Beginner's Reloading Advice... from a beginner.

Reloading equipment, methods, load data, powder and projectile information.

Beginner's Reloading Advice... from a beginner.

Post by boingk » 08 Jun 2020, 3:56 am

I wrote this intended for another thread, but it ended up being longer than I anticipated. I've done a bunch of research into reloading lately after having last been involved with it over 10 years ago, and then only on the sidelines as an assist.

So, why reloading... for the economy? To develop your own loads? Just for the journey and experience? Self sufficiency? All are good reasons, but a lot of people like to know they can save a few bucks while enjoying this aspect of our hobby.

First question, what have you spent getting equipment to reload? Is it a budget $200 setup with basic (or used) press and loading dippers, or is it a full-on progressive setup in the thousands? Lets say you go entry-level midrange with a Lee Classic Turret setup. That's $500 (all costs as of mid 2020). Throw in a set of dies, that's about $70. That will cover you for your given cartridge and most operations required.

Now you need to get primer, powder and projectiles to factor in. Exclude your brass for the moment, lets say you have some saved or given from a mate. You're looking at roughly 8c a primer and 8c per 10gr of powder (32c for 40gr powder), obviously local pricing will affect this but this is using Abelas gun shop in Sydney as a yardstick.

Projectiles vary but lets say we're loading 308. For 308 you can go from a 50c/bullet Speer to about $1/bullet Nosler ballistic tips.

So you've got:
8c Primer
32c powder (40grain @ 4x 8c/10gr)
50c Speer bullet
90c round (excluding brass)

So, what are we comparing it against? Are we spending $1.50/rd on PPU or are we going for the exotic $5/rd stuff? Lets say we're somewhere in the middle, about $2.50/rd for something like a Remington BXC or Federal Premiums.

Right there you are saving $1.60 a round. Keep in mind you can also spend more on ammunition by using premium components, or simply wasting materials by not using them and switching to other types before you exhaust them. I am merely giving an example of a possible economical load for 308.

Anyway, if you divide your $570 loading kit investment by 1.6 and you're at 350 rounds to pay off the investment. It might seem like a lot of rounds, or it might seem like nothing - that's up to you. If you spent half that amount on your original setup with some very basic or maybe used gear then you'd be looking at half the amount of rounds - $280 investment means you only need to load 175 rounds.

What if we factor in the brass? Its often $1 a case. Say you reuse it 5 times before you get new stuff, add 20c per round. Now we're at $1.10 per round. That's still a saving of $1.40 a round, but eats into our figures so you have to load 400+ rounds for the $570 investment, or 200 for the $280 one. Every little bit counts.

If you resize your brass properly, however, it should last dozens of reloads. This is why I did not put it as a cost initially. But resizing takes time.

So lets talk about how much time you spend doing this. Are you factoring in your time as a cost? Do you have a young family, a long commute, a hectic work life? Some people have all of these (or none!) but if you are reading this then it is likely you want the experience regardless and do not want to value your time in a monetary sense for this exercise. Time is one reason I'd recommend a turret press over a single action - they are much more time efficient and you are likely to actually load the rounds you think you will. You see many single action presses for sale, not as many turret style. Think about that. Turret style often claim you can do 200+ rounds per hour, generally people say 100 to 150 is a more relaxed and methodical pace. Single stage are generally between 20 and 30, with bulk runs (ie big batches of one operation such as priming or sizing between die changes) pushing this a bit higher.

All of this is food for thought.

Personally? Say I get a new rifle. I bulk buy some factory ammunition and go from there. I know what the rifle will do with it and have a known starting point. Plus, I get to go to the range/hunt immediately and can go have fun with buddies, then have evening downtime and reload my freshly spent brass. Sounds like a good time to me.

If you've made it this far you'll have an idea of what you need to know in order to know the costs associated with reloading.

What about load development? How do you know what 'recipes' to follow? Search the ADI listings by going to adi-powders dot com dot au and go from there. You will find a lot of valuable information.

