It is the most basic equipment that everyone who is starting in this particular hobby must have. And there are different kinds of reloading presses available out there. Different manufacturers design and produce different kind of reloading press with a different way of using them. Each of them has their own pros and cons.
We will set out by explaining what is a reloading press, types available, tips and guides on choosing a reloading press as well our review. Our review includes the best 4 reloading presses which include their specifications and reasons why you would love using them. Our structured and accurate review will help you make the right decisions on which press you should get.
What is a reloading press?
Whether you want to handload or reload your ammunition, a reloading press is an equipment that you must have. The brand of the reloading press that you get can determine many things on your reloading experience. Unless you are willing to get multiple reloading press kits, you need to really make the time to consider the pros and cons of each type and brand.
A reloading press is an equipment that allows you to assemble a bullet from preparing the hull or case, using a powder measure to seating the bullet or shot on the case. It usually has a space in the middle where you can place your cartridge after attaching the right shell holder or plate. There is a lever next to it to push the shell up into the die.
It is usually installed onto the workbench to be operated. Dies are screwed or inserted above the cartridges. For dies that are size-specific, you need to adjust the size for each caliber before you can begin to size/prime/expand, etc. After you adjust, the process will be repeated as you remove the finished case and insert it with a new one.
Note that you may not be satisfied with only a single reloading press. Many people ended up purchasing another one as they found themselves reloading thousands of rounds of a single caliber and don’t want to go through the hassle of adjusting so many things to reload a different caliber.
A reloading press can be divided into several types.
Types of reloading press
There are mainly three types of reloading press based on the number of culls held in a single round as well as the progress of the turret.
1. Single-stage Reloading Press: The single-stage type press only has one stage of press you can use. Meaning, you can only attach one die and proceed with only one thing to do on the press. It is very simple and easy to use as all you need to do is adjust the die on the press. You can find a suitable shell holder to be used.
A single-stage reloading press works by pulling the lever down and having the shell holder raised to the mouth of the die. Depending on what die you are using (or a powder measure), whatever you need to be done will happen when the cartridge is adjusted at the right height.
2. Turret Press: While a single-stage reloading press only has one die installed at a time, a turret press allows you to dial in multiple dies at the same time. This saves you the time of having to install and adjust different dies for different processes every time. It is very convenient compared to a single-stage reloading press when you know what you want to do with your cartridges.
You need to pull the lever for every die. Once you pull it in, the stage will move to the next die and then you pull it in again. The only drawback of this is that you still need to pull the lever multiple times and only one cartridge can be loaded at a time.
3. Progressive Reloading Press: At a glance, an auto-progressive reloading press looks very similar to a turret press as you are able to install multiple dies at the same time. But the big difference here is that in a single pull of the level, you get multiple things done on your cartridges. So, instead of having shell holders, you will have shell plates.
Instead of having only one case, you can have multiple cases installed in an auto-progressive reloading press. The best reloading press for professionals would be an auto-progressive due to how it’s very automated, yet, you are still manually checking each of the cartridges if you want to. It’s the best reloading press for the huge volume of bullets that you want.
Obviously, it’s very expensive in comparison and you need to buy a huge amount of dies as well as shell plates depending on the type of bullets that you load. But if you are willing to spend more for the hobby and needs to reload or handload bulks of cartridges at the same time, this is the best choice to go with.
The 3 Types of Best Reloading Press and Kits Reviews
Best Single Stage Press
# RCBS 9356 Rock Chucker Supreme Press
For the best single stage reloading press, we recommend the RCBS 9356 Rock Chucker Supreme Press. It is very easy to assemble, very easy to install on your bench and most importantly, easy to operate. Just screw in the die that you want to use and the right shell holder. Next thing you know, your hands are already pulling the lever, pulling out and putting in hundreds of cartridges.
The RCBS had enough time and space to really invest into designing a heavy-duty reloading press on this single-stage type. That is why it has over 85% of 5-star ratings on Amazon.
- Simplicity rules well in here. It’s made to be easy to use and install even for beginners.
- Heavy duty The reloading press withstands hundreds of pressing for whatever purpose you need. Because of this, it’s suitable for beginners who are not yet used to the process of reloading.
- Upgradeable to a progressive-stage reloading press by adding Piggyback.
- Now supports long cartridges better.
- Smooth operation for almost any kind of activity you could think of on a reloading press.
Best Turret Press
# Lee Precision Classic Turret Press (Red)
The best reloading press with turret style falls on Lee Precision’s product, the Classic Turret Press. It has a wooden ball for the handle and easily fits in four different dies at once. Every pull of the lever will raise the shell holder up and then you can turn the die to the next step. Or you can install an indexing rod and get the dies to turn automatically after each pull of the lever.
This is another heavy-duty construction with great precision as well as being semi-automated and only a step back from an auto-progressive reloading press.
