While many sports shooters and hunters may never dive into the world of reloading, those that do, find it very rewarding. There are plenty of good reasons to take up the hobby. At the same time, there are many things to consider before you do. In this article, we’ll cover the basics, including safety, necessary reloading equipment, plus the benefits of rolling your own. Something that we won’t dig into at this point is specific load data or recipes as some call them. There are several resources available that cover load data and give recommendations for safe limits to stick within. That said, we’ll point you to some of the reloading data resources that we found particularly useful. Hopefully, you’ll find the information that follows somewhat useful at answering some of the most asked questions by new or future reloaders. There is a lot to cover on the topic, and I’ll do my best to break it down in terms of what you need to know as a beginner. So, if you’re ready to take the next step into a rewarding hobby, read on and we’ll get started.
Primary Benefits of Reloading
As mentioned in the intro, there may be several reasons why a person might want to take up reloading. Identifying a few of the main benefits will help you when it comes to selecting the equipment that is best suited to your needs. So let’s have a look at the top reasons that we get into reloading in the first place. Probably the first thing that comes to mind when considering loading your own ammo is the thought of saving money. Right? Check out our reloading calculator tool. Well, there is truth in that; however, cost savings only happen over time. There can be a significant investment when you’re just starting. Much the same as with any tool or equipment, there is a sliding scale of price and quality with regards to reloading equipment. We’ll dig deeper into specifics later in this post. Secondly, although this point will soon outweigh the first, it is control and, ultimately, accuracy. When you can develop a load specifically for a firearm, you end up a far superior product to factory ammunition. Reloading allows for fine-tuning of your ammo based on intended use, and more specifically, how it performs in your firearm. Last but certainly not least is the education factor. Earlier I referred to reloading as an investment; that’s because I genuinely believe it is an investment. Both in the knowledge that you’ll gain over time, as well as preserving this age-old tradition. Also, there is something very satisfying about the entire process, from start to finish. I hope that you will find some useful information in the following material to assist you in your journey into reloading.
Safety Should be Top of Mind
Above all, proper safety precautions should be taken at all times to ensure your safety and those around you. Understand the risks and take appropriate steps to minimize them. Failure to do so can result in severe injury or worse. Also, one should always abide by the Federal regulations when it comes to explosives. And of course, always wear appropriate PPE when handling and working with them. If you’re genuinely interested in learning how to reload, I highly recommended that you grab one of the many books published on the subject.
One such book is The ABCs of Reloading by C. Rodney James. Educating yourself on the principles will help you to form a good understanding of the process. Keeping organized is very important in ensuring your safety — one of the best ways to stay organized to start a journal of sorts. Here, you will log all your data for your specific project. Things that you may want include are the date, the firearm, and its caliber, the load data consisting of the brass, the powder, the primer, and the bullet. You could likely write a book on each of those points. Keeping accurate notes will help you in the long run, plus it gives you time to walk through all the processes.
Don’t take my word for it. The next thing I’m about to say may sound counter-intuitive to the purpose of this article but bear with me. Don’t take anybody’s word when it comes to reloading data. Not mine, not your buddy’s, and certainly not something you watched on YouTube. You alone are responsible for your safety. Understand what the maximum loads are and what the dangers are should you exceed them. And as such, you must always verify your load data with one of the powder or bullet manufacturers guides. These reloading manuals will provide you with valuable information based on the components you’re using. They’ll refer to the maximum power charge and pressure of the load, while also noting the most accurate composition based on the firearm they used to test. A fundamental question a person may ask themselves before reloading; Are you reloading for your pistol or your rifle? Once you know what you are reloading for, you will then narrow the scope of powders, bullets, and primers required for your project. I recommend that everyone pick up at least one reloading manual to start. Many of these resource manuals are available in both paperback and digitally online. Also, you can find manuals written by Nosler, Hornady, Hodgdon, Lyman, and many more, to name a few. Having at least one of these manuals at your disposal is an absolute must.
What Are You Looking to Reload?
In answering this question, we can begin to identify which reloading press setup is right for you. There are three types of presses for centerfire rifle and pistols cartridge reloading. However, there are a few differences between loading for handguns and rifles, mostly with regards to case prep.
The Single Stage Press requires you to manually swap out your reloading die for each of the reloading stages.
A Turret Press allows you to set up a series of dies in advance, and you manually rotate the turret for each stage.
The Progressive Press allows you to set up a series of dies on a tool head, where every push and pull of the handle will progressively move through the reloading stages.
Each reloading press has a unique way of functioning, ultimately resulting in the speed and efficiency of ammo you can produce. That said, rate and volume are not the only factors to consider when choosing your first press. For example, if you answered the question above by saying, “I’m getting into long-range precision shooting, and I want to take it to the next level.” I would tend to suggest a Single Stage or Turret Press, as your ultimate goal is finding the most accurate load for your precision rifle. Now, if you had answered the same question with “I enjoy running drills with my pistol and SBR, and can easily go through several hundred rounds every time I visit the range.” In that case, I’d be leaning more towards a progressive press where you have the option for quick caliber changes while producing the quantity of ammo you need. All this is not to say you can’t accomplish the same goals with any of the reloading presses above. There is, however, something to be said about choosing the right tool for the job.
Essential Reloading Equipment
In the last section, we took a brief look at the main reloading presses types, and hopefully, we’ve figured out what type is right for you. I titled this section Essential Reloading Equipment because it is essential to realize that there are some items and tools which every reloader should have on hand. Before I go too far into the various tools and equipment, I should point out that an excellent option for beginners is to look at one of the starter press kits. They include everything you’ll need to get started, and often provide exceptional value for your money. The packages are generally put together around the reloading press type. Meaning, you will find starter kits for the single-stage, the turret, and the progressive press. Each package contains the essential components and often includes a reloading manual. For those of you who prefer to look at things in the list form, the following list will get you pointed in the right direction.
- Reloading Manual (data and guide)
- Reloading Press (single-stage, turret, or progressive)
- Eye Protection
- Note Pad (your reloaders journal)
- Scale (mechanical or digital)
- Powder measurer (as a press component, or standalone)
- Powder Funnel
- Reloading Block
- Calipers (digital or dial)
- Reloading Dies
- Shell Plate or Holder (bases on press body)
- Case Guage
- Case Trimmer (more applicable to rifle and magnum pistol cartridges)
- Chamfer & Deburring Tool
- Primer Pocket Cleaner
- Priming Tool (if not done on the press)
- Case Lubricant
- Brass Cases
- Ammo Box
There are many reloading tools that I did not include in the list above. This article is simply an introduction to the essential equipment used. No doubt, once you get established, you will look to expand your capabilities with additional tools. I will write other posts to expand on some of the tools that I’ve found useful
In conclusion, reloading your ammo is both fun, and a rewarding hobby. If you’re the type of person who enjoys the science and technical side of things, then I’m sure you’ll be able to jump right in.
Another thing that makes this such a great pastime is its community. I owe a good deal of what I know to people who took the time to share their experiences with me. In turn, drop me a line, and I’d be happy to answer any questions that you may have about getting started. Also, let me know if there is a topic you’d like to see us cover on Guns and Gear Guide.