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Dillon vs Lee vs RCBS vs Hornady

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by homefront, Apr 17, 2006.

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  1. homefront

    homefront Member

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    I am ready to buy a progressive press to load for my .45 and .357. I shoot about 200 rounds a week in both, and need something faster than the single stage process!
    I have some Lee (s/s presses, dies), RCBS (dies, powder measure), Dillon (scale) and Hornady (LNL bushings, puller die) equipment and have found it to all to be good stuff :) .
    I want a good, versatile progressive that won't drive me nuts or make me wish I had bought something else.
    I am considering the following: RCBS 2000, Dillon 550b, Lee Load-Master, and Hornady LNL.
    Please post your recommendations. Both positive and negative experiences are welcome ;) .
     
  2. redneck2

    redneck2 Member

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    I see you're fairly new here. If you do a search, you'll find a number of "interesting" threads on this. You may want to find an asbestos suit before the flame wars begin.

    Honestly, I suspect that every mfg has their good and bad points. I use a 550 and it's been fine. I think Dillon is more aimed at the guy that is willing to spend a little more but wants everything quick and easy.

    IF you're willing to spend the $$$ on Dillon, you can get the tool heads that swap right in. It's very fast, very easy, and pretty much foolproof once it's set up. The Hornday's strong point is that the measure can be reset with a micrometer adjustment. Less hardware but easier to make a mistake (wrong setting when changing loads). Depends on what's most important to you.

    My experience with Lee single stage is fine, with their dies are great, and their turrets are probably fine. Not so positive with their progressives. YMMV
     
  3. DaveInFloweryBranchGA

    DaveInFloweryBranchGA Member

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    homefront,

    Depending on how much you want to spend and how mechanical you are, they'll all make good ammo and be good presses for you. I've owned a 550B and wasn't satisfied with the manual advance and the weaknesses in the powder measure, so I solid it and bought a Hornady LnL. Other folks are very happy with the 550 My experience with my LnL is it provides the performance production wise of the 650 at less than the cost of a 550.


    I have a buddy that has the Lee and recently saw it in operation. It's not easy to adjust, but doable and extremely fast when set up right (His is.) I like I can swap out a single die or single station on my Hornady without changing all the dies, the powder measure is extremely versatile and works with a wider range of powders than the Dillon powder measures.

    Another friend has the 650 and I load on it frequently. It's fast, dependable,but is pricey and isn't perfect.

    In fact, none of them are perfect. You'll have to repair something, adjust something on most any of them. They're machines. If you're patient with them, they'll all load good ammo.

    I suggest you go to all the websites and forums, read all you can and think about what and how you're wanting to reload and what features are important to you. Then pick the press you want based on your budget.

    Regards,

    Dave
     
  4. 1911user

    1911user Member

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    I prefer the 550 then a newer Hornady in that order.
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2006
  5. robctwo

    robctwo Member

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  6. moredes

    moredes Member

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    Actually, for about $6-8 (I got mine for $6 but it was 4yr ago) one can purchase replacement micrometers and set them permanently, and just swap them out. Takes 3 seconds (5 minutes to find it on the bench, though).

    The Dillon 550's are all 4-stages aren't they? The Hornady LNL AP is a 5-stage press for less money. They use replacement bushings where Dillon uses toolheads, but they work as well and cost about $3 each if you buy in bulk. They're available in lots of 10. The LNL powder measure kills the Dillon, and the extra station is good for adding a powder checking station. (The RCBS lockout die is a great addition--mechanically stops the press cold if the charge is too high or too low--no monitoring or visual check needed.)

    An hour's labor at a casual pace ought to yield 450-600 rounds easily with either Dillon or Hornady if you have a case-feeder.
     
  7. gwalchmai

    gwalchmai Member

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    I just bought a Lee Challenger to load .44MAG because it was cheaper than a caliber conversion for my 550 (and I just wanted a single stage press for one-offs & stuff ;)). It's painfully slow compared to the Dillon, of course, but once you get the rhythm of batch processing down it's really kinda fun.
     
  8. StrikeEagle

    StrikeEagle Member

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    Dillon 550B here.

