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progressive reloader ; lee or Dillon

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by sandy4570, Jan 5, 2005.

  1. sandy4570

    sandy4570 Well-Known Member

    I want to upgrade my reloading tool to progressive reloading machine. I use Lee handpress for a few years now and I load 5 handgun caliber and about 10 rifle caliber and happy with it except it took me 2 days to load 400 rounds of .45 instead of one hour.So I want to get progressive reloader for loading pistol ammo and I need some input from actual owner.I like Lee product and the customer service but the pro 1000 got a poor rating from Guntest magazine a few years back .Is this a good machine that is easy to set up and maintain ? Or I better off with Dillon machine like the RL 550 or Square deal B. How about the cost of replacement tool head and reloading die (I already own Lee die but I assume it will not work with Dillon machine).
  2. Black Snowman

    Black Snowman Well-Known Member

    I have a Lee Load Master.

    For the volume you're talking about loading it will take you a LONG time to make up the inital cost of a Dillon, particularly with that many differant calibers. If you get a Lee, go right for the Load Master and skip the 1000. I've used my Loadmaster for quite a while and worn out a good number of parts on it, including the carrier.

    I figure with the replacement parts and such I've purchased over the years I could have had a Dillon 650 (which is what I was comparing it with when I got it) but I would have had to put in all that money up front.

    If you're going to switch calibers a lot I think the best option availble right now is the Hornady Lock-N-Load AP. It's what I would get if I were starting from scratch. It wasn't available when I got my Load Master.

    Your Lee dies will work with any progressive but the Dillon Square Deal B.

    Do plenty of research before you buy, it's a fairly big purchase. :)
  3. cottontoptexan

    cottontoptexan Well-Known Member

    Progressive Presses

    I do not own one of the progressive presses. I have had one foot on and one off on purchasing one in the last few months. I know many of the people on this forum use the Dillon 550. I believe you can use any 7/8 by 14 die with these. I know the square deal takes a special die set from Dillon and have seen many negative remarks about them. Much has been written on the Lee Progressive presses which is not favorable.
    I am still brewing over which one to get if and when i go that route. Looking into the new Hornady progressive press and RCBS. Still not sure. You hear bad about all products on these forums but i have heard nothing negative about the factory warranty and customer service from Dillon. Until i decide i guess i am not a lot of help . Much depends on if you will be switching calibers often or leave it set up for the 45 or whatever. Keep us posted and do some homework on this one. Curt
  4. redneck2

    redneck2 Well-Known Member

    I have a friend that has multiple Lee units. It seems you're continually fiddling and trying to keep them adjusted and running right. Lee makes great dies and other products, but IMO, the progressive presses aren't their strong suit

    I don't have experience with the RCBS, but a number of posts here in the past have been far less than favorable

    I have a 550 with 5 of the quick change head/powder measure units. This gets into a lot of money, but I can change calibers in a few minutes. Nearly all the competition shooters use Dillon. Not sure if there's a viable reason, or it's a status or "just because". I know for sure that Dillon's warranty is unbeatable. The Square deal is made for pistol, not rifle, so you'd need the 550.

    I haven't used the LnL Hornady, but some of the guys here really like them. I have a Hornady powder measure and it's super smooth and much easier and faster to adjust than the Dillon. You can also get the bushing inserts and just swap the insert without adjustment (assuming you're using the same powder). Dillon says they intentionally make their measures harder to adjust to discourage someone from taking shortcuts and loading with the incorrect powder

    In the end, I suspect the "advantage" of Dillon vs Hornady is along the same lines of Ford vs Chevy

    JOE MACK Well-Known Member

    Progressive presses

    I've never had a Lee progressive so I can't give any feedback on them. I've got two Dillon SDBs, and a RL550B. I bought the SDBs used and Dillon looked them over for me and replaced some small parts at no charge. The 550 I bought new when the had a payment plan some years back. I've loaded in excess of 12,000 rounds on my large primer SDB with no problems. The 550 has probably 30,000 rounds on it with a couple simple malfunctions. I'd go with the big blue if I were you. :D
  6. jdkelly

    jdkelly Well-Known Member

    ...at last years Nationals, 94.85% used Dillon presses...

    Front Sight, the Journal of USPSA said that of the shooters that used reloaders at last years Nationals, 94.85% used Dillon presses while 2.01% used Lee reloaders.


  7. Maxinquaye

    Maxinquaye Well-Known Member

    OK, everyone here will most likely tell you to get a Dillon. If yor budget is such that you can blow a couple grand to get set up for all your calibers, go for it! No doubt it's a better press then the Lee.


    If you want to spend 1/3 to 1/4 the $$, don't think the Lee is an unusable product. I went through the same decision a couple months ago. I could afford at the time either a nice Hornady L&L or RCBS, but decided to go with the Lee after copious research, and I have not regretted my decision.

