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Everything You Wanted To Know About Reloading But Was Afraid to Ask

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Good stuff thanks! I do have a question though....My dad and I have many RCBS dies for our guns and just now getting into the fun stuff of AR15s. I have read that RCBS dies have issues with bullet seating for 223 due to size of seat point on the die....are they serious or just inexperienced. Also, have seen that Lee dies rust easily. Biggest question is.....what die do you guys use/prefer? We have an RCBS press and Lyman press.

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Good stuff thanks! I do have a question though....My dad and I have many RCBS dies for our guns and just now getting into the fun stuff of AR15s. I have read that RCBS dies have issues with bullet seating for 223 due to size of seat point on the die....are they serious or just inexperienced. Also, have seen that Lee dies rust easily. Biggest question is.....what die do you guys use/prefer? We have an RCBS press and Lyman press.


Some seating dies leave a tiny ring around the bullet jacket behind the tip. This does not cause any harm. This can be a combination of the case necks being tight and causing a lot of friction and seating resistance and a sharp edge on the seater plug. I have had this phenomenon occur with other dies that do not use a floating chamber made by Lyman, Lee, Redding, CH.


I have been buying Hornady and Redding dies almost exclusively the past few years as I do like the seating sleeve they use. Also since they are a universal seater I can just buy the sizer die and use another seating set up if I choose. It sure makes it easier if you have some new brass for a new cartridge and you just can't wait to get a set of dies for the round. :nt:


The Lyman and RCBS presses will accept any standard dies.


Greg L.

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This was originally done on Word so easier to copy and paste to word so the links are active.


Everything you wanted to know about reloading but was a afraid to ask.


By Tj


What is reloading?


Reloading is simply taking the base components of a cartridge, brass, bullet, primer, and powder and assembling them.


The process requires a lot of tools but inexpensive kits are sold that will get you started. The basic components are a press to push the main components together, a scale to weigh the powder charge, dies to work in the press to resize and manage the component fit, lubrication to insure the brass does not stick in the dies, and calipers (measuring tools) capable of measuring to 0.001”. Other tools like brass neck trimming tools or deburring tools may be needed depending on what rounds you are reloading and under what conditions.


This is a very neat site that shows the basic steps in reloading.




Why Reload?


There are two basic reasons that most people reload.


Probably the most popular is to save money. Like most things, if you shop around in buying your components and especially if you reuse your own brass, reloading can save quite a bit of money.


The best reason to reload however is to get the very best firing ammunition possible one suited to your specific task or gun. It’s a misconception of non-reloading shooters that reloaded ammunition is inferior to factory ammunition. This is due to a large part to individuals or companies that do reloading in mass for resale. The fact of the matter is, if you spend the time and do it right, a person can make custom ammunition that will out perform any factory ammunition.


Is reloading right for me?


Reloading isn’t for everyone. To be frank, I’m surprised so many people reload that probably shouldn’t. It’s not the technical aspects that makes me say this but the fact they do not have the time or even bother to take the art beyond trashing out ammunition you can buy anywhere in quantities that does not cover their initial investment. If you are an avid shooter, reloading is a worthwhile endeavor and if you are a precision shooter almost a necessity.


Initial cost to get started can be as low as $150 but if you get into it any at all, you will easily have $500 to over $1,000 invested in no time at all. Reloading is as addictive as shooting its self and every new caliber you reload comes with its own set of challenges.


If you are capable of basic math, understand weighing, measurements, and have a basic mechanical knowledge then you can reload. Its no more difficult than the basic stuff one would learn in first year high school chemistry lab. It really helps to have a basic understanding of manufacturing techniques because a lot of reloading is repetitive do this step then do that step and the same basic quality control standards used in manufacturing very much apply like quality control etc.


How do I get started?


There are few things you can do in the gun culture that one should first research and learn before doing more than reloading. The person just starting really won’t have an idea of what they want to do until they learn what is capable of being done. A good place to start is in forums like this, asking questions, researching what is available on the market on the Internet, and taking the time to learn how its done before you jump in and buy a bunch of gear. Its pretty awkward to try to run 1,000s of rounds on a simple single station press and likewise to do precision low volume loading or multiple caliber’s on a high volume semi-automated setup.


