At some time or another, every dedicated shooter considers reloading as a part of their hobby. It doesn’t matter whether you are a weekend shooter, a dedicated hunter, or a serious competitive shooter. There are aspects of reloading that appeal to all shooters.
If you are just getting started or haven’t started yet, you probably have a thousand questions. Some of the very first questions usually revolve around reloading equipment, accessories, and supplies. The amount of information on the internet is staggering and often overwhelming.
The first step for any beginning reloader is to assemble the reloading equipment that is needed. There are some basic components that every reloader must have to be successful and to reload ammunition safely. The best advice we have is to purchase a reloading kit with everything you need to get started.
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To help you along, I have compiled this list of the best reloading kits for beginners.
The Basic Components – What you Must Have
There are several important things to have on your reloading bench to begin reloading safely. The most basic components that you will need include:
- A Reloading Manual – This is your reloading bible. A good reloading manual not only has the proper powder loads of each bullet weight and caliber, but it also contains a wealth of knowledge about reloading in general.
- The Press – Reloading presses come in various styles. The two most popular are the single station press and the turret press. The turret presses are a bit faster. Single station presses are popular with reloaders who are after precision shooting.
- Dies and Shell Holders – The dies that fit into the press are the equipment that resizes the case, insert and seat the bullet, and, in some cases, crimp the neck of the case around the bullet. If you shoot different calibers regularly, you will need different sets of dies for each caliber.
- A Primer Tray – Primers go into the shell case in a particular direction. A primer tray helps to get all your primers turned in the same direction without fouling the primers with oil from your hands.
- Powder Scale – You must load only the recommended measure of powder for the bullet and caliber you are reloading. You must use a powder scale to ensure that you don’t under or overload the ammunition you are reloading.
- Calipers – A dial caliper, either digital or indicating, measures the overall length of the bullets you are reloading. Bullet lengths have standardized minimum and maximum lengths, and your reloads must fall within those parameters to function safely.
These are the most basic components on any reloading bench. You will find that hundreds of other accessories and tools can make reloading faster and more efficient. The best way to get everything you need to start reloading is to buy a kit for most beginners. Most of the major manufacturers of reloading equipment sell kits for just this reason.
Best Reloading Starter Kits: My Top Picks Categorized
The Basic Beginner’s Reloading Kit – Lee Precision Challenger Single Stage Press Kit
Lee Precision has a long history with reloaders. The Lee company produces some of the best reloading equipment on the market. Opting for the Lee Precision Challenger kit gives the beginning reloader a platform that will fulfill a reloader’s needs well into the future.
A single-stage press is easy to understand and setup. This ease of use makes learning the ins and outs of safe reloading quicker for most beginners. The Lee single stage press is solid and well built. You can depend on this press to perform for many years to produce reliable and accurate reloads.
The Challenger Single Stage Press kit has everything that the beginning reloader needs and is easily upgraded, making it the perfect platform for building a reloading bench.
- Lee Challenger Single Stage Press
- A quick change die bushing
- The Lee Auto Prime XR
- A set of Lee Shell holders (Sizes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 11, 12, and 19)
- A Lee case trimmer
- A case cutter and lock stud
- The Lee Perfect Powder Measure
- A case chamfer tool
- A primer pocket cleaning tool
- One Lee Safety Powder scale
- A powder funnel
- Two ounces of Lee Resizing case lube
What Isn’t Include that you Must Have
- A reloading manual
- A set of dies for the caliber you want to reload
- Powder, primers, bullets, and cases for the caliber you intend to reload
- Safety glasses
- A great starter kit that puts all the basic components on your bench
- Heavy enough to reload all but the biggest magnum rifle calibers.
- Great setup for precision reloading
- Well made. The fit and finish are excellent
- A digital scale might be the first addition you need to make to this kit
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If you want to get your feet wet in the reloading business. This kit is perfect. Everything but the dies and reloading supplies come with the Challenger kit without a huge upfront investment.
The Best Single Stage Kit for the Beginner – Hornady Lock-N-Load Classic Reloading Press Kit
For the beginning reloader who wants to set up a reloading bench with almost everything you need in one box, the Hornady Lock-N-Load Classic kit is a great choice. The Classic kit from Hornady includes a better assortment of the basic components that any beginning reloader will need.
The Hornady Classic single stage reloading press is renowned for its reliability and its durability. The press is made of high strength alloy and comes with a guarantee to never break or fail. The press’s design makes visibility and access to the press’s working parts easier than most standard single-stage presses.
We recommend a single stage press for most beginners. The simple design and easy setup allow most beginners to get started quickly with less confusion. Th features of the Hornady Classic Kit speak to the thought that Hornady has put into providing a kit that will satisfy the needs of beginning reloaders.
What’s in the Box?
