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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey everyone,

I'll be graduating college in a couple of weeks, and my parents said they're probably just going to be giving me money. I told them I'd like to use it to get something nice (more than they're giving me) so they're probably just going to give me money for Christmas as well. I was planning on spending upwards of $1200 on something nice, and I'm thinking a good reloading setup at this point is one of the best, most worthwhile ideas (considering our wonderful elected officials may look to enact laws that drive prices up).

I've been reloading on a (slow) single stage for a couple years (my dad's press), and am looking at a Dillon (pretty much already decided on the band). I have a tumbler that's actually mine, but that's it. I'd like to have a complete setup of my own and am willing to spend up to a grand (I'd prefer 750, but we'll see!).

The three calibers I'll be looking to mass load are 45 ACP, .223, and 7.62x39 (while the latter two are cheaper to buy in bulk than reload, that could change before too long). I also want to be able to reload for the 30-06, so relatively easy caliber changes is a must.

So, what are the suggestions for which Dillon press? Which options? Which case trimmer and all the other little stuff? Thanks, I look forward to hearing the suggestions!
 

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You have no student loan or credit card debt, right?

Do you have a permanent place to live with adequate storage/reloading space?

Do you have a job yet?

If your debts are paid off and you don't have a job or place to live yet, buy ammo with your "fun" money.

If you have a permanent place to live and a job lined up utilizing your new degree, I recommend a Hornady LNL and go for the 1000 free bullet offer that's good till the end of the year.
 

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My progressive experience is solely with the Dilon 550. Does the trick for me. The 650 is a bit more involved in setting up but if I had it to do over again, I might be tempted in that extra station. I'd love to be able to put a bullet feeder on the 550 but I think it's out of the question, from what I've read. Truthfully, the 550 is plenty fast for me and I've used it a LOT!
 

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Right now, I would go with a cheaper press and dump the majority of your $$$ into components.
 

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I load on a pair of 550B. When I bought mine, it was THE progressive. Today the 650 is THE machine IMO, especially if you only load for a few calibers. I have been quite happy w/ the 550B, simple, fast enough @ 400rds/hr & easy/cheap/quick to do caliber changes. I load 11 diff. handgun calibers on it, still use a single stage for high power rifle rounds. Most shooters don't "need" the high volumn of a 650. Unless you are shooting more than 1000rds a month, a 550B is all you really need, especially if you load multiplr calibers.
The Hornady LNL is a nice piece of kit as well. Very tempting w/ the 1000 free bullets. Neither "needs" the expensive & complicated case feeders for 99% of the reloaders out there.
 

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I have both a 550 and 650. For loading rifle and pistol, I would opt for the 550. You can use the rest of the $$ for a scale, case trimmer, manual, and components.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I'm definitely leaning toward the 550. I was looking at the options from Brian Enos and I'm interested in the "as it should be" 550 upgrade as well. Any opinions on this upgrade?

Dillon Precision Reloading Frequently Asked Questions

With the press setup, calipers, scale, flip tray, and primer tubes I'm lookin at $663. That would save nearly $400 for components which isn't too bad at all (that's for one conversion kit without dies). Currently I'm only really concerned with .45 since that's what I shoot a lot of, and I can get other conversion kits later.

Thoughts?
 

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I'm definitely leaning toward the 550. I was looking at the options from Brian Enos and I'm interested in the "as it should be" 550 upgrade as well. Any opinions on this upgrade?

Dillon Precision Reloading Frequently Asked Questions

With the press setup, calipers, scale, flip tray, and primer tubes I'm lookin at $663. That would save nearly $400 for components which isn't too bad at all (that's for one conversion kit without dies). Currently I'm only really concerned with .45 since that's what I shoot a lot of, and I can get other conversion kits later.

Thoughts?
:DThat's the way to go!! Don't order off Brian's site, call him and tell him what you plan to do now and in the future. The shell plate for .45 and 30-06 are the same and he'll tell you that so you don't buy anything in duplicate. You could order direct from Dillon but there is no difference in price. Call Brian, he'll do you right!;)
 

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:DThat's the way to go!! Don't order off Brian's site, call him and tell him what you plan to do now and in the future. The shell plate for .45 and 30-06 are the same and he'll tell you that so you don't buy anything in duplicate. You could order direct from Dillon but there is no difference in price. Call Brian, he'll do you right!;)
That's some good advice.

