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About to buy reloading equipment

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by Adam3006, Sep 28, 2011.

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  1. Adam3006

    Adam3006 Member

    Sep 28, 2011
    Hey guys,

    I'm new here but love the site so far. I have made up my mind to start reloading my own rifle and pistol shells. I will not be loading large quantities, maybe 50-100 every month or two. I have looked at several kits but still can't make up my mind. Is it better to buy a kit or buy the stuff separately to get what you want? I would like to get out for under $400 total. So could someone recommend a good beginner setup? Thanks

  2. jcwit

    jcwit Member

    Oct 19, 2007
    Great state of Indiana
  3. dmazur

    dmazur Member

    Apr 28, 2007
    Pacific NW
    There's this to read


    which discusses equipment in a little detail. It's worth reading.

    I believe you'll see that the kits just aren't complete. Also, they may include something like a really inexpensive scale, which you may want to replace shortly after trying to use it a few times. So, between what's left out and what's inferior, you probably want to select your own equipment.

    The problem is, when just starting out, is that you have no experience to help decide what's good and what's not so good. IMO, the solution is somewhat trial and error. Make a list, select something like "press", choose one and then research reviews, forum threads, etc. on that specific item. Sound good? Leave it on your list. Not so good? Choose another. Eventually you'll have a shopping list where each item received fairly good reviews from other reloaders.

    Of course, price may temper your selection process as well.

    The best answer to your question is, since the folks on the forum don't know what your goals are, it is really difficult to recommend an equipment list. In other words, what is right for one person may not suit another.

    50-100 / month isn't a very large number, so the equipment isn't going to pay for itself quickly. You will probably get some benefit out of making ammo that suits your needs rather than being limited by what's available on the shelf at the LGS. And there's quite a bit of satisfaction in being responsible for your own quality control.

    Welcome to the madness... :)
  4. jfrey

    jfrey Member

    May 16, 2008
    South Texas Coast
    Check out the Lee Anniversary kit. I got my son one a couple of years ago and it had most of the stuff you need except a caliper and tumbler. The rest of the stuff he needed he got second hand from me. Seems like a fairly good starter kit. He loads some rifle ammo on it but I load all the pistol ammo on two Dillon progressives.
  5. rfwobbly

    rfwobbly Member

    Nov 14, 2008
    Cornelia, GA
    Adam -
    Welcome to THR and Welcome to reloading!

    ► The only way to get everything is to check around at local gun clubs or CraigsList for someone aging out of the hobby.
    ► Generally the kits do save you money, but don't contain everything. All the kits are missing the caliper, but that's a $20 item. The big ticket item for you (after getting a kit) is going to be a case trimmer for rifle cartridge cases. The only kit I know of with a trimmer is the Lyman.
    ► Some of the longer rifle cartridges (30-06 and such) won't fit into the less expensive presses. Some presses won't do rifle at all. That's one point you want to be sure and clarify before purchase.
    ► Yes you can "mix and match" equipment as you like. Hornady dies will fit a Lee press. Lee shell holders will fit a RCBS press. A powder scale is a powder scale.
    ► If you successfully match your ammo volumes to the press (that is to say, you don't over-buy), your reloading equipment investment should pay for itself in about 9 months.

    Ask questions and good luck!
  6. Adam3006

    Adam3006 Member

    Sep 28, 2011
    I've been looking at the the Lee challenger breech lock kit. Then picking up :

    Case trimmer
    All shell components

    Is there anything else I need???
  7. Hondo 60
    • Contributing Member

    Hondo 60 Member

    Sep 6, 2009
    Manitowoc, WI

    Not to be insulting, but only a complete fool would try to reload with out a couple of Reloading Manuals.

    The good ones like Lyman's 49th Reloading Handbook have a great How-To section & then 1000s of recipes.

    Also, all the powder manufacturers have good data on their websites, but NO instructions.

    Please stay safe!
  8. TooManyToys

    TooManyToys Member

    Feb 12, 2011
    + 1 for the Lyman 49th Reloading Handbook, I think it is a must have.
    The LEE reloading book also has a lot of good info for new reloaders as well.

    Either of the newer LEE Classic presses (Single stage & Turret) are great values for the money and will last a lifetime. These are the ones with the CAST IRON frames.

    Check the LEE web site for dealers. Some of the smaller less know dealers offer the best prices. Shop around, prices can vary a lot,

    The same goes for LEE dies. Good quality & good value for getting started. Go with carbide dies for hangun calibers.
    Rifle dies can be a bit confusing, the right choice will depend on the type of gun you are loading for, brass, etc.
    ..ie, is your 30.06 a semi auto or bolt action? This will help determan which die set to buy.

    Don't be afraid to post questions, there are many experianced & helpful people on this site WELCOME!
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2011
  9. Lost Sheep

    Lost Sheep Member

    Aug 16, 2009
    Welcome to handloading and thanks for asking our advice.

