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Yet another thread seeking advice for press selection

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by BeerSleeper, Mar 27, 2010.

  1. BeerSleeper

    BeerSleeper Member

    Mar 24, 2010
    My apologies in advance for creating a new thread on a dead-horse subject. This will be a substantial investment for me, and I want to do it right the first time. I thought first, of getting the cheapest progressive I could find, and learning on it, once establishing enough experience with it to know exactly what I do/don't want in a press, buying the one I want (kind of a preseason/regular season mentality). However, this plan has an end result of possessing a cheap press I have invested $ in, and may not wish to keep, so I am going to try to figure this out with much study and "homework" before arriving at a purchase choice.

    What I want in a reloading press:

    1) Reliability. I realize it's a machine. Parts can break, and need replacement. That is not a problem, but breakdowns need to be infrequent, parts need to be available, and affordably priced.

    2) 5 station progressive. I will start out with just a press, and the RCBS lockout die. That is investment enough for year 1. Years 2 & 3, or maybe Christmas, can bring the bullet/case feeders. Unless I am mistaken, powder checking via RCBS lockout, and bullet feeding, requires 5 stations.

    3) Caliber changes should not be burdensome. I want to load 9mm and .40S&W with one press. There is a decent possibility I will load other calibers as well.

    4) Priming. I need to learn more about RCBS priming system. Do you have to buy primers in the strips, or do you buy a regular box of primers and manually put them into the plastic strip system?

    5) Press should auto-index

    Background info on me, as it relates to shooting sports and reloading ammo:

    I'm 30, I grew up on a farm, with rifles and shotguns. I only just recently bought my first pair of pistols. I find I like to shoot them, and I don't like to buy ammo.

    Up through high school, I reloaded my dad's hunting ammo on a single-stage Pacific 155. That thing sucked, but I enjoyed the loading, and was able to reach output rates of about 75 shells per hour (which at the time, with a single stage, I thought was serious output). While I have no first hand experience with metallic reloading, I've done enough of it to know I will enjoy it, so I'm in it for more than just the $/round savings (it's only a $/round savings...there's never a total cost savings in reloading). That, and I will sleep better at night, knowing if SHTF, my armory room in the basement is stocked.

    Where I'm at in my thought process this far:

    I have done much reading at THR and TFL, and observed videos of most models in action on youtube. I am considering progressives from Lee, Hornady, RCBS, and Dillon (have I missed anybody).
    I have a friend who is FFL, and can get the FFL price at Graf's, and I'm within driving distance of them, so I can get primers/powder, at good price, without hazmat shipping. That, and many of these guys pool together to make one enormous order prior to hunting season, resulting in additional bulk quantity order discount. Thus, I have great incentive to purchase a model carried at graf's.
    I've basically ruled out the Lee models, in favor of models having lifetime warranties, and based on trouble reports in various forum threads.

    Since I want to go 5 station, that rules out a Dillon 550, which means the closest model Dillon is the 650. I am likely to pass on Dillon due to the $$, unless further research shows the extra cost to be justified. Brand snobbery alone is not sufficient for me, unless I find reason in my opinion for it to be justified.

    This is leaving the Hornady LnL, and the RCBS 2000 Pro with AutoIndexing. I like the way the dies change out on the die plate for the RCBS, and the LnL bushings on the Hornady. I didn't find a video on the Dillon models die-changout, but I'm not done looking, either.

    If I had to pick a winner today, it would be the Hornady, but my wife has given me a "honey-do" list which is to be completed prior to purchase authorization. This list is at least three weekends long, so I have at least that much time to study my purchase options.

    I suppose also, as a side note, any recommendations on a tumbler, or are they all pretty much the same? I take my stepson to the range once or twice a month, and we bring home any free brass. He sorts them by caliber & headstamp, in exchange for the privilege of going, and being provided guns and ammo. We just may knock out a big chunk of the reloader cost by selling range brass on gunbroker. Last trip to the range brought about 2000 spent brass. If it brings $30/1000ct, that will pay for the tumbler quick, and is "free money" after that. Then, I'll just have to deal with selling all the brass to pay for the reloader leaves me nothing to reload...
  2. Hondo 60
    • Contributing Member

    Hondo 60 Senior Member

    Sep 6, 2009
    Manitowoc, WI
    Progressives are nice but there's so much going on with every pull of the lever that it can be overwhelming.

