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Cost Effective Single-Stage Setup for New Handloader?

Discussion in 'Ammunition & Reloading' started by Will_Power, Apr 17, 2014.

  1. Will_Power

    Will_Power OR via OK Active Member

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    Looking at finally making the jump into handloading and have a few questions.

    What is going to be my most cost-effective setup to get started with? I realize that if I get to shooting LOTS or with some really oddball cartridges that a progressive would be the best bet, but for now, I'd mainly looking to get into this to a. get setup on a hunting rifle, and b. make the already comparatively cheap .223 even cheaper, and c. start to justify a jump to 6.5 Grendel.

    Secondly, when it comes to dies and equipment, there are a number of brands out there. Hornady dies, RCBS dies, etc. Are there any particular selling points or are they all essentially equal in quality?
  2. Don H

    Don H Oregon Well-Known Member

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  3. Will_Power

    Will_Power OR via OK Active Member

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    I'm not saying the cheapest possible, although price is a consideration. But, if I'd be better served in the short term buy buying something higher priced, then that's fine by me.
  4. DieselScout

    DieselScout S Clackamas County Well-Known Member

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    Frankly it all depends on your budget. Nothing wrong with any if the kits listed and I am using Lee right now with no problems. I would like to upgrade to a turret style press so I can set up and just leave it.
  5. Mark W.

    Mark W. Silverton, OR Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    IMHO nothing wrong with Lee but I have had excellent decades long use from the RCBS stuff I bought nearly 30 years ago.

    Also progressives are best suited to common calibers not odd balls at least the progressives that dont use std dies.
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2014
    My 3 sons and Certaindeaf like this.
  6. Wayne

    Wayne Near Tacoma Active Member

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    I started with the Lee kit and later got the Dillon. I still use the Lee for 357 and .300 Savage. The only thing I disliked about the Lee kit was the included scale, not that it was inaccurate, but was hard to set up. The Lee has and continues to serve me well.
    evltwn likes this.
  7. AMProducts

    AMProducts Maple Valley, WA Jerk, Ammo Manufacturer Silver Supporter

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    For the calibers you're talking about <.308 Win, I would actually recommend the Lee Reloader press... it's about $30, but it's a rather weak press, and .308 and bigger you're likely to crack it in half (like I did) eventually, as it's just made of cheap pot metal. But it's a good way to get your feet wet.

    As far as dies go, I would recommend sticking with RCBS, you break your decapping pin, scratch the die, wear it out etc they replace it free of charge. There are some decent and cheap electric scales out there that midwayusa sells, not a bad place to start. If you're going to get into serious, I would recommend spending some coin on a decent balance type scale, or one of the higher end electrics. I'll be honest, I recommend having a good balance beam scale regardless, the electric ones can get inaccurate, or have all kinds of erratic readings if you are having power problems (I had a problem a while ago where I was weighing charges, and the case-feeder turning off and turning on would cause the scale to get all wonky and it would need to be re-calibrated). I like the RCBS/OHAUS 505 scale, it's always been rock solid for me, I think I've had mine for 20+ years.

    You are also going to need some shell-holders and a priming tool... to start out cheap, the Lee Ram-Prime works, and then get the shell holders from lee... they're the cheapest around. Once you decide to get serious, I would consider the RCBS Partner press... it's quite strong, and unlike the rock chucker it has plenty of room to get your fingers in and out. I have had one of these, I think for probably most of 15+ years, good solid press.
  8. mjbskwim

    mjbskwim Salmon,Idaho Well-Known Member

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    Lee or the Rock chucker are great for single stage
    My first dies were RCBS and I got rid of them for readings and Lees.Yes I know some have had good luck with the RCBS dies they bought 20 years ago.......when RCBS cared,lol
    Hornady should stick to making ammo and bullets,plus the L&L ain't a single stage

    Good luck!
    And see,I never once said to just go get a BIG BLUE;)
  9. cpy911

    cpy911 Newberg Active Member

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    I have hundreds of pistol and rifle rounds loaded with my lee press.

    One of the bushings is cracked, but works fine still. May have to replace it eventually. I bought the Lee kit for like $100 about 5 years ago and have made up for the cost of that thing many, many times over in cost savings.

    Maybe I will upgrade eventually, but it just keeps on working. I prep brass in advance and weigh each charge for rifle (use dippers for pistol), I just do about 10 - 20 at a time each day. I have a lot of rounds loaded up now.

    I have LEE dies and a spattering of RCBS too. They all seem to work fine.

    I shoot cast for everything and will start casting my own.

    I no longer shoot .22lr but .223 cast loads that cost less to make than high priced .22lr

    It is nice to have the flexibility.

    Again, all my equipment has more than paid for itself with the savings compared to store bought ammo. I rarely buy factory as my reloads are more accurate and predictable and cheaper. I really enjoy reloading process too.

