REL0ADERS CORNER: Reloading Presses: Options

A very “busy” reloader might consider a turret press to save on time. Read all about why HERE

turret press

Glen Zediker

Last time I wrote about the most basic and essential of all reloading tools: the single-stage press. They come in a few shapes and all sizes. Which you choose, as said, has much to do with how much leverage you need to perform the toughest operations you face on the loading bench.

Beyond size, however, there are other options in a press, and some might suit your needs best. The first that comes to mind is a turret. I’m a fan of turret presses, and for reasons that will be pointed out throughout this article.

turret press
This is a honker of a press and it’s well worth the cost. Lyman Brass-Smith. 8 station ops. And it’s actually on sale now at Midsouth so I have to back up on telling you turrets always cost more! CHECK IT OUT HERE

First, a turret is, pretty much, a single stage press that has more than one receptacle for threaded dies. Instead of threading in and out each separate die for each separate operation, just leave them in the tool head. The head on a turret press can be moved to center each die receptacle over the press ram.

turret press
Redding T-7 has been a long-time “standard” for a big turret, and that’s because it’s stout! Very heavy, very sturdy, and 7 stations. Cast iron. SEE IT HERE

turret press redding

Some turret presses are on the very heavy duty end of the press spectrum. Others not so much. A “big” Lyman, Redding, or RCBS turret press can hold enough dies to load different cartridges without changing heads, or dies. Lyman offers 8 holes, Redding 7, and RCBS has 6. If you’re using only a sizing and seating die, as might most for loading rifle rounds, you can handle more than two different cartridges without ever threading in or out a die. That, to me, is a valuable thing. The dies stay adjusted and, no doubt, either of those presses has more than plenty leverage to handle any and all sizing, reforming, and any other press ops.

Lock-N-Load AP Auto Progressive Press

Take a tour of all available reloading presses at Midsouth Shooters HERE.

The ultimate value in a turret, in my mind, is getting one that allows for straightforward tool head swaps. That way you can leave all the (adjusted) dies in the tool head and when it’s time to change cartridges, remove the head and replace it with another that also houses the necessary adjusted dies. My choice in turrets, therefore, runs on the smaller-bodied side of available options. I prefer to keep all the dies for one cartridge in one head. To that end, a 3 or 4 hole turret fits my bill. The most popular and easily available is from Lee, and I’ve used one of those for years for case forming ops. I put all the needed dies for a cartridge conversion — forming dies, trimming die — in the turret head and shuck away, moving from station to station as needed.

I have known folks who used a turret press pretty much as a “manual-automatic” progressive, and auto-indexing can be incorporated into a Lee. Crank the handle, move the turret head one hole, crank again, move the head again, and so on. That’s not my way to run one. A true progressive press is way on better if you’re looking to speed up the overall loading process. Again, turrets help us move faster because we don’t have to stop and re-up the tooling for each case operation.

turret press
The Lee Classic 4-Hole Turret has been around a while and I’ve used one for a while too. I like it fine. Heads are inexpensive and really fast to change out. I am not a fan of its auto-index, but that is easily “switched off.” SEE IT HERE

I have found that running a 4-hole turret for my personal needs in loading my NRA High Power Rifle Service Rifle ammo (for an AR15) was the without-a-doubt best way to get me through the tooling tickiness I had developed in manufacturing those rounds, which was almost always done the night before. For that rifle and that venue, I used two different bullets and two different case neck dimensions (lighter constriction for the 600 yard load) so I ran a sizing die, which was set the same for all rounds; then an inside neck sizing mandrel to alter the case neck tension; then one seating die set for 77gr. magazine-length rounds and another set for 80gr bullets. That setup occupied the 4 holes I had available in my turret head. I saved a lot of time with this setup. The dies stayed put and therefore never a worry about consistency use to use. I did index-reference all the dies using a paint marker so I could see if anything had inadvertently rotated.

turret press harrells
This is my most-used press: Harrells 4-Hole Turret. This is a small-shop precision made machine and hain’t nearly cheap. It clamps just about anywhere and can be either a 2, 3, or 4 hole depending the head plate. SEE ONE HERE

Other ideas on making full use of a turret include incorporating one of the threaded-type priming tools (such as Lee Ram Prime) or even a powder meter station (using a meter with 7/8-14 threads). Clearly, turrets are great for pistol shooters who need sizing, expanding, seating, and often a separate crimping station.

I honestly am really tempted to wholesale recommend a turret press to anyone who’s got to deal with any or certainly many of the benefit potentials mentioned. Loading for more than one cartridge, needing more than a couple of dies, and so on. Only trick is that a turret press is going to cost more money. Making a play on the old hot-rodder adage: Speed costs money, so how fast do you want to spend? Time also can cost money, and how much do you want to save? If time is more valuable to you, by all means get a turret.

turret press

And, last, even though it’s always important to keep any press cleaned and lubed, it’s even more so with a turret.

The preceding is a adapted from information contained in from Glen’s books Top-Grade Ammo and Handloading For Competition. Available HERE at Midsouth Shooters Supply. Visit for more information on the book itself, and also free article downloads.

