Reloading ammo is the next step in the evolutionary chain to precision rifle shooting. Not only will you get more accuracy from the ammo that is tailor-made to your rifles chamber and specifications, you will also start saving some money in the long run, by being able to re use your brass. The main piece of equipment that your whole reloading setup revolves around, is your reloading press. You do most of the critical reloading and loading steps on it, so it is worthwhile to ensure you buy the correct one the first time, and you will be using it for ages to come, and it will either be your friend or your foe. In this article we show our findings in testing the top options for the best reloading press for accuracy improvement.
Although it may seem daunting at first, the process of reloading your ammo is relatively simple, if you understand the basic principles. What is important though, it making sure you have best reloading press for accuracy since it is not possible to load accurate and consistent ammo, if it is not working well, and you do not enjoy using it.
What Is A Single Stage Reloading Press?
A single-stage press is a piece of reloading equipment, consisting of a device, with a lever, that preform various functions of the reloading process, the most significant of which is pressing the bullets into the cases.
Small in size, yet very important and effective in function, their only downside is the time it takes to produce the rifle cartridges manually, however nothing precise is happens fast.
When the lever is pressed down, it either lowers the die over the case or lifts the case up into the reloading die.
Our Top 4 Best Reloading Presses
In this post, we look at the various reloading presses we recommend for rifle ammo, and what a reloading press is, we even recommend our best cheap reloading press, and surprisingly it is also our number 2 choice for the best reloading press for long range shooting.
We have now been using the MEC Marksman press for a few months after having used the Co-axial type presses below for a few years, and it did not take long for us to fall completely in love with it. The smooth action of this press is evident from the very first use, especially compared to co-axial presses. One of the areas where this press has excelled is with full length sizing of cases, the effort to resize them is so little, we even let one 4 year old girl resize a few cases with it.
We are not concerned with the fact that this press does not come with quick-changing die block, because honestly, even in the most arduous reloading sessions, we hardly change dies more than 3 times total. What we do like about this old school design, is that the locking rings that come with most dies, lock much firmer in place than the quick-change die blocks of the Frankford Arsenal M-Press for instance, so you can be sure once locked in place, your COAL or shoulder bump will be exactly the same next time you do it.
The shell holder design also allows some float in the press, which helps to align the case with the bullet, allowing for more concentric cartridges, however the very motion of this press, moving the case directly straight upwards also takes care of that. I still do however, rotate my cartridges about 180 degrees after pressing them, and then just press them again to ensure concentricity and for piece of mind, old habits die hard.
Our product review on the MEC Marksman reloading press. For those of you who don’t know what MEC is or who MEC is, MEC is Mayville Engineering Company out of Mayville Wisconsin. They’ve been making shotshell reloaders since like the 50s and then more recently they’ve started making clay target throwers. In 2016 they decided that they wanted to have a metallic reloading press in the reloading world so they came up with the marksman and a whole bunch of other things that metallic reloaders like rifle and pistol guys can use. When we talk about metallic reloaders, it is guys reloading rifle and handgun cases and not plastic shotshell cartridges.
In the ram of the press there is a hole at the bottom it’s hollow on the inside so this cavity runs all the way down and there’s a hole towards the bottom of it on the side to the back so that when you extend it, it allows the primers to come down the ram out that hole and there’s a deflector system that makes them drop right into a tray mounted on the back of the press. That tray easily comes off and you dump it out.
We really really love this press and have not heard of any reloaders using it that do not absolutely love it. If you are in the market for your first reloading press, or just an upgrade or an extra one, this is by far the best single stage reloading press on the market.
Our previous favorite and pick for best reloading press for accuracy for quite a few years before the Frankford Arsenal mentioned below was released, this Forster reloading press has dropped to the second spot after we have been using the MEC Marksman for a few months now as well. Although aging in some features and design, it is still a design that stands the test of time, and the build quality of this fully USA made press is among the top of the bunch. This is a very easy and comfortable to use press. Featuring an innovative-at-the-time tube with jar that catches the spent primers when they are presses out, and a co-axial action with a design accommodating it’s ambidextrous handle, you cannot go wrong with the Forster Products Co-Ax Press, and whats even better, it is still made in the USA, with great attention to detail.
Also including die rings on which you screw your dies, these then also allow some float in the press, which helps to align the case with the bullet, allowing for more concentric cartridges. I do however always as a matter of good practice, rotate my cartridges about 180 degrees after pressing them, and then just press them again to ensure concentricity.