    My prejudice is to assemble your own kit. Look at the contents list of a number of kits (write them down) and decide what pieces of equipment you will actually use. For example, if you load straight-walled cases and use carbide dies, you will not need case lube or a lube pad. If you load for revolver, you may not need a caliper. I didn't for decades. You will PROBABLY need a bullet puller someday, but few kits include one. But the, I did not have one for several years, and even after I got one, it was another several years before I actually USED it.

    The fact is, it is possible to load with only three things. P.D.S.

    Press, because hands are not strong enough to form metal

    Dies, because fingers are not accurate enough to form metal

    Scale (or Scoops), to measure powder, because eyes are not accurate enough.

    It would be crazy to load without some other things, Manuals, eye protection, stuff like that. But the fact is, physically, you can load very simply, albeit, slowly.

    You can get older manuals and the excellent "ABC's or Reloading" from your local library. Almost all manuals have their early chapters devoted to a description of the loading process and it doesn't matter how old they are (as long as they don't pre-date smokeless powder). A drop cloth can be had from an old sheet. Other pieces of equipment can be bought as you find need for them (if you live close enough to a retail outlet).

    All the other stuff just adds more safety, speed, accuracy or convenience. All good things (which you have the budget for), but which can wait a little while until you get your feet wet and have determined your personal loading style and preferences.

    A good-quality (last a lifetime quality) single stage press can be had for $80 and up.

    A good set of Tungsten-Carbide or Titanium Nitride dies can be had for $30 to $50

    A set of Lee Scoops can be had for $15, or a perfectly accurate scale for $25 to $100

    A 2x6 and some carriage bolts to mount the press may be already in your garage, along with a "C" clamp you can use to clamp it to a coffee table (properly padded with cardboard, towel or newspaper). I used to wedge mine in the drawer of an end table, no "C" clamp at all.

    With your budget, you can afford to buy a good kit adequate for your needs and be loading by the weekend. But if you put the thought required into assembling your own kit, you will be loading a tiny bit later and slower at first, but the learning curve will be steeper and faster, in direct response to the greater effort involved. But worth it.

    The one kit I would recommend as a core is the kit offered by Kempf's Gun Shop with is built around the Lee Classic Turret (superior to Lee's Deluxe Turret), Deluxe dies (most kits do not include dies), a primer dispenser (you could use your fingers, but this is well worth the cost) and a powder measure (you could use scoops or a scale alone, but a measure is SO much more convenient). The only thing lacking is a scale. (Lee makes a scale for about $25 which is as accurate as any of the others, but some find it difficult to read and it only goes up to 100 grains, plenty for powder, but measuring heavier bullets is out of its scope) Since Kempf's doesn't make you take a Lee Scale, you can add a Lee, Ohaus, RCBS, Redding or whatever is your preference. The only real nonessentials in Kempf's kit is the ammo boxes they include.

    Add powder, primers, brass (once fired from retail-bought ammunition is the way I go) and bullets and you are loading

    Let me share with you some posts and threads I think you will enjoy. So get a large mug of coffee, tea, hot chocolate, whatever you keep on hand when you read and think and read through these.

    The "sticky" thread at the top of TheFiringLine's reloading forum is good, entitled, "For the New Reloader: Equipment Basics -- READ THIS FIRST "

    The "sticky" thread at the top of TheHighRoad.com's reloading forum is good, entitled, "For the New Reloader: Thinking about Reloading; Equipment Basics -- READ THIS FIRST"

    The first draft of my "10 Advices..." is on page 2 of this thread, about halfway down.



    "Budget Beginning bench you will never outgrow for the novice handloader" was informed by my recent (July 2010) repopulation of my loading bench. It is what I would have done 35 years ago if I had known then what I know now.

    I have a thread "To Kit or Not to Kit?" that describes different philosophies of buying or assembling a kit one piece at a time.


    Minimalist minimal (the seventh post down)

    Thread entitled "Newby needs help."
    My post 11 is entitled "Here's my reloading setup, which I think you might want to model" November 21, 2010)
    My post 13 is another version of my "10 Advices for the novice handloader" November 21, 2010)



    Good luck.

    Lost Sheep
  10. AK_Maine_iac

    AK_Maine_iac Member

    Jun 10, 2011
    North Pole, Alaska
    Yuuup what Lost Sheep said. Sorry i have been watching storage wars again.
  11. g29guy

    g29guy Member

    Sep 27, 2011
    RCBS has a $50 dollar mail in rebate from their site. When I bought my press I qualified for a $50 for the press and 2 $10 for accessories. Combined with a $25 cabelas coupon I was able to get everything I needed with dies and a redding resizing push thru die minus powder bullets and primers for $300 bucks.

