Notes on MEC Progressive Reloaders....


Dave McCracken
March 4, 2006, 02:50 PM
The old MEC 600 Jr here is still perking along. It's a great piece of machinery. I did replace the sizing ring, pre crimp and crimp, but less than $20 worth of parts seems to constitute a rebuild.

The 600 is user friendly, inexpensive, versatile but slow. After thousands of rounds, it takes 8 minutes or so to knock out a box. With spare time in short supply here, it behooved me to get a faster setup. Based on my satisfaction with MEC and their service, I looked for a MEC Grabber or 9000.

I didn't want a 650. That model does not resize the shell base. With six 12 gauges here, I wanted to make sure ammo will chamber and fire in all of them.

So, when an ad on the Bulletin Board at PGC listed a used Grabber, I called up the owner. Shortly thereafter, I had a rather used Grabber at what I thought was a good price. I figured I'd set it up, follow the directions in the manual, and pump out shells by the bucket.

Silly me....

Setup wasn't complicated. I mounted the MEC to a hunk of 2X10" with a cheap baking pan between to catch spills. The whole thing was C clamped to my Sears Workmate as the 600 had been.

Following the directions in the manual exactly, I turned out a box or two. Then the dratted thing locked up tight. A Zen Moment.

After a few calls to MEC in Wisconsin, I boxed it up and shipped it to them for a fix and refurb, if needed.

My bargain wasn't looking so good when it came back with a bill for $105. That was more than I had paid for the press.

And it still didn't work.

MEC wrote they had reset the wad guide and replaced what needed to be done.

Even those that love me admit I can be stubborn. I putzed with it for a couple months while putting the 600 through its paces, slowly but flawlessly.

Eventually, I stopped and asked for directions. A PGC employee with wide knowledge of progressives gave me the secret. Anti sieze lube on the sizer collet is mandatory.

Anti size lube was in the maintenance kit I bought from MEC, along with some specialized wrenches and a dental pick. A can of air completed my toolkit.

So, I got it running, maybe 3K rounds ago. A box takes 4-5 minutes to load. I'm sure that will drop as I get into it.

A couple things on progressives.....

The baking pan is a very good idea.

So are dental picks and canned air.

Anti sieze compound is nasty stuff and gets everywhere.

The primer drop HAS to be closely monitored. And, for the auto prime to work, there has to be at least 20 primers in the tray. Keeping a few loose primers handy is a good idea.

Once the shell carrier has all six holes filled, a shell is produced with every pull of the handle. The 600 takes six pulls to make one shell.

I have a small barrel that holds over 100 shells. Once it's full, then I box them. I clean off the semi finished rounds in the 600, which is nearby, when I'm through.

While I have my powder bottle baffled to keep the drops uniform, I keep it at least half full for consistency's sake. Each session I weigh the first charge of powder, the 10th and the last.

The probs I've had include the primer feed, the wad pressure and primer seating depth. With everything adjustable, things come loose.

A progressive will teach you patience. It'll also make ammo faster than you can shoot it up.

That's what it's for...

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Larry Ashcraft
March 4, 2006, 04:39 PM
I've never used a progressive shotshell reloader, but I did start using a Dillon 550 a few years ago for .45 ACP.

Same learning curve. It was a HUGE jump from my old single stage. Once everything's set up and you learn the intricasies of the machinery, you can create huge amounts of ammo. I can load more .45 in one hour now than I could in an entire day before (about 450 rds/hr).

March 4, 2006, 06:19 PM
I have a Grabber in 20ga. Don't like it, bought another 9000G and the Grabber just sits. Mine works fine, but my first shotshell loader was a 9000G and anything short of that irritates me. I loaded a couple thousand on the Grabber, but probably won't ever use it again. I run a couple 550B's for metallic and the lack of automation doesn't bother me there, maybe I am just spoiled with the high speed shotshell making of the 9000G.

March 4, 2006, 07:06 PM
I have 4 grabbers lined up on my bench. Once they are set up, they keep going for me. The .410 is a bit fidgety at times and I have to do some tweeking on it, but I bought it used and it's had over 30,000 round loaded through it. I have never had a sizer lock up on me and I rarely put anything but a drop or two of oil on the grabber sizer every 5000 or so rounds. If you get grease or something tacky in there, it picks up debri and would make it lock up.

