Since you’re here, chances are you know what a reloading press is already. However, some of you out there may be sitting on the fence regarding reloading, and whether this is a hobby you want to get into or not. Perhaps you just want to know a little bit more about the options available to you.
A reloading press is a fantastic and economical piece of kit for any fan of the firing range. The ability to manufacture your own ammo not only saves you money but can also be a rewarding and relaxing hobby, full of new things to learn, with a clear progression path.
Aside from this, the ammo you can create yourself can, with practice, be of superior quality to the factory ammo you’ve been buying, and thus also improve your results on the range. Just be aware, this is a time-consuming hobby, which for some people is perfect, but if time is short, then perhaps now is not the time to start your reloading adventures.
Even for those in the know, choosing the best reloading press for you and your needs can be a bit of a minefield to navigate. With so many different presses to choose from – and many of these presses have a hardcore following of devoted fans who each say their particular choice is the best – the waters of choice become a bit murky.
It can be all too easy to choose the one with the best reviews or the one your neighbour has, without considering if it really is the best press for you. In this way, many novices have spent more money than they had initially budgeted, on equipment that doesn’t quite suit their needs.
This is where we can help. Having scoured the internet and looked into the many different presses out there, we can set some clear guidelines that can aid you in your choice. We also have a selection of six of the most popular presses and kits out there that we’ve looked into in a little more detail, and reviewed to help you on your journey in the world of reloading.
Types of Reloading Presses
First of all, let’s discuss the different options available. There are essentially three main types of reloading presses, each with their own advantages and disadvantages, and each with their own core of followers.
- The single stage press
- The turret press
- The progressive press
The single stage press
This is traditionally the press recommended for beginners, as the press itself is relatively simple and straightforward, with a sturdy frame and very few moving parts, meaning less chance of something going wrong.
The single stage press works with one die at a time and is generally far more time consuming than the other two options due to the amount of case handling involved, as well as the time needed to swap over the dies.
Traditionally, this was even more time consuming as the dies would need to be set up each time they were replaced, however nowadays, quick change bushes are common and speed the changeover up considerably. In general, with concentration and practice it is not uncommon to produce up to 50 – 70 rounds an hour, with some people claiming far higher figures.
The single stage press is fantastic for getting the basics of the craft down, as you have so much more involvement in the entire process in comparison with a turret and progressive presses. You can really get a feel for the individual actions, and learn to feel deviations from the norm, and potential issues before they can cause a problem.
The single stage press is also the favoured option for many reloaders who value precision and top quality rounds over quantity. With so much involvement in the process, minor adjustments are easier to implement, allowing you to tweak your rounds until they are exactly what you want. This is not so easy on turret or progressive presses.
|Ease of use||Time consuming|
|Price – far cheaper than other options||A lot of case handling|
|Great for learning the basics||Harder to change calibre|
|Ability to tweak your rounds for precision|
|Few moving parts – less to go wrong|
|Possible to create a wide range of rounds|
The turret press
The turret press is a step up from the single stage press and allows far higher productivity rates. It works on one round at a time, but, has at least four die stations, some models have more, that allow all the stages to be undertaken in sequence. A round can be fully completed in as little as 20 seconds and four cranks of the lever.
Turret presses are also good for working on different calibre rounds, as new turret plates can be bought and set up for different sizes. This allows for a much quicker changeover, and less setting up, in theory, each turret head needs only to be set up once.
With more moving parts than a single stage press, there are more possibilities for things to go wrong, but with careful maintenance and tender loving care, these problems can be avoided.
If you’ve started out on a single stage press and got to grips with the process and are looking to improve your output, a turret press could be a great investment. Many beginners have claimed to have skipped the single stage press and gone straight to a turret press as their first press, tempted by the higher output rate.
While not traditionally recommended this has worked well for a great many people, and if you’re starting out and are looking to create large quantities of ammo, a turret press may well be the press for you..
|High output rate||More expensive than a single stage|
|Less case handling||More moving parts|
|Ease of changing caliber||Less precision than single stage|
|Possibility of adding speciality dies|
The progressive press
A progressive press is a (not so) lean, mean, ammo producing machine. These beasts can pump out serious amounts of ammo, so if you’re looking to open a munitions factory, or you shoot a lot, a progressive press could well be worth considering. They generally have at least four die stations, and each station is put to work at once.