    Switching calibers is very low cost, and after a couple tweaks the Lee press will manufacture fine ammunition.

    Lee's customer service is great; they walked me through a few things over the phone when I was setting up.

    So far I have loaded .40, .44 and .454 with few problems. .40 works truly progressive, and I can run out about 400 rounds per hour going slow and checking for a powder charge visually. .454 and .44 I actually run like a single stage, one round thru at a time because I get more consistant results. I bet if I lubed cases I would get better results going true progressive with these larger calibers, but I don't mind taking my time with the larger magnum calibers.

    Common tips; replace the powder measure chain, spring. Keep it lubed. Don't let the primers get low. Get the double disk kit as it's much more versitile. One thing I do that I never read anyone else comment on is visually watch for a primer to drop every time I downstroke the press and a new case feeds. Since I started doing this, I have had NO priming problems. The majority of the priming problems come from feed snafus...wathing thru the slot each time does not slow anything down and keeps the press running smooth.

    I compiled another list of small fixes and adjustments parsed from several similar threads I'd be happy to pass on to you. Shoot me an IM if you would like it or have any other questions.

    Oh yeah, Midway's price on the Lee stuff is awful hard to beat, and their service is top notch.

    Hope this helps...
  8. jdkelly

    jdkelly Well-Known Member

    ...the migration seems to be from RCBS and Lee to Dillon...

    Lee Customer Service:


    Dillons customer service is about as good as it gets!

    After you start a line with "I broke...", "I lost...", "My dog ate..." you get a lot of "Okay, we'll get that out to you in the mail today-no charge" from Dillon. They are not perfect, but they are really really good.

    You can buy a Lee, and many people like them, but if you shoot a lot the migration seems to be from RCBS and Lee to Dillon.

    Dillon is more expensive, but is much faster if you load a lot of a single caliber. If you load just a few hundred rounds before you change calibers then maybe Lee or RCBS is the progressive for you. I like to crank out thousands before I change calibers.


  9. redneck2

    redneck2 Well-Known Member

    If you read the above post, it specifies some of the things I mentioned. Personally, I have about zero patience for things I have to keep fiddling with. The problem I see with the Lee is the light weight wires, chains, and springs they use for operation

    On my Dillon 550, I fill the primer tube, fill the hopper, and crank 'em out. I check maybe every 30-50 rounds to make sure powder charges are consistent, but I seldom if ever change the setting once it's adjusted.

    To get started with the Dillon, figure $500. That's everything you'll need for a couple calibers. For each caliber after that, it's about $30-35 for the caliber conversions (shell plate, locator buttons, and powder funnel) and $20-50 for dies. Shell plates and powder funnels may do multiple calibers, depending on what you're loading.

    If you're really tight on money and want to try the Lee, my friend is selling all four of his. PM me and I'll get you one for cheap. If it's not what you want, you can probably sell it and get your money back. I also have a brand new Pacific (Hornady) scale that's never been used that I'd let go real reasonable
  10. dmftoy1

    dmftoy1 Well-Known Member

    The other bit of advice I'd give is to watch ebay and your local large volume reloaders to try to pick up a used one. For some reason around here people will trade off their reloading equipment to the large volume guys in exchange for ammo. One local guy had a Hornady LNL that was almost brand new that he only wanted $280 for. If you've got enough time on your hands and study up on the various owners manuals to know if all the parts are there you can get a pretty good deal. It took me 2-3 months but I was eventually able to piece together an almost new Dillon 550B with .45acp dies and a .45acp calibur conversion for $270.

    Just my .02.

    Have a good one,
  11. halvey

    halvey Well-Known Member

    Get the Dillon.

    All the talk about being hard to switch calibers on the dillon is overblown.

    Here's a secret: If you talk real nice to the Dillon person on the phone, they'll tell you what caliber conversions are compatiable with eachother. Like the .45ACP and .308 are the same! You just need the $6 powder funnel! ;)
  12. JA

    JA Well-Known Member

    I bought my first Lee Pro 1000 in the late 1980's because of the low price. I got another Pro 1000 because the first one worked so well. I traded for a used LoadMaster in 1998. After cleaning it and tighting up one screw. I was able to do two things the original owner never did. That is read the directions and accually load ammo with it. It has been 100% reliable and never needed any adjustments since I first got it working. Also I haven't had to adjust the Pro 1000's in years.
    The Pro 1000 uses 3 dies and will load all pistol cartridges between 32 and 45 caliber also 222,223,30 carbine,and 7.62x39mm rifle cartridges.
    The LoadMaster can use up to 5 dies and will load all pistol and rifle cartridges.
    The bottom line is if you are the type that actually reads the directions before trying to put something togeather and not the type that just looks at the pictures. Has the sense to stop before yout tear something up. The patience when something goes wrong to read the directions again and try to figure out what went wrong. Most importantly you think about what you should or shouldn't do in future so it doesn't happen again. Then the patience to try again if the first thing you did to try and fix it doesn't work.
    Buy a Lee progressive press.

