Reloading On the Run, by David L.

Your house might be secured. In your basement or workshop you have your reloading outfit, your press, your scale and all of your dies. You can load thousands of rounds in a couple of days if you choose. So what if you have to leave your home in case of the proverbial excrement hitting the rotating circulating blades? How will you pack up your reloading outfit? How much ammunition can you possibly carry if the need arose? Ammunition runs out, especially if you can’t get to the store to replenish that supply and you are away from home.  

In the case of an emergency, you need to be able to go mobile with everything, even your reloading gear needs to be able to move. Now mind you, you are not going to be able to take everything, but you don’t need it all. I will show you what you need to condense your reloading outfit from a full sized bench to a back pack. What you will need are the basics to be able to keep your ammo supply stocked up away from home. You will be able to pack all of this necessary gear in five minutes and be out the door.

When I worked a part time overnight job that only required my presence next to a telephone a couple of years ago, most of the night was spent sitting behind a desk listening to the radio and fighting to keep my eyelids open. Eventually I decided that I would bring my reloading supplies with me, and while I didn’t completely load the rounds, I at least prepared the cases so that when I was at home, I spent less time at the bench. This allowed me to spend more time actually loading up live rounds, and if I could do the prep work behind that desk, than it would not be that much harder to load my own ammunition away from home.

Before you start packing any gear away you will need to decide which guns you are going to grab if you need to leave home in a hurry. Some calibers will be tougher than others to carry large amounts of supplies for. For instance, you can get away with packing a lot more bullets and brass for a .223 Remington than a .45-70 and it will take up far less powder for each round that you load. I would also recommend that you not make a portable kit based around an exotic gun or a wildcat that ammunition is already tough to get ammunition for, so leave that .416 Rigby behind and grab your .30-30 Winchester instead.

I have few rifles in my collection, and I have not yet started loading shotguns shells, so most of what I reload for is my revolvers. I have several guns chambered in .38 Special and .357 Magnum so if I had to grab a gun or two, you can bet that they would on the top of the list. I won’t go through all of the merits for picking those, but I can reload all of them with only one or two different powders.  Let’s go through the checklist of what you will need to reload while away from home.

Case Preparation

I keep a few pieces of 0000 stainless steel wool in my pack for cleaning up the cases in case that they need it, which after a few minutes gets them decent enough to run through my reloading dies. I do keep a couple of bottles of case lube, which makes life a lot easier than trying to force the cases in. The last thing you want is to have to try and fix a die while you are away from your bench and tools.
The next things you will need of course are a set of reloading dies and a press. You can get away with an outfit like the Lee Loader which is good for a single caliber only, but they are time consuming and can be noisy. I prefer the Lee Hand Press, which is much faster and is nearly silent. As for the reloading dies, that choice is up to you as most have the same quirks. I will say that I prefer Lee because I do not need any tools to make adjustments, and little tools and wrenches can get lost if not careful.

Lee makes a very nice set of case trimmers and cutters you will need one for each caliber. Get the large cutter with the ball end that looks something like a gear shift knob, it will make your life easier. You will need a primer pocket cleaner and a deburring tool, but these are small and take up little room. I have two of each in case one gets lost.
You will need a good caliper to measure your cases, get one with a dial and not one that is battery powered. I would recommend one of the small plastic calipers that can simply measure the length as a back up, as they are light and take up very little space.

Once you have your cases resized, trimmed and ready to go, now you will need to have them primed. You can add a priming attachment to the Hand Press, but I prefer the Lee Auto Prime hand priming tool. If you are not partial to Lee, RCBS makes a similar tool, but it is much more expensive. If you get the Lee Auto Prime tool, remember that it requires separate shell holders that are different than the ones for your press. Once your case is primed then you can move on to the next step.

Adding Powder

Before you add powder, you are going to have to find a way to measure it. I would take two scales. The first would be my RCBS 750. Even though it is a digital scale, it is small and has a 9V battery backup, and I keep a fresh battery in it at all times while I use the plug in adaptor at home. My second scale is a Lee Safety Scale. It is cheap, and it does not need any oil as it is a magnetic beam scale. It is also small and light and fits in a pack easily, even in its box.

You will of course need some loading data to know what your loads are going to be. What I have done is take all of the loads I might need for my guns and write them down on a small notepad. I include the load data from all of my loading manuals so that I don’t have to bring all of those manuals along, just the compact little notepad.

As far as powder, I would only take two different powders, a pound of Winchester 231 and a pound of 2400. The reason for that if I had to take a long gun and a couple of handguns, I can reload my .22 Hornet and .357 Magnum with 2400, and my .38 Special with the Winchester 231. I would only need one type of primer, as all three use small pistol primers. You would need to sort out for yourself which calibers you would take, but if you could narrow it down to just a couple of choices, you would be well off.


I know some people here would opt for carrying around some lead and a bullet mold, but since I don’t know if I am going to end up where there is a chance to build a fire where I can sit and mold by own lead, I would rather bring some bullets with me. Again this is where the .38 and .357 are handy because I can pack a couple hundred different bullets of the same caliber without breaking my back. If you feel like carrying more bullets, then by all means, carry more. This is going to be your portable outfit. I feel that if I have to pack around over five hundred pistol bullets, than it means I will be out in the elements for a very long time.

I would take every opportunity to load at home when you can with the Hand Press so that you can get familiar with it. I have sat many times when I got home from work after my wife was asleep in my living room resizing and priming cases. It is a different feeling than using a typical bench mounted press. The more that you use it, the quicker you will get loading up ammunition. I can tell that loading fifty rounds with the hand press and a small balance beam scale is going to seem very tedious especially if you are used to a digital scale and a progressive press. What used to take you only a small amount of time will now seem like it takes hours. You will have to get used to it.

There a couple of other little things that you should have in your pack. Make sure that you have a small plastic powder funnel, and a few small powder scoops in addition to the one that comes with the reloading dies. An overlooked but necessary item is a bullet puller, the best is the RCBS. In addition to the three part shell holder that comes with it, the RCBS bullet puller can also be used with a standard shell holder that comes with the reloading dies. You just tighten the cap and it works even better than what comes with the puller. You need the bullet puller in case you need to pull some of your own rounds, but also if you come across ammunition that you can break down for the components (say you find some .357 Magnum ammo and you only have a .38 Special, you can trim down the brass and use the bullets once they are separated).

My portable reloading outfit has been tuned down so that it weighs less than twenty pounds and can fit in my backpack. That includes two sets of dies, the Hand Press, the Auto Prime, two pounds of powder, primers, and all the little tools. I have made it so I can grab that pack and head out in a hurry, a complete reloading outfit ready to go when I need it.