In a nutshell, the press can work on at least four rounds at a time. Some progressive presses are manual, where the user turns the shell plate by hand and places the cases in the press, while other automatic presses feed the cases into the press and rotate the plate with a crank of the lever.
Generally considered as unsuitable for the novice, progressive presses are something to work up towards. This is partly due to their higher costs, and the investments necessary, such as additional shell plates and dies, to get the setup you want.
Also, prior experience with smaller presses can work in your favour if things start to go wrong with your progressive press, with regards to elements sticking, or becoming unaligned, it can be a daunting task to find out what is wrong with the behemoth you have just bolted to your desk with no previous reloading experience.
Also, it is worth considering, that as a beginner thinking about going straight for a progressive press, aside from the press itself, you will need to invest a lot in dies, shell plates, cleaning equipment and tools etc, that will almost certainly at least double your initial cost. This equipment can be built up over time on smaller kits, thus spreading the costs.
Another factor to think about if you’re concerned with quality, precision rounds is that it will be far more difficult to tweak your rounds with a progressive press, as everything is pretty much done for you.
|Very high output rate||Far more expensive|
|Minimal case handling||Many moving parts and potentially problematic|
|Ease of changing caliber||No ability to realistically tweak precision rounds|
|Once set up, fairly easy to use||More maintenance required|
|Great for common ammo||May struggle with less common ammo types|
What Kind of Reloader Are You?
That covers the three basic types of presses available, so what kind of reloader are you, and what kind of press should you be looking for?
- Not sure about reloading as a hobby but would like to try – Single stage press
- Keen to get into reloading and learn the craft – Single stage press
- Shoots a lot, and is looking to produce own ammo to cut costs – Turret press
- Looking to produce high-quality ammo – Single stage press
- Seasoned Reloader
- Looking to move up and create ammo quicker – Turret press
- Looking to create vast amounts of ammo – Progressive press
- Looking to create very high quality, precision ammo – Single stage
- Veteran Reloader
- Wanting to produce vast amounts of ammo – Progressive press
- Wanting to produce large amounts of good quality precision ammo – Turret press
- Wanting to produce ultra high quality, varied ammo types – Single stage
While it often seems that a progressive press is something to work towards, it may be that it simply isn’t a necessary piece of kit for you, and your money could be far more wisely spent on investing on current kit and upgrading.
Below are our reviews of six of the more popular reloading presses
The Top 6 Reloading Press Reviews
The Lee Precision 50th Anniversary Reloading Kit
Weight: 11.2 pounds
Dimensions: 14 x 13.3 x 6.2 inches
- Single stage press
- Complete powder handling system
- Perfect powder measure
- Breech lock quick change bushing allowing quick and easy die changes
- Case preparation tools
- Ergonomic frame design allowing maximum hand clearance
- Capable of producing a wide range of cartridges
Best use: This is a great reloading press for the beginner who is looking for quality over quantity. For anyone looking to pump out 50 rounds in 5 minutes as opposed to an hour, your money could be better spent elsewhere; however, a novice can really get to grips with the entire process of precision reloading.
Due to the low cost, the Lee Precision 50th Anniversary Reloading Kit is also a good option for anyone out there who would like to get into reloading but isn’t sure they will enjoy it, and is perhaps a bit wary of investing too much into a hobby they may not continue.
The kit is well built, and with proper care and attention, it will last for many good years. It comes with everything you need to start reloading, except the dies and cartridge components.
For the hobbyist looking to take their time and build up, this is a fantastic kit, especially for such a low cost, and many people find themselves upgrading and adding to the kit within a couple of months or so.
Beware of the included scales, as these can be difficult to read and calibrate, it may well be worth investing in a set of digital scales to make the process easier.
The instructions can be difficult to understand for the absolute beginner, however, there are several setup guides which is very comprehensive and breaks down the whole process.
Related products: Similar to the anniversary kit is the Lee Challenger kit – featuring many of the same components, but replacing the safety prime feature with an auto prime.
RCBS Rock Chucker Supreme Master Reloading Kit
Weight: 30.8 pounds
Dimensions: 17.5 x 10.5 x 10.4 inches
- Single stage press
- Kit includes press, scales, powder measure, hand priming tool, debur tool etc.
