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New to reloading, got a Dillon 550 today

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by bubbacrabb, Jan 4, 2011.

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  1. bubbacrabb

    bubbacrabb Member

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    Hey fellas. Been talking to a great Vietnam vet the past few weeks, he's been reloading for a long time and has been answering a lot of questions for me. Today I decided to head over to Scottsdale, AZ and I picked up a RL550. My experience there was kind of odd. Staff were not very friendly, but I walked out with it. Hope I made the right decision. Im looking to add everything else tomorrow. A set of dies. Still dont understand the 3 and 4 die stuff. Or what will work with my press. I think it only has 4 stations so I think i need a three die set? Starting with 9mm, then hopefully I can make some quality hunting rounds in other calibers later as I learn. Hopefully with any tips I get on here, and thru youtube videos I can learn a lot. I'm kinda on my own now. I couldnt afford the strong mount right now, couldnt I just take a few 2x4s doubled up to raise it up a bit? Bolting them to the bench? Seams like it would work well.
     
  2. mcdonl

    mcdonl Member

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    Wow, I just looked at one of those. That looks like a complicated machine! I am sure someone will come to your aid. I started on a single stage so I have no idea but I hear those are great presses.
     
  3. mbruce

    mbruce Member

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    go big or go home! LOL.
     
  4. Sport45

    Sport45 Member

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    The best advice I can offer right now is for you to read the sticky for new reloaders at the top of this forum.
     
  5. mboylan

    mboylan Member

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    Slow down. You are playing with high pressure nitro-cellulose and nitro-glycerin here. You can get maimed very easily.

    First step. Buy the ABCs of Reloading. Read it twice. Understand everything about what causes pressure to rise in cartridges. The Lyman reloading manual is also good.

    Second step get a couple of reloading manuals. Read them.

    Third step. You will need a high quality scale and some calipers. Dillon sells both. You need a bullet puller.

    Fourth step. Get what you need to load the caliber of your choice.

    You can then go to youtube or the Dillon DVDs and go through the process.

    As a beginner you need a bulky powder that will overflow if you double charge. Stay away from max loads. Start in the middle for 9mm. Make sure your bullet profile and composition matches those in the manual. Lead bullets, plated bullets and jacketed bullets all have very different load data. Don't go under the minimum overall length.

    The progressive will let you churn out quality ammo real fast or lots of mistakes real fast. Not the best for a beginner. Try to load only one cartridge at a time as you learn the process and all the nuances of your press. Primer seating can be tough to get right on a Dillon.
     
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2011
  6. GaryL

    GaryL Member

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    I agree with the warnings about how easy it is to make a lot of bad ammo on a progressive, but a number of people seem to think a newb shouldn't start out on one. I have to disagree with that thinking. Fair enough to warn them to be extremely methodical and careful, but that applies to all of us here.

    In this case, bubbacrabb has an experienced reloader to help him get started, which is probably a lot better than some guys striking off on their own on a single stage.

    I started on a 550b, and glad I did. Not too long ago I picked up a Lee CC for odd jobs, and while it is a nice press, I can tell I wouldn't be too excited about loading any quantity of ammo on it. In some respects the 550 is perfect for a new loader, because it's possible use it like a single stage, and it's easy to learn on and progress towards producing decent quantities of ammo, not unlike a turret press.

    Anyway, that's MHO, and anyone is free to disagree - I won't take it personally.
     
  7. billybob44

    billybob44 Member

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    Lots of questions...

    I have owned a RCBS RockChucker press for close to 40 years, a Dillon RL550 for around 25 years. I use the Dillon on most all of my common handgun calibers, along with their dies, and other tools.
    You are the FIRST person that I have ever heard that said that the Dillon people were "odd" or not very friendly. For myself, I have seen just the opposite in the 25 years of dealing with this GREAT company. I also have been to their store twice, and toured their plant once, when I was in Scottsdale. Very good people, in my opinion.
    Make sure that your read your owners manual for the RL550 at least a couple of times and a lot of your questions will be answered.
    You can use any brand of dies, but I believe that you will be happier if you get a Dillon 9MM die set, along with a 9MM case gauge, good scale, good set of calipers, and some empty ammo boxes.
    You will also need a 9MM caliber conversion kit (plate) for your press. They used to sell the press with one set of dies and caliber conversion kit-I do not know if they still come that way??
    Again, I think that you will be happy with your Dillon products, and if you were not treated well on your first visit, I would be sure to talk to a manager on your next trip to Scottsdale. I am sure that they will make it right.;)
     