Dave McCracken
March 5, 2006, 08:34 AM
Thanks, guys. A couple things....

Larry, I loaded metallics for 20 years. All on single stage presses and the little Lee hand tools. Between the state buying me ammo and getting out of competition, I gave it up. If I ever start up again, it'll be on a progressive for handgun stuff and another RCBS single stage for rifle.

H, the 9000G has auto index,right? I see little difference otherwise.

Kudu, this has some surface rust. Sat in a shed for some years. It's smoothing up as it breaks in. I did have to wipe A/S compound off some shells at first.

All in all, I like the Grabber. It's pumping out ammo at an impressive rate. I do have to watch that primer drop.A skosh of fine tuning the crimp is in order. But that will happen in its own time.


March 5, 2006, 09:44 AM
Dave, yeah, auto index but for some reason I thought there was something else too. Something with the layout? If I get a big rush of ambition, unlikely on a Sunday morning, I might go down and uncover them to see if I can remember what it is.

Fine tuning the primer feed is one of the 'curves' on the progressive MEC. When you get the angle of the dangle on the primer chute just right, the height of the chute above the shellplate, the chain just right, and all of the primer feed parts spotless clean it will work great. LOL, when about half of them go into the shell plate upside down you are getting really close:rolleyes:

Did you get the adjustable charge bar yet? If not it is about $30 well spent.

March 5, 2006, 09:58 AM
Yep, that's about the lessons we've learned on the 9000G. (first time reloaders). The primer drop is the secret to not driving you insane. It's very tweaky, but once it's set up, you can do 1000's of rounds on it without anything busting.
Get the big bottles for both shot and powder. Get the shot support thing so the bottle doesn't bust. That gives you enough to 200 1oz loads easy. and since the primer tray hold 200 it works about perfect.
We really like ours, it's more than paid for itself.
Oh yeah, we lube everything with machine oil and the collet with the special collet stuff about every 1000 rounds or so.

March 5, 2006, 12:27 PM
The primer drop on my 9000G runs pretty well. For 100 shells, I usually only end up with a 3-4 "flipped" primers and 1-2 "no feeds". Actually, Dave, I don't have much of a problem when getting down to the last few primers left... although I do the following every couple hundred shells.

I spray a small amount of Honda Spray Cleaner and Polish (I used to use Pledge, but the Honda stuff seems to work a bit better) onto a rag and gently wipe the inside surface of the primer feed cover and the primer feed tray. I don't want anything obvious left on either surface, but it makes everything just slide a little easier. Before doing this, my "error rate" was probably 2-3x what it is now.

BTW, I haven't tried one, but a good friend of mine swears by the new MEC primer feed assemblies. They have twice the primer capacity, and he says they work with fewer problems than the old one.

March 5, 2006, 12:33 PM
And here I am still using a Lee Load All:o ;)

March 5, 2006, 12:45 PM
Dave, pull the tray out and clean it real good. Take some spray silicone or paste wax and polish the surface of the tray to make it slicker than you know what... It might solve your problem.

I drop primers until to the last 2-3 are left before I replace with a new box, on all 4 of my presses. You have to have the tray at the right angle for proper operation. Just a few suggestions, hope you get things ironed out.

March 5, 2006, 02:52 PM
I agree with everything BozemanMT posted. He hit that one right on the head.

Having owned and operated a MEC 9000G, Grabber, 600 JR and 600 JR Mark V along with a Pacific/Hornady 366 and 155, I feel confident in stating the following.

Powder baffles are worth their weight in gold for consitent, trouble-free powder drops. The Pattern Control Powder Baffle (Made with RED plastic, seals the best and is the prefered). The Multi Scale Powder Baffle can be just as effective but you need to use washers and rings to get it to seal and even then it doesn't do as well a job. The Hornady Shot & Powder Baffle works well with the Pacific/Hornady tubes.

The 9000G, while quirky at times, is a reloading animal once you get it dialed it. With the large bottles of both powder and shot, it will go like a runaway diesel if you set your wads and hulls in an efficient manner.

The key to consistent primer drops is proper lubrication of the resizing collet. You'll noticed that if that thing snaps back to the open position, it usually does so with enough force to flip the primer.

