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Getting started...

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by Collector0311, Sep 26, 2011.

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  1. Collector0311

    Collector0311 Member

    Jan 18, 2011
    I've been doing quite a bit of reading lately on reloading and am interested in getting my own equipment.
    What can one expect to spend starting from the ground up? Will mostly be reloading .300AAC and .30WCF.

    (did a search for this topic and didn't find anything, I apologize if it's a repost)
  2. GCBurner

    GCBurner Member

    Nov 18, 2010
    Starting from scratch, you'd probably be happy with a basic reloading kit like this one from Lee: http://www.midwayusa.com/viewProduct/default.aspx?productNumber=423081

    It includes everything you'd need to get started except the dies for your particular calibres, and a case length gauge and trimmer for the used brass. If you get some Lee dies, they come with a table of suggested powders and loads for each cartridge, but it would be wise to get some basic reloading books, too. Then you just need to get some primers, powder, and pick out the type of bullets you want.
    Have fun!
  3. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    Sep 17, 2007
    Eastern KS
  4. Hondo 60
    • Contributing Member

    Hondo 60 Member

    Sep 6, 2009
    Manitowoc, WI
    When I first started I bought the kit linked by GCBurner.
    Now I reload 5 different hand gun calibers & one rifle.
    But I've found that the single stage Lee was totally inadequate.

    It really depends on how many rounds you're looking to reload.
    If it's a hundred a month - then GC is totally correct.

    But first & foremost, you need to get a Reloading Manual or three.
    (Usually we recommend a minimum of two)

    Lyman's 49th Edition is a GREAT How-To & has thousands of load data recipes.
    The major bullet manufacturers also have reloading manuals. (Hornady, Speer, Sierra, Nosler etc, etc)

    Anyway - WELCOME To The High Road
  5. Lost Sheep

    Lost Sheep Member

    Aug 16, 2009
    10 Advices for the novice handloader

    Welcome to handloading and thanks for asking our advice
    I have thought of a few things I think are useful for handloaders to know or to consider which seem to be almost universal, so I put together this list.

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

    For comparison purposes, 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 400 centerfire rounds per month. I could easily do a lot more with my press setup, but I am frugal with components, especially with the larger bullets, which are expensive. 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. It cost me about 1/4 of factory ammo per round and paid for itself pretty quickly. I did not use a loading bench at all. I just mounted the press on a 2 x 6 plank long enough to wedge into the drawer of an end table. Worked great. Still does, but I use a folding workbench now and a different press, but the same plank.

    So, this list, which I think may be helpful.

    Now, here are my Ten Advices.

    Advice #1 Knowledge is power. Read manuals: Note the plural. I found "The ABC's of Reloading" to be a very good reference. Short on data, yes, but I found it full of knowledge and understanding of the process. Check out offerings in your local library. Dated, perhaps, but you can taste-test their writing style. Richard Lee's book "Modern Reloading" has a lot of food for thought, and does discuss the reasoning behind his opinions (unlike many manuals, and internet postings). It is not a simple book, though, and you will find it provocative reading for many years.

    Read as many manuals as you can, for the discussion of the how-to steps which they all have in their early chapters. What one manual covers thinly, another will cover well. As far as load data in older manuals, the powder manufacturers and bullet manufacturers may have better information and their web sites are probably more up to date. But pay attention to what the ammunition was test-fired from. (regular firearm vs a sealed-breech pressure test barrel, for example)

    The reason you want more than one or two is that you want to read differing authors/editors writing styles and find ones that "speak" to you. You also get better coverage of the subject; one author or editor may cover parts of the subject more thoroughly than the others.

    Only after you know the steps can you look at the contents of a reloading kit and know what parts you will use and what parts the kits lack.

    The public library should have manuals you can read, then decide which ones you want to buy.

    Research: Read previous threads on reloading, here are a couple I recommend.
    The second one is a thread started by a new recruit to reloading which the moderators thought highly enough of to make it "sticky" so it stays on the top of the list of threads.

    There are instructional videos now that did not exist in the '70s when I started.

    Advice #2 Find a mentor: There is no substitute for someone watching you load a few cartridges and critiquing your technigue 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. There is nothing like a tutor, or better yet, a mentor. A longer mentoring period might have changed my reloading style, but I learned a lot in those first 6 rounds, as he explained each step. Then I educated myself after that.

    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 #3 Gear: Most equipment is worth what you pay for it. But there are some that are better bargains than others. Warranties make a difference, too.

    Almost every manufacturer of loading equipment makes good stuff; if they didn't, they would lose reputation fast and disappear from the marketplace. Better equipment costs more generally. Cast aluminum is lighter and less expensive. Cast iron lasts practically forever. Lee makes good equipment, but is generally considered the "economy" equipment maker, though some of their stuff is considered preferable to more expensive makes. Just think about what you buy.

    Almost all equipment is good. But is it good FOR YOU? If you can figure out what will fit your needs and loading style, you are fortunate.

