American gun owners have been reloading their own ammunition for generations. Currently, 5 million out of the 43 million hunters and sport shooters in the United States take part in this activity. Some see it as a relaxing hobby, while others do it purely to reduce costs.
Moreover, D.I.Y ammo far exceeds its mass-produced counterpart in almost every way. For example, you can increase your overall accuracy, cut your ammunition costs in half, and increase reliability.
Many components go into handloading, but one of the most important and most expensive items you will purchase is a reloading machine. With the thousands of varieties on the market, it is important to know what is best and, more importantly, what is best for you.
Here are some of the top reloading presses for every skill level.
The 10 Best Reloading Presses Reviewed in 2019
Here is a list of the best reloading presses of 2019:
- Best Progressive Presses #1: Hornady Lock N’ Load
- Best Progressive Presses #2: Lee Precision Load Master 45
- Best Progressive Presses #3: Dillon Precision 16940 XL 650 223
- Best Turret Presses #1: Lee Precision Classic Turret Press
- Best Turret Presses #2: RCBS Turret Press
- Best Turret Presses #3: Lyman T-Mag Turret Press
- Best Single Stage Presses #1: RCBS Rock Chucker Supreme
- Best Single Stage Presses #2: Redding Big Boss 2
- Best Single Stage Presses #3: Forster Co-Ax
- Best Reloading Kit For Beginners #1: RCBS Rock Chucker Supreme Master
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1. Best Progressive Presses #1: Hornady Lock N’ Load
The Hornady Lock N’ Load is a heavy-duty, easy-to-use progressive press that will greatly increase your efficiency with every reload.
It provides you with a five-station, auto-indexing feature as well as the EZject System from Hornady, which ensures each cartridge is ejected upon completion. After the initial adjustment, you could produce up to 600 rounds per hour!
Additionally, the case-activated powder drop will not release powder until there is a case attached to the holder. The feature that really streamlines the process though is its quick-change system that simplifies the process of changing out dies with a single twist.
FEATURES: auto indexing, EZject System, Lock N’ Load bushing design, quick-change system, optional accessories, large multi-round hopper, case-activated powder drop, universal bullet case retainer spring; dimensions: 20 x 14 x 11 inches; weight: 29 pounds
- High quality
- Middle-of-the-road price
- Clean powder drop
- Quick-change die system
- Prone to jamming
- Best for experienced users
This product is the perfect fit for those who have outgrown their single stage press but aren’t ready to empty their pocketbook on an upgrade.
This should provide you with a simple transition that works for multiple calibers and can provide you the confidence that you are still buying a quality device.
Compare prices at: Sportsman’s Warehouse, Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, Brownells
2. Best Progressive Presses #2: Lee Precision Load Master 45
The Lee Precision Load Master is one of the highest-quality progressive presses that you can get at an affordable price. The low price, however, does not mean you will be sacrificing features.
After a little patience and practice, you could be producing up to 400 rounds per hour with the five progressive stations, allowing you to perform up to five functions at once.
You can easily change from caliber to caliber using the removable turret head, and the powder measure system will help to ensure a clean workspace with little waste.
This press is also compatible with a wide range of die sizes, so you won’t feel constrained.
FEATURES: Quick-change tool head, cast aluminum body, both automatic and manual indexes, five stations, removable turret head, powder measure system; dimensions: 19 x 11 x 10 inches; weight: 6.61 pounds
- Less expensive
- Top-of-the-line features
- Ability to transition
- Lightweight frame
- Prone to jamming
- Can have issues with seating primers
- Slight problems with powder measure
If you are new to reloading, or if it is your first stage of upgrading to a more efficient system, the Lee Precision Load Master is a perfect fit. Not only is it the cheapest progressive press for the quality, but the manual and automatic indexes also allow you to move from beginner to skilled without the added cost.
Compare prices at: Amazon
3. Best Progressive Presses #3: Dillon Precision 16940 XL 650 223
Leading the pack in progressive presses is the Dillon Precision 650XL. The sheer number of accessories and component feeders could make up their own category.
This is probably why the 650XL is the most popular choice to automate, potentially producing thousands of rounds per hour. The design is made to load common rifle and handgun cartridges.
