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Reloading FAQs

Discussion in 'Ammo & Reloading' started by NikatKimber, Nov 30, 2009.

  1. NikatKimber

    NikatKimber Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Different Reloading "Setups" and who would use them.

    A frequent question we get here at OSA, is "I'm a beginning reloader, what press should I buy?"

    I will attempt to explain the differences in different press preferences, and why some people would want particular ones.

    The first thing to know before buying equipment, is:
    How much will I reload?
    This is both how many rounds per month you anticipate loading, and also how many calibers will you be loading for.
    If your answer here is say, reloading .30-30 for your deer rifle, and .38 spl for your house gun, and you only anticipate shooting a handful of rounds a month, like 5-10 of .30-30 just to keep it zeroed, and 25-50 of .38 spl, then your needs are different from the competitive shooter who will be loading for 5-10 different calibers, and might load a thousand or more rounds of one at a time.

    The next question you need to answer is:
    How serious am I about reloading?
    Are you "just trying it out," or are you planning for the long haul? If you've researched, and know that you want to go all in, and reload for years to come, then you may be willing to invest a lot more into this up front.

    Another question you need to answer:
    What will I be loading?
    You already answered this, sort of. Are you loading pistol or rifle? If rifle, how accurate are you wanting to be? If you're looking to be "minute of buck" you're a different user than the one who is hoping to one day shoot the 1000 yard competition at Camp Perry.

    Finally, the big question is:
    What is my purpose? or What is my budget?
    If your purpose (or budget) is to find the cheapest possible way to maintain your addiction... er, shooting level, or to shoot more, then again, you are looking for something other than what the person who is looking to win precision rifle competitions.

    Now that we know a little more about what we are doing, lets look at some specifics.
     
  2. NikatKimber

    NikatKimber Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    If you're loading very small quantities, specifically for rifle, but not particularly desiring to become a competition shooter, and you're on a short budget, there are a couple setups that would likely fit you. Basically, you would be best served by a single stage press.

    Or, you desire to make the most accurate loads possible. Again, a single stage press (or two) would fit your needs. For this application, you may want a heavier press for rigidity. Also, the Forster Co-Ax press gets very good reviews for high precision rounds.

    Lee -or- Lee $127 Prices change! Was $92
    This kit supplies everything you would need to start reloading other than dies, shell plate, and components.

    RCBS $290
    This kit supplies everything you would need to start reloading other than dies, and components.

    Lyman $213 - Was $186
    This kit supplies everything you would need to start reloading other than dies, shell plate, and components. Also highly beneficial, but not absolutely necessary to begin loading, is a powder dispenser.

    Hornady $250 (On Sale)
    This kit supplies everything you would need to start reloading other than dies, and components. This offers an electronic scale over the Lee.
    Unless extreme low budget is your goal, this is my recommendation. The Lock-n-Load bushing work across the Hornady Progressive, and the powder meter is top-notch.

    Lyman $405 - Was $327
    This kit supplies everything you would need to start reloading other than dies, shell plate, and components. This offers an electronic scale over the Lee.

    Forster $299 - Was $265
    This is not a kit, so you would need to purchase the parts necessary to begin loading separately.
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2015
  3. NikatKimber

    NikatKimber Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    If you load mostly pistol, shoot a hundred plus rounds a month, but you're on a short budget, there are fewer presses for you. If you don't shoot competition numbers of rounds, but want to be able to turn out more than a single stage. And particularly if you load for more than 1 or 2 calibers.

    Another reason to use a turret press is to leave your dies set up when switching calibers. There are other presses that allow this. This is a benefit for the time savings, and reduces the risk of setting them wrong when doing it often.

    Goal - Moderate Speed & Quantity - The Lee Turret
    Lee Turret $127
    This kit supplies everything you would need to start reloading other than dies, shell plate, and components. I personally have one of these, albeit far from new. While the Lee is considered the lower end of quality, that does not mean they are junk. I've loaded a couple thousand rounds on mine, and I got it from my father in law, and I have no clue how many he loaded on it, and he got it used from someone else. It still works, and I still use it regularly. If budget is your primary concern getting into reloading for pistols, this may be your ticket.

