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Old 07-27-2011, 05:25 AM
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Smile RCBS Large Reloading Presses

I own a number of RCBS reloading presses, including the
"Junior" press, the "Rockchucker", and the larger presses such as the original "A" (A1), A2, A3, and A4 ("Big Max").

The "A" was the very first RCBS press, and is an olive drab color. It is used, but in fine shape. I never used it.

The A2, A3, and A4 (Big Max) are still NIB. Does anyone know the relative merits of these 3 presses? I have been told that the A2 was the best quality one, although the next 2 were slightly larger and more powerful.

It's something like comparing pre-war S&W revolvers with Bangor Punta revolvers, where the pre-war ones were better quality fitting and smoothness, but the later ones had better heat treating and minor functional improvements.

I recently bought a Redding Turret Press, and it can possibly replace all my other presses. It is very heavy, and may be even stronger than the huge Big Max (A4). It reminds me of the old "Hollywood Sr." Turret Press in the 1960's, which was massive. (And extremely expensive even then).

Anybody out there with experience or knowledge of A2, A3, A4 presses? I may want to keep one of them and sell the other 2.

Thanks
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Old 07-27-2011, 07:17 AM
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I would love to see pictures of them. I have the latest Rockchucker and have seen the previous gen model but didn't even know about the others. If I ever bought another single stage I have thought the Forster Co-Ax would be it.
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Old 07-27-2011, 07:17 AM
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The smoothest and my favorite press is an old Rock Chucker. I have an A4 that I bought along time ago specifically for long cartridges 470, 475 # 2, 577 etc it is large enough to insert the long cases and seat the bullet in a normal fashion.

The A4 is long discontinued and like the old Rock Chucker is very well made. It seems to be a far more solid press than the model RCBS replaced it with.

The longer stoke makes it a bit slower for regular reloading.
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Old 07-27-2011, 10:09 AM
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Are you a press "collector" ??
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Old 07-27-2011, 10:40 AM
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The Big Max is a very strong press, 5" clearance, It makes for easy sizing of long rifle brass. However its bushing in not the right threads 1 3/8"x12 and not proper for the 1 1/2"x12 50BMG dies. Why RCBS didn't make it with the 1 1/2" bushing is a mystery...I believe at one time RCBS did make the 50BMG dies to fit the 1 3/8".

RCBS .50 BMG Reloading Dies, FL Die Set, 1 3/8"-12 $354.95

I have considered having mine cut & threaded to use the 1 1/2"x12 the standard 50 BMG size dies, but I don't have 50cal yet.

A-4 Big Max made 1982 - 1988.
The first A presses were made in 1949 , the A-2 1959 - 1969, the A-3 from 1969 - 1971. I've never seen an A-3.
The B was made in 1961 only.

Last edited by Shadow1006; 07-27-2011 at 10:52 AM.
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Old 07-27-2011, 11:43 AM
Neumann Neumann is offline
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The Rock Chucker is all I need (no .50 BMG in the wish list). It is stiff enough that the dies stay put only finger tight, so changing dies is way easier than my ancient open C press. The piston was a little stiff, but much better after thorough cleaning to remove the preservative, and lubrication with TFE chain lube (for bicycle chains - not sticky and no drips).

An RCBS turret press costs nearly as much as a Dillon 550B, so I'm holding off for a true progressive setup. Even with a turret, you spend 3x as much time chucking as shooting.
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Old 05-08-2013, 08:42 AM
Skeet 028 Skeet 028 is offline
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II have an old RCBS Stands for Rock Chuck Bullet Swage press from 1947 No A press at present but have an A2-- 2 2As and a 1968 A3 I just got at a gun show. They supposedly only made about a hundred A3s. Had a B press (approx 500 made) but sold it. I actually use the old big presses. American Iron....like the old Chebby and Ford Cars
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Old 05-08-2013, 02:32 PM
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If you have more than two....you're a collector. With all those classic presses I would say you have a rather nice collection already.

I just love all those old presses..they just cool.
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Old 05-08-2013, 03:07 PM
Ivan the Butcher Ivan the Butcher is offline
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I have 2 different Rock Chucker presses on the bench right now. They still make a few large dies that use the 1 1/2" threads, I have 12 gauge for brass shell RCBS dies and 20 gauge in C-H/4-D, talk about a big shell holder! FWIW I think, that the Redding T-7 is the best bang for your buck, if you're buying new. For reforming brass I built a 20 Ton hydraulic press about 30 years ago, did 1 batch and never used it since. Since so many obsolete ammo componits are available now, we don't have to use monster presses any more to make them out of something else. But it was something to have .333 swadged down from .338 projectiles to sell for 318 Westly Richards or 33 Winchester when nobody else did. Same with .455 from .458 for some of the British Nitros. Now you can order most of those from Midway! Years ago I picked up a set of 22 cal. bullet swadgeing dies used. Corbon has a unique thread pattern so I've never used them, I thought I might need to soon, but reloading supplies are becoming available again, and the expense vs. quality isn't worth it to me. Ivan.
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Old 05-08-2013, 03:36 PM
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I bought a used Big Max press 20 years ago. The guy I got it from said he bought it to make jacketed 223 bullets from soft lead and fired 22 rimfire cases. We didn't discuss the details because at the time I could buy 1000 FMJ 223's slugs for next to nothing. Hmmm, maybe he wasn't as crazy as I though he was.
Anyway, I do 80% of my reloading on it and love it. The other 20% comes off my Dillon.
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Old 03-19-2017, 02:03 PM
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Default Big Max

