The Hornady Lock N Load AP Progressive Reloading Press – Part 1, by Wingfootjr

This is a reader’s review of The Hornady Lock N Load AP progressive reloading press.

LEGAL DISCLAMER: I am not employed by, or financially reimbursed by any manufacturer I mention in this article. I am simply stating what I have found works for me. Your mileage may vary.

SAFETY DISCLAIMER: Always follow all handloading safety standard protocols and checks as outlined in a bullet manufacturer’s handloading manual. Know the proper aspects of all functions you are performing and if unsure, consult the manufacturer via email or other means of communication until you clearly understand the correct and proper method of performing that step. Read and ask, safety first always!

From what I recall my state was in the third week of the Covid 19 shutdown in March of 2020 and I was forced to work from home. In the evenings I was reading about past historical events, both worldwide and U.S. History and was concerned for a “storm on the horizon” triggering a series of unfortunate events for our Country. I was also uneasy about the upcoming political election, and well-remembered how the changing political winds affected the shooting sports industry in the aftermath of the 1992 election.

I was already a handloader and had been handloading for 26 years. I had the necessary component supplies to reload (powders, primers, bullets and empty casings) having been purchasing and scavenged in earnest since early November 2008. At the time my main press was a LEE Precision Turret press, which I had loaded several thousand rounds of ammunition with for both handgun and rifle. It is my favorite utility press for ease of operation and user-friendliness. But the Lee Turret requires 4 pulls of the handle to load a casing, and the potential of getting a loaded cartridge with every push/pull of the handle was very appealing. That capability, along with the mindset of having redundant production capabilities (as well as being bombarded with sales emails from various websites) made me make the choice of “pulling the trigger” (pun intended!) on the purchase of a progressive reloading press.

I had been contemplating a progressive reloading press and was considering three choices after viewing numerous videos of the presses in action from the manufacturer’s websites and on Youtube. My choices were:
1) The LEE Loadmaster, cost set up for 1 caliber: $350.00
2) The Hornady Lock N Load AP, Cost $529.00 + minor accessories $24.00
3) The Dillon Precision XL 750, cost $650.00 + accessories $500

I personally knew people who owned and used the Lee Loadmaster and Dillon Progressives. One gentleman I know owns nine Dillons has a reloading business and swears by them with good reason, they are the backbone of his business. The friend who owned the Lee Loadmaster had loaded over 10,000 rounds on it and recommended it. I had done some loading with him on it. It occasionally had some primer feeding quirks and some powder drop issues. But you will with any press now and then, it’s part of the game.

My final decision was to invest in the Hornady Lock N Load AP. At the time of purchase, the deal was sweetened with a 20% off sale price, plus a manufacturer’s coupon from Hornady offering 500 free* bullets with the purchase of the press. Getting 500 free bullets was a significant savings on top of the 20% sale price. Keep in mind, the caliber of bullet was the buyers’ choice, and heavier bullets cost more than lighter ones. To maximize my value of the offer I selected 150 grain, .30 caliber bullets (0.308 dia) which offered the most total weight for the offer of the calibers I load for. I mentioned “free” with an asterisk, since the receiver was required to pay shipping. In my case that was about $16. But the bullets had a retail value at the time of about $120, so with the offer figured with the deduct value of the bullets, included with the sale price purchase put the cost of the press at about $305. It was a good deal at the time, and would be a fantastic deal today, if this offer could be found.

Due to Covid19, the vendor I ordered from was suffering from reduced staff and delayed shipping times, but they managed to get my order out the door in less than 10 days. The package arrived and the first thing I noticed was it was heavy. Upon opening the box, I discovered the press frame is manufactured from solid cast iron, and all critical components and moving parts are higher quality steel. For the quality of the press compared to the price, I believe pieces of the system are manufactured in other countries, and the final fit, finish and assembly is done in the United States. Not a surprise, this is now common practice in many manufacturing processes. But it is something to keep in mind I’ll discuss later about having extra parts.

Upon unpacking, I laid out all the components and checked them against the list in the instructions to determine that all parts were accounted for. All parts were present. The kit includes a powder measure and drop system that is compatible for both rifle and pistol loads, you simply change a removable core in the rotating drum of the powder drop, the larger one being suited for rifle loads. Right away I noticed the precision machining and precise fit of the parts to this press, it was much appreciated by this craftsman. I was pleased to find that Hornady has a unique “push button” removal lock on the powder drum to keep it in place until you want to remove it, a nice touch.

A shell plate (the rotating wheel that holds the cartridge cases by the rims or case heads as they progress through the different stations of the process) is NOT included with the press, because different shell plates are required for different calibers. I purchased 2 shell plates with the press, one for 0.223 Remington/5.56 caliber, and one for .30-06 Springfield. Some shell plates also work for other “common” calibers as the case heads are the same dimensions. For example, the .30-06 Springfield also works for .308 Winchester/ 7.62 NATO, which I load for as well. I also purchased extra case retaining springs, a very fine loop spring that holds the cases in the shell plate as the plate rotates.

Another nice feature of the system is any case in any station can be removed and re-inserted in the shell plate during the process if need be–and you will need this ability once in a while. The springs are sturdy, but can be over stretched if caution isn’t exercised. So I ordered three extra. They are cheap, and fortunately I have not yet had to replace one. Other parts I ordered extras for at a later date from Hornady included the powder measure return spring and the primer plate return springs. If they are damaged or fail you are out of production. Extras are cheap, so have replacements on hand. There is nothing more frustrating than not being able to produce goods due to one small, cheap (BUT CRITICAL) part. This is true of any manufacturing system. And it is critical to have replacements if they become “unobtainium” for a year or so, as happened with many reloading components during Covid. Even if you have a machine shop it could take hours or days to manufacture a replacement that works as well as an original, wasting valuable time. So I stock extras. (This became an even higher priority after the EXTREME shortages of reloading press components after the 2020 election of the past November, as many spare parts became “unobtainium” for at least 4 months).

It’s important here I mention another feature of this press that is a time saver for changing calibers; a bushing system for the loading dies. The press comes with one set (5 each) of threaded bushings for the stations of the press. The bushing is inserted, turned and locked into the press head. The die is threaded into the bushing and adjusted per the die manufacturer’s directions and locked into place in the bushing. Once the die is locked into the bushing, the entire bushing can be removed – with the die in it- and set aside for storage. Other bushings and dies can be set accordingly. When a caliber change is performed, the dies and bushings can be re-inserted into the press head by just locking the bushings into place. Since the die wasn’t moved in the bushing, it is already set to tolerance, with no further adjustment necessary (theoretically — but I would ALWAYS double and triple check settings and tolerances).

I chose at the time of purchase to not purchase extra die bushings, as my intent was to use this press as a dedicated press for one caliber. But it is a nice feature that can save time during caliber changes. It’s nice to have options.

(To be concluded tomorrow, in Part 2.)