Turret vs Progressive


Hondo 60
February 23, 2010, 12:12 AM
1. What's the difference?
Looks like you put multiple dies in both of them.

2. I keep hearing the word "upgrade" over my single stage.
In what way are turrets & progressives faster?


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February 23, 2010, 12:25 AM
Turret presses have one shell holder, and a turret that holds multiple dies. You still get one operation per handle pull, like a single-stage, but the turret allows you to leave the dies set and saves time removing/reinstalling. You can operate a turret press by fully completing a round in the shell holder, rotating the turret to bring dies into service, or you can operate it as a batch machine, doing 50 or 100 before moving to the next die.

Progressive presses have a shell plate with multiple stations and a toolhead that holds multiple dies. With a progressive, you get x operations per handle pull (where x is the number of stations). Properly adjusted, a progressive is faster than a turret.

Progressive presses with "auto indexing" move the shellplate automatically, but not all progressive presses have this feature.

February 23, 2010, 12:30 AM
1. A turret press has multiple dies installed on a rotating head--the turret. Consequently, the operator

doesn't need to change dies in the press for a new operation;
he just manually rotates to a new die,
or automatically rotates a turret by stroking a handle.

However the die is changed, stroking the press handle operates on one case at a time, and therefore it takes three-four strokes to produce a completed round.

2. A progressive press has multiple die stations in its head--three and on up--but operates on more one case. Each stroke of the handle works on all cases at once, and each stroke produces a completed round.

You can now see, I suspect, how a turret can be faster than a single stage--i.e, where you have stop and take time to change out dies and possibly adjust them. For that reason, the workflow with a single stage press is usually 'batch processing" i.e., where you do the same step repeatedly--powder insertion, for example--and then move on to bullet seating for the same set of cartridges, and then finish up with crimping.

A reasonable production rate with a single stage press is perhaps 50 rounds per hour. For a 'typical' (RCBS, Lyman) turret press, one might do 100 rounds per hour. The Lee Turret presses are unique in that they can optionally have automatic turning (indexing) of the turret--and one experienced with that mode can do perhaps 180-200 rounds per hour by using a workflow that just starts with a cleaned case. Four strokes later, a cartridge.

Progressives will not be three-four-five-times faster than a turret, however. The use of a progressive demands a higher level of concentration and organization, I've found. With my Load-Master set up and organized, I can readily do about 400 rounds per hour--but it is fatiguing. And, there really is a greater chance of a problem showing up if maintenance is needed.

added on edit: People use the word "upgrade," I think, because we tend to equate greater production with "upgrading"--it's "better" to have greater productivity. A related factor is that, as one becomes very familiar with all the factors in reloading, one can really work faster than what single stage reloading allows.

Jim H.

Hondo 60
February 23, 2010, 01:33 AM
dmazur & jfh

Nice job of explaining. I got it.

Even though my Lee is a single stage the added bonus of the Challenger Breech Lock is the use of bushings. I lock the die into the bushing & don't have to ever adjust it.

February 23, 2010, 08:07 AM
With a turret, each operation (sizing/decapping, casemouth expansion, bullet seating, powder drop, perhaps taper crimp separately) requires one pull of the handle. So that could be up to *five* pulls for one round.

A progressive produces a completed round with *one* pull of the handle.

Below is a link to a video showing the kind of throughput you can get; each time he pulls the handle, he produces a completed round.

Hornady LNL 705 rounds per hour (100 in 8:25) (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=huhI-BtQHU0&feature=related)

It does overstates how fast you can really go, because you can't sustain this kind of speed; you need to reload primers, bullets, and brass, and, frankly, you wear yourself out doing it this fast. I have the same press, and I can produce this rate of throughput, but can't sustain it. Nor do I want to.

I can comfortably produce 300-400 rounds an hour; that's enough for me!

February 23, 2010, 09:13 AM
Loading a box (50) of pistol cartridges in 20 minutes on a Lee four hole turret press is not overly difficult at all.... but (call me a whimp) I find repeating that three times in an hour to be a drag (600 pulls, refilling the primer tray once, refilling the powder hopper once, checking the powder charge on the scale several times, packing up and labeling 3 boxes...)

