I had been thinking about learning how to reload my own ammunition for a long time and I have been saving all of my brass in anticipation of doing so. As always, I tend to meticulously plan and research learning a new craft. This I believe is especially important when it comes to reloading ammunition for two reasons: you a making a relatively substantial initial monetary investment and more importantly, you are working with potentially volatile substances. Overall I believe that reloading is a safe hobby. It is however, a hobby that takes some concentration and attentiveness in order to insure you don’t put yourself or others in danger.
The first thing I did in preparing to learn how to reload was to compile a list of the items I would need to get started. This list is specific to the .223 caliber round I was interested in reloading first but would only require the swapping or addition of a few items to change calibers or add additional calibers. I have also arranged the list to start with what’s absolutely necessary followed with what is optional but recommended and then finally those extra’s that you may not need at all but might make things easier or more convenient.
This kit acts as a great foundation for any new reloader. I had thought initially that I would use only parts of this kit and replace or upgrade some of the other components but found instead that everything was of excellent quality and very functional. There are of course other manufacturers that make comparable kits. They all are of decent quality I believe. I chose RCBS primarily due to their outstanding reputation for customer service.
Hornady Steel Dial Caliper – $36.99 Nothing special about these. Just the one I picked. I think it’s a good idea to learn how to use traditional dial calipers. Nevertheless, I likely will be adding a digital caliper for the ease of zeroing my calipers for more advanced measurements.
Holds your brass in place for each reloading operation. Caliber specific. Nice to have two (one you can leave in your priming tool) but only one is necessary.
And finally your caliber specific die set. Each die in the set has a particular job in the reloading process.
Strictly speaking the above four items: calipers, shell holder, die set and the kit is the minimum investment necessary to get started reloading. As I mentioned previously, if you were interested in reloading 9mm instead of .223 all that would be needed is to swap the .223 shell holder and die set for the 9mm version.
Minimum Total Investment (so far): $391.77
This total of course is only an estimate. The prices of these components can vary week to week and from distributor to distributor.
Now, the only catch in this absolute minimum investment is that you would need to purchase brass for your reloads. Most of us who are interested in reloading do hope to ultimately save money on ammunition. As shooters we also tend to have brass available as a result of the manufactured ammo we have already shot off. If you haven’t started saving your brass, start now! If you do have a supply of brass available to you then you will likely need some additional equipment to process and prepare that brass for reloading. Once again, this guide is specific to reloading .223 and some of these items may not be necessary for other calibers, particularly pistol calibers. For example, it’s my understanding that it is not necessary to trim your pistol brass.
Additional equipment for processing your own used brass:
If you have used brass then you’re are going to need to clean it. I don’t actually own this tumbler but it has gotten outstanding reviews and is an economical choice. I had the good fortune to receive an ultrasonic cleaner from my wife as a gift. She’s the best!
Frankford Arsenal Quick-n-Ez Case Tumbler – $38.99. You will need some kind of tumbling media as well to go with your tumbler:
Frankford Arsenal Brass Cleaning Walnut Media – $15.99 Again, I haven’t tried this particular product but it has gotten good reviews. It’s my understanding that there are lots of options in regards to tumbler media and some research may be prudent to find the most appropriate and economical for you.
When rifle ammunition is fired the brass case undergoes a variety of changes due to the extreme pressures involved. Used rifle brass is often elongated and needs to be trimmed to a particular length. There are several methods of accomplishing this trimming but I prefer this case trimmer. Lyman Universal Case Trimmer with Carbide Cutter and 9 Pilot Multi-Pack – $85.59. I researched several different options some of which were substantially cheaper. One of which you simply insert a tool into a drill to trim the brass. I really didn’t want to bother with that so I bought a dedicated trimmer. You may want to research your options more fully on your own. That research is outside the scope of this article.
Total so far: $532.34
Additional equipment I recommend (and you might need):
RCBS Trim Mate Case Prep Center – $109.99. I love this machine but frankly it is a luxury. The RCBS reloading kit above does include a deburring/chamfering tool that can do the bulk of this machines job at no additional cost. I however do all of my chamfering and deburring on this machine. Nothing beats a little automation! I also use it to remove the military primer crimp that can be found on some factory ammo.This attachment is used to remove that crimp. It has worked very well and counts as a need for myself due to the brass I am reusing.RCBS Trim Mate Military Crimp Remover – $17.99.
A powder trickler is also highly recommended for adding very small quantities of powder to your charge when measuring your desired powder load. In an ideal world your powder measure comes out each time with the exact charge you need. In reality you will need to add or subtract small amounts of powder to get the proper charge. This device helps. RCBS Powder Trickler – $22.99.
Lastly I recommend you have a Lyman Reloading 223 Case Length/Headspace Gauge – $22.68. This allows for a quick and simple inspection of reprocessed brass to ensure that each brass is within specifications in regards to length and headspace.
Total so far: $705.99
Extras! (for convenience sake or just because you can):
The beam scale included in the RCBS kit above is easy to use and accurate but that doesn’t mean I don’t hate using it. Instead I use a quicker and easier to read electronic scale like the Frankford Arsenal Reloading Scale – $29.46 and use the included beam scale to periodically check for accuracy.
I don’t mind using the case lube kit that comes with the RCBS kit when doing small batches of 20 to 40 rounds but when I’m getting ready to resize a couple hundred cases than I prefer to use a spray on lube that I can apply to as many cases as possible all at once. For that purpose I recommend: Hornady One Shot Spray Case Lube with DynaGlide Plus – $7.99.
That about covers all of your needs or wants, for reloading the .223 caliber round anyway. In all, a total investment of:
Now of course you need: cases, bullets, primer and powder. I’ll attempt to cover those components in another article and perhaps give you an idea of how long it would take you to recoup your investment. Another item I have not mentioned is the all-important Reloading Handbook. Theses handbooks are published by each bullet manufacturers and are absolutely necessary for reloading safely and effectively. The RCBS kit above does come with a manual but limits you to using bullets from a single manufacturer. Plan on getting at least a few reloading handbooks from various manufacturers. Lastly, you need someplace to put all this stuff. A good sturdy worktable in which to mount your reloading press and powder measure with adequate space to stay organized and productive!