Reloading For Your AR-15

BY Herschel Smith
6 months, 3 weeks ago

Shooting Illustrated recommends at least this.

A micrometer-adjustable seater, a freefloating/self-centering bullet-seating system and a bullet-retaining system … the RCBS MatchMaster Full Length Bushing Set .223 Rem.  MSRP: $169.95; …

Hornady .223 Rem. Brass … MSRP: $32.41 (per 50); …

Powered by two AAA batteries, measuring 2¼x4¼x¾ inches and weighing a mere 2.47 ounces, the Lyman Pocket Touch 1500 Digital Scale offers immense performance … MSRP: $30.95 …

The Frankford Arsenal M-Press Coaxial Reloading Press … MSRP: $262.99;

A replacement for the company’s popular Rapid Lube 5000, spraying a thin layer of Dillon Precision’s DCL Case Lubricant on brass prior to running it through your press’ sizing die … MSRP: $11.95; …

Does anybody who reloads for 5.56/.223 have any subtractions or additions to this list?  Any experienced reloaders care to weigh in?



  1. On January 10, 2020 at 9:53 pm, Lee said:

    That’s the list of bare necessities but here are some “nice to have” items unless you think sanity is overrated:

    Kinetic bullet puller. It’s only a matter of time before something gets screwed up…like setting the seating die too deep to start with.

    Brass trimmer and chamfer tool, unless you’re only planning to reload once.

    Comparator to measure the amount of shoulder bump. Too much overworks the brass and too little hinders a semiauto’s ability to return to battery.

    You’ll also need the proper bushing to be used with the sizing die. It’s dependent on your brass so it’ll need to be measured – or buy a couple of different sizes so you’ll have all the bases covered.

  2. On January 10, 2020 at 10:02 pm, Herschel Smith said:


    Thanks sir!

  3. On January 10, 2020 at 10:44 pm, Steve Hart said:

    You don’t need to spend that much, especially on a die set. I have loaded thousands and thousands of rounds of .223 on an inexpensive set of Lee dies. I didn’t say “cheap set” I said inexpensive set. Lee dies are great.

    If you are looking to use a single stage press there are cheaper options for that also.

    Don’t buy brass, go for free range pick ups. Bullets in bulk from several web sites.

    Case trimming system, primer pocket trimmer/swager for crimped primer pockets.

    Good digital scale, inertia bullet puller (nice when you need it), and lots of small knick knacks that you will use when you get into it.

    I use very inexpensive equipment and put my money in the consumables: bullets, primers, powder.

    I pay attention to detail and my loads are close to MOA in all of my scratch built AR’s.

    I have to cut corners where I can. My grandkids go through ammo like I go through pork rinds.

  4. On January 10, 2020 at 10:47 pm, Rocketguy said:

    The bushing die set and micrometer seater are overkill. I’ve been doing fine with a 3-die taper crimp kit of several years. In fact, I’m not totally familiar with that bushing sized die but I think it only neck sizes. For reliable semi-auto feed, you’re going to want to full length size.

  5. On January 10, 2020 at 11:46 pm, Longbow said:

    What are we doin’ with it? Are we trying to set bench rest records with our new Savage Axis?

    Or are we prepping a pretty good load for the Zombie Pockyclypse?

    I take once fired range brass, mixed head stamps (Oh, the horror!). I tumble them so that they are clean and shiny. I lube them with Hornady One Shot, about 30-50 at a time. I size them all. I case gauge them. The ones which size properly get used, the ones which don’t get scrapped. I trim them. I chamfer them. I tumble them again to shine them up.

    Then I load them. Since I am using mixed brass, military and civilian, I use the slowest powder I can use and still get good velocity from it. I load almost a full grain back from max. For example, loading a 62 grain bullet using CFE223, 25.9 grains would be max charge and I would use 25 even. This will give me about 3050 fps, while not over pressuring ANY of the brass used.

    I use Dillon equipment. I am somewhat partial to Lee’s Size and Factory Crimp dies, so I use those in some loading also.

