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Getting into reloading. Questions - opinions needed please

Hello, my name is Rob.

I just recently got 2 good deals on a .308 DSA fal and a m1a. I also just bought 250 rounds of .308 American eagle ammo. maybe .45acp down the road

So I have a 3 part question will break it down.

****added later**** found this kit also. Hornady® Lock-n-Load Classic™ Kit - Or higher end Lee kits?****

Part 1) which reloading system should I go with for under $300
a). Lee's precision 50th anniversary kit. [ame]http://www.amazon.com/Lee-Precision-Anniversary-Challenger-Kit/dp/B00162RM3E[/ame]

- then buy matching dies and what not. and resizing tool from lee. I think it was like $165 for everything I'd need less the actually bullets/powder/primer.

b) Basically option A, but buying a better scale and powder dispenser

c) skip the kits, and buy each part separately from different company's ( this is where YOU come in) I want to be safe and decently fast of course, I've even thought about buying 2 presses from lee's to speed up the process since they are pretty cheap by themselves. anyways what would be the best setup for efficiency?
*****another way of asking, Lee = entry level press. what is the next step up above lee while not going up to the $1000 range :)



let me start off by giving you my purpose of my loads. I really do not hunt, if I were to, I would prob just buy a box of hornady for just that use. My ammo selection - I do not like top of the line, nor do I like bottom of the barrel. I always liked Federal ammo, and American Eagle seems to be their mid grade line of ammo - I like it, it seems to be affordable, and right in the middle on quality , not the best and much better than the worst.
2) What is the best Powder/primer/cases?

a) Cases, I will be reloading American Eagle .308
****Federal American Eagle .308 Win. Ammunition with Ammo Can

Enjoy shooting your .308 even more with this value-priced ammo-can package. This accurate, reliable ammunition cycles smoothly in both semiautomatic and bolt-action firearms. It has reloadable brass cases with noncorrosive boxer primers and a clean-burning powder blend. 150-grain FMJ bullet; 2,820 fps muzzle velocity.

a2) okay, would I be better off buying this ammo, shooting it , THEN reloading? Or is buying unused or once-fired commercial brass the way to go?

b) I know they say "find out for yourself" but, I figured it would be better to go to experts. Here is what I am looking for - enough powder to be safe from squibs? but not too much I could overload. Want the perfect compromise of reliability and power. That being said - what is the best gun powder, and can you order it online? - what is a good formula for grainage

c) Primers and bullets - what is the best primer for the $$. are primers one of those things you don't want to go cheap on? again middle of the road :) I assume casting my own bullets would not be the best idea, or is it a good idea?


3). Cleaning/prepping brass.
a) I like the idea of putting the cases in a solution to chemically clean them since my work station has a sink to strain it in. Is this needed/the best way?
b) Tumbler? found one on amazon for like $40. is this needed and or better than the chemical solution route
c) does every case need to be cleaned or just the dirties ones?


Anyway, thanks for taking your time to read this wall of text - I do plan on reading the manuals to try and learn and be as safe as possible. I've watched a good amount of videos on youtube about reloading.

I should also mention, the 2nd purpose of ammo, is to have a good stash of ammo in case of SHTF - so any ammo I shoot I do plan on replacing - so I am stocking up on ammo cans and those packets that come in shipping to keep moisture out.

Is there anything you think I should know, and don't be afraid to tell me like it is.
 

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The American Eagle ammo should be fine to shoot and for reloadable cases.
Some people don't prefer Federal cases because the brass is a little softer than GI - it gives fewer reloads if you use high pressure / MV loads. With about 40-41 grains of 4895 it will be fine with a 150 grain FMJ or HPBT bullet, and the ammo will shoot fine at 100-200 yards.

I use CCI200, Win WLR, and Wolf primers - they have been fine.

I don't use a tumbler. just wash with dish detergent, rinse, and air dry - only issue is that cases don't get shiney.
I recommend not using a chemical cleaner because they work by reacting with the metal.

For equipment, be sure to include a powder scale, powder measure, case trimmer, deburr tool, dial caliiper.

Jay Kosta
Endwell NY USA
 

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Don't think I can get to all of your questions but I'll throw in a few cents' worth.

Reloading equipment - At a minimum, you will need:

1. Press - The Lee press will get you going but you may want to look at the RCBS Rockchucker option. They are rock solid and will outlast you and a few generations past you.

2. Scales - don't skimp here. Get a good set of balance beam scales and place them on a solid, level, surface. You don't need to doink around with powder measurements.

3. Means to throw charges - a dedicated powder measure is preferred and the cheap Lee one is actually quite good. The "scoopers" will work but can be slow. For the price of the Lee unit, it's hard to think of not going with a dedicated measure. You may want to also get a powder trickler to get more precise charges but with shooting stock service rifles, the sligh variances in charges won't really show up in accuracy. I shoot service rifle with the M1A and just throw my charges with a standard Dillon measure with excellent results (using IMR-4895 powder - larger stick powders like IMR-4064 may be a different story).

4. Dies - here is where you get a lot of opinions. A semi auto requires a relatively loose fit of the case in the chamber for proper feeding. Do accomplish this, you should use at least a full-length resizing die. Some even advocate a small base resizer. Lee dies are a good value if you aren't going for real precision shooting.

5. Shellholders for the press - again, Lee sells sets that work just fine.

6. Calipers - get a decent set of dial calipers so you can measure overall length of cartridges. Dimensions are in the reloading manual.

7. Brass timmer - Lee makes an excellent product where you chuck in a case holder in a drill and hand-hold a pilot/cutter. Very inexpensive and does a nice job. Especially with the M1A, you'll have to trim your brass everytime you resize. The Fal is a little more forgiving but you should still trim. You'll need to also get a deburring/chaefering tool.

