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Reloading for Handgunners, 2nd Edition

Reloading for Handgunners, 2nd Edition

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Reloading for Handgunners, 2nd Edition

Lunghezza:
680 pagine
7 ore
Pubblicato:
May 4, 2021
ISBN:
9781951115326
Formato:
Libro

Descrizione

Never run short of handgun ammo again! 

Driven by an ongoing demand for economical, reliable handgun ammunition, interest in reloading for popular centerfire handgun calibers (9mm, .45 ACP., .38, .357 to name but a few) has grown right along with the interest in handgun shooting for recreation, competition and self-defense. Patrick Sweeney's advice in Reloading for Handgunnershas guided countless new and advanced shooters into an understanding of the advantages of manufacturing their own ammo.

Now, in this 2nd edition featuring 50 more pages and more than 100 new photos, Sweeney brings his advice into the new decade with updates and coverage of the many advancements in products, components and methods that benefit novices and more experienced reloaders alike.

Sweeney's step-by-step instructions cover every aspect of how to reload handgun ammunition safely and economically. That information is complemented by technical data not found in the first edition, plus detailed information such as:

- The basics of handgun load development

- Loading data for the most popular calibers

- Specialty loading info for competitions: IPSC/IDPA, Bullseye, Steel Challenge, Cowboy

- Advice on loading for heavy magnums and big-bore handguns

- Coverage of new powders

- Pressure-test info on common calibers

- New info on loading for pistol-caliber carbines

- Understanding barrel-twist considerations

Pubblicato:
May 4, 2021
ISBN:
9781951115326
Formato:
Libro

Informazioni sull'autore

Patrick Sweeney is a certified master gunsmith and armorer instructor for police departments nationwide. In addition to being Handguns Editor for Guns & Ammo, he is author of The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 Vols. 1 & 2, The Gun Digest Book of the Glock Vols. 1 & 2, The Gun Digest Book of the AR-15 Vols. 1, 2, 3 and 4, Gunsmithing: Rifles, Gunsmithing: Pistols & Revolvers 1 & 2, Gunsmithing the AR-15 Vols. 1 & 2 and Gun Digest Book of the AK and SKS.


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Reloading for Handgunners, 2nd Edition - Patrick Sweeney

decade.

Introduction

You can spend money on factory ammo. You’ll get a certain amount of ammo. If you reload, that money (once you have components) gets you a lot more ammo.

Why reload? You might ask some of us, Why shoot? Why compete? Why climb a mountain? Because it’s there.

But existential questions aside, the reason to reload is simple: control. If you wish to shoot but depend on factory ammunition, you’re dependent on what ammo companies make, what a store stocks and what your budget can afford. If any of those don’t fit your needs or desires, you will have a less-pleasurable experience at the range. If two fail, you might not be shooting. Given the recent experiences with ammunition shortages, you might also add: Because that way, I control my supply. If you have the components, tools and time, you have your own ammo, regardless of panic-buying-induced shortages. As for the final one, when the world is confined to working at home, time becomes more available. After all, you can do a lot of reloading in the time you would have otherwise spent commuting, right?

Let’s get one thing clear right away: You’re probably not going to save money by reloading. Oh, don’t get me wrong, you will recoup your capital investments (whatever they might be, during whatever period of time you spend, depending on the volume of reloading you do), but you will not save money. There’s a simple reason: If you’re like the rest of us, any potential savings will be plowed into shooting more.

That is, if your ouch limit on shooting fun for a weekend is $100 of ammo (I’m just picking a number. I know people who spend more than that on ammo every weekend), you will spend to the point it begins to hurt. With factory ammo, that might be 100 rounds. With reloads, it could be 1,000 rounds. I ran into that phenomenon when I was learning photography. During the pre-digital photography era, buying film in bulk, loading film canisters and doing my own developing didn’t save money. It just meant a lot more practice, and practice is what makes you good.

And makes the expenditures worthwhile.

