What is the Best Reloading Press? The Best Reloading Kit? Our Reviews and Recommendations

best reloading press

Photo by Rudy / CC BY

Reloading is a big process so you should know what you’re getting into before you start shelling out the bucks for the so-called best reloading press equipment.

There are plenty of advantages to reloading and the main disadvantage really is time. Here are the two big advantages:

1. Costs: It’s cheaper to reload than to buy factory-made bullets. Much cheaper. Even on the cheapest centerfire rounds like the 9mm Luger, you’ll be saving a least half if not more. One hundred rounds of 9mm Luger would be around $20 even at their cheapest but you can reload those same bullets for $7 or less; if you cast your own bullets, it’s even cheaper.

2. Performance. Factory loads are nice and dandy, but if you want to minutely measure and improve your gun’s performance, loading and reloading your own bullets might be the way to go. This is especially true for rifle bullets, which is why many sharpshooters load their own bullets. And certainly if you’re ever confronted by an escaped gorilla from the zoo, you wouldn’t want Winchester White Box loads you’ve purchased at Walmart in your gun.

So, those are the good news. Bad news is it’s going to take time to get good at reloading, and the upfront costs are going to be a bit high (especially if you go for a turret or progressive press). Down the road, of course, you’re going to make it all back from what you save, but the initial costs aren’t the greatest. Also, you’ll be spending a lot of time reloading bullets so there’s a time element, but if many folks enjoy that kind of thing. Alone in your garage (or spare room, wherever), away from the screaming wife (or husband) and kids. A bit a heaven for some folks, and easily ordered from any online vendor (see some great reloading presses here).

The 3 Types of Reloading Presses and Kits:

There are really only 3 type of presses. You should be aware of each does before you can decide on what is the best reloading press. What reloading presses do is to put all the 4 items that make a bullet together. The four parts of a bullet are the bullet itself, the powder, the primer, and the brass that holds them all together. Single stage and turret presses handle the steps one at a time whereas a progressive press handles the all stages at the same time, like a Model T factory.

If you’re pressed for time, here’s our recommendation for the best reloading kits (and you would want a kit when starting out) in each category. All enjoy very high reviews. In each section below, we’ll first talk about the press then give a detailed explanation of what that kind of press does—i.e., single stage press, turret press, the best progressive reloading press, etc. (Reloading shotgun shells is a whole another matter; check out our reloading .410s here and 12/20-gauge shells here.)

The Best Single Stage Reloading Press

A great way to begin is with the Lee Precision 50th Anniversary Reloading Kit, which is our recommendation for the best single stage reloading press as well as the best reloading kit. All parts are well cut, and this press includes the very sensitive Lee Safety Scale. A powerful funnel to fill the case is also included. The product is made in the USA and operates smoothly. Because of these advantages, it’s proven to be immensely popular for the past half-century and enjoys high reloading press reviews. This might be the best reloader for the money.

The single stage press is the simplest of the three types. The frame is seemingly strong enough to withstand a thermonuclear war and is most commonly used for reloading rifles. You want to reload the bullets for that 19th-century elephant gun your great-grandpappy gave you—well, the single stage press is for you since it provides the die and ram adjustments; you can really fine-tune your reloading here. The press is also great for beginners since it’ll help you learn the ropes before you continue on to better and faster presses.

The bad news is the rate of rounds completed per hour and the die switching setups are slowest for single stage presses. Experienced reloaders who can crank out 100 handgun loads an hour, but generally the rate is 50 rounds, and if you’re reloading rifle rounds, it’s going to be even less still. And every time calibers are changed, the dies must be changed out and adjusted. But, like mentioned earlier, the best reloading press for beginners is most often the single stage press. It’s a tremendous learning tool and much cheaper than turret and progressive presses.

Reloading 38 Special on a Lee Single Stage Press

The Best Turret Press

Lee Precision Classic Turret Press Kits are the best reloading press kits in this category. To begin, a set of dies by Lee and this kit are all that is needed. The base of the turret press is made of durable cast iron. Dies sets from other brands are compatible with the Lee Press. And like its smaller single stage brother, this recommendation for the best turret press also receives stellar reviews from folks.

