Reloading on the cheap.

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by bullseye308, Apr 14, 2021.

  1. bullseye308

    bullseye308 Member

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    For those wanting to reload and don’t have much of a budget, fear not, it can be done. This is not the best time to start, but it can still be done it will just take some effort to locate what you need. Primers are the hardest to get, followed by powder, but it is out there. First off you will need at a minimum a press, caliber specific dies and shell holder, powder dispenser, powder scale, a manual, calipers(digital or dial), case trimmer and chamfer tool if loading rifle, good lighting, safety glasses and somewhere to mount the press. Most can be gotten cheaper used, and most tools don’t wear out often if at all.
    The minimalist approach is a Lee single stage bolted to a 2x6 c-clamped to a table or mounted to a sturdy bench if you have one. I started with one bolted to a 2x6 clamped to a coffee table. Dies are caliber specific with a few exceptions like 38/357, and 44spl/44mag. Lee dies come with a shell holder to hold the brass in your press. If you can get a Lee kit you will have most of what you will need to get started for one caliber. Some of the items you will not need, or replace at some point, but you will be ready to start. Read the beginning of the manual a couple times and any parts you don’t understand please ask here for clarification. Once you are familiar with the process you can start. If you can find a local mentor, you are truly blessed. Find other local reloaders and maybe you will have someone to trade with, or split bulk orders with.

    Calipers you can get at harbor freight and are necessary to measure the length of the finished rounds and other measurements. Check weights are great to verify your scale is set correctly as you are dealing with tiny amounts of powder and precision is very important here. When just starting out I was on a limited budget. All I had was a Lee safety scale and couldn’t afford check weights, so I took some small items to a jewler and told him I wanted to have something of known weight to verify my scale. I gave him a weight range I was loading and I had a couple pieces of bird shot, broken pieces of a silver necklace, a tiny split shot sinker, and a few other things. He cleaned them, weighed them, filed them, and when he got an even weight he put them in tiny ziplock baggies with tweezers and wrote the weight on each bag. He said not to touch them except with tweezers and always keep them in the baggie when not in use as oil from my hands or dust would throw off the weight. That worked just fine for years till I passed them on to someone starting out and I bought a proper set. There are ways to get what you need at little to no cost if you are creative.

    Getting things free or cheap? Absolutely doable and here are some ways to do it. Always pick up brass at the range, what you don’t use you can trade for what you need or sadly scrap it and use that money to buy components. Look at yard sales for reloading supplies and components, ask around if anyone is getting out of reloading, or sadly if any Reloader’s have passed and left supplies behind. Put ads on Craigslist or Facebook marketplace for stuff you need or stuff you have to trade. I got almost 1200 pounds of lead for free from a guy on Craigslist. If you can find a source of lead, look into casting your own bullets. Mining the berm is one way to get quality lead for free. Again Lee has cheap melting pots, molds, and sizers to get you going. If you are handy some things you need can be made like a bench, cabinets for supplies, risers for your scale to see it better, and loading blocks to name a few. Don’t overlook dollar stores for storage containers, labels, anything else you may need.

    Starting with a single stage is a great way to get into reloading, but it is also the slowest. It has many benefits such as learning proper die setup and in the event you make a mistake you probably won’t be having a large pile of rounds to break down like you easily could on a turret or progressive. As you advance and decide you need more production, you can step up to a press that will put out quite a bit more rounds per hour, but the single stage may still have many uses and earn its place on your bench. Many here use a single stage and are happy with it, I do myself and have loaded thousands of rounds on them, some years up to 16k a year. I enjoy it and don’t need faster production.

    I have used Lee products for 30+ years and have been happy with all my purchases and also with their customer service. Lee equipment works, and they innovated many new products that help get folks into reloading at the lowest cost. There are other brands that offer better construction, higher quality tolerances, more options, but they come at a higher price point. If you have the money pick whatever brand you want, they all work or they wouldn’t be on the market. Lee is the cheapest way to get started, not necessarily the best way. Some folks hate on Lee for lower quality products, but I’d bet Lee has got more folks in the game than every other brand together. I do not work for Lee, am not endorsed by them, and am not affiliated with them in any way except as a satisfied customer.
     
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  2. Mark_Mark

    Mark_Mark Member

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    or get a Lee loader and go to town
     
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  3. earlthegoat2

    earlthegoat2 Member

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    Lee Whack-a-Mole Loader saves a ton of money. It is how I started so I know it works.
     
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  4. rabid wombat

    rabid wombat Member

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    Same here...and if you really want to go large, spring for a hammer to go with it! Otherwise, use a rock....:rofl:
     
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  5. Mark_Mark

    Mark_Mark Member

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    old 2x4! don’t buy it... because it’s $8 a pop right now
     
  6. higgite

    higgite Member

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    You did say "reloading on the cheap". Where are you finding cheap primers and powder? In stock, that is.
     
  7. webrx
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    webrx Contributing Member

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    OK, Third times a charm I hope, I have tried to reply to this twice already and kept getting interrupted, followed by my account not being logged in. So, trying again.

    short and sweet this time - I hope.

    You can get the needed reloading equipment for one caliber for about the cost of a Hi-Point ($200) - This is what I did when I started

    RCBS Partner Press ($75)
    Digital Caliper ($25)
    Digital Scale ($25)
    Funnel ($5)
    Lee Dippers ($10)
    45 Colt dies ($50)

    Total $190.00 plus tax

    Add the cost of the consumables:
    Bullets 500 for $50
    Primers 1000 for $33
    Powder (Trailboss) $16
    Total $100

    So $300 all in to load 45 Colt

    45 Colt were going for $38 for 50 ($.76 per round)
    Reloading cost about $.16 a round (primer .03, bullet .11, Powder .02)

    So 500 rounds later (actually 493) I paid for the press, caliper, funnel, scale, and dippers.

