AR-308 – Loading 308 with the Hornady Lock-N-Load AP


In my Last Post, I covered loading 308 Winchester for the AR-308 rifle on the RCBS Pro-2000 5 station progressive reloading press. I also showed the RCBS Rifle Bullet Feed kit in action. This time, we’ll use the Hornady Lock-N-Load AP reloading press (also a 5-station progressive press), but this time with a case feeder rather than a bullet feeder.

The Hornady Lock-N-Load AP 5-station reloading press setup to load 308 Winchester - Image Copyright 2011 Ultimate Reloader

I have reloaded quite a few rifle calibers on progressive reloading presses, including .223/5.56, 30-06, 22-250, and 308 Winchester. One of the difficulties that you can encounter when performing this type of loading is jerky handle movement and perceived “stickiness” when sizing the brass. This happens on the up-stroke (when you size the outside), and on the down-stroke (when the expander ball is pulled through the case mouth). For the AR-308 project, I’ve pre-sized all of the brass as a part of the case prep process. Because of this, we don’t need to use a sizing die at all. This translates to a silky smooth action as we crank out the ammo. This really makes me think that this is the way for me to go – pre-sizing and prepping, and then performing additional/final steps on the progressive press.

Man your stations!

One of the luxuries of a 5-station progressive reloading press is that you have a lot of flexibility regarding how to perform the loading process. On the Hornady Lock-N-Load AP, you have the added benefit of super-quick die swap-out in case you want to dump the powder measure, switch out dies, add dies (like the powder cop) and so-on and so-forth. Here’s a breakdown of the stations utilized for this loading session:

  1. Empty (could put a sizing/decapping die here)
  2. Powder measure
  3. Powder cop
  4. Seat
  5. Crimp
Close-up of the Redding 308 Winchester crimp die in Lock-N-Load bushing - Image Copyright 2011 Ultimate Reloader

The Hornady case feeder for the Lock-N-Load AP will make our reloading a much quicker process since we only need to handle bullets for each stroke of the handle. This means our right hand can stay on the handle, which speeds things up considerably. Let’s take a look at the reloading process for 308 Winchester on the Hornady Lock-N-Load AP. A word of caution- you’re about to witness ammunition reloading at an alarmingly quick pace – and with the setup we’ve chosen, we will also have great consistency due to the design of the powder measure, and the sliding collar seating die.

Let’s Load!

It is quite rewarding to see completed bottleneck rifle cartridges tipping and falling into the completed cartridge bin – more like a tree falling compared to a smaller pistol cartridge flying into the bin. Once we start loading ammunition, it’s time to check everything for consistency. Measuring variation in cartridge overall length (COL), bullet concentricity, and primer seating depth are all important things to keep an eye on.

Properly seated primer - ~ .003-.006" below the surface of the base of the case rim - Image copyright 2011 Ultimate Reloader

Here we see a properly seated primer- you can feel that it is seated below the surface of the back of the case rim, and when “stood up” on a table, the cartridge should not wobble, it should stand up straight and not rock back and forth at all. We can also see in this diagram the nice chamfer around the primer pocket. It’s rewarding to take the time to do the job right. This attention to detail will also mean our ammunition is more accurate, safer to shoot, and more reliable as well. That’s what I’m after!


14 thoughts on “AR-308 – Loading 308 with the Hornady Lock-N-Load AP”

  1. Gavin,

    thanks for the tips. I recently have taken up handloading. your video was amazing. I am using hodgdon benchmark powder and cci benchrest primers. I chose the hornady match 168 bthp for my first run. what have you found to be a good powder load for your handloads.


    1. I use Gavin’s method in this video but on a Dillon 650 for 308 Win, 260 Rem, 243 Win and 338 Federal.

      The best powders for the 308, 243 and 260 are Varget, H4895, IMR4895 and Benchmark pushing 150, 155 and 168 gr Sierra and Hornady HPBT Bullets.

      I am using LVR for the 338 Federal pusting the 215 gr Swift Scirocco.

      I leave this Dillon 650 Press set for the 308 and all its family of calibers.

      I also use Federal Match Grade Primers exclusively.

      All of these are for my Semi-Automatic Rifles which I built on LR-308 Upper and Lower Receivers with early McCormick Triggers and DPMS 24″ (18″ in 338 Fed) Barrels.

      I still load for all my bolt guns with a RCBS Rockchucker and Redding Competiton Dies.

      I will reject any 308 round from the Rockchucker with any measurable runout and from the Dillon, or my AP I use for the 223 Family, with .001 runout.

