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  1. #1
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    Noob; help desperately needed

    I am moving closer to making the jump into reloading, but the thought is still fairly intimidating. There was no such thing as A.D.D. when I was a kid, and as an adult I still feel I qualify as the poster child. Every time I start to look at all the choices, my brain starts to tune out and I just see a bunch of stuff that makes absolutely no sense. I understand components and am not a complete moron, but trying to understand the things I need in order to produce a round that I cleaned, prepped and reloaded just drives me to mentally go catch snakes in the creek. Please don't take this is an insult; it's not boring, I just lose interest in the process. I have been an average student except when participating in things that I took an interest in; in those cases, I was a self-taught SME, not able to sit still at a class pace and learning faster and more completely on my own by reading books and getting lots of questions answered.

    Anyway, that's why I'm here; to ask you guys to address my dilemma: I need to know from experienced reloaders exactly what I need in order to produce remanufactured ammunition. I don't want things like "good enough for beginners"; Once I make a decision, I see it through, so I want to know what you use, what you think I will need, what is helpful, but not necessary starting out. I intend to purchase a Hornady progressive reloader, so what the hell else do I need? If you prefer a specific brand, why? If you hate a specific brand, why? I'd also like to see the lessons you've learned so i don't make them.

    Dump it in!
    There's no "Team" in F**K YOU!

  2. #2
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    First questions

    What caliber(s)?

    Using .223 as the example: Are you looking at replicating large quantities of say 55gr FMJ ammunition to use at the range for “plinking” or Carbine classes? Or do you want to load match ammo, like a hand loaded version of Black Hills 77gr SMKs?


    I use a single stage press for everything. I shoot a decent amount of handgun ammo and I load in stages, so I load about 2-300 rounds every couple weeks. Primarily load Subsonic rounds for my suppressor because factory subs were hard to get for a long time. I shoot FAR more high quality precision ammo in 223/5.56 and 308/7.62 and that’s where I save the majority of my money.

    I use:

    RCBS Single stage
    RCBS Chargemaster
    RCBS Competition sizing/seating dies (rifle) and taper crimp carbide dies (pistol)
    RCBS Case prep station
    RCBS Hand priming tool
    RCBS Case slick it home made case lube

    I vibratory tumble in corn media after soaking in lemishine solution.

    There’s so many other steps; I’ll do a start to finish tonight

  3. #3
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    I jumped into reloading about 18 months ago and enjoy it. Except for trimming brass. That part isn't fun for me.

    My motivation for reloading was to achieve the accuracy potential of my rifles. As such, I went with relatively high-end equipment from Forster, including the Co-Ax single stage press and Ultra dies. I might step into a progressive press some day for pistol calibres and bulk .223, but for now I'm comfortable buying plinking ammo via factory builk. Actually, I spent a bit more on my last bulk 223 ammo for the Winchester so I could have the better brass (and without the crimped primers).

    I'd suggest picking up the Lyman reloading manual and reading through the introduction. It gives a very concise and strait forward review / description of the process. A lot of people recommend "The ABC's of Reloading" but I personally found it very verbose, poorly edited, and a bit dated.

    My overall approach and associated gear:

    Brass Prep:
    - Deprime with Lee Universal decapper in my Forster Co-Ax
    - For crimped primer pockets on once-fired military brass, I use the CH4D Swaging Kit in my Forster Co-Ax, which also requires the Forster shell-plate holder conversion
    - quick wet tumble w/ stainless steel media in Harbor Freight Single Drum Rotary Rock Tumbler
    - Size with Forster Full Length Sizing die using Imperial Wax for case lube (except for my bolt gun, where I typically just use a Lee Collet Neck Sizing Die on brass that was fire formed in my rifle)
    - Trim on Forster case trimmer (started off with the Lee case trimmers which are cheap and effective)
    - Note that I use Dillon LE Wilson case gauges for die setup and during random QA of my sizing process and checking if want to trim
    - Another longer wet tumble (also use above mention Lemi Shine) to remove case lube, etc

    Charging:
    - Prime using my Forster Co-Ax (not the fastest, but works quite well)
    - Powder measure using RCBS Chargemaster and double checked with a RCBS 5-0-5 beam scale (I started off just using a Redding powder trickler directly into the 5-0-5, but picked up the Chargemaster on a killer black Friday deal)
    - I do like the caliber specific powder funnels from Satern and use the Frankford Arsenal trays to hold my brass.

    Bullet Seating:
    - Forster Ultra-Micrometer Seating Dies in my Forster Co-Ax
    - Digital Calipers for measuring COL to both set up the die and QA
    - If reloading for semi-auto, I typically apply a very light crimp using Lee Factory Crimp die

    Other Stuff:
    I realized pretty quickly that chronograph is an important part of load development so I picked up a MagnetoSpeed v3
    Eventually you'll want / need a bullet puller and probably a stuck case removal tool
    A primer pocket uniformer may prove useful depending on brass

  4. #4
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    There are lots of steps involved and lots of preferences among reloaders.

