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Product Reviews by reloadingtips.com

These reviews are the opinion of our staff and a few others we trust. They are based on actual use of the equipment


Revised 2011-10-15

Hornady Specifications:

The Hornady Lock-N-Load AP Progressive Press is an automatic 5-station press that is full of innovative features. The press features include; Lock-N-Load quick change technology, fully automatic indexing, 5-station die platform that accepts standard 7/8"-14 threaded dies, and the EZ-ject System that delivers 100% reliable cartridge ejection. This press is capable of loading rifle and handgun cartridges with ease.

Wondering what extra parts to purchase? Well, the press comes complete with a Lock-N-Load powder measure, rifle and pistol metering assemblies, case activated powder drop, cartridge catcher, primer pick-up tubes, and 5 Lock-N-Load Bushings, so the only thing left to purchase is the easy access shellplate, dies, and any additional bushings you'll need. (all available at MidwayUSA).



Technical Information

Press Type: Progressive Press
Frame Material: Cast Alloy
Frame Design: O-Frame
Frame Offset:
Frame Opening Size:
Handle Location: Bottom Right
Die Size Accepted: Any standard 7/8"-14 threaded die
Die Bushing Accepted: Yes
Die Bushing Brand Used: Hornady
Spent Primer Collection System:
Ram Stroke:
Ram Diameter:
Priming Feature: Automatic
Number of Mounting Holes:
Mounting Hardware Included: No, users will need 1/2" thick bolts that are long enough to go through the press and reloading bench.
Additional Features:
Warranty: Lifetime Factory
Notes:

  • The EZ-ject system is designed to work with updated shellplates. Earlier version shellplates are not adaptable with the EZ-ject system. To tell if shellplates need to be updated, turn the shellplate upside down and look for a groove that runs in a circular pattern around the shellplate. For further instruction please refer to the "what to look for" link below. If there is no groove present Hornady will modify old shellplates to work with the EZ-ject system.
  • Hornady Suggests Spraying all metal parts with Hornady One Shot Gun Cleaner-Degreaser and Dry Lubricant before using the press (Sold Separately Item# 270-323)

End Hornady Specifications:

 

Pros:

  • This is a large heavy machine. It weighs almost 30 pounds without dies.
  • It has a two inch diameter ram.
  • It has a stroke of 4.625 inches measured from the top of the shell holder. Most presses talk about "opening size". The "Opening size of this press is 4.875 inches. This is more than most single stage presses.
  • You are not going to wear it out.
  • Your grandson is not going to wear it out.
  • It has five die stations.
  • It has the only primer collection system I have ever used that has caught over 10,000 primers without one single primer hitting the floor.
  • The powder measure is one of the best I have ever used and it comes with both the rifle and the pistol metering drums. Nothing extra to buy.
  • Then priming system works positively and very well. You can do it but you really have to work at it to get a loaded round with no primer.
  • The case retaining spring works perfectly. It holds the cases securely but they are very easy to extract and reinsert when necessary.
  • It loads really good ammo very quickly.
  • Primer seating is performed as a separate operation with a reverse stroke of the handle. It is very sensitive and allows excellent feel of the primer seating process.
  • Hornady customer service is excellent.
  • Case activated powder drop prevents dropping a powder charge on the loading platform is there is no case in place.

 

Cons:

  • Mechanical advantage is a little anemic for rifle use. I measure it at only 18 to 1. ( Over the last half inch of the resizing stroke.) This is significantly less than most single stage presses.
  • It uses the Lock-n-Load Bushings. Most reviewers would consider this an advantage. I do not. In my experience using this machine for over one year, they cause more problems than any other single feature of the press.
  • Ejected primers regularly hang between the primer drop hole and the shell plate requiring the shell plate to be jiggled manually before it will index.
  • Although the primer system is very good, very fine grain ball powders can clog it up and cause the primer to be misaligned with the cartridge primer hole.
  • The auto eject is problematical. It sometimes grabs the rim of a .38/.357 Mag. case and holds on like a bulldog. ( Most of the time it works correctly. )
  • The LnL bushings work loose regularly. In the beginning I found my self  picking the resizing die up off the floor about every 200 rounds. I now know that the resizing die and the powder measure MUST be reseated and tightened with a wrench every time I change the primer tube.
  • The indexing mechanism is made of "pot-metal". You are warned in the instructions not to try to force indexing with the press handle. I can attest that it will break the index pawl.
  • Changing the primer seating arm is not really difficult but it is tedious. Much more so than with a single stage press.

 

Setup Instructional CD

The LnL AP comes with a very good instructional CD on how to set it up and use it.  Please do yourself a favor and watch it before you start.


Manual

You can download the manual here:

http://www.hornady.com/assets/files/manuals-current/metalic-reloading/LNL_AP.pdf

Indexing Adjustment

Indexing is positive and easy to adjust. The instructions are very confusing. Just remember four things.

