Some of us, myself included, don’t have enough space inside our home to set up a dedicated reloading room. Because of this, many of us have to set up our reloading equipment somewhere less than ideal, such as an outbuilding or in a garage.
Fortunately, reloading in a garage or similar space is perfectly fine. You just need to use common-sense methods to preserve your reloading equipment and components and stay safe.
Here are some things that you can do to protect your reloading equipment and components if you have to reload in your garage or outbuilding as well as some tips to stay safe while doing it.
Protecting Your Reloading Equipment in a Garage
Use Dust Covers
If you are going to set up your reloading equipment in a garage or outbuilding, your first enemy is going to be dust. Dust is a problem for two reasons. First, it can cause wear on your equipment. Second, it can absorb moisture which will lead to rust. Because of this, you will want to prevent dust from coming into contact with your reloading equipment, including your press, powder measure, scale, and case trimmer.
You can easily reduce the amount of dust that will come into contact with your equipment by using dust covers. I have vinyl covers produced by RCBS that are designed to fit on their equipment. I have used them for several years, and they have done a great job. If you don’t want to buy dedicated dust covers or can’t find any for your equipment, covering it with a hand towel should work as well.
Apply Lubricant to Presses and Other Equipment
The second enemy you will have to deal with when reloading ammunition in a garage or outbuilding is moisture. Reloading presses are made of a mix of cast iron and steel, both of which are highly susceptible to rust.
To prevent your equipment from rusting, use a rag to apply a layer of oil to the surface of your equipment. Most of the time, I will use the same oil that I do for my guns, Breakfree CLP. Be careful to not put too thick of a layer of oil on your equipment, or it will attract dust.
Store Dies in a Tool Box
After you have protected your larger pieces of reloading equipment, you will need to take care of your dies. Just like presses and powder measures, reloading dies must be protected from dust and moisture.
One of the best ways to protect your dies is to keep them in their factory boxes when not in use. From there, you can keep them in a toolbox or tool chest. This helps keep them organized and puts another layer of protection between them and the elements.
Lubricate Your Dies and Accessories
Just like your larger reloading equipment, smaller items such as dies and shell holders will need to be lubricated as well. For dies, a good spray-on lubricant will work well. Just be sure to not over-apply. While many people use WD-40 for this, I advise against it. WD-40 can become gunky over time, which can be a big pain, especially if it gets inside of a die.
When lubricating smaller reloading accessories, such as shell holders and case trimmer pilots, I would recommend applying lubricant with a cleaning patch or rag. If there is already surface rust present, this will allow you to scrub off the existing rust while adding a protective layer of lubricant.
Keep Your Small Accessories Organized
If you are anything like me, your garage can sometimes become a black hole. Things get sucked in and I have no idea where they end up. Because of this, it is very important to keep smaller parts organized to prevent loss. Plastic parts organizers. like the ones used in tackle boxes work very well for this. I use one to keep my case trimmer shell plates and hand primer parts handy and safe from dust and moisture.
Use a Cabinet to Store Non-Stationary Equipment
Some pieces of reloading equipment, such as presses can be difficult to move because they are bolted down. However, other pieces of equipment such as scales, case trimmers, case prep centers, and tumblers are easy to move.
Cabinets are an excellent place to store these types of equipment and can be located on a wall or on the ground near your reloading bench. This will help protect them from dust and moisture as well as accidental damage that can occur.
Keep Powder and Primers Inside
Gun powder and primers contain chemicals that may be affected by temperature changes and moisture. Since garages often experience very cold temperatures in the winter and very hot temperatures in the summer, it is best to store gunpowder and primers inside the house.
You can keep your powder and primers safe and out of the way by storing them in ammo cans and keeping them in a closet. Bullets and brass aren’t going to be damaged by keeping them in a garage. Just keep them in their box and they should be fine. I have bullets that are probably as old as I am, have been kept in non-climate controlled environments for years, and only have slight discoloration.
Store Measuring Tools Inside
Reloading is an exact science, so you want your measuring equipment to be in perfect condition. Keep your calipers and case gauges inside to avoid rust getting inside them. If this happens, their accuracy could be greatly reduced.
Don’t Neglect Your Equipment
If you are reloading in garage or outbuilding, especially one that isn’t air-conditioned, reloading may be a seasonal activity. Summers may be too hot to handle spending too much time out there or winters could be too cold. Because of this, you may go months without using your reloading equipment.
If you aren’t able to use your equipment for long periods of time, be sure to inspect it at least once a month. This will prevent rust from taking up residence on your press or other items and permanently damaging them. If you live in an area with high humidity it may be necessary to check on your equipment more frequently.
I knew a guy who owned a Dillon progressive press and had to store it in a shed. When he pulled it out, rust had completely ruined it. Be sure to keep an eye on your expensive reloading equipment so that doesn’t happen to you.
Check the Weather Seals
Although a garage or outbuilding will experience wide variations in temperature and more humidity than the rest of a house, you can reduce some elements exposure. To do this, make sure that your weather seals are in good shape.
If you aren’t sure how to do this, turn off the light and step into the garage. If there is light seeping in from the bottom of the garage door or around its edges, you may want to replace the seals.
Staying Safe While Reloading in a Garage
Do Not Set Up Near a Flame Source
Many people have hot water heaters or other appliances in their garage that could become hazardous should they come into contact with gunpowder or primers. Because of this, do not put your reloading setup anywhere near them. While you are reloading, be careful to not set components near those appliances.
Have Good Ventilation
Although many people do not consider ventilation to be an issue while reloading, it can be when case tumbling. Case tumbling rubs fouling off the surface of brass cases. This fouling, which contains lead, becomes dust during the tumbling process. Lead dust is incredibly small and can be hazardous to your health if you breathe it in.
When you tumble your cases, separate the media near the edge of the garage with the door open or right outside of it. Also, be sure to wear a dust mask that can protect you from breathing in any dust.
Clean Up Spilled Powder and Primers
No matter how careful you are, you are going to end up with some powder on your bench or floor. You may also end up dropping a primer. Stray powder and primers must be cleaned up after each reloading session. Failure to do this could result in a fire. I prefer to sweep this up instead of vacuuming it. My uncle had a big scare one time when he accidentally sucked a primer into a shop vac.