1. The first thing to do is find a press Lee Precision makes some economical units that work very well. Dont think that the press has to new
  2. you can get some great deals in the classifieds, and a press is a realy hard working piece of equipment that is built tough to last many years. Most of the second hand presses available should do just fine. If it has a little rust on it, a bit of TLC with some water paper and a good coat of oil will sort that out in no time at all. (Reloading presses are known for rust because of the very hard metals they are made of - because of this it is usually just surface rust, and can easily be removed!)
  4. First, READ THE INSTRUCTIONS. Yes, I know that "real men don't need instructions," but seeing that you are potentially building little bombs that can blow up your gun and disfigure you for life (or kill you if you're REALLY unlucky). Read the instructions that come with the press, read the instructions that come with the dies, read the instructions that come with the priming tool. Read the instructions that come with the powder measure. Read the instructions in reloading manuals.
  6. Familiarize yourself with all the parts. Mount the press to a STURDY surface - you don't want it moving around too much. If possible, have a SEPARATE surface nearby on which to place your balance scale. This isn't imperative, but it can be helpful. Make sure whatever surface you place the scale on is LEVEL and will stay that way.
  7. If you have a second hand press without instructions download from the relevant manufacturers website. Lee Precision has all their manuals available for download on their website.
  9. We'll start with reloading straight-walled brass (.38/.357 and .45ACP). Because this brass does not have a significant taper nor a bottleneck, it can be resized without using lubricant as long as the resizing die has a resizing ring made of carbide or other very hard material. It is imperative, however, that the brass be CLEAN, as grit can damage the ring resulting in scored cases. The brass doesn't havto be polished to a high sheen, it just needs to have no grit of any kind on it. This is doubly true for standard steel dies, as they are even more vulnerable to scratching.
  10. Locate and insert the properly sized shell holder to the ram of the press - the steel rod that goes up and down as you operate the handle. Raise the ram to its full height, and screw in the resizing die until it just touches the shell holder. Lower the ram, and screw the sizing die in approximately 1 more full turn. Raise the ram back up until the shell holder presses on the die, and tighten the locking ring on the die with a wrench so it cannot back out. Lower the ram and look at the depriming pin on the resizing die. It should stick down low enough to push the primer out of the case completely. Adjust it per the instruction sheet and make sure you lock it down so that it cannot move once it's adjusted properly.Fill the reloading block with up to 50 clean cases. Insert the first case into the shell holder and slowly raise the ram. When the case reaches the die and begins to enter there will be significant resistance. It shouldn't STOP, however. If it does you need to make sure that it is fully seated in the shell holder, and not offset to one side or you will crush the mouth of the case against the bottom of the die. Operate the lever of the press to the bottom of its stroke. This will take some effort - you are, after all, squeezing metal. When it is all the way down and the ram is all the way up there MAY still be a slight gap between the top of the shell holder and the bottom of the die (that's why you screwed the shell holder in an extra turn during setup.) You should also hear the primer pop out of its pocket. If the case stops BEFORE the handle is all the way down, the rod that carries the depriming pin is screwed in too deeply and has bottomed out in the case. Raise the operating handle and readjust the decapping rod, then size the case again (it won't hurt it, and you've got to size it all the way.)Take your first resized, decapped case and
  12. Drop it into all the cylinders of your revolver or make sure your automatic will close on the empty in the chamber. This is the quick-and-dirty way to make sure you've properly resized the case and you won't be making fifty rounds that don't fit anything. A better way to do this is to purchase a case gauge, but we're attempting to start on-the-cheap, and this works just fine. If everything is fine, resize the rest of your cases.

