What do I need to start reloading.

What do I need to start reloading

Originally posted on Reloading Studio

So, you are ready to be awesome and self sufficient. Well, welcome, it’s about time! But what do you actually need to start reloading?

The good news, is that you don’t need much (to start). The bad news, there’s a lot of cool reloading gear out there, that will save you time and money in the long run. This will be the defining moment when you realise that reloading is ‘saving you money’ (tongue in cheek). Don’t worry, you’ll just shoot more to justify the expense, it all makes sense, trust me.

Tip:
Why do you reload? Hunting? Don’t bother. Hunting factory ammunition is excellent and you will not shoot enough to make your money back. On the other hand, competing, plinking, keeping some old rifle in some weird chambering alive; or you just needing a hobby and a new skill to learn – do it ! This is where the fun starts!

Enough babbling! In we go!

First thing first, there are a few things that you’ll need that are are not reloading specific… Things that everyone takes for granted and never bothers to mention.

A big set of… Brains.

…because if something goes wrong, you might be missing them. You are making tiny little bombs that you intentionally detonate right next to your face, over and over again. Pay attention. Maintain focus. Take care, read and triple check. If you don’t understand something – ask and verify elsewhere. If you are unsure – take the cartridge apart and rebuild it. Have zero risk appetite and validate all your data from multiple sources. There must be no arbitrary choices. Everything you do in reloading that relates to things going bang, instead of boom must be validated through data driven decisions before you shoot.

SAFETY

Chemical fire extinguisher

Do I need it now: yes
Do I need it later: yes

Powder goes wooooosh! By the time you have an extinguisher in hand, the powder is done burning, so not really a problem. However, as a side effect, everything else might also be on fire, so you know… Up to you.

Safety glasses

Do I need it now: yes
Do I need it later: yes

Nice to have, but certainly not a necessity, you have a spare eye anyway.

Yes! Fire extinguisher and safety glasses are a must. If you are second guessing these things, reloading is not for you.

Miscellaneous

Bench

Do I need it now: yes
Do I need it later: yes

This one is self explanatory, but not too self explanatory. Some things you do (e.g. resizing cases) requires a lot of force. Your bench should be sturdy or you’ll have your stuff flying everywhere every time you crank the press handle. Or you could be seating bullets, this is where you want absolute consistency between cartridges, wobbly bench is not going to help with that. Sturdy, heavy bench.

Bench mat/cover

Do I need it now: no
Do I need it later: no
Do I want it: probably, yes.

Metal shavings from trimming brass, dry graphite lubricant that gets into everything (it’s doing exactly what it was designed to do), oil, carbon… These stuff will dint, embed, absorb and damage the work surface. Especially if you spill graphite, it’s never coming out. Advised, but not a necessity.

A pen

Do I need it now: yes
Do I need it later: yes

Obviously this is where I demonstrate blatant self promotion! Reloading Studio. It will cover all of your reloading data management needs. In all seriousness though, reloading is a documentation intensive process. Using Reloading Studio is a lifesaver. However, some stationary to make a quick note wouldn’t be wasted.

Masking tape

Do I need it now: no
Do I need it later: no
Do I want it: probably, yes.

Great, as an impromptu label maker. A lot cheaper too.

Powder container

Do I need it now: yes
Do I need it later: yes

This is not so obvious… For example, a small ramekin or something similar, preferably incapable of generating a static charge. You will be working with propellants and you don’t want to dip inside the main bottle every time you charge a case. It’s easy to spill and it’s best kept air tight when not in use. Use a small dedicated container to work with just enough powder. Drop the leftovers back into the main bottle.

Ammo storage (ammo boxes)

Do I need it now: yes
Do I need it later: yes

Recycle, reuse, reduce. That’s right. This is where you develop hoarding containers habit. Old containers and zip lock bags to segregate, sort and store your ammo. Proper ammo boxes are certainly useful, but honestly, not needed while you are getting started with things.

