Table of Contents
- 1 Reloading Kits
- 2 Reloading Bench – to store and use essential reloading tools
- 3 Reloading Presses – an essential reloading tool
- 4 Reloading Dies
- 5 Reloading Shellholders
- 6 Powder Scales are an essential reloading tool
- 7 Reloading Powder Measures
- 8 Reloading Powder Funnels
- 9 Reloading Powder Tricklers
- 10 Calipers
- 11 Case gauge
- 12 Case sizing lubricant
- 13 Deflection pad
- 14 Flux
- 15 Nozzle check gauge
- 16 Primer catcher
- 17 Shot count scale
- 18 Body protection
- 19 Priming tool
- 20 Chamfer and Deburring Tool
- 21 Primer Pocket Tools
- 22 Case Trimmer
- 23 Case Cleaning Equipment
- 24 Bullet Puller
- 25 Bullet Tray
- 26 Reloading Manuals are an essential reloading tool
- 27 Conclusion
- 28 References
There is a lot of information available about reloading. But what are the essential reloading tools? Sifting through it all can be daunting, but it’s worth it to gain a better understanding of the process. As a beginning reloader, it can be difficult to know what gear you truly need, what processes are worth following, and whose advice you should follow. However, with a little research and careful planning, you can set up a reloading station that suits your needs. By becoming familiar with the basics of reloading, you can make informed decisions about which components and methods will work best for you. With patience and practice, you’ll be able to produce high-quality ammunition that meets your shooting requirements. I have discovered that once you get past the basics of being safe and a few other fundamentals, there is rarely one right answer to any reloading question. However, there are a lot of opinions on the matter.
If you are interested in just “getting started” without trying to piecemeal everything together yourself, check out a full reloading kit. We’ve reviewed the top 7 best reloading kits for beginners, each of them has the essential reloading tools.
Reloading Bench – to store and use essential reloading tools
It is important to start with a quality reloading bench because reloading ammunition requires precision and accuracy. The ideal reloading bench is either level or has a 2 to 4 percent grade to aid in keeping items upright. The bench should be at an ergonomic height, which is approximately 36 inches (91 centimeters) from the floor. A reloading bench should have one shelf that’s about waist height. This shelf should be used for storage and organization of reloading tools, ammunition, bullets, and powder. A set of mounting hooks can be installed on the wall above the reloading bench to store powder scales and other items.
For some good ideas of purpose built reloading benches, we’ve reviewed the top 9+ best reloading benches for the money:
Reloading Presses – an essential reloading tool
There are three primary types of reloading presses: single stage, turret, and progressive. Each has its own distinct advantages and disadvantages, so it’s important to choose the right press for your needs.
Single stage presses are the simplest and most affordable option, making them a great choice for beginners. They’re also the slowest option, so if you’re looking to produce a large volume of ammunition, a turret or progressive press may be a better option.
Turret presses are faster than single stage presses, but not as fast as progressive presses. They’re a good choice for intermediate reloaders who want to produce a moderate volume of ammunition.
Progressive presses are the fastest option, making them ideal for advanced reloaders who want to produce a large volume of ammunition. These machines allow you to load cartridges onto a carriage, which moves through the entirety of the reloading process. These machines are more complex and expensive than the other press types, so they’re not appropriate for beginners.
What type of press is right for you?
This really comes down to your specific needs. As mentioned, single stage presses are great for beginners because of their low cost and simplicity. Turret and progressive presses are more advanced tools with more advanced cost and complexity.
If you are just starting out, our buying guides for the best reloading presses should be a good start to find one for you!
The reloading die is an essential part of the reloading process, since it is the part of the press that actually pushes the bullet into the cartridge. There are three types of dies: Neck, Full-Length, and Small Base.
Neck dies are used for resizing and forming the neck of the case, while full-length dies are used to form the entire length of the case. Small base dies are used to form the primer pocket, as well as seat the bullet, in cases where the case mouth is too narrow to allow for a bullet to be pressed in by the ram.
These are interchangeable between presses with different presses. Make sure you have the proper size dies for your press and cartridges.
