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Newbie Hand loading questions

This is a discussion on Newbie Hand loading questions within the Reloading forums, part of the Firearm Forum category; Hi all! So I’ve finally decided to dip my toes into the world of reloading. My primary motivation is to have fun with it and ...


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Old March 1st, 2020, 08:29 PM   #1
 
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Hi all!
So I’ve finally decided to dip my toes into the world of reloading. My primary motivation is to have fun with it and do lots of experimentation, while my secondary goal is to save money (but honestly I don’t shoot enough for this to be a big consideration). To start out, I think I’m going to be reloading the following calibers: 10mm, 9mm, 357 mag, and some 38 special.
So obviously I’ve got a lot of questions, but I’ll just throw out some of the most pertinent ones:

1) What to Buy - To get myself started, I was planning on buying a Lee Precision Value 4 hole turret kit (https://www.amazon.com/Precision-Val.../dp/B00162PT16), along with some dies and obviously powder, primers, bullets and all that stuff. Is this press a good way to go for a beginner who will be producing relatively low volumes (50-100 rounds a week at the most)? Or would a simpler single stage press be a better option? Anything else that I should buy?
2) Lead Free Primers - I’m a bit paranoid about lead exposure (particularly because I have a 5 year old daughter), so I’m very interested in trying to out lead free primers. However, I’ve read that these can damage a firearm by causing breach face erosion, firing pin erosion and other problems. Is this true? Does anyone have any advice regarding reloading with lead free primers?
3) Polymer Jacketed bullets - What are the pros and cons of synthetic polymer jacketed bullets? Does the polymer coating effectively encapsulate the lead so as to reduce exposure?

Anyway, in addition to answering the above questions, please feel free to offer any and all advice.
Thanks!



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Old March 2nd, 2020, 12:56 AM   #2
 
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I have a Lee single stage and the turret press. I like and use both. Get turrets for each set of dies. I have two sets of .38/.357 dies. I have a dedicated set for each caliber since readjusting them gets tiring. You're going to need a couple of manuals for reference, a micrometer to measure with, a kinetic bullet puller to break down mistakes, a hand priming tool with shell holders, and a loading block. An inexpensive set of Lee Powder Dippers will come in handy. The perfect powder measure is consistent, but charge weights don't match the included chart many times. I have never used lead free primers or polymer coated bullets. Keep your reloading area clean. Don't let small children pick up fired cases or be around anything contaminated until they are old enough to keep their hands out of their mouths. Wash your hands immediately when you are done loading, cleaning, or shooting. No one saves money, but you shoot more. Experimenting means testing. You will soon want a chronograph. Velocities, standards of deviation, and extreme spread will become important as you develop loads. It is an enjoyable hobby. Read a lot, don't trust loads from unverified sources, avoid distractions, and double check everything. Starting with a simple setup with carbide dies for pistol cartridges is the way to go. Have fun!
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Old March 2nd, 2020, 01:03 AM   #3
 
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I meant a dial caliper for measurements, not a micrometer.
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Old March 2nd, 2020, 02:36 AM   #4
 
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Jump on those dies that Iowegen has on the Classified.

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Old March 2nd, 2020, 05:28 AM   #5
 
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Loading Manuals
At least 3 more to go with the Lee Manual that should come with the Lee kit .
Lyman 50th Anniversary Manual
Hornady
Speer

If you plan to load cast lead , coated lead or plated bullets do get the Lyman Cast Bullet Handbook #4....it's a must for lead bullet loading .