11 thoughts on “REL0ADERS CORNER: Reloading Presses: Options”

  1. I have a turret, Lee Classic, absolutely the best move I ever made for reloading. Got a new Breech Lock progressive, but restrict it to one caliber. The turret loads the other four pistol calibers and is the most sure footed as far as minimizing errors.

  2. I use mostly Lee presses and have found them to be reliable and cost effective. The Lee Classic Turret press is a great press and like mentioned above can be used with the advance of the handle or that rod taken and used as a manual turret turn press. Turret presses will serve the needs of many reloaders and are very versatile. Probably the best press for any one starting into reloading if they want to spend the money upfront.

  3. Have something of a collection of presses from single stage thru a Hornady AP basic. My hands down favorite is the LEE Auto Breech Lock. It can be used a s a great progressive or a manual single station. Additionally the Lee is priced under many single stage presses. If I had to do it all over a good turret used as a single stage press to realy understand what is going on during the reloading process before taking advantage of all the progressive press has to offer.

  4. I’ve owned a couple of progressive presses. They have all been Dillon and I wouldn’t own another brand. The reason is simple:
    when I call Dillon with a problem, they solve my problem and there is no charge. Many years ago I was reloading and had a stack of primers ignite. Now this was entirely my fault, and I explained that to Dillon and was prepared to pay for the replacement parts I needed. No Charge! Again, I explained it was my fault. No Charge!
    I don’t know if any other manufacture does that or not. I had no reason to find out. But I assume there are probably a few out there that would have charged me. When you purchase a Dillon press, they certainly take care of you! As for how the press works, well if you pay attention to what you’re doing, all the progressive presses I’ve owned (3) work just fine! If you don’t pay attention, I expect anyone will have problems regardless of manufacture.
    Dillon manufactures a quality product and provides quality customer service. A difficult qualification to find these days.

  5. Loaded thousands of rounds of rifle and pistol ammunition on an RCBS Jr. press. Bought a Dillon 550 press in 1982. Have loaded much pistol ammunition and rifle ammunition on this machine, though I still full length resize rifle brass on the old RCBS Jr. press. Progressive presses do speed things up, but they require users full attention.

    1. IMHO all reloading presses require the full attention of the user. Why spend more on a turret press when a progressive press costs less and turns out ammo faster?

  6. I have a Dillon 550 love it once set up have loaded up thousands of 44 rounds with it . What I have to tell you IS the warranty is life time. I was loading shells on my back porch, went for aride on my motorcycle, had a accident , was in hospital for all winter. When I got home it was in bad shape from winter weather.I was bumed a friend said send it to Dillon they repaired it like new at no charge. WHAT A GREAT OUT FIT. Love it for hand guns, but use single stage for rifle when accuracy is important. Wilson dies and arbor press

  7. I’ve been reloading since the late 1950’s, first with squeeze type hand loader and on through the years using RCBS, Lyman, Lee, Dillon and an assortment of lesser known presses. Because I liked the convenience of an old Lyman turret press, I bought a Lee Classic 4-hole Turret Press with all the powder and primer accouterments, powder thru die, and 6 extra heads, shortly after it was introduced.
    On the maiden reloading voyage I found out what the lack of quality control can do. I was trying to load a batch of once fired, pin de-primed (not sized), cleaned, and length sized .357, using Lee dies and holder. After multiple case neck crushes and removing the turret index shaft, I saw that the cases were being moved in the shell holder at two stations. Manual turret rotation didn’t change anything. Changing the position of the shell holder opening caused more case hits.
    I removed the head and set up a new one for 45 ACP using manual head rotation. All was well. I reinstalled the automatic turret assembly. and was back to misalignments.
    I moved the 45 dies to the head the head originally set up with 357 and gave it a try. Nothing but case hits and movement.
    I called Lee and told them I had a first use Classic with a defective/misaligned head (one that I knew of then) and a defective turret index. I was told that they’d send me a new head and that the indexing problem should correct itself with use. (?) It didn’t!
    After that I had another head with misaligned holes and the auto indexer never did or has worked without manual intervention. I permanently removed it.
    I bought the eq. from Midway and probably should have talked with them about replacement but I was working away from home at the time and it was 6 mos old before I first used it.
    I still use Lee dies and various equipment but do hold a big grudge about the 4 Hole Classic Press. It could have really helped when I was doing a lot of handgun shooting.
    I certainly can’t recommend it.

  8. I have been unimpressed with metallic progressive reloading machines, but I am a fan of the turret press, and I cannot understand why they are not more popular with those who reload. as they offer everything a single stage offers, plus more. About two years ago, found an RCBS one on sale. I liked it except for one major issue. The wire clip that held the shell holder in the ram was troublesome. A shell holders could not be quickly or easily inserted into the ram,. This was surprising as my other RCBS presses have worked flawlessly. The shell holder was evidently an unresolved issue on this press for some time. Another minor annoyance was the spent primer collection system was temperamental. After much ado and regret, I returned the RCBS Turret and purchased the costlier Redding T7. I like the T-7 because everything works like I expected it to, each and every time I have used it. However, after using both turret presses, it is my opinion that the Redding T7 is everything the less costly RCBS could be if RCBS has been able to correct the shell holder issue, and has worked out a few other small kinks.

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