Cheapest/simplest way to get into reloading


December 10, 2013, 12:23 PM
I am considering getting into reloading. What are the essentials I will need? Looking at reloading .45 colt, .357 and possibly .44 special.

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December 10, 2013, 12:44 PM
This is probably your best place to start:

Then go to the sticky at the top of the forum.

I hope this is helpful.

December 10, 2013, 01:37 PM
CHEAP and reloading do not go in the same sentence.

You can buy less expensive products that do the job but nothing is cheap. LEE products offer good value for the money and are considered the lower end. I happen to like their equipment.

A really good press kit on sale now is this RCBS. It is all good equipment, will last forever and has everything you need except the other stuff like Bullets. powder and primers. You will need a good caliper also.

As mentioned above there are a gazillion threads on this (I counted them) read, read and read some more.:)

December 10, 2013, 01:48 PM
CHEAP and reloading do not go in the same sentence.

Unless you're talking about Lee products lol.


You'll need a bullet puller if your beginning is anything like mine was :)

Seriously, a kit would probably cover a lot of the bases.

I was kidding btw, I use an LCT.

December 10, 2013, 01:53 PM
Only thing I really do not like in LEE's kit is the scale. It works but is hard to use and to me is a throw away. (I gave mine away)

Yep you need the mistake hammer for sure.:)

December 10, 2013, 02:03 PM
I guess I'm qualified to help on this one (Im a noob too) since it's just about gear and not theory or something:eek:. I was asking the same question you were about 6mos ago and was frustrated with all of the answers i received. But now I can see what everyone meant, their are just so many can really spend whatever you want depending on your needs. How much do you shoot?

You must have:
Powder, primers, press (unless you get that hand thingy), bullets, calipers, cases, scale, and a way to prime cases.

And you will need some other things that will help a long the way like data sources, chamfer tools, case gauges, magnifying glass, tumbler, cleaning media, lube ...and a VERY understanding spouse. This last one must not be overlooked!

December 10, 2013, 02:09 PM
Depending what you financial cituation is - I suggest to spend on quality stuff. If you buy it used and decide to quit you will get your money back.

With Lee stuff - I doubt it.

December 10, 2013, 02:12 PM
. How much do you shoot?

You must have:
Powder, primers, press (unless you get that hand thingy), bullets, calipers, cases, scale, and a way to prime cases.

And you will need some other things that will help a long the way like data sources, chamfer tools...and a VERY understanding spouse.

That Sir, is the million dollar question!:)

The press you get is really based on how much ammo you need and what calibers. The OP mentioned 45 Colt and maybe 357 Mag. Those are easy straight walled cases and probably would not require mass quantities of ammo. A single stage price like the one I mentioned (or other brand) would probably be plenty. Even though I do not own a RockChucker (wish I did) to me it's a press that will last forever and always have a use even if someone buys a top of the line Dillon.

December 10, 2013, 02:13 PM
Don't underestimate the Lee stuff though. I didn't mean to start a bash fest if it sounded that way.
Most of their stuff will get the job done.

December 10, 2013, 02:44 PM
Cheapest/simplest way to get into reloading

Find someone with all of the right equipment who will let you load your own on it with your components and dies

December 10, 2013, 02:54 PM
Look for some one that is getting out of it or from a sale from where some one had passed on. Also watch auction some time you can find some good buys.

December 10, 2013, 02:59 PM
first get some books , Lee, Lyman, Sierra or the ABC's of reloading , if you can . get all of them . then look at some of the full kits out there , some even come with a book

December 10, 2013, 03:23 PM
Hi... New reloader here, having just started a couple weeks before Thanksgiving. I'm now a few hundred rounds in, so I'll offer a brief comment or two here and suggest you take them with massive doses of salt.

1) Get a hold of a good reloading manual (I think Lyman is the best I've seen) and read it carefully. You won't regret it. The manual is the best investment you'll make in your reloading experience... along with reading THR's reloading threads, that is. :)

2) Think about your goals/purpose in reloading. If you are just trying to load a modest amount of plinking ammo now that you know what a shortage feels like, I can promise you that you can put together the reloading equipment needed to do that safely for < $100. As your desires for either consistency/accuracy or output increase, you need to start thinking in terms of a bigger investment.

3) I bought the least expensive Lee press ($30) and dies (<$20) to reload .223. I use Lee dippers for powder (borrowed a scale to verify weight the first time), Lee's hand priming tool, and hand tools for case prep. They all work, and so you can get started for a reasonable initial layout. That said, I'd strongly advise that you *not* skimp on the quality of the case prep tools if you're reloading something like .223 ... There are a lot of actions you have to perform on the cases (trim, chamfer, deburr, remove a crimp, clean the primer pocket) and it gets old very, very fast. Trust me, it gets very, very old much faster in the event that you have crappy tools.

Above all, go slow. Don't be afraid to double or triple check anything. Safety is more important than speed and accuracy combined.

December 10, 2013, 03:42 PM
If I was going to do this again this would be my start up. I have only been loading for a few years and a newbie too. I am a pretty cheap guy (hahaha!).

