History always repeats itself regarding ammunition shortages in times of civil unrest, political turmoil, and pandemics. We have seen it repeatedly, and without fail, ammunition is one of the first resources to disappear. When these events occur, it’s handy to be able to reload your ammunition on one of the many reloading presses available today.
We break down the best reloading presses for you aspiring ammo-smiths.
In This Article:
Reloading Press Comparison
Below is my list of the best reloading presses for 2022. I list the best choices in terms of value, performance, design, and cost.
Click on the name to head to the product page, read reviews and check prices or skip ahead to the list of presses.
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Why You Should Listen To Us
The initial investment to start reloading can seem overwhelming and expensive, but the way reloading benefits compound over time are monumental. There isn’t a choice not to reload my ammo as a competitive shooter.
Every competition I work as a Range Officer, I pick up spent brass off the ground because the cost savings from brass alone is enormous. I shoot pistols and pistol caliber carbines in shooting competitions, and these guns differ significantly in terms of optimal bullet profile and weight they prefer. The goal of reloading is to customize your ammo to each firearm you own.
I have found that there is no comparison between reloaded ammo and factory ammunition when it comes to felt recoil, reliability in feeding, consistency between rounds, and velocity control. I use a chronograph to check the ammunition velocity of each of my competition firearms and consistently find more velocity spread with factory ammunition rounds.
This spread can cause data to be incorrect and can then, in turn, cause shots to be off the intended target or mark. If I didn’t reload ammunition and were forced to rely on factory ammo, I almost certainly would miss many more shots.
I reload .40 cal ammunition to compete for more points in USPSA (see advantages below). There is almost no difference between the felt recoil of my hand-loaded .40 cal rounds and factory 9mm ammunition.
By reloading my ammo, my gun returns to zero faster, enabling quicker follow-up shots. This gives me a competitive edge in my division when competing against shooters who have to manage the additional recoil of factory ammo.
I can manufacture thousands of rounds a day using a reloading press which drives the cost per round down 50% — or even more when there’s ammunition scarcity. As long as I keep consumables and required components in stock, I will always be able to shoot the guns I own, even when ammo is sold out everywhere.
Fewer retailers are stocking ammo, and many of them limit how many boxes people can buy. As a competitive shooter, a box of 50 rounds may get me through 2 stages of a 10 stage competition. I buy in bulk when I shop for factory ammunition, which can drive up shipping costs given the ammo weight. All of these factor into the price per round, so reloading saves money and time on shipping.
No reloading press fits all calibers, but there are reloading presses that load both pistol and rifle calibers on a single machine. There are single-stage reloading presses, turret presses, and progressive presses to choose from depending on your reloading needs and what ammunition you plan to make, and I have experience with all of them.
Reloading Press Reviews
1. Hornady Lock-N-Load
- Lock-N-Load Auto Progressive Reloading Press – Reload up to 500 rounds per hour with this...
- Fast Reloading – Lock-N-Load technology allows you to stop loading, change dies and start loading...
- Quick and Reliable – The Lock-N-Load powder measure uses quick change metering inserts that allow...
The brand Hornady has long since been in the ammunition industry for so long the word Hornady is synonymous with precision in the shooting community.
The Hornady Lock-N-Load is a progressive press that comes with just about everything you need to get started in reloading. This specific press features the pistol bullet feeder, case feeder, small and large primer pickup tubes, Lock-N-Load powder measure, die bushing, cartridge bins, powder cop, a die wrench, and a case-activated powder drop.
The only components missing are the actual dies for the caliber you want to load and the shell plates.
The Lock-N-Load reloading machine can crank out 500 rounds per hour, and you won’t exhaust yourself because this progressive reloading press is automatic indexing, priming, and ejecting with each handle pull, making for easy loading.
If you’re looking to get started loading ammunition quickly and in bulk, this press is for you.
2. Lee Precision Classic Turret Press
- This kit and a set of Lee dies is everything you need to begin reloading
- Note: the Bench Plate system the Classic Turret Press is mounted to in the photo is sold...
- Made in USA
Lee Precision started by inventing a loader for shotgun shells before moving into pistol and rifle. Lee Precision now manufactures everything for the reloader: presses, dies, crimpers, powder measures, priming tools, scales, bullet molds, melters, bullet sizers, lubricants, turrets trimmers, and more.
Their Precision Classic Turret Press is easy to use, with each pull of the handle rotating the turret for each die to perform its duty on the cartridge below.
