Many of us who enjoy the great outdoors and hunting and target shooting are also reloaders. In fact for many, reloading can become a full time passion and hobby much like shooting itself. Some of us reload mostly to save money over factory ammo and others reload because we shoot cartridges of a more obsolete nature. Both of these are top reasons to reload, and I admit to having been motivated by both of them over the years. But as of now, my main motivation is simply I enjoy reloading and it has allowed me to experience the shooting sports more fully and deepen my understanding of ballistics and what happens when I pull the trigger.
Now reloading setups can be as diverse as guns themselves and can range in price from approximately $35 for the Lee Classic Loader to hundreds of dollars for a Dillon or RCBS progressive loader. And as the price ranges from low to the extreme, so does the output in terms of reloading quantity. Even with practice it may take up to an hour or more to load a box of 20 hunting cartridges with the Lee Classic Loader, a Dillon progressive can load hundred(s) of cartridges within that same hour. So the basic questions for the reloader is “what is your goal and objective” in reloading and how much do you intend to shoot?
I have posed those questions to myself in my current situation in life and have decided for me that less is more. I like things simple. I like single shot H&R shotguns and rifles, 870 pump actions, and Marlin lever actions wearing either Skinner ghost ring sights or low power Leupold scopes in the 1-4X or fixed 2.5x magnification. I like Glock pistols; 1911 pistols, and Ruger and Smith and Wesson revolvers. l rarely go out and shoot more than a box of shotshell loads at a time and I can say the same thing about a box of centerfire rifle or pistol cartridges as well. And through experience, I have found few things in the shooting world to be more satisfying that shooting a box of ammo and then reloading the empties back again right on the spot at my shooting bench. This is a great way to spend a fall morning or afternoon or anytime for that matter when the weather cooperates. And on days when this can’t be done outdoors, I will relocate to my garage or shop area. It is a fine way to spend a winter’s day especially if you have a good wood burning stove not too far away.
This is where the portable reloading kit comes in. I have three basic kits that can be carried anywhere I go either in one hand or under one arm. One is solely for .410 shotshells; one is for 9mm and 38/357 pistol rounds; and the last one is for primarily 16 gauge shotshells and .45-70 target loads. First, my MEC 600 Jr for .410 shotshells- If you have bought any .410’s lately you know they are expensive. Even at today’s exorbitant prices on lead shot and powder, the savings can still be 50% or more compared to Winchester AA target loads. I have my MEC permanently mounted to a board and simply attach it to my bench by C-clamp. So when .410 shooting is on the docket, I grab the MEC loader, primers, and wads and I am ready to go. After making sure the loader has plenty of powder and shot first of course.
I have reloaded my empty AA hulls up to 8 times each, but that is probably excessive by most people’s standards. By that stage, the hulls are in various stages of splitting and you can sometimes need a candle to drop a little wax to protect the shot from falling out. My little H&R single shot .410 doesn’t seem to mind though and even by the 7th or 8th loading they still work great. But if you want fresh, factory looking shells that will win a blue ribbon at the county fair on their looks, I recommend loading them about 4 or 5 times at the most.
My other two portable loading kits are shown in this picture.
One is an old leather Samsonite brief case and the other a plastic crate with a lid purchased on the cheap at the local Dollar General Store.
First, the Samsonite leather kit contains a setup by which I reload 9mm and 38/357 pistol cartridges.
This kit contains: a Lee portable hand press that accepts basically any two or three die set; a funnel; a container of Unique powder that works great for both 9mm and 38/357 pistol cartridges; RCBS carbide die sets for each cartridge; a set of dial calipers; zip-loc bags containing primers and bullets; pliers; crescent wrench; my favorite loading data written on a sheet of paper with OAL specs written down; a Lee powder dipper; and a Lee priming tool.
The Lee hand press works just as your RCBS Rockchucker at home on your bench. I have found the hand press to be very adequate in these straight walled pistol cartridges that require little force to resize and load. I choose an all-around powder that has wide ranging uses such as Unique but you could make any of your favorite powders work as well. I have chosen the Lee powder dipper because it is simple and plenty accurate for the mild plinking loads I choose to shoot for fun this day and time. I would not recommend it for loads where I wanted to load to the maximum and push things to the extreme.
My last kit is the plastic crate and its primary purpose is 16 gauge shotshells and .45-70 lead target loads. I have also added my Dad’s old 12 gauge Lee Classic to the kit but since 12 gauge target loads are typically priced in the $5 to $6 dollar range per box, the savings are slim at best. But for us dinosaurs who still shoot a 16 gauge with any regularity, you know the shells are scarce and expensive.
This crate contains Lee Classic Loaders in 16 gauge and 12 gauge as well as .45-70. It also contains: the required rubber mallet for the Lee Loaders; bags of bullets and primers; wads; cans of Green Dot and Trail Boss powder; Lee factory crimper for the .45-70; a glass to pour up small quantities of powder; a candle to seal over any weak shotshell crimps; and a piece of wood with a small “hollowed out” place to seat primers and bullets safely using the Lee loaders. I have also added to this kit an old Lyman 310 tong or “walnut cracker” press for .38/357 I found dirt cheap but in great condition at a yard sale, but I have yet to have found time to try it out.
I have found my portable reloading kits very serviceable. I recommend them highly for the person who is already skilled and knowledgeable in reloading but simply wants to cut back on space and investment and who, like myself, enjoys reloading almost as much as shooting itself. For the guy who likes to burn powder in high volume and can afford the finest progressive reloading setup this setup probably isn’t for you. Or for the person who owns stock in an ammunitions factory and has access to free ammo or at wholesale cost, this setup definitely isn’t for you. But for us Joe Six-Packs out there who have slowed down and like to plink a little and reload a little without getting in a real big hurry, I have found the portable reloading kit to have a permanent place in my bag of shooting tricks.