Best Single-Stage Rifle Reloading Kit for 2023

I’ve looked at so many reloading kits. They all promise to be a complete solution for under $500, but I don’t know a single reloader who is still using the kit they bought when they started. The box reloading kits come with mostly cheap parts that require so much work to be done by hand that you won’t want to reload ever again.

Mark my words: Buy the kit in the store, and you’ll end up paying much more when you end up replacing everything in it over time. Reloading can be cheaper than buying factory ammo, but it won’t be if you buy all your reloading gear twice.

I know you’re tempted to skip that last bolded paragraph and just pick up a reloading kit from Hornady, RCBS, etc. Just remember, I warned you.

The following chart is my breakdown of recommended kits depending on your budget. These are quality kits that will be WAY better than the “complete” kit for $400 you see at the sporting goods store. All of these kits can produce more accuracy than factory ammo, but the more you spend, the more convenient it will be to reload.

Reliable Starter KitIntermediate Kit Pro Kit
Approximate Total Cost$615$1,100$2,375 – $3,500
PressRCBS Rock ChuckerFrankford Arsenal M-PressForster Coax or Area 419 Zero Press
Powder MeasureScale and a TricklerHornady AutoCharge ProSuper Trickler
DiesRCBS Two-Die SetRedding Micrometer DiesWhidden Dies
TumblerRotary Tumbler and a two-pound bag of steel mediaRotary Tumbler and a two-pound bag of steel mediaRotary Tumbler and a two-pound bag of steel media
Priming ToolF.A. Platinum Priming ToolF.A. Platinum Priming ToolF.A. Platinum Priming Tool
Case Trim & PrepRCBS Trim MateF.A. Case Trim and Prep CenterF.A. Case Trim and Prep Center
LubricantImperial Sizing WaxImperial Sizing WaxImperial Sizing Wax
FunnelLyman UniversalLyman UniversalLyman Universal
CalipersF.A. CalipersF.A. CalipersMitituyo Calipers
Reloading can seem so complicated when you’re first starting out. Remember, it’s as simple as taking these 4 components and squishing them together. That’s it.

If You Pick the “Reliable Starter Kit”

You can buy a “complete” box of reloading gear from any outdoors store for around $400, but if you spend just a little more (around $615) on this recommended starter kit, you’ll have a MUCH better experience in getting started reloading.

Let’s start with the press. Most new reloaders put WAY too much emphasis on what press they choose, and not nearly enough emphasis on powder measures and case trim & prep, which are much more time-consuming steps, and will impact your accuracy far more than your choice in a press.

I picked the Rock Chucker because it’s inexpensive and reliable. It’s possible, however, that you may want to jump up to the Frankford Arsenal M-Press from the intermediate kit if you have a little extra budget. The advantage of the Frankford Arsenal is you don’t have to mess around with shell holders, which is the little metal piece that connects the brass to the press. The Frankford Arsenal doesn’t require shell holders, which is nice if you have rifles of many different chamberings.

For a powder measure, you’ll have a simple scale and hand trickler. With a setup like this, you can actually get very accurate measurements. The issue is that it’s just very slow to work this way. However, it’s a small cost that will get you started, and you won’t be out much if you later decide to get an electronic powder dispenser. Just start simple.

For your dies, I highly recommend choosing the RCBS dies. They are, by far, my favorite of the inexpensive dies. The Hornady and Lee offerings make me crazy.

If the reliable starter kit is in your budget, pull the trigger. Seriously, you won’t regret it. An inexpensive kit like this can pay for itself after making just 10 batches of ammo.

If You Pick the “Intermediate Kit”

Most reloaders will eventually have some version of a kit that looks a lot like this. They may start with a “starter” kit, but over time they’ll find they want to save time on certain steps and will move up to something like this.

The “intermediate” kit is probably the kit that will be the cheapest in the long-run because it’ll be easy to make ammo quickly, and you won’t feel the need to replace many of these items–ever.