    I actually have a breakdown of what it cost to load various rounds vs cost (at that time)

    medium.jpg
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2021
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  8. webrx
    • Contributing Member

    webrx Contributing Member

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    I also did a breakdown by Cartridge of what it would take to pay for the dies once you had the initial reloading equipment:

    Examples:
    6.5 Creedmoor - $1.20 retail, $.44 to reload, savings $.76 per round, 53 rounds and you pay for the $40 dies
    30-30 - $.90 retail, $.38 to reload, savings $.52 per round, dies cost me $58, so 113 rounds for break even
    9mm - $.30 retail (they used to be), $.15 to reload, $.15 savings per round, so, 328 rounds to pay for the $48 dies of course, now the retail is about the same cost as 30-30

    so, (when you are done laughing everyone), you actually can save money reloading (at least mathematically)

    and once I started loading 223 and 9mm, I bought a turret press, still weigh every powder charge, but it is significantly faster than the single stage - I still load my target rifle rounds on the single stage though because volume is not a big deal with those.

    D
     
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  9. treedoc1

    treedoc1 Member

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    Everyone starts somewhere


    [​IMG]
     
  10. rocirish

    rocirish Member

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    IMG_1510.JPG Sometimes you just have to break out the stool.
     
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  11. Seymour380

    Seymour380 Member

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    Or the Workmate (posted previously).
     

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  12. Mark_Mark

    Mark_Mark Member

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  13. kcofohio
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    kcofohio Contributing Member

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    Another part of cheap is to find, even if used, a good reloading manual. Then read and reread it. It may save someone the headaches of tearing down ammo and wasting components and time.
     
  14. bullseye308

    bullseye308 Member

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    I’m not, I haven’t had to shop for components for a couple years. I have seen then here and there at reasonable prices, but after 30+ years, I learned long ago to keep a few years stock. For those just starting out, they can be had, but you have to be quick when they come out of hiding just like powder.
     
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  15. bullseye308

    bullseye308 Member

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    I still do most of my loading on a Lee Reloader press and I’m on my third one in 20 years. I did break the first 2, once on a stubborn 308, and once on a cantankerous 223. I have had 5 or 6 over the years I gave away to guys just starting out and I usually have a spare on hand just in case. It is currently on loan till a friend can find one in stock, along with some powder and primers.

    If you check the powder manufactures web sites you can find load data, just print it out and keep it handy. Bullet manufacturers also have data available, but you should definitely have at least one hard copy manual handy as the first section of the book covers the process and has lots of good info. Something else I like is the Lee decapper and base they sell. I have one for .22 caliber and one for .30 cal+ as I deprime all my brass while I’m relaxing, sometimes at a park, or wherever I happen to be. It keeps the debris out of my press. I took a 12” piece of 4x4 and drilled a hole sized for the base about 1/2” deep in one end then centered in that hole I drilled a 1/2” hole about 8” deep to catch the primers. It holds about 150 before I have to dump it. That and a small hammer and I can deprime anywhere.
     
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  16. Bush Pilot

    Bush Pilot Member

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    Isn't that difficult to sit on the stool and operate the press at the same time ?
     
  17. n2omike

    n2omike Member

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    At the least, all you NEED are the basic consumables and a Lee Loader. To clean cases, all you need is white vinegar, dish soap and a little salt. Most cases can be reloaded a few times before they need trimmed. No need for all the fancy stuff for BASIC hand loading.
     
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  18. Bfh_auto

    Bfh_auto Member

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    There is one problem. Components are higher now then buying blasting ammo.
    If you're trying to run match ammo. There might be a pay off point. But at the moment I would suggest buying process of the setup if it's inexpensive. Plan on being patient.
     
  19. Toprudder
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    Toprudder Contributing Member

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  20. Mark_Mark

    Mark_Mark Member

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  21. mdi

    mdi Member

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    I guess one could follow the OP's advise and spend $$$ on a set up. But there are less expensive ways as mentioned above. I started with a Lee Loader in 38 Special, 1 lb of Bullseye, 200 generic 158 gr. lead bullets 100 CCI primers, I scrounged brass from the local police range and I already had a mallet and a 6"x30" log. Next purchase was a Lee Safety Scale and I perfected my dipping style. I loaded for nearly a year, shooting a minimum of 1 box per weekend and often 3 boxes on a Saturday. Second caliber was also with a Lee Loader, .223. I already had calipers (machinist/mechanic). And when I found a need to trim I got a Lee trimmer/stud (excellent, inexpensive tool). My Handi-Rifle shot 1" groups with my Lee Loader handloads. My inexpensive reloading set up kept me shooting, quite happily for nearly 12-14 months before I had enough cash for a press and dies...
     
  22. Sstanley223
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    Sstanley223 Contributing Member

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    I started in 1998 with a Lee challenger Anniversary kit. My whole setup is pretty modest. Toggle links have been replaced twice. Ive also upgraded to an RCBS uniflow. Also, Ive added a progressive for bulk handgun cartriges, but for rifle even lots of .223's Im really nostalgic about using my first piece of equipment! Id rather spend money on components and gun parts!
     
  23. rocirish

    rocirish Member

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    Just so everyone knows that I don't always use a stool, here is the bench that I have been using for over 40 years.
    IMG_3112(1).JPG
     

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