    What makes it great, is that a complete caliber change is cheap, and fast.
    For each additional caliber, buy a toolhead and Auto-Disk powder measure ($13 & $25 respectively), plus dies and additional shellplate. Install dies in their own toolhead along with the Auto-Disk. Then, to change calibers, all you need to do, is remove current toolhead and shell plate, insert new toolhead and shell plate, turn Priming T around if needed, and go.

    If budget is a concern, and speed and quantity are desired, another press to consider is the Dillon Basic Loader 550 press, mentioned in the progressive section here.

    Goal - Time Savings & Consistency for Precision Loads - Redding T7
    Redding T-7 $275
    This is not a kit, but is an astoundingly sturdy press that offers all the precision of nearly any single stage press, and the benefit of allowing the loader to leave all the dies related to one caliber set up on a single replaceable turret ($67). Redding does offer a complete accessory kit ($370) with all the necessary tools to load precision rounds.

    Goal - Time Savings & Consistency for Precision Loads - RCBS Turret
    This press is offered as either the bare RCBS Turret press - $206 - or as a kit RCBS Turret Press Deluxe Kit - $409.
    Either way you go, this press also offers a replaceable turret ($45).

    Goal - Time Savings & Consistency for Precision Loads - Lyman T-Mag Turret
    This press is also offered as either the bare Lyman T-Mag press - $160 - or as a kit Lyman T-Mag 2 Turret Press Expert Kit - $360.
    Again, either way you go, this press also offers a replaceable turret ($43).
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2015
  4. penman53

    penman53 Sharpshooter

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    If you neck size a rifle cartridge, trimming the case is not generally required plus the brass lasts much longer.
     
  5. dwbammo

    dwbammo Guest

    Unless you use Dillon dies which usually come in 4 die sets...the seat and crimp are 2 different dies. Great info for new loaders by the way. Keep up the good work
     
  6. dwbammo

    dwbammo Guest

    Lee's are ok if you don't really plan on reloading a lot, or if you are getting it for a gift for a new reloader but if you are getting into relading for comps or you plan to make a living off of it like I do, Lee turret presses should not even be a consideration. One major flaw they have is how the primer tray and feeder are set up. The primer tray is attached to a neck that feeds into the primer pocket that rises and falls with the shell plate. This set up does not allow the loader to view the primer before it seats and it is a pain because of the way they bottle neck in the chute. Also they can double feed primers if you either have to pull a hull out for some reason, or the primer does not seat. If you double feed a primer and are not aware of it, then when you return down on the cycle, the bottom primer will smash and could explode, and consequently set off every primer in the feeder and tray because there is no separation as in a dillon where all other primers are stored in a aluminum primer tube.

    Again, I'm not trying to impede on your thread, just thought I'd put in my 2 cents.
     
  7. NikatKimber

    NikatKimber Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Thought I'd quote this post. The numbers are probably wrong, this is over 2 years old. But it should help people get an idea of what the costs are.

     
  8. NikatKimber

    NikatKimber Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Finally, the Progressive Press. For those of you that load large quantities of ammo, and specifically those that load large batches of a single cartridge before changing, the progressive press is a godsend. You need one. I'll leave it at that. The time savings will quickly pay back the cost of the press when loading thousands of rounds on any kind of regular basis. These range from cheap (be careful!) to expensive - basically an ammo plant in your loading room. Don't run off and sell your single stage or turret just yet, or as a beginner, don't dismiss them either; many loaders running a progressive still keep at least one additional non-progressive press for small lots and load work up.

    Starting at the low end:

    Lee Pro 1000 - $157
    You can get these as either the bare press, or a kit. If you do get one, get the kit, it's worth it. The Pro 1000 is a worked over, glorified Lee Turret press. I don't think you can convert the Turret to the Pro 1000, but they are very similar.

