Click question to find the answers to your most commonly asked questions regarding reloading of new brass
Let's Get Ready to Reload
So you think you want to reload some ammo? Maybe you just purchased your first centerfire firearm and you want to save some money on practice ammo? Maybe you want to create some customized loads that the ammo factories don't offer? Maybe you want to fine-tune your loads to give you more success on the range or in the field? Maybe you need to reload out of necessity because you own firearms with rare chambering? Maybe you are looking for a great new hobby? There are lots of reasons to reload, but today, most people start reloading for one major reason - you can save money.
Whatever your objective is, we want to help you figure out if reloading is right for you; then, determine the best way to get started. Reloading is simple really. All it takes is patience and attention to detail, because safety is job number one. Let's get started:
What do I need to get started? Research is always important before diving into a hobby like reloading. The first thing to buy is the book - The ABC's of Reloading by Dean Grennell. If you are less into reading and more into watching, another recommended place to start is watching Sierra's Beginning Handgun Reloading and Beginning Rifle Reloading DVD's. The DVD's are available on Sierra's website - Sierrabullets.com
Before we describe the equipment necessary to begin the hobby of reloading, let's talk about the end product - ammunition. The anatomy of ammunition is broken down into four parts - the primer, the powder, the cartridge case and the projectile or bullet (each of these components is described in more detail on Starline's Anatomy of Ammo page on our website). Reloading is the process of combining these four components to make the finished, loaded ammunition.
The equipment you purchase will be dictated by your budget, the quantity of ammunition you plan to produce, and how much time you are willing to spend reloading.
The basic piece of equipment for hand loading is the press. A press is a device that uses compound leverage to push the cases into the dies that perform the loading operations. Presses vary from simple, inexpensive single stage models, to complex progressive models that will eject a loaded cartridge with each pull of a lever, at rates of 10 rounds a minute.
Presses- Beginning reloaders should start with either a single stage press or a turret press. A popular single stage press is the Hornady Lock-N-Load Classic press (Hornady #085001). This press actually uses bushings to hold your dies in place. You can set the die in the bushing once, then remove the entire unit when changing dies without losing their setting. This is especially handy when loading small batches or when you reload for many different calibers. Another popular press is the RCBS Rockchucker (RCBS #9356). This is a very well built press and is generally the standard by which all other single stage presses are judged. Hornady even makes a conversion for the Rockchucker to utilize their Lock-N-Load bushings (Hornady #044095). If you are on a budget or you only plan to reload a few hundred rounds a year, you will be able to get by with a press that's as affordable as the Lee Reloader Press (Lee #90045). This is a good beginner press that will come in handy many times, even if you upgrade to a more expensive press at a latter time. Lee reloading dies come with the shell holder required for the cartridge and with a powder dipper to measure powder by volume. With this press and dies, you can be up and reloading for under $60.
Turret presses also offer many advantages. Turret presses should not be confused with progressive presses in that they only have one shellholder on the ram and the dies are located in a turret above that ram. The turret indexes the desired die over the ram. You can use the turret press by loading one cartridge at a time and indexing the turret to the next stage without having to remove the case. Or, you can run every case through a single die, index the turret to the next die and run every case through that die. Most turret presses will have 5 or 7 die locations. Since most handgun die sets use three dies and most rifle die sets use two dies, you can leave 2-3 different sets of dies set up in your turret press without having to change anything but the shell holder, when changing calibers. Popular turret presses are the Redding T-7 (Redding #67000) and the RCBS Turret Press (RCBS #88901). You can expect to pay almost twice the price of a single stage press for a turret press.
Progressive presses use a shell plate which holds several cases on the ram, and the dies are located in a stationary position. The shell plate is indexed to locate the case to the desired stage in the reloading process. Every stroke of the handle will produce a finished round with a progressive press but they are more difficult to learn and more expensive. The toolheads are removable in many progressive presses which makes changing calibers easier. A progressive press for a beginner would only be recommended if you were going to do a high volume of reloading. A good press for this is the Dillon RL550B (Dillon #14261). Just like any hobby, you can continue to upgrade your equipment and eventually step up to machines like the Dillon 650 and the Dillon 1050. These presses can be set up with automatic bullet feed and automatic case feeders that make reloading as simple as just pulling a handle.
Dies and Shellholders- Almost all reloading presses use a 7/8"-14 thread for the dies so any brand of dies can be used in any press. Some popular brands of dies are Hornady, Redding, RCBS, Lyman and Lee. For handgun cartridges, be sure and purchase a die set with a carbide sizing die or a TiN coated sizing die or you will be required to use case lube for sizing. For most rifle calibers, you will only be able to get steel dies, but it is worth the investment to get a neck sizing die in addition to the standard full length die set. A separate crimp die is also a good investment for handgun cartridges and rifle cartridges that require a crimp. Some die sets such as the Lee will come with the shell holder required for use with that caliber but most of the time you will have to buy this separately (many times one shellholder will work with several calibers).
Priming Tools- While most single stage and turret presses include a priming attachment, some reloaders prefer using handheld priming tools. The handheld priming tools give you a better "feel" when priming and are generally faster to use than the priming attachments on the press. Some brands recommended are the Lee AutoPrime (Lee #90230), which requires its own shellholders, and the RCBS Universal Hand Priming Tool (RCBS #90201), which requires no shellholders at all.
