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New to reloading - I have lots of questions!

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by Missy Stockholm-Leon, Oct 30, 2019.

  1. GW Staar

    GW Staar Member

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    Opinions, Opinions.....you have a lot of those here on THR. :)

    All my presses are green: two progressives (one with 7 stations even) and 2 single station presses, but I agree with cfullgraf....what ever the color/brand, they all can load ammo. Some with less headache than others. And any press/brand can load bad ammo if the loader is impatient, or can't follow directions.....and we all have our days. First order of business with any press is to be fresh of mind, have no distractions and don't load anything until you understand the directions.....do that and you should be fine.

    If I was starting the hobby today, and wasn't exactly flush with cash, and I was only loading pistol, I'd take a serious look at Lee's latest Progressive, the Lee Auto Breech Lock Pro. Very inexpensive and very capable......and a good place to start. Down the road like cfullgraf said you will want a single station press, but you don't have to start with one if you don't get too complicated. The Breech Lock Pro is pretty simple and you can load one case at a time until you get the hang of it.......good luck with your adventure.

    P.S. Important.......any press will work poorly on a crappy flexing bench. Mount it on something strong and sturdy.
     
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2019
  2. kmw1954

    kmw1954 Member

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    Welcome to the forum of opinions. As you can see there is much subjective opinion related to reloading and there is no right or wrong answer or way to do it. Many have set ways and product bias which you will soon find for yourself.

    You asked about two specific press of which I too do not own either of yet still have an opinion to this question. If I had to choose between these two presses I would chose the Hornady over the LoadMaster. While I read and understand that Lee has made a number of improvements in the Loadmaster it still falls below the Hornady. Both have a good number of moving parts and adjustments that need to be made and maintained in order to run smoothly. They both will put out about the same volumes when they both are running correctly. Because of the design and the way the priming is set up the LoadMaster is basically a 4 position press. So that is my opinion on your question.

    As to making an unsolicited recommendation. I too would suggest looking into either a Lee Turret press or the new Lee Auto Breech Lock Pro. The Lee Value Turret press is probably the least expensive way to get started. It is cheaper than the Classic Turret press but will still do any handgun caliber quickly and easily and any and all adjustments are very simple and there are No Shell Plates to buy and if you use Lee Dies they come with shell holders.

    The Lee Breech Lock Pro is a 4 station progressive press that uses the same priming system as the Turret press and is probably the easiest and most reliable on press priming that there is.. This press can also be set up with the case feeder and collator. You mentioned a washer for this. There is a better and simpler way than the washer for feeding the 380 and 9mm. Either of these presses can also be run as a single stage or manually indexed like the Dillon 550.

    Here are a couple of videos that may be worth your time to watch.

     
  3. Erief0g
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    Erief0g Contributing Member

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  4. rb288

    rb288 Member

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    I have been reloading for about 2 years, now.
    I would recommend that you start with a single stage, or turret press.
    I started with a Redding T-7 turret and am very happy with it.
    Reloading is not difficult, but, it is an exact science that you must learn properly.
    You must walk before you run.
    You can always upgrade to a progressive press as you gain experience.
    Just my 2 cents.
     
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  5. fpgt72

    fpgt72 Member

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    I and going to toss my two bits in here.

    First what is your time worth.....Now if you are really going to load for the fun of loading that is one thing. I am one of those people, but I load rifle and some hard to find rifle so cost does come into play, as well as just finding factory ammo.

    For me loading is good "down" time, nothing going on but me and what I am doing, no cell phone, no kids (when he was home) no wife....just me pulling that handle, a scale, caliper.....you get the drift....it is calming to me. So if you are or think you will be in this camp, more power to ya. I am however a little too anal for progressive....I measure and weigh every case, every case after the charge, sort bullets by weight....no they don't all weigh the same in that box...and they are all as close to the same as I can get them.

    When I do load for any hand gun, it is just a run and go....so if you are just doing hand guns at the moment progressive might be perfect.

    Now if you want to save money....really just save money....it will take a while to do so. 9mm is not that expensive, and you are going in with a ballpark $1000 to get up and going, after you get the press, powder, primers, a die set, tumbler, primers....bla bla bla. Even if you are loading $.50 cents cheaper over factory (that aint happening) you are looking at 200 rounds before you pay for that $1000.....and I bet the real savings is going to be on the south side of .05....that is a few rounds.....and after you run those you have the costs that just keep on giving, bullets, powder, primers and cases don't last forever.....and we have not even talked about your time yet.

