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.
The press is the heart of the reloading set but the beginning reloader will also need a good scale, a powder charger, a micrometer and a priming tool.
Scales can be analog or digital but they must be calibrated in grains. The grain is an ancient unit of measure that originally meant the weight of one grain of wheat. Today it is defined as 1/7000 of a pound. As far as I know, the only people to use that measure any are in the firearms industry. My scale is a Hornady analog scale and is accurate to 1/10 of a grain. It cannot malfunction as it is a balance beam scale.
There are also digital scales and powder dispensers with built in digital scales. I have never tried these but a lot of reloaders swear by them.
A good micrometer can be had for a few bucks at any tool store. I recommend the dial type rather than the digital ones as they are easy to use and last much longer than battery powered micrometers. I also recommend one calibrated for inches as most calibers are measured in inches. Conversions are simple for metric calibers.
Priming tools are another matter. There are many on the market and many presses have a priming function built in. It is important that primers be seated just below the base of the case and a good priming tool will do that in addition to allowing you to seat primers rapidly and accurately. You don’t want a tool that can mash a primer so hard that it ignites. After Lee precision changed the design of their hand tool it worked less smoothly so I switched to an RCBS which works fine for me but I am thinking of switching again to a Forster bench mounted priming tool. It is specially designed to seat primers very accurately without danger of ignition. It uses a tube style hopper instead of the pan style, which I like because it is easy to turn all of the primers correctly in a pan and then peck them up with the tube. Shell holders are not required and the bench mounted tool is easier on your hands.
Powder dispensers can be fairly simple affairs or very complicated. I like simple. The old style has a hopper on top that feeds into a cavity drilled in a rotating block. The cavity has a piston style floor that can be moved into the cavity at various depths to adjust the amount of powder that can enter the cavity. When the handle is in the down position the cavity opening faces up and the hopper fills it. When you turn the handle down the rotating block turns and the cavity faces down, emptying through a small spout directly into the case which you hold under the dispenser in contact. The problem with these is that as the cavity opening passes away from the hopper on its way to the spout it can chop grains of gunpowder. This can change the weight of the charge slightly and also causes the gunpowder to burn at a different rate. It doesn’t really create danger but it does affect accuracy. This is a bigger problem with tube powders than flake or ball which means rifle powders where accuracy is more of an issue. A simple solution is to empty the case back into the hopper if you feel an especially hard chop as you move the handle. A better fix is the Lee Precision charger which is designed to not chop any powder grains.
The automatic dispensers are much more complicated but easy to use. I have never used one, but I get good reports from the users.
A couple of other tips:
Your bench should be sturdy and large enough to mount your equipment on but not so large that clutter accumulates on it. Space has a tendency to fill up. If your bench is not too large it will be easier to keep clean and organized.
A loading block is a cheap accessory that holds your cases in between loading steps so that they don’t get knocked over. It helps keep the process organized and you can keep a better eye on everything. You can get one for just a couple of bucks. Get one.
A primer tray is another very cheap, very useful item. It is a small plastic tray with tiny ridges in it. Primers are placed in it and it can then be lightly shaken back and forth. As the primers slide around in it the open edges of the primers catch on those ridges and the primers flip to face all in the same direction. They can then be more easily loaded into the priming tool hopper.
Clean cases are easier to work with and function better in firearms. You don’t have to clean your cases after every firing but after every second or third loading is a good idea. Most hardware stores sell vibrators for cleaning tool parts and the reloading suppliers sell them. Pick up a vibrator and some crushed walnut shell so you can keep your brass clean. These also help reduce corrosion if you store loaded ammo for long periods of time. Always use the vibrator on empty brass, never on loaded cartridges. Vibrating loaded ammo will damage the powder grains which will greatly increase its burning speed creating dangerous pressures.
If the Lords of the Glibs keep publishing these next time we will go through dies and toss in more tips and tricks.