  1. The adjustment pawl on the left side of the press controls the primer alignment.
  2. The adjustment pawl on the right side of the press controls the de-capping/sizing die alignment.
  3. Backing a pawl out ( turning it counter clockwise ) causes the shell plate to turn further.
  4. Screwing a pawl in ( turning it clockwise ) causes the shell plate to turn less.

Yes, each pawl affects the station on the opposite side of the press.

Adjustments should be made in increments so small as to be almost invisible. If you adjust either pawl too far in, or too far out, the indexing mechanism will lock up and not index at all.

The indexing part that actually turns the shell plate is made of "pot-metal". You are warned in the instructions not to try to force indexing with the press handle. I can attest that it will break the index pawl. This is part number 29 and is called the "Drive Hub". Of course they sent me a new one immediately at no cost and it was easy to replace. It comes out the top, not the bottom.

Final word about the indexing adjustments. They will be correct when you get a new press. They should not need further adjustment. If you think they need adjusting, you are probably misinterpreting the problem.

 

Primer Seating

I find the primer seating mechanism to be well designed and well executed. The spring operated slide that moves the primer from the primer supply tube to the priming punch has enough tension to operate positively but not enough to damage a primer. The slide rides in a slot in the base plate. The slide and the base plate are both made of steel. The primer tube body housing ( part no 14 ) is not steel but all it does is hold the primer tube in place. It does not support any weight or sustain any strain.

The primer seating punch mechanism is very small, It is inserted into the base plate from the bottom back of the press and is not difficult but it is tedious to insert and change. It is also very easy to drop, and very easy to lose.

This part does not really require any adjustment but it must be kept clean. spilled powder granules, expelled primer residue, dust, and other stuff will migrate to the primer slide and fall into the groove in which it slides. When this happens, the slide will be prevented from completely aligning with the primer punch and you will not be able to seat the primers. Your first thought will be that the indexing is not working. You can test for this condition by jiggling the case. If the primer aligns when you move the base of the case out from the center of the shell plate, you have something preventing proper alignment of your primer slide.

The primer slide spring ( part no 16 ) is attached securely and should never come off or get kinked or broken. Unfortunately, It is sometimes necessary to remove it to clean out the slide or replace the primer seating punch.  You need to have a spare because if you drop it and it hits the floor ( in my shop ) it is gone forever.

 

Primer Ejection and Collection

Ejected primers regularly hang between the primer drop hole and the shell plate requiring the shell plate to be jiggled manually before it will index. This problem is aggravated by the primer ejector rod in the sizing die being loose enough to wobble. Be sure the ejector rod extends out far enough to push the primer completely into the drop tube and be sure it is tight and does not wobble. These actions will alleviate but not eliminate the problem.  You will become frustrated and want to yank on the handle to force the shell plate to turn. DO NOT DO IT. You will break the Drive Hub ( Part no. 29). Grasp the shell plate and jiggle it back and fourth until you hear the primer fall.

 

Lock-n-Load Bushing Problems


These bushings appear to be a great idea, You will judge for yourself but I consider them a headache.

They do not hold the die tightly like a conventional press. At the top of the stroke when maximum force is applied to the die, the bushings will shift about twenty to thirty thousandths. I cannot tell that this has any adverse affect on the loaded ammo but it does cause the bushings to work loose over time. It only occurs on the dies with the most stress during the upstroke. In my case this is the sizing die and the powder measure. When I first started using the AP, I found myself picking the sizing die up off the floor about every 200 rounds and catching the powder measure in my lap about every 300. When I started watching, it was immediately apparent what was happening. The only solution I could find, and my current procedure is that every time I refill the primer tube, I remove both the sizing die and the powder measure and reseat them with a 12 inch crescent.  This bushing working loose problem is not unique to the AP. I have exactly the same problem with the LnL Classic single stage press.

If you change loads, bullets, crimp settings, seating depth, etc. frequently they significantly complicate the process. If you have only one load and one die setting per caliber, that is not a consideration and they become a really quick and painless way to change dies.

I have read on the reloading forums that this bushing working loose problem can be solved by using a thicker O ring but that it makes the dies significantly harder to insert and extract.  I have not tried that solution.

They are made of steel but do not appear to be hardened.
  

Shell Plate

The shell plate is made of steel and is very hard . There are two versions of the shell plate. If you are buying a used press or a used shell plate, be sure you have the appropriate shell plate for your press.

The retainer spring is an excellent device to hold the cases in place in the shell plate but allow them to be removed easily for inspection. This spring is probably the most vulnerable part of the whole machine. It will get kinks and eventually will break. Be sure to keep an extra on hand. The Hornady part number for a package of three springs is 392370. At this time a package of three is less than $8.00


Hornady LnL Powder Measure

The Hornady powder measure is one of the best I have ever used. In all honesty it has only one flaw. The mounting bracket that comes with it is totally useless. There is a hole on one end for the powder measure but the hole on the other end is so large that it cannot be held in place by a loading die. The only way I can figure to use it is to mount it to the bench top with screws.

