Monday, July 2, 2012

Forget Fire; I Made Ammo!

Here's some good gunnie math.


Plus this:

(plus some other stuff like powder and primers)

Equals this:

Thanks to the patient and observant eye of Wally, the maestro of metal (more on this Friday, BTW), I was able to turn some used brass and the cast lead bullets I received from SNS Casting into real, honest-to-goodness ammunition. Now, as folks rightfully pointed out, the real proof is in the pudding - I'll have to wait until the Fourth to find out if they actually work. I've got a shiny new 10" steel plate that I'm itching to shoot, and I figure that a few of my own rounds ringing that steel is more than appropriate for Independence Day...

I used to think that Wally was evil because he kept making lowers for me. Now I know he's evil because he's gotten me hooked on reloading... I think one of the biggest things holding me back before was that the only introduction I'd had to reloading was through a well-meaning friend who showed me his progressive press - while it's a great setup for cranking out lots of rounds, it's rather intimidating for someone just starting out. Seeing the single stage setup, and how each step works one at a time, made a difference.

Wally is a great teacher, BTW. He ran through the setup once using his press, dies, and materials - I made a dozen or so rounds of 9mm, then about the same in 300 BLK. We took a break to do some shooting (including the 300 BLK, more on *that* later as well), and then we returned to the reloading bench. Wally set up my press (which he gave me quite some time ago and has been egging me on to get crackin') and had me run through the procedure from start to finish while he watched.

It wasn't until he stopped watching that I had my one and only screw-up. I deprimed a bunch of brass, and got it all loaded up to find out that I had 47 rounds. Well, I brought along an empty box, and having three holes empty just didn't seem right, so I thought I'd fill it in with three more rounds. And then Wally suggested making a magazine's worth to test, so I set up to make 13 more rounds. I only missed one step - five rounds into the seating process, I realized that I had forgotten to re-prime the rounds... Powder leaking into the box was the first indication...

So, now I'm looking to embark on my reloading path. The hardest part is going to be clearing a spot in the basement and making a suitable bench for all the gear. To get started, though, I'm going to need a few very basic tools: a scale (digital or analog?), a tumbler, a manual(s), a caliper(s) a log book, and some more dies - I've got .45 ACP and .223 Remington; I'll need 9mm and .38/.357 at a minimum, with .44 Magnum/Special as a close third. I'll probably stick with pistol calibers initially until I get more comfortable with the whole process.

So, for the reloaders out there, what are some good scales/tumblers/dies/etc.?

That is all.


ZerCool said...

I've got Hornady and Speer (?) reloading manuals; the Hornady is my go-to. I spend a fair bit of time reading the databases at when working up a new load as well, especially with cast lead.

I have both a beam scale (analog) and a digital. I'll use the digital most of the time, but throw a check load on the beam every so often to make sure things are still correct.

When you get a tumbler, don't bother with the "AutoFlow" models from Lyman - they just make a mess. Much better to get the sorting screens and a 5-gallon bucket to dump into.

My reloading "bench" is a 2x2 butcher-block table I picked up at a yardsale; it's heavy enough that cranking on the press doesn't move it, but small enough to move around. A 2-drawer file cabinet holds most of my supplies, with a cheap plastic set of drawers on top to hold the die boxes.

RipRip said...

Lee Precision makes really good pistol dies, cheap and as accurate as needed. I like their factory crimp dies as well. Not real sure on their rifle dies seem to work well but I’ve never had the chance to use anyone else’s.

Larry said...

I'm embarking on the reloading adventure myself, only with 6.5x50 rifle rounds.

Robb Allen said...

I'm going to say spend a few extra bucks on the RCBS or Hornady dies. The Lees work, but they're not as consistent as the RCBS ones I have.

A cheap digital scale works, but you gotta keep them calibrated. The one I have comes with two bars of a specific weight. After a while, they don't weigh the same...

A beam scale is *CHEAP* and very accurate. Just slow as balls to use, however it's all I use when doing rifle.

Finally, it might just be the picture, but those rounds look a little short. What's your OAL on them? You do check your caliper's Zero, right?

libertyman said...

Jay, I have some extra stuff. Let me send you a personal note and we can discuss it there. Sorry I missed you guys Saturday, but I would have been a distraction to the class anyway.
Wait until you see what I picked up Sunday though...

Wally said...

I am hugely biased in favor of Hornady dies and would recommend them for the vast majority of applications.

You can get all sorts of gages to judge the quality of the rounds as well, case gages to check fit and lenght, calipers for measuting seating depth, etc. The acid test is if they work in your gun, of course.

We didn't go over recipie derivation at all - but in briefest summary, don't use lead bullet load data for jacketed. Plated doesn't count at jacketed either.

