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Progressive or single stage for beginner?

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by El Kabong, Oct 7, 2006.

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  1. El Kabong

    El Kabong Member

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    My apologies if this has been dicussed before, but I couldn't find any past threads with the info I wanted.

    I would like to start reloading, but have gotten different opinions as to what to start out with. One person says single stage, another says progressive.

    Do you have an opinion on what is better for a beginner to start out on, and could you tell me why you think that way?
     
  2. Wil Terry

    Wil Terry Member

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    SINGLE STAGE...

    You'll have enough problems to learn about, solve, and go on, without worrying about becoming a machine operator also.
    A good single stage press will also be an excellent adjunct to all your handloading needs for decades to come.
    The progressive can come later in due time.
     
  3. ReloaderFred

    ReloaderFred Member

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    Will Terry gave you good advice. Even if you purchase a progressive press later on, you'll always have use for the single stage press. I currently use three loading presses on my benches, two single stage and one progressive.

    You should learn the basics of loading first, and then move on to production later. You'll make fewer mistakes that way and will also learn more about the loading process.

    Hope this helps.

    Fred
     
  4. Vista

    Vista Member

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    El Kabong:

    I'll jump in here before the rest of the "Thundering Herd" sees your post! What you need is the new Lee Classic Turret Press. It is a sturdy, well-designed press that allows you to operate it as a single stage press when desired, or as a semi-progressive press when you get up to speed on the reloading process. Some of our more coordinated members can crank out some very impressive rates of reloads on this press. And did I mention that the Lee Classic Turret is very reasonably priced? Like about $80 at MidwayUSA. Search for recent threads started by RustyFN (or CrustyFN) on exactly this issue. Look for posts by benedict1.

    Vista
     
  5. RustyFN

    RustyFN Member

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    I have to agree with Vista. I just started reloading and followed some great advice from some people here. I bought the Lee classic turret press. After getting it and using it I realized I would have out grown a single stage press fairly quick. You can also use the Lee classic as a single stage press if you want so you have the best of both worlds with it. Hope this helps.
    Rusty
     
  6. bakert

    bakert Member

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    El Kabong, I would pretty much agree with Vista. I've been using a lee 3 hole turret press as a single stage a long time for 9MM,38Sp/.357, .44 mag and .45 Colt. It is nice to have your dies set up and adjusted in the turret so there's no die changing other than rotating the turret. From what I've heard the Lee Classic is a darn good press but even the 3 hole like I have would be a good starter if you wanted spend a bit less money. First of all though I would recommed you get at least two or more manuals and study them thoroughly before you get started. I know many wll disagree on the press and setup but that's my opinion. And STAY SAFE!!
     
  7. 1911user

    1911user Member

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    We need more info to make an informed recommendation. Do you need progressive loading rates (400-600 rounds/hr)? Are you loading for rifle and/or pistol? How much are you shooting now? How much do you think you'll be shooting a year from now? Are you mechanically inclined? Does the idea of a step-by-step factory assembly line make sense? How much money can you realistically put (tie up) into reloading equipment in the early stages?

    It's worth knowing a few reloading definitions. To be reloaded, a case requires 3-4 steps using caliber specific dies. A single stage press holds 1 die and works on one casing at a time. A turret press holds several dies at once and works (only) on one casing at a time. The main difference is how many dies are in the press at once; that's it. It still takes 3-4 handle strokes of the press with each casing to make a reloaded round. A progressive press holds several dies and works on several cases at once. Every handle stroke produces a reloaded round (vs. 3-4 handle strokes for single stage/turret presses) because it works on several cases at once. The downside to a progressive press is complexity and higher equipment costs. Hence, the question: how much ammo do you really need to reload and how much time are you willing to invest to produce it?

    You didn't ask a simple question and people are already suggesting equipment for you to buy based on their biases, finances, and needs. I have a bias also and it is the thought that if you really need to reload progressively, then do so and don't mess around with half-solutions (specifically turret presses).

    If you need a progressive for long-term general reloading, then it might be wise to purchase a good, strong single stage press (RCBS rock chucker or equivelent; not a turret press) first and learn with it (if you aren't ready to jump straight to progressive loading). That way you have a good press for the unique tasks that a progressive doesn't do well; tasks that often involve raw strength or high precision.

    The first post in this thread has a good video link showing progressive loading.
     
  8. RustyFN

    RustyFN Member

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    If you buy a Lee classic turret press you will have a single stage press. When you want something more you will have it also without having to buy more equipment.
    Rusty
     
  9. robctwo

    robctwo Member

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    I started with the Hornady LnL AP after learning on my friend's Lee Loadmaster progressive. My opinion is you can load one round at a time on a progressive, but you will never load five at a time on a single stage.
     
