At a Glance: Best rifle reloading presses for precision shooting
- OUR TOP PICK: Hornady – Lock-n-load Auto Progressive Press
- RCBS – Pro 2000 Progressive Press With Auto-indexing
- BEST BUDGET OPTION: Redding – Ultramag Reloading Press
Comparison of Best rifle reloading presses for precision shooting
Our Top Pick
|Hornady – Lock-n-load Auto Progressive Press||View Latest Price|
Our Top Pick
|RCBS – Pro 2000 Progressive Press With Auto-indexing||View Latest Price|
|Redding – Ultramag Reloading Press||View Latest Price|
Reloading has always demanded the utmost care and attention, especially when you’re trying to create that perfect match grade ammunition. The special care and attention that goes into sizing, cleaning, priming, measuring gunpowder may seem like a dull and tedious task, but for people who are really dedicated to crafting the perfect and most accurate round, it will always be an art form. A good reloading press will help them immensely in creating that.
Hornady – Lock-n-load Auto Progressive Press
Hornady is a well-known name among gun enthusiasts, both for the quality of its ammo and handloading equipment. They started out in the early 1940s with the production of ammo, by buying surplus machines from the US government, some of which are still in use today in their factories. They also offer a wide array of cartridge cases, bullets, and shotgun shells, as well as reloading devices and data sources.
The Lock-N-Load progressive press is no exception when it comes to the outstanding quality you would expect from them. It is an auto-indexing progressive press, with the ability to quickly change dies, set up new ones, and it can accommodate most common calibers, including from .223 Remington to .45 ACP. The press also uses the EZject system, which consistently and reliably ejects every round into a bin when it’s ready. This system also has the ability to quickly and easily change different metering inserts, and as the name already says, it is auto indexing.
For those people who shoot a lot and often, this press is a good option. The learning curve on how to properly set it up and use it is fairly steep in the beginning, but after you gain some experience and expertise, reloading 400-600 rounds per hour will soon become a breeze. However, don’t expect the kit will have all the necessary components for reloading, you will have to invest in additional equipment, but it’s an investment that will pay off quite quickly.
- Proven quality
- Auto-indexing capabilities
- Makes more accurate rounds than the competition
- Easily installed bushing system
- Powder dispenser included
- Does not come with a shell plate
- Not beginner-friendly
RCBS – Pro 2000 Progressive Press With Auto-indexing
RCBS is another company that has been in the business for more than 75 years, founded by Fred T Huntington in the early 1940s in California. From a modest background, the company grew fairly quickly to become one of the biggest producers of high-quality reloading equipment and accessories for rifles and pistols. Not bad, considering that the first workshop was located in a small room behind a laundromat.
There is hardly anything bad to be said about this press, the construction quality is superb, durable and I’ve always heard positive stories from people who often claim they’ve used RCBS products for 30 years or so. The frame is made of cast iron, and will definitely last you for many years to come. It is a good beginners choice for a progressive press with an auto-indexing feature, a quick-changing die plate, and APS strip primer feed systems. The operation of the press is extremely smooth as far as I’ve noticed, if properly set up there is little chance of producing a squib or a dud.
A bit of good advice to new users would be to make sure during the initial setup to tighten every bolt and screw, because if you fail to do so, some of them might get loose during the reloading process. Even if you do manage to jam the press or something else malfunctions, RCBS support is well known to go above and beyond when it comes to customer service.
- Reputable brand and product
- Auto-indexing press
- Made from durable cast iron
- Smooth operational
- Easy to set up
- Affordable for the features it offers
- Ideal for rifle cartridges
- Bolts of the press need to be tightened properly
Redding – Ultramag Reloading Press
Redding is another company founded in the 1940s, which should speak for itself about the expertise and quality of their products. They are one of the rare companies that are dedicated to fully produce all of their equipment in the USA. Here we have a review of one of their solid and unique single stage reloading presses.
Unique may maybe be a bit too strong of a word, but this press, unlike the others on the market today, has a compound leverage system located at the top of the press frame. It may seem like a small difference to some people, but this system enables it to transfer the pressure to the top, almost eliminating frame deflection or misalignment. That, in combination with a fairly large and long frame, makes this press ideal for loading long cartridges without fear of them bending or breaking. Considering the amount of pressure it asserts on the brass, it has an amazingly smooth operation.
