Read the series
This article is for informational purposes only. Suthenboy is not a credentialed expert. Do not attempt any of these activities without first consulting an expert or a manual published by accredited experts or manufacturers.
I developed a passion for shooting and hunting at an early age. I suppose my Grandfather’s and Father’s love of firearms rubbed off on me. Shooting for me was what golf is to others. It is an activity that requires discipline, an activity where focus and precision pays off. I constantly competed against myself always trying to improve and over time with effort the improvement was very evident to me. Like most the majority of my shooting was done with 22 Long Rifle because of economy. When I was about 14 years old my father gave me a wonderful Christmas gift – a Lee Precision handloading set and a Ruger No.3 rifle chambered in 22 Hornet. Suddenly I could shoot center fire for less than the price of 22 Long Rifle.
Since that Christmas, I have reloaded hundreds of thousands of rounds, maybe approaching a million and a half, in every caliber you can imagine, save the new-fangled rounds that have come out in recent years. Yes, I said it. Get the hell off of my lawn.
Since those days our economy has expanded dramatically, the cost of reloading components has risen and the cost of bulk ammunition in common calibers has fallen. For plinking ammo reloading is not as economical as it used to be but reloading still has an important place. Uncommon calibers can be exorbitantly expensive and difficult to find. Precision rifle shooters cannot obtain the quality of ammunition their sport demands off the shelf. For people like me, reloading is a very enjoyable hobby and an end in itself. With experience one can acquire one heck of an education about the sport, and with a small stock of components and tools never lack for ammo in a pinch.
Many people, like me, got their introduction to reloading with a Lee Precision handloader kit. It is simple to use and at about forty bucks the smallest outlay of cash to get started making your own ammunition. I haven’t found any distributors for these little gems but you can buy them directly from Lee Precision.
I am not aware of any other companies that fill that niche but if you want to step up to more sophisticated tools there are many manufacturers. The big names are RCBS, Lee Precision, Redding, Lyman, Hornady, Dillon, Forster and MEC. All of these companies have websites (links above) and are distributed through a large number of suppliers. I am not going to make strong endorsements for any of them because they all make quality products that are better in some ways than the others. Like choosing a firearm the beginning reloader will have to decide by their own personal preferences.
As for distributors there is a plethora of them. If you prefer shopping in-store Bass Pro and Cabela’s keep a good stock on the shelf. There is also the odd and end small sporting goods stores around. For mail order there are number of large houses for comparison shopping. I find that their prices are very competitive, their stock reliable and their service top-notch. These include Midway USA, Wideners, Brownells, Precision Reloading, Natchez Shooter’s Supply and Cheaper Than Dirt. This is by no means a comprehensive list.
The first step up from the Lee handloader kit is a single stage press. This press bolts onto a sturdy work bench and holds one die at a time. There are some very high quality single stage presses out there and these happen to be my personal favorite. I can concentrate on one step at a time and pay close attention to every detail. My personal press is a Forster. I consider it of the highest quality. It also has great advantage in convenience as the dies are held in a groove so you don’t spent time screwing them in and readjusting each time you change dies. Additionally it has clamping jaws to hold the cases so no large sets of shell holders are needed.Forster co-axial presses are not cheap but definitely worth every penny for the hard core reloader.
The next step up from the single stage press are multi-stage presses. These presses hold more than one die at a time and each crank of the handle performs one step of the process on multiple cases as they progress around a turret. Spent brass goes in one end and a fully loaded case comes out with each crank of the handle. Obviously these presses produce loaded ammunition for the high volume shooter.
The last step up would be motor powered presses. Many of the manual progressive loaders can be accessorized with motors and by now we are talking about high budget equipment. Dillon is commonly considered the top of the line motorized progressive loader and most competitive shooters use them but there are others that work well.
I have a progressive loader but I prefer to use my single stage press. With the multi-stage press there are too many things going on at once for me to fully pay attention. If you are a novice intending to get into loading your own ammunition I highly recommend starting out with a single stage press. Safety must always come first so take your time. Don’t get in over your head. When you have learned all of the ins and outs of the loading process and all of the things that can go wrong then move up to a multi-stage press.
A recent study showed that CCL holders are six times less likely to commit crimes than police officers.
There is a reason for that. These are people who are law abiding by nature and interested in keeping their licenses. I suspect the same is true for reloaders. These people pay attention to detail. They follow the rules. That becomes second nature to them. Safety is a huge concern and they become accustomed to thinking that way. If you program yourself to behave that way reloading can be safe and rewarding. Never forget and become careless or have lax standards. You are dealing with inflammable materials that can develop very high pressures very quickly. Bullets, even travelling at low speed have incredible momentum. They carry more energy than you think even at speeds low enough to see with your eye. A relatively light lead slug travelling at the speed of an airsoft pellet can be deadly. You can lose eyes, fingers, get broken bones or severed arteries. You can receive severe burns. If you have a store of gunpowder in your reloading area, depending on how much, you might want to consider that if your house catches fire you may have to stand in the street and stop the firemen from approaching the structure. Let it blow. Nothing in your house is worth someone losing a life over. I threw all of the candles out of my house years ago. I don’t smoke in my reloading room.
Safety. Safety. Safety. Always on my mind. In the forty years or so that I have been reloading ammunition I have never had a single failure. Every single cartridge I make is done with great care. I own about a dozen fire extinguishers. Kitchen, living room, Jeep, Honda, bedroom, garage, outside shed, mule, and two extra bedrooms.
Don’t be that guy. Be Safe. Stuff can be replaced. People can’t be.