      I use Benchmark exclusively for the 223,/556 and 204 Ruger.

      Same rules. Progressive Press for Autoloaders and Single Stage for Bolt Guns.

      Been doing this for 54 years and learning things at every reloading session.

      Just FYI, I use 5 Dillon Square Deal B’s for the smaller Pistol Calibers, 380, 9mm, 38/357, 38 Super, 40 S&W and a second AP for the large ones including 45 ACP, 45 Colt, 44 Magnum and 10mm.

      Lots of Titegroup and H110 in the Magnums.

      I have been very Blessed in my life and Loading and Shooting are now at 67 my only remaining hobbies.

  2. Was noticing the metal rails in the bench to locate bolts to tie down items on your bench like presses ect. Would you be able to tell me what they are where I might find some like them. I have a hornady ammo plant on its way and might install that set up. thanks

  3. Hi Gavin

    Nice videos. Thanks for you work.
    Question – do you think it is possible to get just as accurate ammo on a progressive as it is on a single press.

  4. new at reloading and in need for some help in selecting dies for 308 and 30-06 bought a new hornady lock n load ap press also 308 lee 3 die set. there is not enought thread on dies to adjust with the lock and load bushing. need a sugestion on new dies. thanks Joe

        1. I’ve had trouble with Lee pistol dies in some cases on the Lock-N-Load. I think it was the bullet seater. My solution was to modify a couple lock-n-load bushings on my metal lathe by machining them down (the rim on the top) so the die got an additional 1/16″ or so. You can’t get a whole lot of depth by doing that! Good luck.

  5. Gavin, Same question as loading 223. In this 308 video you mention that you have previously resized the brass. Did you do this work on a single stage press? and if so why? I’m asking because i’d like to know if you have had issues just like 223 with no being able to actually bump the shoulder of the brass because the shell plate is too thick?? Issues along those lines? Also, because the shell plate is thicker on the lnl vs. a single stage have you had any issues possibly with other calibers as well in terms of crimping or any other process where the thickness of the shell plate impeded the function that you were trying to perform? Thanks.

  6. You can get very accurate ammunition with the Hornady Lock n’ Load AP with .308 for an AR-10. I’ve been loading 155 grain AMAX as well as 150 Hornady FMJ-BT’s for 5 years. If you want very precise and accurate ammo I would suggest the following:

    Use the powder cop die – to make it worth setting it up you need to sort your cases by head-stamp

    Use powdered graphite to lube your powder thrower. If you get it at an implement store (such as a John Deere dealer it’s very inexpensive. I’ve been within .01 of a grain on every single throw.

    The most important thing is consistency. The more consistent your brass is the better. Trimming, flash hole and primer uniforming (suggested for consistency in reloading; more later) the better (don’t forget head-stamp sorting). Finally the last suggestion is to get very consistent with your rhythm. You’ll be amazed at the difference when it comes to timeliness as well as using the powder cop. I try not to load more than 200 rounds in a single setting without a 10-15 min break.

    My AR-10 a DPMS LR .308B (18″ barrel) was kind of picky so I resulted to RCBS small base dies. It significantly improved the feeding reliability. The last suggestion I can think of for accuracy is to avoid max loads. I found with Hornady’s data 46 grains of BL-C2 works great with magnum primers and 47 grains with WLR under a 150 gr FMJ-BT or the 155 gr AMAX, a full grain below max. Note: commercial brass used, work up loads as usual if using NATO such as Lake City brass.

    No target, thief or wild game has ever said “Ouch that hurt! but it’s 200fps slower than blank, I’m going to get up and run away now.”

    For the DPMS guys out there get MAGPUL PMAGS. You cant beat them.

    As far as more accurate with a single stage vice progressive, you have more control behind a single stage than a progressive (weighing every charge), but if you don’t do your job behind the trigger in the first place that will have a far more dramatic effect on your groups than loading with a progressive vice single-stage ever will.

    I prefer ball/flake powders (i.e. WIN 231, BL-C2, W760, W748, H414, H322, H335 etc.) with my LNL AP, have tried extruded powders but the smoothness and consistency is the main objective whether you’re behind the firing line or behind the reloading bench.

  7. New to reloading .308 for my Ruger Sr7.62. Everything going well until i chamber dummy rounds by letting bolt slam closed. After i eject the dummy round the oacl allways grows. I do crimp all rounds and have tried lee factory crimp and dillon taper crimp die. Dont know what im doing wrong or is this normal. The groth of oacl is minimal in most cases .005-.015 but this still concerns me. Seems to have proper neck tension before seating bullet. Any help would be great.

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