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Old December 27, 2012, 08:54 AM   #1
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Hoping for advice on a press

I recently took a class on reloading but have not yet started doing anything with what I learned. I now am ready to start buying the equipment needed, starting with a press. Since I shoot several handgun calibers it seems pretty clear that a turret press is where I should start, but which one? I was ready to buy a Lee Classic Turret press but then read some reviews which stated the press was poorly made, with parts missing paint, not properly adjusted, etc. which sort of scared me off. The instructor of the reloading class recommended Dillon, but do I really need to spend that much, i.e., is Dillon really that much better and worth the price? I also am wondering if I can attach the press to my regular work bench or should I buy a separate stand or bench such as what Lee sells? Finally, I want to put a list together of what I will need to just get started on a single caliber. Did I leave out anything critical:
- reloading press
- carbide die set (I don't want to have to lube cases)
- powder scale
- device to charge the cartridge so that I don't have to hand measure every charge (can't recall what this device is called)
- device to feed the primers into the die (also can't remember what it is called)
- tumbler and media for cleaning cases
- powder, primers and bullets
Thanks for any help you guys can offer.
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Old December 27, 2012, 09:03 AM   #2
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Buy a dillon 550 and never look back. I have owned presses from every maker including lee' rcbs' hornady.......
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Old December 27, 2012, 09:06 AM   #3
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As in all things you buy today you get what you payfor. Quality costs, and as the quality of the tooling goes up so will the cost.

A dillon press is a great choice, they have one of the best customer support systems of ant loading mfgr.]

Lee makes a good press that will load cartridges, but in some ways the other loading tool mfgrs are just different/better.

By the way Dillon has a lifetime warrenty on their presses no matter who's lifetime. My bucket list on presses is a Redding Ultra Mag.
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Old December 27, 2012, 09:15 AM   #4
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I'm new to reloading also, I bought a used Lee turret press because that was what I could afford. It was out of whack, but now that I have it adjusted properly, works great. All of the stuff to go with the press will nickel and dime you to death! But, once you have it, you have it for ever.

That said, I never used anything else other than a SmartReloader SBP single stage press and you can save your money on that one by not buying it. Not a very good press at all.

I'd say buy the best you can afford and save some money for brass, bullets, primers and powder. You'll be buying these over and over (not so much the brass), so make sure they are in the budget.
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Old December 27, 2012, 09:37 AM   #5
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had a friend who decided he would take up golf when he retired, bought 3K worth of clubs bag etc. He played one summer and they have sat in the basement for the last 3 years.

There are probably more bullets loaded on Lee equipment per day than there are loaded on all the Dillon's in a years time so Lee's cant be as bad as some want you to believe.

I used a Lee classic turrent without auto index for the first four years I reloaded, worked fine for 10 -15 thousand pistol and rifle loads. They all went bang and all shot stright. When I decided to go with a progressive for pistol and a single stage for rifle I sold it on Ebay for 80% of what I payed for it when I upgraded. By the way my single stage is a Lee also, works as well as the high price units
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Old December 27, 2012, 09:51 AM   #6
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What you will find with asking such a broad brush question is this:
1. You will get "haters" for Brand [insert name here]
2. You will get the "kool-aid" drinkers who swear that you MUST buy [insert brand here]-although usually it involves a Blue color. Don't attack as I own lots of Blue stuff-other colors too.
3. You usually get what you pay for, so, determine if you will be in this for the long haul or are you dabbling. Personally I have reloaded for just on 50 years and still learning and usually buy the best I can afford, however, I do have Harbor Freight stuff if it is not a precision sensitive task or will get little use since I don't trust the longevity of HF stuff.
4. Buy used if possible-it is just about impossible to wear out presses and dies.
Many get into reloading and then it fizzles out so you can oftentimes find good deals.
5. Refer to #3B-how involved are you likely to get? You can spend tens of thousands on reloading toys and supplies or get by with a Lee started set.
Are you shooting 1000 yard comp? If so, you need good to excellent tools to compete, however, if you were into LR target shooting you probably would not be posting such a question here.
EVERYTHING you decide on should be determined by your needs and ability to spend. Period.

Good luck and good shooting.

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Old December 27, 2012, 09:53 AM   #7
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Strange, I bought my LCT just about a year and 12K rounds ago, and other than a few drops of CLP on the ram every few thousand rounds I have done nothing to it. I couldnt possibly recommend it highly enough.
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Old December 27, 2012, 09:59 AM   #8
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The Lee Classic Turret, specifically, has a lot of fans. Paint and cadmium plating and polish on the exterior of Lee equipment has always been where they put the least attention, but that's not what loads the ammo. The internals work when properly set up. Their cast iron Classic series are also pretty durable. I have one of their original classic cast single-stage presses and consider it one of the largest bargains in handloading gear available. Once you get the Classic Turret operating, it should be fine. Their warranty is two years, IIRC.

