Lots of questions...
Cost - my reloads for 12ga are around $4 a box vs $6 - $8 retail.
So if you shoot 6 lines of Trap, etc a week ( call it $ 3 a box savings ) or around $ 1,000 savings a year. So yes, there is money to be saved even on 12 and 20ga. The savings go way up on 28ga and .410 because the cost to reload is even less / cost of retail can be $ 15 a box ...
To maximize your savings you need to buy components in case lots 5,000 primers to a case, shot comes in 25 lb bags ( but get together with a buddy or two, or 3 and share a ton of shot which is 80 bags ). Buy your powder in 8lb Kegs ( plastic bottles).
Storing shot isn't a big deal / in a dry place - stack it up on a concrete floor. 80 to 160 bags on the floor in a corner of my shop takes up a footprint in a corner of about 4' X 4' ( and I keep bags of 9's, some 8's and some 7 1/2's ) - but in 12ga, I load 8's almost 100%. In 20, 28ga and .410 I load a lot of 9's.
My preference on machines is MEC.
If I had to pick one machine to start with - it would be the MEC Grabber. It is a progressive press ( more than one station has a shell on it at one time ) - and every time you cycle the press you get a finished shell. The difference is you have to advance the base by hand - it doesn't automatically index or move to the next station as you pull the handle. The Grabber retails new for around $ 400 - and as for speed its about 10 boxes an hour. The next step up in MEC's machines is the 9000GN - it indexes automatically - but you still pull a handle manually. It sells new for around $ 485 ( and its faster than the Grabber - call it about 12 - 15 boxes an hour. Then there is the 9000HN which has no handle. Press connects hydraulically to a motor and pump that has to sit on the floor. You operate the press by pressing a foot pedal. 9000HN sells with pump for about $ 900. You only need one pump / then you can add extra loaders to it for about $ 540 each. The 9000HN will produce 15-20 boxes an hour.
With all the progressive MEC loaders - they are gague specific. You have to buy separate machines for each gague ( so 4 Grabbers, or 4 9000HN's, etc ). I think there is one of their single stage machines that you can convert between gagues - but nobody does. Its way less aggravation to just have more than 1 loader.
Another option is the Dillon SL 900 for around $ 830 / and you can convert it to 20ga or 28ga ( but there is no option for the .410 ). RCBS and others make presses as well. But my hunch is MEC outsells all other mfg's of shotshell presses combined ( and has for 40 years or more ). MEC is easy to adjust, easy to get parts for, good customer service ... my 2nd choice would be Dillon.
As far as how the press works:
station 1 ( you manually put a new - empty fired hull on the press) and it deprimes a fired hull and resises the base / dispenses a new primer
station 2 seats a new primer / dispenses powder
station 3 ( you manually put a new wad on top of shell ) - it dispenses shot
stations 4 -6 all start, finish crimps - finally resizing of shell
and a new shell drops off the back ....
A couple of points:
I would not buy a press that did not re-size the brass base ( some single stages don't). Re-sizing is important to getting shells to feed reliably ( but not as big a factor in an O/U - because you can probably mash them into the gun with your hand - but why ??? I don't know ( buy a press that resizes).
Most of us would reload even if there was no savings - so we can customize our shells. I may want a real light recoil shell for one of my granddaughters, I may want a 12ga shell for myself at 1 oz and 1250 fps (and its hard to find a retail shell with that spec ) and everything in between.
I use high end components - Hodgdon powders, Duster wads, Remington primers, Northwest shot ( not reclaimed shot ) .....so I know I get a higher quality shell than the cheap retail stuff ( Estate, etc )...
Last edited by BigJimP; January 4, 2010 at 12:50 PM.