Of course, with a product of this caliber, it’s easy to see why the quality, warranty, and customer service far exceed its counterparts.
FEATURES: quick-change tool heads, automatic indexing, five-station loader, mechanically indexed shell plate, mechanically inserted cases, manually fed bullets
- Sturdy, reliable structure
- Sigh efficiency
- Gigh efficiency
- Automatic powder measurer
- Motor for case feeder not included
This product is for remanufactured ammunition aficionados. In fact, many professionals who sell their rebuilt bullets turn to the Dillon Precision XL.
You will expect to drop more than $600.00 on this industry-leading reloading equipment, but you’ll be able to produce 800 to over a 1,000 rounds per hour with aftermarket accessories and proper practice.
4. Best Turret Presses #1: Lee Precision Classic Turret Press
The Lee Precision Classic Turret is an award-winning press with all of the basic necessities for any intermediate reloader. An easy change turret plate allows for an uncomplicated switch between calibers, and the four stations help with reloading various die sets.
A large clearance area facilitates work on some of the largest rifle cases, and its durable cast iron design gives it the capability to work under pressure while reloading batches of shell casings.
You will feel comfortable with this purchase after reading its outstanding reviews and knowing that you are covered under a two-year quality warranty.
FEATURES: four-station loader, auto-indexing, primer arms, cast iron frame, high clearance, solid steel linkage, long hardwood grip lever
- Good finish on projectiles
- Easy to set up
- Made of durable, high-quality materials
- 2-year quality warranty
- Wooden lever prone to cracking or breaking
The Lee Precision Turret press is a great option for both novices and intermediates alike. While you won’t be producing mass quantities of ammunition as seen in the progressive presses, you will be producing a high-quality product that you can gear to your needs.
Compare prices at: Optics Planet
5. Best Turret Presses #2: RCBS Turret Press
The RCBS Turret is the perfect reloading press for the intermediate hand loader. You will be able to set up multiple die combinations using the six-station turret head and can work on three different stages in the reloading process: priming, depriming, and sizing.
It’s cast iron design gives you the durability you need for high-volume production, and a quick-change tool head will make you efficient while switching between calibers.
The cost also fits the product, being cheaper than a progressive press but a little more expensive than single stage models.
FEATURES: six-station loader, ambidextrous handle, cast iron frame, quick-change tool head, can be operated in progressive or single stage mode; dimensions: 16.5 x 5.5 x 6 inches; weight: 19.44 pounds
- Ambidextrous handle
- Quick-change tool head
- Cast iron frame
- No auto-indexing feature
- Maximum production of 50-200 rounds per hour
- Initial set up can be complicated
The RCBS Turret Press is a great match for the reloading hobbyist with some experience in the field. This press will produce enough ammunition to keep the average shooter satisfied between trips to the range. And at a fair price, you know you are getting a press with longevity.
Compare prices at: Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, Amazon
6. Best Turret Presses #3: Lyman T-Mag Turret Press
This sturdy, middle-of-the-road turret press from Lyman will up production for a marginal cost. The iron frame with rustproof finish will ensure the longevity of your investment, and the six-station turret head will allow for an easy switch between dies.
Lyman is a lightweight, top-of-the-line brand that lets you easily transform your kitchen table into a workshop.
FEATURES: six-station turret head, ambidextrous handle, multipurpose turret handle, iron frame, rustproof finish, primer catcher, priming arm; dimensions: 6.2 x 9.2 x 16.8 inches; weight: 8.82 pounds
- Rustproof iron frame
- Works on all standard size dies
- Works for both pistol and rifle cartridges
- Dies are not included
- Manual priming
- Thin, plastic catcher tray
This is the perfect option for intermediate reloaders that are looking for something lightweight, easy to use, and simple to maintain.
Once you get the hang of it, you should be able to produce 200-300 rounds per hour of high-quality, accurate ammunition to up your handgun and rifle game.
7. Best Single Stage Presses #1: RCBS Rock Chucker Supreme
In the simplified world of single stage presses, the RCBS Rock Chucker reigns supreme. This O-frame reloading press will give you outstanding benchrest accuracy at a minimal price.
