If you spend a lot of time reloading rifle rounds on a single stage press you will know how much work goes into making a quality bullet. Making a few boxes of high quality rifle rounds will require a large amount of prep work. How long this work will take largely depends on your equipment. You can work hours on a hundred rounds or you can do it in 20 minutes. It will largely depend on your available equipment. This prep work can be made easy with the purchase of a case prep center. Reloading is an expensive hobby, so you might not yet be able to afford to buy one.
Through use bullets expand and contract and eventually stretch out over time due to the pressures required to fire them. When the brass stretches it will no longer be able to chamber properly. You can throw it away, but who wants to throw away their brass. This is where the case trimmer comes in. A case trimmer is an inexpensive solution to shortening the length of your brass.
What’s the Best Case Trimmer For the Money?
The Hornady Lock N Load Case Prep Center is easily the best case prep center on the market. If you have the room to mount this unit on your reloading bench I would highly recommend saving up the money. This case prep center doesn’t come cheap but it is an all in one solution. The relatively narrow size of this unit will save space on your bench compared to purchasing everything separately.
This Case prep center works similarly to a vertical drill press. Just place your rifle brass into the shell holder, adjust the depth and pull down the arm. Once your done trimming your brass simply move onto the other stations on this unit. With this type of press you should easily trim 1000 pieces per hour. The Hornady Case Prep Center also includes a power trimmer, chamfer/deburr tools, primer pocket cleaner and five neck brushes. The primer pocket uni-former, primer pocket reamers and flash hole deburr tool can be purchased separately.
If you are looking for a case prep center that doesn’t need to be mounted directly to your reloading bench this is the unit for you. The design of the Frankford Arsenal Platinum Series Case Trim and Prep System is different than every other design on the market. It is small and easy to store in a shelf or drawer. This press doesn’t work like a drill press, it actually resembles an automatic pencil sharpener. Once adjusted you can quickly run through a lot of brass. It will trim and shoulder almost any caliber, from .17 to .460 Weatherby. The only cases this can’t trim are straight wall cases. Straight wall cases are only found in pistol and a few select rifles. The best part of this unit is that it doesn’t require the purchase of separate shell holders. With this Frankford Arsenal unit you will be able to trim, chamfer, debur and clean up primer pockets of any bottleneck rifle cartridge. This is the prep center for you if you want a small efficient unit that quickly does the work for you.
Power Case Trimmers
The RCBS Trim Pro-2 is likely the most accurate power case trimmer on the market. If all you need is a case trimmer that can produce at a high volume this is the trimmer for you. RCBS also has a Case Prep Center but it is very pricey. The RCBS Trim Pro-2 is one of the most precise units on the market. The only downside is the increase in precision slows down the unit a bit. You are still able to prep a large volume of cases with this unit so in my opinion the quality makes up for the loss of speed.
Like most of the other power trimmers in this category the RCBS unit works like a drill press. Simply adjust the unit and ram the trimmer into the case. If adjusted properly you will have a case length precise to the .001″ accuracy. With this unit you will easily trim your brass to the proper length.
The Lyman Reloading Universal Power Trimmer is an affordable power trimmer. This Lyman trimmer is about half the price of the RCBS. The Lyman unit is an entry level power trimmer that is actually pretty nice for the price. You lose a little bit of precision with the RCBS but most people won’t notice a difference. The Lyman actually runs a little bit faster than the RCBS unit which is why it’s slightly less accurate.
Setting up this unit is actually pretty easy. The unit includes a set of assorted pilot tools. These pilot tools should work with most of the readily available bottleneck cartridges. It couldn’t be easier to setup you just choose your corresponding pilot and slide your case into the shell holder. To adjust this unit you simply adjust a set screw and run the case into the trimmer. For the price it is hard to beat this unit.
Collet Style Manual Case Trimmer
I’m only going to review one manual case trimmer and it’s the Hornady Camlock Case Trimmer. The reason isn’t because the other manual case trimmers are bad. It’s because the Hornady is actually the cheapest unit available and it’s probably the best. This trimmer is probably the most accurate trimmer on the market. You can easily trim rifle brass to .001″ in under 5 seconds. If you are only going to trim 100 or so cases at a time than you won’t be able to beat this unit. This manual case trimmer is easy to setup and just works well.
The only real down side to the Hornady Camlock Case trimmer is the shell plates. This unit will only work with hornady shell holders which is an additional expense but not that bad if you only reload a few calibers.
Which Case Trimmer is Right For You?
If you are looking for you first case trimmer you may not know where to start. So why do you need a case trimmer? A case trimmer is required because of the case lengthening that occurs during the firing and resizing process. Case lengthening is a natural occurrence and it is impossible to prevent.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Case Trimmer
- Budget- I always start off with budget because case trimmers vary considerably in price. You can’t expect the cheapest case trimmer on the market to perform as well as the most expensive. Your budget will largely determine the tasks the trimmer can perform and the quality of your trimmed cases.
- Volume of Cases- You are going to see a considerable difference in total volume between case trimmers. A manual case trimmer will never keep up with a power trimmer. Most power trimmers will also perform a variety of other tasks. Completely finishing your bullet in one movement will speed up your entire case preparation process.
- Other Tasks- If you thought that trimmers could only trim your cases you have a lot to learn. Many of the more expensive trimmers can perform everything you need for case prep. It’s possible that you will suffer in quality by using an all in one trimmer vs multiple quality dedicated units.
- Quality of Trimming- Like all things in life different people will have different quality needs. It wouldn’t make sense to buy an expensive trimmer if your only shooting at self defense ranges. Likewise a distance shooter wouldn’t see much benefit in a 20$ trimmer.
Different Types of Case Trimmers
In this article I will be covering both Collet Style trimmers (aka manual trimmers), power trimmers and all in one case prep centers.
Collet Style Manual Case Trimmer
A collet style trimmer uses a collet head to hold the case head while a caliber specific pilot supports the case neck. Collet style trimmers are easy to use, fairly easy to load and unload and provide a clean cut. The primary focus with this style trimmer is to make a consistent case length over time. This can be accomplished by making sure the case is held tightly in the collet. The most important step is to make sure you apply consistent pressure. With this type of trimmer it is easy to accomplish consistent results.
Power Case Trimmer
A power case trimmer primarily focuses on production. With this type of trimmer you are more focused on volume than quality. The bullets will still chamber properly, but they might not have the required consistency for competition. A power case trimmer works like a drill press. Once setup properly it will automatically trim your brass to the correct size.
Case Prep Centers
A case prep center is a lot like a power case trimmer. The only difference between these two units is what they can do. A case prep center will perform all the tasks that you need for case preparation. They combine a power case trimmer with many different optional accessories. If you can afford one, this is the type of unit that you want.
What’s The Best Case Trimmer For The Money?
If I were to only pick one of these products it would be the Hornady Case Prep Center you can’t beat the versatility that this unit offers you. Whether or not you need everything it offers is going to be up for debate, but in a perfect world every reloader would own one. If you want more of a basic unit than the Hornady Manual Case Trimmer would be my solution.
Selecting your first case trimmer doesn’t have to be a difficult decision. All you need to do is match up your budget with all their features. If you can’t afford the unit you want now wait a while until you have a little more money saved. If there’s one thing I’ve learned through the years, it’s that buying reloading equipment is addictive. If you don’t get what you want now you will eventually end up paying for both.