The Classic Turret Press is a step up from a single-stage press and is excellent for rifle reloaders with an output of about 250 rounds per hour.
This complete kit includes the Pro auto-drum powder measure and riser, large and small safety prime, cutter, lock stud, chamfer tool, small and large primer pocket cleaner, Lee Safety powder scale, a tube of Lee case sizing lube, and the Modern Reloading Second Edition book.
The only additional purchase you’ll need to reload ammo is the dies for the caliber you want to reload.
3. RCBS Rock Chucker Supreme Master Reloading Kit
RCBS was founded out of necessity by Fred T Huntington when he couldn’t find quality varmint bullets.
He made dies to create bullets that he used to shoot rock chucks (technically a yellow-bellied marmot of Western North America), named them Rock Chuck Bullet Swage dies, where the acronym RCBS came from, and the rest is history.
While they no longer manufacture dies, they focus on providing customers with ammunition reloading equipment for rifles and pistols. The Rock Chucker Supreme press is a simple single-stage press that is excellent for beginners getting into reloading or precision rifle reloading.
This RCBS Rock Chucker kit comes with the press, reloading scale, powder measure, hand priming tool, case loading block, deburr tool, a hex key set, case lube kit, powder funnel, accessory handle, and their Reloading Manual. The only additional purchases needed are dies and shell holders.
4. Lee Precision Load Master 9mm Pistol Reloading Kit
The Lee Precision Load Master can be run in single-stage mode or as an auto progressive reloading press with five stations available for your reloading dies.
The turret easily detaches, so you can remove it for cleaning and put it back on without readjusting the dies.
This specific press is different from other presses in that it has ample stroke clearance, which allows magnum rifle cartridges to be loaded. This reloading kit is for 9mm only and includes a carbide 3-die set (full-length carbide size, powder through expanding and bullet seating dies), turret, #19s shell plate, Pro auto disk powder measure, a universal case feeder, and a small primer feed.
Lee Precision has issued guidance that only CCI or Remington brand primers are safe to use with this press. If you plan on using a brand other than CCI and Remington, you must install the included safety shield.
5. RCBS Turret Press
The RCBS Turret Press is unique in that it can reload in both single-stage mode or progressive mode, with output ranging from 50 rounds per hour in single-stage to 200 rounds per hour in progressive mode.
This press features a six-station turret head that allows you to use different die combinations and will enable you to reload multiple cartridges in a single setup.
RCBS also took time to focus on details that matter with this press. The turret press head has a detent for positive case alignment and features a single disassembly bolt for quick changeover between cartridges — not something found on other reloaders.
The handle can also be set up for right- or left-handed users, a rare bonus feature in reloading presses. While the primer safety tube and primer catcher are included, you’ll still need multiple dies.
6. Lee Precision Breech Lock Challenger Press
The Breech Lock Challenger Press by Lee Precision is a heavy-duty single-stage reloading press. This is an excellent press for batch loading and can load very large cavaliers — up to the .460 Weatherby Magnum cartridge.
The maximum this press can produce is 50 rounds per hour, and I really like the press’s unique and handy feature — the spent primer catcher tube. Each spent primer collects into the tube, so all you have to do is remove the cap and let the spent primers fall into a trash can.
This single-stage press also features the Breech Lock Quick Change die system. You only have to rotate the die 1/6th of a turn instead of 14 turns, so you don’t have to readjust your dies each time you swap one out.
7. Dillon XL750 Press
Dillon Precision came into the reloading industry a lot later than RCBS and Hornady, but they have die-hard customers & supporters.
Dillon Precision shines by being active in action pistol shooting sports and taking feedback to improve their products directly from their customers who shoot competitively.
The company’s employees are also all shooters and reloaders, so they understand the product they are building, and it shows — the Dillon XL750 is one of the best reloading presses on the market today.
It is a five-stage progressive press with an auto-indexing feature and can load rifle and handgun cartridges from .17 Hornet to the common belted magnum rifle cartridges and 32 ACP through 500 S&W in pistols.
Loading 500-800 rounds of ammunition in one hour is a breeze with this reloading machine. The XL750 comes with a powder measure with standard large and small powder bars, primer system with large and small priming parts, large and one small primer pick-up tube, low primer alarm, a loaded cartridge bin, tool head, powder die, and a set of standard Allen wrenches.
Caliber conversion kits and dies (other than the powder die) are not included. Dillon offers a lifetime warranty on its products and is known for excellent customer service.
