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Thread: So you want to reload but you donít know where to begin (??)

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
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    So you want to reload but you donít know where to begin (??)

    Congratulations (TO ALL) for taking your first step in beginning your independence by reloading your own ammunition. As reloader’s have known for years (Generations) there are several distinct advantages to reloading our own ammunition, .

    1. It’s cheaper than factory ammo
    2. It shoots straighter than factory ammo
    3. It shoots faster than factory ammo
    4. It’s more reliable than factory ammo
    5. It’s more accurate than factory ammo
    6. It’s a hell of lot of fun.
    7. It’s provides you with all of the ammunition you will ever need.

    I’ll attempt to provide you with a foundation that you can comfortably build off of in regards to different tools of the trades you’ll need to have that are currently available to us.

    Please note:
    The information presented here is based off my own personnel experiences (9 years) and opinion and the personnel opinions and experiences of others that I have had the pleasure of meeting over the years. It is the sole responsibility of the individual reloader to thoroughly review, examine and (for GOD SAKES) research each product and method of reloading for Him and or herself. Please consider this a merely a guide to use in your endeavor to produce safe and reliable ammunition.

    With that said lets begin!..

    Recommended list of items needed for the Beginner

    (Rifle & Pistol)
    1.Reloading Manual: Accurate Arms, A-Square, Barnes, Hodgdon, Hornady, Lapua, Lee, Lyman, Nosler, Sierra, SPG, Speer and Vihtavouri.
    2.Press: Single Stage, Turret or Progressive
    4.Shell holders (if the die set doesn't have them)
    5.Case Tumbler: Media, Polish, Sifter, Bucket and Clear Lid
    6.Loading Block (caliber specific)
    7.Case Lube (you won't need if using carbide dies)
    8.Case Neck Brush
    9.Dial Calipers: Stainless Steel or Electronic
    10.Case Trimmer
    11.Deburring Tool
    12.Primer Pocket Clean
    13.Primer Tray
    14.Priming Tool (if the press doesn't come with a primer attachment)
    15.Powder Scale
    16.Powder Funnel
    17.Powder Trickler
    18.Powder Measure (nice for faster powder charges)
    19.Bullet Puller
    20.Plastic Ammo boxes and labels
    You can always mix brands, shop Around for the Best Deals!

    Building a proper foundation:
    Before you go out and spend your hard earned money on the latest and greatest reloading supplies I strongly suggest that you buy, borrow or check from your local library this book First!! This book should be mandatory reading for all reloader’s.

    “The ABC’s of reloading” The Definitive Guide For Novice To Expert (Paperback)

    It can be found on for $16.49 and it will provide you with the proper foundation in order for you to produce safe and reliable ammunition.

    Reloading Manuals.
    You should try to have at least 3 different on hand to reference at all times. Personally I would look into acquiring the following: Lyman 49th, Serra 5th and Speer's Manual No. 14. (Please note) Many manuals are made by the Bullet manufactures so the data is geared towards their products. Also note that each powder manufacture also has their own loading data recommendations that you should also review, especially if you’re new to reloading. Also each reloader should also have a (powder burn chart) to review and reference:

    You are going to need a good strong bench to work from. You can make your own or use a table. I have found it really helps to attach the bench to the wall to stabilize it. Also be sure to have more than adequate lighting! There no such thing as too much light here! You will need to have enough light on the press and the bench that will allow you to easily look in a case to see the powder and that requires good lighting. A good sitting height is 30-32 inch’s, standing is about 36-42 inch’s.

    Powder Scale.
    Get a good scale. Cheapest good scale I am willing to recommend is going to cost about $59. Most people buy a beam scale to start. I will recommend the Dillon Eliminator Dillon's 'Eliminator' Scale:, because it has a lifetime warranty, is made by Ohaus and is very well priced for its quality. If buy it directly from Dillon you get a Blue Press every month. Dillon, RCBs, CED, Pact and others all make good Electric Scales. I have tried some of the cheap electric scales and they are not worth the money. Expect to pay around $90 or more for a good electric scale. You will find many people have very different opinions about electric scales. I am not going to recommend one other then to recommend that you get a name brand and expect to pay about double the beam scale cost. Be sure you can plug it in and not rely only on batteries and that it has check weights. For what it worth! I have / use this one and LOVE IT!

