Which Press is right for me? The Answer.

Discussion in 'Ammunition & Reloading' started by cpttango30, Mar 2, 2011.

  1. cpttango30

    cpttango30 New Member

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    Which Reloading Press is Right for Me?

    This is one of the most asked questions out there. Just like which pistol or rifle is right for me. There are many factors to take into account and we are going to examine them in this thread. I would like this to be a learning experience for all. This is not for the “My press is better than your press because mine cost X dollars”.

    I have been loading for about 22 years now. I have loaded on single stage and progressive I have loaded Rifle, pistol, revolver and black powder. I have loaded from 22 hornet all the way up to 45-70 both smokeless and black powder loads.

    Let’s look at some of the factors we need to determine your press.
    1. How much do you shoot?
    2. How much do you have to spend?
    3. What are you loading for?
    4. How long have you been shooting?
    5. Are you just testing the waters or you know you’re going to reload?
    6. What is your mechanical ability?

    How much and what calibers you shoot determine a lot about your press. If you shoot nothing but pistol ammo and you shoot a lot of one load then maybe a small progressive is for you to start out with. I prefer to have people start on single stage presses. Let’s face it though loading pistol ammo on a single stage is boring and SUCKS. You have to resize and deprime. Then you flare the case mouth then you seat and many people prefer to crimp in an extra step. That’s a lot of die changing and stop and starting for a beginner. A guy that just goes to the range and is looking for the best accuracy is going to be more suited by using a single stage where you go slow take your time trickling your powder till it is perfect every time.

    Money let’s face it this is the single biggest factor in the equipment you buy. If you have little disposable income do not feel bad for buying a cheaper Lee classic cast press. Once you get going you can pop it on ebay or here and someone will buy it at or near the price you paid for it. A reloading press is like money in a savings account. If you have the wealth to plop down the green for a full on Dillon XL650 set up with case feeder and all the goodies then by all means get that. The nice thing about many of the progressives you can use them as a single stage as well.
    What are you loading for? If you are loading small batches of precision rifle ammo then a high quality single stage like the Forester Co-Ax press may be for you. Someone shooting IPSC on the weekends is not going to want to waste time changing dies and what not with the amount of ammo they burn up. So they are going to look at a Dillon, Hornady , RCBS or Lee progressive loader for speed. Bottle neck cartridges do not require as many steps in the press to load them as pistol ammo does.

    How long have you been shooting? This goes to part of the equation for me in that the longer you have been shooting the more you know your firearms and what goes into making them go bang and not BOOM. Plus a person that picked up a Springer XD last week may not need the reloading set up that a guy with a dozen different rifles and 2 dozen pistols is going to need. This is a smaller part of the equation but is still a part of it in my eyes.

    Are you sure that no matter what you are going to keep reloading? Or do you just want to test the waters and see what it offers you in terms of performance fun? Reloading ammo can be as simple or complex as you want it. If you are not sure and want a set up that is low cost and can maybe grow with you then that is what you should look for. Don’t feel bad if you are a testing the water loader. Many people just don’t like it or just don’t have the time and money to commit to reloading. Please just remember one thing you’re NOT going to save a single dime. The money you save will go right back into buying more supplies or equipment. If you are reloading to see a savings then you’re loading for the wrong reasons.

    Mechanical ability unfortunately not everyone can tear down a firearm or small block chevy and know how to put them back together. Loading is the same way it takes some kind of mechanical ability to produce quality accurate safe ammunition. At least I think it does. Progressive presses take more than single stage presses as well. You have every operation going on at one time on a progressive vs 1 operation at a time on the single stage.
     
  2. cpttango30

    cpttango30 New Member

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    The single stage comes in many shapes sizes prices and colors. There are low cost presses like the lee classic cast and the Lee reloading press. These presses are small and not really meant for loading the likes of large long magnum cartridges. You have different frame styles as well. You have the O frame where the frame of the press looks like a solid O shape the Lee Challenger, RCBS Rock Chucker and many others. This provides a solid press with little to no flex as you load. Then you have the C press like Lees basic reloading press and some others the old defunct Hollywood presses were C frame presses. C frame presses are a weaker design on the whole. You are applying pressure to the tips of a C shape the frame can and will flex on many of the C frame presses.

