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Types Of Reloading Presses Explained!
There are three primary types of reloading presses that you should know: progressive reloading presses, turret presses, and single stage presses.
Progressive Reloading Press
The progressive reloading press is designed to create a new reloaded round for each cycle of the lever.
The progressive reloading press accomplishes this by utilizing what is called a shell plate, which can hold multiple cases at once.
When you push down on the lever, several processes happen simultaneously as the shell plate turns so that each shell is prepared for the next operation. The completed round will then be sent into a bin to be collected later.
The progressive reloading press is arguably the be best type of reloading press if you have to reload ammunition for semi-automatic firearms that use ammunition quickly, such as pistols, AR-15s, or AK-47s.
However, progressive reloading presses are also more complex and expensive, which means that if you don’t need to reload ammunition in bulk, they are not the best choice.
- Excellent choice if you want to reload multiple rounds quickly
- Completed rounds are collected
- Best option for pistol and semi-automatic rifle shooters
- Not the best choice for beginners
- More expensive than single stage presses
- Additional time is required for caliber changeovers
The turret press is very similar to a single stage press in that only one die acts per cartridge.
But the difference between a single stage press and a turret press is that the turret press can hold multiple dies at once. This means that you can manually switch from one die to the next very quickly, which in turn means that you can reload more ammunition at once.
At the same time, turret presses also have more flex and less precision than a single stage press.
- Faster than the single stage press
- Less precise than a single stage press
Single Stage Press
The simplest kind of reloading press, by far, is the single stage press. This press only holds one die at a time and is typically built on a very rigid frame.
The die are screwed into an opening at the top of the press, with a shell holder attached to the ram to hold the cartridge case.
Each time you press down on the lever, the ram will raise to reload. Priming needs to be done separately using a hand priming set up.
- Simplest and easiest type of reloading press to use
- Most inexpensive kind of reloading press
- Built on a rigid frame
- Poor choice for reloading ammunition in bulk
How To Choose?
The reloading press is the most important and most expensive items you invest in when you decide to become a reloader. Therefore, diligent research and evaluation of your individual needs is very important.
Are you wanting to produce a high volume of ammunition? What caliber will you mostly be working in? What are your cost constraints?
That being said, the first condition you want to look at is the types of guns you will be reloading. For example, if you are solely loading for handguns, having high clearance for longer cartridges shouldn’t be a concern during purchase.
On the other hand, if you are primarily loading rifle rounds, you may want to look at something like the classic RCBS Rock Chucker. The rigid design of this single stage press and slower loading style give you the accuracy needed for long-range shooting.
Volume of Production
It is also important to evaluate how much ammunition you intend to produce against how much experience you have as a reloader. With a progressive press, you will have the ability to produce thousands of rounds per hour.
However, these are also the most expensive presses on the market, and if you are only shooting once a week or once every two weeks, they are somewhat impractical. Further, the progressive presses are somewhat complicated to use and don’t have much wiggle room for error.
The best option for the average shooter, even novice or an intermediate reloaders, is the turret press. With these, you can produce anywhere from 100-500 rounds per hour, with less practice time.
They are not high in cost and can be equipped with aftermarket accessories to cover a range of calibers and increase production rates.
Brand and Warranty
As with any expensive product you buy, you will want to consider customer reviews, warranties, and brand longevity. When I say brand longevity, I mean buying from a company that has been on the market for a while.
A reloading press is a long-term investment, and you do not want to make it four years in and no longer be able to buy accessories when you are ready to upgrade.
Also, a warranty isn’t a warranty without the customer service to back it up. You may find a product with a lifetime warranty, but when a piece breaks and it takes you years to get a response from customer service, that warranty doesn’t mean much.
Dillon is a great brand that regularly receives commendations on their customer service.
Price and Skill Level
The price of your reloading press will likely correlate with the skill level you have upon purchase. The simple guide is as follows. The single stage press is going to be your cheapest option and is great for novices. It also produces highly-accurate ammunition.
