As we progress in our hobby of reloading eventually we come to the point of wanting to produce our own bullets. This is usually in the form of casting projectiles out of lead. This is done for several reasons, we want to save money, we want to be more self-reliant and be able to produce an item which may not be readily available to us, or may not be available at all, or the main reason we do it is because we can. For the purpose of this article we will assume that we have cast the bullets and are ready to continue “processing” them.
Our shiny new bullets need to be made round and to a uniform diameter to provide the best accuracy, and they need to be lubricated to help them exit the barrel without depositing a significant amount of lead on the way out. There are several ways to accomplish this, and they all have advantages and disadvantages.
We can tumble lube them using liquid alox, this is an inexpensive method which requires a tumble lube type bullet and as the name implies the bullets are “tumbled” in the alox to coat them. The bullets are not sized any further than “as cast” so they may not achieve the best possible accuracy, or they can be sized using a push-thru die in a standard reloading press, and then tumble lubed. This method is probably best used for handgun bullets where extreme accuracy is not the primary goal.
We can pan lube our bullets where we stand our bullets upright in some sort of tray and then pour our heated bullet lube into the tray bringing the level of lube just to the top of the upper lube groove of our bullets. after the lube has hardened we take our “cookie cutter” and press it around each bullet effectively cutting out each bullet, which can then be sized with a push thru sizing die as mentioned above. Both of these methods as well as probably several others, and variations can all be used to produce usable projectiles. I will say that I have very limited experience with the above methods as I very quickly moved past them to use what I consider to be proper lubri-sizers.
There are others out there, but they are directed more towards the commercial market. I have experience, and own three of the four brands. The one I have never used is the Saeco. I have several Saeco molds, as well as their hardness tester and find them to be exceptional quality and have no doubt that there sizer will also meet their excellent standards. the complaint I have with them is that they use proprietary dies and top punches, where as the RCBS, and Lyman dies and top punches are interchangeable and more readily available.
My personal preference right now is the RCBS, as I own the Lube-A-Matic-2 which feels a little nicer to me than the Lyman. The Lyman 4500 has an updated linkage over the Lyman 450 which I have, and I suspect that it will have a very similar feel to the RCBS so I think either of these sizers will be a good choice for the reloading bench.
The fourth sizer is the Star lubri-sizer, this is a push thru sizer so it is substantially faster than the other three sizers above and I consider it a medium to high production machine. It also uses proprietary dies. this sizer will most effectively serve the reloader who shoots large quantities of ammunition. The down side to this sizer is cost, and a longer setup time to tune it during caliber changes. It will also be limited to bullets which do not use gas checks or freechex.
All four of the above sizers can be purchased new, but they are also available on the used market for a slight savings. I don’t see many exceptional deals here as they usually hold their value. You will also find some earlier model sizers for sale. the most common seems to be the Lyman 45. This sizer accepts the Lyman and RCBS dies, but it does not use the o-rings of the later sizers so it is reasonable to expect some lube to leak around the top and bottom of the die unless some other measure is taken to seal these areas, especially if you are utilizing a heated base. I am in the process of rebuilding a Lyman 45 now and will post the video of this process when the project is complete.
I utilize heated bases on my sizers and am in the process of converting them all to PID controls. My star sizer I purchased with a heated base and bullet feeder, I recently removed the rheostat and installed a PID controller, The Lyman 450 has a Lyman heated base and PID control, The RCBS has a homebrew heated base and PID, The Lyman 45 which I am rebuilding has a homemade heated base and I am wiring the PID. My last sizer is a Lyman 450 which was primarily a casting with a few parts in a box. it will be assembled shortly and put into service. Hopefully this will give you some information so you can make a more informed decision as to what will be the best choice to mount on your reloading bench. Dan.