Reloading Out of Frank’s Ditty Bag

© 2014 – Ed Harris

Frank Marshall spent many pleasant afternoons plinking with his .30-30 Savage 340 or Winchester 94 rifles as he reloaded rounds at the range with his Ideal Tong Tool.   Lyman’s 310 tool was the portable reloading outfit of choice at the range or deer camp into the 1960s.


Click on photos for a larger pic

The original Ideal tong tool, patented March 11, 1884 had dies machined integral with its steel handles. The early tools featured a single-cavity bullet mold on the end and a bullet-sizer hole through the tool handle.  Ideal’s No. 1 was adapted to pistol cartridges from .32 S&W through .41 Long Colt.  The No. 4 was for longer cartridges from .25-20 through .44-40 and .45 Colt.  The No. 6 tool was a rifle tool for .32-40 through .50-110 Winchester. Before WWI these sold for $2.25 to $3.00, depending upon caliber. 

Steel Handled Ideal Loading Tool for the 30-30:

(Click on photos for a larger picture)










After World War II today’s familiar threaded-handle design with removable die sets was adopted and designated as the Model 310 tool.  The Tru-Line Junior turret press used the same dies, which were  available for most then-popular calibers.  According to “The 310 Shop” boxed sets with steel handles were sold from 1947 to 1957 under the name “Lyman Ideal”.  Aluminum handles were introduced in 1958 and sold into the early 1970s. The 310 was reintroduced when Cowboy Shooting became popular.

Lyman’s Kake Cutter was a simple, threaded push-through, cast bullet sizer for the 310 tool. 

When pan-lubing bullets, the Kake-Cutter was used to pop bullets out of a block of solid lube poured around the bullets and allowed to solidify in a cake pan. These gadgets and the 310 tool are what Frank Marshall taught me and my school mates to use as kids in the 1960s, but I never owned one until recently.  Now that I am retired and having time to tinker, I asked around and found myself a steel tool set in .30-30 and am enjoying childhood memories and sharing the nostalgic experience. 

Lyman "tong tools" and die sets frequently emerge from estate sales, yard sales and can be found at gun shows or on the internet. If you want to experience the nostalgia in loading for Dad’s WWII bring-back in .30-'06, 8mm Mauser, 7.7 Jap, .303 British, those dies are most common IF you know what to look for.  Tong tool dies are not marked by caliber, but are identified by their part number. So, unless you locate a boxed set, you must research the compatible die parts in an old catalog and search gun shows to assemble your kit. This may require lapping out a “muzzle resizer” to best fit your particular brass and bullet.  An assortment of diameter muzzle resizers for .30-30, .30-40, .30-’06 and .303 British is handy.

Neck size dies can sometimes be used to improvise in loading similar rounds of the same nominal caliber and head dimensions.  The .250 Savage and .257 Roberts dies can be adapted to each other, and the Roberts dies work on .25-06.  A .32 S&W die set can load .32 ACP, .32 H&R Magnum, .32-20 etc. The .30-40 Krag and .303 British dies each will load the other. There may be other possibilities.

Today’s Lyman 310 tool has aluminum handles, machined from a die casting, with dies being offered today only in the popular “Cowboy” calibers.  The Lyman 310 Tool

The 310 Shop offers new dies and handles as well as complete sets in most traditional and modern calibers, including many which were never available in from Lyman.  A link with more practical information on using the 310 tool is: “How To Reload With A Lyman 310 Tool by Ric Bowman (LASC Website).”

Lyman never produced carbide sizer dies for its tong tool. Because they only neck-size, you must use cases originally fired in your gun, unless you full-length size range pickup brass on another press first. When using plain steel dies, fired cases must be clean and well lubricated to avoid grit scratching the dies or your brass. 

Mechanical advantage and extraction power of the tong tool is also very limited. While you can brute-force an over-expanded empty into a 310 tool, you probably won’t get it out, because the extractor hook will jump off the rim and the handles don’t have enough mechanical advantage to either force the case in or to pull it out!  A shooting buddy from high school days recalled reloading for a .44 magnum M29, that to use the 310 without excessive cursing, it was important to load revolver cartridges conservatively. Five chambers in that M29 kicked out empties which worked fine with the 310 tool, but chamber number 6 was one which had survived an overload a mutual friend, the previous owner, used  to demonstrate what Elmer’s real .44 load should be! The inability to drag stuck cases out of the muzzle resizer is why it is critical to clean brass well (both inside and out!) to avoid introducing grit which WILL make cases stick in the muzzle resizer or on the expander plug!  And, don’t eat fried chicken while priming with the 310, because you are handling the primers with your fingers! Don’t ask me how I know…

It is important to clean primer pockets because the priming chamber engages only half of the case rim at a time, so you must push, then rotate the case and squeeze again to seat the primer so it is fully bottomed, flush and square.