    Just keep an eye out for rebates sales or at least free shipping after you decide what you want.

    ABC'S of reloading is the first book i'd recomend reading before you buy a press.It was at my library.

    The rock chucker supreme kit came with a speer reloading book. Not sure if lee and dillon do or not.

    RCBS has a great beam scale. Dilllon has a great tumbler(so i've heard)
  12. greyling22

    greyling22 Member

    Aug 6, 2007
    East Texas
    +1 to lost sheep. Thanks for the great post.
  13. dickttx

    dickttx Member

    Feb 9, 2011
    Fort Worth
    With the amount you are looking to load, you can spit shine each case by hand and not bother about a tumbler at this time.
  14. wunderkind

    wunderkind Member

    Aug 18, 2003
    NW Indiana
    Kempf's sells the Lee Classic Turret press with a bunch of goodies for under two bills--it comes with a die set and ammo boxes, too. Strong, all-steel press that will crank out your 50-100 rds and be able to grow with you if you start shooting more.
  15. mgmorden

    mgmorden Member

    May 22, 2009
    Charleston, South Carolina
    I started with a Lee kit, of which I still use many of the included parts.

    My take on it is to start with the kit. An experienced reloaded could probably piece together his equipment and get exactly what he wanted for not much extra, but realistically most people just getting started don't even know what exact stuff they'll need. A good kit will get you a workable - if basic - version of each component needed and you can upgrade down the road as you see fit (or not - I've not had any of my kit equipment actually break after 8 years).

    Only thing you'll probably need to add is a tumbler, as none of the big kits seem to include them. As suggested above, you COULD just give them a good wipe-down, but realistically it'll get old fast, and despite you thinking you'll just load a few here and there, you'll likely end up loading a lot more than that as time goes on ;). A tumbler is only $50 or so and is a good investment. There's one currently being rebranded by several companies (Berrys, Grafs and Sons, Cabelas) that seems to be getting good reviews. My tumbler just died and I'll be getting one of those from Grafs to replace it as soon as it's back in stock (they're in stock elsewhere, but only Grafs has the purple bowl that I want. yeah, I'm that picky :D).
  16. Tirod

    Tirod Member

    May 24, 2008
    SW MO
    One of the finer points in operating a press is how easy it may be to switch out dies. Single stage presses require the user to set up each die individually, over and over again (albeit they are very close after the initial use.) A turret press allows the user to switch out the the entire die set without messing them up, "load" a new set, and get right back to work. Because they can be rotated, they are also semi progressive, which allows reloading 150+ rounds an hour.

    As others have said, the "kits" are a bit incomplete, and don't have exactly what you might prefer - scales, for instance, or an automatic powder dropper. While it would be easier to just take what they offer, it might suit better to research what tools actually perform better - which has to be gleaned from the happy reviews by users. "I bought Brand X because the paint color says I'm smart." tends to be all too frequent. What they should have said is "I bought Brand X because the full length ram is drilled through and drops the primers out of the press completely." Meaning, you don't have to stop and empty them out repeatedly. Those are the real tips about which press to buy, same for scales, powder droppers, etc. They all have pro's and con's - and the resale market of slightly used stuff is a good example of why we need to do better homework.
  17. Furncliff

    Furncliff Member

    Dec 10, 2005
    Western Slope of Colorado
    Weather you by a kit or ala carte, make sure you get a kinetic bullet puller.

  18. Funshooter45

    Funshooter45 Member

    Dec 9, 2010
    Kits are convenient and you probably won't go very wrong getting one. But... if you know what you're doing, you can usually assemble your own collection that works better or cheaper for your own needs picking one piece at a time. The trouble is, when most of us started reloading, we didn't know what we were doing or what would suit us best. I didn't know about handy forums and advice like this when I started reloading.

    Luckily, I had mad friends with an experienced reloader at the local store. When I finally took the plunge, he knew exactly what my needs were. He would pick a press and say "that'll do you just fine for a long time", or a powder measure and say "that one's the best value of all", etc. When I had all my stuff, I had various gear made by Lee, some by RCBS, some by Hornady, even a few things made by Lyman. But it all worked together just fine.

    You can hope to find a trusted advisor like that or you can do your own research on the internet. One of the nice things about the Midway site is that they carry a lot of gear but also they have a convenient review collection linked to each item. Yeah, a lot of folks only give their impression if it's good, but often you can find comments that are legitimate beefs. On the other hand, some reviewers criticize a product when the problem is them. But anyway, whether you actually buy from Midway or not, it's a great resource for research.
  19. N003k

    N003k Member

    Nov 21, 2008
    As a new reloader myself, having recently asked for advice here, I'd recommend the sticky listing the basics of what you need...and then fill in the blanks seperatly. I personally got the Lee Classic kit from Kempf.