    Dial / Digital Calipers.
    You will find a bunch of people who sell Electric Dial Calipers that cost about $50. You will also find Harbor Freight sells what looks like the same thing for under $20. I got mine for under $20 at Harbor Freight and have been extremely satisfied with it - You can get regular dial calipers cheaper but unless you are familiar with their use I am going to recommend the digital one just to avoid user error. Simplify your life gentlemen don’t complicate it.

    Flip Tray.
    Dillon sells a nice one that I know works extremely well (I have it!). Midway USA has several options such as the Lyman, RCBS and MTM all have “Primer Turning Tray’s” and they are about a 1/3 the price of the Dillon.

    There are two different tumblers available that you should be aware of:
    1. Rotary
    2. Vibrator

    I would strongly recommend a tumbler as all good reloading starts with clean brass. You can find tumblers just about anywhere (Wall mart, Midway, Harbor freight, Dillon, RCBs, etc). Harbor freight has great (cheap) Vibrator tumbler for just under $60.00 - of course a tumbler is not required, you can always just wipe off each case by hand (huge PITA) and or you can wash the cases with water/vinegar and some soap. Then let them dry a really long time (48 – 72 hrs). This actually works pretty well if you have time to wait for them to dry. You just want to be sure all the water was out of the case before loading.
    (JUST NOTE!) The tumbler is the place with the most of the potential for lead exposure happens. PLEASE do this task outside and away from kids!..

    Dies. (In general)

    Dillon, Lee, RCBs and other all make good dies. Take my advice buy only one set of dies to start with and learn the process before you buy more latter. You can use Lee Dies on Dillon/Hornady presses. Get the Lee Deluxe Die set for pistol if you choose the Lee. They are carbide dies and you want carbide dies. Dillon and other dies cost more but they have some nice features Lee does not have. Functionally they all will work just fine. So don’t sweat it. I use Lee dies on my 550 and have one Dillon die. It’s just not that big a deal. You will find every Die maker sells their dies a little differently. Dillon Die Sets do not include the Powder die because that die is supplied with the press. Dillon includes a Sizing Die, Seating Die and Crimp Die. Lee 3 and 4 die sets both include a powder die that only works with the Lee Powder Measure (but can be used as a flaring die on the LnL). The Lee 3 die set does not include a Factory Crimp Die (FCD) or a dedicated crimp die. As with most 3 Die Sets the bullet seating die also crimps the case at the same time. Lee’s 4 die set includes a Factory Crimp Die which is a crimping die that also does a final resize of the cartridge to insure everything is in spec. Hornady sells you a Sizer, Seating/Crimp (Like a Lee) and a flaring die. With any 3 Die Set I would recommend that you get a separate crimp die and avoid crimping and seating the bullet at the same time. For those that don’t like the idea of resizing a completed round with the Lee 4 Die Set and the FCD, just get Lee’s Deluxe 3 Die set and add the proper crimp die for your caliber from Lee or someone else.
    Last edited by Linkpimp; 02-24-10 at 15:19.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
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    Choosing your press.
    So how do you choose? Well, there is no easy answer to that one my friend, but I will say the LCT is a great first press. It’s inexpensive and easy to learn. It makes some acceptable tradeoffs in the name of price. The Dillon 550 is simple for a “progressive” (one pull of handle gives you one cartridge). It’s probably the easiest to setup and use for the newbie reloader. It does everything it tries to do well but does not try to do everything. Simplicity and reliability are its strengths. LnL is a tough press to classify. It’s cheaper than the 550. It’s on par with the 650 in some ways and some will argue its better than the 650 in others.

    Once you set it up as a real 5 station press it’s a smoking good deal for the money. But people have had issues with that PTX die so be aware it may not function as well as a 5 Station Press. It too has a lifetime warranty. Many people (including myself) are loyal to Dillon and continue to pay a premium for Dillon products. More USPSA shooters use Dillon Presses by a HUGE margin but Hornady is gaining ground. These are tough calls. Wise people have said “A press is a lifetime investment” so therefore cost should not a factor when obtaining your press.

