This buyers guide details everything you need to know about the best Reloading Press:
Whether you’re an experienced reloader looking to “upgrade” to a high quality automatic progressive press, or a new reloader who wants to jump directly into a progressive press for high-volume reloading , this is hands down the best quality-for-the-money progressive press on the market.
WHAT DOES IT INCLUDE?
The press comes with five lock-n-load bushings and a powder dispenser, but NOT a die set or shell plate, both of which are caliber specific and must be purchased separately. Add on those two accessories, though, and you will be ready to reload your favorite caliber at a pace of 200-600 rounds per hour for only around $500!
WHY DO SOME PEOPLE RATE IT NEGATIVELY?
Looking at the negative reviews here on Amazon and elsewhere on the web, I am convinced that those comments stem from users who have not set up the press correctly. Dillon presses are indeed excellent, but for nearly twice the price, they offer little noticeable benefit except for a visibly superior cosmetic finish.Functionally, the Hornady Lock N Load has proven to be just as capable, and some of its features like the excellent Lock N Load bushing system actually make it more desirable. Compared side by side with other brands, the Hornady press has more visible casting marks and uneven textures. But the red finish still looks very attractive, and all of the press’s MECHANICAL components are precisely machined for smooth, accurate reloading. After seeing the press in action, I can say without reservation that it is NOT substantially inferior to the Dillon in its operational build quality.I can only assume that many of the negative reviewers either work for Dillon or are looking to justify the fact that they spent twice as much for a press that is only 10% “better”–and mostly in a cosmetic way. Properly set up, the Hornady Lock N Load AP is a serious reloading press, a joy to operate and behold.
HOW DO I SET IT UP CORRECTLY?
It does take some fiddling to get the press set up correctly, but the difficulty of setting up the Hornady doesn’t strike me as any worse than any other press. With a little patience to dial in each die station correctly, this press will run like a Swiss watch. Best of all, ONCE you get the die stations dialed in correctly, the fantastic Lock N Load bushing system lets you lock in the setting securely. Thereafter, if you want to change calibers, you can simply twist the bushings to swap out the dies and install a different set. When you reinstall the dies after they’ve been set once, they HOLD that setting very well to ensure repeatable results again and again. This is one of the most outstanding features of the Hornady press, and one of the main reasons (besides price) that I chose it over the Dillon. Besides the convenience of easily swapping out dies for different calibers, the bushings also make it easy to quickly remove stations to clear them out of the way for better access to one station that, for example, you might need to get a wrench on to tighten or loosen it.
Instead of going over the initial cleaning and set up, I’ll just recommend that watch the YouTube video series posted by user Bill Morgan. Search for “Hornady LNL AP Press Set Up Hints and Tricks, Part 1” to begin his outstanding, multi-video coverage of virtually everything you need to know to set the press up right. I don’t know Bill personally, but his videos about setting up this press are top notch and will spare you a lot of headaches. Also, make sure you clean the press thoroughly when you first get it with a high quality cleaner and dry lube, like Hornady One-Shot, which works great.
HOW ACCURATE IS THIS PRESS?
After fiddling carefully with each station to get it set up correctly, I was able to produce better-than-factory-accuracy ammo (.223 Remington) on my first try with this press. In addition to this press, I purchased these two add-ons:
– Hornady Improve Shell Plate (17 Remington, 17/222, 17/223, 220VT., 20 Tactical, 204 Ruger, 221 Remington, 222 Remington, 222 Remington Mag., 5.6X50 Mag., 223 Remington, 6mm/223, 6X47 Remington, 6mm TCU., 6.5mm TCU., 7mm TCU., 7mm/223 Ingram, 7X47 Helm, 380 Auto)
– Hornady 223 Remington Custom Grade Reloading Dies(Series I Two-Die Set)
The Hornady resizing/de-priming die works great as long as you snug up the spindle with a wrench and use a generous amount of case lube on the brass (Hornady One-Shot Lube works great). The bullet seating die is also outstanding as long as you hold the bullet into place and guide it up into the die as you stroke the handle. Every bullet seats firmly to a consistent depth (i.e., it holds the depth you set VERY accurately) and appears perfectly centered in the case–an observation that is born out by the impressive accuracy of the resulting shots. You do NOT need an expanding die for .223 cases. The two dies in the Hornady set are all you need in addition to the included powder dispenser that comes with the press.
