Gear Review: Space Conscious Reloading

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Often when I discuss reloading with fellow shooters, I hear this common complaint: “I would get into reloading, but I just don’t have the space.” Well, in a recent move, I’ve gone from having plenty of space, in a smallish garage that I took over, to having next-to-no space, in a smallish, 1 bedroom apartment. In that move, I had to give up my spacious reloading bench, and move to a much smaller, compact setup, though not the smallest I could probably have devised if necessary.

All of my various small pieces of equipment, dies, scale, calipers, priming tools, bullet puller, powder hopper, etc. live inside an empty Bulgarian 7.62x54r crate. My case tumbler, not pictured, lives in a 5 gallon bucket (used for separating tumbling media from the cases) in my closet. Expendables (bullets, powder, primers, brass), as well as the load manual are packed into the box sitting on top.

The press and powder thrower live on a double-thick base of 3/4” plywood, nailed and glued together. The thrower is mounted by screws, and the press is mounted by bolts, with the head countersunk into the plywood underneath the press, so that it will sit flat on any surface. To secure the thrower and press, a pair of C-clamps are used, one behind the press if possible, to handle the torque from the press operation, and one off to the side of the press, to prevent rotation of the work surface.

All set up at my desk to load some .223

All set up at my desk to load some .223

Of course, I doubt this sort of set up would work for a large progressive press, like a Dillon 550B, but for a small press like my Lee Breech Lock Challenger, or maybe even a basic turret press, it should be great. It can be broken down into a nice compact space that’s out of the way, and still have a nice, fully functional reloading setup with it all unpacked. Of course, with a single stage or turret press, you won’t be cranking out large quantities of ammo in a sitting, but it’s perfectly functional for a medium-volume reloader working with a few calibers.

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Nathan B

Nathan B is a software engineer living in Maryland. He graduated from Penn State University in 2012 with a BS in Information Sciences and Technology. He has been shooting for most of his life, is a sucker for a good .22 rifle, and shoots competitively in IDPA and local 3-gun matches.


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  • flyingburgers

    My concern with this setup is lead. I feel there’s a possibility of getting lead, both from bullets and primers where you sit, surfaces you commonly touch like the keyboard and possibly where you eat and drink. I think at minimum you should minimize stuff on the table while reloading and wipe down all surfaces with a damp cloth after use. You don’t want to fool around with lead ingestion.

    • Graham2

      If you’re that worried about lead, maybe you should have taken up something other than shooting as a hobby! Don’t go anywhere near guns or firing ranges!

      • flyingburgers

        People get shot and killed handling guns, are you saying we should ignore all firearm safety precautions?

    • Bruce

      The actual facts of lead poisoning aren’t nearly as scary as the hype. I’ve listened to podcast from a guy that was casting thousands of rounds inside his house without proper ventilation, poisoned the crap out of himself and family. They all recovered. You get exposed to real amounts of lead every day whether you shoot or not. Reloading FMJ’s doesn’t even make the list.

      • flyingburgers

        That story doesn’t make any sense. The boiling point of lead is many times the melting point, you would never get lead vapors in your house. The real issues with lead are ingestion of the dust.

        • Blaine

          @flyingburgers:disqus, when did he say vapors were specifically the cause? If the guy was casting, he has to allow the lead to dry and dust will eventually come off the cast rounds. Maybe he didn’t use gloves, Handling lead, whether your are casting or just shooting factory ammo, will cause the body to absorb something. I’m sure casting causes a higher absorption percentage than just shooting. Lead dust also floats in the air, which is why every indoor range in the nation is required to have very efficient ventilation system. Breathing in lead dust will poison you just like lead vapor.

        • Bruce

          The act of fluxing will tend to put some lead particles into the air and every time you open the mold you generate a certain amount of lead dust that can be carried in the air. If you’ve ever spent a bit of time around the casting pot, you’ll find lots of fine dust on your counter, it’s got a lot of lead in it.

  • Cymond

    For me, the 2 biggest obstacles to reloading are initial set up cost and the complexity of the topic.
    I cannot determine if I should buy a single-stage, manually indexed turret, or a progressive press. It’s also hard to sort out between Lee, RCBS, or Dillon (and the smaller brands, too). I just simply don’t know enough to even know where to begin.

    • SpazC

      If you are looking at loading pistol calibers, start with a turret. you can manually index until you are comfortable.

      I used my single stage for 6 months before I got my turret. It sat unused for 2 years after that until I started loading for my rifles.

      As for space, I have my setup clamped to a black and decker work mate bench. It works great and if I had to, I could fold it up and slide the whole deal under my bed.

      • iksnilol

        I have always wondered is it possible to automate a reloading press and still get close enough to the accuracy of hand reloaded ammo?

        • José Pulido

          Yup, it’s what major manufacturers do.

          You can do that, but to get the same precision as hand reloaded ammo, you’ll have to measure, inspect, and weight all the rounds individually and decide on a set of standards for cartridge weight, seating depth, etc.

  • Pete Sheppard

    Nice, timely article. As one who is ‘space-challenged’, this is very informative and motivating. Thanks.

  • J.T.

    I have almost that exact same setup. Only difference is that I used a length of 2×4 instead of the plywood.

  • Lance

    Cool set up.

  • James

    I’ve handloaded 22.4K rounds in the last two and a half years with a Lee turret press mounted on a 2.5′x1.5′ end table. i also have a vise mounted on the same table holding a Wilson trimmer. This makes me playing 3gun and IDPA/USPSA affordable. Ideal? Nope. Make do with what you have

  • PSUMEPHD

    Nice set up, this post has inspired me to modify my full-size reloading bench into something more like what you have devised here! As of now, my excuse is: I don’t want to move that heavy table out of storage in order to reload. Now I see I can just bolt this on any table and get to it. Thanks for the motivation, I feel a harsh winter coming on followed by chilly nights huddled in front of my reloading press.

    I don’t know how I missed your profile blurb before.

    WE ARE!

  • http://RenderRanch.com/ Zermoid

    Don’t overlook an unused, or not used much closet for a reloading area. I build a V shaped bench into a closet once, Shotgun press on the Left, Centerfire on the Right. Shelves above and below for storing supplies, and it had a locking door too!