Note I worte this several years ago so the prices have changed.
I have been asking experienced reloaders questions about their presses and their reloading habits. I find it interesting that the average person loads in short burst. They average 30 to 60 minutes at a time. This seems to hold true weather the person is a competition shooter or a plinker. That leads me to believe that the mast majority of reloaders buy way more press than they really need. As one person pointed out with a Dillon 550 you can load 250 rounds in half an hour and you did just that every day Monday through Friday that’s still 1250 rounds a week. Very few people shoot that many rounds a week on a regular basis. I have shot that many rounds in a weekend but only because I went to a class. I certainly don’t need that much out put every week. Even a Lee classic turret press will yield 500 round a week with that schedule. Am I suggesting that everyone buy a Lee classic turret press? NO But 75% or more of shooters could get by with one if they had to. There is a saying in the racing industry. Speed cost money haw fast do want to spend? The same is true in the reloading industry. The faster you want to go the more it is going to cost you. Thankfully the costs for reloading are tiny compared to racing. Also a quality reloading press can last you a lifetime. Spending $500 to $1000 dollars on a reloading machine doesn’t seem so expensive when you realize that in 10 years you only spent $50 To $100 dollars a year for that machine. Also in the case of Dillons they hold there value. If you decide to sell your reloader you can expect to get 75% to 90% of current market value back on your purchase.
Case feeders are something to think about even if you don’t want one when you first start to reload. A case feeder will greatly increases your hourly production. Not all Case feeders are made equal. The lee is the least expensive and versatile. The 550 Case feeder was an afterthought. It works on pistol cases only. The 650 1050 and LNL all have similar functioning units that load both pistol and rifle cartages. These case feeders can increases your output 40% or more. The new low cost Hornady bullet feeder has the potential to increases these press another 40% or more. While it can be installed on a four station press you have to give up something else to make it work. Both of these products are reasons to look harder at the 5 station press instead of the 4 station presses. The Hornady LNL and the Billon 650 should both be capable of production rate over 1000 rounds an hour with a case feeder and a bullet feeder.
Lee Pro 1000
Some people have fairly good luck with them and swear by them. Most people just swear at them. If you want a cheap press and like to constantly tinker with a press then a Lee Pro 1000 might be right for you. There are more negatives than positives reviews on the web about them. I know one guy that swears by his. I have never used one myself.
. One Hour Production Rate 300
Cost $143.99 12 2010
Lee Classic turret press
If you are going to look at a Lee turret press only look at the Classic. It’s not a progressive press and you have to pull the handle 4 times for each round. It’s slow, it’s cheap, it works. If you are on a tight budget it will give you more production for the same price as a lot of single stage presses.
One Hour Production Rate 200
Cost $94.99 12 2010
The Dillon Square Deal
The Dillon Square Deal is a pistol caliber only press... no bottle neck cartridges.. The Dillon Square Deal uses proprietary Dillon dies so you won't be able to use any dies you might already own. If you want to change calibers you have to buy more Square Deal proprietary dies for it. The Dillon Square Deal has a small footprint which is a benefit if you are limited on bench space but a detriment if you have big fingers. The Dillon Square Deal is the least expensive of the Dillon press line. If you are sure you are only going to load one or two pistol cartridge then this might be the press for you.
One Hour Production Rate 400 - 500
Cost $365.95 12 2010
The Dillon RL550B
RL550B is manual-indexing four station progressive press. The Dillon RL550B is the workhorse Dillon press line. It can load almost any center fire rifle or pistol cartridge. It has 120 caliber conversions available for it. In the Dillon line the Dillon RL550B is the most economical add calibers to. It has less expensive caliber conversions than other Dillon presses. If you were buying just one Dillon press and wanted the most bang for the buck, it would be a Dillon RL550B. According to Dillon more RL550s have been sold than any other progressive machine in the world.
