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Redneck Engineering a Lee Bullet Feeder to a Dillon 550

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by GaryL, Feb 14, 2020.

  1. GaryL

    GaryL Member

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    The why - Started loading 9mm again (I'll do a batch of 1K-2K every so often), and noticed I was getting annoyed handling little RN bullets. It's a bit tedious, and slow. Of course I read the threads on here about bullet feeders and whatnot, but I just can't justify the Dillon solution for 9mm or 380. So, one day I was searching out bullet feeder options, and came across a video of some guy running a Lee Feeder on his 550. Cool. Everything fits, and it seemed to work ok. He had drilled out the powder safety transfer bar (I apologize if that's not the right terminology for it) to mount his motion transfer bar to the Lee actuator. There were some other things going on to make it function right, but that just seemed like too much trouble to me.

    Fast forward several weeks, and here I am starting on reloading 9mm, and thinking an auto bullet feeder sure would be nice. Also happened to be shopping on Midway for a couple items, and there's free shipping if I can put another $20 in the cart, which is a nice little discount. Look around, spot the Lee bullet feeder for $33, and figure what the heck. If it doesn't work out, I'm not out much.

    That showed up yesterday evening, so I start fiddling around with it, and thinking about ways to make something work. Looked around to see what might be put to use and came up with an idea. Started with making a couple little clamps to see how feasible it was, looked promising, so fabbed up a transfer bar and put it to the test.

    I can't say how long this is going to last. There's nothing industrial about that Lee feeder. But with a little lube that damn thing works pretty well. I just ran off 200 rounds like nothing - no hiccups whatsoever. Unreal how much quicker it was to load 200 rounds. If it holds up a couple years, I'll be perfectly happy replacing it with another.

    So far, so good.
     

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  2. frankmako

    frankmako Member

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    i got to get me one of these. can you give more details on how and what you used to make this.
     
  3. GaryL

    GaryL Member

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    I pulled it apart and took a picture of the parts (and then put it back together). Only took a few minutes total. The picture is missing one clamp, otherwise everything is shown. The underside of the shorter top bar has slots cut. The pieces are aluminum bar stock - 1/4" thick, about 0.70" wide. They were scraps (rescued from the trash at a previous job) I picked up years ago The long bar has an extra hole in it - I made use of an existing hole. The short piece also had an existing hole. I don't recall where I got the springs from - could have been a surplus store.

    Everything was done with a band saw and a file (besides a drill and a couple taps). It's a bit crude, especially the slots, but I didn't feel like taking the time to do more than that. Could have skipped the slots, but I wanted to keep the profile low to not interfere with the case advance.

    Hope that makes it a little clearer.
     

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  4. jmorris

    jmorris Member

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    A couple decades ago I adapted a Lee feeder to a 650, I could get around 250 or so problem free then it started spitting bullets. As the directions say, you can boil them, let them cool and reinstall them and they will work again for a little bit.

    It wound up being much slower than just manually feeding bullets, not to mention I didn’t even have a collator at that point. So I was picking up a bullet, making sure it was nose up and dropping it in a hole, so a devise could hold it over a different hole, a few hundred times before it started to fail and suck up time.

    There was another “finger” style feeder that used metal arms and adjustable spring tension, I can’t remember if it was Scharch or MA Systems than sold them but they worked very well but were pneumatic.

    I had photos of the setup posted on a forum but it shut down in 03-04.
     
  5. GaryL

    GaryL Member

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    Are you telling me I'm 50 rounds away from an expired warranty? I hope not...
    I actually think it will run about 4K-5K rounds before the fingers start getting too tired to hold a bullet. Maybe I'm being optimistic - the kit came with an extra set of feed fingers, and that looks like a wear/replacement item.
    As far as the rest of it goes, I expect fatigue failures will keep it from ever seeing anything like 100K rounds.

    This mechanism is about 80% plastic. There's nothing in the directions about cooking the feed fingers. So they must have made a few changes.
    It appears to be a fiber reinforced type plastic. I don't think it will run well without a little lube applied. The directions say nothing about using lube, but it's not particularly smooth running dry. It doesn't need much, but a small amount of synthetic grease makes a world of difference.
    I tried running it in my hands off the press to get a feel for the mechanism. It was a little rough. I used a fine file to clean up the sliding contact surfaces. I didn't take anything off, just did enough to take off the casting flash and provide a tiny bit of surface roughness (to hold lube). I also took the file to the corners to break the edge. (Less is more, but some is much, much better than none).
     
