Reloading Press for the Backyardsman

Last time I talked about getting started with reloading. This time I’m going to talk about how to pick the right press.

I guess in theory you could reload ammunition with a rock, a punch, and a flat surface, but I wouldn’t want to try it. Things just work out better for me when I use the right tools. For reloading, that means a solid bench, a reloading press, and a good set of dies. Getting a good reloading press is easy since so many companies make good quality presses. Picking the right one for you can be confusing though because there are so many choices. Ultimate Reloader for example shows presses from 10 different makers on their page. They left out some. Some companies make more than one reloading press. Lee has 5 different single stage presses, 2 turret presses, and 3 progressives. RCBS has 7 different models. Lyman and Hornady also have several choices. So which one to get?

What do you want to do?

The difference between single stage, turret, and progressive reloading presses are speed, cost, and complexity. A single stage press is the simplest and cheapest, but also the slowest. Every round you load will be handled 5-7 times as you go through the steps, and at least 3 pulls on the handle. A turret press speeds things up a little because you only handle each round twice going through the steps. It still takes 3 pulls on the handle though. The fastest is a progressive. Each round is only handles once, and once you get going every pull of the handle makes a completed round.

I tend to work slow and careful. On a single stage press, I can make about 80 rounds of handgun ammo per hour. On my Hornady LnL-AP I can make about 350 rounds per hour. I won’t have a turret press until next month, so I’ll have to update when I get it.

What’s the best reloading press?

Once you decide how fast you need to load you need to think about quality and features. It doesn’t pay in the long run to buy the cheapest available, so buy the best you can afford. For example, Lee makes 5 different single stage presses. Their best one by far is the Lee Classic Cast. It’s a solid, cast iron, O-frame press with solid linkage. It’s just as good as most other single stage presses, including some that cost a lot more than the Lee. It also has the best spent primer handling of any single stage press on the market. In fact I’d take it over the RCBS Rock Chucker because of the primer handling. On the other hand, I wouldn’t bother with the cheaper Lee single stage presses. They’re made from aluminum instead of iron, and the linkage isn’t as solid.

For a progressive press, I’d stick with a Diilon 550 or a Hornady LnL-AP. Both Dillon and Hornady have great customer service, and both presses are very popular with lots of info available if you run into problems. Personally I’d avoid other brands of progressive presses. I read a lot about people having problems with the Lee progressives, esp. the Auto Breech Lock Pro. RCBS and Lyman also make progressives, but I have no experience with them. Given my good experiences with the LnL-AP and Dillon 550, I don’t have a reason to switch.

I don’t have a turret press yet, so I can’t really comment on those. I’ve read really good things about the Lee Classic Turret, and I have one on the way. So hopefully soon I’ll be able to give a report on that.

As for specialty presses, there are a bunch. One you might read about is the Forster Co-Ax. I have a friend who has one and it’s a really nice press. It was designed for long range precision shooters though, and priced accordingly. For the average Backyardsman it’s probably overkill.


Inline Fabrication makes some really nice accessories for reloaders. I’m pretty much a minimalist but some of their stuff is worth getting. I have their Ultramount with a quick change mounting system. It gets the press up off the bench nicely, and the quick change feature is really nice if you have more than one press. I also have their Skylight LED setup for my Hornady LnL-AP. It really helps when I’m loading in the evening (my loading room isn’t lit very well).

As much as I like the Inline Fabrication bling, the only necessary accessory for your reloading press is a solid, stable bench to mount it on. Some reloading steps take a lot of pressure on the handle, so the bench has to be heavy and solid enough to stay stable. Also, the top needs to be stiff so it doesn’t flex. My first bench had a 3/4″ plywood top (5 ply) that flexed too much until I added a 12″ square, 1/4″ aluminum pad under the mounting flange. My current bench has a 1-1/4″ thick butcher block top and works fine.

Hope you find this information useful. If you have any questions, post a comment. Next time I’ll talk a little about reloading dies. Until then…

Peace out,

update: I was looking for something I’d read about the Lee Classic Turret press, found it today. I have one of these on the way, hope to do a review in the next month or so.