Also, I honestly apologize for having so much Frankford Arsenal gear recommended here. I am not sponsored by them at all. I truly just went through all my reloading gear and realized that over time, I’ve replaced a ton of gear from the other brands that broke or didn’t do what I want, and I seemed to have ended up with a lot of Frankford Arsenal.

The biggest cost in this kit compared to the starter kit is the addition of the Hornady Autocharge for automatically dispensing and weighing your powder. I did a huge review of electronic powder measures under $500 and that one came out on top. Powder dispensing is the #1 most time-intensive part of reloading for me, so I think an electronic version is a no-brainer. In fact, a lot of reloaders end up getting two of them to move more quickly.

For your press, the Frankford Arsenal M-Press is fantastic. It’s incredibly convenient to use since it requires no shell holders, and has been ultra-reliable for me. I own two of them.

For your dies, I picked Redding micrometer dies. You’ll only need the full-length bushing sizing die and the seater die (I generally don’t recommend shoulder bump dies). Having a micrometer on the seating die makes things easier to replicate and faster to get set properly.

A Few Things to Add to your Kit Over Time

If you buy what’s on the list above, you’ll be totally set to start reloading. If you have a little extra budget, the following items will be very nice to have, but not completely necessary. You could buy these over the next few months as you seek to improve your process.

  • Chronograph (You don’t need a chronograph in order to make ammo just as good as factory ammo, but as soon as you want to make something BETTER than factory, it’ll be nearly impossible without a reliable chronograph. The Labradar is super expensive but awesome.
  • These Calipers on Amazon (I know, a second set of calipers. It’s a luxury so you don’t have to keep switching out comparators)
  • Media Separator (Saves you time of separating the pins from the brass by hand)
  • Scott Shop Towels (Everything is nasty when reloading. You’ll want to have these handy)
  • MTM Reloading Tray (Holds your cases as you work on them. Pretty much a necessity.
  • Hornady OAL Gauge (Will help measure your chamber to make more accurate ammo)
  • Hornady Modified Case (Has to be for the specific cartridge you’ll reload. To be used in conjunction with the OAL Gauge)
  • Hornady Headspace Gauge kit (Again, more measuring. This will help you measure shoulder bump.)
  • Ammo box (for taking the finished ammo to the range)

The M-Press

There are a lot of great presses on the market right now, and this is usually the piece that new reloaders obsess over. Then, you start reloading and realize that you SHOULD have obsessed over that chronometer purchase or which set of calipers was best.

In this post, I recommended the Frankford Arsenal M-Press. It’s a cost-effective press with the features of some presses that cost far more. It was released in 2019 with cast-iron construction and a co-axial design which means it has two rods for improved strength and concentricity.

But, to me, the killer feature of the Frankford Arsenal is that you never need to buy another shell holder. Angels sing and liberals come to their senses every time you buy a press that doesn’t require a shell holder. It makes it so you don’t have to search around for that tiny little piece every time you want to switch between calibers that you’re reloading for.

If you want to go big, the coolest press right now is probably the Zero Press from Area 419, which costs just about 6x more than the Frankford Arsenal. Another very popular press is the Forster Coax, which is 3x the price. Both of those are awesome presses, but you’ll have no problem making ammo much more accurate than factory, and save a ton of money by using the Frankford Arsenal M-Press that I recommend here.

Powder Measures/Droppers/Tricklers

You can save a lot of money if you buy a scale and a simple hand trickler in order to measure your powder. It’ll work for making very small batches of ammo, but eventually, I know you’re going to buy one of these automated tricklers.

Priming Tool

There are a lot of options out there for a hand priming tool. In the end, I really like the Frankford Arsenal. I know, it’s disgusting how much Frankford Arsenal gear I’ve recommended in this post, but it’s because they tend to cater to the not-gucci-but-not-crappy reloading crowd, and that’s exactly where I consider myself. To balance things out, I put a Lyman shell holder underneath it in the picture 🙂

This thing works perfectly. I just don’t have anything to complain about. It’s very solid metal, it’s easy to use, and I’ve had no issues.

Basically, you dump your primers in the top plastic tray. You take the clear lid off and you lightly shake it back and forth until all the primers flip to the right side. It has a genius little pattern of bumps on it that make the primers magically all face the same way.