In addition to shooting more, reloading also lets you shoot some firearms that otherwise could not be used. There are firearms for which you cannot purchase ammunition, but you can load ammo for those guns. In many cases, there’s a good reason ammo isn’t available. Many handguns should not be fired. And that includes rarities as well as elderly models. Or, maybe we bombed the arsenal flat and bounced the rubble repeatedly in 1945, and that was that. The 8mm Nambu comes to mind in that category. You will not find discount prices on bulk-pack lots of 8mm Nambu ammo no matter how much you search online. Your French Modele 1892 revolver? You will have to fabricate brass from .32-20, and then load your own, after you find suitable bullets. (.330-inch, in case you were wondering.) Ditto that neat and compact M1935 your great uncle brought back from Europe. Ammo is scarce and expensive, but when you have the brass, you can load your own.

Another reason to reload is it provides you with ammunition even when supplies have temporarily dried up. During the past decade, we’ve gone through several ammo panics in which ammunition dries up. The questions are always the same: What happened to the ammo? Simple. The guy in your gun club who usually shoots, say, 200 rounds of .22LR a year walks into a gun shop and sees a stack of 5,000-round cartons. He buys one. Or two. By midafternoon, the .22LR is gone, and everyone who was late is determined that they will be early next time, and then they buy 5,000-round cartons.

In the case of something such as .380 Auto, the problem is this: No ammo company makes all calibers all the time. And .380 is made on 9mm machines. When ammo is flying out the door and back-orders are stacking up, no maker is going to stop the 9mm line, rebuild the equipment and do a run of .380. So when 9mm is a hot seller, .380 will be nonexistent.

Another question: Why can’t they make more? Again, simple: Ammunition loading equipment is specialized, expensive and takes a long time to make. You can order a full set of equipment to load a cartridge (at tens of millions of dollars) and wait a year for the equipment to arrive. So no one is going to buy more equipment and blow a hole in their equipment budget just to discover there’s a glut of ammo after the panic. Also, ammo makers do not always make everything. In fact, few do. So, the ammo makers are placing orders to the bullet, powder, primer and cartridge case makers for more. Those people are swamped, and they can’t and won’t invest in additional equipment.

If you’re feeding something rare, you will have to reload sooner or later. On the left, the French Modele 1935 7.65 Longue. In the middle, a round for the French Modele 1892 8x27mmR, and on the right, an 8mm Nambu.

When there’s another ammo panic and the shelves are bare, you can make yours. And you can duplicate common ammo, rare or exotic cartridges, or just regular practice ammo. It’s your choice.

Reloading lets you tailor your loads for the performance you desire. Want speed? You can get it. Want economy? Ditto.

When you become the ammo factory, you have to pay attention to the details — like making sure your pistol ammo is short enough to fit in the magazine while being as long as the chamber can accept.

If you want to ride out an ammo panic, buy in bulk ahead of time, when prices are reasonable. And practice when ammo is scarce.

This is not your typical reloading manual. What you have is the collation of my experiences through decades of reloading. Some will be obvious. Some will not. The latest edition is updated with new powders and bullets, and some new calibers.

I’m not going to try and show some sort of loading data for every handgun cartridge. I haven’t loaded them all. Further, I don’t have them all. (Even in my circles, there are calibers you just don’t see often.) I’ll cover the ones for which I’ve done a passel of loading, the ones I find interesting and the ones I hope you will find useful.

And for each, I’ll include my lessons learned, and the hints, tips and tricks I’ve found that keep them running. You see, although reloading is reloading, each cartridge can — and often does — have quirks, peculiarities and needs. They’re sort of like cars in that way. Some are so easy-going and lacking in faults that pretty much anyone can load or drive them. Others are so twitchy that one mistake breaks a gun or finds you traveling backward into the weeds and off the road at impressive speed.

And I will also give you the lowdown on the reloading process. You can do things to keep out of trouble and things that will make the work — if we can call it that — a lot easier.

Here’s an example from my experience. In 1985, I bought a Ford Escort. It was new, I had to replace my 1978 LTD II (a real boulevard boat) and Ford was offering a deal. But it was a cheapo car, and cheaply made. A friend ran a gas station (actually three), and he marveled at how well mine ran. We usually see them dead at about 60,000 miles, he said. Yours just keeps ticking. Well, I changed the oil religiously, rotated and balanced the tires when called for, and generally took care of it in the details that mattered. It lasted to 135,000 miles, still running just fine, when I traded it for a rifle. (I still have the rifle.)

