best beginner setup for reloading .223?

Feb 20, 2017
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#1
Looking to get into reloading .223 for now, maybe 9mm and more rifle calibers down the road. Looking at the Hornady classic loading kit, I just want to load for my AR and bolt guns. I'm guessing people are going to steer me away from kits here? Just looking to keep cost down, get the bare essentials to start with, nothing fancy. Will be shooting the 75gr bthp and 77 smks mostly possibly 73 and 75gr elds.
 
Feb 13, 2017
234
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Orlando
#2
I got the kit and only used the press and bushings/lock rings. I upgraded everything else, bought the pack of shell holder, pack of comparators, ogive comparator whatever as well. Money saved could have went to good digi calipers. The hornady one is fine though. I have the powder dispenser sitting in a box of random shit. Chargemaster works well instead. You can find good deals shopping around for things. I love the quick change bushing system on the hornady.
 

Codiekfx400

Sergeant of the Hide
Jan 29, 2018
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67
28
#3
Just get the lee kit and a dial caliper and a set of dies. Grab some ram shot xterminator and 450 cci primers brass and the bullets you mentioned and your set.
 
Dec 21, 2009
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Petersburg, WV
#4
I started with a Lee Kit and ended up replacing everything. I reload all my .223 on a Dillon 550 progressive press now, it makes good, accurate ammo. One toolhead is dedicated to brass prep and sizing, while another one drops power and seats the bullet. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to start off with a nice progressive press like a Forster Co-Ax, Redding Big Boss 2, or a MEC Marksman. I’m looking to replace my Lee Challenger with one of those, it’s nice having a good single stage around for those simple tasks that dont require a progressive.
 
Dec 21, 2009
227
44
28
30
Petersburg, WV
#5
If I was starting over I’d get the following

A nice single stage press (Forster, Redding, MEC)

A quality beam scale (Ohaus made)

A Powder Trickler (Frankford Arsenal makes a nice one, I like my Redding too)

A Powder Measure (Most do a good job, for precision rifle reloading you’ll mostly be using this to throw close to a desired weight, and trickling up)

Vibratory Tumbler and Cleaning Media

Case-Media Separator (I’m happy with my Lyman, but other manufacturers offer a similar product)

Quality Calipers

Hornady Comparator Set w/ Bullet Bushings and Headspace Bushings

A Nice set of 223 Dies (I like Forster)

.223 Shellholder (If not using a Forster Press)

A priming tool if needed

A Trimmer (I have a Wilson Trimmer, it does a good job, but I do all my .223 on a giraud now, it’s $$$ but it’s as easy as using a pencil sharpener and if you’re going higher volumes it’s nice)

Liquid Lanolin Lube Setup (Liquid Lanolin and 91% Isopropyl Alcohol in a spray bottle, with a Tupperware container to keep it all in)

Primer Crime Remover Tool (I find that a Lyman crimp remover chucked into a drill does a great job removing the crimps from primer pockets in surplus 5.56 brass)

Chamfer and Deburr Tool (Plenty of manufacturers make these, I’m sure they’re all fairly comparable)

Powder Funnel (Nothing wrong with having a cheap funnel to start out with, there’s fancier ones out there but a cheapie will do the job)

Sinclair Delrin 223 Loading Blocks (Specifically made for 223 sized cases, reduces case wobble that you’ll find in the universal trays)

Everything on the list is stuff that will be useful even if you decide to upgrade in the future, and this equipment will make top notch ammo.
 

Greg Langelius *

Resident Elder Fart
Aug 10, 2001
5,123
504
113
Arizona, good place for me...
#6
All of this advice is good, and I support it.

For later on, give some thought as to what you'd like to end up with as your final, refined setup.

Since I've been at this since the mid-1990's, I've had ample time to try things out and hone down both my gear and my overall handloading philosophy.