That said, the turret press is not equivalent to the Dillon. The Dillon is not a turret press, it is a progressive press, meaning it has a case in each position of the shell holder and lined up for different operations simultaneously. Thus it performs all die operations simultaneously on the handle downstroke. It primes on the handle upstroke. This means, once all four stations are full, it produces one completed round of ammunition with each cycle of the handle. The turret press holds just one case at a time in its shell holder, indexing the dies around to perform each operation on that case sequentially. It will therefore require four strokes to produce each round of loaded ammunition.

So the Dillon 550 produces loaded ammunition almost 4 times faster than the turret once it is set up and running, even though the shell plate has to be indexed manually. Changing calibers on the Dillon can take longer than on the Lee if you have to change primer size. The primer feed is automated and more complicated to swap out than the lee. The shell holder on the 550 is a 4-position plate you have to change out rather than a standard single shell holder as used on the turret press. You can, however, get separate turrets and powder measures so you don't have to set those up for each caliber every time. Money buys speed with Dillon.

The Dillon does cost a lot more. A significant portion of that price is not for the press, however, but for the lifetime warranty. I've been using two Dillon presses and a Dillon primer pocket swaging tool for many years and managed to break one handle casting and the frame of the Dillon swaging tool and worn out the plastic primer feed fingers and so on. When these events happen, I call the toll-free number and explain what broke and two or three days later UPS drops the replacement is at my door. No return of the broken part required, no explanation or excuses required. They just send it. Even if you bought the press used from someone else, they just send it. They seem to have priced the insurance so they can keep their gear running indefinitely. It's not cheap to get that kind of insurance, but it is a joy to have on the rare occasions that you need it.

That warranty includes all the over-the-phone hand-holding you could ask for. Since you are a beginner, you may have further questions. If you used a Dillon in the class, though, it should not be a lot. If you didn't, then you may.

Lee also makes a couple of progressive presses, but there the reputation is that you have to stop and adjust them frequently and do a lot more fiddling to get and keep them running in general. Not as successful and widely embraced as their Classic series turret and single-stage designs.
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Old December 27, 2012, 10:05 AM   #9
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If you're planning to load a couple of pistol calibers, I would also recommend that you look at the Lee Classic Cast Turret. With it's auto-index feature and the option to pre-install and adjust numerous die sets in removeable heads, it's in a class of it's own. You should be able to produce 150-200rds/hr once you're familiar with it.

A ture progressive press like a Dillon or Hornady LNL, which would spit out a finished round with each pull of the handle, will certainly produce good ammo at a higher rate, but I'm not convinced the quality is any better.
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Old December 27, 2012, 10:15 AM   #10
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I personally would not recommend a single stage press just do to the fact that a single turret press will really take alot of time to load cartidges, and it won't be long before you want something faster.

So, that leaves you with basically 2 other options: A multi-turret press like the Lee 4-Hole Classic Turret press or a progressive press like the Hornady L-N-L or one of the various Dillon progressive presses (both Hornady and Dillon are very good progressive presses).

If your going to be loading a smaller amount of cartridges in maybe the 500 or less per month range, I would personally save your money on the more expensive progressive presses and buy a Lee 4-Hole Classic Turret press. This press is well made and is automatic indexing.

If your reloading lots of cartridges every month, you might be better off buying either the Dillon or the Hornady L-N-L progressive press.

That's about all I can tell you.



Last edited by Turbo6ta; December 27, 2012 at 10:32 AM.
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Old December 27, 2012, 10:21 AM   #11
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BTW .... If you do think a turret press would fit you needs, here is an idea of the cost for the Lee 4-Hole Classic Turret press I mentioned above:

This came from a post I made in a different thread.

If you don't load lots of rounds, a good "turret press" may be your best option and is certainly cheaper than a progressive press.

I have found that the Lee 4-Hole Classic Turret Press to be one of the best in this catagory of presses. This press also "auto-indexes", so it advances each die to the round with each stroke of the handle. (saves time and trouble)

This will give you an idea as to what you will need to buy and the approximate cost:

Be advised that you will also need a scale (digital or beam style) and a digital micrometer.

Lee 4-Hole Classic Turret Press
(Auto indexing)
SKU: 90064
$ 103

Lee Carbide 4-Die Set
(Includes: Sizing / Decapping Die, Powder Through Expanding Die, Bullet Seating Die, Factory Crimp Die)
SKU: 90968
$ 43

Lee Pro Auto-Disk Powder Measure
SKU: 90429
$ 39

Lee Auto-Disk Riser
(Required for use with the Auto-Disk Powder Measure)
SKU: 90041
$ 9

Lee Safety Primer Feeder
SKU: 90997
$ 23

All prices are approximate

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Old December 27, 2012, 11:44 AM   #12
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I was/am in the same boat.