A lee classic turret press kit
Cheap digital calipers
Nice bulky powder like Trail boss and cast lead bullets

After you finish shooting a few thousand reloads you might have a better idea of what might be best for you.

I started with a lee cheap single stage accessory press, cheap digital scale, a lee reload manual, lee 4 die set of 357 and watched a lot of utube vids. Trailboss was my first powder. I moved up to a lee deluxe turret press quickly. I wish I bought a classic . It is a much better deal. The kit is a good deal by far as a starter. My first upgrade would be a scale. There are lots of odds and ends you can buy and will if you enjoy this hobby. This is a low end setup that will result at a minimum with good plinking rounds. After a few thousand rounds you might want for a better setup of some sort and maybe have a better idea what would work for you. I have bought 3 other setups from 2 different suppliers. I still like my lee turret press and will upgrade to a classic soon.

December 10, 2013, 03:50 PM
1st get the Lee Modern Reloading Manual. It goes through all of the steps of how to reload and shows equipment options (Lee of course).

I started out using the Lee Classic Turret Reloading press. Remove the center rod and it becomes a single stage press. You can put the rod in and use it as a progressive when you become more skilled. I've been reloading for about 5 years and still use mine in the single stage mode, I feel it gives me more control.

After you have decided on your hardware, get several reloading manuals BEFORE you buy powder/propellant and Primers.

Consider getting a chronograph so you can check the velocities of the cartridges that you reload and verify that they are producing what, or close to what the manuals publish. It will also help you develop good reloading skills by being able to see variations in velocity. When you get where you are getting published velocities AND low standard deviations AND good will have the recipe nailed down. I usually start out by shooting and measuring 10 rounds of "off the shelf ammo". Then I work up my loads to match those factory loads.

Check out this link to get started with Lee.

December 10, 2013, 03:56 PM
"How much do you shoot" or are you planning on shooting?
A couple times a year, a couple hundred rounds a year? You will be fine with a single stage.
Or a couple hundred rounds a week? You will need a progressive.
Get a cast iron single stage and try it out. You are going to spend some money anyway for powder, primers, and bullets.
U-tube is your friend here, watch lots of videos and see what you think will work for you.

December 10, 2013, 04:14 PM
Welcome to the madness that we call reloading my friend.
15 posts and 15 different answers.:) We all approach the end result a bit differently, at least at first anyway. Take your time and start by reading a couple different manuals. Borrow them from the library if you need to. If you have a reloader nearby ask for a lesson or two. The tools they have will be an education in itself as to why they got that particular combo. There are those that have read the books and done it on their own----and done it well. Others get huge benefits from a mentor. Only you will be able to answer that part. Also be aware that not all Youtube videos show the safest or even correct way to reload. As you gain experience the errors start to show on the poor ones.;) If you can wait for things to show up used that will save the most on your investment but sometimes the wait is not worth it if you HAVE the bug.:D Ask lots of questions if needed when the search function does not give you the results that are needed.

Most reloaders are the best type of group---always willing to help someone that is not as advanced as they are.

December 10, 2013, 04:46 PM
I will take you at your word and only that.

All you need is a hammer/mallet (I always used a plastic hammer) and a place to pound, but not all that hard.

Oh and one of these:
Lee Classic Loader 45 Colt
$27 or so each and shipping.
Many places sell them.

They are good for only one cartridge (family).

Add 'The powder' from the provided list included in the kit and bullet and primer, all matching the list. And follow the simple instructions and start banging away.

I have 2 or 3 of these stuffed away some place. I haven't used one in better than 40 years and don't plan on starting again.

My advise is to follow that of others on this thread and in the sickie. You will be dollars a head in the long run and not bored to death with the process. But always read everything you can before spending a dime. Your views may evolve for the better when doing so.

Always error on the side of safety.

December 10, 2013, 05:05 PM

The only advice I can offer is, listen to these guys, they offer sage advice!
As a noob myself I've spent upwards of $1000 in the last two months and I started with a single stage press kit that came with 500 free bullets... I'm not after cheap ammo though, this a hobby for me and challenging at that. I've got a few manuals now and there's a couple more id like to have and I honestly have spent more time reading through threads here and reading my manuals 2-3 times than I have sitting at the press.

These guys here are great and will try to point you in the right direction!

December 10, 2013, 05:16 PM
Reloading is a money pit

December 10, 2013, 05:18 PM
Don't get into reloading to save money. Doesn't work.

December 10, 2013, 05:33 PM
Don't get into reloading to save money. Doesn't work.
It depends. People say that you won't save any money by reloading.... But you will shoot more :)

With me it is exactly like that. Soo... Question is: "How much would you like to shoot?"
Let's say you answer 10k rounds/year. Next question is "How much do you shoot right now?"

After that it's simple math. If I count money saved on ammo I loaded (vs buy) - my stuff definitely paid off. But, I wouldn't spend that much shooting factory ammo :)

When I was shooting factory ammo I was counting my ammo in "boxes" of 50. Now I count my stuff in 1000th :) Thats just easier to get 1000 bullets, 1000 primers, etc. I have probably 5000 loaded rounds and enough stuff to load another 5000. And I feel like it's not enough :D When I was going to range with factory stuff I was taking 2 boxes. Now I take 300-400 rounds with me..

