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 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.
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.
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!