Forster CO-AX reloading press: REVIEW- Is it the best press for precision rifle?

Forster Co-Ax reloading press review

I’ve been loading ammunition since I was a teenager in the early-90s.  My first press was a Dillon 650 and that is what I learned to load pistol cartridges on.  The 650 worked well when it was set up and not exploding (I blew up the primer feed twice but that is a story for another time) but it was quite the project when switching calibers.

When I drifted into rifle reloading someone gave me a single stage RCBS rock chucker.  I loved that thing.  Compared to the engineering project required to switch cartridges on the 650, simply swapping out shell holders and screwing down dies was liberating.  This was especially helpful when I worked in a retail gun shop whose owner refused to pay me in cash.  Every-time I accrued enough money, I took home another used hunting rifle.  I’d load for it until I got it to shoot under a minute, then I sold it and started the cycle again.  This meant I was likely loading for 4 or 5 different cartridges at any given time and might be heading to the range with an esoteric assortment like 6mm Remington, 280 Remington, 7 STW and 375 H&H.  At the time, it seemed better than cash and when I look back, I learned a lot (this is what actually prompted the launch of this site the first time around in the late 90s when we had more of a hunting focus).

Fast forward in the twenty some odd years and I now load more than ever.  A few times a week I’m loading a variety of bullets for a number of different cartridges.   I now own two presses, a Dillon 550 (IF a primer blows, you don’t have all the primers go like on a 650) for pistol and a Forster CO-AX press for rifle.   I’ve been using the CO-AX for the past ten years or so and believe me, I wish I had started earlier.

The Co-Ax differs from most single stage presses in two areas, the shell holder and die insert arrangement.  Unlike my old Rock Chucker, you don’t need to invest in a series of different shell holders to work with cartridges; the reversible jaws simply open and close on most common cases without adjustment (Forster does make extra jaws for oddball cartridges).  Dies simply slide in and out of a notch in the front of a Forster press.  No more screwing anything down to ensure your settings stay the same; simply lock the die’s lock ring around its body, adjust the die and every time you take it in and out of the press, its setting stays exactly the same.  This is my favorite part of the Co-AX!

An upside to the way the shell holder and die arrangement works is the cartridge is allowed to float into the die decreasing the likelihood something isn’t aligned and potentially causing accuracy-killing run out (Whidden actually offers a floating die head option for Dillon progressive presses to achieve the same result).  When I do check for run out, my results are spectacular.  Note: that is a 300 grain Sierra MatchKing being seated into a 338 Lapua with a Redding competition seater.

For decapping and resizing operations, the Forster Co-Ax has a small jar attached to a tube to retain the spent primers.  It is a neat system that hasn’t failed me in thousands and thousands of rounds.  On the top of the press is a little priming system I don’t often use.  I prime cases with a Sinclair hand priming tool and only use it in instances when I encounter something I don’t have a shell holder for.

As far as the downsides to the Forster, perhaps the biggest is the shell holder plate design.  When you need to remove it to switch around the jaws, the little die springs inside the holder will often fly out.  Also, with extensive use, the plate may start to bend.  To address this, ManzGear offers a custom made shell plate holder that retains the springs, it is worth buying for the this reason alone (you can find a video on this upgrade here).

I’ll often run Redding Competition series dies, which are fairly tall in my Forster and they function without a hitch. The collet type bullet puller I use from Hornady needed the handle ground down in order to clear the handle assembly of the Co-Ax, but that works fine now.

Inline fabrication makes a roller handle and lighting kit for the Co-Ax.  I shot them an email and they sent me a sample.  Can you say game changer?  As much as I liked the Co-Ax the way it came from the factory, these two parts made it even better.  Inline fabrications led lights enhance visibility for loading operations and the roller handle is worth its weight in gold.  Solid products for a solid press.

I had sticker shock when I bought my Co-Ax.  It is pricier than many other single stage presses (almost twice as much as a Rock Chucker); however, I think it is well worth the investment.  In my opinion, this is a great press for the precision rifle shooter.   Who doesn’t want concentric rounds and easy, repeatable die swaps?

Whenever someone asks me for advice on rifle loading equipment I always recommend the Forster Co-Ax and then tell them that they can thank me later.

To learn more about the Forster Co-Ax press, visit Brownells.

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