At a crossroads with reloading

At a crossroads with reloading

This is a discussion on At a crossroads with reloading within the Reloading forums, part of the Defensive Ammunition & Ballistics category; I started out on a Lee single stage, basic press. That lasted about a month, and I upgraded to the Lee turret press. I've gotten ...

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    Member Array MisterB's Avatar
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    At a crossroads with reloading

    I started out on a Lee single stage, basic press. That lasted about a month, and I upgraded to the Lee turret press. I've gotten to know it well, and have reloaded many rounds of different calibers with it. I have also upgraded every conceivable piece on it. Got the pro auto disk powder measure, double disc kit for rifle, primer contraption that mounts to the press, etc. It has speeded things up, and I like it for the most part, but I like efficient things and can see that a progressive MIGHT be an improvement.

    I reload for 9mm, 10mm, 45 ACP, and 5.56. I probably reload about 500 a month. So, not a ton of volume, but I'm not one to want to waste a bunch of effort, if there truly is something more efficient, provided it actually works, and isn't crazy expensive.

    I thought of getting a Lee progressive press, but man the reviews aren't good at all. My Lee turret is rated well, but the Lee progressive seems to have lots of issues with being finicky and unreliable.

    I know there are other more expensive brands, but are they much better, or is the nature of a progressive press such that they tend to be a hassle to deal with? Also, I'm a realist with this stuff, having spent money after the initial press investment to make the press do what it should have done all along. Is a progressive the same way? How much is the going rate out the door for everything press wise to do this right? Or, is it even worth it with the relatively small volume I do? I enjoy reloading to a point, but I'm not one to want to sit there for hours at a time and crank out rounds. I'm more kind of task driven, and want to get the rounds made so I can go shoot them
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    Member Array highergr0und's Avatar
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    Ive heard the nice ones don't have the problems..... that's why they cost a lot more. Should be really easy to justify the cost based if you account for your time. I want to reload, but the main place I shoot has big no reload signs all around even though they stock all the nice presses.

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    I got into reloading because I wanted to shooot 500+ rounds a month - mainly .45 ACP.

    I'm a technical guy so I did a lot of research before I invested. Once I decided in favor of a progressive, there were only 3 candidates that met my needs - Dillon 550, Dillon 650, and Hornady LnL AP. The 550 has 4 stations and does not auto-index; it also requires access to both sizes of the press frame, and requires that your hand come off the press handle to feed brass. The Dillon 650 and Hornady AP are both auto-indexing and have 5 stations. The 650 these days comes with a case feeder (for pistol cartridges only), so if you're not loading rifle rounds you can keep your right hand on the lever. The Hornady powder measure is more sophisticated than the Dillon's, but whether one needs that sophistication for cranking out thousands of rounds using one powder charge is debatable. For my bench arrangement, if I used a Dillon I would have to mount the press about a foot further to the left to gain the necessary right-side elbow room. Keep that in mind if you're loading in a tight space.

    I leaned toward the Hornady AP based on the extra station, and when it went on sale at Midway for just $50 more than a Dillon 550, that clinched the decision. I have zero regrets. Hornady support has been outstanding; I don't think their warranty matches Dillon's, but in 4 years I haven't needed it.

    This month's USPSA magazine surveyed the loading equipment used by the World Shoot competitors who load their own. Not a surprise - 95% use Dillon. Dillon's been in the progressive game longer and has been a huge match sponsor around the world, even at the club level. If you choose Dillon, you won't be alone.
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    I use Dillon, and pretty much agree with smitty. I have had parts wear out (my press is 25 years old), I have had parts break; in fact, I have even had movers lose parts of my press. In all cases, Dillon has cheerfully sent me the necessary parts at no charge. That kind of service is hard to beat.

    If I were to start from scratch today, however, I would have to give serious consideration to the Hornady LNL. In all likelihood, however, I would probably end up with a Dillon. As many people here have posted in the past; "Buy once, cry once."
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    Loading 500 rounds a month split between 4 cartridges isn't really all that much. 125 rounds on a progressive is going to happen in less time than it'll take you to get everything all set up so I'm not sure how I'd feel about moving to a progressive press.

    I will say that with my Hornady LnL progressive, the LnL bushings make changing dies between cartridges a 15 second operation (once they're all set up), however you're still going to have to do some work on your powder dispenser when switching between rifle and pistol cartridges, so it's going to take a little time. Also, you'll be switching primer feeds from small primers for the 9mm and 5.56 to large primers for the .45 and 10mm, so there's one more thing you're going to have to swap out each time you make a change. None of this is any big deal but I'm trying to illustrate that what you'll probably find is that it's not worth 20 minutes of set up to make rounds for another 20 minutes. What I would want to do in under those circumstances is change my setup and then load up a thousand or more, that way you're not making all those changes every single month. As I understand it, the Dillon system will take a little more work when switching dies so take that for what it's worth...

