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Does anyone here use the RCBS piggyback press? Opinion?

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by jaimeshawn, Oct 22, 2005.

  1. jaimeshawn

    jaimeshawn Well-Known Member

    I was looking at progressive presses on eBay, and in addition to the used 550s (at $150 to $200) I saw an RCBS piggyback at $150. Looks interesting - Does anyone here use one? What do you think about it?

    I mostly do rifle cartridges - which means pistol only presses like the Square Deal and Piggyback 3 don't work for me. I also would like to use my standard dies, which means used Dillon 450s also won't work.

    I don't much mind working with my current setup, but the lure of reloading faster has me interested.
  2. klw

    klw Well-Known Member


    There have been four generations of these things. The first two DID NOT use APS strip primers and the last two did. The original two models were horrible. A long list of problems. Starting with the Piggyback III, however, the first one that used the APS strips they are really excellent. I've got two of those and three of the Pro 2000's.
  3. TexasRifleman

    TexasRifleman Moderator Emeritus

    I had the second generation when I was shooting IPSC back in the late 80's.

    I was given the setup, and was a poor student, so I made do. I had lots of timing problems, things would get out of whack.

    It had a bizarre sliding primer feeder that always had issues.

    Mine sat on a rock chucker press, that's the only piece of the setup that was nice, and the only piece I still have.

    It also does not lend itself well AT ALL to moving from one caliber to another. You set it up for one and forget it.

    It works, but unless you're saving a fortune, I would get the Dillon if this Piggyback is the old style.

    I have no experience with the new models.
  4. MNgoldenbear

    MNgoldenbear Well-Known Member

    They're a pain, and I'd advise you to go with the Dillon for the prices you were quoting. Having said that, I just ran off a few hundred rounds on my 2nd generation model (on a Rockchucker) this evening. I've used it for quite a few years now. It's annoying, temperamental, takes forever to set up and adjust, the timing is horrible. It has, however, loaded many thousands of rounds for me, most of which give reasonable accuracy (generally shoot better than I can -- e.g. 45s that shoot cloverleaf groups benched at 25 yards). I'd love to get a nicer machine, but marriage and other changes ended the likelihood of that happening for the next few decades. I use it to do all my normal pistol stuff and plinking 223. I use and older Redding turret to do my hunting and target rifle ammo.
  5. 66gt350

    66gt350 Well-Known Member

    I guess that I'll have to play "Devil's Advocate" on this one. I've got one of the original Piggybacks (prior to the Piggyback II improvements), that I bought back in '89. There is a bit of time in getting it set up, but since then...I've hardly had to touch any of the settings. And I've cranked out alot of rounds through it.

    Changing calibers is no problem...change out the three dies and swap out the progressive plate is all there is. If you go from small to large primer or vice versa, you do have to swap out the primer mechanism. But again, once it's set up, I haven't touched the adjustments.

    It does take some time and patience to get it set up. Any of you that have a Piggyback and don't want it anymore...box it up and ship it to me. I'll take it off your hands...:neener:
  6. 1911user

    1911user Well-Known Member

    A Dillon 450 uses normal dies just like the 550 and other presses. The differences are no removable toolhead since the die holes are cut into the solid frame (actually a plus to some people), manual powder measure operation, and manual primer positioning (using the same 100 count primer magazine and tubes as the 550).

    The caliber conversion kits are the same on a 450 and 550. The powder die is different due to the manual powder dispensing.

    Having said the above, I'd try very hard to find the extra $100 and get a used 550 instead of a 450. A 450 will work fine, but I'm happy to have upgraded mine to a complete 550 setup. Loading fast on a 450 is serious exercise compared to a 550. A 550 will also load faster with less fatigue. Buying all of the conversion parts from Dillon (to convert a 450 into 550) is an expensive route, it'd be cheaper to start with the used 550. The sames goes for the AT500 press.
  7. ReloaderEd

