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The History Of Reloading Ammunition With Presses


The history of consumer reloading ammunition is not that old. Depending on what articles you read, it started about 150 years ago. Even though the first bullets were available several decades earlier, the delay in reloading ammunition was chiefly due to the lack of tools. Evolution of ammunition reloading was a slow individualized process that started with hunters and gun advocates at the end of the 19th century. It appears that the first crude reloading press was made Lyman Gunsight Company. It started to make reloading tools in the later part 1880s and today makes some of the better tools for ammo reloading.

Over the next few decades, individual hunters and skilled laborers did make their own equipment but quickly faded into oblivion because of the lack of good material. By the Second World War, reloading presses had become available but were not used much. At that time, reloading ammunition was strictly commercial and a costly affair. While equipment like scales and burring tools were available, they were crude and not accurate. Further, the reloading presses were huge machines, cumbersome, made of poor quality material and prone to breakdown.

One of the most successful firearm companies that made a major contribution to reloading ammo is Hornady, which started in the 1940s. After the Second World War and the Korean War, there was a major shortage of ammunition; this is when Hornady thrived. Fast forward to present day - Hornady has made many improvements in the designs of ammunition and reloading with brass casings. It is one of the largest independent manufacturers of bullets and makes every type of component associated with firearms.However, for most hunters and firearm enthusiasts, buying reloading equipment in the 1950’s was an expensive undertaking. Due to this, sporting individuals continued to improvise and developed their own tools to reload ammunition for brass.

One of the earlier reloading presses of the 1950s was made by Herter’s but it fell far short of being practical. This particular press was heavy, but durable and did a decent job at reloading ammo. It was widely bought by many gun owners and many still exist today. In the 1960s, the Lee Reloading Company was founded and produced some very finely crafted tools.

Modern Reloading with Presses and Cartridge Components


However, it was in the 1970s that reloading became more refined. With the availability of several sizers and melters, it allowed easier casting of bullets which made the process more precise. By the end of the 1970s, molding was so precise that many reloading presses did not even need resizing.

Overall, the reloading presses of the 1970s were made of cast iron, and were extremely heavy and thus could not be used by the average re-loader. It was not a practical piece of equipment for hunters. Another problem with the first generation of presses was that they were only designed to reload only one type or caliber of ammo and hence not versatile or flexible. Many were not even sturdy enough to resize the brass casings.

By the 1980s, there was a significant update with presses and dies. Along came the Lee Turret Press which allowed you to reload ammo with much greater ease. Two other firearm companies that made a huge contribution to reloading presses were Dillon and RCBS. By the 1990s, many other accessories for reloading like presses, dies, crimpers, powder measures, scales, bullet molds, bullet sizers, trimmers and lubricants were developed and soon kits were available to the common person.By the mid-90s more portable and lightweight presses were developed. It was this flexibility and smaller reloading presses that sped up the process. This was the vital piece and it had taken several decades to refine. By the end of 1990s, the reloading press had become miniaturized and was readily available, even in hardware stores.

With advances in technology and more durable material like stainless steel, the reloading presses of today are a far cry from what was once available. The latest reloading presses are automatic and progressive. While many still require hand feeding the cases and placing the bullet, they are easy to work with and are lightweight. There are some automatic case feeders on the market but how well they function is left to the individual’s opinion. Some have not fared well and the manual ones continue to be more commonly used for precision reloading.The history of reloading ammo has undergone a revolutionary change in design and shape of the equipment. Today the entire set needed to reload ammo can be bought for under $600 and includes a sturdy bench.

In summary, ammo reloading most likely started in a crude form at the same time when the modern cartridge ammunition became available. However, there are some experts who claim that reloading of ammo most likely started a few decades earlier when hunters moulded bullets for muzzle loading use.

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