Budget Precision .223: Priming, Charging, Seating

In my last post, I covered the first half of the precision reloading process using the LEE Deluxe Challenger Kit. In this post, we’ll finish off the process by covering priming, charging, and bullet seating. When these steps are complete, we’ll have ammunition we can take to the range and shoot in the .223 TC Compass!

Equipment

For these final steps in the reloading process, the following tools are used. These tools are all included in the LEE Deluxe Challenger Kit with the exception of the seating die:

Here we have: (not in order of use)

  1. LEE dead-length seater die in .223 (Part of the LEE Ultimate Rifle Die Set in .223)
  2. LEE Auto-Prime shellholder set (works with LEE Auto Bench Prime)
  3. LEE Deluxe Perfect Powder Measure
  4. LEE Safety Powder Scale
  5. LEE Auto Bench Prime

For components, I’m using once-fired Starline .223 brass, Hornady 52 grain .224 match bullets, Federal Small Rifle Primers, and Hodgdon Varget powder.

Priming

As mentioned in the video, there are two ways you can prime cases with the LEE Deluxe Challenger Kit: on-press, or with the Auto Bench Prime. I like to prime with the Auto Bench Prime, because you don’t have to handle primers individually, it’s fast, and the Auto Bench Prime offers great priming “Feel”.

This tool does require special shellholders, but a complete set is included with the Deluxe Challenger Kit, which is a nice touch. If you are curious to know more about this tool, I have a complete blog post covering the LEE Auto Bench Prime in detail.

Charging

When charging cases, you need to have the following:

  • Load data, including powder type and charge weight
  • A scale to weigh charges to set and/or validate your powder measure
  • A powder measure to throw charges
  • Optional: A powder trickling device

This was my first opportunity to use the LEE Deluxe Perfect Powder Measure.

This powder measure is similar to the LEE Auto Drum powder measure (see my full write-up on the Auto Drum HERE) but with some key differences:

  1. The universal metering chamber (long tube) is unique to the Deluxe Perfect Powder Measure
  2. The Deluxe Perfect Powder Measure is hand-actuated, where the Auto Drum is case activated
  3. Materials and construction: the Deluxe Perfect Powder Measure has a brass drum, but can also use the plastic drums designed for the Auto Drum

Both the Deluxe Perfect Powder Measure and the Auto Drum share the same powder hopper which can be turned on and off (powder flow) by turning the red hopper. This powder measure performed very well metering Varget powder smoothly, and with repeatable charges varying only by about +/- .05 grains.

The LEE Safety powder scale has some truly interesting features- including the coarse/fine weight adjustments, and the calibration screw (watch the video above for more details on how it all works).

Once you get this scale setup, it’s very easy to use, and doesn’t rely on batteries, so it’s great to have on hand even if you have electronic scales. That could save a trip into town!

Bullet Seating

Seating bullets is the last stage in the precision reloading process (assuming you aren’t crimping bullets). I used the reference cartridge method to setup the seater die, and was seating bullets in no time. If I had to pick, seating bullets would be my favorite part of the precision reloading process. It’s definately satisfying to see completed cartridges take shape.

To review die setup for this type of die, you do the following:

  1. Raise the ram to the top of the stroke
  2. Insert a die into the press/bushing, crank it down until it contacts the shellholder
  3. Back out the seating plug
  4. Lower the ram
  5. Insert a reference cartridge
  6. Raise the ram to the top of the stroke
  7. Turn in the seating plug until it contacts the bullet, then slightly more
  8. Measure COL
  9. Adjust seating plug, re-seat bullet, and check COL until COL is correct

Sounds like a lot of steps, but this process can be performed in about 30 seconds if you have everything ready to go. If you don’t have a reference cartridge, you’ll need to work the bullet down from an “excessively long” starting point.

That’s about it for this “budget precision .223″ reloading process- next up will be testing the loads in the TC Compass. That will be fun! I’m planning to work on the loads until I get down into the 3/8” 5-shot group at 100 yards. That would be a great accomplishment for this “budget” shooting and reloading setup. Make sure you’re subscribed!

Thanks,
Gavin

About the author

4 thoughts on “Budget Precision .223: Priming, Charging, Seating”

  1. Hey Gavin, those bushings have a notch in them which are supposed to align with the dark, short stem sticking up from the top of the press. Press the dark stem down and rotate the bushing into place.

    I have this press, it’s a great little press.

  2. Actually, you can lock the die bushings in, or have quick install/removal (the default mode once dies are setup). From the LEE instruction manual: “Once your dies are set you can instantly remove them and replace
    them to the exact same position. The Breech Lock includes a lock
    pin for initial die set up. If cost is more important than conven–
    ience, you can leave the quick lock bushing permanently installed
    and screw your dies in and out as in any conventional press.”