I think Dillon makes a great product, however, I don't rule out other manufacturers that make good products too.

If you think there's even a chance you might be swayed from Dillon check this out.
 

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That's some good advice.

I think Dillon makes a great product, however, I don't rule out other manufacturers that make good products too.

If you think there's even a chance you might be swayed from Dillon check this out.
No doubt the LNL is a good deal, especially when compared to the Dillon 650. However I do doubt the claims for rounds/hr. Most guys time themselves for 10 min. then multiple by 6. Not realistic as most don't pull the handle for 60min straight, a more realistic measure. That's 1 round every 5 sec. certainly obtainable but not sustainable. Way the cost vs the need, 95% of the shooters do NOT NEED 500rds/hr+ cap. If you are shooting 500rds a week, you could load that on a Lee turret in 3-4hrs for a lot less.
 

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If you are shooting 500rds a week, you could load that on a Lee turret in 3-4hrs for a lot less.
Exactly why I went with the Turret also. I saw a vid on the Lee website that shows a guy putting out 5 rounds in 1 min, a rate of 300 per hour. A complete setup for under $200 including dies, etc.
 

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Exactly why I went with the Turret also. I saw a vid on the Lee website that shows a guy putting out 5 rounds in 1 min, a rate of 300 per hour. A complete setup for under $200 including dies, etc.
Again, a 1 min. production rate isn't reality when you load for an hour. I can load 10/min. on my 550B, but it works out to about 450 over an hr. You just don't pull the handle the same for 1min as you do for 60min. A more realistic rate on the Lee turret is 150/hr max.
 

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Drink the Blue Koolaid and never look back

 

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No doubt the LNL is a good deal, especially when compared to the Dillon 650. However I do doubt the claims for rounds/hr. Most guys time themselves for 10 min. then multiple by 6. Not realistic as most don't pull the handle for 60min straight, a more realistic measure. That's 1 round every 5 sec. certainly obtainable but not sustainable. Way the cost vs the need, 95% of the shooters do NOT NEED 500rds/hr+ cap. If you are shooting 500rds a week, you could load that on a Lee turret in 3-4hrs for a lot less.
I have the Hornady ProJector which is the predecessor to the LNL. Just about identical though. When I load .45's and .40's, I'll do batches of 500 at a time. Takes right at 1 hr from setup to finish straight through to crank out 500 completed rounds. Done it many times.
 

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If you can live without blue ... Consider the Hornady L-N-L
I bought one about a year ago and love it!
Here's the article that convinced me ... There is a longer version somewhere that goes into greater detail and contains pictures ... But this is all I can locate, the original source is gone.
Don't Drink the Blue Kool Aid
(Formerly titled: "I Once was Blue, But Now I'm Seeing Red")
This is a work in progress!

Introduction

Single stage press
If you've been shooting long enough, chances are you've heard about reloading. Many folks fool themslves into thinking they can get along without it because they only shoot very inexpensive cartridges like 9mm or .223, or perhaps because they simply don't do enough shooting to justify it. Eventually, however, you'll start shooting competively or you'll buy an oddly-chambered military surplus rifle or you'll begin hunting with the latest $3/round ultra-ne-plus-magnum cartridge. Once this point comes (and it's inevitable) you'll have to call upon the expertise of others for advice in how to start reloading. It is at precisely this point that you become vulnerable.

If your interests lie in rifle cartridges, you will almost always be gently guided toward the slow and steady world of the single-stage reloading press. Whether it be green, red, orange or otherwise, there are few mistakes to be made when buying a single-stage press (although I do have my own preferences). The operation of these presses is simple. A removeable shellholder, fitting the rim of the cartidge to be reloaded, is installed in the ram of the press. A single die then fits in the top of the press. The reloader will first run each case, one at a time, through a resizing die. Each cartridge is then separetely primed, often with a hand-held priming tool, and then subsequently charged with gunpowder thrown from a stand-alone powder measure. The newly charged cases then return to the single-stage press, which has now been fitted with a seating die, to have bullets seated and crimped, yielding completed cartridges.