  8. jja327

    jja327 Member

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    I came across this video yesterday. There are multiple parts to it. I reload using a hand press but thought it was interesting that you can operate the 550 like a turret press loading one round at a time, except the shell plate moves instead of a turret. It will take four cranks for each round but you can watch the operation more closely. When you get the hang of it you can then move up to operating it in progressive mode where a finished round pops out for each crank of the handle.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VRZrbv_8kx4
     
  9. rfwobbly

    rfwobbly Member

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    Mr Crabb -

    Welcome to THR and welcome to Reloading !

    While I don't suggest anyone start on a 550, you're there already, so that's water under the bridge! Besides starting on a 550, man oh man, where you going to go next? That's like being a teen and driving a Mercedes to high school. It's all downhill from there. :D

    As to setup...

    • No, you don't need the strong mount at all. It all depends on your reloading bench height. Most are too low and the SM raises the machine up. Anything you can build out of wood is just going to wiggle around like crazy, so just bolt it directly to the corner of the bench, directly over a leg. Then lower your chair !!

    • I hope you got the 550 already set up for 9mm. Otherwise you got to go back and buy the Dillon "caliber conversion kit" for 9mm. No way around it.

    • You'll also need the Dillon powder die, and die holder.

    • Since you're just starting I'd suggest getting the dies from Lee. Personally I'd prefer the Std 3 Die Set and the Taper Crimp Die. That's going to roughly match the Dillon die set for about $25 less.

    • You're also going to need a scale. The best scale is the Dillon Eliminator for $54. Or you can buy the same thing from RCBS for $74. You decide.

    • Your going to need a 6" caliper. These digital calipers are the same as Dillon, Frankfort Arsn, Lyman, etc for $10 less.

    • You'll need a reloading manual. I highly suggest the Lyman #49 which comes in paperback and hardbound.

    They'll be some other tools and accessories along the way, but that should get you started. ;)
     
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2011
  10. alfack

    alfack Member

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    Excellent choice. I started out on the same press many years ago. I found that the manual that came with mine was very helpful in setting up the dies properly. Besides the 3 die set, you will also need a powder die and a caliber conversion kit. The powder dies are generic and will work with any caliber, but will fill the 2nd hole of your 4-hole toolhead. The powder funnel that comes with the caliber conversion kit will fit into the powder die.
     
  11. oldgold

    oldgold Member

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    Three or four dies?

    Station #1. Size and decap

    Station #2 Powder drop and case flare.

    Station #3 Bullet seat only.

    Station #4 Crimp only.

    Technically you can seat and crimp in one operation but in my experience It doesn't make as high quality reloads. I tend to load whatever is in the box without sorting so fourth station crimp allows me to not be concerned with case length or neck thickness. I use the Lee Factory Crimp dies on everything. I've had my Dillon for 25+ years and well over 100,000 rounds.
    Good choice!
     
  12. bubbacrabb

    bubbacrabb Member

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    Thanks everyone for all the advice. The man helping me just seamed to think that I would do ok on this, and it would save me money in the long run. He's always just a phone call away also. Im also very grateful to be learning from a veteran, and I think he likes teaching a hobby he's enjoyed so much during his lifetime. He gave me a scale, not the most expensive but he said it will get me by for a while, a hornady manual that I'm reading right now, I bought a digital caliber, and a carbide die set. Got 5,000 rounds of once fired 9mm brass. Going to set this baby up, read for another week, watch as many youtube videos as possible, and then still have to call Cal for help. But from what he told me, you're never going to learn til you do it.
     
