I am quite certain that there are a lot of avid shooters out there who have considered loading their own ammunition in order to save money and/or to customize their ammunition to the type of hunting they like to pursue. But, many of them have probably also discarded the idea because they thought it was too expensive to get into or too hard to do. But, I assure you that it is not to difficult if you simply pay attention and, compared to the expense of factory ammunition these days, the equipment and components will cost you far less in the long run.
So, what is loading press anyway? Well, a loading press is a mechanical device that, in conjunction with an appropriate set of loading dies and an appropriate shell holder, produces finished ammunition from components. In addition, loading presses can be hand-held such as the Lee Loader or they can be mounted to a reloading bench (which is the most common type). Also, the reasons for loading your own ammunition are fourfold.
The first of which is that loading your own ammunition is significantly cheaper than purchasing factory ammunition. In fact, loading your own ammunition can save you as much as 50% depending on the caliber you are loading and the components you choose.
Second, when you load your own ammunition, you are the quality control expert and, because you are your own boss, you can afford to take the time to carefully perform and observe each stage of the loading process in order to assure that you have the most consistent loads possible.
Third, by loading your own ammunition, you suddenly have access to numerous different bullet, powder, brass, and primer manufacturers as well as the myriad of choices each company offers and thus, you can spend countless hours (or just a few) finding a particular combination of components that your gun really likes. Consequently, between the ability to be your own quality control expert and the ability to customize the components to suit individual firearms, you have the ability to create ammunition that is far more consistent and far more accurate than mass produced factory ammunition.
Fourth, by loading your own ammunition, you can choose specific types of bullet construction combined with different powder loads to match your particular application; be it self defense or hunting large and/or dangerous game (sort of the same thing!).
Top 3 Best Reloading Presses – Single, Turret, and Progressive
Everyone has an opinion on what is “best” due to their history with certain brands or the success they’ve achieved with one or two in particular. We feel through feedback and simple evaluation of what others are claiming in reloading press reviews have helped us narrow down what the top 3 reloading presses are, by type. Let’s take a look.
1) Single Stage Press – RCBS Rock Chucker Supreme Press
Look around and you’ll see the Rock Chucker Supreme is a favorite and well regarded in the reloading industry. It does what it’s supposed to do for a single stage and has been lengthened to make it easier to accommodate larger cartridges you see today. It contains cast iron material with amazing strength and versatility. The block “O” frame and the compound leverage system together builds up maximum pressure in the 1 inch diameter ram to provide power both a beginner and experienced reloader will enjoy. Read more at our full review of the best single stage reloading press.
2) Turret Press – Lee Precision Classic Turret Press
Lee is classified as an industry leader and they don’t fail in this category as we present our choice as the top turret press available, the Lee Precision Classic Turret Press. Priced extremely well, this “semi-progressive press” is one of the most durable and flexible reloaders to own, offering easy reloading of multiple ammunition once the dies have been inserted. The Lee Turret Press can be quickly tailored for each caliber in fewer than 10 rounds. The long stroke enables rifle cases exceeding 3 in long to be loaded using the automatic index. You can choose to load 38 specials, 45 acp, 45 colt 223, 308 and 30-06 on this press without an issue. Find out more details on our full review of the best turret reloading press.
Hornady is a reloading equipment brand that gets people’s ears perked up. Hornady’s Lock N Load Auto Progressive Press is a progressive five-station press that utilizes the company’s patented quick tool change system that allows the reloader to quickly change out dies without removing the entire tool head. it has the inherent ability to make a quick switch of your crimp dies, pistol dies, rifle dies, check dies, powder dies and bullet seaters, without ever having to replace the entire die head. The Lock N Load AP is capable of handling any cartridge from 25 ACP through the largest Magnum rifle cartridges. It’s a premium choice for reloaders who want and need to crank our hundreds of rounds per hour. Read our full review of the best progressive reloading press here.
Top 3 Best Reloading Kits – Single, Turret, and Progressive
Reloading kits give you a little bit more than just the stand-alone press, with only the appropriate die set(s) for the cartridge(s) you want to reload needed. Kits are great for beginners who want to have basically everything they need to get started immediately, and not have to worry about additional purchases. It’s a nominal upcharge to attain the kit and with that being said, let’s look at the top 3 reloading kits are, by type.
1) Single Stage Reloading Kit – RCBS Rock Chucker Supreme Master Reloading Kit
Sticking with RCBS as our top choice for best single stage reloading kit, this kit is often referred to as a ‘reloading shop in a box’ because you have most of the components you need on hand. The contents are made with quality in mind and meant to last dozens or more years. This includes the RCBS Rock Chucker Press, 505 reloading scale, powder measure, hand priming tool, case loading block, deburring tool, powder funnel, and much more. RCBS provides excellent instructions and more can be found on YouTube for a step by step walk-through. A full review of the Master Reloading Kit can be found here.
This is an extension of our top choice, the Lee Precision Turret Press, and you may want to consider this Kit because it includes Lee’s Pro Auto-Disk powder measure and riser and the Lee Large and Small Safety Prime for mounting directly on the press. The kit contains case prep tools such as a Chamfer Tool, Primer Pocket Cleaners, Cutter, Lock Stud and Case Length Gauge. Finally you get some Lee case sizing lube, a powder scale and a hardcover copy of the latest Lee Reloading manual with new load data for 167 cartridges with over 28,000 loads. A complete review of the press and kit can show you why we value this turret so much.
