Many reloaders find that they spend more time prepping fire brass for reloading than they do at the press. Getting ready to assemble reloads can be an onerous process involving several steps.
This is especially true if you load large batches of ammunition at one time.
I typically don’t load less than two hundred rounds in one sitting. For me, prepping cases for large batches is much easier with a case prep center.
A case prep center brings many processes required when reloading fired brass into one function. A case prep center can eliminate tedious hand tools and processes such as chamfering the case neck, swaging the primer pocket, and deburring trimmed brass. A motorized case prep center can save you time and effort at the reloading bench.
For me, the addition of a motorized case prep center makes reloading much more enjoyable, as well as helping keep my reloads uniform and consistent.
I routinely cut down .223 brass and resize it for .300 AAC Blackout. There is a lot of handwork to be done.
My motorized case prep center cuts down this case prep time by almost thirty percent.
In case you’re in a hurry, here is the list of;
The Best Case Prep Centers
How to Choose the Right Case Prep Center?
As you begin deciding on a case prep center for your reloading bench, there are several factors that you must consider.
Everyone has their own style and methods of reloading. Finding the case prep center that fits your reloading style and techniques is essential to your success.
These are the factors that I consider the most important when choosing a case prep center:
Manual Vs. Electric Prep Center
Manual case prep centers can give you all the functionality of an electric motorized case prep center. The difference is the volume of cases you can easily prepare.
On the whole, an electric case prep center will allow you to work a larger volume of brass in a given period than a manual prep center.
In addition, a powered prep center is less fatiguing than most manual prep centers.
Tool and Attachments
In my view, the more tools and attachments available for your case prep center, the more functional and useful it becomes. Some case prep centers allow you to:
- Clean your brass
- Chamfer the rim of the case opening
- Deburr the case mouth
- Lubricate the clean case
- Ream and clean the primer pocket
You can find a case rep center that will do almost all of your case preparation chores in one easy to use motorized unit that can save you hours at the reloading bench
Size and Weight
I know that space is always at a premium on my reloading bench.
Any new tool I consider adding to my reloading space makes things even tighter. For most of us, tools such as case prep centers must meet certain criteria for size and weight.
A case prep center should be:
- Easy to handle
- Lightweight enough to move quickly from storage to the reloading bench
- Sturdy enough to stand being moved regularly.
- Compact for easy storage without taking up a lot of extra room
You must strike a balance between weight and portability.
A case prep center that is not heavy enough to remain stable when you use it can be more frustrating than it is worth. On the other hand, a case prep center requiring someone to help move it isn’t much use either.
I try to find tools for my reloading bench that will stand the test of time.
Durability is a key factor in my choices. A case prep center can undergo some heavy-duty use as you prepare your cases for reloading.
Cheaply built case prep centers are no bargain.
The motors, bearings, housings, and tools should be the highest quality to ensure a long life in a demanding environment.
Ease of Use
The biggest goal of adding a case prep center to your reloading bench is to ease your workload, not make things more difficult. A case prep center that frustrates me is less than worthless.
The tools should be easy to change, and the work areas must be ergonomically designed to make my case prep projects easier.
Housekeeping is one of my pet peeves.
I am always concerned about the condition and quality of the environment in and on my reloading bench. This includes maintenance and care of my reloading equipment.
Case prep centers get exposed to many things that can cause problems. Brass shavings, dirt, debris and lubricants are part of the case prep process.
Keeping your case prep center clean and well maintained should not be a huge process or project.
A well-designed case prep center will make these types of maintenance quick and easy.
If price is not a consideration, consider yourself lucky.
For most of us, a budget is part of the process of any hobby.
As with almost any other purchase, finding the best combination of features and price is a key factor.
This is a personal issue that must be considered as you decide on a case prep center.
How Were the Prep Centers Shortlisted?
As you might expect, we used the criteria above to shortlist the case prep centers for this article.
Each case prep center was used to prepare 100 once fired .223 brass cases. To prepare the cases, they were:
- Resized in a full-length resizing die
- Cleaned in a vibrator using walnut shell media.
- Trimmed to length
We performed the following operations using each case prep center with 100 once-fired brass cases in .223 caliber.
- Deburr the case mouth
- Chamfer the case mouth
- Ream the primer pocket
- Brush the interior of the case neck
Not all case prep centers I tested will do all of these jobs.