    Lee Load-Master - $245
    Same thing, buy as the bare press, or the kit. This is designed from the ground up as a progressive. If I was getting a Lee progressive, it would be one of these. For one, you get a sturdier frame. Big plus is you get 5 stations vs 3 with the Pro 1000.

    While I can recommend most Lee presses, these are not among them. The Lee progressive presses probably get more bad reports than all their other equipment combined. While some complain of them being cheap, Lee works, or in this case: can be made to work. However, you do get what you pay for, and in the world of progressive ammo reloaders, I'd advise going with the "Pay more, get more," option.

    RCBS offers several choices. The "Piggyback" conversions for their single stage presses, and a dedicated progressive.
    RCBS Piggyback-3 Progressive Conversion Kit - $375
    RCBS Piggyback-4 Progressive Conversion Kit - $400
    RCBS Pro2000 Auto Index Progressive Press - $550
    These are pretty much unknowns to me. I don't know anyone that owns or uses them, and I don't hear much about them. For the price, I would look elsewhere.

    Hornady Lock-N-Load AP - $416
    This is a good press. There are a lot of people using them, and I have had the chance to play with a couple. The latest update: EZ-Ject, according to some here, solves the main issue with the original versions. One point of note, the LnL uses individual quick change bushings instead of complete tool heads. I can see both pros and cons to this, but it's something to consider. It is an auto-indexing press, with 5 stations. They also offer the Ammo Plant ($1150) that includes the LnL press, case feeder, and bullet feeder; along with other bits and pieces. Just crank the handle! Speaking of handle, Inline Fabrication makes upgrades for the LnL that are much like those considered "must have" items for the Dillon presses.

    Finally, the biggest name in progressive reloading: Dillon.
    First, the Dillon Square Deal 'B' - $380
    The Square Deal B (SDB) is an auto-indexing, 4 station progressive on a diet. It is attractively priced, and comes ready to load, including dies! The drawback: it doesn't use standard dies, and is pistol ONLY.

    BL 550 Basic Loader - $260
    I just learned of this one recently. It is a true 550, and can be upgraded with any other 550 parts. It just offers someone a lower priced, yet usable, entry model. The basic differences between this and the standard RL550 are that it does not include the primer system or automatic powder dispenser. I'm sure there are other minor differences, but that gives you the idea. If you want the 550, but the initial buy in price is too much, this could be your ticket. Then just upgrade as you can / need.

    RL 550B - $440
    Partially addressed above, this is a 4 station, manually-indexed, progressive press. Some love the manual index, some hate it. Maybe not love and hate, but there are pros and cons. Pro being it's easy to use as a turret/single stage when working loads up, or setting up the dies, or when learning the press. Downside is a sacrifice in speed: it's another action one must perform before pulling the handle again. It works, it will last. Mine is 20+ years old, and has countless thousands of rounds loaded on it. Still going strong. In fact, the only real evidence of it's age would be faded paint. You can add roller handles, bullet trays, raised mounts, case feeders, etc. There are even aftermarket bullet feeders for it.

    XL 650 - $567
    The 650 is similar to the 550 in construction, but moves to a 5 station head, and auto indexing. Many of the accessories, like the handles, mounts, and aftermarket bullet feeders work for the 650. Between this and the 550, I would guess that they account for a huge amount of the personal volume loaders.

    Super 1050 - $1670
    This is, without doubt, the ultimate personal loading machine. In fact, there are some small commercial reloaders that use this. It is an 8 station press (!), and comes standard with a case feeder. For those loading large volumes of crimped military rounds, this also features a built in primer pocket swager.
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2012
  9. NikatKimber

    NikatKimber Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Member 1911user made this excellent post on die setup for loading rifle cartridges on a progressive press. To preserve it, I'm quoting it here.

     
  10. penman53

    penman53 Sharpshooter

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    If you neck size your brass instead of full length size the brass, your need to trim brass is almost eliminated.
     

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