For me, the overall winning press is the Dillon RL550B. I use mostly RCBS F/L 2-die sets, with some exceptions. My 260 Rem dies are Hornady new Dimension F/L 2 die set, provided as a gift. I think they are especially nice with the elliptical sizer ball, particularly when I'm necking up 243 brass to 260 spec, however I'm currently necking own 7mm-08 brass to 260, and the die set works very nicely for that too.

After a decade or so with the Dillon automatic powder measures, I finally sprang for the automated digital powder measure, a Hornady Lock-n-Load unit, but the membrane switch panel finally bought the farm and I recently replaced it with the RCBS Chargemaster Lite. It's still fairly new, but I couldn't be more pleased with it.

I still use my original Lee Dial Micrometer; it's always been there, it's always worked, so why not keep it?

There are certainly nicer bits and pieces out there, but this is where the twenty-some years of philosophical refinement steps in. If my rifles were all finely tuned, extra close tolerance machines, I'd be deep into the more arcane approaches to hand loading, because such rifles can take full advantage of that stuff

But I made a core decision early on that I would be keeping all my chamber specs completely in line with SAAMI spec.

Mostly, it's because I don't generally sell my rifles, I hand them down to my younger family and they are not (so far...) hand loaders. Such rifles do not respond readily to extra fine high tolerance ammunition, but they do fire factory ammunition without any issues that border on safety when doing so. In essence, I'm not giving away any safety issues to my family along with the rifles.

And, since they don't need and probably can't take best advantage of super fine tolerance ammunition, it's easier to make the ammo they need without having to do all the extra care side-issue steps.

Of course there's a penalty, it has to do with ultimate accuracy, and it's quite real. If I was into Bench Rest ultimate accuracy shooting, or competing in the National levels of 1000yd F Open class shooting, it would cost me too many places to make that sort of competition truly satisfying. But I don't and the reason is not really about my gear or ammo, it's about my skills. I'm just not that good a shooter, and super fine rifles and ammunition are simply going to be wasted on the likes of me. I also think they might be wasted on many others, but that's not my call to make. Insisting that everyone should adhere to only the highest standards sells a lot of stuff. It remains to be seen if it makes such a huge difference in a lot of cases, especially when one is starting out. It's a choice, I made mine, others take a different tack; more power to them. I've swum in the deep water with the biggest sharks, and I know for a fact that I am not one of them.

The point here is that there are options at all levels of this activity, and often the really intense approach can be postponed for quite some time before it can be fully justified.

So, what do I give up? I think it's surprisingly little. By using the basic dies and equipment, along with a diligent approach to the basic necessary ammunition fabrication steps, in combination with thorough load development, surprisingly good ammunition can be the result. It will be good enough to find and achieve the full potential of the basic accurate rifle, and to find and achieve a dedicated shooter's marksmanship potential. What it fails to do is not as much as many might believe, and is something that would only become an imperative once a serious shooter's career is ready to step up to the highest plateaus.

Others will choose to throw money at the problem, and for them, that's a great approach. But it's not the imperative at the earlier levels.

Now my little secret is that I actually started with the Dillon RL550B, a very rarely found used one, and immediately bypassed all of the intermediate equipment and its associated steps. I've had it since 1995, God knows how much earlier it actually originates, and I've never felt the need to replace it. 'Buy once, cry once' has a personal meaning for me. Nobody needs to do that, but it has worked well for me.

I did try many, maybe most, of the more intricate approaches to ammunition making. They do work, and they work well. But I think they also require a lot of sophistication in the rifles that use such ammunition in order to get their best benefit; a sophistication that goes somewhat sideways to my primary goals of passing on utilitarian, generally safe rifles to my family. In the end, my goals do not require the sophistication, and at my age simplification is a very useful approach.

I now, therefore, find that my time allocation is more distributed toward load development than toward ammunition fabrication. For me, that's a better balance. With my simplified approach to fabrication, I can make more ammunition more quickly, and it's plenty good enough for my needs.