One Hour Production Rate 400 - 500
Cost $376.00 12 2010
The Dillon XL650
The XL 650 is auto-indexing five station progressive press. The XL 650 was built from the ground up to be an auto-indexing press with a case feeder. The Dillon XL650 comes standard with a tube system for an automatic case feeder. The automatic case feeder is sold separately So the advertised starting price doesn’t accurately reflect the true price of a Dillon XL650. A fully set up Dillon XL650 cost twice what a Dillon RL550B cost but produces twice as much ammo an hour. The caliber conversions for the Dillon XL650 are noticeably more expensive than the RL550B and the LNL. For large volume reloading, versatility and ease of use a Dillon XL650 is hard to beat.
One Hour Production Rate 800 – 1150
Cost $ $544.95 bullet feeder $212.95 .12 2010
The Super 1050 B
The Super 1050 B is the king of the Dillon line. It is designed for commercial use and not normally in the running for what press should I buy. If you need it you know you need it.
One Hour Production Rate 1200 +
Cost $1589.95 12 2010
Hornady Lock N Load AP
The Lock-N-Load AP is an auto-indexing, 5-station progressive press that features the Lock-N-Load bushing system, which allows calibers to be changed very quickly. The Lock-N-Load is the cheapest press to equip with additional caliber conversions. During Automatic Indexing Each station moves 1/2 a stage on the upstroke and 1/2 a stage on the down stroke and the up stroke, making for a smoother function. This means less chance of flinging powder out of cases. The Lock-N-Load AP can be used with or without a case feeder. This allows you to start at a Dillon 550B price but to upgrade to a Dillon XL650 speed press at a later date. The earlier editions of this press were known to have issues and were more in line with Lee quality presses. With the new generation of presses Hornady is trying to go head to head with Dillon including matching their warranty.
One Hour Production Rate 500 with case feeder 800.
Cost $ $381.99 bullet feeder 279.99. 12 2010
lee reloading products are guaranteed not to wear out or break from normal use for two full years or they will be repaired or replaced at no charge if returned to the factory. Any LEE product of current manufacture, regardless of age or condition, will be reconditioned to new—including a new guarantee—if returned to the factory with payment equal to half the current retail price.
Hornady Warranty “We guarantee every one of our reloading tools and accessories for Life” No-Risk, Lifetime Warranty. Hornady reloading tools and accessories are warranted against material defects and workmanship for the life of the products. Parts which by nature of their function are subject to normal wear such as springs, pins, bearings, etc… and, parts which have been altered, abused, or neglected are excluded for the warranty.
If the product is deemed defective by either workmanship or material, the reloading tool or accessory will either be repaired, reconditioned or replaced at Hornady Manufacturing Company’s option. If it breaks, we’ll repair it or replace it at no charge.
Dillon precision No warranty cards, registration or serial numbers are necessary. Whether you are the first owner, or the seventeenth, all our hobby-level reloading machines have a lifetime warranty. If you break, damage or wear out anything on them, it will be fixed or replaced – whatever is necessary to restore the machine to normal operating condition. If a minor part is all that is needed, contact us and we will ship the part. If something major is damaged or broken, contact us and we issue the customer a return merchandise authorization-RMA- to return the item to us for repair. The customer pays the shipping; we fix or replace as is warranted.
I rate the warrantees from worst to best Lee, Hornady, Dillon. Both the Hornady and Dillon have excellent warrantees. The difference is that Dillon will also warrantee consumables. Hornady has been doing this lately also but it isn’t in there written warrantee. Lastly Dillon will even completely rebuild a press to new condition for a small fee. They don’t care if you are the original owner or if you found it in a garbage can. They still honor their warrantee.
So which reloading press is right for you? That depends…
How much ammo you are going to make a month average?
What is your budget?
How much time do you have to reload?
How many different calibers do you want to reload?
Here is my personal picks.
You only load 1 pistol caliber and you just want to knock it out fast.
The Dillon Square Deal
Budget of $300 or less…… Lee Classic turret press
Budget $300 to $600 …. Dillon 550
Budget over $600 with more than 4 calibers…. Hornady Lock N Load AP with bullet feeder.
Budget over $800 with 3 calibers…… Dillon XL650
Budget doesn’t matter with 1 caliber …. The Super 1050 B
You only want to buy one press to last for the rest of your life regardless of what you want or how many calibers you reload….. Dillon RL550B