The biggest difference between a turret press and a single stage reloading press is found in the press top. Revolving turrets allow multiple die installations so once each step is done the turret revolves to the next step. In other words, you don’t need to change dies during the reloading process; just pull the crank, and once the first step is finished, the turret revolves until it’s on the second step, and so on until the bullet is finished.

A turret press also eliminates the need for a stand to measure powder. Threaded powder measures can be used. The maintenance of the turret press is also low, and the cost is moderate.

Finally, if you want to reload various bullet calibers you don’t need to change dies; just change the turret (the top disc-like part). Just get a couple of turrets, load the dies for each caliber on each turret, then put on and take each turret off the press to change bullets. Whole process of changing the turret: maybe 10 seconds. And reloading bullets is a lot faster process than single-stage presses: 250 handgun bullets an hour for experienced reloaders, no problem.

Now, the downsides, the biggest being the turret press is more complicated to operate than the single stage press. For example, there could be a slight potential of misaligning the die and ram in the equipment. The price of the turret is also more expensive than a single stage press. A standard press is also more robust than the turret reloading press since it has fewer moving parts. Still, it isn’t rocket science, and indeed many beginners think the best reloading kit contains a turret press instead of a single stage press.

Lee Classic Turret Press Review

The Best Progressive Reloading Press

The Hornady Lock N Load Auto-Progressive Reloading Press has our recommendation for the best progressive reloading press. It’s fast: a change of .223 to .45 can be made in the five-station bushing system in under five minutes. Every cartridge is reliably ejected with the EZject system, which happens every time without any adjustments. Metering inserts can be quickly changed. The retainer spring has a universal case, and the indexing system is automatic. The priming system is built in, and the powder drop is case-sensitive. There is a large capacity hopper. Finally, Hornady’s customer service is known as the best in the reloading business.

Progressive presses are the best reloading presses for heavy reloaders. Loading is much faster than a single stage press or even a turret press. We’re talking about 500+ rounds an hour. Several operations happen at once with each handle pull.

In station one, brass cases are resized and de-primed. To accept bullets, cases are primed, the powder is charged, and the mouths of the cases are flared in station two. At station three, bullets are placed into mouths of the brass cases by hand. They are then seated. It is in station four that the cases are crimped. Then voila, you got yourself a bullet ready to fire.

Of course, we won’t lie, a machine that can pop out 500+ bullets an hour will have a lot more moving parts than other presses so there are higher costs and maintenance involved. It’s definitely not what we would recommend for a beginner’s best reloader. Also, as stated in numerous reloading press reviews, for exotic loads (that grandpappy’s elephant gun again), a progressive press might not be best since its contours might not fit the dimensions. But if you shoot a lot of common ammunition and want to save a bundle, progressive presses are the only way to go.

The Best Reloading Manuals:

You will need a manual, and the gold standard for reloading manuals is the Lyman 50Th Edition Reloading Handbook. With something as complicated as reloading, it’s imperative you get yourself this book. Buy it from Amazon, borrow it from the library, borrow it from a drunk gun-loving buddy, it doesn’t matter. Just get it. In fact, it might even be a good idea to get the book before you buy a reloading press.

The Best Reloading Accessories:

Finally, you should be aware that these reloading kits don’t have dies, which are necessary for your reloading press to work. They’re used from resizing and depriming cases among other duties. So you’ll need to buy the dies in the caliber of the bullet you’re reloading. Here’s an array of dies from Amazon, and good for you. The lack of good dies, particularly Lee dies, won’t be a problem, that’s for sure! They have a good reputation as the best reloading dies.

Also, once you get going on your reloading adventure, you might also want to check out some reloading scales to more precisely measure your reloading items (bullet, powder, etc.). And if you’re totally hardcore and start reusing brass casings, well, you might want to pick up a tumbler to clean them out more easily.

Well, we hope you’ve enjoyed this article on the best reloading equipment reviews. There’s a hill to climb in learning the basics, that’s for sure, but once you do, you’re going to have a great hobby for a lifetime. And you just might become a better marksman with all the bullets you’ll be reloading and shooting too!