Contributed by Cami Brasher (image: www.hobbygunsmith.com)
I am a 51 year old grandmother who has been reloading my cartridge ammunition for the last 30 years. The fact that I am female seems to surprise most people as reloading seems to be the last bastion of male dominance in firearms. So, Ladies, we need to learn to reload!
Reloading requires one to be meticulous, safety conscious and to pay attention to very small details. As women, we excel at these qualities and are master multitaskers. Reloading ammunition gives you a fun, money-saving and satisfying way of using your skills and it is a great hobby!
Over the years I have found that the extra time used to improve my family’s lot is not wasted time! I also comparison shop, make my own household cleaners, soaps and lotions, coupon like no one’s business and I work! I bet I am not the only one…
Still with me? If you are, then let’s talk about how to get started in reloading without spending a ton of money that no one has in this economy.
The most important step in learning to reload is to educate yourself on the process and on safety! Handling components without hurting yourself and others is of primary importance. If you are fortunate to have a spouse, brother or trusted friend who reloads, I would recommend asking them to let you watch and ask questions! Buy a good reloading manual and read about the subject before you ever touch a press. I like the Hornady Handbook of Cartridge Reloading, Nosler Reloading Guide or Hodgdon’s Annual Manual. I prefer these manuals because not all of the information you can find online is accurate. Once you know more about the process, then the internet can become a helpful resource. Always, always, always, use data that comes from a recent manual because reloading is changing faster than ever and new products are introduced all of the time. Any of the major manufacturer’s websites will also have useful data that is reliable and they have the laboratory equipment and testing capabilities, where as the guy on YouTube doesn’t have the facilities or the checks and rechecks. Always take the side of safety and use reputable resources and manuals!
Okay, now that you have educated yourself on reloading, what is the least expensive way to proceed? If you have a spouse, brother or friend who has a press and some serious experience, have them teach and watch you as you begin with one caliber and reload that successfully. As with anything else, the more you practice, the better you will get. Many of us do not know anyone who reloads, In that case check with local gun shops. Many of them offer reloading classes!
After you have become familiar with reloading, it’s time to begin to think about getting your own equipment, believe me you will know when you’re ready. These are the minimum that you will need to reload your favorite handgun.
The above I think of as investments. You can spend a mint on equipment if you want to, but I personally spend the bare minimum and then add things as I am able. You also will need a place to reload and to store the components that is safe from little fingers and anyone who is not authorized. Presses are heavy and a pain to set up every time you want to reload so if you have the room to keep it set up, that is ideal. I kept components high on a shelf and kept the key to that room unavailable to my boys until they were grown men. I know someone who has their equipment in a cabinet that they can slide-out when they reload and then slide it all back in and lock the cabinet when they are dones.
Each of these may be purchased inexpensively if you shop around, since we are women that is a given. The major names in reloading presses are RCBS, Dillon, Lyman, and Lee. My current press is an old Lyman that a friend gave me. It is a four stage, single press that is hand cranked and allows me to quality control the entire process. I do not have a progressive press which can perform different operations on multiple cases although I have used several of them. Personally, I enjoy the process and for a single person I can make plenty of rounds in an hour. I would suggest you start with a single stage and keep it if you get a progressive, they are great for checking loads and reloading rifle rounds!
In addition to the equipment you will also need primers, powder, bullets and empty casings. You can pick up your empty brass and your friends at the range or you can buy them. As for primers, it will depend on the caliber that you are reloading. Powder is made by a bunch of different companies and again the powder you need will be determined by what caliber you are reloading. Check your manuals and then look around for powder either at a gun show or a shop that you trust. Both are still in short supply these days as are bullets, but they can be found if you are patient.
This may seem like a lot of trouble to go through but reloading is relaxing and feeds your inner nerd! It also confounds men and I get a perverse pleasure in doing that while saving money for more and better guns! I hope this helps many of you to decide to join the ranks of ladies who reload; I wouldn’t still be doing this if I didn’t enjoy it.