Observations by a new Dillon 550 B owner.


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Damon555
December 18, 2011, 05:26 PM
As many of you know I just got the press late last week. I've loaded for 15 or so years on a single stage press and was just getting tired of it taking so long to crank out handgun ammo. I'd never shot much handgun in comparison to rifle but a few recent additions has me shooting handguns much more often.

My initial impression was WOW, there are a lot of parts! Thank goodness the more complicated stuff is already assembled and ready to go. The directions are laid out well and are intuitive. Although some of the pictures left me scratching my head a quick YouTube search turned up plenty of backup material for the initial setup. I wish they had included some mounting hardware with it but since reloading benches vary so much it would be difficult to know what lengths the mounting bolts needed to be.

Once set up the priming system is as easy to use as it gets. I had read a few mixed reviews about changing primer sizes but I had no issues at all switching it around. I've loaded on my brothers RCBS progressive and can tell you that the Dillon system is much more user friendly. The system appears complicated but it really isn't. I did learn on thing the hard way....Set up the powder measure to throw the desired charge before setting up the priming system! If you don't, you'll be taking it off so you can set the charge weight without feeding primers.

The powder charging system also seems very complicated. But it's all put together and pretty much ready to go right out of the box. Setting the charge weight is as easy as turning a bolt. Just make sure you've got the correct belling set up before you tighten everything down. I had to readjust this once I had everything else set up.

Setting up the dies on the toolhead is no different than setting up 3 different single stage presses. I was apprehensive about not having a 4 die set but it turned out to be a non-issue. Seating and crimping in the same step didn't create any problems.

Setting up the different shell plates was not difficult either. I suspect since it's brand new things will wear in and become much smoother. But to tell you the truth, it still ran quite smooth right off the bat.

All in all things went pretty well. It did take some time to get it set up but once I did everything makes complete sense. I suspect having reloading experience already made the learning curve pretty steep. I didn't run into many of the problems that other people reported. It's pretty amazing how this thing works. I have a feeling I won't save any money from owning this thing. I'll probably be shooting much more.

A word of caution to those who have never reloaded before and are thinking about getting into it: This machine is not for beginners. I couldn't imagine how confusing it would be trying to set this thing up on your own with no idea how the actual loading process works. Start out with a single stage press and learn the process first. You will be glad you did!

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dnmccoy
December 18, 2011, 05:46 PM
Just got mine all setup as well, hoping to be cranking off 9mm this week

dmazur
December 18, 2011, 07:04 PM
Set up the powder measure to throw the desired charge before setting up the priming system! If you don't, you'll be taking it off so you can set the charge weight without feeding primers.

I'm not sure I understand this. Mind you, I'm not implying you're doing anything wrong, just that I can't follow the concern.

The locating buttons are easily removed, which allows you to insert a primed case at Station 2 to adjust the powder measure. You don't have to have a case at Station 1. The powder measure bar is easily adjusted when it is empty...just throw charges repeatedly until the contents of the case weigh the desired amount.

Similarly, you can use trial and error techniques at Station 3 and 4 (use of a dummy round is recommended -- case with no primer or powder) to set up those dies for seated depth and crimp.

Once you are done with setup, you can replace the locator buttons and proceed.

The priming mechanism is designed so that it can't load a primer in the slide if it isn't empty. It doesn't hurt the primer to go back and forth.

Also, the powder measure won't drop a charge if there isn't a case in Station 2, so you can set up Stations 3 and 4 individually without spilling powder.

IMO, the important thing is to not mess with the loading sequence once you start. That is, run a case all the way through the process without stopping.

If you believe the powder measure may be inconsistent, stop between boxes and pull the locator button at Station 2 and use a fired case (with primer still present) to throw a charge and check its weight.

If you measure loaded rounds and don't like the COL, pull the locator button at Station 3 and adjust that.

Then put the buttons back and resume loading. I would not stop and mess with settings once you are loading, no matter how easy it is to do this...

It's a good press. I'm sure you'll like it.

Damon555
December 18, 2011, 09:13 PM
Yeah, I didn't know you could just leave the primer in there and just cycle the cup full. I also knew the buttons could be removed to make adjustments. None of that was a problem. I had several hiccups the first batch I ran through but fixing them on the fly was not a problem. Attention to detail is one of my strong suits.

rfwobbly
December 18, 2011, 11:01 PM
There are several small adjustments (length of primer arm throw, belling, etc) that are one-time adjustments. Once set you may forget how it's done before it's needed again, if ever.

