More late night random thoughts! I keep seeing, especially in a couple of Facebook groups I am a member of, people asking the same question over and over again. Should I buy a reloading kit; or buy reloading equipment separately? That got me thinking… How would I answer this question? Hold on to your hats!
Why would someone ask this question in the first place? Probably, impulse without background understanding of the process? Inherently, someone didn’t bother doing their own research. It’s okay, we all do it…
So, how would I answer this question? I’d say, do you know what tools you need in the first place?
A little bit of a tangent here, but rest assured, my eclectic thought process eventually gets back on point. YouTube is not a substitute. Don’t get me wrong, I learn from videos all the time, but I know what I am looking for and I have enough experience to smell bullshit. YouTube content is unmoderated, it’s not peer reviewed and it’s biased to a specific mindset, creator’s budget or target audience (yes, it’s all about the clicks!). A book however, is usually reviewed, edited and updated over time. There is at least some cursory review process that happens with a printed textbook.
There are a few very good books that cover reloading and in great detail, from tool selection to understanding powder burn rates. All topics you need to have at least some understanding of, before you start reloading. What bullet do I pick? Why do I pick this weight and not something else, what powder, why not matchheads? Why would I use this die over that die, etc. A good textbook is a concentrated guide to answer all of these questions.
Asking someone for advice is not exactly the best thing either (and not the same as being shown). What if they say DIY, have you considered that they may have purchased their equipment decades ago and prices were low; or kits just didn’t exist? What if they say, buy a kit? Have you considered that they may not be as detailed as you are; or not as interested as you are? Perhaps it’s a vanity answer, to seem like they are helping.
Perhaps, a better question to ask could be: what is a good reloading textbook, that I should buy. There is usually a consensus on this topic and a clear winner will emerge.
After reading a textbook and gaining some understand what the process is, what the tools do, when you need what and why, you can answer your own question with trivial cost benefit analysis.
- What comes in a kit vs.
- What I know I need;
- What I know I won’t use;
- What I buy separately, of better quality.
There are a few gotchas that only become apparent through ‘doing’, by no means this is an exhaustive list, but probably up there on the budget radar.
Don’t take this as a negative, as if I am trying to argue against a kit. I am not. In fact, I am not presenting an argument at all. I am suggesting that this decision should be made by you, after you understand what you need, rather than relying on others who have their own methods, approach, maybe different firearm types, and financial situation.
How do I know what I need?
Ha! Exactly, best thing to do, ask a friend to walk you through a reloading process. Me, I didn’t know anyone, I started asking questions online and someone invited me to their home (it’s a good thing that we both ended up being axe murderers and it all cancelled each other out, we hung out instead), to give me a lesson in how not to hurt myself. An hour of hands-on education and I certainly didn’t come out an expert, but I learnt what I didn’t want and some tools that I preferred over others. You’d be surprised how useful this lesson is and one day you’ll pay it forward.
Yep, what are you actually planning to load? In some cases, you may need bigger reloading dies with different threads. Can the kit press be adjusted to accomodate all reloading die thread types or just one?
Kits usually include a book, you should buy a good book (unless that’s the book included in the kit, often it’s not) – so remove $30+ from the price. A textbook you will read and load data you will get from manufacturer’s websites. It’s useful to have a printed load manual, you’ll certainly accumulate a few, but it’s not worth buying a kit with a book chosen for you.
Budge and speed! It’s all about the budget and speed here. Can you afford something and could you afford something if you DIY. A lot of cheap-to-midrange kits come with the cheapest set of scales known to the universe (not always, but usually). And scales is what you need! After measuring a charge 100 times over, you will yell at the wall and replace them with something better (maybe). Personally, I prefer digital reloading scales – they are a lot faster to work with, but YMMV. Either way, you will want a decent set of reloading scales and yes, they are expensive. Does the kit come with a good set? Do you want to get a different model? Do you want it now or later? And can you afford them, if you were to buy everything separately and shop around. Also, depends on how much you shoot…
I started with a reloading kit. My rational was that, if I buy one now, I will get into reloading. Because I will feel guilty about wasting all that money if I don’t. We all have different reasons. Would I do it again? Maybe. However, with the benefit of hindsight – I would pay a very close attention to what’s included in the kit, how much it is to buy separately and what components in the kit I wouldn’t use or replace at the first opportunity.