Progressive Reloading Systems


Kramer Krazy
November 29, 2012, 11:56 AM
I just finished reloading 500 45 acp, 400 9mm, and 100 55 mag this weekend on a single-stage press and it was a fairly significant time commitment. I don't reload very often, but the times I reload more than 200 rounds at a time, I wish I could go a little faster. I think I may reload more often if I had a dedicated system for one caliber or another way to save time. I am currently using a newer RCBS Rockchucker IV, but I have a 1986 RCBS press on a shelf, also. I reload 380, 9, 38, 357, 44, 44 mag, and 45, so far, and I have the dies for 223, but have not reloaded any 223, yet.

Since I mainly reload 45 acp, I have been thinking of converting one of the presses into a progressive for 45 acp with a Piggyback attachment. I've been watching used ones on eBay, Gunbroker, and a few other sites, but also been pricing new ones. I'm torn at the idea that I won't be able to inspect the process as closely as I can with the single-stage press and the time involved.

Should I pick up a Piggyback unit for one of my presses, buy a cheaper progressive unit like a Lee Pro 1000, or somethng else? I was thinking a turret press with the die plates would work out well because I can get a different plate for each caliber I reload in quantity (9mm and 45 acp), and I can use a single-stage for smaller, custom batches. Any input is greatly appreciated.

Oh yeah, as I'm sure somene will ask, currently, I am not reloading much and my wife and I haven't shot in a couple of years because we cringe at the thought of the cost of ammo, so I've been periodically reloadig and stock-piling ammo. A recent resurgance in firearms interest (and gun and reloading supply purchases) has us wanting to go shooting, again, but another year like 2005 when we shot up 17,000 rounds of ammo gives me cold chills if I think of the hours I would spend at the single-stage press between shooting sessions. I know I simply cannot go to the range without shooting at least 300 rounds at a minimum....that doesn't include what she shoots. ;)

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November 29, 2012, 12:21 PM
With the amount of ammo you reloaded it's time for a progressive if you're going to continue at that rate.

I wouldn't spend the money on a Lee. Some will tell you they're happy with what the press produces but you'll hear just as many complain about the press.

Not sure about the RCBS but I'd look into it.

The only thing I warn anyone thinking about a progressive is make sure the press has a station for a powder check die. This is a die that will check the level of powder in the case and will beep or lockup the press if the case is over or under filled.

November 29, 2012, 01:30 PM
A Lee Classic Turret Press would be the first thing I would look at. Bulletproof as far as I'm concerned, probably the best product Lee makes. It will handle all your calibers. You're right, a $10 turret with installed dies is all you need to change calibers, 3 seconds and you're done. The Pro auto disk measure with the double disk kit for your rifle rounds will work fine. Since your normal reloading needs appear to be inconsistent, this would be the least expensive way to speed things up and they can be purchased new for just over $100. I've used one for 45ACP and 9mm and was very pleased with it.

Today, however, I use a Hornady LNL AP 5 station progressive press. Reason is I reload several hundred 45ACP and several hundred 9mm rounds each week. The 5 stations allows the use of a powder check die that's important to you. Caliber changes are a little more involved, but by no means difficult or expensive.

If it were me, I'd pass on piggybacking onto your RCBS press. Keep it around for specialty tasks and such, I still use my Lee single stage for specialty tasks.

November 29, 2012, 01:49 PM
Not a reloader, but becoming one it seems (probably with a Lee Turret).

However, I would throw out that - based on my study - your round count is such that you'd probably really feel the benefit from a 'full' progressive. And, based on what I'm reading, Dillon and Hornady seem to have mad props.

November 29, 2012, 03:23 PM
After some years using a Rockchucker, yesterday I finished my first 200 rounds of 9mm using an RCBS Pro-2000 with auto index. I couldn't pass it up for less than $500 new a few months ago. Expensive, yes, but I sort of fell in love with it when I got to play with it for a while at the NRA convention in St. Louis.

