Reloading your own ammunition is a fun and rewarding hobby and is something I have done for several years. If you are new to reloading, the first thing that you will need to get is a good reloading press.
Reloading presses come in several different types. These are single-stage, turret, progressive, hand presses, and shotshell presses.
They type of press that you need will largely depend on how much ammo you need to produce and its purpose. Below I will cover the different types of reloading presses, the jobs they are most well-suited for, and what level of experience a reloader will need to operate them.
Types of Reloading Presses
Single-Stage Reloading Press
The first type of reloading press is the single-stage reloading press. It is the most common type of press and is the one most commonly found in kits. I, along with many other reloaders, learned how to reload on a single-stage press.
Mechanically, a single-stage press is fairly simple. You screw the die into position at the top of the press and pulling the lever pushes the round at the end of the ram into the die. Presses of this type have much fewer moving parts than other types of reloading presses. This makes them very well-suited for producing extremely consistent and accurate ammunition.
Single-stage reloading presses are popular among hunters and target shooters due to their reliability in producing good ammunition. In my opinion, they are also the best choice for a new reloader to begin learning how to make their own ammunition.
When producing ammo on a single-stage press, the operator is involved in every step of the reloading process. This gives them a greater amount of control and helps new reloaders understand the basic fundamentals of how to make ammo. This makes it safer for new reloaders because they are forced to slow down and pay attention to what they are doing. Using a single-stage press is also less overwhelming for new reloaders than mechanically complex progressive presses.
The only problem with single-stage reloading presses is that they are much slower than other types of presses. Reloading large volumes on this type of press will take a considerable amount of time.
What are the best single-stage presses available today?
- RCBS Rock Chucker
- Redding Big Boss/Big Boss II
- Lee Classic
- Hornady Lock and Load Classic
The second type of reloading press is a turret press. It is similar to a single-stage press except that it can hold several dies at once. It features a rotating plate at the top of the press where the user can install multiple dies.
Having multiple dies installed on a press at one time speeds up the reloading process. With a single-stage press, the user must exchange dies each time they begin a new process (resizing, expanding, bullet seating, etc.). With a turret press, all they need to do is rotate the turret so that the desired die is over the ram. Most manufacturers sell their turrets separately so that users can have multiple plates ready and set up for each caliber that they reload.
Although turret presses are faster than single-stage presses, they are not nearly as fast as progressive reloading presses. Also, due to having more moving parts, they are not as well-suited to precision reloading as single-stage presses. That being said, if you invest in a high-quality turret press, such as the Redding T-7, you are unlikely to have problems with consistency.
Turret presses are excellent choices because of the convenience that they offer users. If you are going to reload many different calibers, then simply being able to swap out turrets will be a big time saver. Although they are a little more complex than single-stage reloading presses, turret presses are still good choices for new reloaders.
What are the best turret presses available today?
- Redding T-7
- Lee Classic 4-Hole Turret Press
Progressive Reloading Press
The next type of reloading press is a progressive reloading press. It is the most complex reloading press available but it is also the fastest. Some progressive presses are so advanced that using one is like operating a miniature ammunition factory in your home.
While single-stage and turret presses can only perform one action each time the user pulls the lever, a progressive press will perform several at once. The exact actions that it will perform will depend on the model. However, in general, each time the lever is pulled, a progressive press will do the following:
- Decap and resize one case
- Expand a different case (if reloading for pistol)
- Prime another case
- Add powder to a case
- Seat a bullet on yet another case
Progressive reloading presses are excellent choices if you need to reload high volumes of ammo. This generally applies to pistol and semi-automatic rifle shooters, especially those who participate in competitions. While progressive presses can reload rifle ammo used for hunting and precision shooting, single-stage and turret presses are generally preferred.
Progressive presses, due to their complexity, are better suited for experienced reloaders. People just getting started in reloading may have difficulty keeping track of all of the press’s operations and make mistakes. I would recommend new reloaders start with a single-stage or turret press and upgrade to a progressive press when their needs warrant one and they have gained some experience.
What are the best progressive presses available today?
- Dillon Precision RL550
- Hornady Lock and Load AP
The next type of reloading press is a hand press. Unlike other reloading presses, they are portable and do not need to be mounted on a workbench. As their name suggests, they are hand-held.
The main advantage of having a hand press is its portability. Since it doesn’t need to be mounted to a bench, it can be taken and used almost anywhere. A hand press allows you to reload small quantities at the range, at camp, or in confined spaces such as apartments.
A hand press would be a good choice for someone who doesn’t need to load a bunch of ammo at one time or those that have limited space. Because of the nature of their design, extended reloading sessions, especially those involving larger calibers could get tiring very quickly.
Hand presses are very affordable. A brand new Lee Breech Lock Hand Press can be found for less than $40.00. The Lee Hand Press is also the most popular and widely available example of this type of press that you will find today. According to reviews, those who own this press enjoy using it.
Most of the time when people think of reloading ammo, they think of reloading for rifles and handguns. However, many people load their own shotgun shells as well. This allows shooters to create specialized rounds for a wide variety of purposes.
Shotgun shells, because of their design, require a different type of reloading press than those used for handgun and rifle cartridges. Like those used for rifle and handgun cartridges, shotshell presses are available in both single-stage and progressive variants.
When buying a shotshell press make sure that you buy the one for the caliber and shell length that you need. While many presses have the ability to change this, most come set up for a specific caliber and shell length.
What are the best shotshell presses today?
- Lee Load-All (Single Stage)
- MEC 600 (Single Stage)
- MEC 8567N Grabber (Progressive)