    Turret presses are a step up from a single stage. They offer you the ability to set up your dies and leave them on the turret so that the adjustments stay the same. Many of your turret presses are of the C frame type. The Lee Turret press is really in my eyes the best design of the turret presses. It has a more solid bas because the turret is held by a ring on the outside that is supported by three bars connecting it to the base of the press unlike that of the RCBS Redding and Lyman turret presses where the turret is held on in the middle. This is the beginning of the manual progressive presses in my eyes.

    The manual progressive is in short the Dillon Rl550b. This press allows you to perform most of the actions automatically as you operate the arm. You still have to advance the shell plate and add the bullet to the last station. The nice thing about a manual progressive is that you can operate it as a single stage as well. The only two I know of are RL550b and the RCBS Pro 2000. The Nice thing about the RCBS is that, you can purchase an auto-indexing kit for it once you want to move on to that. These are a great press and both the RCBS and Dillon is built Ford tough. They are more costly but, you are getting a lot for your money. These would be for the higher volume shooter who shoots a lot of pistol and rifle ammo. An AR shooter may want a 550b or Pro 2k to helps feed them 30 round mags. You can load up to 550 rounds an hour on a 550b that is really working fast. I can get to 450 rounds in an hour after the first hour the first hour is less because it you have to spend time setting up and checking powder charge and what not. Both of these presses use shell plates and tool heads. Tool heads allow you to swap out everything even the powder measure for different calibers. Now buying a complete tool head with powder measure and dies for the Dillon is around $100 to $150. I am sure the same is true for the RCBS as well. The only drawback to this system is there has to be some play in the tool heads to make them fit together easy. Play in the tool head in my eyes makes for ammo that can have variances in it.

    The Auto-indexing press moves the shell plate when you move the arm. Most if not all operate the shell plate a half turn on the way up and another half on the way down. This allows the operator to go a little faster. A press that moves the shell plate one full position on the way up or down tends to spill powder if you are really fast or jerky with the arm. The Hornady’s Lock-n-Load AP (Auto Progressive) and Dillon’s XL650 are the top two auto-index presses out there. The Dillon again uses a tool head design. The only difference between the 550 and the 650 is the 650 offers 1 more station it is a 5 station over the 550’s 4 stations. This allows you to use a powder cop die and keep the crimp separate which improves load constancy. The Hornady offering uses bushings that turn in and lock. This set up is much less costly than the Dillon tool head design. It also allows you to store your dies in their original box. This helps prevent the dies from rusting. It also helps keep your bench a little less cluttered. The Dillon tool heads don’t sit flat so you then have to buy yet another expensive piece the tool head stand. They also use different powder measures. The Dillon uses a volumetric powder bar design and the Hornady uses a rotary drum style. They are the same thing just a different way of doing it. Each is equally accurate as well.

    We now move on to the big auto-indexing press like the Super 1050 from Dillon. This is a 7 station monster that removes military crimps on the primer pockets. It comes with a case feeder and there are bullet feeding devices out there that will work with the 1050. This press is big and it is expensive. I have never seen a person that owns one. I have seen them and was allowed to run a few cases through one. This press is not for the faint of heart or one with a small to medium bank account. It is not a quick press to change tool heads on. It is made to crank out ammo at a extremely high rate. This is for the guys who shoot IPSC or USPSA or 3 gun comps. This is made to be set to one caliber and let it rip. I have even seen guys that hooked up hydraulics to these presses and linked 3 or 4 together. These presses at full speed can eat 1500 cases and bullets in an hour. That’s a lot of ammo. The press I got to use was at a local indoor range that loads their own ammo to sell to range guests. He has 8 1050’s in 8 different calibers.

    I will still stick to recommending a single stage press for a beginner. You yourself have to decide if you want to go single stage for a while then switch or add a progressive to your bench. I loaded a long time on my single stage before stepping up to Dillon RL550b. Do you think you can handle a progressive from the get go? Only you can answer that. I will say no matter what you will always have a use for a single stage press. I still load my 223 for my AR and my 700 on my single stage while I load 45acp on my 550. It doesn’t matter so much on the brand it matter more on your budget and how and what you shoot.

    I hope this helps someone on their way to buying the right press for themselves.
     