The turret press is for newbies and intermediate level loaders alike. It is a little more expensive and takes practice and patience but greatly increases your production levels.
The most expensive is the progressive press. This device is mainly for the experts and professionals that have paid their dues on the slower presses and are ready to greatly increase their output.
Best Reloading Press Brands
RCBS is a long-recognized brand for pistol and rifle reloading products that became a part of Vista Outdoors in 2015. RCBS’s 80 years of experience as a producer of high-quality reloading equipment cannot be matched.
They are constantly manufacturing the finest and most efficient precision-engineered (or “precisioneered”) products that flawlessly meld the old and the new.
All products are made with heavy-duty, cast iron materials that ensure quality and longevity. And their pride in their products shows, as they back them up with excellent warranties and astute customer service.
These aren’t just ravings from RCBS, but the customers that repeatedly give five-star ratings over the entire range of their products. The brand loyalty can be seen as people boast about continuing to use their first press bought 56-60 years prior.
One reviewer even wrote, “This press is built like a brick outhouse. It won’t be wearing out anytime soon. It’s also very precise. The threading, the moving parts… it’s all good.”
While their products lean on the more expensive side, they are definitely worth the one-time fee for a lifetime of positive experiences.
The closest contender in the match for best reloading products has to be Lee Precision. With over 70 years of experience in the field, this record-breaking company is always willing to innovate and move with the times.
But they always stick to a tight standard that they state as: 1) Does it fill a real need or is it better than any other product available? 2) Can it be produced at an affordable price? 3) Would I buy one?
Without a “yes” to all three questions, the product will never make it to market. These standards also make Lee the most affordable in reloading products for pistols and rifles. They deliver top-of-the-line products without the painful charges.
Their affordability is achieved by using lightweight cast aluminum to construct a body that is nowhere near the price of cast iron. However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t as sturdy. The tough powder coat finish keeps the product strong and durable throughout its lifetime.
If you don’t think that is possible, you may want to check out their warranty policies. Every product automatically comes with a two-year “no questions asked” warranty, along with a limited lifetime warranty. Also, unlike many manufacturers they offer a 30-day satisfaction guarantee.
With those types of guarantees it is easy to see why their customers are so pleased.
Hornady has strong roots in the American culture, shooting off from the Hornady Sporting Goods line back in 1949.
WWII had ended, and the country was returning to peace, but people were still looking for accurate, deadly, dependable bullets they could afford to reload. Joyce Hornady understood this so much that “Accurate, deadly and dependable” became their first slogan.
Now, Hornady continues to adhere to its motto while manufacturing exceptional ammunition, bullets, and reloading products. While their prices may be higher than others, you can feel comfort knowing that their products will exquisitely accomplish their intended purpose.
The proof is in the pudding, though. By this I mean that every Hornady reloading product comes with all of the bells and whistles the brand has patented.
Their unique structures and patented features like the EZject system aren’t found in any other manufacturers’ product. However, Hornady also provides accessories that can be added on to presses that are not their own.
While they do have some minor imperfections, such as a primer seating in their single stage press that wears out easily, the overall product still wins out regularly and receives top-notch reviews.
Where should I mount a reloading press?
You will want to mount your press on a sturdy workbench or table, ensuring plenty of room for your feet and elbows to move around.
You will also want to leave a minimum of 8 to 10 inches all the way around your workspace so you have room for all of your components. Also, make sure that there is room above the press so it can fully extend.
After you have found a space to fit these parameters, clamp down the press and drill the appropriately sized holes through the bench and bolt it into place.
The other option is to simply mount your press using C-clamps.
What is auto-indexing on a reloading press?
When you are indexing, you are moving the dies (or casings) to the next position in the reloading process. Auto-indexing (usually found on turret presses or above) means that you will automatically advance to the next step without having to manually move or reposition the die.
What reloading press do the pros use?
The types of reloading presses used by the pros are as diverse as the presses themselves. However, for the professional hand-loaded ammunition producer, the Dillon XL650 is a top choice.
Long-range rifle shooters tend to lean on the side of single stage presses that increase their overall accuracy.