P.S. Started around May 2013..

December 10, 2013, 07:50 PM
I spent over $800.00 on used books last year alone , my Lyman dps1200 cost 3 times more that the kit I started with 16 or 17 years ago, I think that Lee kit was on sale back then for $78 and I loaded 44mag and 270win on just that kit for years , still have that kit and still use the press, hand prime tool , and book,

December 10, 2013, 08:37 PM
I would avoid a big upper end single stage press if just loading handgun. That money is better spent on a turret, which can also do single stage tasks. You might still need a single stage at some point, but it can be small.

I don't recommend starting with lead bullets, because you then take on the problems that come with trying to stuff bullets into cases processed by dies expecting at least .001 smaller bullets. You have to know all about barrel leading, cleaning lead fouling, bullet resizing if necessary...a whole other level of expertise until getting it right.

This is especially true for the .45 Colt. You have to know what you will be getting when ordering dies. Not all dies, or bullets, or chamber throats are created equal, even though they all say .45 Colt.

Hornady is now selling a .45 Colt COWBOY die set, but no one has them in stock. That set is rated at .452 but somehow better provides for lead bullets, according to the die set description.

If you get the regular .45 Colt set and some plated or jacketed bullets, you are ready to go without all the extra knowledge for finessing lead bullets.

Don't let the price difference tempt you. Get a couple hundred .357 jacketed bullets and learn how this is basically done before feeling like getting the best deals is a rite of manhood or that not using lead gains one entry into the reloading hall of shame. KISS.

Meanwhile, get on the backorder list for the Hornady .45 Colt COWBOY die set and, in my opinion, a Redding Profile Crimp die. A notify list may not get it. Better to commit to the backorder and make sure the credit line will cover it at any time without warning.

December 10, 2013, 10:12 PM
I started out using the Lee Classic kits that consist of a die set and you use a hammer to load the rounds. Each kit tends to run about $30 and no press is required. It takes longer and also kit selection is limited. I liked that it let me load anywhere (I still use them if out camping) and it was a nice way to start out in reloading without a huge investment. Initially I was just loading for .45LC and 12ga.

Fairly recently, I've started reloading for pretty much every firearm I have and I invested in a single stage press, which is much easier/speedy than the Lee Classic kits. I went with a single stage press since they tend to be cheaper, I didn't have much experience with presses and because I needed something that would accept the larger die sizes (577/450 dies are huge).

If you want to dip your toes into reloading, you might try one of the Lee kits but I'd also highly recommend getting a single stage press. The Lee presses are quality and also fairly inexpensive.

December 10, 2013, 11:38 PM
I have to go with the Lee Classic turret kit as well. I started with it a year ago. Add the bullet puller and dies. Read the included book and you're ready to roll. Looks like you'll be doing straight walled cases and it doesn't get any easier than that. I love my LCT. It works for both my pistol and rifle rounds and at this point really is perfect for me.

December 11, 2013, 12:42 AM
I have the Lee turrent press and really like it. (not the classic one :( unfortunatly, they did not make those when I bought mine) I have the Lee hand prime device. I took the auto index part off my press and move the turrent by hand. I deprime the brass clean it then prime it all with the hand primer then load.

I think the turrent (or Clasic turrent) is it is a good value and is faster than a single stage and would serve you well.
I load 9mm Mak, 9mm, .38/.357, .45 APC, .223 and even some 7mm Rem mag on mine.
I don't feel it's that much harder to load lead bullets.
I use a lot of Missouri Bullet works bullets for the pistol rounds. Good price and they ship in a flat rate box so shipping on 2000 is $14.
If you look on this site there is a 5% discount code available

December 11, 2013, 12:59 AM
I've not messed with reloading for a very long time. What time i did spend reloading with the older gents we were around pretty much just had single stages. I am looking to get back into the mess again and while the old rockchuckers and lee single stages are fond memories still ( the knock to the ear from Uncle Myron if I was about to screw up are fond memories too. RIP old fart). I plan on shooting around 400-500 rounds a month or two weather permitting of both .45 acp and .223/5.56 and am going to go with the lee classic turret. I don't do competitions or anything like that so the numbers stated would be my high range.

What i am saying with this bit of nostalgia and rambling is from my limited experience the press you go with should match 1: how much you shoot and 2: how much time you want to spend reloading. I am not a person that likes being around people much unless the wife wants to go out to the movies or something so spending several hours reloading at a medium pace works for me. Now to get the stuff i can't build.

December 11, 2013, 02:10 AM
Thanks for all the suggestions. I shoot about 100 rounds every month or so. Depending on family and work. My biggest concern is finding space in my duplex.

December 11, 2013, 02:31 AM
I am looking to get back into the mess again and while the old rockchuckers and lee single stages are fond memories still ...

You know RCBS makes and add on to convert those old rock chuckers into progress/turret presses?
Might want to check out and see if it will work for one of the one you have.

December 11, 2013, 02:32 AM
There is another thread on here with ideas for a reloading bench. It's a picture thread.
I would suggest taking a look and see if something there might help or give you ideas.

