MEC’s Metallic-Cartridge Marksman
Is A Solid Single-Stage Reloader
By John Taffin
Over the past 60 years my various loading benches have been a veritable rainbow of colors. In the beginning it was a wine-colored handtool which didn’t even require a bench and now my latest black reloading press is also not mounted on one of my benches (more on this shortly). In between the colors have been red in several variations, green also in several variations, pale green, blue and orange. The latest is the MEC 1080 Marksman. MEC (Mayville Engineering Company) goes all the way back to the end of World War II and has been mainly known for shotshell reloaders.
In 1945, two cousins, Leo and Ted Bachhuber rented a garage building in an alley and began producing tools, dies and special machinery. From the early years MEC became known for quality products and imagination. They soon moved into a small warehouse next to the garage, and after that purchased a commercial building which gave them space for an office and facilities for assembly. In 1955 MEC began producing shotshell reloaders. By 2012 MEC had 16 facilities in five states, and now has over 2,000,000 square feet of manufacturing with 2,000 employees. In 2013 MEC expanded into clay target machines and now offer their first metallic cartridge reloading press. This new press, black in color, is known as the MEC 1080 Marksman.
This MEC reloading press is a single stage with a cast-iron frame. It has obviously been built to be very sturdy and last as long as the reloader who uses it and then can be passed on to the next generation. The heart of the press—the ram—is 1-inch in diameter and is also built for straightness and strength, reducing any deflection or bending when reloading.
This ram is turned and polished to give a very smooth operation, and a little drop of oil from time to time will keep it operating so. I can well remember my first press way back when, which was built to a low price and flexed with every cartridge loaded. The lower 1-piece linkage of the MEC also works to stop any play or bending. The shell holder is quite interesting as it is a 0.020-inch floating shell holder which allows proper alignment of the die to shell and reduces run out. It also has a spring lock which allows easy insertion of the shell holder while at the same time reduces or eliminates any accidental removal. Shell holders are easy to change with the spring-loaded thumb clip. The ram is also free-floating to positively align the bullet to the case.
The shell holder floats 0.020-inch to ensure proper alignment of the die to shell
and reduce run out. Its spring lock allows easy insertion of the shell holder and
prevents accidental removal.
On the top of the press there is a built-in (actually cast in place) very sturdy tray which can be used to hold bullets or tools. The opening on the front of the press allows plenty of room for easy access. The operating handle can be changed from left-hand to right-hand operation by simply loosening one nut and rotating the handle. For my use I prefer to operate the handle right handed and do all the other operations with my left. This was very easy due to the design of the press. The operating handle ends in a large ball which is both comfortable and secure. The “C”-style frame allows both strength and easy access. The MEC Marksman is designed for cartridges ranging from the .22 Hornet up to the .416 Rigby.
The Marksman will accept any maker’s 7/8-14-thread dies, and for this test I went with a 4-die .45 ACP carbide set. On each side of the press’s bench mount there is a ledge which holds two dies allowing easy access to all dies being used. One of the problems with many presses over the past 1/2-century plus has been being able to keep spent primers from winding up all over the floor. MEC handles this with a tray mounted below and behind the press itself with the spent primer being contained in the ram and then dropped in the tray as the handle is operated.
Over the years most of the single-stage presses I have used had to be mounted to a sturdy bench, requiring a cutout area in the front of the bench to allow the operating handle to rotate. The MEC Marksman came already mounted on an 8-inch tall bench mount and attached with three 3/8-inch sturdy shoulder bolts which MEC advertises as both providing strength and precise fit. Before this latest press arrived I was studying just where it could be mounted on my reloading bench. When it arrived already bolted to a bench mount, this problem was not only easily solved, it allowed for a great deal of versatility.
Most of my reloading these days is done with a progressive press. When I look back at my reloading log and see how much I loaded on a single stage press back in the ’70’s and ’80’s, I don’t want to even think about going backwards. However, the progressive press is used for large amounts of ammunition, while the single-stage press is used when I am assembling ammunition in small doses for experimenting or testing of a particular firearm. This MEC press arrived just as I was about to assemble 30 different loads in batches of 10 cartridges for testing a new .45 ACP semi-automatic pistol. This is why I chose a 4-die .45 ACP set to break in the new press.
The placement of the shell holder allows maximum access as seen in this side view (above).
Notice the spring loading of the shell plate for easy insertion and removal. The shelf on
each side of the bench mount holds two dies. The MEC Metallic-Cartridge Reloading Press
(below) mounted easily for John to work up many .45 ACP loads. By using the press mounted t
o a length of Micro-Lam, the entire unit is easily clamped to a shooting bench or desk,
and thus moved where needed.
Now, as promised, we will see why the MEC was not mounted to the bench but rather instead made real versatility possible. The bench mount which the MEC is attached to has two holes on each side of its base for mounting. This made it very easy to attach it to a permanent wooden base. After careful measuring, we (my engineer friend Denis is always invaluable with projects like this) chose a piece of Micro-Lam which is a laminated structural wood used for building when strength is a prime requisite. We cut a piece of 1-1/2-inch thick Micro-Lam to a length of 24 inches and a width of 8 inches. Using this length allowed plenty of room for placing bullets, cartridge cases, anything needed on both sides of the press. The bench mount was attached by using four screws coming in from the bottom and countersunk. After bolting the bench mount to the Micro-Lam, the protruding threads were covered with a threaded cap. This makes for a very sturdy mounting and this press is certainly not going to go anywhere.
Now why the Micro-Lam? One reason of course is its strength, however I was also wanting the press to be able to be used anywhere I could find a spot to place it. I can clamp it to my reloading bench in several spots, and yet move it out of the way when not in use. But mainly, I wanted to use it while seated at one of my desks. I have two offices in the house, one for the computer and everything needed for writing, and the other is adjacent to my loading room and this is where I keep all my bullet molds, loading dies, loading manuals, and notes; everything I need to sit at this very sturdy desk and plan my reloading activities. I have found this set-up sturdy enough. It only takes one clamp to hold it in place on the front edge of my desk. This makes it exceptionally convenient for using, and any information I want is in the bookshelf next to the desk.
So far I have only used the MEC with the .45 ACP dies. The use of the bench mount places everything close to eye level where it is very easy to see just what is happening and also much easier for me at least to insert and remove cartridge cases. This whole unit is sturdy enough it absolutely does not move when full-length sizing .45 ACP fired brass.
With fired brass in a container on the left side, along with a loading block, it is an easy operation to resize the brass and then place the cartridge upside down in the loading block.
Spent primers are never seen until I empty the tray in the back of the press. After sizing and expanding, cases are then primed with a hand tool, charged with the proper amount of powder, and then it is back to the MEC press for seating and taper crimping. My next step is to come up with a way to mount the powder measure to the same Micro-Lam for convenience.
The MEC Metallic-Cartridge Reloading Press has a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $199 and the bench mount is priced at $45.71.
MEC Shooting Sports
800 Horicon Street, Suite 1
Mayville WI 53050
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