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Very quick to setup thanks to the quick change die rings, and the universal shell holder, this easy-to-use press will serve you well, with some users claiming over 500 000 rounds through theirs, and still as tight as the day they bought it. Which is rare with modern equipment and speaks volume for the fact that it is a proven single stage reloading press, that you know will work.
The two guide-rod design of the press, ensures that the cartridge stays straight throughout the entire up and down travel and motion, even if you put slight diagonal pressure on the handle. The coaxial mechanism also ensure smooth pressing operation and less required force, that you will certainly appreciate if you approach the over 50 age, or after loading 100 or more cartridges in a day.
One problem we had with our press, was that sometimes if you were not SUPER careful when flipping the universal shell holder jaws for larger or smaller calibers, was that it would send the springs flying across the room and you would spend an hour looking for them. Thankfully Forster Products has recently upgraded the jaw housing so the springs are held captive, so this is not a problem anymore with them.
Together with the great design and easy of use of this press, another reason the Forster Co-Ax press retains our number two spot, it because it is 100% made in the USA. From the castings, to the machining and assembly, all proudly made in the USA. The quality can seen and felt in the best single stage press.
Our number three top reloading press for accuracy, and the one we recommend for beginner and seasoned reloaders, as well as those that are looking for a more affordable reloading press, is the Frankford Arsenal M-Press coaxial reloading press with it’s ambidextrous handle.
This press is kind of a unique design as it sits above the table, and the entire press handle swings down and needs just a little bit of clearance off the edge. It’s got an integrated LED light, which we initially thought to be a quirky addition, however now is something we cannot live without. It uses quick change die blocks so you don’t have to screw the dies in and out. The cams on the side can be flipped, so you can actually toggle between a cam- over type action and a positive-stop type action.
Also including a removable spent primer tray which catches spent primers when you press them out of your fired cases with a decapping pin. You also get included with the press, three quick-change die blocks, which is a huge benefit as you do not have to unscrew each of your different dies from the whole press between each stage in the reloading process, you simply slide out the whole block and slide in the next one with the next die already screwed in it, this also makes it the fastest reloading press of the models compared here.
Another great addition included in the box, is a black die block box, which is actually really handy because you will find that with most of your reloading dies, as soon as they are screwed into the die blocks, they do not fit into their own cases anymore, but now you can just put them into this case to store before the next use.
The included LED light can be powered by a normal wall socket with the included adapter, or just plug any portable battery pack into is of you do not want more cables running to wall sockets or if there isn’t a wall socket close by. Given all these features, at a price lower than our second best rated press on this list, we also recommend this as the best cheap reloading press or best value reloading press when comparing features and quality for the price.
An easy to use template is included which shows you where to drill the holes for mounting the press to your reloading bench. Another huge benefit to the floating type blocks that the dies mount with into this press, allows for some float of the dies, which helps align and center the die and bullet into the case when pressed, which provides more concentrically aligned cartridges, which also makes it a good reloading press for long range shooting, where concentricity matters the most.
Although not such a big deal as it is still very well made and put together, this Frankford Arsenal Coaxial M-Press is unfortunately made in China.
Having only just been released in June 2020, this press is already a sellout success for RCBS and at the moment there is a production backlog, so the press is not only available as part of the RCBS Master reloading kit. Although this makes it slightly more expensive than buying just the press, the added price versus the added equipment in the kit is real good value for money, so you are getting extra equipment for next to nothing. Especially helpful if you have not bought any before.
The RCBS Rebel, is essentially an evolutionary upgrade of the now legendary and proven RCBS Rock Chucker Supreme single stage reloading press, that is still available, has been serving thousands of reloaders well for over 30 years, and will still be able to serve you well for many more years if you prefer that proven press.
The Rebel is around 22.5% heavier / beefier than the Rock Chucker Supreme, which adds a little stability, however the Rock Chucker never lacked in stability if mounted correctly to a sturdy reloading bench.
The RCBS Rebel also has a wider mounting surface than it’s predecessor the RCBS Rock Chucker Supreme, and with the added spent primer ejecting through the ram, you can simply put a garbage bin right under your reloading press, and all the spent primers will fall straight into it.
We personally love this press and it should serve any reloader well for many years as the RCBS Rock Chucker Supreme has, we just prefer a more compact co-axial type press, and that is why this press is in the number 3 spot for us, but we know of a few to shooters choosing this as their best reloading press for accuracy and all of them love it.
