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Reloading out of a storage unit?

11314 Views 19 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  applesmasher
I live in an apartment, with a roommate. Space is at a premium. I'd love to start reloading, but I simply don't have anywhere to set up. What I do have, however, is a decent sized off-site storage unit which I rent and which has quite a bit of space currently empty.

How practical would it be to set up a bench and equipment in the storage unit, and just head over there for an occasional afternoon when the weather is favorable to crank out a few hundred rounds? The place is basically just a bunch of concrete garages next to the rail tracks, with a gate and individual locking doors.

I believe the storage unit has rules against storage of hazardous materials, so I probably wouldn't leave the powder there when I wasn't actively using it. Also it's probably not well temperature controlled, so that would be another argument against using it for storing powder or finished ammo. But to just spend a couple hours pulling a lever? Might work.

Part of me thinks it's probably not a great idea. The owners might freak out if they came around and saw an "ammunition factory" operating on their premises maybe? I'm not sure.

I have also wondered whether I might be able to actually rent space in a real "workshop" area for something like this, but at the point of renting space specifically for the task it would probably kill any savings I might make over just buying factory ammo.

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There are a couple of ways I would approach the situation, if I were you.

It rather depends on what you want to achieve and with which rounds.

The actual space requirements are pretty limited if you pack your bits and pieces in nice ammo cans, which are stackable anyway. All my reloading gear fits into a corner of a closet once it's put away.

If you can't install a bench but you want to use a bench mounted style of press, try this: ... 247&page=1

You can also avoid the whole bench mount thing and build skills and experience with this:
or in kit form:

Aside from the press itself, nothing else takes up a huge amount of space. The dies are small. A priming tool is small. Calipers and trimming and case prep in general is small unless you're trying to do it on an industrial scale. A powder scale and measure are pretty small. The biggest other thing is likely to be the reloading manual.

I'd save the money you'd spend on a storage locker for more powder, primers and bullets.

I'm no reloading guru, but I've found practical solutions to a lot of problems. If you have more questions, just ask.
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Interesting. I didn't even realize there were such beasties. Thanks for the heads-up.

I'd mostly want to do .45ACP and .223 Rem really, and given the amount I shoot I always assumed I'd need a progressive setup of some kind just for volume's sake. But with the .308 coming, the hand press might work well for developing my own target loads in smaller batches. Nice idea.

I wonder whether I could use a hand press for .480 Ruger? That would also save a buck or two, and again, it's not a cartridge I shoot in near the volume I consume for .223 and .45.
rowlock said:
Interesting. I didn't even realize there were such beasties. Thanks for the heads-up.
No problem. It's a cheap, small, but admittedly slow way of doing kitchen table reloading. If you do use such a press, I strongly recommend adding several reloading trays to your setup so that you can conveniently put cartridges down, put powder and bullets in them, and not risk knocking them over. On the other hand, reloading trays are as vulnerable as the rest of the industrial world to the power of a labrador's tail. I leave the management of that risk to you.

rowlock said:
I'd mostly want to do .45ACP and .223 Rem really, and given the amount I shoot I always assumed I'd need a progressive setup of some kind just for volume's sake. But with the .308 coming, the hand press might work well for developing my own target loads in smaller batches. Nice idea.
Admittedly the hand press is a lot slower than a massive progressive press. The intermediate solution would be a turret press.

Granted, I'm point out the Lee tools, but that's because I know them, I use them, I trust them, and they work. And as for the hand press's speed, it's not all that slow. In fact it's great for depriming and sizing a few hundred .45ACP brass cases while watching a DVD.

I'm no bodybuilder, but the hand press will work on everything I've tried as long as I lubricate the brass carefully before sizing it. If it's too much like hard work, you need more lube. (This is probably a fine guideline for life in general.)

rowlock said:
I wonder whether I could use a hand press for .480 Ruger? That would also save a buck or two, and again, it's not a cartridge I shoot in near the volume I consume for .223 and .45.
I would say that you could, as long as you used plenty of lube. There's no mechanical reason why not - it just depends on your ability to work the arm of the press. The Lee classic turret press has a nice, long lever arm, so that's a good solution along with their three legged reloading barstool style bench. I know that their picture shows it with a hefty chunk of concrete in the bottom to keep it stable, but I just use an ammo can full of unloaded lead. It works just fine.
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Here is the start of a thread that started in 2007 over at the CastBoolits forum:
Right now it runs for 41 pages at 40 messages per page, and 1600++ comments. You might try scanning through it for ideas. Some guys setups are quite elaborate, even separate, garage sized buildings, but there are a few "Man-Cave-In-A-Closet" setups too.
Good luck,
Mark :lol:
markinalpine said:
Here is the start of a thread that started in 2007 over at the CastBoolits forum:
Right now it runs for 41 pages at 40 messages per page, and 1600++ comments. You might try scanning through it for ideas. Some guys setups are quite elaborate, even separate, garage sized buildings, but there are a few "Man-Cave-In-A-Closet" setups too.
Good luck,
Mark :lol:
Wow. Quite a collection of different setups there. Lots to digest. :)

Been working on clearing out some junk and organizing stuff today, and I'm increasingly feeling like I might be able to pull off something on a small scale at least. Maybe hand load some specialty stuff for myself, and work up a brass trading deal with someone who reloads locally for the high-volume stuff. Can't hurt to ask around.

