Hornady Lock-N-Load™ AP Review

The Hornady Lock-N-Load™ AP offers a great deal of features for an affordable price. While it may not earn you the prestige with your friends that a Dillon press may offer, when it comes to metallic cartridge loading, it certainly is hard to beat the features you get for the money especially when you add in their “2010 GET LOADED” promotion. This really is a nice press.

Manufacturer Website: Hornady Web
MSRP: $499.54 (available for less through several online retailers)

Feature Highlights (from manufacturer):

The Lock-N-Load™ AP is a professional-grade, auto-indexing, 5-station progressive press that features a patented Lock-N-Load™ bushing system as well as a host of other features — detailed below — that make it much more attractive than other, more expensive presses, such as the Dillon XL650.

  • 5 station progressive press
  • Auto-indexing – each station moves 1/2 a stage on the upstroke and 1/2 a stage on the down stroke and the up stroke, making for ultra-smooth function. This process is much smoother than presses that do all their indexing on the down stroke.
  • The cartridge ejection system delivers 100% reliable ejection of every cartridge, every time, without needing any adjustments.
  • Case retention system – the press has an ingenious case retainer spring that allows you to quickly and easily remove and replace a case at any point in the loading process AND they are universal. Compare that to “other” progressives… they are not so progressive.
  • Quick change bushing system – the press has a 5 station quick change bushing system, which allows the Lock-N-Load ™ AP to be changed very quickly; from 223 to 45 in less than 5 minutes. Compare that to any other popular progressive presses on the market.


The press comes with an instructional DVD that walks you step by step through the installation and setup. Aside from the physical mounting, the most time consuming step is degreasing all of the components. This also happens to be a very important step as powder really sticks to the anti-tarnish compond that is applied at the factory. Total time for installation and set-up was around 3hrs.

  • Mounting is accomplished via 2 bolts or lag screws (make sure you don’t forget to attach the cartridge hopper bracket at this time), it must be mounted to a sturdy surface .
  • Once mounted you need to start unpacking the shell plate, shell retention spring, dies (sold separately) and powder measure. These will all need to be disassembled, have the anti-tarnish compound removed and a dry lubricant applied. I recommend something like Hornady One Shot Degreaser and Dry Lube. I made the mistake of trying to degrease using a dish soap solution and dry lube with Otis Special Forces Dry Lube the first time around, needless to say I had to do it over with One Shot.
  • The next step is to attach the main handle, install the shell plate (with a small amount of all purpose grease applied to the bottom side), and the case retention spring.
  • Next, if you plan on loading calibers that use small primers, you will need to switch out the case activated powder measure cylinder and priming system components to the small pistol components. I also decided to “upgrade” to a micrometer powder metering insert which allows much greater control of dispensed powder loads. Now it’s time to assemble the primer tube and assembly.
  • Finally, you work on installing and adjusting the dies. The L-N-L AP is a 5-station press so you have some flexibility here depending on the work you are trying to accomplish. For my set up I have: Station 1 – sizing and decapping die, Station 2 – case expander die, Station 3 – case activated powder measure, Station 4 – bullet seating die, Station 5 – factory crimp die.



The only issues I experienced with the press were a damaged case retainer spring and a bent primer cam, both of which were my fault.

Once you are set up, its a matter of setting and weighing the powder charge you are looking for then getting into a rhythm for placing an empty cartridge, pulling the lever, and placing the bullets. I recommend having extra case retention springs and Lock-N-Load™ bushings on hand. I also highly recommend upgrading to the micrometer powder measure insert and the larger size hopper.

All in all it is really a very simple system to learn and operate. I highly recommend it.


Add a Comment
  1. Nice write up and lots of nice pictures – you do not get these shots even on the manufacturers website.

    Yes, update on the warranty info would be appreciated. Dillon on all but the 1050 are lifetime – but I got the 1050 that thing can crank it out, but a lot more $ and complexity. Seems like Dillon sometimes even covers the owner oops under the warranty.

    Yep, changing over on the 1050 is an indepth procedure so a person should do several thousand rounds before switching.

    Is this the one with the “free” bullet offer?

  2. What is Hornady’s warranty like compared to Dillon? The 550 is a lot less money and the lifetime warranty rocks. But I’d look at the Hornady if everything was lined up and made sense.

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