A “pressing” need

I don’t quite remember which year I started reloading, somewhere between 2006-2008 probably. I bought a kit from someone at my club in Glasgow, it was made by Lee, and it was a great way to start what has become a big part of my shooting life. 

Since then I have replaced nearly every part of the original kit, including the powder thrower (I now have one by RCBS), and the balance scale (Redding). And each of these purchases has inspired the same internal conversation: 

Me: I think I need a new *reloading gadget*!

Also me: why? You have one and it’s not broken.

Me: yeah, but it’s kind of frustrating to use, and I think this other *reloading gadget* will work better.

Also me: I think it’s a waste of money.

Me: possibly, but I’m a grown ass adult and I can waste money on my hobbies if I want to.

Also me: fine, but what about your pension…

Me: …sod off.

These conversations are useful for restraining my wilder impulses, and that’s no bad thing, but it also makes me slow to upgrade when I actually need to, as I recently became aware.

I have discovered an issue with my press (at least I believe the problem lies there), which is the one part of my kit I never got round to replacing. It is a Lee challenger press (I think), which is an ‘O’ frame single stage press, but compared to many of that type it is pretty diminutive. And while it has worked very well for me up till now, an issue has started to crop up.

The issue actually first appeared (or I first noticed it) when I was resizing a bunch of .223 rem brass. I had installed the die as the instructions suggest-screw it down till it touches the shell holder, then a quarter turn more-but after I had been working for a while I noticed a gap between the die and the shell holder when the ram was at the top, mid resize. When I tried raising the ram without a case the gap vanished and everything appeared as it was when I started. I checked the die, and it had not loosened. In this instance I resolved the issue by screwing the die down a bit further, but despite the simple fix the issue concerned me.

The problem returned the other day when I was resizing some .30-06 brass into .35 Whelen. I had noticed some protruding primers on some of the first .35 Whelen loads I fired, and after confirming that the rifle’s chamber did not have excessive headspace, determined that the case shoulder was getting pushed too far back by the die. In order to correct this I tried using a feeler gauge to position the die with a specific gap to the shell holder, intending to resize a case, test it in the rifle, and adjust the die again until I was pushing the shoulder back just enough to chamber. This would also leave me with a known gap I could accurately reproduce in future.

Unfortunately, when I raised the ram with a case installed, the gap miraculously expanded…and I was frustrated. After adjusting the die down, and down, and down again-testing the cases in the rifle each time until they fit the chamber just right-there was almost no measurable gap at all, and my hopes of a reproducible set up had faded to almost nothing.

My theory is that something in the press is flexing, or compressing (or something), but only when under the pressure of resizing.

This does not make me happy.

There are enough variables in the process of reloading as it is, I don’t need an extra mystery variable showing up at random, especially one that can’t be accurately measured or predicted.

For a good while now I have been receiving catalogues in the mail that include reloading equipment. Among the goodies on offer are reloading presses, but since I knew I didn’t need anything more than a single stage press, and also since I assumed that one “O” frame press is as good as another, the debate with “also me” always went in favour of my pension. Now that I have decided that my assumption was wrong, the final debate ended very differently.

Which brings us to this:

This is an RCBS Rock Chucker Supreme, which I picked up at cabelas last night. I had originally intended to get it on Sunday, but I was so convinced by my own logic (okay, just excited) that I decided not to wait.

It is in an entirely different class to the Lee it is replacing, it is beefier, smoother, and there is less play in the parts. As well as resolving the afore mentioned issue, I am hoping this will help me achieve a touch more consistency in my reloads.

Having decided to get a new press, I had briefly looked into the possibilities of turret presses, and progressives, but none of them really suit what I’m doing. 

I have been casting curious glances at the Rock Chucker for a while, but since until now I didn’t need a new press, I avoided thinking about it too seriously. However, as soon as I decided to bite the bullet and get a new press, the “Chucker” quickly leaped to the top of my list. 

Various things contributed to my decision: it was already discounted, RCBS are running a rebate scheme that I hope will give me at least $20 back, and for a bonus Cabelas (whose price was the same as on Amazon, impressive!) were offering $25 off my first purchase if I opened an account, so I did (I didn’t know that till I got there, which is why it was a bonus). With all the discounts applied I think the press will have cost me under $100, which makes my elaborate justification even less worthy of close scrutiny.

So all in all I think my conscience is clear, my pension is fine, and my reloading bench looks the business. 

Now if I can just find the time to use it…


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