  3. When I first started out reloading on my own with equipment I purchased myself (Dad wasn’t about to give up HIS gear, dang it! LOL) I started out with Lee brand gear back then due to financial concerns, meaning I didn’t have much in the way of “discretionary cashola.”
    Now mind you this was back in 1982, some 35 years ago, but I can see their equipment has come a LONG ways from those “dark days” of equipment malfunctions.
    I cannot begin to explain ALL the troubles I had with (especially) their handheld powder throw! As often as not it would drop TWICE or more (without rhyme or reason) with a zero throw in between and sometimes THREE misses! Talk about a mess and lengthy cleanup along with all the lost powder kernels or flakes I lost all over my reloading bench and workshop floor! GRRRRRR! I should have sent Lee a bill for all my lost powder, not to mention lost productivity and “pain and suffering!”
    It’s probably a darned good idea I was nowhere near their facility because I wanted to ring the neck (s) of any number of engineers, Yessiree!
    Multiple disassembly sessions could not reveal the reason(s) and the Lee customer service wasn’t much to brag about then, either.
    Ultimately I ended up taking the powder throw and, after emptying it of my powder, it found its way to a brick in the back yard and had a close encounter with a 2 pound sledge hammer. Only the metal parts escaped complete annihilation, not so much out of anger (yeah, I was piss*d I wasted my HARD earned money!) but more out of frustration. Couple that with I didn’t know anybody I hated so bad as to “gift” the device to, I felt it better to just return it to the ecosystem via the weekly garbage pickup.
    Man I was PISSED! (Yeah, I lied earlier. So sue me. LOL)
    Anyway, I finally did give the rest of the Lee reloading equipment to someone who was poorer than I was (after I started making a better wage not long after being freed from my US Army enlistment) and I went on to buy other reloading equipment, some of which I still own and use to this day.
    My hard-luck story aside, I just wanted to make a couple of comments about a thing or two.

    First: SAFETY!
    I noticed you failed to place the powder hopper cap back on after filling it and making a few adjustments to the device which had you dumping thrown charges back into the hopper. I can understand that but you might want to consider mentioning to your subscribers that they “Should” keep the hopper lid on to prevent the possibility of a much larger fire should an accident occur and somehow an ember, popped primer or whatever sends a burning speck into the partially full hopper! YIKES!
    Overkill or anal, perhaps, and I am FAR from being the Safety Police, but starting out with good safety habits helps to reinforce them for a lifetime of safe and fun reloading.
    This is something I’m sure we can ALL agree is a smart move and something to aspire to pass along to the new reloaders joining our ranks.
    Second, watching you adjust and eventually seat your projectiles to your final setting, I didn’t notice any kind of lock ring for the uppermost seater stem part. Does the Lee seating die have stiff threading or some kind of nylon insert which would prevent it from wandering after MANY uses (strokes) or did I miss something? I can only go by my personal observations and equipment brands in that they are equipped with a lock ring to prevent the kind of wandering I’m referencing. Once they are fully “set” to my preference, I can lock them down and rest assured nothing will deviate for the remainder of my loading session.
    (NOTE: Even though everything is locked in place, if I stop reloading for any period of time besides a day, week or two, I ALWAYS go back and verify things haven’t changed in some form or fashion. I live alone and nobody has any access to my reloading bench or equipment but I take NOTHING for granted or chance. As you well know, reloading is a serious task and at NO time can we allow ourselves to become complacent or lackadaisical in our methods or procedures! We’ve all at least heard of instances of blown up guns and injured shooters and/or spectators and with the Internet being what it is, you can easily see the results of an accident in living color is you so choose. It’s NOT a pretty picture, Nosiree!)
    Moving along….

    Lastly, notwithstanding my “issues” over the years with the Lee brand of reloading equipment, it would appear they have become a force to be reckoned with in the reloading field of business competitors. Not the cheapest in terms of cost or efficiency, and certainly not the most expensive or sophisticated at the other end of the spectrum, but as a good, basic, starting point for a person just starting out with limited funds but wishing to have quality and durable gear, it would certainly seems as if Lee fills that niche nicely.
    Truth be told, were I to come across someone who is thinking about starting to get into the world of reloading for themselves, I do believe I could, in good conscience, suggest the Lee brand of reloading gear as a decent starting point.
    If they discovered in time that reloading isn’t their cup of tea or they have the financial wherewithal to buy factory loaded ammo exclusively, at least they wouldn’t be out of GOBS of money for a highfalutin machine costing upwards of two or more THOUSANDS of dollars or equipment they no longer have a use for.
    As for me, I wish I could afford to build a shop to house several industrial application loading tools to crank out tens of thousands of rounds every day, plus the means to have a railhead spur up to some property to off-load projo’s and cases and primers and powder by the carload for every caliber I enjoy shooting and a few I’d LIKE to start shooting.
    But, being of too few years of existence alloted amd remaining to all of us from this species (especially when NK is acting the fool and all governments seem unable to get along) I suppose my ideas would be more than just a touch foolhardy themselves.
    But a Boy can have a DREAM, can’t he? LMAO
    All in all, I enjoy watching your video’s and receiving your occasional email postings to follow along.
    You might have gathered I’m not a Young’un by any definition of the word, but having approaching seven (7) decades of shooting, hunting, reloading, and such under my (expanding) belt, I find I can STILL learn new things and skills from others.
    It surprises me that even as long as I’ve been at this hobby, I can learn new ways to make my reloading hours more efficient and, dare I say, fun? Folks such as yourself have proven that there ARE some better mouse traps out there and, more importantly, you CAN teach an old dog new tricks.
    So keep on keepin’ on.
    You’re doing a GREAT job out there, “Young’un!” (LOL and NO disrespect meant or implied!)
    Regards,
    Huggy
    (PS, feel free to edit my rather long post. I have a tendency to write long posts to ensure there is little to confuse in the idea (s) I try to convey, so you won’t hurt my feelings if you need or want to abbreviate my post.)

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