Dillon SDB vs 550b. Handguns all I shoot.


March 21, 2013, 09:56 AM
Been reading for hours. However I'm still not sure. I have some extra gun money from a recent sale and figure I want to spend it on a new reloading toy.

Right now I only own 357 and 38 revolvers. All my current plans for gun purchases involve yep 38/357 revolvers.

Things that appeal to me is the press is cheaper for SDB and there's no fussing over will this brand of die work etc.

Even when I shot rifles ( I don't even own any ATM) my single stage was more than enough.

Being that my only plan is to load pistol rounds, and for he foreseeable future just 357/38 am I thinking along the right track with the SDB?

Or is the 550 just that much better even for just pistol.

As an aside I will be keeping my rockchucker and all other accessories as well.


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March 21, 2013, 10:18 AM
All I can say about the SDB is, I've got one of the very first ones that Dillon made, and it works just great for pistol. About 10 years ago I called Dillon looking for a part for it, and when they heard it was one of the first ones, they told me to send the whole thing back to them. When I got it back, it was completely rebuilt with new bushings everywhere.

It's a great press for pistol cartridges. I don't use the auto priming feature, as my processes are a little different - I hand prime every single case as part of my case inspection process, so I load only primed cases into the Dillon, and and use the last 3 stages of the press. I size and de-prime on a single stage. I keep a fairly large stock of primed cases on hand, so it really doesn't slow me down. Sizing and punching cases is a wintertime duty. :)

On the other hand, the 550 will give you the flexibility of loading any caliber in the future. I opted to keep the pistol loading separate from the rifle loading, and load ALL my rifle calibers on single stage presses. I have 3 presses and each one is set up for separate duties - one for sizing only (big, heavy press) and one for seating only (lighter duty, with a very good "feel").

It's kind of a personal choice. It has been a good choice for me though, because in 40+ years of reloading, I have never found a bad reload at the range. Process, patience, and attention to detail.

March 21, 2013, 10:36 AM
I've got both and load pistol on both; small primer on SDB and large primer on RL550b.
Given the choice and knowing that you've got a single stage that you already use, I'd get the RL550b. It's easier to set up, quicker to change calibers, and easier to load on (more space for fingers). It uses standard dies, which you already have for some calibers. There's even a special toolhead available on eBay that comes with a spacer so you don't have to readjust individual dies between .357/.38 spl.

You don't know what will catch your fancy in the future or what calibers you will be loading for 10 years from now. The SDB is great for what it is, but if you buy a S&W .500 magnum or decide that you want to put a lot of .223/5.56 through a Modern Sporting Rifle you will be very happy you got the 550.

March 21, 2013, 10:37 AM
The option to be able to load almost anything would be the best reason for the 550. You get a lot more versatility with a little more money. Never owned a square deal personally but I really like my 550's.

March 21, 2013, 11:48 AM
I don't know if this is of any value to the OP, it's just one persons perspective.

I've thought about the idea of getting an SDB for dedicating to 45acp swc's, a specific powder and charge etc. The one thing that turned me off though is that it only has 4 stations. I like to crimp separately from seating and I'm also partial to M dies. I don't know if the SDB uses a powder thru expanding die or not, but if so, I figure a custom expander could be made to mimic the 2 steps of the M die. And/or I could crimp/seat together. This press is currently very low on my priority list so I just haven't researched it any further at this point. I do find the idea of a dedicated machine that would virtually never have to be changed quite appealing in many ways.

March 21, 2013, 11:54 AM
I have two SD's that are over 25 years old. They have loaded lots of ammo over the years and been back a time or two for the free rebuilds from Dillon.

That said they were $130 back then, at the price they are now (not to mention I have more money now than I did as a kid) I would and have stepped up in press.

I still load short runs on them to this day.

March 21, 2013, 11:57 AM
I have a couple of SDB's (lg/Sm primer) and they are great. Since you state your only interest is loading for pistol I'd normally tell you SDB is a great choice for the price and function.