If you tend to your press, keep it clean, lube the working parts and keep lubricant away from the primer feed system, it will last a long time.

In the course of practicing, competing, having fun, teaching and being taught, and testing firearms as a gunsmith, I’ve shot more than 1.5 million rounds. A large percentage of those were reloads. Properly done, reloaded ammunition can be as reliable, accurate and safe as factory-produced ammunition. Improperly done, it can do to you and your handgun what happened to my Ford Escort. I traded it for a rifle, remember? The new owner didn’t take good care of it, and within a year, the car was dead by the side of the road with a cracked block.

Take care of your press, and take care in your reloading, and you can reach the million-round mark.

In the course of writing, you vacuum up information, process it, test it, confirm it and then catalog it. Well, at least I do, I don’t know how other writers do it. One thing I’ve noticed almost from the beginning is that caliber designations are almost arbitrary. You might think cartridges were named more for marketing reasons than as clear descriptors of what they are. (No, that can’t be it, can it?) So, as all writers at one time have noticed, when it comes to handgun cartridges, there are no .32s, there are no .38s and there are no .44s.

When you get there, you’ll find the various .32s use bullets from .308 to .314 inch in diameter. The .38s use bullets from .357 to .360 inch, with a big jump to .400 inch. That’s right, a .38 that uses .400-inch bullets. And the .44s? They use bullets from .427 to .430 inch. So don’t assume that the name of the cartridge gives you a clear understanding of the diameter of the bullets it uses. Why all this folderol? History. For example, the various .44s. The original big bores are actually .45s using round balls loaded from the front of the cylinder and caps on the back end. The system was called cap-and-ball. When the makers shifted to self-contained cartridges, they used a heeled bullet, just like the .22LR. Then, the bullet went inside the case to protect the lubricant, and the diameter went down from .450 inch (more or less) to .430 inch (more or less).

Competition can call for some special requirements. A .357 that shoots like a light-load .38 Special, with jacketed round-nose bullets? Good luck finding that as a factory offering.

Reloading allows you to use precisely the bullet shape and weight you desire for the application for which you are loading. Of these five, you might find two of them, in some calibers, from the factory.

A caliber near-obsolete, or so old the ammunition for it is now collectible, can be brought back to life by reloading.

Competition shooters need a pile of ammo to get good and more to stay good. Unless sponsors support them, competitors reload to stretch their ammo budget. And then they often use reloads even in the match, tuned to the gun.

The next step was to make the bore and rifling match the new bullet diameter, and there we are. After someone had staked out a name, other makers had to work with or around it.

And let’s take a moment to satisfy the lawyers, the cautious and the sky-is-falling crowd. These loads worked fine in my guns. I’ve checked them against industry data and the published information of the ammo and powder makers. I’ve done all I can to make sure they are ready for your enjoyment. I’ve even pressure-tested some to determine to my satisfaction that they are safe.

There are, however, things that are out of my control. For example, if someone in the printing plant spills coffee and the typesetting software starts transposing numbers like a maniac, it wasn’t me. Check my data yourself against that published by others. If, for example, everyone else has published that a specific caliber/bullet/powder combo is maxed out at 5.8 grains, and for some reason my list shows it as 8.5 grains, it’s that spilled coffee working mischief.

If your brother-in-law takes your prized SAA and with his brand-new reamers opens the chambers up from .44 Special to something else, and then scatters bits of it across the range with his ammo, don’t come looking to me.

We’re adults, and doing something unsafe, unreasonable or just plain bone-headed gets you no sympathy from the rest of the shooting public.

Now that I’ve scared some of you off of reloading, have fun.

1

What You Need

What you need is simple: For supplies, you need empty brass of the correct caliber for your needs, firearms and gear, and appropriate bullets, powder and primers to stuff into those cases. Then, for loading, you need equipment to process that empty brass and stuff a suitable amount of powder between the bullet and primer.

