Reload to train

A few years ago, most police agencies would not have considered reloading metallic cartridges as a means of providing practice ammunition. However, one does not have to look hard to find news of ammunition shortages nationwide. A lot of political...


A few years ago, most police agencies would not have considered reloading metallic cartridges as a means of providing practice ammunition. However, one does not have to look hard to find news of ammunition shortages nationwide. A lot of political posturing and finger pointing has been exercised over the lack of ammunition. Regardless of the source of the shortage, my informal poll of law enforcement agencies indicates that many agencies have reduced their training allotment to bare-bones. They simply don’t have the inventory for adequate practice.

Adequate practice is not the number of rounds allotted by policy for training and qualification—that’s the minimum. Adequate practice means that officers get enough trigger-time for formal and informal practice on a regular basis.

For some reason, reloading in law enforcement agencies has never been considered risk management friendly, even though some departments have been reloading for years. If an agency’s policy impacts its efficacy (Oklahoma City v. Tuttle, 471 U.S. 808 (1985)), or provides inadequate training (City of Canton, Ohio v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378 (1989)), they’re wrong.

Considering the statistical increase in danger for law enforcement officers nationwide, our officers should be shooting more, not less. The way to do it is to pick up fired brass on the range and scrounge for bullets, primers and powder. Yes, these things are scarce, but not impossible to acquire if one pays attention to the market.

Officers who reload to augment their training know that reloaded cartridges can be loaded to mimic the performance of duty cartridge counterparts. Remember, reloaded stuff is for practice only.

For this column I tested Hornady’s Lock-N-Load Ammo Plant Loader, hereafter called (appropriately) the Lock-N-Load AP. It turned out to be a solid performer, cranking out plenty of practice ammunition for serious training.

The Lock-N-Load AP Press is a five-station, auto indexing, progressive press. It can be purchased with an automatic bullet feeder and automatic brass feeder. The model I tested did not have these two features; I found that any user can get into a cadence where completed cartridges fly into the bin using the patented EZ-Ject system.

The Lock-N-Load AP Press is manufactured with great attention to detail. It doesn’t have spurious casting or machining marks, or unfinished surfaces. It is designed and manufactured the way law enforcement users like to have their equipment: over-engineered. Sometimes this type of treatment just makes products look nice. The Lock-N-Load AP Press, with its huge ram and frame, also has a significant amount of operating leverage and natural smoothness in its operation.

The smoothness and leverage of this press could also be a disadvantage. For example, this press seats primers on the downstroke, where the user is pressing the lever forward. Although it has plenty of primer “feel”, where the user can literally feel the primer enter the cup, it’s several times the strength of a hand-priming tool. Since I’m a 223 user I had to sort my brass carefully. Military style brass, of which I have several thousand, has crimped primers. Without that “feel” (and good sorting), the leverage of the primer seating punch could easily force a primer into crimped brass.

The Lock-N-Load AP Press is slightly less expensive than competitive models. It is beefier and a little more versatile than its competition. Since I had other products for which to compare this product, I found it only moderate in the speed in which one can reload—honestly, several other presses can flat outrun it, given the same user with the same experience. However, it is definitely on the top end of precision, and accuracy wins here. In other words, quality rules. Powder measuring, primer seating and bullet seating are more predictable on this product then many others I have tested. In fact, the Lock-N-Load AP Press has the type of consistency that one can get from single-stage (one at a time) reloading, at a much faster rate.

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