As shooters progress in skill, they often find their interest in firearms expands. You might start out just wanting a handgun for personal protection. After some range time, you realize shooting is fun and decide it’s time to get a .22 rifle. And then, maybe an AR-15, or a rifle to shoot at longer ranges. This is only natural. It’s like eating donuts – once you try a glazed, you’re only a short step from one of those jelly-filled delights.
After shooters get several thousands rounds under their belt, they realize ammunition is expensive. This often leads to interest in reloading their own ammunition. After all, we’ve all heard how you can save a lot of money if you reload. The truth is, in order for you to save lots of money reloading, you have to shoot lots of ammunition. Not only do you have to overcome the initial investment in equipment, but reloading takes time. To offset the time required to load your own ammunition, you have to pull a trigger many, many times.
The vast majority of shooters who are interested in reloading have no idea where to start. They don’t know what tools they need or the extent of time involved. If this describes your situation, then this column is for you.
The best place to start as a handloader is with what is known as a single stage press. A single stage press allows you to perform one operation at a time, and in reloading they are several operations you must perform for every single round of ammunition you load.
If you want to make lots of ammo in a hurry, a progressive press is the only way to go. With a progressive press, you can perform multiple operations at once, because individual cartridges rotate on a sort of wheel. Progressive presses are much more expensive than single stage presses, but in some cases they can turn out ammunition at a ratio as high as 10 to 1.
Regardless of whether you want to load just a few rounds here and there for hunting or target shooting, or if you want to turn your basement into your own high-output ammunition factory, you should really start with a single stage press. Even if you ultimately transition to a progressive press, from time to time you’re still going to need that single stage unit. No handloader should be without a good single stage press.
For new handloaders, I recommend the Hornady Iron Press Kit. This is a single stage unit, but it works with Hornady’s Lock-N-Load die system that allows you to switch between the sizing and seating die, or even between cartridges in seconds. It also has an automatic priming system that will save lots of time and it, in conjunction with the easy die switching, almost makes you think you have a progressive press.
Its true, you can save money making your own ammunition. But what’s more true is that you can learn a great deal about ammunition and firearms, and have lots of fun by becoming a handloader. It also gives you something to do during those bad weather months, or when you’ve made your significant other so mad they wont talk to you or have pushed you to the couch.
Images by Richard Mann