    I cannot more strongly recommend for someone new to reloading that a single stage press is a must. Even the old-timers with multiple progressives still use a single stage for some operations.

    I just can't imagine trying to learn how to reload on a progressive.

    As far as single stages go, I have a Lee Challenger Breech Lock Single Stage Press Anniversary Kit that I bought at MidwayUSA. Just checked the price their $81.99. It was a touch more when I bought mine, but it's the best $100 I've ever spent on reloading.

    My advise is to get a single-stage, load several thousand rounds on it & then once you're familiar with "the feel" THEN look at a progressive.

    As far as I know tumblers are all pretty much the same. Mine is a Lyman 1200 Turbo.
    I can fit a mix of 250 or so 38 spl & .357 magnum cases at any one time.

    Welcome to reloading & good luck.
  3. mongoose33

    mongoose33 Member

    Jan 2, 2009
    What Yurko said. You're going to want a single-stage press anyway; you'll use it for working up small batch loads, pulling bullets, doing certain kinds of rifle cartridge prep, and so on.

    Start there. The dies will work w/ a single stage as well as a progressive.

    I agree about a Lee single-stage, but I suggest the Classic Cast. You can replace the bushing w/ a Hornady LnL receptacle, which means you can use the LnL bushings in it. (I know, I did : ).

    I recommend, given your thought process, that you look toward the Hornady LnL. RCBS makes good stuff, but their progressive is not used by very many people. If you look in this forum on the first page, you'll see a guy who is having trouble using the RCBS progressive. Most of the responses are to call RCBS; there just aren't very many people using that compared to Hornady or Dillon (or Lee, for that matter), such that you don't have a ready-made source of assistance in a place like this.

    I have the LnL, haven't regretted it for a second. Dillon is also a good press, but the 550B isn't auto-index; you have to advance the shell plate by hand each pull of the handle.

    But get that single-stage first, spend a month or two learning on that (unless you have someone who can teach you), and then graduate to the progressive.
  4. rfwobbly

    rfwobbly Senior Member

    Nov 14, 2008
    Cornelia, GA
    I'm with the other guys, start on a single. I try to tell everyone to hunt up a used RCBS RockChucker off your local CraigsList and try to find an oldtimer that's getting out of the hobby. That way you can buy all his books, tools, dies, etc for one lot price.

    However, a second option is open to you. Since you are strongly leaning towards the Horandy LNL AP, then get the Hornady LNL Classic Starter Kit. That way when you go to the AP, you'll already have lots of LNL bushings and other Hornady accessories. By doing that you won't have to double up and there is some savings. Lots of free bullets too.

    Check out the videos on UltimateReloader.Com, these are far superior to the average YouTube offering.

    Not to worry about parts, information, that kind of stuff. All the major brands will replace parts for free and have excellent CS lines. We're not talking about a GM car here !!

  5. RustyFN

    RustyFN Senior Member

    Jul 5, 2006
    West Virginia
    If you are going to start on a single stage then I would recommend the Lee classic turret. It can be used as a single stage press and when you install the auto indexing rod you can load around 200 rounds per hour. You might find you won't need the progressive nearly as soon as you thought.
  6. jfh

    jfh Senior Member

    Aug 28, 2003
    Maple Plain, MN
    good advice so far. Even though you have good reloading experience in your history, I would not recommend you start on a progressive. There are just too many things happening at once for it to be a successful learning experience, even if you run cases through one at a time.

    However, I'll add in the option of the Lee Classic Turret press for your first metallic cartridge press. That press can serve as your single stage for your early metallic-cartridge reloading, and then you can install the auto-indexing rod to both speed up your output and to kind-of-get-a-taste of progressive reloading.

    The cost of this press is low enough, and the quality / price benefit ratio is so high, that you can readily consider starting here. It uses a 4-die paradigm, which means that the press, a spare turret, and two Lee 4-die sets will run you under $200.00. For the kind of reloading you'll do initially, you do not need a powder-cop / 5th-die station. IMO.

    So--in sum: you obviously will want higher output, given your pistol / handgun caliber selections. You will want some sort of non-progressive metallic cartridge press, but currently, you have no ongoing need for that kind of press. The Lee Turret can be a good starting point.