Then, you put your brass in there, squeeze all the way tight, and boom! You have a primed piece of brass.

Case Trim and Prep Center

After you fire your cartridge, the brass has to be trimmed, chamfered, and deburred before it can be loaded again.

I’m using the case trim and prep center mentioned in the list at the start of this post, but there are many good options out there. I frankly don’t think anyone has totally solved this problem. Most reloaders hate trimming and prepping brass more than any other part of the process, and I agree.

Basically, what this does is you take your cleaned brass and measure it. If it’s too long, you stick the neck of the case into this machine to trim it slightly. If brass is left too long, it can create a dangerous condition by crimping the neck of the case onto the bullet and increase the pressure in the chamber.

Your reloading manual will say how long you should trim the brass to, and what the max trim length is. Stick to those numbers every time. You won’t always need to trim the brass. Often you’ll measure it and still be within spec, but every 2-3 firings, you’ll need to trim.

Although you don’t need to trim every time, you will need to chamfer and debur. Basically that just means slightly cutting the edges of the neck so it doesn’t have any burs or edges that could alter the neck tension. You just hold the neck of the brass against the spinning bits and it’ll cut it slightly. Takes about 6 seconds total per piece of brass to chamfer and debur. I usually hold each piece of brass on each tool for about 2 seconds.

From left to right: RCBS full-length sizing die, Redding full-length sizing die, and Redding micrometer seating die.

Let’s Talk About Dies

I think it’s probably best in this case that you buy an inexpensive set of RCBS dies first. You’ll scratch them when you haven’t properly cleaned the case. You’ll gum them up when you use too much imperial sizing wax. You’ll drop them. You’ll get a case stuck when you don’t believe me that you need to lube them and go to try it without any lube (I may have learned this the hard way, LOL). You’ll figure out what cartridges you really want to get serious about reloading.

I can assure you that the cheap RCBS dies will be perfectly capable of producing ammo better and more accurate than factory ammo if you learn to use them right. Then, once you have your system in place and you’ve figured out your kit, stepping up to some Redding micrometer dies will be a nice luxury, and they’ll last you for a long, long time.

You just need two dies. First, a full-length resizing die with decapping pin. That will resize the case after being shot, and punch the old primer out for you. The second die you’ll need is a bullet seating die. It just smashes the new bullet into the case as the last step of reloading. You may also hear about neck sizing dies. They leave most of the cartridge dimensions alone, and only resize the neck.

Reloaders will debate for eternity whether you should full-length resize or just neck size. For me, I look to benchrest and f-class world champions who full-length size every time. Plus, it’s easier and will produce more reliable reloads. There are loads of people who also have extremely good success neck sizing. That’s great too. To each, his own. But for a new reloader, I’d just full-length resize. So you really only need a two-die set. If you get a three die set, cool. That works too and you can try neck sizing if you prefer it.

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49 Comments

  1. This is awesome content. Saw your post on YouTube and immediately jumped over here. Really wish I would have found this one month ago when I started buying brand new reload equipment. Would be very excited to see you expand this into shotshell and shot slug reloading.

    One question, I’m having a hard time confirming recipes and quantities as YouTube does not allow those to be published or announced. I’m also having a hard time finding websites that will share their knowledge. Would you be able to include a 1.5 post to explain how do you calculate powder volume verse bullet weight verse desired feet per second. And while I’m asking for the Moon, maybe include the best reloading books that you use.

    Please keep up the great content. God bless.

    1. Matthew, Hodgdon gives free load data for their powders. The Hornady app costs $0.99 for each cartridge and gives updates as they add more information. Nosler also has free load data.

  2. James Willmus says:

    This is just the kind of article I was hoping to read before starting to reloading, Jim! Large and uncommon calibers are best served by reloading, plus any hot and heavy loads for hunting such as a 223 Rem for coyotes.

    I’d definitely suggest getting the load manual before buying any materials. Even better is to get multiple books which helps for cross referencing different powders, primers, and bullets. Lyman puts out an easy to read one that will pair well with the Hornady. Sierra and Nosler are other options.