- The Hornady Reloading Handbook
- Hornady digital scale
- Primer catcher
- Positive Priming System
- Handheld priming tool
- Universal reloading block
- Changer & Deburr tool
- Lock-N-Load Powder Measure
- Three Lock-N-Load Die Bushings
- Powder trickler
- Powder funnel
- One can of One Shot Case Lube
- Digital Scale
- Lock-N-Load Classic Press
What You Must Supply
- Reloading dies for your favorite calibers
- Powder, primers, bullets, and cases
- Safety glasses
- Easy to use Lock-N-Load system makes changing dies fast
- Accurate powder measure
- A workhorse of a press. Tough and reliable
- Includes a nice digital scale
- No shell holders included with the press.
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You can have a few more pieces of equipment that you will eventually want to own for a bit more money. The Lock-N-Load system is versatile and makes switching between calibers much easier and faster.
The Best Basic Turret Press for Beginners – Lee Precision Classic Turret Press Kit
A step up from a basic single stage press is turret presses. More complicated and harder to set up, turret presses generally are my recommendation for beginners. However, for those that want to jump right into a more efficient reloading operation, a turret press is the answer.
The Lee designed the Classic Turret press kit for just that sort of beginning reloader. Simple enough to grasp the basics yet engineered to reload on a much larger scale. The Lee Classic Turret press kit will keep the busiest rifle and pistol shooter well supplied with ammunition reloads.
The Lee Precision Classic Turret press kit doesn’t lack the features that will satisfy the pickiest reloader.
The Features List
- Turret press with auto index
- Auto drum powder measure
- Large and small safety primer system
- Safety powder scale
- Case condition kit
- Case trimmer and cutter with lock stud
- Chamfer tool
- Large and small primer pocket cleaner
- Lee case sizing lube
- Lee Precision Modern Reloading Manual
- Made in the USA
What You Need to Supply
- A set of reloading dies for your favorite caliber
- Powder, bullets, primers, and cases to match
- Safety Glasses for your protection
- The most affordable turret press kit on the market
- Made of cast iron for long reliable use
- ambidextrous design for righties or lefties
- Includes a reloading manual with beginners tips and instructions
- Not too good for loading large magnum cartridges
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If a turret press is where you want to start, the Lee Precision Classic Turret press kit is a great choice. This press will give you many of the advantages of much larger and more expensive turret prices at a price that remains affordable. If small rifle and pistol calibers are where your interest lies, the Lee Precision Classic Turret Press Kit will fulfill your needs admirably.
The Ultimate Beginning Reloading Press Kit – RCBS Special-5 Explorer Plus Reloading Kit
RCBS has a reputation for building and selling reloading equipment that lasts a lifetime. Many second-generation reloaders are using equipment purchased by their fathers to continue the family tradition. There is no denying that RCBS is a top contender in any category of reloading equipment.
The RCBS Explorer Plus kit doesn’t fail to live up to that reputation. RCBS has compiled a kit that provides almost every tool that any reloader will ever need. With the ability to grow and expand the Special-5 Explorer system, you can add more flexibility and features to your press in the future.
Look at the Features
- Reloader Special-5 Single Stage Press has 3-3/4 inch hand clearance, a 30 degree offset, a primer arm, and can be converted to a progressive press in the future.
- Uniflow power measure ensures consistent and accurate powder delivery with every pull. Featuring a precision ground measuring cylinder, the Uniflow Powder measure comes with a bench mount plate and two drop tubes.
- The kit includes a 1,500-grain digital pocket scale for precise powder measures every time. This scale features on/off, tare, and mode controls. The scale will measure in grains, grams, carats, or ounces. The kit includes AA batteries and a one year warranty.
- A Nosler 7th edition Reloading manual is included in the kit. Featuring 864 pages of the most reliable reloading data and instructions, this book is an encyclopedia of reloading knowledge.
- For hand priming, RCBS includes their patented hand priming tools. The tool includes both large and small primer plugs and a tray that holds up to 100 primers.
- A case loading block that will hold 25 rounds of almost any caliber
- An RCBS chamfering and deburring tool comes in the kit.
- A powder funnel is included to make getting the powder into narrow neck cases easier.
- Case Slick Lube Spray
- The RCBS Powder Trickler-2 makes getting your powder load exact down to the last grain.
- AN Advanced Powder Measure stand made of cast aluminum and designed to elevate the powder measure above your reloading bench.
- RCBS includes a Pow’r Pull Bullet Puller to make disassembling bullets safe and quick.
- The RCBS kit is the only one we have found that includes a stainless steel dial caliper. Ensuring the length of your finished cartridges is within tolerance is a key aspect of reloading safety.
- A small Uniflow measuring cylinder for more accurately measuring small charges of less than 50 grains of powder is part of the kit.
- The Reloader Special-5 press uses die lock rings to enable presetting dies to be removed and returned to the press without the need for readjustment or resets.
- RCBS also includes the most popular sizes of shell holders as part of this kit.
What This Kit Doesn’t Include
- Dies for your favorite calibers
- Eye protection
- Powder, primers, bullets, and cases
- The most complete starter kit available
- The RCBS press is a beast. Handles every cartridge and bullet size put through it
- Reliable and accurate
- The best powder drop I have ever used
- The bullet puller won’t stand up to hard use
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The RCBS Explorer would be my choice for an entry-level reloading setup. It is a bit more expensive, but the quality and the equipment you get with this kit will save you over $100 if you purchase everything separately. The ability to upgrade the press to a progressive style later is one more plus.