8. Dillon Precision RL550C 4 Stage Reloading Machine
While reloading ammunition with a manual index press is slightly slower than using an auto-indexing press, it can give you more control over the quality of the final product.
Of all the reloading presses Dillon Precision makes, the RL550C will accommodate the widest variety of cartridges from 32 ACP up to 338 Lapua, 416 Rigby, and 460 Weatherby.
The RL550C has four stages and comes with a powder measure with standard large and small powder bars, a priming system with large and small priming parts, one large and one small primer pick up tube, a low primer alarm, a tool head, powder die, loaded cartridge catch bin, written instruction manual, and a set of standard Allen wrenches.
When purchasing this reloading machine, you get to also choose a caliber conversion kit of your choice.
The reloading process with this machine requires the user to manually rotate the shell plate, seat the brass in stage one, and add a bullet to the cartridge in stage three — but don’t let its manual nature deter you — it can still crank out 400-600 rounds an hour.
9. Frankford Arsenal Single-Stage Reloading Press
Frankford Arsenal is another well-known company dedicated to manufacturing reloading equipment for the avid shooter. They sell presses, tools, scales, tumblers, media, ammo boxes, trays, and more. Essentially, it’s a one-stop-shop for all your reloading needs.
This is one of the unique single-stage presses on the market. It includes a universal shell holder system meaning there’s no need to purchase different shell plates for each caliber you want to load. This simply-designed machine allows you to switch between small to magnum pistol or rifle-sized cases with the turn of a dial.
The die system “floats” so that the bullet and case align perfectly no matter what cartridge you’re loading.
This machine can be set up to cam over or not cam over and has an integrated LED light, one of the most underrated reload tools IMO. It includes a spent primer catcher and three cast aluminum die blocks with a quick change die system.
10. Lyman Brass-Smith Victory Single-Stage Press
Believe it or not, the Lyman brand has been around for almost 150 years, starting when William Lyman invented a novel approach to sighting systems. They originally published reloading manuals, then made a vibratory case polisher, and eventually Ultrasonic cleaners and rotary tumblers.
These days Lyman manufacturers reloading kits, presses, dies, casting furnaces, bullet molds, and tools galore.
The Victory Press is one of the more rigid single-stage presses available. This press is unique with its straight-line primer feed. Like other single-stage models, this press can load large magnum caliber rounds because of its large, 5-inch frame opening. The ball handle is ambidextrous and can be set up on the right or left-hand side. Just be sure to purchase your favorite reloading dies in addition to the press.
11. Redding Big Boss II Reloading Press
Redding has been in the reloading market since 1946, manufactures everything in the USA, and is known for high-quality, heavy-duty presses. The Big Boss II has a very rigid frame, made from cast iron, and features one of the largest frame opening and useable ram stroke of any reloading press in its class.
The Spent Primer Collection System quickly drops spent primers through a plastic tube for easy disposal later. Since this doesn’t come in a kit, you’ll still need to purchase all the peripherals — multiple dies, a scale, powder drop, and more — to begin reloading.
Advantages of reloading your own ammunition
Ammo tends to get scarce when you need it most, which drives many people to reload but, of course, people reload for purposes other than dealing with historical events and unrest.
Hunting enthusiasts are known to supply their ammunition to control its velocity, accuracy, and reliability in their firearm of choice. Firearm collectors and other gun owners with more obscure caliber firearms will reload ammunition because some calibers are no longer manufactured or are extremely hard to find.
Factory ammunition is loaded for the masses so that a single cartridge can fit as many guns as possible. Precision rifle shooters and hunters who reload need additional quality control over each round they fire from their weapons.
Consider for a moment the sheer variety of different actions, barrel lengths, and barrel twist rates that are available on the market today. Ammunition (reloaded or factory) shot out of various actions and barrels will vary in velocity, maximum distance, and time to stabilize the bullet. By loading ammo for each gun, you can optimize each cartridge for all of these variables — giving you the smoothest shooting, most accurate version of your gun, making it as accurate as possible.
Competition shooters in pistol, rifle, and even shotgun shooting sports choose to reload ammunition for many reasons. They can control the length of the cartridge to fit their firearm, the velocity of the bullet out of their gun, and have more control over consistency between rounds than some factory loads can produce.
In the sport of USPSA, shooters are rewarded more points in certain target zones for shooting .40 cal or 45 auto ammunition over 9mm because the recoil greater with these larger caliber rounds.