The powder dispenser is also surprisingly accurate. At first, I had a hard time getting it to throw a consistent charge. But then I discovered that the dispenser tube wasn’t screwed in entirely, and as soon as I fixed that and made a few adjustments to the depth of the station, I suddenly started getting dead-on-accurate throws EVERY time. I’m using IMR 4320 powder, which is a mostly round, but slightly extruded powder that seems to work very well in the Hornady powder dispenser and is less finnicky about temperature changes than a true ball powder. When I tried measuring the loads by dispensing into the pan on my scale, I got inconsistent results, but when I started running cases up into the dispenser and then dumping the powder from the case onto the pan of my beam scale, I got an EXACT 23.5 grains EVERY time for nine in a row! After that, I checked the powder throw every 30 cases, but I needn’t have done so. It was spot on every time! Of course, if you want those kinds of results, you have to make certain you clean your powder station very thoroughly and set it up properly (as I said above, go watch Bill Morgan’s videos!).
One last accuracy note: Using CCI Small Rifle Primers (#400) with the small primer seating parts properly installed on the press, I had zero troubles with shallow or unevenly seated primers. It just works!
PROBLEMS AND SHORTCOMINGS
The Hornady Lock N Load AP press’s printed instructions and included video leave a little to be desired. They’re not bad, but you really need to consult both to have a good understanding of how to set up and operate the press. There are some things that aren’t adequately covered in the print instructions that are much better explained in the video. For instance, it isn’t clear how to grease the press unless you watch the video, which is the only place that makes mention of how much grease to use.
The only problem I had with my press is that, right out of the box, the plastic/nylon tip (ferrule) to the small primer pick up tube was broken. Instead of two clearly defined prongs, it looked as if it had been melted and cracked. I contacted Hornady using their online contact form, and with no questions asked, within a week they had mailed me a replacement tip/ferrule at no charge, so it seems that their customer service is very good. Of course, it was a very inexpensive part… perhaps if it had been a more significant problem, they would have been less accommodating (?). I can’t say, but my sense is that they offer good support for their customers.
All in all, this is a phenomenal press. If you have any doubts about it, watch Bill Morgan’s videos. Not only will they tell you all the things you need to know to get this press running like a Swiss watch, but also you will see the press in action and feel more confident about its quality. I still don’t know why there are so many folks who bash this press or claim that it is vastly inferior to the Dillon. All I can say is they are wrong. It is a fair match for the Dillon, at a MUCH better price, with some features that are even preferable over the Dillon, and you won’t be sorry you bought it. And sweetening the deal, if you buy this press, Hornady includes a rebate for 500 free bullets (all you pay is shipping), which is like getting almost an additional $100 off the price of the press!
I say buy it, and happy reloading!
I am fortunate to have a few stores locally that have mounted presses on display. This made it possible to handle all the products I was considering before making a purchase. These were the Hornady Lock-N-Load, Redding Big Boss II, and of course the RCBS Rock Chucker Supreme. Of these single stage presses, it was very easy to narrow it down to the Redding Big Boss II, and the RCBS Rock Chucker Supreme. The Hornady Lock-N-Load press was removed from consideration because it has a smaller opening, smaller ram diameter, and uses the Hornady die bushing insert, something I don’t want. The RCBS and Redding are very similar in build quality and I would probably be just as happy using the Redding as I am using the RCBS. They both operate very smoothly, and are extremely overbuilt. It’s hard to imagine a situation where someone could destroy either of these presses using them as intended.
-Extremely smooth operation.
-American made. That’s right! I see a lot of misinformation regarding where this RCBS press is made. The box indicates it’s made in the USA
-Fantastic customer support.
-Depriming setup is terrible. I don’t deprime on my main presses, so it’s a non-issue for me. But keep this in mind if you plan to use this press for that. The plastic spent primer catcher just pinches on the press and is tedious to remove without spilling primers.
-RCBS only includes one primer arm assembly, for both size primer cups. This means you have to take apart the primer assembly to switch between large and small primers. It’s tedious and time consuming. Or you could contact RCBS like I did, and have them send you the parts for another complete primer assembly. Parts were sent to me free of charge, and now switching between large and small primers is super easy. They should just include two assemblies in the box.
For those that are wondering why I didn’t consider the Lee Classic Cast press, it’s simple. I already own the Lee Classic Turret press, and I knew it was not what I wanted for my “cadillac” single stage press. To elaborate, Lee sells two versions of the Classic Cast press. The original version deprimes through the 1.125″ hollow tube ram. See my review of the Classic Turret press for images of this. I wanted a solid ram for tough rifle sizing and swager use. The newer Breech Lock Classic Cast press has a solid ram, but requires the use of Breech Lock die bushings, which I don’t want. Then there are other reasons, such as the linkage is not as smooth as other brands due to an angled design that uses a wave washer. Also, the primer setup is not what I was looking for. Then, the press design makes it difficult to use the RCBS swager combo tool. And just in general, while I do like Lee products and own quite a few, they lack the refined quality I was looking for in a single stage press.
I have loaded hundreds of rounds using this Rock Chucker press without any issues. It was a good purchase that I highly recommend.
