If you’re in the market for tools for reloading your ammunition, you’ve probably realized that there are a lot of different companies out there!This page will introduce you to the different strengths of four of the top brands.
For the beginner, one of the best-known basic single-stage presses is the RCBS Rock Chucker. It’s produced by one of the earliest manufacturers of reloading equipment. The initials stand for Rock Chuck Bullet Swage dies, which–designed for making varmint bullets for rock chucks—were the company’s first product.
Now, RCBS sells a full range of presses and kits for ammunition reloading under the Rock Chucker brand name, in addition to their Ammomaster, Partner, and Summit presses. These all are available for purchase as part of full reloading kits, which tend to be designed with the novice reloader in mind. They also include the Nosler reloading manual.
If you are a more experienced reloader or if you want to make more ammo, faster, you can check out their turret press, which can up your speed from 50 to around 200 rounds per hour. It offers the option of running in single-stage mode if you want more precision or are just getting started. But you can also run it in progressive mode, which enables faster output by minimizing steps.
If you want to go full auto, there’s also another option: the Pro Chucker, which is RCBS’s progressive press, will let you reload up to 600 rounds per hour. As with most progressive presses, however, setting it up and changing the caliber will require patience and attention to detail.
Lee’s signature bright red presses are easily recognizable. You’ll find that they are often the best value, especially for a beginner reloader.
For a budget buy, they can’t be beat. Lee sells a hand press as well as the full range of bench-mounted ones, including four single-stage and two turret presses as well as the Pro and Load-Master progressive presses.
The hand press is a good starting item for learning how the reloading process works, but it is very slow. If you’ll be doing a fair number of rounds, it’s worth going straight to the bench-mount single-stage or turret presses, which have an excellent reputation.
The award-winning Lee turret press, in particular, can produce up to 200 rounds per hour. The progressive presses, however, can be difficult to change caliber in; they also can be finicky and require some fine-tuning.Lee’s solution to this problem is to sell them factory-preset for a specific caliber.
While they predict that you should be able to change the caliber in as little as three minutes, they recommend that you use a turret press if you are going to be reloading a number of different caliber bullets. Either way, once you get them working the way you want them to, Lee’s progressive presses will keep churning out rounds at high speed for years.
Hornady’s presses are marketed on superior quality, billing themselves as the ideal choice for making match-quality ammunition. They are certainly some of the most solidly constructed on the market, ensuring that they will not deform under pressure and that they will last a lifetime.
Hornady’s designs also tend to be very simple to use. Their Lock-N-Load adapters have been popular features for decades, enabling you to switch dies with just a quick quarter turn instead of having to screw them in and out every time.
Hornady’s Iron Press is one of their more notable products; it is a unique-looking reinvention of the basic O-style single-stage press with an unmistakable conical shape that makes for easier access to the “window” where the reloading action takes place.The automatic primer assembly has also received an upgrade, with better reliability and better protection against accidental primer detonation.
The highlight of Hornady’s lineup, though, is the five-station Lock-N-Load AP, one of the best progressive presses in the industry. It comes with a lot of options and special features, like individually adjustable, quick-change dies and an auto indexer. This press can easily put out over 500 rounds per hour.
Dillon is a high-end press maker. They were the first company to offer a progressive press for home use, and they have kept their market share by producing some of the fastest presses out there.
Unlike some down-market options, for example, which only have 3 stations and thus can often force users to run cartridges back through if they want a final tapering crimp, Dillon’s basic progressive press comes with four; its top-of-the-line press, the Dillon Super 1050 B, has eight. This latter press is probably the fastest on the market, capable of producing well over a thousand rounds per hour. It’s certainly not a beginner’s press!
However, if you don’t plan to change calibers often and you want a whole barn full of bullets, the Dillon Super 1050 is absolutely the way to go. Dillon’s presses aim for both high volume and accuracy, making them ideal for the competition shooter.
However, single-stage presses are not Dillon’s strong suit. Their surprisingly small Square Deal B is billed as “compact,” and will only load handgun and carbine bullets, not rifle bullets. The company has banked on their versatile basic progressive press, the 550, for smaller-volume reloading. While it is a quality product, it doesn’t quite stand above its competitors like the full progressive presses.
Between these brands of presses, there is something for every shooter. For the beginner and the budget shopper as well as the occasional reloader, Lee’s presses are ideal.
If you want a slightly higher-end, more durable product, you should go for an RCBS or Hornady press (though the Lee turret press certainly gives these others a run for their money!) And if you are a high-volumeshooter with a lot of experience reloading, you probably want to go for Hornady or Dillon’s higher-end progressive models.
Whatever you buy, stay safe, shoot straight, and happy reloading!