Looking for a good press, considering a progressive...


August 18, 2003, 12:11 AM
I do handload some, not as much as I'd like, but I'm working on that. I'm living at home for the summer, but may move out. If I do move out though, I won't have my Dad's reloading press. He's just got an old RCBS single stage press, but it does the job.

If I do move out, I want to get my own press, and was thinking that I'd like to get a nice progressive. I have been looking in Natchez Shooters Supply, and there are a lot of them to choose from.

Who makes a progressive that won't make my headaches worse? Which has most bang for buck? What's the all-around best?

BTW, I only reload 9mm now, hopefully .45 ACP sometime in the near future. ;)


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August 18, 2003, 12:42 AM
I would have to recommend a Dillon. I have a 550 and I absolutely love it. They are very versatile, and if you ever do have a question they Dillon customer service people are very helpful. I have only had to call them once, but they answered my question right away. A Dillon might cost you a little more, but it is worth it in my opinion.

August 18, 2003, 06:48 AM
Dillon 550. If you need more speed at a later date buy a 650 or 1050 to complement your 550.

August 18, 2003, 08:10 AM
Who makes a progressive that won't make my headaches worse? Dillon
Which has most bang for buck? Dillon
What's the all-around best? Dillon

Steve Smith
August 18, 2003, 09:09 AM

August 18, 2003, 12:26 PM

You can't argue with a unanimous vote! Thanks for the help, guys.


August 18, 2003, 01:43 PM
Another vote, albeit late, for Dillon 550.

Order here (http://www.brianenos.com/pages/dillon.html) to buy at 10% off list. Brian's a great guy to deal with.

Smokey Joe
September 8, 2003, 02:39 AM
FumigatorÑWhat would be wrong with getting your own RCBS Rockchucker or similar, and NOT getting a progressive? The progressive people swear that they can make ammo "just as good as" a single stage, but since they can never weigh each powder charge, I cannot see how that can be done. And with a progressive, if you make an error in set-up, instead of a couple of ruined cases, or over-powered rounds, or bullets seated too high or low, you run up a whole bunch of mistakes that then have to be tediously corrected and re-done.

I can just feel the Dillon devotees seething at my words. But really, a single-stage is the way to go for load development or if you only make small batches of ammo. If you only load for pistol, and shoot in a league where you run off a large number of rounds every week, or you want to load who-cares rifle rounds, a zillion rounds at a sitting, by all means get a progressive and let 'er rip.

Can't buy the time-saving argument for a progressive, either. Sorry guys, but if you are in that much of a hurry you're going to make mistakes. Besides, for me, my reloading time counts as recreation just as much as shooting. And nobody who argues in favor of progressives admits to the amount of futzing around it takes to set one up, or change loads on one. (Just helped a friend set one up last week. I know whereof I speak re. the futzing aspect.)

I will say that for progressives, if you must, I'll also vote for Dillon. Big Blue has an outstanding customer-support reputation.

September 8, 2003, 10:33 AM
The progressive people swear that they can make ammo "just as good as" a single stage, but since they can never weigh each powder charge, I cannot see how that can be done.

That was my big worry in getting a progressive. So at first, I weighed every single powder charge. And they were all exactly the same. I did this over and over and all the charges were the same.

So then I figured I'd save some time and weigh every other charge. Same weight again.

Now I weigh every 20th or 30th charge and have had zero problems.

On the 550B varying powder charges have not been a problem for me.

September 8, 2003, 11:28 AM
The progressive people swear that they can make ammo "just as good as" a single stage, but since they can never weigh each powder charge, I cannot see how that can be done. And with a progressive, if you make an error in set-up, instead of a couple of ruined cases, or over-powered rounds, or bullets seated too high or low, you run up a whole bunch of mistakes that then have to be tediously corrected and re-done.

Joe, the weighing of each charge is not needed at all if the powder meters well. I also would like to point out that most of the truely competitive benchrest shooters DO NOT weigh powder charges. They load by VOLUME of powder just as the progressive presses do.

An error in setup that made it past the first 2 or 3 rounds loaded is just stupid. If a guy can't manage his loading better than that he should not be loading regardless of equipment used.

Think about this: The progressive press takes the operator out of the equation except to load cases and set a bullet on the case. It eliminates the operators ability to degrade CONSISTENCY as each case is proceessed IDENTICALLY through the machine. Consistency is all we are looking for in our ammunition once we establish that the load is of adequate power to do the job we ask. If you take your pet load and put it on a Dillon 550B using a powder that meters well and that was set up with the same care you use on your single stage it will be just as accurate and consistent as your single stage loads.