    I'm happy. :)
     
  9. Cherokee

    Cherokee Member

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    I have the Dillon 650 because it was a gift. ;) I was considering the Hornady machine or Dillon 550B I am very satisfied with the 650 and the case feeder really provides for volume production.
     
  10. 1911user

    1911user Member

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    Yes, dillon 550s are 4-stage, but they bell the case AND drop powder at station #2 (leaving #3 and #4 for seating and crimping). The Hornady 5-station bells the case at station #2 and drops powder at station #3 (seat on #4, crimp on #5). Hornady is updating the press this year to bell and drop in the same station (Dillon has always done it in 1 station) which will probably add $50 to the sales price. Until then, dillon 550 and the hornady have effectively the same number of stages. To use a powder check die usually requires seating and crimping in the same station (usually not the best way) to get an open die hole for the powder check die. The dillon 650 has that open station while seating/crimping seperately and hornady will have it sometime this year. Until then, no easy powdercheck for dillon 550 or hornady. I use a study lamp positioned so I can easily see into the case after powder has been dropped.

    4 bushings cost about the same as a 550 toolhead; no advantage there. Dillon powder dies are cheaper than Hornady though.

    The hornady measure is good (have one), but the dillon measure also works well with the exception of long cut rifle powder and many measures have problems with that (IMR rifle powder mainly). Both brands have optional micrometer dials for returning to previous powder settings. It was standard on the hornady measures 10-15 years ago; now it's a $20 option. It has always been an aftermarket option for Dillon measures. Again, about $20.

    I can load 500-600 an hour on my 550 without a casefeeder and not pushing extra fast. If a case-feeder won't get the pistol loading rate up to 700-800 rounds per hour, what's the point of having it?
     
  11. StrikeEagle

    StrikeEagle Member

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    Hate to be the odd man out, but I don't really see any speed advantage in a casefeeder. I feed the case with my right hand at the same time I place the bullet with my left hand.

    Seems to me that the case feeder is one more thing to maintain, load and keep adjusted. I just can't see it. :confused:

    StrikeEagle
     
  12. wrangler5

    wrangler5 Member

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    I've posted in a number of threads about my decade+ satisfaction with the Lee Loadmaster. I have 6 turrets set up for different handgun calibers, each with its own powder measure. That would be VERY expensive with a 650, the machine I covet from a purely mechanical standpoint.

    Lee's designs are ingenious. The case feeder looks primitive but is very quick to load if you have the case collator that goes on top of the drop tubes. Both 45 ACP and 357 cases drop head down every time and fill the tubes quickly. Switching between the calibers will require changing the primer feed (about a 1 minute job, since you have to take the shell plate off anyway) and adjusting the case feeder base for the longer/shorter case. But the Lee parts are cheap enough that for about $17 you can get a second case feeder and have one adjusted for each cartridge. Swapping them should take 1-2 minutes since you won't have to adjust anything - just remove and replace a pair of nuts

    The Loadmaster has 5 holes, but the second is usually blank, as that's where the case is primed, on the UPstroke - a purely mechanical operation with no "feel" involved. Belling and powder drop occur at #3, so there is space for separate bullet seating and crimping.
     
  13. 1911user

    1911user Member

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    They can be one more item to keep adjusted and are expensive, but they are faster and useful if you need large quantities of ammo especially in one caliber. Your right hand never leaves the press handle. With auto-indexing, it is place bullet, pull handle, place bullet, pull handle,.....

    That speed costs money and complexity. For my needs it isn't worth it, but I would not hesitate to buy one if the need was there. The hard part would be finding the money to pay for the huge increase in reloading components used.
     
  14. Car Knocker

    Car Knocker Member

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    Are Dillons the only progressives that require both hands be use to place the components (assuming no casefeeder)?
     
  15. 1911user

    1911user Member

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    I can't speak for other presses, but the dillon 550 is setup to use both hands. I think it's faster that way. After working the handle, the left hand advances (indexes) the shellplate to the next station (doesn't take much pressure) and places a bullet to be seated. At the same time, the right hand releases the handle, picks up and inserts the new case then grabs the handle again. With bullets and cases in handy locations, it's a fairly smooth and quick operation.
     
