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Thread: Head-to-head single stage press comparison, or "shootout"?

  1. #1
    Boolit Buddy John Ross's Avatar
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    Head-to-head single stage press comparison, or "shootout"?

    We all have our favorite single stage presses, and there are those that scour the Ebay listings for that coveted A2 or whatever, but has anyone ever done a head-to-head comparison of how the various presses compare using some kind of measurable numbers?

    I have no training in mechanical engineering, so I'm throwing this idea out there in the hope that someone might come up with a testing protocol that would give us some useful data. Here are my thoughts so far:

    Folks who make homemade rockets with hydraulic presses use Pressure-to-Force (PtoF) gauges to determine the loading pressure they are putting on their rocket comps in various size rockets. Purpose-built gauges made for rocket hobbyists cost around $125. Here is one example: https://www.woodysrocks.com/store/p8...ce_Gauges.html

    Alternatively, you can make your own for about $45 from this, by adding a dial indicator gauge: https://www.harborfreight.com/10-ton...ram-95979.html

    Here is my (initial) idea:

    1. Line up all the presses on a bench.

    2. Fit them all with the same length handles, that have a way to hang a weight on the end.

    3. Put the PtoF gauge in between the ram and the die, and have a bunch of solid metal spacers so that the ram can be made to hit the PtoF gauge at a number of specific handle angles throughout the length of its travel. Measure the angles with a Sears inclinometer: http://www.sears.com/craftsman-magne...1&blockType=G1

    4. Hang a weight on the end of the handle, and take readings on the gauge at various specific handle angles for each press.

    5. Measure ram stroke in inches and give % of total travel at each handle angle, because short-stroke presses have an inherent advantage.

    At first blush it appears to me that this information would be useful to have. Does anyone have a better idea for a testing protocol?

    "Heavy Hitter" presses to compare, including some high-end stuff (will edit to add suggestions):

    RCBS A series, Rock Chucker, Big Max, .50 cal. (Ammomaster), Summit
    Hollywood Senior
    CH/4D Champion
    Lee Classic Cast
    Redding Ultramag
    Hornady .50 cal
    OWS Rock Crusher
    Corbin S-Press
    Corbin Mega-Mite
    Walnut Hill
    Last edited by John Ross; 02-21-2018 at 06:14 AM.
    JR--the .500 specialist

  2. #2
    Boolit Grand Master
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    Maybe we should test them all 100 times a day for, say 40 years to find out which ones wears out first too. lol

  3. #3
    Boolit Buddy John Ross's Avatar
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    I have yet to encounter a loading press that was "worn out." Broken, yes, or rusted to the point of uselessness or with parts missing, but not "worn out."

    Is your point that you think my idea of such a comparison test is meritless? If so, just say it.
    JR--the .500 specialist

  4. #4
    Boolit Master

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    There was a recent thread similar to what you are talking about but I don'r remember the title. I think member jmorris devised a method to to some measuring. A search might turn up something.

    I miss the old time stores that actually stocked reloading tools. I remember being able to look at different presses mounted on shelves.

  5. #5
    Boolit Master Shawlerbrook's Avatar
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    I hope I live long enough to wear out a Rockchucker.

  6. #6
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    Interesting.

    Some folks might remember that "Consumer Reports used to be a magazine that reviewed different makes & models of all sorts of gadgets & mechanical stuff.


    I thought about the OP & went and typed in the keywords "consumer reports reloading presses" in google & got 501,000 hits.

    I did not limit this to "single stage" though. I will leave that to someone else if they wish to go look.
    Like I said though, "Interesting".
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    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shawlerbrook View Post
    I hope I live long enough to wear out a Rockchucker.
    Me too, I am wearing out faster than my Rockchucker.

  8. #8
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    Seems all of them work OK. It boils down to personal preference. My main press is a Rockchucker, but I've used others and all it took was just getting used to them.

  9. #9
    Boolit Master
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    Based on my 45 years using a Rockchucker none of us will reach that milestone.