It took about half a day to mount and set up the new press, and another couple of hours to set, check, and recheck the dies and powder measure. I was very deliberate (and slow) for the first 100, frequently checking powder weight, primer depth, and cartridge length, but then I started to pick up the pace. It was delightfully faster, even with taking as much time as I needed to inspect the rounds. I can't see me using anything but this Pro-2000 for pistol ammo again. I'm guessing you'd enjoy a good progressive press from whichever manufacturer you decide.

November 29, 2012, 03:33 PM
If you want to use a powder cop die you will be looking at a 5 station progressive. The 2 that come to mine are the Hornady LNL-AP and Dillon 650. I have the LNL-AP for close to 5yr now and would probably got that route again. Caliber conversion are cheaper and fast to do. If money is no object the Dillon 650 w/case feeder is the way to go. But this press needs the case feeder for it to shine. The base cost between the 2 is very close when brass feeders are included in the price. Caliber change over is more expensive for the Dillon and change over is a little slower. Unless you go full heads.

Either one will serve you well. There is no perfect Progressive press, they all have their good and bads. Both have a NO BS warranty. The main thing that is a constant problem is priming system. I have not had any problem with my LNL priming system. It will not feed a primer on a empty station like the 650 will. Each have their + & -.

Kevin Rohrer
November 29, 2012, 04:56 PM
I'm torn at the idea that I won't be able to inspect the process as closely as I can with the single-stage press and the time involved.

Since the 550B is a semi-progressive, inspecting the cases as they progress thru the loading process is actually quite easy to do. If I think I made a mistake at some point, I remove the round for inspection and correct the problem, then advance the star and continue. The 550B is much more mistake correctable than the 650, and far less expensive to buy and make caliber changes. It is a bit slower in operation, but faster to change calibers.

I DON'T recommend making the 550B the first press someone owns, but that is not your case.


A 550B user since 1995

November 29, 2012, 06:41 PM
I used a Rockchucker (still use for rifle) for more than 30 years. While I love reloading and find it relaxing, I would tire after 100 or so rounds. It takes me about 75 minutes per 100 and I always tried to reload my brass as I shot it. After retiring, my shooting increased to about 18,000 rounds a year and I made the decision that I had to take advantage of a progressive press for all my handgun calibers. Now I can load 350 rounds an hour (don't use case or bullet feeders) and that makes shooting alot nicer. As others have said, I would only consider a press with 5 stations so you can use a powder check die and it must auto index. The Dillon 650 or the Hornady LNL AP are the best available in my opinion. While I went with the Hornady, you cannot go wrong with either one.

Kramer Krazy
November 30, 2012, 09:35 AM
Thanks for all the replies. It definitely gives me more food for thought. We are supposed to go shooting Sunday, so I imagine I'll be hitting the press, again, early next week. I'll seriously be doing some research over the next few days (and we have a local gun show coming up in about two weeks).

November 30, 2012, 09:56 AM
I am a huge (well.... 5'8" and 200# - LOL) fan of Lee products and find my Classic turret to be perfect match for MY realistic ammo needs and budget.

I normallly post that rounds per hour at a relaxed pace is:

single stage 50-75rph
Lee turret 150-175 rph
progressives 300+ rounds per hour

Match your realistic ammo needs to a press accordingly and IMHO you will be well served, regardless of brand. In general you trade $$$$$ for features and speed of production and again just my view but nobody is making 'junk' and YES, YES, 1000 times YES..... Dillon makes the 'best' - LOL - and the costliest - lol

November 30, 2012, 10:01 AM
Your website is very entertaining, Kramer. I note that your bike trip stopped a bit short of Los Angeles; I'm sure there's an interesting reason for that.

Getting back to your question: My first press was a progressive (Dillon 650), still going strong after more than 15 years, and likely good for the rest of my life, and longer. My "tooling cost" for reloading was high, but cost per year is low, and getting lower. Over the years, I have made smaller additions & refinements to the original machine, so I now have all of the useful mods and accessories available.

As stated earlier, the two progressives that appear to outshine the rest are the 650 and the LNL. Study both, choose the one that's best for you, spend the money, and don't look back; it will be a lifetime investment.

