At a Glance: Best reloading press
Comparison of 3 Best Reloading Presses
Our Top Pick
|Redding – T-7 turret press||View Latest Price|
Our Top Pick
|Hornady – Lock-N-Load Auto progressive press||View Latest Price|
Our Top Pick
|RCBS – Rockchucker supreme press||View Latest Price|
In 2021, more and more shooters are opting to hand load their ammunition than ever before. Some shooters choose to reload for increased accuracy, others do it to save money or overcome ammo shortages, and for some, it’s simply a fun hobby.
Whatever your reason for reloading, a good reloading press is a vital piece of equipment to have on your workbench. A high-quality reloading press will allow you to reload cartridges and shotgun shells for notably less than it costs to purchase new ones. There are different styles of reloading presses on the market, and the choice can be overwhelming. Which press you choose will be determined by what caliber you use, along with the frequency and quantity of your reloading needs. Something else to consider is how much money you’re willing to spend as reloading presses can vary greatly in price.
Our Pick Of The 8 Best Reloading Presses of the Year
In this article, I’ll describe the different press types and the features they offer. I’ll also explain the factors that you should consider when shopping for a reloading press.
Furthermore, I’ve taken the 8 top reloading presses for 2020 and tested and reviewed each one. By weighing up the pros and cons of each product, you’ll be able to confidently choose the best reloading press for your needs.
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 with 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 most robust press that I tested. I found being able to have 2 calibers set up at a time saved a lot of time in the 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, accurate, and well made in every aspect. It’s perfect for both shooters interested in learning how to reload 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
Hornady – Lock-N-Load Auto Progressive Press
Another top quality press from Hornady, the Lock-N-Load auto is an automatic, five-station progressive press. With this press, you can easily switch your calibers without having to change the entire tool head. With just a quick twist, you can engage or disengage your dies in each station.
This setup allows you to load 500 rounds per hour on average. I found this press automatically advances the cases to the next station with the smoothest indexing of all the presses I tested.
I also like how it rotates every half stroke to lessen the chance of powder spillage. When each round is completed, the case is automatically ejected into the large capacity case catcher using the built-in EZject system to prevent jamming upon ejecting cartridges.
Another cool feature is the quick-change powder measure. This lets you change powder charges with the press of a button and utilizes metering inserts that allow you to preset your dies to the charge you desire. Other features include a built-in priming system and a case-activated powder drop.
I found this Hornady press to have the best balance between quality and affordability. It includes many of the top features of the most expensive progressive presses but without such a high price tag. If you’re new to progressive presses it may be a little tricky to set up, but once you get the hang of it you’ll find this powerful machine can hugely upgrade your load accuracy.
- Fully automated
- 5-station bushing system for quick changes
- Quick-change powder measure with insert
- High round output
- Lots of extra features, good value for money
- Can be a bit tricky to set up
- More prone to jams and malfunctions
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 and has 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
Hornady – Lock-N-Load case feeder & accessories
Hornady’s Lock-N-Load rifle bullet feeder is designed for the Lock-N-Load AP reloading press but is also compatible with other presses. It uses the industry-standard 7⁄8″–14 die threads.
This fully automated case feeder boasts the highest torque motor in the industry and an extra-large case bowl. This gives the possibility to reload hundreds of cases per hour with quick and simple changeovers, typically taking about 5 minutes. The fail-safe slide mechanism prevents damage from misfed cases or incorrectly adjusted shuttle.
The 22 caliber kit accommodates cartridge sizes from .221 Fireball to 22-6mm. The Lock-N-Load case feeder comes complete with everything you need including cartridge adapters and six V-blocks. The only exception is the case feeder plates, which are sold separately.
For an automatic press, it wasn’t too difficult to install, taking just under 1 hour. I love the idea of this press but unfortunately, because of the automaton, the case feeder is prone to jamming. Some users have experienced issues with this model but overall, I found it to work well. Moreover, like all Hornady products, the engineering of this unit is outstanding.