Anything you guys wish you'd known when you started out? I already got the message about buying a couple of the more reputable loading manuals and such like, but tips and tricks are very welcome. Maybe we should start a separate thread for that - I'll post up more if I decide to take the plunge, anyways.
Things I wish I had thought of earlier (although I had the foresight to obtain excellent advice at the time):

  • Get the reloading manual first, and read it for likely recipes so that you know which powders are on your short list when purchasing
  • Lube. More lube. Good lube. Hornady One-Shot is not a bad choice.
  • Reloading trays are cheap and great. Get a few. There are some good things you can do with them like visually inspecting your brass after charging it with powder to make sure that the cases all have similar levels of powder in them, rather than missed cases or double charges. You can put them in upside-down after priming and visually inspect them quickly to see that all the primers are well seated. You do believe in quality control where explosives are involved, right?
  • Get both an inertial and a press mount bullet puller. You will make mistakes, you will wish you had them. They meet slightly different needs, so get both. They're cheap.
  • For the inevitable bullet which gets stuck in a barrel when your quality control is inadequate, or your test load didn't work out the way you planned, get some dowels in suitable sizes for your barrels so as to gently tap stuck bullets back out. Cheap, and great to have when testing loads.
  • You don't need batteries in anything. Lee makes a great balance beam style powder scale. It works fine. Similarly, you don't need a digital caliper. Dial or vernier based calipers are wonderful and work fine.
  • If you're going to cut corners anywhere, the place to do so is case prep. Yes, your cases should be generally clean and whole and conform to specification but they don't all have to shine like the sun. As long as there's no additional grit or crud stuck anywhere and the brass isn't too stretched out (usually not a problem with pistol loads anyway) the sizing die will take care of the rest.

Plan on having fun with this. Yes, starting tiny will be slow but there are two major advantages. The first is that you will get a real, hands-on grounding in how the whole thing works. When you have personally, painstakingly measured every grain of powder after individually seating that one primer, and carefully seated a bullet, measuring everything with calipers, the process will become ingrained. When you have done it in five different test loads and seen and felt the difference at the range, you will start to develop a feel for what actually happens. Then you can start to daydream about all the fancy toys you can buy to make your process better. I would bet that one of the first would be one of those hand lever primers, because they make priming a much less fiddly job, and much faster. A cheap, simple, single upgrade which you will appreciate and understand because you started small and understand what role it plays in the process.

But, I'm rambling now ...
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That sounds like excellent advice. The Lyman, Speer and Nosler reloading handbooks are on their way from Amazon, and the Hornady one is sitting on my Kindle now ready to be browsed over lunch. Wanted to get Hornady's one specifically, because they're the only folks I know who make a factory load in the .480, and I like those loads very much. Might as well see what they've got to say about it.

Coming from Lee, we have the breech-lock hand press, carbide dies in .480 Ruger, a set of collet dies in .380 (since I can fire form for the bolt gun), rings for them, and the balance beam powder scale you mentioned.

I didn't think of bullet pullers, that's a great point. Will add those too. Definitely going to be measuring twice and cutting once for a while, as the old saying goes.

Thanks again! I'm almost more excited to start playing with this stuff than I am about the new gun. That probably says a whole bunch right there. :)
You might as well also get the dies for .45ACP and .223 Remington. The dies are cheap enough, and can be used just as well in a hand press, a single stage, a turret or whatever you choose to get later. You will save money on them sooner rather than later if you're at all a regular shooter, so it's a sound investment.

Have you decided on your top list of powders yet? Also lay in a good supply of primers. You will go through them.
So I took out the new Sig on Sunday. Had to re-mount the scope for better eye relief, but fortunately I had my bubble level and torque wrench with me at the range so that wasn't a problem.

First impressions are excellent. The trigger is really, really nice right out of the box. About a 3.5 lb pull, 2-stage, breaks like glass. Lovely. It shoves as hard as one might expect from a .308, but the weight of the gun keeps felt recoil very comfortable. And it's definitely a shooter. I'll make a proper write-up some time soon and post up in the firearms subforum.

Back on the topic of reloading though, an old friend just moved back to California from Oregon, and she came to the range with me. Went to dinner with her family afterwards and got talking to her dad - turns out he's been reloading for over 40 years, and has a garage full of presses and all the necessary gear. He and a few friends have "reloading parties" some Tuesday nights, so I think I might be getting a very thorough hands-on introduction to the hobby some time soon. :)

I added the other dies sets per your suggestion, also. I probably won't be able to cater to my full volume using the hand press, but I guess you're right that any savings is probably worthwhile, and the experience and equipment will carry forward nicely. Now it's just time to sit and wait for the brown truck of happiness...
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If you're set up right, the hand press is also convenient at the range. Prepare 50 or 100 cases, prime them, but leave them empty. Bring powders, scale, bullets and hand press to the range. Set up your rifle, and gradually tweak your recipe one bullet at a time while your bore cools between shots.

