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How to run a Dillon?

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by moosehunt, Feb 12, 2008.

  1. moosehunt

    moosehunt Well-Known Member

    I need a bit of guidance, or maybe reassurance. I just got a Dillon--it's a 450, same as the 550 but without any up-grades. Let me preface this with the fact that I have been reloading for well over 45 years, but not with a Dillon or progressive. Someone is going to say "read the instructions"--fine, but I don't have any.

    This is how I have it figured. Please correct if wrong: (.45 LC)
    Put sizing/depriming die in station at about 5:00 oclock. Raise handle which sizes and deprimes. While the ram is still up, pull primer feed handle to get a primer, then push back in. Lower handle to seat primer. (There is a small bolt on the bottom side of the ram head at about 7:00 oclock. I surmise that you adjust this to regulate primer seating depth??) Raise ram enough to rotate (counter clockwise?), and do so. In the next station goes the powder drop. It appears that you don't use the expander die, that the powder drop tube does that job, correct? Raise ram, work powder measure, lower ram. Rotate counter clockwise again. Insert bullet in charged case which is in about the 11:00 oclock position, raise ram to seat bullet and then when lowered, you have completed the shell (will roll crimp in seating step, not a seperate step). I realize that you are inserting a fresh case at station 1 each time, that's why it's called a progressive.

    Am I on the right track?

    Oh, I see where spent primers are headed for the floor, but there is a little appendage on the swing arm that looks like maybeso a container could be hung there to catch spent primers. Maybeso they even have a special little bucket that fits it?
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2008
  2. ldv444

    ldv444 Well-Known Member

    Moosehunt- I have a 550 and love it. Dillion is the best! On your 450 (congrats on getting it!), I would suggest calling Dillion in the morning. They will get a instruction manual out to you free of charge and asap. Also, they have an excellant series of videos on each of their machines and they may have one for the 450. Hope this helps!
  3. moosehunt

    moosehunt Well-Known Member

    Good idea. I only plan to use this for pistol, maybeso just the .45 LC, but if it works out good, I may try it for .32 H&R. I'm not a big pistol shooter, but on a single stage, even a six shooter just goofing off gets pretty time consuming at the loading bench. I'm the type that weighs every rifle load, so for all my bottle neck stuff, which is quite a lot, I'll be sticking to the old Rockchucker, but at the price of this Dillon ($0.00), I thought it would be worth seeing if I can't speed up my pistol loading a bit. I know that I can get all the up-grades to bring it up to a 550 B, but I don't plan to do such--maybeso the loaded shell kicker.
  4. Uncle Chan

    Uncle Chan Well-Known Member

    Moosehunt, the very first press I got was the 550B and I like it a lot. I only load 45LC on it for CAS. It can be a bit funky with the primer feeder, and I don't like the powder measure, but all in all, it is a good machine. I bought setups for 223 and 45-70, but find the changing process so cumbersome that I bought a Lee Turret and a Lee single stage for other calibers.

    Basically, what I'm saying is that if I can do it, ANYONE can.
  5. MSgtUSMC

    MSgtUSMC Member

    Have used a 450 for 15 years or so. I do exactly as you stated except I crimp separately. I use it for .38, .357. .44 spl, .44 mag, & .45 ACP. Had a shell plate break once about 11 years ago but a phone call to Dillon got me a new one free of charge within a few days.
  6. moosehunt

    moosehunt Well-Known Member

    Mr. MSgtUSMC--Thanks for verifying that I'm on the right track.

    That crimping thing--I know that a lot of folks say it should be a seperate step, and I sure understand regarding a taper crimp. In loading for the .45 LC (and a bunch of .44 Mag) on a single stage and referring to a roll crimp, I never could convince myself of an advantage for a seperate crimp step, even though I studied it and experimented quite a bit. Am I missing something? I've used only cast bullets that have a crimp groove of some sort.
  7. Sheldon

    Sheldon Well-Known Member

    The allen set screw on the ram at the 7:00 o'clock position is to loosen the bolt that holds the shellplate in position. If you change calibers and need to swap out the shellplate you'll need to loosen that screw and retighten it after the shellplate swap. There is nothing to adjust as far as primer seating depth goes except how hard you push forward on the handle. A worthy upgrade would be the auto priming system.....kinda spendy, but worth it.
  8. moosehunt

    moosehunt Well-Known Member

    Mr. Sheldon--I think maybeso we're not talking about the same bolt. I don't mean the set screw on the actual ram piston, but a small (I think maybeso about size 6) bolt screwed into the bottom of the large disc that holds the shell plate. It has a lock nut on it and the head bottoms against the frame when you push forward as to seat a primer. Right now, it allows one to push too far forward, but appears to be adjustable to control primer seating depth on that forward push. That's what I'm wondering about. The little bolt does not hold anything in place. If it's not for adjusting the depth, it appears to have no function at all. Thanks for everyone's input.
  9. SASS#23149

    SASS#23149 Well-Known Member

    From your description of the adjusting bolt,I think you're on the right track.It sounds just like the one on my 550b.
    You were talking of speeding up your pistol loading,I'd bet the even running 1 round at a time through this machine,you'd get a finished cartridge in well under 20 seconds once you get a routine going.
    Running it this way for a while is a great way to learn the machine and it's operation.That is how I ran my 550b for the 1st 200 rounds.

    enjoy !
  10. DaveInFloweryBranchGA

    DaveInFloweryBranchGA Well-Known Member


    My first experience reloading was with the Dillon 450 a long time friend of mine owned and still owns. On his, you had to manually insert a primer (I can't remember if it had a manual primer feeder or not, too many years ago, but I don't think so or he had decided not to use it.) and you had to manually operate the powder measure.

