I’ve heard many times that people new to reloading ammunition should start with a single stage press. Then later after they understand the basics they should move up to the kind of press the want whether it be progressive or a turret press.
A couple weeks back I upgraded from my Lee single stage press to the Lee LoadMaster progressive press. Back when I bought my Lee single stage press I paid like $30 for it and I was in business after buying dies and all the other things that go along with reloading. It taught me a lot of things about reloading that came in handy with my new press.
First it taught be how to adjust the dies. It can take some trial and error to adjust each die properly. On the LoadMaster you have all the dies sitting there in front of you and you have to worry about going from station to station. Of course you can pull the indexing pin and spin the case to the station you want, but I knew what each die is supposed to do and what the case/bullet should look like after each step. When I first started loading I had to read the instructions continually to figure out which die did which. After a couple of times I got it, but there was a learning period.
Secondly, my single stage press taught me about working up a load. When I am trying a load I’ll make up a round and then go outside and shoot it right then. I’ve made some rounds that weren’t crimped right and hardly shot. I’ve loaded round balls and trail boss powder in my .45 Colt without much load data other then guesstimation. I’m not an expert, but I can load a round and shoot it and then know reasonable well if there is something I need to adjust. A multi-stage press is made for churning out ammo. I have not messed with my loads very much, because I already know what my .45 likes. I still got to go through that process with my 9mm, but its not a big deal because I have that experience.
Thirdly, I know what a properly primed round feels like. Primers need seated at a certain depth. To high and it might catch on the frame and interfere, take a second strike to ignite if you have a light hammer spring, or worse go off while loading. To low and you crush the primer. I know how a primer feels when you seat it in the press. I know how hard you should have to push down. If its not smooth as you prime the round you might have caught the edge and wrinkled the primer. I had to set the primer depth and adjust it quite a bit before my LoadMaster started working knowing how to prime properly really helped.
Fifthly, you can start reloading on a single stage press almost immediately. When you try something new its great to have instant success. On the other hand setting up my LoadMaster probably took me eight hours before I had adjusted it enough to be churning out decent rounds. Of course the LoadMaster may be harder then most presses to setup, but I would suspect most presses have at least some adjustments to do.
Finally, if you already have a single stage press you can use it for priming or de-priming. If you want to clean the primer pocket or trim the case after you re-size it might simpler to just use the single stage press. Its a handy tool to have. I’ll be keeping my single stage press around, because I already needed it once, when my press failed to prime some rounds and I did not want to reset the whole process just to prime a couple rounds.
So those are my initial observations about reloading on a progressive press. Maybe I’ll do a write up soon about the Lee LoadMaster itself and some of the issues I faced during setup and how I resolved them.