Is It Expensive to Reload Your Own?
Grabbing a box or two of ammo and hitting the range is not only a great time with friends and family but for me personally is a little therapeutic as well. There’s something about smelling the sulfur from the powder, hearing and seeing the muzzle flash and feeling the recoil with each pull of the trigger while hitting your intended target.
On the downside, it can be very expensive. So many of us don’t indulge as much as we like. Luckily there is something we can do to help curtail the cost and still have fun enjoying the sport……Reload.
The initial upfront cost can deter people from considering it but once you dive into it and start working uploads, it eventually pays for itself. An old and experienced mentor of mine that the reloading could cut the cost of ammo in half.
Where To Start
I started with a Lee reloading manual and their anniversary reloading kit. It comes with just about everything you need to begin reloading. I would suggest however to add to a decent digital scale right away. I chose the Frankfort Arsenal DS-750. It’s inexpensive, compact and overall a very good scale. I’ve been using mine for over 10 years and it has done me well.
There are differences in quality and price between manufacturers. Some offer a lot of bang for your buck, while others provide the quality to make the process smooth. For example, if your on a budget, Lee offers die sets that come with shell holder, powder scoop and load data. On the other hand, RCBS supply just the dies. You’ll need to purchase the shell holder separately as well as the source for your recipes. But the quality of the product is excellent. I started with Lee dies but over the years have been slowly switching them out for the RCBSs. If I knew the difference between the two when I started reloading, I would have went straight to the RCBS dies.
Let's Press On
I mentioned the Lee press previously and it’s still my favorite. I also have a couple of RCBS presses and you can feel the difference because they are stout. Put the two side by side and you will definitely notice the difference. From the size of the frame, to the ram, it’s just more beefier press. A couple of advantages the Lee has over the others is the extra room you have due to the bigger throat. It makes it easier to hold the bullet in place on the sized brass as you raise it into the die which in turn is easier on the fingers. Also with the kit comes a primer dispenser, which in one stroke you can size and primer the brass. My Rock Chucker doesn’t offer that capability.
I prefer the single stage presses. I like to make sure what exactly is going on with every round I produce. They also make turret presses, which holds all the dies and with each stroke it is capable of doing multiple stages at once, ex: size, prime, charge and seat the bullet. You put in your brass and work the handle and with every down stroke a piece of brass advances to the next step. In a sense it turns into an assembly line type process. The issue I see is that what if it dispenses the incorrect charge. I don’t want to take that chance dealing with pressures of some of the cartridges.
If you choose to go with a single stage press, there are a few accessories that I recommend to make it easier for you. For instance, a powder trickler, a reloading tray and some others.
Accessories That Are A Must
A powder trickler is great when you’re ready to charge your round. After you dispense your charge from the powder, measure and weigh it. I usually set the measure to throw a little light charge and finish it with the trickler especially if I’m wanting a precise charge.
The reloading tray is essential for the fact it will hold your brass and you’ll know exactly what stage of the process that particular piece is at, whether it has only been sized, charged or whatever. The Frankfort Arsenal universal tray is great and will work for the majority of cartridges, from the small 25 ACP upto some of the bolted magnums. So far I have only had to get one other and that was for my 45-70. The rim is just too large and will not accommodate it. Luckily they make on specifically for that round.
Calipers are a must! This is not only for measuring your used brass but to make sure it’s within the allowable tolerances. As well as to making sure your overall length is acceptable. Each load with different bullets has different OALs (overall lengths).
Now that I have mentioned brass length, each time it has been fired the brass will stretch. Some rounds stretch more than others. To help monitor this RCBS has a trim die. Once set, you run your brass into it and take a file and cut it down flush to the die. I generally get a Lee case length gauge and cutter. There are two sizes of cutters, standard and large. The size of cutter depends on the cartridge. Once you have the cutter and the specific length gauge, all you need to do is insert the brass into the holder and trim the brass until the gauge bottoms out. Prepping the brass is a necessity. Inspect the brass for any splits or other types of damage, trim to length and you are nearly ready to reload.
Depending on the cartridge and the dies that are being used determines if you need to lube the case. For example, pistol rounds that are straight case, like 9mm or 45 ACP. Most companies offer carbide dies, in which case lube is not needed.
If you have steel dies, case lube is essential. Every company has their own way of lubing, for instance Lee has you lube the cases by applying it with your fingers and RCBS includes a pad. You drip the lube onto the pad and roll the case over it. Hornady had One Shot case lube. An aerosol that you spray on the brass. This works really well. You can’t over do it and it’s difficult to apply too little. Once I began using it, I have not had any stuck cases. Stuck cases are no fun in any way. It’s frustrating and can make you use poor judgement. Before I knew they made stuck case removers, I tried a hammer. Not a good idea, had to replace the die.
Thanks for reading, until next time.
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