"Progressive" Loading?


345 DeSoto
March 27, 2013, 10:20 AM
I have been reloading for a number of years with a single stage Rock Chucker. However, I'd LIKE to get a Progressive(?) loading set-up...one of those things that do it ALL just by pulling the handle for each step. I have NO knowledge what-so-ever about these things, as I have never had the need to use anything but my single stage. HELP, guys (and Girls)! I need an education on WHAT exactly these things do, and what would be a good choice when I go looking for one...all my die sets are RCBS...:confused:

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john wall
March 27, 2013, 10:44 AM
Dillon 550 or 650, depending on how much ammo you shoot in a given time. 500+ rds a month? 550

500+ rds a week? 650

March 27, 2013, 10:45 AM
Here's a good place to start: http://www.comrace.ca/cmfiles/dillonLeeHornadyComparison.pdf

Your RCBS dies will work on all progressive presses EXCEPT the Dillon SDB. The SDB or Square Deal press is a handgun cartridge ONLY press and uses proprietary Dillon dies.

March 27, 2013, 11:34 AM
Your choices are as follows:

Lee Pro 1000
RCBS Pro 2000 (auto index or manual)
Hornady Lock-N-Load AP
Dillon 550B (manual index) or 650 (auto-index)

There are pros and cons to each one. Most will say that the Lee is the least desirable of the bunch, but costs the least.

The RCBS is a cast-iron frame, which is good. has a die plate configuration that does not require a separate powder measure per caliber, but I have read complaints about powder spilling with shallow cases. Some love the APS priming system, some don't. I personally think it's a great idea, but haven't used one.

The Hornady is the most flexible, using their die bushing system. I have one. I like it. However I will say that the priming system is its weak spot - you have to keep it clean or it will jam / not feed primers. The powder measure is rock solid. I use the metering inserts so I can change calibers without adjustment. I have no complaints about the die bushing system, and like the flexibility it affords. The indexing function requires some adjustment, but once you get it figured out, it's not a problem.

Dillons are rock solid. They are also the most expensive. They also have the highest cost per caliber change. From what I've read, if you want to change calibers, stay with the 550. If you want huge production on a single caliber, use a 650.

I was going between RCBS and Hornady, and chose Hornady. I think I would have been happy with the RCBS for different reasons, but I'm glad I made my choice. I reload a lot of different calibers, and couldn't afford the caliber changes on the Dillon.

Just my $.02.

March 27, 2013, 11:36 AM
Your dies will work in any of the above presses.
You'll need a die plate per caliber on the RCBS and Dillons
You'll need a die bushing per die on the Hornady
You'll need a shell plate per caliber (there is commonality between some calibers) on any of them.

March 27, 2013, 11:39 AM
Spammy, good writeup. I chose the Hornady LNL as well because of the easy caliber changes and the cost.


March 27, 2013, 11:45 AM
Floydster - thanks. To be honest, I'd love to see someone franken-mate the APS priming system to the Hornady LnL.

March 27, 2013, 11:48 AM
Anyone else have any troubles out of their LNL?

March 27, 2013, 12:00 PM
What they do is perform an individual step at one of several stations, so that once up and running, you will turn out one completed round per pull of the handle. This happens because you will be depriming/resizing at one station, charging a case with powder at a second, seating a bullet (and sometimes crimping at a third), and crimping at the fourth (if not done at the third).

As someone who had has progressives and RCBS single stage, you need to be watching some of the videos to see the way these presses operate - they can be somewhat intimidating if you are not somewhat mechanically inclined, especially when something hiccups - and that WILL happen.

They are all like Jaguars - when they are finely tuned and running right, they are great, but when Mr. Murphy rears his ugly head, step back take a deep breath and count to ten........... ;)

March 27, 2013, 12:53 PM
I'm in exactly the same boat as you. I've pretty much narrowed it to the Dillon 550 and the Hornady. Honestly I'll probably go with whichever is in stock when I get the cash set aside for it.

