A friend recently asked me what it would take to get into reloading as he owns a gun for which ammunition is becoming increasingly scarce. He also wanted to be able to reload his other firearms with it as well. This is my advice to him and any other beginning reloader.
One of the first tools a beginning reloader should acquire is The ABCs of Reloading by Rodney James. I have a much older edition and it was invaluable to me when I began reloading. Next there are several pieces of kit that will need to be acquired; press, scale, priming tool, powder measure, reloading manuals and more. One kit I have always recommended for a basic starting kit is the RCBS Rock Chucker Supreme Master Single Stage Press Kit. With a few additions, this kit has everything a beginning reloader needs to reload centerfire rifle and pistol cartridges. As the primary request was to be able to reload a bottle neck rifle cartridge, dial calipers and a case trimmer is necessary to ensure that the cases aren’t too long. Furthermore some of the rounds being reloaded will include cartridges likely to have crimped primers. For these I use a primer pocket swage, RCBS makes one that can be mounted on the press as well as one that can go on the bench.
None of this equipment is useful without a decent platform to use it on. The ABCs of reloading that I have has some plans for reloading benches and there are several available on the web as well. However for apartment dwellers something more portable may be necessary. This bench may work in a closet or storage space and this stand from Lee may also do the trick (note I have not used either so don’t consider this an endorsement).
Once you have your equipment you will need reloading manuals for recipes to follow in creating your own ammunition. My philosophy is to get a manual from every bullet manufacturer whose bullets I load and ones from the powder manufacturers as well. Also Lyman turns out a decent manual that has been of use. DO NOT just look on some internet forum or blog or in a magazine, grab someone’s reloading data and start loading. You may blow up your gun! As an example for many years I used a .38 Special loading that was only to be used in guns chambered for .357 Magnum. Why you ask? Because that load would drive a 158gr hard cast lead bullet at .357 Magnum velocities, possibly with even higher pressures than a .357 Magnum. Now that I have several guns chambered in .38 Special I no longer use that load.
Once you get started in reloading, if you reload for a pistol you may find that the single stage press is just too slow. That’s OK the single stage press is great for beginners to learn the fundamentals on, but it is really best for only for small volume reloading and case preparation. We’ll cover the next step up, high volume reloading in part II next week.