Author Topic: Novice reloader, avid shooter; equipment help and discussion  (Read 4011 times)

Offline Storm

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Novice reloader, avid shooter; equipment help and discussion
« on: November 20, 2010, 07:28:12 PM »
Hey TSPers!

I'm from WV, so we shoot a lot. However, in recent years, it's become prohibitive. My dad used to reload (20+ years ago) and he just doesn't have the money or time to get back into, so I thought I'd make the inital investment and see where we go from there.

I don't have any handguns I'll be reloading for, so my thoughts (right now) are strictly concerning rifle calibers. We've got quite a few, and some get less use than others. Primarily, I'm looking at .270, .30-.30, .243 and 30-06. This will probably explode into other calibers if I get a feel for reloading and like it enough to do it a lot.

I'm still learning the reloading lingo as well, and that's another thing that I've run into that prevents me from really knowing what I need.

So, my ponderings boil down to a few questions:

1) Starting out with the above mentioned calibers, what would the best entry-level press or kit and from who? (RCBS, Lee, etc.) Note that I won't be doing this every day, I'll probably only do it a few hours a week once I get going, or go at it on a day off from work.

2) Do any of you load and store rifle rounds for use later? I ask this because a friend of mine loads for his hunting seasons and not recreational shooting. However, I wondered if it would be advantageous to buy casings, powder and bullets in bulk (100-500+ at a time) and I thought that was an excellent idea for what my family would need.

I'm sure I'll have more questions pop up in the future. I've done some looking around on my own, but I always like to ask about things I don't know about, or things that could potentially go wrong if I don't take advantage of real, live sources of information.

Thanks for any and all help fellas.

Offline Army03CRNA

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Re: Novice reloader, avid shooter; equipment help and discussion
« Reply #1 on: November 20, 2010, 08:03:04 PM »
Some advice, buy only good equipment.  Years ago, I made the mistake of buying dies because they were a few dollars less than others.  I've since replaced every set, and spent hours of frustration until I did.  I only buy Redding now since RCBS is made overseas (China) and finished in America.  Redding advertises PA made steel FWIW.  Some have had good luck with Lee dies, I use their cast bullet sizing die and like every one I have, but I have no reloading dies from Lee, just the older American made RCBS dies, and Redding.

Second, with the calibers you've listed you can do very well, giving up nothing with regards to accuracy or velocity, by using only a few powders.  You can simplify and keep expenses down that way.  I would suggest Varget as the first powder.  It will work in all four (no, it may not be the most accurate in ALL four), but it'll work.  It'll be best in the .30-30 and .30-06, probably in the .243, but I have no experience there.  However, the .270 and .243 use similar powders for reasons I'd probably mess up if I tried to explain. But, one powder will work.  I have minimal experience with the .270, but 4350, is a good place to start as it does work in the .243.   Get MULTIPLE reloading manuals, and I'd recommend a subscription to Handloader magazine.  (I do--have for over 17 years--but I have nothing in it whether you do or not)

Lastly, buy in bulk.  500 count brass, 1000 bricks of primers, and I'd go so far as to say just buy an 8lb jug of Varget to get started, but you won't go wrong buying a 1lb can and working up a load before getting the jug.  Keep an eye on Midway and get to where you only buy reloading components when they're on sale, at first don't worry about this, but it will help keep costs down even more. 

I enjoy reloading as much as I do shooting.  I hope you come to enjoy it as well.

Offline Storm

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Re: Novice reloader, avid shooter; equipment help and discussion
« Reply #2 on: November 20, 2010, 09:10:54 PM »
Thanks for the look-see Army.

I've been shooting since I was about five. However, the last few years have seen me shooting less and less, and my marksmanship is not a skill I want to deteriorate. A day at the range is a cure for most anything I've found.

My problem right now is not knowing what essentials I need. That and still not understanding what every thing does in the whole process. I've yet to find any clear and distinct diagrams that show me what is what and what it's for, so I really am a novice. Total noob.