Reloading data is available in all kinds of places, however the best place to start is always a book on reloading. These books published by the equipment manufacturers and bullet manufacturers include not only data for a given caliber, bullet, and powder but the basics as well as good advice on what to do and what not to do or what you may encounter. I practically do not use my book for reloading data anymore at all, however I use the book constantly for reference information such as round dimensions or basic setup issues.


Taking your best guess at what kind of press you will buy and then buying a book from another manufacturer before you buy the press is something I highly recommend. It allows you to research each caliber you may want to reload, observe the issues each may have unique to them, thus make a better decision on what gear to buy initially.


A good low cost simple approach is buying a very basic kit and starting with a simple pistol caliber like .45 or 9mm. This same equipment can be used later for doing low volume precision loads of various calibers and you can always buy a high volume round setup later.


Here’s a short list of sites to visit:











This is by no means all inclusive and Google is your friend.




Dies are the heart of any reloading setup. They are hard metal hollow parts that resize the brass and seat the bullet. Dies are for the most part universal and one manufacturers dies can be used in another’s press.


There are all kinds of dies with a bunch of features however the basic dies needed for reloading are two, a resizing die and bullet seating die. As its name implies a resizing die simply resizes the brass case to its within dimensional specifications so it will reload properly. A bullet seating die press the bullet into place in the brass to the proper height. It may or may not crimp the brass to hold bullet tightly. Crimping dies are separate dies to hold crimp the bullet tight in place and colet dies resize the neck closer than simple resizing dies.


Though many manufacturers tout their case hardened dies as not needing lubrication on the brass, it is not something I recommend. Case hardened dies are great and will last a lifetime but a stuck piece of brass can really slow down your reloading times as well as being quite annoying. I recommend brass lubrication no matter what die you use.


This sounds complicated to the beginner but it really isn’t once you get into it some.


Types of Presses


A press is as the name implies a simple rod that presses components together. There are hand presses, 0 frame presses, turret presses, and progressive presses.


Few things you will get into like this is the tooling so universal as reloading. Much of the gear you will acquire can be used with other presses. Dies for example will work on about any type or brand press and all the measuring tools can be used no matter what setup you choose.


A hand press is a simple lever press that is hand operated. They are very inexpensive and a place many beginners start to see if its something they want to get into. Their big advantage is they are portable and is something often used at the range to change powder charges, test the charge, and then make alterations on the spot. Low cost and portability is this types strength but it has many limitations on what it can do. Its slow to set up and the power is no where near that of a bench mounted press. It does get you pretty use to changing out dies though. Most people who use these in the field will do all the steps at home first and do only powder charging and bullet seating at the range.


About the most widely used hand press is the Lee Hand Press.


The O frame press or single station press is the most common used press. It’s a single station press like the hand press which will operate only one die at a time. These are typically bench mounted or bolted down and operated by the pull of a handle. Using them to reload is a batch operation or if you follow the first link on this write up to do each step one lot or number of parts, a batch, at a time. They are used with bullet holding trays so that you can do each step to completion before moving on.


Though many manufactures make O Frame Presses that are just fine about the most recognized and popular is the RCBS Rock Chucker.


Turret presses are simply a lever type press that allows you keep all of your dies set up necessary for a given reload. The operator can switch dies by turning the turret. Many turrets can have removable heads so you can setup different loads and quickly change between the calibers. This is still a batch process but it allows the operator to combine some one piece flow techniques in their reloading so greatly increasing the number of rounds that can be reloaded within a given time frame. What’s very good about these type presses is it can be used like the O frame and just as suitable for low volume precision loading as changes can be made as you go easily.


Turret presses have extra holes in their turrets so other operations like powder charging and primer seating can be added.


Though once again many of the brand names make fine turret presses, my preferance here is the Lyman Tmag. Its simply one very sturdy design that comes in more complete kits for a reasonable price. It is worth mentioning though, RCBS also makes a sturdy turret press.


Progressive presses are basically a turret press that indexes (turns) with each stroke of the press. They can be setup to do all kinds of operations including powder charging and primer seating. These are best for high volume reloading dramatically decreasing the time reload a given number of rounds. Their advantage is pretty straight forward, they put out a tremendous amount of reloads in a very short amount of time. They have two disadvantages. They are difficult to setup thus changes are slower and when putting out that many rounds in such a short amount of time quality control becomes much more critical. The machine can go out of spec and if the operator is not careful will be putting out a bunch of rounds out of specification. This is the type press used by relaoders who do reloading in volume for resale and the root cause of the reputation reloading has as a whole. That being said, the type is very popular with reloaders especially those who do volume shooting.


