Getting to Know the Different Types of Reloading Presses

“What are the different types of reloading presses, and what kind of press do I need ?” is the first question most people ask when getting into reloading. Brands aside, reloading presses can be grouped into three categories: single-stage, turret, and progressive.

Most reloaders start with a single-stage, learn the process, and then move to more advanced setups. Precision shooters stick with single-stage reloaders because this allows maximum control over every step in the reloading process.

All reloading presses have a handle that must be pulled to perform the reloading functions. More advanced presses throw a powder charge and feed projectiles.

SINGLE-STAGE Reloading Press

A single-stage reloader means one hull at a time is handled. The reloading dies have to change with each step in the reloading process. This implies a reloader sets up a lot of brass with each step before moving on to the next one. The shell holder never changes.

Most decapping (removing the primer) dies also resize the brass. If the brass is not resized, that takes another step.

The first stroke on the press pushes out the spent primer. If the brass is not resized, that has to be the next step. With the brass ready, a new primer is inserted.

A single-stage press sometimes has the attachments to seat a new primer. The decapping die must be removed to do this. Sometimes a hand primer is used. Precision loaders prefer the hand primer because it allows a greater feel when setting the primer in the brass.

The brass is removed and usually set into a reloading block. After some brass is reprimed, a powder charge gets weighed out and dropped into each hull. Powder charges can be measured out with a powder measure or measure kit. The powder measure must be adjusted to drop the correct charge every time, regardless of the kind of press used.Lee single stage reloading press

Precision shooters will weigh the powder on a scale to make sure each brass has the same charge. To ensure that the powder charge is exact each time, a powder trickler adds powder to the weight pan in tiny increments.

The filled brass goes back in the press. The seating die is put in the press. A projectile is placed over the neck of the brass. A pull of the handle pushes the projectile into the brass. The depth of the seating die is adjusted on the first one, regardless of the press, to get the bullet seated properly.

In two-die sets, the reloading is finished. In a three-die set, the third die puts a crimp on the case mouth to better hold the bullet in place. This is done in straight-wall cartridges like the .45-70 and revolver cartridges like the .44 Magnum. This is why we crimp.

Bench v. Hand press

In a single-stage, the bench press is mounted to a table. The hand press is held entirely in hand. Hand presses are sometimes called portable presses. The hand press is also the least expensive reloading press.

TURRET Reloading Press

In a turret press, a single brass is left in the shell holder in the press for the entire process. All the dies are mounted in a turret on the top of the press. Some turret presses also have attachments for feeding primers and powders.

The turret is rotated to change what the press does to the brass. This method is a bit faster than a single stage because the reloader does not have to stop to change dies, move the brass around, and so forth.

This kind of press still produces one completed round at the time.

The turret press is suitable for turning out ammo reasonably quickly. It is also less expensive than the progressive press.

The Redding T-7 Turret Press mounted on the reloading bench at Guns and Gear Guide.

Progressive Reloading Press

In a progressive press, each pull of the handle produces a finished round, once the press is set up and running. It takes a few pulls to get to that point.

The progressive press is the most expensive press. It is best used for turning out a lot of ammo really fast. It does not give the same level of precision as found in the single-stage or the turret press.

The first brass in the bottom shell holder is de-primed and resized. The handle goes back up, and that brass advances to the next station. Another brass is placed in the open space. This pull primes No. 1, and de-primes No. 2. The third piece of brass is situated in the now-open station. The third pull drops powder in No. 1, primes No. 2, and de-primes No. 3.

The fourth brass enters production. With this pull, the press feeds a bullet to No. 1, and the bullet is seated. The fifth brass is placed in the production line. If needed, No. 1 gets crimped. If not required, it advances to an empty slot.

When brass No. 5 advances, No. 1 is completed and removed from the press. Bras No. 6 replaces the reloaded round. Now, each pull of the press turns out a reloaded round until one of the components is used up.

Dillon xl650 progressive reloading press

WHAT WORKS BEST

Which press is best? That depends on what you want to do. If benchrest and precision shooting is your thing, go with a single-stage because you can check each step of the reloading process. If you have the money to invest and do a lot of plinking, the progressive reloading press lets you crank out ammo rapidly. The turret press combines features of both. You can have more precision than with a progressive, but will not get the same speed as a progressive.

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