Thursday, April 05, 2007

A New Member Joins the Cult of the Brass Collectors

The fact that I finally set up my reloading bench after 18 months of not using it, got me to want to load up a batch tonight after our dinner guests left.

That's actually a picture of the old setup from two years ago BTW, it looks substantially different right now; same bench, and same presses, but a different house; plus there now a couple of powder measures bolted to the bench... anyway....

Even better Mel has been asking to learn how to handload, and I figured, “why not now”; so I showed her the handloading process, and she made her first 5 rounds (then she went to bed).

Anyway, for my first foray back, I figured I’d start stocking up on my practice carry ammo. By that I mean ammunition that I handload to be similar to my carry ammunition (one of the reasons I prefer XTPs and Gold Dots, is because I can do this easily unlike hydrashoks).

I’ve been carrying hot loaded XTPs in several of my guns the last two years or so; the 625 likes ‘em and the G36 I sold to JohnOC (who's my lading partner) really liked them more than anything else, plus I trust their performance at higher pressures and velocities. I’ve even loaded up some .45 super with them and they shoot great.

So, I’ve got a big box of 185gr component XTPs, and I’m running low on the XTP practice ammo I had loaded; what the heck, I figured I’d run of some more.

My first run of the things I used 5.5gr of TiteGroup (I tried the powder with several different loads and bullets); and honestly I hate the stuff. I tried with Winchester, CCI, and Federal primers, and I never did get consistent even burn. The velocities were all over the place, the groups were mediocre, and there was always a bunch of unburned powder mess.

At first I thought it was just me, but I've heard the same thing now from a half dozen reloaders; so I think it really is the powder.

I haven’t quite used up all I’ve got; I’m going to make up some hardcast SWC bunnyfart loads with it for cheap paperpunching with the 625, and move back to blue dot, red dot, and hp38.


For this run, I decided to go with 6.5gr of HP38 under the 185gr XTP TC-JHP, Federal large pistol, and seated to 1.175; with a mild crimp just behind the ogive.

I should get about 1100 fps out of it, at about 19,000 psi or so; well within pressure boundaries for a +p load… in fact barely over the +p load floor. If it shoots well I’m going to bump it up, maybe to 6.7 or 6.8gr, but I need to fix and/or replace my chrony first.

The equipment I use to load right now

1. Lyman Spar-T turret press (it’s quick to work with, which I like)
2. Lyman carbide 3 die set
3. Lee autoprime
4. lee shell holders
5. RCBS uniflow powder measure
6. RCBS loading block
7. Lee safety scale

That’s really all it takes. The whole setup, less the bench to mount it on, is less than $200 (I got the presses for free); and honestly other than really needing a digital scale, and really wanting a matching scale/powder measure set, like RCBS has with the chargemaster combo (honestly, not necessary, but nice); I wouldn’t change much.

I mean yeah, I’mna pick up a Dillon one of these days, but I batch up my loading steps (for speed and consistency), and with the turret, it's really quite quick. Once I had the dies and measure adjusted, doing organized batch production with de-primed, sized, and cleaned cases (I do them all at once when I fill my fired case box);I was able to prime, expand, charge, seat, and crimp 50 rounds in well under 30 minutes.

Taking everything into account, I’d guess it takes me 20 seconds for each round I make; and that's including sizing and decapping. 3 pulls of the press for 3 seconds a pull, plus 5 seconds to prime, 3 seconds to throw a charge (I charge in the loading block 50 at a time so I can scan and compare charge levels), and three seconds for handling the brass, bullet and completed round outside of those steps mentioned.

So lets call it 150 rounds an hour. In actuality I've measured it out, and I do more like 120 to 170 depending on how intense I'm going. Sure, an rl550 can do four times that, and in the next few months I’m going to pick one up (or maybe a 650) to do some high volume .45 loading, but for now I’m good.

Even when I do pick up a progressive press, I’m going to keep the Lyman running for small batches, load testing and development, and for precision reloading with individual weighed charges. Progressive presses aren't exactly conducive to small batches and such.