If you’ve loaded rifle ammunition with a single-stage, you know just how long this process can take. Separate sizing, priming, charging (sometimes weighing each load), seating, and crimping can really take a long time. In some cases, this extra time and effort is worth it (long-range competition shooting for example). It’s also possible to crank out highly accurate ammunition in a hurry on a progressive press. I do a lot of this kind of “precision rifle loading” on my progressives. While this is a great way to load, you also need to keep some things in mind to ensure you get the workflow and results you want. Let’s examine some of these considerations!
308 Winchester ammunition (7.62x51mm military) loaded on a Hornady Lock-N-Load AP 5-station progressive reloading press: FAST!
Proper Brass Prep
Just like a good paint job requires good prep work, great rifle ammunition 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).
If you are full-length sizing you’ll want to ensure that you use a high-performance lube like Imperial Sizing Wax. That will make your sizing smooth, reduce effort, and also minimize the risk of a stuck case. Pre-sizing on a single-stage or turret press can also make progressive loading more pleasurable (you can then omit the sizing die on your press).
The Right Press and Press Setup
Rifle reloading can involve more force and stress compared to pistol loading due to the large contact area in sizing dies. Rifle loading is typically more precision oriented as well. For these reasons, 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).
Finally, figure out how you’ll want to load ammunition and what quantities you’ll be loading. If you are bulk reloading, ensure you have enough stations for sizing, charging, powder check, bullet feed, bullet seat, and optionally bullet crimp. Below you can see a Hornady Lock-N-Load AP setup to load 308 Winchester in bulk.
Bullet Seating Die
Want accurate rifle ammunition? One important consideration is bullet concentricity. In order to minimize bullet runout, look for dies that ensure concentric bullet alignment. The Hornady rifle seating die and the Redding competition seating dies offer great bullet alignment and concentricity due to the sliding collar design (bullet stays aligned while cartridge travels upward). These dies also make tipped bullets a thing of the past!
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. It’s a lot of fun to see rifle ammunition pile up in the completed cartridge bin.
So there you have it, a few basic considerations for productive and accurate rifle ammunition loading. Have fun with it!
Here are some additional resources on Ultimate Reloader:
AR-MPR- RCBS Rifle Bullet Feeder Overview
AR-MPR- RCBS Rifle Bullet Feeder Overview Part II
AR-MPR – RCBS Rifle Bullet Feeder on Pro-2000 Loading 223
AR-MPR – Hornady Lock-N-Load AP Loading 223
RCBS Rifle Bullet Feeder on RCBS Pro-2000 – Some Notes
AR-308 – RCBS Pro-2000 and 30 cal RCBS Rifle Bullet Feeder
AR-308 – Loading 308 with the Hornady Lock-N-Load AP
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