The Grabber can be just as effective as the 9000G but you'll wear your finger or nail out if you do large quantities of reloads at a sitting. One advantage of the Grabber is that if there is a problem or a mistake, it's a lot easier to correct then with the auto-indexing of the 9000G.

The Pacific/Hornady 366 is IMHO, the better of the progressive when compared to MEC. It's built like a tank and you can add features like a shot/powder cutoff for when you begin/finish your reloading and you can run 8 shells at a time compared to six on a 9000G/Grabber. The resizer is not as good but when loading good hulls like the AA and STS, it's not nearly as needed.

For specialty loads that require small quantities, I feel a 600 JR is a much better decision compared to adjusting all the settings on a 9000G/Grabber. They're great bang for the buck.

Lastly, there's nothing like running 25 or 50 straight with your own shells. :D

March 5, 2006, 04:50 PM
One more thing I forgot.
Powdered graphite is a great friend too. We put some in spots that should stay dry but lubricated (under the moving piece, etc). The other great spot for it is inside the primer tray. into that piece that moves and all around. Rarely do we get a stuck one. but you have to get it tweaked just right, then it works great.

March 5, 2006, 08:37 PM
I had a manual MecGrabber for many years and when my trap shooting son graduated from Syracuse University he wanted a Dillon 900DL Shotshell Press for a graduation present. Bought him one and let him set it up and it was the best thing we have had since sliced beautiful machine. Sold the grabber and accessories for 50.00 less than I paid for it(at least 10 years old) and never looked back.

March 5, 2006, 09:18 PM
(Dirty word string at high volume), I cannot believe I forgot about the baffle. I use the red plastic one SShooterZ mentions above. With the typical crunchyness of shotshell powders it is a near essential. Combined with an adjustable bar it is the cats hinder for sure.

I have, since I learned the machine, been able to load literally THOUSANDS of rounds on my MEC 9000G's and Grabber without a single flipped primer or a primer not feeding. If anyone is having less than that success rate keep playing with it. It WILL work once you get the cussed thing adjusted just right. And it will work forever basically once you get it adjusted.

Dave McCracken
March 5, 2006, 11:05 PM
Thanks, guys. The resources here are awesome.

Re Powder baffles, both presses have them. Red and Zinc. I think they're MECs.

WIll polish primer tray and continue to tweak, I'm convinced I can achieve reloading Nirvana.

No adjustable charge bar. Did get a 7/8 oz bar to do my pet load. That's what I want a progressive for. Tons of one load. STS hulls, CB clone of WAA12SL, Clays, Win 209.

Re big bottles. Have one for powder, have heard of them breaking with shot. Small bottle, refilled when my load can is full.

Thanks again....

March 6, 2006, 08:30 AM
Re big bottles. Have one for powder, have heard of them breaking with shot. Small bottle, refilled when my load can is full.

Dave - Take a look at acquiring a bottle support like this:

With the bottle support in place, you get little to no movement with your bottles and your risk of breaking one are very minimal.

As for the charge bars, I use both. The versatility of the UCB is really key though IMHO. If you have a specific load, that works well with the bushing system and plan on consistently loading it, the standard bar/bushing system is OK.

I load 20 gauge with International Clays and my loads call for 14 grains. Unfortunately, the Mec bushing choices are either #21 for 13.3 grains or #22 for 14.3 grains. Therefore the UCB comes in very handy.

Bushings for the Pacific/Hornady reloaders are a little harder to find, but they are inter-changeable with the RCBS bushings so you should be able to find what you're looking for.

Lastly, for me, reloading is as much about performance as it is cost savings. Clays is a good performing powder for 12 gauge, but you might want to look into Alliant PROMO powder which is essentially Red Dot. Clays can be had for about $100/8 lbs while PROMO can be had for about $76/8 lbs. You might also want to look into Remington STS 209P primers also vs. the Winchester 209s. They're darn near interchangeable and the Remingtons will run you about $15 - $20 cheaper per 5000. The Fiocchis are the best bargain out there and can be safely substituted for just about any primer as they are very mild compared to the Win/Rem and way much more mild than the Federal which are the "hottest" primers.

I've loaded with Clays, International Clays, Unique, Red Dot and 700-X. For 12 gauge, I prefer 700-X but will most likely be switching exclusively to PROMO and/or Solo 1000.

