Looking for the best reloading press in your budget so you can start cooking up your own handloads? Maybe just curious about what’s on the market today?
We field questions from folks all the time about which press they should buy based on their budget and specific needs, so we’re going to put all our thoughts from our testing and experience in one place to help folks shopping for a new reloading press.
We’re going to start with a breakdown of the top reloading presses on the market, and then we’ll go over some tips for choosing between them to get the perfect press for you because what works for me may not be the best option for you (and vice versa).
If you’re just looking for the list, here are our top picks:
First up, we have our most beginner and budget-friendly option, the Lee Classic Loader. This kit is for handloading in a very literal sense, because everything is done with hand tools (mainly a mallet, plus the included dies).
This basic kit runs less than $40 and is perfect for loading .44 Magnum, .45 ACP, .45 Colt, 9mm Luger, .38 Special, and .357 Magnum depending on which version you get, and they have a rifle version as well that’s about the same price.
The rifle version allows you to load .243 Win, .30-30 Win, .223 Remington, .308 Win, and .30-06 Springfield.
The kit itself is very simple and perfect for whipping up 20-30 rounds in a session or two. It’s also dead simple to use, and a great way to learn the whole process of reloading without making a huge investment.
I really recommend new folks start here unless they’re very sure they want to dive into the best reloading press for large amounts of ammo. If you’re just loading a mag’s worth every season for deer, this is the perfect option, and you’ll learn a ton along the way.
That said if you’re not on a tight budget and you’re fairly sure you’re going to be reloading a lot, there are better options out there for loading more rounds faster, and with a bit less work on your part, even in the world of single-stage presses.
Lets dive in.
The RCBS Rock Chucker Supreme is a classic among reloaders and with good reason. It’s a very durable and reliable press that has churned out millions of rounds over the years, all with a good degree of accuracy.
It’s made out of a solid chunk of heavy cast iron, so it’ll last a lifetime and is unlikely to shift during extended use. It has an O-frame design so it can be used with either hand (which is perfect after your arm gets tired from pulling the lever a hundred times), and has a 4.25” loading window.
This means it’s perfect for just about all of your common pistol and rifle rounds, and the price is fairly easy to stomach as well.
Lastly, you can actually convert this press into a turret press via an upgrade kit, making this ideal for those who want to start small and have the opportunity to upgrade later as their skills and interest in reloading grow (which tends to happen, especially if you shoot a lot).
You can also use shotgun dies on this one, so you can reload everything except long magnum cartridges or cartridges based on the .50 BMG. All in all, a great option if you’re just starting out and want to get something a little more convenient than the Lee Loader.
Hornady is mostly known as a manufacturer of ammo and reloading components (specifically projectiles and brass) but they also make some really great reloading tools as well, like their Lock-N-Load Single-Stage Press.
They may not be as well known in this space as some of the big names like Lyman and Lee, but don’t let that fool you: they make really great stuff.
Case in point, the Lock-N-Load Classic single-stage press, which just might be the best single-stage reloading press on the market today.
The Classic is the single-stage offering from the line and includes everything you need to get started, including the solidly-built press itself, a powder measure with a rifle rotor, a digital scale, a loading manual, 3 Lock-N-Load bushings, a primer catcher, a priming system, handheld priming tool, a reloading block, deburring and chamfering tool, powder trickler and funnel, and even some case lube.
This makes it a great one-stop purchase to get yourself up and running quickly, and you know you’ll have everything you need. You’ll also know everything works together, which can be surprisingly difficult to ensure when buying everything separately from some other companies.
In use, the press is very easy to set up and intuitive to use, and while you still aren’t going to be churning out hundreds of rounds an hour, this is one of the fastest single-stage presses that we’ve used.
You can also upgrade to a different press in the Lock-N-Load line, and you’ll be able to continue using a few things like your die bushings and what have you that work with any press in the Lock-N-Load line.
If you’re looking to get started with something a little more advanced, the Redding T-7 turret press is a great starting point into the wider world of reloading. Designed for higher-volume output than a single-stage press, this will easily double or triple your speed over a single-stage press.
You do have to pay a bit more attention to your process (I recommend loading each finished round to make sure everything is consistent and correct) but the increase in speed overall is well worth it.
There’s also a lot less fiddling and fussing involved in general with a turret press, making for a nice experience in general. It features an auto-feeding primer tube, and a very well-designed turret that makes it easy to quickly cycle dies for a new operation.