In general, fewer tweaks translates into fewer potential issues; and the more basic approach generally provides for a more robust performance, one which is less prone to outside influences and hidden flaws. K.I.S.S. has a real value. At age 72, life's too short to spend any of it dealing with primer crimps; brass also has value as a recycled commodity. I also don't waste my time reloading 9mm, I use Independence 115gr Aluminum case ammo for all my practice, and my carry load is Fed 147gr Hydra-Shok, four 17rd mags worth with my Ruger American Pistol 9 Pro. I love the free state of Arizona. The only thing I weigh is powder charges, the only thing I use the micrometer for is checking completed rounds; Factory QC is plenty good enough for what I'm doing, as long as I'm buying quality components. All of my loading blocks are recycled 45ACP/9MM 50rd handgun ammo trays, they work great for the 223, 260, 308, 30-06, and 7.62x39 ammo I load. I also can load 7.62x54R, but not much lately.

YMMV

I shoot a lot of the Hornady 75gr HPBT Match in five of my six 223's. The one I don't is a 16" 1:9" barrel which may be a tad too short and too slow a twist. I haven't actually tried it and I probably should. The 77's I have are loaded ammunition still waiting initial testing in my guns, IMI 77gr Razor Core; we'll see about that one soon enough. I have a particular interest in how well it might work in my new lightweight 16" 1:7" Upper.

I use Varget exclusively in the 223, for bullet weights ranging from 52gr (26.0gr), to 65gr (25gr, a published load, but I think it's hot, a hunting load), and the 75gr (24.4gr worked well at 600yd F T/R competition in two rifles, both 24", one 1:8" twist, the other 1:9" twist). Other successful 75gr loads at 300yd are 23.5gr and 23.7gr. Brass is Virgin Winchester, Virgin Starline, and a lot of Prvi-Partizan/PPU reloaded many times. PPU 55gr FMJBT is my all-purpose practice round; fired brass is recycled for load development, and becomes bulk ammunition when it starts to get past its prime. I've probably loaded and fired close to 10,000rd of 223 over twenty or so years. Primers are nearly always CCI BR-4, except for Winchester WSR in bulk ammunition. Even though I have single feed adapters for all my 223's, all of my ammo is loaded to magazine length. I haven't changed any of my seater punch settings in years. All of my 223 chambers are actually 5.56. All of these last policies reflect arbitrary decisions that I have made in the interest of the KISS principle.

Greg
 
Last edited:
Likes: jLorenzo
Feb 20, 2017
348
14
18
#9
About 400 to start, just to get me going then I can add/build components that I need. I get the basic principles of reloading, only thing I'm a bit foggy on is how to setup the dies and what not but other than I think I have a basic understanding of how to start out.
Like to keep it as simple as possible and just want to find me a good .223 load for my gas gun.
 

Codiekfx400

Sergeant of the Hide
Jan 29, 2018
266
67
28
#10
I would have to recommend a lee classic loader kit or rcbs rock chucker kit. Also pick up a dial caliper. Four Mtm loading blocks and a forster chamfer debur tool. A set of lee 223 dies will work just fine. That will be everything you need for equipment. Also a can of Hornady one shot.
 
Last edited:
Likes: jLorenzo

Codiekfx400

Sergeant of the Hide
Jan 29, 2018
266
67
28
#11
If you have a lot of brass that’s already fired there are places that will process it for you. I would highly recommend paying to get it processed unless your really bored and looking for something to do.
 
Feb 20, 2017
348
14
18
#12
All of this advice is good, and I support it.

For later on, give some thought as to what you'd like to end up with as your final, refined setup.

Since I've been at this since the mid-1990's, I've had ample time to try things out and hone down both my gear and my overall handloading philosophy.

For me, the overall winning press is the Dillon RL550B. I use mostly RCBS F/L 2-die sets, with some exceptions. My 260 Rem dies are Hornady new Dimension F/L 2 die set, provided as a gift. I think they are especially nice with the elliptical sizer ball, particularly when I'm necking up 243 brass to 260 spec, however I'm currently necking own 7mm-08 brass to 260, and the die set works very nicely for that too.

