January 10th, 2020

Getting the Most Out of Your Progressive Press — PowerUser Tips

Ultimate Reloader Progressive Press Hornady
Blue, Red, Green — There are many Progressive Press options on the market…

When you need ammo fast — lots of ammo, it’s hard to beat a progressive reloading press for output. We use progressive presses to load handgun ammo and .223 Rem cartridges for varmint safaris. With good dies, and proper press set-up, today’s progressive presses can produce surprisingly uniform and accurate ammo. No, you won’t see Benchrest Hall-of-Famers loading PPC cartridges on progressives. However, if you need 1000 rounds for your next prairie dog adventure, you should consider getting a progressive. Below you can see a Hornady Lock-N-Load AP configured to load .308 Winchester in bulk.

Hornady .308 winchester lock-n-load progressive press

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ultimate reloader progressive

UltimateReloader.com has published helpful Tips to Optimize Progressive Rifle Loading. No matter whether you have a Red (Hornady), Green (RCBS), or Blue (Dillon) progressive, this article can help you load more efficiently and produce better results. Here are some highlights:

Proper Brass Prep
Just like a good paint job requires good prep work, great rifle ammo requires good brass prep. In order to make sure your rifle loading goes smoothly, make sure to perform the following brass prep steps:

  • Clean the brass (tumble, ultrasonic, etc.)
  • Inspect brass for cracks, deep dents, etc.
  • For military brass: de-prime, ream/swage primer pockets, size with small-base sizer die (small base usually optional).
  • Measure brass length — if too long, size and then trim.
  • Final inspection before loading.
  • Cleaning primer pockets may be something you’ll consider (I don’t clean primer pockets except for rare cases or match ammo).

Smooth and Steady Pace
Since you’re loading rifle ammunition on a progressive, you’re already saving a load of time, so there’s no need to rush things! Attention to detail is super-important for safety and for good results. Always keep an eye on powder level (goes down FAST) and what’s happening at each station.

The Right Press and Press Setup
Look for a heavy-duty, well-built press that will stand up to rifle loading. You’ll also want to make sure your powder measure will have the proper capacity (~25 grains for .223, ~50 grains for 308). If you are bulk reloading, ensure you have enough stations for sizing, charging, powder check, bullet feed, bullet seating, and (optional) bullet crimp. Compare the powder measuring systems, and give careful consideration to the priming process. You want case priming to be 100% reliable. This video reviews the differences between the Dillon XL-650 and the new XL-750 Progressive presses.

More Ultimate Reloader Resources for Users of Progressive Presses:

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February 17th, 2018

Load Winning Ammo With Progressive — Whidden Shows How

John Whidden .243 Winchester Win National Championship Long Range Reloading Caliber Barnard Action Anschutz

After the Berger Southwest Nationals, we had a long chat with John Whidden, five-time NRA Long-Range National Champion, and a past SWN Sling Division winner. When the subject turned to reloading techniques, John reminded us that he uses a Dillon progressive presss to load much of his match ammo — with a system for much more precise control over powder charge weight. Yes John loaded his national-championship winning .243 Win ammo on a progressive. That may not work for the benchrest game, but John proved this method works well for his discipline — long range sling shooting.

John full-length sizes his match brass every time using a Whidden click-adjustable sizing die. The powder charge is dispensed with single-kernel precision using an Auto-Trickler and lab-grade force restoration scale. The process is completed on a Dillon XL 650 to produce more ammo in less time.

John Whidden .243 Winchester Win National Championship Long Range Reloading Caliber Barnard Action Anschutz

Whidden’s .243 Win Ammo is Loaded on a Dillon
John Whidden of Whidden Gunworks used the .243 Winchester cartridge to win the 2017 NRA Long Range Championship, his FIFTH LR title. John loaded his .243 Win ammo using a Dillon: “My loading process is different than many people expect. I load my ammo on a Dillon 650 progressive press using our own Whidden Gunworks dies. However powder charges are individually weighed with a stand-alone automated scale/trickler system from AutoTrickler.com (see below). Employing a high-end force restoration scale, this micro-processor controlled system offers single-kernel precision. The weighed charges are then dropped into the cases with a funnel mounted to the Dillon head.”

