Get In The Zone

When I first started handloading I carved out a little space in the garage to mount my Lee single stage press and accessories on to and quickly discovered the wrong way to setup a handloading work center that enabled me to stay organized and assemble quality ammunition. I enlisted an old hollow core door and slung it over a couple of flimsy wire shelves, mounting my press and powder measure and got started. Over the next few months I discovered that I wasn’t getting consistent powder throws, was knocking things over when my makeshift “bench” was bumped, and began to understand true frustration when trying to get a decent weight on my balance beam scale. As my collection of dies and equipment grew so did the problems with my workspace, so one day after having enough of the poorly lit and thrown together workspace I decided to step back and go back to the proverbial drawing board. I’m happy to report that will minimal effort and expense I was able to assemble a work area that made handloading and gun maintenance a treat. I thought that I would share my experience with you all and how I arrived at my current system in a multipart article over the next couple of weeks where I’ll discuss in detail how I believe the best way to setup a quality reloading workbench. Now before anyone suggests that this is not the best or only way to setup your bench let me just say that this is what worked for me to meet my needs and is just a guide to get you started creating your ultimate reloading bench.

This week we’ll get started by discussing what “zones” to consider when designing your workspace. I refer to a “zone” as a space where you will complete a singular function and have all of the materials and/or tools to completes a specific task. You must also decide if these zones will be dedicated or will be rotated between functions. For me I dedicated the space to have all of my zones permanently setup so I could quickly move from one zone to the next without having to change equipment or tooling. After some consideration I decided that I would setup the following zones;

  • Brass cleaning
  • Storage
  • Gun maintenance
  • Case prep
  • Charging
  • Presses (progressive and single stage)
  • Cartridge organization.

Brass cleaning – The first zone I setup is dedicated to cleaning my fired brass. It consists of my tumbler and a media separator.
Gun maintenance – This zone consists of a cleaning mat and a Tipton Ultimate Gun Vise. It is also directly under a shelf that holds solvents/patches/lubricants/cleaning tools/etc.
Case prep – This zone contains all of the tools I use to trim/debur/chamfer/etc my cases to prepare them for handloading.
Charging – The zone that holds the tools for charging my cartridges. It is home to my scales and RCBS ChargeMaster and sits between my two press zones.
Presses – The area that contains my presses. I have this split into two zones, one for my progressive press and one for my single stage presses.
Storage – I have several area that I use for storage of my consumables, cases, cleaning and maintenance products. This consists of several shelves under and above the bench.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of the ultimate reloading bench, Layout and Construction, where I go into detail about how to arrange your zones and bench construction options.

Ultimate Reloading Bench Series – Part 1
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