Getting Started Reloading Ammunition, Part two: Equipment overview

In last week’s post, I kind of brushed the surface of reloading and how to get started. For this week’s post, I was hoping to get to my setup to get pictures, ideas for setups, organizing things, tools needed, etc. However, due to inclement weather conditions here in the northeast, I wasn’t able to get to my father’s house where I have my reloading bench set up. I’ll aim for that next week, and this week, briefly skim over the equipment and its uses.


So let’s assume you took the hit and bought a brand new RCBS Rock Chucker kit after doing research and deciding it was the best for you. First off, let me applaud you for buying quality gear. Take care of it and it’ll last forever. (My father has an old Lyman Spartan press that he’s been using since he was younger than me, and it’s still my favorite press to use.) You tear into the box, and you see a bunch of Rube Goldberg-esque gear that you’ve probably never seen the likes of before. What exactly do you have here?


First off, you have the press. This is the main tool you’ll be using, and what everything pretty much centers around.


the reloading press

the reloading press



The press has a few items you’ll get pretty intimate with. At the top, you’ll see a large threaded hole. This is for reloading dies to be screwed into. Reloading dies are generally a standardized 7/8″x14 thread pitch, so any that you purchase will usually work fine. (The Dillon Square Deal has its own thread pitch, and that’s a pain in the ass.) If you’re loading .50 BMG, you’re gonna need a bigger press, because everything is bigger with the .50!


Continuing down, you’ll see a black plastic apparatus. This is for catching the spent primers after the decapping die pops them out. It comes off easily to be emptied, and is usually optional. I usually leave it off and let the chips fall where they may, so to speak, and clean up afterwards; but they are handy to have if you don’t wanna take the extra time.


The sort of silver slotted half-moon round shape you see in the picture above, between the legs of the primer catcher, is the top of the ram, and in the picture it is fully down. The slot is to accept shellholders: they slide in and out of the slot and are retained either by a set screw or a spring. The ram moves up and down when the handle is moved, and pushes and pulls the brass cartridge cases out of the dies.


The handle is the long black stick with the black bulb on the end. It uses leverage and a camming motion to move the ram up and down. Moving the handle up pushes the ram down, and vice versa.

You can see here that the press gets bolted to the bench. This is excellent if you have a dedicated area to leave it set up; if you work someplace like a kitchen table or window sill, you’ll probably want to use c-clamps to hold the press down while making it easy to remove.


Next up on the list of weird stuff, you’ll notice the powder measure. 

Powder measure

Powder measure


The measure incorporates a basin (the clear green plastic container) that holds your selected gunpowder, with a slip-on cap. It funnels gunpowder into a barrel on the inside of the measure, that can be opened up or closed with the adjustment (in this image, the black nipple-lookin’ thing sticking out of the right, midway down.). This determines how much powder you have in your charge. When you rotate the handle up, it allows powder to be fed down into the barrel, and when you bring the handle down, it dumps the barrel, full of gunpowder, down through the funnel, into the case. There are lock-rings on the adjustments to set the charge once you dial it in, so the powder charge is repeatable. It’s pretty simple, but a pretty major headache to dial in when you’re starting to get to know it. You can see that this measure has a flat silver plate you can use to bolt it to your reloading bench; however, there are myriad stands, turrets, and other ways to mount it. However, the plate works fine and doesn’t clutter up the bench.


Next up, we see the powder scale.

RCBS powder scale

RCBS powder scale


This little baby is very simple to use, once you get used to how it works. It is a precision instrument, so treat it with care, and keep it clean. You can see the green base with the adjustment leg (the round flat base). This allows you to level the measure so it can be used if your bench is a little off-kilter. The scale arm incorporates a few things, such as the brass pan, the pointer, and two sliding adjustments. It pivots on its mounting point to the base. You can see on the arm above the brass pan small lines that number 1-5 with a small slider, and on the other side of the pivot, a larger block-type slider. These let you set the charge weight desired. The large block sider adjusts in 5-grain increments, then the smaller slider adjusts in 1/10th grain increments. The brass pan holds your powder charge, and it removeable so you can keep dumping it and re-filling it.


Also in the kit, you’ll see other, easier-to-figure-out tools, such as a lube pad (used to lubricate bottle-necked cartridges so they don’t get stuck in the dies), a case block (used to hold the cases you’re working on in an upright and organized position), a deburring tool (used to get sharp and/or uneven edges and dings from the case mouth), a powder funnel (funnels powder into the case you’re working on), an allen key set (used to adjust set screws on dies, shellholders, etc.), a priming tool (inserts the primers into the primer pocket of the cases) and as reloading manual, that shows tested powder charges and bullet combinations for a given caliber.