RCBS used to be made 100% in the USA, however they moved their casting to China a few years ago. So their castings come from China, but are then machined and assembled here in the USA.
What to Consider When Choosing a Single Stage Reloading Press
Although essentially just a device that presses die over or into a shell casing, the function, and way in which it presses that in, makes all the difference in both consistency, accuracy and enjoyment.
Because a well-built reloading press will serve you for many years and even decades, it is important to make an informed decision before buying it, to ensure you only buy once.
For that reason, below is a list of things we compiled for you to consider when choosing your reloading press.
The heft and weight of the press helps contribute to the stability of the press. The machining surfaces and tolerances determine how tight the press operates, as too much play can become problematic, and prevent consistency and concentricity.
The handle should not be hard to press or lift, and should in fact ease the operation. That is one of the reasons the three single stage reloading presses above have been chosen. The two co-axial presses lightening the force needed to resize a case with a FL resizing die, through use of co-axial action and mechanism, and the RCBS Rebel lightening the force through the leverage of the long heavy handle, lengthening the swing.
Ease of Operation
Beginners and experts at reloading alike all value easy operation and use when it comes to a reloading press. You do not want to hurt or pain after a few hours of operation, or struggle when reloading. For the reasons mentioned above under the mechanical handle section, and then also the quick-change die holders of the co-ax presses and the universal shell holders, all these factors contribute to ease of operation.
Aftermarket accessories and support often help customize the reloading press for your operation and helps perfect it. Looks for a model that has been proven, and has a lot of support from other accessory manufacturers.
Die Changing System
Changing dies, can become a hassle if it takes a lot of time and effort to remove and put in different dies, especially if you have to reset each die to get it to the previous setting you had it at before. Luckily many of the modern single stage reloading presses feature a quick-changing die holders and rings allowing you to leave various dies on different rings so not only can they quickly be changed, but they also stay at the previous setting they were at before the were removed from the press if left in the quick-changing ring or block.
Not to be overlooked when making your purchase. More often than not, well-known brands become so for a reason. It is worth reading reviews and following some of the most used brands.
Installing the Press
Single stage reloading presses vary in mounting methods, some mounting at the edge of a bench, and some like the Frankford Arsenal M-Press mount close to the edge, but on top of the reloading bench surface. Your own reloading bench and room setup, and well as operation preference will determine which is better suited for you. Some people prefer a removable reloading press mount for if they do not have a dedicated reloading bench or room, but for those of you that prefer a dedicated reloading bench, here is a mounting reloading press to bench method.
Thankfully most press manufacturers include a mounting template as shown above, that makes it easy to drill the mounting holes in the right location on the reloading bench.
Most reloading presses traditionally require you to have the correct shell holder for your caliber, but some of the modern presses available, offer universal and quick-change shell holders.
Although the MEC Marksman Press came out on top as our favorite single stage best reloading press for accuracy, and the Forster Co-Ax reloading press came out as our fastest reloading press thanks to quick-change die rings, the MEC Marksman also came out on top as our best cheap or budget friendly single stage best reloading press for accuracy, you will not go wrong with any of the other options mentioned in this review. We have personally physically used all of them to reload ammunition, and all of the cartridges loaded on each of them proved consistent, and accurate. Deciding between them is like nit-picking personal preferences, and what we feel is important may not be so for another reloader.
The best option will always be to got to a shotshow or a store that has all of them on display to physically handle them and see which you like better, but through our own use, and taking the feedback of many other users into consideration, we know that if you choose any of our options provided above, you will be able to enjoyably, consistently, load accurate and concentric cartridges if done correctly.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes some of these questions may seem arbitrary or specific and most may have been answered through other answers above in the article, but we decided to show all the questions we have been asked 5 or more times through the website before, we kid you not.
What is a turret reloading press?
A turret reloading press, works mostly the same as a normal single stage ammo reloading press, however it has a turret or multi-stage, which holds more than one die at a time, so you simply rotate the turret to go to the next die stage.
We have not included turret reloading presses or multi stage reloading presses in our kit, as we have found that the additional engineering going into the design to hold the turret, often lets the manufacturer miss some of the important tolerance factors we feel are important for accurate reloading. With the advent of the quick-change die blocks of the Frankford Arsenal M-Press and Forster Co-Ax press above, switching from one die to the next, is just as fast or sometimes even faster than with a turret reloading press.
What is a progressive reloading press?