In most - MOST! - situations, it is safe to reduce the powder charge to lower the pressure and velocty. There are times when this will be quite bad. Some load data will be marked as "do not reduce" and that is a fact.

For a scale, beam is fine for a good long time $40 used at KTP, I'd suggest the brand of "not lee". Consider acquiring a digital scale when you make the leap to precision rifle reloading.

Load data - It used to be you'd have to rely on 3 or 4 load data books, but now there are a lot of mfgs publsihing data direct to the web. And there are a lot of homegrown handload data sights too - just keep in mind anyone publishing their own load data is doing it without the aid of an in-house internal balisitics lab...

Skul said...

I prefer the RCBS dies, followed by the Redding units.
Beam scales are inexpensive, but, would suggest an electronic one.
My tumbler is home-made, and looks it.

Wait till you decide to start casting your own bullets. That's when the "fun" begins.

Andrew said...

Get a digital scale and an analog caliper. RCBS and Lee make fine dies. I have a Lee progressive and a RCBS single stage. I like to make my rifle rounds on the single stage.

I have a bunch of recipe books, but this book:

has a wealth of history and backstory that I loved to read.

Anonymous said...

Pistol dies should be carbide, period, end of story.

Lee's work, but others, especially Hornady work better.

RCBS used to be top line, but their quality has slipped. I have some old dies built more than a decade ago, and some built in the last 2 years, and their is a definite quality difference. Some forums have posts that intimate that RCBS has switched to overseas manufacture and that is when the quality declined.

My Hornady pistol stuff looks like it is finished decidedly better than RCBS and Lee.

For Rifle, I like Redding and Forster dies, and if I;m really reaching for accuracy I like bushing dies from Redding, which allow you to determine neck tension using a changeable bushing within the die.

Electronic scales are the way to go. Balance beam scales work, but are SLOW compared to electronic scales. I use RCBS's scales and have been impressed by how well they hold over long sessions. They are +/- .1 grains over hundreds of cases.


Anonymous said...

I use mostly Lee Deluxe die sets and have never had a problem. They are considerably less expensive than other brands. When you're ready to move up (and you will be) a Lee turret press is inexpensive and as easy to operate as a single stage press/

My "cheap" electronic scale always measures within .1 GR of my balance beam and is considerably easier to use.

I have several tumblers but this one is the least expensive and works best:

I get most of my reloading supplies from because their prices are competitive and they have a $6 shipping cost on any size order.

A good choice for bulk powder & primer supplies is Their prices are low compared to most other sources. There is a hazmat fee on powder/primers but I usually combine orders with friends and split the hazmat.

I might get some static from your readers but I usually use Tula primers. They're significantly less expensive and I've never yet had a failure to fire.

You've not started a hobby but, instead, an addiction. Welcome to the asylum.


Ritchie said...

Lee Precision .223 dies work fine for me, and work the case a lot less than the green box ones. With crafty adjustment, case stretch is minimized and rounds so produced shuffle right through 5 different ARs.

lee n. field said...

"So, for the reloaders out there, what are some good scales/tumblers/dies/etc.?"

Dies -- Lee is fine, though I don't care for the lock rings. Get carbide, trust me on this.

Scales -- I have an RCBS 505, which is a great scale. Most of the bean scales are (I'm pretty sure) made by Ohaus.

The Lee Safety Scale works and is accurate, but has a 100 grain capacity, so if you have mystery bullets you've picked up some where, you'll need something else to weigh them.

You'll probably want to get a check weight set, for peace of mind with respect to the scale.

If you're using a single stage press, you'll need a pair of loading blocks, to keep things organized.

You need a powder measure -- RCBS Uniflow is nice (but note, there are two different rotors. For pistol you want the small cavity one.) You'll need a stand to mount it on.

Tumblers? Check Midway.

This here Lyman caliper has served me well for many years.

And just wait until we get you into bullet casting.....

Anonymous said...

I have a cheap digital scale - I have tried and tried to get a consistent reading - no luck.

I don't know about the expensive electronic ones, I never tried them, but I don't think I would trust any critical measurements from them.

The RCBS 10-10 is what I use.

But one caution: trying for the last little bit of velocity is a sucker's game - I load middle of the road, and enjoy myself, as opposed to my younger days when I ran hot loads in a .357, and while the noise was spectacular, the recoil was not comfortable.

The middle of the road approach reduces the need for precision, since being off a half a grain in either direction is not a catastrophic failure waiting to happen.

The most important advice is this: buy the reloading book and read it - not the data, but the part that tells what you are doing and why. My first book was Hornady ('cause I liked the illustrations), but anything will work.

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