A bit of reloading gear discussion: the progressive press for serious handloaders.

A bit of reloading gear discussion: the progressive press for serious handloaders.

I recently received an email wherein the author took me to task for recommending the Hornady Lock-N-Load AP as the tool for the ‘serious’ reloader. His claim was that ‘serious’ reloaders always use Dillon, and nothing but.

Sorry to have to disagree with him.

My definition of ‘serious’ is the ballistic experimenter, not the appliance operator. Someone who reloads for a number of both pistol and rifle calibers and does a lot of load experimentation (different bullets, powders, cases, and primers) is, in my mind, far more ‘serious’ than the person who simply constructs a single caliber/bullet/powder charge. Yes, I’ll grant you that it’s arbitrary, but it is (after all) my prerogative to be┬áso!

For the person who fits my definition of serious, the Hornady press remains the progressive tool to beat. (Of course such a person also needs at least one single stage press, preferably a Hornady that takes the same LnL die holders.)

Allow me to illustrate. I’ve become (belatedly, perhaps) a fan of the .30 WCF cartridge, also know as the “thirty-thirty.” (My odyssey from high-speed, pointy-bullet cartridges to the pudgy .30-30 is a story in itself. I promise to recount it sometime soon.) Aside from developing the “perfect” 170 grain hunting load, I’ve also been working up a very light load.

This project is to give me a 100-yard load to use against animals intent on raiding our henhouse (amongst other things.) This load needs to be accurate, effective enough to kill a coyote-size animal at 100 yards, low recoil, usable in a repeating rifle, and QUIET. (Not that I have neighbors that are looking in the windows, but I like to be considerate. Besides, if I have to get up in the middle of the night to dispatch an unruly varmint intent on dining at Che Chicken, I don’t want to cause my ears to ring for the next 12 hours!)

When I conceived of this project I consulted Ed Harris, whose knowledge of such loads is perhaps unparalleled. He suggested an oversized, dead-soft lead bullet over a small quantity of fast-burning pistol powder. The current long-term test is of a 115 grain flat-point lead bullet of about 5 BHN hardness, sized to .311″, over 4.1 grains of Alliant Red Dot powder. This gives me a load that is just under supersonic at the muzzle, and from a 24″ barrel about as loud as one of the hyper-velocity .22LR cartridges.

Once the load passes final testing, I plan to make a whole pile of ’em.

The Lock-N-Load system has proven to be a real time saver in developing this load. The quick-change dies in the single-stage press make it much easier to put together 5 or 10 at a time for testing; when the load is settled, I’ll just stick those dies (already adjusted and ready to go) into the progressive AP and crank out ammo! Nothing is as flexible, and when you’re doing things that are somewhat out of the ordinary you need that kind of flexibility.

Enough about presses. In this project I needed to bell the mouths of the .30-30 cases ever so slightly, so that the very soft slug could be seated without shaving. Ever tried to buy a .30 caliber mouth flaring die?

After searching I found the answer: the Lee Universal Case Expanding Die. It has a couple of interchangeable flaring spuds, one for small caliber and one for large, which go inside of the die body which is then topped with a threaded adjuster. You simply turn the knurled adjuster knob for the precise amount of flare you need – and you can vary it in incredibly small increments. Frankly, I wish I’d found this thing years ago – it would have saved me tons of time and effort.

Of course, mounted in a Hornady LnL bushing I can pop it into any press setup as needed, so I don’t have to buy a dozen of the things!

Lee comes under fire on the internet forums for being the low-cost gear supplier, but they have a lot of products that are both well made and absolutely unique. The Universal Case Expanding Die is one of them, and every serious reloader needs one on his or her reloading bench.

(Ooops, there goes that word again…!)

-=[ Grant ]=-

  • Posted by Grant Cunningham
  • On June 2, 2008

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