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2006
  16. Car Knocker

    Car Knocker Member

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    I'm not sure that it (the Dillon) is faster but then I've never competed in the progressive Olympics against anyone else. I use a different color press and pick up a bullet and case with one pass of my left hand, place the bullet and slide a case into place with essentially one movement. My right hand never leaves the handle. It does take a little dexterity and practice but there's a lot less movement involved.

    I do wonder if the various RCBS or Lee progressives use one hand or both to handle components. Anybody?
     
  17. JackOfAllTradesMasterAtNone

    JackOfAllTradesMasterAtNone Member

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    200 rounds an hour easily with my old Dillon 450

    To be honest, If I were out to buy a progressive, or semi progressive/turret press nowadays, I'd have to look at the RCBS. That said, I'm still verry happy with my Dillon. I helped a friend set up a Dillon 550 the other day. Once set up, they're a cinch to operate. Not to compare RCBS, Lee, Dillon customer service, because I can say they're all pretty much top notch. But Dillon will spend time with you on the phone or in the store/factory in Scottsdale. Their customer service is second to none. I wish more American companies would model them. Not that you'd need customer service from Dillon. Their components last and last. The press I'm using is 20 years old and operates like it was new. I can't say that about some of the Lee and Lyman components I've used over the years.

    -Steve
     
  18. DaveInFloweryBranchGA

    DaveInFloweryBranchGA Member

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    "Yes, dillon 550s are 4-stage, but they bell the case AND drop powder at station #2 (leaving #3 and #4 for seating and crimping). The Hornady 5-station bells the case at station #2 and drops powder at station #3 (seat on #4, crimp on #5). Hornady is updating the press this year to bell and drop in the same station (Dillon has always done it in 1 station) which will probably add $50 to the sales price. Until then, dillon 550 and the hornady have effectively the same number of stages."

    An increase in price to the Hornady press is pure speculation until is actually happens. As far as powder through expansion, one can easily add a Lee, Dillon powder measure (Both of whom handle ball powder quite well.) to the Hornady or they can easily modify the current Hornady CAPD to do the same thing with using the inserts from a Lyman expand/powder through die set. I did, took me 15 minutes to do so. I have an RCBS lock out die in my Hornady. And this is only relevant to pistol cartridges. Frankly, I can't see comparing a 550 to a LnL. The LnL is a faster and better performing press and is more comparable to a 650.

    However, if I had it to do over and since the powder drop thing is only an issue with pistol, I'd just buy Lee dies and a Pro Auto Disk powder measure. The Lee stuff works great with pistol and cheaper than either the Dillon or Hornady. But then, I do like to adapt stuff from any manufacturer to the others, if one has a better idea than the others. Of course, if I was buying new, I'd wait until the new CAPD comes out to buy.

    "To use a powder check die usually requires seating and crimping in the same station (usually not the best way) to get an open die hole for the powder check die. The dillon 650 has that open station while seating/crimping seperately and hornady will have it sometime this year. Until then, no easy powdercheck for dillon 550 or hornady."

    I don't know how easy is easy, but modifying mine was easy, so is buying a Lee or Dillon powder measure and putting it on one's Hornady, just as easy as a Dillon guy putting a Hornady powder measure on his press.

    "I use a study lamp positioned so I can easily see into the case after powder has been dropped."

    This is a good idea wether one has a powder alarm, lockout die or a powder cop.

    "4 bushings cost about the same as a 550 toolhead; no advantage there. Dillon powder dies are cheaper than Hornady though.'

    The difference with the Hornady is typically the only things you need to change calibers are the shellplate and the bushings.


    "The hornady measure is good (have one), but the dillon measure also works well with the exception of long cut rifle powder and many measures have problems with that (IMR rifle powder mainly). Both brands have optional micrometer dials for returning to previous powder settings. It was standard on the hornady measures 10-15 years ago; now it's a $20 option. It has always been an aftermarket option for Dillon measures. Again, about $20."

    The difference being the Hornady WILL run the IMR rifle powder with no problem. I just loaded 500 rounds of 30.06 not long back using IMR4895 with zero problems.

