Reloading: Setting Up My Progressive

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Given my goals of competing at a regionally competitive level in the USPSA, it has become self-evident that I will be shooting A LOT! After putting in some training sessions for a solid month and laying out my near term training regimen, I realized I should probably get my reloading mojo going to cut down on some of my training costs. I did a little CBA (cost benefit analysis) and I figured that, well within the first year of a progressive press set up (if I reload my training ammunition needs), it would more than pay for itself.

I bought a progressive press. Easy peasy, right?


Wow… I bought a Hornady AP Progressive Press. When I got it home and unpacked it, I had clearly left an element out of the CBA equation. Now in their defense, Hornady provides a really good set of videos to accompany the press and I highly recommend that you watch them – they contain material not included here. These videos, also, contain a detailed instruction manual.  I found that both of these resources had some inaccuracies and discrepancies, while neither was clear on how to set up the press. I had to go back and forth between the two to figure it all out and then I had to do some “Googling”.

So, I am providing you with this pictorial and explanations of what I have learned between all of them in order to help you get up and running (quicker than it took me).

Here are the steps… Picture by picture with some explanations:

1. Starting Point

Here is a picture of everything that comes in the box with a Hornady AP Progressive Press. When I opened up the box, it was a bit daunting and overwhelming as I found that both the instructions and video were inadequate for proper assembly.

Hornady AP Progessive Press complete kit

Here is what you get when you open the box and unload the press.

2. Mounting

I do not do a permanent mount of my presses to my benches – it is just too much of a hassle if I need to move them later.  James Marsal taught me to use a mounting technique as depicted. Mount the press to a 2×6 piece of wood and then clamp the 2×6 to your bench – that way, if you need to remove it you can.

Here is a Hornday AP Progressive Press mounted using a 2x6. Also added bullet feeder holes for future use.

Mounting with a 2×6 (Note: additional bullet feeder holes).

Also, to avoid having to remount (or as I did, cut a new 2×6 piece), note that they have a layout for adding the add-on bullet feeder later. I recommend that you set this up in case you really get into progressive reloading.

Additional picture of 2x6 mounting of Hornady AP Progressive Press

Additional picture of how the press is mounted (Note:  bullet catcher).

Note: it is important to mount the bullet catcher bracket (bracket box cartridge) to the left side of the press. The instructions in the manual are clear on how to do this. If you forget, you can always loosen it up and add later.

3. Shell Plate

The shell plate is pretty self-explanatory and the instructions that are provided are accurate. You may or may not have purchased your first shell plate, so this is kind of an auxiliary step. One key part of this step that is not fully explained nor has good pictures, is creating the dip in the case retaining spring that makes the shells eject. Also note, the Hornady video that is provided is misleading about this step because they show a shell ejector arm instead of this spring system. Push the spring down into the dip as you make 1-2 complete cycles of the press and it should dip down as shown.

The picture of the proper case retaining spring dip for an Hornady AP Progressive Press

Picture of the dip in the case retaining spring needs to have to allow shells casings to eject.

4. Primer Feed

There are two parts to the primer feed step. The first you may or may not need to do. The unit I bought came installed with the larger primer feed and large primer punch. But, I had to change them out since I was going to be using small primers.

Primer Feed location on a Hornady AP Progressive Press

This is the primer feed location (Note: this is not easy access).

From what I can tell, there are no markings to indicate which primer feed is which. Here they are side by side – here, you can tell the difference.

Primer Feed of Hornady AP Progressive Press.

Primer feed size differences (large is on left).

The primer punch is installed (or swapped out) by using a wrench to unscrew it (Note: it is a tight place). Initially, the difficulty comes in getting the replacement threaded. The units (both in my case) immediately seemed to “catch” like they were cross threaded. After dozens of attempts at getting it “right”, I slowly and carefully tightened until I thought it was correct. These are just tight threads, so be careful.

Primer Punch location in a Hornady AP Progressive Press

Location of the primer punch (Note: you have to raise the press up to remove).

Like the primer feed, other than the size difference, I did not note any distinct markings to tell which is which. Here they are side by side.

Primer Punch size difference for Hornady AP Progressive Press

Side by side primer punch size (large on left).

There are several components to the primer tube installation: 1) the primer tube (you must pick whether you are using a small or large primer – you can always change later), 2) the primer tube housing or protector and 3) the primer tube support (or cap).

Primer Tubes, Primer Tube Housing, Primer Pickup Tubes for Hornady AP Progressive Press

Primer tubes, primer tube housing and primer pickup tubes

Once you decide on the primer tube size , note that there is an end that has a ‘shoulder” – this is the end that goes into the press.