I don't think the Redding turret is anywhere near as strong as the Big Max. Own both. With the extra duty handle you can form about any jacketed bullet or size any case. It is not large enough to reload 50 BMG ammo even with the 1-3/8" dies. You could size a case maybe but it is just lacking in stroke length for 50. The older RCBS presses are way better than the newer ones for sure. My first generation Rock Chucker is still tight after decades of use. My ammomaster 50 was very sloppy out of the box. Has way to much flex to size 50 cases with any accuracy unless they are new cases or annealed. Won't be selling my Rock Chucker or Big Max ever. Looking for a good replacement for the Ammomaster 50 now.
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Old 03-19-2017, 02:27 PM
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The original A and A2 are forged steel, not cast iron or even mehanite. They are probably the strongest presses ever made. Somewhere toward the end of the A2 run into the A3 run RCBS quit installing a removable nut in the top that would allow the 7/8 x14 dies and then when removed the larger dies for British calibers (don't know the thread pitch). Most of the A3's come without the removable nut but are threaded straight into the press itself in 7/8 x 14". The use of forged steel also was stopped somewhere into the A3 production. RCBS also made a press called a B which was also made of forged steel. It was smaller than the A series more the size of a rockchucker and is very rare. Press collectors spend big bucks to get a B. I have use an original A2 for years. I acquired it from a friend without any parts for the base around 1980 and have used it as my single stage ever since. I was able to get the base from the original RCBS company in Oroville, along with the two bolts. One of the features that the A, A2 and A3 have is the ability to change positions on the base and tilt it at a slight angle for reloading.

Another feature of the A series that is seldom noticed is that the spent primers drop down into a hollow ram and exit out a hole in the lower rear of the ram. I've found sometimes they don't come out and the ram won't go all the way up because a primer may be sticking out of the hole slightly and catch on the press body.

I have had a lot of presses over the years including Rockchuckers, an A, and an A2, along with a variety of "steel" Hollywoods and Hollywood turrets. I think the A2 is the best of the bunch. It has served me well and I think it will served my son for most of his life too. For none single stage work, I still prefer my Dillon 550.

The A4 seems Ok, but it is mehanite which is a version of cast iron, not steel as the A and A2 were. The A3 is cast iron although some at the transition may be forged steel. The forged steel presses are the very strongest and best. The early A, A and A3 command top premium prices way out of range of most reloaders, although they can be found at gunshows much cheaper than Ebay prices.
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Old 03-20-2017, 12:28 AM
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I bought another Rock Chuck Bullet Swage Press at an auction not long ago(15 dollars). Predates the A press I will take a pic or two and post them. Kinda different and for those who may not know..they are upstroke presses..There were two versions of the A2..first had the 2 over the A and were OD color..the next called the A2 were the kinda green that RCBS went to. The A3 is more like a Rockchucker with a one piece ram. And for some odd reason the A3 loses paint easily. Big press but not as useable as the A2..nice collector. I sold my last Big Max..nice press but no support from RCBS. No parts available at all. I had an extra automatic shellholder ram top and the tech at RCBS tried to buy it. I consider the 2A the best of the bunch..A2 is next...if it has the top bushing. Compared to the A2 the Rock Chucker is a wimpy little press LOL...Joking guys..joking!
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Old 03-20-2017, 10:12 AM
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I started with a RCBS Jr press in 1973 and moved up to the RockChucker in '74. I have the conversion kit to make it a progressive but haven't used it much.
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Old 03-20-2017, 12:12 PM
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I have both a standard Rock Chucker and the RCBS A4 Big Max as well as a Forster Co-Ax. The Big Max new in box could sell from $350-$400 or higher. It's a big powerful press but has great feel. I like that the press handle is balanced and mine will stay in any position I leave the handle. It does have a longer stroke but works very well even for little .380 cases. The automatic shellholder is very nice or it uses regular shellholders. The ram prime unit works well, and better than most presses. Great press. I wouldn't trade mine for any other single stage press. My favorite. Only issue is the through the ram primer drop. The little plastic primer catcher cup will eventually dry and crack and no replacements available but there are other fixes to catch primers. I use my Co-Ax more but if I could only have one press it'd be the Big Max. Any of your presses would be great for a second press to the Co-Ax or other automatic progressive press but I would highly recommend keeping the Big Max A4.
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Old 03-20-2017, 01:19 PM
dave1918a2 dave1918a2 is offline
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If anything keep the A2. I have one I have been using for 40 years. I have a recent Rock Chucker and two Dillon 550's. I use the A2 sparingly now that I have the RC which I use for smaller calibers, 22-250 ETC and use the A2 for 264WM, 300 Wea and 340 wea and 375 H&H and 460 wea, just so much easier to resize.
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Old 03-20-2017, 02:45 PM
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I would think the OP already made his decision since this thread is 4 years old.
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