Open Questions on Reloading Starter Kits & Equipment
Is it worth reloading your own bullets?
Whether it is worth reloading your own bullets will hugely depend on the type of bullets that you are using and the type of gun that you own.
With some types of ammo, such as Magnum bullets, it can definitely be worth reloading your own bullets due to the large cost of buying them new.
Generally, 44 Magnum bullets will set you back about $40, while it costs only $13 to reload them yourself. So if the bullets that you use are expensive, it might be worth reloading them.
However, if you tend to use cheaper bullets then the money that you are saving may not be worth the hassle of reloading the bullets yourself.
The cost of reloading bullets isn’t high, but it is a fiddly and time-consuming job, so before you decide to reload your own bullets consider the time that it might take you to do this.
How much does it cost to start reloading?
The cost of reloading bullets is relatively low, but there is quite a high upfront cost to set this up. Reloading bullets isn’t an easy task, and you will need the correct tools to be able to do this effectively.
If you want a budget set up then you should expect to spend between $250-500 on your reloading station. However, if you want a higher quality of equipment you may find yourself spending up to $1500 on your reloading equipment and tools.
While the upfront costs are expensive, you do quickly make the money back. Especially if you prefer expensive bullets.
It generally costs about $13 to reload bullets which is significantly cheaper than some higher-end bullets which can cost $40-50 for just 44 bullets. So even though the upfront costs are high, you will quickly recoup this money.
Is reloading ammo dangerous?
Yes, reloading ammo can be dangerous, but everything to do with firearms comes with a certain element of danger. However, reloading ammo doesn’t have to be dangerous as long as you are sensible when you are doing it.
If you are new to reloading ammo you should start with a low amount of load and then build the cartridges up as you gain more experience in this.
If you are new to reloading ammo you should never start at the manual’s maximum load as this can be very dangerous and could put you at risk.
Even as you gain experience in reloading ammo, you should continue to work from a minimum load and work your way up to higher loads. It isn’t always necessary to reload your ammo to full, so it is not worth the risk of pushing it too far.
How difficult is reloading ammo?
Reloading ammo isn’t necessarily difficult, but it is a fiddly job, and it does require patience. Reloading ammo is a very strict process, and it requires you to follow a list of instructions, if you fail to follow these rules then the process can quickly become hard.
Just like everything that comes with firearms, reloading ammo always runs the risk of being dangerous, and if you do not follow the specific instructions then you could quickly be putting yourself and others at risk.
Some types of ammunition are, of course, more difficult than others to reload.
But, generally speaking it isn’t difficult to reload ammo as long as you follow everything that you are supposed to do by the letter. The more often you reload ammo the easier it will become so remember this if you run into any points of difficulty in the process.
How many times can you reload brass?
When it comes to reloading bullets some metals are better for this than others. Generally speaking, brass is one of the stronger options as you can reload these bullets up to 5 times safely.
But there are a lot of things that will impact how many times you can reload bullets including the dies that you use, the amount that you add in each load, and the type of brass bullet that you are using.
To ensure that the cartridge that you are reloading is safe for the job you should assess the appearance and quality of the cartridge before you start reloading.
On average, a brass cartridge of general quality will be able to be reloaded 4-5 times before the cartridge becomes damaged and unusable. If you often use a heavy load in a cartridge you should expect to be able to reuse the brass less times than this.
Can reloads damage a gun?
Yes, it is possible for a reload to damage a gun, however this doesn’t always happen. The only reason that a reload will damage your gun is if mistakes were made during the process of reloading the ammunition.
It can also occur if the equipment used to reload the bullet malfunctions or if the user of the gun has a lapse in their attention when they are using the firearm.
However, the chances of a properly reloaded cartridge damaging your gun is very slim, it only really happens if something has gone wrong along the way.
So, yes it is possible for a reload to damage your gun. But, as long as you reload the cartridge properly following the precise instructions for this process then the chance of your reloaded cartridge damaging your gun is very slim.
Are reloading dies universal?
Generally speaking, the majority of reloading dies are universal. However, there are some reloading dies which can only be used with specific reloading presses.
The standard reloading die used by most people who reload their ammunition is Hornady reloading dies, and this product can generally be used with any press.
However, some of the lesser known reloading dies can only be used with specific presses due to the seating depth used in the reloading process. So when you are looking for reloading dies you should not automatically assume that it can be used with your press.
But, generally speaking the majority of reloading dies are universal and can be used with most presses. However, it is always best to check that the die is compatible with your type of press before you buy to avoid wasting your money on a product that you will not be able to use effectively.
Beginning to Build Bullets
It’s never too late to start reloading. Any of these kits on my list will get you off on the right foot. I have but one caution for you. Be prepared because, once you start, you will be hooked. There will be no turning back, and your new hobby will continue to grow as you experience the satisfaction of sending your reloaded ammunition downrange.