    "I can load 500-600 an hour on my 550 without a casefeeder and not pushing extra fast. If a case-feeder won't get the pistol loading rate up to 700-800 rounds per hour, what's the point of having it?"

    Couldn't tell you, but based on what I'm running on my LnL, I'm pretty darn sure I'll be hitting a thousand an hour with a casefeeder. I just moved the location of my brass and bullets to be close at hand to the shellplate and increased my hourly rate to 600. Had to spend the money to buy a primer tube loader though. If you have any tube fed progress, Dillon, RCBS or Hornady, these things are a steal for increasing your production by speeding up the restocking process greatly.

    I should say I find the load brass and bullets with my left hand and not having to take my right hand off the handle preferable to loading with both hands. I also prefer the automatic advance to the manual advance of a 550. Much smoother to operate to me in both cases, feels more natural to me. Others may feel differently.
     
  19. 1911user

    1911user Member

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    I fully expect Hornady to officially raise the press price with the upgrade and it is a big upgrade. Home conversions are one thing, but to come setup from the factory with bell/powder at the same station is a big deal. Dillon also raised prices somewhat late last year. The price on the hornady case feeder is now in the $240-250 range ($310 list) when it was available for $180 last year plus the required case feeder plates are $25 each (dillon needs case feeder plates also; about the same price). The hornady case feeder has the dubious honor of being more expensive than the dillon case feeders and I thought the dillon ones were high.

    The downside to adding a dillon measure to a non-dillon press is the newer version of it requires a safety pullback rod to operate. Most non-dillon presses aren't going to be easily fitted for that. The measure can be modified to operate old-style with just a spring return (retrograde). The the caliber specific expanders are also an issue and are required to bell and operate the measure. They come with caliber conversion kits for 550/650s, but are $8 each by themselves.

    If you don't buy extra hornady powder dies, you get to re-adjust everytime you change calibers; same with dillon. I find it easier to spend $8 for extra powder dies and leave them set for a particular caliber; call it a luxury. The hornady "advantage" of not needing caliber specific hollow expanders for a conversion is going away with the upgrade. Conversion costs will continue to be similar.

    A buddy just bought a new LNL AP press and will configure it with the new bell/powder drop so I'll learn about it up close. It was I who suggested he look at that in addition to the Dillon 550. I saw his loadmaster setup in operation (and the occassional problem/frustration that is causing its' replacement). The primer seating (like a dillon 1050) is the only part I liked and would be an upgrade to the 550/650/AP type presses.

    I just don't see the LNL AP as being so superior to the 550. Peak loading rates are roughly the same for quality ammo. Pricing is similar. Conversion is similar.
     
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2006
  20. moredes

    moredes Member

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    Not a point-by-point rebuttal; I'm too lazy to go over it all. But the Lyman bell/powder drop combo is a $3 adaptation that's been around for 3-4 years now, almost since the introduction of the LNL AP (that is fairly well discussed in most reloading portions of TFL/THR/1911forum.com) and it works well; it allows seating and crimping as separate stations.

    As to the reloading rate, when I mentioned a case-feeder and said, "casual pace ought to yield 450-600 rounds", I should have actually said that I routinely load 450-600 rounds including break time for making coffee, answering the phone, other distractions, etc. I don't keep track 'by the minute' to check production rates. It's not that big a deal to me; 600/hr is no effort whatsoever.

    I routinely load .308 w/ IMR 4064 with the LNL powder measure, and it's accurate enough for my needs out to 1000yd.
     
  21. DaveInFloweryBranchGA

    DaveInFloweryBranchGA Member

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    moredes,

    I knew from my hundred yard shoting with 30.06 the Hornady was good for loading IMR and rifle cartridges, but I didn't know it was good enough to go to the 1000 yard line. I wonder how much of that is due to the extra stiffness in the Hornady LnL bushings setup vs. a die plate setup. I knew my 550 when I had it didn't produce enough accuracy for the 600 yard line for High Power in my AR-15. Never tried the Hornady for the longer distances. I will now though.

    1911user,

    "The downside to adding a dillon measure to a non-dillon press is the newer version of it requires a safety pullback rod to operate. Most non-dillon presses aren't going to be easily fitted for that. The measure can be modified to operate old-style with just a spring return (retrograde). The the caliber specific expanders are also an issue and are required to bell and operate the measure. They come with caliber conversion kits for 550/650s, but are $8 each by themselves."