A friend of mine has the Lee's 50th Kit, and I've seen a lot of people with Rock Chuckers.

It may make it easier on me to start with one caliber, say .243. For an initial investment, I really am on a budget, so paying $200 flat out for the press itself (example: Rock Chucker) is a little much for me. What would be the advantage or disadvantage of starting with something smaller, since I won't be using it a ton, like the Partner Press?

I thought of doing the same thing (buying separately) because in some things you do save money. So, if I went that route, what would my essentials be? As far as I understand it, I need a Press (say, the Partner Press), the dies, caliber specific (.243). For example, on RCBSs' site it has '2 Die Sets'. In .243 it has F L Die sets and a Neck Die set. Do I need both of these, or are they different? Any way you could throw together something that shows me what I'd need essentially, and what they do? I don't have any local literature on the topic (in my library that is), so maybe a trip to Borders needs to be made.

I'm all for buying in bulk. I'd love to be able to go out and shoot on a day off with some of my buddies or my family. I also like planning ahead, so anything I can have on hand will always help me. I've tried to work out how much it would be per round. Like, how much making 50 rounds will cost me (only including bullet, brass and powder) as opposed to what it would cost to buy 50 rounds.

Sometimes I find it odd that I've done so much shooting in my life and love weapons, yet know jack diddly about what I think should be an essential part of it all: reloading.

Offline SuperDuty

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Re: Novice reloader, avid shooter; equipment help and discussion
« Reply #3 on: November 21, 2010, 06:03:10 PM »
Hi Storm,

Check out Ammosmith.com for lots of good novice info.  They have a video library there and there is YouTube channel.

http://www.ammosmith.com/basic-reloading/new-to-handloading.php

The only rifle caliber I hand handloaded for is 30.06, and I don't do that very often.  My loading focuses now on handgun calibers, but I'm itching to try out some various .30 cal lead bullets I casted years ago with my uncle, who mentored me in handloading.

I second the comment about reloading manuals.  Buy a least a couple and look them over.  As far as equipment, I only have Lee (old) and Lyman presses.  Like Army03CRNA, I enoy reloading as much as shooting.  As a newbie, make the process more about accuracy and consistency than quantity.  Check out craigslist, and estate auctions for used equipment.  Talk it up around the shooting range and gun shop and maybe someone who's decided it's too much hassle will appear with a used press for sale.

Good Luck to you,

Offline Stein

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Re: Novice reloader, avid shooter; equipment help and discussion
« Reply #4 on: November 24, 2010, 07:40:59 AM »
I would look very hard at Lee, I have found their products to be tremendous value.  In most cases, they are not the Cadillac version available, but they do perform very well especially when you compare prices.  Many of us are perfectly happy driving the F150 version of reloading equipment and don't want to pay for Cadillac luxury.

At Midway, the Lee Challenger Anniversary Kit is $91.99 and is pretty complete except for dies.  I would also add a bullet puller and tumbler and micrometer - I use and recommend Frankford Arsenal and they are regularly on sale at Midway.  You should be able to get a very good working setup for $200 for a single caliber that would only need upgrading if you wanted something fancier - it would work great for several lifetimes.

Lee dies run $20 - $30 per caliber.

Offline RacinRob

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Re: Novice reloader, avid shooter; equipment help and discussion
« Reply #5 on: November 24, 2010, 09:40:16 AM »
http://www.10xshooters.com/calculators/Rifle_Reloading_Cost_Calculator.htm

This is an easy calculator.  THe link is for rifle and at the top you can  get a link for handgun ammo. To make one round you need brass, bullet, powder, and primer.  You can also enter the cost of factory shells and equipment to find out how long it will take to to pay off the system. 

I have a Lee Aniversry set that I like.