Being a single-stage press, it will be a perfect choice for both newcomers to reloading as well as experienced shooters who are planning on reloading large and long cartridges. It comes in a barebone package so you will have to invest in accessories and additional equipment, like die sets, primer loaders etc. Considering the price for this single stage press, for some shooters it could be a costly investment, but I assure you, this is probably one of the better presses on the market for large cartridges.
- Tough as nails
- Compound leverage system
- Smooth and easy to use
- Durable materials used in construction
- Perfect for reloading large and long calibers
- Will probably last you a lifetime
- No accessories included
Redding – T-7 Turret Press
As is the case with the previous Redding press, This is one of the products that Redding is known for, a workhorse built like a tank that will surely last you a long time. The T-7 turret press is made from cast iron with a surprisingly strong compound linkage, a seven station turret head, and a built-in priming system. For anyone who wants to upgrade from their single-stage presses to something more serious, this is a good choice.
The goal of the people at Redding was to make the ultimate turret press, and it seems like they managed to do so. The construction of the press will definitely withhold any pressure, which makes it perfect for reloading a wide range of calibers, with the main focus being magnum ammunition. Being that it’s so stout and sturdy, don’t get discouraged by the initial stiffness, just oil it well and break it in a little bit. Installation and setup may require an additional set of hands because due to it’s substantial weight it is difficult to maneuver. Any accessories you decide to buy and add to this press, for example, additional turret heads, will fit perfectly and operate without any problems.
For all those who want to progress from single-stage and speed up their reloading, the T-7 turret press will pleasantly surprise you.
- Cast iron press
- 7 station turret head
- Durable and heavy
- Novice friendly
- Easy to maintain
- Simple to use
- Higher cost compared to competition
- Somewhat difficult to initially set up
Lyman – T-mag II Turret Reloading Press
This is another turret press, this time from Lyman, well known for its excellent products as well as exceptional customer service. Always focused on improving its operations and products, Lyman has been at the forefront of modernization in the gun industry, especially with handloading equipment. Their tools, dies and presses are well designed, and well built to be easy to use, without unnecessary complications.
The Lyman T-Mag II is turret style press, with six station turret heads that attach to the press with a bolt which allows it to be easily removed and replaced while retaining a fairly precise set-up. If you want to buy additional turret heads, you’re in luck because they are cheap and easy to find. Lyman has improved their turret retention system, and now it indexes easily while retaining more than decent support. The press handle can be mounted on both sides, so both left-handed and right-handed users can adjust it to their liking. The press also comes with a primmer catch bin, so you won’t have to collect discarded pieces all over your workspace floor.
As is the case with several of the models reviewed here, it is made from solid cast iron, with a wear-and-tear-resistant finish, and will last you a long time if you maintain and clean it regularly. The disadvantages of this press are just small annoyances. First, it is fairly awkward to set it up, and second, the primmer tray is a bit flimsy and it isn’t big enough to hold more than 100 spent primers.
- Superb quality
- 6 station turret head
- Smooth indexing and operation
- Excellent customer support in case something brakes
- A priming system would make this press a better package
- Not well suited for larger calibers
RCBS – Rockchucker Supreme Press
The Rockchucker Supreme Press is a well-known single stage press made by a reputable company. The new model is an evolution that has maintained all the positive aspects of the old version but has also adapted to the demands of modern hunters and shooters. The frame of the press has been elongated to accept longer cartridges and the press handle can be easily switched to suit both left-handed and right-handed operators.
If you are planning to get into reloading and start asking around for recommendations I’m sure most people will recommend the Rockhucker press to you. Far from being aesthetically pleasing, I did notice on some places the coating finish isn’t equally applied, but that’s a minor cosmetic inconvenience. This press is built to last, it’s simple enough to be used by most novices and reliable enough to be used by people who have been reloading for well over 40 years. In fact, I strongly recommend this press for anyone interested in reloading match ammunition, because it will always consistently produce accurate and well-crafted rounds.
The only issue I have is the mounting holes, there are only two on this press. If you don’t have a sturdy enough surface on which to mount this device, having only two holes could present a problem, so shop around for a metal plate that you can attach to your bench and install the press on top of it. The spent primer catcher also leaves a lot to be desired, but considering the overall quality of the press, it is just a slight annoyance.