Ammo storage (Australian edition)

Do I need it now: yes
Do I need it later: yes

I assume you are already setup for ammo storage, because you got this far, but if you’re not, you will need a lockable container. Something like a secondhand filing cabinet is ideal, but really anything lockable will do.

Rags, lots of rags

Do I need it now: yes
Do I need it later: yes

This is where we merge our container hoarding habit with old t-shirt hoarding habit. From time to time, reloading gets messy. Gun maintenance in general is messy. You got dry lube, wet lube, oil, random stuff that sticks to lube, etc. Having rags on hand to wipe finished ammo, equipment and hands helps. Actually, you know what else is useful here? Old toothbrushes! Hold on to those.

No shit! This is an actual t-shirt people buy.

Tools

Allen keys

Do I need it now: no
Do I need it later: yes

Everything you do in reloading is a mechanical task, tighten this, secure that, unscrew something, etc. A cheap set of metric and imperial Allen keys goes a long way. You’ll know when you need them and if you are like me, it’s usually at 2am.

Adjustable wrench

Do I need it now: yes
Do I need it later: yes

A couple of mid-size adjustable wrenches. This is a must have.

000 steel wool

Do I need it now: no
Do I need it later: yes

This is one of those weird things that’s ridiculously useful. If you are unsure if something is a crack or dirt, if there’s a rust spot… Use steel wool. Get it. It’s cheap enough and useful enough.

Something pointy

Do I need it now: no
Do I need it later: no
Do I want it: probably, yes.

Alright, this one falls under random shit you didn’t think about. It’s almost guaranteed that at some stage you will get random junk stuck inside a flash hole; or get jammed in some cavity somewhere (no, not that cavity). For example, between hinges on your reloading press. It’s helpful to have something ‘pointy’ and durable that you could use. Tweezers, toothpicks, whatever really…

Reloading equipment

Tip:
Start minimal. You can always spend money, you don’t usually have an opportunity to return used tools. Keep in mind, reloading is a process… The weird and cool tools people use are discovered through experience, identifying gaps in their own process. Only a fraction of the tools is needed to get started. There is absolutely no need to start with everything (aka buying random shit), in fact, I would go as far as to say, it’s counter productive to the learning process.

Measurements
$-$$

Do I need it now: yes
Do I need it later: yes

You will be working with measurements in fraction of a millimetre. Vernier calliper is a necessity. There are a few types, however, in short, don’t skimp on quality! Buy something from a reputable brand and preferably digital; or with a dial. No cheap shit here.

Reloading press
$$-$$$$

Do I need it now: yes
Do I need it later: yes

The centrepiece! For obvious reasons. Broadly speaking, any well known brand is fine. And since you are starting out, consider a single stage press first. It has the least amount of parts, it’s simple, it has most amount of precision and it can easily be repurposed for something else later (if you chose to upgrade).

Reloading dies
$$-$$$

Do I need it now: yes
Do I need it later: yes

Yes. This is what will enable you to perform various reloading tasks. My suggestion, get something mid-range on the price scale. In this case, price does correlate to quality.

Also, see:

Shell holder
$-$$

Do I need it now: yes
Do I need it later: yes

The often neglected younger brother of the reloading dies. Some dies sets include a shell holder, some don’t. nIn case yours doesn’t – you need one for each calibre you loading. It’s a good idea to confirm if the die set comes with one.

Reloading tray (reloading block)
$-$$/0

Do I need it now: yes
Do I need it later: yes

You have bunch of little tubes balancing on your bench, full of powder at precise measurements… And you nudge one – say hello to the domino effect and lots of wasted time. Or you simply need to move all cases out of the way. Reloading tray (AKA reloading block) is a holder for your cases. Some are universal, others will only accommodate one type of case. If you are buying a kit, you will probably get one, if not, an off-cut of wood and a correct diameter drill bit (DIY) will do just fine.

Bullet puller
$-$$

Do I need it now: no
Do I need it later: yes

Mistakes happen. Maybe you’ve seated a projectile too far and prefer not to use your teeth. Maybe you got bunch of old surplus ammunition and would like to rebuild it using better brass or powder? A bullet puller (there are few types) is a device, that… Wait for it… Pulls bullets. Without damaging them, so they can be reused.