    Press Design
    Let us briefly talk about what a “station” is on a press. You will hear me and others talk about “It’s a 3,4,5 station press”. BUT - First let’s review the basics of the press and what functions it performs.

    1) Resizes and de-primes the case
    2) Primes case
    3) Flares the neck to allow easy bullet insertion
    4) Inserts powder in case
    5) Seats the bullet
    6) Crimps the Bullet (removes flare and adds the required pressure against the bullet) is a better way to think about it).

    Most 4 station presses operate in the same way. 5 station presses can be configured a variety of ways. The primary reason for a 5 station press is a Powder Check Die to insure every case has powder. It’s still important to look in every case even with the powder check die. Here is the standard process of a 4 station press:

    Station 1. Resize/de-prime case on the down stroke, prime case at the end of the upstroke
    Station 2. Flare the case and insert powder
    Station 3. Seat bullet
    Station 4. Crimp/Remove flare

    Some 5 station press will give you an extra station after the flaring/powder drop for a powder check die. The LnL does not come configured like this from the start but it’s easy to set it up to work as a traditional 5 station press. For the record the Lee Load Master does not have room for a powder check die if you seat and crimp in separate stations.

    All right now the fun part. Let’s talk about presses. I am only going to list the presses that most owners have expressed good results. I’m so sorry, if your favorite press is not listed but that’s the breaks big guy (suck it up! ). This thread is meant to help the newbie get into reloading without a lot of hassle. I’m trying to be objective here but at the same time list the differences and issues so they / you can make a wise choice.

    Single Stage Presses.
    Nearly everyone makes a good single stage. Hornady, Lyman, RCBs, Lee and Redding all have kits assembled with all the stuff you need to start reloading (reloading blocks, scales, etc). The only major draw back when using a single stage press is its slow.. But it’s a GREAT!!! way to start out in reloading. If you are going to reload on a single stage I would strongly recommend you get the Lyman Reloading Manual. Read it and then choose your kit based on your needs. Low volume rifle shooters should really consider the single stage as their first press.

    Lee Classic Turret. (LCT)
    It’s considered an “auto indexing turret” press. You have to pull the handle 4 times to get one completed round. Lee is the only maker who does this type of press. It’s a lot faster then a normal turret and cheaper on top of it all. You can expect to load about 200rds an hour once you get in the groove. You can get a nice LCT kit from Home - Kempf Gun Shop. Be aware that others sell a kit but the kit includes the dreaded Lee Scale. Avoid them. Kempf’s kit includes:

    • Lee Classic Turret Press
    • Lee Deluxe 4-Die Set for the pistol caliber of your choice. (3 Die set in 380)
    • Lee Auto Disk Powder Measure
    • Lee Safety Prime System (Large or Small)
    • Lee Auto Disk Riser (Required for the Safety Prime System)
    • Six MTM 50 round Plastic Ammo Boxes

    I would recommend you upgrade the kit to the Pro Auto Disc Powder Measure. Not only does it give you the better powder measure but you also get the Large and Small primer setup. It’s worth it for the powder measure alone. With this kit you do not need a primer turning tray. The Auto Disc powder measure does not have the ability to adjust powder to very small increments like most measures. You simply change “discs” with different size holes to get the charge you want. This gets you pretty close and it works fine. You can add an adjustable charge bar but it does not work well with small charges and some powders. People say it works better with larger volume charges. Lee even warns you about this on their instructions. The priming system is workable. Some people have had to add a washer under the primer mounting location to get it 100% dialed in. Most people don’t have any trouble doing this slight mod. The LCT is a great, low cost, relatively quick entry into reloading. Once you get it dialed in it’s amazing how much ammo it can make. Caliber changes are so easy it’s unbelievable. You can also easily disable the auto-indexing and convert it to a single stage press. It’s brilliant in its simplicity and function.
    Last edited by Linkpimp; 02-24-10 at 15:26.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
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    Dillon = Square Deal B/550/650

    For a great overview of Dillon Reloading Press Review

    Square Deal B (SDB) only loads pistol. It is an auto indexing 4 station press. It uses special non-upgradeable Dillon dies. It comes with Dies and is preset from the factory ready to go. Just add Powder, Primers and components. It’s a good press. If you will never want to load rifle then you should consider it. Caliber Conversion Cost more then the 550 so be aware and price it out as you will eventually want it set up to get a real price comparison. The tool-head/shell-plate is smaller so it’s a little harder to manipulate. You can not use any other dies so if you need a different sizing die (for instance) you are out of luck.