  10. EddieCoyle

    EddieCoyle Member

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    Forget Single Stage!

    Get a good high quality progressive press and skip the whole single stage phase. Anything you need to learn, you can learn on a progressive press. If you can afford it, start with a Dillon 650 - it is a "lifetime" machine and you will never need a better reloader. If the price for that is too high, think about a Hornady L-N-L AP or Dillon 550.

    I made the mistake of starting with a Lee Aniversary kit because a bunch of people told me that I should start with a single stage and "work my way up". This was absolute bulls**t, and was caused by arrogance, impecunity, or stupidity on the part of the people that made that recommendation.

    I think many people have read the "you-should-start-off-with-a-single-stage" mantra so many times that they simply regurgitate it as fact. YOU DON'T NEED TO DO THAT!!! If you can afford it, you should NOT start out with a single stage press. It's boring and tedious to load lots of ammo on a single stage press. You can learn everything you need to know, while making lots of ammo, on a progressive press. It is not that hard of a concept to master. You decap, resize, re-pime, bell, fill with powder, insert bullet, and crimp. You can do each of those operations one step at a time for every round on a single stage, or do all of them all at once on a progressive reloader with each pull of the handle. There is no need to learn on a single stage. All of your learning can be done on a progressive reloading press.

    I bought the Lee Aniverary Kit based on advice from a web forum. To put it in a nutshell, it sucked. The press is sub-standard, the scale was hard to use, and the accesories were cheap.

    Before I get flamed, I know you can make fantastic ammo using this kit, or using a Lee turret press. However, if I were to offer you users of these devices a free upgrade to a high quality progressive press, would you pass it up?

    I'm tired of people offering up a single-stage or turret presses as a more noble way to reload. The reason you're using these is because you either couldn't or wouldn't spring for a progressive machine. If you can afford them, progressive presses are better.

    I don't mean to put too fine a point on it, but I can affford a good progressive presss and yet, when I asked, I was persuaded to buy a lesser quality machine to "start out with". YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR. Anyone that is able or willing to invest in a better press and setup: don't waste your time and money on a cheap piece of marginal junk!

    I now have a Dillon 650 and a Hornady L-N-L progressive, with either of these presses, I can make more consistent ammo in a fraction of the time that it takes on a single stage or a turret press.
     
  11. 1911user

    1911user Member

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    Eddie, nice post. Thanks for not holding back. I am also tired of hearing "the Lee turret press is the solution to everyone's reloading problems". Busting your butt to barely make 250 rounds an hour isn't as good as reloading can be; 500-600 an hour with less effort is much nicer especially when you've been doing it for the last 10 years. I've BTDT and almost completely stopped shooting pistols for 2 years because I didn't want to look at the stupid Lee turret press let alone reload anything with it. If you want a decent volume of pistol ammo, get a good progressive and cry once. If you can't start with good equipment, get there as soon as reasonably possible.

    FWIW, I had to start with Lee equipment due to college finances; no regrets, it did get me started. My big mistake was holding off upgrading the reloading equipment to buy something else gun-related. It's a very worthwhile investment and the lowest cost entry into reloading isn't always the best choice.
     
  12. P0832177

    P0832177 member

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    Learning to reload on single stage press is great idea, using Lee stuff is not a great idea! Buy once and cry once! A person will always use the other stuff you get from buying a RCBS RC Supreme Kit.

    What most people do not tell noob reloaders is that reloading pistol ammo in bulk is one thing, but reloading bottle neck rifle cases is another! See there in lies the level of stupid people who do not define the differences!

    If you want to load 9mm, I say go buy a Dillon Square Deal and have at it! I got no problem with that! But, learning to reload bottle neck cartridges on a progressive press is not a good idea at all! Nope! Not at all!:banghead:
     
  13. skipjack

    skipjack Member

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    "if I were to offer you users of these devices a free upgrade to a high quality progressive press, would you pass it up? "

    Where do I sign up for the free upgrade?:)

    I load on an older dillon square deal for 45 acp. Nice machine, great customer service, turns out excellent ammo. But...progressives are not without their problems.

    Chief among them is reliable priming. I do alot of checking and rechecking to make sure that the case gets primed; something I don't have to do with rounds loaded on a single stage press.

    Did you ever try to reload precision reloads for a rifle with a progressive? Loads where you wanted to weigh each charge?

