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Help Me Build a Ground Up Reloading Bench

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by RustyHammer, Aug 26, 2003.

  1. RustyHammer

    RustyHammer Well-Known Member

    Help me build a ground-up reloading bench. Budget is $800.

    The bench & storage is already a done, will customize as necessary. (Brass, bullets, etc. is NOT part of the build.)

    Will be reloading for:

    Pistol: .45 ACP, .40 S&W ACP, .38 Spec., 9mm
    Rifle: .308 Winchester, 30.06 and .30 Caliber (Carbine)

    Need "everything" to start off. (Press, dyes, manuals, measures, tumbler, etc.)

    Don't want to have to reinvest in "upgrades", etc. for at least a while.

    Thanks in advance.

  2. Cherokee

    Cherokee Well-Known Member

    Rusty: My first question is what quantities will you be loading of which rounds? You may or may not find a progressive the best to start with, IMHO. A good single stage press might be best for versitility and least cost for loading all the different cartridges you listed.

    I loaded lots of ammo on a single stage press and CH 4-station press for over 40 years before I acquired a Dilon 650 this past year. Progressive loaders offer a lot of speed but conversions to other cartridges can be twice as expensive (or more) as a set of dies.

    You want a good powder scale and powder measure. I presonally have a Lyman scale, and RCBS/Lyman/Reading powder measures.

    If you will be shooting cast bullets, get Lymans cast bullet manual. Also get another manual for cross checking.

    Dies: well, name manufacturers have quality dies. Some are better than others for some specific uses or preferences.

    I have been using the basic Midway tumbler for about 10 years now. I consider that good as I went thru 2 other brands in 3-4 years.

    I must warn you, "up grades" will always be with you. Once you get into reloading, there will always be something that will be next on your list.

    I just tried to set the stage a little for others to add their comments. There are a lot of things you will find useful that have not been mentioned. Many of us have different ideas based on what works for us. Your budget will determine how many of those you might get, AFTER making your decision on press (single, progressive), dies, scale.

    Welcome to the world of reloading and have fun.
  3. SDC

    SDC Well-Known Member

    I'd start with a Dillon 550B and a bunch of toolheads and conversion kits, so you can swap back and forth between calibres; the 550B will load all of the rounds you mention, and it's easy to switch calibres if you've got the dies already set up in a separate toolhead. I use mainly Lee dies, and have never had a problem with them.
  4. Carlos

    Carlos Well-Known Member

    Ditto what SDC said. You'll definitely want to have separate toolheads for each caliber. Quite handy to pop two pins and an operating rod, install new base plate, and you're ready to go in 5 minutes.

    Go Dillon and buy the Lee Carbide dies. Also, you'll want the strong mount and bullet tray for the 550.
  5. larryw

    larryw Well-Known Member

    Hate to be redundant, but ditto what SDC and Carlos said. Dillon's service and warranty are two other good reasons to go that route. :)
  6. RustyHammer

    RustyHammer Well-Known Member

    Thanks for all the great advise people. I appreciate it.

    I do have a question or two:

    I have been looking real hard at the Dillon 550B and am leaning that way. Did see a Hornady Lock-N-Load AP that looked pretty good and seems to have a few more features for a smaller price. Have read where it is much faster to switch between calibers and that hardware (dies and plates) are less for them as well.

    Hornady site: https://www.hornady.com/cgi-bin/web_store.cgi?page=storehome.html&cart_id=1030826.100653

    Anyone use/have the Lock-N-Load AP?

    Thanks again everyone!

  7. kudu

    kudu Well-Known Member

    Always have a good reloading library. It's always amazed me the diversity of top end loads between different reference books. A good powder scale is a must.
    An O-frame press is good to start with and then work your way up to a progressive like the 550B dillon. I still load my rifle cartidges with an O-frame unless I'm loading for .223 and want the volume of a progressive.