In order to reload a cartridge, you will need to have the appropriate shellholder. These go hand-in-hand with your reloading dies, as each die will have a specific shellholder that must be used in conjunction with it. Most press kits come with multiple shellholders, so you may not necessarily need additional ones right away. However, it’s beneficial to have different shellholders on hand in order to reload a wide variety of cartridges.
These are interchangeable between presses and cartridge sizes. It’s best to have a set of different size shellholders so you don’t have to continually swap one out for another when reloading different cartridges.
Powder Scales are an essential reloading tool
Powder scales can measure either short tons (slug weight) or long tons (grain weight). The slug weight scale is accurate to 0.1 grain, which is enough for reloading pistol and shotgun ammunition. The grain weight scale is accurate to 0.01 grain, which is better for reloading rifle ammunition because of the smaller weights used.
There are two different kinds of powder scales for reloading:
- Digital powder scales provide the most accurate readings and are recommended for competitive shooters and hunters who desire the utmost in accuracy from their ammunition.
- Analog scales are a less expensive option and provide reliable readings suitable for recreational shooting as well as hunting.
We’ve taken the time to review the top 11+ best powder scales for reloading:
Reloading Powder Measures
A critical step in reloading is being able to consistently dispense and load powder charges that are accurate to within a fraction of a grain. Many of the all-in-one kits come with a manual powder dispenser and powder scale, which can help you achieve this level of precision. Although these setups can work, they aren’t nearly as efficient as using an all-in-one dispensing and measuring solution. There are a few different tools that measure out the correct powder charge: Dippers, Bench Mounted, and Electronic Dispensers.
Dippers are an affordable way to measure powder, and they do so by volume. The dippers comprise of cylinders that are graduated uniformly in cubic centimeters. A reloader can use dippers and a scale to measure out desired powder charges cheaply and easily. By modifying the dippers for the desired charge, the reloader simply has to dip, check the charge weight, and pour it into the brass case.
A bench mounted powder measure is a reloading tool that uses a hopper to hold the powder. These are much more sophisticated than dippers, often incorporating a rotor that floats on air for precise adjustments. The hopper is filled with the powder to be dispensed, and the handle is turned to release the powder into the pan or chamber. Bench mounted powder measures are an essential piece of reloading equipment, as they provide a quick and easy way to dispense powder into the pan or chamber.
Electronic powder dispensers are a must-have for any reloader using a progressive press. They can store many different powder charges, so you don’t have to measure out each charge individually. This saves a lot of time and ensures that each round is loaded with the exact same amount of powder.
Looking for a reloading powder measure? We have an article on the top 10 best powder measures for reloading:
Reloading Powder Funnels
A well-built funnel is important so that the powder does not spill or bind up in the funnel’s neck. A funnel with a wide mouth and a tapered body is best so that the powder can be poured in easily and the flow is not restricted. The funnel should also be made of a material that is not prone to static build-up so that the powder does not cling to the sides.
Reloading Powder Tricklers
Reloading Powder Tricklers are important because most pistol and rifle powder varies in density depending on the temperature. This is called being hygroscopic, which means that the powder takes on water from the air. This water adds weight, which decreases the density of the powder, meaning that a charge that is calibrated at 25 grains dry might weigh 26 or 27 grains after it has picked up moisture from the air. A trickler allows you to add powder into a charge in a controlled manner, which is important when trying to ensure that each charge is exact and that the powder does not spill out of the funnel.
Using a trickler is usually inexpensive and very reliable, and it provides maximum control over how much powder trickles into the pan. However, many tricklers are manually-operated, and if you need to reload more than just a few cases at a time, they may be tiring and time-consuming to use. There are electronic tricklers that can perform the task at the touch of a button. However, the goal is still precision rather than speed.
Calipers are used for many reloading purposes. They are used to measure the length of the casings so that the length of the casing is maintained. The length of the casing is important as it affects the accuracy of the bullet as well as the pressure exerted on the gun. These are also used to measure the depth of the primer, check if a case has sprung a bulge or warp, and to check the size of a fired case. Buying a good pair of calipers will ensure that the measurements are correct.
