Best Single Stage Reloading Press for Accuracy and Durability: 2018
Are you new to reloading? Or you’re just looking for a cheap way to make your own ammunition?
If yes, a single stage reloading press may be perfect for you.
This type of press acts a valuable addition to any reloading bench, and will prove a valuable investment in the long term.
Out of the three types of reloading presses, single stage press is the simplest to use. It offers incredible performance for your gun by fine-tuning the bullets to fit the barrel. And the reloading process can cut your ammunition bill by up to 50%.
When it comes to purchasing the best single stage reloading press, however, there are many factors to consider.
This post discusses will take you through these factors and reviews the best models to aid your search.
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What is a Single Stage Reloading Press?
A single stage reloading press is an advanced mechanical lever arm that pushes a bullet case into a reloading die. It can complete multiple tasks at the same time depending on the type of dies used.
A complete reloading process with a single stage press requires a die to be removed from the press. You should also insert subsequent dies in sequence for the machine to complete all of the reloading tasks.
Single stage presses can be fitted with a primer punch. However, their low reloading rates sometimes force one to replace the primer externally with a handheld primer punch. A bench mounted primer punch is slightly more sophisticated and makes use of a primer tube.
In operation, this press is fitted with a resizing/de-capping die. After this initial stage, every case is stored in a reloading block then run through the handheld primer punch. New primers are then inserted before placing primed cases back in the reloading block.
The powder is measured and manually inserted into the cases with a funnel. The next step involves installing a seating die in the press and inserting the projectiles to the appropriate depth. Each round may be crimped and die replaced with a crimp die if need be.
Our Best Single Stage Press Reviews:
1. Lee Reloading Press 90045:
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The Lee Reloading Press 90045 boasts an aluminum alloy construction that ensures lasting reliability. It has a C-frame with plenty of hand clearance so that you do your job more comfortably.
This kind of frame gives you a huge mechanical advantage. If you pair it with a lever, a C-shaped frame will allow you to size larger caliber cases with minimal effort.
The lever is suitable for both right and left handed applications.
One of the features we love most about this single stage press is the breech lock. It is enabled and eliminates the need to readjust the die every time you switch it. The breech lock does a great job of keeping the dies well adjusted inside the bushings, making it easy to change a die with a switch of the wrist.
The Lee Reloading Press 90045 can accept almost any shell holder provided they are universal standard sized. It has a threaded die adapter that accepts 7/8-14 thread dies. The overall design of this press makes it a great tool for bullet sizing, bullet seating and de-capping.
2. RCBS Partner Press 87460:
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The RCBS Partner Press is a great purchase for beginners and does the job of heavy-duty presses, but comes in a compact size. It is one of the smallest single stage reloading presses from the RCBS lineup and its compact design allows you to control the ammunition production process.
It doesn’t have a lot of moving parts and as such, isn’t susceptible to breakage or jamming. The handle is a little shorter than others and is forged from steel. It offers a firm grip that’s matched to the size of the press. The rest of the body is made from cast aluminum.
Whether you are at the shooting range or far places with other enthusiastic shooters, moving from place to place with the RCBS Partner Press will be very easy. After all, you never know when you need to reload more ammunition. This press is portable, fits in any bag and can be clamped to a bench when you need to reload.
Another notable feature is the primer spent tray that can be attached to the body at anytime during the de-priming process. Unlike other models that don’t include a hand primer tool, this one comes with a primer arm for placing new prime on bullets.
3. Hornady 85001 Lock-N-Load Classic Reloading Press:
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The Hornady 85001 Lock-N-Load Classic Reloading Press delivers quick operation and is only recommended for experienced refillers. The speed at which it sets is incredibly high, and undoubtedly its most striking aspect.
Like most presses from Hornady, it has lock-n-load die bushings. It offers precision and dependability with a uniquely angled and solid cast frame.
The angled frame allows for increased visibility and easy access to the cartridge.
This reloading press is designed to ensure perfect die and shell holder alignment with a lock-n-load quick change bushing system. The bushings not only ensure easy and fast die set up, but they also let you switch from one die to another in a few seconds. All you have to do is set the die before tightening the Sure Lock ring onto the bushing.
The solid steel arms rotate on steel pins that run through the cast frame and have a Power Pac Linkage design, which boosts your leverage on the handle. This helps reduce hand fatigue, thus making it easier to size cases.