Why so many books ? Way too many variables in just different calibers ,powders & bullets to be contained all in one book .
Always cross check loading data from the internet with a reliable printed book.
The first chapters of every loading manual will have a wealth of info with pictures , photo's and diagrams....Read these chapters and you will learn a lot .
Gary
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Old March 2nd, 2020, 05:43 AM   #6
 
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Welcome to the world of reloading. Reloading is about so much more than the illusion of saving money. Ask all the questions you have and check out a thread Mark204 started that is full of random bits of knowledge from across the forum.

https://rugerforum.net/reloading/369...rs-thread.html
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Old March 2nd, 2020, 08:05 AM   #7
 
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For starters Lee wouldn't be my first, second or third choice if I were just starting out...ask me how I know. Having owned Lee equipment in the past and switching gives me a better perspective than someone who has only owned Lee their entire life. Keep in mind you get what pay for and I'd try to buy a package which I didn't have add much to it. Some of the cheaper package deals look great until you start to add the extras to get you behind the press. Most, if not all seasoned reloaders will advise against anyone new jumping into the game with anything that remotely looks like a progressive. Starting out, (and based on the low amount ammo you plan for) a single stage press is the way to go. Reloading isn't rocket science but it is/can be very dangerous, until you get your feet on the ground you want it to be as simple as possible, a single stage press will help keep it simple.


Personally my concern for lead is not centered around the primer, it's the handling of lead cast bullets so I use surgical gloves. Another major concern for people should be the lead dust that's ingested at the range, especially an indoor range. Inhaling lead dust is far more dangerous than handling primers or cast bullets.

As far as saving money.......that's a joke, but you will shoot more for the same price.
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Old March 2nd, 2020, 08:54 AM   #8
 
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What Mark204 and the others have said, and for sure see the aforementioned thread.

In my experience (going back to the Lee Classic "whack-a-mole" loader 40 some years ago) reloading can be a fun and worthwhile part of the shooting experience. I admit to using a Lee single stage and dies, but as Mark said there are other options out there. I second the recommendation that you start with a single stage press. I will recommend that you look at the RCBS Universal hand priming tool - no extra shell holders to buy and it's a good and safe tool, and works with multiple calibers. Also look at a small digital scale (if not already part of your kit) to weigh check your powder charges.

Enjoy.

Last edited by rainmaker; March 2nd, 2020 at 08:57 AM.
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Old March 2nd, 2020, 09:05 AM   #9
 
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I am an admin on a reloading site.

Stay away from the Lee aluminum presses. Stay far away. I have two Lee's that are either broken or worn out. See image below...
The Lee Classic Cast, however, is a great press. As mentioned by others, your first press should be a GOOD single stage. Don't try to do progressive until you understand all the operations.

Buy at least three reloading manuals, two of them being the Lee and Lyman, and read all the sections on how to reload.

Get loading blocks and concentrate on one operation at at time at first. Visually inspect all the cases after priming, and after charging with powder.

Start with mild loads. Don't even try to get within 5% of max loads until you have developed some successful (accurate) mild loads.

GO SLOW. Don't get distracted. Check and recheck powder scales. If you have electronic scales use the check weights every time you turn it on. But I recommend using good balance beam scales instead of electronic.


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Old March 2nd, 2020, 09:49 AM   #10
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Mark204,
Quote:
Most, if not all seasoned reloaders will advise against anyone new jumping into the game with anything that remotely looks like a progressive.
Although I agree with your statement when it comes to $$$, I don't agree when it comes to function. When comments like this are made, you are basically calling people inept or stupid.

When I had my shop in Arizona, I taught classes to people new to reloading and used my RCBS Rockchucker and Dillon RL550B presses for training aids. I also sold RCBS reloading equipment and a variety of supplies so it was to my advantage if people bought a single stage press.. I couldn't sell Dillon presses, however their factory was close by so most of my "students" ended up in Scottsdale buying Dillon products. I always started people off on my Rockchucker but within an hour or two, most of them were cranking out ammo on my Dillon.

Here's why …. with a Single Stage press, you have to change and adjust dies for each stage so you reload in batches .... sizing and depriming, priming, expanding and flaring, dropping powder, seating bullets, and finally crimping …. typically 5 pulls of the handle and handling the brass 10 times for each loaded round. This process requires considerable mechanical aptitude and patience to get the dies installed and adjusted properly. Handling the brass so many times expands your opportunity to make mistakes …. like spilled power, dropping cases, and getting cases cockeyed in the dies.