While you’ve got all this stuff, keep an eye open for a good set of dial calipers to measure cartridge Overall Length (OAL) and a powder trickler (helps you trickle powder into the pan of the scale, grain by grain, if you’re just a little light.) A set of small flat-head screwdrivers will work wonders as well, from cleaning out primer pockets to helping adjust dies.


That’s a basic overview of the gear you get in a kit; and really, if it’s not RCBS, the fundamentals and high points will be the same no matter who makes the stuff you buy, and I’ll try to keep things pretty generic when describing things further. Hopefully the weather cooperates this week and I can get some better info for next week’s post!


Stay safe!


8 comments… add one
  • Leon Pantenburg January 8, 2014, 9:34 am

    Rockchucker presses are bulletproof. I’ve used mine extensively for over 20 years, and it’s still going strong. I like Redding dies, it seems like they’re higher quality than the Lyman.
    I don’t think I ever saved any money reloading – I just shoot more. Keep an eye out for sales on components and you might save a few pennies here and there.
    Good, informative post!


  • Roseman January 8, 2014, 8:53 pm

    RW, explain to all why a powder scale is needed if you have a powder measure.

    • Chad in NH January 12, 2014, 10:28 pm

      A powder measure meters a volume of powder all books will give you a measure of weight. You use the scale to set the measure volume by weight and periodically verify it throws the same weight.

  • Chuck Findlay January 9, 2014, 11:26 am

    I worked in a gun store from the mid 1980s to about 2,002. I can say that without question you will not save money reloading ammo, it simply doesn’t happen that way. The reason why is that once you are bitten by the reloading bug you pump much more money into reloading components and tools then you otherwise would have just buying bullets. I was lucky in that I custom loaded a lot of the ammo (at home) that the shop sold and I got free dies, powder, primers, bullets and anything else that I needed to reload customers. I no longer reload for that shop. But I still have all the dies, 70,000 + primers, untold bullets and at least 200 pounds of powder, Buckets of empty brass to reload. I haven’t bought any reloading components for 15-years or more. Yet


    A powder scale isn’t really needed if you buy a set of powder measures like the Lee Spoon Set and you stick to the loads in the reloading books. I know the reloaders will say you do need a powder measure, but really you don’t need it if you do normal reloading. I use the RCBS Little Dandy measure, but it’s too expensive for most reloaders starting out. The Little Dandy is (1980s prices) $30.00 and it has 26 rotors at $8.00 each. I hate to think what it cost now. But again I got it all for free because I made ammo to sell at the shop. I also have an RCBS 1010 powder measure but other then custom loads I don’t use it a lot. For a 40 or 9mm it’s just not needed. If you want to get your favorite rifle to shoot really tight groups ½ inch or less at 100-yards a powder scale and a powder trickler will be handy to fine-tune a load. I have a single shot handgun that holds a 1 ¼ inch group at 200 yards, but it took a lot of playing to get it to do that, I spent probably 1.5 years playing with it (and having a lot of fun doing it) to get my 7 TCU handgun to shoot that well. Most people are not that into target shooting to do all that work. I only do it for a few calibers. Most of my guns I’m happy with being to hit a silver dollar size hole at 100 yards. And almost any good gun with a factory load will do that.

    One (or several) thing (s) you should buy is a reloading manual. Really you should have almost every reloading book printed. While I had to buy these (I got them at the gun shops cost) I did get a discount. I would put this at the top of the list of thing to get, even before you buy a press or dies.

    And please don’t think you can reinvent the wheel by loading more powder or heaver bullets into the reloads then the reloading books say to. I can’t tell you how many guns came into the gun shop that were damaged beyond repair from He-Man reloaders that were trying to turn a medium power round into a magnum one. At the very least you destroy an expensive gun, at the worst you get hurt. You can also get (rightfully so) kicked off the range for life because you are endangering other people. If you want your bullets to go faster, buy a bigger gun.

  • Shootit January 13, 2014, 2:13 pm

    You can save money reloading if you can stream line what you rel0ad for a caliber, reload exotic calibers, pickup brass at your local range, or purchase components in bulk. Look at it as a hobby and enjoy!

  • Thomas Johnson November 17, 2015, 12:57 am

    Thanks for share, really informative and helpful article. :)

  • John November 22, 2016, 4:17 pm

    Wow, This is one of the most informative article on Reloading. Thanks for share. :)

  • Malcolm Rivas June 29, 2019, 1:59 pm

    Awesome thanks for sharing a great post whit us.


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