The measure normally comes with only one metering drum bus the version with the case operated drop mechanism provided with the LnL comes with both the rifle and the pistol metering drums.
You can see a complete review of this powder measure here:  Hornady Lock-N-Load Powder Measure


 

Case Activated Powder Drop

This device is a mixed blessing but overall it goes in the Pros column. It absolutely prevents dropping a powder charge if there is no case in place to catch it. This makes the press easy to use as a single stage loader just passing a single case around through all the stations until it is completely loaded and ejected. This ability greatly simplifies adjustments necessary when changing calibers. It is especially handy when adjusting the bullet seating or crimping die.

Unfortunately, it also requires adjusting the powder drop linkage every time you change to a cartridge with a different case length. Even a change from .38 Special to .357 Magnum, a case length difference of 0.135" requires a readjustment.  I use one of the die spacers for that adjustment as well as for the expander die and the seater die. Since only one shim comes with a die set, I had to buy two more.

Hornady supplies "powder sleeves" in four sizes. The difference is in the length. This part must be of an appropriate length so that the combined length of the cartridge case plus the sleeve pushes the linkage just far enough to drop a powder charge. There is a separate sleeve for .17 cal cartridges. I is sold separately. All these sleeves come in "powder thru expander" versions. These are expander plugs that expand the case mouth while at the same time allowing the powder charge to fall into the case. All the powder thru expanders are sold separately.

The case activated powder drop will not work with IMR type extruded powders. The amount of force necessary to cut the kernels will cause the powder sleeve to crimp the mouth of the cartridge case. Attempting to load .223 with IMR 4198 will result in an empty cartridge case with the mouth rounded over like a blank and 20+ grains of 4198 on your shell plate.

 

Changing Cartridges

Changing from one cartridge to another is very easy after you have your bushings install on your dies and your die settings adjusted for your press and your bullet seating and crimping depth. Well, there are other considerations:

If you don't need to change the primer size, a die change takes about five minutes. Add five more if you change primer sizes, add ten more if you are changing from rifle to pistol and need to change the powder measure case activation drop tube. Add another five if you need to change the powder measure metering drum.

Summary, changing dies will take five minutes. Changing cartridges can take from five to thirty depending on just how much has to be changed.

Changing cartridges will encompass one or more of the following steps.

  1. Insert spacers under expander die, powder measure and seating die. e.g. .44 Special to .44 Mag.
  2. Change the die set. 
  3. Change the shell plate.
  4. Change the primer seating punch. ( Part No 26) *
  5. Change the primer seating slide.   ( Part No. 15) *
  6. Change the case activation powder drop sleeve. (-one of-  part no's  16,17,17,19,or 20 )

* If you have downloaded the manual from the Hornady web site, there is a close-up of these parts on page 12.

See:  http://www.hornady.com/assets/files/manuals-current/metalic-reloading/LNL_AP.pdf

 

Powder Cop Die

The powder cop die consists of a die body with a feeler rod that enters the case mouth on the up stroke of the ram. The rod is free floating and is pushed up by the powder charge. It gives a visual indication of the depth of the powder charge in the case. It will not tell you if your charge is off by half or a full grain but it will tell you if it is missing, or double. 

I consider a powder cop die an absolute necessity with any progressive press. Sooner or later you will remove or damage a case at a stage before the powder drop and you will wind up with no charge or a double charge. The Hornady Powder Cop die is sold separately and is Hornady part no. 050063 and is about $30.00.

The AP has a very interesting and convenient feature that helps in this regard. Right in the center of the top plate is a hole. The hole is three fourths inch in diameter and goes all the way through the top plate. I have a small two "AA" cell LED flashlight a MINI MAGLITE LED. I can stand this light on the top plate facing light down through the hole and it will flood considerable light on everything that is going on on the shell plate. The best thing is that it will completely illuminate the inside of the case at the station after the powder measure, the station where the powder cop die will be if you have one. If you don't have a powder cop die, this light will allow you to visually inspect the level of the powder charge in the case. ( Obviously, this will only work with straight sided cases. ) This method is not as reliable as the powder cop die, but If you do not have the powder cop die, you really should use the light.

 

EZject Ejection System

The loaded cartridge ejection system is problematical. It occasionally grabs a cartridge case by the rim and simply will not let go. In these instances, it is necessary to manually remove the cartridge. Close inspection of these cartridge cases will shoe a visible "bite" in the case rim.  Hornady's official position on this problem is that it is caused by operating the handle too fast, with too much force. That sounds like a reasonable explanation - but - It also happens when I am operating the handle very slowly while watching the action of a die that is being adjusted.

I have tried polishing the ejection lug but I am afraid to change the shape of it and polishing doesn't seem to help. This is the only problem with this machine that I can't find an easy solution for. Fortunately, it is not a high frustration level problem. It has very little effect on the production rate because your left hand is already in position with an empty case to be inserted.


NOTE:


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