    My recommendations

    Good powder scale
    Reloading handbooks (3 to start with)
    O-frame press (Lee Challenger, Rock Chucker, Orange Crusher) Lee Challenger kit would be a good starter kit IMO.
    Dillon 550B with extra tool heads
    Case trimmers
    Dies ( I prefer Hornady new Dimension dies but for value Lees are the cheapest)

    All kinds of things to really get into big reloading.
  8. HankL

    HankL Well-Known Member

    Calipers, dial, digital or if your eyes are still good, vernier, you have to have one. A single stage press will get you started and will be a great resource for many years to come. Progressives are great, I have an old Dillon 450 and a Dillon 650 both of which I like but the Rockchucker still serves well. Last Saturday I used the RCBS to load 40 Whby. 240, 100 25/06 in 3 bullet types and 40 220 Swift. Not a large number of rounds loaded but not much time spent swapping out calibers like on the Dillons either.
    Rusty, Look at your $800 budget. Dies for the 7 calibers you list could run around $200 if you use carbide for the pistols and the carbine, a trimmer is going to set you back $50 or you could get trim dies for each caliber for ??, a couple of manuals will set you back at least $40 and a good caliper is going to run near $100 but you can pay much less for something serviceable. If you add these cost to say the price of an RCBS kit that I saw in Cabelas at $260 you are around $650 spent leaving $150 for primers, powder, cases, projectiles, tumblers etc. $150 will not purchase many components for seven calibers.
    Think about starting out well equipped in the pistol caliber you shoot most first and then add on from there. Believe me, a set of dies and on and on will add up over time.
    Sorry if I rambled a bit ;)

    HSMITH Well-Known Member

    Dillon 550B, add to it as you can monetarily for more calibers and such. Do it right the first time, it is a LOT cheaper that way.......
  10. Carlos

    Carlos Well-Known Member

    Agreed. Don't mess around, and start with the best. My .02.

    Shop around carefully for the tools. You really don't have to pay $100 for a good set of calipers, for example. Don't mess around and get a digital powder scale. Get a powder trickler for the match rifle bullets you want to produce, because you'll want to weigh each bullet charge individually, for consistency. A trimmer from Lee is under $10. You'll want case length gauges from Dillon for every caliber. Do your homework. In fact, you might want to check out eBay for some stuff. I'm a little leary of eBay though.

    Start with one or two calibers at most and get the hang of things. The prices are right for adding on components afterwards.

    Dillon customer service is the best in the business.

    As far as buying economical components, there's the real challenge. Again, you'll want to carefully shop.

    Subscribe to Shotgun News ASAP for the classifieds for reloading components. You'll want active accounts at Natchez, MidwayUSA and Wideners at the very least.

    OK. Get to it. :) Of course, we expect a range report. :)
  11. mwithers72

    mwithers72 Well-Known Member

    I agree with carlos that you hve to watch out if you goto ebay to look around. You can find some good deals if you know what you are looking for. I have gotten some great deals on ebay but you have to do your research first. check out pricing at all the retliers you can first . just as an example when i was looking for my lee anv. kit i looked at all the major chains first to get a idea on price. then found that the starting price on most kits on ebay were 10.00 more then retail. some had starting bid around 66.00 but that was just the starting bids. I found it at a local mail order shop called midsouth shooter supplys for 62.00. I got press kit and 4-peice card die set for $100
  12. uglymofo

    uglymofo Well-Known Member

    I have a Hornady LNL AP. I also have the predecessor to the Dillon 550, the older 450. I like the 450 for what it does; it's a 'semi-progressive' press--I have to manually turn the shellplate to move the 4 cases to the next stations. I've used the 450 to reload about 12,000 rounds of 45ACP, and maybe 300-500 rounds of each 9mm, 38sp, 357, 44Mag, and 50 AE per year. I also use the 450 for .308 Winchester. The Dillon works very well except the powder drop is completely undependable for accuracy work. I could never get the Dillon to drop better than +- .2 gr of WW231 or 700X; that's pretty bad when the entire load calls for 4.6 gr. It was horrendous with any extruded rifle powder, dropping anywhere from +-.4gr in a 40-44gr load. This was after numerous calls to Dillon yielded new replacement parts and advice. Out of frustration, I finally gave up, and Rube Goldberg'd my own powder drop system onto the 450, using a Lyman 55 in conjuction with a PACT scale. My experience is that the Dillon is probably a fine press for hurrying out steel plate ammo, but I wouldn't keep it for a paperweight if accuracy is the main consideration, and time isn't.

