Please teach me how to get started reloading ammunition

My uncle Jerry claimed he was going to come down here and teach me to reload but that guy is so unreliable that I’ll be lucky if he visits in the next 5 months. I figure, why not get started now? I’m a handy guy and have always been good with fine manual work, so I figure, why not?

I recently built a workbench (at someone else’s house - kind of hard to build a workbench if you don’t already have one to begin with!) and I put it in my little “gun room” (actually a large closet that I converted into a work area) with the hope of being able to set up a small reloading press. Here’s a picture of the whole setup. I think it’d be a good investment and it would save me the trouble of having to buy new cartridges every time I run out of ammo.

So, I want some basic advice on how to start up. What tools and materials will I need? What kind of reloading press should I buy? The only cartridges I really care about reloading are .308 and .30-06, so I only need the equipment to be able to do those two. Just give me a basic idea of the different supplies I’m going to need, and any tips for a beginner you might have.

Got a good gun shop nearby? Go in, make friends and ask them.

Years ago I found a nice kit from Cabelas that had almost everything I needed for reloading pistol ammunition.

If you aren’t going for huge quantities, you don’t need a fancy progressive press. Just get the simple kind that you use in multiple passes, and you can put out a couple of hundred rounds in an hour or so.

These kits come with a powder scale, rack for the rounds, deburring tool, single round press, book, funnel, among other things.

The kit was around ~$100 without dies. They probably sell something similar these days (though it’s probably $150).

In addition to the kit, I got a set of carbide dies for the cartridges I was refilling. I also bought a hand capper, a nice little gadget that you load up with primers and you cap all of your rounds fairly quickly — better than using the press for that.

Perhaps the most critical part is choosing your ammo, powder, and the charge. I had a knowledgeable gun friend help me out with these.

When I figured out the charge I wanted, I used a Dremel tool to cut off a shell casing to make a powder measure that held exactly the right quantity and I soldered a bit of wire coat hanger onto it for a handle. Then I could scoop the precise amount quickly without having to mess around with the scale. I have one scoop I use for .38 and another for .357

Good luck! I really like reloading, even though I haven’t done it in ten years or so. It is an enjoyable process.

Unless you’re reloading for a really obscure, antiquated, or just hard to get calibre, I’ve found reloading isn’t worth the time and hassle.

Using a single-stage “rock-crusher” press, primer tool, and basic scales (not digital ones), it takes hours to make a batch of 50 cartridges. The cost per bullet might be lower if you reload, but when you factor the time in it’s not cheaper at all.

For .30-06 and .308, I wouldn’t even bother trying to reload; just buy your ammo in bulk from one of the bulk ammunition dealers (you have got a C&R FFL 03 licence, right?) and use the time you’d spend measuring out powder charges and bullet weights and other quasi-alchemical reloading activities for something else.

Really? On the gun forums I frequent, it seems like everyone is into reloading, especially for .30-06 and .308. (These guys often shoot in matches and they want their cartridges to be tailor made to their preferences in every way, I guess.) They make it seem like it’s a lot cheaper than buying those cartridges, which, especially in the case of .308, are going up in price like crazy.

What sort of shooting are you doing? Most of the guys reloading are shooting huge quantities of ammunition and/or shooting National Competition level matches. For general hunting and range use, reloading is more hassle than it’s worth, IME.

Most Military Surplus rifles will shoot to about 1MOA or so. They were designed to accurately put a round into a man-shaped target at ranges up to 1000 yards or so, and they will still do that. Some of them will shoot even more accurately than that, of course, if you get lucky.

Let’s put it another way: An M1903 Springfield worked just fine throughout two World Wars without having to be fed special, hand-loaded ammunition. It will work just fine with off-the-shelf commercial or military surplus .30-06 ammo today.

You say .308 ammo is getting more expensive… how much more expensive? It’s .50c/rnd here in Australia and to me, that’s well below the “I should start reloading for this calibre” price threshold. Your results may vary, of course.

Heh, well, in the 1940s, you could probably get 5,000 rounds of .30-06 for like 10 dollars. Maybe even less than that. In “Steal This Book” Abbie Hoffman writes about how the Lee-Enfield and the Springfield 03A3 are “good buys at about $20.00.” And that was in the 60s. Now ammunition is so damn expensive that even a spoiled brat like me has to start tightening his belt.

I like the idea of getting 200 rounds of .308 and then after they’re all fired, being able to make nice new cartridges out of all of them with less money than it would take to buy 200 more rounds new. Also I find semi-skilled manual tasks like reloading to be very rewarding psychologically and a good way to pass the time, of which I have lots.

The question is, of course, what was that $20 worth in the '60s in terms of buying power?

I did the maths once and worked out that it cost about ₤4 to make a Lee-Enfield rifle in the 1940s. That works out to about AUD$400 in today’s money- pretty much what they’re worth now, in other words.

