Hornady’s Lock-N-Load Classic handloading kit will put you on the fast track to developing your own pistol and rifle cartridges…the easy way.

by Rob Reaser

I admit to being a late-entry onto the handloading scene—not for a lack of desire, but because I assumed it was a game better played by folks who had more spare cash lying around than I did or who were more comfortable working with critical measurements and more confident in shooting loads they cooked up in some secluded corner of their basement.

What a shame, because once I decided to cross that Rubicon (thanks to a friend who had years of experience in custom handloading), I learned that my apprehensions were totally unfounded, and the benefits gained far and away negated the financial investment. In fact, my initial (and small) buy-in cost for a basic handloading setup quickly turned into a money-saver and provided a much deeper understanding of firearm and ballistic theory in general.

Perhaps more important still, handloading presented a recreational pursuit that offered a welcome mental refuge from life’s grind. Sitting for hours at the loading bench, working through the mechanics of sizing brass, installing primers, and loading powder and bullets with nothing on my mind beyond the task at hand offered its own reward. It’s also a great way to pass the time during the dark winter months or on those rainy weekends when there are few good prospects beyond couch time and a long nap.

Hornady’s Lock-N-Load Classic is the ideal gateway kit for learning how to load your own ammo and saving money.

Whatever ultimately brings you to the handloading bench, the two most valuable benefits are saving money on ammunition and, if you are a hunter or long-range shooter desiring the most accurate load for your rifle, the ability to develop custom loads. Beyond those, all other gains from handloading ammunition can be considered bonuses.

For sure, handloading can seem a daunting task to the beginner. A quick glance at handloading equipment is often intimidating because of the seemingly endless array of specialty tools, dies, and supplies that make little sense if you don’t know what they’re for. Fortunately, the folks at Hornady provide an easy on-ramp for the first-time handloader with their Lock-N-Load Classic Kit.

The Lock-N-Load Classic Kit comes with everything you need to start handloading pistol and rifle ammunition, minus cartridge-specific dies and shell holders. We’ve been using one for the last year and have had nothing but positive experiences.

The kit centers on Hornady’s Lock-N-Load Classic press. This is a simple yet robust single-stage press. Because this press performs only one cartridge-building function at a time—everything from decapping primers in spent cartridges to the final bullet seating and crimping operations—it is perfect for beginners as it makes the entire loading process focused and methodical, allowing you to become intimately familiar with every step of the handloading sequence.

The Lock-N-Load Classic Kit does not include die sets or shell holders because these are caliber specific. The company does sell die sets for practically any standard cartridge. Pistol sets get three dies, bottleneck cartridge sets get two dies.

That is not to imply that a single-stage press is only for novice handloader use. On the contrary, many (if not most) precision rifle cartridge handloaders prefer the single-stage press because it provides the utmost control of the loading process. Also, most precision rifle handloading is a small-volume affair, say, 20 to 50 rounds per session.

The Lock-N-Load bushing system makes swapping between dies easy.

By contrast, progressive presses, which are more elaborate and expensive than single-stage presses, perform all the loading steps simultaneously. With each pull of the press lever, a progressive press loads a cartridge case, sizes, primes, pours powder, and seats a bullet. These are ideal for loading large volumes of cartridges for semi-auto use, such as pistols and AR-15s. Our recommendation, though, is to start with the single-stage press. It will allow you the opportunity to become thoroughly familiar with each stage of the handloading process, and you’ll likely want a single-stage press if precision, customized rifle loads are what you’re after.

In addition to the single-stage press that you mount easily to your workbench, the Lock-N-Load Classic Kit comes with a bench-mounted powder hopper/measurer. Utilized in conjunction with the included digital scale, powder trickler, and powder funnel, it’s everything you need to achieve precise and consistent powder loads.

One of the big advantages of the Lock-N-Load Classic Kit, as with all Hornady presses, is the company’s patented Lock-N-Load system.

Handloading requires the use of dies to perform several key functions. First, there is the sizing die, which is used to reform a previously fired case to its proper dimensions. For pistol cartridges, there is an expander die. This die slightly opens the cartridge case mouth to allow the bullet to easily start into the case at the beginning of the bullet seating operation. It is not used for building bottleneck rifle cartridges. Finally, there is the seating die. Its function is to seat the bullet into the cartridge case after the case has received its primer and powder load.

Since the Lock-N-Load Classic Kit press is single-stage, it only accommodates one die at a time. Changing dies from one step to the next with conventional dies means careful readjusting every time you swap dies. The Lock-N-Load system, however, uses a special bushing installed in the top of the press. This mates to a die bushing that locks in place on the die once the die is adjusted for a particular setting. With all the dies properly adjusted, changing from one die to the next for each step of the handloading operation is a simple matter of twisting one die off the press and installing the next die—without having to make further adjustments until you wish to load ammo with new dimensional specifications. That makes the loading process on a single-stage press simple and quick.

Speaking of dies, the Lock-N-Load Classic Kit does not include any because dies are caliber-specific. Simply purchase the dies and appropriately sized shell holders you need for the cartridges you wish to load and you’re ready to go. Hornady sells dies in sets, which makes the selection process even simpler for the beginner.

In addition to the above-mentioned items, the Lock-N-Load Classic Kit also comes with a primer loader (that installs on the press), primer catcher, a handheld priming tool, combination chamber and deburr tool, One Shot case lube, and Hornady’s reloading handbook (currently in its 10th edition). If you want to start handloading with new brass cases, this plus the necessary die sets and shell holders, is everything you need to handload your own pistol or rifle ammo.

Should you wish to reload fired cases, additional tools are required, such as a case cleaning system and case prep tools. These can be just the basics, like a case trimmer and flash hole deburr tool, or you can get more sophisticated with your case prep tools as your experience and needs progress.

500 Free Bullets!

While winter is the perfect time to start your handloading hobby, Hornady is making the timing even better. From now through December 31, 2020, the company is offering their Get Loaded 2020 promotion. If you buy a Lock-N-Load Classic Kit now, Hornady will throw in 500 free bullets to get you started.

With the increasing attention being paid to custom handloading for long-range recreational shooting, competition, and hunting, and with more shooters simply looking to extract the greatest possible accuracy out of their firearms, it’s no wonder that greater numbers of firearms enthusiasts are jumping on the handloading caravan. We’re all about that as well, but we also like to save a few bucks along the way and have something better to do on those dark and dreary weekends than zoning out on the couch and wasting time on the boob tube. For us, handloading is the answer.

Shoot On Editor-in-Chief Rob Reaser is a lifelong outdoorsman, former magazine editor, columnist, and contributing editor to numerous national publications in the automotive and outdoor segments. He has also authored and co-authored several DIY gun building books. His shooting and hunting passions cover everything from traditional archery and big-game bowhunting to the latest in handguns, rifles, and reloading. Rob has a troublesome habit of pulling guns and things apart to see how they work; occasionally, he manages to get them back together...

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