Finally decided to buy the Lee 4-Hole Classic Turret press.

It has good reviews, it is reasonably priced, and can still be used if you decide to move to a different press later on.
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Old December 27, 2012, 06:32 PM   #13
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Wrong: Start with a couple of manuals.

Originally Posted by vito
I recently took a class on reloading but have not yet started doing anything with what I learned. I now am ready to start buying the equipment needed, starting with a press.
ABC's of Reloading and borrow as many manuals as you can get (Library?) and read the early chapters which describe the process. Even though you took a class (good for you, by the way), reading different writing styles will expose you to a useful variety of viewpoints and areas of emphasis. Also, you will learn about different styles of presses.

Nearly everything in posts prior to this one is good advice that I agree with (and have sometimes posted myself) so I will not repeat them in this post. (I said, nearly, mind you, but I won't belabor the minor points.)

What I wish to expand upon is this: Type of press.

If you want more than a couple hundred rounds of only one caliber per session, you will probably want a progressive eventually.

If you want to load smaller quantities of a few different calibers, a turret might be able to keep up with a progressive.

For example, caliber swaps take time and if you want to take 2 hours in an afternoon to load 50 .357 Magnum, 50 9mm, 50 44 Magnum, and 50 45ACP you could do it with either a progressive or a turret. But with a progressive you might spend more time switching calibers than actually pulling the handle. With a turret you will pull the handle thrice or quadruple the number of times, but swapping calibers takes almost no time at all.

Progressive: 2 hours. Swap calibers thrice, 60 minutes. Loading time 60 minutes. But 100 rounds each converts to 3 hours and 200 rounds each 5 hours. And for this you will pay about $600-$1,000 for the gear and deal with the complexity of a progressive.

Turret: 2 hours Swap calibers thrice 3 minutes. Loading time 1 hour 57 minutes. But 100 rounds each converts to 4 hours and 200 rounds each approaches 8 hours. For this you will pay about $350-$550.

Single stage: Figure 50 rounds per hour and no time for caliber swaps. 4 hours, 8 hours and 16 hours estimated time at the press.

Note: I am a slow loader. Many other people get higher output but beware of claims very much higher. There is a significant difference between cyclical rate and sustained rate. My figures are sustained rate and include refilling primer feeds, powder measures, boxing the output and bathroom breaks.

So, if you expect you will want to go progressive, get a single stage. Learn on it. (It is possible to learn effectively on a progressive but it is like trying to learn to walk wearing roller skates. It is far easier wearing shoes and far easier on a single stage.) Almost every progressive owner also has a single stage for the occasional task for which a single stage is better suited, so it won't be money wasted.

If you think a turret will do for you, get a turret. A turret is a single stage when you want it to be and a turret when you want that.

The Lee Classic Turret (and its older, somewhat inferior brother, the Deluxe Turret) are the only auto-indexing turrets currently manufactured. If you want to do continuous (vs batch) processing, and do not need more than 4 die stations, it is the only choice (in my opinion).

Good luck.

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Old December 27, 2012, 07:55 PM   #14
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I love my Lee Classic Turret. I also have a Rockchucker single but I was always adjusting the dies, once I set my turrets up I have left them alone. The other nice thing about the Lee is you can remove the auto advance and use it single stage.
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Old December 27, 2012, 09:26 PM   #15
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Don't remember seeing calipers on the needed parts list. You will need them.
A lack of planning on your part does not necessarily constitute an emergency on my part.
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Old December 27, 2012, 09:43 PM   #16
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rambokid - upgrade your Rock Chucker with a Hornaday bushing kit. Takes seconds to change dies plus the dies stay set.
A lack of planning on your part does not necessarily constitute an emergency on my part.
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Old December 27, 2012, 09:49 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by serf 'rett
Don't remember seeing calipers on the needed parts list. You will need them.
He mentioned a digital micrometer before the list - in addition to a scale. (In post #11). As for myself, I prefer dial (or vernier) calipers to one that requires batteries.

Kemp's Gun Shop (on line) sells a kit based on the Lee Classic Turret that includes all that stuff (including dies which most other kits don't) plus 6 plastic ammo boxes for (last time I checked) $215. Add calipers, scale a couple of manuals and you are loading in high style. Bullet puller, chamfer/deburring tool, dropcloth, a brass cleaner (if you like) and a few other small tools and you are all set for (probably) less than $350 and lacking for nothing. Sue Kempf knows her stuff, too.

