So there you are sitting at your reloading bench cranking out some ammunition and a thought comes into your head. What if I added a bullet feeder to this press? I could really speed things up, and it would be fun to get a new press accessory! But you may also ask yourself: Will it be worth it? What’s really involved in adding a bullet feeder? In this post I’ll answer some of these questions and hopefully make your decision process easier if you are wondering whether or not to buy a bullet feeder.
Here are some basic considerations to think about:
- Pistol -vs- rifle: Feeding pistol bullets is generally more straightforward than feeding rifle bullets. If you are planning on loading rifle bullets with a bullet feeder make sure that the feeder is compatible with your press and is offered in the caliber/cartridge that you plan to load.
- Bullet type: In general bullet feed systems are designed only to work with plated and jacketed bullets. If you are loading cast lead bullets then chances are that you won’t be able to use them with your bullet feeder. The reason: cast lead bullets are not as consistent dimensionally *and* the lube gums up feed parts.
- Available stations and press setup: Adding a bullet feed setup will typically require at least one dedicated station in your press, and in some cases adding a bullet feed die will have multi-station dependencies (example: RCBS Rifle Bullet Feeder die has to be actuated by adjacent powder measure). You may be able to free up stations by employing combination features like powder charging and expanding in the same station (Hornady’s PTX expander for example). Just make sure you know the implications and requirements before you spring for that bullet feed system.
- Mounting and Storage: You’ll need a place to mount the bullet feeder (some bolt to the press, some to your bench) and you’ll also need space to store the bullet feeder (hanging from the wall works good). Bullet feeders can be quite tall (bullet collator) so make sure you have “headroom” in your space as well.
- Complexity and Setup: A bullet feeder does require per-caliber setup, and they can take a while to get “dialed in” – so make sure your loading quantities will justify the extra setup overhead if you are contemplating a bullet feeder.
- Power: If your bullet feeder has an electric bullet collator, you’ll need AC power at your bench. One more thing to think about!
- Cost: Make sure you add up all of the components and parts that you’ll need to buy in order to get a realistic “total cost of ownership”. It’s also a good idea to make sure that all of the parts are available (given recent shortages).
Finally, I’ve found that the biggest increase in loading speed happens when you add either a bullet feeder *or* a case feeder to a press. Having at least one feeder enables one hand to stay on the handle at all times which makes your loading go a lot faster. Adding the second feeder (meaning that you have both bullet feed and case feed attachments) definitely speeds up loading, but the gain is not quite as dramatic as when you add the first feeder.
Have thoughts about bullet feeders? Please leave a comment!