- Ability to reload a wide range of rounds
- Heavy-duty, high-quality parts
- Precision rounds
Best use: Again, as a single stage press, this isn’t going to satisfy the needs of someone looking to make hundreds of rounds in one sitting. However RCBS Rock Chucker Supreme Master Reloading Kit can be great for beginners as it does provide you with pretty much everything you need to get going with reloading, again, the dies will need to be bought separately.
While the kit is quite inclusive, it is recommended to make a few additional purchases in aid to your reloading endeavours, such as a tumbler cleaner, wire brushes. These things a more experienced reloader may have already and a beginner will soon learn that things can run a bit more smoothly with this additional kit.
Some of the equipment that is included in the kit is not the best and you may soon find yourself upgrading, for example to digital scales. For a more experienced reloader, it may be worth buying just the press, and buying the additional equipment you know you will use separately, rather than upgrading the kit equipment a few weeks down the line.
The Rock Chucker has a reputation for being well built and of good quality, so, after the initial set up, this is a kit that will last you for a long time, and will continue to make consistently high-quality rounds.
Related products: The RCBS rock chucker supreme press, rather than the kit
Lyman Reloading Press T-Mag Turret Press
Weight: 9.8 pounds
Dimensions: 6.2 x 9.2 x 16.8 inches
- Turret press
- Six station turret head
- Fantastic look and stability
- Turret heads detach easily allowing quick die changes
- Left or right handed operation
- Capable of reloading pistol and rifle rounds
Best use: Lyman has managed to create yet another robust, long lasting, and frankly, a pretty good looking piece of kit. Lyman Reloading Press T-Mag Turret Press is fantastic for any reloader looking to progress from a single stage press and increase their output while decreasing handling time.
It works very smoothly and with a little bit of setting up you can complete a round without touching the case again until it’s done. The ability to set up to 6 dies in the turret head allows countless options, and with additional turret heads rounds of varying calibres are easy and quick to produce, with minimal changes.
The kit comes with everything you will need, besides the dies and the primer feed tubes which will need to be bought separately.
For anyone looking to reload more rapidly – on average a round can be finished in as little as 20 seconds – without compromising on quality this is a fantastic press, and with Lyman’s reputation, one that will last for many years. With such a great price tag as well, this can be a far more attractive alternative to more expensive progressive presses.
Related products: For larger rounds, there is the Lyman Crusher. The T-Mag II is also available in several kit options, including expert and master reloader.
Lee Precision Classic Turret Press Kit
Weight: 6.6 pounds
Dimensions: 16.6 x 11.2 x 9.8 inches
- Turret press
- Full kit, everything you need to start reloading (excl dies)
- Easy on press priming
- Instant change turrets
- Case conditioning tools included
Best use: Lee Precision Classic Turret Press Kit is an ideal press for beginners, and novices who want to increase their output. The kit provides near enough everything you will need – dies are not included – to consistently produce decent rounds. For hand gun and small rifle rounds, the kit equipment is ideal, the pro-auto drum powder measure and riser makes the job easy, and is largely accurate.
Larger rounds are also possible, and a trimming tool is included for this purpose. In fact the press is very versatile, and the option to purchase additional turrets means you can, in theory, only need to put the dies in once, and still produce several different calibres.
For beginners looking to produce a lot of rounds quickly, this is also a great way to get a feel for reloading, as you can see the powder drop, feel the crimping and the primer being pressed. Even though several aspects of the process are still manual, such as the priming, putting the bullet head on etc., it is still possible to pump out 200+ rounds in an hour without breaking a sweat.
For those more experienced, this kit may not satisfy, and you may find yourself wanting to upgrade pretty quickly. Several people have issues with the priming system, and lose more primings than they manage to put in on the press, however, with correct setup this can be avoided.
Being more lightweight than most similar presses can put people off, but it is more than capable of consistently producing good quality rounds for years on end.
Dillon Precision RL550B Progressive Reloading Machine
Weight: 35 pounds
- Manual, 4 station progressive press
- Able to load over 120 calibres, both rifle and pistol
- Automatic powder measure and primer systems (large and small)
- Great customer service
Best use: Dillon Precision RL550B Progressive Reloading Machine is a fantastic press if you’re looking to easily and quickly produce large amounts of ammo. The initial setup can be completed in as little time as an hour if the guide is followed, and also help from YouTube is never far away.
