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Hornady Lock N Load AP Automatic Press
written by Marc Gottfried

The ruggedness of the Hornady Lock N Load AP Automatic Press has the author sold on the reloader, which is capable of reloading a handgun or rifle, as well as using dies from any manufacturer with standard threads.
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Hornady Lock N Load AP

Locked and loaded. The author likes the product's ruggedness, as well as some of the extras put into the Hornady press.

If you've ever thought about getting into reloading or upgrading your equipment so that you can produce more ammunition, the Hornady Lock-N-Load AP Automatic Press may be just what the doctor ordered. This device is the cornerstone of Hornady's line of metallic cartridge reloading equipment and is a formidable tool designed for both novices and experts alike. Let's take a look at what you get when you purchase a LNL AP, how to install it, and the basics of using it.

The first thing you'll notice is the appropriately beefy packaging designed to deliver your press undamaged. The press is heavy, rugged and about as bulletproof as you can get. It comes finished with Hornady's proprietary red-speckled coating, which is tough as nails. In the box, you'll find the mostly assembled press, case-activated powder measure, instruction manual and DVD, primer pick-up tubes, and other parts associated with the main components.

One of the most unique parts you'll unpack are the "lock and load" die bushings for which the press is named (LNL). Unlike most presses where you have to screw the dies into the threaded stations each time you want to use them, Hornady utilizes a kind of twist-lock bushing system that's vibration proofed with a rubber o-ring. This makes caliber changeovers quicker and easier, since the user does not have to readjust the dies each time. You can of course choose not to use the benefit of the LNL bushings and just leave them in the press and screw your dies in and out each time, but they are cheap enough to buy some for each of your die sets and certainly worth the expense.


Setting up the press is simple and straight forward. I cannot emphasize enough how vital it is to have a sturdy bench for any reloading operation. You are going to be tugging on this heavy piece of equipment and a wobbly bench is not only annoying, but "uses" some of your energy put into operating the press, making the job just that much harder. You'll need a drill, pen to mark the holes, and bolts, nuts, and washers of appropriate size and length to penetrate your bench top.

Dry fit the press and carefully test its operation before drilling the holes. The ram must be able to fully extend and make sure you leave enough room to attach the spent primer discharge hose. This is nearly foolproof since Hornady machined a flat mounting surface into the cast press that helps index it on the edge of the bench top. Drill your holes, insert bolts, and snug it down making sure to capture the ammunition catch bin mount on the left side.


At this time you can begin cleaning and installing the case-activated powder measure. Kind of like when you buy a new gun, there is a light coat of oil on most of the components that come with the press that should be removed. This oil must be removed from all of the surfaces on the powder measure because it could mix with the powder and gum things up.

When you reassemble the powder measure, you'll have a choice to make with regards to the rotor. There are two rotors included: one for pistol and one for rifle. The difference is the powder capacity of the metering chamber. After choosing the correct rotor for what type of metallic cartridge you plan to reload first and assembling the measure, you can thread a LNL bushing onto it and insert it into the third position on the press. Note that the measure can work in any position on the press, but for the workflow and die setup typically used, this position works best.

Hornady Lock N Load AP

Charge! The powder charger components.

Probably the best attribute of the powder measure is that it is case-activated. This simply means that the powder charger will not drop a charge unless there is a case present. This is a huge benefit since when reloading you will unavoidably run into some bad cases or ones that did not prime correctly, and you will have to remove them from the workflow mid-stream. If the powder measure were not case activated, then it would send powder down onto the shellplate making a huge mess.


Now it's time to set up your dies. There are many different variations of dies and ways to use them. This is just one example each for rifle and handgun on the Hornady LNL AP Press.

A typical handgun die setup would be as follows:

Station 1 - de-priming and case sizing
Station 2 - case neck expanding, priming
Station 3 - powder charging
Station 4 - bullet seating
Station 5 - taper crimping (where applicable)

A typical rifle setup would be a little different and generally uses less dies. As a reminder, make sure you educate yourself before attempting any reloading operation. There are many important intricacies that are not covered in this review.

After ensuring that your post-sizing rifle brass remains a safe length, using a setup like this is typical:

Station 1 - de-priming and cases sizing
Station 2 - (no die), priming
Station 3 - powder charging
Station 4 - bullet seating
Station 5 - no die, or crimping (where applicable)


The last pieces of the pie are installing the shellplate and lubrication. There are many different shellplates and each one does anywhere from one to several calibers. You'll need to pick one of these up separately just like a die set since it depends on what the individual user plans to load.

Hornady Lock N Load AP

Get Progressive. Unlike single-stage presses, each stroke of the ram is completing up to five different operations.

The shellplate attaches beneath the dies with an included Allen bolt and washer. The case retention spring is stretched around the shellplate and will automatically slip into place when you cycle the press a couple times. The press features three grease "zerks" which are designed to be used with a standard automotive grease gun. White lithium is the preferred lubricant and you should grease the press regularly with use to keep wear off the moving parts.

Now you're ready to load and experience what "auto-progressive" (AP) really means. Unlike single-stage presses, each stroke of the ram is completing up to five different operations and advancing the cases to the next workstation in preparation for the next stroke.

Assuming the press is full, typical workflow goes something like this:

  1. Add an empty case to station one
  2. Pull and return
  3. Push to prime in station 2
  4. Visually check powder charge in station 4 which advanced from station 3
  5. Add bullet to case in station 4
  6. Completed ammunition is ejected and you can add an empty case to station one in its place

This rhythm continues on: brass, look, bullet, pull, push, brass, look, bullet, pull, push...up to 400-plus times per hour!

The Hornady LNL AP is easy to use, rugged and American made. It's certainly worth the investment for the reloader who wants the ability to accurately make lots of ammunition. It's capable of reloading nearly every handgun and rifle cartridge and takes dies from any manufacturer with standard threads. Give it a shot and you won't be disappointed.

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