Lyman Pistol & Revolver; IMO, the best single choice for handgun.
For the second, it gets tougher. Accurate offers a superb manual, but with ONLY their powders.
Speer offers a great one also, but with ONLY their bullets.
Hodgdon's 'Annual Manual' has data only, but it costs less than $10.
The LEE books are fercrap.
So I recommend the Sierra manual, even though they, too, offer data using their bullets ONLY, but their data seems to 'translate' better to other bullet brands better than the rest.
For your application (non-"Ruger Only" loads) I suggest Hodgdon's Annual and Lee's Second Edition and stick to the SAAMI spec loads. You can also pick up the more recent "Handloader" magazine for some published 45 Colt +P loadings.
The hodgen we site has an extensive library of reloading material. All you need to do is type in your cartridge and it will list numerous loads for different bullets and powders. Other then that I like the Lee reloading manuel it lists many more calibers then some of the others. Steve
Another thought would be to order the "Loadbooks USA" for your caliber. It offers the load data from all major powder and bullet manufacturers. I have one for each of my calibers (except .30 Carbine and .45ACP) and find them handy for finding loads and comparing.
I second the Lyman book. It also has an excellent handloader instruction section up front. Read that section and follow what it says and you will do fine. The second book would be for what ever jacketed bullet you plan to use the most. Sierra makes an excellent book, probably the one referred to by more reloaders. You can also reference the different powder mfg websites for recommended loads but they are somewhat limited. If cast bullets in common weights are all you plan to load, the Lyman book will do it all. I use it more than anything else, and mine is an old one.
One thing to remember about manuals is they fall into the same category as most everything else "reloading related": there are many ways to skin the cat, and folks develop their preferences for a variety of reasons, most being ok to good.
My preferences are often based on what I need at the moment:
Lyman (several versions, such as handgun, shotgun, cast bullet): good mix of data w/ a variety of components, lots of great "how to" info. They do their own testing so you're getting "yes, we tested it" data, w/ pressures, velocities, and other vital info. Advertises Lyman products w/o being too hard sell about 'em.
Lee: a fair amount of good "how to" info, 'specially for the guy just starting out. Some interesting opionions--Mr. Lee was not bashful about sharing them when he started writing. Lots of load data in one place, but it's all compiled from other sources (normally the powder mfrs' booklets) into somewhat generic recipes. "Start low, work up" is especially important to remember when reading this kind of data. Tries to sell you Lee products.
Sierra, Speer, Hornady: all have plenty of good "how to" info w/ lots of data on load recipes. They do their own testing. I'm careful about using Speer data w/o double checking it against other sources. They HAVE put some pretty hot stuff in one or two of their books in the past, and still don't share my thoughts on "a good recipe includes pressure data." All try to sell you their bullets. Hornady will have their presses in the pictures; Speer will have RCBS (they've been associated under the same umbrella over the years) for a bit of extra advertisement value. You may notice other brand preferences in their data for the same reason.
Powder mfrs' booklets: available in print and online. Good source of thoroughly tested data, probably derived under the best lab conditions, but there are still enough variations in testing protocols that you'll find variations from the powder mfr and the bullet mfr if you compare otherwise identical loads from the two sources. All try to sell you their powders. Again you may see certain brand preferences in components because of various business alliances (for example, Winchester makes all the components for a loaded round, so their data uses Winchester components most often. Alliant furnishes a lot of powder to Federal, so you'll see a lot of Federal brass and primers listed. Speer, RCBS and CCI all share that umbrella mentioned above. And so forth...)
There's no "perfect" book. Building the most extensive library you can is a wise idea. Mine's not as extensive as I'd like it to be, but it grows. It's not hard to collect a couple of dozen books or more, 'specially if you update them when new editions are printed (ALWAYS a wise choice!)
Weshoot2, your opinion is noted. You are entitled to it I have issues with Modern Reloading, too.
To make your opinion more valuable, would you share specifics?
I find his load data too narrow in power range and his opinions on other makers' gear to be irritatingly judgemental But I don't blow off his entire book.
So, I ask for two reasons. 1) Did I miss something or are your objections the same as mine? 2) I want the original poster to have basis for making his own decisions, not just other people's unsupported opinions, no matter how valid.
p.s. I apologize if my post seems brusque, but I wanted it to be short. I am too long-winded as it is.
1) Our objections are similar, AND: I don't like data that is "hot"; I don't like the LEE products hard-sell (although I use and enjoy numerous varied LEE tools and recommend those); I don't like his tone, nor rambling prose (and I am one); I don't like the overly (IMO) 'generic' nature of the offered data.
I find other manuals significantly more worthwhile in their data.
2) I admit I have strong opinions about data and where it comes from, particularly as it relates to newcomers and novices.
When dollars are scarce and some books need to be chosen I prefer and recommend those with what I find best; best in 'how to', best in safe data, best in their validity for numerous component choices other than those specifically listed (which is the hardest part, because so often novices don't fully grasp the concept of how different differing component brands can be, and act).
Your post asked me good questions. I appreciate that.
Lyman and Hornady for me. I use the Lee manual as a third check source for cross-referencing.
You could also extend that cross-referencing with online sources like "Steve's Pages" and "Handloads.com". Also, all the manufacturers had load data on their sites.
Needles to say there are tons of sources out there. I see people asking for load data in forums and it really comes down to "they didn't look", imo. This is the first forum I have seen where you don't see a lot of this.
You are going to need some math skills as not every load is listed everywhere and you will need to interpret the data to fit your needs.
Please note that some(many) people ask about data on the forums because they want to know what works well for others and even what did not work. This can cut down some of the searching for a good load when you find several people using like or near-like loads for a certain cartridge.
My two cents worth. Bullet mfgrs make load guides to showcase their entire line of bullets with a cross section of propellants. Propellant mfgrs make load guides to showcase their entire line of propellants with a cross section of bullets. See where this is going.
Lyman uses a cross section of both with most popular cartridges. You really cannot have too big of a reference library. I keep adding to mine. DO NOT expect to see identical data between sources. For example: if you look at the Accurate Load Guide No 1, now updated probably a couple of times, you will see exactly the data we saw ON THE DAY WE SHOT IT. That doesn't mean you or I will get identical results when you duplicate it later. Lots of components change, propellant factories close and new sources must be found, test barrels wear out, transducers fail and are replaced, etc, etc. Not to mention that each individual firearm can perform differently when fed the same load.
So, get all the free (small) manuals you can either via down load or mail and buy a couple of the ones best suited to your needs based on whether you prefer to use either a certain bullet mfgrs products or a propellant mgfrs products.
I bought the new Lyman guide because it is a quality product and I know Tom Griffin who did the work and edited it. He's a good'un. I bought the new Speer guide because I know Allan Jones and likewise he does good work. I got them because I needed info on the newer products on the market. We all need to update from time to time.
If you are inexperienced in loading ammo (and we all were when we started) a good reference on how and why one performs the various steps in reloading would be in order too.