November 30, 2012, 10:15 AM
Since the 550B is a semi-progressive, inspecting the cases as they progress thru the loading process is actually quite easy to do. If I think I made a mistake at some point, I remove the round for inspection and correct the problem, then advance the star and continue. The 550B is much more mistake correctable than the 650, and far less expensive to buy and make caliber changes.

You can inspect at anytime on all of the Dillons, sure the bad round might have to be removed at the next station but that's OK, mistake is still corrected.

There is little effect on being able to correct it before advancing the shell plate, unless you think another stroke would cure the problem. In that case the double charge you just created would be a bigger problem than the original problem.

November 30, 2012, 10:18 AM
I'll second the 550 comments by AMBID............a note of caution regarding the Lee progressives.........every one I have seen had primer feed issues. Yeah, Lee'l give you free parts, but the hassle and screwed up ammo makes it not worth the effort. I've had my Dillon 550 25 years with no problems other than those I created MYSELF.

November 30, 2012, 10:21 AM
Single stage presses are sure slow!
Watch this short two minute video showing the Lee classic cast auto-indexing turret in use loading 9mm.

Note that brass handling is greatly reduced compared to a single stage.. it's pretty fast.
They are about $100 and the priming and powder systems are like another $50 total (I think). Changing calibers is cheap and easy too.. about ten bucks for each turret ring and if you're loading for eight calibers, just that alone can add up real quick with some of the other presses.

Jim Watson
November 30, 2012, 10:32 AM
I only have Dillon (except for that near-antique CH) progressives and cannot say much about other brands.

The 550B is the easiest to change calibers on of the Dillon family. That would be important to me if I were loading 7-8 calibers in quantity. I'd probably have two, one left set for small primers, one for large.

The current RCBS Piggyback gets decent reviews, but earlier models ran from buggy to awful. A local dealer had one of the first and I don't know if he ever got a box of shells off of it.
I would not buy one of those used, although I have had two second hand Dillons that did just fine.
The Square Deal I started with was rebuilt twice for me without charge and two or three times for the guy I sold it to. My present 550 from a deceased friend's estate had not needed attention, nor has the S1050 I splurged on instead of a new gun one year.

Hornady gets good reviews, Lee's are spotty.

November 30, 2012, 10:42 AM
.,Lee's are spotty.For their progressives.

November 30, 2012, 10:48 AM
The use of a powder check die has already been mentioned. I use the RCBS Lock out Die, because it stops the press from operating. Great safety feature, especially when you are first starting on a progressive press or when you load several hundred rounds at a time.

I would also suggest you consider a press that has or can attach a case feeder. I tend to reload hundreds of rounds per sitting and the case feeder really speeds up the process. It also removes one step (physically placing the case in the shell plate) with another (visually confirming the case is correctly placed in the shell plate). I find this allows me to visually inspect each case for the proper amount of powder with fewer distractions.

Here is the link to a PDF I read when I was considering which progressive to buy. I found it to be helpful when making my decision. I ended up with a Hornady LNL and love it.

November 30, 2012, 11:08 AM
I have a Dillon 550, 650 and a RCBS Piggy back. Love my Dillons, they run like champs. I load 1-2000 round of 45ACP and 9mm every month. In addition to the case feeder on the 650 I would also recommend the power check. When you are loading that much ammo it means a lot to make sure your not loading a potential squib round.

The Piggy back gives me the most trouble. Fails to index quite a bit and I have had a lot of trouble with the powder drop mechanism. RCBS has always been good to send me replacement parts for the indexer without question (they wear out quickly). But after investing in the 650 its collecting dust.

November 30, 2012, 12:25 PM
I never use a Dillon. I don't like my LNL. I do really like both My Load Master & Pro1000. For 45 & 9 it is so easy to see the power that a check die would be in the way. I have no prime issues from ether press & believe those that do aren't doing something right except for those that had the older versions of the Load Master. I didn't use the older one but Lee said try had problems. The presses need mounted where they can't shake or it does cause things to go wrong. I would rather use the Pro1000 for handgun cartridges myself. It it's just so basic & simple. The case feeder works great on both presses. I didn't give the bullet feeder much of a chance but I didn't like it. Thought about making my own drop tube style die to place bullets so I didn't have to rack inside of the press for the Load Master. Both presses are really easy & inexpensive to change over to a different caliber also.