Chamfer and deburring tool
$-$$

Do I need it now: yes
Do I need it later: yes

After firing, a case needs to be resized, which typically stretches the case (runout) and this needs to be trimmed. Once you do that, there will be rough edges on the inside and out. This tool is what you’ll use to remove all the imperfections from the trimming process; including adding a smooth angle on the inside of the neck, to assist bullet seating without shaving the bullet jacket.

Scales
$$-$$$$

Do I need it now: yes
Do I need it later: yes

Alright, this is where things get a little expensive. Unless you are a drug dealer or a jeweller, this is where you are going to need to splash some cash. I am actually conflicted about this. I recommend a good set of digital scales. However, I also recommend good, solid balance beam scales. I think if you shoot a lot, you will very quickly outgrow the balance beam. But at the same time they are excellent to learn about precision (before you are hit with weight drift on digital scales, it will happen). Both have quirks and annoyances, maybe get both. If you can only get one, in my opinoin, go digital.

N.B.
I own both. I use digital for reloading and balance beam, from time to time, for verification of digital scales.

Tumbler
$$-$$$

Do I need it now: no
Do I need it later: no
Do I want it: probably, yes.

Wet rotary tumbler, don’t bother with ‘dry media varieties’. Everybody likes shiny brass. Also helps keeping dirt and other particles out of your dies, as well as quickly identifying damaged cases. This is definitely not needed to get started, but good to know about.

Powder thrower
$$-$$$

Do I need it now: no
Do I need it later: no
Do I want it: maybe

To understand powder throwers, we first need to understand volumetric vs weight based measurements. For beginners, I would (a) stay clear of volumetric charges; and (b) manually measure each charge by simply using a scoop (plastic spoon, baby formula scoop, whatever) to drop powder on to the scales.

Reloading data manual
$-$$/0

Do I need it now: yes
Do I need it later: yes

This is an interesting one and I highly recommend owning a reloading textbook (i.e. how to reload). As for the actual load data, most bullet and propellent manufacturers will have published load data on their websites. Use that! Never take forum or social media advice at face value, always verify through published load data. With experience, you will be able to extrapolate starting charge weight for a bullet based on another bullet.

Cartridge specification
$0

Do I need it now: yes
Do I need it later: yes

This is an easy one… You are making cartridges, they need to fall within a particular specification. A case needs to be within some length range, so does the cartridge. The SAAMI standards and cartridge drawings is the place to start.

Powder trickler
$-$$/0

Do I need it now: yes
Do I need it later: yes

Load development is a pedantic task. This is where you experiment with minute variances in the amount of powder you add to the case. For example, you may know that a scoop is about 40 grains of powder, but you’re after 40.3gr. And 0.3 grains is not a lot! A trickler is a device that enables you to ‘trickle’ tiny amount of powder. You certainly can buy one, but I find that (DIY) using an empty rifle case however is actually a much more efficient solution.

Case trimmer
$$-$$$

Do I need it now: no
Do I need it later: yes

Every time you fire a cartridge, the case gets a little longer. Every time you full length size the case, the case gets a little longer ( and case lifespan a little shorter, which is why you should learn to use Lee Collete die ). At some stage, the case will stretch beyond maximum recommended size and will need to be trimmed. There are a lot of options. My recommendation is to start with lathe-type universal trimer, like the one you see in the photo. I think that it’s the best and the cheapest option in the long run.

Dry lube
$-$$

Do I need it now: yes
Do I need it later: yes

Resizing cases generates a lot of pressure and friction, for example, jamming the case in a full length sizing die and dragging the expander ball through the neck. If the inside of the case neck is not lubricated, it will get jammed inside the die ( extraction is annoying and usually requires speciality tools ). To avoid that – dip the case neck in graphite ( any hardware store and a lot of supermarkets ), to lubricate the inside of the neck.