Most of the work is done for you on the four stations, and while the Dillon website may claim that it takes only one pull of the handle to knock out a round, there is slightly more to it. But not much. The press is capable of working on four rounds at a time, each station serving a different purpose, and will automatically fit the primer, drop the powder and crimp and secure the bullet.
All you need to do is place the brass case in the slot, pop a bullet head in on the relevant station and turn the shell plate. There is a short learning curve that can be mastered in less than a month, and from then on it’s happy days of pumping out ammo.
It is not all plain sailing however, as certain elements do tend to stick, go out of alignment etc., and constant maintenance and tweaking is essential. So while this may seem an easy press to use, some experience in using reloading presses would certainly help troubleshoot potential issues that might arise. It is also important to do a check on say every tenth round, to ensure consistency, and that everything is operating as it should be.
These things are built to last a long time too, with many people having had theirs for over 20 years, and if something wears out, Dillon will often send replacement parts for free.
There is a reason why this is such a popular press, but the price can put many off, especially when you factor in the additional cost of dies, shell plates etc. However, when you consider how many thousands of rounds you are likely to be able to produce over the years, it may well soon pay for itself. So if you’re getting through a serious amount of ammo, this could be ideal for you.
Related products: The Dillon XL 650 is a five station, automatic indexing press.
Hornady Lock N Load Auto-Progressive Press
Weight: 30.9 pounds
Dimensions: 10 x 19.6 x 14.2 inches
- Automatic 5-station progressive press
- Quick change technology
- Built-in priming system
- Capable of quickly and easily loading a wide range of cartridges
- EZ-ject system – ensuring total cartridge ejection
Best use: Hornady Lock N Load Auto-Progressive Press is most suitable for those who shoot a lot and require large amounts of cartridges regularly. With its ease of use and rapid production it’s a fantastic piece of kit, and the five stations, as opposed to the more common four, allow for easy use of additional or speciality dies, for example, powder check or bullet seating dies, and cut down on pre-case prep.
The EZ-ject system replaces the more traditional wire methods and allows far more productivity, no more messing around helping a quarter of your cartridges out of the station, or avoiding the ones that fly out!
The powder measure is consistent and accurate, but be aware as it can be prone to spilling, and on occasion miss the cartridge. Even a small amount of powder in the primer shuttle can cause jams, so vigilance is necessary. Spending a bit of time tweaking the setup, with the aid of the many YouTube videos out there, is well worth the effort, as it will avoid hours of frustration and spilt powder.
Dies will need to be purchased separately, so consider this when thinking about the price.
Most experts will recommend that beginners start off with a single stage press, for their simplicity and ease of use. However, several beginners claim to have jumped straight to this model and have been more than satisfied with their purchase.
While it is true that this model is somewhat more advanced, the instructions provided, along with DVD video guides seems to be more than enough information to enable even a first timer to successfully produce large, quality loads.
Finally, the customer service helpline is top quality and issues are generally resolved quickly and painlessly, with replacement parts shipped out speedily.
Sum and Start Reloading
Now that we’ve seen the various types of presses and reviewed some in particular, you should have a clearer idea of the differences between each press, and how they can be relevant to your needs.
In order to choose the best press for you, you first need to identify the kind of reloader you are. Next decide on what is important to you. Do you need to be producing huge masses of ammo, or are you looking for a relaxing hobby that can allow you to get to grips with a new skill, and in the process produce some high quality ammo?
There are a great many presses out there, and a great many reloaders who will tell you that their press is the best, but this may not be true for you.
- If budget is an issue, or you want to create precision rounds consider a single stage press.
- If you’re looking to up your game, speed up and create a decent amount of ammo, a turret press could be right up your street.
- If on the other hand you’ve spent several years grinding away and learning the skills necessary to become a good reloader, and now want to put your skills to good use and create huge volumes of ammo, that you could perhaps sell to friends or colleagues, a progressive press can certainly set you on the right path.
- If you’re new to reloading, consider buying a single stage or turret press kit, as they will generally provide you with everything you need, aside from the dies.
Of course, reloading can be a long term hobby, and while initial investment may seem scary, it really can pay off over time, but this is also a hobby that you can spread the costs over time as you advance and upgrade your setup.
We hoped we’ve armed you with enough information to make an informed decision as to the best press for you. Now lock and load and set your sights on your ideal press and you’ll be cranking out ammo in no time!
Did we miss any other great presses? If so, let us know in the comments section.