As with any powder measure, never trust the first 10 "drops". Simply remove the hopper cover and the button at station #2, yank the case out, and pour it back into the hopper. Re-insert and do over.

I found that a "ball end" hex wrench from Home Depot allowed me to reach around the op rod easier for faster powder measure fitting and removal.

http://www.tennesseequipment.com/East-Cost-/New-Jersey-/Auctions-/8020-tools-ball-end-l-hex-wrench-3-8-pix.jpg

mc2212
December 18, 2011, 11:42 PM
I like to load 4.5 grains of Bullseye for my 45 ACP. I check the consistancy of my Dillon powder thrower by throwing ten charges into a pan. I then weigh it on my scale. If the total weight of my ten charges weighs 45 grains +/- one grain, I figure it's throwing a consistant charge. I do this every time I set up just to make sure adjustments have not gotten bumped.

Route666
December 19, 2011, 05:20 AM
I got the 550 over the 650 as the manual indexing is about all I would be missing, and to me that allows greater control over what is happening, much better for making sure everything is working properly. It allows you to run it like a single stage, a turret or a progressive without changing anything.

If you don't like the same primer going back and forth when setting up, you CAN disconnect the spring from underneath and take off the bent wire rod that makes it go in and out when the ram goes up and down. It isn't something I do, but it can be done.

A good tip I found, if you are ever interrupted, or have to stop in the middle of a run, stop at a spot where the next thing you do is pull the lever. It is easy to get back into the rhythm that way, and harder to forget to do something. This means new brass in station 1, primed brass in station 2, powder and projectile on top in station 3 and cartridge ready for crimping in station 4. That way you can get back, crank the handle, spin the stations and continue. If I have to move more than a few feet away from the machine when stopped, or stopped for more than a minute or so, I check the powder in the one to be seated before continuing, and check the charge dropped after pulling the handle, and probably the next one too. You can never be too sure.

Oh and I make the different calibres / setups as easy on myself as I can. I have a toolhead, toolhead stand, powder measure, dies, failsafe rod and conversion kit for each calibre, that way I can change the station plate, swap over the tool-head with two pins and the failsafe rod and I'm ready for powder, primers and checking the thrown weight. Obviously going to large primers requires changing the primer feed, but that's not greatly hard, although I think I might get a second machine to eliminate that. Swapping from 38 special to 357 mag (or 44 spl to 44 mag, or mag to spl for 44 or 357) is a breeze, use the same lower setup, just swap the tool-head out. Yes more money up front, but the pleasure it brings (or the pain it cuts out) is worth it to me.

bear375
December 20, 2011, 10:42 AM
[A word of caution to those who have never reloaded before and are thinking about getting into it: This machine is not for beginners. I couldn't imagine how confusing it would be trying to set this thing up on your own with no idea how the actual loading process works. Start out with a single stage press and learn the process first. You will be glad you did! ]

I'd have to disagree with you on this one. Progressive machines are soooo much easier to operate than single stage, always screwing the dies in and out, 'did I move the powder funnel or did I double charge, well, better check it'. I would highly recommend that beginners save lots of money on aspirin and get a progressive from the beginning. Learning "the process" is no different on single stage vs. progressive. I learned on a Dillon SDB.

Route666
December 20, 2011, 05:04 PM
I agree be cautious, however the 550 was / is my first machine, and I had no problem with it. I did however read and read and read about reloading and the different machines over the years before getting into it, and if I didn't understand something, went looking for the answer to make me understand.

thorn-
December 20, 2011, 07:27 PM
I agree that setting up a progressive machine is more difficult for a new reloader than a single stage. I don't think a progressive is particularly difficult to learn on, though...come to think of it, when I was learning the press mechanics I simply used the press in a single stage way - one round on the shell plate at the time, until everything was making sense.

thorn

dmazur
December 20, 2011, 08:45 PM
...or have to stop in the middle of a run, stop at a spot where the next thing you do is pull the lever.

I read of a similar tip, which I now use, which is to stop with the lever down. Then you know you are mid-stroke. You can't index, play with cases, in fact you pretty much can't do anything until you finish the stroke.

But I agree that any stopping point will work, as long as you're consistent.

will_m68
December 20, 2011, 09:07 PM
I got a 650 as my first and with no experience reloading. I won't tell you it was all easy but I did get it and it did have some trial and error. With that said, I'm glad I went the way I did.