Offline hillclimber

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Re: Novice reloader, avid shooter; equipment help and discussion
« Reply #6 on: November 24, 2010, 10:37:08 AM »
I've been handloading for years. Alot of my stuff is old, but still works well. You'll find that there's alot of brand loyalty as far as equipment and components to some extent. I spent years walking around ranges and sandpits scrounging brass. don't skimp on scales. you don't really need digital scales, but good scales are a must in my opinion. I started out with an old Speer handloading manual. Get all the books you can find. I've found lots of that stuff at yardsales. 30-30 is easy to load, and I'd say it may be the place for you to start. 243win is a little much to start out with IMHO. Rock-chuckers are good presses, and I had one for quite a while. Still have a single stage Lyman, and a Lyman progressive. Both work well. You should also pick up a set of calipers too.

Offline red123matt

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Re: Novice reloader, avid shooter; equipment help and discussion
« Reply #7 on: November 24, 2010, 11:18:15 PM »
Some great advice from experienced reloaders.  I just started myself about 3 months ago.  I tell you what, I never thought it would make a difference but the accuracy of handloads that fit your rifle can be pretty spectacular.  My primary caliber is the 243.  I use it for whitetail deer mainly.  Don't do much shooting at targets other than sighting in the rifle.  however, i thought handloading would be a great prepper technique to learn.  so, i jumped in.  my recommendation is to buy all used equipment at about 50% on the dollar or less.  i find great deals on cragislist, especially for dies.  many people sell their whole set-up with scales, press, calipers, tumbler, dies, etc for $200.  i almost want to buy these other set-ups for parts in case i need them in the future.  but, as jack says, set your priorities.

as far as the 243 goes i use IMR 4350 with 100 grain speer bullets.  for my weatherby it's a deadly combination.  i had loaded with imr 4381 and tried that but not near as good as the 4350.  other calibers i load include 7mm rem mag and going to start 300 weatherby mag.  being in colorado those larger calibers are more common.

a couple pieces of advice are search out loads on the internet at the bullet and/or powder manufacturers website.  i have started with the minimal loads as i was a little gun-shy.  as i've got more confidence i've moved up a little here and there, but still have not hit any of the max loads.  i feel that if i am hitting the accuracy i want at the lower end of the loads i'm achieving my purpose and saving money.

for bullets go to gun shows and find the guys that also reload.  they usually have partial boxes of projectiles that you can pick up for 50% or less of retail.  take a midway catalog or some other large retailer for price comparisons.  that way you can pick up 20 or so bullets in different makes and sizes (grains) with different tips, etc and try them out.  they all shoot a little different based on what i know so this is a good way to try before you buy.

as far as brass goes, you can get good brass at the shows too.  the problem is that you don't know how many times they have been shot as far as i can tell.  generally i don't but used brass but will save the brass i shoot from manufacturer loads. 

also, i just learned the difference between neck dies and full length dies.  i bought all my dies used on ebay and at gun shows for an average of about $20 a pop.  i think they last forever if treated right.  i took them all apart and cleaned them with goof off spray.  then reassembled them for use.  once you set them in your press you should leave them.  don't keep adjusting them as the time commitment is significant to reset them - if you get paid by the hour like i do you like convenience and efficiency when reloading.  if you are retired and have time on your hands then don't worry about it.  anyway, the neck dies only size the neck which is much less stress on the cartridges = last longer.  the full size dies (the ones i bought without knowing) size the whole cartridge = more stress.  so, i am in the process of getting the neck dies to complement my full size dies.

i quickly moved to a used redding powder measure/charger.  i love it.  once set up it is extremely accurate.  helps me load multiple rounds quickly.  however, i check my measures on the rcbs scale regularly.  i'd recommend you do that too.

well, i've probably ranted on for too long.  please forgive me if i did.  it's fun to do this "hobby" and if you load enough you could eventually save some money.  i doubt i will ever save money but i feel i am learning a valuable skill.

matt

Offline Storm

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Re: Novice reloader, avid shooter; equipment help and discussion
« Reply #8 on: November 24, 2010, 11:58:08 PM »
Thanks for all the replies guys, lots of useful info!

Normally, I'm a go for broke guy and I'll buy the best if I can, but I just don't know if I should in this case, and am heavily leaning to not spending $400 or more on a big RCBS kit. I may start low, say with one of the Lee's, and work my way up.