  13. Lost Sheep

    Lost Sheep Member

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    Listen to mboylan

    Welcome to the forum, bubbacrabb and welcome to reloading. Thanks for asking our advice.
    I agree with everything, wholeheartedly except the bullet puller. I loaded for 20 years before ever needing one. However, when you need one, you need one. So, if you don't live near a store that has them, get one. The inertial bullet pullers are inexpensive enough. The Collet-style ones, you will probably want a single-stage press to use with, so could get expensive.
    When I got my shooting buddy into reloading, I researched such bulky powders and picked Trail Boss. As its name implies, it is marketed to CASS (Cowboy Action Shooting Sports) enthusiasts because it keep pressures low. But it also occupies a lot of volume for the charge it gives. That makes it easy to see if you have failed to fully charge a case or have double charged a case. Just be sure NOT to compress the powder. If your load fills the case to more than where the base of the bullet will be, don't use Trail Boss. I am told that breaking the granules of powder is bad news.

    Anyhow, it is GREAT to learn with. My friend still uses it for practice, familiarization and fun shooting with his .500 S&W.

    Overall length of ammunition sets two parameters. The Overall Length of the loaded cartridge (determines how well the cartridge fits in your magazine and travels through your action) and the O.A.L. minus the length of the slug (bullet) gives a clue as to the interior volume of your cartridge. Less volume, more initial pressure. Lots of volume, less pressure. You don't want to let those initial pressures get too high (and the initial pressures go up really fast). You cannot measure your interior volume directly, so no loading manuals (that I know of) give figures for it, but the publishers all know it. That is why they specify overall length AND bullet specification. The bullet mold makers all know how long their bullets are.

    But you will find very little load data for plated bullets. Use the Lead Bullet recipes.

    Lost Sheep
     
  14. Kevin Rohrer

    Kevin Rohrer Member

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    If the guy told him start out on a progressive, he couldn't have been too experienced.

    Starting out on a progressive is a *bad* idea. Everyone should start slow (single-stage) until they really know what they are doing. And that's after reading lots of manuals, seeing how others load, and safely loading lots of rounds that all go bang, not boom. Just because one newby starts out on a progressive w/o killing himself is not an endorsement for all to do it.

    The NRA has reloading instructors available, but they are few and far between. I'd like to become one, but can't locate a class within 200-miles.

    Baby steps. You only have one set of fingers, eyes and ears, and one life.
     
  15. Kevin Rohrer

    Kevin Rohrer Member

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    Bubbacrab,

    Since you seem committed to the 550, a word of advice is in order:

    1. Use a powder that only leaves enough room for the bullet to be seated. If you do that and accidentally charge the same case twice (easier to do than you might think), the second charge will overflow the case and you will see your mistake.

    2. Make sure your work area is well-lighted so you can see into the cases as they set on the reloader shellplate.

    3. Make sure you set everything correctly, especially the powder measure. And quadruple check the setup before starting out.

    4. When you cycle the press arm, make sure you go all the way down w/ it so the powder measure cycles and the casing gets entirely sized.

    5. Once you load a few rounds, fire them so you know they cycle the action.

    6. No hot loads.

    7. Don't get in a hurry.

    8. Get Dillon's video and watch it a couple times.

    9. There is nothing wrong w/ Dillon dies, especially on a Dilllon press. They are designed to work flawlessly w/ the press.

    10. Get as many manuals as you can afford--and read them. Lyman #49 AND The ABCs of Reloading are a good starting point. Also get the manuals for the powders and bullets you use.
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2011
  16. mcdonl

    mcdonl Member

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    Bubbacrab... I am just jelous as are many others :).

    I am also a newbie (A year or so....) so if you have any questions that seem silly and want another newbies opinion feel free to PM me. Also, RFwobbly and RCmodel have NEVER steered me wrong. Pretty much what they say is Gospel.
     
  17. morrow

    morrow Member

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    Starting on a progressive is not a bad idea, just take it 1 step at a time. Watch the Dillon DVD (did you get one?) a couple times, it really helps.

    I'm new to reloading and my first press is an xl650. With a LOT of research and a little mechanical aptitude you can easily start on a progressive.
     