December 11, 2013, 07:49 AM
Thanks for all the suggestions. I shoot about 100 rounds every month or so. Depending on family and work. My biggest concern is finding space in my duplex.

I shot around a hundred rounds a month, too... Until I started reloading. :)

At only 100 rounds per month, I think you might want to assess how long it would take you to recoup your outlay for reloading equipment (press, dies, prep tools, scale, calipers) and components (powder, primers, bullets). For the volume of shooting you do, it *might* be more economical to just keep using factory ammo and just make an investment to stockpile a little as supplies allow.

Ultimately, that's your call to make. FWIW, my low shooting volume was one of the reasons I went with the cheapest press I could. I couldn't justify the higher outlay of cash for such little 'need'.

Also, at those volumes, I think you could get by easily with a single stage press. Don't get me wrong, I *love* the looks of the Lee Turret (and will probably upgrade to one down the line)...

If you *do* decide to get into reloading, I can tell you that you don't need a ton of space. We live in a duplex, too, and my reloading bench is quite small. I decap/resize downstairs on the press, do all my case prep and priming upstairs. My prep usually happens at the dining room table, after everyone else has gone to bed. I work over a cheap plastic bin to catch the brass shavings and residue from the primer pockets. Then, I head back downstairs to charge with powder and seat a new bullet.

December 11, 2013, 08:12 AM
Go for the RCBS kit reference earlier. You'll not only get a press that will last you a couple of lifetimes, but the rest of the stuff in the kit is quality stuff that won't need to be replaced any time soon.
The Lee kits are a little cheaper, and their Classic press is good quality, but the rest of the stuff in the kit borders on junk compared to the RCBS offerings. You'll likely end up replacing the them with quality offerings, probably RCBS, sooner than you think.

Buy once, cry once.

December 11, 2013, 09:14 AM
Dudedog - <>I don't feel it's that much harder to load lead bullets.<>

It's not the physical process as much as what components to buy and from whom, sizes, hardness, the best dies, etc.. It amounts to advanced loading in my opinion. You have to tune everything until you get reasonable or no lead removal chores and effect on pressure and accuracy. You also have to troubleshoot why effectively undersized dies (meant for jacketed standards) are creating problems. You have to learn to eliminate or compromise your crimp, ream out your cylinder throats, etc.

The title does include the word "simplest".

December 11, 2013, 09:22 AM
Hexhead - The Lee kits are a little cheaper, and their Classic press is good quality, but the rest of the stuff in the kit borders on junk compared to the RCBS offerings.

The difference comes at a price, with RCBS having lofty notions of what their stuff is worth. A good sale deal is one thing, but I wouldn't consider the full street price. Lee and new reloaders are a natural fit. It takes awhile to comprehend what this endeavor really costs. Unless bought with personal fun money, it is a hard sell to wife and family without some notion of cost justification. One is also better to wait until committed to reloading. It doesn't always stick.

December 11, 2013, 10:06 AM
Hi newbie here also. Read everything here you can and get a manual and read it a couple times until things start making sense to you. There is a lot to absorb in reloading but once you make sense of it it's not that difficult. I went with a Lee ctp and glad I did instead of a single stage just be cause you don't have to mess with changing dies. I have the rod out and run it manually so I can check things as I go. The kit is a little over $200 plus dies and I think is a good way to start.

December 11, 2013, 10:51 AM
Getting in CHEAP is probobly not the correct way to do it....
CHEAP would be purchasing Factory ammo and then yer set..

Re-Loading is more of a hobby and a way to expand the Hobby for additional enjoyment and Fun...

Now you can get into Loading cheaper by the press and tools you buy... Single Stage vs Progressive or Turret... etc Etc Etc

Personally I would look at why do you want to Load... What are your Goals...amount of ammo you want to shoot/load a month...and what is Best way to accomplish this..

Even a single stage Press... and Die's for 2 calibers will be well over $300 plus all the Xtra Tools and Components you will need..

anyways... i started for a couple reasons saving money wasnt one of them... but shooting MORE ammo a month WAS one of them... I didnt go CHEAP but didnt get a Dillon either....

Lots of good info and tips here at THR.... Good Luck and be safe

December 11, 2013, 10:58 AM
One advice. Even if you start small like single stage - start with getting decent scale and other accessories. One thing is to "advance" by getting into turret, progressive and another thing is "I wish I bought better X.."

December 11, 2013, 11:32 AM
Nice to have good stuff, but is there really a kit with scales that don't work? Every upgrade costs money.

December 11, 2013, 12:31 PM

I started with this kit and a 3 die set of 9MM. For $155 + components you are making ammo.
$20+/- for a pound of powder,
Primers, ~$4 for a 100 if you want to keep it "cheap" (paying more per unit but laying out less cash)
Bullets... Depends on caliber.
Saved brass cleaned with a citric acid solution $3.

Making ammo for $200+/- but that's only going to make you 100 rounds or so before you run out of primers and bullets.

Don't let the desire for a $1000-2000 progressive press setup keep you from getting hands on experince. I wanted a much nicer kit but... $$$$

December 11, 2013, 12:46 PM
Reloading is a money pit
Pretty much...