    The basic steps are:

    1. Resizing and depriming the brass you have. This can have several steps involved in it because say for example rifle brass will stretch out over time and might need to be trimmed back to keep it in spec. Or with pistol brass you normally don't need case lube but with rifle brass you do.

    Note 1: this requires a die specific to your caliber of choice.
    Note 2: the dies can come in a pack if you want to buy them that way.

    2. Cleaning the brass. There are many options here too. It's really a preference thing.
    3. You will need a tool to put the new primer in.
    4. You will need some form of a scale to measure powder.
    5. You will need a die to seat your bullet once the case has been charged. (see note 2). Sometimes you will crimp the case as well which requires a die.

    6. A good pair of calipers is in my view essential. So that you do not blow yourself or your gun up you need to be able to accurately measure things. The scale and the calipers are essential.

    7. You will need a press of some sort.

    All in all if you are starting from scratch it might cost 200 or 300 bucks not including components to get set up. You gotta put that up front knowing that you will recoup the money through cheaper ammo. In some cases by a lot. My match ammo for example I can reload for about 1/5th the price at the store. Do a few hundred rounds and the cost has been recouped if you want to look at it that way.

    There are a lot of small steps that really are simple but it's easier to show than to tell.

    Some stuff is 'nice to have' or 'that made that job a lot easier' and other stuff is 'if you don't do this right you can blow up a gun'.

    What steps I classify under 'do this right' all basically fall under 'measuring'. Powder weight, OAL of the finished product, etc. So most of your vital stuff is measurement based in some form or another.

  5. #5
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    These guys brought up a bunch of good questions and info.

    I’ll add, it’s time and brain involved, as in a complete process, and you want to be safe and make good safe,quality ammo at the same time

    I’ve taken a break but have reloaded for years,it’s not any cheaper and honestly you spend more but you get more ammo, better ammo,etc.

    If think everyone should start out on a single stage, I did all my reloading mine on one. Let’s you get the system down.

    Be prepared to drop a decent amount of coin into a setup, then all the components, right now there’s not much saving as the ammo prices are lowest I’ve seen in quite awhile for all the common calibers

  6. #6
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    Thanks fellas! Great input so far! I am sure I will be referring back to this thread from time to time, and adding questions as I go. To my educator mind, the only stupid question is an un-asked one, but I have been known to challenge that theory! Please bare with me as I get up to speed.

    You four, plus JMJ are pretty much the people I've come to trust for wisdom in this aspect of our crazy disease, and I value your opinion.

    That said, I agree with mustangfreak on prices not really being a compelling reason to take up reloading immediately. I have not seen the low prices I saw a couple years ago, but then again, Freedom Munitions (My previous go-to for cheap ammo) has filed for bankruptcy, and like much of the industry, needs to change its business model in order to survive. I think most of their problem wasn't underpricing, so much as expanding out of their niche and getting outdone by experienced diverse companies.

    The one caliber truly driving me into researching this subject is .300 BLK. I have a significant amount of cash invested in my shooting setup, considering that I'm married to a lower registered as an SBR, plus the fact that it's just a complete effing gas to shoot all leave me wanting a larger stockpile of ammunition. I shoot above average amounts on a monthly basis, but find myself limiting my 300 d/t cost and reluctance to access my reserves. I'm not married to the thought of piles of ammo in the prepper sense so much as I want to make sure I have the capability to roll my own before some political climate change can dry up components. I never saw the value in stockpiling the way the prepper community has with .22 LR; prices have only recently gotten back to reasonable levels and some are still over-priced. I picked up two 550 rnd boxes of Federal 36 gr. at Wally World for $20 each, which I consider a decent deal. Only recently has access been restored to pre-2011 levels as the preppers would scarf up every round available up until about February this year. I personally think a thousand or so rounds is more than enough .22 LR for anybody, as even the most elite operator stands an even chance of catching a million-to-one round to the grape, and most of these people will die off once they run out of insulin, within months of any kind of collapse of society/gummint.

    Anyway, I hope to keep this topic going with more thoughts on my plans. I have heard the recommendation before about starting on a single stage press and I get the theory of getting the steps down, but isn't that several hundred best spent on something I'll be using in the long run?

    When you develop a new custom load, how many rounds do you typically run off for testing? Enough for one group? 5? 10? Even doing that amount on a progressive press would seem to save time, because if I'm not saving somewhere, what's the purpose? The major benefit of the progressive, IMO is time saved in cutting down repetitive tasks.
    There's no "Team" in F**K YOU!

  7. #7
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    I'm just now getting into 300 BLK myself so we can do this at the same time.

    See my thread about the coated bullets too. It could be of interest to you.

    With those bullets I can get the per round cost to below 20 cents for subsonic 300 BLK.

    Could be right up your alley.

  8. #8
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    Will do, thanks!~
    There's no "Team" in F**K YOU!

