If your entry level single stage reloading press simply isn’t cutting the mustard anymore, it may be time to look into upgrading to a progressive reloading press. Progressive presses produce a completed round of ammunition every time the lever is pulled and can produce anywhere from 500 to several thousand rounds per hour! Progressive presses are much more expensive and complicated than other types, but if you have spent enough time on a single stage press to learn the basics and get the hang of things, you should have no trouble transitioning to a progressive press. While there are many brands and models of progressive presses available, this article will break down some of the more valuable features and key points to look for, as well as take a more in-depth look at some of the top progressive reloading presses in 2021.
Short On Time? Here Is The Bullet List
- Middle of the Road Progressive Press: Hornady Lock N' Load
- Budget Progressive Press: Lee Loadmaster Progressive Press
- Progressive Press With Manual Index: Dillon RL 550C
- Progressive Press for Reloading Handgun Ammo: Dillon Square Deal B 9mm
- Progressive Press for AR-15 Reloading: Dillon 650XL .223
**Below are our more detailed reviews. Click the links above to see current prices or read customer reviews on Amazon.
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What to Look for in a Progressive Press
Quality of Materials
Like all products, some progressive presses are just simply made cheaper than their more expensive counterparts. This may not always be a bad thing though, as not everybody really needs a press machined from a solid block of steel, and simple cast aluminum will do the same job at a much cheaper price point. Quality becomes much more complicated when it comes to comparing progressive presses though, as they incorporate much tinier moving parts and are much more prone to jamming, malfunctions, and breakage.
Furthermore, if you have already decided to invest in a progressive press, odds are you already know that you are going to be dropping a decent chunk of change. While the cost to quality ratio is something that each individual has to decide for themselves, when it comes to progressive presses, you are usually much better off biting the bullet and buying a quality press the first time. You will probably find that you will save yourself a lot of headaches down the road.
Completed Round Production
If you are considering a progressive reloading press, then your completed round production is probably already at the top of your list of requirements. While progressive reloading presses are among the fastest producing presses on the market, they are not all created equal. Some progressive presses are much faster than others, and even the same brand of press can make several different models, all with different levels of production.
One of the main ways a progressive press can increase production is with an auto-indexing feature. Much like with turret presses, some progressive presses require a manual indexing of the shell plate between each pull of the lever, while some index it automatically. Obviously, the automatic indexing greatly increases your round production. However, with the increased round production comes a few disadvantages. This feature makes the press much more complicated and has more moving parts, which all decrease reliability and make the press more prone to malfunctions. While the decrease in reliability is very small, it is something to consider when you are looking at purchasing your press.
Another thing that can change your output is how long it takes to change calibers in your press. Unless you are planning on buying a separate progressive reloading press for every caliber that you reload for, you are going to find yourself changing out dies and tooling at some point. Depending on the press, this can be a very grueling and time-consuming task. If you think that you are going to be switching caliber configurations on a regular basis, you may want to select a model that makes this task much easier.
Optional accessories are a big part of what sells one particular press over another, and each company has a myriad of products that can both make the reloading process much easier, as well as increase your round output. In many cases, the optional accessories are what ends up making the final sale of one press over another.
Component feeders are a big accessory that will go a long way towards making your life much easier. Various manufacturers make component feeders for primers, cases, bullets, and powder that will automate as much of the reloading process as possible. Some models of component feeders will also orient the components for you so that all you have to do is fill up a hopper, and let the machine do the rest!
If you are really into automation, some manufacturers sell kits that will totally automate the reloading process for you! These machines typically have a speed adjustment that will allow you to set how many rounds per hour it produces, and with the right equipment, some can produce several thousand rounds per hour! These machines are very expensive, but if you are really wanting to produce a high volume of completed ammunition, then this may be a valuable feature to you.