March 27, 2013, 01:35 PM
The Dillon 550 is only 4 stations, where the Hornady LNL-AP and Dillon 650 have 5 stations. The LNL and 650 have auto indexing, meaning the shell plate auto advances. The 650 is design to work with the Brass feeder without it it really hampers it's performance. The LNL can work either way, but if you want high volume per/hr you want the Brass feeder. With the brass feeder you can run 500-600/hr without much problem. The LNL is a lot simpler machine. But all require some mechanical ability for setup. Then you need to learn how to adj them when they get off. My LNL has not needed adj in several years now. I also dialed in a friends and his is not just humming a long with no problems. The LNL uses a bushing setup for dies, where the Dillon uses a die/caliber conversion plate to hold it's dies. Cost per caliber is cheaper with the LNL. Change over is pretty quick with either. Dillon takes longer to change primers size.

Either of these machines will serve you well.

March 27, 2013, 11:38 PM
Look on Youtube for various videos of the different presses in use, and you'll get an idea how they work, as well as any quirks or kinks people have found.

March 28, 2013, 11:16 AM
Everyone equates the 550 to lower volume shooting because of the change over time, but really the change over time for me on my 650 with priming system is like 7 minutes after several times changing it (and I use that opportunity to clean up everything, relube, etc).

I love auto indexing (I know it's got risks, but if you have experience I wouldn't worry too much) as it makes double charging much harder than the manual indexing of the 550. Also, if you want a case feeder (to me, a must have now in a progressive) compare the total purchase cost of the 650 to the LNL AP and you'll be surprised (unless you load more than 5-6 calibers). Also, 550 conversions are cheaper than 650 conversion only because the 650 conversion kits include the stuff for the case feeder -- if you buy a case feeder for the 550 (pistol only) you must buy extra parts for each caliber.

To me, the choice is always the 650, unless you have the money to buy a 1050 or the need for a 1050. It's just my 2cents, but I have owned the LNL AP (loaded about 15k rounds on it) and the 650 (loaded about 30k rounds on it) and I would buy more blue kool-aid before red any day ;)

EDIT: I usually reload in batches of 100-500 per caliber, and I don't make sure I load all the small primers before large primers (it isn't that big of a deal to me to change the priming system over, and for $80 you can just buy another priming system).

March 28, 2013, 12:12 PM
I spent several years loading about 80k rounds tediously and miserably on a Toadmaster. Got to be the worst progressive press made. Wish I'd gone to the 650 early-on. I'll be using my 650 commercially when my class 6 license is issued in a few weeks.

I bought a case feeder when I bought the press. Have an RCBS handgun bullet feeder coming from Graf's. I'm thinking I should be able to do over 1k rounds per hour, using the bullet feeder.

I despise the APS strip system. If I bought an RCBS progressive, I'd convert it to tubes.

March 28, 2013, 12:15 PM
Hentown - what don't you like about the APS system? I haven't used it, but thought about it a couple of times.

March 28, 2013, 12:20 PM
Thanks for the info, everyone. I've been reading with great interest. I'm starting to feel the itch for a progressive and the real-world experience is appreciated.

My major concern is priming. picking up primers one at a time in the tubes looks to me to be a time-consuming and annoying job. One of the many things I love about my Lee LCT is that I can refill 100 primers in about 20 seconds, and change primer sizes and rams in about 10. Calibers in about 5. If you add in all the time setting up, filling primer tubes, dialing in, etc.... is a progressive really saving you time? If you change calibers and load rounds as needed, rather than loading 3000 at a time... does a progressive save you time over the LCT?

I'd like to see a comparison starting from scratch (with both presses assembled and ready to go, but no primers in the system or tubes) loading 200 9mm, then changing to .45 ACP LPP and loading 200. I bet overall time would be close. Or maybe it wouldn't be close at all. This would take me about 2-2.5 hours on the LCT.

I've never used a progressive. Changeovers and refilling primers seems like a huge hassle, though.

March 28, 2013, 12:28 PM
1K - I don't like filling primer tubes either. I will say that as tedious as pickup tubes are, they really don't take more than a couple of minutes per tube.

Having said that, I'm interested in picking up the Vibra Prime:

March 28, 2013, 12:30 PM
My major concern is priming. picking up primers one at a time in the tubes looks to me to be a time-consuming and annoying job.

I prefer to clean my cases between resizing and loading so I have a break in the action. I have found, I can hand prime 100 cases in about the same time as filling one primer tube so I prime off the progressive press.