- Contains almost everything you need
- The highest torque motor in the industry
- Extra-large case bowl
- Great for high volume reloading
- Fail-safe slide mechanism to prevent damage
- Prone to jamming
- Some reported issues from users
Lee Precision – Load-All II shotgun press
The Load-All II shotgun press by Lee Precision features easy and economical gauge conversion and recesses at every station for speedy shell positioning. The press is available in three different gauge sizes; 12 gauge, 16 gauge, and 20 gauge.
The Load-All II is adjustable from the standard 2 3/4 shell, up to a 3-inch shell. There is a built-in primer catcher with an easy-to-empty door at the front of the press and 24 shot and powder bushings are included free.
I found the press does a fine job of depriming, resizing & crimping shotshells, producing good quality reloads. Despite the base being made of plastic, it seems that it will hold up well for years.
Aside from the positives, I did find a couple of negatives with this press. Changing out powder or bushings is a bit difficult and on occasion, the press leaked small amounts of powder.
In an hour I was able to produce about 40 – 50 rounds. It’s an excellent press for casual shooters producing a low number of rounds, but perhaps not the best reloading press for the most ardent shooters who need a high volume machine to turn out a large number of rounds.
- Available in 3 different gauge sizes
- Built-in primer catcher
- Rates high in performance and quality
- Includes 24 shot and powder bushings
- Not user friendly for changing power/ bushings
- Press may leak small amounts of powder
Hornady 366 Auto precision shotshell press
Hornady’s impressive 366 auto progressive reloader turns out ammunition in an assembly-line fashion with factory tight tolerances. This press is full of state of the art features such as an automatic primer feed system, automatic indexing, and spring-loaded seater punch.
You’ll find a swing-out wad guide for instant access wad placement. Then there are the large-capacity hopper tubes creating smooth flowing uniform loads. There’s also a three-stage taper-loc-crimping device for crimping, closing, and tapering your shotshells.
I found the 366 auto press very user friendly and efficient. The standard bushings can be easily switched over to other shot sizes or powders. The lever gives ambidextrous use, for both right and left-handed users and there’s even the option to resize your shells to factory dimensions.
This press is not a cheap machine, rather it’s one of the most expensive on the list. But, if you can afford it, it’s more than worth it. It’s one of the most durable machines out there and will last a lifetime. That in itself gives you a worthwhile return on investment.
Moreover, this machine will continue to deliver you perfect consistent loads because of its flawless functionality. This could easily be the best reloading press for all passionate shooters.
- Fully automated
- Many incredible features and functions
- User-friendly and easy to use
- Extreme durability and longevity
- One of the most consistent machines
- An expensive option
MEC Reloading Sizemaster shell press
The MEC Sizemaster is a complete single-stage reloading press that offers simplicity and efficiency while maintaining absolute precision. This shell press is packed with top-class features such as the E-Z Prime automatic primer feed and the “Power Ring” collet resizer that returns every case to SAAMI specifications.
Other features include a cam-action crimp die and a spindex crimp starter which swivels to align itself correctly with original shell creases. This new generation all-in-one resizing station handles both brass and steel heads, as well as both high and low bases. The Sizemaster is adjustable for 3 inch shells and is available in 12, 20, 28 gauge, and .410 bore.
I was truly impressed with the construction of the press. It is solidly built and will last a lifetime. I also found the Sizemaster to be incredibly easy to use, an absolute joy. As it’s a single-stage press, it is slower than the progressive presses on this list. However, it still turns out accurate and consistent shells and is a more affordable option.
If you like to take your time reloading and you want a top-quality, reliable press to assist you, this one could well be the best reloading press for you.
- Simple, easy to use design
- E-Z Prime automatic primer feed
- Power Ring collet resizer
- Handles both brass and steel heads
- Strong and durable construction
- Good value for money
- Not the fastest operation
MEC Reloading Sizemaster shell press
Another top quality press from MEC. The 600 JR Mark V shotshell press has a noticeably faster and more efficient operation than the Sizemaster. The features this press possesses are normally only found on the most high-end models. Because of this, the MEC 600 has become one of the most popular and economical single-stage shotshell presses of 2020
The shotshell press allows you to load eight to ten boxes per hour. It’s also easy to upgrade to the 285 CA primer feed system. Doing so will eliminate the need to handle each primer individually. Furthermore, the powder transfer bar is easy to swap out. You can use the optional larger quantity powder and shot supply hoppers too.