    Now don't get me wrong reloading is really....REALLY....fun. To tell the truth I would actually do load development and reload then the shooting part....I want to see what they do, but anymore that does not really push me. It is a really fun hobby in and of itself.....and is really a great stress relief for many people.

    Then there is the well I have more ammo so I will shoot more.....and this catches many people.....you are making it at home yourself, those costs really don't compute while you are making the ammo like they do when you are shooting a box of 20 that costs $40+.....in your mind each pull of the trigger with that factory ammo is costing you $2....wow what could I do with those two bucks....where as hand loaded of the same type cartridge can cost that magic .50 if you take the cost of the brass out of it.....you ever price 11mm Mauser brass....don't.....it is a "I'am commin to join you Elizabeth" type deal (I think I just dated myself).

    Bottom line, reloading is fun and can save you money...and a lot of money....or allow you to shoot things you just can't buy ammo for.....but if you are loading a common flavor like what you listed the top item being a cost savings....well yea you might save money, but it is going to take you quite a run to get there.
     
  6. fpgt72

    fpgt72 Member

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    I would also second this....If new to this I would strongly suggest a single stage or turret....think of a turret as 4-5 single stage presses all stuck together. You want to go slow and check, double check and triple check everything....remember you are making little bombs that are made to go in a machine rated to hold that little bomb inside it. Too much of many factors can cause that little bomb to exit said machine....and that is not fun.

    Progressive presses do take some.....fiddling...I guess I will say to get up running and keep running.....I don't think many would suggest it to an out of the gate person unless they have someone with experience with reloading on that progressive or reloading in general at the minimum to help out.

    The turret presses are also pretty darn inexpensive, not cheap but don't cost much.

    As to lee equipment....IMHO it is fine, but is a little more.....loose, crude....not sure on the word, then some of the other options.....I keep going back to my lee turret as that is what I started on, and I usually only do max runs of 50-60 rounds so I don't crank out bunches....even when I do make a bunch I just use the turret....just more fun for me with that press.
     
  7. Azul69

    Azul69 Member

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    A lot of good points have been made here. Some off topic, but that's the way it works online! I use the Lee Loadmaster and got it with the case feeder and like it alot. I do not use the onboard primer system, currently I am hand priming all my cases. I found the onboard primer caused numerous problems with primers going in sideways. That being said, I have found Mike's Reloading Bench-Home to be a great source of info for tweaking the loadmaster. I am in the process of implementing his primer modifications.
     
  8. Jack B.

    Jack B. Member

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    I think a beginner should not reload on a progressive at first. I know a single stage is slow for the amount you are talking about but you learn all the little things that is part of making good consistent and accurate ammo. On a progressive it's too easy for a beginner to miss some important things thing's. IMO
     
  9. RealGun

    RealGun Member

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    As far as 9mm goes, I loaded mine on a Lee Pro 1000, and despite fiddly problems with using it produced a lot of ammo in short order. What I wish I had known is that there are three different heights of bullet feeder fingers. I now have the right one for my bullet length and need to run a new batch. I bought an XDE this year as a carry option and am shooting that cartridge again for practice. My Kimber Aegis I bought for my short time in IDPA is a safe queen, but is another 9mm that shoots great, when I have a bunch of ammo I can shoot.

    My 40 S&W tale of woe was centered around messing with a Loadmaster, which turns out to be better suited to 9mm and 45, not the size in between of 40. I gave it away to somebody with skill and expertise with the challenges of getting that thing to run acceptably. It should be off the market in my opinion...stop them, please. The price entices those who are nowhere near prepared to deal with it. It might be okay for 9 or 45, but it has a terrible general reputation, the Hall of Shame, so to speak.

    I run a Hornady LnL AP, but any smaller batch, say 50 at a time, is run on my Lee cast turret. The turret is trouble free for me but does require a lever stroke for each operation. On a progressive a round comes off with every pull, once all the stations are filled. I usually use a case feeder on the Hornady but added it some time later after buying the press. If initial outlay is a concern, the system and its capabilities can be built up over time. The basic press outfitted with shell plate and dies for one cartridge can produce ammo immediately. For 1000/month though, at least a case feeder will likely be in the future. Before getting too elaborate a work area set up, be sure there is enough overhead height for the case feeder and whether the press is raised on a mount like InLine Fabrications. Mine is on a 35" high bench, so I would say a minimum of an 8 foot ceiling, leaving only a foot above the feeder to access the hopper.