Proper end of Primer Tube to install in Hornady AP Progressive Press

Proper end of primer tube to install into press (Note:  shoulder).

Once you put that in, install the primer tube housing over it while securing it by screwing it into the press.

Slip Primer Tube Housing over Primer Tube in Hornaday AP Progressive Press

Slip primer tube housing over primer tube.


Then, a black plastic cap (primer tube support) is slipped over the exposed end of the primer tube and the legs are snapped inside the primer tube housing.

Primer Tube Support installation in Hornady AP Progressive Press

Install primer tube support over primer tube.

Note: in addition to the other primer tube, there is a large and small primer pickup tube that both have cotter pins in one end. Safely stow those away for usage during loading.

Pickup Primer Tubes for Hornady AP Progressive Press

L/S pickup primer tubes on left, primer tube on right.


5. Spent Primer Tube

A plastic spent primer tube is supplied and, at first, I was not sure what to do with it as the instruction manual did not really provide an explanation of its use.

Spent Primer Tube for Hornady AP Progressive Press

Spent primer tube

The video finally did provide an explanation, but not in a place where I expected (it is in the “mounting” video). This slips over a nipple in the bottom of the press (below the shell plate) to allow spent primers to slide out (and into a bucket).

Location to install Spent Primer Tube in Hornady AP Progressive Press

Install spent primer tube here.

6. Bushings

There are 5 “Lock and Load” bushings. For this part (until you start reloading), you will only need 1 for the powder measure assembly.

Lock and Load Bushings for Hornady AP Progressive Press

“”Lock and Load Bushings

Go ahead and put the other 4 bushings in the press for safe keeping. You will not need them until you start setting up for a specific load.

Set bushings aside for now.

7. Powder Sleeves and Measure Adapter

There are three sizes of powder sleeves. Please reference the instruction manual for which one to use for your reloading scenario – I need the longest sleeve.

Powder Sleeves for Hornady AP Progressive Press

Powder Sleeves

These go in the powder measure adapter which is the part that goes into the “Lock and Loaded” bushing.

Powder Sleeve and Measure Adaptor for Hornady AP Progressive Press

Powder Sleeve and Measure Adapter

Note: the counter sink side goes into the measure adapter first. The instructions are a little confusing on this. DON’T PUT IT IN THE WAY AS IN THIS PICTURE – THAT IS THE WRONG WAY!

Wrong Way!!!

8. Bullet Catcher

The bullet catcher box is slipped onto the left side bracket where the bullets are ejected. Note: If you missed the step during mounting where you mount the bracket (with the press), you may have to loosen the left side bolts (actually both) and add the bracket.

Bullet Catch Tray for Hornady AP Progressive Press

Bullet Catch Tray

The Bullet Catcher fits like a tongue-in-groove fitting on the bracket. Simply slip it over and you are done – this is one of the easier steps of this whole process.

Bullet Catch installed on Hornady AP Progressive Press

Bullet Catch Installation

9. Whole Powder Measure/Drop Assembly

Next, the whole powder measure/drop assembly is added to the powder measure adapter installed into the press. Note: before doing this, all of these components need to be disassembled and cleaned. The packing grease put on them will affect your reloading and will clog up your powder.

There are instructions in the manual, as well as in the video. I found that the manual instructions were difficult to follow and I suggest that you watch the video. That said, we may add a pictorial like this one later.

Powder Assembly Install for Hornady AP Progressive Press

Powder Assembly Install

The powder measure/drop assembly is placed in the top of the powder measure. At this point, I would not tighten any of the locks – this will be done later when you set up a specific load.

The arm of the assembly slides into the screw on the top of the measure adapter. It is a bit of a weird fitting as you have to slide it over the skinniest part of the screw and then it will slide up onto the thicker part as you tighten down. The video shows this better than any photos I could take.

The activator arm swings into screw.

You also attach the spring as shown.

Spring connects to top and bottom posts.

Finally, there is a baffle you drop down inside the powder tube.

Powder Baffle

Make sure it is “V” up and looks as shown.

Baffle should look like this.


Well, that’s about it. You have a LOT more to do to get a batch of rounds through successfully, but that is not for this article. You now have an “assembled” Hornady AP Progressive Press. Yep, it is a lot, yet I recommend you go through it a second time. When I did, I found little things that I did wrong or not fully complete. Also, it is highly recommended that you watch the videos and read the manual. This is NOT a replacement for those resources – we just realized neither was sufficient nor easy to use, so we put this illustration and demonstration together for you.

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