Mounting Your Presses
Now that we have defined a logical zone layout that allows us to quickly and efficiently work through all of the stages of the reloading process, it’s time to mount our presses. Depending on the types of presses you have, the mounting systems and options of the presses, if you’re planning on standing or sitting while you reload, and the height of your freshly constructed bench, you can carefully and thoughtfully mount your presses. Solidly mounting your press is probably the most important thing you can do to ensure smooth running progressive presses and consistent powder throws. You really should be able to do chin-ups on the press after you’ve mounted it. I really can’t stress the sturdiness of mounting your press enough. Most of my progressive press problems vanished once I properly mounted it to a sturdy bench. I haven’t crushed a mis-aligned primmer in a .223 case since!
Second only to the robustness of the mounting platform is ergonomics. Most presses I’ve seen on fellow reloader’s benches are mounted right up on the edge of the bench top and perfectly square which is how most pregressive presses are intended to be run since you’re probably operating the ram with one hand and feeding bullets with the other. This is how I have my Dillon XL650 mounted for example. But for my Foster single stage press it made more sense to have it canted slightly counter-clockwise so I wasn’t bending my arm and wrist at an extreme angle while operating it. This little trick greatly reduced fatigue and increases the amount of time that I am able to reload without getting tired and rushing to get finished. I suggest that before you break out your drill and start making holes in your new bench that you C-clamp your presses down at various angles and see which one seems to work best for you.
Mounting height of the press is equally important to the angle in which you’ll be mounting it. My Dillon for example allows me to mount it either directly to the bench top or atop of their “Strong Mount” which raises it about 8 inches. Since I prefer to stand while reloading and the height of my bench being where it is, mounting it directly to the bench top was just too low, ergonomically speaking that is. Once mounted on top of the Strong Mount I can comfortably extend the ram all the way up and down for hours without fatigue.
Another thing I noticed around the topic of press mounting is the correct hardware is essential. After all, what’s the point of having a solidly braced bench and a stout mounting system if your hardware is insufficient for the task. Don’t just scrounge up what you have sitting around the shop and make it work, but go to the hardware store and get the appropriate fasteners. I once fought a sloppy press only to discover that the bolts were too soft and had actually stretched over time leaving the press to flex and incidentally had to be cut off because the threads were no longer a match to the nuts and couldn’t be removed. I have also noticed that over time the nuts and washers, depending on the bench top material, tend to collapse the bench top around the nuts allowing your press to flex. Make sure to at least use very large fender washers which is good, but consider cutting a piece of plate steal to be used underneath the bench top to avoid bolt “sinkage” all together.
I know to the neophyte handloader all of this may sound extreme, but rest assured, these were all hard learned lessons that I hope you’ll use to avoid some of the pitfalls of press mounting and you should be left with a great running press that runs smoothly, charges consistently, and is comfortable to use for many hours.
Next week we’re going to focus on setting up and mounting all of the tooling you use outside of the press so don’t miss it! You’ll soon be up and running on your own Ultimate Reloading Bench.