John Whidden .243 Winchester Win National Championship Long Range Reloading Caliber Barnard Action Anschutz

John Whidden Explains His Ammo-Loading Process

The Lapua .243 Win brass is full-length sized every time, and I run one of our custom-sized expanders in my sizer die. The expander measures .243″ which yields the desired .001″ neck tension. In my experience, the best way to get consistent neck tension is to run an expander in the case neck at some point. When sizing the case neck by a minimal amount such as is the case here, I don’t find any negative points in using an expander in the sizer die.

Championship-Winning Load: Berger Bullets, Lapua Brass, and Vihtavuori N160
For a load, currently I’m shooting Lapua brass, PMC primers (Russian, similar to Wolf), VihtaVuori N160 single-base powder, and Berger 105 grain Hybrid bullets. I switched to the Hybrid bullets at the beginning of the 2015 season. Previously I shot the 105gr Berger hunting VLDs, and in testing I found that the Hybrids were just as accurate without having to seat the bullet into the lands. The velocity of this combination when shot through the excellent Bartlein 5R barrels (32” length) is around 3275 FPS.

For my match ammo, I seat the Berger 105 Hybrids well off the lands — my bullets are “jumping” from .035″-.060″. I only use one seating depth for ammunition for multiple guns (I know some benchrest shooters will stop reading right here!) and the bullets jump further in the worn barrels than in the fresh barrels. The bullets are pointed up in our Bullet Pointing Die System and are moly-coated. The moly (molybdenum disulfide) does extend the cleaning interval a little bit, probably 20% or so. The Lapua .243 Win brass is all neck-turned to .0125″ thickness.

In my experience, the keys to accurate long range ammo are top quality bullets and the most consistent neck tension you can produce. From these starting points, the use of quality components and accurate powder measurement will finish out the magic.

Great Ballistics with 6mm 105s at 3275 FPS
Running at an impressive 3275 FPS, Berger 6mm 105 grain Hybrids deliver ballistics that are hard to beat, according to John Whidden:

“My .243 Win shoots inside a 6.5-284 with 142-grainers. Nothing out there is really ahead of [the .243], in 1000-yard ballistics unless you get into the short magnums or .284s and those carry a very significant recoil penalty. In the past I did shoot the 6.5-284. I went to the .243 Win because it had similar ballistics but had much less recoil. It doesn’t beat me up as much and is not as fatiguing.

John Whidden .243 Winchester Win National Championship Long Range Reloading Caliber Barnard Action Anshutz

With the .243 Win, there’s no tensing-up, no anticipating. With the reduced recoil (compared to a 7mm or big .308), I can break and shoot very good quality shots. I find I just shoot better shots with the .243 than I ever did with the 6.5-284.”

John Whidden National Long Range Championship Camp Perry 2016 Wind Reading

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June 27th, 2017

Smart Product: Custom-Fitted Cardboard Ammo Storage Boxes

Repackbox fitted cardboard ammo ammunition storage box printed labels

Here’s a smart product for folks who load and store large quantities of ammunition. With these white cardboard ammo boxes from Repackbox.com, you can store pistol, rifle, and shotshell ammo very inexpensively. A set of 30 boxes costs $13.95 ($0.47/box), while a 100-Box Bundle costs just $22.95. That works out to just $0.23 (twenty-three cents) per box — very cheap!

All boxes are Made in the USA of .024 thick, acid free, virgin card stock. The boxes are printed with Cartridge Type (Caliber), number of rounds enclosed, and an outlined box where a printed label can be placed. Included with each set are Blank Avery 5167 Labels which can be printed with load/bullet data or other info. The box kits even come with white gloves to keep your ammo grease-free. Order these ammo repack box kits from Repackbox.com.

