Choosing your first reloading press should be nice and easy task. Sometimes it's not, but it can be. Here's how.
Reloading can be a rewarding and fun hobby and a great way to feed your shooting addiction with a steady supply of ammunition. Sometimes, however, finding the simplest solution can be cause for a lot of worry. Choosing the best reloading press for you can be a tough task. There are so many types and manufacturers, that narrowing down the possibilities can be daunting. Ask yourself:
What features are the most important to me? Take this answer, and go from there.
There are many manufacturers of reloading presses. Hornady, Lee, Lyman, Dillion and RCBS all make excellent products. For some, customer service is very important. RCBS and Dillion have very good customer service and lifetime guarantees on their equipment. You need to choose what manufacturer you like, and then start looking at press types from there. Keep in mind some presses are better for pistol cartridges instead of rifle cartridges. There are some presses designed specifically for rifle cartridges which don't make much sense for pistol cartridges. It's important to keep this distinction in mind as you start your search.
There are many types of presses to choose from. Single stage, progressive, even large scale and industrial. While there are all types available, here are some of the most common.
Single Stage Press
The single stage press is the easiest and least complicated to use. As its name implies, the single stage press will only do one thing at a time when running through the reloading process. There is only one place on which to thread a die, so you may only perform one function. Decapping, expanding, priming, and bullet seating will all require that the die be replaced to continue.
Most reloaders, myself included, recommend using a single stage as your "beginning" press. This will allow you to learn what happens, and how things look during each step of the reloading process. You have the time to inspect each casing as it goes through, and make sure the powder charge is correct. Working with a single stage press is the best way to learn how to master each step before moving up to a more "advanced" press.
Single stage presses are also great for people who don't reload massive batches of rounds, or are loading for precision. A single stage allows you to control the process more easily and make sure the quality is where it should be for the correct load. The single stage is generally also the least expensive, making it a great starting point.
The turret press is one step up from the single stage press. Typically, the turret press has a turret plate that rotates with 4-5 dies threaded in. This allows you to just turn the turret plate and complete more than one step on one casing.
You can decap, then size, then charge the seat, and finally crimp all on one case and then start over. This can make moving through completed rounds faster. Turret presses are good for precision loading, as you have good control over where you are in the process. The rotating plate just helps to speed up the process. Some turret presses allow you to change out the entire turret plate to switch calibers, ending the need to ever have to unscrew a die again.
These presses are a little more pricey than the single press, but still affordable.
The progressive press is another step up from the turret press.
Reloaders that need to make large batches of rounds use these often. The progressive press has all the functions you could possibly need. Some even have attachments to feed primers, cases, bullets and powder each time the handle is pulled.
All you have to do is sit and pull the handle, and watch your supplies to make sure you don't run out. These are the most complicated to use and setup can take a while. Once you have it dialed in, however, cranking through rounds is quick and easy. These presses are the most expensive, but pay for themselves in the cost of saving money by making your own ammo.
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Keep in mind that a lot of reloaders have multiple presses. Some have a press for each caliber they reload. Some have a press for precision rifle, pistol and shotgun. There are plenty of options to choose from, and it's all about finding the right fit for you.
Which press do you use to reload with? What would you recommend for a person new to reloading? Share in the comments below.