It features a 7-station turret head, and you can get additional turrets for an inexpensive price, so you can have your dies setup for every caliber you reload without having to swap each die out individually. Just swap the turret and you’re good to go.
Overall construction is solid cast iron, and the powerful compound linkage has nearly 4” of travel. There is also a spent primer collection tray to hold all of the removed primers once you’re done there.
Lee’s Classic Turret press features all of the time-tested features of the Lee Classic Cast series, including an automatic index and a long-stroke lever that allows the user to reload rifle cartridges over 3” in length.
The incredibly solid frame has over 12 square inches of surface area, and if you remove the auto-index you can load cases over 4” in length, which means reloading all but the largest of magnum rifle calibers is possible with this press.
The Lee Lever Primer system and Lee Safety Primer tool makes priming a cinch, and the primer tube is clear PVC to let you visually inspect the primers as they are loaded and see when you need to top up.
The turrets themselves index very accurately and easily swap out so you can load a variety of calibers quickly and easily. The Classic Turret also features Lee’s time-tested solid steel lever linkage that is good for thousands of repetitions, so this is easily something your kids and grandkids can continue to use as long as it’s well-maintained.
The Lee LoadMaster has been beloved by the reloading community for decades, and its easy to see why. This affordable, rock-solid progressive press has been almost the universal industry standard for quite some time now, and has consistently proven itself over the years.
The 5-hole reloading kit comes with a full-length sizing die, an expanding die, bullet sizing die, turret, shell plate, powder measure, case feeder, and primer feeder. Basically everything you need but your caliber-specific dies, which are readily available, affordable, and high-quality.
You can also just get the press itself separately, which is a huge savings if you’re already in the Lee ecosystem and are just upgrading your press but don’t need new shell plates, a powder measure, or primer/case feeders.
Overall, the LoadMaster is an aging star, but still has plenty of staying power and can compete with all the newest offerings on the market just fine.
If you’re looking to either upgrade to the best reloading press setup out there or simply want to jump right into the deep end and start loading hundreds of rounds in a weekend, Hornady’s Lock-N-Load Ammo Plant is possibly the best option out there right now.
Coming from ammunition giant Hornady, you know it’s going to be a well-thought-out system because if anyone knows ammo, it’s them. They’re one of the largest producers of factory ammo in the country, and they definitely bring that wealth of experience to their home reloading line.
The Lock-N-Load AP is an entire system really, and comes with everything you need to get started in its base form, but you can also splurge on the full kit-n-kaboodle and get everything you need to reload a staggering 500 cases per hour.
Real-world testing gave us a right around 380 in sixty minutes, but that was with us being new to the AP line and not really working flat-out, but instead just casually loading while listening to music in our workshop.
During that time, I found the Lock-N-Load system to be incredibly easy to use, thanks to a large amount of standardization and modularity between parts. This system allows you to change powders with a press of a button, swap calibers in seconds, and switch between rifle and pistol loading setups in about five minutes.
You get the Lock-N-Load die bushings (with the quick-swap capability), a large cartridge bin, primer pickup tubes, metering inserts and rotors, the Lock-N-Load powder measure, and a case-activated powder drop.
Really all you have to do is set everything up, set your meters and measures, and then pump the handle. You can add cartridge and bullet feeders and other accessories to further minimize all the fussy setup you have to do with other presses.
The press itself is also rock-solid, and very intuitive to setup. Hornady also offers great support and online resources to teach you how everything works, something some of the companies that have been in the reloading game a bit longer have yet to do.
All in all, the Lock-N-Load press and its accessories are pricey, but if you want to reload an absolute mound of ammo (and who doesn’t, really?) it’s absolutely worth the cost of admission.
Shotgun shell reloading is a bit different than pistol and rifle cartridge reloading, and typically requires a slightly different setup. For me, the Lee Load-All II is all I’ve ever needed, and while I’ve tested other options, this always seems to be the best shotshell reloader and most cost-effective choice.
You’re not going to get hundreds of shells done in an hour with this thing, but most people don’t need that kind of output when it comes to shotgun shells.
The Load-All II can de-prime, resize, and crimp shells relatively quickly, and in a very intuitive way. The shells it produces match factory specs, and we’ve had no problem running them in a variety of shotguns.
You can handle 2 ¾” shells or 3” shells, so you won’t be loading your magnum shotshells on this one, but I’d recommend a hand press for those anyway.
All in all, if shotguns are your thing and you’re looking to load up some buckshot or high-quality birdshot, this is a really great option to have on your bench.
