Harrells Compact Reloading Press Review

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By Boyd Allen

LEE PRECISION Classic Turret Press. Lee happens to be a reputed brand in terms of manufacturing. This video showcases the Sinclair 7/8-14 Benchrest Press. For more information visit http://www.sinclairintl.com/.aspx/pid=33635/sku=09-850/Product/Sinclair.

The Harrell's Combo Press gets its name from the fact that it combines both arbor and threaded die presses into a single unit, with a common operating handle and linkage. It was designed to save space in a range reloading kit, without sacrificing ease of use, and is suitable for any reloading chore that its 2.5' ram stroke can accommodate, allowing users to size cases up to 30-06 length (with a little attention to the decapping pin).

I assembled the clamp to the press, pulled the top right hand drawer out of my desk, and clamped the press to its top. I just wanted to check out the ease of full-length sizing, so I grabbed a couple of odd fired cases from a desk drawer. Then I rummaged around for a FL 6PPC die, which, through no fault of its own had been relegated to paperweight status. I found the die, and then began looking for the matching shell holder. This forced me to do what I had been hoping to avoid, open up my range reloading kit, from which I removed some recently fired brass and the dies that I currently use, (a neck/bump die, and a base sizer), as well as my Nielson seater, and a shell holder, (removed from my Harrell's turret press). At that point the plan changed to 'might as well do the whole thing'.

Using the Combo Press for Case-Sizing
Getting down to business, I skipped lubing, since I have been able to get by without lube when using these particular dies, and I wanted an apples for apples comparison between the Harrell press and my regular RCBS Rock-Chucker bench press.

Lee Reloading Press Reviews

After two-stage sizing the well-used (work-hardened) cases, I was pleasantly surprised. This relatively compact, lightweight 'range press' has an unexpected abundance of leverage, and it doesn't wiggle around as you use it. I attribute the lack of wiggle to the Harrell's substantial clamp, built of heavy-duty aluminum, with a beefy half-inch threaded clamping screw. The clamp opens to just over 2 5/8' (top to bottom). The clamp itself starts as a 4'x2' piece of half-inch thick aluminum box section. One side of the 'box' is milled off, leaving a 'C' of very rigid metal with plenty of horizontal 'reach' to clamp securely to any bench-top.

After using the press, I wanted to understand how the design and geometry functioned so well. I sat back, studied the press for a while, and then smiled, thinking, 'I know how he did it.' Here are the key design features that make the press work so well: 1) the large ball on the end of the handle makes it easier to grip; 2) the handle diameter is thicker at the bottom for strength and security of attachment, but tapers at the top (below the ball) for comfort; 3) the handle shaft is made as long as comfortable operation will allow; 4) the handle throw is 180°; 5) the ram stroke is a short 2.5', just enough for its intended range of use; 6) the press employs a compound linkage (for smooth power) similar to the one that RCBS pioneered. The designer of the Combo Press certainly did his homework--it's slick!

In the upper picture, I put a case in the shell holder (under a screw-in die) AND placed my Nielson seater 'hand die' on the seating platform. Normally, one would not use both arbor press-style dies and threaded dies simultaneously. But I placed both in the picture to make the dual capability of the press more obvious. The handle is shown slightly forward of its vertical, at-rest, position, with the ram and seating platform slightly elevated from their base points.

Good Enough to Replace the Rock-Chucker for Most Tasks
It was at that point at a little light come on, and I realized that, given the range of calibers that I now load, this press was about to replace my Rock-Chucker as my primary at-home press. Oh I'll never sell my Rock-Chucker. It's a really fine press; it's just that it takes longer to set up, because I don't have a dedicated loading bench to bolt it to. I do most of my reloading at the range. The only exception is when I expand the necks of .220 Russian cases to make 6 PPCs, or load a few rounds for my Swift or .222, for an assault against the local ground squirrel population.

Priming and Bullet-Seating
Having sized the cases and checked them for runout (no surprises), it was now time to seat primers, and throw some powder. So I went back to the range kit for the Sinclair priming tool, Harrell Premium powder measure, and a bottle of Vihtavuori N133.

The Harrell measure came from a time, a few years ago, when I wrote a review of it for Shooter's News. I think that I was the first to write an article about its roller bearings and other features. I wouldn't be without it. In addition to the tight drum to body clearance and superior smoothness afforded by the bearings, I have come to appreciate the ball and spring detent system that gives around .1 gr. of 133 per increment.

With primed, powdered cases in the loading block, it was time to seat bullets, and put the only part of the press that was 'different' to the test. For this, I set up with an open box of bullets (Watson 62s) on the left, loading block in front of me, and the press to my right.