Back in the day it was common to "dip measure" powder when using the tong tool.  As long as you know that your charge cup and powder combination produces a safe and useable load, this is OK. The Lee dipper set and charge tables are recommended these days.  For my nostalgia trip I soldered up some home-brew charge cups from empty cartridge cases and copper wire and weighed some samples. The results are fascinating!

Dip measure made from a .38 Special Case

A dip measure made from an empty .22 LR case throws about 3 grains of Bullseye. This is a safe load for a .32-20 revolver, .32 H&R Magnum or .38 Special with standard-weight lead bullet for the caliber.  It also works well to improvise "cat's sneeze" loads with single-0 buckshot in almost any .30 cal. rifle case. 

A measure made from a .32 ACP case throws 6 grains of Bullseye, a full charge load for modern cowboy revolvers and lever-actions chambered in .44-40 and .45 Colt, and a nice plinker in the .44 Magnum.  It also makes a great small game load with 110-120 grain cast bullets in .30 cal. rifles of .30-30 size and up.

A .32 S&W Long case throws 11.5 grains of #2400, a useful “medium-velocity” load with standard-weight lead bullets in the .357 Magnum. It is also fine for soft, plain-based bullets in the .30-30, .32 Winchester Special, .32-40, .30-40, 7.62x54R, 7.7 Jap, 7.65 Argentine  or .303 British.

A 7.62x25 Tokarev case throws 14.5 grs. of #2400, a full charge .357 Magnum load and mild gas checked bullet plinker in any .30 cal. from 7.62x39 to .30-’06.

A .38 Special case throws about 21 grains of #2400, a full charge load for the .44 Magnum revolver, or a useful jacketed bullet or gas-checked cast-bullet plinker in the  7.62x54R,  8mm Mauser or .30-’06.

A 7.62x39 case throws 29 grains of RL-7, which is a full charge load with 150-grain jacketed bullets in the .30-30.  This also makes a good heavy hunting load with gas-checked bullets in any .30  cal. Rifle from the .30-40 Krag through  the .30-06.  It also throws 28 grs. of IMR4064, which is a full-charge, gas-checked  load using the #31141 bullet in the .30-30, and a good target load with gaschecks in any .30 caliber from the Krag up through the .30-’06. 

Better than the tong tool, more versatile and highly recommended for modern users, not into the fire-side cowboy nostalgia, is the Lee hand Press, described here:

Lee Hand Press @ Cabelas                How to Use a Lee Hand Press (eHow)          You-Tube Demo Here

The Lee hand press uses standard 7/8-14 threaded dies and common shell holders, so that you can use dies which you already have.  I recommend carbide dies in pistol and revolver calibers, whenever possible. The Lee tool has ample leverage to full-length resize pistol cases and smaller rifle cases. The 9mm, .45 ACP, .357 magnum, 5.56mm or 7.62x39 brass size relatively easily. While .30-'06 brass fired from an M1 can also be resized on the Lee hand press, doing so takes significantly more effort.  However, the Lee hand press is an affordable starter-outfit, well designed for its task. 

A complete portable kit with dies, primers, powder, bullets, small loading block, etc., store easily in a .30 cal. ammo can, or in Frank’s old WWII GI gas mask bag, thrown over the shoulder or attached with a snap-link onto your wilderness ruck. Frank will forgive your buying the Lee hand press and passing up that 310 tong tool at the gun show.  He felt it a shame Lyman never made .223 Remington or 7.62x39 dies for it... In his later days “Bill Ruger’s Plinker” and the “Chinese Hurdy Gurdy” did strike his fancy.

Another approach for reloading “out of the box,” is to use a small arbor press with hand dies, such as those made by L.E. Wilson.  This method is most popular with bench-rest competitors, using bolt-action rifles, neck-sizing, match-prepped brass for one rifle only.  Setting up for a precision rifle this way is practical, but more expensive than using the Lee outfit.  Descriptions and how-to articles of arbor press equipment are at:

Sinclair Arbor Press (Brownells)      Sinclair International Webiste        


Reloading with Wilson Dies and an Arbor Press

(Russ Haydon’s Website)


Russ Hadon’s Website for Dies


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