unit I had. This is the loader I still use today. It isn't as slick and impressive as the P-W but it has never jammed and never fails to operate. Even the issue with deformed wads is no problem at all. With the MEC, you don't have a fancy swing arm for the wads, you manually place the ram/feed tube down inside the wads as part of the standard procedure. Even the most warped, gnarly wad gives you no problem.

There are some things you have to watch with the MEC. Sometimes the transfer bar at the top that throws the powder charge and shot will stick if it gets dirty (the hydraulics push it one direction but it relies on a spring for the return stroke). If you're not paying attention and don't see that it stuck, you'll get a shell with no powder and the next shell will get no shot. If you are paying attention as it happens, it's no problem - just slap the transfer bar into place and all is good. If you don't catch it until you see the shell with no shot (hard to miss), you know not to crimp the shell in front of it and get a squib load. And the best thing is that whenever you have any problems, you simply pull out the shell that is out of whack. No jams, no machine tear-downs. No cussing and screaming.

The need to watch each stage of each step closely is pretty much the deal with any kind of progressive - you need to pay attention. I can kind of zone out when running a single stage, but a progressive requires your full attention unless you like surprises.

That's my experience over years of heavy use. I hope it helps you make a choice you're happy with.

jfremder
March 8, 2013, 10:36 AM
Thanks for taking the time to add your experiences

RainDodger
March 8, 2013, 12:41 PM
I too have a MEC 900G. When it's running and everything is in synch, it's wonderful. You can crank out loaded shells faster than you can blink. I don't use it all that often though, so I make a point of reviewing the manual each time I use it. It always makes me remember something important that I would have forgotten... hAkron is right. If you screw something up mid-stroke you're hosed. Shot can go everywhere and it will take you a while to clean up and get the press back in order. When it's all working correctly though, it's wonderful.

I would only buy the MEC 9000 if I were loading a LOT, and very frequently so that I stayed current on all its idiosynchrasies.

JerryND
March 8, 2013, 03:08 PM
Yep the 9000 is messy. Mount a 9 x 12 cake pan under it. Catches most of the "oops"

hAkron
March 8, 2013, 07:05 PM
Anybody ever loaded on the Dillon SL900? I like that it has a hull feeder.

oneounceload
March 8, 2013, 08:16 PM
From best to less:?
Spolar
PW
MEC 9000, RCBS Grand
Dillon, MEC Grabber
MEC single stages

Pete D.
March 9, 2013, 07:05 AM
I have a press for each shell that I load (12, 20, .410), five altogether....all MEC.
My trap loads are done on a 9000. About 10k a year at this point. I have no complaints about it.
I did mount it inside a cake pan for those few times when spilled shot or powder are an issue. If I am paying proper attention, though, I get no spills.
Pete

Rottweiler
March 9, 2013, 07:29 AM
I upgraded from the messy MEC 9000 to the Dillon about 3 years ago. BIG improvment.I don't know how many loads it has done but I have 3 coffee cans of spent shotgun primers sitting under the bench that weren't there when I had the MEC

Primer feed is 10,000 x smoother than MEC. Have yet to have it get out of sync and dump a load of powder or shot on its self. and the auto feed....man that thing is awesome.

No way would I ever go back to a MEC

Uncle Richard
March 9, 2013, 07:29 AM
If you can't buy your lead shot really cheap, I wouldn't reload for shotgun. At $40+ for a 25# bag, your savings compared to buying bulk or walmart special is rather small.

Several of us friends are buying a lead shotmaker to reduce our costs. However, I reload because it's my hobby and I love it.

consider Hornady 366. They are high quality machines and have been in production for a 40+ years. I'm just not sure about 3.5" shells.

hAkron
March 9, 2013, 09:16 AM
If you are just looking to make 1 1/8oz #8 3 Dram equiv target loads, then there isn't much return on reloading shot shells, but if you want 3/4, 7/8, 1oz, etc loads in 12 ga or something more obscure, then reloading is a great way to go. I have started to shoot 3/4 and 7/8oz almost exclusively (trap). I could probably shoot 20 boxes with no discomfort. I can tailor my loads to my gun/shooting style rather than shooting whatever I can find at Walmart.

GarySTL
March 9, 2013, 12:39 PM
I would love to see a Dillion SL run. Anyone in the St. Louis area have one?
I have a 9000G that works great, but have a Dillion 650 for metallic reloading and would like to try the SL.

gab909
March 9, 2013, 07:24 PM
I have PW's in 3 gauges (12/28/410), I am just waiting on an old 20 gauge to show up. You used to be able to find them from $150-350. I also have mecs is all 4 gauges and use them for special shells. My MEC 12 gauge is set for my pigeon/crow/pheasant loads. The PW is set for trap and sporting and for volume reloading. I can put out around 400 per hour on the PW by myself, and 550 or so with my wife loading the hulls. The MEC is around 300-350 rounds per hour when it is all dialed in. Instead of fooling around with changing the gauges, I just keep my eyes open and wait for a cheap one to show up. Guys will buy the PW and have problems with it, and offload them for cheap. I just hang around the range waiting to hear the horror stories.

The way to save money reloading is BULK! Just bought a 1/2 ton of reclaimed, a few kegs of powder, a few cases of wads and primers are still semi available. Internet shopping can be very good to you if you make the commitment and order powder 48 pounds at a time (Promo) works good and is cheap. Cheddites are cheaper than winchesters, If you are a name brand type of guy, you won't save much by reloading.

TxAg
March 10, 2013, 10:13 AM
About the time I started this thread I ordered some manuals from BPI. I have the lyman book on order so I'll have a couple of sources to draw from.

From the input on the machines (most mentioned)it sounds like their great when they work and suck when they don't. I expected that.

I think it would definitely be prudent to start with a single stage and get the basics down before moving to the progressive.

Does anyone know if on the P/W 375 if you can adapt a press between case lengths. i.e. 12 ga 2-3/4", 3", 3-1/2"???

John3921
March 10, 2013, 11:17 AM
I load 12, 20, 28 and .410 on a PW 800+. It's great.

If you want a PW I suggest you contact Jim 'whiz' White at www.swsupply.com he is a PW distributor - and he's been working on them for about 30 years. He is a great asset to PW owners. There are several PW maintenance and 'how to' documents on his website also. He even has a document I wrote on PW history and their various machines and how they evolved.

There is a simple fix for the stuck hulls mentioned above. On the 800+ there is a sizer die cleaning accessory - essentially a bore brush - that mounts directly above station 1. When you actuate the press the bore brush cleans the dies. No more problem. I've loaded close to 50,000 rounds through mine and have never had a stuck hull - except on the.410 which is a tricky little bugger. The cleaning brush is mandatory on the .410 IMHO.

Shot does not drop through the wad ram - it's the next station. If you have mangled wads they can be an issue. If you have wads that are crunched or flattened, put them in a mesh bag and throw them in the clothes dryer on high for about 15 minutes, dump them into a laundry tub to cool and they will be as good as new. Make sure the mesh bag is securely closed (ask me how I found that out!) Never had the problem with 12 gauge - but I had serious issues with Winchester AAHS 28 gauge wads. I won't use them.

John

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