After a decade or so with the Dillon automatic powder measures, I finally sprang for the automated digital powder measure, a Hornady Lock-n-Load unit, but the membrane switch panel finally bought the farm and I recently replaced it with the RCBS Chargemaster Lite. It's still fairly new, but I couldn't be more pleased with it.

I still use my original Lee Dial Micrometer; it's always been there, it's always worked, so why not keep it?

There are certainly nicer bits and pieces out there, but this is where the twenty-some years of philosophical refinement steps in. If my rifles were all finely tuned, extra close tolerance machines, I'd be deep into the more arcane approaches to hand loading, because such rifles can take full advantage of that stuff

But I made a core decision early on that I would be keeping all my chamber specs completely in line with SAAMI spec.

Mostly, it's because I don't generally sell my rifles, I hand them down to my younger family and they are not (so far...) hand loaders. Such rifles do not respond readily to extra fine high tolerance ammunition, but they do fire factory ammunition without any issues that border on safety when doing so. In essence, I'm not giving away any safety issues to my family along with the rifles.

And, since they don't need and probably can't take best advantage of super fine tolerance ammunition, it's easier to make the ammo they need without having to do all the extra care side-issue steps.

Of course there's a penalty, it has to do with ultimate accuracy, and it's quite real. If I was into Bench Rest ultimate accuracy shooting, or competing in the National levels of 1000yd F Open class shooting, it would cost me too many places to make that sort of competition truly satisfying. But I don't and the reason is not really about my gear or ammo, it's about my skills. I'm just not that good a shooter, and super fine rifles and ammunition are simply going to be wasted on the likes of me. I also think they might be wasted on many others, but that's not my call to make. Insisting that everyone should adhere to only the highest standards sells a lot of stuff. It remains to be seen if it makes such a huge difference in a lot of cases, especially when one is starting out. It's a choice, I made mine, others take a different tack; more power to them. I've swum in the deep water with the biggest sharks, and I know for a fact that I am not one of them.

The point here is that there are options at all levels of this activity, and often the really intense approach can be postponed for quite some time before it can be fully justified.

So, what do I give up? I think it's surprisingly little. By using the basic dies and equipment, along with a diligent approach to the basic necessary ammunition fabrication steps, in combination with thorough load development, surprisingly good ammunition can be the result. It will be good enough to find and achieve the full potential of the basic accurate rifle, and to find and achieve a dedicated shooter's marksmanship potential. What it fails to do is not as much as many might believe, and is something that would only become an imperative once a serious shooter's career is ready to step up to the highest plateaus.

Others will choose to throw money at the problem, and for them, that's a great approach. But it's not the imperative at the earlier levels.

Now my little secret is that I actually started with the Dillon RL550B, a very rarely found used one, and immediately bypassed all of the intermediate equipment and its associated steps. I've had it since 1995, God knows how much earlier it actually originates, and I've never felt the need to replace it. 'Buy once, cry once' has a personal meaning for me. Nobody needs to do that, but it has worked well for me.

I did try many, maybe most, of the more intricate approaches to ammunition making. They do work, and they work well. But I think they also require a lot of sophistication in the rifles that use such ammunition in order to get their best benefit; a sophistication that goes somewhat sideways to my primary goals of passing on utilitarian, generally safe rifles to my family. In the end, my goals do not require the sophistication, and at my age simplification is a very useful approach.

I now, therefore, find that my time allocation is more distributed toward load development than toward ammunition fabrication. For me, that's a better balance. With my simplified approach to fabrication, I can make more ammunition more quickly, and it's plenty good enough for my needs.

