Thankfully, the holiday season is over and things have turned back to normal, if there is such a thing.

Of course, that season is the shopping season. Many hunters and firearms users are also drafted into the shopping, if only to save a marriage or relationship and prevent a long night sleeping on the couch. While shopping, one can’t help but look around a bit and just might have overlooked a few items in the local stores that they could use while puttering about at the loading bench. It is easy to overlook many items that make the reloading process a bit easier, and maybe a bit cheaper, than what is found in a sports shop.

It wasn’t Christmas time a couple of years ago when I found, in a bin at a local hardware store, a small mallet that I have that has become a welcome addition to my collection of tools for the loading bench. It is small, which is perfect, with a brass head on one side and a hard nylon head on the other. If one of my readers knows what this gadget is actually for, then please feel free to let me know. All I know is, it is perfect for drifting sights or dovetailing blanks. I also use it when loosening a case from the caseholder to my Wilson spinner. Looking around, I have never found another one but maybe you have. If you see one grab it. When I purchased mine it was priced at a bargain price of $3.00.

Many times you are paying for the name, for instance micrometers and calipers of equal quality can be bought at a hardware store at a better price than is found with a re-loading name at a sports store. On the other hand, beware of electronic scales from the hardware store. They often work with weights other than grains. A scale that reads in ounces or no lower than grams can lead to frustration as the hand loader tries to convert the weight into grains.

While on the subject, I always save old Lee Loaders and have often had one save the day. For example, most Lee Loaders contain a rod with a small pin at the end. Break a de-capping pin, and if you don’t have a replacement, use the rod to remove the spent primer and you are back in business. Oh, and incidentally that little mallet comes in handy when doing this.

Hemostats are a handy and useful item when fishing but also when you lose a cleaning patch in a locking lug redress. That’s also where I use a thing that I call a dental pick. I find a penlight all but indispensable on the loading bench. When I am done charging cases with powder, I look in each case making sure not only that the powder level appears the same in each case but more commonly that each case has powder. A penlight, with its narrow beam, works much better for this job than a general flashlight.

If I were to build my loading bench all over, then it would have an attached paper towel holder. As it is, I am always chasing a roll of towels rolling across my floor.

Screwdrivers are a necessity when taking a trip to the rifle range. One never knows when he will find a loose screw. You don’t need to purchase a set of screwdrivers at a sports shop because the ones at the hardware store will work and usually are lower in price. Muffs to protect the ears can be found almost everywhere as can polarized glasses. It is a wise thing to wear safety glasses when shooting, especially when shooting somebody’s re-loads.

The longest-owned tool in my loading junk is a laboratory spatula. I have used it since 1956, when I started to work as a chemist for a steel company. I have loaded thousands of rounds with it, and it’s what I use to weigh powder. If you can find something useful like this common tool, then grab it.

The latest edition to my loading bench is one of those gizmos that is worn on the head and not only lights up but also magnifies. The darned thing frees my hands when examining something such as the stamping on the head of a casing. It is amazing just how hard that information can be to read.

Next, I’ll be looking for some new junk at the gun show, Jan. 11-12 at Arden, to add to my collection of loading bench tools. After all, it still could be the shopping season.

George Block writes a weekly outdoors column for the Observer-Reporter.

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