- 4-die system allows you to adjust 4 dies at the same time and there is also a screw available to screw your priming tool on. You will still need to turn the lever four times.
- Indexing rod turns the turret press to an auto turret press, reducing the step of turning the die after every each pull of the lever. At the same time, you can adjust to only do one process at a time and turn the die only when you want to by detaching the indexing rod.
- Adjustable handle arm to suit your comfort and help you exert less energy for harder cases such as big brass rifle ammunition.
- The semi-automated: process makes this turret press almost feel like an auto-progressive reloading press. It saves you a lot of time and allow you to focus on only one thing at a time, but still be able to everything in a single, effective and time-efficient round.
Best Progressive Reloading Press
# Hornady 95100 Lock-N-Load Auto-Progressive Reloading Press
Our Best Auto-Progressive Reloading Press goes to the Hornady’s. The best reloading press with auto-progressive stages has to be able to get everything done in a single round while maintaining high precision. And we’re just letting you know that this thing here works the magic.
The reloading press also works with other dies so long as you have the Hornady bushings to make it work. The bushing is where the process of changing dies for different caliber or process is made easy. The powder thru die that comes with it is also very accurate.
- One-pull process. There is no need to pull the level multiple times, insert the cartridges on your own. With a single pull your reloading press will cycle the cartridges for the different dies you have installed and after 5 pulls, you get a finished bullet with 4 others on the way.
- 5-station bushing system allows you to fit in up to 5 cartridges in a single press.
- Universal case retainer will lock any kind of cartridges in place and you can do this manually or automated by the press.
- EZject system eliminates the annoyance when your auto-progressive reloading press fails to eject the cartridge after pulling the lever. It really screws the tempo that you’ve already established!
- Convenient bushing system makes it easy to install your dies on the press. Instead of turning so much, you only need to insert and twist it once.
Best Reloading Press Kit
# Lee Precision Anniversary Challenger Kit II
If you don’t like having to think about multiple things you need to get after ordering your press, Lee Precision did it for you. This kit includes their single-stage reloading press with the necessary equipment to get started on handloading. At an affordable price that is!
This is an entry level reloading press where every beginner will love to have. It helps you get introduced to the world of reloading as the kit comes with basic equipment at a very affordable price. If you only want to know how it feels to reload yourself, this is a great kit to get.
- Affordable, which makes this a very good choice for beginners who are only introduced into the world of reloading.
- Kit includes the Lee Safety Scale, a chamfer tool and a power funnel.
- Breech Lock Quick Change Bushing saves your time setting up the dies and allows dies from other brands to be used as well. Just insert it and give it a little twist to secure it in place.
Things to Consider Before Purchasing a Reloading Press
Every brand typically sells their own unit of reloading press and from there, they extend to manufacturing their own die and other equipment kits. Some can be purchased regardless of the brand of your reloading press, but do not that purchasing a particular brand press will mean limiting yourself on especially dies and shell holders you can use.
Getting your first reloading press is also quite an investment to make from time, money to the effort of assembling, installing and testing them out. So, consider these facts before purchasing your own reloading press.
- It is NOT the price that determines the quality of a reloading press. Sure, it may explain the materials used for the press, but it does not necessarily mean the best reloading press would cost $500 or more. On the other hand, some of you who thought of reloading yourself for the purpose of saving up the money from purchasing new ones should not be tempted to just purchase anything cheap.
- For beginners, however, getting a single-stage reloading press is better because you are allowed to know each die and process one-by-one and not be confused with multiple setups at a time that happens with a turret and auto-progressive press.
- Budget to purchase more than just the reloading press and a couple of dies. Depending on your needs, you may need to buy extra shell holders for the press. There is also the fact that some equipment requires a different type of shell holders.
- Nothing is perfect no matter what the seller claims to you. Variance is bound to happen and because of that, no matter how reliable your reloading press has been, you need to develop a good habit of checking on the weight every couple of rounds. Small enough so that you don’t have to track back too far.
- What are your needs from a reloading press? Some people have to reload thousands of rounds every time, which makes it more convenient to own an auto-progressive reloading press. But there are also people who only reload for fun, maybe a hundred or two every time. Owning a turret or even a single-stage press would make more sense for this person.
- Brand-specific items. Some dies or equipment only works with a certain reloading press. For example, some reloading presses only work with certain dies, others like the Hornady’s auto-progressive press needs bushings if you want to use other dies. Universal products are better choices in case that you reload various calibers and use equipment from different brands.
- The durability of certain cheap reloading presses can be pretty low. They are not flimsy, but since we do mistakes at times, it’s a given that we don’t want a reloading press that breaks at a single pull of a cartridge we forgot to lube. It doesn’t have to be made of titanium, but at least good enough to not break from just a few thousands of pulls.