    ReloaderEd Well-Known Member

    My experience with the RCBS Piggyback Conversion

    I purchased the first generation piggyback about five or six years ago, having never used a progressive system. I like the five position die plate which allows used for sizing, priming,powder throwing,powder check,bullet seating, crimping and then dumping tray.
    I remember after initial setup the nylon worm bushing (turns the shell plate at each cycle) wore out quickly. I must say when I have lost a part or needed to replace a part, RCBS had shipped the part(s) at no charge to me which is wonderful.
    After reinstalling the worm bushing I applied a little vaseline then some white lube powder (darn if I can remember the name now) and had no further problems with the indexing of the shell plate.
    I tried the primer feed/primer bar the automatically prime the brass (in this case 45acp) and found it worked ok if kept it clean but I did not like it because it doesn't clean the primer pockets and I prefer seating the primers by hand, either with a lyman 310 priming tool or my new RCBS hand primer unit that works well.
    So, now I size all the cases removing the primer, then to the tumbler to clean the brass, hand prime, then through the press until the rounds are completed. I can watch tv, clean primer pockets gaging the flash hole if I want (not necessary in pistol brass same brand)and then seat the new primer perfectly.
    Damaged primers take away all the benefits of reloading precision ammo.
    Oh yes a Lee Auto powder thrower works beautifully on this unit. It throws accurate powder charges and the powder checker RCBS die really draws attention to the correct charge, double charge or no powder. The lee powder thrower also bells the cases automatically which eliminates the expanding die and lead bullets will not shave lead when the bullet is seated.
    Like anything else, the unit should be thoughly cleaned when needed or it will hang up and strip the worm index bushing. Patience is the main helper here. If you feel the handle hesitate or unit hang up, DON'T FORCE IT!!! This will just cause a multitde of problems
    You can pull cases out of the system too without starting completely over if you want to do so.
    I just purchased a second original model on ebay and intend to use it for 223 Rem and 308 rifle cartridges. Alse plans to fix the priming system including cleaning of the primer pockets. Hey good safe reloading everyone
  8. ReloaderEd

    ReloaderEd Well-Known Member

    an addition to my post

    P.S. by the way I have used this piggyback conversion unit on other presses, a hollywood SR and Herter's number 3. I machined and adapter that screws into the press and the piggyback mounts on top. then using the shell holder adapter from RCBS for each press and the correct extentions they work well also.:) The Herter's press needs to be wedged or bushed at the base so the PB shell plate is level.
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2010
  9. klw

    klw Well-Known Member

    If memory serves

    If memory serves the first two versions of the Piggyback were far from perfect but my the third try they got it right. I've got two of those both of which I've used a lot. No problems whatsoever. I clean them about once a year and by then they are filthy. But they work.
  10. Jimfern

    Jimfern Well-Known Member


    None of the Piggybacks will do rifle cartridges larger than 223. So I don't think it's really a choice for you based on your comments. I picked a Piggyback II up earlier this year and have been very happy with it. It's not perfect, but it's a big improvement over a turret press in my opinion.
  11. ReloaderEd

    ReloaderEd Well-Known Member

    additional comment

    I agree with you on the 308 being to large to size with the Piggyback, however, since I size and prime separately should not be a probem.
    Actually with a little practice and care, this units work very smoothly. I have probably loaded over 30,000 roundss of 45acp using my cast bullets mostly with little or no probloems.
    tapered crimp dies work well with handgun calibers.
  12. Tilos

    Tilos Well-Known Member

    Just remember you will need a PRESS to piggy back it to:eek:

    I've been using my piggy back atop a rock chucker for a long time and have had no major or minor problems after learning how it works and a couple of redesigned plastic priming parts from RCBS.

    From my experience, the piggyback is NOT the best out there for loading rifle ammo

    I have too much invested in RCBS shell plates to change now and have loaded handgun ammo except for 223 and 30Herret.

    If I were buying a progressive press today there is only one that I would buy...Hornady.

    See videos of them all here:
  13. raz-0

    raz-0 Well-Known Member

    If you can pick up a 550 for $200, get it.

    As for the piggyback, I played with one while shopping for a press. I wouldn't take it for free unless it came with dies or still attached to a decent single stage press. Then I'd take it, keep the dies/single stage, and toss the piggyback unit.

    My take is that it was crafted to take money form the penny wise, pound foolish crowd rather than be a good press.
  14. klw

    klw Well-Known Member

    rifle calibers

    I've loaded 30-06, 38-55, 45-70 and 50-70 on mine without problems.
  15. Tilos

    Tilos Well-Known Member

    Are you confusing these with the Lee progressives:uhoh:

    Sorry...had to say it.:D
    I'm kidding;););)

    Oh, wait you don't actually OWN one.

    I do know this, if you buy a used RCBS ANYTHING, they will replace most missing parts for FREE
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2010

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