In general, fewer tweaks translates into fewer potential issues; and the more basic approach generally provides for a more robust performance, one which is less prone to outside influences and hidden flaws. K.I.S.S. has a real value. At age 72, life's too short to spend any of it dealing with primer crimps; brass also has value as a recycled commodity. I also don't waste my time reloading 9mm, I use Independence 115gr Aluminum case ammo for all my practice, and my carry load is Fed 147gr Hydra-Shok, four 17rd mags worth with my Ruger American Pistol 9 Pro. I love the free state of Arizona. The only thing I weigh is powder charges, the only thing I use the micrometer for is checking completed rounds; Factory QC is plenty good enough for what I'm doing, as long as I'm buying quality components. All of my loading blocks are recycled 45ACP/9MM 50rd handgun ammo trays, they work great for the 223, 260, 308, 30-06, and 7.62x39 ammo I load. I also can load 7.62x54R, but not much lately.

YMMV

I shoot a lot of the Hornady 75gr HPBT Match in five of my six 223's. The one I don't is a 16" 1:9" barrel which may be a tad too short and too slow a twist. I haven't actually tried it and I probably should. The 77's I have are loaded ammunition still waiting initial testing in my guns, IMI 77gr Razor Core; we'll see about that one soon enough. I have a particular interest in how well it might work in my new lightweight 16" 1:7" Upper.

I use Varget exclusively in the 223, for bullet weights ranging from 52gr (26.0gr), to 65gr (25gr, a published load, but I think it's hot, a hunting load), and the 75gr (24.4gr worked well at 600yd F T/R competition in two rifles, both 24", one 1:8" twist, the other 1:9" twist). Other successful 75gr loads at 300yd are 23.5gr and 23.7gr. Brass is Virgin Winchester, Virgin Starline, and a lot of Prvi-Partizan/PPU reloaded many times. PPU 55gr FMJBT is my all-purpose practice round; fired brass is recycled for load development, and becomes bulk ammunition when it starts to get past its prime. I've probably loaded and fired close to 10,000rd of 223 over twenty or so years. Primers are nearly always CCI BR-4, except for Winchester WSR in bulk ammunition. Even though I have single feed adapters for all my 223's, all of my ammo is loaded to magazine length. I haven't changed any of my seater punch settings in years. All of my 223 chambers are actually 5.56. All of these last policies reflect arbitrary decisions that I have made in the interest of the KISS principle.

Greg
I agree. Simple is good with me, starting out I want to go slow with as few steps necessary. Also agree about the 9mm, been shooting federal aluminum 115 with zero issues, good stuff.
So I'm just a little confused here, if you buy a press of a certain brand, you have to use dies by the same brand correct? I'm thinking of just grabbing the Hornady lock n load classic kit and adding/replacing what's needed after some trial and error. Any problems with that?
Thanks so much guys, great responses.
 

Codiekfx400

Sergeant of the Hide
Jan 29, 2018
266
67
28
#13
All dies will fit any press. The lee dies will come with a shell holder. The best part about getting the lee kit is the perfect powder measure. It really works great and will save a ton of time compared to weighing charges. I have loaded tens of thousand of rounds of ammo with my lee kit and it’s showing some wear but still works fine. Hornady and rcbs kits should work just fine as well they just cost that much more. If I may ask what’s your rifle specs? Accurate commercial ammo can be had at a fair price if you know where to look. Let me know twist rate of rifle and what you plan on shooting at and I can point you in the right direction.
 
Feb 10, 2017
3,356
443
83
TX
#14
Most every die will fit most any press. 7/8 threads all every die I’ve ever experienced. Some of the big bore are larger but you’ll know when you get into that. I have rcbs, redding, hornady and Forster does for my press.

Hornady does have their bushing thing between the press and die but you can put any die in those bushings. Or you can just leave the same bushing in place in the press and screw each die into that bushing. Lock rings allow you to maintain settings for reinstalling.

And don’t go with the throws or scooped charges if you want accuracy. Weigh your powder, know exactly how much you’re putting in each time. Unless you’re just going to be blasting it away into a berm at 30 yards. You can get a beam scale that will be accurate enough for less than some of these powder throws. It will take longer but you will get better results out of it. Or bite the bullet and get a chargemaster. Your times worth it after a few reloading sessions.
 
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