Shooting can take years to master and to become a true aficionado of the sport, there’s nothing better than learning how to reload your own ammunition. It’s a fun project that takes patience, a steady hand, and the right set of reloading tools for the job. While there are reloading kits, there are other must-have hand tools, accessories, and reloading products that you’ll want to get to help you in the process.
A measuring tool that you will use to check the diameter of bullets and length of cases. The better ones are accurate to .001” and they come in straight ruler edge, and both dial and digital readout. I prefer digital myself.
Case Prep Tools
This is a group of tools that are used to prepare your brass for reloading. These tools can be found as hand held tools or a motorized unit with multiple tool heads that hold many tools at once. For the motorized centers, you could simply run your cartridge on each tool head you needed and then move to the next cartridge. Some companies offer a pre-packaged kit of these hand tools. Typically, you will find a large and small primer pocket cleaning tool, a large and small primer pocket depth truing tool. This tool is essentially a shouldered end mill that you use to ensure that the primer pocket is cut to the correct depth. The shoulder and pilot prevent you from cutting off center or too deep. Large and small primer pocket crimp reamer. This tool is used to cut and ream out the raised lip that is left over from crimped or staked primer. Flash hole cleaning tool. This is essentially a tool like a screwdriver that has a drill bit end. The bit is used to remove debris from the primer pocket flash hole, and if the flash hole is undersized, it will open it up. Most come with a case mouth pilot that you can set on the tool shank, so that the tool is going into the case centered, stays centered during cutting/cleaning, and prevents the tool shank from rubbing on and deforming the case mouth. Mouth outside and inside diameter deburr tool. This can be 2 separate tools or a double ended tool. One end trims the outside of the case mouth, the other the inside. It removes the burrs left from case trimming. These burrs must be removed prior to using your case. The act of trimming the case mouth leaves slivers of metal as a raised lip on the inside and outside diameters.
Neck Turning Tool
Sometimes when cases are resized or reformed, the neck grows long, but it can also grow too thick. A neck turning tool cuts down the exterior of the case neck. You could use this in conjunction with a neck concentricity gauge to ensure uniform thickness necks.
During resizing of your brass, some of it grows tall at the neck. You use a brass trimmer to carefully cut the brass back down to length. There are a few different types, but the two most common are a lathe style trimmer where the case is chucked into a holder and then forced against a piloted cutter. There are manually spun and motorized units. The other common type involves using a cutter and various types of pilots and you manually turn them against the case. Some are press mounted. And use cartridge specific pilots and length gauges, others have calibrated adjustments to set the amount of cut.
This tool is used to remove a projectile from a cartridge. During reloading, sometimes mistakes are made and you need to break down a case. Other times you may have made up a dummy or test cartridge to measure and need to break it down. Also, sometimes you will have surplus ammunition from an unknown source that you wish to break down to reuse some of its components, such as the case or projectile. This puller mounts as a die in your press. You raise the cartridge into the die, then tighten the collet around the projectile just above the case mouth, then lower the press, thus pulling the projectile from the case. Can be faster and easier than a kinetic puller, but can also sometimes mar the projectile cosmetically, or structurally if it is a soft cast projectile.
These refer to the dies you will use to work and reform your cartridge brass. These mount in a press, and will need a specific case holder to hold the brass cartridge in the press so it can be run into the die. Lee made some very early dies in the 60’s that did not need a press, (Lee loader), you used a mallet to hammer the brass and die together.
Reloading dies use locking rings to hold them at a specific depth in the press. There are many different styles of lock rings. Some use a crush O-ring for tension, some use a set screw, others use a pinch screw. Many of these lock rings have custom wrenches to aid in installing or removing these lock rings.
Hand Case Primer
While some people insert the primer into their brass case right on their press using a small priming bar or other automated priming system, others prefer to prime one at a time with a hand-held tool. Hand primers typically hold a tray of primers and use either a normal or special shell holder, or a universal jaw system to hold the case, and then a primer is pushed into place as you squeeze the tool.
