At Glance: Best reloading press for beginners
Comparison of Best reloading press for beginners
Our Top Pick
|Redding – Big Boss II reloading press||View Latest Price|
Our Top Pick
|Sinclair International – Arbor press||View Latest Price|
Our Top Pick
|Redding – UltraMag reloading press||View Latest Price|
There’s a lot involved in reloading your own ammunition. If you’ve recently decided to take up this hobby, you’re most likely figuring out what components and equipment you need to get started.
Whether you’re a competitive or casual shooter, having a good reloading press on your workbench will allow you to reload cartridges and shotgun shells for much less than it costs to purchase new ones.
As there are different press styles, knowing which one is best for you can feel a bit overwhelming. With so much choice, picking the best reloading press for beginners will come down to what caliber you use, how much you reload and how often, and how much money you’re willing to spend.
In this article, I’ve broken down the different press types and tested and reviewed the top 8 reloading presses currently on the market, to help you decide which one is most suited to you.
Redding – Big Boss II reloading press
The Big Boss II reloading press by Redding is a heavy-duty cast iron single-stage press. It features a large frame opening and can handle any cartridge from small handgun cases to big rifle magnums.
The offset ball handle gives super-smooth operation and maximum leverage. The 36° offset O-frame has a 4½ inch high opening, which I found gives very easy access. Moreover, the automatic drop function lets spent primers fall through the 1-inch heavy ram and into a flexible plastic tube that can hold hundreds of primers.
I particularly like the look and feel of this press. The finish is excellent and the casting is really clean. The machining on steel parts is great too, with 3 mounting holes allowing easy mounting on your workbench.
I did find the press action to be a bit stiff at the initial use, but after applying some oil to the pivot points it became much smoother. I found the primer catch to be a great feature. One might occasionally fall out but that doesn’t cause a problem. Overall, the Big Boss II is a very well made, heavy-duty press with some high-quality features, making it one of the best reloading presses for beginners.
- Made from heavy-duty cast iron
- Can handle any size cartridge
- Automatic primer drop with large capacity tube
- Offset ball handle for smooth and easy operation
- Made in the USA from a reputable manufacturer
- Great casting and finish
- The press action may not be the smoothest straight out of the box
- No quick-change feature
Sinclair International – Arbor press
The Sinclair Arbor press was designed specifically for use with hand dies and can be used in just about any improvised location as it doesn’t need to be clamped down. The Arbor press boasts a compact design, with the post height just 8.250 inches, and the base size 4″ x 5″.
This reloading press is constructed with a high-quality solid stainless steel post and features a stainless steel rack and pinion design. I found the press to function flawlessly with all neck sizing and bullet seating hand dies, however, it’s worth noting that it’s not compatible with full length resizing dies.
The American-made press has an integrated ratchet-style height adjustment knob that allows you to easily lower and raise the press head position. The Sinclair arbor press is also available as part of a complete hand die reloading kit, which is a great option for beginners.
I found the action of the press was smooth and consistent throughout the ram travel. I also liked how the press comes well-lubricated for smooth operation from the very first use. Furthermore, it gave great control and accuracy. As long as you don’t reload full length dies, the Sinclair arbor press can be considered the best reloading press for beginners.
- Compact and portable design
- Sturdy and well constructed
- Features a ratchet-style height adjustment knob
- Works great with all neck sizing and bullet seating hand dies
- Gives smooth operation out of the box
- Not compatible with full length resizing dies
Redding – UltraMag reloading press
The UltraMag reloading press from Redding is a heavy-duty, high-quality press suited for large jobs and reloaders who need a large frame press. Uniquely, the Ultramag’s leverage system is connected to the top of the press frame giving tons of pressure without any concern of deflection or misalignment in the frame.
The Ultramag press was specially developed to give lots of leverage for resizing magnum rifle cartridges. This reloading press has a handy tube to catch the primers but as a single-stage press, it only has 1 die station. This is nowhere near as impressive as Redding’s T-7 turret model that boasts 7 stations.
It is quite an expensive press, so it’s not the best option for those on a tight budget. On the other hand, if you reload long magnum cartridges, it will serve as a great addition to your workbench. One word of warning though, you do have to be careful with the power this press will exert.
I liked the open front design of this press and found it made reloading longer ammunition much easier. Overall, the Ultramag has wonderfully smooth operation, is tough as nails, and gives monster leverage.
- Tough, heavy-duty construction
- Very powerful – gives a lot of leverage
- Works great with long magnum cartridges
- Easy to use thanks to its open front design
- An expensive option
Lyman – T-Mag II turret reloading press
The T-Mag II from Lyman is an upgrade from the original T-Mag press. It’s constructed with a tough, iron frame with a durable powder coat finish for durability to last a lifetime. This new release features powerful compound leverage with a unique position-indexable turret and quick disconnect release system.
