Single Stage or Progressive Press? - Which is right for you? | Top Rated Supplier of Firearm Reloading Equipment, Supplies, and Tools - Colt

Single Stage or Progressive Press? - Which is right for you?

There are a lot of options when looking to buy a new reloading press. The first choice new reloaders must make is whether to buy a single stage or progressive press. There are obvious differences in the two styles and new reloaders can be easily overwhelmed by the choices.

Single stage presses are a basic unit that perform a single function with each pull of the handle and is determined by which die is being used. Most single stage users will perform various brass tasks in batches. For instance, when I resize my rifle brass, I will use two plastic bins and transfer brass from one to the other after the sizing process. I will size 200-300 cases in a sitting before swapping to another die for a different function. I will then charge cases 50 at a time putting each case in a loading block then seat bullets in those cases.

A downside to a single stage press is speed. By its name alone, you can only do one thing at a time and it takes a few steps to create a loaded round that’s ready to shoot. Dies must be changed when wanting to perform a new operation and then must be checked to verify the settings of the dies have not been moved. Some advancements have been made to help this problem such as Hornady’s Lock-n-Load bushing system and Redding’s T7 Turret press. The T7 is still a single stage press, but its turret head has room for up to 7 dies, so that once you adjust your settings, they will always remain the same. You just need to turn the turret head to the proper die for the operation you want to perform (sizing, seating, crimping, etc). Single stage presses are commonly looked upon as being a more accurate way to load ammunition because there are less moving parts to effect the round being loaded. Single stage presses are usually cheaper in price compared to a progressive and are also a great way for new reloaders to learn the steps involved in hand loading their own ammunition. Some of the more popular single stage presses are the RCBS Rock Chucker and Redding Big Boss II.

RCBS Rock Chucker Press
RCBS Rock Chucker Press
Redding Big Boss II
Redding Big Boss II
 
Redding T7 Turret Press
Redding T7 Turret Press
 

Progressive presses are much different as they perform multiple tasks with each handle pull. Progressive presses come in two styles, manual index or auto index. The manual indexing presses require the user to rotate the shell plate to advance the rounds into the next position. An auto indexing press, like Hornady’s Lock-n-Load AP Press, will advance the shell plate on its own with each pull of the handle. Progressive presses are made for one thing: volume reloading. It is very common to be able to load 300 rounds or more per hour on most progressive presses. Most have add-on accessories like a case feeder or bullet feeder to further enhance the volume potential. With this increase in volume, it is generally accepted that accuracy may suffer a small amount. There is a lot more movement of the rounds as they are being loaded and the chances for slightly less accurate ammunition is increased. This is not to say that highly accurate ammunition is not a possibility, but rather most progressive press users are willing to sacrifice a bit of accuracy for a higher volume of rounds per hour being produced.

Hornady Lock-N-Load AP Press
Hornady Lock-N-Load AP Press

High volume pistol shooters tend to favor the progressive presses while accuracy oriented rifle shooters are drawn to single stage presses. Both styles have their pros and cons and both have their place on my reloading bench.

Corey Schwanz
Sinclair International
Sinclair Reloading Technician
NRA Certified Range Safety Officer
USPSA Level I Range Officer