The press is adjustable for 3-inch shells, and is available in 12, 20, 28 gauge and .410 bore. The product includes 1 Charge Bar & 3 Powder Bushings. When testing, the press was simple to set up and I was able to load a box of shells in minutes.
I found this MEC reloading press to be a completely reliable and economical tool. It gives more creative control of the reloading process than its competitors. It’s the best reloading press for making reloading fun, easy and affordable for all passionate shooters.
- Gives more creative control than others
- Extremely reliable
- An economical choice
- Adjustable for different length shotshells
- Ability to load eight to ten boxes per hour
- Available in several calibers
Find out if reloading is For You
If you’re mulling over whether it’s worth switching to reloading this section is for you!
Reloading your ammunition can bring you many benefits. Firstly, you’ll no longer have to splash out on expensive factory-made ammunition, thus you will notice a significant saving in costs. Secondly, handloading cases yourself has the potential to sizably improve your accuracy. Lastly, once you get the hang of it, reloading can, and usually does, become a fun hobby.
Benefits to Buying A Reloading Press
Reloading gives you the power to customize your cases. This means you can create cases that perform exactly how you want them to with your gun. If you’re still unsure, let’s explore the benefits further.
- Handloading your ammunition rather than buying factory-produced cases will allow you to achieve much higher accuracy and consistency with your loads. This is especially true if you’re a long-range precision shooter.
- Factory-made ammunition can often have minor differences in powder charge, the concentricity of bullets within the neck of the cartridge, and other small defects. This is unavoidable in factory manufacturing as it focuses on producing ammunition in bulk.
- The process of reloading your ammunition by hand gives you the chance to inspect each round for quality as you’re loading it, reducing the chances of defects.
- Many reloaders take up reloading to reduce costs. The savings may not seem high initially, especially with the start-up costs. However, over time you’ll notice the savings, and the more you shoot, the more money you will save.
- You’ll experience the most savings if you use “oddball” calibers or large rifle ammunition. For example, handloading .300 BLK will cost around 50 cents a round, while purchasing comparable ammunition from a manufacturer will cost between 1 and 2 dollars per round.
- Many shooters find reloading to be a fun and rewarding hobby. Some people even enjoy reloading their ammunition more than shooting it.
- The control that reloading gives you over your cases can make it a rewarding and worthwhile process to learn.
- Reloading is an “easy to learn, difficult to master” hobby that many people find fascinating.
- It’s easy to acquire the necessary equipment needed to get started for a very affordable price. However, becoming an expert in the field takes years of experience and practice. Plus, the more experienced you become, the more expensive equipment you will want to buy!
What to consider when looking for the best reloading press
As reloading presses have different styles and features, you should choose the one that is best suited to your shooting style and needs. So how do you find the best press for you? Here are the key factors to consider.
Well-made presses are known to last a long time. The more longevity a press gives you, the better the return on investment will be. Here are my recommendations on choosing a well-constructed reloading press:
- Buy from a reputable 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 manufacturers offer aftermarket components for their presses. Often, most manufacturers’ products will be compatible with many or all of their presses. In other cases, add-ons will only be compatible with certain presses. Sometimes manufacturers will offer components that are compatible with another brand’s presses too.
Get to know what’s out there and what you think you’ll want. It usually isn’t hard to find a great press with the aftermarket upgrades that you need. One of the most common examples is a powder measure that fits in a die socket and serves as one ‘stage’ on a progressive press.
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 and a quick-change bushing. Some single stage presses will also have priming attachments that let you prime at the same time rather than having to use a separate hand priming setup.
Moreover, many manufacturers will additionally sell their press as part of a full kit which will include everything you need for the reloading process. This is a great option for beginners as you don’t need to shop around looking for individual parts.