And that’s where the decisions come in. Reloading is like automobiles in that you have choices. After you have exceeded the threshold of function, it comes down to how fast, cool and trendy you want it to go. Which, translated, becomes, How much do you want to spend?

A Yugo (provided it works) will get you someplace in pretty much the same time as a fully tricked-out Mercedes (we’ll ignore the transit time in a Lamborghini for now). It just does so at a different level of comfort, style, safety, status and reliability.

Reloading equipment of all levels can and will turn out suitable ammunition, but some will do it faster, and some will do it for a longer time before needing a rebuild or overhaul.

One aspect of reloading for handguns is volume. It’s not unusual for a hunting-oriented rifle reloader to sweat the details on a couple of 20-round boxes of brass and handcraft perfect little jewels of brass cases. Those 40 cases, when loaded, can last several hunting seasons the first time loaded, and before the cases wear out from use, maybe a lifetime. Benchrest shooters are even more extreme. They might sweat the details on 100 cases, winnowing down this or that near-microscopic fault until they have 20 hand-crafted cases, identical in every aspect that can be measured and as best as the human hand can make them. Handgun shooters, however, tend toward volume — as in a couple of hundred rounds in a weekend’s practice session. Even while just plinking, it’s easy to go through that much. If you’re shooting in competition and trying to improve your skill, that every-weekend-volume is the minimum norm. Two-hundred rounds every weekend is only 10,000 rounds a year. In a lot of competition circles, that’s barely enough to keep your skills at their current level and not have you slipping backward from disuse. It’s not unusual for those wishing to move up to shoot 20,000, 30,000 or even 40,000 rounds in a year of practice sessions and extra ammo in regular matches. Those striving to reach the pinnacle of practical shooting might consume 75,000 rounds a year for a couple of years in their quest for grand master and then national champion status.

This is the result of a short session of loading with a progressive press: a whole bunch of practice ammo. Or match ammo. Just ammo.

When you start loading, look to see where the bottlenecks are in your process. Eliminate the bottlenecks, and you can have buckets of ammo.

Even if your loading room is well lit, a small LED light to add illumination in the tight spots of your loading press can be a good thing.

I recently had a chance to talk to several top shooters at a national industry get-together. The average number of practice rounds fired to keep them in top form? Fifty-thousand per year. They struggle to get that many in, with calls on their time from sponsors, travel and public relations events. But they work to keep the skills they’ve built, and that means 50,000 rounds a year. A few who have ammunition sponsors can count on factory ammo being part of that volume. But the rest reload. They had to shoot more than that per year to get where they are, and 50,000 per year is just enough practice-ammo-maintenance to keep them at the top.

So you have to balance capital investment against production capacity, keeping in mind how much time you will have to shoot. And reloading space — don’t forget space. Reloading requires a certain amount of elbow room. Volume production does not always mean you’re planning to be awash in ammo. With a bit of practice and proper notes, you can produce ammo quickly, even if you need buckets of it.

Not to jump ahead, but let’s take for example the production rates of a single-stage press and a progressive press. The single-stage press will have a final production rate of perhaps 50 rounds per hour. For the rifle loader, that means he’s spending an hour a week in the basement (many reloading locations are in the basement) and has an embarrassment of ammo, ending the year with 2,600 rounds. (I’ve known successful hunters who have not fired 250 rounds in decades of hunting.) However, a single-stage press, used to load 200 rounds of handgun practice ammo, means no fewer than four hours down there during the week. If your wife — or husband — is happy with that, fine. If not, a progressive press will easily produce that much ammunition in less than one hour.

With the progressive press and a few extras, you’ll spend the time of a TV show he or she likes — and you don’t — loading ammo. You spend a bit of money and find the time, and thus preserve domestic bliss.

So when you consider equipment, consider not just what it does but how quickly it does it and what effect that will have on your total throughput.

The minimum equipment you’ll need fall into these categories;

Brass prep, to make sure your brass is clean and ready to load.

Loading gear, to mash all the various parts together. This will include the measuring tools you’ll use.

Component storage, because you can’t let all the ingredients spill across the floor.