If you are looking to make wildcat rounds, or convert brass to a different caliber, some manufacturers offer a case trimmer that will fit on to their press as well. This happens to be a very popular item for reloaders who want to convert .223 brass into .300blk brass. While this accessory is noisy and expensive, it can be much easier than doing all the work yourself. These trimmers can also be handy when it comes to increasing the accuracy of your hand-loaded cartridges. If you demand the utmost accuracy out of your reloads and require every case to be the exact same length, this accessory can help automate your process and decrease your time spent on the task.
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Best Progressive Reloading Presses on the Market in 2021
Best Middle of the Road Progressive Press:
The Hornady Lock N’ Load Auto-Progressive Reloading Press is probably one of the easiest progressive presses that you can buy. Its auto indexing 5 station feature makes the job of reloading easy and efficient. The EZject System of Hornady Lock N Load Auto-Progressive makes sure that every cartridge is ejected when finished. Its large hopper can also accommodate many rounds so you don’t have to empty it frequently, in stark contrast to other models that hold a fewer amount of cartridges if any at all and slow down your work time.
The Case Activated powder drop will not release any powder unless there is a case on the holder to receive it. It also has a universal bullet case retainer spring that holds the cases while in the process of reloading. This spring makes it easier for the reloader to remove a specific case even in between stages. But what really makes the job easy on this Hornady Lock N Load Auto-Progressive, especially when it comes to changing your dies, is its Quick Change system. The Lock N Load bushing design makes it simpler to change dies with just a little twist. This is ideal if you have multiple calibers that you work on.
There are other accessories that you can add to your Hornady Lock N Load Auto-Progressive Reloading Press that will make the job only smoother: an automatic powder measure, the case feeder, and a priming system that is already included and works on both large and small primers. Read our full review here.
- Good mix of quality and affordability
- Automatic indexing
- Quick change die system
- Can be prone to jamming
- Not the cheapest option
Best Budget Progressive Press:
If you are looking for a good budget reloading press that won’t break the bank, then the Lee Precision Loadmaster progressive press may be for you. This particular press contains many features found on the more expensive presses at a much cheaper price point. For example, this press contains everything you need to get started loading .223 ammo and can be purchased in other configurations for different calibers. All of the dies are attached to a quick change tool head, which makes switching calibers much easier. You can also use this to load ACP cartridges.
The press is made of cast aluminum, which makes it cheaper and lighter, but the average reloader may not even notice the quality difference. This particular press does have a few quality issues that are not as prevalent on the more expensive presses. This press is more prone to jamming and is slightly harder to clear when it happens. It also has caused some people issues with the priming process, but those are usually resolved by starting the process with cleaned and swaged primer pockets.
Another nice feature of this press is that it both automatically and manually indexes. This is a nice feature for when you are getting everything set up and ready to go. It allows you to go slower and focus on getting each stage set up properly, while still being able to switch to automatic indexing once you get going to really speed up the process. The Lee Loadmaster also contains 5 stations, which allows you to perform up to 5 functions at once. While you may not find yourself needing all 5 stations all the time, it is nice to have that option when you are loading more labor intensive cartridges such as magnum rifle loads.
- Low cost
- Has good accessories and aftermarket support
- Contains many features found on more expensive presses
- More prone to jamming
- Problems seating primers
- Cast aluminum is not as durable as steel
Best Progressive Press With Manual Index:
Dillon Precision’s progressive press is one mean machine; it is a 4 station reloading press that works on all stages to produce ready cartridges in no time. The first station works in 3 ways. The first station sizes, deprimes, and primes your cases; the second station loads in the powder, and the third station seats and crimps the bullets to complete the process.
This particular Dillon progressive press includes one large and small pickup tube for your primers, making it easier to load them into the primer system while also making sure that the right side is always loaded. There is also a low primer alarm to signal if the tube is about to run out of primers, something that many other progressive reloading presses do not have. A powder measure is also included to save you time on loading powder while making sure that the measurement is always consistent regardless of the cartridge being reloaded.