  13. Now, INSPECT the cases. What you're looking for is any evidence of a crack at the case mouth, or a bright ring on the cartridge body near the case rim. If you're using once-fired brass, or brass you know hasn't been reloaded a dozen times already, you can probably skip this step, but it only takes a minute. Also, check the primer pocket. If it's got a lot of soot in it, use the primer pocket cleaner tool to scrape it out. At this point you can use the chamfer/deburring tool to dress the inside and outside of the case mouth, but with pistol cartridges this is seldom necessary.Remove the resizing die from the press and replace it with the expander die. It's now time to open up the case mouth just enough to let you seat a bullet. Read and follow the manufacturer's instructions on adjusting the expander die, but bear in mind that if you mangle a case it may not be correctable. Do your adjustments in small increments until there is just enough flare at the case mouth to allow you to start a bullet without fighting with it. Too much flare may prevent you from crimping the mouth properly, so getting this adjustment right is pretty important, and bear in mind that this adjustment hinges on the cases all being the same length, so if you've picked up range brass of unknown origin you might want to check the cases with your dial caliper and sort them by length. (And make sure they're within SAMMI specifications.) Otherwise, use brass of known origin, or invest in a case trimmer when you can afford one. Once again, once the die is properly adjusted, LOCK IT DOWN so it can't come loose. Run all the cases through the expander.
  14. (They probably won't chamber now, so don't bother to try it.)
  16. Now it's time to prime the cases. These are little explosives, so WEAR EYE PROTECTION. The kit I recommended includes Lee's
  17. AutoPrime tool, which I like a lot. Again, read the instructions and set the tool up for the proper size primer for your caliber. The .38 and .357 use a small primer, .45ACP uses a large primer. Select the correct primer for your cartridge and PAY ATTENTION because, while they are the same size, rifle and pistol primers differ in hardness and power. I like the AutoPrime because I can easily dump 50 primers onto the tray directly from the primer box. Then by gently shaking the primer tray the primers will all "flip" until they are oriented correctly with the cup facing up. Place the correct shell holder in the AutoPrime before you do this. The shell holder for the AutoPrime is different from the shell holder for the press, but it bears the same size number. Once you have fifty primers properly oriented on the tray, put the clear cover in place, grip the handle so that the operating lever is fully depressed, and move the tool at an angle that will cause the primers to slide down toward the shell holder. Insert the first case into the shell holder, release the lever, give the tool a gentle shake to drop a primer into place, and then squeeze the grip. You should feel the primer hit the primer pocket, and then resistance as it slides into the hole. It is not necessary to squeeze like a gorilla, but a firm grip is necessary. The primer tool handle should move through almost its full range of travel before the primer bottoms out in the pocket. Relax your grip on the lever, but don't let it open all the way, and extract the primed case. Examine the case. The primer should be seated so that the cup is just below flush with the case head. Run your finger over the case to be sure . If it is not, put it back in the tool and give it a little more grunt. You don't want to try to seat another primer on top of the first, which is why I said to not let the lever go all the way open. Once you have a feel for just how far the lever needs to travel, you won't have to do the visual inspection again. Finish priming the rest of the cases. If you have a case where the primer went in with suspicious ease, you may want to discard that case, or at least mark it with a permanent marker so you don't load it again. It has been shot too many times or overloaded so that the primer pocket has expanded. This is much less likely to happen if you use brass that you know the history of. Picking up brass off the ground at the range means having no clue what the yahoo before you did with it. Inspecting such brass for signs of overpressure (like a primer that has flowed out of the pocket) and discarding beforehand is strongly recommended.Once you've resized, decapped, expanded and primed fifty cases, you should be ready for a break. I know I was the first time. WASH YOUR HANDS, kick back, have a drink (non-alcoholic!) or even take a day off. They'll wait.