Record-keeping, labeling and measuring, because if you load more than one load in one caliber, you have to keep track of it. Failure to do so efficiently can lead to more than embarrassment. It can lead to busted guns or shooters.

And finally, a place to do this. Ideally, it will be a dedicated space that can be secured against prying eyes and busy hands.

You might be tempted to scrimp on gear and make do with a compromise or something of lesser quality. I don’t want to give the impression that I’m solely advocating purchasing gold-plated equipment, but keep two things in mind: You’ll likely be the one holding the firearm that will fire the ammo you loaded. Also, loading equipment lasts for years or decades if properly maintained. Keeping those firmly in mind, let’s jump in.

Loading Room

Archimedes famously said, Give me a place to stand and a lever long enough, and I can move the Earth. When it comes to loading, you can be too comfortable, but only because the room or its contents distract you. You need a place for the press, because you cannot operate a loading press that’s not securely bolted to a bench. It must be secured to an immovable bench or one that’s nearly immovable.

Clean, warm, dry and well-lit is a good place to start. And because you must have a place to load, we’ll cover this before going into the actual gear or the loading process.

Benches: Use as many as you can fit into the room or space, at a good working height and secured by mass or by being bolted to the wall. You’ll be working a lever that will be squeezing brass, so you need mass or anchoring bolts to prevent ending up with a bench that walks around the room as you load on it. Both is an appropriate answer. Some of us load sitting, some load standing, and the bench height must be correct for you and no one else. If you have never worked at a workbench, get some practice. Offer to pull the handle on a friend’s loading press to see what height works for you.

You need a bench. This cannot be stressed too strongly. You cannot use a dining room table, sawhorses or other marginal items. And the stronger and heavier, the better the bench.

I could offer elaborate measurements based on OSHA standards for ergonomic compliance, but ultimately, you’ll have to figure it out yourself.

The benches should not be full-sized tables or other such furniture. I’ve found that any benchtop more than 2 feet deep simply collects gear drifts at the back. By keeping the bench relatively shallow, you have to put stuff away. If you’re not prone to the gear-drift phenomenon, fine. Make them the way you want them. But I prefer benchtops no more than 2 feet deep, and I have some that are even less.

One way to deal with the gear drift problem, if all you can source are full-depth benches, is to build or install shelves on the back. The shelves fill the space that would otherwise attract gear and provide shelves on which to store said gear. If you take this route, don’t store heavy or fragile things on the shelves. If gear falls because of the movement or vibration of the bench from loading, it will be a problem. Things that might drip are bad form, too. A leaky quart container of lubricant above your loading location is a problem just waiting to happen.

Ideally, you will have a loading bench that holds only your loading press and the components of the session. Less ideal is a bench that holds a press and, say, a vise, drill press or other non-loading gear. With a dedicated loading bench, you can keep things clean and sorted out.

Now comes the important part: The loading bench should have all the bullets you own stored on the lower shelves and nothing else stored there. No powder, no primers, no brass. Just bullet mass for stability. The powders, primers and brass should be stored on other shelves or benches across the room. The idea is to make it a conscious effort to re-supply powder or primers. That way, you’re much less likely to make a mistake. If your powders are right there, within arm’s reach, you’ll be tempted to grab the next bottle of whatever while you continue to do whatever it is you’re doing. Splitting your attention is often bad. Trying to multi-task while loading? That distraction is a great way to grab the wrong powder — if you have more than one on hand — and end up loading with the wrong powder. That’s almost always bad.

When it’s time to refresh your powder measure, use the bottle or canister on the bench — the one you’ve been using all along. If you run out of powder, you must walk over, look at the shelves and grab another of the same kind. (Ideally, one from the same production lot.) Also, do not keep a supply of various primers on the bench. When it’s time to reload the primers you’re using, you must walk over and get more. The walking is good. You have been loading, sitting down or standing in the same spot. It’s a good thing to move now and then to keep from getting tired by immobility. Getting your head out of the loading routine and thinking about, Which powder/primer do I need more of? is also good.

A reloading setup requires a certain amount of elbow room and a relatively clean bench top.