As a result, I have no primer related issues on the progressive press when loading cases.

I use the progressive to charge the case, stuff the bullet, and crimp.

I do not need the volume that a "fired case to finished round" process gives but I get some economies of effort doing a couple tasks simultaneously when using the progressive.

Works for me. Does not work for others.

March 28, 2013, 02:34 PM
Priming works the same on about every progressive, fill tubes -- You can get the Dillon RF100 or the vibra-prime to speed up the operation.

March 28, 2013, 03:03 PM
My Pro1000 & Load Master both run great & no primer tubes to fill. I no longer have the LNL AP. It now has a new home in an other state. I hates primer tubes also.

March 28, 2013, 03:56 PM
My Pro1000 & Load Master both run great & no primer tubes to fill.
I've read so much negative about the Loadmaster it's got me spooked... though Lee has done great by me so far.

That vibra-prime deallie looks pretty cool... anyone have issues with it?

March 28, 2013, 03:58 PM
I have an LNL and prime off the press--I use a hand primer, almost as fast and a lot less headaches, no more stoppages.


March 28, 2013, 04:28 PM
Your going to get alot of Dillon recommendations but I'll mention RCBS Pro 2000 Auto Index. I've had mine for about 30 days now and thoroughly impressed with it. So far I've loaded 9mm, Sig 357, and 223. Caliber changes are simple and easy. Aps primer strips and strip loader works great.

March 28, 2013, 04:33 PM
DeSoto, a progressive automatically moves the case(s) to the next station/die with each stroke of the ram/handle. Check out youtube for "progressive press" reloading, and don't forget "Lee classic turret", not that that's a progressive. Seeing is knowing

March 28, 2013, 05:57 PM
I've read problems with all of them even the Dillon. I think people need to learn to use there tools. Lee gets bought by more people new to reloading.

I guess the first 2 generations of the Load Master had primer problems. I never used them but Lee thought they did & redesigned them.

March 28, 2013, 07:59 PM
Lee gets bought by more folks for the same reason they buy Maverick shotguns and similarly priced goods - they are cheap, not necessarily the best (or the worst)

March 28, 2013, 09:49 PM
The only progressive press I've got so far is a Lee Pro 1000, which I got used, cheap, and set up for .45ACP, with the Auto Disk powder measure and the Large Case Feeder tubes and case collator. It took some tinkering with setting up and adjusting everything to start out, including watching a lot of videos on the Internet to see how things are supposed to work - the written instruction sheet is not nearly as detailed or helpful as it could be. Once everything was set right, though, it cranks out rounds as fast as I can seat the bullets on the cases. For reloading pistol cartridges, I'm satisfied enough to have ordered another couple of shell plate assemblies for the other calibres I shoot a lot of - 9mm, .40S&W, and .380. I paid $150 for it used, and for the price, I consider it a very good value.

March 29, 2013, 01:03 AM
Cfullgraf, you must be very fast with your hand primer. I can load a tube in under 90seconds. The secret is the brand of primers you use. I use Winchester due to the package. You can do without a flip tray by using an empty and filpping them in. Then lay it on the table, pull the sleeve and presto all set up for the tube. I have loaded in excess of 500,000 rounds on my 550B over about 20 years without a breakdown. I even had a 650 offered to me at a ridiculous price and turned it down due to setup costs. I load 10 different calibers and have complete setups for each including powder dispensers.
I held an FFL for ammo manufacturing for 8 years and sold lots of ammo all loaded on the the 550B. Never a complaint. It is reliable and consistent provided you do your part. It will also load my rifle calibers without a hitch. What more could you want?

March 29, 2013, 01:08 AM
I, too, am pondering a press purchase and based upon my observations Spammy's post is dead on. You can also see presses compared and in action yourself with concise videos offered by Gavintoobe's youtube channel http://www.youtube.com/user/gavintoobe?feature=watch.

I'm leaning towards the RCBS Pro 2000 autoindex with its space saving lovely form factor and simple priming system.

