I currently have three reloaders for shotshells. Two MEC 600 Jr single-stage presses for 28 and .410 and an MEC grabber progressive reloader for 12 gauge.
I am practicing 12 gauge for skeet at the moment and that progressive really turns out shells. Each pull of the handle yields a shell, where the single-stage presses take six handle pulls, moving the shell manually through 5 stations, and picking up primers and putting them in the station by hand. I can manage about 150-200 shells an hour in the single stage presses and a little more than 500 an hour in the progressive – unless the clutz in me comes out and I have to take time to correct a mistake and clean up the mess.
I created a simple table out of a 4×8 sheet of MDF and two wood-top saw horses. I bolted the MDF down to the saw horses for stability and then bolted the reloaders directly to the MDF. This gives me a very stable platform which helps get consistent powder drops. I have considered making a permanent bolt setup at one spot and then creating template boards under each reloader, but, for now, I’ll give them each their own space.
All of my presses have universal charge bars in them. This stopped the seemingly never ending chore of buying different bushings, then having to grind them out because they didn’t drop exactly what the recipe called for. These universal charge bars are incredibly consistent and allow me to use any combination of powder and shot.
I reload about 1,000 shells a week, to supply I shoot in practice. The cardboard “hoppers” you see in the picture speed up the process by keeping wads and hulls at easy reach. The hoppers will hold a bag of wads in one and about 250 or so hulls in the other so I’m not constantly refilling small boxes or bins (which is what I used to do).
A real necessity for anyone that reloads is a good scale. Some will tell you that the electronic scales are the way to go because they give you quick readouts and are fast to zero. I prefer balance scales like the RCBS 5-0-5 pictured just below the powder jug. I check it for zero at the beginning of every session, and honestly, it’s pretty darned rare that it’s off unless I move it to another part of the table for the other loaders. It never loses zero during a reloading session. After than, I simply set it to the powder charge weight I’m dropping and don’t have to mess with it again. Every 20-30 shells, I’ll yank one out of the press and weigh it. Even though they are always dead on, I still do this. I want to know if something has gone wrong with the press during the run before I push out 500 or more shells with an incorrect powder drop.
I only have the 12 and .410 setup on this table at the moment (.410 is to the right of the primers, out of the picture), but the 28 gauge will be getting bolted on soon.
I am considering putting inexpensive cookie sheets between the MDF and the loader (with the bolts going through the cookie sheet with rubber grommets just on top of the cookie sheet). This would allow me to reclaim some of the lead from mistakes much more easily. Just brush it all into a coffee can or pie tin and burn off the powder to reclaim the shot. Lead is, by far, the most expensive component right now.