The turret retention system gives smooth turret indexing with strong support. The impressive six-station turret head allows you to mount and lock in several die sets plus it easily detaches allowing you to change calibers without having to reset.
The press handle is equally impressive. As well as having an ambidextrous design, it also works as a turret-removal wrench. This means no additional tooling is required to change from turret to turret.
I found it super straightforward to mount the press to my wood bench thanks to T-Mag’s flat machined base. Other features of this high-quality reloading press include a universal priming arm and a primer catcher that catches around 100 primers.
This is a steady, well made, and durable tool, my only complaint is that the primer catcher tray could be stronger. Other than that, it’s a high-quality and reliable product and a strong contender for the best reloading press for beginners.
- Strong and durable construction
- Powerful compound leverage
- Turret retention system with six station turret heads
- Ambidextrous press handle
- Includes a universal priming arm and a primer catcher
- The primer catcher could be built stronger
RCBS – Rockchucker Supreme press
The Rockchucker supreme press by RCBS is a single-stage reloading press that has been built with a large loading window to better accommodate longer cartridges. The long handle along with the central-pivot design gives incredible leverage for sizing even the toughest brass.
The press features a solid steel ambidextrous handle that switches in the mount for right or left-handed users as well as a comfortable ball-type grip. The press frame gives four inches of ram-bearing surface to offer rigid support to the one-inch diameter main ram, and flex-free performance for high-pressure brass sizing demands.
This press rates high in strength and versatility, serving as a durable device for reloaders of all levels. I found this tough American made press to work best in heavy-duty reloading, case forming, and bullet swaging. Furthermore, for such a high-quality press, it’s an affordable option that will last a lifetime thanks to its durability.
- Strong and sturdy construction
- Extremely smooth operation
- Ambidextrous design
- 4.25-inch large loading window
- Incredible leverage for sizing the toughest brass
- Primer catcher is not completely reliable
Lee Precision – Breech Lock Challenger press
The Breech lock challenger press from Lee Precision uses the “O” frame design that is the strongest and most popular style press on the market today. This design saves space and is more rigid and durable.
It has been built with a larger than average opening to allow for maximum hand clearance. The built-in spent primer catcher efficiently sends the spent primers directly to the integrated trash can so that you don’t need to remove the press to empty the primers.
Although reloading with a single-stage press is usually slow, the challenger press speeds up the process with a breech-lock quick change tool. This lets you instantly change dies with a simple twist, thus removing the need for re-adjustment.
Overall this is a high quality and brilliantly designed reloading press for beginners and pros alike. It’s also one of the lowest-priced options on the list making it suitable for all budgets. One thing to note though, the press only comes with one breech lock bushing so you will need to buy more to have one for each of your dies.
- The strong “O” frame design helps you save space
- Integrated prime catcher
- Breech lock quick change tool for the dies
- Low price – great for those on a budget
- All steel linkage with an adjustable length lever
- Only comes with one breech lock bushing
Redding – T-7 turret press
The T-7 turret press by Redding features an impressive seven station turret head that is easily turned to set the next die in place. It also has a powerful compound linkage with over 3.8 inches of ram travel.
It’s constructed of rock-solid cast iron and its rear casting supports a durable turret to give precise alignment. The T-7 is integrated with a one-inch diameter ram and works with threading dies of 7/8 inches to fourteen inches, including the longer Competition dies.
This is a very heavy press but it is extremely solid. In fact, I would say that this is the strongest press that I tested. I found being able to have 2 calibers set up at a time saved a lot of time in my reloading process.
The press is as smooth as silk and the turret is easy to turn with or without the extension arm. One little issue I found was that the plastic primer chute starts to clog up after a while when using large primers so that’s something to be mindful of.
Overall, the T-7 turret press is versatile, efficient, and well made in every aspect. It’s perfect for both shooters interested in learning reloading and seasoned reloaders.
- Seven station turret head
- Powerful compound linkage with over 3.8″ of ram travel
- Strongest construction – made from rock-solid cast iron
- Very smooth operation
- A great option for reloaders of all levels
- Primer chute may clog up with large primers
Lee Precision – 4-hole classic turret press
Lee Precision’s classic turret press features solid steel linkage to give the smoothest use. The 4-hole press design lets you fit all the dies you need into the press at once.