Much to my wife's bewilderment, I actually enjoy reloading.... so why race through it.

I leave my press set up (powder hopper labelled, and primer tray labelled) so on a typical evening after the kiddies are in bed and the house is put back in order, I can retire to the basement and pop out a box or two while listening to music and chit chatting with my wife (while she surfs Facebook :barf:).

I have ammo when I need it.

I don't cringe and start to do accounting in my head when I go to the range and burn through several boxes

I enjoy experimenting with different loads in my rifles.

I have the satisfaction of doing it myself

I understand more about how firearms actually work

What can I say.... it keeps me off the streets ;)

Life is good

February 23, 2010, 09:33 AM
This thread has some of the best explanations and descriptions I've read in a long time........and not one post demanding that the readers only ever buy a Dillon! LOL

February 23, 2010, 09:50 AM
I started with a single stage, went to a turret, and then to a progressive, fairly quickly. Progressives are just plain fast, so you get done sooner. Once you have reloading down pretty well, they are just as easy as well.

Jesse Heywood
February 23, 2010, 10:00 AM
Once you have reloading down pretty well, they are just as easy as well.

Turrets and progressives are not machines for learning how to reload. There are too many things that need constant attention. It's better to learn the basics well before advancing to a turret or progressive. Then you won't be overwhelmed by the process.

February 23, 2010, 10:03 AM
The differences have already been explained very well. With that, I'll throw my 2 cents worth in. The turret is the best of both worlds for me. My reloading sessions are wedged in here and there around "life". Either method requires the same number of operations to produce ammo, but with a progressive, you've got more things to pay attention to ALL AT ONCE. Here's what my process is with my Lee turret press:

Come home from range, dump 2 or 3 hundred pieces of dirty brass in tumbler and let run for a couple of hours.

At some time later, sort now cleaned brass and size/deprime. Place in coffee can marked "deprimed brass".

Whenever I get around to it, prime my clean, sized, deprimed brass using the Lee Auto Prime. Place in coffee can marked "primed brass".

Then, whenever I get around to it, is the fun part. I've got my turret head set up with powder charging die with Pro powder measure, seating die and Lee FCD. I don't use auto-indexing. When I sit down to reload, I drop 10 powder charges, seat 10 bullets, crimp 10 cases, so on and so on until done.

I don't really know how "fast" I am, but I feel like things flow along at a satisfactory pace for this "casual" reloader.:D

This method works so well for me, partly because there are so many natural "stopping points" along the way so I can quit and go do "life" whenever I need to. At the end of any 10-round "batch", I can just throw the Kroger sack over the press, cut out the lights and run off at will.

February 23, 2010, 10:11 AM
I kinda went at it backwards as I bought my pro1000 before buying a lee turret. Love the turret for loading up just a few rounds to see if they work like I expect.

February 23, 2010, 10:51 AM
My process on the Classic turret is pretty basic and simple......like me - lol .

Clean the range brass in the tumbler and store in a large plastic tub by caliber.

I do all four operations on the press. Size/deprime/Lee safety prime (on down stroke), powder thru flare die, seating die, then FCD and done. Four pulls and a loaded round is complete.

I typically check about every 10th round with a Wilson case gage. I have found the auto-pro with adjustable charge bar throws very consistent charges.

February 23, 2010, 11:16 AM
Couple differences between the turret presses on the market. The two more popular ones are the Redding T7 and the Lee Classic Turret.

The Redding is great if you shoot target loads and need all sorts of dies on one press for different operations. Body die, neck die, bushing dies for forming, all that jazz. It's more expensive than the Lee but is a manual index whereas the Lee is auto index.

The Lee is great if you are just looking to speed up your production a bit. 200-250 rounds per hour for pistol is easy without trying hard. The quirkiest thing about the Lee is that damn priming system. It's hit or miss. Some guys don't ever have a problem with it but some are always dropping primers on the floor. It takes a bit of time to get through the learning curve but it's a great press for small batches of weekend ammo. The auto index will rotate the dies for you so every four pulls you get a loaded round. Sit down for an hour or so and you have your range ammo loaded for Saturday. If you shoot 1,000 a month or so of pistol, that's the press I recommend. Works great for 150-200 rounds of small rifle like the .204 or .223, etc.