I never seem to be able to find the kinds of deals that most people can. My buddy always could, and I was never able to, just unlucky I guess.

I'm going to keep doing the research and see what I can find out and I might be able to start at the beginning of the year.

Offline hillclimber

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Re: Novice reloader, avid shooter; equipment help and discussion
« Reply #9 on: November 25, 2010, 06:42:51 AM »
The inexpensive Lee presses are not what I'd recommend. Haven't heard much of anything good about them.
The package deals from RCBS are good, but you're getting some stuff you don't need right off while skipping some stuff you do need. Just my opinion. At a bare minimum I'd get the following as far as hardware..
Good  quality press, just a single stage to start with.
A good set of scales
A pair of calipers
A case trimmer
RCBS deburring tool
Lube pad
a powder trickler
a set of powder measures.
Dies
Get stuff a little bit at a time if you have to. That's what I did. I did end up with mixed manufacturers for things, but if you buy a package deal frome someone, you're gonna replace some junky stuff anyway.

Offline r1kk1

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Re: Novice reloader, avid shooter; equipment help and discussion
« Reply #10 on: January 17, 2011, 03:40:33 PM »
This is an olde rant for me. I don't care what stuff costs. I want stuff that works. The Lee Challenger is a pos! I own equipment from every manufacturer. I've had problems with Lee, Lyman, RCBS, Redding, Hornady, CH4D, and Dillon.

I love Dillon's dies. I love Lee's bullet sizing dies. I love Lee's collet sizers. Their six cavity moulds are a hit or miss. Lyman's lubrisizer and I go round and round occasionally. Maybe time for a Star. Redding and I have went round and round on a profile crimp die. It is now resolved. CH4D and I had our talks about the last set of dies were a little rough for me. He said they are in spec. I took care of it. Hornady and I parted ways on shotgun reloading. I'm sorry that you do not carry parts for my APEX 3.0. That was the same story with the Pacific. Now using Ponsness Warren for shotguns. I could go on and on and on. . .

The short story is this:

There is not one tool manufacturer that can meet of all of my needs.
I use what I believe is what the best tool out there.
Money means nothing if I have to "upgrade", replace it with better, replace it period due to breakage, or spend time on the phone ordering a replacement part that broke unexpectedly.
I like to spend once and have stuff to hand down.

What I hate about Lee's kits is the perfect powder measure and scale are a joke. My JDS Quick Measure and Ohaus scale fit my needs and I can weigh out 2-1/4 ounce shotgun loads. My JDS can drop 4831 without a hickup and still be .1-.2 of a grain plus or minus. It measures 800X without a problem too.

I have spent too much money looking for a powder measure that works. The RCBS electronic model rocks. It may occupy my bench someday.

Sorry for the rant. Find someone in your area and let them show you their stuff. Go to Bass Pro Shops or any gun stores that carry several presses. Play with them. Then decide. My single stage consists of four different presses - CH4D Champion, a Bonanza CO-AX, Lee Cast Iron Breech Lock, and a Walnut Hill press.

For progressive metallic I have a Dillon 550b but really like the Hornady version a little better.

take care,

r1kk1

Offline hillclimber

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Re: Novice reloader, avid shooter; equipment help and discussion
« Reply #11 on: January 24, 2011, 12:49:52 PM »
I couldn't agree more with the "several manufacturers" thing. My stuff is all mix and match too.
The problem with buying a whole set-up as a package, is that you won't get everything you need, and you'll get stuff you don't want. I don't know how better to put it..... ::)

Offline r1kk1

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Re: Novice reloader, avid shooter; equipment help and discussion
« Reply #12 on: February 01, 2011, 10:37:05 AM »
I couldn't agree more with the "several manufacturers" thing. My stuff is all mix and match too.
The problem with buying a whole set-up as a package, is that you won't get everything you need, and you'll get stuff you don't want. I don't know how better to put it..... ::)

Ain't that the truth!

take care,

r1kk1