Load Development (Part 2 - Equipment)
Welcome to Part 2 of our basic guide to precision reloading series of articles! In this installment, we will be going over the various equipment we use and trust to make our own loads. Similar to the previous article, it is our opinion that your loads will only be as good as the equipment you use. That is not to say that it is impossible to use more affordable equipment and produce high quality ammunition, simply that we have had the greatest amount of success and consistency from the following tools:
Press - We currently use RCBS Rockchucker presses exclusively. Great quality for the price and we have received outstanding customer service from RCBS with the few issues we've had over the years. We've heard good things about several other brands (Forster, Sinclair, etc), but haven't found a need to try them yet! All in all, we believe the best results can be obtained from a single stage press, running loads through one process at a time.
Dies - One of the most important tools you'll choose! The dies you use have a great effect on the quality of your finished loads, not to mention the amount of frustration you'll go through to get there! Our strong preference is for the Redding S-Type Bushing die set with the Competition Seating Die. We have these die sets for every cartridge we reload for, and they flat out produce straight ammo over and over again. The Competition Seating Die makes adjusting seating depths a snap and gives extremely consistent ogive lengths. Click HERE to see an example set of these dies.
Brass Prep - We like the Lyman Case Prep Xpress for prepping brass ahead of assembling our loadsd. Chamfer, deburr, clean and uniform primer pockets, etc...all in one place. Makes getting through large batches of brass far less tedious than doing each process with hand tools!
Hand Primer - Again, we use RCBS here, but there are several reputable priming tools out there. We definitely recommend using a hand primer, as it gives you the best feel for the amount of pressure needed to get consistent depths. This is the easiest way to ensure everything is going together correctly and consistently.
Powder Measure - RCBS again! We run the RCBS Chargemaster setup for all of our load throwing needs. We recognize that these are fairly expensive items for the average hobby reloader, but it is an outstanding tool for those of you wanting to speed things up while retaining accurate charge weights. You can obtain similar results by getting a reasonably high quality digital scale, using scoops, and a manual powder trickler. Brings the cost down, just makes the process a little slower. In general, we do not recommend using a balance type scale for precision loads. Unless you get an expensive lab-grade one, in which case you might as well bump up to the digital setup.
Cartridge Length Measurement - Precision loads should not be measured by overall length (end to end). Even with the best bullets, there is just too much variation in the tip (meplat) between one bullet and the next. This will throw your seating depth measurements off several depths in either direction! It is always best to measure of the curved portion of the bullet (ogive), which must be done with a caliber specific tool known as a comparator. Our favorite tool for the job is the Forster Ammunition Measurement System, which you can see HERE. It's especially handy if you are loading for multiple calibers, and can also be used for measuring shoulder bump when resizing cases (which is very important and will be covered in the next installment). It is a bit of an investment though, so if you're only wanting to load for one or two calibers, another option is the Davidson Seating Depth Checkers found HERE.
Lands Measurement - It is also important to know where you are seating your bullets in relationship to the beginning of the rifling (lands) in your rifle barrel. Otherwise there isn't much point in knowing the ogive measurement of your loads! The tool we use is the Hornady Lock-N-Load OAL gauge, seen HERE.
Calipers - Can't use either of the previous tools without a decent set of calipers! We've tried a LOT of different ones and have actually had the best luck with the most affordable one. Not something that happens very often in the reloading world so take advantage! No reason to go name brand or really expensive when a cheaper version will do the same job. We have a super precise gauge block that we test all of our measurement tools on, and these are always spot on. Check them out HERE.
We'll go over how we employ all of these tools in the next installment. Once again, there are several ways to go about the reloading process and an insane number of tools and gadgets out there to help! We are certainly not saying that our methods or equipment are the only way or even the best way, just what has consistently worked for us over the years.
If you have any questions on any of the above or would like an opinion on any specific load, feel free to shoot us an email or give us a call. We'll be back next week with Part 3 - Processes. Thanks for reading!