    My latest is the Lee Auto Breechlock Pro, which has been dedicated to 38 Special cowboy match ammo. I will probably favor it for my resurgence of 9mm as well. I suggest not using it for preprimed brass, since the sizer is needed to maintain balance on the shell plate for consistent COL. Of course, one could simply remove the decapping pin, if the cases are not already sized as part of being primed. This press is the only thing from Lee that would be high productivity with minimal investment. I use a case feeder (Lee's inexpensive version) and can really crank them out pretty easily with minimal hiccups. I suggest the short riser stand by Inline Fabrications and the variant that angle forward and allows the spent primer catch tube to pass the edge of the bench. Mine also has the quick change feature, because my shot shell loader fits the same stand and does not have bench top real estate dedicated to it.

    Lots to consider, but the bottom line in my opinion is that Lee has defined a new entry point for the prospective reloader. The Auto Breech Lock Pro can do many things, although with four stations one might give up something. I am currently using only three stations for my 38 Specials, a sizer, a powder drop, and seat/crimp. The empty station I expect to try with the bullet feeder rig I had been using with the Pro1000, a three-station progressive press.

    Among other press choices for relatively high production rates (true progressives), the Dillon 750, even some 650s available used now, would be solid investments, although I believe pretty awkward to run without the case feeder with initial purchase and more money up front.
     
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  10. 1-12 INF (M)

    1-12 INF (M) Member

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    Until you get some experience, casefeeders and bullet feeders will add another level of complexity that you can live without at this point. Until you get these complicated processes adjusted and tuned, you'll be interrupted a lot with stoppages and that leads to problems and mistakes.

    Learn the basics on a single stage - you'll fill up the scrap/disassemble bin pretty fast, and that's okay because never hesitate to discard a cartridge that isn't exactly right.

    And keep only ONE powder on the bench at a time.
     
  11. RealGun

    RealGun Member

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    Note that the Lee Auto Breech Lock Pro can be used single stage by removing the indexing rod in the same way as can be done on their turret presses. So those accustomed to suggesting single stage as the place to start should consider this new generation in basic progressives. It is true though that one will value a single stage as a supplement to a progressive or turret, handy for miscellaneous tasks, not actually reloading on it unless into large rifle cartridges.
     
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  12. 1-12 INF (M)

    1-12 INF (M) Member

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    That's a good idea, RealGun. Like lots of other hobbies, many jump right in, buy lots of expensive, advanced stuff and then lose interest because things don't turn out as they had hoped.

    Except in this case, you can have 60,000 CUP about 4 inches from your nose.
     
  13. Typetwelve

    Typetwelve Member

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    OP, I kicked myself bloody this time last year trying to figure out what kind of first press to get. I read, and read, and then read some more. I went back and forth every time I thought I had an answer. I scoured countless forums and asked many for their thoughts.

    In Feb, I bought a Dillon 550. I currently load 44 (special/magnum), 38 special, and 9mm. I use the press as both a progressive and single stage, which is very easy given the manual indexing turret vs an auto. With hot loads in 44 magnum, I am very pleased that I can single stage it as those are small run batches. I am thankful for the auto indexing speed when churning out thousands of 38 special wadcutters for range plinking.

    I have no regrets and I am beyond pleased with my 550.

    Either way, best of luck, I hope you enjoy reloading as much as I have.
     
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  14. RealGun

    RealGun Member

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    Agreed, but think they will be ready for a progressive and case feeder after about a week of trying to do the volume mentioned.
     
  15. Bang!

    Bang! Member

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    Which press? The most important variable is you, the reloader. None of the presses are plug and play. Can you diagnose mechanical machinery and apply the proper solution? Can you use this machinery without adding in your own user induced malfunctions? You need a solid “yes” to both of these. With that in mind, it doesn’t matter which of those two presses you choose. If your “yes” is not solid then neither of those presses are for you. If your “yes” is solid then 1000 round batches is easily accomplished on either.

    Price? If you actually shoot at your projected rate for the next few years then the press is the cheapest part of the whole reloading hobby. Forget about the price and make sure you get the right press that best matches your abilities. Picking the wrong press for your abilities gets very expensive. Never mind the aggravation and danger. End of the day, you’re not going to save money. More shots in your shooting budget? Possibly.