Depending on your needs I would get the Lee over the Redding.

February 24, 2010, 07:20 AM
I'dd like to clarify the Lee a bit, the die turret can be swapped in seconds for another, the Auto-Index set up can be disabled for hand index or single stage operation almost as fast and the turrets are a bargain. The priming system does leave something to be desired, I mostly use the hand held AuotPrime instead and mostly hand indexed the press.

twice barrel
February 24, 2010, 08:03 AM
Fantastic, clean, thread. Congratulations men!

With my new Lee Classic Turret I've now assembled approximately 2500 rounds of 40 S&W, 357 Sig, and 45ACP over the last couple of months. If I don't need to switch out turrets, move the powder thrower or adjust it, switch out shell holder and primer arm... and have 200 primers loaded in the Safety Prime......I suppose I could load them in an hour if I pressed myself but it would be an effort. Yet I could do 50 rounds in 15-20 minutes easy. But I have to stand up ever now and then. :D I like to use a loading block even though it is not needed really but its easier for me to be certain of my case count, primer count (funny how they can sneak away) and in general keep things in order.

On my setup I find my large primer arm tends to hang up a little and I've modified my routine to catch it with out thinking about it now. The tip of the Safety Prime on the large primer setup is white while the small primer setup has a black tip. On the underside of the white tip the plastic has a slight amount of flashing that protudes. Another poster on another thread somewhere pointed this out so I just checked mine. It is so small and seemingly insignificant that I wouldn't have noticed it myself. Used a #11 exacto blade and trimmed it off...perhaps a 32nd of an inch?

Wow, now every primer feeds perfectly. Actually loaded 100 rounds without having to stop on the last two and clip the last to primers in my hand to load manually. Now I still do this with the small primers because I reckon they're just too light anyway. And I don't mind this; I watch for it and its easy to do once you know to watch for it.

One thing the inexpensive Lee presses have is a large following of folks sharing tips and solutions to many issues that may arise. Not every press or device has precisely the same issues but for the ones that are common there are many many generous users online these days that can save a man much grief if you'll take the time to poke around the reloading forums.

As to the OP; I truly think this large following of tinkerer's is one of the blessings that come with a turret or progressive press.

Just an observation and passing along a tip,


February 24, 2010, 08:25 AM
I have a progressive (LNL AP), a couple of single-stages, but I recently acquired a Lyman Tmag turret press.

The guy I bought it from noted what I think is a great use of a turret--mount it to a Workmate or similar folding bench, get all the dies set up at home, then take the setup to the range. You could (and I think I will be doing this) produce variations right on-site, try them, see how they do.

With all the dies set up, it'll be a simple matter to produce one or a few rounds and experiment to my heart's content.

The only issue in such a situation is measuring powder (hope it's not windy!) but if I were *really* motivated I'd get a portable ice-fishing shanty or a small hunting blind and reload inside of that.

February 24, 2010, 11:20 AM
Turrets and progressives are not machines for learning how to reload. There are too many things that need constant attention. It's better to learn the basics well before advancing to a turret or progressive. Then you won't be overwhelmed by the process.

I learned to reload on a turret, but I have always figured I was a genius.

February 24, 2010, 11:37 AM
You know what they say- "A picture's worh 1000 words".

Here's an article that basically an "anatomy" of the single stage, the turret, and the progressive with intended uses, tradeoffs, etc:

One of the unique presses is the Lee Classic Turret (cast iron) as mentioned previously - it is a turret that also auto-indexes.

A couple important notes about the Redding T-7:
- Best in class quality
- 7 stations (best in class as well)
- Slide bar priming system (a third best-in-class in my opinion)

One point some don't think of is that the Hornady Lock0N-Load classic single stage is "almost like a turret" in that you can swap out dies almost as fast as you can manually index your turret.

I have HD videos of progressives and turrets up on my site (soon to have Lee Classic Turret vids up) so if you want to see these presses in action- click on the link above and browse the manufacturer "tabs". Each is loaded with HD videos.