I look for something to buy every week. Whether I need it or not. Can't hurt to buy it and throw it in with the rest, in case of panic.

December 11, 2013, 12:49 PM
The difference comes at a price, with RCBS having lofty notions of what their stuff is worth. A good sale deal is one thing, but I wouldn't consider the full street price. Lee and new reloaders are a natural fit. It takes awhile to comprehend what this endeavor really costs. Unless bought with personal fun money, it is a hard sell to wife and family without some notion of cost justification. One is also better to wait until committed to reloading. It doesn't always stick.
Good post Real.

December 11, 2013, 12:52 PM
Unless your just looking to start a new hobby or kill time, I would stay factory. 100 rds per month, I think I read that right, is not worth jumping in if you ask me. What is 100 rds of factory, 30bucks maybe?

December 11, 2013, 02:13 PM
Lets see...100rnds per month and space issues... Look at the Lee handpress ( kit. You'll still need a die set, a few extra bushings, scale and calipers. Depending on choice of scale and calipers, and assuming Lee dies, this setup would be quite inexpensive and would fit in a small box which you could store under the bed. It's obviously portable, so you don't have to have a dedicated loading bench/area.

Further, I would recommend a balance beam scale along with a set of standard weights. The beam goes along nicely with the portability, and so many people seem to have problems with battery powered digital. Dillon Eliminator or RCBS 505 are nice (same units actually).

<edit>Also suggest a loading block or two for each caliber</edit>

December 11, 2013, 02:54 PM
"My biggest concern is finding space in my duplex."

Where there is a will, there is a way.

I loaded, including casting, in an AF barracks.

December 11, 2013, 04:25 PM
When space is an issue, the Lee Hand Press is a good solution. I can fit all of my reloading equipment in one tool box.

December 13, 2013, 02:23 AM
Another vote for the Lee hand press if space is at a premium. When I only had one set of dies, one powder and one little box of bullets, *everything* except the reloading manual fit in one 6" x 9" x 13" cardboard box.

That was using dippers for measuring powder, which was excruciatingly slow. Now that I have a powder measure, it "only" takes about 100 minutes to load a box of 50.

December 13, 2013, 06:02 AM
Great replies here, I'll just add that I started with the Lee Anniversary kit and added an RCBS bullet puller hammer, 10-buck Harbor Freight calipers and an Frankford Arsenal electronic scale from Midway. Well under two hundred, excluding consumables.

December 14, 2013, 02:14 AM
I like the Frankford Arsnel electronic scale I have and use it (as well as my 505) but the eletronic one I have does get cuckoo when its batteries get low. The big plus is it is lots faster than the 505. Got mine on sale for about $25. I also like the Frankford Arsnel perfect fit reloading trays. Midway has both.

Reloading does not save me any money but I enjoy it and can shoot 3 times as much for the same cost. Not counting my time I would guess I can load a box on 9mm for $6-$7. Ditto for light-medium 357 with lead bullets. Bullets for the .45 apc are more so I would say around $9 a box for that. So instead of 100 rnds a month you could (and if you are like) shoot more, more, more...:) for the same price:cool:

Those paper targets are tuff, I have to shoot them lots of times with my reloads:D

December 14, 2013, 05:34 PM
I know your interested in reloading, inexpensively, but never think of CHEAP.

This is after all something your going to do, and then load and fire in or right next to your hand.

You just cannot afford to go CHEAP. Educate your self, look for sales, but stay away from crappy equipment, cast aluminum, blech.

December 15, 2013, 12:35 AM
Sorry, I forgot one item: Lyman reloading tray, I started with one and now have four for use with the Lee Single Stage.

Lost Sheep
December 15, 2013, 03:09 AM
I am considering getting into reloading. What are the essentials I will need? Looking at reloading .45 colt, .357 and possibly .44 special.
Aside from eye protection and manuals, you only need three things (physically) to load good ammo.

However, you also need loading data, knowledge, caution and wisdom. Wisdom is the hardest to come by, though.

At a bare minimum, You need 3 tools, without which it is physically impossible to load, but unwise until you also have some good judgement. You know where good judgement comes from? Good judgement comes from bad experiences. You know where bad experience comes from? Bad judgement. The wise man learns from his experience. The TRULY wise man learns from the experiences of others. So, read manuals and threads and talk to experienced loaders wherever you can.

Here are the 3 things.

Press because fingers are not strong enough to form metal
Dies because fingers are not accurate enough to form metal to SAAMI specs
Scale (or calibrated dippers) because eyeballs are not accurate enough to measure out gunpowder

Everything else can be done without, substituted for or improvised until you can afford to buy good quality gear.

Even the cheapest press will be multiple times faster, quieter and more convenient than the Lee mallet-powered kit (as good as it is, it compromises your ability to produce large quantities).

Lost Sheep

Lost Sheep
December 15, 2013, 03:11 AM
10 Advices for the novice loader

I have thought of a few things I think are useful for handloaders to know or to consider which seem to be almost universally mentioned, so I put together this list of 10 advices.

Much is a matter of personal taste and circumstance, though. So, all advice carries this caveat, "your mileage may vary".