Progressive Reloading

Star Progressive press
While there are those who advocate loading handgun cartridges in this way (just as there are those who advocate mowing grass with nail clippers), the consensus among reloaders is that handgun cartridges require a progressive press. A progressive press allows three to five dies to be installed in the press at once, along with an attached powder measure. On the ram of the press is a shellholder which holds between three and five cases. When the press is cycled, each case in the press is then run through a separate stage in the reloading process (i.e., sizing, priming, belling of the case mouth, charging with powder, etc.). The shell plate is then turned, ejecting a completed round, while the operator puts an empty case into the press's first station and places a bullet on the mouth of the case about to go through the seating die. In this way every pull of the handle from a progressive press results in a loaded cartridge.


Hornady Lock-N-Load AP
The progressive press we know today began with the Star Progressive reloading press in 1931. Modern progressive reloaders still use features and ideas first developed on the Star, which was commercially produced until the late 1990s. Since the Star, many companies have designed and marketed progressive reloaders, all with varying degrees of success: Dillon Precision's RL550B is the wildly successful de-facto standard in progressives, while RCBS's now-discontinued Green Machine progressive press is so troublesome that, rumor has it, when RCBS receives one for repair it is promptly destroyed (eliminating future warranty claims) and replaced with RCBS's newer and better performing Pro 2000. Lee Precision is another important player in the progressive reloading scene with their Load Master and Pro 1000 presses. Finally, and most importantly, Hornady has a progressive press called the Lock-N-Load AP, of which you're sure to hear much more.



Mike Dillon Owns Enough Machineguns Already

Dillon RL550B
Among this vast and varied field of candidates, one would think that a prospective reloader would have a difficult time selecting which progressive press to buy. Strangely, however, this is rately true. Simply visit any Internet gun forum and ask which progressive to buy, and the response will be deafening: DILLON (never mind that 19 out of 20 respondents have never used any progressive other than a Dillon).


Dillon's original Rapid-Load 1000 (a Star derivative)
Dillon Precision's current line up includes the semi-progressive RL550B (by semi-progressive it is meant that the shellplate must be turned manually, as opposed to other "automatic indexing" progressives where the shellplate turns automatically), the fully-progressive XL650, the scaled-down Square Deal B, and the commercial grade Super 1050. Dillon's overwhelming popularity is due primarily to their laudable but over-the-top "No BS" warranty. Dillon Precision has been known to replace presses lost in house fires under this warranty policy. Beyond this, there is very little to justify the tremendous buzz Dillon has in reloading circles. This is not to say that Dillon presses are not durable and dependable presses (they are), but their reputation as being the only presses worth considering is wholly undeserved. Dillon's popularity is a result of a fierce cult-like following, an excellent warranty, and an aggressive marketing machine which churns out monthly catalogs to every Dillon customer featuring the exact same products month after month with the only change being the front cover, which features female models who, while attractive, are very rarely "cover girl" material. The workmanship and design of their presses play only a secondary role in their popularity. At the receiving end of this success is a man named Mike Dillon. Supposedly Mr. Dillon once worked for the Star Machine Works (from which he borrowed many of the designs found on his presses--Dillon's original Rapid-Load 1000 was very similar to the Star design), but nowadays he spends his time flying jet aircraft and enjoying an obscenely large machinegun collection (as seen on TV's "American Shooter"). Should you ever find yourself tempted to buy a Dillon Precision press, ask yourself this: doesn't Mike Dillon already have enough machineguns? The answer is yes, Mike Dillon already has enough machineguns; but that's not the only reason you should consider a different progressive presses. What follows is a critical comparison of the Dillon Precision RL550B progressive press with the Hornady Lock-N-Load Auto Progressive.
 