    I found myself doing the same research you are in a search for another (fully progressive) press. My choices were Dillon 550, Hornady LNL AP, and the RCBS 2000. I settled on the Hornady because I could get a Fully progressive, 5-station press with a highly recommended powder dispensing system for $100 less than a semi-progressive 4-station Dillon with its' powder measuring problems. In the end, the whole setup (not including reloading dies) ran me $586 for 5 caliber changes (including the necessary 20 bushings, 4 of the cheaper, 'common' powder die changes and 1 micro-adjusting rifle powder die and 5 drop linkages) and an RCBS lockout die (it works out to a lot less than $50/caliber if you only buy the required hardware). $586 won't come close to 5 caliber changes and a 5th station with the Dillon 550. I can switch calibers and start reloading in a maximum of 45 seconds (how long does it take to turn 5 dies a 1/4 turn?). Without a case feeder or primer feeder, I can maintain a steady unhurried pace of 300-350 rounds an hour, 400/hr if I'm in a hurry. The Hornady LNL and its' powder measure yielded .308's capable of .5MOA from my M1A, even with IMR 4064 (+- .15gr drop). (I had entertained the idea of eliminating the Dillon 450 for the table space, so I experimented with the LNL and .308 reloads, but decided later against that idea because changing for .308's required adjusting the Redding dies for OAL, and I just didn't want to go through the hassle, so I left the 450 set up permanently for rifle.

    Some reloaders have complained about the priming system; I was one of them. I had horrific problems that turned out to be my fault--I wasn't swaging MilSurp brass enough to dependably accept the primers, and we (the Hornady tech and I) didn't figure it out for months. It is said that Hornady has revised their priming system for the LNL AP; I note that as a rumor, as I haven't seen a new press in real life. There were 3 complaints (outside of my swaging problem) that I can think of with the Hornady--some users had problems with the primer feed slide. This was remedied by beveling/polishing the underside of the slide slightly with a Dremel to insure smoother sliding. Secondly, some reloaders (including me) complained that the primers sometimes got stuck in the primer tube. This was cured by installing a ramrod-like weight into the primer drop tube (like the Dillon 450 has). Lastly, some of the very early releases of the LNL AP (mine was one) were sent out with "first edition" user manuals. These manuals inadvertantly omitted two pictures in the primer-feeding setup instructions, and that made the priming system even more of a mystery for those that didn't call in (like me) until desperation set in. I understand that editing problem has been cured.

    All in all, and without compromising, I regard the Hornady LNL AP as the desirable premium press in the 550/650/LNL AP/ 2000 class. Dillon has its' following, and Hornady will probably never outsell them, but I liken these OEM's to the old Beta vs. VHS wars. (Beta was way better, but savvy marketing sold the VHS format.)

    Widener's will ship it for free if you spend >$100, and their prices are very competitive.

    Here's a link to some reviews by others:

  13. labgrade

    labgrade Member In Memoriam

    Funny, & i never saw what the initial gent was asking (really) was about his "bench - not what was on it.

    Excellent enough advice as to what to put on it, but if you don't have a solid base on which to work (= The Bench), you are purely SOL (Silly On Launching! ;) )

    My "bench" is nothing purty. It's a 8"X36"wide solid door, Reinforced & lagged into the wall studs, supported at the wall's studs to provide max vertical support. Additional lateral support = of course. Cross-brased/levelling = duh! = & @$30 ....

    Stuff on top =s The Plus, but ithout The Bench to begin with, you're just shaggin' Me Baby! ;)

    & then we could talk about what's on The Bench, huh? ;)

    Yah!, I know, but just had to make the tweak that The Bench itself really does make all the diff regards setting the stage for a decent loading "Bench."

    W/O a solid platform, you ain't got **** - the rest is just hackin' it up.
  14. uglymofo

    uglymofo Well-Known Member

    I thought he meant the work area was finished.

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