    Quote Originally Posted by Shawlerbrook View Post
    I hope I live long enough to wear out a Rockchucker.
    EDG

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by richhodg66 View Post
    Seems all of them work OK. It boils down to personal preference. My main press is a Rockchucker, but I've used others and all it took was just getting used to them.
    same here
    example: when I inverted my press to size bullets the throw of the press reversed of course (actually it was still the same but now moving the handle up raised the ram) Only took a couple of sessions and it was ingrained in muscle memory
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  11. #11
    Boolit Master
    Plate plinker's Avatar
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    It’s seems that the results would be most useful for the swaging guys. Naturally the winning brand could use this type of info for marketing purposes.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by lightman View Post
    There was a recent thread similar to what you are talking about but I don'r remember the title. I think member jmorris devised a method to to some measuring. A search might turn up something.
    ..........................
    Yes, I remember Morris came up something, maybe a dial indicator?
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  13. #13
    Boolit Grand Master

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    After roughly 15 years of high power rifle loading varmint loading and some handgun I needed to rebuild my coax. It was one with out the hardened shim under the shell holder and the block had bellied out. I set it up milled .060 off and put the hardened shim in. While I was at it I made new links and pins as they showed some wear also. I hardened the links and pins and since its easier when set up I made a spare set for it. This press loaded 5-8000 rds a year for those years.

    It would be nice to come up with a way to measure force in to force out on various presses as a comparison, even better would be where in the stroke the top pressure is produced. At the bottom of the stroke little force is needed but at the force at the top of the stroke may make a difference depending on length of the cartridges being loaded and where it is highest. "IE" a hort pistol cartridge may onl need full force in the last 1" of the stroke, where a 300 win mag or 375H&H may need full force 2-3" down in the stroke. Heavy case forming may be even more important to this.

  14. #14
    Boolit Grand Master Char-Gar's Avatar
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    I have no idea why that test would provide useful information or why anybody would need it. There are many presses, new and used on the market with will take anything a reloader can throw at it and do for longer that the life of the reloader.

    There are two kinds of presses, 1) good ones and 2) junk and most of us know which is which.
    Disclaimer: The above is not holy writ. It is just my opinion based on my experience and knowledge. Your mileage may vary.

  15. #15
    Boolit Master

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    Quote Originally Posted by Plate plinker View Post
    It’s seems that the results would be most useful for the swaging guys. Naturally the winning brand could use this type of info for marketing purposes.
    CH4d already claims it for their Champion press:

    The Champion press body is a heavy duty 'O' type that cannot be sprung like other reloading tools. Our gigantic ram (largest in the industry) is 1.185" in diameter and has almost 16 square inches of bearing surface continually supporting alignment during the operational cycle. We worked over 2 years with several leading engineers from a major university to develop the new toggle system. Our computer designed toggle system is based on a proven compound leverage system and develops more force than any other hand operated reloading press - making the Heavyweight Champion the most mechanically efficient press in the world. This new toggle system allows you to swage the very heaviest bullets with ease !

    http://www.ch4d.com/products/equipment/presses/033000

  16. #16
    Boolit Master OS OK's Avatar
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    At the end of the day all you will determine is which one has the shortest cam and gives the most leverage with the least handle operating force.
    In the end and outside of swaging that matters not...outside of it being the strongest leverage, it will prolly handle the shortest rifle round when seating without interference from the bottom side of the die itself.
    Then there's the press frame strength without flexing, comparing a 'C' frame to an 'O' frame...
    What does matter is whether or not it is easy to place a case in the shell holder without interference from some part of the press frame itself and how does this press handle spent primer debris...where does that go?
    Another aspect I'd be concerned with is if I can see into the case without having to contort myself from the stool I operate it from.
    Which press will accommodate a compact & efficient press light that wouldn't be just another appurtenance you have to work around?