- Built like a tank
- Can accommodate a wide range of calibers
- Stable and smooth operation
- Very little flexing
- Easy to replace dies
- Fairly affordable
- Can be a bit unstable when mounted
Lee Precision – Breech Lock Challenger Press
Lee precision started in 1958 by making loaders for shotgun shells. Since then they expanded their operations to other reloading equipment for different calibers. They have been always known to manufacture high-quality products for a fraction of the cost that other companies will charge you. For most of us, a lower price usually means lower quality, but Lee Precision presses have proved themselves to be reputable devices capable of satisfying even the pickiest of reloaders.
That being said, let’s focus on the press at hand. The Breech Lock Challenger Press is an O-frame press made from fairly rigid aluminum. The opening, although not big, stands at four inches and will offer you ample hand clearance. It also includes a simple to use Lee Lever Prime System for priming cartridges. The Breech Lock Quick Change die system will also significantly simplify the process of changing dies with a simple twist-off, without the need to re-adjust the die when you later decide to put it back. It still seems unbelievable that for this price you can get a solid single stage reloading press.
Is it a good option for beginners? Definitely yes, but of course it’s not just for them, it can also be used as a backup press which you can use to decap or size your brass before switching over to your main press.
- Extremely easy to use
- Made from durable aluminum
- Cheap, even for a single stage press
- Very reliable
- Has a priming system
- Breech Lock Quick Change system
- Primer catch tube will cause some issues
Lee Precision – 4-hole Classic Turret Press
From the same company like the previous press comes 4-Hole Classic Turret press, again superb quality for a really reasonable price. The frame is made from cast iron to ensure ultimate stability, solid steel linkage will perform smoothly even after you reload thousands and thousands of rounds with it.
Setup of the press is really straightforward, it comes with an auto-indexing lever, but leaves you the option of not installing and doing the process manually if you want to. No matter which cartridge you choose to reload, the press will handle it just fine. There isn’t any wiggle or flexing of the lever, when you first start using it, everything feels tight and properly bolted and screwed. The only issue could be the primer arm, it can sometimes hang up, but after thorough cleaning and lubrication, it functioned without any hiccups.
If you choose to progress from a single-stage press this will be a good option, it has all the precision of a single-stage, without the hassle of having to change dies constantly. Turret heads are easily replaceable in case you decide to reload different calibers, they are cheap and I suggest you buy a couple of them in advance, as well as some other spare parts. As I mentioned previously, I don’t plan on installing the auto-indexing arm. For a lot of you, it can be quite helpful, but the plastic gear that’s located on the arm doesn’t seem like it will last beyond the first 50 rounds.
- Unbeatable price
- 4 station turret head
- Auto-indexing option
- Easy to maintain
- Perfect for beginners who wish to upgrade from single-stage press
- Fit and finish leaves a lot to be desired
- Turret head can wiggle a bit
Is reloading worth it?
I still remember the stories my grandfather used to tell me how way back when he started shooting, he would only buy 5 or 6 bullets, because he couldn’t afford to buy ammo in boxes of 20, 50, or 100 rounds like we are used to now. Back then, for him, it made sense to save up all the spent casings and occasionally salvage lead so he could use it to reload bullets over and over again. Sometimes years would pass by without him even thinking of going to the store to buy factory-made ammo. Reloading was cheap and practical with the added benefit that homemade ammo was usually of higher quality and better accuracy.
The situation has changed drastically with the amount of cheap, good quality, and readily available factory ammunition today ( although, admittedly there are dry periods ). Does it really pay off to spend hours and hours bent over a press or sorting brass from a bucket? From my experience, it still does. If you’re shooting a lot every weekend on the range, or are using an uncommon caliber, or an expensive caliber, reloading ammo will definitely pay off in the long run for you. People who shoot AR-15s, or any other guns with high capacity magazines will find that making your own ammo means you will still be shooting the same amount, but at a lower cost. The guys and gals who are into long-range or precision shooting will soon realize that they can make drastically more accurate bullets than commercially available ones. If you are shooting uncommon and expensive calibers, reloading can be a good solution to all those who want to avoid going by every hunting store, pawnshop, and gun store and asking if they are stocked up with your cartridge.
