Serious handloaders tend to be obsessive, myself included, and the worst — or best — of the lot are benchrest shooters. Success in their world is measured in thousandths of an inch, and as a result no step is too tedious, no equipment too sophisticated or expensive. Which brings us to Redding's T-7 Turret reloading press.
The T-7 was used to load the ammo with which benchrester Kyle Brown set a new 1,000-yard world record in 2003, and word on the streets is that the Redding T-7 is probably the best turret press available. Until recently I didn't own one, but being obsessive I obtained one to find out if all I'd been reading about it had substance.
The Redding T-7 is massive, powerful and positive in function. With the exception of the handle, which must be inserted into position and its locking nut spun into place, the press requires no more setup than bolting it to your bench with four 5/16-inch machine bolts. A short, handy knob-ended rod is provided for turning the turret head; slide it into one of the three holes machined into the periphery of the turret. As the turret is rotated, each die position clicks into place with a deep, satisfying "clunk."
The ram handle is topped with a smooth, 1.75-inch ball, which is easy on the operating palm even through hours of use. The handle itself is about 14 inches in length. This, coupled with the torque provided by the T-7's massive compound linkage, provides a smooth stroke that powers through sizing even stubborn, oversize cases such as the .300 Remington Ultra Mag.
Top to bottom, the T-7 press opening is 4.75 inches, and the ram has a 3.80-inch stroke. The one-inch-diameter hollow ram is fitted with a flexible, clear tubular primer collection system, which may be emptied at the user's convenience.
The green press body is constructed of cast iron, nicely finished in a heavy orange-peel or wrinkle paint.
The most obvious advantage of a turret press is, of course, the ability to mount a full die set semi-permanently — through the duration of a loading session, a handload development sequence or a benchrest competition where you load a few selected cases over and over while at the match.
The inconsistencies — slight though they are — introduced by constantly changing out dies are eliminated. Resetting dies when those pesky lock rings come free and you lose your settings is no longer necessary. Get the dies set the way you like them and forget about them.
For shooters inclined to milk the most possible accuracy out of their handloads, a turret press has the added advantage of indexing cases so they enter the dies consistently during their journey through the loading process.
A case may be inserted into the shell holder prior to sizing and never leave it until after the bullet is seated. Each case enters each various die or loading stage oriented exactly the same — in relation to how it entered the previous die or stage — as the case before it did.
Admittedly, loading a case start to finish without removing it from the shell holder requires some adaption to the typical loading process many handloaders employ. After sizing, the case must be primed by the press's onboard priming arm, then charged with powder through a vacant die position with the ram at the top of its stroke. Place a funnel atop the cartridge's mouth and pour in your powder charge.
This method eliminates the safety-enhancing opportunity to compare the powder level across a loading block full of charged cases. To head off any problems, be careful, be methodical and consistent in your process — and don't forget the powder.
I struggled to get primers fully seated in tight primer pockets with the Redding T-7 onboard priming system, so I removed each case to prime, taking care to replace each back in the press oriented the same as I removed it. Removing cases to prime also allows me to clean the primer pocket if desired.
Frankly, although the ability to index cases is an advantage, I'm sure that for 99 percent of my shooting, indexing doesn't make a lick of difference. How often would I take advantage of the Redding T-7s indexing capability? Only when I really want the peace of mind resulting from knowing I've taken every possible accuracy enhancing step.
Never Worry Again
The Redding T-7 press's turret has seven die stations, providing ample room to mount dies for two or even three different calibers. A shooter who handloads for only a couple of calibers can mount and adjust his dies and never worry about them again. For instance, a handloader could easily mount dies for .223 Rem., .30-06 and 9mm Luger, and just leave them mounted. Think of the setup time saved.
To top it off, the turret heads are interchangeable, allowing a press owner to use multiple heads — complete with favorite dies, of course — on a single press.
As I mentioned, I had problems getting even primer seating, especially with tight primer pockets, using the Redding's onboard primer. But the system is pretty simple: place a primer in the primer ram pocket by hand, rotate the primer arm into its slot in the press ram as you lower the ram from the top of its stroke, and press the handle all the way to its home position, seating the primer.
While it's beautifully machined — with all-metal parts and a simple, robust design — I didn't have much luck with the optional sliding-bar automatic priming system either. The end of the slide bar was a bit too long, preventing the primer ram cup from lining up with the hole in the shell holder. I'm sure that either a call to Redding or a few minutes with the benchtop grinder would solve the issue in a jiffy.
Other than those two small nit-picks, I love the press. It's robust, versatile, and extremely precise. Even an obsessive handloader can't ask for more than that.