Kramer Krazy
November 30, 2012, 06:58 PM
Thanks for the further replies. I've been espeically interested in the Dillon responses, as a buddy of mine and his father swear by their Dillian, and I used to be on their magazine mailing-list....

Your website is very entertaining, Kramer. I note that your bike trip stopped a bit short of Los Angeles; I'm sure there's an interesting reason for that.
Thanks for the compliment. To answer your question about Los Angeles...

I stopped in Vegas on my way to the Pacific Ocean and the next morning, the bike wouldn't start. To make a long story short, I installed a new battery and voltage regulator in a bike shop's parking lot 1/2 mile from my hotel by kick-starting the bike after trickle-charging the battery for an hour. When rechecking the charge with the new regulator, it didn't look right, so I decided to still head west, but cancelled my ride through Death Valley. (edit - I later determined the low charge with the new regulator was due to a low battery in my multimeter). The uneasiness of the charging system and the traffic I'd hit at rush hour in LA on my way to Long Beach made me decide to cancel hitting the Pacific Ocean and to see it in the future.

I turned around when I hit I-40 to head east and only made it as far as Needles, CA when I broke a chain. I was lucky enough to push the bike down an on-ramp, park the bike at a convenience store, and walk six blocks to a shop that closed five minutes after I got there.
They only had one chain in the size I needed, and I had him cut it to the length I remembered. I was correct in the length and installed the chain in the parking lot of the convenience store with needle-nose pliers, pocket knife, a ratchet, and a screwdriver. With the two failures in the same day, I figured someone was telling me I wasn't supposed to be riding that day and went to the nearest hotel to call it a day.

Hondo 60
November 30, 2012, 08:42 PM
Another Dillon RL-550B LOVER.

I started on a Lee O-frame single stage.
Once I learned what I was doing I bought a Pro1000.
Big mistake!!!!!!!!
After 3 or 4 months of nothing but trouble, frustration & anger, I boxed it up & bought a Lee "Deluxe" turret press.
Well there ain't nothin deluxe about it.
The spent primers go EVERYWHERE.
I don't want to sound like a Lee basher (too late, huh?)
I have lots of Lee dies & other stuff that works well.
I'm just not a fan of their Deluxe turret press & Pro1000.

Those that have a Lee Classic Turret press say it's MUCH better than the deluxe.
From what I've seen, I believe it.

Which brings me to my Dillon.
I bought it 2nd hand, but it was brand new - never outta the box.
Wow! What a dream compared to any other press I've had or seen.
Everything is just buttery smooth about it.
It's built solid & if you do break it - they fix it.

I've broken a thing or two on it & they've sent me parts free of charge.
Even when it was obviously my fault.

I tightened down the Primer Housing and Shield too tight & warped it.
They sent a new one no questions asked.

Some year when I have to buy a new press, it'll either be a 550 or 650.
I think that's about as high of a compliment as one can give.

Lost Sheep
December 1, 2012, 01:16 AM
I started loading in 1976 with a single stage RCBS Jr and quickly traded for a RockChucker, not because I was unhappy with the Jr, but ecause I got a deal.

After a couple of years, I got tired of the slow speed of the single stage and got a pair of Lee Pro-1000s (one for large primers and one for small). I used those for a while, but got tired of fooling around with caliber swaps and the erratic nature of the primer feed.

I switched to a Lee Classic Turret and am much happier now.

I load for 9mm, .357 Mag, 44 mag, 45 ACP, 45 Colt/454 Casull. Throughput on the Classic Turret easily matches the continuous throughput on the Pro-1000 (because the Pro-1000s had stoppages that are just absent from the Turret). But that is just my experience. On the Classic Turret I loaded 100 rounds in 47 minutes the first time i used it and that included refilling the powder hopper and primer feed (but not initial setup).