    Jim H.
  7. GW Staar

    GW Staar Senior Member

    Feb 26, 2009
    It's no secret that I like and use the RCBS Pro 2000 press. I've never used the Hornady press, but I like what I see...I think its a good press. Ditto for the Dillon 650, except that I have seen it in use....also a nice press.

    2 years ago I was trying to decide as you are...except that I have 38 years experience on a RCBS Rockchucker. Brand loyalty decision? No. I don't feel I owe RCBS anymore than the other companies...I paid their price. Quality? All three have that. Expense?...yes that figured in some. Features? Now that is important, and some that are important to you are not so important to me. And vice versa!

    So really all I can and should do is tell you why I chose the green machine, and others can tell you why they chose the red or blue machines. Fair enough?

    Using your list:
    1) "Reliability." The Pro 2000 is one big heavy cast iron machine...built like a tank, simple, with moving parts count less than the others. There's not much that ever gets out of adjustment once set the first time. That said operator error can bring any machine down. Read the current POS RCBS Progressive Post when you get through reading this.

    2) "5 station progressive." True, but this machine is a cross. One permanent powder measure station, and a 4 station removable die holder. Advantage to this setup over Dillon is that you won't ever feel the need or temptation to buy a separate P.M. for each die holder. The advantage over the Hornady is ease in loading multiple calibers without changing out every die one at a time.

    3) "Caliber changes should not be burdensome. I want to load 9mm and .40S&W with one press." That's a real plus for the RCBS, especially if you're using the same powder: 1. unscrew the .40 shell plate; 2. screw in the 9mm shell plate; 3. turn the micrometer on the powder measure to the 9mm setting, 4. adjust the powder measure distance to the shorter brass and go. Different powder means you have to unscrew the powder measure, emply, refill, and screw it back in and adjust for height.

    "There is a decent possibility I will load other calibers as well." On the RCBS adding a caliber means another head to buy, maybe a shell plate. Another changeover step, if the case has the other size primer pocket, is to unscrew the primer rod and screw in the other size.

    4) "Priming. I need to learn more about RCBS priming system. Do you have to buy primers in the strips, or do you buy a regular box of primers and manually put them into the plastic strip system?"

    Comments on the above mentioned current THR thread:

    And APS strips don't go Kaboom, like people have experienced with 650 tubes full of 100 or so primers, that put holes in their ceilings and probably damaged their ears. Lots of Dillon guys say it never happened to them. But to others it did.

    5) Press should auto-index

    Only the RCBS Pro 2000 gives you a choice...that you don't have to live with.:) You can order the manual index version if you want to take it slow at first, then get the $106 upgrade, the Auto-index kit to make it into a auto-index Pro 2000.

    The guys who are trying to change your mind and lead you to a single-action press to start with, would be slightly appeased if you start with a manual index. Hornady doesn't have one, and the 550 is Dillon's, which, if you ever wanted to go to autoindex, you have to buy another press, the 650.

    Do I think you have to start with a single? Depends. If all you are going to load at first is .40 and 9mm, maybe not...if you have an experienced reloader-friend to coach you for a bit. I'd suggest manual index for a while, to keep you out of trouble. But, if you're determined to go full bore with a auto-index, read everything you can about doing it safely, and do it slow. .40 S&W can be a potent high pressure round. Especially research loading her, or she will bite...and maybe break your gun...and maybe your hand. Good luck on your quest...I predict that it'll be exciting, frustrating, then just pure fun...be patient.
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2010
  8. UltimateReloader

    UltimateReloader Member

    Oct 13, 2009
    Bothell, WA
    You may want to watch the videos on my site:

    I have videos for the following presses:
    - Hornady Lock-N-Load AP
    - Dillon XL-650
    - RCBS Pro 2000
    - Lee Loadmaster

    You'll see them in use, caliber conversions, etc.

    Hope that's useful!

  9. BeerSleeper

    BeerSleeper Member

    Mar 24, 2010
    I'm re-evaluating, and thinking on the single station press. Many good points have been made, and dies and other parts that will be reusable on a progressive means really the press is the only excess piece of hardware if/when I move on. I've also got a thread on TFL, and a suggestion made there, that I liked quite a bit, was to run one shell a time through a progressive until comfortable with it, although the downside to that is the mental discipline involved. It would be all too tempting to run through only 100, and think "now I'm ready to go full throttle".