Loading is a meticulous task requiring you to clean and remove spent primers from the case, fill it with powder, seat a bullet and crimp it in place. This is the most basic of operations, there are also resizing and trimming operations you need to be aware of. If you don't feel comfortable about this there are many resources online you can utilize. Youtube is great for this stuff, check out hikok45 or iraqvet8888. Both have good reloading videos.

Hopefully my research will give you some idea of whether this is for you or not.

Cheers! - boingk
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Re: Beginner's Reloading Advice... from a beginner.

Post by bladeracer » 08 Jun 2020, 8:28 am

Resizing has less to do with case life than how hot you load them, if you want to load them 20+ times don't get hung up on chasing velocity. High pressure loads eat brass. Virtually all my loads are under factory load pressures, if I need more velocity I use a different bullet/powder/rifle rather than make one rifle work harder.
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Re: Beginner's Reloading Advice... from a beginner.

Post by Noisydad » 08 Jun 2020, 8:52 am

Casting your own bullets will substantially lower reloading costs where cast bullets are suitable as your bullets are so near to free as to be not worth calculating. Bullet casting is a whole addiction by itself though it could be said that you’re not an addict till you deliberately buy rifles you HAVE to cast bullets for. :D
There's still a few of Wile. E Coyote's ideas that I haven't tried yet.
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Re: Beginner's Reloading Advice... from a beginner.

Post by Oldbloke » 08 Jun 2020, 9:13 am

From an old post. Not me. Works great

Here's a link to my Dropbox folder where you can download it if you feel so inclined - https://www.dropbox.com/s/qx02amlb5at33 ... .xlsx?dl=0
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Re: Beginner's Reloading Advice... from a beginner.

Post by SCJ429 » 08 Jun 2020, 10:40 am

Wow Boingk, you wrote an essay at 3 in the morning. I reload because some cartridges you cannot buy factory ammo for. I also enjoy it. If I wasn't into reloading I would stick to rimfire. What cases are you loading for?
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Re: Beginner's Reloading Advice... from a beginner.

Post by marksman » 08 Jun 2020, 2:27 pm

what you did not factor into it is the venison you have in your freezer that's worth $45 a kg ;)
while you are out getting fresh air and doing your hobby as a recreational pastime :drinks:

good on you for putting in the effort to show its worth but l never look at cost, if l can buy it l will if l cant aford it l wont, l do it for best results :thumbsup:
and l cant tell you how much salesman crap l have bought over the years thinking this is going to help
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Re: Beginner's Reloading Advice... from a beginner.

Post by bladeracer » 08 Jun 2020, 2:41 pm

marksman wrote:what you did not factor into it is the venison you have in your freezer that's worth $45 a kg ;)
while you are out getting fresh air and doing your hobby as a recreational pastime :drinks:

good on you for putting in the effort to show its worth but l never look at cost, if l can buy it l will if l cant aford it l wont, l do it for best results :thumbsup:
and l cant tell you how much salesman crap l have bought over the years thinking this is going to help


Yep, even one weekend spent on your own in the bush far outweighs the dollar costs.
My brother spent tens of thousands of dollars travelling all around the world, I've spent even more racing motorcycles, nothing to show for it but great memories and experiences - well worth it.
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Re: Beginner's Reloading Advice... from a beginner.

Post by boingk » 08 Jun 2020, 6:22 pm

SCJ429 wrote:Wow Boingk, you wrote an essay at 3 in the morning. I reload because some cartridges you cannot buy factory ammo for. I also enjoy it. If I wasn't into reloading I would stick to rimfire. What cases are you loading for?