The Classic Turret also drops 100% of the primers down the tube, but the Pro-1000s dropped no more than 75% under the press where they are supposed to go. The Deluxe turret has the same base as the Pro-1000, so I expect the same performance.

Just my experience. I recommend you talk to Sue Kempf at Kempf's Gun Shop online. She was very good to me, uses a Lee Classic Turret and switched from her Pro-1000 for the same reasons I did.

A caliber swap on a Classic Turret would be about $50 and take about 5 minutes, 4 min and 40 seconds of that involved in swapping and calibrating the powder measure. Or $75 and 30 seconds if you have a powder measure set up on your dies already.

Selecting a dedicated progressive for just those calibers for which you need more than 150 rounds per hour might be in your future if you want, but a Lee Classic Turret seems like it might fill your needs very well right now for its simplicity, versatility and low cost.

Lost Sheep

December 1, 2012, 09:43 AM
I own and use a Lee Pro 1000, Lee Classic Turret Press, Dillon 550 and last week I took delivery of a Dillon 650 XL.

I'm using the LCT to single stage load 308 and 6.8 spc, the 550 is now for large primer stuff (10mm,9x25 dillon, 50 Beowulf), and the 650xl is for 9mm and .223. My Pro 1000 is a paperweight now (it sucks).

If I were only shooting 200-300 rounds a month in a couple of calibers, I'd buy the LCT. For 300-1000 rounds a month the 550 is the way to go.

I'm shooting close to 20k a year of 9mm, and 10k of .223 so the 650 made sense for me for those 2 calibers.

Hope this helps!

December 1, 2012, 07:15 PM
Some ideas....

► When you buy a single-stage you can swap out only the press and keep going. For instance, you could swap your Rock Chucker for a Hornady Classic and keep all the other pieces. No money lost. However, when you buy a progressive press there are expensive pieces like the die holders, shell holders, and associated tools that only work on that exact press. After 2 years, you may have ~$500 beyond the price of the press tied up in these special accessories. So it behooves you to be VERY careful when you purchase a progressive because after about 6 months of buying accessories, you'll be almost permanently tied into that model press forever. So you may want to fully consider how your decision will affect your reloading over the next 10-15 years.

► All reloading systems fully pay for themselves within 1 year IF you correctly match the press to your shooting volume. So my second advice would be to ignore the initial cost. Look at the features, quality and warranty first.

► Lastly, some of the accessories may be too expensive to purchase considering that you may only load (say for example) 50 rounds of 38 Spcl per year. In that case it might really be to your benefit to buy the exact same model press that your buddy has, so that on those rare occasions you can simply swap die sets (already setup in the die holder) and shell holders with him. Maybe you'll have a caliber he might like to borrow once a year too.


December 1, 2012, 07:57 PM
Humm. Load 500+ 38spl for a buddy on the Load Master only stopping to fill primes & power.

I still like the Pro1000 better. I don't get primers all over the place. True not all of them go in but it is only like 1 out of 100 miss unless the pockets are crimped then it is about 10 of 100 that miss. I have no primer feed problems related to the press. I did have some with crimped primer pockets in 9mm but after figuring out the problem & swagging the bras no more problems.
The most problems I had with The Pro1000 was when I first got it & thought I already knew how to load. I soon found out it want the press I just didn't know how to use it.
Learn how to it's your tools & you will be much happier.

December 1, 2012, 08:47 PM
The Windex drinkers are ALWAYS going to be here...Get a Loadmaster, for half or less the price of a Windex 550 you can try it out and see if it works. And if you don't like it, sell it for $30 less than you bought it for.

From watching the reloading forums for the last 5 years, it's amazing the complete morons that are trying reloading, and then blame the equipment when they can't make it work. That is/was the genius of Windex equipment; they realized probably half the population are mechanical morons and built the stuff to that standard.

On Calguns there is a thread where a potential Windex owner can't keep the depriming pin from sliding up and out of the Lee die. Took two messages for the moron to figure out to put the wrench on the top of the die and not on the lock ring.....There really should be a test before you're allowed to buy reloading equipment...

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