I decided to shoot less (I know, the horror!) and focus more on “cheaper” calibres like .22 and 12ga; saving my centrefires for hunting and Military Service competitions.

Fair enough, it might be worthwhile for you. Just be careful; if you get it wrong you can do yourself and others a serious injury. You’re probably better off asking for tips on one of the bigger shooting boards; they can recommend powders, presses, primers, loads, and so on for you.

(bolding mine)

This is not correct, unless rifle ammo is substantially more complex than pistol ammo.

I routinely went to the range with two or three hundred rounds and brought back the brass, to reload for my next trip.
The key is to get an assembly line going and just enjoy the quiet time with your hobby. Kind of like fishing, you aren’t there just for the moment when you catch the fish, the rest of the time is “hobby time” as well.

I have a bowl of empties that I quickly run through the press, one per second or so, to pop out the primers and size.
Once I have a bowl of sized cartridges, I switch dies to the flaring die and do the same process, just as quickly.
Then I insert the primers using a hand primer tool that you load up with a hundred primers and just go click-click-click, priming cartridges.
Once that’s done, I put fifty in a rack and use my presized scoop to carefully put a power charge in all of them.

Then I go through and set bullets in them and then run them one final time through the press, with the third and final die in the press.

Total time for a couple of hundred rounds: less than an hour, and I enjoy the process.

I bought full wadcutter bullets in bulk, primers in bulk, and a pound of powder and it was definitely cheaper than buying off the shelf (I never bought bulk ammo, though), and I get precisely the loads and bullets I want.

How can something I’ve personally experienced several times be “not correct”? :dubious:

I’ve tried reloading several times- usually because someone says “Oh, you’ve got to reload, you can make custom loads and it’s cheaper and it’s very relaxing”- and since the only reloading equipment I have access to is as basic as it gets (single-stage press, no pre-sized scoop or anything like that), it always takes hours- about two hours, last time I tried- to make a batch of 50 cartridges for a rifle or handgun.

I really, really, really do not enjoy reloading. It’s fiddly, frustrating, potentially dangerous, and too time-consuming for my liking. My hobby time is spent researching and understanding old guns; I’ll the leave the ammunition manufacturing to Remington, Winchester, Prvi Partizan, and other professional companies who know what they’re doing. YRMV, of course.

No, they won’t. 1 MOA translates to 1 inch at 100 yards and the vast majority of military surplus rifles absolutely will not shoot that well; especially with their issue sights and with issue ammunition.

Assuming the rifle has been cared for properly, most of the military rifles I’ve shot will do 1MOA or near enough to it with issue sights. I can’t comment on issue ammunition as I don’t use it for the most part; I’m not a big fan of corrosive bullets.

Not saying your experience is not truthful in any way, and sorry if you took it the wrong way.

I’m just sayin’ that it is possible to do 200 rounds of pistol ammo in less than an hour, once the ducks are all in a row, even using basic cheap equipment (I use a single stage press, but the handmade scoop and the cool primer tool make a big difference in time).

I suspect it really does have a lot to do with whether you like the process, and just as I can’t imagine myself spending hours tying flies only to spend hours waiting for a fish to bite, I imagine many just can’t get into the zen of reloading.

ETA: There is the distinct possibility that it really does take 2-3 hours, but I am so into the zone that I don’t even notice :). I think I timed it once or twice, though, while trying to refine my workflow.

Post some groups you’ve shot at 100 yards. I’ve owned enough surplus rifles to say that 2 to 4 inches at 100 yards is more the rule. A search of the archives at The Firing Line and at The High Road will show a preponderance of shooters whose experience mirrors my own.

I’m not getting into an argument with you over it, scumpup. How about I modify my original statement to “Some Military surplus rifles can shoot 1MOA”? Even a 2" group at 100 yards is pretty good, and more than suitable for most of the stuff the “average” shooter is doing, IMHO.

The problem is that people complaining that old military rifles “aren’t accurate enough” leads to people buggerising them, scoping them with non-removable scope mounts, and so on… but that’s a topic for a different thread.

Do you pretty much need a workbench to reload?

Not necessarily, but it helps.

The kitchen table is fine, but you do need a place to secure the press, usually by bolting it to the workbench. I solved this by bolting it to a piece of 2x4. I then used clamps on either side to hold the 2x4 to my work table.

The rest of the gear can all be neatly stowed inside one of those plastic tool boxes from Home Depot.

If you have the bucks to spend, a progressive press from Dillon will tremendously speed up your production. I see used Dillons turning up on ebay pretty regularly.

Even as someone who has never done any handloading of any kind, I can well believe that the difference in time between scooping a set volume of powder and painstakingly weighing out the same amount would be very noticeable when you start multiplying it by 50 or 100 units.