Also, getting the experience of long time reloaders hands on can be a great way to learn. I'm all for that.
That sounds like a very efficient way to work up some new loads. Good idea.
One thing I forgot to mention:

If you're serious about accuracy and figuring out how repeatable a load is, you will want to invest in a chronograph to see what kind of statistical reliability your cartridge recipe gives you in your rifle.

They aren't too expensive in the big picture. You can get some brand new for barely over $100.
Might have one of those kicking around from my paintball days. I'll see whether a) I can find it, b) it still works, and c) whether it measures up to high enough speeds for rifle rounds. Worth a shot! (So to speak.)
Bear in mind, what you're looking for (and I think you get this already, just making sure that the emphasis is clear) isn't the highest possible muzzle velocity, but the most consistent. Consistent rounds give consistent results, which give you the best precision on target. It does little good in most shooting scenarios to have one shot burning out of there at 3500 fps, while the next might wander out at 3200. At even modest ranges that makes a huge difference in elevation - quite enough to lose competitions and turn a kill shot into a slow death.
Well, here they are. The first products of a new hobby. :)

.308 Winchester brass from Magtech factory loads, CCI large rifle primers, Hornady A-Max 168 grain bullets over 39.6 grains of Alliant Reloader 15. Measured COL 2.79 inches.

Thanks again for all the advice! I shall be trying these out in the next couple days.

Things I learned:

The little plastic powder dippers that come with Lee dies are quite useful, and relatively consistent if you use them right. But they do hold a static charge if you're not careful, that can make pouring a little wonky.

The Lee beam scale is super easy and very sensitive. Nice recommendation. I used it to confirm every pour this time around, just for the sake of caution and practice.

Very glad I got the breech lock kit version of the hand press, and a bunch more breech lock rings. Made swapping dies much easier, and I shouldn't have to re-adjust them next time.

This didn't really require much space at all. Just a relatively clean desktop and a little organization. I should be able to fit everything into an old toolbox in the bottom of a closet. Perfect for apartment dwellers.

To paraphrase O_P: Reloading stuff is fun! :lol:
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I'm glad you had fun. If you do your sums you'll probably find that your fairly minimal kit will pay for itself in under a thousand rounds reloaded.

Actually, I'm curious to hear what your break-even point is.

Powder measuring is probably the most fiddly part, but there are measuring/dispensing tools which can be adjusted until they're exactly where you want them. Still, the Lee dippers are better than nothing.
Per round cost using off-the-shelf components from my local gun store right now is just a shade over 64 cents. If I can work up a load that shoots as well as the Black Hills or Federal Gold Medal rounds I would normally use for high accuracy purposes, that will work out to be a heck of a saving. Best price online I've found for a similar match load is about $1.15 a round in a 500 case.

So at the "worst case" for the most expensive reloading cost and the cheapest factory ammo cost I'm looking at saving almost 51 cents per round.

Those numbers only get better if I compare to buying factory loads off the shelf (which I do occasionally) or ordering reloading supplies online.

I'll dig out all my receipts for this little escapade later, and calculate my worst case break-even. Looks like it shouldn't take too terribly long - almost certainly under a thousand rounds.
I don't know what other answers you've gotten, I didn't read it all. myself, I have used all sorts of methods, and in reality, you can reload in as little as a 2*2 space. I have a friend who uses a workmate sawhorse. He clamps a board on it that his press is mounted on. All other equipment is just put into place as he needs it.

If you really want to become a dedicated reloader, it's going to be hard to do that without a genuine work space of at least 3-4 feet of counter space to permanently install a press and some work space, along with a shelf for materials.

I can't think of anything at all that would be much worse than reloading in a storage shed, or at any other location that isn't your own property. If you have an outdoor shooting range, you may be able to get permission to set up on a bench to do small batch reloading; it's been done at my range for many years by people who carry in test materials.

Before anyone gets all bent out of shape about loose powder being handled where others are shooting, please explain why loose black powder in primitive weapons is safe, but a few ounces of smokeless in a measure or cannister would be hazardous?
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Just returning to this briefly, to talk about productivity.

Over two days this weekend I reloaded about 550 rounds in .357 and .45.

I used the hand press while in front of my computer, doing other stuff. To hold the brass while I got productive, I used ordinary plastic case holders.

The actual press work I did with a Lee hand press and Lee dies.

I primed the brass with an RCBS hand prime tool.

I calibrated my RCBS powder thrower with a Lee perfect powder scale. I find that those tools give very consistent results.

A few hours of work, at a desk, and everything tidied up into a few ammo cans when I had finished. For my work and my patience I now have hot loaded, very consistent ammunition ready for whatever evils come my way. Or shooting bowling pins, whichever comes first.
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