    Dillon 550. The 550 is a 4 station manually indexing press. It is sold with out dies but with the proper caliber conversion for one caliber which includes the shell-plate, locator buttons and powder funnel. It also comes with the Powder Die for the Powder Measure. All you do is add dies of your choice for your caliber. I highly recommend you order from He will make sure you get the right stuff when you order. Dillon sells a lot of upgrades for the 550/650. Avoid them to start with, Christmas is always less then a year away and you can treat yourself later. I am also going to suggest only getting one caliber to start with even if you have multiple calibers to load. Just buy it for your most common caliber. Learn and then get the other parts later. The back of the manual has all the info about caliber conversions. You can also learn about caliber conversion on Brian Enos’s excellent website. Go read and learn. When you need to change calibers you will need a combination of these parts; shellplate, locator buttons and powder funnel. You will also want a new toolhead and powder die. All you do is swap your Powder measure over from one toolhead to the next. If you are going to load sitting you do not want the Strong Mount. Standing you will want it depending on the bench height. I would get the Strong Mount for standing, but it’s personal preference (same goes for the 650 and the strong mount). The 550’s strengths are its simplicity, reliability and reasonable speed (about 400rds a hour). For a Dillon the caliber conversions are reasonably priced. Because it doesn’t auto-index it’s easier to clear problems and do caliber conversions. Like the 650 it comes with a low primer sensor and has a ton of options. Dillon’s No BS warranty is one of the best. Some people don’t like that it does not auto-index. You need to be sure to index the press every time you pull the handle. It’s a little slower as a result. You index the press while your right hand is grabbing a new case so it’s not really that big a deal. You also may want to seat the bullet in station #2. Then you simply can not double charge the case if you always seat the bullet right after looking in the case because the bullet is in the way. All the Dillons have a excellent Fail-Safe System to help prevent short stroking and double charges as a result of short stroking the press.

    Dillon 650. This is a 5 station auto-indexing press. Because it’s a 5 station press it has room for a Powder Check Die. Besides that it’s a typical Dillon. It’s sold just like the 550 with out dies but with the caliber conversion parts you need for your chosen caliber. Caliber conversion take a little more time and are more expensive than the 550. If you shoot a lot you won’t care because you will buy a casefeeder and really crank out the ammo. Strength are it’s 5 stations, auto-indexing for added speed. Caliber conversion costs more and takes more time to accomplish than a 550.

    Options I would probably buy with any Dillon from the start are:
    1) Toolholder/Wrench Set $26. Has a set of Ball Head Allen Wrenchs and a Bench Wrench.
    2) Dillon Lock rings if you use the Lee dies (550/650 only)
    3) Spare Parts kit. This avoids any downtime if you break anything.
    That’s it. I know there are a lot more but start simple and cheap (at least for a Dillon). For instance I used to think having a bunch of primer tubes was important. Now I like the change in pace that I get from loading 100rds, taking a break to load a primer tube and loading another 100rds, repeat. So I don’t use my extra primer tubes any longer. Spare parts kit avoids any downtime. Dillon will replace the parts that wear out.
    Recommended Setup:
    550/650, comes with proper powder die, buttons, powder funnel. Add either Dillon Dies or the Lee 3 or 4 dieset (if you use the three die set get the crimp die as well), Scale, Dial Calipers, Tumbler. Add the Dillon 1 inch lock rings if you use the Lee Dies. Spare parts kit, Toolholder.