It’s cast iron body will won’t deteriorate, and at only 20 pounds, you can make any space your workspace. Unlike other single stage presses, the RCBS has easy priming on the press feature and the ability to accommodate longer rifle cartridges. You may also use this press for reforming brass for wildcat rounds.
FEATURES: O-frame, cast iron design, quick-change die, lengthened body, priming on the press, ambidextrous handle; dimensions: 20 x 15 x 10 inches; weight: 20.2 pounds
- O-frame press
- Priming on the press
- Produces outstanding benchrest accuracy
- Inefficient, quick-change die feature
- More expensive than most single stage presses
While the RCBS Rock Chucker Supreme is marketed as a beginner press, its simplistic design and sturdy frame are great for even the most experienced long-range shooter.
This is due to the necessary attention to detail that must go into making every bullet. You will need to hand measure and assemble each component, significantly increasing your accuracy and reliability (with little practice).
Compare prices at: Cabela’s, Bass Pro Shops
8. Best Single Stage Presses #2: Redding Big Boss 2
While similar to the RCBS, the Redding Big Boss 2 single stage press has a few features that set it apart from the pack. This solid cast iron O-frame press is offset by 36 degrees, which increases visibility when working with cartridges of all sizes.
The usable ram stroke of 3.8 inches is among the longest in any single stage press. These features help tremendously when you consider this press was made specifically for larger cartridges or loading magnum rifle loads.
FEATURES: 3.8-inch ram stroke, O-frame, cast iron design, 36-degree offset, fitted bushing for different die sizes; dimensions: 15 x 7 x 7 inches; weight: 16 pounds
- 3.8-inch ram stroke
- Cast iron frame
- Visibility offset
- No quick-change die system
- Mostly for large cartridges or magnum rifle loads
The Redding Big Boss 2 is great for beginner to professional rifle shooters. As many of the single stage presses, it will greatly increase the accuracy and reliability of your ammunition and is specifically tailored to long-range gunsmiths.
While it may be more expensive than some single stage presses, it is easily affordable when you think of the price for the quality.
Compare prices at: Brownells
9. Best Single Stage Presses #3: Forster Co-Ax
The Forster Co-Ax single stage press doesn’t fit the standard—in a good way. This press fits neither the O- or C-frame design, giving it the ability to provide you with three times the mechanical advantage of any other single press.
It’s included snap in/snap out quick-change die system and floating guide rods ensure that you will be producing superb ammunition with little to no physical effort.
Also, this product features a unique top priming device that perfectly seats primers to factory specifications, meaning no flipping or tipping.
FEATURES: steel and cast-iron frame, floating guide rods, 3x mechanical advantage, quick-change die system
- 3x mechanical advantage
- Floating guide rods
- Snap in/snap out quick-change die system
- High price
- Not a standard frame
If you lack the strength or dexterity to manually operate most single stage presses, or just don’t want the unnecessary wrist strain of operating a press, Forster thought of you.
This somewhat expensive press gives you three times the mechanical advantage and can allow you the simplicity of resizing using the force of a single finger. You can have all of the high-quality features of most single presses without the added work.
10. Best Reloading Kit For Beginners #1: RCBS Rock Chucker Supreme Master Reloading Kit
If you are new to reloading and want to get almost everything you need in one purchase, consider the RCBS Rock Chucker Supreme reloading kit.
This kit is considered the primary foundation of reloading operations throughout the world. It will unlock the mysteries of reloading with its reloading guide and have you up and running within an afternoon.
Plus, you will have the advantage of having an RCBS product with a large potential for add-ons and accessories to make the reloading process specific to your needs.
FEATURES: RCBS Rock Chucker press, 505 reloading scale, uniflow powder measure, hand-priming tool, case loading block, deburring tool and hex key, case lube kit, 2 ounce bottle of case lube, case lube pad, two case neck brushes (.22 and .30 calibers), powder funnels, spear reloading manual
- Lifetime warranty
- Easy installation
- High-quality, long lasting material
- Does not include a mounting plate
- Does not include reloading dies or shell holders
Considered the best option for the reloading beginner, this kit will give you virtually everything you need to start reloading in one afternoon.