When you’re loading, only have the components on the bench you’re using at that time. One powder, one type of bullet, one type of primer and one source of brass.

Enough of the generalities. Now for some specifics;

Good lighting: Nothing makes reloading more miserable than a gloomy place to load. Loading by the light of one 60-watt bulb — and it’s always in the wrong location — is asking for trouble. I did it for years, I hated it, and when I had the chance, I installed banks of fluorescent lights to flood the new white-painted room with light. You can add LED lights to the press to light up the nooks and crannies it might have, but they are supplements to ceiling lights, not replacements.

Good ventilation: A musty, damp or moldy location is not just bad for your dies and tools. It’s bad for you. Scrub the place clean, dry it, paint it and keep it dry. I have a dehumidifier running in my loading space and always keep it at 50 percent relative humidity.

You can have a radio going if the music is background music and not distracting. No TV, no videos, no DVDs of something else running — nothing to catch your eye or ear and distract you from the reloading process. No smoking. Not only is smoking bad for you, but there’s a lot of flammable stuff you’ll be dealing with. No food, either, to preclude lead ingestion.

When you load, start with a clean and spartan bench and loading press. Then, bring only the components you need for that caliber and load to the bench. Nothing else. Only the powder, primers, cases and bullets you’ll be using to load that specific load. Nothing else. And only in the amounts you think you’ll need. If you’re going to load 400 to 500 rounds, bring that many primers. Don’t bring the carton of 12,000. Load until you’re done, put the components back, empty the powder measure and put things away.

If you clean brass chemically or with ultrasonics, you have to dry them. The Hornady case dryer will do that.

Vibratory cleaners need media, ground corncobs or walnut hulls.

Some tumblers tumble. Those reloaders who use liquids, or steel pins will find the tumbler works better then the vibratory cleaner, with liquids and steel pins.

When it comes to case tumblers using corn cobs or walnut hulls, there’s no such thing as too big.

An array of single-stage presses at Hornady, inspected and ready to be boxed for customers.

This is a commercial in-line loading press, and it loads ammo at an impressive rate. How impressive? This was shot at 1/125 of a second, and the bullets are slightly blurred from moving in the frame. How about thousands of rounds an hour?

The biggest calibers, or the ones with the highest chamber pressures, are often best served with a two-step process. First, resize the clean brass in a single-stage press. Then feed the sized brass into your progressive press.

A little effort at the beginning to keep things neat will keep you out of trouble for a long time — perhaps forever.

Your loading room can be as elaborate as you want; a real reloading man-cave or a bare room that serves your needs without breaking the bank. After you have the basics handled, the rest is up to you.

Brass Prep

Getting your brass ready to clean is one of the big steps — well, big if you want your loading dies and firearms to have long, happy service lives. If you don’t clean your brass properly, the nasty, grubby brass will cause headaches. This is such an important subject I’ve devoted an entire chapter to it.

Reloading Press Selection

Presses come in two flavors: single-stage or progressive. Each have variants, but for the moment, we’ll consider those. The single-stage press only holds one loading die (the cylindrical tool that performs some particular operation in the loading stream) at a time. So, for example, to size all your cases, you screw the sizing die into your press and then pull the handle down and up once for each one of them. You then unscrew that die, screw in the next one and continue.

Single-stage presses come in two types and various sizes. One is a C press, and the other is an O press. The C press is just a solid metal casting that’s open on the front. There’s plenty of room to see and handle things. The O press has a front bar. It’s cast as one piece, and the O shape makes it stronger than the C press.

A turret press can have the turret detachable so you can have more than one setup ready to go.

A turret press lets you swap dies while loading by simply turning the turret one die turn to the next.

A Dillon 550B, bolted to a bench with a strong mount. This permits a lot of work, while standing, and is also a more-secure attachment to the bench.

Both work just fine. You might want to opt for an O press if you expect to load really big or high-pressure cartridges. I would not look forward to doing brass sizing of .500 S&W Magnum brass or other difficult-to-resize cases on a C press.