Without a doubt one of the most popular presses of this type is the Dillon 550b.


Powder Measures


The part of a cartridge that determines how fast the bullet travels is the powder charge. This is determined by the type of powder and is measured by weight in a very small unit of measurement called grains.


There’s all kinds of powder measurement techniques but one piece of gear that is essential is a scale. Although volumetric methods like the Lee Powder Measure which is simply measuring cup do a fair job there really is only one way to know that the charge is right for a given powder and that’s weigh it. There are two types of scales used in reloading an electronic scale and counter balance scale (triple beam/balance beam type). These scales are not only used for quality control but setup of mechanical dispensers and even check the weight in the spoon types.


Mechanical dispensers are volumetric dispensers that will dispense powder quickly either hand crank or mechanically activated by your press. Calibration of these type measures are done by doing adjustments using your measure scale to insure you have the right load. Once setup, your scale should be used to check that they remain in calibration. Since this is a common area for reloading in volume errors, a cheap inexpensive dispenser is not recommended. Since these are within a given tolerance most precision reloads do not use them at all opting for measuring on a scale each load.


Powder tricklers are a simple device that at the turn of a knob trickles powder slowly into a measure. These are highly recommended for very exact loads without over shooting your target mark.


Of the mechanical dispensers the only one I would recommend avoiding is Lee opting instead for RCBS or Lyman. Of course on the progressive presses you will stick with the manufacturer who made the press and Dillon makes a very good one.


My personal preference for precision loading is a Lyman electronic scale and Redding powder trickler (the marble base one its heavy so doesn’t tip or move easily). This greatly increases your speed in doing loads down to the tenth of a grain.


One of things most taken for granted due to its low cost is a funnel. It makes dumping the measured poweder charge into the case very fast. By far here I recommend the $5 Lyman Ezeee. It has a funnel bottom design that fits almost any case and much more versatile and easy to use. RCBS makes one with a longer tube which works well with rod type powders. Everything in reloading is about time with faster with the most precision being best.


Bullet Pulling


Needless to say, as you do setups you will most likely end up with some test cartridges that can not be used in a gun. Bullet pulling is a method to remove the bullet so you can use the components. The most common method is a hammer type device that simply uses inertia to remove the bullet. Its advantage is it works on almost all calibers. An easier method and on preferred by volume reloaders is like the Hornady Collet puller which is press mounted like a dies and uses a lever. Like a die, it is caliber specific and the collet has to be changed for each caliber.


Case Preparation


This is another area that is most often not done correctly but is very important.


The first step is case cleaning. This is most commonly done by the use of a tumbler which is simply a vibration bowl with a media like walnut or corn cob that will vibrate the case until clean. A neat little trick here is to add a little polish to your media which will make the brass shine like new. Manufacturers will recommend this time or that time but ultimately the judge of when the brass is clean is your eyes. Turn them off periodically and simply check. A good technique is to do this separate from reloading or run a separate batch as you reload. A watched pot never boils. People have all kinds of preferences on which media to use but most of them work and it isn’t that critical if you use a do this separate from reloading approach. Many manufactures make decent tumblers and I can really recommend one over the other. My personal preference is RCBS but I think that’s just a personal preference on my part.


One has to remove the media from the cases after cleaning. There’s some neat tubling devices for doing that as well however most tumblers come with a simple screen method to do the same thing. The separate tumblers are best suited for volume reloading.


The second step in case preparation is visual inspection of the case. Cases with scratches that are over 1/3 the case thickness (judgement call), dented, split, or bent should be discarded. Other than a course inspection before cleaning, visual inspection should be done after cleaning 100%.


Most pistol calibers do not require case trimming however rifle calibers do. Rifle caliber cases should be measured at this point and trimmed to the proper height. There are low cost manual trimmers for doing this, however they are pretty slow requiring constant measuring. The most popular is a mandrel type trimmer which can be setup to a height then repeat it case after case. These come as hand crank types or electric run types.


After trimming the case should be inspected again this time checking the height and looking for burrs. Burrs are slivers of metal left over from the cutting. They can be easily removed by an inexpensive deburring tool which is simply a hand tool that you turn to remove the burr.