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Last edited by Lost Sheep; December 28, 2012 at 12:26 AM.
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Old December 27, 2012, 10:30 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by Lost Sheep View Post
As for myself, I prefer dial (or vernier) calipers to one that requires batteries
Funny you should say that. I bought a reasonably priced sent battery operated calipers for my reloading setup. When the batteries died I grabbed the beat up old dial calipers out of my toolbox and have use them ever since. Lets be realistic, if you need more than .001-.002 accuracy from your calipers you should use a mic anyway. Speaking of which, a good simple 0-1" outside mic and a set of 0-1/2" inside mics sure come in handy. Definitely not required though.
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Old December 27, 2012, 11:31 PM   #19
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A lot of it comes down to price and speed. You can reload without spending a great deal of money. Lee has a few budget setups that will work. You mentioned pistol reloading. Unless you are only planning to reload small amounts of pistol ammo, I suggest going with a turret as a minimum. A single stage will make great ammo if you are doing your part.

The Dillon 550 has one version at starts out as a minimum press and you can add to it until it has everything to become an RL550B. The 550 can be used as a single stage more or less. It can also be used similar to a turret by only inserting one case and advancing it one position at a time in until it is completed before doing the next case. Each position is able to have the case easily installed and remove. It is also able to be used as a progressive with manual indexing. Once you get the feel of it, it works well. The Dillon 550 is not cheap and will last a life time at the minimum with proper maintenance. This can also be said of several other presses lasting a life time.

The Lee Classic Turret press seems to be the best value for the money spent in the turret category.

I would suggest not getting a slower press than the turret for pistol loading if you plan to load more than a box of ammo at a time. Single stage presses are just plain slow. Not everyone needs a progressive press either. Yes, you can produce a lot of pistol ammo per hour. They cost a lot more than a turret. You are paying for the speed and reduced effort in some cases. Remember one other thing with loading more rounds per hour. You still have to pay for the components to load. It gets expensive feeding a progressive press. I have reduced my time reloading per session to 20 minutes to 1 hour at a time. This still provides me with enough ammo to shoot and still leave me some components to load later. I like to reload a few nights a week. I do use a 550b now. I have used a single stage years ago. It provided me with the box or two of ammo per week and that was about all I could afford to shoot at the time. So it was a good match. The 550 might be more press than I really need but I also like it. Take in to consideration funds, time and how much ammo you shoot. This will help you get the right press.
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Old December 27, 2012, 11:46 PM   #20
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Great advice Mississippi Dave and Lost Sheep (and others too of coures)
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Old December 28, 2012, 12:21 AM   #21
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I vote for the Lee Classic Turret press. It's about as good as you can get for the money and you can knock out ammo at a reasonable rate.

The LCT Press, Pro Powder Measure, Lee Small and Large Safety Prime and Lee Auto-Disk Riser comes to $155.

Add dies, powder, primers and your other items and your in business.
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Old December 28, 2012, 12:24 AM   #22
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I helped a friend set up his Lee Classic Cast Turret this fall, his first foray into reloading. 308 Win.

For rifle it is the best thing going for a beginner. We did not do pistol, but I can only assume that with carbide dies it would be even quicker.

The cost of the press will be made back in his first 500 reloads easily, with pistol it would take a bit more (depending on caliber).

I do not recommend a progressive for a new reloader, and anyone who wants to load for volume doesn't want a single stage. So the Lee turret makes a lot of sense as a first press.

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Old December 28, 2012, 12:53 AM   #23
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Lee Precision Classic Turret
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Old December 28, 2012, 09:24 AM   #24
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Arguing brands is bascially snob appeal vs. effective value. Costly stuff looks great, good to talk about, generally smoother until the others are broken in but the ammo from them doesn't work any better than less pricey tools.

Buy what you need, and that's going to be based on the volume you want to make. A single stage is slowest at maybe 60-80 rounds per hour but it's much easier to learn on and evey serious shooter/reloader should have one on their bench, iMHO. So, most of us start there and if we ever need more speed then add what ever it takes to accomplish the new production goals.

Conventional turrets - manual indexing - have no real time advantage over a single stage. Only Lee's auto indexing Classic Turret speeds things up. It's a great tool both for modest volumes. Very easy to make fast and inexpensive caliber swaps and it has excellant user features. Get you up to maybe 300 rounds an hour after you get your act cordinated.

Progressives are great for cranking out large volumes of the same thing. They aren't so great for load development or changing calibers and primer sizes. And they really hurt the wallet for nothing unless you actually NEED tons of the same stuff, week after week. Make you some 500 to 1,000 rounds per hour tho!
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Old December 28, 2012, 09:29 AM   #25
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on the calipers harbor freight sells cheap ones both digital and dial that are plenty accurate for ammo reloading. Also in retrospect if I had it all to do over I would have just converted my manual index Lee to auto index and put the rest of that money I spent on a progressive into powder, bullets and primers. 100 rounds per hour would keep me in ammo and I shoot 200 - 300 pistol per week and 50 - 100 rifle per week in the cooler months
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Last edited by hounddawg; December 28, 2012 at 09:50 AM.
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