As you can see, to reload one round requires that you pull the handle — down and up — on a single-stage press five to seven times, depending on how many steps you can double-up in dies. For example, the sizing die can also de-cap — that is, press out the expended primer — and seat the primer in one step. As a result, 100 rounds loaded on a single-stage press means 500 to 700 handle cycles.

A progressive arranges a full set of dies in a circular or straight-line array, and each time you pull the handle, you process and then move all of them one step. Each die performs its operation, you or the case feeder feeds cases in at the start, and when the press is fully loaded at all stations, you then produce a loaded round with each pull of the handle. Some progressives require that you move the rounds between handle pulls, and some (known as auto-indexing) automatically move the array at the beginning or end of each handle stroke. Start to finish, loading 100 rounds requires 105 to 110 handle cycles.

That 105 to 110 is for the first 100 loaded rounds. As long as you don’t run out the fed supplies, and top off, the next 100 only require 100 more handle cycles. The last 100 you load will require 105 to 110. So, the math is simple: 100 loaded rounds, 105 to 110 cycles. For 200 loaded rounds, 210 to 220. For 300 loaded rounds, 310 to 320. It’s beneficial to save the added five to 15 press cycles per hundred rounds.

Here I’ll deviate from orthodoxy and suggest that you start with a single-stage and then buy a progressive after you know how reloading works. That might happen quickly — in a few weeks. It might take longer, even a couple of years. The idea is simple. With a single-stage press, you learn each step by itself. Then when you’re comfortable with the process, you put them together in the progressive. Advocates of each will tell you — for various reasons — that you do not need the other. I figure that the single-stage press doesn’t go bad on the shelf or workbench, and it can be used for other purposes later. Think of the single-stage press as your learning press, and if you move on, great. If you don’t, you are all set. Plus, a good single-stage press isn’t going to set you back much more than $100, and it will never wear out.

The Third Type

There is another press: the turret press, named for the circular disk on top of the center post. The disc holds the dies. A turret press is basically a single-stage press with a quick-change option. The turret can be easily switched from one die to another by rotating it to the appropriate die-lock location.

I’ve never seen the appeal of a turret press. Apologies to those who do. To me, it’s just a single-stage press that’s a bit easier to swap dies on but still requires five to seven handle pulls per loaded round. You can also swap the turrets, but this is a small convenience. Unlike a progressive press, you still aren’t processing a case on each die/station with just one press-arm stroke.

The Mark 7 progressive press is powered and loads faster than you could, and it never gets tired.

A progressive press loads quickly. It loads even faster if you have a case feeder bringing a fresh empty up every time you pull the handle.

The Mk7 powered reloading press from Lyman is an amazing piece of equipment. It can load ammo faster than you can shoot it.

The Mk7 has a control panel, where you can adjust pretty much all the operational steps.

Production Rates

The single-stage press has a production rate of about 50 rounds per hour. You have to be careful to distinguish between the cyclic rate of a press and the total work-time throughput of a press. Loading involves setup, loading and breaks to refresh the supplies of primers, powder and brass, and then remove loaded ammo. Then there is the cleanup or teardown and maintenance.

A basic progressive press — one that does not have an auto-indexing option and lacking a case feeder and bullet feeder — can produce 300 to 400 rounds per hour.

If you add auto-indexing (the press moves the shell plate in the process of you working the handle), you can easily add another 100 rounds per hour to that.

The next step up in cyclic rate requires more investment, and that’s in a case feeder and bullet feeder. Not all presses can be so fitted. So study the specs of the presses you’re considering if you think you will be moving up in volume enough to require case and bullet feeders.

These feeding extras have circular feed plates inside them; plates that are case- or caliber-specific. The plate has an electric motor to rotate the plate inside of the case or bullet bin, and lines up and then drops into the feed tubes, cases or bullets. The tubes lead to case or bullet holding and feeding assemblies that feed the case at the start and the bullet at the seating die. All you have to do is keep the bins full, cycle the press handle, and watch and pay attention.

An auto-indexing press with case and bullet feeders can approach or match 1,000 rounds per hour loaded.

The last step is power. A press such as the Lyman Mark 7, designed to be run with power, can be set up to load at a rate as high as 3,500 rounds an hour.

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