At least one of the case prep centers will do more, which was considered as we adjusted the times as we ranked the choices.
Now, let’s get onto a look at the best case prep centers.
Best Small Footprint Case Prep Center – RCBS Trim Mate Case Prep Center
- Made of The highest quality materials
- Includes large and small primer pocket brushes, inside chamfering and outside deburring tools,...
- Five gear-driven rotating heads
Space is always a huge concern for most reloaders.
No matter how big your reloading bench, it just always seems a little cramped and crowded.
The RCBS Trim Mate case prep center is a possible solution for a cramped and crowded reloading bench. The Trim Master case prep center has one of the smallest footprints of all the case prep centers we tested.
Don’t let the small size fool you. The RCBS Trim Master case prep center packs all the features most reloaders will need into this package.
You will get the following with your RCBS Trim Master case prep center if this is the unit you choose:
- RCBS quality and attention to detail in the manufacturing
- Includes the following tools
- Large and small primer pocket brushes
- Case mouth chamfering tool
- Case mouth deburring tool
- Large and small case neck brushes
- One packet of dry case neck lubricant
- Five gear driven rotating tool stations
- To stationary non-driven positions for case neck brushes
- Two year limited warranty
- Optional tools such as primer pocket uniformers are available
The RCBS Trim Mate case prep center includes a high-torque electric drive motor providing enough power to consistently and quickly perform any needed case prep functions.
What We Found While Using the Trim Mate Case Prep Center
Our first impression of this case prep center was the quality it seemed to show out of the box. Everything was packaged neatly. The prep center exhibited the quality of fit and finish we expect from RCBS. My immediate overall impression was very favorable.
I immediately set to work with the 100 once-fired brass cases I had prepared.
One concern I always have with small compact case prep centers I how well they will stay in place as I use them.
There was no problem with the RCBS Trim Mate case prep center.
All functions require you to push straight down, so the case prep center doesn’t wander trying to slide.
I was a little disappointed with the quality of the tools and cutters that were included.
The chamfering and deburring tool only has two flutes. This can make cutting a little slow.
Three flute cutting tools would be better.
We could not work on the primer pockets of our once-fired brass because the RCBS Time Master doesn’t include proper pocket tools.
This is a small shortcoming but frustrating if you are a beginning reloader.
Overall, the RCBS Trim Mate case prep center is a good place to begin if you are in the market for a baseline case prep center.
The package lacks some of what I consider essential tools, such as a primer pocket uniformer and reaming tool.
Pros and Cons
- Well constructed
- Comes with a basic set of tools
- High-torque motor
- Easy to move and store
- Lacks some essential tools
- Won’t clean or lubricate brass
Overall, this is a good place for a beginning reloader to start with a case prep center. However, you may soon outgrow this tool.
At the very least, you will need to spend more money on better cutters, other caliber tools, and tools to perform other jobs such as primer pocket preparation.
Best Design Case Prep Center – Frankford Arsenal Platinum Series Case Prep Centers
- SPECS: 110V Case Prep Center with 4 power tool stations can run up to 4 heads at one time
- INCLUDES: Inside chamfer tool, outside debur tool, small primer pocket scraper and large primer...
- RELIABLE: 200 rpm output shafts prep brass quickly and efficiently
Frankford Arsenal has built a reputation among reloaders for designing and manufacturing some of the most innovative and useful reloading accessories on the market.
The Platinum Series Case Prep Center from Frankford Arsenal follows this tradition.
Compact, convenient, and well constructed, this case prep center is ideal when you need a top-quality case prep center that is easily transported or stored.
I have several Frankford Arsenal reloading tools and accessories in my reloading space.
I have yet to be disappointed with one of Frankford Arsenals tools.
The features that you find on this Frankford Arsenal case prep center are worthy of any reloader.
Among the features that I like most are:
- Four power-driven tool heads make case prep an efficient operation
- The Frankford Arsenal Platinum Case Prep Center comes with these tools
- Chamfer tool
- Deburring tool
- Small primer pocket scraper
- Large primer pocket scraper
- 200RPM shaft speed for quick cutting and tool operation
- Output shafts on tool heads accept 8-32 threaded attachments. A wide variety of aftermarket case prep tools will fit these output shafts
- The aluminum body and steel frame mean this is a tool that will last many reloaders a lifetime
- Onboard tool storage
- A convenient stand allows the Frankford Arsenal case prep center to stand on the base or tilted toward you for easy and ergonomic positioning.