So you can better evaluate my words, here is the focus of my experience. I load for handguns (44 Mag, 45 ACP, 45 Colt, 454 Casull, 9mm, 357 Mag, 480 Ruger) a couple hundred per sitting and go through 100 to 500 centerfire rounds per month. I don't cast....yet.

When I bought my first gun (.357 Magnum Dan Wesson revolver), I bought, at the same time, a reloading setup because I knew I could not afford to shoot if I did not reload my own ammo. My setup was simple. A set of dies, a press, a 2" x 6" plank, some carriage bolts and wing nuts, a scale, two loading blocks. I just mounted the press on the plank wedged into the drawer of an end table. I did not use a loading bench at all.

It cost me about 1/4 of factory ammo per round and paid for itself pretty quickly.

I still believe in a minimalist approach and and try to keep my inventory of tools low. I do not keep my loading gear set up when not in use, either, but pack them away in small toolboxes until the next loading session.

Now, here are my Ten Advices.

Advice #1 Use Reliable Reference Sources Wisely - Books, Videos, Web Sites, etc.

Study up in loading manuals until you understand the process well, before spending a lot of (or any) money on equipment.

Read as many manuals as you can, for the discussion of the how-to steps found in their early chapters. The reason you want more than one or two manuals is that you want to read differing authors/editors writing styles and find ones that "speak" to you. What one manual covers thinly, another will cover well so give better coverage of the subject; one author or editor may cover parts of the subject more thoroughly than the others. The public library should have manuals you can read, then decide which ones you want to buy. Dated, perhaps but the basics are pretty unchanging.

I found "The ABC's of Reloading" to be a very good reference. Containing no loading data but full of knowledge and understanding of the process. I am told the older editions are better than the newer ones, so the library is looking even better.

There are instructional videos now that did not exist in the '70s when I started, but some are better than others. Filter all casual information through a "B.S." filter.

Only after you know the processing steps of loading can you look at the contents of of a dealer's shelves, a mail-order catalog or a reloading kit and know what equipment you want to buy. If you are considering a loading kit, you will be in a better position to know what parts you don't need and what parts the kits lack. If building your own kit from scratch, you will be better able to find the parts that will serve your into the future without having to do trade-ins.

Advice #2 All equipment is good. But is it good FOR YOU?

Almost every manufacturer of loading equipment makes good stuff; if they didn't, they would lose reputation fast and disappear from the marketplace. Generally you get what you pay for and better equipment costs more. Cast aluminum is lighter and less expensive but not so abrasion resistant as cast iron. Cast iron lasts practically forever. Aluminum generally takes more cleaning and lubrication to last forever. Just think about what you buy. Ask around. Testimonials are nice. But if you think Ford/Chevy owners have brand loyalty, you have not met handloaders. Testimonials with reasoning behind them are better. RCBS equipment is almost all green, Dillon-blue, Lee-red. Almost no manufacturers cross color lines and many handloaders simply identify themselves as "Blue" or whatever. Make your own choices.

About brand loyalties, an example: Lee Precision makes good equipment, but is generally considered the "economy" equipment maker (though some of their stuff is considered preferable to more expensive makes, as Lee has been an innovator both in price leadership which has introduced many to loading who might not otherwise have been able to start the hobby and in introduction of innovative features like their auto-advancing turret presses). But there are detractors who focus on Lee's cheapest offerings to paint even their extremely strong gear as inferior. My advice: Ignore the snobs.

On Kits: Almost every manufacturer makes a kit that contains everything you need to do reloading (except dies and the consumables). A kit is decent way to get started. Eventually most people wind up replacing most of the components of the kit as their personal taste develops (negating the savings you thought the kit gave you), but you will have gotten started, at least.

On building your own kit: The thought processes you give to assembling your own kit increases your knowledge about reloading. You may get started a couple weeks later than if you started with a kit, but you will be far ahead in knowledge.

Advice #3 While Learning, don't get fancy. Progressive, turret or Single Stage? Experimental loads? Pushing performance envelopes? Don't get fancy.

While you are learning, load mid-range at first so overpressures are not concerns. Just concentrate on getting the mechanical steps of loading right and being VERY VERY consistent (charge weight, crimp strength, bullet seating depth, primer seating force, all that). Use a voluminous, "fluffy", powder that is, one that is easy to see that you have charged the case and which will overflow your cartridge case if you mistakenly put two powder charges in it.

While learning, only perform one operation at a time. Whether you do the one operation 50 (or 20) times on a batch of cases before moving on to the next operation - "Batch Processing" or take one case through all the sequence of operations between empty case to finished cartridge - "Continuous Processing", sometimes known as "Sequential Processing", learn by performing only one operation at a time and concentrating on THAT OPERATION. On a single stage press or a turret press, this is the native way of operation. On a progressive press, the native operation is to perform multiple operations simultaneously. Don't do it. While you can learn on a progressive press, in my opinion too many things happen at the same time, thus are hard to keep track of (unless you load singly at first). Mistakes DO happen and you want to watch for them ONE AT A TIME. Until handloading becomes second nature to you.