Kinetic Hammer Puller
This tool resembles a hammer and is used to remove a projectile from a cartridge. During reloading, sometimes mistakes are made and you need to break down a case. Other times you may have made up a dummy or test cartridge to measure and need to break it down. Also, sometimes you will have surplus ammunition from an unknown source that you wish to break down to reuse some of its components, such as the case or projectile. Models differ slightly, but most hold the case by its rim or extractor groove and have the projectile pointing in the direction you hammer. Inertia moves the projectile out of the case. The projectile and powder fall into a cavity inside the hammer.
Neck Concentricity Gauge
Used to check uniformity and thickness of the neck and or bullet. Having excess run out can lead to accuracy problems. One cause of excess bullet run out is having a bullet profile that is pointed and does not match the seater stem profile. Thus, the bullet point bottoms out in the seater stem, and the bullet can be seated slightly tilted. You would rather have the seater contact the bullets rounded ogive area to press it down into the case. Long range and bench rest shooters try to reduce variables as much as possible and produce the most uniform ammunition they can. This tool helps sort cases and cartridges out based on their measurements.
A hopper and dispenser that holds powder that can be hand operated or press operated, to dispense a set amount of powder to a case. Most employ a rotary cylinder with an adjustable volume cavity. In one orientation powder is collected from the hopper into the cavity, then when rotated, the hopper is isolated from the cavity and then the cavity is emptied into the case. You adjust the cavities volume based upon the weight of the charge you need and the specific powder you are using. Different powders have a different weight per volume.
A powder trickler is a small hand-held device that you fill with the same powder as your dispenser when you are hand weighing a charge. You would dump a charge into the scales cup that is just less than your target charge, then you could use the trickler to drop individual kernels of powder into the scale to arrive at a target charge weight that can be more precise than one straight out of a powder dispenser. Some long range and bench rest shooters hand weight and charge each case to control variables and make very uniform ammunition.
Primer Pocket Swagger
Some primers from military or other commercial sources are crimped or staked in. Once you punch the old primer out, there will be a raised lip that will need to be dealt with before you can load in a new primer. A swage tool physically pushes the brass back into the case vs. removing it. Swage tools can be a standalone small hand press, or a set of die that installs in a press.
A press used for leverage to resize and reload cartridges. These can be hand held squeeze together or bench mounted. Press that hold only one die is called single stage. Put a die in, operate the press, and you perform a single step. Some press holds multiple dies at one time. They are turret and progressive. Turret press still only perform one operation at a time, but save time changing die out. Just turn to the next die mounted in the press to do the next action. Some turret have removable tool heads that you can keep your die pre-set in. Just exchange the tool head and case holder and switch to a different cartridge. A progressive press can perform all the needed steps at one time, so eventually, each pull of the press handle makes a completed round.
Used to measure powder (or sometimes projectiles or cases). Scales can be Beam, digital, or a combination digital scale with a dispenser. You must zero your scale before use, have a solid flat surface with no draft, and if using a battery powered electric scale, make sure its batteries are good. Some people report abnormalities with some electronic scales when used near fluorescent lighting.
Stuck Case Extractor: Usually sold as a kit. Sometimes during resizing, a case will become stuck in a die. If they are stuck hard enough, when you pull the press to lower the case, the case holder can rip off the case rim. At that point, you would remove the die from the press, and then drill out the primer hole. You would then thread the primer hole. Next, you place a spacer over the base of the stuck case. The spacer touches the die and provides room for the stuck case to be leveraged out of the die. You insert a special bolt through the spacer and thread it into the tapped hole in the base of the case, then you tighten the bolt against the spacer. Since the spacer is held firm, as the bolt is tightened, it pulls the case out of the die. Many times, cases stick because an insufficient amount of case resizing lubricant was used.
Tumblers and Case Cleaners
Many people clean their brass cases with a tumbler and media such as ground corn cob or walnut shell. Tumblers can be rotary or vibratory. Some people opt to use a rotary tumbler and stainless-steel pin media in water. Another method that can be used in combination with a tumbler, or as stand-alone is an ultrasonic cleaner. The brass is placed in a cleaner solution on a basket and uses high-frequency sound waves to remove debris.