January 4th, 2019

Single-Stage Reloading Presses — Product Video Showcase

RCBS Rock Chucker MEC Marksman Lyman Brass smith ideal Frankford co-ax forster Hornady iron Lee Classic Cast Breech Lock Press

Hand-loaders have never had so many great choices in single-stage presses, with many different configurations and features. There are classic O-Frame presses, Coax-style presses, Open-front presses, Pyramid presses, and compact C-Frame presses. Here is our 2019 Single Stage Press Showcase with products from Forster, Frankford Arsenal, Hornady, Lee, Lyman, MEC, and RCBS. We’ve included short videos showing the features of these reloading presses.

If you are shopping for a new press you should look at the various features of each. You may prefer something classic like a Rock Chucker, or the innovative open-front MEC. If you are looking for a compact press to use at the range, the new Lyman C-Frame is very impressive for the price. And the Forster Co-Ax remains a great addition to any loading room.

MEC Marksman Single-Stage Press

If you are looking for a new, full-size single-stage reloading press, definitely consider the MEC Marksman. Created by the makers of the popular MEC shotshell reloading systems, the MEC Marksman combines a sturdy cast-iron frame with a modern open-front design. With a $189.99 street price the Marksman press cost roughly $20 more than an RCBS Rock Chucker, but the MEC offers some distinct advantages — such as an open front plus a floating shell-holder system.

MEC Marksman Press Gavin Gear single stage open front press die caddy accessories

Our friend Gavin Gear of UltimateReloader.com got his hands on a MEC Marksman press and put it through its paces. He came away impressed with the product, saying it delivers excellent performance, and has many impressive features. Gavin tells us: “Cast iron tools and machines are a lifetime investment. The made-in-USA MEC Marksman features ductile cast-iron construction, an open-front frame design for easy cartridge access, a new floating shell-holder design with a unique retention system, and ambidextrous handle setup.” MEC also offers a wide selection of accessories for the Marksman press, including a press riser/mount, shell-holder caddy, and die trays.

Frankford Arsenal M-Press Coaxial Reloading Press

Frankford Arsenal M-Press co-ax coaxial new reloading press die caddy accessories

Sorry, this new Frankford Arsenal coaxial M-Press has not started shipping yet so we don’t have a video. But MidwayUSA says it should arrive by mid-February 2019. We think this new M-Press should interest Forster Co-Ax fans. While the operation is similar to the Forster Co-Ax, there are some important differences. The new M-Press mounts on a flat surface, with nothing protruding below. That is significantly different than the Forster Co-Ax. The die block is different. It also appears that the shell-holder system is different. But this still self-aligns like a Forster Co-Ax. “A free-floating design allows the die and shellplate to move on two axis, so the case is always perfectly centered in the die, minimizing bullet runout.” The way the arms move is also different. In the Forster Co-Ax, the rods slide within the press frame and the part that holds the shell is fixed to them. In this design the rods are stationary and the part that holds the shell slides on them. However, the overhead handle certainly does copy the distinctive Forster design. NOTE: According to MidwayUSA, this M-Press does NOT have priming capability, unlike the Forster Co-Ax. Credit Boyd Allen for design analysis.

Forster Co-Ax Press

co-ax forster Hornady reloading single-stage  PressIf you are not yet familiar with the many unique features of the Forster Co-Ax, we recommend you watch the video above, a very thorough video review by Rex Roach. This shows how the press operates and highlights the design elements which set the Co-Ax apart from every other reloading press on the market. This 14-minute video shows the key Co-Ax features, explaining how the floating case-holder jaws work (3:30 time-mark), how the dies are held in place (4:40 time-mark), how spent primers are captured (6:10 time-mark), and how to set the primer seating depth (10:00 time-mark). We’ve used a Co-Ax for years and we still learned a few new things by watching this detailed video. If you are considering purchasing a Co-Ax, definitely watch this video start to finish.

In recent years, Forster Co-Ax® presses have been somewhat hard to find, as demand has out-stripped supply. The Co-Ax has many dedicated fans, given its unique features, such as the floating case-holder jaws, and easy, rapid slide-in/slide-out die placement. We’ve also found that Co-Ax presses load very straight ammo and we like the ability to switch between short handle (good for bullet seating) and long handle (ideal for heavy case-sizing tasks). We also think the Forster Co-Ax has one of the best spent primer capture systems on the market — a straight drop into a removable plastic cup. Simple and it works.

Lyman Brass Smith Victory Single-Stage Press

Lyman Brass Smith Victory Single stage press video

Lyman’s New Victory Single-stage Press competes with the RCBS Rock Chucker Press. With beefy cast iron construction, the Victory’s strength and leverage rivals the Rock Chucker. If you like to prime on a press, this Victory has a priming system that’s much easier to use than the Rock Chucker system. The priming tube is right up front. Simply push the shuttle at the button of the tube to advance the primer into place. The entire primer-loading system can also be removed so it doesn’t interfere with case and bullet-handling operations. We generally prefer to prime cases separately using a dedicated hand- or bench-mounted tool, but the Victory press does the job nicely. Overall, the Victory is a great value in a full-size “O-Frame” press. It’s on sale now for $154.99 at Midsouth.