Yeah 3 in the morning, night shift and finished everything outstanding so had some time to kill! I'll be reloading for 450 Bushmaster and 45-70 shortly (any tips?), in the past its mostly been for 223 and 22-250. I remember doing a batch with my brother with Blitzking's in the 22-250, damn thing was pushing them at almost 4200fps. Amazing rifle, barrel didn't last more than 1000 rounds loaded like that though.

marksman wrote:good on you for putting in the effort to show its worth but l never look at cost, if l can buy it l will if l cant aford it l wont, l do it for best results :thumbsup:
and l cant tell you how much salesman crap l have bought over the years thinking this is going to help


Cheers mate, and I couldn't agree more on the salesman bit. There's always a better version of something, but its usually well past the point of diminishing returns for most of us. I'm sure I'll end up doing a few result oriented loads, already thinking of a heavy subsonic load for the 45-70, say 400gr projectile and 80% fill of Trailboss then go from there.

bladeracer wrote:Yep, even one weekend spent on your own in the bush far outweighs the dollar costs.
My brother spent tens of thousands of dollars travelling all around the world, I've spent even more racing motorcycles, nothing to show for it but great memories and experiences - well worth it.


Memories and experiences, for what else are we in the end but ashes and dust?

bladeracer wrote:Resizing has less to do with case life than how hot you load them <snip> High pressure loads eat brass.


I should have mentioned this in the original post. I remember my brother's hot 22-250 loads giving the brass all sorts of hell. I think that's one of the reasons he didn't replace that rifle; the loads it liked weren't kind on the brass or the wallet.

Thanks for the positive reception gents., any tips on Bushmaster or 45-70 are most definitely welcome.
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Re: Beginner's Reloading Advice... from a beginner.

Post by SCJ429 » 08 Jun 2020, 7:01 pm

I don't know anything about the bushmaster but I load for a 45/70. The bigger straight walled cases have a lot of surface area and you need to be careful using lube to resize. I like to use Lee lube and thin it a little on my lube pad with some Ballistol. I then wipe it on the case with my fingers. Just size it gently and turn the case as you go. Size a bit, pull it back out and turn, then size a bit more.

What powder are you using for your 400 grain projectiles? Sorry I remember you said Trailboss. My bad.
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Re: Beginner's Reloading Advice... from a beginner.

Post by boingk » 08 Jun 2020, 9:20 pm

SCJ429 wrote:I don't know anything about the bushmaster but I load for a 45/70. The bigger straight walled cases have a lot of surface area and you need to be careful using lube to resize. I like to use Lee lube and thin it a little on my lube pad with some Ballistol. I then wipe it on the case with my fingers. Just size it gently and turn the case as you go. Size a bit, pull it back out and turn, then size a bit more.

What powder are you using for your 400 grain projectiles? Sorry I remember you said Trailboss. My bad.


Thanks mate, I'll keep that in mind.

I'm definitely going to try a few soft loads with Trailboss as my first attempts to play it safe, and then after that I'll go to 2207 for some more punch. Its listed for pretty much everything I've got in the safe so seems like a good bet to keep things simple. The last thing I want to deal with as a beginner reloader is lots of different types of powder.

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Re: Beginner's Reloading Advice... from a beginner.

Post by cflake » 21 Jun 2020, 8:21 pm

Good write up, but you missed the two main reason why I reload.. firstly you can tune a load exactly to your rifle which will make it much more accurate. But more importantly, some of us live in the city and not on a farm so travelling far enough to shoot at a range can take 1.5+ hours each way. Reloading allows me to do 'gun stuff' at home in the garage.
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Re: Beginner's Reloading Advice... from a beginner.

Post by ash_hendo » 21 Jun 2020, 9:55 pm

bladeracer wrote:Resizing has less to do with case life than how hot you load them, if you want to load them 20+ times don't get hung up on chasing velocity. High pressure loads eat brass. Virtually all my loads are under factory load pressures, if I need more velocity I use a different bullet/powder/rifle rather than make one rifle work harder.


Makes sense, probably puts extra wear on the barrels too?
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Re: Beginner's Reloading Advice... from a beginner.