Military ammunition presents a unique challenge. Many military ammunition uses a crimp to hold the primer in. If you are reloading this brass, you will need to ream this out so you can reseat a new primer. There’s manual tools for doing this as well as press mounted which I consider the easiest.


Its pretty easy at this point to understand why many prefer turret presses or why even progressive die users will have another press around. Its more holes to mount stuff and do other tasks.


Case Lubrication


Cases are given a very thin coat of lubricant to insure ease of resizing in the dies and to reduce chances of the brass getting stuck. There’s all kinds of ways of doing this but the most common is simply a pad with lubricant and rolling the case on the pad. A neat product I like is One Shot which is a spray can that can be used to spray or on your lube pad. I like using both methods or at least keeping some One Shot around for that odd resize to test this or that.


Primers and Priming


Primers come in different sizes and types. The basic sizes are large and small pistol and large and small rifle. There can also be a magnum designation for the same sizes. Here its simply best to follow your reloading book on recommendation.


The first step in using primers is to orient them open end up. You can do this by hand but a simple tool is a closed pate which you shake and the primers will naturally turn open end up due to the weight difference.


There are a number of different priming tools but its basically two types press mounted and manual. Press mounted its on your press and will be part of the normal loading sequence. To use this method simply follow the press manufacturers recommendations. Many turrent presses offer this in their kits or as an option so its good to keep this in mind. Needless to say, the mounted units have to be changed to fit different size primers.


The most common manual method is a lever type with loading tray like the Lee Hand Primer. It too has to be changed between small or large primers. Its actually a pretty fast step and pretty easy.


Bullet Holders


I specifically mention these because it is probably the least item covered in discussions of reloading yet it is a critical component. The part that holds the brass in the press and for that matter the manual reloader is the shell holder. It’s a simply metal piece that comes in a bunch of different sizes. They come in kits for about $10 and there are two types press which has a slot to fit in the bottom of your press and primer loader for your hand primer. I highly recommend if you plan on multiple calibers to buy a kit right off.


An odd ball thing I just ran into on this topic is a reseating die that wouldn’t go down to the minimum height. It was because the seat was from one manufacture and dies from another.


The most common of the bullet holder kits is Lee, which is also the lowest in height, which makes it very versatile.




I could write a book on bullets but will opt to encourage the reader to visit the bullet manufacture sites and learn. For this write up, one needs to know each bullet size and weight requires a specific powder load and over all length called OAL. This will be in your reloading manual or in the powder manufacturers reloading data.


Bullets are designed to do many things from superior flight to damage upon impact with many things in between. It is one of the major items in reloading that is a variable and can make your reloading a lot of fun due to all the different rounds you can make.


I will mention that in handgun reloading a very much overlooked lower cost option is lead. There are some fine lead bullets on the market that will do a fantastic job.




If you are looking for the one area that can cause catastrophic failure in reloading its being careless with powder. We can only use weight as a measurement for loads because someone else did the pains taking process of determining burn rates and pressures for us. Only use powders that you have data for and the best approach is a low load and work your way up to a higher load.


Now that being said there is an amazing amount of loading data out there for you to try. The powder manufacturers are a good source for reloading data. They will also list powders by burn rates or rank them. A fast powder will give you sharp low recoil while a slower powder will push the bullet more even. The more you work with different powders the more you yourself will become more familiar with the differences and find your preferences for a given load.


Its these variances in bullets and powders that are talked about most in reloading.


Reloading documentation


This is a very critical step in reloading. Once you find the perfect load for a given gun and application, it’s a pain to not know how to duplicate it and equally a pain to fire some test rounds and not know what not to do again.


This isn’t as complicated as it seems. What I typically do is my reloading book is my bible and in my bible I keep print outs of all the reloading data I picked up other places like the powder sites. My book if filled with pages of reloading data. Some people use notebooks, which is fine too.


The other thing I do is simply put a sliver of paper in the box on what those rounds were loaded to or use a permanent market on a zip lock baggie. Once I find a good one, I log it in my book giving some detail on why I like it.


Precision Reloading Tools


A major advantage to reloading is being able to curtail your ammunition to a specific gun and specific task such as long distance shooting. This was a major goal of mine. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised as soon as I moved away from .45 caliber I went out and bought a chronograph.