RCBS Rock Chucker Supreme Single-Stage Press

RCBS Rockchucker Rock Chucker Supreme Single Stage reloading press Bruno Shooters Nearly every serious hand-loader has owned or used the RCBS Rock Chucker press. This Editor still uses a Rock Chucker passed down by his brother 20 years ago. And yes, it is still going strong. The latest Rock Chucker Supreme single-stage press features an improved “upside-down Y-path” dual-bin spent primer catcher. Otherwise the Rock Chucker Supreme remains big, strong, versatile and sturdy. It has very strong linkages, with a compound leverage system providing plenty of power — FL-sizing is a breeze even with large, magnum cases. The 1″-diameter ram has 12.5 sq. inches of ram-bearing surface.

Some people may not know that the Rock Chucker offers a secondary 1 1/4″ x 12 thread for shotshell reloading dies and Piggyback 3 upgrade. The Rock Chucker Supreme retails for under $180.00 ($167.50 now at Bruno’s). The RCBS Rock Chucker is definitely a quality product that can last a lifetime. For heavy-duty sizing chores this remains one of the best choices in single-stage presses. We do recommend shopping around. You can sometimes get a pretty big discount on Rock Chuckers and RCBS has regular rebate programs.

Lyman Brass Smith Ideal C-Frame Compact Press

The Lyman Brass Smith Ideal Press is a very affordable, cast iron C-Frame reloading press. We think it is the new “class leader” in compact presses. This works great as a secondary press for your reloading room or a small press you can take to the range. The large front opening allows you to access the shell holder without hitting the support bar on other types of presses. Unlike other compact presses made from aluminum, Lyman’s Ideal press is cast iron so it is rigid and strong. The high-quality steel ram is one inch in diameter. The Brass Smith is a true ambidextrous press that can be accessed from either side and mounted the same. This is a great choice for a second, auxiliary press for depriming and bullet seating.

Lyman Ideal C frame iron press midsouth shooters

Hornady Iron Single Stage (Open-front) Press

In this “Reloading with Rosie” video, the attractive female host loads some ammo using the Hornady Iron Press. With a beefy, pyramid-style cast-iron frame with an open front, this press offers some advantages over a traditional “O-Frame” type press. Access is considerably easier, for one thing. And the top of the press includes slots to hold dies and tools — that’s really a very nice feature that saves time. Also an optional “automatic” priming system shuttles primers from a vertical tube in the back to the shell-holder in the front. That’s clever. Over all the Iron Press is a nice piece of engineering — good job Hornady.

Hornady Iron Press video

Lee Classic Cast (Iron) Breech Lock Press

Lee Classic Cast Breech Lock PressThe Lee Classic Cast Breech Lock Press offers excellent value for the money ($112.00 at Midsouth). Based on the proven design of the Classic Cast press, the updated Breech Lock series adds the quick-change die bushing and an improved primer drop system. This press is strong, with cast iron frame, all-steel linkage, and 12 square inches of ram bearing surface.

Lee says this press has the “largest opening and the longest stroke in the industry” among O-frame type presses. The handle can be mounted on either side. We love the fact that the handle angle can be adjusted, as well as the lever arm length — that allows you to adjust travel and leverage to suit your preference. Smart engineering.

The new spent primer drop features a large-diameter hollow ram with clear hose that drops primers straight to a bin — that’s simple and effective. The press is very rigid and the base is wide enough for good stability. We have one of these Classic Cast Breech Lock Presses in our reloading room and it works well.

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January 4th, 2019

Seeing Bullet Holes at 1000 Yards? Yes It IS Possible…

Pentax PF 100ED
Coalinga Range in California. At dawn we could clearly see 7mm and .30 Cal bullet holes at 1000 yards.

Pentax smc-xw 10mmWhile attending the CA Long Range Championship a few seasons back, we had the opportunity to test the performance of a high-magnification (63X) spotting scope in near-ideal conditions (maybe the best I’ve ever witnessed). On the event’s last day we arrived at 5:45 am, literally as the sun was cresting the horizon. I quickly deployed our Pentax PF-100ED spotting scope, fitted with a Pentax SMC-XW 10mm fixed-power eyepiece. When used with the 100mm Pentax scope, this 10mm eyepiece yields 63X magnification. Befitting its $359.00 price, this eyepiece is extremely clear and sharp.

At the crack of dawn, viewing conditions were ideal. No mist, no mirage, no wind. The first thing this Editor noticed was that I could see metal nail heads on the target boards. That was astonishing. As soon as the first practice targets went up, to my surprise, I could see 6.5mm, 7mm, and 30-caliber bullet holes in the white at 1000 yards. No lie…

That’s right, I could see bullet holes at 1000. I know many of you folks may not believe that, but there was no mistaking when I saw a 7mm bullet cut the white line separating the Nine Ring and Eight Ring on the target in view. (I was watching that target as the shot was fired and saw the shot-hole form). And when I looked at the 30-cal targets, the bullet holes in the white were quite visible. In these perfect conditions I could also make out 3/8″ bolt heads on the target frames.