Don’t go through the hassle of trying to buy each item individually just to realize you are missing an important piece. It is important to keep things simple, especially when starting out.
Compare prices at: Brownells, Palmetto State Armory
Related: What’s the Cheapest Shotgun Gauge to Shoot
Types Of Reloading Presses Explained!
There are three primary types of reloading presses that you should know: progressive reloading presses, turret presses, and single stage presses.
Progressive Reloading Press
The progressive reloading press is designed to create a new reloaded round for each cycle of the lever.
The progressive reloading press accomplishes this by utilizing what is called a shell plate, which can hold multiple cases at once.
When you push down on the lever, several processes happen simultaneously as the shell plate turns so that each shell is prepared for the next operation. The completed round will then be sent into a bin to be collected later.
The progressive reloading press is arguably the be best type of reloading press if you have to reload ammunition for semi-automatic firearms that use ammunition quickly, such as pistols, AR-15s, or AK-47s.
However, progressive reloading presses are also more complex and expensive, which means that if you don’t need to reload ammunition in bulk, they are not the best choice.
- Excellent choice if you want to reload multiple rounds quickly
- Completed rounds are collected
- Best option for pistol and semi-automatic rifle shooters
- Not the best choice for beginners
- More expensive than single stage presses
- Additional time is required for caliber changeovers
The turret press is very similar to a single stage press in that only one die acts per cartridge.
But the difference between a single stage press and a turret press is that the turret press can hold multiple dies at once. This means that you can manually switch from one die to the next very quickly, which in turn means that you can reload more ammunition at once.
At the same time, turret presses also have more flex and less precision than a single stage press.
- Faster than the single stage press
- Less precise than a single stage press
Single Stage Press
The simplest kind of reloading press, by far, is the single stage press. This press only holds one die at a time and is typically built on a very rigid frame.
The die are screwed into an opening at the top of the press, with a shell holder attached to the ram to hold the cartridge case.
Each time you press down on the lever, the ram will raise to reload. Priming needs to be done separately using a hand priming set up.
- Simplest and easiest type of reloading press to use
- Most inexpensive kind of reloading press
- Built on a rigid frame
- Poor choice for reloading ammunition in bulk
How To Choose?
The reloading press is the most important and most expensive items you invest in when you decide to become a reloader. Therefore, diligent research and evaluation of your individual needs is very important.
Are you wanting to produce a high volume of ammunition? What caliber will you mostly be working in? What are your cost constraints?
That being said, the first condition you want to look at is the types of guns you will be reloading. For example, if you are solely loading for handguns, having high clearance for longer cartridges shouldn’t be a concern during purchase.
On the other hand, if you are primarily loading rifle rounds, you may want to look at something like the classic RCBS Rock Chucker. The rigid design of this single stage press and slower loading style give you the accuracy needed for long-range shooting.
Volume of Production
It is also important to evaluate how much ammunition you intend to produce against how much experience you have as a reloader. With a progressive press, you will have the ability to produce thousands of rounds per hour.
However, these are also the most expensive presses on the market, and if you are only shooting once a week or once every two weeks, they are somewhat impractical. Further, the progressive presses are somewhat complicated to use and don’t have much wiggle room for error.
The best option for the average shooter, even novice or an intermediate reloaders, is the turret press. With these, you can produce anywhere from 100-500 rounds per hour, with less practice time.
They are not high in cost and can be equipped with aftermarket accessories to cover a range of calibers and increase production rates.
Brand and Warranty
As with any expensive product you buy, you will want to consider customer reviews, warranties, and brand longevity. When I say brand longevity, I mean buying from a company that has been on the market for a while.
A reloading press is a long-term investment, and you do not want to make it four years in and no longer be able to buy accessories when you are ready to upgrade.
Also, a warranty isn’t a warranty without the customer service to back it up. You may find a product with a lifetime warranty, but when a piece breaks and it takes you years to get a response from customer service, that warranty doesn’t mean much.
Dillon is a great brand that regularly receives commendations on their customer service.
Price and Skill Level
The price of your reloading press will likely correlate with the skill level you have upon purchase. The simple guide is as follows. The single stage press is going to be your cheapest option and is great for novices. It also produces highly-accurate ammunition.
