January 2018

Case-Prep Stations from RCBS, Lyman, and Frankford Arsenal

These devices do not magically turn a spent shell into a fully prepared case. But they do offer elbow grease for getting the job done. We tested a quartet head to head to see what they offer.

Case-Prep Stations from RCBS, Lyman, and Frankford Arsenal

The $130 RCBS Trim Mate is a good, basic machine for processing brass that has already been trimmed. The chamfering and deburring tools proved efficient, and we liked the large and small stainless-steel brush heads for cleaning the primer pockets. Several optional tool heads are available, and frankly with the competition being comparably priced we think more tool heads should have been provided.

If you are an avid reloader of pistol ammunition, you are probably a little spoiled. Thanks to progressive loading machines, spent pistol cases can be deprimed, resized, and belled at the case mouth one after another, just by working a single lever. Preparing rifle cases for reloading is far more tedious, with each spent case demanding not only resizing in terms of diameters but also a return to specified length by trimming the edges of the case mouth, followed by chamfering of the case mouth interior and a cleaning of the primer pocket. Each of these operations touches upon the skills of a machinist or perhaps a tool-and-die maker. As such, we decided to look at some machines that automate the case-preparation process.

When we use the word “automated,” we don’t really mean it in the truest sense of the word. Case “prep” stations do not enable you to pop a spent shell into one side of the machine and retrieve a fully prepared case from the other. What these machines do is offer a measure of precision and provide the elbow grease for getting the job done. To find out how much help a case-prep station can be, we shopped Brownells.com and its sister company Sinclair International (SinclairIntl.com). We walked away with a $135 Lyman Case Prep Xpress and two RCBS products, the RCBS Trim Mate Case Prep Center ($130) and the $400 Universal Case Prep Center. We also acquired a $200 Frankford Arsenal Platinum series Case Trim and Prep Center. Of the four, only the Frankford Arsenal and the RCBS Universal provided a case-trim feature.

Our test cartridge cases were Hornady 6.5 Creedmoor brass left over from recent tests that had been sized and deprimed on our MEC Marksman press (see the March 2017 issue). The fired cases measured about 1.92 inches in length or more. Our goal was to size the empty cases to as close to 1.91 inches as we could get. Consistent results were what we were after, but convenience and ease of operation would be good reasons to buy a case-prep station, too. Durability and ease of cleanup are additional considerations, but we had to ask, would the skills of a professional machinist be necessary to produce the best results? Or could anyone turn a used case into a match-ready component? Let’s find out.

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