  3. Dillinger

    Dillinger New Member

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    I have stickied this for future readers. Thanks for the excellent effort Tango!

    JD
     
  4. Eric0424

    Eric0424 New Member

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    :confused: :confused: :confused:
     
  5. cpttango30

    cpttango30 New Member

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    Whats up Eric?

    Your not going to save money as in seeing a savings build up. It will be cheaper overall but saving money no. A week doesn't go buy where I don't find a new tool or gadget for reloading.
     
  6. Poink88

    Poink88 New Member

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    :D

    I believe that is true for any "hobby". Admit it, it is a good excuse to get into reloading though right? ;)
     
  7. cpttango30

    cpttango30 New Member

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    I never said that i didn't tell my wife about all the money I save by reloading. :D

    Use what ever excuse you want. I just feel that your not really going to save money over all.
     
  8. dunerunner

    dunerunner New Member

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    Well Done Tango!!

    A more comprehensive and detailed guide to "Beginning Reloaders" I have never seen.


    Thank you!
     
  9. Eric0424

    Eric0424 New Member

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    I know several people who keep and use their old presses and equipment. They don't see a need to upgrade if and when a new press, or powder measure, or electronic scale, etc. etc. hits the market. They might upgrade if something finally wears out and needs replacing, but until then they'll keep loading with the old stuff. Lee still sells their Classic Lee Loader, for those wanting the bare minimum in equipment cost.

    Some will pay for the convenience items or buy a second or third press to make the process easier or faster, and anything saved will get dumped back in to the equipment. Not everyone who reloads will follow that path. Reloading, like any other hobby, can be expensive especially if someone goes overboard on all the accessories or if Hornady, Dillon or RCBS tweak a press or die and they think they need the new/updated version, but it doesn't have to be.

    The money saved could build up if anyone were willing to actually put it in a savings account or shoe box in their closet. It could also afford someone a new rifle or pistol, or more frequent range visits if that's where they choose to use their funds. What someone does with the money saved on reloading over buying loaded ammunition is up to them. If it's put right back in to reloading, then it certainly isn't saving them anything.
     
  10. cpttango30

    cpttango30 New Member

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    Been reloading on the same press for 22 years. Still haven't saved any money. My belefe is you should reload to enjoy it. Saving money is for a bank account.
     
  11. lonyaeger

    lonyaeger New Member

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    This is the truth. I started with the basic setup and then found I could justify a digital scale and powder measure with the "savings." Then I wanted to try different powders and bullets. The list can go on and on.

    I found myself loading ammo not because I need it, but because it's fun. But the benefit to that is that you're stockpiling for Armageddon, so I don't feel too bad about it.

    But I explain it to my wife the same way Tango does....."but honey, I'm saving a fortune in ammo."
     
  12. Thebiker

    Thebiker New Member

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    Then there is the other truth....if it costs you less per round, you shoot more rounds:D.
     
  13. armsmaster270

    armsmaster270 New Member

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    I started with a RCBS Single Stage then went to the 550B & love it.
     
  14. therewolf

    therewolf New Member

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    First, great post, OP.

    I like being able to tailor my loads to my own needs.

    The quality of all your supplies is under your constant scrutiny, and it helps you

    make adjustments which you just can't achieve with store ammo.

    Oh yeah, and you "save money". (HAH!)

    I'm still trying to figure out how many thousand rounds it will take to break even on my initial investment, but saving money wasn't my purpose for starting
    reloading in the first place...
     
  15. Lindenwood

    Lindenwood New Member

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    I reload .44 magnum and started with a Lee 3-hole Turret press. It can do everything a single-stage press can do, but eliminates the need to set up the dies every time (since you don't have to remove them). I am cheap so I just use a couple of dippers to add the powder, and I just set the primers in the priming punch by hand rather than with an automatic feeder. Still, I can reload 10 cases in a little over 4 minutes. I have ADHD (the end of the spectrum that makes it difficult to stay focused--and no I've never used meds to compensate), so I will usually just come out for 10 minutes at a time and load up 20 or so cases. It is not that I get bored, it is more that I start losing focus and don't want to risk overcharging a case! So, I'll often go out to the shop maybe once in the morning and once in the evening, and in two 10-15 minute sessions of relaxed tinkering I've got 50 rounds of ammo loaded for what adds up to about $8.50 (as opposed to about $30 per 50 for the cheapest factory ammo that one would use for practice). I got into a routine of shooting about 100 rounds a week, so it was easy to have replenished my stock in just a couple days without ever feeling pressured. I think this is an important factor in making it enjoyable. Even if I wanted to factor in a basic hourly wage, I'm looking at only like $12-13 for 50 rounds, lol.

