By Bob Shell
Apache Junction, AZ -(Ammoland.com)- Everyone knows that you need a press, dies and similar tools when you start loading homemade ammunition .
What doesn't always come to mind are tools that are necessary for a successful reloading operation that you might not think of when starting out. Most companies that sell reloading equipment include the items that you need to get started but seldom all off the stuff you need to make it easy and enjoyable. You can then spend a lot of time shopping as the selection of reloading tools is so wide.
Here is my take on four reloading tools you should not reload without.
Redding Case Trimmer
One thing that is often overlooked is the case trimmer. If you do straight case handgun ammo it isn’t necessary. However if you do bottleneck rounds then sooner or later a trimmer is necessary.
If you allow the cases to stretch a couple of problems will crop up. They will be difficult or impossible to chamber especially in a tight chamber or semi-auto weapon. Accuracy will suffer because the bullet won’t be released in the same way. In extreme cases, dangerous pressures can occur as the bullet won’t be released in a timely manner, allowing the pressure to build up to a dangerous level.
Like everything else, prices and styles vary, so you have a lot of options but I like the RCBS Trim Pro Power Case Trimmer Kit http://goo.gl/Z3nlCP
With the trimmer you need some accessories such as a vernier caliper to measure the case length. With the trimmer, you need collets to hold the back of the case still while it is being trimmed. The pilot goes in the mouth to hold the case steady and get an even cut. Each caliber requires a separate pilot. Neither the pilots or collets are expensive. There are a number of Case Trimmers available both manual and electric. A manual is slow and tiring but for just a few pieces of brass, it will suffice. You can but one with an electric motor which will speed things up a lot. Occasionally I use a drill with an attachment like the WFT 2 Trimmer ( http://goo.gl/q1luDG ). I do a lot of case forming which sometimes requires a lot of cutting and a hand crank is out of the question. Sometimes I work with cases with large rims and there is no collet that will fit so I put it in any that are handy and put a coin or two between the crank and the case case to hold the it steady. Tighten it up and it is ready to go. Not scientific but it works.
Like anything else you are going to make mistakes. You may put in too much or too little powder or the wrong type. The bullet may be too deeply seated which will cause various problems. It may be the wrong bullet. So instead of taking a chance on shooting it why not pull the bullet apart. There are two types of bullet pullers (erasers if you will) which will allow you to disassemble the ammo in a safe manner. The inertia type, like the RCBS – Pow'r Pull Bullet Pull Kit ( http://goo.gl/tkvbhr ) looks like a hammer. You put the round in and strike it on a hard surface. Wear glasses in case the hammer shatters with pieces flying in all directions. Doesn’t happen very often but it can.
When I buy a hammer type Bullet Puller the first thing I do is throw the collet away. It is useless and hard to use. If you use the correct shell holder the job will be easier.
Never attempt to pull rimfire ammo with this tool as it may go off in the hammer. That will cause you some pain.
The other type goes into your press much as a die does. Each caliber requires a collet as it locks on the bullet then you pull the handle and hopefully the bullet will come out. Done correctly it works well and is easier to save all the powder with it. The bullet has to be protruding some distance out of the case for it too work. That leaves out most handgun ammo. A well-equipped shop will have both. Another reason for disassembling ammo is it may be old and not go off.
A hint! If you have ammo, usually military, it may be difficult or impossible to pull. If that happens seat the bullet in just a little deeper. You will probably hear the seal break and it will be easier to pull.
RCBS VLD Deburring Tool
After the trimming operation is done, you have a rough edge at the mouth. There are some inexpensive tools to do an inside and outside chamfering job. While it seems insignificant, chamfering helps to make your ammo more consistent. Anytime I load rifle ammo I inside chamfer the mouth . RCBS makes a nice tool known as a RCBS VLD Deburring Tool ( http://goo.gl/OUiIFo ) and it does a nice job. I do the chamfering job because it makes seating a bullet easier, especially a flat base bullet with a sharp edge. It also seems to make crimping easier and more consistent. The ammo is more consistent by doing that.
A well-equipped homemade ammunition operation should have a chronograph to measure the ammo's performance. Not only does it measure velocity but the spread of the fastest and slowest shots, plus the standard deviation. If they are excessive, the only way to know that is with a chronographs. A basic model starts at around $75 and goes up to a few hundred bucks.
One novel product is the Magneto Speed V2 Standard Chronograph, ( http://goo.gl/Q6sgM0 ) which attaches directly to your gun barrel. It is slow to set up but works in all lighting conditions unlike most others. Since it is fairly new you can go to their site for info www.magnetospeed.com .
Almost anyone can afford this important tool start with the basic Chrony and working up to more expensive models.
See AmmoLand's related Caldwell Ballistic Chronograph Review ~ Video .
There are many other tools that you need especially if you mold or swage your own bullets. In my instance I do a lot of specialized loading so many of my tools won’t be found in 99% of shops as they are not needed for typical homemade ammunition work.
A well-equipped shop has all of the normal small tools including Allen wrenches which are used to lock in place many settings including dies and case trimmers.
According to what type of reloading you do you might pick another top five. For example I don’t load a lot of one caliber such as the 9 mm and other similar rounds like the 223. Therefore I don’t need or use any progressive re-loaders such as the Star or Dillon. The equipment specific to that type of reloading isn’t in my shop. I do small amounts of various rounds many that are obsolete so my equipment matches those requirements.
Matching reloading tools to your current homemade ammunition needs is what every reloader should strive for.
About Bob Shell
A Custom Reloader of Obsolete and Antique Ammo, Bob Shell, writes about the subject of Guns, Ammo, Shooting and Related Subjects. Visit: www.bobshellsblog.blogspot.com