  9. #9
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    If your only getting no into reloading for 300 blk, it will be a while till you break even or begin to feel the benefit.
    Another thing to blackout is the case prep, and more or less forming brass unless you have a lot of actual 300 brass. So figure on a chopsaw, a good gauge and a few more cranks of the press for it. Just a FYI.

    As far as single vs progressive. I’m still gonna say start on a single, and when you are feeling good about it all, then upgrade.. as you’ll use the single for certain steps or other calibers still.

    I’m not sure on the big boy dillons but on the lee 4 stage you can make it like a single stage real quick, so versatility.

    As far as load testing that’s gonna depend on a few things. Pistol or rifle, sub or super, reliability, accuracy.
    Pistol , I’ll make up some dummy rounds and check them in my barrel, and just make sure they eject, etc..
    Then start on the low side make up say 3 or more loads at 10-15 a piece, shoot them, just for function first and then see how they look on paper, then take the best 2 groups/loads and go back and make a few more batches of each charge but also at different lengths and go shoot again..then I’ll make up a few hundred if all went well. Then if it’s 2gat you like I sticky that load and shoot.

    Precision rifle gets a little more in depth and I’m not a king at it but how far off the lands, charge, weather, etc and more come into play.

    Anymore questions just holler, I did some 300 blk supers a while back and could get under 1 Mos accuracy out of some std brass, h110 and 150 Fmjs and a little better with 125gr blk tips.

  10. #10
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    I've got bags and bags of my old brass. I started picking them up as soon as I squeezed off the first round, knowing it'd probably vary in cost, and might be the tipping point for reloading vs. not.
    There's no "Team" in F**K YOU!

  11. #11
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    I'm also just starting on 300 BLK. I'm still waiting for my can so I'm sure I'll be shooting it much more once that's in my hands. I did load up a few ladders but had problems with the Lee sizing die (was the one and only time I went with something besides Forster and have since added the Forster FLS die due to problems with the Lee) so haven't put much trust in the results. But for an 8" barrel and for plinking I'm not really shooting 300 BLK for tiny groups like I'm attempting with my other calibers.

    For load testing, at least for rifle, I suggest reviewing some information on the "Optimal Charge Weight" technique: http://www.ocwreloading.com/home.html

    Since you are looking at a rifle round, I'll second Mustang's recommendation to start with a single stage. You can still be efficient with a single stage press, you just put many cases through a single step in the process then reconfigure for the next stage. Separating brass prep from charging/seating isn't really that big of an impediment to productivity and I think I prefer the "mental break" between the two steps. I like to tumble my brass after prep anyway. Even with a single stage setup, I've still managed to make mistakes that I was able to catch that I suspect would have gone unnoticed in a progressive setup.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by BoilerUp View Post
    I did load up a few ladders but had problems with the Lee sizing die (was the one and only time I went with something besides Forster and have since added the Forster FLS die due to problems with the Lee)
    Just curious as to what kind of problems you had with the Lee dies? (I am using Lee dies).

    Also what does the forester do better? I am unfamiliar with them for everything but the name.

  13. #13
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    Well then, If your gonna go this route, pick up single stage and set of dies andstart decapping brass and to get a feel, pick up some bullets, set of calipers and make up some dummy rounds and test me out in the gun, all the while reading up and open up the wallet and start ordering other equipment

    - trimmer setup of some sort, many types just depends on how you want to do it..
    -case prep stuff, chamfer/ debur can be done by hand , but a drill or case prep center will be much appreciated by your hands, then a good powder thrower , manual is faster and with ball powders is accurate to the gram, I used and loved the Hornady, electronic dispensers are nice but slowww..
    -a good scale
    - hand tools.. case gauge, calipers,funnel,loading blocks,bins
    -tumbler and setup
    - priming tool, by hand sux unless just doing small batches, or setup the press to do it
    -Along with a swaging tool as most brass nowadays is crimped
    - dies..you can go so many ways, carbide, titanium,steel, etc..
    ....Then the powder, primers, boolits..

  14. #14
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    Blackout needs to be America's plinking round! And cheaper for it, dammit!! First world problems!
    There's no "Team" in F**K YOU!

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by alamo5000 View Post
    Just curious as to what kind of problems you had with the Lee dies? (I am using Lee dies).

    Also what does the forester do better? I am unfamiliar with them for everything but the name.
    The Lee sizing die (from the Pacesetter set) was not giving me any neck tension at all. Bullets would sometimes just drop into the case. Also left scratches on the brass. I need to send it back to Lee and I'm sure they'd make it right, and I likely will one of these days. I think the issue is less about quality of design than it is about QA.

    There is nothing particular special about the Forster dies, but their Bench Rest Full Length Sizing and Ultra-Micrometer seating dies, when used with the Co-Ax press which lets the die and the brass "float", are known for producing extremely low runout. The seating die does have a case "sleeve" that helps align and support the case during seating. The micrometer seater dies are very convenient for dialing in the precise COAL,

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