Minimum Equipment Requirements For Metallic Cartridge Reloading
We are frequently asked to help sort out all the discussions of a plethora of reloading equipment to help the beginner understand exactly what is needed to get started and what may be optional purchases later. Following is a list of the minimum equipment requirements for someone to be able to successfully and safely reload metallic cartridges.
Press: To securely hold each die required for separate steps in the reloading process.
Recommended: A single stage press is best for the newcomer to reloading. It is the least expensive and forces the user to perform each step in the reloading process individually – the best environment for learning.
Die Set: Required to perform various tasks including resizing brass cases, expanding the mouth of handgun brass cases, seating bullets, and crimping final cartridges.
Recommended: With rare exception, you need a separate die set for each cartridge. My personal recommendation is a 4-die set for pistol cartridges (1. Full-Length Resizing 2. Mouth expanding 3. Bullet Seating 4. Crimp) or 3-die set for rifle cartridges (1. Full-length Resizing, 2. Bullet Seating 3. Crimp. Crimp die may need to be purchased separately and added to a 2-die set.)
Scale: A scale is necessary for weighing powder charges.
Recommended: Balance beam scales are the most inexpensive and most accurate scales available to the beginning reloader.
Calibration weights: To properly set up and calibrate any scale.
Recommended: Lyman makes a 10-piece calibration weight set that will allow you to adjust any scale to any ½ grain measurement necessary.
Caliper: To measure overall length of the finished cartridge.
Recommended: Any digital or analog caliper.
Loading Block: To support cases, especially when they contain powder charges, to avoid spillage.
Recommended: Be sure you purchase a loading block with openings properly sized to the cartridges you intend to load. The width and depth of openings vary.
Deburring /chamfering tool: Necessary to taper the inside edge of the mouth of rifle brass cases.
Recommended: Technically not an absolutely necessary purchase if you reload only handgun ammo (rarely requires trimming and does not need chamfering for bullet seating) or rifle ammo with tapered bases on bullets. Chamfering is necessary on rifle brass to safely start the bullet seating operation if bullets are flat-based.
Funnel: Necessary to pour powder into cases.
Recommended: Beginners should measure powder charges individually and pour each into the case manually at the beginning of the learning curve. Most reloading funnels will fit cases ranging from .22 caliber to .45 caliber. If you load larger cases be sure you source a funnel sized for those cases.
Priming tool: To insert primers into brass cases.
Recommended: Primers can be inserted into brass cases using either an arm on the press designed specifically for this task or using a separate hand-priming tool where primers are inserted as a separate step off the press.
Manuals: To obtain load data for specific combinations of powder, bullets, primers, and brass cases.
Recommended: It is strongly recommended that load data be used only where a virtually identical load can be found in two mainstream, current published manuals. This is easiest for the beginning reloader if one sources one manual from the manufacturer of the powder you select and the other manual from the bullet manufacturer you select. Many of these manufacturers publish their load data on line as well, making it easier to review and compare load data to also assist in the selection of components.
Components: Brass cases, primers, powder, bullets.
Recommended: Brass needs to be reasonably clean and in good shape to be reloaded if you skip cleaning stages. Primers can be substituted (by brand only) if one is loading minimum published loads. Powder and bullets should be used exactly by brand and part number as specified in the manuals.
Chronograph: For any serious reloading, this becomes an essential piece of equipment. While it’s impossible to directly measure pressure in any cartridge, velocity is now easy and relatively accurate to measure. Virtually all reloading manuals list anticipated velocities for every listed combination of powder and bullet, even if they do not directly reference anticipated pressure in CUP or PSI. Knowing the velocity of any given combination will show you where on the continuum of any load data (from “minimum” to “maximum”) you are, very useful information especially when trying new loads.
Dippers and/or dribbler: Dippers and/or dribblers can be handy for adding the last small amount of powder to a scale when weighing powders.
Tumbler or other case cleaner: Relatively clean brass can be reloaded. In fact, if it’s cared for at the range, many reloaders now load brass without ever cleaning it. Some reloaders have simply stopped cleaning brass, including primer pockets. Others still prefer the look of bright, shiny brass (the author included) and continue to clean brass.
Primer pocket cleaner: Many reloaders also no longer clean primer pockets. This tool is inexpensive and handy if you prefer to clean yours.
Case trimmers: Handgun brass seldom elongates to the point of needing trimming. Rifle cases, on the other hand, will continue to expand during their useful life and will generally need to be trimmed.
For a thorough discussion of equipment needed and its use, as well as detailed descriptions of all steps needed to safely reload metallic cartridges, see the book, “Things They Don’t Tell You About Reloading” in our Market Place. It is the most comprehensive book for the beginning reloader ever written.