The ergonomics of this press is impressive, with a longer stroke that decreases effort, gives a comfortable grip, and provides extra hand clearance. Its long stroke also allows rifle cases over 3 inches long to be loaded using the automatic index. Moreover, there’s the option to deactivate the auto-index. This will allow you to load bigger cases over 4 inches.
This press has the largest ram out of all those on the list. The rigid cast iron base securely supports the ram with a large 12-inch surface and is drilled completely through to dispense primers in an attached clear PVC tube. The primer catcher works extremely well with this reloading press and I didn’t experience even one slipping through.
The Four-hole Turret Press is ingeniously designed and its simplicity makes reloading a real pleasure. At such an affordable price, many will find this to be the best reloading press for beginners.
- Solid steel linkage for smooth use
- 4-hole press design
- Long-stroke and large ram surface
- Primer catcher works great
- Economical and great value for money
- Not the best press for calibers used in long-range shooting
Is reloading worth it?
There are many benefits to reloading your ammunition. Not only does it save you money, but it can greatly improve your accuracy and can be a fun hobby too. Moreover, reloading gives you the power to customize your cases to perform exactly how you want them to with your gun.
If you’re unsure if reloading is for you, here are the ways that reloading can improve your shooting.
If you’re a long-range precision shooter reloading is definitely worth considering.Reloading your ammunition rather than buying it factory produced will allow you to achieve much higher accuracy and consistency with your loads.
Factory-made ammunition can often result in minor differences in powder charges, concentricity of bullets with the neck of the cartridge, and other small defects. This is unavoidable in factory manufacturing that focuses on producing ammunition in bulk. Loading your ammunition by hand gives you the chance to inspect each round for quality as you are loading it.
Many reloaders took up this hobby as a way to save money. Although the savings may not seem extremely high per round, it does pay off over time and the more you shoot, the more money you will save.
You’ll save the most money if you use “oddball” calibers or large rifle ammunition. For example, handloading .300blk will cost around 50 cents a round, while purchasing comparable ammunition from a manufacturer will cost between 1 and 2 dollars per round.
Aside from the increased accuracy and savings in cost, many shooters choose to reload purely as a hobby. Some people even enjoy reloading their ammunition more than shooting it. Reloading is an “easy to learn, difficult to master” hobby that many people find intriguing. You can easily get started with the necessary equipment for a very affordable price, but becoming an expert in the field takes years of experience, practice, and lots of expensive equipment!
What to consider when choosing the best reloading press
Your reloading press should suit your shooting style and needs. Here are the top things to think about when making your choice.
The better the press is constructed, the longer it will last and therefore, the better return on investment you will get from it. Here are my recommendations on choosing a well-constructed reloading press:
- Buy from a reputable industry manufacturer that builds their presses in the USA, like all the models on this list.
- Opt for a press that has been made with steel or cast iron as these are higher quality and more durable materials than aluminum.
Many well-known industry manufacturers will release an updated version of their most popular press. The upgraded model will feature improvements to the features and corrections to any issues that were present in the original.
Ease of use
A press that runs smoothly is going to greatly improve your reloading experience. Many functions make the press easier to use. Here are a few features to look out for:
- An integrated primer catcher
- A wide base that’s easy to mount
- A ratchet-style height adjustment knob
- A pre-lubricated press
Many different accessories may be included with your new press such as additional turret heads, a quick-change bushing, and priming tools. Moreover, many manufacturers will additionally sell their press as part of a full kit which will include everything you need for the reloading process.
Die changing system
Some reloading presses for beginners feature a quick-change die system. This is a useful addition that helps to speed up the die changing process. With a quick-change system, you don’t need to waste time re-adjusting as you can change the die immediately just by twisting.
Single-stage vs turret vs progressive press
Let’s compare the 3 types of reloading press available.
- A single-stage press is one of the slowest methods of reloading.
- It can only perform one operation at a time, and the casing must be removed after each use.
- The die must be changed every time you need to switch operations.
- A single-stage press is the cheapest press type.
- It also makes a very good option for beginners or low volume shooters.
A single-stage press is the best option for you if:
- You primarily load rifles and small quantities of ammunition
- You’re just starting and are on a budget
- You want to spend the extra time on the process to ensure the best accuracy
- A turret press is similar to a single-stage press as it only performs one operation per pull of the lever.
- The difference is in how it holds the dies. A turret press has a rotating cylinder at the top that holds all the dies needed to load your rounds. This means you don’t have to remove the case from the press after every step.
- To use a turret press, you simply pull the lever to operate, then index the turret to bring around the die for the next step.
- This allows you to create a fully-loaded round with just a few pulls of the lever. Some models even have an auto-indexing feature so that all you have to do is pull the lever once!
