Tips From Reloading School

Written by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Rich Machholz

As some of you know I teach a 5 day reloading class titled Reloading A-Z at Trinidad State Junior College (TJSC) in conjunction with the NRA Summer Classes held at the TJSC Gunsmithing School in Trinidad, Colorado.

Trinidad Reloading ClassEach year is unique in that the mix of students is different year to year and the experience level is varied also.  The 2016 class was unique for sure in that several students had brand new RCBS reloading kits and another pieced his together featuring Forster equipment while yet another brought a brand new Lee Classic Turret outfit.  We even had a Dillion 650 in class.  In amongst all this new equipment was 5 old timers and their RockChuckers.

The first morning is devoted to basic basics.  Redundant you might say but not if you have but one new reloader in class because as practicing reloaders we sometimes overlook some basic setup operations. And that is brought to the forefront every year it seems.

Something as simple as press placement can be an issue.  Let’s say you are right handed naturally, does that mean you pull the press handle right handed and feed the shell holder left handed or pull the handle left handed and feed the press right handed?  This isn’t a problem if you have a whole 4 or 5 foot bench top available for press placement, you just put it in the middle and there it is. But is it, really? I’m right handed but feed the press left handed and operate the handle right handed.  That means that my empty cases waiting to be resized are on the left and end up on the right after sizing or maybe even further left.  Simple enough but what about bullet seating?  Now the left side is getting a little crowded with processed and primed cases and bullets waiting to be seated while the loaded rounds end up somewhere over there also.  So in actuality you need more counter top on the left than the right. Press location can and should be a prime consideration.  A close examination of how you actually work is helpful but as a newbie with no experience the placement of tools in the beginning is even more important. If you batch load, meaning you perform one operation at a time, your requirements will be different than if you take one case through the entire process going from empty to loaded before going to another case.

Rich's_Reloading_Bench
Another interesting question that comes up in class, “When do you clean your cases?”  Well, normally, you’d think you’d want to do that before you resized the cases to be sure no dust or grit got in the die. Okay, I agree but that means that the primer pockets don’t get touched because the spent primer is still in the pocket and the primer pocket will have to be done separately.  Now, if you are using a dry media type tumbler or vibratory method this might be the best procedure because you don’t have to worry about the flash holes being plugged with errant media but what if you wish to use a ultra-sonic method, stainless pin media or just prefer to clean decapped brass and don’t want to run dirty brass through your full length die there is an issue. It is time to consider a universal decapping die. This die allows you to perform the decapping operation only and is not caliber specific nor does it require lube. It will require a small diameter decapping pin for .060″ flash holes if you are using small flash holes however.

Again we have a space issue. Where in the world do you put all this stuff? But it gets more complicated. I’m lucky enough to have access to all sorts of equipment, some useful and some not so much. I have come up with a procedure that works for me for my competition brass which is generally not real dirty. First I decap with a universal die or tool and fire up the ultra-sonic machine, mine is a Lyman using the proper solution (Lyman or Bore Tech) and cook until clean.  Now there is the drying issue and it has been addressed in many ways. I like shiny so I get as much solution off the cases as I can shake off and throw them in a vibratory tumbler with untreated nut shell media for a couple of hours.  When I take them out they are clean, dry and very shiny.

That’s my story for this month.  See ya on the range. – Rich

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19 Responses to Tips From Reloading School

  1. Pingback: Tips From Reloading School — Sierra Bullets | Rifleman III Journal

  2. firstriverbend says:

    Interesting article.
    For myself, because I have a somewhat limited area at 5 foot of bench top space, I rotate my presses according to what I am doing. I have more room to store things, than I do to keep them all mounted at the same time. I actually can have them all mounted at the same time, but it is a bit crowded at times.
    I figured out my Lee progressive will work well for me towards the left side, as everything goes in and out on the right side of the press, with enough room for me to place the actual bullet on the left side when it comes around. Will produce about 300+ rounds an hour. It will do a bit more, but I get too tired in the right arm going that fast, so. 🙂
    My Pacific shot shell press gets mounted in the middle of my bench, as that has proven to be the most effective place for movement and in and out of the press, along with general access.
    My Pacific Multi-Power single stage press, gets mounted on the right side, which gives me a lot of room to move things in and out to the left. As I always batch load with it, this has become my favored position on the table top for it. Love that press!!
    Did I mention the bench top has a number of holes in it? Seems to me one of the best pieces of advice is to not be afraid to move them around or take them down and put them up as you need to. 🙂
    Bet that is a wonderful class to attend, wish I was not so far away.

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  3. Rich says:

    I’ve had people from alll over the country attend my class and I really appreciate the effort it takes to do that so you are never too far away. Besdes AmTrac goes right through Trinidad.
    I have to agree, don’t be afraid to move your equipment for better flow.
    Thanks for your opbservations. Maybe we’ll meet in Colorado.

    Liked by 1 person

    • firstriverbend says:

      AmTrac is a death trap, all trains are as far as I am concerned, 🙂 however driving is a possibility!
      Where would one find your schedule of classes?