    Now if I can just find powder. Primers are back...not so much for powder.
    mjbskwim and Certaindeaf like this.
  10. Certaindeaf

    Certaindeaf SE Portland Well-Known Member

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    Lee has like two grades of single stage and auto advance turret presses.. get the higher end (cast iron and steel instead of alloy and steel) and you'll be a happy camper forever.. given normal maintenance.
    However, the alloy ones will serve you very well, especially considering how much they cost.
    Throckmorton likes this.
  11. mjbskwim

    mjbskwim Salmon,Idaho Well-Known Member

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    I think this is the more important part here
  12. Benchrest

    Benchrest The Desert Planet Well-Known Member

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    2K + of .308, hundreds of 9mm / 380acp, & a few hundred of '06 through the Lee 'kit'. A few quirks, but the system is fast and works near perfectly.

  13. My 3 sons

    My 3 sons Bonney Lake Active Member

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    I was in the same position as you two years ago. My first press was a Lee turret press. Love the ability to set up dies in a turret and quickly change from one calibre to another by switching turrets. Lee dies hav worked well for me in rifle and pistol calibres up to .308 which is the largest I load so far.

    After I found reloading was not just a cost saver to allow me to shoot more and fun I bought a Dillon 650XL. Love this press for efficiency. There is a valid point in using this press for the most accurate rifle loads as compared to a manual press. Mass production is it's strong point.

    I would advise a electronic scale with powder dispenser to speed up the loading and maintain accuracy with the non-progressive presses.
  14. Walter Sobchak

    Walter Sobchak Silverton Silver Supporter Silver Supporter

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    I'll throw yet another recommendation out for Lee equipment.
    I started out with an Rcbs junior, and a set of Lee carbide .38/.357 dies. Then bought the Lee turret when I figured I had my head wrapped around reloading. Now I've got a Hornady lock n' load progressive, but I still use Lee dies, including that first set of .38/.357. I've probably loaded 5000 rounds with those dies, and besides cleaning them occasionally they've given me zero problems, and consistent ammunition.
    I do still use the other two presses, too. Rcbs for decapping, and the turret for low volume load development. I think the point I'm trying to make is whatever way you go, you'll probably find a use for the equipment you buy now.
    On a related note, I'd highly recommend getting a quality beam scale, instead of a digital scale. Something like the Rcbs 5-0-5 can be had for $50 +/-, and is unaffected by batteries, or static, and can be easily and reliably calibrated. I've never personally used a digital scale that I didn't find myself double checking on my 5-0-5...
  15. Hook686

    Hook686 Northern California Active Member

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    Everyone has their personal favorites. Most will do the job you want done with little fanfare. I personally put aside my single stage, and my progressive and pretty much use the Lee Classic Turret (four hole) press these days. Though I occasionally pull out the single stage for a specific operation. A RCBS 5-0-5 scale, a digital caliper and an inertia bullet pull pretty much cover the bases for me. Then bullets, powder and lee carbide dies in the sizes I need is all that is left. Somehow I ended up with an electronic scale, an hand primer, bullet lube, loading blocks, .... A bunch of stuff I really do not use. I try to keep it simple and the Lee Classic Turret and Lee Carbide dies have been a solution. Good luck in your adventure.
  16. SomeDude

    SomeDude Portland, OR Reclaimer

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    I would highly recommend researching which powders you'll be using and start looking for those right away. While rifle powders have between popping up more often lately, powder in general has been the hardest component to find. The equipment won't matter if you don't have any powder to load into the cases.
    Also start stockpiling brass if you haven't already. I kick myself for all the brass I could have kept over the years but I didn't think I'd ever get into reloading so I didn't keep it.
  17. huthuthike

    huthuthike Hillsboro OR Active Member

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    This post by AMProducts has helped me a lot as I have started out:

    AMProducts likes this.
  18. elsie

    elsie Way over there on the left Well-Known Member

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  19. HotRod61

    HotRod61 Happy Valley Active Member

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    There are many choices out there.
    I wasn't sure if I would like reloading so I went with the Lee Breechlock. It's easy to change out the dies when needed. The kit has just about you need to get started.
    Then I decided I really like reloading and the Lee press is still the only press I have. Can't go wrong with the Lee.
    Which ever one you decide on you won't be sorry.
    Good luck with your choices.
    Hook686 likes this.
  20. deadshot2

    deadshot2 NW Quadrant WA State Well-Known Member

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    There's certainly nothing wrong with Lee presses but they do have some limitations.

    If you have the funds I'd look seriously at an RCBS Rockchucker press kit. Then add the Lock-N-Load bushing kit to it. This will give you one of he strongest and longest lasting presses on the market and the quick change bushings will allow you to use it almost like a turret press. Set your dies up once, tighten the lock rings, and then just swap back and forth as needed with no need to re-adjust.

    Every loading bench needs a single stage press even if you eventually buy a progressive for high volume ammo production. They're great for load development, large rifle case sizing, or just "small batch" loading such as hunting rounds.

    Rockchucker presses would be my first choice with the Hornady or Lyman second. (single stage that is)