Since you are reading this page chances are, you want to shoot long range precision. So that’s what this series is going to focus on. We are going to discuss everything from your reloading bench to match quality ammunition and everything needed to accomplish it. For the purpose of this series we are going to assume that you have never reloaded before. So, if you are an experienced reloader you will probably want to stay tuned for our upcoming articles on advanced reloading techniques, however, if you feel like being refreshed on the subject, please feel free to continue on!
The first thing you need to decide on, is where you are going to be loading and what bench you are going to use. You need a sturdy bench because of the force that you will be putting on your press and, you will also want to look at the size of the desired bench. A lot of factors go into picking the best size bench, the most important factor of determining size is the space you have available for a reloading bench. My recommendation is to get the largest bench that you can fit in your available area. It might seem like to much space at first but as time goes by, you will more than likely accumulate lots of supplies and even additional presses. LRS-Pro Tip #1: It’s also helpful to have a pegboard or shelves on the bench as well as cabinet and storage space near by to store supplies and equipment when not in use. Another useful thing to have nearby, or on the bench, are stacking storage bins. The bins can be used for many things, from completed bullet storage to homes for tools and spare parts for your press and everything in between.
Next, you need to decide on your press. First you have to decide on the type of press that’s best for you.There are a few things you need to take into account when picking a press type, some of these factors are: your personal budget, the number of rounds you plan to load, and your skill level, as you become more experienced you may want to upgrade or even add a press or two.
There are three basic types of presses; the single stage, the turret, and the progressive. For right now, I will only discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the single stage press, however, in later articles I will discuss the advantages, disadvantages, and differences of the other two presses listed above.
The single stage press is just like it sounds, it can hold one die at a time. It is also the cheapest of the three styles of press. It gives the greatest degree of control over the rounds you load, since you have to handle each individual round at each step of the loading process. Because of this, the single stage press is used by many people (even those who have been loading for YEARS) for precision rifle loading even if they have other, speedier, types of presses.
Of course there are several different brands of single stage press to include: Lee, Lymen, Redding, RCBS, and Forster co ax. The Lee is the cheapest of the single stage presses and it is a capable press and can be had for under $100. The Lee is a good press for starting out, it is geared towards those who are looking to make hunting loads, those who aren’t precision loading throughout the year, or hobbyists looking to spend some time away from the computer. I would say that based on the quality of the ammo capable of being produced by the press and a good die set (we will talk about dies later), that the Lee is a capable press for some competition shooting, though maybe not the best choice for primarily competition ammunition (would not recommend for bench rest shooting).
Next, you have Lymen, Redding, and RCBS presses. All are a step up from the Lee, still affordable and of comparable quality to each other, all three sit at a $200 – $300 price point. In comparison to the Lee press, they all have better quality castings, less plastic parts, and better quality hardware then the Lee press. They also have better quality rams (the ram being the part of the press the case sits on and moves up to meet the die) then the Lee, allowing for a more consistent production of ammunition. From my personal experience and from conversations that I have had with other seasoned precision loaders, the RCBS seems to be the gold standard for single stage presses and the most popular single stage press, possibly the most popular press period. All the are capable of producing good quality ammunition that will perform well in competition, but the RCBS is not the best, that honor goes to the Foster co ax by a long margin. All the presses we have talked about previous to the Foster co ax use very similar designs, additionally, the quality and small nuances are all that separate the Lyman, Redding, and RCBS presses. Now comes the Foster, it has a completely different design that allows for better and more even and consistent pressure on the ram then the other presses are capable of. The Foster also has a unique system to hold the dies that makes them truly quick change. Once set the dies?? all you need to do is verify that nothing has changed from the last time you set them so you don’t have to spend time adjusting the dies. It does come at a cost however, being twice the price of an RCBS the Foster co ax weighs in at $500 making it the most expensive single stage presses on the market. It is at this moment that the question becomes, is it worth the cost? Well, It really just depends on what you are trying to do. If you just shoot a couple times a year, use the presses to go hunting with, or are just a hobbyist that enjoys precision. Then you probably will not want to be looking into the Foster co ax for your precision loading needs. But, if you are getting into any competition shooting, like benchrest shooting, or are looking to crank out a large amount of rounds, then it is absolutely worth every penny.
So in conclusion, we have talked about getting your bench and press. Today we discussed the importance of a larger bench, for organization of course, then dove into the facts about single stage presses, and discussed the differences between the single stage presses available on the market. In the coming weeks we will talk about what other equipment and supplies you will need and how to load ammunition, as well as, load development. We will also talk about the other types of presses and be on the lookout for more LRS-Pro tips! So stay tuned for the next article on the science of reloading.