Whatever the reason, the cost, the improved quality of ammo, or the pleasure of having a satisfying and interesting hobby, I would say that reloading has more benefits and perks than disadvantages.
What to consider when choosing the best reloading press
Buying a press can be a major investment, and there are several things that need to be taken into consideration beforehand. You can go with a simple single-stage (one bullet per lever pull) press. Or you can choose a complicated progressive press, capable of loading 1000 bullets per hour. There are several types of presses to match users’ needs based on their experience in reloading. Differences in operation aside, let’s focus on the common points each product should excel at.
As with any product you expect a certain level of quality, especially when it comes to manually operated mechanical devices that you will be using fairly often. A solid reloading press is an important investment, so don’t rush into buying the cheapest option on the market. It needs to be stable and rigid because, remember, you’re most likely going to be making thousands and thousands of rounds of ammo with it, it needs to last. If possible, choose the ones made from solid steel or cast iron. Make sure the construction of the press is tight. You don’t want to end up with an expensive door stop.
If you are new to reloading, your first choice is probably going to be a single-stage press. They are excellent tools not just for beginners, but also for experienced reloaders. The main reason is that, unlike a progressive or turret, you are making one bullet at a time. That gives you a greater ability to focus on making that perfect round. The downside is, it is slow, and eventually, you will want to speed up your process and start making more. A wise choice would be to buy a press that offers you upgrade options.
Ease of use
Always choose the one you feel the most comfortable working with. Granted, it isn’t easy always to test out a press before actually buying one, but get informed, either via the internet or if you have a buddy who already has the piece of reloading equipment. Find one that won’t take too much of your time on figuring out how to set it up and use it. It has to be intuitive and user friendly so you can focus on your work.
Unlike in the old days when people had to buy parts separately, producers today have offered the market various kits in which you can find everything or most of the stuff a beginner reloader needs. Long gone are the days when you needed to buy everything separately, starting from the press and shopping your way up. If you decide to take that approach, make sure to choose a kit that offers as many of the necessary accessories you will need as possible.
Die changing system
Using a single-stage press can be time-consuming. If time is of the essence to you, there are models that allow you to change dies much faster. Instead of unscrewing and screwing in a new die and recalibrating it, for eac stage, use a quick-changing method so you can save a lot of time reloading your ammo.
Single-stage vs turret vs progressive presses
A single-stage press is the most basic type of reloading press, excellent for beginners but also for experienced users who are reloading ammo for rifles. The downside of using a single-stage is the longer amount of time necessary to produce a bullet. The press holds only one die, which means you have to change dies for each stage. Pressing the lever, the cartridge case is inserted into the die where it acts on the case. Some types of single-stage presses have a priming setup installed into the shell holder, but in most cases, you will have to insert the primer into the bullet separately using a specialized priming tool.
A turret press is fairly similar to a single-stage press, with one major difference. Instead of one die, it has a wheel that holds multiple ones, so you can easily manually index between them. Even though some modern turret presses even have the ability to automatically index between dies, they still require one lever pull per action on the bullet. Nevertheless, they are faster than single-stage presses. The downside of this type of device it’s that it is slightly less stable and more flexible than a single-stage press, but if you buy a good brand-name turret press, you won’t experience any significant issues concerning that. For reloading rifle and handgun rounds, this will be a good choice for beginner reloaders.
A progressive press produces a round with one pull of the lever. The device is designed in such a way that multiple processes are completed with each pull. It has both a wheel that contains several dies and/or accessories like a powder measure or a case feeder and a shell holder plate plate that can hold several cases. During one cycle, the shell plate either manually or automatically turns to prepare the bullet for the next step in the operation, while a completed bullet is deposited into a cartridge bin or a bucket. If you need to make a lot of bullets for your semi-auto rifle, like an AR-15, this type of press is perfect for that job, because you can make large quantities in a relatively short amount of time. However, you will be sacrificing quality, due to less time spent focusing on the quality control of each round at every stage of the process.
What is auto-indexing on a reloading press?