When it comes to the sizing and forming of cases, a bump or case Gauge helps ensure that the case is properly sized. Oversized cases may become stuck in the press, causing damage. These are necessary for neck-sized cases as well, since it’s difficult to gauge case tightness by looking at the case head.
A case gauge is a precision-made insert that fits into the cartridge case and allows the reloader to check if the case has been distorted or if the case rim is still large enough to cause issues in the reloading process.
Case sizing lubricant
When sizing cases, it is necessary to use a lubricant so that the case slides in and out of the die smoothly. Sizing wax is used for this purpose and it comes in a block form that needs to be thinned out with lin seed, vegetable, or odorless petroleum diesel fuel before application.
A deflection pad is used when checking the diameter of the fired case. When a fired case is placed on the pad it should not roll or slide as the case rim should provide enough resistance so that the case stays in place. If the case moves when placed on the pad, it means that it needs to be resized.
Flux is a chemical that is used to clean the metal before welding or before building up a bullet jacket. There are various types, so it’s best to consult a reloading manual on which one to use. Welding gun resin is not suitable for casing reloading purposes.
Nozzle check gauge
A nozzle check gauge allows the reloader to check if the rifle chamber is too short or too long. This can be done by placing a feeler gauge between the nozzles of a loaded magazine and the barrel. If there is excessive space, the ammunition can be made shorter by pushing in a compressed wad between the bullets and then loading the magazine. If there is a too little space, a bullet may be dropped into the case if this device is not used.
A primer catcher allows for easy disposal of primer casings after they have been cleaned. They can be made of wax, plastic, aluminum, or brass.
Shot count scale
A shot count scale allows the reloader to weigh powder charges to within 1/10th grain. It is important that the reloader clicks the calibration button before each use to ensure accuracy.
It’s essential that you wear goggles when reloading ammunition as pieces of metal may fly off during the process. Also, some chemicals such as primer flux can be harmful if they come into prolonged contact with your skin.
A priming tool or priming unit is important because it puts a blasting cap and a primer in the cartridge. The hammer hits the priming point, which hits the primer and makes a flash, which detonates the powder. A good priming tool is an essential reloading tool because it is easy to use and it efficiently places the primer in the cartridge. There are two types of priming tools: hand priming tools and priming horns. Hand priming tools are used to prime cases one at a time while priming horns are used to prime several cases at one time.
Chamfer and Deburring Tool
A Chamfer and Deburring Tool is an essential reloading tool because it makes the inside of the case mouth round and fit neatly over the bullet, and it removes any ridges or spikes which may have been left on the case mouth from manufacturing. It also removes the primer anvil from the primer, so that the primed case won’t explode.
The best way to set yourself up for success is using a case prep center. We’ve got an article on the top 7 best case prep centers:
Primer Pocket Tools
Different tools can be used for cleaning, uniforming and reaming primer pockets. Some options include brass brushes, steel wool or a proprietary pocket reamer. It’s generally recommended to clean primer pockets before each reloading session to ensure optimal performance. There are three primer pocket tools to consider:
- Primer Pocket Cleaners: Primer pocket cleaners are designed to clean the residue left behind in the primer pocket after the primer has been detonated. They are an essential tool for anyone reloading ammunition, as they help ensure that each new primer is seated properly and securely. Residue from previous loads can prevent primers from seating all the way down in the primer pocket, which can cause a weak strike on the primer. This can also make it more difficult for the reloader to fully seat a primer.
- Primer Pocket Uniforming Tool: Primer pocket uniforming tools are essential for ensuring that primer pockets are the same width and depth for each piece of brass. They take out very small pieces of brass from the primer pocket until it is the same size as the tool. This ensures that each piece of brass has a primer pocket of uniform size.
- Primer Pocket Reamers: Primer pocket reamers are used to remove crimps from primer pockets. These crimps are associated with reloading military brass. The reamer produces a smooth surface on the primer pocket, allowing for consistent reloading results. Before reloading military brass, it is necessary to remove any crimps that may be present. If these crimps are not removed, the primer will not seat correctly.
The case trimmer is an essential reloading tool because:
- Case lengths vary from factory ammunition.
- Case lengths affect chamber pressure.