    The spring return is requires two springs for a total of $4.00 from Brian Enos. The powder measure is $96.00 or thereabouts from Brian Enos and other sources. Which is why I said I would go with the Lee, which works just as well for pistol powders, which is the main place anybody is going to be using expanders. Every other cartrdige I know about I'd load and need an expander most folks wouldn't load in enough quantity to load it on a progressive.

    Maybe you're doing something I don't know about with your 550 operations wise, but my LnL is a helluva lot quicker at loading than my 550 ever was and I load on both at about the same pace. Generally speaking, I load slowly, very similar to what moredes is describing. Most local guys I know who own 550's are getting 300-350 or so, nowhere near the rates you're quoting. That's what I was getting with mine as well. You can go faster, but you have to work at it. I like piddling around and a very casual pace reloading. That way, it doesn't feel like work.

    As far as a casefeeder goes, it really doesn't gain you much on a 550. Only 25% increase of production according to Brian Enos. His advice to new purchases of Dillon products is if they want a casefeeder, to go with the 650 where you benefit significantly with the addition of a casefeeder. The Hornady LnL is like the 650 in this respect also. You can hit a 1000 cartridges an hour on the LnL with a casefeeder. You can't do that on a 550. Of course a casefeeder is not an inexpensive upgrade, which is why I didn't buy on initially on my Hornady, but unlike the 550, my LnL will show me a significant increase in production when I add a casefeeder. And I'm sure those with casefeeders, Dillon or other wise, know that with a casefeeder, your bottleneck becomes primers, not cases. Add a Frankford Arsenal primer loader and you're set to do 1000/hour.

    One thing about the LnL bushings is they do allow for extremely quick and easy changes of a single die. Which is a huge advantage if you're loading with a full length resizing die for 30.06 in a Garand on your LnL, then decide you want to neck size for your 1903 Springfield. All you have to do is click, swich, click and you're loading with a neck sizing die. You can't do that on a Dillon. You also can't do that with IMR4895 on a Dillon like you can on the Hornady, which is my preferred powder in 30.06. Those are huge and important advantages to me.

    Dave
     
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2006
  22. caz223

    caz223 Member

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    IMHO, here's the production rate in order, from greatest, to least:
    Dillon 1050, it, incidentally would cost the most to buy, the most to change calibers, etc. First class machine. Does anything you want it to do, except to change calibers quickly.
    Dillon 650, very fast, but pricey. Case feeder mandatory.
    LNL AP. Solid machine, from what I've heard. Won't beat a 650, but won't cost anywhere near as much to buy or change calibers. Quick to change over.
    Loadmaster. Fidgety, but once you got it set up right it will crank out a poopload of ammo on a very short time. Optional case and bullet feeders available. Auto indexing.
    Dillon 550. The ultimate starter press. Semi-progressive, manual indexing, simple to operate, quick to change over. A solid machine.
    RCBS pro2000 Priming system is different from everybody else. You can buy CCI primers pre-loaded in strips that feed right into the machine. Manual indexing.
    Piggyback III: It's a current upgrade package to convert a special 5 or rockchucker to progressive. It's workable, but you'll have as much money tied up in it as a dillon 550, so most people just buy a dillon.

    I must confess, I have 2 550s, and if I had to start over from nothing, I'd prolly look at the LNL AP.
    I was recently as a crossroads as to buy a second 550, or sell it and buy a 650, and for as many calibers as I load, the 2 550s won out.
    They all have their faults.
    I'd start looking at the 550, LNL AP, and if you have $800+ to spend, maybe look at the 650.
    If you have 10 calibers or so to load, the 550 and LNL AP make the most sense.
    Again, knowing what I know now, I'd look at the hornady.
    It depends on how you load.
    If you want to load 5000 then go shooting before the sun goes down, the 1050 rocks.
    If you want to load 1000, then change calibers and load another thousand, the 650 is the king.
    If you want to load 300, change calibers and load another 300, the 550 is very good.
     