Fleet
December 20, 2011, 09:20 PM
I found that a "ball end" hex wrench from Home Depot allowed me to reach around the op rod easier for faster powder measure fitting and removal.
Replacing the two socket head capscrews for the powder measure with thumb screws from the hardware store is ever easier.

jfrey
December 20, 2011, 09:28 PM
The first thing you do with any Dillon press is READ the DIRECTIONS. I unboxed my first SDB and read the paperwork that came with it and then read it again while I was setting it up and was loading in about an hour. The second one was set up and running in about 30 minutes. The well thought out directions are the key. There is a learning curve with any press. You can learn on a progressive, just as several folks have stated. A Dillon press is never money wasted.

oneounceload
December 20, 2011, 09:30 PM
Progressive machines are soooo much easier to operate than single stage, always screwing the dies in and out

If you are removing each die for each round, then that would explain your statement. rather, with a single stage, you do things in batches - screw in the sizing/decapping die and size, deprime, and reprime all in one movement - do this for an entire batch of brass. Next, use the flare die for the batch. Lastly, install the seating die - drop powder from the powder measure, insert in the press and seat/crimp the bullet.

It is NOT hard, AND you actually see every charge and bullet - far less likely to over/under charge than on a progressive, far less likely to miss a primer than on a progressive either.

Besides, most folks like having a single stage if for nothing else than running small batches while trying new loads - because it is that much easier to set everything

Damon555
December 21, 2011, 01:22 AM
Yep, you're probably going to want a single stage press anyway. I'm glad I learned on a single stage, you can pay much better attention to every step without the confusion of watching multiple operations at once. But hey, that's just me. After setup the dillon is quite easy to operate.

I agree with reading the manual before starting....I did. I've been doing this a long time and understand the dangers involved in not reading before doing.

Route666
December 21, 2011, 04:49 AM
I read of a similar tip, which I now use, which is to stop with the lever down. Then you know you are mid-stroke. You can't index, play with cases, in fact you pretty much can't do anything until you finish the stroke.

But I agree that any stopping point will work, as long as you're consistent.

I like it! That is a more definite way of knowing what state everything is in, as long as the cartridges look right when you lift the lever, it is basically impossible to have missed something.

Hondo 60
December 22, 2011, 01:41 AM
One thing you may find very handy
(atleast I did)

BLUE Adjusting Knob for Dillon Powder Measure

http://www.ebay.com/itm/2-BLUE-Adjusting-Knobs-Dillon-Powder-Measures-ORIGINAL-PRESS-KNOBS-/220913215453?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item336f7427dd

(not my auction, don't know who the seller is, just a real handy item)

LBEE
December 22, 2011, 08:42 AM
I found my Blue Knob Local at Westlake ACE Hardware, They Carry several colors if you dont want a Blue one.

Route666
December 22, 2011, 04:21 PM
Hmm I just looked at the blue knob and though, looks like a bottle cap from a cordial / juice / milk bottle. So I got one of those, and cut / filed a hole in it and now I have an adjusting knob. It may not be as durable or stable, but it's working for now and a replacement is only a little work. I have seen them made of wood too.

Damon555
December 22, 2011, 06:50 PM
A few more observations about problems that I was warned about. Not necessarily here but in other forums also.

1. Unique flows just fine through that powder dispenser.

2. Lee dies work perfectly.

3. Switching primer sizes is not that difficult.

4. Having never tried the roller handle it seems the ball provided works just fine.

5. If your bench in the right height there is no need for the strong mount.

Obviously problems could still arise as time goes by and maybe I've just been lucky.

Hondo 60
December 22, 2011, 10:48 PM
Ya, I just can't see paying $45 for that roller handle thing.

Tite Group, Universal, AA5, 2400 & Varget all work very well in the powder hopper, with no leaking.

Any brand of 7/8 - 14 dies will work.

I've heard some have issues with changing primer sizes.
I personally have had none.

Damon555
December 22, 2011, 11:17 PM
Ya, I just can't see paying $45 for that roller handle thing.

Tite Group, Universal, AA5, 2400 & Varget all work very well in the powder hopper, with no leaking.

Any brand of 7/8 - 14 dies will work.

I've heard some have issues with changing primer sizes.
I personally have had none.
It's good to know that Varget works fine too...that's on the agenda.

http://i6.photobucket.com/albums/y234/edlafond/Weapons/EDL_1616.jpg

Are there any pointers you guys can give about loading rifle rounds that might come in handy?

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