In general, the modern reloading press can be divided into two primary categories. The first is the metallic cartridge press for rifle and handgun ammunition, and the second is the shotshell press that can be set up for everything from .410 bore through 10 gauge in the home-rolled department.
I bought my first reloading press back in 1968 with a second unit following about a year later. To date, I have used the same two presses for some 20 years of research and industry load development that includes the well-known Metro Gun Systems TM subsonic loads for 12-gauge shotguns.
The bottom line here is that reloading equipments and I have years of relation.
MEC 600 JR MARK V
Lee Precision II
Lee Precision Breech Lock
RCBS 9354 RC Supreme
RCBS Pro Chucker 7
Hornady 095100 Lock-N-Load
Hornady 085001 Lock-N-Load
1. MEC 600 Jr Mark V 12 Gauge Press
Some very workable shotshell reloading presses to consider include the MEC 600 Jr Mark V 12-gauge press.
I have run this press for over 50 years. It was the in-house load development system used for several commercial outfits in a 20-year span as we moved from lead shot ammunition in the 80's, into the non-toxic world of shotshell load development.
The MEC 600 is one of my first recommendations. It is a great general-purpose reloading system for the hunter, general target shooter who is not running massive amounts of ammunition down range, or a once-in-a-while backyard shotgunner.
This reloader is a single stage cam action system that ensures each shotshell retains a proper crimp and meets the requirement of an easy-feeding round through the guns magazine and chamber. When operational, it can be stopped at any stage for a quick performance check or possible alterations in die settings.
Mounting the “Spandex” crimp starter, the system will align itself with the shell correctly every time. If desired, the unit can be upgraded with an autoloading primer feed by MEC. The unit will reload from four to six boxes of ammunition per hour. (25 round box)
I can definitely say that even with two MEC systems in service in my shop for up to five decades, I have never had a failure to function. The only element that required replacement about 25 years ago was a worn-out shot charging bottle.
2. MEC 9000GN 12 Gauge Press
In case you’re in a shooting clays target club or even a turkey shoot operation that goes through some major amounts of ammunition per year, the MEC (Mayville Engineering) 0813989 CO 9000GN28 Progressive 9000N Grabber could be the obvious choice.
Author’s twin MEC systems in service Up to seven project are going on at the same time in this loading room. Four presses full time re R&D.
Because the Grabber 9000N is an automatic progressive reloading press, it is far more complicated than the MEC 250 or 600 series units. More moving parts means more cost; therefore this unit is intended primarily for club use or even light commercial use.
I have worked in ammunition plants in their ballistics test tunnels with noted engineers in the development stages of a new load who have used MEC systems and have loaded one at a time as test reference rounds.
Even some final prototype rounds that will in time become factory manufactured rounds are run through those MEC presses.
I am willing to bet that most of these very new shotshell loads came off a MEC press in some outfit’s ballistics lab long before they ever surfaced on the retail market.
3. Lee Precision II Shotshell Reloading Press 12 GA
Some years ago, I was asked by a trap and skeet publication I was writing for to provide more information about the sub gauge offerings applied to clay target shooting.
As I had four presses set up for primarily 12-gauge and 10-gauge applications, I realized I needed to make some additions regarding small gauge dies for my current presses or buy a totally new press for the projects.
Hand-loaders get to reload anything they want to. Here are shot sizes seldom ever seen in factory made ammunition.
My choice was to buy a budget system that carried a solid reputation for its ability to get the job done. The system was the Lee Load All, and the little 20-gauge reloading system is still cranking loads out some 30 years later.
The Lee Precision II shotshell reloading press makes use of sturdy plastic and steel-reinforced parts that can stand up to some extensive workloads but that won't cost the buyer an arm and a leg to own.
This press is great for first-time reloaders as the system comes just about ready to load shotshells right out of the box.
The press comes with 24 different powder bushings for quick changes in charging levels regarding varied powders, loads both 2 3/4” and 3” magnum hulls.
4. Lee Precision Breech Lock Challenger Kit
With a move into metallic cartridge reloading, mainly for rifle and handgun rounds, there has been a shift in emphasis toward more bench equipment becoming involved in the total reloading process.
Now a press, scales for powder and bullet measurement, and a powder-metering system in manual or electric are required just to begin the process.
Again, Lee Loaders, that high-quality, budget-based company, offers start-up hand-loaders a complete kit system that will provide the beginner a correct start to a somewhat complicated process.
Remember that reloading firearms cartridges is not child's play. Lee Loaders has seen to it that the hand-loader will get off the ground with a solid safe start using the Lee Precision Breech Lock Challenger kit.