One of the main prerequisites of every turret or progressive reloading press should be ease of use. A reloading press should work for you, not against you, when reloading ammunition. Indexing is one such process that has a positive effect on the outcome if done automatically. When you pull or push the lever on a turret press, the die holder has to be manually turned (indexed) afterward in order to prep the press for the next step in bullet making. Manual indexing means you line up the diesfor the next stage yourself. To limit the margin of error, which is bound to happen if you become tired after spending too much time at the reloading bench, a press that has an automatic or auto-indexing option is a good choice.
How automated presses work and do you need one
Competitive shooters often use progressive presses, because they usually use large quantities of ammo on a fairly regular basis. This type of press allows the user to make rounds faster, but also at a much-reduced cost. It has its disadvantages, being a fairly complex system, where one mistake can have potentially serious consequences. An automated reloading press isn’t a new concept, producers like Dillon and Posness Warren do have presses that automate almost the entire process from start to finish, where a user has to only make sure that the supply of empty brass, gunpowder, and bullets to the operating press is uninterrupted. The major advantage of such setups is that they allow the user to focus on secondary tasks, thereby eliminating the routine and monotony that is associated with reloading huge batches of ammo. An important thing to add is that they do offer greater reliability and speed but very often for a hefty price.
How to use a reloading press
Before you start using a reloading press you have to prepare all the necessary tools and accessories. Think of it sort of like cooking. Even though it would be amazing if you could cook all kinds of dishes using just one pan and one kitchen knife, more often you will be needing a whole array of utensils.
Here is a list of basic tools you will need in order to get started using a single stage press:
- Calipers and/or a micrometer
- A reloading press (this is a no brainer)
- A set of dies for the calibers you’re planning on reloading
- A shell holder or shell plate
- Smokeless powder, a powder dispenser and a precise scale
- Primers, bullets and clean brass
Make sure the reloading press is firmly attached to your reloading bench, and that all the components are within the reach. Most die sets now come with a caliber specific shell holder already in the package, place it in the ram of the press.
Now it’s time to place the resizing die in the press. Push the ram all the way until it touches the die, release the lever letting the ram fall down and twist the die in slightly. Press the ram with the shell holder back up again to push against the die, because you want to make sure there is no empty space when you size your shell. Twist the lock ring, manually as hard as you can, but you can also use a wrench, but then be careful not to use too much force.
Take an empty or spent case and place it in the shell holder. Lube the case, but don’t overdo it, a light coat is enough. With the case in the ram, pull the lever all the way down until the ram pushes the brass into the die above it. Sizing is done, but here is where the caliper comes into action, since each case has to be of a specific length in order to properly feed in a rifle, measure each case. If they are longer than necessary, they need to be trimmed to the proper size.
Several models reviewed here come with a priming arm and they work just fine, but you can also use a manual priming tool if you want to be absolutely sure the primer has been properly seated in the brass. Included in your die set package are usually small scoops used to properly measure and pour the powder into an empty brass case. It will work, but investing in a precise scale and a quality gunpowder dispenser is the way to go if you want to have a consistent charge.
Put a casing in the shell holder, and get ready to place a reseating die into the press. The procedure for placing the reseating die is similar to any other die, with a noticeable difference that this type of die has a seating stem at its top which you can twist on or off. When the die is properly fixed with a locking ring, lower the ram and the case down and insert the bullet inside the case. Then push the lever down and let the ram go into the reseating stem, locking the bullet into the case. There is a lot more to it, but that gives you an idea on how to reload your own rounds.
A clear winner is always difficult to determine when all of the “participants” are good. A single-stage press is a good choice if you are a beginner or if your primary focus is on the quality and accuracy of your rounds. If you wish to eventually upgrade or have a wide variety of calibers you wish to load, a turret press is a handy solution.
Personally, the RCBS Rockchucker Supreme press offers the simplicity and precision that a good press should offer. From .22 Hornet to .338 Lapua, this press will load it all without any issues. Keep it properly lubed and it will size, prime, and seat anything you put in it. It is a slightly improved version of an older model the company produced, without messing with the qualities the older model became famous for.
However, if time is a concern for you, and so is your budget, check out Lee Precision 4-Hole Classic Turret Press. It’s rigid, durable, and big enough to accommodate even the largest of calibers, but with the added benefit of an easily replaceable turret head, all for a more than modest price. Therefore, this press deserves a place on your shopping list.