    If you aren't the above type buy a Dillon and make sure to put Dillon's 1-800 help number on speed dail.
  13. Sisco

    Sisco Well-Known Member

    I guess it also depends on how high a volume shooter you are. If you're like me and only plan on loading a couple hundred rounds at a time you might consider a Lee Turrent press. One $7 turrent and a shell holder for each caliber and you're in business. I've loaded several thousand rounds with my three hole turrent and haven't broken anything yet.
    If, on the other hand, you need to load several hundred rounds at one setting and money's no object go with the Dillon.
  14. ccw007

    ccw007 Well-Known Member

    I had a 550 and sold it to go back to the Lee Turret press. I reload to save money. There were several calibers I would not load with the Dillon because of cost to do so verses how much I shoot that caliber. I cannot say anything bad about the 550 press other than the cost to setup new calibers if your current conversions do not interchange with the new caliber as someone mentioned. I think the conversion cross-reference may be on their website by the way. The Turret press works well for me.
  15. Mooster1223

    Mooster1223 Member

    If you want to save money, go with the LEE Pro 1000. I don't recomend the LoadMaster to anyone after my own experience of owning one for 2 weeks. I actually can't believe that two people have chimmed in on this post to say they like the LM. The Pro 1000 on the other hand, works extremly good. Now, if you have the money for the Dillon 550, go ahead and get the Hornady LNL with the case feeder. You will spend the same amount on the Hornady (with case feed) as you will on the 550 (without the case feed option) and the caliber change overs will cost less as well. The LNL loads as fast as a 650 at the 550 price. You can use standard dies in the 550 and LNL and since you load so many different calibers, I would just get the Hornady.
  16. joshlm

    joshlm Well-Known Member

    I have a loadmaster that I have had for a little over a year. I load 45, 9mm, 38, 357, and I recently added 44mag. I recently had a small problem with the primer mechanism but I am presently resolving the matter. Other than that I have not had any problems with the press once it was set-up. It did however take me a few hours to get the press set-up and running smoothly. When setting up this press you must follow the directions EXACTLY. You must also keep the press clean. Yes their is alot of plastic parts but they are cheap and I can keep a couple of each on hand and replace them when they wear out. The case collater is excellent and the powder measure works excellent once I added the adjustable charge bar. It is also pretty quick to change calibers once you have them set-up in their own tool heads. If you are like me and only loading a thousand rounds or less per month then I can't justify the price of the dillon. I am happy with my loadmaster and would buy another. But I would say the dillon is the better built machine.
  17. Lochaber

    Lochaber Well-Known Member

    If you can afford it, get the Dillon. I have a 550 and I would not get a Lee progressive. Note that I use a bunch of Lee gear, including two single stage presses, balance, and about 8 sets of dies but their progressives have issues. One of my buddies uses the Lee turret and he likes it but that also some some problems and a lower rate of ammo production.

    If all you are going to use it for is hangun ammo, you might consider a Dillon SDB but that uses strange dies and it is a great deal if you are only going to use it for one caliber. As soon as you want multiples it starts to get really expensive.

  18. neolithic hunter

    neolithic hunter Active Member

    what press

    sandy don't wast your money, dillion has been in the progressive press business for a long time. all of the other manufactures are trying to copy what dillion has been doing for years. all of the others are ok if your not going to be reloading much. but the one thing dillion will do is if you break something or ware it out they will replace it, no questions asked and the age of your press is is not an issue. the square deal is the best pistol press you can buy, but you can't drive a cadillac if you buy a volkswagon. i have known a lot of guy's that have not wanted to put out the little extra for a dillion press, and i've listened to them complain about it for years until they buy a dillion. they didn't take into account that all of the money they spent on a cheap press and keeping it running, that they could have bought a couple dillion presses. buy what you think is right and hope you make the right decision. i have two brothers that have progressive presses also, one is a lee and the other is an rcbs press. they spend most of there loading time fixing there presses, then breakdown and finish loading on one of my dillions. yes i have three of them. a square deal for pistol ammo, a xl-650 for rifle ammo. and a 450 that was upgraded to a 550 (for free by dillion, my first progressive press :D )
  19. MoNsTeR

    MoNsTeR Well-Known Member

    When I was first shopping for a press, I found the never-ending stream of "just get a Dillon" posts rather annoying.

    Then I got one.

    Just get a Dillon.
  20. 30Cal

    30Cal Well-Known Member


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