The Dillon Precision RL550C 4 Stage Progressive Reloading Machine sports a manual indexing feature, which means you have to turn the shell cases every time you shift to a different stage, but since it works on different cases and dies at the same time, it won’t stop you from producing the 500 rounds per hour that you should be able to produce with a progressive reloading press. A large catch bin is also attached to the press to hold your loaded shells in one place. The Dillon Precision may not be the cheapest progressive reloader that you can find on the market, but the tradeoff is that it’s a highly durable and versatile product that also offers a lifetime warranty with each press you purchase. Read our full review here.
- High quality
- Best warranty in the business
- More simple to use
- Manual indexing
- Only 4 stations
Best Progressive Press for Reloading Handgun Ammo:
Just like the other progressive reloading press from Dillon Precision, the Square Deal B 9mm Progressive Machine offers a lot of advantages. The Square Deal B is a heavy duty reloading press that features 4 stations that do everything from sizing the brass to collecting the reloaded cartridges in a box. A particularly neat feature of the Dillon Precision 20104 Square Deal B is that it has auto indexing, which eliminates the need to turn the plate every time you move to the next stage. This package also contains almost all of the things that you need in order to start reloading, so the number of additional accessories that you need to buy is kept to a minimum.
Each Dillon Precision reloading press has a separate stage for crimping as this is one of the most important parts of reloading. After crimping, the loaded brass will then be ejected directly into the collecting box where you can collect them. Other parts included in the Dillon Precision include the priming system that has the pickup tubes for both small and large primers, as well as the powder measure with both small and large powder bars for more accurate measurements. Read our full dillon reloading press review here.
- Already set up for loading 9mm
- Automatic indexing
- Great for handgun loads
- Only 4 stations
Best Progressive Press For Lots Of Ammo:
If producing as many loaded rounds as possible is the name of your game, and you’re not afraid to drop a serious chunk of change, then you may want to look into the 650XL from Dillon. This is such a high-quality press, in fact, that many professional reloaders who sell their remanufactured ammunition choose to use this very press. The quality, warranty, and customer service you will receive from Dillon is unparalleled, and there is a very good reason why they are considered an industry leader in reloading equipment.
As expected, this press has a lot of really nice features and the kind of aftermarket support you would expect on a press in this price range. Obviously, it has quick change tool heads and automatic indexing. It also offers a wide variety of accessories and component feeders to make the tedious jobs much easier. In fact, due to the high quality and reliability of this press, Dillion presses are the most popular choice to automate. While this process is expensive and time-consuming to get set up, it is possible to kick your output up to several thousand rounds per hour!
The main selling point for this press, however, is the potential round count you can produce with this press. Reaching speeds of 500 to 800 rounds per hour is easily attainable with a little practice, and you can even get aftermarket accessories for this press that will boost your round count even higher! One thing is for sure, with the 650XL from Dillon, you will be leaving all of your friends in the dust when it comes to round production.
- High quality
- High round output
- Good warranty
- High cost
Best Progressive Reloading Press Final Thoughts
Let’s face it: if your basic single stage or turret press just isn’t able to keep up with your trigger finger, you are going to have to switch to a progressive press. If you want the best progressive press to fit your needs, you are going to have to find one that has all of the features that you want and is the perfect balance of quality and affordability. While all of the presses listed above will more than likely fit the bill, I believe that the Lock N Load from Hornady will give you everything you need, at a price that you can afford. Now that you have all of the information that you need, it’s time to ramp up your ammo production today! Also, even though you should have practice reloading with a single stage reloader be for you move onto a progressive press we highly recommend having a few of the top reloading books so you have reference material.
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Dan is an avid outdoorsman and shooter who developed a passion for firearms at an early age. When you can’t find him in the field chasing birds or big game, you can find him at the range shooting various competitions such as 3-gun, IPSC, and IDPA. He also enjoys manufacturing his own ammunition, as well as both working on, and building his own firearms. Dan has many years of firearms experience, and enjoys helping people find the right gear and sharing his extensive firearms knowledge.