Note: A turret press is essentially a single stage press with a moveable head which can mount several dies at the same time. What makes it like a single stage rather than a progressive is that you are still using only one die at a time, not three or four dies simultaneously at each stroke.

On the Turret vs Single stage the decision is simpler. You can do everything on a Turret EXACTLY the same way as you do on a single stage (just leave the turret stationary). That is, a Turret IS a single stage if you don't rotate the head.

Learning on a progressive can be done successfully, but it is easier to learn to walk in shoes than on roller skates.

Also, a good, strong, single stage press is in the stable of almost every reloader I know, no matter how many progressives they have. They always keep at least one.

Advice #4 Find a mentor.

There is no substitute for someone watching you load a few cartridges and critiquing your technique BEFORE you develop bad habits or make a dangerous mistake. (A mistake that might not have consequences right away, but maybe only after you have escaped trouble a hundred times until one day you get bit, for instance having case lube on your fingers when you handle primers; 99 times, no problem because primers are coated with a sealant, but the hundredth primer may not be perfectly sealed and now winds up "dead")

I started loading with the guy who sold me my press watching over my shoulder as I loaded my first 6 rounds to make sure I did not blow myself up, load a powderless cartridge or set off a primer in the press. I could have learned more, faster with a longer mentoring period, but I learned a lot in those first 6 rounds, as he explained each step. I educated myself after that. But now, on the internet, I have learned a WHOLE LOT MORE. But in-person is still the best.

After you have been mentored, mentor someone else. Not necessarily in loading or the shooting sports, but in SOMETHING in which you are enthusiastic and qualified. Just give back to the community.

Advice #5 Design your loading space for safety, efficiency, cleanliness

Your loading bench/room is tantamount to a factory floor. There is a whole profession devoted to industrial engineering, the art and science of production design. Your loading system (layout, process steps, quality control, safety measures, etc) deserves no less attention than that.

Place your scale where it is protected from drafts and vibration and is easy to read and operate. Place you components' supplies convenient to the hand that will place them into the operation and the receptacle(s) for interim or finished products, too. You can make a significant increase in safety and in speed, too, with well thought out design of your production layout, "A" to "Z", from the lighting to the dropcloth to the fire suppression scheme.

Advice #6 Keep Current on loading technology

Always use a CURRENT loading manual. Ballistic testing has produced some new knowledge over the years and powder chemistry has changed over the years, too. They make some powders differently than they used to and even some powder names may have changed. However, if you are using 10 year old powder, you may want to check a 10 year old manual for the recipe. Then double check with a modern manual and then triple check with the powder maker.

Read previous threads on reloading and watch videos available on the web. But be cautious. There is both good information and bad information found in casual sources, so see my advice #10.

Advice #7 You never regret buying the best (but once)

When you buy the very best, it hurts only once, in the wallet. When you buy too cheaply it hurts every time you use the gear. The trick is to buy good enough (on the scale between high quality and low price) to keep you happy without overpaying for features you don't need. "The delicious flavor of low price fades fast. The wretched aftertaste of poor quality lingers long."

Advice #8 Tungsten Carbide dies (or Titanium Nitride) rather than tool steel.

T-C dies instead of regular tool steel (which require lubrication for sizing your brass) for your straight-walled cartridge cases. T-C dies do not require lubrication, which will save you time. Carbide expander button for your bottlenecked cases. Keeps lube out of the inside of the cases.

Advice #9 Safety Always Safety All Ways.

Wear eye protection, especially when seating primers. Gloves are good, too, especially if using the Lee "Hammer" Tools. Children (unless they are good helpers, not just playing around) are at risk and are a risk. Pets, too unless they have been vetted (no, not that kind of vetting). Any distractions that might induce you to forget charging a case (no charge or a double charge, equally disturbing). Imagine everything that CAN go wrong. Then imagine everything that you CAN'T imagine. I could go on, but it's your eyes, your fingers, your house, your children (present of future - lead is a hazard, too. Wash after loading and don't eat at your bench). Enough said?

Advice #10 Take all with a grain of salt.

Verify for yourself everything you learn. Believe only half of what you see and one quarter of what you hear. That goes double for everything you find on the internet (with the possible exception of the actual web sites of the bullet and powder manufacturers). This advice applies to my message as much as anything else and especially to personal load recipes. Hare-brained reloaders might have dangerous habits and even an honest typographical error could be deadly. I heard about a powder manufacturer's web site that dropped a decimal point once. It was fixed REAL FAST, but mistakes happen. I work in accounting and can easily hit "7" instead of "4" because they are next to each other on the keypad.

Good luck.

Lost Sheep

Lost Sheep
December 15, 2013, 03:13 AM

You can start with $150 and be minimally equipped for one caliber, and can expand from there as you have the money and feel the need for more tools. But you will have spent nothing on items you will later discard.

$204 will get you up to a really nice setup for one caliber. $287 and you have a really good setup.

$422 and you have just about everything you need to load one caliber, 100 rounds per hour at an easy pace or up to 200 if you are faster than me (and I am slow) on a continuous basis for as long as you want.

(NOTE: These dollar figures are from June/July 2010, but you should still be able to match them if you shop carefully.)