The Human Factor
When viewing the bullet holes, I was using my left naked eye (no safety glasses or magnification). I also had a contact lens in my right eye (needed for distance vision). To my surprise, while I could see the bullet holes without much difficulty with my left eye, things were fuzzier and slightly more blurry with the right eye, even when I re-focused the scope.

Pentax smc-xw 10mmThen I invited 3 or 4 shooters to look through the scope. One younger guy, with good eyes, said immediately: “Yeah, I can see the holes — right there at 4 o’clock and seven o’clock. Wow.” Some older guys, who were wearing glasses, could not see the holes at all, no matter what we did to the scope’s main focus and diopter adjustment.

The lesson here — if you have to wear glasses or corrective contact lenses, just that extra bit of optical interference may make a difference in what you can see through the scope. Basically anything that goes between the scope eyepiece and your eyeball can degrade the image somewhat. So… you may be better off removing your glasses if you can still obtain good focus sharpness using the diopter adjustment and focus ring. I did the left vs. right eye test a half dozen times, and I could definitely see small features at 1000 yards with my naked eye that I could not see with my right eye fitted with a contact lens. (I did have to re-focus the scope for each eye, since one had a corrective lens while the other did not.)

Mirage Degrades Image Sharpness and Resolution
The “magic light” prevailed for only an hour or so, and then we started to get some mirage. As soon as the mirage appeared I was no longer able to see raw bullet holes, though I could still easily see black pasters on the black bulls. When the mirage started, the sharpness of the visible image degraded a huge amount. Where I could see bullet holes at dawn, by mid-morning I could barely read the numbers on the scoring rings. Lesson: If you want to test the ulimate resolution of your optics, you need perfect conditions.

Chromatic AberrationChromatic Aberration Revealed
As the light got brighter and the mirage increased I started to see blue and red fringing at the edges of the spotting disk and the large numerals. This was quite noticeable. On one side of the bright, white spotting disc you could see a dark red edge, while on the other side there was a blue edge (harder to see but still present).

The photo below was taken through the Pentax spotter lens using a point and shoot camera held up to the eyepiece. The sharpness of the Pentax was actually much better than this photo shows, but the through-the-lens image does clearly reveal the red and blue fringing. This fringing is caused by chromatic aberration — the failure of a lens to focus all colors to the same point. Chromatic aberration, most visible at high magnification, causes different wavelengths of light to have differing focal lengths (see diagram). Chromatic aberration manifests itself as “fringes” of color along boundaries that separate dark and bright parts of the image, because each color in the optical spectrum cannot be focused at a single common point on the optical axis. Keep in mind that the Pentax does have “ED” or low-dispersion glass, so the effect would be even more dramatic with a cheaper spotting scope.


CLICK HERE to view LARGE PHOTO that shows aberration more clearly.

If you wonder why top-of-the-line spotting scopes (such as the $2980 Swarovski ATS-80 ) cost so much, the answer is that they will deliver even LESS chromatic aberration at long range and high magnification. With their exotic apochromatic (APO), ultra-low-dispersion glass, a few ultra-high-end spotting scopes can deliver an image without the color edging you see in the photo above.

The Pentax PF-100ED is a heck of a spotting scope. Any scope that can resolve bullet holes at 1000 yards is impressive. But if you want the ultimate in optical performance, with minimal chromatic aberration, you may need to step up to something like the 88mm Kowa Prominar TSN-884 with Flourite Crystal lenses ($2450.00 body only), or the 82mm Leica APO ($3899.00 with 25-50X eyepiece).

EDITOR’s NOTE: The purpose of this report is to show what is possible… in IDEAL conditions. With this Pentax 100mm, as well as a Swarovski 80mm, we have often been able to resolve 6mm bullet holes at 600 yards. But again, that performance requires really good viewing conditions. By 10:00 am at my range, even with the 100mm Pentax at 75 power, seeing 6mm bullet holes is “iffy” at best. So don’t go out and mortgage the house to buy a $4000 optic with the hope that you’ll be able to spot your shots at 1000 yards. If conditions are anything less than perfect, you’ll be lucky to see bullet holes at 500 yards. The real solution for very long-range spotting is to set up a remote target cam that broadcasts a video picture to a screen at your shooting station.

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January 4th, 2019

10 BEST Bolt-Action Rifles of All Time — What Do YOU Think?

Ten 10 best bolt action rifles shooter

A while back, RifleShooter online magazine published a list of the purported Ten Best Bolt-Action Rifles of All Time. Ten classic rifle designs (including the Remington 700 and Winchester Model 70) were featured with a paragraph or two explaining their notable features.

“Best” Lists Stir Controversy…
These Top 10 lists are always controversial. While most readers might approve of half the entries, there are always some items on the Top 10 list that some readers would challenge. Here is RifleShooter’s Top 10 list. What do you think? Are there some other bolt-actions that are more deserving?

1. Springfield M1903
2. Mauser 98
3. Winchester Model 70
4. Remington Model 700
5. Weatherby V

6. Sako L61/AV
7. Savage Model 110
8. Ruger M77
9. Tikka T3
10. Mannlicher-Schonauer

10bolt1402.

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