Post by bladeracer » 21 Jun 2020, 10:00 pm

ash_hendo wrote:
bladeracer wrote:Resizing has less to do with case life than how hot you load them, if you want to load them 20+ times don't get hung up on chasing velocity. High pressure loads eat brass. Virtually all my loads are under factory load pressures, if I need more velocity I use a different bullet/powder/rifle rather than make one rifle work harder.


Makes sense, probably puts extra wear on the barrels too?


Higher pressures are harder on everything, including the shooter.
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Re: Beginner's Reloading Advice... from a beginner.

Post by boingk » 23 Jun 2020, 6:09 pm

ash_hendo wrote:Makes sense, probably puts extra wear on the barrels too?


Definitely. My brother shot out a 22-250 in about 1100 rounds. Culprit was throat erosion from the sizzling loads he was running through it.
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Re: Beginner's Reloading Advice... from a beginner.

Post by ash_hendo » 23 Jun 2020, 9:18 pm

boingk wrote:
ash_hendo wrote:Makes sense, probably puts extra wear on the barrels too?


Definitely. My brother shot out a 22-250 in about 1100 rounds. Culprit was throat erosion from the sizzling loads he was running through it.


Ouch... That would bring up the average cost per shot...
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Re: Beginner's Reloading Advice... from a beginner.

Post by boingk » 12 Jul 2020, 12:22 am

A quick update here, about a month into using my setup.

I ended up getting a Lee Classic Turret Kit, part number 90304. It comes with the cast turret press (auto-indexing four-die holder up top, single auto-prime ram underneath, nice lever and ram system and a heavy cast base), an auto-prime kit #90997, an auto-drum powder kit #90811, scales #90681, extensive reloading book, a basic case prep kit, lube and a few other small bits and pieces.

That was $500 altogether and I consider it pretty good value having now used it for a month and several hundred loads of various calibres. For those saying the included autodrum powder dispenser isn't worth a damn it's netted me 0.87 MOA @ 100m with my 45/70 Marlin... not competition grade for sure but more than enough for hunting/sporting purposes. Plus its 52c a round and not $3 or more...

The good?

1) Its great value if you want a 'do it all' setup. Add your dies and you're in business.
2) Its easy to use and comes with a buttload of instructions.
3) The supplied components all seem to deliver accurate and consistent results.
4) You are NOT limited to automatic powder measuring! Scales mean you can verify and optimise results.
5) You can use the press for single-station batch operations if you so wish.
6) Primers get caught in a clear plastic tube for disposal later.
7) You can easily crank out 100+ rounds an hour... from fresh-fired brass to fully loaded cartidge.
8) You'll pay your investment back quickly, especially so if you shoot a lot or have a gun chambered with expensive rounds.

The bad?

1) If you're loading bottleneck cases you will need to add in a $50 powder die setup (part #90995) to use the autodrum.
2) The supplied auto-index system is close but not perfect. I've tweaked mine with locking pliers to get it spot on.
3) The autoloader isn't as accurate as handloading your own charges, but is infinitely quicker.
4) If you want to use more than one calibre you'll probably want more turret discs. They are about $30 each.

The whole setup has impressed me so far - lots of plusses, not many minuses. If I were making match grade rounds I'd be doing something different, but for a bloke who likes to go hunting and to the range and use 100+ rounds in an afternoon chatting away with buddies its bloody perfect. Honestly this is so much quicker than a single-station press its not funny. One unfired brass in, four pulls of the lever later it's ready to rock, and the only other things you had to do in that 20 seconds or so was push the primer button and put a bullet into the case neck.

If you're after a budget setup this is not it, you can easily get a $50 Omega 800 press off eBay and add dies and a $30 powder dipper system, but for a quick and time efficient kit this is where it's at for me.

Cheers all - boingk
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Re: Beginner's Reloading Advice... from a beginner.

Post by FNQ » 13 Jul 2020, 8:12 am

boingk excellent review.

For me its not worth reloading 9mm, .223 or .308 cause factory ammo is cheap but it does save me money on expensive rounds like .303 & .30-06
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Re: Beginner's Reloading Advice... from a beginner.