  3. I was shopping at Cabela’s and didn’t plan on buying a reloading press, but then I saw the M-Press.
    I thought I always wanted one and loaded it into my cart and walked toward the cashier.
    While walking all proud that I got the last one off the shelve, I discovered “Made in China” on the Box.
    Still standing there in disbelieve, I took my phone out and started researching Frankford Arsenal stuff.
    Sadly I found that almost everything from them is “Made in China”.
    Not sure why I did not know this before, but there is no way that I will buy anything “Made in China”, especially because of what happened in the last 18 month to us and the rest of the world.
    I put it back on the shelve and left Cabela’s without the unplanned purchase of a press.
    Buy American, or at least avoid “Made in China” like the plague.

    1. bob dobbs says:

      I’m curious why anti China people can’t spell?

      1. Says the guy too lazy to capitalize his name properly. Grammar Nazis are the worst.

      2. Really? That’s your take-away from this? Whatever dude….

  4. I have just recently moved to Utah from Los Angeles county California, coming up on two years actually but I would love to get into reloading but supplies seem to be absolutely unobtainable. I need everything from the ground up I do have brass if you consider my factory ammo but other than that I need everything, how should I proceed being that I do have a budget being a blue-collar worker ?

  5. Rodney Nulph says:

    Amazing article. Best overall kit I have seen. I used to reload and would like to start back up but need new gear. Your article is awesome!

  6. Wes Stewart says:

    Speaking of no shell holder. The RCBS Universal priming tool does not use them. It uses basically the same type of system for holding the case as theM-press. Both use a spring and jaw setup

  7. I love this segment. However, I want to reload 5.56 in two batches, plinking and hunting/accurate shooting. Therefore, I’d love some recommendations on what press/ turret setup to use for larger batches that can also accommodate small batch reloads. Do you only reload for accuracy or do you have cheaper loads for pure plinking fun?

  8. I love this as I’ve been researching reloading for years now, but always gotten overwhelmed after weeks of research and gave up due to cost benefit vs factory.

    My only request now is to know why a single press over progressive and if we wanted to go straight to progressive, what would you recommend?

    1. JW Sherrill says:

      Dillon. They have the best warranty and overall quality of the products.

  9. John Caulkett says:

    Hi Jim, just found your channel and it’s very informative. I have been reloading for about ten years, mainly 223 Remington and 308 Winchester both with good success. I am now wanting better results as I have moved on from ‘plinking’ ammo up to medium range target shooting. I have started reloading 17 Hornet tiny little round but very doable. All these years I have used the Lee single stage press it works fine but is basic. I am looking to up grade to the Frankford Arsenal M press, it looks a great press very well made, I have watched every YouTube video on the M press !! I like the concentricity aspect of using this press. Regarding the universal shell holder do you think it will take the tiny 17 Hornet case ? It’s not a deal breaker if not. Looking forward to your reply. John 🇬🇧

    1. Jim Harmer says:

      Oooh. Good question. I kind of doubt it, but I’m not sure if it would fit or not. I haven’t reloaded 17 Hornet.

    2. Allensoutdoors93 says:

      Check out Johnnys reloading bench. In his M-Press video he shows that you can still use shellholders for oddball stuff. You can actually pop the shellholders down into the universal jaws.

  10. David Barnett says:

    Thank you for publishing this insightful information on reloading. Great job.
    Both of my shooting buddies reload.
    Since I now live in an apartment I can’t do this, so I have been buying factory Ammunition. I can mail order it, but two boxes are over $100. for 6.5 Creedmoor. Trying to find primers and H4350 seams close to impossible right now.

  11. What is the maximum length cartridge the M-Press will handle?

  12. Tim Hinsche says:

    Great read, thank you. I have wanted to start reloading for several years, your article helps make sense of the starting process.

  13. Thank you so much! I’ve slowly been adding each of your recommendations to my collection (since I don’t know any better).

    That said, I just realized that Frankford Arsenal is made in China. (I’m in favor of free trade but recently I realized that China doesn’t play fair: steals our intellectual property, slave labor, etc.)

