“What Gift Do I Get For…” (with Colonel Smoothbore)
By angelamontana

Posted: November 25, 2018

Christmas is quickly approaching, and with it the conundrum “…what gift do I get for…” Here are a few suggestions that might please the reloader or shooter you care so much about.

If your honey does not yet reload but would like to get started in the hobby, I suggest one of the many kits available. Lee, Hornady, RCBS, Lyman, and others offer starter kits that come with great instructions, are easy to set up, and are very affordable. All one needs to add is a set of dies, some brass, powder, primers and bullets. Prices for these kits start around $ 125.00 and go up from there. I suggest a single stage for the beginner who doesn’t need to load thousands of rounds each year. For shotgunners, try a MEC 600 JR; this is a very high quality loader for under $200.00 dollars.

As one becomes more adept at handloading, there are some time saving tools that are great additions to the loading bench. Progressive loaders make loading hundreds of rounds per hour possible. Case preparation is an area where some new tools really cut reloading time. In the past, I have strongly praised the ultrasonic case cleaners and I still do. They cut brass cleaning time by well over 90%. However, one has to wait for the brass to dry. I used to dry mine with a heat gun, but I have found a great tool that dries the brass for me. An inexpensive dehydrator will dry cases in a couple of hours; try Harbor Freight, about 25 bucks.

Measuring powder charges that approach the maximums suggested in reloading manuals can be a tedious and time consuming process. An automatic powder dispenser really speeds up the process. I have a Lyman Gen 5 machine that I really like. Not only does it dispense very accurate charges; the consistency of the loads is amazing. Other auto powder dispensers are available from Hornady, RCBS, and others. Prices start around $200.00.

Finally, here’s a product that every shooter can use. The Caldwell Ballistic Precision Chronograph is one of the best deals I have come across in a long time. I bought my basic kit for about $ 70.00. It is a very handy lightweight unit that comes with a tote/storage bag, sunshades, and a cable that attaches to a cell phone or tablet. An app for either Android or I-phone is available for free download. The app will give you average, extreme spread, standard deviation, and some other data that will be very helpful in working up your loads. Strings can be saved on the app and either texted or emailed. I find having the ability to check velocities out of my guns is really a great asset. I can plug the data into online ballistic programs and get some really good D.O.P.E. (Data Of Previous Engagements) for my rifles, handguns, and shotgun reloads. I can also make sure that my pistol loads meet either minor or major USPSA power factors. For about $ 135.00, one can purchase the premium kit that includes a tripod and light kit that enables use of the chronograph indoors.

These are just a few ideas for gifts for the shooters in your life. Next column I’ll offer some suggestions for inexpensive stocking stuffers for your shooting sweetie. Check your local merchants and also the internet; there are lots of deals this holiday season, make one and the shooter in your life will have a very Merry Christmas.

Be safe and good shooting.

Colonel Smoothbore