    When it was cleaned and you were in a rhythm, you could crank out about 200 rounds per hour fairly easily with the machine as he had it setup.

    I've cut and pasted a couple of your questions below and answered them.
    "I surmise that you adjust this to regulate primer seating depth??)"

    This one I can't remember, too long ago and since I was new, my buddy set it up. I'd call Dillon and ask on this one. They'll know.

    "In the next station goes the powder drop. It appears that you don't use the expander die, that the powder drop tube does that job, correct?"

    You are correct. BTW, the powder drop tube is called a funnel and both expands the case as well as allowing powder to drop through.

    "raise ram to seat bullet and then when lowered, you have completed the shell (will roll crimp in seating step, not a seperate step)."

    That sounds right. He used Dillon dies and did both in one step. Never had any issues with reliability.

    "Am I on the right track?"

    Sounds like it to me.

    Sheldon said "A worthy upgrade would be the auto priming system.....kinda spendy, but worth it." and I agree completely with what he said.

    Additionally, I can't remember if the powder measure can be converted to the case activated powder drop, but if it has the threading for standard reloading dies at that position, it can be. If it can be, I would add the 550's case activated powder drop for pistol.

    Why add the changes? Adding automatic primer feed and case activated powder drop will speed up your operation a good bit and make those operations more consistent, because you'll be more able to focus on operating the press versus dealing with those "side" operations. This is why Dillon developed the 550 and why, especially since you have nothing in it, it would be worthwhile for you to do so. Of course, if 200 easy rounds per hour meets your needs (and it did for my buddy for years and years), save the money for components.


  11. Dirtypacman

    Dirtypacman Well-Known Member

    Get the 550 video just for your own peace of mind... its good for a refresher if you have to pull it down and put it back up also.

    I think it was like $6.00.
  12. Eric F

    Eric F Well-Known Member

    Take the dillon and place it in the nearest dumpster. Call least expencive dealer and order a Lee.

    Ok I only post that because most dillon owners will beat up on any lee progerssive or turret press.
  13. 1911user

    1911user Well-Known Member

    Eric F, just because you bought the wrong press, don't take your displeasure out on everyone else. That's not polite. I sold mine on ebay. What's your excuse?

    Moose, you have the 450 mostly figured out.

    The small allen bolt does control the primer seating depth but isn't used on the newer 550/550B presses. That bolt holds a bracket for the powder measure failsafe on them. I've used a 450 (and currently load on a 550B) and prefer to seat the primers by feel instead of hitting a dead stop. I suspect you'll be happier just removing it.

    If your press did not come with 2 primer bars, you'll have to change the primer seating punch if you change primer sizes. To change the primer size: press the handle forward like seating a primer. At the same time, use a small allen wrench and loosen the allen screw in the primer bar. Slowly release the handle and the primer punch, primer cup, and spring can be lifted out. Reverse the process to install the other size primer cup and punch.

    The little silver box on the front right arm catches about 98% of the primers. The other 2% end up on the floor. :D

    The powder funnel on a 450 powder die is inserted all the way into the bottom of the die and held in place by an allen screw in the side of the powder die. A 450 powder die is different than a 550 powder die if you ever order another one. On a 550 powder die (used with the auto powder dispenser), the powder funnel drops in from the top and does not have a allen screw in the side.

    The powder measure should have 2 bars. One is full height and normally used for rifle calibers. The other is half height and used for pistol loading. It also has a half height spacer used with it. There should be 2 long springs that return the powder bar to its' original position after you press then slowly release it. They wrap around the powder dispenser and the tab sticking up on the powder bar.

    You understand seating and crimping. I wouldn't worry so much about seating and roll crimping in the same stage/die. Seating and taper crimping for auto pistol rounds is best done in 2 separate die stations especially if loading lead bullets. With a progressive press, there is no time/speed penalty for the separate seating and crimping. I separate even revolver cartridges since it makes die setup and adjustments easier.

    Does the press have a separate metal ramp and plastic bin for the right side (like the current 550 presses)? If it's a true 450, it will not. The loaded round is removed by hand from station 1 before an empty case can be inserted. Some late 450s had the auto-eject parts installed. If so, rotating the shellplate will kick the round from the 4th stage out onto a metal ramp that guides the loaded round into a plastic bin attached to the ramp bracket.

    Back to priming for a bit. There should be 2 small and 2 large primer tubes. One set of tubes is used to pick up primers and the other set of tubes are used in the primer magazine (black steel tube).

