Designing The Right Bench Layout for You
by Scott Crawford - July 6, 2021
I'm often asked how I came to the design of my current bench layout. Over forty five years of hand loading has led me down this path, this layout. When I first started hand loading my own ammo (.357 magnum) I began with a turret press and steel dies. I had the speed of rotating the turret head yet I had to roll my cases in a tray to lube them slowing down the entire process or at least the first couple of steps. Well let's just say that it taught me an important lesson that speed is not what I was after. I was after safe, accurate, affordable ammo - period and in that order. What I really learned was that it doesn't matter what space you have, you must adjust to it.
Jump forward almost a half century and I'm still at it (almost every day). I'm a hand loading fool. After all, I'm a Hunter, Adventurer, Writer, Conservationist and ammo consumer! I'm also retired now and have all the time in the world to hand load. I realize that hand loading takes time and to some that time is precious. You work five or more days each week and slow is not necessarily your friend. So let's get started in designing a bench layout that works for you.
Let's start out by evaluating the type and amount of ammo you burn through in a given month of prime shooting. Review press comparison.pdf file that shows rounds per hour off Single Stage, Turret & Progressive presses.
Author's Brass & Bullet Storage on the Reloading Bench
Three Presses on the Author's Bench
Now let's tackle spacing on the bench. I've mentioned that I have three presses on my 8' bench and a keyboard & monitor along with a machinist toolbox. That may seem cramped however I find that there is plenty of room. Spacing between my two metallic loading presses is 13-1/2" and between my shot shell press 11-1/2".
There is 15" of free space behind my two metallic presses in front of the 55" long bullet & brass storage bins allowing more than enough room to stage equipment or components. I typically hand prime to the left of my Frankford Arsenal M-Press with the keyboard and monitor to my left. A couple of feet of free work space there.
Overhead View of Press Spacing on the Author's Bench
Something that I've considered however passed on were mounting plates that would allow me to quickly remove a press if more space was needed. I just haven't needed more space. Of course I have other surfaces from which to work from such as a coffee table where I typically disassemble & clean my firearms as well as other surfaces. My powder & primer storage reside in a bookcase immediately to the right of my bench. It is 13-1/2" deep x 32" long x 34-1/2" high. The two shelves along with the top surface handle my powder and primers nicely within easy reach of the bench. On the top surface I keep four powder measures and numerous loading trays.
Miscellaneous reloading supplies like shell holders, measuring dippers, battery powered scales, chamfer tools, etc. are stored in the machinest tool box right on the bench.
Tilted Glass Containers for Brass Storage from Hobby Lobby
My reloading books & journals are kept on bookshelves to the right of the bench. Always keep multiple reloading books close at hand to compare notes!
If you are looking for single stage presses you might consider the two that I use. The M-Press from Frankford Arsenal and the Marksman from MEC Outdoors. Both are solid performers in a good price range. I also use a LEE Breech Lock Reloader Press and the Lyman Brass-Smith® Ideal Press™. Both are used primarily for handgun reloading although I often times will use them to deprime rifle brass as well. You can never have too many presses! These are kept on my bench in the garage.
An 8' Gladiator Adjustable Height Work Bench
So to recap, I've incorporated an 8' Gladiator adjustable height work bench for the reloading bench. I use a storage shelf system for my primer & powder storage and a big entry table for additional bullet, brass and die storage. I keep high use Brass & Bullets in storage containers right on my bench for quick, easy access since I load almost every day.
With three presses, powder scale/dispenser, machinist tool box on board I still have plenty of room for whatever I decide to load. I use two adjustable height stools for seating in case a buddy is over working with me. It doesn't take a lot of room to setup a bench system. Some thought is required prior to mounting items or you will have a lot of extra holes in your work surface as you adjust later! Also, if you don't have enough space for a bench press, consider using a portable hand held press like the LEE Breech Lock Hand Press. I used one for some time in our living room while watching TV. Today I use it for loading at the range or in deer camp!
My current Gun Room is 31 ft. x 12 ft. however that amount of space is just a luxury - not necessary.
I hope this Bullet Points blog gives you some insight into what I use and how I'm setup. More importantly I hope it has provided you with a better idea of how you want to setup your load bench. If you have any comments to add please submit them below.
Lee Hand Press on the Author's Bench
IN THIS ARTICLE
Frankford Arsenal MEC Outdoors Gladiator Benches Lee Precision Lyman Reloading Hobby Lobby
Reloading Bench, Single Stage Press, Reloading, Hand Loading