At last we get to the serious part of the topic of reloading, reloading presses.
This is a complex area, simply due to the variety of choices available, both in terms of equipment type and manufacturers. Over the next few articles I will attempt to de-mystify the issues which need to be addressed in order to make an informed decision on the correct approach to your specific reloading task(s).
Types of Presses
There are essentially 3 types of reloading press, although the possible variations in the 3 basic types are in themselves numerous. These 3 types are:
- Single stage presses.
- Turret presses.
- Progressive presses.
Each of these have their own strengths and weaknesses, and all have a place on your potential reloading equipment shopping list, depending entirely on your reloading requirements. As you go down the list, the equipment does get more expensive, but in most cases also increases the average reloading rate and reloading flexibility, e.g., faster reloading and easier to swap between pistol/rifle and different calibers.
Single Stage Presses
The basic single stage press is little more than a mechanical lever arm which pushes a case attached to a case holder up into a reloading die, performing a single operation. Depending on the type of dies used, this single operation may, however, complete several tasks at the same time, e.g. a combined decapping/resizing operation. A typical single stage press is shown in Figure 1.
The complete reloading operation requires the single die to be removed from the press and subsequent dies inserted in sequence to complete all the reloading tasks. These types of presses are fine for loading a small number of rounds, especially for rifle ammunition. Even with some experience, 100 rounds per hour (average rate) would be about the best that can be achieved. They are a cost effective solution costing between $100-$200, although the die sets will add another $70.
Whilst some of these single stage presses can be fitted with a primer punch, due to the low average reloading rates, primers are frequently replaced externally to the press using a hand held manual primer punch similar to the one shown in Figure 2. These hand held punches are relatively cheap at around $80. A slightly more sophisticated bench mounted primer punch which utilises a primer feed tube is shown in Figure 3, costing about $120. Another variation on these manual primer punches utilises a plastic feed strip which is filled with primers and then fed into the punch. This type of punch is shown in Figure 4 and costs about $130.
In operation, a single stage press would typically be fitted initially with a decapping/resizing die. All the cases being reloaded would have their expended primers removed and the cases resized with the decapping/resizing die fitted to the press, typically 50-100 rounds at a time.
After decapping/resizing, each case is stored in a reloading block (Figure 5), which hold 50–100 rounds and cost around $12. Once all the cases have been decapped/resized, they would be run through the hand held primer punch, the new primers inserted and the primed cases placed back in the reloading block.
From here, powder is measured using a powder dispenser/measure or powder tickler/powder scales and inserted manually into each case using a funnel. A typical powder dispenser/measure is shown in Figure 6. These vary immensely in price from $200-$500, depending on features. Powder ticklers, Figure 7, cost around $10. Powder scales, both balance beam and digital were covered in my first article on reloading equipment.
Once the powder charge has been added, a seating die is installed in the press and each round has its projectile inserted to the appropriate depth. If necessary, the die is then replaced with a crimp die and each round crimped.
When selecting dies for use in a single stage press, it is important to choose dies that can be set and locked, then removed and reinstalled without needing further adjustment. An example is the die set shown in Figure 8. Note the small grub screw on the height adjustment nut on these dies. Once locked, these grub screws fix the depth setting of the die, which can now be removed and reinstalled in a single stage press at exactly the same setting.
Dies designed for use in Turret and Progressive presses do not generally have these grub locking screws as they can be installed in a press, adjusted and usually left untouched.
In the next article I will go to the next level of reloading press technology, the so-called “Turret” presses.
Featured image courtesy of www.redding-reloading.com