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Making Time to Reload

Article in progress

One of the most common excuses given for not getting into reloading, is that there just isn't enough time to set aside in order to reload properly. Conventional wisdom holds that reloading should only be performed in a clean, clear space with no distractions (people, TV, pets, etc) present. This creates an imposition upon the time spent with your family, which is one of the pressures which the reloader must cope with effectively in order to blend reloading into their lifestyle. In actuality, several of the steps in reloading do not require a distraction-free environment provided that your equipment was calibrated in a distraction-free environment. Those steps comprise about half of the steps of manual reloading (see table below).This greatly reduces the amount of time the reloader must sequester him/herself away from the family by moving about half of the work time into time formerly occupied by the TV.

If you happen to have a recliner in your living room, my project here will work perfectly for you. If not, you could still use a portable table such as the kind you'd get from Sears - but it wouldn't have the stability advantage provided by resting across a recliner's arms.

The Steps of Manual Reloading

Reloading any brass requires several steps:
Step Manual Attention
Cleaning Unattended
Resizing Minor
Trimming Minor
Chamfering Minor
Deburring Minor
Swaging Minor
Priming Moderate
Charging Absolute
Seating Major
Crimping Major
Tumbling Unattended

Speed Considerations

Be aware that this article isn't about reloading quickly. I own thousands of dollars worth of high-speed, rapid reloading equipment, none of which is used in what I'm outlining below. Manual reloading has absolutely nothing on the automatic machine-driven processes for speed. However, it beats the automatic gear hands-down for both noise level and level of attention required for operation. When I configure my Dillon 650 to process 223, then run 1000 pieces of brass through it, it only takes a couple of hours. Doing the same with manual gear would take several nights, assuming that I bought the special 22 caliber angle cutter so that I didn't have to manually deburr and chamfer the brass. However, the conversion process takes 45 minutes or so on the Dillon (adjusting the trimmer depth is a pain), and actual operation requires strict attention to ensure that cases don't get jumbled up in the stations, etc. For doing 10-20 pieces, particularly if you happen to have an angled cutter head for the trimmer, the manual process actually beats the progressive unit when conversion time is factored in.

Adapting the 'Grandpa Desk' for reloading

When I was a boy, my grandfather used to spend his evenings in front of the TV in a recliner, with an old smooth wooden board spread across the arms of his recliner. He'd spend his evenings drinking coffee and playing solitaire with a deck of paper cards while watching TV (or ignoring the TV, if my grandmother happened to be watching one of her programs).

An adult now, I recently thought back to my grandfather's solitaire board and realized that I tend to watch TV in a recliner, with my laptop. While a good amount of my time is spent either here or with other productive uses, frequently I'm just on the internet because I can't think of anything better to do with my time. Wasting time was starting to get to me, when I realized that I could adapt my grandfather's desk concept to brass preparation. So, I took a thick board from a construction project and drilled some holes in the center to mount an RCBS Trim Mate manual trimmer to it, then another set of holes so that I could mount a Dillon Super Swage.


Although I contemplated setting up a horizontally mounted single-stage press configuration on the desk, I opted to use the Lee hand press without attaching it to anything. Once you've got the dies adjusted correctly, there's no harm in resizing your brass while watching TV. Not only does this provide an excellent workout, but it's entirely quiet.

Necessary / Recommended Prep Gear

  • Chamfering and Deburring Tool - any manufacturer; they're all equivalent insert pic
  • RCBS Trim Mate or equivalent
    • Optional stand if you want to wrap your hand around the knob
    • Optional angled cutter heads in your most popular calibers so you can skip the chamfering and deburring tool.
  • Lee hand press (or creatively mounted single stage)
  • Dillon Super Swage (fastest), or swager die for single stage press
  • Akrobin hooks off the sides

Keep in mind

  • Your board can face two ways... take advantage!
  • Take advantage of your elbow and palm for the Trim Pro
  • Develop your upper body strength
  • A second board is an option - maybe you want a less crowded work surface; just swap boards when you want to swap tools.

Physical Layout

-- SeanNewton - 02 Feb 2009

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Topic revision: r5 - 03 Feb 2009 - SeanNewton
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