- They are considerably faster than a single stage press, but also more expensive. They are also a bit slower than a progressive, but much cheaper. Therefore, they make a good compromise between the two.
A turret press is the best option for you if:
- You favor accuracy and attention to detail over speed.
- You’re willing to spend a bit more money to get a press with decent speed.
- You’re new to reloading so you want something simpler than a progressive press.
- A progressive press is the most efficient, but also the most expensive reloading press.
- A progressive press holds all the dies at the top of the press but also has multiple shell holders.
- To use this press you just put in all the components, set it to your preference, and start pulling the lever.
- Many progressive presses also come with automatic feeders which will insert your cases, primers, powder, and bullets into the process when needed.
A progressive press is the best option for you if:
- You shoot large quantities of ammunition
- You’re happy to pay a lot more to save time
- You’re mechanically inclined and you want the best, most advanced machine.
Why single-stage presses are better for beginners
- They require much more involvement and focus, compared to other styles, thus they help you learn the fundamentals of the reloading process.
- They are affordable and make good machines to start with.
- As a beginner, you may not yet need to reload large magnum rounds Single-stage presses value precision over quantity resulting in extreme Maccuracy.
What is auto-indexing on a reloading press?
Indexing means moving the dies (or casings) to the next position. With a manual indexing press, you have to manually advance the dies or cases. An auto-indexing press automatically “indexes” the dies or cases to the next step for you by rotating them around
How automated presses work and do you need one?
Different presses will offer different automation features.
- The most basic features that an automated press offers are case feeders and bullet feeders. These feeders automatically place new brass casings and new bullets into the press so all you need to do is pull the handle and keep the various components topped up.
- The handle can have an “auto-drive” feature that has the addition of a motor to move the handle without you physically needing to.
- An automatic press can have automated functions for different steps of the process. This allows you to de-prime, primer pocket swage, bulge bust, or size cast bullets as fast as you can operate the lever.
Automated reloading presses cost a lot more than manual presses. Because of this significant price difference, unless you shoot a lot and/or shoot large calibers, you will most likely not see a return on your investment.
However, because automated presses are much quicker than manual ones, you will spend much less time reloading. Therefore, you only really need an automated press if you are shooting in large quantities, or if you want to make the reloading process as short as possible, and don’t mind paying the price for it.
How to change calibers on your press
Turret and progressive presses allow you to install all the dies you need at once and process complete rounds of ammunition one after another. After you install and adjust the dies, you will only need to regularly check that they are still set correctly.
When you want to load a different caliber, you can change several dies at once, usually with “quick-change” mechanisms. For example, you can have exta turrets that hold all the dies necessary for reloading a given caliber. Simply switch out the turrets.
How to use a reloading press
- First, clean the cases. Make sure every case you’re going to use is clean and has no deformities or defects.
- Then lubricate each case. This is needed because of the force that the cartridges will go through. You also need to ensure that the brass isn’t under too much pressure.
- Install the shell holder in the press to keep the cartridge in position. Keep in mind that different bullets require different shell holders.
- Next, install the sizer die and ensure it’s in the right position. Make sure the sizer touches the shell holder when you pull the lever.
- With the sizer die in position, secure the lock ring.
- Fix the case into the shell holder by lowering the lever. This will resize the case to the proper dimensions.
- If the case is too long, trim it for proper chambering. After using a case several times it can become longer than it needs to be.
- Prime the Case. Place all the primers in a tray making sure the anvil is at the top. Then position one in the primer ram, raise it and insert the case into the shell holder so the primer is at the bottom of the case. Slowly raise the shell holder to set the primer in the case.
- Fill the case with the correct powder measure. Use a reloading scale to ensure accurate weight.
- Fix the bullet into the case. Hold it on top of the case while you raise the shell holder to ensure the die pushes the bullet into the case. Then lower the shell case and check the bullet is at the right depth.
Now the loaded cartridge can be stored in a safe place until use.
What is the best reloading press for beginners?
I was very impressed with the quality and durability of all 8 reloading presses. As all of the models on this list are from reputable industry professionals, you can’t go wrong with any of them.
However, the one I feel is the best reloading press for beginners is the Redding T-7 turret press. There are a few reasons why I was most drawn to this model. Firstly, the 7 station turret head saved me a lot of time and made it super easy to set the next die in place.
Secondly, it was the strongest press that I tested, and thirdly, the operation is so smooth making it a breeze for beginners to use. For me, it seems the perfect option for a beginner just getting started with the process.
By following this guide you’ll be able to identify the best reloading presses on the market, understand how they work, and feel more confident in getting started with your new reloading hobby.