    Both types of machines have a place in the reloading world. It depends if you want to crank out a thousand pistol rounds or two dozen rifle rounds.

    I don't consider Lee equipment "junk", I think it represents a fair product that is adequate. There are better machines out there, but they are all a fair bit more expensive than Lee's offerings. You do, indeed, get what you pay for. I have used their dies for years, and don't think my reloads would be substantially better than what I produce with them.

    Perhaps I would see a difference if I were loading for benchrest competition or the like, I would appreciate a more expensive set of dies. I don't know.

    I guess the point I am making is to determine what level of precision you are trying to achieve and then buy the best equipment you can afford to fill that need. Most of my reloading is for pistol and minute of deer rifle ammo. And, of course, shotshells for skeet and bird hunting.
     
  14. benedict1

    benedict1 Member

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    Why all this erroneous stuff about Lee?

    I have posted numerous times re Lee Classic Turret Press. It has been super to learn with. Anybody who implies it is 'marginal junk' doesn't have a clue about this press and unless you have direct experience with it I suggest you tone it down.

    I don't 'bust my butt' to load 250 rounds per hour. It's actually quite enjoyable. And it can be used single stage or auto-index, you name it. It will last as long as any press ever built--take a good hard look at it. So if somebody needs to load very good ammo at the rate of 4-500 rounds a week and wants to change calibers quickly and inexpensively, this is as good as you can get and the price is unbelieveable.

    For the more adventurous--I just bought and set up a Lee Load Master. I followed the directions exactly as posted on the Lee website to setup and install. It took all of about 90 minutes and is totally functional. Anybody who thinks this is 'junk', 'marginal' etc also is way off base. Go to this link to read about the install/setup if interested.

    http://www.glocktalk.com/showthread.php?s=&threadid=600465

    Watch the Load Master video on the Lee website to watch one being operated at a rate of 1300 rounds per hour--I didn't say anyone produced 1300 hundred rounds--it is a rate of 1300. But a number of guys have posted recently that they load between 600-900 rounds per hour with a Load Master. There are two videos on Glock Talk right now that show machines being operated at a 900 round/hour rate

    So if you need lots of rounds here is a machine, The Lee Load Mastaer, simple to set up and operate, contrary to all the negative rumors/innuendo out here in Internet country. Just follow the instructions, don't leap in with the "I can do it, don't bore me with the instructions" stuff.

    I have data, facts--the thing works-- and anybody else who can follow directions can make one work to.

    I am not knocking anyone's equipment or decision to buy equipment; but I sure can't fathom why a whole bunch of you just feel it's okay to take a cheap shot at Lee gear that you have never used or owned!

    Back to the subject--don't buy just a single stage press--you will regret it unless you only load a few hundred rounds per month.
     
  15. BruceB

    BruceB Member

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    Some years back, I loaded a comparison test of .220 Swift ammunition, with 100 rounds loaded on a single-stage Rockchucker, and another 100 rounds loaded on my Dillon 550, both runs using the same powder charge, primer, bullet etc.

    The Rockchucker ammo had the once-fired brass trimmed and chamfered, primer pockets uniformed and cleaned, every charge individually hand-weighed to a tenth of a grain, etc. etc. The cases were primed on a Lachmiller bench-mounted priming press.

    The brass for the 550 run was also once-fired, and was processed through my tumbler to get clean. That was ALL I did to prepare the brass....NO pocket-cleaning, NO trimming, and the ammo was loaded progressively, including powder charging and priming.

    On a nice day. I took my accurate .220 HB varminter and the 200 rounds to the range. I fired targets alternately from each batch of ammo, so that any variation in conditions wouild not have a lot of effect on the end results. After a loooong day at the benchrest, the targets were compared. The average group size for each batch of ammunition was virtually identical.

    As a direct result of this comparison, I now load most of my large-quantity rifle ammo on the 550, mostly the varmint calibers (.223 and .220) and the military calibers I like to shoot....7.62 NATO and .30-06. My handgun ammo is almost entirely loaded on the 550, too. NO cleaning of pockets, NO weighing of charges, but every round is checked with a case gauge after completion. These gauges will indicate when a case is in need of trimming, as well as many other conditions, and when any of the brass in a batch approaches maximum length, all of it goes to the trimmer.

    I have three presses bolted to my bench, with a 40-year-old Lyman All-American turret between the two presses already mentioned. The Rockchucker gets VERY LITTLE use for actual loading, although it serves well for a lot of miscellaneous jobs. The turret gets used extensively for smaller quantities of ammo, and for many cast-bullet research projects.