    Those are some of the differences I can think of that would matter most to me.
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  17. #17
    Boolit Master jmorris's Avatar
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    I made a little hydraulic load cell. To really tell you anything you need to be at the end of the stroke where all the work is done and leverage is highest.

    This is what I rigged up first.
    https://www.thehighroad.org/index.ph...-exert.826834/

    I used another force gauge to pull on the handle and found out I needed to change to a much higher gauge on my load cell. Then my o-rings leaked and I ordered quad seals. They came in right before I got real busy, need to get back to that project, can’t believe that was almost a year and a half ago.

    Looking at my notes at .100” off TDC, 13.125 lb applied to the handle of the co-ax was 500 psi to the die. 16.75 lb in on a Lee Breech lock gave the same 500 psi at the same height from TDC.

  18. #18
    Boolit Master Drew P's Avatar
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    One factor that’s important to felt exertion is ergonomics. The lee classic cast wins this with its adjustable position handle. This means you can put the hard part of the process in the strongest part of your particular arm. To me this is even more important than actual leverage. But I suspect you’ll find that the actual effort of the presses relates directly to the stroke length of the ram.

  19. #19
    Boolit Master
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    There are several parts of reloading press design characteristics that can be analyzed with little actual testing.

    1. Material properties

    2. Force to stretch, deform or break the frame.

    3. Ram force generated by a standard strength operator.

    Materials:
    This is the standard properties of the material from handbooks and suppliers literature.
    Keep in mind that there is a property called fatigue limit or endurance limit. Significant cycles above this limit with eventually break the material. Below the limit there appears to be no limit to the number of cycles. That is the case with steel.
    Cast iron has a lower fatigue limit so it will take lighter loads for large numbers of cycles.
    Aluminum has no fatigue limit. No matter how light the stresses are, with enough cycles it is going to break. This is why aluminum is a poor choice for a press that will see long and high volume use.

    Force to stretch the frame can easily be determined by modeling the frame with Finite Element Analysis. This is engineering software used to determine mechanical loads without a full scale test. This is how bridges, airplanes and buildings are designed.
    Engineers used to do this with a slide rule and a pencil. You can still do this if you have the time to measure and sketch the press to be analyzed.

    Force developed by a standard operator is just a standard input multiplied by the mechanical advantage of the press. This is the force developed in the last quarter inch or so of ram travel. Any engineer can do this with a pencil and a calculator.

    If this number exceeds the strength of the frame the frame can be damaged.
    If this does not exceed the frame strength the frame will be ok but the strength of the linkage may be the limiting factor.

    I have a large number of SL54 US military 30-06 cases that were fired in a machine gun.
    They caused the frame of my old Bair C press to temporarily spring open .007".
    My 1971 RCBS Rockchucker sprung .002" using the same cases, the same die and the same lube.

    I retracted the RCBS ram about 1/2" and sized the case a second time and the spring open disappeared giving more uniform sizing.
    Last edited by EDG; 02-23-2018 at 06:35 AM.
    EDG

  20. #20
    Boolit Master
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    While a measurement of force the press can exert is good, it would also be good to know how much force the press can withstand... a machinist friend of nine, now deceased, had me track down a Herter’s Super U for him after he broke a Rock Chucker doing some enthusiastic swaging. He was highly experienced if somewhat opinionated, but his opinions came from extensive experience. It finally dawned on me recently that if I want to settle on one single stage press, this should be the one. JMHO, YMMV, of course!

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Abbreviations used in Reloading

BP Bronze Point IMR Improved Military Rifle PTD Pointed
BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
C Compressed Charge PR Primer SPCL Soft Point "Core-Lokt"
HP Hollow Point PSPCL Pointed Soft Point "Core Lokt" C.O.L. Cartridge Overall Length
PSP Pointed Soft Point Spz Spitzer Point SBT Spitzer Boat Tail
LRN Lead Round Nose LWC Lead Wad Cutter LSWC Lead Semi Wad Cutter
GC Gas Check