8. Brass priming - you can either get a priming kit for your press of use a hand-held primer. Both have their advantages/disadvantages. With a hand primer tool, you will have better "feel" of the seating but the press based option may be faster. Be sure to seat your primers just below flush of the case head to prevent slam fires.

As for brass, I've never been satisfied with Federal commercial brass. Both rifles will stress brass but the M1A is downright brutal on them. Cases always tend to swell near the head upon firing. For reloading, keep fired cases from one rifle separate from those fired in the other. I tend to get only 3-4 reloads from my M1a (all military brass) but can get 7-8 from those fired in the FAL. Military once-fired brass is available but much of it will have been fired in a machine gun. Brass from a MG tend to get really swollen so resizing them gives them a good workout thus weakening them.

There are plenty of well seasoned reloaders on this board who will also step in and cover things I left out.
 

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The Lee kit is a good way to start in to reloading. I personally like the Hornady press better but I think that's more personal bias than any real reason for preferring one over the other. Until you start looking at bench rest grade presses and accessories most brands are pretty much the same, maybe with the exception of the Forester Coax press. Even the Forester Coax might not be a step better as much as a step easier due to how you put the dies in to the press.

A single stage press is the slowest option of all the presses but it can be the most precise (with high quality equipment) and due to the slower pace it allows you time to think about each step of the reloading process so you have a better chance of NOT making mistakes and understanding what each step does for the entire cartridge building path.

Some argue that a turret press is the next step up in speed but I don't think that they add that much to your process rate and because of the design I think that there is a potential to wear them out and cause errors in the dimensions of the cartridge.

Progressive presses are the fastest option available but they are much more complex and I don't recommend that they be the first choice for the new reloader, there are so many things that can go wrong that a novice could easily make a mistake that would be unsafe.

Buy a kit and replace or add parts as you feel the need. I would definitely make sure that you have a Wilson style case gauge and check every cartridge that you make until you feel very comfortable with your reloading knowledge and even then I check every few cartridges as I build mine, you just never know when a mistake will occur. Also buy a reloading manual, preferably the one that matches the bullets you use. I have several but the Hornady manual has a section devoted to the M1A rifle and the loads were all developed using that rifle so the info is a better match to the results you will get with your rifle, if you use the same components that they did. And make sure you buy a nice caliper, I like a digital caliper because I tend to make less mistakes with a number display rather than a dial. I like the Mitutoyo 6" electronic caliper that Midway and others sell.

It sounds to me like you aren't interested in highly precise ammo just safe and reliable minute-of-man kind of ammo. That means I wouldn't spend a lot of time worrying about details, just use a standard load that is recommended in a reloading manual or that is considered standard by most M1A shooters. In your case I would;

Buy one of the reloading kits
Prep the brass as described in the loading manual (they all have a section where they explain how to reload a cartridge)
Measure out the powder charge weight recommended in the reloading manual for the bullet weight you choose and drop it in to the case.
Seat the appropriate bullet in to the case according to the overall case length recommended in the reloading manual.
Check the cartridge with the Wilson case gauge.

Go shoot the ammo.

I don't think you need to dig in to the details any more than that with the kind of shooting you will probably be interested in. Over time you may decide to get more involved and if so then you will start asking more questions and digging deeper in to why things happen the way they do and that will prompt you to buy more equipment...and then ask more question...and then buy more equipment...and on and on DI5

Good luck and enjoy the sport.
 
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Press: Redding Big Boss or RCBS Rock Chucker
beam scale: Hornady, Redding, RCBS, Dillon
dies: Redding (sizing & seating, do not crimp)
RCBS Precision Mic for die setup
tumbler: large Dillon with corncob media
primers: Winchester, CCI
bullets: Sierra 168s or equivalent
powder: 41 grains H4895 work up from there using load tables and chronograph
brass: Winchester or Lake City

My Lee press could not handle LC cases

rgds
 

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the kits do NOT have "everything you need" and they often have stuff you will never use. This kit in particular has two items that I would consider tossing immediately anyway. The Lee Safety scale is at best marginally OK and the Powder measure is pretty close to bad. I would spend a FEW more bucks if needed on stuff you will be using still about 10 years from now. A decent scale and at least a Lyman 55 powder measure. The press is actually pretty decent, at least for the price.

You will ALSO need a tumbler/cleaner, (corn-cob) media, some kind of dial caliper (cheapo is fine), a kinetic bullet puller (unless you think you will never make any mistakes), some decent case lube (Imperial Case Sizing Wax is the no brainer here), and dies. I would also throw into the mix a Lee Universal Decapping Die (it only de-primes and nothing else). Also, a good reloading book (I like the Speer book a lot, but the Lyman or any of them are OK) which you should read carefully first.

Ebay and/or old-geezer private tables at gunshows will save you 50% or more on the cost of equipment (which is often new anyway).

I would start by reloading the .45 acp first to get the hang of things, or better yet, find somebody experienced and then take an hour or so lesson, then go SLOW for a while. A straight-walled pistol case will typicallyu NEVER (ever) need trimming and mistakes will (usually) be pretty obvious. Also, your savings will be (comparatively) greater, especially if you load up 200 grain Lead Semi-Wadcutters (another no-brainer) for 4-5 bucks per box.
 

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I have no complaints with the Hornady lock & load press kit or with Hornady's reloading equipment for that matter. I have a RCBS and LEE dies and crimps and they work great. Now the only thing I dont use with the Hornady kit is the hand primer. I just prefer to use the press for priming. What doesn't get mentioned enough for case trimming is the Forster casse trimmer. They work awesome with a power drill.

You don't need everything at once, you could start with a kit and figure out what everything is and go from there. And one of best pieces of advice I have got on this forum is to throughly read a reloading manual. Good Luck
 
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