February 24, 2010, 07:30 PM
Turrets and progressives are not machines for learning how to reload.

A turret press is a single stage with multiple die stations. You don't have to use them all at once.

You can run one round through all five stations on a Lock and Load and pay attention to every single stage. You don't have to have a round in every station.

There might be a few progressives that are a bit much for a newbie, but not all progressives and not ALL newbies.

Hope this helps.

February 24, 2010, 08:03 PM
if you load for precision, I don't think you can get away from a single stage... I have yet to see a progressive with a pocket cleaner station, uniform flashole station, trimming station or powder charge weigh station.... I could be wrong

I keep threatening to get a Dillon 550 or 650, however my production is currently keeping up with my usage simply using a rockchucker and I mostly load .45ACP

February 24, 2010, 08:48 PM
I have a couple things to add here as well:

Learning on a progressive:
This depends on the individual. I learned on a progressive, and sure- I was frustrated for a couple hours, but was glad I started with the progressive, because I was loading only for pistol - and single stage or turret would have been too slow. Since then I've started loading on all types of presses, and use each for specific purposes. They're all handy.

Turrets and accuracy:
There are many factors that affect round consisstency. If you are using a powder that meters well in a progressive powder measure (such as H380, W-760, W-231, ...) you do not need to hand-throw charges even for accurate rifle rounds - especially if you're using a baffle in your powder measure. Primer pocket cleaning is a big debate in terms of its effect on accuracy. If you must do it every time, then a progressive is not the way to go. COL (Cartridge Overall Length) consistency is definately imporant for accuracy in most cases, and that can also be dialed in very close on *some* progressives, and in some cases has more to do with the dies used and how the dies are setup than the type of press. For Turrets, if you look at the design of the Redding T-7 with it's positive stop rear support casting, you'll have essentially the same accuracy as on a single stage.

I'm not trying to specifically disagree, rather just to add clarification, and some of my own observations. For some, starting single stage is best, for others a turret can do all of their reloading just fine, but for some- a progressive is the way to start and finish equipping their loading room.

The good news is- if you buy equipment (especially used) you can always sell it, and upgrade later. With the right equipment, you can get about 80% back when you sell. That's what I did when I upgraded from my 1st press (a progressive) to a better progressive for my needs.

Lloyd Smale
February 25, 2010, 08:43 AM
dont really agree with some of this. First the round can be plucked off a progressive at any stage and things like cleaning primer pockets can be done then. Ive loaded ammo on a progressive that has shot under a 1/2 inch at a 100 yards so accuracy really isnt a factor. Also id have to ask why anyone would feel the need to clean primer pockets on every loading. Ive done it both ways and theres no differnce in accuracy. In the function of about every turnent press ( ive not used the redding so i cant say it is effected) there is a bit of slop in the turnet to allow for rotation. This will cause deflection on sizing and can effect bullet consintrisity when seating. Granted its about as poor of an argument as the primer pocket one you gave but i thought id throw it out there anyway. I do agree that quality of dies is a bigger variable then either of these arguments. Me i just cant see a turnent. If i want to load faster i want to load FASTER. I can load just as fast on a single stage press as on a turnet. It doesnt take but a few seconds to screw a die in. When your loading 500 rounds of handgun ammo that ammount of time is inconsequential. then using something like a lock and load single stage there is no differnce at all in the speed and you end up with a more rigid and stronger press. Personal i load about 95 percent of my ammo on progressives. I own 3 hornady lock and load progressives and two dillon 550s. I dont have to patients to swap primer set ups from large to small let alone wading in mud trying to keep up to my shooting with a single stage or turent press. I load and cast because there a nessisary evil for a guy that shoots as much as i do. I dont dislike it. It actually gives me something to do in the cold winter days but bottom line the goal is to shoot more and spend more time at the range. unless your are truely competeing in bench rest competion all the anal practices of a bench rest shooter are for the most part a waste of time. Like i said i can get 1/2 moa accuacy from a progressive press and even get 1/2 to 3/4s moa out of ar15s with a progressive press. Im not about to spend 10 times more of my precious time to get a group that may be .10 of an inch smaller then that. I just cant see where that small of an increase is going to help me.

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