Reloading requires some specialized equipment and some basic tools. As I stated in my last blog, shopping and hunting for the right equipment is part of the fun. Most manufacturers sell kits that have just about everything included in it. However, mixing brands is perfectly fine. Looking for bargains and used equipment is the adventure. Garage sales and gun shows can be great sources for deals on used equipment.
The press. You have to have a press. Single stage presses are best for beginners and is a good investment for future uses. Lee, RCBS and Hornady are popular brands. Pacific and Lyman are old names for used equipment. Any brand will do. Price should dictate your choice. If you are reloading magnum rifle cartridges, the bigger, beefier presses would be a better choice. Handgun and smaller rifle cartridges can be reloaded on any size press. RCBS is a very good brand but is pricier than others. If looking at used, basic mechanical knowledge will help you judge the condition of a press. If it’s rusted and has bent parts, look for something else. Most current brands have warranties, but few will warranty abuse.
Dies. Here again, any brand will do unless you are shooting benchrest. You will need a shellholder, some brands include these inthe set. If you are reloading handgun cartridges, you really need a carbide die set. I know they are more expensive and harder to find used, but otherwise you have to lube your cases to re-size and then clean them. Too much extra work. When reloading auto pistol cartridges, try the factory crimping die from Lee. These cartridges headspace on the case mouth and need a nice uniform mouth, so most sets use a tapered crimping die.
Powder measure. If you can afford it, an electronic measure is faster. Lee makes a nice mechanical measure that uses different discs to dispense the powder in the case through the expander die, meaning you have to buy a Lee die set. There are scoop systems out there, but this is the age of technology. An electronic or beam type scale is nice to verify your electronic dispenser. These are very inexpensive and handy.
Priming tool. Most presses come with a priming tool of some sort, but I recommend a Lee Auto Prime. Other brands are out there, but finding one used will probably be a Lee. You can sit and watch TV while you prime your cases. One drawback is you have to buy separate shellholders .
Case tools. A dial or digital caliper is very useful to measure overall case length. Overall length is critical for auto pistol cartridges. A case deburring tool is a must have. There are case trimmers and inside/outside neck turning tools, which are not always needed. If you resize the same case multiple times, it becomes necessary. Pass/fail or go/no go cartridge gauges are nice for autos also.
Case cleaners: Old rock tumblers from yard sales and friends basements can be pressed into service with crushed corn cob or walnut shells. You can buy new, of course, with many options out there, such as vibratory, sonic and tumbling. The stainless steel media with soap and water is unbelievable. At the very least, wipe your brass cases before resizing to protect your sizing dies.
The deeper you go into reloading, the more equipment you’ll buy. Start simple and inexpensive. Enjoy the process. Next time: components.
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