The ONLY downside to a progressive press is the limitation to powders that meter well through the powder measure. Some people refuse change, and would rather turn a blind eye than explore a new or different way of doing something. It in many cases is their loss.

Zak Smith
September 8, 2003, 12:43 PM
I would suggest going to the XL 650 instead of the 550. It is a little more expensive for the basic press, but if you add the casefeeder down the road, your load rate will increase dramatically.


Smokey Joe
September 10, 2003, 02:04 AM
H SÑI'm in the process of helping a friend set up a progressive right now. Frankly it has been quite a "learning experience" and I do not mean that in a positive wayÑit's been one hassle after another. However it is the first progressive I ever tackled, so I'm not blaming the equipment for all the hassles; only about half of them.

I can honestly say that were I not an experienced reloader I would have given it up as a lost cause about 10 man-hours ago. We are nearly done now with set-up and my friend will be producing his first rounds shortly.

When he's comfortable with the machine I intend to ask him to produce a batch of the best ammo he can; I will do the same on my single-stage with fired cases from his rifle. Then we'll do a shoot off.

(By the bye, the bench-rest shooters do NOT use progressives as a general thing, and the manually-operated powder measures they use are extremely accurateÑnot to mention expensive. Check your Sinclair catalog.)

I'm a scientist. I try never to "marry" a theory, but keep my mind open to new evidence. I'm even open to being shown that being limited in powder choices is in some way an advantage.

Please. Convince me.

September 10, 2003, 02:50 AM
Smokey, I don't know which progressive you are having so much trouble with, but I set up my Dillon 550 for the first time in about 30 minutes after I mounted it. I had never reloaded on anything before that and it just isn't that hard. Dillon gives a very comprehensive manual with pictures. If one can't follow that, a phone call will get you someone who will stay on the line and walk you through it.

If I were to set up another one, I suspect I could do it in about half the time it took me the first time.

I followed larryw's advice to get the 550 and he didn't steer me wrong.

Not to mention......there is no company offering any product anywhere that has an absolutely no BS warranty like Dillon. You can't pay for any part no matter how you break or lose it.......they won't let you.

September 10, 2003, 06:26 AM
My first press was a 550..

Total setup first time around 2 hours, including mounting it to the bench, and some pretty major assembly (bought it used, in pieces). Prior to this I had read, and re-read several reloading manuals, that combined with dillons instructions made it a relatively pain free operation. (worst was putting the priming system together, which isn't hard, but I had never seen it assembled).

As it was my first press, I loaded my first 50 rounds or so like a turret press (just one round at a time on the shellplate doing one operation on it.) Great way to learn the 'ropes' without trying to manage everything at once. Worked great this way while working up my first load.

I was paranoid about the powder measure, so I checked my charges.. Like the other poster I started weighing every one, then every 10th, then every 20th.. now every time I have to fill the darn primer tube.. :D

I bought all the stuff used, and it also included a rockchucker (which I've been using to load rifle with).. I enjoy loading the rifle rounds on the single stage (don't shoot a whole lot of rifle). _but_ I can't imagine sitting there loading up 500-1000 rounds on the single stage, not after doing it on the progressive.

Progressives obviously aren't for everyone, the fellow I bought the stuff off had pretty poor luck with it, judging by the fact it was in pieces.. lol..

What does that make me? Must be I'm semi-progressive, lol.. :D Either way it's a heck of a lot more fun, and educational than just paying out the nose for it at the shop..


September 10, 2003, 08:29 AM
I might as well key in here, too.
I bought a 550, and had used a pair of RCBS presses, and weighed every powder charge.
When I bought a powder measure for the RCBS presses, I found no discernable difference between weighing every charge, vs. metering every charge.
I wish I had got the dillon years ago.
As long as you load handgun rounds, progressives are the cat's meow.
If you load many different calibers, get a 550.
if you want to load one caliber, maybe two, get a 650.
If you're gonna shoot one caliber, and one caliber only, and need a boatload of quality ammo, look into a 1050.
Progressives do offer some advantages over single stage, like post-sizing with a Lee factory crimp die, and seating and crimping in two different steps.
I suppose you could do that in a single stage, but it would really take a long time to get 500 rounds.
I also second Brian Enos for purchasing the dillon press, he is a real straight-up guy, and he will tell you what you need, instead of selling you what he has the most of in stock.
I can also tell you that the dillon powder measure has always measured exactly the same every time I check it.
I sometimes wonder why I bother checking it at all.