However, when reloading your pistol ammunition fr competition shooting, you can load these larger caliber rounds to shoot just as soft as most 9mm factory ammo. It is also tough to find .40 cal ammunition for competition pistols, and the pre-round price of .40 cal tends to be higher than 9mm, so reloading is essential to save money.
In the sport of 3 gun, you need “burner” rifle ammunition for close targets and “long-range” ammunition for the distant targets in a match. Long-range ammunition for this sport is usually 75 or 77-grain bullet tips loaded to be as consistent as possible compared to 55-grain bullet tips that don’t have to be as consistent for burner ammo.
The heavier projectiles can travel further and don’t drop as quickly as the lighter projectiles. If you reload long-range rifle rounds for consistent velocities from one round to the next, your data will not fluctuate, and you’ll be able to make more accurate hits more of the time.
In cowboy action (SASS) competition shooting, there are black powder divisions that require you to shoot black powder pistols, rifle, and shotgun ammunition. Almost every SASS member that shoots in a black powder division reloads their ammunition or buys from a smaller company that reloads it for them since it is not produced at scale.
Not to mention, reloading ammunition can save money over time if you reprocess your brass. Loading ammunition provides a considerable cost saving over time if you shoot often enough.
Unfortunately, when supply dwindles and demand increases, ammo price goes up as well. And while reloading components may go up a few cents here and there, you just don’t see the massive cost increases that can make ammunition unaffordable at the worst possible time.
When demand spikes Ammunition companies have to buy more machines, hire new staff, and train employees to manufacture ammo. Increasing production can take months to a year for a factory of new team members to get up to speed on operations.
In times past, when ammunition surges have occurred, many manufacturers kept their exact production count rather than increase supply because they think of demand spikes as temporary.
Producing Rare Ammunition
Many classic firearms and collector model guns don’t even have ammo produced anymore. Can you imagine owning a gun you will never shoot again because ammunition simply isn’t available? If you load ammo, you will never run into this problem, assuming the availability of consumables.
Types of Reloading Presses
Single-Stage Reloading Presses
Think of a single-stage reloading press as similar to single-action firearms: they can only perform one function at a time. On a single-stage reloading press, there is one place for reloading die, so each step of the reloading process is done with a single cartridge at a time.
The reloading operations of a single-stage press give you more control and consistency relative to other types of presses. This is due to the power of focus. When you move through one step of the reloading process at a time, each round gets dedicated attention to things like the amount of powder it is receiving or how far the bullet is seated. It’s a craft-first process.
In turret and progressive presses, it’s much easier for the machine to malfunction, powder can run out without you noticing, the bullet may not seat right, or you could mistakenly not fully pull the handle down and load a round properly.
While you reload fewer rounds per hour using a single-stage press, it is the best reloading press to load consistent ammunition for accuracy and precision.
Turret Reloading Press
A turret press looks similar to a single-stage press, with the addition of a turret that holds multiple dies rather than a single-stage press’s lone die position.
Turret presses process a single cartridge at a time; however, the turret can either auto-index or manually index from one die to another, so you can perform all the reloading steps on one cartridge to manufacture ready-to-fire round of ammo quickly.
A classic turret press is a great place to start if you’re on a budget for reloading and want to produce a few hundred rounds of a single type of ammunition per hour. The design is simple and easy to operate, plus it takes up a lot less room on a reloading bench than progressive presses.
Progressive Reloading Press
Progressive reloading presses are a step up from turret presses in loading capacity but function similarly. Instead of the dies rotating around a single case like a turret press, the dies stay in place as multiple cases rotate in a circle from one die station to the next, in a kind of reloading musical chairs.
The best progressive reloading press is what works for you and your reloading needs. For example, progressive presses can auto or manually index depending on the amount of control you want to have. They can vary in the number of stations from 3 to 5, with some presses having as many as eight stations.
Progressive presses are the most output-oriented presses — making it possible to reload many more rounds per hour than any other type of reloading press. Some progressive presses can even be automated to run by themselves or perform every function other than the final step of pulling the handle.
If you’re brand new to reloading, I recommend buying a reloading kit with everything you need to reload your desired caliber ammunition. Reloading kits will typically come with everything except for reloading dies and shell plates, given both are caliber specific in size.
The best reloading kit is one that comes with a manual, a reloading book, or load data. These manufacturers want to see shooters successfully reloading ammo and provide you with the information to load ammo safely.