Since you say your focus is 38/357 I will tell you honestly that since these are tall cartridges they make doing a visual inspection of powder drops difficult (not impossible). I have to lean in at just the right angle to see powder in tall cases due to the small frame dimensions of the SDB. I have have loaded 38/357 and 44 on my SDB's but have returned to loading them on my Classic 4 hole turret for ease of inspection.

So with all this in mind I must recommend the 550 for your stated purpose.

If you were loading .45ACP or 9mm my answer would definitley be SDB.

Hope this helps

March 21, 2013, 12:08 PM
The one thing that turned me off though is that it only has 4 stations. I like to crimp separately from seating and I'm also partial to M dies. I don't know if the SDB uses a powder thru expanding die or no

The expander is part of the powder drop and you don't need more than 4 stations to seat and crimp in two steps.

#1 size/deprime
#2 prime/powder/bell
#3 seat
#4 crimp

I don't use my 550 for anything but rifle, not that it won't load pistol but its slower than any of my other Dillon's. If checking your powder charge is as important to you as it is to me a 5 or more station press is what you want so you have room for a powder check die.

March 21, 2013, 01:10 PM
I have two SDB's, one set up for 45 ACP and one for 9x19. They work great.

I set them up where I can look in the case to see if powder has dropped so a fifth station for a powder cop die is unnecessary for me.

I prefer auto indexing progressive preses so I cannot comment on the 550.

March 21, 2013, 04:09 PM
I have both and the SDB is great for fast, quality loads. You may think that you aren't going to expand your arsenal but if you do, the 550 is very versatile.

March 21, 2013, 04:27 PM
The fact that you can load rifle cases on a 550 is a capablity that should not be ignored.

While I size rifle cases on a single stage, trim and prime off the press, I dump powder and seat bullets on all my short range rifle ammunition with the Dillion 550. This is a lot quicker than a single stage. Long range ammunition is maximum so I weigh all charges.

I have no doubt the Square Deal is good value, the 550 is more flexible.

As a plug for Dillion, their "No BS" warranty is real.

March 21, 2013, 04:37 PM
I load all my rifle on RCBS single stage and all my pistol (except for 357 Sig) on a Dillon 550. I load for 7 different handgun calibers have not experienced any difficulties in loading any of them on the Dillon 550.

March 21, 2013, 05:21 PM
I started reloading with the Square Deal since I planed on reloading pistol only (38/357). I still have the press and I promise myself I'll set it up for .38/.357 and leave it.

My problem was I got frustrated with the press, I have big hands and a tremor and I found the guts of the machine too small and confining. I'm not in love with the method Dillion uses to drop powder. I worked hard at getting into the groove with the machine but finally threw up my hands and purchased a Hornaday. I'm glad to have the extra station when I work on .45acp so that I can crimp separately.

JMHO... go with the 550.

March 21, 2013, 08:26 PM
The square deal uses proprietary dies. The 550B uses standard diameter and thread dies. The square deal is auto indexing which can get you in a bind if one round screws up and the 500B is manual index. The 550B will give you quite a bit more working room as well and the shellplate is bigger around. Get the 550B and be happy.

March 21, 2013, 09:00 PM
In spite of the non owning naysayers, the SDB is a great press and won't get you in a bind if you encounter a problem. It is auto indexing which is a big advantage over the 550B. Lessens the chances of a double charge. I own two of them and they are very reliable and perfect for .38 spl/.357, or 9mm or .45 ACP. If you realize you have an issue, you simply pull the retaining pin at that station and remove the round for correction. I have over 22000 rounds loaded on my two and wouldn't use anything else. I have loaded on a 550B and much prefer the SDB. It actually comes set up, ready to go once you adjust the powder measure and check the OAL for the cartridge you want to load. They even include an actual round loaded on your press. The dies are included and work very well. I have never had a problem with the dies on either of my presses. From actual experience, based on the OPs stated needs, the SDB would be a great choice.

BTW Bullet seating and crimping are done in seperate steps on station 3 and 4.

March 22, 2013, 12:19 PM
Have two SDB's one for 45 acp LP and the other 9mm SP. Use a Lee Classic for rifle rounds. They are a pleasure to use. You will be happy with one.

