Non-Essential Essentials


Outer’s Crud Cutter and Q-Tips are essential for keeping dies, shell holders and any tiny spaces clean.

Clean And Lube

All of my straight-walled sixgun cartridges are sized with carbide sizing dies. Those that are not are first sprayed with Hornady One Shot Case Lube. This lube is wax-based so there’s no problem contaminating primers. I’ve also found it to be helpful for sizing straight-walled cartridges before sizing with carbide sizing dies. By spraying these cartridges first it’s much easier to size the cases even though it’s not necessary. Actually, I find it very necessary now as I don’t have the strength I once had in my hands.

Two other essentials on my bench are Outer’s Crud Cutter and ordinary Q-Tips. Sizing dies and shell holders can become gummed up pretty quickly. A shot of Crud Cutter cleans them out quickly with the Q-Tip reaching into hard-to-get-to spots. The spring-loaded snap-in accepting shell holders in single stage presses often fills up with a heavy black gunk of lube, fired primer residue and tumbling media. It’s quite surprising to see what comes out of this slot when it’s sprayed with Crud Cutter and a Q-Tip is used.

Three “essential nonessentials” are the Lee Universal Expanding Die, Lyman Cartridge Case Gauge and Lyman Universal De-capping Die.

There are certain items absolutely necessary for handloading. The list is shorter for the reloader than for the handloader. Yes, there’s a difference although we often use them interchangeably. The reloader is one who loads the same ammunition over and over again. The handloader is an experimenter constantly looking for better loads, tailoring different loads for different situations.

The reloader must have a quality press and a set of dies, a powder scale and a powder measure to set it with. The handloader must add what I call nonessential-essentials. Some of these we may be able to get along without, however they make life so much easier. This includes at least three loading manuals. On my bench you’ll find the current manuals from Hodgdon, Hornady, Lyman, Sierra, Speer and Western Powders. I load for virtually every handgun cartridge as well as several wildcats and many rifle cartridges. So you’ll find dies from Hornady, Lee, Lyman, RCBS, Redding and even a few like Lachmiller and Herter’s which are both long gone.

I’ve been using the RCBS Pro 2000 since it first came out so I not only have shell plates for every sixgun cartridge but also a long list of 20 die plates each holding four dies so I can seat and crimp in separate operations. I load a lot of cast bullets so I always have the latest Lyman Cast Bullet Handbook as well as my friend Glen Fryxell’s excellent and comprehensive book on cast bullets entitled From Ingot To Target: A Cast Bullet Guide For Handgunners.

When I started reloading/handloading I got most of my cartridge cases by first shooting factory loads and using the same cardboard boxes for my handloads. They didn’t last very long and I was very happy to see the first plastic cartridge boxes. Life became much easier when MTM arrived on the scene. Their sturdy plastic cartridge boxes have hinged lids snapping shut securely. They are tailor-made for all different cartridges. Some of those for larger cartridges even have a carrying handle.

MTM Case Gard Cartridge Boxes allow for easy storage, protection and organizing of handloads.

Treat Yourself

Some final “essential nonessentials” include the Lee Universal Expanding Die for opening case mouths to accept bullets. Most rifle dies are two die sets with no provision for expanding the case mouth. This die is helpful when using cast bullets, preventing lead shaving when seated. Some jacketed bullets can also be quite stubborn.

Two others from Lyman are the Cartridge Case Gauge and Universal De-capping Die. The latter is handy for removing spent primers from black powder cartridges while the Gauge is especially helpful for checking to see if semi-auto cartridge handloads are in spec. If they aren’t they will not fully enter the gauge. It’s much easier to find oversized cases this way than when in the field or at the range!

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