September 10, 2003, 09:14 AM
Smokey Joe,
What progressive press are you having so much trouble with? The 550 is a cinch to set up. The 650 I set up for a friend took some doing (I hate the 650's primer system, and the casefeed can take some tweaking) but it wasn't the epic task that you describe.

Additionally, due to lack of space on my bench, I haven't bolted down my Rockchucker to reload rifle. Instead, I took a Dillon 550 toolhead, mounted the .308 dies the way I wanted them without a powder measure and then ran cases through it one at a time. Decap, prime, resize (takes a little under 3 seconds per case if I've lubed them beforehand) - weigh charge manually, seat bullet and I'm done. Faster, more efficient and I still get the accuracy of a manually weighed charge. Yes, even on a progressive. Plus, I don't have to spend as much time unscrewing and re-setting my dies. Just swap toolheads and switch to large rifle primers, run a quick check and I'm ready to go.

I've tried manually weighing the charges for handgun (what this thread started out talking about, mind you) and I didn't notice a substantial increase in accuracy at the ranges and skill-level that I shoot at, so it makes far more sense for me to let the powder measure do its thing. It'd be a different story if I were loading for a handgun I intended to take hunting, of course.
(By the bye, the bench-rest shooters do NOT use progressives as a general thing, and the manually-operated powder measures they use are extremely accurateÑnot to mention expensive. Check your Sinclair catalog.)
True enough. Do you think Thefumegator should start by buying an incredibly expensive manual powder measure for all his benchresting needs?
After all ...
BTW, I only reload 9mm now, hopefully .45 ACP sometime in the near future.
I'll sound off for the majority: Dillon 550. Quality machine. Will make you excellent ammo as good or better than factory. Your charges may vary by plus or minus a tenth of a grain, but that's acceptable for a handgun, in my opinion.

September 10, 2003, 11:44 PM
Smokey Joe. One of your assumptions is wrong: progressive users can weigh each powder charge if they choose. For example, when loading with a power that doesn't meter as well as I need (4198 in 223, for example), I'll drop a charge that's a few tenths light, remove the charged case from the press, weigh and adjust the charge, fill case, replace and then advance.

Now, the next time I pull the handle, a case was decapped, neck sized and primed on station one; a light charge was dropped on station two; and a bullet was seated in station three. As a scientist, you must appreciate efficiency.

Do you think there are more chances for errors when moving between steps and dies in a single stage, or just maintaining a steady rhythm with a progressive?

Part of the fun of reloading is experimenting: I get 1/4MOA accuracy out of both 4198 and N133 in my stock 700VS in 223, but the N133 meters beautifully and doesn't require measurement: why make more work for myself and induce opportunities for errors? I like to reload, but prefer shooting: given the choice between 30 rounds an hour in a single stage, or the same ammo at 10X that out of a progressive, my decision is a no-brainer.

Steve Smith
September 11, 2003, 09:26 AM
Smokey Joe, please see my reply in thread http://thehighroad.org/showthread.php?s=&postid=479358#post479358

Johnny Guest
September 11, 2003, 12:00 PM
Everyone back off and take a deep breath!

Wow, I've seldom seen this much excitement in H&R forum. (And, really, this is pretty calm, compared to some of the threads in Gen Disc and Legal & Political.)

H&R forum is, by and large, a pretty technically-oriented area. People discuss gear and loads and getting started and economy, stuff like that. It is not unusual to read of loaders talking about their own favorite type and brands of gear.

BUT WE MUST KEEP THESE DISCUSSIONS CIVIL! No one who's been shooting and handloading for very long doesn't have some personal opinions about guns and gear and loads, and . . . a bunch of stuff. We seldom change one anothers' opinions - - About the best we can do is to make suggestions when someone asks a question, or to say, "You might want to try . . . It works for me." Solicit or make SUGGESTIONS. Ask or answer QUESTIONS. The fund of knowledge here is an outstanding resource. But the quest for knowledge is not well served by getting over excited or being personally offended when someone disagrees with a cherished opinion.

