(Editor Note: Tom provided two articles for our holiday gift special edition and failed to mention his own books. You may or may not know, Tom Mchale is a prolific and popular writer. Please check his books out on Amazon.)
The good thing about buying gifts for the avid reloader in your life is that there is an infinite number of tools and gadgets from which to choose. The bad thing is that it can be near impossible to narrow down the possibilities.
Here’s a suggested list of stuff that we’ve found useful and that will stand up to the tests of time and tens of thousands of rounds.
Even if your reloader has a progressive reloading press with an automatic primer feed, a quality hand priming tool is essential. It’s great for smaller batches and setup is nearly instantaneous.
I’ve been through just about all the hand tools out there over the years and this one is my above and beyond favorite. It’s got a brilliant universal shell holder so you don’t need separate holders to fit each and every cartridge type. Of course, it will handle large and small rifle and pistol primers too. The real standout features are comfort and durability. The shape of the grips allows you to prime thousands of cases without cramps or blisters. The all-metal construction means that this unit won’t break. Trust me on that, I’ve broken just about all the other brands.
MSRP on the Universal Hand Priming Tool is $79.45.
If your giftee is thinking about getting into reloading or is a new(er) reloader, I would be remiss in not plugging my own book – The Insanely Practical Guide to Reloading Ammunition. When you learn to play the piano, you need two things – lessons and sheet music. In the reloading world, the recipe manuals are akin to sheet music. They won’t help you much until you learn the process of reloading your ammunition safely. This book will walk you through the process, start to finish for rifle and pistol caliber reloading. It’s written in practical terms with easy to understand language and lots of pictures. Don’t take my word for it, check out the reviews on Amazon. People seem to appreciate the practical tips.
If your reloader plans to do a larger volume of rifle cartridges in the same caliber, check out the Little Crow WFT (World’s Finest Trimmer) Case Trimmer. These are single-caliber tools, so it’s not the best bet if you plan to do small volumes of many different calibers. However, if you’ve got a bucket of .223, .308 or some other common caliber brass, it’s a great solution. Mount the unit to any drill, make a one-time case length adjustment, and you’re off to the trimming races at a pace of 10 per minute or more. I turn my Dewalt drill upside down, hold it steady with a bench vise, zip tie the speed to a medium setting and feed cases by the hundreds. The original model is caliber specific so you need one for each caliber. There’s a newer model with chamber inserts, so adding a new caliber requires a $25 part instead of a whole new trimmer.
Get one for $69.95 plus shipping.
I used a beam scale for years because I was some type of Luddite purist. On a whim, I tried this really digital scale from Frankford Arsenal. After months of double-checking its measurements against that of my beam scale, I grew to trust it. It’s way faster than using a manual scale to verify a predetermined powder weight and excels at weighing objects (like bullets or completed cartridges) of unknown weight. With a beam scale, you have to tinker and adjust just to find how heavy something is. You won’t have to worry about inaccurate measurements when the batteries run low. It will start wigging out and make it very clear that it’s time for new power.
You can find this one for less than $30 if you shop online.
When you’re loading a big batch of cases, it’s supremely annoying to run into one with a crimped primer pocket. When using a progressive press, that will bring things to a grinding halt as a new primer will not insert into the case. Even when using a hand priming tool, it’s likely to cause a jam.
The Dillon Super Swage gently “presses” the primer pocket crimped area back into original shape without cutting and leaving brass chips all over. Just pop a case onto the spindle, lower it into the press and pull the handle. It couldn’t be easier and speed is pretty darn good once you get the hang of it. For .223 and .308 it’s a must have accessory due to the high number of crimped cartridge cases floating around.
Available direct from Dillon Precision for $100.95.
If you reload rifle calibers, you absolutely will end up with a case stuck in the resizing die sooner or later. Without the right tools, it’s a royal pain in the neck to clear. Many folks send the die, with the stuck case inside, back to the die manufacturer for help. Fortunately, there’s a much easier way. A stuck case removal kit has everything you need to remove that jammed in case. A drill bit allows you to create a hole in the cartridge case base which you can thread using the included tap. A bolt and spacer allow you to gently pull the case out of the die using the newly cut threads in the cartridge base. The operation takes just a couple of minutes and won’t damage your reloading dies, so you’ll be back in action in no time. Of course the cartridge case suffers in the process, but that’s expected.
Available at Brownells for $18.99
If you’re looking for just a little something and don’t want to spend a lot of money, consider a Lyman Universal Loading Block. These trays have cutouts on both sides to hold a wide variety of pistol and rifle cartridge cases. The tray holds 50 at a time and is useful for holding cases during the powder charging and seating stages. The best part is that a reloader can never have too many loading blocks, so a few more will always be a welcome gift.
They’re less than $8 each at Brownells.