Another notable feature is the positive priming system, which self-aligns to feed and insert new primer to the bottom of the stroke where leverage is optimal. Manual insertion of primers is easy since you don’t have to raise the handle.
4. RCBS 9356 Rock Chucker Supreme Press:
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If you are looking for versatility and maximum strength, the RCBS 9356 Rock Chucker Supreme Press is a good contender. It is designed for newbie and experienced refillers, offering outstanding bench rest accuracy. Like the model review reviewed above, this one has an O-frame.
The Rock Chucker Supreme Press has been lengthened slightly to accommodate larger cartridges. It boasts a beefy lever with a comfortable ball handle, which makes it easier to reload larger cartridges. The handle has an ambidextrous design, meaning it is suitable for both right and left handed applications.
This single stage reloading press is sturdily constructed with heavy duty materials. The operating lever is forged from 0.75” steel and well finished for smooth operation while the rest of the body is made out of cast iron. It has a rugged look and at 20 pounds, moving the press around isn’t difficult. However, the increased weight means one has to fasten it tightly to a workbench to prevent it from tipping forward.
The priming on the press comes handy, but the quick change die feature falls short of expectations. Some users cited that the quick die change is not very efficient.
Overall, this is a good investment if you want to reform brass for wildcat rounds or bench rest level accuracy.
5. Redding Big Boss II Reloading Press:
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If you want to load magnum rifle loads or reform large cartridges, consider purchasing the Redding Big Boss II Reloading Press. It is hard to beat this press when it comes to durability and precision. The unit is made from solid cast iron and has an O-frame with a 1” ram.
The frame is offset by 36-degrees, thus allowing for greater ease of use and better visibility. This is particularly true when working with larger cartridges.
You get about 3.8 inches of usable ram stroke, which among the largest when it comes to single stage presses. Combined with the 4.5” frame opening, the ram stroke allows you to load magnum cartridges more easily.
There is no quick change bushing, but the fitted bushing allows you to work with different size dies. It is a handy feature when you want to load larger cartridges that require use of bigger dies.
Everything about the Redding Big Boss II screams durability and ruggedness, which means a higher price tag than most single stage presses. It is well worth it if you are going to use the press for loading large magnum rounds.
6. Lee Precision Breech Lock Challenger Press:
For a first-time reloader who is just getting started with this hobby and anyone that just wants an affordable press, the Lee Precision Breech Lock Challenger is a good contender. It is equipped with a breech lock that ensures quicker die changes.
This feature also eliminates the need to make adjustments every time. It offers an accurate and consistent die change, even when working with different caliber cartridges.
The O-frame design goes a long way towards helping save space when working with different calibers.
Though one of the most important aspects of the reloading process; measuring the right amount of powder can be challenging. This is made easier with the perfect powder measure feature, which adds the correct amount of powder every time.
The Lee Precision Breech Lock Challenger is designed with a primer feed. This eliminates the hassle of manually putting primers in the shell. The safety primer feed simplifies things by automatically refilling the hole. All you have to do is push the feed to the primer.
Our main concern is that the dies have to be purchased separately. Some customers also cited issues with the powder thrower.
7. Forster CO-AX Reloading Press:
The Forster CO-AX Reloading Press is different from most single stage presses, particularly when it comes to die insert arrangement and the shell holder. It eliminates the need to invest in multiple shell holders to work with different cartridges. This is achieved with reversible jaws that open and close without adjustment.
The dies slide in and out of a notch at the front of the press. You will not need to screw anything down to make sure that the settings stay the same. This press has a die lock ring that adjusts the die and maintains your settings each time you insert or remove a die.
What we love about the die arrangement and shell holder is that it allows the cartridge to float into the die. This reduces the risk of misalignment or accuracy killing run out.
The CO-AX uses a small jar attached to retain spent primers, thus allowing for de-capping and resizing operations.
Concerns cited by consumers have to do with the shell holder plate design. The little die springs insider the holder have a tendency to fly out when you remove the shell holder plate to switch around the jaws.
8. Lee Precision 90685 Cast Iron Reloading
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Lee Precision is one of the most popular brands in the world of reloading and their 90685 cast iron press offers more convenience than ever. It boasts a breech lock feature, which ensures quick die changes.
