Most professional shooters or serious hobbyists will reload their ammunition sooner or later. This is a critical way to save money and improve the accuracy of your shot with consistently using ammunition you are familiar with.
Why can’t you simply reuse a case after discharge? Due to the malleable consistency of brass loads, combined with the heat and pressure upon firing, the brass will stretch after each shot lengthening the case. Trimming a case down to specific sizes is required to ensure proper fit in the chamber and keep consistency of your ammunition.
Why is consistency so important? To put it simply, varying lengths will produce different results when fired. If you choose to reload your own ammunition, then there is a good chance you are not only looking to save money in the long run but also want reliable ammunition to improve your shooting accuracy.
All this means that if you want to learn how to successfully reload your own ammo, you need a quality case trimmer.
Below, we break down everything you need to know before buying a case trimmer and offer our top recommendations for case trimmers on the market today.
Understanding Your Needs in a Case Trimmer
Before buying a case trimmer, you should understand your own level of skill and keep this in mind when browsing options. You should also identify your needs in a case trimmer and ensure your model can meet your expectations and ease the process.
For example, if you are new to the hobby you may want to opt for a tool that is easy to use and can almost guarantee precision. Case trimmers that can be fitted to a power drill may seem like a convenient option, but you are opening yourself up to the risk of imprecise cuts. Tools that are able to be fasted to a surface will help achieve consistency and precision, limiting the chances for user error.
It is also worth considering how many different sizes you intend to create with your case trimmer. If you are regularly working with a variety of sizes, having a case trimmer with preset calibers can streamline the process saving you time. Some high precision case trimmers have only one preset size, which is great for accuracy and consistency if you only shoot that caliber.
If you use a range of calibers it will likely end up costing more to buy a tool for each size, and if you are into reloading then there’s a good chance you are looking to save money in the long run so this would not be the best option for you. Luckily, many lathe-style case trimmers on the market today come with a range of popular preset options (called pilots) from .22 to .45.
What to Consider When Buying a Case Trimmer
The most important task a case trimmer must accomplish is a clean cut. Irregularities in the cut can lead to issues with your reloaded ammunition. The faster a case trimmer cuts the brass the cleaner the cut will be, but speed alone should not be the only determining factor when buying a case trimmer.
If you are just starting out in reloading, know that the process can be slow going at first. This will improve along with your level of skill and familiarity with your tool. Many of the popular case trimmers can be fitted with a power adapter which significantly speeds up the process. However, we highly recommend becoming familiar with your case trimmer before using a power adapter. Remember that accuracy, not quantity, is your goal.
Accessories For Your Case Trimmer
There are a couple of important accessories you will need to successfully reload your ammunition. A micrometer will help you accurately measure your case to ensure you are trimming to the maximum length. You will also need a tool to chamfer and deburr, which essentially smooths out the cut edge and helps remove any leftover brass from the cutting process. It is also helpful to have a guide with the recommended maximum length for the case size you are working with, but this information can also easily be found online.
With so many case trimmers on the market and a range of buying options, knowing which is best for you can seem like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Luckily for you, we have reviewed dozens of case trimmers and provided our top picks for tools available on the market today.
Here are our top picks for case trimmers in 2019:
Lyman Universal Trimmer
A favorite among many starting out and even experienced reloaders, the Lyman Universal Trimmer is a classic lathe design that can be securely fastened to your bench top or used on the table top due to its wide base.
The crank handle makes for a smooth trimming process and this is a fairly simple trimmer to use in terms of setup. The Lyman Universal Trimmer comes with 9 pilots; .22, .24, .27, .30, 9mm, .28/7mm, .35, .44 and .45.
A power adapter can purchased separately to automate the hand cranking system, but as mentioned earlier, we suggest becoming familiar with your tool first before opting for speed.
One criticism of the Lyman is that you must be sure to securely tighten the set screw or risk your measurements being off after multiple trims. Make sure to check your cases after a few trims to ensure you have tightened your set screw adequately.
Lyman is a trusted brand, making it one of our top picks. For the price point, easy setup and ease of use, this is a solid option for any avid reloader that will last you for years.
Hornady Cam Lock Case Trimmer
The Hornady Cam Lock Case Trimmer is another trusted name in the ammunition industry. Like the Lyman, this is a hand crank system that can be used on a bench top (although we highly suggest mounting this model to ensure accuracy) and offers a precision cut. The Hornady also comes with a micro cutter for .001” adjustments, which is often an add-on tool for other case trimmers on the market.
The Hornady Cam Lock Case Trimmer is exceptionally accurate and consistent in its cuts. It comes with 7 pilots; .22, 6mm, .270, .7mm, .30, .38 and .45. Notice the 6mm and .38 options which are not available pilots with the Lyman, so this may be the better option for you if you regularly work with those cases.
It also comes with the option of adding on a power adapter. The Hornady Cam Lock Case Trimmer is a sturdy tool that will last for years to come, and at a lower price point than the Lyman, this is a serious contender in our list of top case trimmers.
Little Crow Gunworks World’s Finest Trimmer
In a departure from the previous two models, the Little Crow Gunworks trimmer fits to your power drill or drill press and essentially turns your drill into a case trimmer for cases. We highly recommend fasting your drill down as holding your drill can lead to imperfections in the cut and can also be tiring after a few dozen trims. The whole purpose of case trimming is to save money as well as improve your accuracy, so taking that extra step to fasten your drill will help avoid any accidental imperfections.
The Little Crow Gunworks Worlds Finest Trimmer is great and very budget friendly if you are only reloading one caliber size as the tool is not adjustable. Despite its limitations, this is one of the fastest case trimmers on the market and we were very impressed with its accuracy.
Just know that you may spend a little extra time cleaning up and tracking down all the little brass shavings that will be flung throughout your workspace.
It is highly recommended to wear protective glasses when using this device.
Each case trimmer comes in at just under $70 per tool, so this is definitely the most cost efficient of the recommended case trimmers only if you are using it for one caliber of ammunition.
Don’t forget that with any device you must have a micrometer, chamfer and deburring tool to complete the case trimming process. Check to see if your tool comes with these accessories, and if not, make sure to pick them up before trying out your new case trimmer.
The Best Case Trimmer For You
Each trimmer above offers its own appeal to various reloaders, and you really can’t go wrong with any of the options. Reloading your ammunition takes time and patience, but the money you save in the long run coupled with the improve predictability of your shot is the reason why many shooting enthusiast choose to reload their cases.
No matter the case trimmer you choose, by going with one of the trusted brands above you are ensuring that this tool will last for years. In our opinion, you really can’t put a price on improved shot accuracy and reloading your own ammunition will help hit that bullseye the next time you hit the range.