Lloyd Smale
March 29, 2013, 08:22 AM
get a 550 dillon

March 29, 2013, 09:24 AM
I started reloading about 3 years ago. My first press was an RCBS rock chucker that I purchased in a kit (the supreme master kit or some such). I don't have any friends who reload, so I started off on my own without any guidance other than the internet and reloading manuals. I load only pistol (well shotgun too, but that's another discussion), no rifle. I reload for about 11 different calibers. The rock chucker was great, but I wanted to increase my speed. I went to the place where I buy my stuff and I picked up a Lyman T-Mag 2 Turret Press. I liked the press, but it didn't speed me up much. I used that turret press for another month and then we moved into our new place. I used some spare cash I had to purchase a Hornady LnL AP. I really did like it at first. Along the way I upgraded it with a case feeder, a bullet feeder, I bought a wheelbarrow full of LnL bushings, Quick Change powder dies, quick change powder meters, a universal powder funnel from www.powderfunnels.com, a roller handle and strongmount from inline fabrication...I loaded a lot of great rounds out of that press, but at the end of the day, for about the same money (well, close at least) I probably could have just gotten a Dillon 650...Which I did about a month ago...I do like it better than the Hornady. This is NOT a Hornday bashing post, just my observations as somebody who owns both.

Some things I didn't like about the Hornady --

The priming shuttle system is flaky and prone to failure. If you get any powder on the shuttle slide you are going to have to break it down and clean it. You WILL get powder on the shuttle slide.

The shell plate bolt is difficult to properly tighten. You have to kind of hold the shell plate with one hand and turn the bolt with the the other hand. I would be nice if it were held in with a set screw like it is on the Dillon. The bolt will also work it's way loose after a few hundred rounds and will need to be checked from time to time.

The case feeder is complicated to set up correctly and requires a lot of adjustment to get it just right. You pretty much have to undo much of that adjustment when changing from one caliber to another. The top part of the case feeder is made very cheaply. My was very far off center (crooked) and I had to tape a piece of cardboard to it to keep it from spitting brass at me. It jams a lot, and the motor seems under powerd for the job. If you put more than a couple of handfulls of brass in, it just wont turn. The Dillon case feeder is less money, and much better crafted, and more powerful, and easier to switch calibers.

The bullet feeder I didn't like so much. The bullet dies were hard for me to adjust, I would get them working and then they would stop feeding bullets, but the worst part was the bullet 'tube' which is a wire loom sort of coil tube was a bit short, and doesn't go deep enough into the bullet die. If I didn't keep pushing it back down into the die, it would pop out and empty itself all over the floor, so there was a lot of 'trying to catch a waterfall of bullets in t-shirt' moments, and I just gave up on the bullet feeder. I might try the RCBS feeder on my Dillon one of these days.

They give you a fiberglass rod that you stick in the primer tube to see how full or empty it is was a pain as well, If you put it back in when you replenished your primers it would often get itself jammed up in the case feeder

The LnL bushings make changing out dies very quick, but can make die storage tricky. The dies won't fit back into most brands of die boxes. I fixed this by just getting a large Plano plastic parts box for each caliber. I could keep the dies, powder die, shell plate, etc all together for a LOT cheaper than a Dillon tool head stand.

The Hornady LnL AP is a decent press, but Hornady has chosen to cut cost in a lot of key areas that make some of the parts prone to early wear. Hornady is GREAT about sending you replacement parts though. I can't say enough good about their customer service. They are very prompt to take care of any situations that arise.

Caliber changes on the Hornady a less expensive than the Dillon, and most gun stores sell Hornady stuff. It is much more rare (in these parts anyway) to find a stocking Dillon Dealer. Even MidwayUsa, Sinclair, and many of the other popular online ordering places don't carry Dillon.

If I knew then what I know now, I would probably have just bought the Dillon 650XL in the first place.

March 29, 2013, 09:57 AM
Dillon,get Brian Enos's reloading DVD.I started on a progressive,not difficult to use at all.

March 29, 2013, 11:21 AM
So many cost comparisons are not apples-to-apples comparisons. I have made a quick table to help with comparing the three most discussed presses (Hornady LNL AP, Dillon 550b and XL 650).


Please note, these are setups with a case feeder and all the costs that come along with that.

Edit: These exclude shipping costs. This could be a pro or con depending on press and retail preference. Brian Enos offers free shipping over $400 on all Dillon, while Midway charges actual freight for their products.