    IMHO Start with reading a couple of reloading manuals. Get the Lee Classic Cast Turret press. Learn “reloading” on that. After all that, pick a progressive press and learn “progressive” reloading on that. Somewhere in there you’ll find out if you reload to shoot or shoot to reload. If you reload to shoot then you’re probably done. If you shoot to reload then there’s no hope for you and reloading will get really expensive.
     
  16. Legionnaire
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    Legionnaire Member

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    I'll second the idea of using a turret press as a single stage while you learn the process, then add the indexing rod to give you a "semi-" progressive. When that becomes too slow for your needs, move to a true progressive.
     
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  17. 1-12 INF (M)

    1-12 INF (M) Member

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    I've used my 550 in a similar way - having a separate toolhead for only depriming, priming, sizing-only of rifle cases, or seat/crimp when I want to manually-weigh charges.

    There are tons of YouTube videos of all these different presses in action. Watching a lot of those will help.
     
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  18. ATLDave

    ATLDave Member

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    I don't have experience with either of those presses. I will say that I started on a Lee Classic Turret (materially faster than a single-stage, but no more difficult to set up and keep running correctly) and fed a "habit" about 1/3 the size of what you're describing. Then I added a Dillon 650, which is fantastic for cranking out huge quantities of ammo... but, like most progressives, change-over of calibers is not super easy and takes a bit of time.

    There's nothing that says that you have to get to 100% reloaded ammo for all your shooting immediately. I suggest easing into it. Pick one of your calibers to reload. Maybe the one that has the highest savings potential (.380 is cheap to load, but comparatively expensive to buy, for instance). Buy a smaller press and learn the fundamentals of reloading. This ain't like baking Duncan Hines brownies from a mix. There will be a learning curve, and certain kinds of mistakes can be very dangerous. Compounding the learning curve with a progressive press that is a project in its own right certainly heightens the risk of a mishap.
     
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  19. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    I can't comment on Hornady vs Lee because I use neither, this is a Dillon House.
    My greatest regret in reloading is that in the pre-Dillon era I bought a CH progressive instead of getting properly equipped with a Star.

    You CAN learn to load on a progressive, especially if it is of a type that will let you run ONE round at a time through without spilling powder or primers. But I use my single stage for several different things, you won't discard it after you go progressive.

    Casting bullets is an entirely different operation from loading them. Once upon a time, if you wanted to reload, you had to cast, there were few if any commercial bulk bullet makers. These days it is different, I would not think of casting bulk pistol bullets. Good quality rifle bullets to be shot at a rate of 50-60 per BPCR match were a chore and a challenge. 9mm by the thousand? No, thanks.
     
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  20. reddog81

    reddog81 Member

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    I wouldn't be afraid to learn on a progressive like the Lock N Load as long as you are somewhat mechanically inclined. The LNL can be used as a single stage press if desired. Just use one of the stations and leave the other 4 blank... After loading a couple hundred rounds you'll be ready to use it to it's fullest capabilities. Trying to load 2,000 rounds per month on a single stage would be like a part time job. You'd be working 25 hours per month to save $160 on 9mm. Unless a person has 6 hours every weekend to dedicate to reloading it's worth it to go for a progressive if loading that quantity.

    When using a progressive there is a lot going on and for a new reloader it might be too much detail to keep track of and troubleshoot when a problem creeps up. However the process of setting and adjusting the dies, determining the correct powder charge, determining the correct OAL, determining the correct crimp are all exactly the same regardless of press used.
     
  21. RealGun

    RealGun Member

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    I find my turret tiresome for more than 200 rounds, usually 50. I value it as someone reloading more than a dozen different cartridges and variations within those, always low volume batches. For any kind of volume I use either my Hornady LnL AP or the Lee Auto Breech Lock Pro. There is a single stage on the bench too, in case I need a single operation, often bullet sizing or a case I want to resize without decapping ( a spare die) or running some failure-to-gauge rounds through an FCD. I use it also for bulge removal on auto pistol cases, sometimes requiring force beyond what should be expected of a progressive. In any case, it is made for use on a single stage (open top end). The single stage press is simply convenient.
     
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  22. Missy Stockholm-Leon

    Missy Stockholm-Leon Member

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    Thank you all for your input thus far! There are some very valuable tips here. As far as hobbies go, I have couple, but I have a tendency to go all in and tend to dive down the rabbit hole of the methods leading up to said hobby sometimes more than the hobby itself (shooting).