  23. moredes

    moredes Member

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    Dave,

    I'm no whizz at long range that's for sure. I've only shot 1000 about 8-10 times, but the load I use that seems to be consistent at that distance (if my results can be called "consistent" for my novice status) and accuracy is very good at 300-500yd all the time.

    However, it's probably not the press I'd use for benchrest accuracy at 100yd. For that the LNL is just a little too "sloppy" (but only psychologically--I'll get to that later). The shellplate doesn't cam consistently enough to meet the standards most die-hards psychologically require; OAL can vary as much as .011". The LNL measure drops 4064, 4895, RL-15 pretty consistently, +- .015gr, and that's good enough for me; I can't shoot the difference at long distances.

    When I'm loading for pure accuracy off the bench, I still use the press. I finish up on a Rockchucker for consistent OAL and peace of mind; dead balls on from round to round with this method. To solve the powder drop inaccuracy, I omit the LNL powder measure from the press, and use a Bonanza-Forster to drop each charge onto a scale and weigh each charge, then drop it into each case with a drop-tube assembly I fabricated. The entire process excluding the Rockchucker session, is probably 5-8 seconds slower for each round when I get in a good rhythym. (the scale is much quicker to resolve weights than I would have thought, and accurate to +- .005gr, which is way good enough for my abilities)

    I'm not so sure that the session at the Rockchucker for consistent OAL is required though, and the LNL AP may in all actuality, be enough for my abilities at any distance. I've read all about Zediker's (et. al.) ideas, and tried a lot of them, too. I have not found that "straining over the last .003" for consistent OAL has helped my accuracy beyond any tangible point. My findings (and accuracy) have been more in line with a well-known riflesmith's ideas; he claims that with any custom built rifle/barrel combination (we're assuming here that with *any* 'smithed rifle, one can get to the lands easily--not like stretching the bullet out to get to the OEM Rem 700 lands), that an OAL within +- .20" (point 2-0, or OAL within a forty thousandths range) is sufficient for accurate results (defined as .5MOA or less out to 300yd in his rifles--past that distance of course, accuracy is much more heavily dependant on the shooter). His stand is that bullet jump is completely unimportant so long as the bullet enters the lands before it exits the case. As I said, my results don't contradict him; I only hit the Rockchucker for peace of mind... but I'm doing it less and less lately. With my revised powder drop and no other modifications, I routinely shoot .6-8 MOA out of an M1A Super Match and .4MOA or less out of a custom Rem700 at distances equal to, or under 300yd. So I've been disdaining the Rockchucker sessions lately.
     
  24. bobaloo

    bobaloo Member

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    Just another happy Hornady LNO user. I loaded close to 20,000 rounds on mine last year. It's as fast as I want to be, I don't try to rush and usually load 500 rounds or so in a batch, which takes me a little over an hour to hour and a half. I load 9mm, .357, .40, .45 and .223 on mine, it's quick and easy to change calibers. Even when switching primer sizes it's maybe a 5 minute changeover.

    If I had a lot more money I'd love to have a 1050 with all the attachments, but for being on a budget the LNL does the job for me, and I'd make the same choice again.
     
  25. YellowLab

    YellowLab member

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    I have a love/hate relationship with my Lee Loadmaster.

    First, I was in an money crunch. That meant that I didn't buy the nice to have things that speed you up.

    Example: Instead of buying a few extra tool heads (All for $13 for a Loadmaster) I was swapping dies. That meant that all those dies were readjusted and made reloading more time consuming... then if the dies are not adjusted right the primer mechanism will not work relaibily. Most experienced reloaders know to swap toolheads, not dies. Reduces the error rate SIGNIFICANTLY.

    Also I started on a progressive. I would have had just as much difficulty on another press because I was new. I didn't have the $$ to start single stage and work my way up. I banged up a lot of press parts learning. I now have a Challenger single stage for odd jobs. Another lesson learned.

    Last week I cranked out 300 .45ACP and 500 .30 Carbine cartridges. Not one problem. And in less than 2 hours (that included a complete changeover from .45 to .308) at an easy pace I was done. 800 rounds in 120 minutes is not a speed record, but I don't need to set records... I need to have fun, relax and make some ammo.
     
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