The Lee kit includes a complete powder handling system to meter out individual charges and record the correct weight of same, as well as case prep tools like trimmers.
Case mouth prep equipment, and primer pocket preparation tools are also included along with a general system manual--in effect, a bench-ready reloading system for centerfire cartridges.
5. RCBS 9354 RC Supreme Master Kit
Whereas a complete kit is nice for the start-up hand-loader, in many cases all the buyer wants is a replacement press, scale, or measure just to name a few.
A bench reloading press I recommend highly due to some five decades of continues use by me is the “H” frame Rock Chucker big rifle press by RCBS. RCBS offers their H frame press as a complete starter kit (RCBS 9354 Supreme) or as individual parts that include everything required to reload rifle or handgun ammunition.
The H frame Rock Chucker RCBS has been lengthened because of the current trend in some very long case body cartridges such as the 408 Chey-Tac or the 338 Lapua,/Norma Magnums to name a few.
These press systems are one-at-a-time single cartridge reloading systems and are designed for precision target or hunter-related reloading.
In almost every case except commercial loading, you don't build accurate rifle or handgun rounds in a high production setting.
In addition, I favor the RCBS system because I have never found it difficult to locate parts such as primer cups, shell holders, or any one of the massive number of die sets I own for this press.
RCBS is well covered regarding distribution across the country and in the very small out-of-the-way places where riflemen tend to hang out.
6. RCBS Pro Chucker 7 Progressive Reloading Press
Because the hand-loading rifle or handgun rounds can be a one-at-a-time, slow process, I have turned to the RCBS Progressive reloading press.
There are medium size clubs, ammunition manufacturing outfits, and individuals that want high speed production for combat needs or for target-style competitors.
The Pro Chucker is the very first auto index progressive press on the American market today. This press makes use of seven stations and when operational, meaning fully set up for running ammunition, it will reload up to 600 rounds per hour.
Where is this monster used?
I personally know of a mom-and-pop operation that reload training ammunition in 9mm Luger and 40cal S&W for police departments to the point that it is now a full-time business.
The press makes use of a quick-change die plate that allows fast caliber change-outs for faster and more effective production when systems are up and running.
This press also allows the reloader to lock out systems. For example, you can seat bullet separately or in auto mode, depending on the specific situation encountered.
7. Hornady 095100 Lock-N-Load Auto Progressive Reloading Press
If you want a progressive autoloading system but want to save a few dollars, one place to look is at Hornady Manufacturing.
Enter the Hornady Lock-N-Load progressive metallic cartridge reloading press.
This press is equipped with quick change load bushing, metering inserts, and a universal case retainer spring. With a single pull of the handle, the system moves with smooth precision and sends a complete reloaded off the final station.
Speed and accuracy is the rule with Hornady's progressive reload system, and the machine carries many individual patent features, making it a unique auto loading reloading press.
8. Hornady 085001 Lock-N-Load Classic Ammo Reloading Press
Staying with Hornady, another far more affordable press for the custom rifle or handgun cartridge reloader is the Hornady Lock-N-Load Classic H frame press.
Whether you’re just starting out or are a long-time reloader who wants total control over every phase of the reloading operation, this press is a solid go-to in terms of ammunition production on a high-quality level.
Because Hornady Manufacturing has been in the bullet building and design business for almost forever, this outfit is not to be considered a sideline company at all.
Some of the best bullets in the world come out of Hornady, and their designs in the total shooting business are often copied by others as both equipment and loads progress through the years.
I use Hornady dies even with several of my other brand presses. The die is always the primary indicator of a company’s quality level. Hornady dies work and produce well-functioning ammunition on both manual and autoloading firearms systems.
When the reloading dies are high- quality, the reloading press follows right along to produce a good reload.
Hornady Long Range rifle school. Testing new products that just came off the reloading press.
There was a time when reloading was beginning to fall by the wayside in terms of the total firearms market place. With the advancement of factory-loaded ammunition costs, the very new directions in both accuracy and long-range shooting today, there is a major resurgence in the need to load your own.
From 1974 through 1985, I didn't fire a single round of factory loaded ammunition in any firearm I owned. Today all my ultra-long range and medium range varmint control ammunition is handloaded, not to mention the one pile of defensive training and target ammunition that goes down range every year.
There is an old saying in the shooting business, “Hand-loaders tend to shoot more,” and that is a fact.
- MEC 600, MEC 9000GN and RCBS Prop hotos: UltimateReloader