Given the state of today’s economy and the costs of everything you love on the rise, I’m sure that many of you have begun to notice the gradual increase in the cost of a box of ammo. It’s not a regional thing, it’s everywhere. While many of us will just keep paying the increases in order to keep shooting, we here at MARSEC4 would like to offer you a easy and convenient solution for making your own ammo. Let us know if this is something you are interested in learning. If there is demand, then we will keep the series coming and possibly make a video with instructions. Thanks all.
I feel sorry for people today that are trying to get into reloading. If I were new to this hobby, I’d be totally overwhelmed and lost. Try researching reloading on the internet to find simple straight forward information. You will be directed to tons of forums where you can read post by “experts” spouting off about “head space”, “seating”, “ballistic coefficients”, and tons of other jargon. If you try to buy a book, then which one do you buy? Every powder or bullet manufacturer has a book available plus all the independent books that are available.
All this can be quite confusing. I had the advantage of working in a gun store where I learned reloading from people that had been doing it for years. They didn’t make fun of me when I asked stupid questions like I see when people get abused on Internet forums. I had people that could translate the technical hoo-ha into plain English. My goal in this series of articles is to hopefully make reloading easy, safe, and enjoyable for you.
I, in no way, claim to be an expert on this subject…just an amateur re-loader. I also assume NO responsibility for any injury or damage to property resulting from anything contained in these articles. It is the reader’s responsibility to verify all information posted. Remember that in reloading you are dealing with explosive powders. Gun powder goes BOOM! !! very easily with devastating results. Efforts to reduce static electricity and exposure to ignition sources are critical in keeping the roof on your house and you alive.
If you have an interest in reloading, here are some simple questions you should ask yourself:
How much ammunition do you shoot in a year?
The reason for this question is the basic reloading kit that will have everything needed to get started cost $300 – $350. You will still need to buy gun powder, bullets, primers, loading dies, and maybe shell casings to get started. Expect to spend over $500 to get started. If you only shoot a couple boxes of ammo a year, go to your local WALMART for target loads and save the money.
What calibers are you looking to reload for?
Each caliber requires a unique set of dies. For example if you shoot 9mm, you have to buy 9mm dies, 40 caliber requires 40 cal dies, 45 ACP requires 45 ACP caliber dies, and so on.
There is one caliber you get to cheat on and that 357 magnum dies will work for reloading 38 special and 357 magnum. These sets typically come with three dies:
(See picture, left to right)
One is for pushing the primer out and resizing the outside of the casing.
One is for flaring the opening of the casing to receive the bullet.
One is for actually seating the bullet.
There is one other piece you will need in addition to the reloading dies for each caliber that you want to reload for. This is called the shell plate and attaches to the press. This is what holds on to the rim of the casing so you can run it through the process.
Now before we go any further, let’s get our terms straight that we will be using in this article. A case or casing is the brass colored (sometimes nickel plated) portion that holds the bullet and the powder. The powder is of course gun power. This makes it go boom! The bullet is the actual projectile that comes out the end of the barrel. It does NOT refer to the finished product. The primer is the silver or brass colored piece that sits inside the casing at the end. This is the part your firing pin strikes to make the magic happen. The cartridge is all the components put together. The primer, the casing, the powder, and the bullet combined. The dies you buy allow you to put together all of these components to make a cartridge or finished product.
Now that we have our terms identified, let’s move on with the process.
Dies for each caliber will run you $45 -$60 depending on where you buy them from. MidwayUSA has pretty good prices on reloading equipment if you don’t have a decent local gun shop.
Midwayusa.com Dies come in either carbide or regular steel. Carbide is more durable and is designed for mass reloading. They will give you years of dependable service and are designed for those that shoot a lot. If you just shoot a little, don’t be afraid of steel dies as they will work just fine. Also don’t be afraid to look at eBay for reloading stuff. Used equipment will give you years of dependable service for a cheaper price.
I have a RCBS reloading system so much of what you will be shown is based on that system. I started off with the Rock Chucker Kit which gives you everything (except the dies) to get started. Other manufactures make great starter kits as well such as Lee, Lyman, Hornady, and others. There are many great manufacturers out there with starter kits that will do the job. All starter reloading kits are called “single stage” reloaders. This means that you have to do each stage of the process manually.
“Progressive” presses refer to those re-loaders that automatically advance through each stage of the process with just the pull of the handle. Anyone starting off in reloading should start with a single stage press. Dillon makes excellent reloading equipment but this is more designed for the pros. It’s great stuff but overkill if you’re just looking to make up a few rounds for shooting occasionally.
Your starter kit should include the following:
Scales – This is used for measuring the gun powder. Gun powder is measured by weight with a unit of measure called “grains”. It is abbreviated as “gr.” Most starter scales are a balance beam type. There are digital ones available as well. The scales will come with easy to follow instructions. Your first step will be to zero the scale, and then set it to desired weight of the power. The gun power will be placed in the tray for weighing.
Powder Measure – The powder measure is designed to dump a pre-measured amount of powder with every actuation of the lever. The powder is added through the top. There is a set screw that controls the amount of powder (in grains) that is released when the lever is moved up and down.
Press – The press allows the assembly of all the components. The dies are screwed into the press for each stage of the process. The press should be bolted or clamped securely to a table.
Caliber – You will need a caliber for measuring your casings and more importantly your overall cartridge once your bullet is seated. This ensures the overall length of the cartridge is correct
There is some other stuff that comes in the standard starter kit that I never use. These are the main things you will need. Now that you no some of the basic equipment, you can start looking around gun stores and websites for various prices on each item. In our next article we will begin discussing how you go about the process of preparing to make your own ammo.