Reloading Presses I Have Owned
by Greg Ritchie
I started out reloading many years ago In the reloading room of my good friend Pete. Pete was a fan of the RCBS presses and no doubt influenced my tastes in reloading equipment. I loaded many rounds on the JR presses and formed quite a few on the A2 presses. When it was time for my own reloading setup I naturally bought RCBS.
My first reloading press was the RCBS Pardner press. It was a fine light duty press. Perfectly suited to the average reloader. Made of cast aluminum with compound linkage and a fairly large opening, it would load everything from the 22 Hornet to the 7mm Remington magnum. I initially had this press set up on a small cabinet that was affixed to my bedroom wall, but the light weight of this press made it a natural as a portable press, and it spent most of its life mounted to a 1x6 plank that I could clamp any suitable mounting surface. The only drawback to this press was it lacked the heft to be a good press for case forming.
My second press was the RCBS Rockchucker. This press was bought specifically for case forming. Back in the day I turned a lot of 30-06 cases into something more useful for me. The Rockchucker was up to the task. I also learned to appreciate having two presses. I had decapping dies that were set for the Partner press. Sizing dies set for the Rockchucker, and seating dies set for the Partner. I would decap my brass, clean and inspect the case, size the case, trim, 2nd inspection and prime. Finally I would charge the case, seat and crimp the bullet. It was a method that worked well for me.
I would probably still be using these presses today had they not been damaged in a house fire. In hindsight I probably should of rebuilt the presses. They were singed, but the biggest damage was from the water that was sprayed on them and the resultant rust.
I needed a press to get me back into reloading. Being a RCBS snob obviously that’s the way I wanted to go. However money was tight and I went the cheapest route available to me. The Lee Precision Reloader Press. The Reloader press is a cast aluminum “C” style press. It is a lightweight press Which makes it a good candidate for a portable press. It has a few drawbacks though. Spent primer removal is a hassle as the spent primers are collected in the base of the press, requiring removal of the press, or some other means to empty the spent primers. I drilled a hole under the press that allowed the spent primers to fall through into a small jar. It is also a small press, I find that 30-06 length cases are about may for this press, and they are a bit tight.
Another issue I had with this press was alignment. I found that the cartridge needed a little help lining up with the die. I corrected this with a ripper O ring in place of the spring clip to hold in the shell carrier. This is a good little press for the casual or beginning reloader and a great second press, but a press I feel the serious reloaded will find lacking.
I replaced the Lee Reloader fairly quickly with the Lee 3-hole manual advance Turret Press. This is a Press I really liked. It has the same issue with spent primers that the Lee Reloader Press had, but it was easily, cheaply, and quickly fixed. There are after market primer fences and primer chutes that fix the problem very efficiently. I don’t think I had more than a few errant primers after I installed these parts. One thing I noticed right away was my accuracy increased immediately when I started using this press. I have a theory why. The tool head of the Lee Turret Press has some slop in it. The Lee Turret is sometimes ridiculed for this slop. This slop is why I believe the Lee Turret Press turns out some very coincentric ammunition. It allows the cartridge to self align in the die. Some very expensive have this slop built into them and they recieve rave reviews and turn out some very good ammunition. I don’t see it any different for the Lee Turret. I did find the Lee Turret press a bit aggravating to load 30-06 length cases on.
My next two presses brought me back to my roots. A RCBS Jr2 and Jr3. One press is 2 years older than me, the second is 7 years younger. These are great presses that my great grandchildren I believe will still be using. They turn out some really good ammunition. Resizing can sometimes be a chore because of the simple linkage. The linkage block can wallow out and the handle can bend. RCBS has a fix though, they will bore out the block and send you a beefier handle, a treatment that has been done to both of my presses. Plus I just enjoy loading on presses that are as old as me!
My next press is another Lee Product, the Classic Cast Turret press. This is a huge step up from the 3 hole manual advance turret press I had and a press I would have no qualms suggesting for the individual who just wants one press. I load 9mm, 300 BLK, and 223/5.56 on this press. With the auto advance rod installed I can easily produce up to 250 rounds per hour. Using the press as a Single stage I can load ammunition every bit as accurate as any other press. The tool head, as in the value turret I once owned allows the case to line up with the die, which produces very low runout. Matter of fact pair this press with the Lee collet die and dead length bullet seater die and it is not uncommon to get zero run out. Plus this press has the height to process magnum length brass with ease. The only thing i believe this press does not excell at os case forming. I have formed cases with this press and it does a good job. I have however only done light forming. I do not think this is the press for heavy forming.
My last press is another RCBS product, the Reloader Special 5. I bought this press used in pretty poor shape with the intention of rebuilding it and using it to load brass 12 gauge shotshells using the RCBS Cowboy dies. It is the only press I own that will accept the large format dies, simply screw out the bushing and screw the Cowboy die directly into the press. The press is made from cast aluminum and makes a good portable press. It is an O frame design, but the O frame is on an angle giving the strength of the O frame with the hand clearance of a C frame press. With the 7/8x14 bushing out it was an easy chore to install a Hornady Lock n Load bushing kit for quick die replacement. This has been another enjoyable press to load on, it is a very user friendly press.
[RCBS Reloader Special 5 (RS5)]
There you have it. Not a complete list of metallic presses I have used over the years, but a list of metallic presses I have owned since the 1970’s. Which would I recommend? That’s a tough choice. Narrowing it down to just the presses I own today, the RCBS Jr presses are built like a tank, but the simple linkage would likely steer my recommendation to one of the other presses with compound linkage. The RS5 is an enjoyable press to load on and I find no real faults in this press, but I believe my recommendation would be the Lee Classic Cast turret. From bulk reloading as a semi-progressive to precision loads as a Single stage, it’s a very versatile press.