The versatility of this Frankford Arsenal Platinum Case Prep Center is unquestioned.
The motor is exceptionally strong. You get plenty of torque to prep the largest pistol or rifle cases in your inventory.
What We Found Using the Frankford Arsenal Platinum Case Prep Center
This is a hefty little machine right out of the box.
The metal housing and frame are solid and give this tool a professional feel.
The directions were clear and easily understandable, and putting the Frankford Arsenal case prep center to work took only a few minutes.
We tried the Frankford Arsenal case prep center with the plastic handle to tile the tool at an angle towards use.
It quickly became apparent that the unit tended to slide away when we prepped cases, even with its hefty weight.
I solved this problem by putting a cardboard box between the prep center and the back of my loading bench.
Standing the Frankford Arsenal case prep center upon its base eliminates the issues with the unit moving while it is in use.
However, my bench made the working area a little tall and became uncomfortable to use after a while. A non-slip matt on the bench might make the angled approach more useable.
The Frankford Arsenal Platinum case prep center performed all the functions that I tested flawlessly and without complaint.
There is plenty of power from the motor, and the unit never seemed to have any trouble.
Pros and Cons
- Well made and durable
- Come with everything a beginning reloader could want
- A wide variety of aftermarket tools and accessories are available
- Compact design is easy to transport and store
- It can be found for under $100 from some retailers
- A non-slip surface is required if you work with the prep center on an angle
- The cutter heads are steel. Carbide cutter heads will make things easier and last longer
I like this Frankford Arsenal Platinum Case Prep center. It is compact but powerful and does everything most reloaders need in a case prep center.
Prepping my test batch of once-fired brass took very little time.
I can see that this prep center would make large processing batches of cases quick and easy.
Our Choice of Case Prep Center – Lyman Case Prep Xpress
- Used by serious shooters and reloaders
- Tools and accessories for any shooter
- Innovative and easy to use
If you prowl around in my reloading shack, you will find a lot of Lyman equipment.
I have long had an affinity for Lyman equipment for case prep and reloading accessories.
I like the designs and the concepts that Lyman creates for reloaders. You won’t need to look far around my reloading bench for my Lyman Case Prep Xpress case prep center.
This machine gets a lot of use regularly. My Lyman Xpress case prep center arrived at my reloading bench in 2014.
Since then, this case prep center has seen thousands of reload cases go through various stages.
The case prep center keeps going without more than regular maintenance and cleaning.
I chose the Lyman Xpress Case Prep center for several reasons. Among these reasons was the rich set of features that the Lyman Case Prep Xpress offered for the price.
- High Torque gear motor
- Five motor-driven powerheads are conveniently located on top of the prep center.
- Designed for easy cleanup. Shavings can be brushed off the work surface of the prep center into a removable catch bin. No more tilting the whole unit to try and get rid of debris and brass waste.
- Comes complete with all the tools you need to do a complete case prep on any caliber of pistol or rifle cases. The included tools are:
- Inside Deburr (VLD) tool
- Outside Deburr tool
- Primer pocket uniformer (large and small)
- Primer pocket cleaner (large and small)
- Case neck brushes (.25, .30, .38. .45 calibers)
- Case Neck Lube
- Clean-Up Brush
- Easily replaceable tools available from Lyman
- Will ream military crimps from fired brass
If you want a one-stop case prep center that comes ready to perform any case prep task out of the box, the Lyman Case Prep Xpress case prep center is your best choice.
I have regularly used my Lyman case prep center for over 7 years. I have replaced some of the cutter heads, but the base unit works perfectly.
For the money, this is, in my opinion, the best choice for a case prep center for any level of reloader.
What I Have Found Using the Lyman Case Prep Xpress Case Prep Center
I have never regretted my decision to purchase the Lyman Case Prep Xpress case prep center for my reloading needs.
This machine has performed flawlessly since I purchased it in 2014. I routinely use the Lyman case prep center to ready batches of 500 to 1000 rounds of brass.
I will admit that the Lyman Xpress case prep center is a tit large and unwieldy.