This allows you to instantly change dies with a twist of the wrist and improve overall ammo production. You even get a breech lock quick die change bushing.
Being a full size reloading press, this model tips the scale at a mere 1.75 pounds and has an overall length of 11.5 inches. Carrying it around and clamping to a reloading bench is quite easy.
The press offers plenty of stroke and you get a lot of power to handle larger magnum cartridges.
Here’s What To Look For Before Buying:
Style of press
As you may have already learned, single stage presses come with different types of frames. An O-frame completely encases the die and ram. It forms the letter O and provides ample support on front and back of the die.
The C frame is another common single stage press style. It provides support in the shape of letter C and as such, the front and back aren’t supported. The design and material are important if you elect to go with a C-frame press, particularly if you will be working with magnum rifle rounds.
An O-frame cast iron press offers better results as compared to the C-frame. And while it may seem like overkill when working with small rifle rounds, you will certainly appreciate the ease of use and solid construction.
The construction material should play a major role when it comes to choosing the perfect single stage press. We recommend a model made from cast iron as it is a durable material used to make high-end presses.
If you want to purchase a lightweight and more portable reloading setup, a press made from a durable polymer or cast aluminum is more suitable.
Whatever material you decide on, make sure it is fairly durable and provides lasting reliability.
Brand and warranty
There are slight differences between presses made by various manufacturers. Additionally, every brand has a loyal following and offers a unique set of advantages and disadvantages.
Lee Precision offers quality reloading equipment for beginners. Their presses are quality, cheap and get the job done efficiently.
Hornady and RCBS are good contenders if you want middle ground equipment that’s a step up from Lee Precision. Both brands have a wide variety of options including turret, single stage and progressive reloaders not to mention accessories.
If money is really no object, there is no better equipment than Dillon reloading presses. The company produces some of the highest quality equipment and accessories, but their products come at high prices. The warranty and customer service are also unparalleled.
Quick change dies
This is an important feature on single stage reloading presses. Each manufacturer has their own version of a quick change system, but they are arguably similar. A quick die change system allows one to remove the die from the press by twisting it to disengage the threads before pulling it out.
It also ensures that the die stays in the same position and eliminates the hassle of having to reset to the proper depth.
Physically screwing in every die and resetting it to the right depth can be frustrating and time consuming, especially when working with smaller calibers. This is why a single stage press needs a quick change die.
Most single stage reloading press kits have a priming arm that seats the primer on the downstroke. A press equipped with this feature allows you to insert a new primer into the priming arm and empty cases into the shell holder.
You can seat new primer on the downstroke as well as resize and deprime on the upstroke.
How to Use a Single Stage Press
Reloading with a single stage press may be time-consuming and tedious, but is also quite rewarding. The press can only perform one task each time the lever is pulled and as such, reloading is done in batches.
The first step involves lubricating empty cases and pushing them into the resizing or de-capping die. This stage not resizes the case to the right specifications, but also pushes out empty primers.
The next step is to seat new primers in empty, clean cases. There are different ways of doing this, with the best being utilizing the primer arm. Once the bullet is done, you should switch for the bullet seating die.
Powder charging and bullet seating come next. You have to weigh every powder charge individually before dropping it into the case. This helps with accuracy, and hence overall quality of the finished product. After the case is charged, you can place it back in the press and press the bullet into the bullet seating die to seat it.
The last step involves crimping, which has a significant effect on overall accuracy and chamber pressures. However, it rarely affects functionality of your ammunition. Insert the crimping die into the press then press the completed round up into the die. The die will force the brass closed and tighten it around the bullet.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How many types of reloading presses are there?
2. What are the best reloading press brands to buy from?
Hornady, Dillon, RCBS and Lee offer a great selection of reloading presses designed for different purposes and budgets.
3. Should I weight completed rounds as a safety measure?
Weighing rounds is not a very reliable safe check. This is because bullet and brass weight may vary by a few grams, thus obscuring overcharge of powder.
There is no better way of getting into the hobby of reloading than by starting with an affordable and quality single stage press. You will need one that is sturdy and has reliable features.
While all of the models reviewed above are excellent options, we fell in love with the Reloading Press 90045. It comes with all of the right features and then some.
With all of the information provided in this guide, identifying the best single stage press for you should prove an easy task.
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