I had a comment on a post this week regarding what kind of precision reloading equipment is required to get started hand loading and reloading your own ammunition. So I thought I would get a post up on this topic for other aspiring reloaders out there. It’s not all that expensive, in fact, when I got into it I think I had everything I needed to at least get started for under $500 dollars. There are some things that you need, and some things that are just nice to have.
Precision Reloading Equipment
- Reloading Press – This is the mechanical press you bolt to a bench that does the heavy work of forcing cases into dies and reshaping them.
- Dies for the Caliber – These are the dies that thread into the press, are caliber specific, and what force the brass back to the dimensions you desire.
- Bump Gauge – Must have for properly setting the dies up in your press so you don’t overwork the brass.
- Calipers – You’ll use these for a dozen different things, they’re pretty affordable.
- Tumbler & Media – For dumping fired cases into for cleaning.
- Case Trimmer – Self explanatory, for trimming cases after firing.
- Shell Holder – These are caliber specific, snap into your press, and hold the shell while you work the press.
- Hand/Bench Primer – Hand primers are easier, but most presses come with a way to prime cases, though often slow and inefficient.
- Scale – Start with a beam balance scale, this is for measuring the weight of your powder charge in grains.
- Powder Dispenser – Manual dispensers are cheapest, this is the hopper you dump the powder into, then throw the lever after you set it to dispense the charge you want for each cartridge.
- Trickler – This will slowly drop a kernel or two of powder into the tray on your scale, for enhancing the accuracy of your powder charge.
- Chamfer/Debur Tools – For prepping the inner and outer diameter of the case neck so that it doesn’t tear up the bullet’s jacket as you seat the projectiles.
- Case Tray – For holding say 50 cases upright so you can add powder, prime them, keep them organized, etc.
- Funnel – For dumping powder into as you charge each case with the powder you’ve dispensed.
Quite a list, right? It’s not as bad as it sounds. I highly recommend starting with a kit to save money on the necessary precision reloading items to get you started. RCBS produces the RCBS Supreme Master Reloading Kit and that can be had for about $300. You can purchase these kits at Brownells and at Basspro. I’m recommending this kit, as a starting point for precision reloading equipment, because it’s what I started with. It’s a good mix of stuff you need to get started with precision reloading at a reasonable price. It’s not everything you need, but it’s most of it! You will still need a few things I mentioned above even after purchasing this kit.
- Seating Die
- Sizing Die
- Bump/Comparitor Body
- Bump Gauge Insert
- Bullet Comparitor Insert
- Shell/Media Sifter
- Case Trimmer
- Shell Holder
The difference between a comparitor insert and bump gauge insert is in what they are designed to measure. The bump gauge inserts I’ve linked you to work by measuring the distance from the shoulder to the bottom of the case. This is how you measure and set your dies so you aren’t overworking the brass, it need only move back approximately 0.002!” The comparitor inserts work with the same caliper body, but they measure from the bottom of the case up to the ogive of the bullet. This is the part of the bullet that first engages the rifling.
Got The Gear, Now What?
My best advice, once you’ve acquired a press and the requisite precision reloading tools to start hand loading your own ammunition, is this: RTFM! Read The Fucking Manual! Do not lose sight of the fact that you are dealing with hazardous materials like gunpowder and primers, which if handled carelessly, can severely injure or kill you. You have to keep a little bit of humility around and don’t be afraid to ask questions. If something isn’t working, or you’re hitting a wall somewhere, stop what you’re doing and RTFM again. If you can’t find the answer there, look online. If that doesn’t work, email us here and we’ll do our best to help. Do not go bumbling through the process of precision reloading. If you use quality components, professional tools, and you educate yourself as you go there is nothing to worry about. If you dive into the deep end and don’t read up on the task you’re undertaking, you stand an excellent chance of getting hurt.
I found the SPEER reloading manual was pretty well done. The advice is sound and there are pictures and illustrations as you go. That was the first manual that I read because it came with the RCBS Master kit I mentioned above. The next manual I read was the Sierra manual because I was still new, and I had just started using Sierra bullets in my handloaded ammunition. Why multiple manuals? Each bullet maker typically puts out their own manual. For example Hornady has a manual, just like Sierra, Berger, etc. In addition to tips on how to go about hand loading ammunition there is a library in each of these manuals. It has break downs of each bullet, by weight and caliber, and multiple powder brands the company has tested with that bullet. It gives you excellent information on where to start in regards to powder charges, the muzzle velocities you can expect, and where you should stop because pressure is getting dangerous. So don’t just read a single manual, read a couple, and read a lot online!
We may do another post related to this one, on the components used for precision reloading, with a little more material on what each of the tools is used for. Additionally, we can go into how they’re used to produce some quality ammunition with a thorough precision reloading process. The point of this article was to give beginners an idea of just what equipment they really need to be pricing. You can get a lot of what you need for around $300 bucks with the RCBS Master Reloading Kit. However, that isn’t a complete list of everything you need. You can get started with the Master Kit, and load ammunition with it, but you will need additional tools to process fired brass, clean it, trim it, etc. before it’s ready to be reloaded. As always, if you have input, or questions about the article, please do so in the comments below!