    In addition, let me second the need for kinetic bullet pullers...it's surprising how much you'll make tiny mistakes early on, especially with OAL...and at least with the pullers you get to save some components that otherwise would be lost.

    Only other piece of advice I'd have is make sure you have a place for all of the instructions...because you'll have a LOT of them to go through.
  20. Red Cent

    Red Cent Member

    May 20, 2010
    McLeansville, NC by way of WV SASS 29170L
    Get the Lee Turret Press.
  21. dc.fireman

    dc.fireman Member

    Dec 13, 2008
    Manassas, Va.
    First off - welcome to THR, and the art of handloading. I will +10K everything else everyone else has said here - great advice for a new handloader. I've visited this forum countless times, and gotten great advice, and learned tons from these guys.

    The ABC's of Reloading can be checked out from your local library - it's a great book, an easy read, and will get you familiar with some common reloading practices & terms in plain simple english.

    The Lyman's 49th edition Reloading manual was my first - and still my favorite of all the other reloading manuals I own.

    50-100 rounds per month: I'm assuming you're reloading rifle cartridges?
    If so, then I'd like to recommend a strong, simple, single-stage press. They keep the processes simple - by doing one thing at a time.

    You'll need some method by which to re-prime your cases - the Lee priming tool is simple, effective, and economical - with the proprietary shell holders, I believe I paid around $20 for mine - I use it more than any other priming device I own for those reasons.

    Eventually, you will want/need to trim your rifle cases - maybe not right out of the gates, but eventually. Be thinking about how/which type or model of case trimmer you want - some of them can get pricey, but all work fairly well.

    After trimming, you're going to want to chamfer & deburr your cases - this isn't an optional step if you've trimmed your cases, but a necessary one. Several companies make a little rocket/bomb shaped tool for doing this by hand - buy one when you buy the trimmer. They're cheap, and very effective.

    A primer pocket uniformer makes hand priming a breeze - I prefer the Possum Hollow brand, because it's double ended, for both sizes of primer pockets.

    Some type of scale or a scoop set (from Lee) will be needed to measure your powder charges. If you're going to go with the conventional scale method, you'll need a powder throwing device, and reloading blocks (they can be bought, or made by drilling holes in blocks of wood).

    The calipers, and the bullet pullers are not optional, in my opinion - the calipers will tell you what you're doing right; the puller fixes what you've done wrong.

    As for the rest - buy what you can from your local gun store - help keep the little guys in business -who knows, someday 10 years from now, they might be sticking that oddball part/piece you need, so you can finish a load - and you won't have to wait for it, or pay for shipping.

    Good luck - hopefully you can make use & sense of some of this stuff when you get started.

    Some great resources I've found for the 'modern handloader':

    1. Craigslist
    2. IKEA
    3. Harbor Freight
    4. ACE Hardware
    5. my LGS (local gun store).

    Last edited: Sep 30, 2011
  22. Ala Dan

    Ala Dan Member in memoriam

    Dec 24, 2002
    Home Of The First Capitol Of The Confederate State
    g29guy got a bargain~! Currently, we have the R.C.B.S. Master
    Reloading Kit on sale for $349.88 + tax; while the Hornady Kit runs
    $20 more. Add dies, shell holder, powder, primers, bullets, and cases-
    and you will be ready to rock n' roll. Just be careful, and follow a very
    reliable reloading manual; and things should be fine~! :cool: ;) :D
  23. Adam3006

    Adam3006 Member

    Sep 28, 2011
    Thanks for all the help so far guys. I'm sure I'll be bugging y'all more as I get started. I guess I should have been more specific as to what I will be reloading. I will be reloading for 223, 243, 308, 3006, 7mm rem mag, 300 win mag, 45-70, and 9mm. I am going to start off by buying one set of dies and get used to it before I buy more dies. I will probably buy the 30-06 dies first. Can anyone recommend a good recipe for a 165 grain hunting bullet?
  24. dc.fireman

    dc.fireman Member

    Dec 13, 2008
    Manassas, Va.
    I can't - I'm not a hunter. But that Lyman 49th edition has many 30'06 loads - even hunting ones...
  25. Red Cent

    Red Cent Member

    May 20, 2010
    McLeansville, NC by way of WV SASS 29170L
    "If so, the I'd like to recommend a strong, simple, single-stage press. "

    Why not buy a turret and use it as a single stage?

    If he decides he loves to reload and the custom loads, he may want to step up production. If he wants to change calibers, an extra toolhead is cheap and he can change witout having to readjust the dies or worry that they are out of adjustments.
    With separate toolheads he can mount the powder dispenser/cartridge flare that is caliber specific.
    I would suggest a single stage to the reloader of a 50BMG or a person who takes an oath of "no more reloading tools" and deposits one million dollars to be distributed to the THR members if he violates his oath:evil:
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