    After long and intimate experience with these machines, I'd hate to lose any one of them, but if I could have just one, it would be the turret press and no doubt about it. I agree completely with those saying that the single-station press is too slow and too restrictive. When I added the turret press to my bench all those years ago, it felt like I'd gone to Heaven, after using a Spartan C-press for some time! Note that I use the turret as a semi-progressive, processing each case from empty to loaded without removing it from the machine until complete. The RCBS powder measure is mounted in a die station in the turret.

    My experience with Lee presses is limited, but I've been less than impressed with any that I've tried. My moulds include quite a number of Lees, but none of their actual loading equipment has ever reached my house. I agree with those who say, "Buy quality!" and have yet to regret the good stuff I chose (like that Lyman turret....forty years of HARD use, loading thousands of rounds per year, and still as good as new).

    One old-timer's two cents....
     
  16. distra

    distra Member

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    I choose to get a progressive Dillon 550B mainly because of my shooting freinds have them and helped me get setup. They answered lots of questions and I got the Dillon video manual with the press which helped a lot during setup. Dillon has great customer service, as do the other manufacturers. My shooting partners have a wealth of knowledge and some have been reloading for 25+yrs. As a matter of fact, one of them just shot up some ammo loaded in the '80s. Powder smelled a little different, but fired fine:D
     
  17. Sistema1927

    Sistema1927 Member

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    Reloading is like religion. Some attend the blue church, some attend the green church, some attend the red church. Each one thinks that they are the best.

    As a member of the red church, I have had zero problems with either my Lee single stage or my Lee Classic turret. They work for me, but you might want a different liturgy.
     
  18. El Kabong

    El Kabong Member

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    Wow, lots of opinions! Thank you all for your replies. I knew that if there is one thing you can count on THR for, it's the giving of opinions. :)

    As 1911user suggested, here's some more info about my situation. I want to reload for 9mm and .45 ACP, and eventually being able to work up some lighter loads for competion. I also would like to reload 7.65x39 and .223, but it is my understanding that rifle reloading is a little more complicated than pistol, so I might hold off on that until I am more comfortable with the whole thing. Is a single stage or progressive better for rifle, or does it matter?

    I don't shoot as nearly as much as I would like (who does?), but part of that is that I didn't want to buy cases and cases of ammo. I figure with reloading I can make more at a cheaper price and won't feel it in the pocketbook as much.
     
  19. snuffy

    snuffy Member

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    " I have seen many KB's at competetions when new loaders get a double charge by accident when using a progressive."

    A true progressive, like the dillon 650, cannot double charge! I suppose a dillon 550 could double charge if you didn't rotate the shell plate!?

    Now as to the lee classic turret, I would say it would be a perfect beginners machine. It does a great job of pistol shells, and will handle the rifle shells as well. Like was said, it can be used as a single stage machine until the new reloader gains some skills. Then activate the auto index feature, load at rates near what some progressives can achive.

    I used one of the four hole "original" lee turrets for handgun and .223, .308 rifle. The ability to buy inexpensive turrets means you can set up the dies and they stay set in their individual turrets. Changing turrets is a simple 1 minute job, then change the shell holder and you're loading another caliber! The four hole design allows you to use the lee factory crimp die, along with the lee auto disc powder measure, means high output with minimal expense.
     
  20. RustyFN

    RustyFN Member

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    Amen benedict1. I don't look at reloading as, oh crap I have to hurry and make 600 rounds of 9mm. I actually enjoy reloading. I like to experiment with different powders, bullets and charge weights. I would love to see somebody on a Dillon crank out 600 per hour changing bullets, powder or charge weight every 20 to 40 rounds. Just isn't going to happen. I love my Lee classic turret. It is very easy to use and make changes on so no thanks, I think I'll pass on your Dillon upgrade.
     