  18. billybob44

    billybob44 Member

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    Well, yes+no==The progressive press is great-The XL650-Auto Index-for me, is not. I like being able to manual index my shell plate on my RL550 so that things don't "get away" from me. That's just me="Old and Slow"!!
     
  19. Hammerdown77

    Hammerdown77 Member

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    Yeah, the 550B is a unique beast in that it's a "progressive" press that you manually index. You don't HAVE to have four cases in the thing at a time, flying around automagically. If you only put one case in it, and don't turn the shell plate with your thumb, it's a single stage press.

    If I had it to do all over again, I would have bought the 550B from the get go. My first press was the Lee Turret, which can also operate in single stage mode by removing the indexing rod. If I'd bought the Dillon from the outset, though, I'd be cranking out 4x the amount of ammo per session that I can now, and not be dropping 700 additional bucks to do it...
     
  20. orrwdd

    orrwdd Member

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    If you buy other than Dillon Dies, buy a 3 die set and a separate Taper Crimp die for the 9mm. You will not use the expander die in either the 3 or 4 die sets, since the Dillon Powder die also does the belling (expanding).

    If you buy Lee dies you will save a little money, but any other brand, and you may as well be the Dillon dies and get the advantages with them.

    Bill
     
  21. orrwdd

    orrwdd Member

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    double tap

    Bill
     
  22. rattletrap1970

    rattletrap1970 Member

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    I have a complete Dillon 550rl press, with 3 sets of dies that will load 5 different calibers. Many many extras for hundreds less than if you bought it from Dillon. Just need the cash for a Pardini SP. I have 2 other Dillons anyway. If anyone is interested PM me, I'm askin $850 firm (when you see the flier I made you'll see it's a great price).
     
  23. bubbacrabb

    bubbacrabb Member

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    Actually Kevin, the guy has been doing it for a long time. Sense the early 60s. Im not a young kid, and know how to take things slow. I have him helping me get started along with a few other guys on here that have offered help to me to get started. Not everyone starts the same way. Some people are quicker to learn than others. I picked the 550 because it is not self indexing, and I can go as slow as I want with it. I can even do one round at a time with it if I want, which is what the guy that is teaching me suggested. This man is a great guy, a vet, and a NRA high power shooter in his upper 60s. He deserves everyones respect. Just cause one teacher teaches one way doesnt mean its wrong. I'm going slow, i'm asking for help. I have been reading and watching as many videos as possible. You can ask 10 different guys 10 different questions and get 10 different answers. Nobody is 100% right nor wrong. I can grow with this press, and I'll be the only one shooting my ammo for a long while. im not letting anyone shoot my stuff til I 100% know the safety of it. I hope you retract your opinion about my friend. He's a great man, as I'm sure you are.
     
  24. billybob44

    billybob44 Member

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    Settle down bubba.

    bubba, yes Kevin could have used some softer words, but his message is usually the one that most experienced hand loaders will recommend.
    It is best to start out on a single stage press. If nothing else, it does allow for a slower+more informed way to start this hobby.
    You, bubba, can learn just fine on the RL550, just continue to do what you are already doing-slow+easy+pay attention to every step.
    For now you will save the $ on a powder measure, loading blocks, and shell holders! HA HA..
    bubba, keep your eye out for a good used single stage (Iron) press. You will find that you will use one on different stages of hand loading. I am working up .40 S&W and 10MM brass now, and my RockChucker has my Redding G-Rx die in it to "De-Glock" the used brass that I am now getting in. You can not do that process on your (or my) RL550. When you get into rifle loads, you will find many other uses for the single stage. I have the RC mounted on the right side of my bench+the RL550 mounted on the left side-seems to work for me.
    Just my 2c worth...Bill..;)
     
  25. cencrunner

    cencrunner Member

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    First Post, and giving advise already. You will do fine on the 550, just take your time and start off slow. Do get a reloading manual, calipers, scales as advised by others.
    You can reload on a 550 one round at a time and that is what I would do until you fully understand the process. Reloading pistol rounds is not a really complicated process and if you go slow to start and pay attention you will do fine.
    For rifles I use a single stage and would recommend you get one when able. I use a Hornady but others are just as good.
    Good Luck and BE CAREFUL
    Frank
     
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