Dave McCracken
March 6, 2006, 09:25 AM
I may get the bottle support later,Z. I have one on the 600. It works. Larger bottle capacity is not important right now. 7/8 oz loads mean the small bottle holds enough shot for 100 loads plus some.

E3 powder is a possibility, so is Promo. Trouble is, after using Clays, I'm loath to leave a powder so clean and consistent. My drops, jug to jug, do not vary more than .3 gr. I did use Unique, but it's meant for heavier loads and dirties badly.

An adjustable charge bar makes sense.However, the MEC bushings work for me so far. Maybe if I do some powder switching.

Win 209s are quite widely available. That was a factor in picking them. I'll check my databooks and see what comes up....

March 6, 2006, 10:14 AM
SS ShooterZ beat me to it, get the supports
We also do lots of different bottles with different shot size so we can switch out easily.
A couple of the books i read were very anti-powder baffle, I dunno, but we don't run them.
Oh, rub a canyon (or a candle) along the charge bar every 1000 rounds or so, keeps it from sticking. (cuz that makes a serious mess when it sticks and then slams back late.:cuss: )

March 8, 2006, 09:37 AM
I've used the Grabber for about 21 years now and like it a lot.

The only real "trouble" I've experienced is with the collet resizer. The new ones are easier to adjust, as I understand, and it does need to be cleaned and lubricated. But, I only resize when needed and remove the "nut" in back to disable the collet "action", when all the shells have been resized once.

I have almost flawless operation with the primer feed using Winchester primers, rarely needs to be cleaned, etc. Remington primers "flip" one or two per hundred for me. I assume I could adjust it, but Winchesters work so well, I haven't bothered.

March 8, 2006, 08:11 PM
Hope this isn’t too bad of a digression. Y'all helped out so much late last year I thought I owed you an update / report and this looks like a good place for it.

Y'all saw me through the pain of discovering that the Dillon SL900 is bigger than it appears in the pictures and not amenable to old habits. Had I known that when I bought it I would have gone elsewhere.

Four months later, I’ve warmed up to it some.

What the noob has learned:

A Workmate, a piece of solid core door and some "C" clamps sounded like a great idea. I don’t believe I'd do that again: the Dillon sits there like a 70 pound toad and defies me to think of it as portable. An SL900 wants to stay where it squats.

The Dillon pretty much needs the casefeeder to make sense. Manually feeding the shell drop tube feels wrong - like moped pedals on a Harley. Just get it all at once; not piecemeal like I did.

As noted, a touch oversized. I thought it was an 8000 with blue paint. This is not the case.

I miss the spring dingus on the 600Jr’s wad seating gizmo. The Dillon adjustment is a bit more critical. The wad seater / drop tube will cheerfully crush anything in its path if adjusted too far down.

Tactile feedback isn't like the 600. Sometimes primers are seating just fine but it feels "numb". It wants to be treated on its own terms. My 600Jr memories did not transfer well. Be prepared to embrace a new way.

Will not throw powder or shot unless a shell is in place. I spilled more with the 600Jr.

Powder and shot bars are adjustable. Adjustment is easy and settings hold well. I never worked with adjustables before and was looking for problems that didn’t happen.

Primer feed runs at about 100%. Somehow, I was expecting more problems.

Dillon staff provides hand-holding. This is a Very Good Thing as I gather there aren't many out there, being a relatively recent addition to a firm specializing in metallics.

BUT, the Biggest "pro" involved the one unpleasant memory old fumblefingers had about the MEC: the Dillon shot reservoir is a blue bucket, about a foot across at the top that a 25 pound bag of shot will barely get over half full. You've no idea how delighted I was when I learned I would never again Try to Pour Shot Through a Hole the Size of a Quarter.

What can I say? I lose funnels.

It's my first progressive so I can’t compare it to anything else but it sure seems to be fast as blazes and remarkably "drama free".

Oh, and Steve was right (again). The month of March is memorable in the world of Dillon Calendars. I never much noticed how nice Jeeps were before.

Dave McCracken
March 8, 2006, 09:33 PM
Guess I need to get a Dillon Calendar.....

Boze, will order the support. Will crayon next session. Have two extra bottles if I want to swap shot sizes

45, with 6 12 gauges here, I regard resizing as essential.

Hawk, I didn't want portability, I wanted solid. My setup is that.

Agreed on feeling primers seat. Small downside....


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