It has a relatively large footprint that takes up a lot of space on my small reloading bench. It is also a challenge to store with its unconventional shape.
There is plenty of onboard storage for all of your case prep tools on the plus side.
Having five powered tool heads allows me to do a complete case prep routine without changing tools. This saves a lot of time when you prepping a large brass batch.
The Lyman Case Prep Xpress case prep center gets my recommendation for a case prep center for any reloader.
You won’t need to purchase anything else to have a complete case prep operation in one unit.
The price is competitive with other case prep centers as well.
Pros and Cons
- Designed for prepping large batches of cases without fatigue
- Five powered tool heads for efficient operations
- Includes all the cutting and cleaning tools you will need
- Designed for easy maintenance with a debris catch and retention system, a removable waste bin and a brush for cleaning regularly
- Powerful motor easily drives all five-tool heads at once
- Onboard storage for all tools and lubrication media
- A large footprint takes up a lot of room on a reloading bench
- Awkward to store because of its size
Best All in One Case Prep Center – Hornady Lock-N-Load Case Prep Center
- Removable trays are easy to Detach and provide ample collection space for shavings
- Innovative design keeps shavings in the catch trays and out of cases
- Rugged housing and a powerful motor will give years of dependable service
Most other case prep centers require that certain steps in the case preparation process be performed by other machines or tools.
Hornady combines these other functions into one case prep center that can eliminate having extra tools on your reloading bench.
The Hornady Lock-N-Load Case Prep Center combines a power case trimmer with a multi-stage case prep center.
It is convenient to have more case prep operations on one machine.
This combination of functions certainly saves time and steps in the case preparation process. Putting more functions on one machine can be more efficient.
However, it can be a problem if the case prep center fails or malfunctions. You may find yourself without any case prep tools if this happens.
Hornady has an excellent company and has a great reputation among reloaders and shooters.
The Hornady Lock-N-Load case prep center includes the features you would expect on any Hornady equipment.
- Combined case trimmer and power prep center is efficient and time-saving
- Six power head case prep stations
- Power case trimmer with micrometer adjustments
- Includes the following case prep tools
- Chamfer and Deburring tools
- Primer pocket cleaner
- Neck brushes
- Two removable trays collect brass shavings and debris for easy disposal
- Requires Hornady shell holders for the case trimmer
- Power tool heads threaded for 8-32 case prep tools
The Hornady Lock-N-Load case prep center offers reloaders the chance to put two major case prep operations on one tool in a relatively small footprint.
With a little pre-planning, you can trim your brass cases and do the case prep functions in one operation on the same tool.
What We found Using the Hornady Lock-N-Load Case Prep Center
The Hornady Lock-N-Load case prep center does take up only a small bit of space on the reloading bench.
However, it is also tall, which can create its own problems with space. I found this a bit awkward on my loading bench.
The design of the Hornady Lock-N-Load requires the unit to be bolted or screwed to the reloading bench. You can also bolt the prep center to something clamped to the benchtop.
I find this inconvenient.
My reloading bench is rather small, and storing another tall piece of equipment is a problem.
The adjustments on the case trimmer for length seemed to be a bit finicky. There are no indications on the micro adjuster for length or depth of cut.
Each time you change caliber, you must start from scratch to find the correct cut length.
My other great concern is the cost of this case prep center. The Hornady Lock-N-Load is almost 5 times the price of the other case rep centers on our list.
This can be a barrier for many reloaders operating on a tight budget.
Pros and Cons
- Convenient design speeds up case prep and trimming
- A small footprint can fit easily on most reloading benches.
- Six individual power-head stations allow the most flexible setup of case prep tools
- Ergonomic design is efficient. You can process brass cases quickly for high-volume case prep
- The design makes clean-up for debris and brass shavings easy
- Uses easy to find Hornady case holders for the power case trimmer
- Very tall on the reloading bench, which can cause space problems
- Very expensive
Making Case Prep Easier and Faster
Case prep is one of the parts of reloading that many of us would rather avoid.
However, it is a necessary part of reloading, and I am always looking for a way to make it easier and faster. A power case prep center can be one way to ease the chore of prepping brass cases for reloading.
Any of the case prep centers on our list will work. Our choice is the Lyman Case Prep Express.
You may find that your needs are better met with another case prep center.