    There's a USPSA match at the local rod/gun club next month, that I'm hoping to attend if work permits (farming...planting season...entirely at the weather's mercy here). If I get into that, or even just join the club, I'm sure to encounter someone willing to maybe let me do some loading on their rig. There's no reason I have to be in a hurry, so I think I'm going to consider monitoring this thread, lurking in the forums, and seeing who I can meet in person, before making a purchase.

    Thanks to all for many thoughtful responses, and please keep them coming. I'm going to check out the videos at ultimatereloader, and see what old questions get answered, and what new ones come up.
  10. rooter

    rooter member

    Feb 22, 2008
    My thoughts:

    There is no need to begin with a single stage, but you'll own one eventually for precision work. There is nothing wrong beginning with a progressive.

    Auto indexing is unnecessary and really doesn't offer any advantages IMO, there are disadvantages s/a when u shortstroke it.

    Dillon is overpriced and not as robust as other mfg's, their powder measure is inferior to rcbs and hornady, and changeover is a hassle unless you buy powder measures for each toolhead. And I was a Dillon owner for years.

    I have owned presses from every major mfg over the years and have no brand loyalty. I use a Lyman ss and twin Pro 2000's today.
  11. sourdough44

    sourdough44 Member

    Jan 21, 2008
    I'm with Yurko & the rest. IF & when you get a progressive go Dillon.
  12. lykoris

    lykoris Member

    Mar 24, 2009
    Given the thought and presentation of your original post I'd suggest you stick with your initial idea of going progressive. I started with a 650 loading 9 - then 357/45.

    I started as you pointed out doing one operation at a time and gradually added the various dies.
  13. JimKirk

    JimKirk Senior Member

    Nov 23, 2008
    Nicholls,GA South Georgia
    If you decide to go with a single stage for now or if you want one for later use ...

    Give the Forster CoAx a good look before you jump.....last single stage you'll ever need ..


    I've used presses from most of the other makers during my 40+ years of reloading and found that the Forster is the one.

    You won't be sorry.

    Jimmy K
  14. ole farmerbuck

    ole farmerbuck Senior Member

    Jan 16, 2009
    Western Ks
    I agree with the rest. Start out with a single stage. I have 3 Hornady singles and 2 Hornady progressives and truth be known, the singles are used more, smaller batches but more often.
  15. mallc

    mallc Member

    Apr 28, 2007
    FFL in Muscatine, Iowa 52761
    Dillon Guy Votes for Hornady LNL

    I have Dillon and Hornady progressives. Dillon is more reliable. Hornady is more flexible.

    If you want to run a truck of ammo of a single caliber and then change over to the next run, you want a Dillon 650 with a casefeed.

    If you want to run a bucket full of ammo and then change over to another caliber, you want the LNL-AP without the case feed.

    The LNL is as easy to use (and learn) as a single stage. You will however want a single stage for small jobs.

    Hope this helps.
  16. Tom S.

    Tom S. Member

    Jan 12, 2009
    Waterford, MI
    Here is a slightly different prospective. It centers around how much shoot. All progressive presses have one thing in common, they all make ammo. Beyond that, price differences are mainly reflected in quality and engineering. You can make the same quality ammo on a Lee Pro 1000 as you can on a Dillon 650, but the difference is it will take you longer on the Lee because they are more finicky. But if you are only shooting a couple hundred rounds a month, is it worth it to pay more and not have to spend maybe 15 or 30 minutes more reloading? That's your call.

    As a side note to those of you who are going to jump and down and yell that your Lee has worked flawlessly for 80 years, relax. I'm talking norms here, and experience (I used to own 2 Pro 1000's). If yours works that well, I'm happy for you, but the majority do have issues. Most of these issues aren't major and like I said for small runs, they are fine if you don't mind the extra time to do minor adjustments.

    Also, I don't think getting a progressive is a bad idea since you already have reloading experience. The only difference between reloading with a single stage and a progressive is all the operations are happening simultaneously. While this would be daunting and possibly dangerous for a beginner, it shouldn't be for someone with experience and patience. However, I do agree that sometime you will end up with a single stage, because doing 20 rounds or so on a progressive isn't worth the effort (unless you're already set up for that caliber).
  17. joed

    joed Senior Member

    Sep 17, 2009
    Unless you've spent time reloading previously I'd opt for a single stage press. I used an RCBS Rock Chucker for 21 years before buying a progressive press. I still use the single stage for rifle cartridges.