    Hornady Lock N Load (LnL)
    The LnL is like a 650 with some minor but important differences. It is a 5 station auto-indexing press. It does not use a “toolhead” but instead mounts each die in its own individual “bushing”. So you don’t change a toolhead you just change out the dies one at a time in their bushings. They don’t loose their adjustment. As a result you don’t have to swap over the Powder Measure when you do caliber conversions. Some people really like the setup as it makes some things easier. The LnL is a 5 station press but as it ships from the factory it uses all its available stations because it does not flare and drop powder at the same time. So unlike the Dillon the LnL does not come standard with a Powder Measure/die that flares the case and throws the powder charge all at the same time. It uses a separate die to flare the case mouth and that die takes up the extra station it has over the 550. Hornady sells the proper dies for flaring or you can use a Lee Powder die with the powder funnel installed to hold the expander in place. You can convert the LnL to flare and throw the powder all at the same time. It’s called the Powder Through Expander(PTX). The PTX has not received good reviews from some people. You only need it if you are going to add a powder check die. It works fine for most people who don’t use lead bullets. Even some people have success with it and lead bullets. I hear it is getting redesigned to flare better and that would really solve its only drawback. Hornady does not offer as many calibers with the PTX setup check to be sure your desired calibers have the proper insert. The Press does not come with a shellplate. Get the proper shellplate when you order the press. One other difference with the LnL over the 550/650 is you load both the bullet and case on the left side of the press. 550/650 you load the bullet on the left and the case on the right. Besides that the LnL is much like the 650 and it’s a lot less expensive. Hornady recently has been working hard to improve this press (new ejection system). They have a lifetime warranty on the press as well. Once dialed in it’s a fast, inexpensive press especially if Hornady is offering the “Free Bullets” like it normally does. It does seem to require a little more time/effort to setup then the Dillon because the instructions are not as good. Many of the Dillon accessories can be adapted to work on the LnL. If you are willing to spend the time to learn it’s setup then this press is a great press. Many claim it’s Powder Measure is better then the Dillon. It even index’s in Ĺ steps which is unique and smoother. The powder measure has some great options that Dillon does not offer. It does not come with a Low Primer Warning system. You can adapt the RCBS/Dillon system to the LnL.

    Recommended Setup.
    LnL, Shellplate, Hornandy Custom Grade New Dimension Dies, add a crimping die of your choice (Lee Dies can work fine), Scale, Dial Calipers, Tumbler. Add a RCBS low primer sensor as well. PTX die if you are going to want a powder check die. An aftermarket PTX die insert is available at -- I have heard good things about this PTX option.
    Last edited by Linkpimp; 02-24-10 at 15:30.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
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    Every Link you will ever need!..

    Here is a list of manufactures and or companies that you should know about if you plan on reloading and buying reloading supplies:

    Listed in no Particular Order

    Where to find "Bullet"s: [/COLOR]

    Who has "Primers?":

    Where can I get "Brass":

    Reloading Press and Tools:


    Misc. Tools and other places to spend your kids Inheritance

    Here is an excellent source for tried and true load data on various powders and shell cases, etc.
    Steve's Reloading Data Pages

    Well team for what it worth that's (My Two Cents) and that's all I've got, I think I’ve laid out enough information for you to review and safely begin your quest in reloading.

    Please feel free to leave your questions & comments as I know there are many extremely knowledgeable people on here who will be more than happy to answer your questions..

    I hope you find the information helpful.

    Last edited by Linkpimp; 02-24-10 at 15:49.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Fort Wayne, IN
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    i dont have time to read all of that while im at work, but good god man! nice post.


  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
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    Thank you.. I'm glad you like it..

    Last edited by Linkpimp; 02-24-10 at 15:50.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    NE TN
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    15 (100%)
    Good gravy, helluva post. I've been mulling all this over in information overload for months now.

    Good info and would make a nice sticky.


  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Feedback Score
    18 (100%)

    Thumbs up

    As someone who is planning on getting into reloading I really appreciate you posting up this thread.

    Should definitely be a sticky.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    I go where I'm told.
    Feedback Score
    15 (100%)
    Thank you for your awesome contribution to the forum. My vote for a sticky.
    Acta Non Verba

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    P-ville Iowa
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    As is the norm for you, that was an excellent post. Thank you for taking the time to compile all that info as I will hopefully try my hand at "rolling my own" this year. This post covered alot of ground.

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