Die changing system
Some reloading presses 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 Reloading Press
Before purchasing a reloading press, it’s important to understand the difference between the 3 types of reloading press available
Single-Stage Reloading Presses
A single-stage press is one of the slowest methods of reloading. It can only perform one operation at a time. The die must be changed every time you need to switch operations.
Single-stage presses value precision over quantity resulting in extreme accuracy. This makes them a very good option for beginners or low volume shooters. A single-stage press is the cheapest press style.
They require much more time, involvement, and focus, compared to other styles. This can, however, help you learn the fundamentals of the reloading process.
A single-stage press is the best option for you if:
- You primarily load rifles and small quantities of ammunition
- You’re just starting out
- You 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!
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.
Progressive Reloading Presses
A progressive press is the most efficient, but also the most expensive type of reloading press.
With experience, it’s possible to load up to 1,000 rounds in an hour. This type of press achieves these speeds by performing multiple operations at once.
As well as performing the process in a quicker time, progressive presses also work well with larger calibers. This style could be an option if you tend to reload large magnum rounds, especially in high quantities. 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. Pretty soon you’ll get one completed round per pull. Many progressive presses also come with automatic feeders which will insert your cases, primers, powder, and bullets into the process as 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.
If you’ve been reloading with a single-stage press for a while and you’re thinking of upgrading to a progressive, here are a few points to note.
- As a progressive press has multiple shell holders, you will need to set up your dies in a specific way and continually check that they are properly tuned. Perfect consistency can be harder to guarantee.
- One of the stages can be filled by a powder charge instead of completing this step off the press like with a single-stage press.
- A progressive press can be much more complicated to use than a single-stage or turret press. For this reason, it’s more likely that something will go wrong such as jam or breakage.
What is auto-indexing on a reloading press?
Indexing means moving the dies to the next position. With a manual indexing press, you have to advance the dies or case holders by hand.
An auto-indexing press automatically “indexes” the dies or case holders to the next step for you by rotating them around.
- The auto-indexing feature can be found on many progressive presses.
- Automatic indexing requires about 25% of the stroke length to rotate the shell plate.
- It’s easier to load longer cartridges on a manually-indexed press than on an auto-indexing machine.
- If you are new to reloading it may be best to start with manual indexing as it is easier to learn.
Something to note is that automation can bring potential complications. Some shooters will say that auto-indexing unnecessarily complicates the machine or that manual indexing gives you more control. If it’s your first time using a press with the auto-indexing function, take your time. By slowing down and concentrating on how the automation works you will still produce plenty of ammo but you will get more accurate end results, too.
How Do 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 press’s lever can have an “auto-drive” feature that has the addition of a motor to move it 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 the significant price difference, unless you shoot a lot and/or shoot large calibers, you may 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’re shooting large quantities, or if you want to make the reloading process as short as possible, and don’t mind paying to do so.
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 extra turrets that hold all the dies necessary for reloading any given caliber. Simply switch out the turrets.
How to use a reloading press
Here are some general guidelines for using a manual single-stage 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.
- Install the shell holder in the press to keep the cartridge in position. Keep in mind that different bullets require different sizes of shell holders.
- Next, install the sizing die and ensure it’s in the right position. Make sure the sizer touches the shell holder when you pull the lever.
- With the sizing 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 should 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 load. Use a reloading scale to ensure accuracy.
- 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.
The best reloading press
The reloading press that’s best for you will depend on your usage needs and your budget.
So, if you are looking to splash out on a fully automated press with all the features you could dream of, there’s no doubt that the Hornady 366 Auto precision shotshell press is the best reloading press for you. This high-tech machine functions flawlessly giving the utmost consistency and accuracy in your rounds.
If you’re on a budget, or perhaps prefer a simpler model, you can’t go wrong with the MEC Reloading 600 JR Mark V shotshell press. This affordable single stage press gives fast and efficient operation with complete reliability and creative control.
You’ll now have a deeper understanding of how reloading presses work and the differences among the options on the market today. I hope with this guide, you’ll be able to confidently choose the best reloading press for your specific needs.