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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:
http://leeprecision.com/product.php?pro ... 247&page=1

You can also avoid the whole bench mount thing and build skills and experience with this:
http://leeprecision.com/breech-lock-hand-press.html
or in kit form:
http://leeprecision.com/breech-lock-hand-press-kit.html

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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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.
http://leeprecision.com/reloading-presses/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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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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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.
 

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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.
 

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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.
 

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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.
 

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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.
 

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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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