I pulled the proverbial trigger on the ammo reloading rig I mentioned in the past. It’s a Hornady progressive press with a set of Redding dies.

Most people recommend that you start with a simple non-progressive press. I think I would outgrow that pretty quickly. I think I can manage the learning curve of the progressive machine without skipping a beat.

There’s three main styles of presses out there:

  • Single state
  • Turret
  • Progressive

The difference is how many dies you have mounted at once and how much goes on with each pull of the lever.

A single-stage press has one station. You take a case and set it on its holder and pull the lever. This does one operation on it. The main steps of loading ammo are:

  1. De-prime the case by removing the spent primer *
  2. Size the case to get it back to its normal size * (sometimes combined with the previous step)
  3. Prime the case by inserting a fresh primer (sometimes combined with the previous step)
  4. Add powder
  5. Flare the case-mouth to accept the bullet(sometimes combined with the previous step)
  6. Seat a bullet
  7. Crimp the bullet in (sometimes combined with the previous step)

* – indicates you don’t need to do this on new cases

(Random: there’s a whole other post on why you need to size a case… the interior ballistics of a gun is pretty fascinating)

If you were loading 100 rounds with a single-stage press you’d do all 100 at each step in turn. So you’d size and de-prime 100 cases, then prime all of them, and so forth. Each time you need a different die you have to un-mount the die and mount the next one. Every time you do that you have to readjust things so it slows you down.

With a turret press you can speed things up by having all of your dies mounted to a die-plate. Each time you pull the handle the turret on top rotates to the next station. So it’s a lot quicker and involves a lot less handling than a single-stage press.

A progressive press is the logical end-point to this. You have the press doing several operations at once in a pipeline. The press I’m getting has five stations, so it can do five operations at once (to different cases). You can typically load somewhere around 400-1000 rounds per hour if you get into a groove.

Every time you pull the handle a bunch of things happen — so in station one, the case gets sized and de-primed and a new primer inserted, the second station does powder loading, the third flares the case, the fourth seats the bullet and the first crimps. After each pull the plate that holds the five cases rotates so each rounds goes through all five stages in turn. Neat!

It should all show up on Monday so I’ll add some pictures then. I’m also getting just about everything else I need except for the powder and primers since those are a pain to ship and I can source them locally anyway.

Now, I just have to make some room in the basement so I can set things up!

Update 10/2/2010: another box was shipped yesterday that’s heavier than the first. That box should show up on Tuesday.