A chronograph is a simple tool that measures how fast the bullet is traveling after it leaves the barrel of a gun. Its typically a wire frame box with gives the speed in feet per second and many have data loggers in them which will keep track of a number of rounds so you can tell the variance.


This is very important in doing ballistic calculations which basically is a way to predict bullet drop over distance.


Here’s a great little site to get someone started in ballistic calculations:




If you play with a ballistic calculation, it will greatly enhance your reloading experience reducing experimentation time.


People use to kid me I was the only person they ever met that did ballistic calculations on handguns. I just shrugged it off for I wasn’t after getting a handgun to reach out 300m but narrow how many loads I tried to find the perfect load for the application.


In General


Reloading is very much as big a hobby as shooting its self. Unlike other hobbies though, this one feeds your shooting hobby increasing the experience.


To many of us it’s a very worthwhile endeavor. For many, we simply do not have the time to devote to this endeavor to get the maximum out of it but then we don’t have to for whatever your reason if you achieve your goal then you will be pleased. For me, winter is reloading time. I have more time in winter and it beats vegetating in front of the tube.


I encourage everyone who is into shooting to take the time to learn about reloading. Even if you never take it up, it will make you a better shooter just for the learning.





Thank you so much for the help. This is by far the best guide for reloading. I wish I had read it before I did my reloads this morning.



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Thanks for taking the time to put this together and post it on the forum. I, too am getting into reloadinb; because, I cannot afford to shoot as much purchasing ammo directly from the store. I have found that I can reload for a fraction of the cost. I appreciate the information in your artical and on the forum.

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Even though I use carbides for every caliber, I still shoot the shells with some Hornady One Shot. This really simple step makes your job so much easier and it is easier on your equipment. Brass just slides in and out of the dies like butter on a hot Lobster tail.



It takes 2 seconds to spray a hundred cases and they dry in a minute or less. You don't even need to lube all sides.


I took TJs advice and it is worth the extra minute of your life :thumb:

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Another great informative post... I really dig this forum! Thanks Tom!

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Well this is by far the best guide for reloading.

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Thanks! I have been going back and forth about reloading but now that building a .264 it's going to be a must. This thread gets me started.

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Thanks, Tom. I'm just get'n ready to get ready and your easy conversation is a real confidence booster. Much appreciated.

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Thanks TJ!


I know you could not mention all the case lubes, but wanted to pick your brain on two brands I currently use.


1) RCBS case lube came with press,

2) Imperial case sizing wax


I've gotten stuck cases with both, I run RCBS Black box dies mainly (unforgiving). I'd wish to lower my stock of on hand lube before I jump to a new brand. Any pointers would b appreciated.





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Thanks TJ!


I know you could not mention all the case lubes, but wanted to pick your brain on two brands I currently use.


1) RCBS case lube came with press,

2) Imperial case sizing wax


I've gotten stuck cases with both, I run RCBS Black box dies mainly (unforgiving). I'd wish to lower my stock of on hand lube before I jump to a new brand. Any pointers would b appreciated.






I'm far from being TJ, :nt: , but I have never stuck a case with the RCBS or the Imperial. On low volume stuff I go with Imperial. On high volume stuff I use Hornady One Shot. Do not be parsimonious with HOS!


I still have my RCBS lube in the tube from 1976. I gave it up as soon as I found out about Dillon Spray and then I moved on to the HOS from there.


I don't use SB dies, though I own them, in my AR's or M1A's. I have never had any issues with the regular dies in those two platforms. My personal deal approach would be to use a standard set until I ran into issues and then switch.



Edited by GLShooter

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Dear T.J.: I am new to this site so please bear with me. Your article brought back so many memories to me that I would like to share one with you. A very long time ago my son was a member of the Virginia State Junior shooting team. As you can imagine, the young people went through ammo like there was no tomorrow. Since purchasing factory ammunition can amount to a lot of money when shooting hundreds of rounds during a weekend practice, not to mention the course of a year preparing and practicing for the events at Camp Perry, I invested in reloading equipment and components and set about "learning how to" to help make my son's experience on the Team a memorable one. The description and advice you give is a wonderful explanation and summary of what a person can expect during the learning curve we all experience. And, I heartily agree with you when you say that reloading can be addictive. Thank you for sharing this with us. Semper Fidelis! Mike Botello

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