The Dillon 550B Progressive Reloading Machine is a powerful beast and certainly one of the strongest you’ll come across. It has the ability to load over 120 different calibers and can load both rifle and pistol cartridges, no questions asked. The unit uses standard 7/8 x 14 thread per inch dies, and the purchase includes a large and small primer system as well as a large and small powder measure. 300-500 rounds per hour is a cinch. It’s a great blend of speed and versatility and you can’t go very far without hearing rave reviews about how well Dillon handles any issues that arise with their lifetime “no-b.s.” warranty. Read more detail about the Dillon 550B right here.
Are Loading Presses Difficult to Use?
Furthermore, you may have wondered if reloading is a difficult task and the answer to that question is no, it is not difficult. In fact, each step in the loading process is clearly defined in all loading manuals and, if you are using a single stage or turret press, each step is distinct and separate from the others and thus, you have the ability to inspect your work at each stage to make certain that it is progressing correctly and that you haven’t missed anything. However, loading your own ammunition is it is equipment intensive and thus, there are numerous tools and accessories that you will need to compliment your loading press.
The Different Types of Bullet and Ammo Presses
Of course, if you are not already familiar with reloading, then you may not know what the difference between these three types of loading presses is and thus, I will attempt to explain them to you.
Single-stage press, as the name implies, performs only one stage of the reloading process such as outside resizing, inside resizing, priming and charging, or bullet seating and crimping at any given time and it requires the operator to remove and change the loading die after completing each stage. The dies are inserted into an opening at the top of the press, while a shell holder is fixed to the ram, securing the cartridge case rim. The lever is then pressed, forcing the ram up and die acts on the case. Priming is generally completed separately with a hand priming setup, however there are multiple single stage presses with attachments for priming. They are considered the slowest in number of rounds produced per hour.
Turret Press on the other hand, is like a single stage press in that it too only performs one stage at a time but, with a turret press, all of the dies can be inserted into the turret at the same time and thus, all the operator has to do to move on to the next stage is to rotate the turret which can be faster than replacing the dies individually. Many turret presses have the ability to auto-index meaning manual indexing is not required. Owners will still need to perform the same amount of strokes per completed round, but the amount of rounds completed will be faster due to indexing capabilities.
Progressive Press is designed in such a way that all of the stages of the loading process are completed automatically and thus, a single pull of the handle results in one loaded round. This is achieved by using a shellplate which contains multiple cases together. At the point in which the level is pushed down, the ram is raised, and a number of processes begin to occur. When ram cycling is complete, the shellplate turns/indexes. This sets up the next operation for each shell with the last round being deposited into a tray. Progressives kick off the most rounds per hour by far, but are also more complex, require maintenance, and have a slight learning curve, especially for beginners. Progressives presses are also the most expensive type, which some containing auto indexing and others containing manual indexin. This being said, my personal preference is to use a bench-mounted single stage press to load high quality rifle ammunition for hunting and a progressive loading press to load copious quantities of 9mm, 10mm, and .38 Super handgun ammunition and .223 Rem./5.56 NATO rifle ammunition for plinking and action shooting competitions.
Choosing Between a Reloading Press and a Reloading Kit
Therefore, that leads us to the question of whether you should purchase a loading press and all of the components individually or purchase them as a kit? Well, the answer to that question depends on your level of knowledge and the type of press you would like to purchase. For instance, if you are a beginner, then you would probably be best off purchasing a kit containing a single stage press and all of the other basic equipment you will need along with an appropriate set of dies and a shell holder for the caliber you intend to load. On the other hand, if you already have at least some loading knowledge and/or experience, then you might want to purchase a turret press or a progressive press instead of a single stage press and you may want to mix and match the brand names and/or models of the other equipment you will need to purchase such as a powder measure, powder scales, a bullet puller, a neck trimmer, ect. But regardless of whether you choose to purchase a kit or purchase your tools individually, you will still need to decide whether you want to purchase a single stage press, a turret press, or a progressive press. Below we’re able to provide our top picks that you can further research yourself.
Three Factors to Consider When Searching for the Best Loading Press
So, when contemplating the purchase a loading press, there are three factors that should be considered such as their ease of use, the speed at which they produce loaded ammunition, and their expense. For instance, single stage presses are the least expensive and simplest to operate of the three types of loading presses but, they are also the slowest. Turret Presses on the other hand, cost a little more, are a little quicker and just as simple to use, and they produce loaded ammunition a little faster. Progressive presses on the other hand are far more complicated to use because you have to keep them supplied with brass, primers, and powder for the duration of your run and you have all three stages taking place at once so you have to watch much more carefully for errors which do happen occasionally even though presses are supposed to be designed to be error free. Last, if I had to choose what I thought the best brands of reloading presses are, I would have to choose RCBS for my single stage press and Dillon or Hornady for my progressive press while I would most likely choose Lee for my turret press. However, I urge you to do your own research and make your own decision about which brand and type of press to purchase so that you can be certain that you have purchased the best press for your particular needs.
Bullet Reloading Presses Conclusion
Therefore, with a possible monetary savings of as much as 50% over purchasing factory ammunition, loading your own ammunition does make sense (cents?). Also, with the ability to customize your ammunition to your particular hunting situation and/or game species as well as the ability to control the quality and consistency of your ammunition, loading your own ammunition is an excellent idea. Plus, with single stage presses running under $125 and kits running between $125 and $325 on average, it is not too expensive to get into; nor is it too hard to do. So, as you can see, if you have been considering loading your own ammunition but have been putting it off, there really are no excuses for doing so!