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Selecting an Ammo Reloading Press | Reloading Press Types

by Bob Shell, Thu, April 25, 2013

You have made the decision to get into reloading your own ammo. Congratulations, you have made a decision that will allow you to quit depending on other people for your shooting needs. It is a great hobby with many upsides.




Now you have to select the ammo reloading press needed and there are a lot of variations depending on your budget and needs. Some thought should be used in reloading equipment selection to avoid buying the wrong type of tooling. If you know an experienced reloader that would be a great help in learning plus getting advice on selecting the right equipment. Be prepared to lay down some cash for your setup. You definitely want to buy quality equipment to avoid unnecessary problems in the future. We are going to talk about ammo reloading presses in this piece.




The press is a necessary to hold your dies and many reloaders including myself use it for priming the brass. The press mounts to your reloading bench, which should be sturdy. Any company that produces reloading tools and equipment makes ammo presses. You can check the websites to see what is available. Companies such as Lyman, Hornady, RCBS, Redding, and Lee are popular. I am not endorsing one company over another as they all make good equipment. They come in various sizes and price ranges so the selection is good.

Choosing the Right Ammo Reloading Press for You

Someone who is new to reloading might wonder which press is right for you.  You want to put some thought and research into the selection. For instance what will you be reloading a year from now or five years for that matter. If you only want one press then you should look at a model that does it all. Then you won’t have to buy something else six months down the road. That is especially important if your room is limited. You can look at it like buying a gun. When you buy a gun, usually it is for a certain purpose and you would select the make and model that would suit you. If you treat your reloading press purchase the same way chances are you will be happy with your selection. All of the manufacturers have websites and contact info so you can ask someone there a question regarding a product.


There are single stage and progressive models available. For the new reloader I strongly suggest a single stage press and that is where we will keep our focus. There is a variety of things that you need to do in order to make good ammo. With a single stage, you can observe the procedures as you go along. The purpose of reloading your own ammo is to make good ammo as opposed to making a lot. Most people who get into loading their own state that saving money is their primary goal. That may or may not happen depending on your circumstances and buying habits. Learning the safety aspects should be your first priority. After you load for a while and thoroughly understand the procedures then you can look at a progressive.




Considerations in selecting a press are cost and use. Also, how much are you planning on shooting? If you plan on shooting a variety of calibers plus shooting pretty often, I would suggest starting with a larger press. That way you will be covered for any caliber that may end up in your arsenal. You may start off with .38’s but may end up with a .30-06 which a heavy duty press will easily cover. Ammo presses can run from about $40 to $400 depending on size and features. Some of your large and limited production models can run a lot more though they are seldom needed. Another consideration is what type of ammo you are going to reload.




If you are going to load small handgun cartridges such as 9mm and 380’s a small light duty press will suffice especially if you don’t plan on loading a lot of ammo. If rifles, especially large calibers and magnum chamberings are on the menu then a heavy duty model is necessary. When you size cases, the large ones require a lot more leverage than their smaller brethren. Simple physics dictates that a magnum round needs a longer handle and larger opening than a 9mm round. A press that is too small for the job will likely fail fairly soon plus it will make you work harder than necessary. A consideration is do you want to use your press for priming also? Some but not all presses have that ability. You can use a top mounted priming system on virtually any press.

Used Ammo Reloading Equipment

Like most shopping if you take some time a bargain may come your way. Be very careful when buying used or off brand equipment. It may be obsolete and parts would be difficult if not impossible to get. When you are learning to reload, you don’t need a press that went out of production 40 years ago. Not all things that are inexpensive are a bargain. When buying a used reloading press be careful that it isn’t sprung, especially a light C type. If it is sprung, which means that it is out of line you will never be able to make good ammo because the ram and the top of the press aren’t lined up. Most companies offer package deals, which you should look at carefully. That means that you can get most if not all of the equipment that you need to get started, a great advantage. In many instances, they will save you some money and time as they will come with a press, dies, scales and a powder measure.




A reloading manual is a major plus. As you advance in your ammo reloading you might want to have two or more presses mounted and use one or more for a specific function.Later on if you get into bullet swaging a heavy duty press would be mandatory. Some companies such as CH Tool & Die offer dies that can be mounted to a press to make handgun bullets.


You should have a sturdy workbench with some good lighting and room to mount the press. That is the tool that holds the sizing and bullet seating dies. Sizing requires some effort especially larger cases and a flimsy bench will cause you all sorts of problems. It needs to be anchored firmly to the bench to avoid movement and sloppy work.The press is the heart and soul of the operation and selecting and properly mounting it will make your reloading experience a lot better.



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All photo credits Bob Shell

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