Important Reloading Press Features
Compact Hand Loaders vs. Larger Presses
One of the most considerable constraints of choosing a reloading press is how much space you have to place a press on a bench, both from a height and width standpoint. This will be the primary limitation on your options. Compact hand loaders are time-consuming but are designed for precision loading in smaller spaces. That said, you will need a larger press if you’re trying to crank out hundreds of rounds an hour.
Reloading Rifle & Pistol vs. Shot Shells
Most top reloading presses will load both rifle or pistol ammunition by swapping out a few components to adjust the caliber; however, most of them do not have the capability of loading shotshells. A few manufacturers make shotgun-specific reloading machines, so this will be an entirely different machine if you need to reload shotshells.
Ease of Use
Reloading is not for the faint of heart. It requires a mechanical mind, troubleshooting skills, the ability to fix things, and a boatload of patience. Understanding your capabilities and personal attributes is key to choosing the proper reloading press for you.
Most single-stage presses are so simple a monkey could operate one. You sacrifice time for ease of use, but if you can’t eliminate a problem on a six-stage progressive press, for example, you’ll be stuck if you can’t sort out how to fix it. Single-stage machines eliminate a lot of potential troubleshooting.
Machines also require maintenance just like a gun, from cleaning it regularly, making sure it’s lubed in all the right places, and replacing parts from wear and tear.
Rounds Per Hour
The larger, more functional press you get, the more rounds you’ll be able to produce per hour. When it comes to progressive presses, more stations are typically better, so you can add on items like a case feeder, bullet feeder, and powder cop die. The more work your machine does for you, the faster you can load ammunition.
Everything in reloading is caliber-specific, with the main components for reloading being brass, primer, powder, and bullets. There are some nuances with lubrication and black powder, but these are the four components you’ll need to load ammunition for the most part. Always, always, always match your components to the caliber you are reloading or you’re cruisin for a bruisin.
How to get started with reloading
What makes reloading ammo dangerous is a failure to research appropriate load data for the type of ammo you are trying to reload. Many bullet and powder manufacturers provide recommended baseline load data as a guide. When loading ammunition, it’s always a good idea to begin with a load that aligns with SAAMI spec standards and see how it shoots.
Load in batches of 20 rounds and then increase or decrease powder charges in sets of 20. The goal is not to have squib loads, unacceptably low-velocity ammunition, or overcharged ammo that could potentially blow up your gun.
From there, tinker with different bullet profiles — from flat nose, round nose, hollow point, jacketed, coated, and beyond. Different primers will also perform differently in some firearms, so consider testing primers provided your press supports it.
Reloading ammunition is all about changing one variable at a time to see what performs best in your gun. Then, once you find the magic recipe, don’t change it!
Price Ranges vs. Features
The best advice a friend told me when I got into reloading is that reloading is a gear race just like shooting competitions, and he was right. The more expensive presses get, the better the functionality, the more options for upgrades, and the more ammo it can load.
- Under $500. If your budget is under $500 for everything to reload ammunition, you’ll most likely be in the market for a single-stage press. The presses alone are between $100 and $200, and then they require dies, shell plates, a powder scale, calipers, and a few other small tools to get started.
- $500-$1,000. A budget of between $500 and $1000 for everything you need to reload will get you a good quality turret press with multiple dies, a suitable powder scale, a mount for your press to your bench, and more time-saving tools.
- $1,000 and Above. Progressive presses like Hornady and Dillon Precision will be upwards of $1500 to get the bare necessities you need to load ammunition. Remember that this is an investment upfront into time and money savings in the future.
How We Selected Our Recommendations
I don’t know many people in the action shooting sports community who don’t reload their ammunition. I have friends who shoot 3 gun and reload every type of cartridge they shoot to friends who only reload .40 cal for pistol competitions. Many of my friends have progressive presses as these are the most time-saving machines and can produce more rounds than others.
I have other friends who shoot PRS and NRL competitions that load one cartridge at a time and spend days load developing different batches to find the perfect recipe. The recommendations have come from personal experience, my experienced reloader friends who have some of the best reloading equipment around, and the wonderful world of YouTube recommendations.
Remember that the perfect reloading press is what serves your purpose. It should be easy for you to use, load as many calibers as you want it to, and last you a lifetime if you take care of it.
Reloading ammo is excellent for competitive shooters who wish to control ammo performance out of their guns, hunters wanting precise ammo to make a clean kill, and any gun owner who can’t find their favorite calibers on retailers shelves anymore.
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