    I have a Dillon balance scale, which I have used for 27 years. It is as accurate as I needs it to be. The Dillon powder measure gives me a consistent charge weight within a half a tenth of a grain, consistently. When I started loading, I was a Nervous Nelly and checked the powder charge on every third round. It got old. No need to do that.

    I don’t use a comparator. I seat at the desired COAL, and call it good.

    I do give the round a good crimp as this ensures a good ignition prior to bullet release.

    With Ball ammo, shooting an AR type rifle, if you are getting 1.25 – 1.5 inches at 100, you are doing well. All else being the same, a match grade bullet will cut that group size further. Wring out your current equipment first. Make sure YOU are shooting to your potential before you begin the equipment chase.

    Given the above parameters, shooting coyotes at 400 yards with your scoped flat top AR should be a cinch.

    Now, if you ARE wanting to set range records, and you WANT to go to all the trouble…

    Re-read Unintended Consequences, where Kurt Benke begins processing .348 Winchester cases for a 6mm wildcat he has created. Good stuff.

  6. On January 10, 2020 at 11:48 pm, Longbow said:

    I forgot to say, I use a Dillon Super Swage to punch out the primer pockets. Just part of the prep process.

  7. On January 11, 2020 at 12:23 am, ambiguousfrog said:

    Did quite a bit of reloading when Barry O’ was in office and ammo was too expensive. It was cheaper to reload if doing mass quantities. It might not be worth the time and expense now, but its a skill I’ll never forget.

    * Once fired brass ( cost varies based on how much prepping you want done to it (tumbled, swaged, full-length resized….). You can’t go wrong with 1k of once fired brass for about $80. If you pay for the prep, that’s less tools/steps until you acquire more. I would buy commercial brass and not military. Made mistake with 7.62×51 shot out of an mg and to full length resize I practically lifted the press off the table x 1000. Nice upper body workout though.

    * Frankford Arsenal has rotary sifter with bucket to clean spent brass. And they make a great brass polishing solution if you want it shiny.

    * Buy bulk bullets during specials (Midway USA and others).

    * I’ve found RCBS makes some great products and their warranty support is great (dies, press, and powder measure). And the person on the other end knows what they’re talking about if you have questions. I’ve seen some old single stage presses on Ebay.

    * I’ve found some scales can be temperamental. My experience is you get what you pay for. Go cheap and it’ll suffer from inaccuracies (powder falls inside or temperature affected). Hornady has a nice and pricey one where you can program the powder drops (gr.) and then weigh them, trickles too
    ( The Lyman digital scale is good too.

    * Hornady makes a good case paste lube for resizing. No mess.

    * The RCBS caliper is a good one and you gotta have it for your Overall Cartridge Length (pre and post bullet.

    * L.E. Wilson makes some solid case gages for checking headspace and if case needs trimming (

    * SAAMI Cartridge and Chamber Drawings comes in handy ( Gives you min/max lengths and other pertinent cartridge information. This with the caliper and you can’t go wrong. Print them and put them in a binder.

    * Hodgdon reloading data. Select cartridge, bullet weight, and powder. Result will be min/max pressures, grs., C.O.L., and velocity. (

    * Don’t spend money on expensive boxes or styrofoam. Combined with some used ammo cans, these are great ( You could keep your boxes from the range along with your spent brass.

    If you do go with once used brass, keep in mind the military brass has a crimp. They need to be reamed or swaged. Otherwise, the new primer may not seat properly or become deformed. Again, you can pay for this and not have to worry about decapping. Think of 1k rounds decappping, cleaning primer pocket, tumbling, resizing, powder charge, weighing, bullet seat, check length..etc. Can be tedious but fun. With a friend or child it makes for learning and making memories.

    Need more, let me know.

    Good luck.

  8. On January 11, 2020 at 1:23 am, Montana said:

    Bushing dies are really for brass with consistent neck wall thickness,this is achieved by turning the necks.if your not turning the necks you need to run a expander ball/stem to get consistent case neck tension.bushing dies are really for match grade ammo.your better off with a standard full length sizing die for wylde chambers,or a small base full length sizing die for .556 chambers.competition bullet seating dies are excellent for any application. you also need a crimp on ar ammo.collet crimp dies can be more forgiving on case length variables than taper crimp dies.the Sierra loading manual has a very good in-depth chapter on “loading for gas guns”.