    I agree with those who say that when you reload and enjoy it, you won't save any money and will instead just shoot a lot more (which definitely isn't a bad thing). I love that I can shoot 100 rounds a week of my reloads for the same cost of 100 rounds per month of cheap practice ammo! Now, if you don't enjoy it and just reload the minimum amount necessary, then yeah you will only save money.

    I also agree with those who say another great benefit is the ability to tailor loads how you want, for MUCH cheaper than high-end factory loads. I could load up 50 rounds of defensive-quality ammo for under $20, whereas at best that money would only get me 20 rounds of factory .44 magnum. This means I have the benefit of more easily stocking up on quality, effective ammo. More practically, it also gives the benefit of loading up 50 rounds for the same price as 20, so then I can use 45 rounds for practicing at the range before a hunt, rather than just 15.

    Finally, you get the advantage of picking bullets I want and then loading them to the exact velocities I want, which is great for both managing recoil while sticking to the bullet you want, or for tuning a load for max accuracy.

    I suppose that was a long rant that wasn't exclusively about press types, but I thought I'd share :) . This very positive experience in reloading has made me want to get a nice rifle (probably a single-shot) to play with, too!
     
  16. therewolf

    therewolf New Member

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    How much shell distortion do you allow?

    I'm having a little difficulty resizing .44, there's still a bulge just above the head on the casing which doesn't mike or caliper under .457, even after two passes through the resizing die...
     
  17. Lindenwood

    Lindenwood New Member

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    Isnt that the actual spec for the case diameter? And as long as it chambers smoothly i wouldnt worry about it. Also the case is webbed (thicker) toward the base, so it maybe shouldnt be resized. But i never noticed particularly since like i said as long as it chambers fine i dont worry about it.
     
  18. Harleygunner

    Harleygunner New Member

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    taking the plunge

    Well, I've been reading the post in this thread by Tango, getting some good info, and I am ready, I think, to get into reloading.
    I have a 9mm, and a .38, both of which I take to the range often.I am also looking at getting , hopefully, a 1911,(Springfield Range Officer ) soon. My son has a .40, and .45, and he's really hoping I start. You dont suppose he has ulterior motives, do you?.Nahhh.;)
    Anyway, I've been thinking of this for awhile now, looking at manufacturers web sites, since no local stores have actual equipment in store to look at. I 've found that Hornady's has a single stage press kit,"Lock-N-Load Classic Kit" with everything needed to start reloading, except, of course, powder, primers, etc.....for under $400. Seems like a pretty decent price, and Hornady's is a well known company. Anyone have experience with their equip?
    While I believe you can probably save a few bucks, I , being retired, think it's something I will enjoy doing. I know hobbies can be costly,....got into photography a few yrs ago,.......and I do own a Harley...:rolleyes:.
     
  19. Lindenwood

    Lindenwood New Member

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    Haha well if you own a Harley that you know all about expensive hobbies :p . I've daily ridden a Ninja 250 myself for the last year (even rode on snow a couple days this winter, lol).


    I would recommend a Turret press for sure, though. Like I mentioned above, a turret press can do everything a single-stage press can do (you could batch load all the cases if you wanted), but not vise-versa. It is definitely nice not ever having to touch the ties.
     
  20. Harleygunner

    Harleygunner New Member

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    Yeah, I was riding out in the country, near the mountains last fall, and it started snowing, not a fun ride, but I rode out of it in a few miles.
    I've been reading the book, "ABC's of Reloading", getting some idea of what to expect. I had basic knowledge, having a couple of friends who reloaded shot shells in the past, but loading metallic, and different cal's will be a new venture.
    I like to research before jumping in, you know, with the cost of equip and all, but I'm pretty sure I will end up doing it. I'm retired, and have plenty of time to learn,...hopefully..;)