    Could you put together a list only with items NOT made in China? Would really appreciate it.

    1. Mark Schmidt says:

      Jim, I know you started reloading and wanted to let you know about case annealing. I have been reloading for over 40 years and just within the last few discovered the AMP (Annealing Made Perfect) machine. It is made in New Zealand and I can tell you it works so good. I have 6.5 PRC Hornady brass that has over ten reloads on them and their still going strong. It really makes a difference with consistent neck tension and case life. Check them out if you haven’t already.

  14. Tom Rowley says:

    I am really enjoying your videos and content. Then I took your advice and came here and great full I did. I will be buying these mentioned products and will be considering the double trickle feeder system. Thanks for all your great work and information.

  15. Dave Battistoni says:

    Great info thanks so it is appreciated
    Just getting started

  16. Errol Schultz says:

    Enjoyed your video and I would appreciate if you can send me the excel file you used for your reloading cost to factory ammo. I have been reloading for years and a police officer for 42 years.

  17. I really appreciate all your content!
    I am about to invest in the equipment to begin reloading for the first time. What is your opinion on progressive machines like a Dillon XL750? I’m not asking about a particular brand. Just your thoughts on a progressive press vs a single round press like the Frankford Arsenal.

    1. Jim Harmer says:

      If you’re reloading high volume .223 or pistol stuff, a progressive press may be a good option. I honestly have very little experience with them. I do precision centerfire rifle stuff and for that, a single stage is my preference (and most people who shoot similar to me).

  18. All the products mentioned are great products, but don’t overlook Lee. A lot of people poo-poo Lee products. I have been reloading handgun, rifle and shotgun rounds since the mid 80’s and I have settled on the Lee 4-hole turret press after trying many others. You can set your dies once and forget it (leave a tag with your settings with each turret). Most of my rifle loads are around 1/2 MOA with the exception of varmint loads which are better than that, or the big stuff (45-70, 338 Win mag, 300 weatherby…) that go 1 to 1.5-ish MOA. Heck, even my 35 Rem is just under 1 MOA with Lee dies and Varget.

    I don’t shoot competitively, but i’ll shoot 1500 to 2000 round a year. Just enough to keep in practice and let the neighbors know I’m still here. That being the case the dies I use are Redding, Hornady, RCBS, Forster, Pacific and of course Lee. Mostly Lee. You can’t beat a Lee collect die for ease of use and accuracy. No lube needed so no clean up either.

    As for the turret press, leave the drive shaft out and you have a single stage press with all your dies set to go. Put a turret mounted powder measure on it and its even better. 338 Win mag and 7mm RM length cartridges are not a problem. Put the drive shaft in for short action rifle or handgun rounds and you have a close facsimile of a progressive press. It is no dillon, but just right for an avid shooter that doesn’t go though competition level volumes. Turrets are 12 bucks so get one for each caliber you load.

    As others have said, great content! Pick up a 4-hole turret press and a good press mounted powder measure and try it. That would be a great video too. Maybe you’ll prove me wrong. Maybe not, and it won’t break the bank. Happy shooting!

  19. william Sotelo says:

    On your YouTube channel you mention using a auction site for buying gun powders. Can you let me know what website that is?

  20. Kent Rotchy says:

    Hi Jim,
    I have watched a lot of your YouTube content and leaned and enjoyed. I look forward to seeing more on this sight. I am a gun enthusiast and love the reloading and accuracy game. If our paths ever cross I hope we have time for a beer or lunch. I presently live south of Sheridan Wyoming. I loving it here though it is a bit dryer then where I last live, Bonners Ferry, Idaho. enough of me.
    Thank you for all your efforts and content.
    Kent

  21. Charles Giles says:

    Great article.
    One additional thing to consider is case annealing.
    I’ve been loading for a very long time and I’ve trashed my fare share of cases. Started to case anneal and I’ve found my groups have tighten up and seating pressure is more uniformed.

