Feedback Score: 0 reviews
Join Date: May 2010
Location: 18 mi. south of Asheville, NC
Well, it it helps any, I know where you're coming from 'cause I was once where you are. Seems most of us who have learned a little are quite emphatic that other noobs buy and use what ever turns us on rather than what the noob really needs. I'd rather help you with what you need than have you duplicate what I do after well over 4 decades of reloading for and with virtually everything available.
First, a perspective; you can be absolutely certain that all of our makers produce very good tools. No matter what you get you will get more than you need for both performance and longivity; NO maker has a lock on any average superiour manufactoring.
Some tools are better values than others and some have unique features their fans treasure above all others. Some like one kind of lock rings and another will hate the same ones, etc. Such personal fixations are important to the individual but mean exactly nothing to others, nor should they. Some will seriously tell you, "I have used brand X for years with no problems" as if that means anything. Even long time loaders who have no signficant experience with other brands make some firm accessments but that lack of experience sorta negates any such info, does it not? Fact is, no brand causes problems of themselves IF the user does his part. And nothing works very well for a mechanical klutz!
I suggest new guys don't get a kit simply because that locks them into a single brand for all the basic tools and that's really not a good thing. Instead, build your own "kit", one item at a time, by getting suggestions from others if need be. Just ignore things like, "Get RX, it works for me". If people can't offer a rational reason for a suggestion then it's just another opinion of taste but without basis.
A press is a very simple device but it's the foundation tool. Since it's easier to learn on a single stage, and many of us will never need more, it seems best to start with one of them. The outstanding 'best' single stage value at this time is Lee's Classic Cast. It's all cast iron and steel, large and strong enough to load .50 Cal. Browning Machine Gun ammo, very well made, it handles primers better than most others in it's class, the lever is unique in that it's fully adjustable for the user's needs and the price is right. Actually, any skilled loader can make equal quality ammo on any press made, so it mostly comes down to a new guy just spending what he wants to spend.
Dies are very much the same sort of things. No matter the pretty externals, the insides are what makes ammo and inside they are all made to the same SAAMI tolerances. So, once again, I'd suggest Lee's dies for starters. Over time you will likely want to try others and that's good. Most dies work quite well and it's unlikely most reloaders will ever gain the shooting or reloading skills to see any improvement with high cost premium dies.
Anyone wanting the very best threaded dies should start and stop with Forster BR and Redding Competition dies. None of the others offer any consistant average quality advantage of output over what we can get with Lee's dies. And all threaded dies (except one rare Dillon type) have the same threads. Shell holders are also interchangable too so we can mix brands as we wish.
Scales? Got to have onea and digitals are the current craze but I fail to understand why. The better ones are costly, still tend to be finicky, are no more accurate and are very little faster in actual use - if any at all - than any beam scale except Lee's. None of them will last even nearly as long as a beam scale. I would strongly suggest you get a beam, something like a RCBS 505, Redding, Dillon, etc. There's no effective difference in any of those that look basically the same!
Case trimmers can get a bit too costly in a hurry. Perhaps the very best of the hand lathe types is the Wilson and the base price is modest. But Lee's very simple case trimming tools do a very good job for very low cost and that might be a better choice to start with. Even if you later move to something else you won't be out much money.
A good powder measure is a tremendous asset. All of those that look virtually the same ARE virtually the same, brand and price doesn't matter. Of the cast iron bodied measures, the Redding 3BR and Lyman 55 are perhaps the best values. Actually, Lee's (semi) Perfect (plastic body) adjustable measure is very good. In fact, it's perhaps the most consistant measure available for popular coarse rifle powders! Get a bench stand for your measure, don't put it on the front edge of your bench or in your press, both places are far to clumsy for easy use. And get a powder trickler too, a Hornady or Redding, no others are heavy or smooth working enough for easy use.
Every loader pretty much needs a precison 6" stainless steel caliper. I prefer the dial type over the digitals simply because they don't need batteries but I have both and would be happy with either - IF I kept a spare battery on hand. ALL of the reloading branded calipers seem to be made in the same Chinese factory so get the least expensive you can find. MidwayUSA frequently has them on sale for around $20 but so does Harbor Freight Tools and for as little as $12.
No loader "needs" a case tumbler but they really are nice. MidwayUSA or Cabela's usually have the best prices on their house brands. Media type doesn't matter a bit nor does any type of polish. It blows me away how some are so fasinated by an artifical looking glittery, plastic-like shine on ammo that is going to quickly tarnish anyway.
Perhaps the better loading manuals for noobs today are the Hodgdon and Lee. They have the widest variety of loading data, very good basic instructions.
Small items such as a case deburr tool, loading blocks, powder funnel makes little difference. You can clean primer pockets with a small screw driver as well as anything.
All resizing lubes work but it seems a lot of people have more case sticking problems with the spray lubes than others. I tossed out my oily, messy case lube pads years ago and only use Imperial Die Wax or Hornady's Unique lube now. It's cleanly and quickly applied with the tips of my fingers as I pick each case up for sizing. A stuck case remover is nice to have in your kit. IF (when) you fail to properly lube a large case you WILL pull the rim off and leave the case firmly in the die! A simple RCBS stuck case remover, or one like it, does a very good job of pulling them out.
For repriming, Lee's hand held "AutoPrime" tool works very well for little cost but I suggest you stick to priming on the press for a good while yet.
Last edited by Fuzzball; 08-16-2010 at 08:05 PM.