  6. 9mmepiphany

    9mmepiphany Moderator Staff Member

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    The Lee bullet feeder is infamous for dropping bullets, that's why you don't hear many people recommending their use. I would be very surprised if you see 500 bullets transported before bullets start dropping
     
  7. Tilos

    Tilos Member

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    Nice hack using that Lee BF on a Dillion.
    It's best attribute is it doesn't use up a station like the inline/collet type bullet feeders :thumbup:.
    I have/use a Lee BF for sizing bullets and like most things I mod'ed it by adding a spring to the jaws to grip the bullet harder.
    That spring is one coil of a large diameter coil spring, with the ends contained in 2 drill spots, 1 in each jaw.
    SprgRing.JPG
    I put a stiffer spring on the actuating rod to change the timing a bit.
    That allowed the bullet to move down (vertical) to it's limit before it moving forward (horizontally) under the sizing die or seating die in your case.
    BigSpringS.jpg
    :D
     
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2020
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  8. AR-Bossman

    AR-Bossman Member

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    I was using it for sizing as well. I did ALOT of modeling and printing to make my own version. Now that I have an Lee App, I took it all apart. It was such a PIA most of the time, but when it worked it worked well. That spring coil add on up above is pretty neat.

    bullet press.jpg
     
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  9. jmorris

    jmorris Member

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    No, the warranty is two years and the instructions on the one I had said they needed to be boiled when they started failing.

    C27E0395-982A-430C-A491-C2C820A5F4AD.jpeg

    So, however many you manage to get it to feed before it starts to spit them out, is the gap between boiling them to set them back to the way they came.

    If you get 5000 trouble free rounds, they have definitely changed something or you are the luckiest Lee owner on the planet. My money is on “optimistic” but that’s a good attitude to have.

    Don’t get me wrong, I own quite a bit of Lee equipment and have never seen anyone that has one of their progressives run better than the one I had. That said, their bullet feeder was a disappointment. If they could make it 100% they could make lots of money as it would couple a seat die with the feeder and there are lots of folks that would like that. Reliability is the key though.

    Oh, and the other set of fingers it came with are for a different diameter range of bullets, they come with large and small fingers.
     
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2020
  10. GaryL

    GaryL Member

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    Sounds like I got what I paid for. Oh well, I've paid more for worse. I have no problem reporting back when the failures start to occur. I figure we're all here to learn either way.
     
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  11. GaryL

    GaryL Member

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    The 2 troubleshooting items you put arrows on are gone from the list. It still has the 2 year warranty - which is probably fine if a guy only loads a few hundred a year.

    I have a number of Lee dies and a classic cast, so have some experience with Lee stuff. As much as the CC is a solid press, the 550 as a single stage is still nicer. I bent the CC operating bar removing a stuck case, and was able to straighten it a bit by turning it around and pushing hard against it (using the press as a handle to pull on). I've had the occasional stuck case on the 550 without all the drama, it just levers them out, or the case rim quits the fight. Don't get me wrong, I like the CC, but I don't feel like it's in the same league.
     
  12. jmorris

    jmorris Member

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    Sounds promising, if they have fixed it, it will be a winner as the concept is sound. Keep us updated. If it will go 5000 without spitting them out, I’ll buy another.
     
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  13. GaryL

    GaryL Member

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    Thought I'd provide a little update. Loaded 400 rounds tribble free. On round 401, the little Lee got diarrhea, and spewed shiny little pellets everywhere. Took a couple minutes to figure out what was ailing the little guy - the tube collar nut had worked loose. Hmmm. So, it needs routine attention, or overtightening. I guess a little snugging up when I reload the tube is in order, so now I check that.

    So far, it's done well with 800 rounds. With the exception of that little event halfway to this point. I have noticed it can feed the first bullet sideways - happened once that I noticed, after I ran the tube dry, so that one might be on me.

    Getting close to done with 9mm, 100 rounds and the bag will be empty. I might give it a try on 380acp - those might be too short for this feeder though.

    I do like not having to handle slick little pellets and risk pinched fingers, so there's hope this might turn out ok.
     
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