    Would it be worth it? I dunno. Only you can answer that question. I have no doubt it'll save you some time but is it worth the investment you'll have to make? I load a number of different cartridges but I only use my progressive for one of them. The rest I just do on my single stage press because I simply just don't load enough of them to make it worth the effort. One other thing to consider on your rifle cartridge is you're only going to 'automate' so much of it anyway. You'll still want to deprime/resize and then case trim before you move into a progressive environment. You'll be able to prime, charge and seat your bullet on the progressive, but in a 'normal' progressive setup you won't really be able to go from start to finish all at one time, like you do with pistol cartridges.

    gasmitty - Hornady's warranty is lifetime and the one time that I broke parts, they sent them to me free of charge and I had the parts in like 3 working days. Unless Dillon is hand delivering them overnight, on a blue pillow, their warranty isn't any better.
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    As for me I use a Dillon 550 for about 25 years. Works great and they fix what I screw up. Fix it for life and their nice about it. Now for rifle I use CH 4 station press for my match loads and it's rock solid. Lot of rounds has been through both. Both kept me ammo back when I was doing action shooting and more. In one year I went through over 15,000 rounds of 45 and 10mm. But I would go to the bigger 650 if you shoot more then I did. They do it right. Years ago I gave a friend a old single stage Herter press to start loading. And it was giving to me to start with. It's still going, with tight ram and working great. Close to 50 years old.
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    My next hobby,everytime I think about buying reloading equipment I see a gun that says take me home,today!
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    Quote Originally Posted by SatCong View Post
    As for me I use a Dillon 550 for about 25 years. Works great and they fix what I screw up. Fix it for life and their nice about it. Now for rifle I use CH 4 station press for my match loads and it's rock solid. Lot of rounds has been through both. Both kept me ammo back when I was doing action shooting and more. In one year I went through over 15,000 rounds of 45 and 10mm. But I would go to the bigger 650 if you shoot more then I did. They do it right. Years ago I gave a friend a old single stage Herter press to start loading. And it was giving to me to start with. It's still going, with tight ram and working great. Close to 50 years old.
    You cant beat a Dillon 550B. You can buy spare heads for specific calibers that you use a lot so there would be no need to retool every time you change caliber. But if you don't want to spent that much get a BL550 and upgrade to a 550B if you have the need. I think a 650 would be much more than you would ever use. The 550B has a auto casefeeder if you really need that. I almost sound like a Glock fanboy, I'll do better next time.

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    I'll recommend blue.
    When I got back into reloading everyone I talked to said Dillon. I went with the 550B.
    I like the fact that I rotate the shells by hand. When I realize there might be a screw up, like I didn't seat a primer correctly, it's an easy matter to pull out the case that just got a charge of powder and operate the press again. Then replace that case and rotate.
    And I love the tool head concept because I don't have long reloading sessions of one caliber. It's so easy to switch to another caliber it's stupid. I can't say if others have the same thing or not, but I'm happy with my Dillon.
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    Five hundred a month is way more than what I reload, so I'm pressing on with my single stage press. But if I did reload that much, I'd definitely look into progressives.
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    I'm an admitted Lee Fan Boize, so...

    I have had great success with my Lee Load Master. I load 9mm, .45acp, .32acp .40sw and .223/5.56 on it. At $240+/-set up for one caliber and $80.00-$100.00 to set up another caliber with a dedicated powder measure, the cost is minimal.

    I hear a lot of complaining about Lee's primer feed systems, but after learning how to tweak and maintain it properly the Load Master priming system works great. It is picky about keeping the feed chute full. That's the only real issue I have run into.

    I probably average 400-500/month of pistol cartridges and another 200/month of .223 but I load a couple K at a time every few months rather than some every week or month.
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    Senior Member Array hdhnict's Avatar
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    On the one hand, I am pleased that you have learned to reload multiple calibers. The transition from straight pistol cases to bottlenecked rifle cases can be tricky for some people. Thinking about a progressive "ammo mill"? You are going into machinery that I don't use, have no knowledge of (other than reading). So, good luck!

    500 rounds per month, total? I'm not thinking I would go there yet. 500 rounds of any single cartridge? Heck yeah! Buy a mill, turn it into a second business.
    Really, I care about your opinion. It seems reasonable.
    Its just that I've ALREADY decided on something else!
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    VIP Member Array SatCong's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tyke10 View Post
    You cant beat a Dillon 550B. You can buy spare heads for specific calibers that you use a lot so there would be no need to retool every time you change caliber. But if you don't want to spent that much get a BL550 and upgrade to a 550B if you have the need. I think a 650 would be much more than you would ever use. The 550B has a auto casefeeder if you really need that. I almost sound like a Glock fanboy, I'll do better next time.
    I have six heads set up with every thing, even on it's stand.
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    Quote Originally Posted by SatCong View Post
    I have six heads set up with every thing, even on it's stand.
    That is handy isn't it.
    i have the Dillon xl650 and love it as SatCong stated you can buy an extra head and load your dies and powder measurer and change calibers with out having to start over with adjusting your dies the only thing I have to do is fine tune the powder each change.


    by the way 20 years ago I had a Lee Progressive press, I reloaded about 500 rounds of .38 and .357 a week with it for about 4 years and never had a problem, my expierence was good but have read about others with not so good luck.
    YMMV
    Last edited by Aquaman; March 16th, 2015 at 09:53 PM. Reason: forgot to add

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