    On casting bullets - I know that is a taking another big bite out of something before I have finished chewing the first so to speak, and it is a plan for later down the road (hopefully) to get a better value out of the calibers I currently use (as 9mm is so cheap as-is). I plan to start with pre-made bullets while I get the handle on the actual reloading process to see if the rabbit hole goes deeper. Some of the reasons for considering the potential of doing this are that I have a free to very, very cheap source of lead. Potentially 50-100lbs or more a month if I so desire. I also have a close friend who worked for several years in metal casting and foundry work, with a particular passion for pewter (and a several generation history of goldsmithing). He is very excited to show me the ropes if I would like, and also takes a keen interest in bullet casting. By casting my own, I calculate that the cost per round of 9mm would go from approximately12 cents a round to 6 cents. It is again, a plan for down the road....but I have so much lead at my disposal! I at least want to give processing it into ingots a try to see if it's up my alley.

    On books and education - I totally 110% agree with this, and thanks to all who gave me some good recommendations. I tend to be a knowledge hole. Considered useless by most....my boyfriend is already tired of hearing about lead hardness, bullet lube vs. powder coat, powder and presses, etc. I am also attending some local gun shows coming up, and plan on sitting down to talk to any of the long-time reloaders who are willing to entertain me. I went to a gun show a few weeks back and got some offers for learning under some folks, however it was not local and a few hours away.

    On progressive/turret/single stage presses - I know it may be a more rushed (or excited) mentality...but I was hoping to skip the single stage phase. I do agree that a single stage would still be a useful machine down the road if I continue with the hobby. I tend to be relatively mechanically inclined, and it technically would not be my first time reloading. I grew up with a father who had a love of guns, a bit of a collection (80+ guns ranging from revolvers to AK-47's to muzzle loaders), and in order to afford his many different types of ammo would also reload. He used a sinlge stage press. I had an interest in shooting and learning the craft then, and he taught me how to reload to the level you would teach your 12-15 year old daughter. I would do mainly depriming/priming, dismantling bad rounds, and seating bullets. I didn't have much to do with loading the powder, cleaning brass, or clearing out squibs if something was off. I absolutely loved it and shooting back then, though after some bad family happenings I am no longer in contact with him and I did not go back to shooting for about 12 or so years (until recently, though I'm finding my passion to still be there despite some of those past things).

    After reading some input here, Perhaps starting with the Lee Auto Breech Lock Pro would be a good starting point, as I can prevent auto indexing at the beginning and run one through at a time until I get my feet. Again I have heard more praise on the Hornady though as well, so it makes the choice still difficult. I want a case feed sometime once I am comfortable...and as one poster mentioned the Lee case feeder can be modified to work on the Hornady if I choose to go that route.

    I know my savings benefit would be much more appreciable with a different caliber, and I do have future desires to get more .380's and would love some .45's down the line too (my favorite revolver and rifle when I was younger were .45's). I have just been using 9mm as a standard because I know it will take the longest to pay for itself and seems to be the longest term cost analysis when presenting the information to my boyfriend. He will be helping with part of the cost as his forte is shooting and has no interest in reloading. I want to give him the most realistic 'worst case scenario' for time on return.
     
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  23. doubleh

    doubleh Member

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    Welcome to the forum. Others have given you plenty of advise so the only thing I will throw in is that when loading pay attention to that and only that. Don't let you mind wander.
     
  24. Missy Stockholm-Leon

    Missy Stockholm-Leon Member

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    I had shied away from this press upon initially looking at it because the build seemed less *sturdy* to me, and that I would need to purchase items individually. The concept of having a press that can essentially be run as a turret, non-auto indexed progressive, or an auto indexing progressive is definitely appealing, however.
     
  25. badkarmamib

    badkarmamib Member

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    Sounds like you have done your research. I will add a few things from my (limited) experience. The Lee ABLP is good for pistol cartridges, but will not load many rifle (.223 being the one exception that comes to mind). I bought the case feeder to speed it up, but the Lee does not lend itself well to correcting mistakes (hard to stop mid-process to remove a double/no charge, missed primer, etc. So, I removed the case feeder and am using it (at the moment) as a kind of advanced turret. Also, if you branch out to more rifle cartridges later, and you are not concerned with precision as much as volume, I would definitely recommend the Lee turret over their single-stage. The brass staying in the press until the round is completed is nice compared to having to remove a piece with powder laying under the open mouth... Just some more thoughts from being one of the more frugal (and inexperienced) members here.

    Caveat: I own the Lee Challenger SS for rifle and the ABLP for pistol, my father does everything on the Classic Turret. I think he has the better setup...
     
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