  9. On January 11, 2020 at 9:08 am, Tom from east Tennessee said:

    An inexpensive but worthwhile thing is Imperial Sizing Die Wax. ($10 a can at Brownells, a can will last a loooong time)

    I also use the spray-on Hornady One Shot, but the Imperial wax is simply better/best at reducing friction and preventing stuck cases when resizing.
    It’s slower to use since you have to rub it on each case with your fingers but you can feel the difference when you pull the press handle to resize, smoother and easier with the wax.

    With 223/556 the friction and possibility of a stuck case may not be as big a deal, but I use it for any tapered case resizing. Definitely worth it for larger cases like 30 cal.

  10. On January 11, 2020 at 10:33 am, George said:

    Lots of good info here. I use Beaver River Brass Processing for prepping the brass. They size, trim, chamfer and swage each piece for 6cts each.
    They also convert 223 to 300 Blackout.
    Very professional service and quick turnaround.
    I usually send in 1000 pieces of .308 brass in a large USPS box. $20 bucks up and $20 bucks back. Makes the entire cost 10cts. each for completely processed brass. My time is worth more than that. I have yet to find any fault with their product. If a piece of brass fails for one reason or another, they discount the cost and send a refund check. This is really a nice step when using range pickups.

  11. On January 11, 2020 at 12:21 pm, Sanders said:

    I’m able to get brass from a local indoor range at around $2.00/lb.

    Cabela’s vibratory tumbler.

    Hornady has a primer pocket swaging system that works with my Lock-N-Load progressive press – as fast as I can pull the lever and feed the brass.

    A Lyman case length check gauge. Brass that needs trimmed goes in a separate bucket for trimming later.

    A Lyman case trimmer.

    Hornady One-Shot for case lube.

    I don’t have one yet, but RCBS makes a small base resizing die that is supposed to be great for semi-autos. Otherwise, I use Lee .223 dies with a Lee factory crimp die.

    I use an RCBS bar scale to check every 5th round. My powder charger is pretty consistent, but a habit is a habit, and it sure doesn’t hurt to have some quality control.

    A Hornady cartridge gauge for the final check. Drop the round into it, and it should headspace flush. It also gives me a chance to check that the primer was seated in all the way, and that the bullet is seated in far enough.

    As mentioned above – a kinetic bullet puller. I have a collet puller, but that was because I had to pull down a case of 500 surplus 7.62×51 rounds that the powder had deteriorated in to the point it wouldn’t cycle even in my FAL with the gas turned way down.

    I loaded many, many rounds using a cheap plastic caliper from NAPA to set and check OAL, before I got a digital one. Once the batteries died on the digital caliper, and I couldn’t find the old one and I had to go out in a snowstorm to get a new battery. So there is something to be said for “old tech”.

    Anyway, that’s just what I use. Are there some things I wish I had? Dang right. Are they necessary? Nope.

  12. On January 11, 2020 at 1:23 pm, Ned said:

    I like using a Lee factory crimp die. Never had a failure to feed using that die, (or not using it for that matter) and have shot quarter minute groups with reloads from a good quality AR15.

  13. On January 11, 2020 at 1:25 pm, Ned said:

    George, thanks for the tip on Beaver River Brass Processing.

  14. On January 11, 2020 at 4:40 pm, IndispensableDestiny said:

    All of my dies are Redding, but that is simply a choice. You do not need a micrometer seating die and bushing resizing die for AR-15 loads. If reloading your own once fired cases, use a factory round to set the seating die. Or, if changing bullets, make a dummy round and use that for setting up the seating die in the future.

    You do need a swager for much AR-15 once fired brass. I use the one made by Dillon.

    I like to run two presses. One for resizing, one for seating. I work in batches, not having to reset the dies is a plus.

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This article is filed under the category(s) Ammunition and was published January 10th, 2020 by Herschel Smith.

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