Powder Measures and Scales- Unless you are using the Lee Powder Dippers, you will need to purchase a powder measure and a scale. Brands preferred are the Hornady Lock-N-Load Powder Measure (Hornady #050069) or the RCBS Uniflow Powder Measure (RCBS #09010). A quality set of balance beam scales will serve you well but many reloaders prefer to use an electronic scale such as the Hornady Lock-N-Load Bench Scale (Hornady #050108) or the MTM Mini Digital Reloading Scale (MTM #DS750).
Miscellaneous Equipment and Accessories- A good set of dial or digital calipers is a must for reloading so you can measure case length and cartridge length while loading. You will also need a vibratory case tumbler such as the Berry's MFG 400 Vibratory Brass Cleaner (Barry's #65555) and polishing media. A walnut media, such as Barry's Walnut Coarse 14/30 Grit (Barry's #75221), is popular. You will also need a case lube such as Hornady One Shot (Hornady #9991) and a Chambering tool, such as the Hornady Chamfer/Debur tool (Hornady #050017). A case trimmer is not really necessary for reloading handgun brass but may be necessary for rifle brass.
Kits- Most manufacturers sell a reloading starter kit that includes everything you'll need, or almost everything required to start reloading. One is the Hornady Lock-N-Load Classic Kit Deluxe (Hornady #085010). You could pick this kit up for around $320. For someone on a smaller budget, the Lee Breechlock Challenger Kit (Lee #90030) can be picked up for about $120.
REFERENCE MATERIAL - A good reloading manual is a must, and the more you own, the better. Bullet manufacturers provide load data specific to their bullets, while powder manufacturers give you load data specific to their powders. Using both is popular, which allows you to compare the two if possible. Powder manufacturers generally pressure test their loads so you will have a very good idea how hot a load actually is. Bullet manufacturers generally shoot their loads for accuracy and will often have ballistic charts to go with the data. It is also worth noting that a manufacturer's latest data makes all previous data obsolete. Always be sure to have the most current data available in case the manufacturer has found a reason to change their data.
There you have it; everything you need to know to start reloading. Well, maybe we didn't cover everything, but now you should be pointed in the right direction to begin your new reloading hobby. But, you are not beginning this journey alone. All the manufacturers mentioned here have technical support resources to answer any question you may have as you get started. The social networks are also filled with dozens of blogs, YouTube videos and Facebook and Twitter posts that cover all aspects of reloading. The most important thing to do is dive in, and you've made the best first step by coming to the Starline Brass site - because a great Shot (and a great reloading experience) starts with Starline.
Generally speaking, Starline cases require no resizing prior to loading. Due to variances in diameter of different bullet types, it is a good practice to size the case only as far down as the bullet seating depth. When full length sizing is required, it will be noted in the box with the brass. The only Starline cases requiring full length sizing prior to loading are the .454 Casull, .458 SOCOM, and sometimes the .45 Colt(Depending on the bullet diameter to be used).
There are two situations that create this problem. The first is one seems to be associated with the Dillon powder funnel and only a couple of calibers (45 Auto and 40 S&W). The land for expanding case mouth is too long and when you begin to bell mouth the bottom of expander gets into the thicker taper of case and wedges causing it to be very hard to get back out. We have modified several by increasing radius on end and slightly shortening expanding land and this eliminated the problem completely. Call Starline and we will take care of it if you wish. One other cause can be a burr at case mouth created by the final trim operation, which grabs onto expander as it comes back up. This situation does not often appear and can be fixed by deburring case mouth or inside lubing cases.
Trim-to-lengths given in most manuals often confuse people if they are unsure of their actual purpose. Most manuals generate their own trim-to-lengths from SAAMI maximum cartridge drawings. They usually pick a number just below the SAAMI maximum and state this as the recommended trim-to-length. Depending on specific caliber, some cases will shrink and others will grow when fired and reloaded. The trim-to-length is trying to say: "If case is longer than trim-to-length, then trim back to this." The confusion comes in when people purchase new brass and want to trim it back to trim-to-length stated in the manual. One must understand that a manufacturer will not produce cases at maximum length and that we as manufacturers must have a reasonable tolerance to work with. Most people do not wish to trim brass, so at Starline, Inc., we operate a tolerance of .005 below SAAMI maximum and that window ranges from .003 to .010 below, depending on the caliber. All auto-feeding cartridges are held within .004, and revolver normally is within .005.
The trim-to-length we recommend for peak performance is a variation of no more than .005 and length within .010 of published trim-to-lengths, but never exceeding trim-to-lengths.
Remember, consistency in length relating to consistent crimp is more important than all cases being the same length as the trim-to-length in manuals, assuming it is not too long.
1.) Be aware this is not always necessary. Only if cases are extremely dirty and a lot of unburned powder is consistently found in chamber would you need to anneal.
2.) First place case in proper container filled with approximately 1 inch of water so head of case is submerged in water. (Reason is you only want to soften mouth of case and not head area as this can ruin strength at base and primer pocket where case must remain rigid to handle pressure.)
3.) Next heat case mouth (approx. top 1/2 inch of case) uniformly just to where it begins to turn a dullred and then knock over in water. A propane torch is usually used for heating device. MOST IMPORTANT: Remember if case gets too hot they are ruined and there is no way to make hard again. So, try a few out and get a feel for the proper color and softness required for your application. If they get bright red, you probably went too far.