Starting out with the seater on the desk to the left of the press, I picked up a bullet between the thumb and finger of my left hand, set it within the chamfer of a case neck and slid my grip down just far enough to pick up the case along with the bullet. Picking up the seater with my right hand, I transferred the bullet and case to the seating platform, and while holding the bullet in position, slid the seater down over it and the case until it rested on the platform. After sliding the die to the rear of the platform, a measured pull of the press handle bottomed the stem cap on the die body. I then reversed the press handle, slid the die forward, and picked it up, moved it back to its previous position on the desk, and removed the finished round from the platform, placing it into the loading block.

Despite my initial misgivings, the whole operation had been virtually the same as with an arbor press, with no awkward retraining involved, going smoothly from the very beginning.

A few additional tips:
Clamping the combo press to a shelf in your work area is the easiest way to store/display this press at home or in the shop. I say display because it has a distinctly ornamental quality that many well-made, shiny, machined things have in common.

For you Kennedy machinist's tool box lovers, with the clamp off and packed beside it, the press will fit into a 13 ¾ x 6 x 2 inch space, which, according to my research, means that it will fit into the bottom drawer of the models typically chosen for range use with room to spare.

CONCLUSION--A Very Versatile and Finely-Crafted Tool
So there you have it, 6 lb. 5 ounces of well-designed, expertly machined press that works well for $275.00. Having good tools just feels good, doesn't it? Sure, there are less expensive ways to skin this particular feline, but for those of us who are always looking for a way to reduce the size and complexity of our range kits, without sacrificing function, this press is an excellent choice which will also do a good job, at home, for any precision reloader who wants to use arbor press-type dies as well as their threaded brethren without the equipment taking up too much space between loading sessions.

For More information Contact:

Harrell's Precision
Lynwood & Walter Harrell
5756 Hickory Drive
Salem, VA 24153
(540) 380-2683


Copyright © 2005, Boyd Allen and AccurateShooter.com, All Rights Reserved.
No reproduction without advanced permission in writing.


What’s the Use of Portable Reloading Presses?

So you’ve done your research and come to a harsh conclusion – you don’t have space for a static reloading press. Neither a progressive, single stage, or turret press will fit in your tiny apartment, you don’t have access to a garage, and there’s no way you’re tearing down and setting up your press just to get some good, cheap ammunition. There’s good news for you: there are reloading presses that are portable out there!

A reloading press that’s portable is essentially a hand press. A reloading hand press not the same as reloading by hand, despite the similar terminology. A hand press:

– Is a great option for gun-owners in the city
– Works well for reloading right on the range
– Can travel with you wherever you go

Most hand presses can’t do larger bullets, but handle handgun cartridges and smaller rifle cartridges without a problem. A hand press does require more manual work on the bullet than a standard press, but the mobile advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

Why the Lee Precision Breech Lock Hand Press Kit is the Best Mobile Reloading Press

The Lee Precision Breech Lock Hand Press Kit is a well-built hand press that comes with almost everything you need to start reloading ASAP. It is comparable to it’s big brothers (the progressive reloader, turret reloader, and single stage reloader) in terms of the quality and accuracy of the bullet that it produces. Set the die once and you’re good to go for several hundred rounds. The size limit for this reloading press (see full specs) is from 3.650 to an inch long.

You will need to order a set of dies to get started, but you can pack everything up into the box as soon as you are done reloading. While the hand press isn’t as fast as other presses, when it’s all said and done, if you’re…

Harrell's Reloading Press

– New to reloading
– Needing to downsize
– Looking to expand your press repertoire
– Looking for a cheap reloading press

Lee reloading press reviews

… then this hand press kit is a worthy investment for you. Happy reloading on the go!


Watch this video on YouTube

Determine if You Need a Portable Reloading Press

A hand press is a beast of its own. It’s strength is in its manageability and mobility. With those strengths come equal and opposite weaknesses. In order to work well on the go, it simply can’t be built to last forever, and its mobile size will require you to do some extra prep to get your bullets at their peak. If you’re considering getting a hand press, consider what you’re using it for and ask yourself:

Harrell's Turret Press Review

– Do you need to reload bullets on the shooting site?
– Do you truly not have the space for a standard press?
– Are you more interested in a precise press over a long-lasting press?
– Are you building a bug out bag?
– Will you need to be able to make your own bullets on the go?

If you answered yes to more than a couple of those questions, a hand press will be a good option for you. The most important question now is which one you are willing to buy, which is the Lee Precision Breech Lock Hand Press Kit.

And if you want to know more about other reloading presses, please head on over to our homepage.

Owner of Reloaderaddict.com, Boyd Smith is a major handgun enthusiast, and although he owns Glocks, he prefers the revolving wheel type. His go-to guns are a Smith & Wesson 642 Performance Center for carry and a Ruger GP100 in the nightstand biometric safe (he has kids). He loads both revolvers with old-school 148-grain Federal Gold Medal .38 wadcutters. It’s OK if you think he’s a wimp. Email him.

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