When you start new outdoor hobbies like shooting or hunting, you find yourself buying a lot of ammo. One way to save on ammunition costs is to use reloading dies to reuse your rounds.
Reloading dies are necessary to ensure your bullets are sized correctly. These dies are cartridge specific. They’re used for resizing, flaring, bullet seating, and crimping. You use them with a reloading press to get the dimensions needed for your ammunition to function reliably.
In this article, we’ll explain the basics of reloading dies, including how to set them up and the supplies you’ll need to get started reloading.
What Are Reloading Dies?
A reloading die is a tool that allows you to assemble a bullet cartridge from a round that was previously shot. You’ll put the brass casing, gun powder, bullet, and primer together using a reloading press with various reloading dies for different actions, such as seating the bullet in the casing.
Most reloading dies are made of steel or carbide. Carbide dies are more expensive and more durable, requiring less lubrication and cleaning after sizing. Steel dies cost less but need more attention, as they need lubrication before sizing and cleaning after sizing.
You can use a reloading kit along with the reloading dies that are purchased separately. (More on this below.) Reloading kits include the set of tools you need to load rounds in whichever caliber you choose.
While reloading kits vary, they all include three standard items: press, scale, and powder dispenser. The press is used to secure the bullet into the casing for a complete round. A shell holder holds the casing or shell in place. You then fill it with the proper amount of powder and press it. The reloading die sizes the neck of your casing to make it appropriate for your specific caliber.
There are also additional components such as case feeders, priming systems, turret rings, and more. These tools are designed to make the reloading process more efficient.
How to Set Up Reloading Dies
Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for setting up reloading dies. Failure to do so could cause your ammunition to be unreliable or even dangerous.
While the steps vary a bit depending on caliber and components, this is the typical process for how to set up reloading dies:
- Resize fired brass cases using full-length sizing die or neck sizing die.
- Remove the previously fired primer.
- Trim the brass cases using a die specific to chambering and a universal cutter.
- Seat new primer.
- Flare the case mouth to add a bullet. (This isn’t always necessary; it depends on bullet type.)
- Add powder charge.
- Seat the bullet.
- Crimp the case/bullet back to original dimensions. (Not needed for all cartridges and firearm types.)
Basic Reloading Supplies
If you’re ready to start reloading your ammo, you’ll need several items to get started. Many of these tools are available in reloading die kits. There are slight variations in the equipment and steps required for reloading different types of ammunition. We’ll focus on straight-walled handgun cartridges here.
Equipment manufacturers publish reloading manuals that contain detailed information about reloading guidelines. Always follow the published guidelines for your specific reloads.
After you fire brass cartridge cases, they need to be cleaned before you can reload them. You’ll need to remove any loose powder residue and dirt. You can clean your brass with hot water and detergent, but you need it to be very dry before you can reload it. One of the most effective ways to clean your cases is with a brass tumbler. It has a motor that vibrates a bowl filled with your brass cartridge cases and tumbling media. After it runs, all you need to do is sift the media from the brass and your cases are cleaned.
A reloading press is needed for many of the steps of reloading your ammo. It can assist with everything from pressing a casing into a resizing die to crimping the casing. If you’re just getting started, a single stage reloading press is simple to use. More advanced options include turret reloading presses (which allow you to change die sizes quickly) and progressive reloading presses (which include feeders and powder measures along with the turret).
Reloading dies are screwed into the reloading press, which holds the casing and presses it into a die. Since these are caliber specific, you need a set of reloading dies and a shell holder for each caliber you plan to reload.
Priming Unit and Tray
Priming units, also called priming rams, priming arms, or priming punches, are used to increase reloading accuracy. Loading presses include basic priming units to help you seat new primers. If maximum primer seating uniformity is important to you, a specialized priming unit die or hand priming tool may be worth the investment.
A primer tray will keep your primer oriented one side up to make sure it is correctly placed into the primer post. It also keeps your primers free and clear of any contaminants.
Powder Dispenser, Scale, and Funnel
You can weigh the powder charge for each of your cartridges by hand, but a powder dispenser saves time by letting you choose how much powder should be dispensed at a time. A powder scale ensures you are charging your cartridges with the correct amount of powder. This is important for safety and to prevent damage to your firearms.
A powder funnel allows you to pour the gunpowder into each case without spills.
Keep your cases steady and stay organized on the bench with loading blocks.
Dial Indicating Caliper
Check measurements including seated primer depths and case lengths with a dial indicating caliper.
Because cases stretch when they’re fired, their necks often stretch during the resizing process. If the case gets too long, you’ll need to trim it before reloading. Having the correct case length is crucial for accuracy and reliability.
When trimming the case, burrs can form on the interior and exterior of the case mouth. A deburring tool is used to smooth the case to prepare it for reloading. You should also deburr cases for the first reloading, even if they are not trimmed.
Primers, Powders, and Bullets
You’ll need a supply of primers, powders, and bullets for the caliber and type of ammo you want to assemble.
If you plan to resize rifle cases, you’ll also need case lubricant and a case lubricant pad.
This might seem like a lot to take in, but fortunately many great companies offer reloading starter kits to take the guesswork out of your setup.
Who Makes the Best Reloading Dies?
If you take care of your reloading equipment, it will last for decades. Companies like Hornady, Lee Precision, Lyman, RCBS, and Redding manufacture excellent reloading dies and accessories. Be sure to select the right equipment for the caliber(s) you plan to reload.
Know How to Clean Reloading Dies
While your reloading dies don’t need as much cleaning as many other pieces of equipment, it’s important to keep them in good working order so they’ll remain reliable and durable for years to come. Start by cleaning your dies with degreaser before first use.
You’ll want to clean your reloading dies regularly since excess lube and even dust can build up. Typically, you’ll need to clean reloading dies every 500-1000 rounds, depending on how clean your reloading area is and how often you’re using them.
Get The Best Reloading Dies at Green Top Today
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