Budget another $100 for miscellaneous small tools plus $50 per additional caliber.

(previously posted on

Bold subject line, eh? Let me qualify it down. I load for handgun only; 5 calibers, about 100-400 rounds per session and about 5,000 rounds a year. I stow my gear in 3 medium size toolboxes when not in use. If this comes close to describing your situation, you might like to read on.

35 years after starting, I found I outgrew some gear and overbought elsewhere. So, I cleaned house. I emptied my bench and populated it with the best equipment I could find precisely fitting my loading needs. I could have saved a lot of experimentation and waste if I had known back then what I know now (about handloading and about myself).

Informed by my experience reconstituting my loading bench, I compiled a list of the barest essentials that would allow a novice loader to load well and which would still be gratifying in 30 years. (In my opinion and somewhat matching my style of shooting and loading.)

I think it makes an ideal shopping list for the handloader just starting out. I hope you do, too.

Press, scale, dies, a way to measure powder and a work surface are all you need, really. Everything else just makes it easier or faster.

$17 ABC's of Reloading. Ok, it's not really equipment, but tools without knowledge is just dead weight, right?
$10 Loading Data. The "One book/One Caliber" pamphlets are $10 each and are LOADED (get it?) with loading data.
$0 Loading manuals. They cost, but I didn't want to skew the budget; you do need at least a couple. Check the local library if money is tight.
$0 Eye protection. No cost, because you DO already have a pair of shootingglasses, DON'T YOU!?
$85 Press, Lee Classic Turret (Chosen because Lee makes the only turret presses that auto-advances at the discretion of the operator and the Classic is superior to the Deluxe for several features.)
$33 Dies, carbide. Lee because it includes a shell holder, a plastic dipper for powder and the "powder through" design.
$5 Work surface. Mount your press on a plank of scrap 2x8 and secure it to a (padded) coffee table.
$0 Dropcloth to catch any spilled powder or lost primers (dead or live). Use an old sheet. Quieter than plastic, less static and drapes better.
$150 plus shipping At this point, you can reload, but are limited in flexibility and speed.
$8 Lee Scoops/Dippers. Cheaper than any powder dispenser/measure and repeatability/cosistency is excellent.
$3 Powder funnel. Lee's funnel fits right in the their "powder through" die.
$161 plus shipping At this point, you are minimally equipped to load well. Not too convenient, but not handicapped to the point of terminal frustration, either.
$22 Lee Safety Prime. You can use your fingers, but this is so much better. Fits on the Lee Press.
$21 Scale, any brand. Lee's, at $21 is cheapest. You can do without, with the full set of Lee Dippers, but better to weigh. For peace of mind if nothing else.
$204 plus shipping At this level of investment, you are decently equipped
$33 Lee Auto-Disk powder dispenser/measure. It mounts atop Lee's "Powder through" die. With this, you may not need the funnel or dippers.
$50 Loading Bench. A folding workbench works fine for me. You can get a kit or build your own, too.
$287 plus shipping Now you are well-equipped as most reloaders, except for convenience accessories or tools you will use only occasionally.

Other stuff:
$20 Bullet puller I never used one for my first 20 years of loading.
$30 Calipers I had none for 30 years. Now that I do, I find uses.
$50 Tumbler Never had one. Got one now. My brass is prettier. Shoots the same.
$10 Loading blocks ($5, if you use, use two). For batch loading. Buy, or make with a plank and a drill.
$25 Powder Trickler - handy if you weigh each powder charge.

$34 misc accessories & tools, (e.g. chamfer tool)
$60 Difference to get a more user-friendly scale than the Lee
$0 Turret and Dies for 38/357 (included with basic setup)
$46 Turret and Dies for 45/454
$46 Turret and Dies for 44
$46 Turret and Dies for 45 ACP
$46 Turret and Dies for 9mm
$700 plus shipping To duplicate my entire current loading bench with all new stuff, misc accessories and tools and I would not be in the least inconvenienced in my loading endeavors.

There are many accessories that add convenience of functionality, but are so highly optional they do not belong on this "essentials" list, or belong down near the end. Besides, if I included them all, the list would be endless.

I chose a turret instead of a progressive because I am more comfortable with performing and monitoring one operation at a time and changing calibers is dead simple. I chose a turret instead of a single stage because it facilitates processing in a "pass-through" mode (much like a progressive) rather than the batch mode of the single stage. But I still do have the option of operating as a single stage in batch mode if I choose.

You could build this list using any mix of brands. I chose Lee's brand because the Auto-indexing is not available on any other press and the Auto-Disk powder measure is the most convenient I have seen, in combination with the Lee "Powder through the Die" design. The Auto-Disk is not convenient to adjust powder quantity, but it is light and compact.

Lost Sheep

Thanks to Sue Kempf at Kempf's Gun Shop, and Mark and the guys at Factory Direct Sales and the technicians in Customer Support at Lee Precision.

December 15, 2013, 08:46 AM
My biggest concern is finding space in my duplex.

If you have a sturdy enough table, computer station, or countertop, you can mount your press on a board and attach it with large, deep throat C clamps. Put it all in a closet when not in use.

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