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Reloading - Beginner Setup

23 Oct 2019
@ 01:04 pm (GMT)

Alistair Birrell

G'day folks,

I'm looking to start my reloading journey. I purchased the book a few years back and have read it a couple of times. I still need to read it a couple more times but I think I've got the jist of it.

I'm on a very limited budget. After leaving the military, moving to the country and buying our first home and having a little one at foot we have not got a lot of $$ spare.

I'll be reloading for the 308. I have about 400 once fired factory hornady cases all from the rifle I use so I'll not be in hurry to buy brass anytime soon. I want to reload the 168gr ELD-M as my rifle likes them. A box of factory ammo is $60 and I could get the projectiles for just over 50c here so I reckon I can save a bit. I have enough factory ammo to keep me going for a month or three. Should I get a cheap Lee kit, get started and then slowly upgrade or should I save up and buy a piece of good gear (new or used - like a forster press) every couple of months as funds allow (buy once cry one principal) and start over the next 6-12 months?

I also have a Mitutoyo caliper that I got from my father in law. They are probably 50 years old. Is there a easy way to check calibration on them? Do they lose calibration?

Thanks in advance.


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13 Nov 2019
@ 10:54 pm (GMT)

Alistair Birrell

Re: Reloading - Beginner Setup
Hi folks,

An update on my progress. I've taken the advice on board and reread the book a couple more times. Rather than getting a kit I'm getting items separately opting to get good quality pieces that I can keep long term. Using the list and book as a shopping list.

I picked up a Lee Handpress and a universal decapping die to allow me to decap outside and not bring a mess inside. It seems like a nice tool for just over $70 aud. I've decapped and cleaned about 200 cases so far. I was going to get the Lee Ultimate die set but I was able to get a Forster set for similar money. I'm waiting for them to arrive still and hopefully the handpress works OK with them. I'll let you know. Almost all of my once fired cases seem to be well within spec still. I have a Blaser (don't judge me ;-) i got it when I was young without a child or mortgage) so FL sizing was going to be my first point of call.

My thinking is the handpress will work while I learn and I can then get a fancier press in time and keep it for decapping and range duties.

A set of Hornady Balance Beam scales are next on the list but I'll wait a pay cheque or two. Also the K&M Primer tool which seems good value at $90.

Thanks again.
18 Nov 2019
@ 09:00 am (GMT)

Scott Struif

Re: Reloading - Beginner Setup
I want to save money on my first press, and put the savings into a concentricity gauge - the Sinclair, because it will measure neck runout as well as bullet runout. The new Lyman "Brass Smith Ideal" looks like a good choice. But the reviews say stuff like, "Would be a good choice for a decapping station," or, "Would be a good choice for a seating station." If the reviewers want to save time switching dies, why don't they use turret presses?
18 Nov 2019
@ 09:30 am (GMT)

Hamish Gibbs

Re: Reloading - Beginner Setup
Probably my next upgrade also Scott, that and a neck turner, currently what are the best options for concentricity gauges out there? in line with Nathans thinking I don't need all the fancy pants bs and give away my left nut for it, just something to eliminate possible variables from the atomic equation.
Hornady? Sinclair?
18 Nov 2019
@ 09:44 am (GMT)

Nathan Foster

Re: Reloading - Beginner Setup
Hi Hamish, I have been seeing issues with the Hornady gauge. Suggest the Sinclair as a simple solution.
18 Nov 2019
@ 01:05 pm (GMT)

Scott Struif

Re: Reloading - Beginner Setup
Hi, Hamish. To elaborate (and I got this from Nathan's book) the hornady guage uses a shell-holder that grips the rim, and only measures bullet runout. If the rim or the neck is not perpendicular to the case wall, concentricity of the bullet will appear off. The Sinclair device measures bullet AND neck concentricity against the case wall. The Hornady has a gizmo to push the bullet into alignment, but it's not going to help if either the neck or rim is off. I think the sinclair will be more useful, but to align the neck or the bullet, you'd need a block of hardwood with a couple holes - one the diameter of the neck, and one the diameter of the bullet. Bullet alignment would only work if it wasn't crimped, and there was some shank below the ogive exposed. I figure the chances of a rim being askew are slim, since the cases are meaty in that area.. Nathan suggests rolling the cases on glass and eyeballing the rim, but that seems a bit far-fetched. I read the book in one sitting - couldn't put it down - hence I'm an expert.
19 Nov 2019
@ 04:38 pm (GMT)

Hamish Gibbs

Re: Reloading - Beginner Setup
Thanks Nathan, Scott. Got the information I was after re current options/quality, as we all know even the best things can have bad runs.
Scott I was to and fro on how far to go down the rabbit hole(I have the books), on one hand one could identify and correct but not necessarily diagnose as easily(maybe simpler?), the other is obviously preferred as one could hopefully get to the why and prevent having to fix it, decision now made easily.Forum members usually direct people towards purchasing the knowledge base on this site as it supports the the Fosters and their continued dedication to education of those who seek it, but thanks for your help.
22 Nov 2019
@ 10:13 pm (GMT)

Ryan Nafe

Re: Reloading - Beginner Setup
Just wanted to give a quick re-emphasis on the importance of the reloading book of Nathan’s. Just got it in today, 50 pages in right now, and this has drastically improved and simplified my understanding of things already.

Looking at MidwayUSA’s reloading equipment sectionfor example, before having the book, was very intimidating and confusing. It’s a vast array of gear with very little in the way of technical descriptions to differentiate between the options, but within the first few chapters of the book I now have a very short list of things to complete the basic Lee kit I purchased a couple weeks ago and things are now looking much more easily managed than before.