There are many advantages to these cardboard boxes. They are inexpensive and they store ammo very efficiently, not using much space. You can arrange them in any orientation (unlike some plastic ammo carriers). We like these boxes for varmint safaris and other adventures when we’re transporting many hundreds of rounds of ammo. They are also a smart choice for bulk shotshell ammo, as they are much less expensive than plastic shotshell cases. For pistol shooting we still like see-through, plastic flip-top boxes at the range, but these white cardboard boxes are great for storing large quantities of pistol ammo produced on progressive presses. NOTE: These boxes do NOT have individual dividers between the cartridges. And no, the boxes are NOT waterproof — you’ll want to keep them in an ammo can on rainy days.

30-Box and 100-Box Kits are available for all these Pistol and Rifle Cartridge Types:

PISTOL Cartridges
.380 ACP
.38 SPL/.357 Magnum
9mm Luger
.40 S&W
10mm
.44 Magnum
.45 ACP
.45 Long Colt
RIFLE Cartridges
.223 Rem/5.56×45
.30 Carbine
30-30 Winchester
.303 Brit
7.62×39
.308 Win/7.62×51
7.62x54R
.30-06 Springfield

In addition, there are boxes for 12 gauge shotgun ammunition.
Repackbox fitted carboard ammo ammunition storage box printed labels

Repackbox fitted carboard ammo ammunition storage box printed labels

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October 12th, 2016

Follow These Safety Fundamentals When Hand-Loading Ammo

seven reloading safety tips powder primers brownells manual

You can never be too safe when hand-loading your own ammunition. This helpful Brownells video outlines the Seven Fundamental Reloading Safety Tips. This is important information for novice hand-loaders and a good refresher for those with reloading experience!

Summary of the Seven Safety Tips:

1. Store your reloading supplies in a safe and dry location, away from children and away from any possible source of ignition. This includes keeping your powder and primers separate.

2. Get and use respected reloading manuals, especially for new cartridges. Start low and work up slowly while watching for warning signs of pressure and/or case fatigue.

3. Locate your reloading activity where you will not be distracted. If you get interrupted, stop. (Distractions will eventually lead to mistakes.)

4. Do NOT mix powders. Keep your powders clearly marked and dated. You can use masking tape to write the date on the container.

5. If you load the same cartridge type for different firearms, make sure your ammo headspaces properly in each gun.

6. Check cases frequently. Look for split necks, case head separation or other signs of fatigue and excessive pressure.

7. If reloading military brass, be aware that case capacity is usually reduced, and initial loads should be at least 10-15% lower than published data.


Here are some other tips that will help your avoid making costly mistakes (such as using the wrong powder, or undercharging a case):

  • Powder Type — Always double-check the label on your powder containers. After placing powder in the powder measure, put a piece of tape on the measure with the powder type written on it. Some guys write the powder type on a card and place that right in the hopper.
  • Scale Drift — Electronic balances can drift. If you are using a digital powder scale, calibrate the scale with a test weight every 50 rounds or so.
  • Case Fill — If you throw more than one charge at a time, look INSIDE every case before seating a bullet. Squib charges can be dangerous if you don’t notice them before firing the next round.
  • Progressive Presses — When using a progressive press, consider using an RCBS Lock-Out Die. This will detect a low charge and stop the machine. These dies will work with RCBS, Hornady, and Dillon progressives.

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December 20th, 2015

New RCBS Pro Chucker 7 Progressive Press Unveiled

RCBS Pro Chucker 7 Progressive Press 2000 ultimatereloader Gear

Lots of slots — that’s what you’ll find on the top of RCBS’s new Pro-Chucker 7 progressive reloading press. This thing has SEVEN (7) stations, which gives you great flexibility when reloading. You have plenty of extra slots for special dies such as crimp dies or powder-check dies. The 7-hole interchangeable die-plate (aka tool-head) is am impressive bit of engineering — it looks like the cylinder for a super-sized revolver.