  19. Charging the case and seating a bullet is next. Many reloaders charge all their cases and then seat all the bullets. I don't. I charge each case and seat a bullet before moving on to the next case. Why? For me there's a lower risk of screwing up that way. Time to set up your scale. Again, the scale needs to be on a level surface. Read and understand the instructions for your particular scale. Set it up and adjust it as per those instructions so that it reads 0 grains when the powder pan is sitting in the scale. An electronic scale is even easier if you can afford one. Check your loadbooks or go to Somchems Website and make sure you check your bullet weight and corresponding start and max loads Check them TWICE., always start at the minimum end of the powder weight for your bullet weight, and work up from there make up a few rounds at a time and check them at your local range before producing a full batch. Pick a good starting load, not the one marked MAX. Pull out your powder of choice. VERIFY that you pulled the right cannister (don't, for example, confuse MP200 and MS200 just because they are in VERY similar packages.) Now there are two ways to throw a powder charge. You can use the Lee dippers (which I do NOT recommend) or you can use the powder measure that came with the press. Bear in mind, it's a pretty cheap measure and not likely to throw really accurate, consistent charges, so you've got a couple of options I'll get to in a minute. Set up the powder measure close to the scale and follow the instructions to adjust it. This basically consists of closing down the adjustment to its minimum, pouring powder into the hopper, and then operating the handle to dispense powder into the powder pan. Place the pan on the scale, check the weight, and adjust the measure. Lather, rinse, and repeat until you're at or near the weight you want. It is very important when operating the powder measure to do it the exact same way every time. You want the powder to fill the chamber just-so on each successive attempt so that the variation in weight is minimized. Here are your two choices: live with the
  20. variation that will inevitably occur (and, depending on the powder you use and the measure you have, it can be significant) or weigh each individual charge and - by hand - adjust the charge weight. If you want to individually weigh the charges, use a small bowl with some powder in it and one of the Lee powder dippers to add or remove powder from the scale pan. This is quite tedious, and probably the biggest PITA when it comes to reloading, especially if you're interested in tack-driving accuracy. If you're building "blasting ammo," pick a charge weight that is safe +/- a half grain, make sure your scale will throw charges within that accuracy range, and reload.

  21. I STRONGLY RECOMMEND checking the charge weight every tenth round or so to make sure the powder measure has not gone out of
  22. adjustment if you go that route.

  23. Once your powder measure is adjusted, you can throw a charge directly into the case mouth from the measure (probably, depending on the measure's design) or place the funnel over the case mouth and throw the charge into the funnel. Once the powder is in the case, look to see how full the case is. NOTE THIS. On some cases it is possible to throw a double-charge, or put twice as much powder in as you intended to, if you are not being careful. Cases like the .38 and the .357 Magnum are good examples. The .38 was originally a black-powder round. Smokeless powder takes up much less space. This is one reason why I charge the case and then seat a bullet immediately. It greatly reduces the possibility of making this error. If you are going to be reloading various types of ammo always place the remaining powder back into the container it came from, using the wrong powder with another cartridge can be potentially lethal, and I can tell you from experience in a couple of weeks time you wont remember what powder was left in the hopper. If this happens to you discard the powder don't guess it's not worth it!
  24. I
  26. Now it is time to set up the bullet seating die. If you're using a bullet with a cannelure (a groove around the bullet that the case mouth is supposed to be crimped into) then setting up the die is pretty simple. If it does not (like a .45 hardball bullet) then you need to know what the overall cartridge length should be, and you will need to use your dial caliper to measure the finished cartridge as you adjust the die. Place an empty, primed, expanded case in the press and raise the ram to its full height. Take the seating die and unscrew the seating stem until it is almost all the way out. Screw the die into the press until you feel it touch the case. Back it out about half a turn and lock it down. Now, take the case out of the press, charge the case with powder and start a bullet into it. Place the case in the press (don't let the bullet fall sideways) and raise the ram SLOWLY. You should be able to put it all or almost all the way up before the seating stem hits the bullet. If it does go all the way up, hold it there and screw the seating stem down until it touches the bullet. Lower the cartridge, screw the seating stem down a little bit, and raise the ram to press the bullet into the case. Again, do this carefully and in small increments. Either observe the cannelure or use your dial caliper to measure the overall cartridge length (you want it a little shorter than maximum) until the stem is adjusted properly for your bullet. Lock the stem down once it's adjusted properly. You're ready to rock. Charge a case, start a bullet, seat the bullet. Repeat until you've done them all.

  28. You're still not finished.
  29. You need to crimp the case. The Lee die sets come with a "factory crimp" die. Follow the instructions and you'll get a good
  30. crimp. If you're using someone else's dies, the seating die usually will also be the crimping die. The body of the die will
  31. either roll or taper crimp the case. It's possible to do the seating and crimping as a single step, but I don't advise it.
  32. It's harder to set up, and you run the risk of screwing up your first couple of cartridges if you don't get it right during
  33. the adjustment phase.Once all your cartridges are crimped, you're done. There, wasn't that easy?