Make Life Better: Reload

Bare shelves of ammunition. Price gouging. Two box limits per day. No loading components or supplies on the shelves. All of these situations seem to be a distant memory now. The trend of hording ammunition and components seems to have leveled off. I can now find plenty of stock on the shelves and the prices have come back down. This calls for a celebration. Or perhaps we should take advantage of this moment to plan ahead in case there is another panic inducing shortage of firearms and ammunition, which seems to be a more and more frequently occurring event.


The key words here are planning ahead and not panic hording. As a person who goes through thousands of rounds a year, I was really miffed when the people who barely shoot one box a year went out and bought up all of my supplies too. Oops, was that in my selfish, out loud voice? To counter this and for other reasons I choose to reload (the purists call it “hand-loading”).

Reloading requires an initial investment. You need to consider if it is something you want or need to do. Is there a magic number of rounds to go through before you take the plunge? Or perhaps you have that special cartridge you can’t buy in a store? Or maybe you just want another hobby? Whether you want to stock up for the apocalypse, create custom cartridges, or have a love of mad science, reloading may be just the thing.

For me, competing in 3-Gun, Long Range High Power, and Precision Rifle, the answer is “Absolutely, I want and need to reload.” My husband and I both compete and together we go through thousands of rounds. I don’t think he realized that he had created a monster when introducing me to the shooting sports years ago.

It would be too expensive to buy all the ammo we need off of the shelf. Also, no one makes a load of .308 with Nosler 155-grain, Lapua brass, 46.5 grains of Varget, Fed 210M and with the overall length I require.

Reloading is a great hobby too. Acquiring the equipment, components, ballistics information and developing loads is half the fun, and part of that is learning what equipment is worth splurging on.

Whether you are bulk loading one round at a time by hand on a single stage or using a Hornady or Dillon progressive press you want to make the process efficient, precise, and speedy. I say “speedy” because I personally like to get out and socialize once in a while rather be tied down for days in the loading room. Once you get over the initial price tag of investing in this hobby you will find the cost per round of ammo decreases greatly. Just think, you could get a “man (or woman) cave” out of it as well as the satisfaction of making your own ammunition and lots of it. I am not giving you a “how-to” manual of reloading. Instead I am sharing with you my favorite gadgets and equipment that make my ammo loading life better.

Measure Twice Seat Once

When I get a new barrel installed on one of my custom rifle builds I need to determine what the overall cartridge length should be before I do the final seating of the bullets. Whether you believe in seating bullets 10 to 40 thousands off the lands or tight up against it is up to you. An OAL Gauge and Modified Cases are made by Lock N Load to help establish a precise bullet seating depth. I then measure to the Ogive of the bullet and/or OAL with a dial caliper by Frankford Arsenal. These calipers also come in a digital format. I’ll repeat the process at regular intervals over the life of the barrel.

Off the lands: How far the bullet sits from where the barrel rifling starts.

Tumbling – Corn or Walnut?

Clean and shiny brass looks great but cleaning your brass also serves a purpose. Clean brass will not mar the chamber of your gun nor dies as you resize. How shiny you want the brass is subjective, but buy the biggest tumbler you can. Go big or go home. I’d rather get hundreds of rounds cleaned at once.

We have used a Dillon tumbler for years and it runs and runs. Dillon’s CV-2001 Vibratory Case Cleaner is the largest in the industry. Its 12.5 quart bowl capacity will allow you to polish up to 1,300 of .38/.357 or 550 .30-06 cases per hour. Not only is the capacity greater, but the motor has more horse power. This is no “hobby” machine. You have a choice of using corn cob or walnut as a cleaning medium. Conversations with shooting buddies about corn and walnut have been just as heated as the argument of bolt gun versus gas gun. We usually let price be the guide on this but overall we buy corn cob as walnut can be dusty. So there.


There is an easier way to trim the necks of brass than with the hand crank. The cost difference is huge but your hands will thank you and it takes a quarter of the amount of time. The Giraud Powered Case Trimmer allows you to quickly trim, chamfer and de-burr cases at the same time. Another benefit of the Giraud over the hand crank system is that the trim length is measured off the shoulder. This trimmer is a must.

Perfect Throw Every Time

When I first started reloading I trickled every grain of powder by hand with the RCBS 10-10 beam scale. It’s a very accurate scale, but it took forever and my arms would get tired. Then the RCBS Charge Master 1500 came in to our lives. The CM is a digital scale that pours and trickles for you.

Some folks think the digital scales don’t give consistent measures. We have done many tests re-measuring the weight with the beam scale and have never had any discrepancies. An issue we did have was that it would over throw too often and you would have to start over. Then a friend said to go to McDonalds and “borrow” some drinking straws. Cut about a 2-inch piece and fit it in to the dispensing tube. Don’t ask me why but it works. I get one over throw every 10 times now instead of every third.

The Cadillac of Presses

The Forster Co-Ax Reloading Press is in high demand. The Forster is not cheap, and because they are so sought after you will find that they are difficult to track down. Why the hub bub? The manufacturer will list off their reasons but here is my take on this lovely device. My husband and I have put more than 100,000 rounds through it and have never needed to replace any parts. It uses floating jaws instead of case holders. The benefit of this system is that the case will find its own center in the die. Which means we experience very little run out on our hand loaded cartridges. Forster also allows super easy die changes, and includes the positive spent primer catcher system, the dual floating guide rods, and effortless, and full-length sizing. This is a must-have piece of equipment.

By Annette Wachter. Originally published in the May 2015 issue of GunUp the Magazine.

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