This article was written by Guy Miner.
Here on Ultimate Reloader we showcase some very sophisticated, high end handloading equipment. But, do all reloaders need such expensive gear? Guy say’s no. That’s right – I’m primarily a hunter these days and am content loading about 50 cartridges for each of the rifles my son and I will use in the upcoming season. That provides enough ammunition for sighting-in, practice and hunting. This year, on the Lyman Ideal C-press, I loaded 6mm Remington for my son, and 45-70, 30-06 and 7mm Remington Magnum for myself.
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What can you do with Budget Reloading Equipment?
Above: Guy’s loading bench with the Lyman Brass Smith equipment.
We can produce basic handloads, precision hunting loads and even precision target loads from this basic setup. Using this Lyman equipment I’ve loaded hunting ammunition for myself and my son for this season. In the past I’ve used similar setups to load ammunition for target competition and varmint shooting.
Example Lyman Budget Reloading Setup
This equipment is budget priced but good quality. Let’s start with the Ideal C-press: It’s simple, and compact, taking up very little room on a bench. The front of the press is open, except of course for the arm. This open front makes the press very nice to use – it’s so easy to place or remove a cartridge from it. The central location of the arm coupled with the open C-frame also makes it an ambidextrous press, equally useful for left or right handed reloaders. I liked how well this press handled spent primers, sending them right down inside the ram, and into the plastic bucket. Very few bounced out of there and onto the floor. There is ample leverage for resizing and de-priming cases, or seating bullets. This little press is a winner!
Above: Lyman Brass Smith Ideal Press
The powder-handling devices are nice as well. The powder measure is equipped with a baffle, and throws consistent charges. The sturdy stand puts it at a convenient height on my bench. I was impressed with how easily the powder measure can be installed and removed from the stand. It would be easy to have more than one measure, already pre-set and ready to go, and just change measures. For example one could be adjusted to throw lighter charges for handgun cartridges while the other could be used for rifle cartridges with their much larger case capacity. The beam scale is easy to use and was accurate when I tested it with various weights.
The powder trickler deserves special mention. It’s base-heavy, so unlikely to be tipped. The base is also threaded and adjustable for height. The knob is large and easy to grasp, and the long tube was convenient. I was loading a maximum charge of IMR 8133, a short-stick powder, for the 7mm Remington Magnum, so I threw charges a little light, then used the powder trickler to bring it up to weight. It’s worth mentioning again, that though these Lyman products are on the budget end of reloading equipment, they do not lack quality. They’re just great designs, easy to use.
Above: Lyman Beam Scale and Powder Trickler
A high-end precision reloading setup can run well over $1,000 with a single stage press alone priced at over $500. In contrast Lyman has kits with the MSRP ranging from $308.25 to $783.25. Actual prices on the Lyman products from retailers like Midsouth Shooters Supply can be considerably lower, they list the C-press kit at $241.64, a difference of $66.61, which is quite a discount.
|Ideal C-press kit||$308.25||$241.64|
|Powder measure stand||$32.95||$25.84|
Reloading with the Budget Lyman Setup
Determining load specifics with the Lyman manual
This is a great manual. Large, easy to read, well organized and chock full not only of recipes, but also plenty of “how to” information. I appreciate that Lyman shows the pressures generated with their minimum and maximum recommended loads. When I start to figure out a load for one of my rifles, I first determine the intended use of that load. That helps me select a suitable bullet. For instance I hunt mule deer every year. They can be big, but they’re not armor plated, and a medium weight expanding bullet usually works great. If I’m loading for a magnum, I’ll be seeking a reasonably high velocity along with accuracy, so I’ll steer towards slow-burning powders. The Lyman manual shows many different powder and bullet combinations. I also check other manuals and reputable online sources. Sometimes that’s necessary when working with components that haven’t been available very long such as new powders or new bullets.
Sometimes I start with brand new cases, some of those need very little prep before loading. However if I’m starting with lower quality cases, or with my own fired cases, then I need to clean them first which I do with an old tumbler I’ve had for at least 20 or 25 years, using walnut shell media. Case length needs to be checked and they may also need to be trimmed. After trimming it’s good to chamfer the inside of the case mouth. I’ll also use a bristle brush on the inside of the case neck before sizing.
I like the sizing die wax offered by several makers, just a little bit works wonders! Depending on the cartridge and the rifle, I may neck size or I may full length resize. For a hunting rifle I usually full-length resize so that feeding cartridges into the chamber is flawless. With this Lyman Ideal press I’ve sized and seated with dies from several manufacturers, and all worked just fine.
One of the cartridges I loaded recently is the 7mm Remington Magnum, a belted case. I’ve used that cartridge for elk, mule deer and pronghorn antelope. This year I’m probably only using it for mule deer so I selected a medium weight bullet, the 150 grain Hornady ELD-X, a sleek offering which should move out at about 3100 fps with a maximum load of IMR 8133.
When sizing these cases I don’t get real concerned about the belt. Yes it’s there, but the dies can be adjusted to headspace the cartridge off the shoulder, and that tends to provide better brass life, by not moving the shoulder back as much with each resizing.
I didn’t have a Lyman priming tool handy, so I used my old handheld priming tools. The Lyman Brass Smith Ideal C-press does not have a priming arm, but that’s fine, I prefer using a handheld priming tool. For the 7mm Remington Magnum I selected Federal 215 magnum primers.
As the powder charge increased during load workup, the cases started running out of room. The maximum charge of IMR 8133, with a 150 grain bullet is 77 grains according to Hodgdon’s manual. This is a compressed load. Each case was carefully charged. I adjusted the powder measure to throw just under the 77 grain weight, dropped that in the pan, weighed it and used that great powder trickler to bring the charge up. Actually filling the case required a funnel and moving slowly, even tapping the case a bit at the end to settle the powder.
With the powder settled there was room to start the bullet into the case neck. A Hornady Custom Grade seating die was used. I’ve grown to like these dies with their floating bullet alignment sleeve. I’ve produced very accurate ammunition using these dies.
Pros and Cons of a budget setup
Points in favor of a budget setup are that it costs less, leaving the reloader more money for components, guns, or hunting trips! It also is versatile enough to produce a wide variety of ammunition for various uses. This particular press is compact enough that it leaves a lot of workspace on the loading bench open.
The only disadvantage I noted is that as with other single-stage presses, the process of reloading is slow. I don’t mind that at all, I enjoy the process of handloading for my rifles and handguns. Time at the bench crafting ammunition for my firearms is a pleasant thing for me. Typically I’ll produce either about 20 rifle cartridges or 50 handgun cartridges in an hour with this press. That’s not rushing at all, I’m in no hurry when I’m handloading, I relax, focus, enjoy the process and try to build good ammunition. Also, in today’s world with ammunition and component shortages, many shooters have greatly reduced their ammunition expenditures. If however, you’re a high-volume loader, then single stage presses are probably not the right choice.
These are impressive handloading tools. Despite their quite reasonable cost, they’re well made and easy to use with some innovative and useful features. A good tool just feels good in hand and these do. There’s nothing cheap about them. I’d be content to load all of my hunting ammunition on them and I’ve done so for this season, loading several different rifle cartridges on this Lyman press.