March 29, 2013, 12:00 PM
Dillon without a doubt!
BUT, nothing is foolproof, you MUST pay attention and concentrate on the task at hand and THAT is reloading.

March 30, 2013, 10:34 AM
I'm no nubie to reloading operations...started in '62...have owned 8 presses over the years...that said...

Lee's Loadmaster was a royal PITA from day one. I lost count of the number of primer feed problems I had with mine...plastic parts....Lee makes many good products, dies, trimmers, primer auto manual seaters etc...that Loadmaster, was not good. I can't remember a single operation where I got an entire 50 round box of ammo loaded without a problem or adjustment.

For superb results, with customer service that is the standard in the loading press business, get a Dillon 550B. I have two of them, one each set up for large and small primer sizes. Caliber changes take less than 10 minutes. Current prices give you the press, a powder measure that works well, and dies for less than $450. A call to Dillon will get you instantaneous service..parts...or "how do I adjust this part of the operation. They are first rate.

Production is good...I shoot a lot of pistol, but not competitively. I can load 200 rounds an hour, with complete safety and get loads that will be as accurate as I'm able to shoot. More than that, say if you're loading for a club, or you're into one of the high round count competitive disciplines, would require a 650.

Get a Dillon, you'll never have to upgrade. Best Regards, Rod

Lost Sheep
March 30, 2013, 02:22 PM
(edited for brevity)Thanks for the info, everyone. I've been reading with great interest. I'm starting to feel the itch for a progressive and the real-world experience is appreciated.

I'd like to see a comparison starting from scratch (with both presses assembled and ready to go, but no primers in the system or tubes) loading 200 9mm, then changing to .45 ACP LPP and loading 200. I bet overall time would be close. Or maybe it wouldn't be close at all. This would take me about 2-2.5 hours on the LCT.

Exactly right question to ask (regarding speed).

This thread started out with an Auto-indexing turret press as the subject, but the method applies to progressives just as well.


Lost Sheep

March 30, 2013, 04:48 PM
I agree with Rodfac----get Dillon. A 550B can be used as a single stage just as easily as progressive so in my book it's more versatile.

March 30, 2013, 05:02 PM
Cool info, Lost Sheep. thanks. :cool:

I can actually load 5 rounds a minute (300 rph) on the LCT, but not without stopping every couple hundred to refill primers, check OAL, etc. So I average about 200 or so. And I check the powder level visually every time.

If the Dillon 550 gives you 200 rph after figuring in all the fiddling... maybe I'll stick with the LCT. But if others are saying they can load 300 in 15 minutes...

I'm still interested. :)

March 30, 2013, 08:58 PM

When I bought my Hornady L-N-L, I was mostly thinking that I would be reloading from fired case to finished round. For a variety of reasons, that did not suit my style but I have found the progressive press is very flexible and it reduces the number of times I need to pull on the handle.

Particularly with handgun cartridges where resizing is two steps, I put the resizer die and the mouth expander die in the press and stroke away. The auto indexer moves the cases around and spits them out into a tray so the only handling is putting the case into the shell plate. It could go even faster with a case feeder but i do not like the noise they generate and I do not need the production volume.

I prefer to clean cases between resizing and reloading.

For loading the case, I let the progressive charge the case, seat the bullet and crimp the case. I prefer to crimp in a separate operation from seating so again, the progressive minimizes the case handling.

With the individual die bushings, the Hornady suits this process well. I just install the dies I need for the task at hand. But a Dillon could be adapted just as easily.

So, when you take the progressive plunge, think outside the box. Loading from fired case to finished round may suit your needs, but if not, the progressive can still be a labor saving device that produces more ammunition than what you are doing now.

Hope this helps.

April 1, 2013, 11:48 AM
I'll plug the RCBS. I've loaded close to 80,000 rounds since 2009. Mostly pistol, but a fair amount of .223, 308 and '06.
Caliber changes take only a minute, and the UniFlow powder measure is as good as you can get with a progressive. If kept clean, the APS primer works well.
I have replaced all the springs twice with no questions asked from RCBS, and it is working as good as new. I am hoping to break 100k this year.
If you are going to add a bullet feeder or any other expensive add-on later, the Dillon is probably a better bet. I can safely load 3-400 p/h and that is good enough for me.

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