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The Best Reloading Kits: A Buyer’s Guide

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Looking to roll your own ammo on the cheap? Here are the best reloading kits you can buy to get started.

Don’t want to jinx anything, but it seems that components are slowly becoming available again. Ammunition is appearing on shelves—though I doubt shelves will ever be full again in my lifetime. And I’m seeing bullets and powder available for sale and for order and—believe it or not—I’ve seen some primers for sale. Yes, everything is priced at a premium, and yes, people are going to gobble up those components, but sooner or later supply will meet demand.

And, due to the fact that we’re in the midst of the greatest ammunition drought in living memory, I feel pretty confident there’ll be an influx of new reloaders in the near future. Whether that new reloader is you or whether you’re considering a purchase for the prospective reloader in your life, buying all the tools necessary to go from zero to reloader can be daunting.

I started with minimalistic gear, acquired piecemeal between my father and me, over the course of a year or so. We both shot .308 Winchesters at the time, and once we’d covered the bases, we began to cook up a deer hunting load. We had a Lee press, RCBS scale, Lyman dies, a nondescript plastic dial caliper, R.E. Wilson chamfer/deburring tool, just a hodgepodge of stuff, but it worked well.

And for those of you who are just getting into reloading, I’ll answer the oft-asked question: Yes, you can mix and match brands of gear. RCBS dies will work with a Hornady shellholder in a Redding press, and so on and so forth.

But setting out to outfit yourself from scratch can be confusing, especially when you overlook certain crucial pieces of gear. For this reason, several reloading gear companies offer complete reloading kits, giving the new reloader all he or she would need with the exception of the components themselves, dies and shellholders. I picked five popular reloading kits, ranging in street prices from $180 to $600, to illustrate some differences in content, quality and value.

The 5 Best Reloading Kits:

Lee Challenger Kit

Starting at the most affordable—the Lee Challenger Kit with a street price of $180—you get an aluminum O-frame press, the Lee Safety balance beam scale and the Lee Perfect Powder Measure, in addition to the powder funnel, priming tools, primer pocket cleaner, chamfer/deburring tool and case trimmer. Lee has earned the reputation of providing excellent value, and many of their designs are aimed at budget-minded customers. While some of their tools may lack the bells and whistles of other companies, I do know you can make good ammunition with Lee tools.

Included In Kit:

Redding Big Boss II Pro Pak

Hailing from my home state of New York, Redding Reloading offers their Big Boss II Pro Pak reloading kit. Redding is known for its precision tools, as well as some very innovative designs. With a street price of $400, this reloading kit is a good value, though certain tools will need to be added afterward. You get the Big Boss II O-frame press—this is a beefy design, with a spent primer tube and steel linkage—as well as the Model No. 2 balance beam scale, powder trickler, case lube and pad, chamfer/deburring tool, Model 18 case prep kit (a screwdriver handle-type tool with removable screw-in attachments) and a copy of the Hodgdon Annual Reloading Manual, but there’s no case trimmer or powder thrower, so you’ll have to grab those tools on your own.

Still, for Redding tools, this is a great value. Having had the pleasure of using Redding’s tools for over a decade, they’re among my favorites. As far as value goes, you get what you pay for, and Redding’s tools are worth the price.

Included In Kit:

Hornady Lock-N-Load Classic Kit

Hornady’s Lock-N-Load Classic reloading kit comes with a price tag of $420 and gives the shooter their rock-solid O-frame press complete with the Lock-N-Load bushing system—allowing for quick die changes—Hornady’s compact digital scale, Lock-N-Load Powder Measure, three Lock-N-Load bushings, hand primer, powder trickler and funnel, chamfer/deburring tool and the Hornady Handbook of Cartridge Reloading, OneShot aerosol case lube and a case block.

This kit doesn’t have a case trimmer either, so you’ll need to grab one of those elsewhere. I might say a balance beam scale is a better choice for the beginner—as gravity never wears out—but the recent digital scale designs have been so good that it might no longer matter.

Included In Kit:

RCBS Rock Chucker Supreme Kit

The RCBS Rock Chucker Supreme Kit comes in at $500 and offers quite a bit to the new reloader. The Rock Chucker IV O-frame press heads the list, and the M500 balance beam scale will measure powder, cases, bullets and more, up to 500 grains. The Uniflow-III powder measure will dispense accurate, reliable and repeatable powder charges, and RCBS includes their sister company Speer’s Reloading Manual in the package. A hex key set is included, to properly adjust a number of different reloading tools, as well as a powder funnel, case block, powder funnel, chamfer/deburring tool, hand priming tool and accessory handle with a couple of case brushes for cleaning case necks.

Again, we’re missing a case trimmer—seems to be a common scheme— but this is certainly a kit that’ll last a lifetime. The Rock Chucker IV has a threaded bushing which can be removed, changing the threaded die hole from 7/8:14 thread (for common dies) to the huge 1¼:12 pitch, and you can buy a replacement bushing to fit the 1:14 thread for the larger die bodies needed for the big safari cartridges like the .500 Jeffery and .505 Gibbs.

Included In Kit:

Lyman Ultimate Reloading System

Lastly, with a street price of $600, the Lyman Ultimate Reloading System gives perhaps the most complete system of all, with all sorts of flexibility. Lyman includes their eight-turret Brass Smith turret press, Gen 6 digital powder dispenser and scale, Universal trimmer, the excellent EZEE-Prime hand priming tool, the Pro 1200 Turbo Tumbler for polishing your cases, a case prep multi-tool, inertia bullet puller (everyone needs an eraser for their mistakes), case lube, a plastic loading block and the excellent Lyman Reloading Manual. Hell, Lyman even throws a stainless steel dial caliper in the mix, for accurate measuring of both case and cartridge length.

Included In Kit:

A Place To Start

So, there truly is a kit for all customers, and depending on the level of investment you want to make, you can buy a simple kit or a more complex kit. Invariably, you’ll end up changing, upgrading or simply adding different tools along the reloading journey, depending on the cartridges you intend to load for and the applications for which those cartridges will be used.

But, if you’re new to the entire world of reloading, any of these choices will certainly get you on your way. Let’s all hope the components become readily available again really soon so we can get back to the benches—both reloading and shooting benches, that is.

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the 2022 CCW special issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

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