Single Stage vs Turret vs Progressive Reloading Presses
One of the biggest decisions to make when choosing a press is actually what type of press to go with. The three varieties are single-stage, turret, and progressive, which you’ve probably heard of before, but what exactly do those terms mean?
The most basic style of reloading press is the single-stage reloading press. It’s by far the most common on the market, and in our opinion is the best for those who are totally new to reloading, but who know they’re. It’s also great if you’re just loading 20 or so rounds a year for hunting, or for a certain hard-to-find caliber.
To operate a single-stage press, you must screw the die into position and then pull a lever to complete each step in the reloading process. This gives you a huge amount of manual control and also forces you to focus on each step which will help to avoid careless mistakes when you’re learning.
The one downside to a single-stage press is that they’re very slow, so they’re not the best for those loading dozens or hundreds of rounds in a session (unless you’re very dedicated).
Single-stage presses also include manual kits and hand presses, which aren’t mounted to a table and tend to be fairly portable and compact, though slow.
You have to do everything by hand with a mallet, but they’re dirt cheap, have everything you need to reload a single caliber, and you’ll learn all the basics of reloading without having to spend more than you would on a box of ammo.
The second type of reloading press is what’s called a turret press, so named because of the rotating plate or “turret” at the top of the press that allows you to install multiple dies and then rotate through them as you need them.
Having multiple dies installed means you won’t have to switch anything out when it comes time to perform a new operation. Instead, just rotate the turret and you’re ready to go from resizing to expanding to bullet seating, etc. Once the right die is selected, simply pull the hammer and then move to the next operation.
Turret presses are much faster than single-stage presses, but not nearly as quick as progressive presses, making them a good middle ground for those who want to wade a little deeper into reloading when starting out (or who have more money to spend).
They’re also much better for those loading up to a hundred or so rounds in a session, especially if you’re reloading multiple calibers. You can simply change calibers by swapping out your turret and you’re good to go.
Progressive presses are the most expensive option and best reloading presses for high-volume shooters like competitors and other folks who go through hundreds of rounds a month. If you’re only loading a handful of rounds for hunting season, a progressive press might be overkill.
This is because a progressive press is the most complex option, and thus the most expensive one as well. For your investment though, you get the fastest reloading times and the highest overall output of any of the options, making it great if you’re reloading a ton of handgun cartridges, say.
To achieve this, progressive presses work with multiple cartridge casings at once, performing a different action one each: decapping and resizing, expanding if needed, priming, adding power, and seating a bullet.
As cases cycle through this rotation, the user controls everything with a simple pull of a lever with most modern presses, though some may need to be manually indexed. All in all, this is a very quick way to reload and can churn out a few hundred rounds an hour.
Some very high-end presses are actually fully-automated, but that starts to get more into the true manufacturing side of things. Still, most of the presses in this category can be upgraded with all kinds of convenience features to make reloading much quicker and easier.
They are the most expensive and will require quite an investment to get up and running, but once you do you’ll be able to reload thousands of rounds a month if you want. Many reloaders with a full progressive setup stop buying factory ammo at all.
Other Items You’ll Need to Reload
If you’re getting into reloading there are a number of accessories you’ll need to have on hand, plus a few extras that will make your life significantly easier (and your reloading output much higher).
First and foremost, you’ll need a reloading manual, whether in print or online, so that you have an idea of where to start with safe, known loading recipes. I recommend starting with a well-known physical manual like this one from Sierra.
Shell Holder, Shell Plate, and Dies
Next, you’ll need the appropriate shell holder, shell plate, and reloading dies for the specific calibers/cartridges you’ll be reloading.
A Way to Weigh Powder
The powder charge that goes into your case has to be measured very carefully, so an accurate digital or analog scale to measure very small amounts of weight is critical. Modern digital scales can do this with ease.
Case Prep Tools
Pre-fired cases have to be cleaned, de-primed, sized, and trimmed before they can be reused, which will require additional equipment and tools. Specifically a case cleaner like this sonic cleaner, a case trimmer like this one, and a case prep kit like this one.
Final Thoughts on Reloading Presses
The best reloading presses are an enormous subject that we could never cover completely in just one article, but you should hopefully now know enough to choose a press of your very own, whether you’re upgrading from an older press or new to reloading entirely.
And once you’ve got your new press, be sure to check out some of our load data for popular rounds like 9mm, .223 Remington, and .308 Winchester to get you started with your load development.