Game-changing reloading tools that make handloading much more enjoyable.
I learned how to reload on my dad’s gear. To say it was minimalist is more than an understatement.
Here’s an idea of what he had at the time: The entire list comprised a Lee three-hole turret press, an RCBS 505 balance beam scale, an RCBS powder trickler, a set of .308 Winchester RCBS dies, a Wilson chamfer/deburring tool and a dual-sided primer pocket cleaner tool.
Needless to say, it was a meager setup. Nevertheless, as I look back, we had an awful lot of fun stretching the limits of that small bench and “making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”
And Now …
At the time, Dad and I both shot a .308 Winchester (a Ruger Model 77 MKII for me and a Mossberg Model 100A for Dad), and we learned quite a bit about the subtle difference in barrels, as well as how the same load wouldn’t work (perfectly) for both guns. But we did learn about the science of reloading, and we learned what we didn’t know.
My reloading bench today is completely different than what we had at Dad’s house, but the mission is also completely different. I no longer use a .308 Winchester exclusively and have amassed a wide variety of rifles in an equally wide variety of cartridges. I also load a larger number of different cartridges for friends and clients, alike, so versatility is paramount.
There are four presses on the bench—three single-stages and a Redding T7 turret press—and my stack of reloading dies might qualify as a collection, but there are some little, and some not so little, things I have become quite attached to.
RCBS ChargeMaster 1500. The RCBS ChargeMaster 1500 is an automated powder-thrower combined with a 1,500-grain digital scale that’s fully programmable to store your favorite loads. It will throw loads between 2 and 300 grains to the nearest 1/10 grain and warns you if a charge is overweight. For high-volume loading, it’s hard to beat this unit. If your budget is a bit tight, look to the ChargeMaster Lite.
Redding PR-50 powder measure. I like the Redding PR-50 powder measure, especially for load development. Powders can be changed quickly; and, when cooking up a variety of loads, I can get very close to the target weight and trickle in the remainder.
Lyman Deluxe Anodized Aluminum Loading Blocks. I have found a couple of loading block models from Lyman that I absolutely love. They are milled from a single block of 6061-T6 aluminum; and, at a weight of 2 pounds, they don’t fall over. They have a hole drilled into the base of each case receptacle so that the residue and debris from resized cases can be brushed out. The Lyman Bleacher Blocks are a cheaper alternative and almost as cool; they are a bit more difficult to clean but are sized perfectly for the three popular case sizes: .223, .30-06 and .375 H&H Belted.
Little Crow Gun Works Precision Prep Tool. Case preparation can be a chore, but the Little Crow Gun Works Precision Prep Tool has earned a place on my bench. The aluminum “Hand Turret,” with its rotating head, has four receptacles for different tool heads. I keep a VLD chamfer tool, deburring tool, large rifle primer pocket cleaner and a large rifle primer pocket uniforming tool on mine. The tool works in a fishing reel motion, and although I do own automated tools, this little wonder gives me a hands-on feel.
The Redding 15-P has a piloted VLD chamfer tool (using the case’s flash hole as a pilot hole) that uses a slender screwdriver handle to put the most precise chamfer I’ve ever seen on a case mouth. If you like to geek-out over your case preparation, the Redding 15-P (aptly named for the 15-degree chamfer angle) is something you’ll want to own.
Load Up On Reloading Info:
- The Flexible And Forgiving .30-06 Springfield
- The .45 Colt: A Wheelgun Classic
- .300 Win. Mag.: The Answer To Most Hunting Questions
- Tips For Reloading the .223 Remington
The RCBS Brass Boss offers six rotating heads to take the pressure off your wrists. Chamfering, deburring, primer pocket cleaning, military crimp remover—all these processes, and more, are handled by the Brass Boss. It will mount to your bench and is extremely handy.
I also like the RCBS Universal Case Prep Center, because it adds a micrometer-adjustable trimming tool to the variable-rpm unit. Cases come out at a uniform length, with nice, square case mouths. I like this tool for cartridge conversion; when I’m making .318 Westley Richards brass out of .30-’06 Springfield brass, it’s much easier to let the motor do the work, and the result is much more uniform.
Redding Bullet Seating Micrometers. These replace the seating plug in the seating die, giving micrometer adjustments to dial your seating-in depth to a hair’s breadth. Redding offers them in standard, VLD and flat configurations, covering just about all the bases. With so many lead-free copper bullets on the market today—known for their sensitivity to seating depth—investing in a micrometer-adjustable seating plug is a good idea.
For years, we primed all our cases from that Lee press, and while it certainly worked, the press generates an awful lot of pressure. Some feel the operation should be handled by hand priming tools. I agree, because I enjoy the feel of these tools, and I have two that I enjoy equally.
The RCBS Universal Hand Priming Tool uses a set of spring-loaded jaws to hold nearly all cartridges and will install both large and small primers.
The Lyman E-ZEE Prime Universal Hand Priming Tool uses two trays (one for each primer size) and the appropriate shellholder for the cartridge being primed to neatly and quickly install primers. Both are worth the cost and are a smart addition to the bench.
Up the Enjoyment Factor
It’s up to you to decide how simple or complex your reloading bench will be. I hope that with the modern conveniences available, it would be a bit more comfortable than what I learned on. Depending on your budget, you can have as many or as few accessories as you’d like.