    I bought a progressive press when I started shooting 300 rounds a week, found that it was taking me to long on the single stage.

    Before buying ask owners what they think of their progressive press. I spent 2 months asking lots of questions before deciding on what brand.

    From my experience I found that owners of Lee Progressives do not like the primer system and many seat the primers off the press. Quite a few came out and told me if they were buying new they would get a Dillon.

    Almost all of the Dillon owners I talked to loved their press. Out of 20 owners only 1 did not like the press.

    Not many owned RCBS, but an old friend did. He said he was sorry he ever bought it which surprised me, I was always an RCBS fan. One other owner said it was OK but had shortcomings.

    At the time there weren't many Hornady LnL owners. I may have talked to 5 that owned this press. I have never met more owners loyal to the brand then Hornady owners. All that had them said they were great presses. I passed on Hornady for a few reasons. The first and biggest was when I started asking how many rounds an hour can the press do I got answers of "I don't count finished rounds" or "I take my time". These were what I call evasive answers. The answers suggested to me that the owners were spending time correcting things rather then loading ammo. Spend some time reading LnL threads and you'll see these presses do have issues. The second reason was at the time I was looking Hornady did not have a expander powder drop combined in one station. This is no longer true as the 2 stations are combined into 1.

    I bought Dillon and have no regrets. Started with a 550 but sold it for a 650 for a reason that I'll give at the end. The 650 is a good press, I use it for small primer pistol rounds. I also own a 1050, not the Super 1050 but an older original 1050 I bought used. If it came to keeping only 1 press it would be the 1050. This press cranks out an honest 1200 rounds an hour and never has a mishap, it's a rare ocurrance if I have to stop while reloading to correct anything. I've owned the 1050 for 5 years and have not needed to replace one item. It will even knock out primer crimps while you crank away.

    Last item and very important is the number of stations. I will not own a progressive press that does not have a station for a powder check die. This was the reason I sold the 550, it only had 4 stations. When I had the 550 it did great for about 1 year, after that i would occasionally throw a squib. I can't deal with something like that as a few of my guns are collector items. So sold the press and ordered a 650.
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2010
  18. RustyFN

    RustyFN Senior Member

    Jul 5, 2006
    West Virginia
    I think it all comes down to how much ammo you need per month and how much time you have to load. When I was looking to start I also got a lot of advice to start on a single stage. A couple of guys talked me into buying the Lee classic turret because I was going to be loading pistol ammo. That was the best advice I think I got. After loading for two weeks I realized that if I had bought a single stage press I would already be wanting something different. The classic turret gave me that being two presses in one. I was able to upgrade from 50 rounds per hour to 200 rounds per hour by just installing the auto indexing rod, came with the press and didn't have to buy anything. Here is an example. Lets say you need 400 rounds per month for practice and IDPA. That would be 8 hours on a single stage, 2 hours on a classic turret or 1 hour on a progressive.
  19. jmortimer

    jmortimer Member

    Jan 9, 2010
    South West Riverside County California
    Lots of good advice. After reading so many of these threads it is clear that all brands work and you can start with what you want. If I got a progressive I would get Dillion 650 or better or Hornady Lock N Load. If I got a turret press I would get the Lee Precision Classic Turret and for a single stage most any would work. For me the best place to start is with the Lee Precision Classic Turret and use it in single stage mode with auto-index deactivated. I like to do batches and I like to hand prime and I hate to set up dies and like to easliy swap out turrets with the dies all set up and ready do go in seconds and I hate scales and like to use powder dippers. I look at progressives like Rube Godberg contraptions - I like to get the whole process as simple and easy as possible and I think I have reached my goal.
  20. thorn-

    thorn- Member

    Jun 25, 2007
    Tallahassee, FL
    There is nothing wrong with starting with a progressive. They are more complex, for sure... but we're not talking flying a kite vs the space shuttle. Further, you CAN use most any progressive I can quickly think of in a single-stage mode - just insert only 1 die in the machine, and voila... you're only doing one operation now.

    If most of your reloading will be precision rifle - single is perhaps the best, yes. If you're doing more volume of pistol, especially multiple calibers, then go progressive.

    People who are learning to shoot don't always need to start with a single-shot .22 rifle; reloading is a similar experience.


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