- Made of the highest quality materials
- Hunting reloading presses
- Another quality Bushnell product
- Rock Chucker press frame provides a full four inches of ram-bearing surface to rigidly support the one inch diameter main ram
- Handle is made of solid steel and features a comfortable ball-type handle grip
- Outstanding strength and versatility, the Rock Chucker Supreme is ideal for the beginner and pro alike
- Can also be upgraded to a progressive loader with the addition of a Piggyback—4
- Specifically for heavy-duty reloading, case forming, and bullet swaging
Being new to reloading I bought this kit to mostly reload 308 and 30-06 thinking it was everything I needed. After using it for about 6 months I have discovered the many shortcomings of this kit and how I would have been better off not buying a kit as most of the components that come with this kit I found myself upgrading shortly after. Don’t get me wrong it will do what you need it to do but if you are thinking you are going to do anything more than pump out some ammo within SAAMI specs you will be disappointed. This is not a kit for someone who wants to replicate ammo such as Federal Sierra Match. It more for replicating ammo like Remington Core Lokt.
-The press is nice and does what it is supposed to do, if I was to buy a press again. I would go with a turret style press so I would not be changing dies in and out. If you do buy this press buy extra Breech Lock Quick Change Bushings so you do not have to resetup your dies every time you change them.
-The Perfect Powder Measure is not perfect. It is pretty accurate once dialed in but depending on what powder you are using there will be variance. Using IMR4060 which is a pretty thick powder It will be off by a 10th. Setting it to 42 grains I will get anywhere from 41.4 to 42.6. It is very important that you follow the directions and cycle a few hoppers of powder through it before you start using it. All and all its a pretty good starting point for your powder measure. If you are trying to load match grade ammo where everything is exactly the same you will be adding a few grains or removing a few grains.
-The powder scale will be the first thing you replace, it works and is pretty accurate but it takes forever to get a reading. This is not a step you want to rush through and since I can’t trust the Perfect Powder Measurer to be consistent I find myself weighing every charge. This was promptly replaced with a digital scale.
-The case prep tools that come with it are time consuming. I found myself them with a Lyman Case Prep Multi Tool for $19 on amazon. The lube that comes with the case prep items is terrible. It dries and leaves a very thick film on the cases, I used it for one case prepping session and replaced it with Hornady One Shot Spray Case Lube for $9 on amazon
-The case trimmer requires shell holders, so you will need to buy those. Since I am trying to replicate match ammo I ended up ordering The World’s Finest Case Trimmer for $70 on amazon. This is a huge upgrade. In most cases if you are just reloading ammo for shooting and are not trying to get sub 1MOA groups just order the bushings and run with what the kit comes with.
-The funnel for pouring the powder into the shell works well, no complaints there.
The Lee Safety Prime Small and Large Primer Feeder works better than I thought it would. This was the surprise of the kit. when I first saw it I was in doubt due to the flimsy plastic its made out of but it works remarkably well.
Now that we have talked about what you have and what you will be replacing (scale, case prep tools). You should be aware that you are missing some things.
-You will need a caliper to measure your cases and rounds to make sure they are in SAAMI specs
-You will need a reloading trey to hold your rounds as you are reloading them.
-You will need a neck brush
All in all
This is a good starter kit for someone who wants to produce some blasting ammo, if you have higher aspirations don’t buy this kit. Buy a good turret press, a good digital scale, an all in one case prep tool and a better powder dispenser.
I ordered this press a little over 2 1/2 years ago. To date, I have loaded more than 8,000 rounds with it. I load 9mm, 45ACP, 22-250,.223rem, .243win and 25-06 – it handles all of those different cartridges with ease. This press hasn’t given me any trouble other than very minor issues with the primer arm hanging up. But, If you clean the spent primer crud out and lube the press every 500 rounds, it’ll work like new. The parts that rotate the turret are original and still going strong. I’m happy with how well this press has been wearing. When it was new, tolerances were tight enough that I couldn’t feel any play in the ram or linkage, now it’s starting to loosen up but still feels tight. I’m guessing it might need a rebuild somewhere around 15k rounds.
I’ve spend a lot of quality time with this press and I’m very impressed by the design. I questioned the wooden ball for a handle but now, after using it, wood is the right material for the job. The adjustable clamp for the lever arm allows you to change the arm length to suit the amount of force needed for different cartridges – I set it up short for pistol cartridges where low force and high repetition speed is ideal. Or, you can make the arm longer when you need more force to resize smaller quantities of large rifle brass.
It’s apparent, to me, that Lee that has done an excellent job of balancing quality vs. cost. Yes, there are some plastic parts on this press but I have found that they are suitable to meet the design criteria. You could spend more money on a press but I don’t see the reasoning for it. My rifles routinely shoot <1″ groups at 100 yards so there is no question about the press’s ability to make consistent ammo.