Yeah, I got a couple of letters from Mr. Roy Jenks at S&W before, you may get some good info or you may not. They'll only have record of what the factory did.
Well there's already whole forums dedicated to the subject but in a nutshell, you can have as big and complex a setup as you like, if you have the money; but you can have an efficient setup for a hundred bucks or so, I'd say.
The first thing you want is a recent edition of one of the better reloading manuals. Several different manuals is even better. It will have all the instructions and safety information, and you'll need to read up on the powders and bullets that are available so you can choose what to buy. Check your local library.
A single stage bench-mounted press will be something you get recommended pretty commonly. I would start with a Lee Hand Press myself, if you're not real sure you're going to stay with the hobby. It's a lot less expensive than a bench press, takes the same dies, and it's nice that you can still use it for some operations later on even if you do move up to a bench press later.
A die set for a particular caliber will be needed. For straight-walled pistol cartridges like the .44's, you can choose steel or carbide. Carbide costs a little more but you don't need lube. They're well worth the cost. Usually, a pair of chamberings like .44 Spl and .44 Mag can be loaded with the same die set, if you get the one made for the longer cartridge.
A die set will include the tools to remove the spent primer, size the case, flare the neck, seat the new bullet, and crimp the neck if appropriate (you do crimp the revolver cases).
In a single stage setup, you set up a die for a particular operation, do a bunch of cases, then switch dies for the next operation.
There is a "turret press" that can be set up once and left that way, you just rotate the next die into place. I haven't done this, but it looks like a pretty cool and still simpler arrangement. You can buy extra turrets for different calibers.
A full "progressive" press will do several things at the same time. After it's all configured, you would just pull the lever over and over, and each case will move through the stages, and after you've pulled it a few times you'll start getting finished reloaded cartridges out the end on each pull. This is the dream of most reloaders, I'm sure, but they're nowhere near cheap.
If you stick with a beginner's arrangement you'll need a 'block' to hold the prepared cases upright while you charge them with powder. A beam type mechanical scale has served many reloaders over the decades, but electronic scales have become very popular. It will need to measure in grains and be accurate to (I think it was) a tenth of a gram... don't buy on this advice, check with some reloading sites first.
Once you've weighed the powder you use a funnel to get it into the case. Another couple of methods involve scoops of a particular volume; or a "powder measure" which is adjusted to 'throw' a particular volume of powder with the flip of a lever. You still need a scale to get this 'throw' adjusted to where you want it. This of course can be added later, don't spend the money on a measure just yet.
The whole operation basically goes like this: You set up the first die, the decap/size die, and run all your cases through it. This removes the old primer and 'squeezes' down the case from where it was expanded in your gun's chamber.
At this point is where you would run it through a cleaning tumbler, if you like.
Then use a tool to clean out the primer pockets.
In here is where you would check the length of the cases. The brass tends to get stretched out and may need to be trimmed.
Now to load new primers. This can be done along with the expander die in the press, doing two steps at the same time; or there are hand primers that work so well that it's better than using the press. Either way then you set up the expander die and run the cases all through to open the neck of the cases so they'll accept the new bullet.
Charging the cases with powder, by whatever method you choose. Gotta pay attention to not double charge or get a light charge, so this is a step you don't do while watching TV or anything else.
Set up the seating/crimp die and run the cases through a final time to seat and crimp the bullets.
Now each of these steps can be done for a dozen or a thousand cases, just depends how many you have and want to load. Early on, you don't want to load a bunch until you've tested the load and find that the gun likes it. That won't happen the first time, most likely. One of the nice things about making your own (other than being able to shoot a lot more for the money) is being able to fine tune the loads. You can find what's most accurate; you can load reduced power practice loads even in the Magnum cases; lots of things you might try.
I'm very satisfied with Lee Reloading equipment, with the exception of the powder scale. They happen to be the least expensive most of the time.
I would caution you to look at the contents of the "kits" that claim to come with "everything you need". I would venture to say many of them will contain equipment that you'll immediately want to upgrade, and that the press will pretty quickly become the only part you use. I'd just buy the equipment you want, separately, and save the trouble.
Used reloading equipment can usually be counted on to be missing a few parts, so be cautious.
Your .44 is a great candidate for casting your own bullets, too. That's another whole hobby I haven't jumped into just yet.
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Last edited by Idahoser; 12-07-2011 at 02:26 PM.