With a progressive (ie Dillon, Hornady, etc), there's no need to make any adjustments unless you change bullets so this eliminates most of the mechanical drawbacks of a single stage. You just load up the hopper with powder, load up the primer tube, and off you go …. after the first 4 pulls, each additional pull produces a completed live round …. creating about 5 times as much ammo as a single stage in the same period of time. Brass is handled exactly once so there's no spilling, dropping cases, or getting a case cockeyed in a die.

I've also heard the argument that single stage presses turn out better quality ammo than progressives. I believe this is true with some bottle neck rifle ammo but not with handgun ammo. I used my Dillon for many years while shooting NRA bullseye matches and my ammo quality was just as good if not better than ammo produced on a single stage. Funny …. most of the people in competitive shooting sports use a Dillon press. Ever wonder why?

Many of my "students" were pressed for time with their jobs, busy family affairs, and of course shooting so they didn't have much free time for reloading so speed is an attractive feature of progressive presses.

Dillon progressive presses (other brands of progressives too) come with good instruction manuals …. even instructional videos that show you exactly how to set up your press …. very easy to understand and functionally easy to do. Progressive presses are nothing more than 4 or 5 single stage presses with one handle. Granted, some people are overwhelmed by all the "stuff" hanging on the press so they feel more comfortable with a single stage. I understand that, however if those same people were given an opportunity to load a box of ammo on a progressive press, I wonder how many would change their tune? I liked it when customers bought a single stage press, dies, and other RCBS equipment from me, however if I had 3 students in a class, at least 2 bought Dillon presses.

So tell me …. other than the purchase price, where's the advantage of buying a single stage press, especially if you load handgun ammo?

I totally agree with your assessment of Lee products. I had many bad experiences with defective equipment (mostly dies) and Lee refused to make it good. On the contrary with RCBS or Dillon …. just a phone call and you had replacements in the mail with no questions asked or being blamed. I ended up "eating" several hundred dollars worth of Lee equipment that customers returned but Lee would not make good in a timely manner or make good at all, so I had no choice but to quit selling nearly all Lee products.

DrHenley, BTW, Dillon presses are cast aluminum and I've never heard of one breaking …. and if they did break, Dillon's No BS warrantee would replace any broken parts free. I just sold my Dillon RL550 after owning it since 1993. It was just as tight after 27 years of hard use as it was when new.

Last edited by Iowegan; March 2nd, 2020 at 10:04 AM.
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Old March 2nd, 2020, 10:08 AM   #11
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Iowegan View Post
Although I agree with your statement when it comes to $$$, I don't agree when it comes to function. When comments like this are made, you are basically calling people inept or stupid
Iowegan, my comment was not designed to make anyone feel inept or stupid. If so, my apologies. I’m looking at it more from the safety aspect, nothing more.
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Old March 2nd, 2020, 10:42 AM   #12
 
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Wow guys, thank you so much for all your feedback!!
At this moment, Im really leaning towards a single stage rather than a turret or progressive, and I’ve heard enough bad things from voices I trust so that I’m going to stay away from Lee and possibly lean towards a Dillon. I really don’t mind the prospect of the reduced throughput with a single stage press since I’m a low volume shooter at the moment, and honestly the more “hands on” approach is quite appealing to me. I also like the idea of “batch processing” since it will allow me to isolate the steps (e.g. prime a bunch of cases on Tuesday and load them on Wednesday).

Back to the question of lead exposure: I should clarify that my primary motivation is to completely eliminate any exposure whatsoever to my five year old (she’s as smart as a whip and I plan to keep it that way!), so my main concern at this point is to eliminate any and all lead dust from entering my household. Based on the anecdotal research I’ve done, I’m getting the impression that the greatest risk for lead exposure is presented while cleaning used brass (especially if you use “dry cleaning” techniques). So my plan at this moment is either to avoid reusing my brass altogether, or to use only lead free primers and invest in the materials needed to perform “wet cleaning”.
Let’s say I decide to never re-use my own brass. Since new brass is so expensive, it seems that this would almost completely negate the financial benefits of hand loading, unless I purchased “once-fired” brass that has already been cleaned. Is this a reasonable way to go (purchasing once fired brass and then using it only once)? Or is that just ridiculous?