Having harsh words with one another over gear, gizmos and geegaws is TRULY counter productive. Please, friends and associates - - don't force me to don my MODERATOR-AS-AUTHORITY-FIGURE hat. Any more name calling and entire posts will begin disappearing, and I HATE being a censor. I believe the only posts I've ever deleted in H&R forum had to do with hot loads and safety issues. I don't want to get into it over Ford vs. Chevy, progressive vs. single stage, thrown vs. weighed charges stuff.

I am a big supporter of Dillon progressives for numerous reasons. But I have friends who load super-good ammo on other brands. I have friends who shoot lots of pisol ammo but have never owned a progressive press. These are still nice people! There is nothing unworthy about someone who does not agree with my choice of gear.

Best to all - -
Johnny Guest
Your friendly neighborhood H&R Moderator

September 11, 2003, 12:28 PM
I loaded on a single stage press for over 10 years prior to buying my first Dillon 550. Before that I used a Lee Loader. I still use my single stage press to load rifle cartridges simply because I don't shoot all that many rifle cartridges other than .223. I shoot 99% factory cartridges in .223, but I do have a complete set-up to load .223 on my 550. I find that the Dillon 550 loads ammo every bit as accurate as that loaded on the single stage. Dillon advertises that various world class competitors use Dillon machines; I believe one of them was the US Palma team ??? When I shoot my rifles,(other than .223) I normally shoot maybe 25 rounds at a session, or at most 50. It isn't unusual for me to go out and shoot a dozen rifle rounds, all very carefully on paper for groups. I also don't shoot my rifles all that much. I mainly use them for hunting and most of my loading and shooting centers around that activity. So, it just isn't worth it to me to buy the stuff to load progressively for rifles. Also, I go through a lot more steps in loading rifle ammo than I do for handgun. The fact that you have to lube the cases makes progressively loading rifle cartridges far more tedius than loading pistol ammo. Then I trim the cases etc. So, for my uses, the progressive doesn't get much use for rifle cartridges.
I am certainly no rifle expert, I am just as rifle hack. But I have read numerous articles that stated that one of the least important factors in super accurate cartridges is the powder charge, within reason. They seem to think that runout, and the distance from the lands make far more difference than having the exact powder charge in each case. I have even read several articles where they varied the powder charge by several 1/10s of a grain and were unable to tell the difference on paper. That being said, the powder measure on my 550 is at least as accurate as my RCBS powder measure. I honestly think it is more accurate. On many pistol powders I find that at most it varies 1/10 of a grain and I often weigh charges that are the same, at least as far as my scale goes (1/10 of a grain).
For handgun ammo, there is no comparison. Keeping up with my handgun shooting almost isn't possible with a single stage. When I was shooting IPSC farily seriously, between practice, maintaining the guns, and loading on a single stage; all my free time was spoken for. The progressive would have made a huge difference for me. Now I don't have that problem.

September 11, 2003, 12:44 PM
When I set up my first 550, it took me about an hour, maybe a little more. The manual that came with my press, didn't match some of the stuff I was looking at on the press. I called Dillon and they said that over the years some stuff has been modified from the original design, and the manual has never been updated to reflect those changes. The fact that I could call them and have them answer my questions right then was a big help to me. Having a manual, and a video tape showing me how to set up the whole thing was great. The fact that they offer free replacement parts with no questions asked is another big plus. I have visted the Dillon company several times in person. One time I asked a buddy of mine if he wanted me to pick him up anything while I was there. He mentioned a few parts he would like to keep on hand. So at their store I made two seperate orders so I could keep track of his stuff vs. mine. They said, Oh, there is no charge for that stuff. I was kind of embarresed to take it. I told them, this stuff isn't broken, my buddy just wants to keep some spare parts on hand in case they do break. They wouldn't hear of it; the parts are free.
I have no axe to grind here with anyone. I have just been very pleased with the product and service offered by Dillon. There are a lot of great companies I have dealt with in this shooting hobby. The service seems to be far superior to other companies I have to deal with for other items such as computers, vehicles, home appliances; whatever. It is very refreshing to have companies that care about their products and your satisfaction with them. I am sorry if this sounds like a paid advertisment for Dillon, but when someone asks for advice and you have had such a positive experience, it is hard not to be enthusiastic.

September 11, 2003, 12:53 PM
Did your buddy ever find out that the parts you "bought" for him were free?

September 11, 2003, 01:01 PM
I couldn't wait to tell him they were free. However, he is a freeloader. He immediately got on the phone and ordered more just because they were free. He is the type of guy that will ruin a good thing for no good reason.

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