As I write this February 2, 2013 the Second Amendment is under fire like never before AR15 rifles and .223/5.56 is not to be found. Furthermore there there is crazy talk of ammunition bans and unreasonable taxes. Smart folks realize that reloading for AR15 can provide them with ammo that is cheaper than factory ammunition and with proper equipment and skills ammunition that is just as or more accurate than the best factory ammunition.
Reloading Points to Consider – Before You Start Reloading:
Economics of Reloading for AR15 – While on the surface you will see many reloading kits offered that range in price while supposedly containing everything needed to get you started in reloading. While that may be somewhat true the truth is you will quickly come to realize that there are many more tools needed to simplify and improve the reloading process. The easier the job is, the better the result, the more you will enjoy reloading.
Up front costs of getting started in reloading will cost more than is initially obvious, keep in mind that the pay back in reloading is not in the short term but rather the long term as many of the tools will last a life time. All reloading tools and presses are not created equal. Like most things in life you get what you pay for.
Reloading Press Quality – Reloading presses are not created equal. The materials, design and mechanics of the least expensive reloading presses often lead to frustration with the process and the results. I know there are folks who swear by the cheap stuff but I stand by my comments. Go to your local gun shop compare the materials used in the construction of the various presses. Examine the size of the linkages. Compare the steel, weight and finish of the dies. It does matter. I cannot stress this enough. Learn from the mistakes of others and myself. You have been warned.
Reloading as a Hobby – Make no mistake reloading becomes a hobby with a life of it’s own. Reloading ammunition is both enjoyable and gratifying.
Reloading Safety – Reloading must be done in a distraction free environment. Attention to detail is paramount for safety and consistency. Internet reloading data – Never use load data at face value from another shooter whether a friend or off the internet. If you want to use their load work up to it. Don’t start with it. I prefer to utilize published data from the various reloading manuals. The face you save might be your own. Additionally do not force anything, handle powder and primers with care. Do not forget to wear your safety glasses. DO NOT USE BRASS OF UNKNOWN ORIGIN.
Reloading for AR15
Reloading Manuals -Before you invest in a single piece of reloading equipment you should gather some “How To Reload” information and see if it is something that you will get satisfaction from doing. The first thing you should do is get a book or two. I simply cannot recommend enough the LYMAN Reloading Handbook 49th Edition. The Lyman Reloading Handbooks have been a staple for reloaders for decades. The other book is the Hornady Handbook of Cartridge Reloading which is currently in it’s 9th release. My personal experience is with an older version and it was my “Go To” reloading manual. The Hornady Handbook of Cartridge Reloading is very thorough and even includes reloading data on the 300 Blackout.
Reloading Data – Most bullet and powder manufacturers will offer reloading data for free at their websites and with smartphone apps. A few also offer manual similar to the Hornady listed above. Buying several manuals can get expensive. Instead I suggest purchasing caliber specific load books. They are simply single caliber load data manuals that contain the data from the major reloading components manufacturers. Here is the link for the The Complete Reloading Manual for the .223 Remington (One Book, One Caliber) .
Reloading – Single Stage Presses
First off let me start by stating I am not a “Brand” type of person. I believe in getting the best tool I can withing my budget. I do not like buying things twice. That said with regards to reloading I have developed very strong preferences in reloading equipment.
Single Stage Reloading Presses – The Redding Boss Single Stage Reloading Press is as good as it gets. It’s manufactured flawlessly. The ram linkage geometry combined with the long handle make reloading a breeze. The Hornady and RCBS Partner are tied for my second choices. Years ago I had a nice Lyman single stage press that I would not hesitate to recommend off the used market. I have no experience with the Lyman Crusher 2 or the Dillon BL 550.
I suggest always starting with a single stage reloading press so you get the feel of the reloading process and to understand the most minute details. Learning on a progressive reloading press can get messy and expensive. Additionally I like to have a single stage reloading press available for utility work so there is no need to disrupt the setup on the progressive reloading press.
Reloading – Progressive Presses
Progressive Reloading Presses – For me reloading for the AR15 comes down to two progressive reloading presses, the Hornady Lock-N-Load AP or the Dillon XL 650. This very comparison has caused wars on shooting forums across the internet. I’m going to try to simplify why I choose the Hornady Lock-N-Load AP over the Dillon XL 650. Both presses are great machines and neither is perfect and the subtle differences might be important. First off caliber changes are easier, less expensive and more repeatable on the Hornady Lock-N-Load AP. Some folks have modified their Dillon XL 650 presses to address some of the repeatability issues. The Dillon XL 650 is made to produce a lot of ammunition with infrequent caliber changes. It is well suited to the competitive shooter. The Hornady Lock-N-Load AP is the opposite as it produces less rounds per hour but the ease of caliber changes would be preferred by someone who plans on reloading more than one caliber with frequent caliber changes. The Hornady Lock-N-Load AP is less expensive especially when you begin adding multiple calibers. The price between the two progressive presses is comparable initially when similar options are selected. Dillon offers additional ways to spend money though. I hear that blue kool aid is addicting.
Reloading – Powder Measures
Powder Measures – Things get interesting with powder measures. There are several types or measures to choose from. These range from electronic to rotating drum or sliding charge bar. I prefer the rotating drum style which has been the standard for ages. These powder measures are the ones you see on the progressive reloading presses from Hornady, RCBS as well as mounted to reloading benches. These powder measure feature a rotating drum who’s capacity is determined by a micrometer. Rotating the lever up fills the chamber and the reverse stroke levels off the excess in an almost shearing process. The design is brilliant simplicity. However certain powders can be problematic for powder measures. Certain powders have a shape that can cause the drum to bind as it rotates. Once again it comes down to materials and finish. Also the more precise the fit of the drum to the powder measure body the better it will function. The Redding Powder Measures are without question the best and most accurate available today. That said the Hornady is no too far behind. In my opinion the RCBS trails in third. That said if you purchased the Hornady Lock-N-Load AP or RCBS progressive kit that comes with a powder measure and the unit measures consistently without binding your ahead of the game. For increased accuracy and measuring of difficult powders look to the Redding Powder Measures. Keep in mind you can have more than one powder measure depending on your other reloading needs.
AR15 Reloading Dies
.223 Reloading Dies – Redding Type-S Match Full Length Die Sets is one of the most expensive die sets available for AR15 reloading but to put it simply no other die set offers the micrometer precision afforded by this Redding set. RCBS has a new line of dies that look to match the Reddings specifications and function but they are equally expensive. Back in the 1990′s I began my .223 reloading with the Dillon Precision Full Length Three Die Set. That would be my second choice if the precision die sets were not available. Please keep in mind you can achieve great results with other dies but the precision of a micrometer makes the process faster, more accurate and repeatable. Remember what I said above. These tools will last a life time.
300 Blackout Reloading Dies – Being a newcomer there are not a lot of options for 300 Blackout Dies but the list is growing. Today we have a Redding 300 Blackout Dies, RCBS AR Sets, Hornady Custom 300 Blackout Dies, and Forster 300 Blackout Dies.
Digital Reloading Scales
Beam Type Reloading Scales
Case Tumbling Media