First Reloading Manual

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Mar 22, 2004
Salt Lake Valley
I'm looking to get into reloading, and wanted recommendations on what all of you view as a good manual to start out with. Other than brass, I have no equipment yet, so I'm starting with a clean slate. I would be starting out with .357/.38, .40S&W and 9mm, moving into rifle loads eventually.

Would Modern Reloading from Lee (with the "free" press) be a good one to start out with? I know this probably won't be the press I want to load on, but for someone with no equipment, I'm thinking the more I can accumulate, the better.

Thanks in advance for the advice!
Dave, I recommend more than one manual. I have Lee and use it - I also have Lyman #47 ... #48 is IIRC newest. I have Speer, Hodgdon, Viht - quite a few.

It is useful IMO to check several before deciding on a load. Start safe with a 10% under max ... and work up in increments. there are quiter a few variations manual to manual .. so consulting all is a good way to find ''middle ground''.


Oh, near forgot ... do some searches and you'll find some PDF files from, for example Winchester ... you can download those - all extra info and those are free.

I do plan on getting more than one. I guess I should have asked what everyone's favorite manual is, and if the Lee one was any good.

Keep your suggestions coming!
Dave ... opinions will vary but - First choice for me is between Lyman and Lee ... Lee has some extra stuff in it which can IMO be of value for newbies. That would make a fair start and I tend to think Lee figures err on safe side too.

Good luck.
From the FWIW department:
My go-to manual for loads is almost always the current Speer Reloading Manual. My go-to manual for general info (or lead bullet loads) is the current Lyman.

IMO, if you buy only one for the time being (I absolutely agree with P95Carry that more than one manual is almost a necessity), either one of the above would fill the bill.
I have to go along with Mal H. My top two are the Speer and the Lyman #47 or #48. BTW, Lyman has another manual out which is devoted just to handgun loads. This manual has some extra listings that are not in the 48th Edition (or whichever is the latest).
Another vote for Speer. The only reloading manual I read for enjoyment. The introductory sections on each cartridge are interesting. And the "how to" stuff at the beginning is pretty well done, too.
I like the Speer. I have the Lee because I have Lee equipment and it includes all of the operating instructions as well as tips for all of their tools. Lyman is good, IIRC some of the information in 47 was dangerously incorrect but that 48 is spot on but that's from memory.
I have Speer, Lyman and Hornaday manuals and they're all good. Pick one, read it, and buy another when you can. Make use of online resources - before I start a new load I have manuals, the little "Loadbooks" and several places online to check. You'll find a max load in one place is not a max load in another, and starting loads can vary alot also. Take it all into consideration. And have fun! :)
If you are going to buy a press to get a manual I would have to recomend this.
I recomended this to anyone starting out as it has all the tools needed except dies,shellholder,and case trimmer gauge for rifle cartridges. It is the most complete and cost effective(cheap) kit made.
I consider the Lee manual as one of the best as it has load data for more cartridges and more loads for each cartridge than any other manual.
The Speer,Sierra,and Hornady manuals are not very good as they only have data for bullets they mfg. The Lyman is good but is limited in the number of cartridges and number of loads for each cartridge.
I highly reccomend, Lyman, Speer and Sierra.

Along with all of the small guides put out by the powder manufacturers.


EVERYONE who reloads should have a copy of "The ABC's Of Reloading" by Bill Chevalier.


If you load for handguns, do your best toi find a copy of "Handloading for Handgunners" by the late George C Nonte.

Always double check. I never rely on just one manual. And I usually triple check ANY load I see listed in a gun magazine. I have seen too many magazine "typos" in my life.

That kit is one I'm thinking of getting, but I found it here for $80.09 shipped. That would give me a basic setup, minus dies and components.
Well, I just picked up a 3 die set of .38/.357 Lyman Carbide dies off eBay for $18 shipped. No turning back now, I guess...
Sounds like a good deal on the Lee kit. Just make sure to read the first 8 chapters in the Lee load manual before you start.
You will need a shellholder for 38/357 as Lee dies are the only brand that comes with one. The shellholders in the kit are for use with the priming tool only and will not fit the press.
Excuse me JA?? Which Lee loader are you talking about? I have a Lee Turret and I use Lee die sets and the shell holder fits both my turret press and my Lee Auto Prime also. There is a Lee tool that the shell holder can't be used on both?
I think I understand you. The shell holders that come in the kit are only used for priming, not for loading. Since I bought a set of Lyman dies, I will need to buy a shell holder, since the Lyman dies don't come with one like the Lee dies do. Is that correct?

So how do Lyman dies rate?
Personally I really really like Lyman dies. Especially their M type expander die for straight walled cases.

Even though I have had great success with RCBS. I prefer Lyman & Hornady.

However, I think Redding makes the best crimp dies.

I now avoid Lee completely. But many people like them.

For non-commercial uses it's all a matter of personal preference since your average reloader will get along just fine with any of the name brands.
Thanks for all the replies. I thought I would go down to Borders on my lunchbreak and see if they had any manuals that I could buy with the 25% off coupon they emailed me, but they don't stock any.
Yes SLCDave that is correct.
I started reloading for rifle/pistol in 1977. So I own dies from several companies that are out of business. Herters,CH,Pacific,and Bonanza brand dies. Also have dies from current mfgs. Hornady,Lee,Lyman,Redding,and RCBS. All have the same very smooth honed internal finish. Even though the way the internal parts are held in the die and outside shape is different they all function the same. So basicly the only real difference between them is the outside finish. Some have chrome or titanium nitride plating,blued,highly polished or no finish at all. Every one of them produces ammo that functions and is accurate in my firearms. The reason the Lee dies are cheapest and have a shellholder in the die set is they have no finish on the outside just plain steel. No extra time which adds to the cost of producing them is spent knurling,grooving,polishing,or applying a finish.
JA....You are right. I have the Auto Prime II (I stand corrected) except that the SHELL HOLDER is universal for both the loading process and used with the Prining die. The Auto Prime II does not come with shell holders to be correct. ;)
Lyman's 47th reloading manual was the last time they listed loads using some of their old standard powders. Lyman's 48th manual has a different set of powders for many cartridges. Personally I think that the 47th Handbook is far more useful. At the very least I'd strongly buying it.
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