- Optional: Get another reloading press. Depending on how advanced of a user you are, an additional reloading press, even a single-stage press, will allow you to do a separate process on a different caliber without having to readjust the dies again whenever you need to. You can also continue using your turret or auto-progressive press which have been set up for a specific caliber.
How Does a Reloading Press Work?
First, you need to install the reloading press on your workbench. It can be screwed directly on the bench or you can install it on a mobile mount. The later is more complicated to do, but the end result will give your workbench flexible space. Your reloading press can be moved around when you want to do something else or add a new equipment on it.
Next is to prepare the press for your first reloading. You need to get the right die and shell holder for the caliber you are working on. Attach the shell holder and dial down your die. Here is the tricky part. Installing a die can be really complicated because you have to adjust it with the cartridge’s size and the result that you want.
Some of the best reloading presses come with bushings that allow you to use other dies easily and only a single snap is needed instead of turning the die up and down the press.
Check out tutorial videos for the caliber that you want and how to adjust the die for it. Every time you switch die for a different caliber, you need to readjust it. It’s usually a lot of tests on the correct sizing for the die.
After you get the right size, it’s time to repeat the process. Pull the lever, throw the cartridge into the finished box and take another cartridge, put it in place, and pull the lever again. From time to time, every 20, 50 or 100 rounds, check the condition of the cartridge that is processed.
For an auto-progressive reloading press, the set up is much more complicated. You have to prepare all the dies, the powder measure, etc. and use a shell plate instead of a shell holder. You prepare the small buckets and then pull the lever. The difference here is that once the lever is pulled all the bullets on the shell plate is raised up and processed at the same time.
So, the bullet will go around and after 5 pulls, it will be ejected out and a new one will drop and fill the space. Depending on what dies you use, it can go expanding and pouring powder through with an expander powder thru die, then sizing, bullet seating, crimping, and repeat.
Safety Tips When Using a Reloading Press
- Follow the manual that comes with the press. Any mistakes in installation from ignoring the manual could be fatal.
- Black powder should only be reloaded by advanced reloaders. Beginners are better to stay away from this very explosive powder.
- Use the right shell holder or plate. Depending on the caliber of the cartridges you want to process, make sure the cases snug onto the plate or holder comfortably.
- Operate it based on instructions to ensure that your reloading press will last as long as it’s needed. There are people breaking their brand-new reloading presses from not following instructions, mostly beginners who are very enthusiastic in reloading.
Frequently Asked Questions
Reloading/Handloading vs. Buying factory-loaded ammunition
The process of reloading is quite long, especially if you are reloading used ammunition. You need to thoroughly clean the cases by tumbling them. Then, you have to resize the case according to what you want as well as prepare the powder to be measured in. You also need to change the primers into a new one to make sure that the bullet is propelled nicely away from the gun/rifle towards your target.
Not to mention, reloading is not an activity you can just go anywhere. It has to be done with care and disposal of the unused powder should not be done carelessly. However, there are still many people preferring the activity of handloading their own ammunition over purchasing factory-loaded ammunition.
However, there are 3 major advantages of reloading or handloading your bullets yourself. Comparisons are made against factory-loaded ammunition that can sometimes cost a lot for your hobby.
- One of the biggest advantages is the economy, where handloading or reloading used cartridges are much more efficient than purchasing a new set of ammunition. You get to reuse the cases or hulls that you find so long as you tumble them long enough, resize and seat new primers on them.
- Accuracy is another factor as bullets that were loaded without human’s observation had a bigger margin of error. Handloading yourself allows you to measure the powder every couple of them to ensure accurate measurements. You also get to check and recheck each of the bullets on your own and make corrections on the setting once the equipment begins to show error.
- Hobby! While others buy their bullets, you get to make your own from scratch! You get to purchase your own cartridges, prime them, choose your own powder measure and try different combinations. You also get to mix and match, so long as you know what you are doing. The fun of doing this cannot be compared to simply purchasing completely assembled bullets.
- Customize your bullets the way you want them to. The risk is all yours to bear, but the fun in seeing how different measures will affect the firepower, accuracy and explosion of the bullets don’t exist from simply purchasing standardized ones.
In the end, at a higher price, newly bought bullets do not mean that accuracy and performance are ensured. You also don’t know which one was measured wrongly. As a bonus, you don’t get to feel the joy of making your very own bullets to launch!
There are many types of reloading press, each with its own pros and cons. Thus, it’s important to look at your own needs. The best reloading press is the one that lasts you long enough and processes your cartridges quick enough to save your time.
The simplest reloading press is the single-stage reloading press. It’s very easy to operate and a beginner is advised to get this. A turret press is like multiple single-stage reloading presses merged into one. You don’t have to change dies too many times, saving your time a lot. Both beginners and experts will enjoy reloading or handloading with this.