‘Non-dry’ lube
$-$$

Do I need it now: yes
Do I need it later: yes

Resizing cases generates a lot of pressure and friction, for example, jamming the case in and out of a full length sizing die to squeeze it back into shape. If the outside of the case neck is not lubricated, it will get jammed inside the die. To avoid that lubricant should be applied to the outside of the case. There are many options, from specialty wax and gel to Lanolin based aerosols. Application of these however is a different topic entirely.

Reloading funnel
$-$$

Do I need it now: yes
Do I need it later: yes

Unless you are using a thrower or powder die ( which you shouldn’t if you are new to reloading ), then the process is reasonably straightforward. You take the powder tray off the scales and drop the propellent into the case. Now, unless you are some sort of amazingly coordinated virtuoso, you will spill everything. To avoid that, use a universal reloading funnel. It looks just like a regular funnel, with (difference) small ridges inside the neck, that will sit on top of the case mouth and create a seal.

Case brush
$-$$

Do I need it now: no
Do I need it later: no
Do I want it: probably, yes.

A case brush is one of those ridiculously useful things, that you don’t think about in the beginning. It can be a dedicated case brush, a cheap nylon bore brush (really they are the same brushes) or just something you have around the house, like a small bottle brush… When you’re doing brass prep, especially trimming, you’ll end up with metal shavings, lubricant, cleaning media and all shades of other stuff inside the case. It’s best to run a brush though it, especially the bottleneck cases, to get all the crud out, before doing it through the muzzle end.

Priming tool
$-$$/0

Do I need it now: yes
Do I need it later: yes

Primer, they are sort of important. Before you buy one, check your press. Some will have one inbuilt. You may find that it works well. If you are loading a lot, you probably want to consider a dedicated tool. I like Lee Auto Bench Prime tool, it has good balance of function vs price.

Primer pocket cleaner
$-$$/0

Do I need it now: no
Do I need it later: yes

A primer pocket cleaning tool is used to scrape carbon from inside of the primer pocket. You can (DIY) use a small metal brush (if you have one), a screwdriver or a dedicated tool. Really, they all do the same thing with the same outcome. The only reason you’d use it, is if you (a) are a fellow sufferer of the Shiny Brass Syndrome; or (b) the actual practical reason – you have too much carbon embedded in the primer pocket and the primers are not seating well. Not very common, however, should this happen – this is the tool you’d use.

Cross post for completeness:

Minimalist…Press, scales, dies, trickler, and lee powder dippers will get you started. Hell I loaded like that for years, only really had powder throwers the last 10 years. Buy Australian Simplex, cant go wrong!

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True you don’t need much to get you started however it is an illness and you will invariably end up accumulating lots of gear. Well that has been the case for me anyway. Luckily I did get a bit given to me by the old fella who suffers from the same illness.:laughing:

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Fore sure 3 presses, powder throwers, scales…dont know how many die sets I have…

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Only three presses??? I think I’ve got five…

4 if you count my lube press

I was going to say 2, but I actually have 3. Arghhhh it’s an illness.

Ah!, the lube press, I forgot the lube press!!!

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7 presses if I count the shot gun reloaders. It’s an illness I tell you. Where did they all come from.

Banged out so many 303’s with those lee loaders

Only have 4 presses, 3 that I use and 1 for back up lol.

You also need a first aid kit.

This seems applicable:

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One press… I’m completely deprived :sob::nerd_face::+1:

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I am in the same boat mate. Feeling quite inadequate at present.:joy::joy::joy:
Mind you I have dies for calibres I no longer own and other kit I don’t use.

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There is still hope for you, run now while you can before the illness takes over completely.

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I have 5 presses and a hand loading kit I made for brass shotshells, but I only use the Redding big boss 2 (centrefires) and the new Lee Load All (12ga).
The hand loading kit for brass shotshells gets a run occasionally for 12, 16 & 20ga.
I have a Lee Pro1000 progressive press and two old Lee shotgun presses, one of which is barely even good for spares.

Way too late for that. :beer:

1 Like