Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Reloading Ammunition: Equipment: Reloading Kits

In the last few posts in this series, we looked at various individual tools and materials needed to reload cartridges. For many of these tools and materials, we looked at the prices at which they could be purchased. However, it must be noted that if a beginner were to start reloading and purchase these items individually, they would cost a considerable sum of money. Not to worry though: many manufacturers also sell reloading kits, which contain the basic tools that a beginner would need to do some reloading.  Buying one of these is a lot cheaper than purchasing the individual parts.

At  the low-end, we have hand-reloading kits for specific pistol and rifle calibers:

A basic 9 mm. reloading kit from Lee Precision Inc.

This is a cheap loading kit designed for reloading 9 mm. Luger ammunition only, that sells for about $38.00. Note that it doesn't come with any reloading press, the powder measure is a simple scoop and it comes with a couple of tools that look like long screwdrivers to perform decapping and capping operations. A couple of dies are included to size the case and load the bullet. The user is expected to purchase a rubber mallet to use with this kit, as there is no press. There is also an included instruction manual that gives step-by-step instructions on how to use this kit, along with information about powder types and loads that should be used with it. Lee Precision claims that a user can load about 50 cartridges an hour with this kit, which is probably a little on the high side.

Lee sells a number of these kits at the same price (about $38.00), each one designed for a specific pistol or rifle cartridge caliber, e.g. 9 mm. Luger, .44 magnum, .357 magnum, .45 ACP, 30/30 Winchester, 303 British etc. In many of these kits, Lee Precision does state that some considerable force will need to be applied for reloading larger cartridges, which means that these kits are not easy for everyone to use. Still, these are the cheapest type of reloading kit available.

The next step up is a reloading kit that can be used to reload various types of ammunition. Such a kit comes with a single-stage press:

Lee Precision Breech Lock Challenge Kit. Click on image to enlarge.

This kit comes with a single-stage "O" press, an automatic powder measure, a set of powder scales, a powder funnel, a hand operated spring-loaded priming tool, a set of shell holders that will fit 115 popular cartridge types, case cutter and deburring tool (case-length gauges for specific calibers can be ordered with this kit for an additional $6 per gauge). Included also are a case lubrication kit and a couple of primer pocket cleaning tools.

If the above parts are purchased separately, they would cost around $215 in total. However, buying this kit costs only $172. Of course, the user will also need to purchase sets of dies corresponding to the cartridge calibers that they need to reload, which cost an additional $40 per set. Additional tools would include calipers, some cleaning brushes, a reloading data book etc.

A single stage reloading kit from RCBS

The above image is another single-stage loading kit from RCBS Inc. This one also has a single stage "O" Press, a set of powder scales, a powder funnel, case lubrication kit, a loading block, primer tray, case cleaning brushes, deburring tool and a reloading manual written by Speer (for non-American readers, Speer is a well-known ammunition manufacturing company in America). A kit like this costs about $180. As with the above Lee kit, this one also needs the user to purchase sets of dies corresponding to the cartridge calibers that need to be reloaded, which cost about $40 per set. In addition, the user will also need to purchase some shell holders corresponding to the cartridge calibers being reloaded, calipers etc.

Single stage kits like these allow the user to reload about 250 rounds per hour.

Next up, we have turret press kits, such as the one below:

This value turret press kit costs about $115 and just requires 4 pulls of the lever to complete a cartridge. It comes with a turret press, auto powder measure, scale, case cutting tools, primer pocket cleaner and deburring tool. All that is needed is a set of dies for that caliber and optionally, calipers and loading blocks. This particular kit is only suitable for handgun cartridges though.

Turret Press reloading kits by Lee Precision and RCBS. Click on images to enlarge

The next two images are turret press reloading kits geared towards reloading both pistol and rifle ammunition. These kits are in the $300 - $400 range and contain all the common tools needed for reloading. The manuals that are supplied with these kits contain instructions to load a very wide variety of cartridges. The user only needs to additionally purchase die sets and shell holders for the cartridge calibers to be reloaded + calipers if needed.

These kits are easily capable of loading about 250 cartridges an hour

Finally, we have kits that contain progressive presses.

Hornady Lock N' Load Ammo Plant reloading kit. Click on image to enlarge

A kit like this costs about $1200 - $1400 and comes with a progressive press, automatic bullet feeder, automatic case feeder, die bushings, cartridge catchers, primer pickup tubes, a monitor to ensure that it will warn when the hopper runs out of gunpowder etc.  The only things left to purchase are shell holders, dies and perhaps some additional die bushings (if the ones that are already supplied with the kit don't fit), a set of scales and calipers.

RCBS Progressive reloading kit. Click on image to enlarge

The above kit costs about $900 and comes with a progressive press, automated priming and powder dispensing systems, case trimmer and cutter, deburring tool, case lubrication kit, brushes and cleaning tools and a Speer reloading manual among others. Note that the scale is electronic and can be used to measure the powder as well as the completed cartridges. The kit also comes with a set of calipers, so the only thing that the user needs to purchase is a set of dies and shell holders.

One last thing to mention is that many of the prices mentioned in this article and the previous ones are new equipment prices, as of time of writing of the article. It is possible to buy many of these tools in used condition from gun shows, at much reduced prices. Some tools like presses or dies generally tend to last a very long time, so a used press may perform very similar to a new one, but only cost $20 - $30 whereas the same model in brand-new condition could cost $70 - $80. Similarly, dies tend to last a very long time, so used dies can be purchased for much cheaper than new ones and while the used set may have some minor scratches and blemishes, it could still perform as well as a brand-new set.

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