“Use the right tool for the job. You’ll save time, and end up with a better finished product.”
The first major decision you’ll need to make when you start the reloading hobby is what equipment you need to buy. The type and brand of reloading press to buy is an extremely important consideration as it will affect what other equipment you will buy, and in some cases will “lock you into” other purchases such as brand-specific press accessories and parts.
There are a few things you should explore in detail before making this decision, we’ll go over each of these in this article:
- Types of guns to reload for
- Number of calibers to load for
- Frequency of loading sessions, quantity of ammunition consumed
- Time versus money, mechanical aptitude
- Required ammunition quality and tolerances
- Future expansion/changes of loading needs
- Space considerations
- Customer service
Types of guns to reload for
Perhaps the first thing to consider is what types of guns you own that you want to reload for. If you want to load 9mm, 30-06, etc – you will need a reloading press or reloading presses that can load ammunition quickly (for the pistol), precisely (for the rifle) and can accomodate both very short and very long cartridges.
Number of calibers to load for
Each caliber that you load for will require the purchase of a set of appropriate reloading dies, a shell holder or shellplate (depending on the type of press), and possibly some press accessories (such as a die ring, die bushings, priming related parts, etc. The more calibers you load for, the more important the changeover procedure for your press is, as some presses require more time and effort to change over calibers than do others.
Frequency of loading sessions, quantity of ammunition consumed
If you load ammunition infrequently, you can make certain compromises on equipment at the cost of more setup time, and slower reloading output. If however you reload frequently or reload large quantities of ammunition, you will likely want to invest more in your reloading equipment in order to optimize your efficiency. When you load large quantities of ammunition, the press must be setup in an ergonomic manner (comfortable for long loading sessions) be reliable, and have sufficient consumable and output capacity (primer capacity, bullet tray, completed round tray, etc).
Time versus money, mechanical aptitude and patience
If you have a lot of time and a little money, you can get by with lower quality equipment. If you have a lot of money and a small quantity of time, you may opt for fancier and higher quality equipment in order to make the most of your time. Likewise, if you have not much money and much mechanical aptitude, you may be more inclined to get that “great deal” on a press or reloading package that requires much tinkering and patience. If you are not mechanically inclined, you should pass up on that “screaming deal for a pretty boat anchor”.
Required ammunition quality and tolerances
If you are loading for personal defense practice (or plinking) you may not care as much about tolerances and consistency for ammunition. If you are a bullseye pistol or benchrest rifle shooter, you will likely want to matintain the tightest tolerances and most consistency for your reloaded ammunition. These considerations will affect both the quality and type of equipment you buy.
Future expansion/changes of loading needs
If you expect to change your shooting needs in the future, you should keep that in mind when investing in your equipment. If you start plinking, but you know your goal is to start competing in a year, you should balance both near and long-term needs.
Some of us are blessed with large garages, basements, shops, and other workspaces. Others will reload at the kitchen counter. Needless to say, space considerations will impact the type and quantity of equipent that you will buy. Today’s modern progressive reloading presses with motorized case collaters and feeders take up a lot of space (6.5′ tall or more) – so keep that in mind before you realize you may need to cut a hole in your ceiling to make your press fit in that cramped basement room. Presses also require a rock-solid mounting arrangement which can take up much space in itself. Multiple presses compound space requirements…
Some reloading equipment companies will send you replacement parts free of charge with no questions asked. Other companies will require you to buy replacement parts. Repair can also be time consuming and expensive. Make sure you check to make sure you’ll get good support for your equipment, and that you’ll be able to buy parts in 10 years.
There you have it. This list of considerations should get you started in your planning process. The next thing to do is take a look at the various types of reloading presses that are available so that you can decide which is right for you.
Next: Types of presses
Originally published 01/2009