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      • Rich says:

        Google Trinidad State Junior College, NRA Class schedules but I don’t think they will have the 2017 classes scheduled yet. I know mine isn’t

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      • firstriverbend says:

        Not that I was able to find. Thought you might have some advanced information.
        Can I suggest you post it on this blog when you know?

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  4. Rich says:

    Sure, I’d be happy to.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Daryl says:

    My only comment is loose the vibratory tumbler and the ultrasonic (give that to your wife for her jewelery)… Get yourself an STS setup and and don’t ever look back.

    I quit dry tumbling over a year ago. Wet media is the only way to fly. Eliminates almost all the pocket prep and the inside of the cases are as clean and bright as the outside (no powder residue).

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    • firstriverbend says:

      What is STS? Maybe you could post a bit more info? Thanks. 🙂

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      • Rich says:

        STS is a brand of stainless steel tumbling media. It does work very well but the cases are still wet and can spot, sometimes badly. Plus the tiny pins are pretty difficult to keep track of during the rinsing process. When I use mine I still vibrate them just as outlined to dry them and polish them. I do like shiney cases for my competition guns.

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      • firstriverbend says:

        Thanks for the info, will look into it. 🙂

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      • Daryl says:

        First off i refer too all stainless pin tumbling as STS. There are many different brands of pins and balls out there. I use a combination of pins and tiny balls. Many tumblers too. Thumlers is the popular one but Lyman and Frankfort offer them now.

        No spotting whatsoever. You add Lemishine and a small amount of dishwashing detergent to the tumbler (I use a Frankfort Aersenal rotary tumbler. Holds 15 pounds of cases).

        It’s quicker too. Typically 2 hours from dirty to squeaky clean.

        I wet tumble them, remove them from the tumbler, rinse in clear water and spread on cookie sheets and dry in the oven on low heat for 20 minutes and put away. I can do 300 308 cases at a time if necessary. Some reloaders use a food dehydrator. What every you want. I use the wife’s oven set on 170 degrees (low heat) do as not to impact the case neck anneal.

        Jerry Michaulic (sic) uses an old cement mixer to tumble his thousands of cases and an old range (oven) to dry them in. I don’t need a cement mixer, don’t do that quantity….

        Far as having issues with the media. I use a Frankfort retreival magnet to pull the pins from the rinse water and put back in the tumbler drum for next time. I also use an RCBS rotary media seperator to seperate the cases from the pins.

        It’s easy, no dust from tumbling (with cob you still get chunks in the flash holes that must be removed), not so with STS. The pockets and flash holes are clean (so no pocket cleaning) but the best part is the inside and necks are clean and free from powder residue so bullet insertion (seating) is just like a new case.

        The pins last forever. Cob must be renewed. Cob is dusty and you have to add polish. Pins, nothing added but water and a tiny amount of dishwash soap and a tiny amount of Lemishine. With cob, the dirt stays in the cob until next time. Pins, the dirt goes down the drain. Pins burnish the cases to a nice patina inside and out. Cob don’t do anything put remove dirt. the added polish compound does the work and makes the cob dirty.

        Initial cost is more but over the long haul it’s cheaper because the media never is replaced. Keep in mind, you cannot use a bowl tumbler with STS, it must be a rotary tumbler, sort of like a washing machine for cases.

        I’ll never go back to a bowl tumbler again.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Daryl says:

        I see the spotting comment. NO SPOTS if done properly with Lemishine and forced drying, ever.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. firstriverbend says:

    Daryl, Thanks for the updated information. Sounds like it will work well on cases from a CETME, with a fluted chamber also. 🙂

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    • Daryl says:

      Not sure what CETME is but it works well on any brass case, straight wall and bottleneck. I like it particularly for pocket and flash hole cleaning. I decap everything before cleaning with a dedicated decap die. Much better than wimpy break prone decap pins in sizing dies. Clean and then FL or NS resize. Dies stay clean, expander balls work better (powder residue in the neck is abrasive and it’s gone) Overall, it’s cleaner, easier and quicker.

      Typically on 308 brass I’ll run 1000 cases, decap, remove the primer crimp (I use OFMB, Federal lake City), clean and store in ammo cans until I need to reload. I have 308 cases I wet tumbled in ammo cans that is 2 years sitting and look as nice as when I put them in there. The Lemishine eliminates the tarnish of age, entirely.

      I don’t want to breathe cob dust loaded with powder residue and deal with dirty hands from handling cob tumbled cases. You eliminate all that with STS. The only way (IMO) to clean brass.

      I keep 2 5 gallon buckets and a rotary media seperator to clean and tumble. The buckets to rinse the cases. We have well water (mineral loaded) so I use bottled water in 2.5 gallon grocery store containers.

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  7. Rich says:

    Good tips Daryl. I’ll have to find a retrieval magnet. They didn’t have those when I started using my STS system.

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    • Daryl says:

      I don’t know if it’s permissable to mention websites but Midway, Graffs and Cabelas has the magnet available. It’s a pull to release magnet with a handle that picks ’em up and deposits them in the tumbler barrel. I think it’s 12 bucks.

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  8. Rich says:

    Thanks Daryl I’ll get right on that because I’m right in the middle of match season and just getting started so need all the help I can get.

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