Finally: I’m still really interested in hearing about people’s experiences with lead free primers. They don’t seem to be prohibitively expensive, so my main concern is that they would have poor performance, or would cause damage to my firearm. I’ve heard that breach face damage was an issue with “green primers” at one point in the early 2000’s, and presumably this was caused by the primers breaking or getting pierced and allowing high pressure gasses to shoot backwards. Does anyone know if this is still an issue?

Last edited by taters613; March 2nd, 2020 at 10:45 AM.
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Old March 2nd, 2020, 10:43 AM   #13
 
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Iowegian gave you some very good advice.

I started reloading in the mid-1960's for a .45ACP 1911. We were living in a one bedroom apartment and I had no place to set up a dedicated reloading area so my first reloading tool was a "Lee Loader". It required resizing by driving the shell into the die with a mallet and seating primers the same way (the "wack-a-mole" referred to above). I always cringed when seating the primers.

My next reloading set was a Lyman "nut-cracker" tool that was equally slow but less traumatic for sizing and primer seating.

Once we had the space I bought a Lee 3-station Turret Press but used it as a glorified single stage. Its only advantage was the dies remained in place between steps. It was crude but functional. I never broke it but It didn't feel very precise or strong.

I finally graduated to Dillon Square Deal and then a Dillon XL650 for 9 mm and .38 Special.

For rifle cartridges a good single stage is fine since you typically aren't loading large numbers of rounds at a time. The slow production rate isn't much of a disadvantage unless you are a serious high volume competitor. My current one is a Reading turret press that is very strong and precise but is basically used as a single stage press with a "parking lot" for dies.

For handgun ammo, often loaded in large quantities, there is absolutely no substitute for a progressive and Dillon is the class act of progressives.
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Old March 2nd, 2020, 11:01 AM   #14
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Mark204, I started loading shotgun shells when I was 16 and 38 Specials when I was in my early 20s. I'm 76 now so that means about 60 years of continuous reloading experience. During that time period, I think I have made about every mistake possible but was lucky enough to discover my faults before it resulted in an accident. I started loading 38 Specials on a "whack a mole" Lee pocket loader and soon graduated to a Lyman 310 "lemon squeezer" hand press. When I managed to accumulate enough money (about 1970) I bought a RCBS Rockchucker and a RCBS Ammo Crafter kit. I used that press for 20+ years then finally bought a Dillon RL550 in '93. If I were to add up all the ammo I have loaded, I would say I loaded way more on my Dillon and had just one incident, compared to many incidents with my RCBS. Turned out, when I poured powder in the hopper, I got a small piece of the Styrofoam powder jar seal in the hopper, which found its way to the drop tube and created very low powder charges. I caught the mistake and cleaned out the powder die …. no consequences. This very issue could just as easily happen with any powder measure such as a RCBS Uniflow or a Lyman 55 so I don't consider this a "progressive safety factor", but it certainly was a potential safety issue. Comparing my Dillon to my Rockchucker, I had many more potential safety issues with my single stage equipment so I just don't understand your "safety aspect". Granted, anytime you are dealing with gun powder and primers, there is a potential safety issue but I firmly believe the safety risk is much lower with a progressive.

I can't count the number of times I have read about single stages versus progressives and I'm convinced …. it's either the "parrot syndrome" where people just repeat what they hear, jealousy, or they have a poor mechanical aptitude and think everyone else has the same problem ….. when indeed they have never pulled the handle on a good progressive press like a Dillon or Hornady. IMO, Lee's progressive and RCBS early "Piggy Back" progressives are junk so I can see poor results if these presses were used to form an opinion.

Last edited by Iowegan; March 2nd, 2020 at 12:02 PM.
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Old March 2nd, 2020, 11:22 AM   #15
 
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I sure like my Dillon RL 550 and I got it at a SMOKING PRICE
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