Rifle dies generally do not have a carbide bearing surface and require a little lube to work. This is because a rifle brass (and some calibers like .357 SIG) has a shoulder. I use Lee Resizing Lubricant, which looks and is dispensed like toothpaste. One simply puts an almost invisible coat on with the fingertips.
Once the brass has been resized and decapped, a new primer must be inserted. Most presses, including the Lee Turret Press (shown on Pages 58–59), have a priming ram built-in. This is simply a mechanism that holds the brass while the ram eases the primer into the primer pocket. Primers are soft metal, usually brass also, an explosive but stable compound and an anvil where the compound is crushed for its flame. They are pushed into the base of the brass by the priming ram.
With the primer in place, the case mouth can be slightly expanded to accommodate the bullet, and a carefully measured amount of powder is dispensed. The bullet is placed on the top and the cartridge is completed by running it into the seating die. The seating die has an adjustment that pushes the bullet in to a set depth while it closes the brass around the bullet, called crimping.
Powder is measured either by weight or volume. Lee die sets come with little plastic scoops and a powder chart. For users on a low budget, one scoops powder from the can and pours it into the brass. The scoop is calibrated for a wide variety of loads and the user finds the appropriate load based on the recommended load charts and the bullet cartridge combination.
Using the setup in the photos, a scale is used to periodically check the load, but the automated powder measure really does all the work. Provided the loader uses standard loads and bullets, the volume dispensing system will prove to be reliable.
Deciding which load to use, weight of bullet, amount of powder and overall length of cartridge, is going to require the beginning reloader to consult an experienced one. For law enforcement users, I recommend picking the bullet first. Select a bullet weight that is closest to the duty round. Purchase jacketed commercial bullets from reputable companies. The rifle bullets in the photos are from the Sierra Bullet Co. In my 30-plus years behind a loading bench, Sierra bullets have provided the most consistency, which is why brand name companies use them in their cartridges, too.
There are several powder manufacturers. Consult a load table, which indicates a bullet, primer and powder for a certain caliber for the type and amount of powder to use.
When I called John Lee of Lee Precision about using a progressive (automated) press for this article, he told me that the best setup for a beginner to advanced reloader is a turret press. They are uncomplicated, inexpensive and quick enough to satisfy an officer's practice needs. For the beginning reloader, the turret press will produce a lot of bullets in a sitting without frustrating the user.
A single stage press, the simplest of reloading presses, holds a single reloading die and the user completes a single reloading operation at a time. The turret press in the photos holds up to four dies, and all reloading operations can be done before one needs to remove the brass from the shell holder. The Lee Precision Turret Press shown has automatic indexing, which means a stroke of the lever completes the operation and advances the turret to the next reloading operation automatically.
Lee told me that a good user can crank out a couple hundred cartridges in an hour with this press. After setting it up, I came pretty close, and was satisfied with the results. Not bad for a setup that costs less than a half dozen boxes of duty rounds. Lee Precision Inc. also provides excellent instructional videos at its Web site, www.leeprecision.com. The photo sequences in this article should help the beginning reloader get started.
I generally spend a third of the cost for practice bullets, which means three times the practice and a couple of hours of reloading per practice session. If anyone is wondering how long the equipment will last, about half of my everyday reloading equipment is over 30 years old. All of the recreational reloading equipment uses standard threads and measurements, which means most die sets and shell holders are interchangeable. I buy my reloading components in bulk, usually 500 to 1,000 bullets, several pounds of powder and as many primers as I can purchase.