  22. Eric Ford says:

    About 12 years ago I broke into reloading. My dad did it for decades and shared all his tricks, tips and techniques with me. In 2009 I crunched the numbers on all aspects of reloading vs buying factory ammo. After 90 handloads of 270 Winchester the press and all other components were paid for in savings vs factory ammo. Every rifle I shoot I also reload for and the accuracy tells the tale of how good handloads can be. Nowadays the cost of all components (minus dies) are two to five times higher. Some die sets some were barely used / like new when I bought them so that saved a lot. Eventually, I upgraded the powder dispenser and scales but I still use the original single stage press, which is also used to prime the cases.

  23. To create 7mm-08 brass when it is not available, but .308 is, and since 7mm-08 is .308 necked down, would using a .308 full sizing die, then a 7mm-08 neck sizing die produce good, safe, usable 7mm-08 brass?

  24. Gary Cozart says:

    I recently bought a sig cross first lite cipher in 6.5 creedmoor. I was curious about the load data for your best groups. Any info you can provide would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

  25. Gregg Mettler says:

    Jim,

    Thanks for being there! We need to exercise our freedoms. The fear of those ignorant of human history makes their subjugation a foregone conclusion.
    Rising above the selfish tendency can be difficult, but it is a requirement of free men and women.

    I strongly recommend a quick read, “The 5000 Year Leap,” by Skousen. Best read on the formation of the country. You’ll finish it in three days, it’s that simplified and well written.

    Blessings,
    Captain Gregg Mettler
    Delta Air Lines (Ret.)

  26. I’m surprised you’re not recommending a high end scale in your “improvement over time” list. Getting the charge as accurate as possible can lead to huge consistency wins.

  27. Reloading is as much of a hobby as shooting, thanks for the info

  28. Anthony Richardson says:

    Great info Jim! Really appreciate the practical content you share on all aspects of shooting. I started reloading pistol rounds and purchased a Lee Classic Turret Press and Lee Carbide dies. Priming is the worst so on rifle rounds, I treat it as a single stage press and don’t attach the primer loader. Breaking a primer remover on 300 WM got me to buy a Hornady universal primer remover. I agree that every rifle reloader should have one of these. I can still use the 300 WM full length sizing die as a second step in the process so I didn’t have to sacrifice an expensive sizer die. I’m mainly shooting targets within 100 yards so the need for extra precision isn’t there like your hunting and long range shooting applications. (I live in GA and there aren’t many places to shoot over 100 yards unless you own property).

  29. Terry Hemmes says:

    Excellent article. Just looking to get started in reloading. Have 7 kids and my wife loves shooting paper. Of these calibers 7 mag , 6.5 Creedmor,308,44mag, and 9mm. I was thinking of just buying 9 mm since I can buy in bulk cheaply. What are your thoughts? You Recommended the Hornady reloading book. Do you recommend anything else for a complete novice?

    1. Jim Harmer says:

      I’d reload 6.5 Creedmoor. You are going to save a lot on the price of factory ammo. 9mm is pretty cheap from the factory, so I don’t load it. Just my opinion.

  30. Thanks for this Jim…I was able to just pick up the press from Bass Pro for $81!!! (used points)

  31. Randy Greene says:

    I am glad to see you put together a good starter set.
    I would add a power measure such as RCBS Uniflow Powder Measure III and loading trays as an add on.
    If you are doing more than a few rounds these will make things go much quicker.

  32. DJ Kowalski says:

    Any chance you will review progressive presses? The have a single stage and am looking to upgrade to a progressive.

  33. I’m very upset about what this country is doing to the gun laws and restrictions.luckily I live in wv and our restrictions are not that harsh.

  34. I know the post says “rifle” reloader, but would it work for shotgun and/or pistol?
    *brand new to this so I apologize if the answer is blatantly obvious and I missed it

  35. I been reloading shot gun ammunition for years but know with the cost and rules I am looking to start doing my rifle and handgun ammunition as well. Your point about getting into reloading make perfect sense. When all the taxes where added to tobacco that’s what people started doing. I hear it saves them a lot on money. Thanks

  36. Casey Cayson says:

    Hi my name is Casey, I’m wanting to learn how to reload my own shells for hunting what reloading kit do you recommend