Really great work Nathan, this book is absolutely worth every penny and I’m happy to have purchased it from you.
23 Nov 2019
@ 07:54 am (GMT)

Nathan Foster

Re: Reloading - Beginner Setup
Thanks Ryan and Hamish, that was very kind of both of you.

Unfortunately, the current Hornady unit has some issues. Besides relying on the case rim being true (and unmarred), other tolerances within the recent models have not been so good. I believe that the the only way to correct this is to undergo a re-design rather than focusing on tolerances alone. The design needs to be taken a few steps back before going forwards again.
25 Jul 2020
@ 03:13 pm (GMT)

Alistair Birrell

Re: Reloading - Beginner Setup
G'day folks,

What a cluster of a year. Hope you're all staying well. I'm back from deployment and finally able to give this reloading game a go.

So this is my first reloaded ammunition. All brass is once fired in my rifle before reloading and FL sized (i shoot a blaser - don't hold against me pls). Powder is ADI2206H in hornady brass and Federal blue primers. 168gr ELD-M projectiles for 308.

Anyway results attached. They're are a bit inconclusive to me. Weather was perfect so I can't blame that. Most shots I didn't feel like a screwed them up too much either (though there is always room for improvement). I'm reloading off the basic gear as recommended in Nathans book and earlier in this post (Lee handpress and Hornady balance scales) but have quality Forster dies.

I'm thinking its worth exploring more around the 43gr mark? 43.5 is max book charge but there was no pressure signs so could go a bit higher too.

Does anything jump out to your more experienced eyes or should I just reload and shoot some more and see? Three is not a very large sample size.

Thanks all for the good advice in this post, I'm really loving my reloading journey. Thanks also to Nathan for another no nonsense manual to get me started.


p.s there was only one part the manual didn't cover that might be useful for a future revision. Removing primer crimp on factory brass. All my hornady brass had crimped primers. Took a couple of squished primers for me to figure that out...

26 Jul 2020
@ 08:42 pm (GMT)

Mike Davis

Re: Reloading - Beginner Setup
my head hurt just reading all that.
BASIC set up.......what I did for years and sort of still do.
you will have a factory load your rifle likes???
you probably using a projectile fairly similar too whats in that???assumingthat is the factory round in press and put seating die in press with top screwed out a fair old way....drop press handle down and leave it ALONE.... now screw the top of die inwards and watch that handle like a hawk...when it starts to twitch.STOP SCREWING.... now put one of your sized cases in press and seat a projectile......try it in rifle.....if it loads from magazine and isnt jamming in that DUMMY ROUND in your box of projectiles to set up die in future and carry on making amunition....maybe load up 5 and go try them...
if stuff has LEE on it (other than the toothpaste shite sizing lube) it just plain ol works and works well
one other tip...when you seating projectile,start it into case mouth then lift handle and rotate case 180ish degrees and finish seating just works.
fellas much cleaverer than me have measured rounds done this way and they come out very straight.
hope that helps.
mr simple
27 Jul 2020
@ 10:00 am (GMT)

Martin Taylor

Re: Reloading - Beginner Setup
Hi Alister,

Yes the 43 gr load seems to be in the middle of that node. 42.5, 43 & 43.5 have very similar PIO with stable grouping (remembering this is only your initial testing without conformation).

This 168/2206h combo in the 308W is my favourite (& Nathans recommended) & has worked well in many rifles (any brass), all loaded to mag max of 71mm OAL. I like to load in the middle of a node to allow a margin for temp changes (chamber & ambient), small loading eras etc.
Our 308’s being high volume shooters with long barrels l choose not to chase high pressure nodes to help brass/barrel life. Can you or do you need to push up higher is a call only you can make! The node may continue higher but how hard do you want to run your brass etc? Maybe this is a extended range rig and you want every last fps you can squeeze so carefully exploring high in small steps is the way to go.

28 Jul 2020
@ 10:19 pm (GMT)

Alistair Birrell

Re: Reloading - Beginner Setup
Thanks Mike & Marty.

Marty: No there is no requirement to push it higher at this point as my current skill level / target ranges don't warrant it. Its a replacement for the factory 168gr ELD-M that shoots very well from my rifle but is difficult to get and $60 a box of 20. I have several hundred once fired cases and 4kg's of powder on hand so its only really the projectiles to buy. It will be my go to plinking / range load as I practice. Once I'm more confident I think it will be a good goat / fallow option. Appreciate your feedback and I will load some more from 42.5,43,43.5 and try some five shot groups to confirm the load. I'm also hoping to acquiring a chrony in the not to distant future.

Reloading is a heck of a lot of fun. After listening to Nathan's YouTube show on Saturday I'm keen to try a load with the 200gr Nosler Partitions too. Could be my new Sambar load.

29 Jul 2020
@ 09:08 am (GMT)

Martin Taylor

Re: Reloading - Beginner Setup
Good stuff Alistair. The 168 is a great projectile which we have used with great results on Sambar (with care) and small game. Really makes the 308 shine! I have 168gr interbonds that shoot same PIO/load so we just top load mag for close up shoots.

Our favorite thing to do was setup on a high country helipad above our camp and plink gongs & rocks out to 750yds in multiple directions. A real challange at 308 velocities & great fun with the kids.

Dont get to hung up with the crono if funds are an issue, develop your load, confirm it & validate it out to say 3-400 and build your dope charts with the data.
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