Post by boingk » 03 Mar 2021, 10:29 pm

Another update, about 8 months and many hundreds of reloads in. I tend to do about 50 to 100 in a session now, so 30 to 60 minutes at a time going fairly easily while watching a movie or something in the background.

The press has worked flawlessly this entire time, very hard to fault its design or construction. The cast iron base and steel head are more than up to the task and at this stage feel like they'll last a lifetime.

The auto-prime is brilliant and I wouldn't use anything else now. Again, feels like it'll last forever.

The drum powder load system, again, brilliant. I am doing a few more calibres now so have bought the Lee #90453 kit which has four extra drums with it, so I have six total now. I've set the drums for the required loads and marked them with small sections of sticker label, eg "22gn 2207" for my 223 and "44gn 2208" for the 308. Highly recommended if you're doing multiple calibres as it makes changing much quicker indeed - you don't need to calibrate the load drum from scratch, just a quick verification on the scales (dump a load out then weigh it) and you're good to go.

Even the small case conditioning kit (#90950) has been useful - I regularly use the chamfer tool to prep and clean the case mouths of new used cases.

The least useful bit of kit has been the realoding manual, but thats mainly because we're in the good old land of Aus and not stateside which is where most of the powders it references are from.

Anyway, just a quick update for anyone still intrested.

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Re: Beginner's Reloading Advice... from a beginner.

Post by animalpest » 03 Mar 2021, 11:41 pm

I don't reload for cost. If I am just shooting animals for numbers, then factory loads do me. But with some of my rifles, accuracy and bullet performance is king.

Think shooting over a thousand animals a week using 2 rifles. Reload? Nope. But shooting a few that need my rifle to really perform then reloading definitely improves the outcome.

Reloading for me is about being able to have ammo that performs in that rifle for the best result when really needed. I just don't expect my .222, .223, 22/250, 25/06 to do it's best unless I load what it likes. I have 2 x .243 rifles, one a mediocre light barreled and one a heavy barreled with top notch scope - the light barreled rifle doesn't need or warrant time spent on making ammo but the heavy barreled rifle does. Banging off hundreds of rounds a day means "minute of pig" is sometimes enough compared to smacking a wild dog between the eyes at 420 at night.

I reload at work for work, so I need to consider my time as a cost (opportunity cost). If it didn't pay, I wouldn't be doing it.

I doubt whether most people save money reloading. My experience when shooting for fun or sport is that you have a budget and just end up shooting more for your budget.
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Re: Beginner's Reloading Advice... from a beginner.

Post by wanneroo » 04 Mar 2021, 2:00 am

animalpest wrote:I reload at work for work, so I need to consider my time as a cost (opportunity cost). If it didn't pay, I wouldn't be doing it.

I doubt whether most people save money reloading. My experience when shooting for fun or sport is that you have a budget and just end up shooting more for your budget.


I think the time as a cost can certainly be factored in, which is why over time I have sought to semi automate various processes with better machines. At some I can see buying one of those totally automated Mark 7 reloaders for 9mm. I've come a long way from using a Lee hand press.

Where you save money big with reloading is buying components in bulk and doing good deals when times are good and then when supplies tighten you are set. In 2018-2019 it cost me 13 cents to load 9mm here at home and buying factory ammo was between 15 to 20 cents a round. However now it's $1 a round and some people are waiting in line for 3 hours outside a box store to be able to buy 2-3 boxes. It's been that way since last summer and all expectations is that it will continue for a year or more. 300 Blackout I load for 25 to 40 cents a round, now factory ammo is $2-$2.50. 308 I load for 30 to 45 cents a round, factory ammo is $1 and up.
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Re: Beginner's Reloading Advice... from a beginner.

Post by JohnV » 10 Mar 2021, 4:09 pm

Over hot loads definitely shorten case life sometimes dramatically but old style resizing dies also help wear the case out quicker and
make it get harder quicker.
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