A progressive reloading press, is an all in one device, which combines most of the stages to create and load a full cartridge from the components in one single step and action. It feeds and presses the primer into the case, feeds the powder into the case, then feeds and presses the bullet into the case, all in one pull of the lever and simultaneously. This is great for loading many cartridges in a shorter amount of time, and with less effort.
Many ask why not just buy one progressive reloading press and be done with it? It is the best option if all you want is a lot of ammo for something like a semi-automatic AR-15 or a 9mm handgun, but for the convenience of combining all the steps into one machine, the precise accuracy and tight tolerances of a top quality single stage press is compromised. You will see our accuracy reloading guide, precision is key, so getting you bullet seated concentrically and powder measure perfectly is vitally important for long range accuracy. So if you need to reload to save money for a high volume of ammo, or for convenience, the progressive reloading press will serve you well, but if accuracy and long range shooting is your goal, a single stage press is far superior.
What is the best reloading press for accuracy?
All the three the reloading presses on our list above would be able to to provide the accuracy we expect, deciding which one of them is best for you depends on your personal requirements of it’s features, and how it feels to you.
What is the best turret reloading press?
As mentioned above, we prefer a single stage reloading press, but if you would prefer a turret reloading press, we would recommend the Lee Precision Classic Turret Press as our choice for the best turret reloading press.
What is the best cheap reloading press?
Our choice for the best cheap reloading press, is the MEC Marksman Reloader Press, although cheap is only describing it’s price, it’s quality, construction, design and finish is top class.
What is the best multi stage reloading press?
Being the same as a turret press, our choice for the best multi stage reloading press is again the Lee Precision Classic Turret Press.
Who makes the best reloading press?
Taking our number one spot above, we would say that MEC just edges out that top spot for making the best reloading press.
What is the best beginner reloading press kit?
Not only winning for the precision and long range reloading press, we would also recommend the Frankford Arsenal M-Press for the best reloading press kit for beginners if they want to compile their own kit from individual parts. If they want to buy the whole kit as one package, then we would recommend the RCBS Rebel Master Reloading Kit which includes the RCBS Rebel press that is also in our top 3 above.
What is the best progressive reloading press for accuracy?
Although tigh tolerance and precision at every stage of the reloading process is crucial for the best consistency and accuracy, if you are dead set on having a progressive reloading press, we would choose the Hornady Lock-N-Load Auto-Progressive Reloading Press as the best progressive reloading press for accuracy.
What is the best progressive reloading press for the money?
Value for money, we would also still recommend the Hornady Lock-N-Load Auto-Progressive Reloading Press as the best progressive reloading press for the money.
What is the best reloading press for long range shooting?
For accuracy and long range, any of the top 4 on our list would make the cut, however we still feel personally that the MEC Marksman makes the pick as the best reloading press for long range shooting.
What is the best reloading press for 223?
Strange that this is specifically asked for 223, but we suppose that is because 223 is both often used in bolt action rifles for accuracy, as well as in AR-15 type semi automatic rifle platforms. So if you want accurate 223 ammunition for a bolt action rifle, we would recommend the Forster Co-Ax press rated at our number one spot. If you want a press for a high volume of 223 ammo for a semi auto application, we would recommend the Hornady 095100 Lock-N-Load Auto-Progressive Reloading Press.
What is the best benchrest reloading press?
Benchrest shooting requires immense accuracy, consistency and precision, so without a doubt the MEC Marksman press at our number one spot is our choice here for the best benchrest reloading press, that is unless you want to take it to the next level and invest in a hydro arbor press for checking neck tension whilst pressing.
What is the best press for precision rifle ammo?
The MEC Marksman would again be our choice here for the best single stage press for precision.
What is the best single stage reloading press for rifle ammo?
Again the MEC Marksman press would be our choice here for the best single stage reloading press for rifle ammunition.
What is the co-axial reloading press?
The Forster Reloading Press would be our choice here for the best co-ax reloading press for rifle ammunition.
What is the best turret reloading press kit?
What is the best value reloading press?
As the with cheap reloading press questions above, the MEC Marksman also takes our top choice for best value reloading press for the money.
Which Reloading Press is made in the USA?
RCBS castings come from China, they are then machined and assembled here in the USA.
Frankford Arsenal are 100% made in China.
Forster Co-Ax reloading press is 100% made in the USA.
Redding is 100% made in the USA.
Lee is 100% made in the USA.
Hornady is 100% made in the USA.
The MEC Marksman is made in the USA in Mayville, WI, by Mayville Engineering Co.