Hondo 60
March 22, 2013, 02:08 PM
If all you're reloading is 38 Spl & 357 Mag, it sounds like a SDB will work for you.

Just remember SDBs have proprietary dies.
So none of your current dies will fit.
You'll have to buy new ones.

March 22, 2013, 02:20 PM
I bought a squeeze deal when they first came out $134 IIRC dedicated to .45acp and has loaded many thousands of rounds. Like others have said, had a complete factory refurb for free from Dillon. I also have a 550b
If I had purchased the 550 first I wouldn't have the SDB.

March 22, 2013, 02:55 PM
No Hondo, the dies come with it in the package. You don't have to buy other ones!

March 23, 2013, 12:02 AM
I have a SDB for just 380. Works great. My 650 is set up for 45 Colt. I'm not sure but I would think the 45c rounds would be too big for the small size of the SDB to be comfortable.

Small rounds.. SDB definitely. Larger.. I'd go 550 or 650.

March 23, 2013, 06:46 AM
Go with the 550, it gives you room to grow.

March 23, 2013, 03:55 PM
If you are absolutely, 110% dead positive that you will never own anything but .38Spl/.357 Mag, and if you find a used SDB set up with the correct dies...then that might be hard to resist.

On the other hand, if down the line you buy a .380, a 9mm, 10mm, .45acp or even a .41 Mag or .45LC...it is nice to be able to buy dies at a reasonable price.

The fact that the SDB uses proprietary dies was a deal-breaker for me.

March 24, 2013, 04:35 PM
I love my SDB press for pistol I like it better than the 550 or my Hornady lock n load. I think it is smooth and efficient bigger presses have more jerk plus the auto index completely eliminates double charges which are very possible on a manual index 4 head press. That is a good thing about 5 station presses like Hornady you can add powder check die on one station plus it auto indexes as well. Pistol only square deal is great I use mine for 45acp only now and use Hornady for other handgun ammo. I think rifle is still better single stage you are loading for accuracy not quantity. I did own a 550 at one time by the way.

March 24, 2013, 07:03 PM
550 all the way.

March 24, 2013, 08:54 PM
Maybe I am missing something but you still have to buy a shellplate with the 550 for each different caliber. The cost is negligible and I prefer the auto index feature. I wouldn't load rifle on a powder drop unless I was using ball powder anyway, which isn't always available or appropriate. I find that most of my rifle load work occurs off the press and I prefer to seat my bullets in a non-conventional way. I have owned 2 Dillon square deal presses and absolutely love them. I listen to music with a good beat and I get into a good rythym loading about 200 rounds an hour. I don't see an upside to the 550 at all really unless a person shot a ton of semi auto rifle.

March 24, 2013, 10:34 PM
I prefer to seat my bullets in a non-conventional way

Please share more info.

David Tubb shows a 550 for his loading but he does use a powder thrower that costs more than a 1050.

March 24, 2013, 11:02 PM
I've got 3 SDB's and a 550. If you're not going to do any rifle the SDB's are hard to beat.

March 24, 2013, 11:07 PM
Actually, I use Tubb's method of bullet seating. I work the bullet in the neck using 5 motions to fully seat the bullet. I couldn't do that with a progressive that would continue to drop powder.
I have seen an immense improvement with many of the load methods described in his video. Neck turning, primer pocket uniforming, flash hole deburring, bullet seating tricks, etc. have helped my rifle shoot better.

Hat's off to G. David Tubb for spilling some of his secrets.

March 25, 2013, 09:42 AM
Actually, I use Tubb's method of bullet seating. I work the bullet in the neck using 5 motions to fully seat the bullet. I couldn't do that with a progressive that would continue to drop powder.

Unless you have one of the old spring return powder measures (not even sure the 550 existed before they started the fail safe measures) the fail safe rod doesn't let the powder measure go back and forth like that.

Even though youcafe there are folksthayer have enough problems already so, if you are charging on the press it's best not to get into the habit of anything less than complete strokes.

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