Our friend Gavin Gear of UltimateReloader.com got his hands on one of the first production models of the new Pro Chucker 7 progressive press. Gavin reports: “This 7-station auto-indexing progressive is the ‘big brother’ of the RCBS Pro Chucker 5, and is built on the same frame. While it shares most of the same internals, there are a few differences”. Key differences include a seven-station shellplate and seven-station die-plate (vs. five stations on the Pro Chucker 5). In addition the priming system is slightly different and the Pro Chucker 7 comes with a much larger powder hopper.

Watch Pro Chucker 7 Unboxing Video:

To demonstrate the new features of the Pro Chucker 7, Gavin has produced an unboxing video that shows the components of the system. This is a completely different design than the RCBS 2000 system progressive press (which this editor owns). The Pro Chucker series 5 and 7 presses have a more compact frame and a more conventional, vertical column priming system. They don’t take up much more space on your loading bench than a turret press, yet they offer full progressive capability, creating one loaded round with every pull of the handle.

RCBS Pro Chucker 7 Progressive Press 2000 ultimatereloader Gear

If you are considering purchasing a progressive press (whether green, red, or blue), you should watch the video and see the press features. Gavin Gear will demonstrate how the Pro Chucker 7 works with another video to be released in the near future.

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February 9th, 2015

Hornady Progressive with Automated Case Feed and Bullet Feed

Lock and Load Gavin Gear Ultimate Reloader AR-10
Gavin Gear tests .308 ammo with his DPMS LR-308B, AR10-type rifle.

Our friend Gavin Gear of UltimateReloader.com owns a DPMS LR-308B, an AR10-type semi-auto rifle. Gavin finds that his DPMS has a healthy appetite for ammunition. So, he set up his Hornady Lock-N-Load progressive press to produce .308 Win ammo. This video shows the process of press set-up and operation, complete with Hornady’s automated Case Feeder and Bullet Feeder. Employing elevated rotary hoppers, the case feed and bullet feed systems really speed up production. The automated feeders allow the operator to produce cartridges without ever touching case or bullet with his hands.

If you need large quantities of .308 Win ammo for 3-Gun matches or tactical games, and if you value your time, a progressive press may be a wise investment. The progressive can load a complete round with every cycle of the press handle. With Case Feeder and Bullet Feeder in place, the Hornady L-N-L can easily crank out a new .308 round every 3-4 seconds (watch video at 5:25). Conservatively speaking, that’s 15 rounds per minute sustained production (and some guys can go even faster).

Get updates from UltimateReloader.com via Gavin’s twitter feed: @UReloader. To learn more about the Hornady Lock-N-Load Progressive Press (with case/bullet feed options), and to see a list of the dies and accessories Gavin uses, click the link below:

Hornady Rifle Bullet Feeder Part 5: Loading .308 for the AR-10

Lock and Load Gavin Gear Ultimate Reloader AR-10

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January 30th, 2010

SHOT Show Report: New RCBS Bullet Feeder & Chronograph

Kent Sakamoto of RCBS showed us the new RCBS products for 2010. The big news for reloaders is an automated, .22-caliber bullet feeder for the RCBS Pro 2000 progressive press. This caliber-specific bullet feeder cycles 22-cal bullets directly into a modified seating die. Now you can load all kinds of 22-cal cartridges without even handling the bullets. The bullet feeder is a simple, bolt-on upgrade to the Pro 2000 press, and it can also be adapted to Hornady’s Lock-N-Load progressive, according to Sakamoto. The new bullet feeder utilizes the RCBS electric collator/hopper, which feeds the bullets from an elevated bin. The 22-cal bullet feeder will be available in March 2010, with a 30-cal version to be released later in the year.

YouTube Preview Image

At Media Day, RCBS also showcased its long-awaited new AmmoMaster chronograph. Designed as an affordable, entry-level chrono, the new RCBS AmmoMaster is completely self-contained. All components, including cables and sky-screen, pack up into the central chrono “body” which is shaped like a giant cartridge case. The detachable control/display assembly (shaped like a bullet) can be positioned on your shooting bench for ease of access. The AmmoMaster chrono retails for about $125.00, making it one of the most affordable chronos on the market. It is available right now at leading vendors, including MidwayUSA (product #911572).

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