- Case lengths affect the position of your hands when shooting.
- Case necks often require trimming after firing.
- Trimming cases prepares them for the next step in reloading—reloading bullets into cases.
Case Cleaning Equipment
Case cleaning is important during reloading because dirty cases can lead to compromised reloaded rounds. There are several tools that can be used to clean cases, including scrapers, brushes, abrasive pads and sonic cleaner cartridges. Scrapers are made from steel sheets with razor blades attached. They can be used to scrape away cartridge residue and powder dirt. Brushes are useful for cleaning away loose carbon. Abrasive pads are used to remove heavy deposits of powder dirt. Sonic cleaner cartridges are useful for cleaning primer residue. It is important that cases are cleaned before reloading because dirty cases can cause problems during the reloading process.
Brass tumblers are important because they can remove heavy deposits of powder dirt from cases. This allows cases to be cleaned before reloading. While tumblers are not essential reloading tools, they are useful for pre-cleaning cases. If a tumbler is not available, it is possible to hand scrub cases with a mild soap and water solution. Powder dirt deposits on cases can be difficult to remove by hand. Tumblers are able to address these difficult deposits effectively.
There are two types of tumblers: stainless steel and ceramic. Stainless steel tumblers are suitable for cases with sharp edges, while ceramic tumblers are suitable for cases with smooth edges.
Brass tumblers can be purchased with several different kinds of media to suit the case type. Marbles, coarse sand, fine sand and rock are appropriate for stainless steel tumblers, while ceramic grit is suitable for brass tumblers. The media in the tumbler will cut away heavy deposits of powder dirt while cases spin inside the device.
It takes about one to two hours for a stainless steel tumbler to effectively clean cases, while it takes four to six hours for a ceramic tumbler to effectively clean cases.
For some more information, view our article on the top 10 brass case tumblers for reloading:
A bullet puller is used for removing the bullet and some of the case neck material when reloading pistol cartridges. The bullet puller has a chamber with claws that grip the bullet. A threaded screw allows users to pull the bullet from the cartridge without exploding it.
There are two types of bullet pullers: single stage and double stage. The difference between the two is how many claws there are to grip the bullet and how the screw is operated. A single stage puller has one set of claws, which grips the bullet tightly. This type of puller requires more strength to operate the threaded screw that pulls the bullet. A double stage puller has two sets of claws that grip the bullet more gently. This allows users to use less force to operate the screw. When choosing a bullet puller, it’s important to consider which type of pistol cartridge you typically reload. Single stage pullers are suitable for most pistol cartridges, while .17 and .22 rimfire cartridges require a double stage puller because of their small size.
Bullet pullers are made from either steel or brass. Brass is softer and more malleable, which makes it easier to reload the cartridge. However, brass pullers may leave marks on the bullets. Steel pullers don’t leave marks but will require more force to wrestle the bullet from the cartridge.
We’ve reviewed the top 7+ best bullet puller hammers here:
A bullet tray is used to hold ammunition while it’s being worked on. Typical uses for a tray include decapping, resizing, and swaging.
Reloading Manuals are an essential reloading tool
Reloading manuals contain reloading recipes, instructions on the process, and illustrations of the equipment used in reloading. These manuals are essential for beginners to gain a better understanding of the process and terminology surrounding reloading.
Check out the top 10 reloading manuals we’ve reviewed here:
After doing some research and careful planning, you can set up a reloading station that suits your needs and budget. By becoming familiar with the essential reloading tools, you can make informed decisions about which components and methods will work best for you. With patience and practice, you’ll be able to produce high-quality ammunition that meets your shooting requirements.
Here are some of the great references I found for reloading tools:
- ESSENTIAL RELOADING GEAR FOR THE PRECISION RIFLE HUNTER :https://exomtngear.com/blogs/article/reloading-gear-for-precision-hunting
- My Reloading Tool List: What I Use and Recommend: http://panhandleprecision.com/a-reloading-tool-list-what-i-use-and-recommend/
- Reloading Products Recommended for Beginners: https://www.midwayusa.com/how-to-guides/beginning-reloader
- What do I need to start reloading:https://www.lymanproducts.com/start-reloading