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Throwing Charges at Dillon

See how Dillon's measure is a reimplementation of a 70 year old design
The RL550B (hereafter "550") is the flagship product of the Dillon line. The top portion of this semi-progressive press, in which the dies are mounted, is removeable. This removeable toolhead allows the user to mount and adjust three Dillon dies (a sizing die, seating die, and crimping die) and powder measure. The idea is that these toolheads can be quickly swapped out when converting the press from loading one caliber to another. Unfortunately, the changeout is tedious due to Dillon's unwieldy and antiquated powder measure. The Dillon sliding-bar type powder measure is truly regressive when compared to the rotary type powder measures of other manufacturers. Most annonyingly, the Dillon powder measure attaches to each toolhead with two finely-threaded allen-head screws which must be screwed all the way out (perhaps an inch) and then all the back in when moving it from one toolhead to another. This is further complicated by the fact that the screws are difficult to reach due to their placement on the measure, and hence time-consuming and frustrating to manipulate. Most problematic, however, is the Dillon powder measure's adjustment system. To adjust the charge thrown by the measure, you have to rotate a small hex nut at the end of the measure's "powder bar". There is no indication of the current charge, so when changing loads or powder types one is forced to go through a lengthy session of dialing in the powder measure. These "oversights" only conspire to sell more Dillon powder measures. Unlike other manufacteres who design their powder measure systems to be as versatile as possible, Dillon's powder measure is difficult to manipulate in order to encourage Dillon owners to buy a separate $55 powder measure to leave installed and adjusted on each and every toolhead! The Dillon powder measure debacle is exacerbated by the irksome "failsafe" rod which resets the powder measure on the downstroke of each handle pull. This rod makes changing toolheads difficult, and also relies on a small wingnut to properly reset the measure. After time, this wingnut can develop a tendency to rotate on the rod during a loading session, potentially to the point where the powder measure doesn't cycle completely (resulting in squib loads).

Lovin' that Lock-N-Load
It was a great dissatisfaction with the Dillon powder measure that led the author to acquire his Hornady Lock-N-Load AP (hereafter LnL), so it's with the LnL's superior powder measure that we will begin. The LnL uses a conventional rotary drum type powder measure with a mechanical linkage that looks complicated, but actually has fewer moving parts than Dillon's. On a purely subjective note, the Hornady's powder measure makes operating the LnL feel far smoother than the often jerky clunking of the Dillon measure. As has been previously discussed, the Dillon powder measure has no means by which to record a powder setting. The LnL powder measure gives you two options. First, unlike the Dillon powder bars which are difficult to remove, the LnL measure's metering insert snaps in and out of the measure. In this way, you can buy one metering insert for each load you shoot and easily snap them in and out of the powder measure. "How is this different from buying multiple Dillon powder measures?" you ask. The LnL metering inserts cost less than $10, compared to Dillon's $55 measure. An even better alternative is Hornady's micrometer metering inserts (one is used for pistol sized charges, another for rifle) at $25 each. This inserts easily snap in and out of the measure and feature a micrometer adjustment that allows the reloader to easily record and and reset loads. Another advantage of the snap-in LnL powder measure system is that the measure can be drained by snapping out the metering insert and snapping in a drain adapter. Unlike draining the Dillon measure, which involves inverting it and then shaking or manually cycling it, draining the Hornady measure is completely painless. The Hornady measure is also much easier to move around. If you recall, moving the Dillon measure from one toolhead to another can be very tedious. To move the Hornady measure, one simply unhooks a spring, loosens an allen-head screw about 1/4 turn, lifts the measure off the old powder die and onto the new powder die, then rehooks the spring and tightens the screw. The removeable inserts also mean you can use one powder measure to throw loads for everything from .32 S&W to big magnum rifles. Finally, Hornady makes a powder measure with an aluminum hopper and brass internals (suitable for use with blackpowder) that can be used on the LnL. The 550 has no provision for loading blackpowder cartridges.

Unlike Dillon presses, which have a removeable toolhead, the LnL's top plate is solid. Hornady's excellent Lock-N-Load system consists of lugged bushings, into which dies are screwed and adjusted. Dies can then be installed in the press with by rotating them 1/6 of a turn. This gives you all the quick-changing convenience of the Dillon toolhead with a more rigid press. A set of Hornady bushings costs about the same as a Dillon toolhead. In addition to a new toolhead, loading a new caliber on the 550 requires a "caliber conversion kit" consisting of a powder/expander funnel, locator buttons, and a shellplate. A conversion kit for the LnL consists of only a shellplate partly since the LnL bells the case mouth and throws the powder charge in different steps. Separating these steps is the "traditional" method; throwing a powder charge through an expander funnel is an idea that was patented by Lee Precision and for which Dillon pays royalties. It is for this reason that Dillon's proprietary die sets do not include a separate expander die, while all brands others do. Additionally, the 550 requires brass "locator buttons" that drop into place at each station outside the shell plate in order to keep cartridges properly snugged up in the plate. These buttons make removing cartridges from intermediate stages (to check a powder charge for instance) difficult. Rather than use locator buttons, the LnL employs a circular coil spring that goes around the shellplate to hold the cartridge in place. Not only does this eliminate the need for different locator pins for different size cartridges, it makes it easy to remove cartridges from any part of the shellplate. Finally, the Hornady shellplate is easier to change out than the 550's. The 550's shellplate is retained with an awkward allen-head bolt and a set screw. The LnL shellplate is retained with single hex head screw that only needs to be hand-tightened.