The turret press is for newbies and intermediate level loaders alike. It is a little more expensive and takes practice and patience but greatly increases your production levels.
The most expensive is the progressive press. This device is mainly for the experts and professionals that have paid their dues on the slower presses and are ready to greatly increase their output.
Best Reloading Press Brands
RCBS is a long-recognized brand for pistol and rifle reloading products that became a part of Vista Outdoors in 2015. RCBS’s 80 years of experience as a producer of high-quality reloading equipment cannot be matched.
They are constantly manufacturing the finest and most efficient precision-engineered (or “precisioneered”) products that flawlessly meld the old and the new.
All products are made with heavy-duty, cast iron materials that ensure quality and longevity. And their pride in their products shows, as they back them up with excellent warranties and astute customer service.
These aren’t just ravings from RCBS, but the customers that repeatedly give five-star ratings over the entire range of their products. The brand loyalty can be seen as people boast about continuing to use their first press bought 56-60 years prior.
One reviewer even wrote, “This press is built like a brick outhouse. It won’t be wearing out anytime soon. It’s also very precise. The threading, the moving parts… it’s all good.”
While their products lean on the more expensive side, they are definitely worth the one-time fee for a lifetime of positive experiences.
The closest contender in the match for best reloading products has to be Lee Precision. With over 70 years of experience in the field, this record-breaking company is always willing to innovate and move with the times.
But they always stick to a tight standard that they state as: 1) Does it fill a real need or is it better than any other product available? 2) Can it be produced at an affordable price? 3) Would I buy one?
Without a “yes” to all three questions, the product will never make it to market. These standards also make Lee the most affordable in reloading products for pistols and rifles. They deliver top-of-the-line products without the painful charges.
Their affordability is achieved by using lightweight cast aluminum to construct a body that is nowhere near the price of cast iron. However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t as sturdy. The tough powder coat finish keeps the product strong and durable throughout its lifetime.
If you don’t think that is possible, you may want to check out their warranty policies. Every product automatically comes with a two-year “no questions asked” warranty, along with a limited lifetime warranty. Also, unlike many manufacturers they offer a 30-day satisfaction guarantee.
With those types of guarantees it is easy to see why their customers are so pleased.
Hornady has strong roots in the American culture, shooting off from the Hornady Sporting Goods line back in 1949.
WWII had ended, and the country was returning to peace, but people were still looking for accurate, deadly, dependable bullets they could afford to reload. Joyce Hornady understood this so much that “Accurate, deadly and dependable” became their first slogan.
Now, Hornady continues to adhere to its motto while manufacturing exceptional ammunition, bullets, and reloading products. While their prices may be higher than others, you can feel comfort knowing that their products will exquisitely accomplish their intended purpose.
The proof is in the pudding, though. By this I mean that every Hornady reloading product comes with all of the bells and whistles the brand has patented.
Their unique structures and patented features like the EZject system aren’t found in any other manufacturers’ product. However, Hornady also provides accessories that can be added on to presses that are not their own.
While they do have some minor imperfections, such as a primer seating in their single stage press that wears out easily, the overall product still wins out regularly and receives top-notch reviews.
Where should I mount a reloading press?
You will want to mount your press on a sturdy workbench or table, ensuring plenty of room for your feet and elbows to move around.
You will also want to leave a minimum of 8 to 10 inches all the way around your workspace so you have room for all of your components. Also, make sure that there is room above the press so it can fully extend.
After you have found a space to fit these parameters, clamp down the press and drill the appropriately sized holes through the bench and bolt it into place.
The other option is to simply mount your press using C-clamps.
What is auto-indexing on a reloading press?
When you are indexing, you are moving the dies (or casings) to the next position in the reloading process. Auto-indexing (usually found on turret presses or above) means that you will automatically advance to the next step without having to manually move or reposition the die.
What reloading press do the pros use?
The types of reloading presses used by the pros are as diverse as the presses themselves. However, for the professional hand-loaded ammunition producer, the Dillon XL650 is a top choice.
Long-range rifle shooters tend to lean on the side of single stage presses that increase their overall accuracy.