  21. CMcDermott

    CMcDermott Member

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    Kabong

    Actually pistol loading is more complicated in that you need to use more dies as the case mouth expansion can't be done by the resizing die on straight walled cases, but can be for bottle-neck cases.
    Unfortunately the calibers you mention are the ones you will save the least amount of money reloading due to availablility of surplus ammo and their popularity. You will save money, just not as much as reloading for a big-bore rifle or relatively less popular pistol cartridge like a 41 Magnum. You will still save money per round, but sounds like you will be the same as most reloaders and spend your savings by shooting more.
    As far as single stage vs progressive, I would recommend a progressive for you if you can afford it. All of your cartridges are high volume and a single stage is slow. It's not time spent switching dies as much as it is handling the cases, putting a case in the holder, operating the press, then taking the case out of the holder and putting it back into the loading block. Having to do this 3-4 times for each round produced is what takes the time. In a progressive you put the case in the shell plate once, let it circle round the press then have it kicked out for you to put into a box is as big a time saver as having the press handle 4-5 rounds at once and produce a completed round with every pull of the handle.
    A progressive is more complicated to learn on, you have all of the reloading operations happening at once and need to pay attention to each one. Most but not all progressives will let you cycle just a single case through at a time while you are learning - check that a case must be in place before powder is dropped. If the powder measure is hooked directly to the press action then you must have a case at each position to hold the powder that will be getting dropped when the handle is pulled.
    As far as recommending a press, I'm a fan of the RCBS 2000 Pro. It's APS priming is by far the most reliable priming system available, and you can buy any brand of primer and load them into the strips yourself with the tool that they make. All other adjustments and features are at least as fast and reliable as any other progressive press; and usually faster and easier.

    The major feature differences to use to decide between progressives are :
    1) number of die positions (4 or 5, can you use a powder check die or do seperate seating/crimping?);
    2) automatic indexing (does the handle move the shell plate around, or do you need to do it manually);
    3) Priming system - how reliable, ease of switching between small and large sizes, how easy is it to crush a primer and set it off, and will that set off the rest of the primers in the press (as I said, RCBS APS is by far the best and easiest)
    4) Ease, reliability and speed of adjustment (RCBS 2000 best, Lee worst, Hornady and Dillon in the middle)

    Remember the first thing you need to do before starting to reload is buy a manual and read it. Lee's Modern Reloading, one of the Lyman manuals, NRA's manual etc are available from Midway and most gun stores and will give you the information you need to reload and help with the reloading press selection.
     
  22. mugsie

    mugsie Member

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    Unless you're a complete idiot go with a progressive

    Firget the hype about single stage vs. progressive.:banghead: The progressive does everything a single stage does but does it all at once with each stage performing a specific function. Unless you're a complete idiot and can't understand the most simple mechanical instructions, go with the Progressive. I started out loading several months ago and went with a Dillon 550B. It's easy, as they all are. It can be used as a single stage, as they all can (and no single stage can be used as a progressive), and it cranks out oodles of great ammo, as they all do. Go with a progressive, unless you want to be shelling out more money later on to go with what you're going to end up with anyway in the long run. Money which could be used to buy more dies, primers, bullets, .... get the point? Go with a progressive and never look back - you won't be sorry!
     
  23. cloudcroft

    cloudcroft Member

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    I think that most of the Lee critics (but not all of course) don't have much personal experience with Lee products...they just parrot what others have said or written, such as the often seen "Lee is junk" statement.

    Funny though, Lee has been making "junk" for over 40 years and is still in business? How did that happen? [A rhetorical question]

    Additionally, why do people with plenty of money (such as yours truly) and who also have owned the "better" brands of reloading equipment (single-stage and progressive alike) end up with Lee stuff once again? Gotten old and senile or maybe just wised up a bit?

    As mentioned above, the reloading scene does seem like a church...red, green, blue, orange worshippers...and with the blind obedience to religious doctrine many of churches/denominations have nowadays, rather than seeing other churches in a broader context -- as Christians.

    Or, it's like being a blindly loyal Republican or Democrat: One sees NOTHING good about the other. And some of these people are very intelligent otherwise, but when to comes to their particular party, they have tiny micro-view minds. Ann Coulter the Republican and James Carville the Democrat...both are pathetically blind.

    I have the Lee Classic Turret Press (a semi-progressive if you will) myself, and it's fine for me.

    Except for a SHTF/PAL/TEOTWAWKI situation, where I have to crank out the ammo by the truckload, I'm okay. But in that situation, I'd just take the dead bad people's ammo/guns anyway so I really wouldn't have to make up my own at all. Curbside delivery of guns and ammo...does it get any better than that? I don't see how.

    But people can use whatever brand they want of course, but fact is, there is no "best brand" out there. You use what works for you, what you like. The end result -- good ammo -- is the same regardless.

    -- John D.
     
  24. LkWinnipesaukee

    LkWinnipesaukee Member

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    I've been told to start out with a single stage or a turret, but being a stupid, stubborn teenager:p , I picked up a Lee Pro 1000. Took me about an hour to set up, but after that it was nice and easy, even for a beginner like me.
     
  25. Car Knocker

    Car Knocker Member

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    I think the choice of press is dependent upon the abilty of the user. Some folks have great ability, others can't drink a glass of water without pouring half of it down their chin.
     
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