Early incarnations of the Hornady Lock-N-Load AP received some bad press for their priming system. Thankfully, in February 2003, all LnL's began shipping with an improved priming system (which was also made available for retrofit on older presses). Anecdotally, this priming system is more reliable than the 550's. First, the new LnL priming system has fewer moving parts than the 550's and its parts are less subject to wear (witness the plastic feeder lips on the 550 primer tubes). The 550's priming system is complicated by the fact that the press must remove old primers and seat new primers in the same location. When depriming with the 550, spent primers are caught by a pivoting catcher that allows bits of debris from the spent primer to fall down into the press and are the principle reason the 550 tends to get so dirty. Further, spent primers are occassionally missed. After a reloading session with the 550, finding spent primers on the floor is almost inevitable. Since the LnL automatically turns the shellplate half a turn on the upstroke and half a turn on the downstroke, it is able to de-prime and prime in separate locations. The LnL deprimes directly into a brass tube to which a rubber hose is attached and routed into a trash can. This eliminates spent primers on the floor and prevents primer debris from dirtying the press. The result is that the LnL stays far, far cleaner than the 550. Maintainability of the LnL is further enhanced by the presense of zerk fittings for keeping the press lubricated. Finally, changing from small to large primers (or vice versa) on the LnL is significantly faster than the 550 (if the LnL primer tube is empty, if not it's only slightly faster).

650 Features at a 550 Price
For less than the price of a Dillon RL550B, the Hornady Lock-N-Load AP gives you all the features (and then some) of the Dillon XL650. The only area in which the XL650 beats the LnL is with an extra die station (even though the LnL and the XL650 both have five die stations, the LnL expands and charges separately). Like the XL650 (and unlike the 550), an automatic casefeeder can be installed on the LnL. You'll occassionally see that the casefeeder requires the purchase of a new "subplate"; this is only true for presses made before February 2003. Further, it is widely accepted that changing calibers on the XL650 is even more difficult (and expensive) than with the RL550B. The Hornady LnL caliber conversion process is easier and quicker than either the 550 or 650. Finally, the prices of caliber conversions for the LnL is slightly cheaper than the 550 (and a good deal cheaper than the 650). For reference, a typical LnL caliber conversion consists of: 1) 4 LnL bushings, 2) Deluxe powder die, 3) Die set, 4) Shellplate (if needed). You should also note that the prices of Hornady accessories tend to be more competitive than Dillon's. Unlike Dillon, which sells most of their merchandise directly with a very small number of resellers, Hornady's products are stocked by many retailers. While the LnL is an excellent choice for any reloader, the LnL is especially well-suited for those who reload (or plan to reload) many calibers.
 

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I went with my 550B after doing a lot of research. I was tempted to get the L-n-L, but decided to get the Dillon at the last minute. I found a pretty good deal on it actually and just had to go for it. (think I paid $299 for it on e-bay, free shipping)

The thing has been great and the guys at Dillon are top notch to call if you ever have a question or a problem (less likely)

When I was setting up my 550B, I had just gotten off work, gotten all of my caliber conversions, tool heads, and dies in and I was excited to set it up. Problem was, I was tired and didn't pay attention to the linkage assembly on the powder measure. Anyways, I called Dillon, right before their closing time, and tried explaining the problem that I was having. After about 10 minutes of problem solving, he pointed out that I had something on backwards (obvious fix, if I had enough energy to pay attention to the details) and walked me through correcting the problem. Thats service in my book. Same thing when I was ordering all my caliber conversions, dies and tool heads, I told the guy that I was new to reloading, he suggested the powders for the calibers that I was shooting, and gave me some tips and tricks to help me get into it.

I will continue to give Dillon my business. Especially ever since Ive been drooling over their 1050 press. As soon as I can justify the cost, I will be getting one to help feed my ammo needs in the upcoming zombie war. ;)
 
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