For the first 20 years of my reloading career, I got by with just the basics. A reloading press, beam scale and powder measure worked just fine. However, in the pursuit of better accuracy, I began to acquire more tools to refine my reloading process. Here are five tools that will raise the accuracy of your reloads to the next level.
The first new toy I picked up was a digital caliper. A decent caliper runs about $20 and will last forever. I thought I would rarely use it, but as it turns out, I use it all the time. I frequently check my cases for stretch and monitor my overall bullet length every time I reload. Thousandths of an inch can make a difference in accuracy so I am constantly checking to make sure everything is right.
I have mentioned in other articles that changing bullet jump to the rifling can really affect accuracy. Because bullet tips can be easily bent or deformed, even polymer tips, measuring the overall length of the bullet to determine jump is very inaccurate. The most accurate way to determine bullet jump is by measuring off of the ogive (shoulder of bullet that engages rifling) to the base of the bullet. To do that you need a bullet comparator. Hornady makes a great one for about $40 that attaches to the jaws of a caliper.
The third tool I recommend is a case trimmer of some kind. As cases are repeatedly reloaded and fired, they stretch. Over time, they can become longer than the chamber and can cause problems. A good case trimmer can trim them back to recommended spec. I have a hand-crank Foster trimmer that I have had for years. When you’re shopping I recommend you take a look at power trimmers. Trimming 100 pieces of brass by hand gets old fast.
You will need to pick up a case mouth chamfering tool along with your trimmer. The trimmer will cut the case mouths square and often leave burrs around the mouth. A chamfering tool will clean up the mouth of the cases as well as impart a small bevel to the mouth. This makes it easier to seat flat-based bullets and decreases the chances of scraping of bullet jacket material when you seat it. I use a Lee hand chamfering tool that costs about $20. My remarks about trimming by hand also apply here.
The last tool I recommend is a chronograph. I’m not saying that reloading manuals are lying liars that lie, but my velocities have never matched theirs. A good chronograph can help you maximize your firearm’s potential by helping you reach good velocities. It can also help you avoid dangerous overloads when velocities get to high. If you are trying to shoot long range, a velocity variation of only 30 feet per second can mess you up. A good chrony can help measure the consistency of your loads.
There are a lot of tools out there, but with these five, you can turn out quality hand loads with the best of them.
What reloading tool do you think is a must have? Share it with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.