So in a previous article we covered the basic reasons why people reload. Its either to save money, churn out superb ammunition or maybe you have a wildcat or hard calibre to shop for. Whatever your reason for reloading we can’t recommend it enough. But where do you start?
Reloading gear can be as confusing as trying to understand how WAPOL work, or as simple as the blokes that sell the gear themselves. In this article we will try and cover MOST of the basic reloading gear/equipment. Everybody has different views and opinions on BASIC too.
Here at Claremont Firearms we sell a huge variety of gear from really cheap effective reloading equipment to get your reloading costs down as low as possible, to some of the most precise and accurate gear available for turning out match grade ammunition.
The FIRST thing any re-loader needs, is somewhere to reload. A good solid bench in a room away from gusty breezes fairly dry is a good start.
One of the first things to look at is a Press. Without this, it is extremely hard to produce ammunition. When it comes to presses there are so many types available it hurts to think about it. For instance, There’s simple O Frame press’s like the Lee Classic, Hornady Lock N Load, Lyman Crusher, and RCBS Rock Chucker to name a few. As the name suggests the O frame press is a very simple design allowing one stage of reloading at time, these are generally your cheapest option and are designed for accuracy for each process of the reload.
Then you have a selection of turret or multi tool style presses- Lee, Lyman and RCBS all make a version of these. The turret style enables multiple dies to be set up at any one time, and a quick rotation of the turret means you’re onto the next stage of the process quicker. Often not quite as accurate as the single stage O-Frame press, but much quicker if doing multiple stages of loading.
For the guy who wants to be the next Keanu Reeves and shoot thousands of rounds a day, then the progressive (auto) press is just what you need. Once again most manufactures make a version of this such as the Lee progressive, the Hornady ammo plant and the RCBS Progressive. These systems will enable a higher volume of ammunition to be manufactured in a shorter period of time, often ideal for pistol shooters or rifle guys who love burning powder.
Just like guns, scopes and presses there are a multitude of reloading dies available. From cheap sets of dies simply to just form up ammo, to sets worth more than a cheap rifle including micro metric measurements etc. A good set of dies is a must as they will be with you for the life of the calibre. Most die sets are 2 dies. A full length sizing die (resizes the entire case to a minimum specification) and a projectile seating die pushes the projectile into the case neatly). Other dies available are Neck sizing (sizes just the neck of the case minimising case working increasing case life), crimping dies (for locking projectiles into a case) and flaring dies (used to open the case mouth of straight wall cases to make projectile seating easier).
Every re-loader needs some way to get powder from the bottle into the case and at the right amount. There are various methods spanning from a measured scoop supplied with some die sets, a manual dispenser with a hopper and metering drum right up to electronic dispenser that will throw an exact amount at the push of a button. What you choose will be determined by budget and also how much loading you are going to do. A set of scales is also a must. Either balance scales or electronic, just too double powder charges, projectile weights etc.
All presses enable priming on the press, however this can be a slow process. Most manufactures make some form of standalone priming tool. These are a great investment for every reloading kit, as it enables cases to be primed in front of the tele (or by the kids if you’re me).
Some people say you don’t need to clean your cases. Well I say there wrong, you brush your teeth twice a day to look after them so why not clean your cases? Not only do they look pretty when polished but dirty cases can have adverse effects too. For example every time you put a dirty case into your dies some of the debris may transfer to the die, if you run 100 dirty cases through the die the chance of build-up on the die is quite high, therefore effectively changing the overall size of the resized case. Also every time a case is fired there is a build-up of unburnt powder and carbon inside of the case. If you’re loading a hot load every time you don’t clean your effective case capacity lowers thus increasing pressure in the round. Also clean cases makes it easier to find faults or fractures in the cases before reloading,
There are three main ways to clean cases. The oldest method is the dry tumbler which uses vibration and a polishing media to clean the outside of the case immaculately. Then there is the sonic cleaner which uses ultrasonic vibration in a liquid solution, cleans all the unburnt carbon and other residues out of the inside of the case but doesn’t look as nicely finished as a dry tumbler. Then you have the Stainless Steel pin tumbler, which uses little stainless pins in a liquid solution to clean and polish inside and out, come out looking better than new cases.
TRIMMING AND PREP:
ALL BRASS STRETCHES upon firing, the amount of stretch changes with different pressures, calibre etc. but all brass stretches. To prevent issues with reloading stretched cases there a are a multitude of trimmers available. From simple little pre-set trimmers to full on lathe style trimmers there is definitely something to suit your budget and skill level. As well as trimmers there are various other little required bits for chamfering trimmed cases, de-burring primer holes, primer pocket cleaners and more. You can by individual little tools right through to an electric station which will run multiple tool at once just like the Lyman case prep centre.
Come in to the Claremont Firearms Superstore and ask one of the staff to help you out.
In the next articles we will go more into depth about other aspects of re-loading so you can really get on the way to having fun making ammo.