Shotshell Reloading – Part 2

by Woodsbum

In Shotshell Reloading – Part 2 I will give you an overview of why I invested so much money, time and energy into reloading my own shotgun shells. If you are looking for part 1 of this series, you can click here to access it.

This actually goes above and beyond my pistol and rifle reloading for a very low percentage of people actually reload their own shotshells compared to cased ammunition. This is due to many reasons, but the most common reason I hear is based upon the added complexity associated with shotshells. The excuse I used for many years was a little different. Because shotshell presses are very specific to size and gauge of shotshell, I did not see a benefit at first to investing that much money in an item that was so singularly designed and only fit a single purpose. I like to get into tools and activities that are multi purpose. With my case loaders I can do any number of cartridges just by swapping out a few components. To do the same on a shotshell reloader I have to buy an entirely new press.

If I had not run into this tremendous deal on my MEC 9000GN where I got it for about 50% of MSRP, I would probably not have gotten into shotshell reloading. I would have said that I was going to get the equipment, but I would have balked at the price every time I got ready to buy one. This is not because it is a useless investment, but it simply is an investment of time AND money that I was not sure I wanted to make. Learning to load shotshells is quite a bit different from cases and thus creates a learning curve that I was not totally sure justified the end result. As a disclaimer, I do see a huge advantage to reloading your shotshells. The guys I see with special loads seem to drop more birds that those of us that are content to buying the cheapest thing we can find. Reloading is definitely a better choice.

There are several companies that produce reloading equipment for shotshells. Lee, Ponsness Warren and MEC are probably the most common reloading presses out there. MEC kind of holds the top spot at this time with regard to how many loaders are out there in people’s homes and how many companies sell their products. This makes it easier for you if you do get a MEC, although I am not familiar enough with the other models and makers to really explain why one is better than another. I can regurgitate the information spewed out by my family members for I caught all sorts of hell by not buying a Ponsness Warren.

From what I can gather from my family, the Ponsness Warren reloaders will do a “tapered crimp” that the MEC “won’t do.” Online I found that a simple adjustment allows me to do a “tapered crimp” so I don’t see this as an issue. My family also states that the hull is supported all the way through the entire reload process so it will have no issues with being loaded via a magazine. I am told that my MEC has a collet resizer and just in case, I got a MEC Super Sizer. Problem solved with this one. The last thing I have been told is that the PW is MUCH stouter and tougher than the MEC, although I see many MEC reloaders that are over 40 years old and have produced 1000’s of shells. The construction of the MEC is also much simpler and allows me the ability to use Universal Charge Bars to make swapping loads easier and less costly since no new bushings will need to be purchased. Honestly, I don’t see what the fuss one way or another is all about.

Here are a few pictures of my reloading area. Many of the pieces are not totally set up yet because of new purchases, modifications or upgrades.

Case Loading Area

Case Loading Area

Shotshell Loading Area

Shotshell Loading Area

If you decide to take the plunge into reloading, whether it be shotshell or case, it is very important to make sure you don’t just blow $1k without an actual plan. Let’s take my case loading area for instance. When I first started loading, I picked up a Lee Classic reloading kit for about $100. They are a bit more expensive now. Even though I now have 3 other presses, 1 of which is a progressive, I still use the items from that initial kit even today. The hand primer that comes in the kit is actually the quickest and slickest ways to prime cases. I love it and actually use the crap out of it when I am doing my precision reloads for hunting. Take this approach if you get into shotshell reloading as well. If you decide that you want to “take the plunge” ensure that you get something that can be used later one. For instance, getting a MEC Steelmaster for 3 1/2″ 12 gauge shells can be used for quite a while to make very precise goose loads. MEC 9000 series progressive can be swapped for 2 3/4″ and 3″, but will not do 3 1/2″ shells. This means that the initial investment for reloading goose loads can actually get you into the game fairly inexpensively, but will continue to get use even if you spring for a progressive MEC 9000 series.

Hopefully, this helps you to make up your mind and lets you get your start in shotshell reloading. Just remember that about 90% of what people claim as “fact” about their preferred brand is actually not fact. It is mostly opinion or false claims. Do you homework and ensure you get what fits your needs and budget.

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