    Post if you have more questions.
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2008
  14. moosehunt

    moosehunt Well-Known Member

    Thank-you to all.

    Dave--I don't really see the up-grades coming, as 200 rnds per hr will suit me pretty well, and it is a huge gain over a single station approach.

    Dirty--The video might be neat, but I'm not modern enough to have a video playing machine!

    Eric--I'm not ordering any new presses. I only have this one because a buddy gave it to me. Why didn't he show me how to run it? It was in a box, in lots of pieces, and he lives 750 miles away.

    1911--Good point on the primer stop. If anything, I thought it a bit scrawny and had already been contemplating replacing it with a much heavier bolt. I haven't used a press to put in a primer for probably 30 years, maybeso 35. I always use a hand primer, one made by RCBS long ago, quite a bit different than their modern day version. Feeling one with a big press sounds strange--we'll see. Now that I think about it, I believe I went purely to hand priming when I got my Rockchucker and did I don't remember what with my JR. The Rockchucker is dated 1978. I had used that JR for about 15 years. My '06 dies (RCBS) are dated 1963.
    I realize that if I add the .32 H&R, I'll have to get a small primer setup. No biggie.
    I figured that there was probably supposed to be some sort of "little silver box" to hang for primers. I'm fabbing something now.
    Got the powder funnel deal figured. I had to order a set up for the .45 LC and did so by phone, informing the chap that I had a 450, so what he sent was for such. Not sure what the original setup was for. The shell plate is correct for '06 type brass, is numbered "1", as are the brass pins. The powder funnel, much shorter than the one for the .45, is marked "B". What have I?
    The outfit came with the large powder bar. I already attained the small one.
    There's no ramp or bin on the right side, so I reckon it's a "true" 450. The only "up-grade" I'm considering is the auto eject.
    I think I have the primer feed tubes, etc. Indeed, I think I'm about ready to do a little ammo manufacturing! Thanks again to all.
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2008
  15. redneck2

    redneck2 Well-Known Member

    I think (I'd have to check) I've still got some powder funnels for various calibers for the 450 that I don't use. If I can find them and you want them, I'll give them to you.

    You can either do a partial or complete upgrade(s) through Dillon. If your 450 was one of the very first, most everything is manual and each a separate operation. On my 550 you insert a case and bullet, pull the handle and a round comes out. The only manual things are inserting the empty case and a bullet. Everything else is done when the handle is pulled. The complete round is kicked into a bin.

    If you get the 450 set up for one caliber, you should be fine. If you're going to change much at all, the 450 takes a LOT of time. On the 550, the tool head just slides in and saves all the set-up.

    Dillon has the greatest phone number in the world....... 800-223-4570

  16. 1911user

    1911user Well-Known Member

    The "1" shellplate with "1" buttons are for 30-06, 308, 270, 243, 45acp, etc. The B powder funnel is for 30 caliber rifle cases like the 30-06 or 308. You could sell or trade that 308/30-06 conversion kit fairly easy if you don't plan to use it. You could also load 45acp with it using the E powder funnel from the 45LC kit.

    The 450 and 550 use the same caliber conversion kits.
  17. moosehunt

    moosehunt Well-Known Member

    1911--thanks. I probably will try and pedal them, but I'll wait a minute.

    I slowly ran through a few rounds and every thing seems A-OK.

    Regarding the primer feed--I have deduced that you turn the primers over upside down, the pick them up with the clear tube with the little brass head. Then you put a paperclip or equivalent in the little hole, turn it end for end and carefully pour them into the aluminum tube that is in the heavy pipe, the pipe just being to protect the fragile aluminum tube. Is that all correct? Pretty tedious, but it works.
  18. Eric F

    Eric F Well-Known Member

    I laugh in your general direction sir. This is the funniest responce to my "anti dillon" stuff yet!
    I fully understand. Dillon makes excellent equipment. My post was in general useless fun. Sorry for the disruption I as a standard on any dillon thread toss in my "pro lee" line as a joke.
  19. 1911user

    1911user Well-Known Member


    A primer flip tray is the easiest way to get the primers turned upside down. Plastic ones sell for a few dollars.

    I put the clip in place before loading primers into the plastic tube. It'll only take forgetting the clip once and you'll probably do the same.

    The steel pipe around the primer magazine is to vent a primer stack explosion upward (mess up the ceiling instead of the press operator). Primer explosions on 450/550s are rare, but with 100 primers a foot from my face, it seems like prudent protection. With everything manually operated on the 450, the chances are even more remote.
  20. moosehunt

    moosehunt Well-Known Member

    AAhhh, a safety factor. OK. But I don't think that little aluminum tube would last long without it! I have a primer tray for flipping--never used it for that before today. Ha--I think I paid about $.95 for it about 30 years ago, RCBS. Well, with all the guidance, I think I have this puppy under control.

    Oh, 1 more curiosity--I am rotating things counter-clockwise. It appears to me you could go either way, according to ones desires (adjusting dies accordingly, obviosly). Am I right? I've been toying with going the other direction to see which fits better.

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