    When you buy the very best, it hurts only once, in the wallet. When you buy cheap (too cheap) 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.

    On kits: Almost every manufacturer makes a kit that contains everything you need to do reloading (except dies and the consumables). A decent way to get started without too much prior experience. Eventually most reloaders wind up replacing most of the components of the kit as their personal taste develops, but you will have gotten started, at least. I prefer to think about it more intensely before purchase and assemble my own kit. This is easier said than done if you have no experience, however.

    Tungsten Carbide dies for your straight-walled cartridge cases. They 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 #4 Press type: Learning on a simpler press is easier than on a complex one, though it can be done. Single stage is simplest, turret presses can operate exactly like a single stage, but are a little more complex (and ultimately faster). A progressive press is most complex and has multiple things happening simultaneously, but are fastest of all. If there are too many things happening at the same time they tend to be hard to keep track of, especially if you are trying too hard for high producion numbers.

    While not terribly difficult to learn reloading using a progressive press, it is easier to learn on a single stage or on a turret used as a single stage. A child can learn to walk wearing roller skates, but it is easier in regular shoes. A novice can learn to load on a progressive, but it is easier operating as on a single stage.

    Advice #5 Don't overbuy. Aside from components, physically, you only need three things to load. A press, because hands are not strong enough to work metal. A set of dies because fingers are not precise enough to form metal. A way to mete powder because eyeballs are not accurate enough. Everything else just makes things safer, more accurate, faster or more convenient. Safer (example: a manual, because on overcharge or undercharge will certainly ruin your day), more accurate (you can chamfer a case mouth with a pocketknife, but the specialized tool will probably make it more uniform and square), faster (example: a powder measure drops metered powder quicker than weighing each charge) or more convenient (example: you can lubricate cases with your fingers or a paper towel, but a lube pad is made specially for the job.

    I loaded for several years before I had a bullet puller (used to disassemble rounds that you suspect may have something wrong with them) and several more before I ever used one. When you need a bullet puller or stuck case remover, youwill probably be able to find one. If you buy something you wind up never using, you have wasted your money.

    The more experience you have before you completely populate your bench, the better your choices will be for what you need.

    Advice #6 Stay neat. You will probably spill powder or drop a primer eventually, so consider what you have for floor covering when you pick your reloading area. (Note: my worktable is portable, a folding workbench with a press mounted on a board that I simply clamp into place.) A cloth drop cloth is superior to plastic because it is quieter, drapes better and doesn't let primers roll as fast.

    Advice #7 Stay safe. Wear eye protection, especially when working with primers.

    Advice #8 Stay alert. Don't load when tired, distracted or otherwise not at the top of your game. This is good advice for anyone, not just new loaders.

    Advice #9 Caution: Load mid-range or slightly light at first so overpressures are not concerns. Just concentrate on getting the loading steps right and being VERY VERY consistent (charge weight, crimp strength, seating depth, primer seating force, all that)

    Advice #10 More caution: 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.

    Good luck.

    Lost Sheep
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2011
  6. g29guy

    g29guy Member

    Sep 27, 2011
    I second the recommendation of ABC'S of reloading. Its for the beginner and explains allot the terms that other books assume you already know. I borrowed it from my local library when I first started loading. It is limited to load data but i have gotten more useful understanding from that one book than any I have read.

    Welcome to the third most addicting hobby (next to shooting and family life)
  7. Funshooter45

    Funshooter45 Member

    Dec 9, 2010
    What in the world is a 300 AAC? It's not often that I see people refer to the 30 WCF, but I know that one is the same as a 30-30. But I've never heard of a 300 AAC before.

    Assuming it is also a rifle, then that makes it easier. If only loading for rifles, you might as well stick with a single stage press. Lee makes a good single stage press. For a few dollars more, so do the other big manufacturers. It mainly depends on what color you prefer. :) Due to all the steps in the case prep that is performed off the press, there is no real advantage to using a turret or progressive press for loading rifle cases. Whether you use a lingle stage or a progressive for a rifle, you will first put all the cases through the sizing die. Then you will take the cases off the press and remove the lube, trim them, chamfer inside and out, prime them, and add powder. Then you'll have to run them through the press again to seat a bullet. So the single stage works just as fast as a turret or progressive for rifles only at a much lower price.
  8. X-Rap

    X-Rap Member

    Sep 23, 2006
    Now matter where you end up you will want a single stage press so I would start there. Take a look at EBay, Craigslist and other classifieds as well as auctions, second hand and pawn shops for good name brand equipment. You will be surprised at some of the deals just keep a Midway catalog to compare prices.
    Lee seems to have the best deals on dies, I have some of them and their priming tool is a big time saver for when doing single stage loading.( I have broken 2 of them, the pot metal is pretty cheap) I prefer the cast iron presses and favor RCBS. Redding makes a fine powder measure and scales from any of the big names is probably ok, I use a beam type so can't comment on digital but what ever you choose get calibration weights so you can verify your zero.
    If you go progressive go Blue I have 2 550's and love em.
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