Holy wow…

Look what just showed up on Uncle Joel’s laundry table…0628150926
So yesterday my weekender neighbor S told me he had scored a Dillon progressive press and a couple of boxes of accessories and components, the only problem being that he knows absolutely nothing about reloading. I said I don’t know from progressive presses but I can at least help him sort through the stuff and get him started on the very basics of reloading.

So this morning he shows up with all this stuff and says, “Tell you what. I’ll supply this stuff, you supply the labor.”

Which…well…Okay, I guess…

Actually considering how much S shoots that would be a helluva bargain for me, IF I can get this press to work and IF I can acquire dies in useful calibers. This press obviously uses proprietary dies, and the only set I see in a mutually-interesting caliber is .45 ACP.

But first, to scale the learning curve. Thing is I really don’t know anything about progressive presses. Get this: I’ve been reloading, off and on, for almost forty years and have never used a progressive press or even ever seen one used. Step one: See if I can download a manual…
Of course this does give rise to the question: In light of all the weird-ass conflation going on these days, do I lose my philosophical purity badge if I get caught using a “progressive’ press?

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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17 Responses to Holy wow…

  1. Kentucky says:

    Dillon’s a pretty good outfit. They’d likely send you a manual for the asking.

    That thing will require a solid mount. The laundry table probably won’t suffice.

    A free Dillon . . . WOW, you live right!


  2. Joel says:

    Yeah, I already downloaded a manual and have no intention of drilling holes in my laundry table. Outdoors? At the onset of Monsoon? I’m dumb, I’m not that dumb. :)

    I moved all that stuff up to the reloading shack right after I took the picture.

  3. roughcoat says:

    That appears to be a 550B. Maybe you have a weird toolhead (which is moderately easy to replace, by the way, and not expensive) but my 550B uses standard dies.

    You’ll need different sets of the little brass locator buttons on edge of the shell plate for different cartridges at minimum, unless it came with a bunch of them. They’re cheap, $1.40 each on Dillon’s website. Make sure you have the right big allen key to tighten the shell plate bolt, because I guarantee it will loosen up. Having extra primer tubes is really nice too.

    Once you get it all set up you’re going to love it. I don’t try to win any races but starting with clean brass and full primer tubes it’s easy to crank through 400 rounds an hour.

    Note – keep your eye on the priming station. I’ve had the occasional priming failure. In a batch of several thousand 9mm five or six of them ended up unprimed. I suspect it was a technique error on my part but if you start to see powder scattered on the shell plate missed primers might be the cause.

    If I was up in Alaska I could help more, but alas I am in the land of the commies (NYS) for awhile and I didn’t have room to bring my reloading stuff.

  4. Claire says:

    Dillons (and Dilllon) are wonderful. S found himself a real find!

    If anything’s ever wrong with that press, just let ’em know. They pride themselves so heavily on their lifetime guarantees that they have actually replaced — with brand-new equipment — reloading presses that people have bought for $10 at garage sales.

    I’ve used a 550B.If I can, you can for sure. Only tricky thing is that you need to be extra watchful and careful when you’re loading multiple rounds instead of the singles you’re used to. You probably already figured that out, didn’t you?

  5. UnReconstructed says:


    I have a 550b, and I’ve loaded thousands and thousands of rounds with it. Ditto what above folk said.

    I would add one thing, particularly if you are loading 45 acp. (I use Bullseye for that round, and it isn’t even close to a case full.) Put a source of weak light where it can shine down into the cartridge in the powder filling station. Despite the very natural tendency to fall into a rhythm, keep an eye on that station after every fill. It is pretty easy to have something ‘bridge’ in the powder measure and stop the flow (or the screw that holds the powder actuator lever can back out and then the little white square thingee can stop moving the powder slide), and you can load quite a few before you catch it. Weighing the resulting possible failures will only be partly successful, if you are using mutt brass.

  6. Looks like several others beat me to the punch (and it seems you are starting out with a user network that’s already giving good advice). My first thought was also that the machine looks like a 550, which uses a removable toolhead that accepts standard dies. For mine, I have toolheads set up for both Dillon dies and RCBS dies, depending on caliber.

    Joel, if ever you have specific questions about running that machine, I’ll be happy to share what I know. (Feel free to use the email that goes with my comments.) I started out on single-stage presses, and got my first “p-word” press at about age 20, a Dillon “Square Deal” (now that is a Dillon press that has a proprietary die system). The 550 came about 10y later, and they’re both still running strong. I have come to love the 550 for its interchangeability, and I still love the Square Deal for its compactness (when loading short pistol cartridges, it’s nice to have the shorter ram stroke, both for efficiency and managing what I call “shell plate wobble”). They can produce ammo of as high a quality as I can!

    There is definitely a mojo for the multi-stage press; if you understand that going in, learning the mechanics of that mojo is pretty straightforward and I doubt you’ll have much trouble. Just be prepared to adjust your mind a little along with the machine. (I went through a period of a couple years spot-weighing a lot of powder charges before I really started trusting the throw…I still spot-weigh charges, just less frequently, and it’s delightfully boring. Tolerances are more than acceptable for anything I want to do.) Also, case gauges are very worthwhile to have, especially for loading for semiauto or anything that headspaces on the case mouth.

    Very excited for this piece of good fortune. May you actually wear it out!

  7. Bob says:

    I’ve used ’em all. Progressives, turret, single-stage, even tried banging rounds together with a wooden mallet. In my later years, I’m back to single-stage reloading. I enjoy reloading and am not in a hurry to do much of anything, anymore. Unless you’re a competitive shooter, or hate reloading, a single stage is all you need, in my opinion. Most shooters seldom shoot more than 100 rounds (if that) per week. Why not keep things simple?

  8. Kentucky says:

    Re: laundry table . . . sarcasm does not come thru well. Sorry.

  9. Joel says:

    Well, that’s excellent. If this thing will use RCBS and Lee dies, I’ll be happy to spend whatever time it takes to learn it. If I could crank out .44 cartridges without the usual drudgery, I’d suddenly become delighted to work on S’s 30-06 rounds in return. And come to think of it I’m running low on ammo for my .308 bolty, which I drag out maybe once a year, so win/win. I just wasn’t happy at the thought of having to buy a bunch of special purpose dies. Thanks, guys.

  10. UnReconstructed says:

    About what Claire Said….boy is that correct. I was using the press to resize some milsurp 7.62×51 brass that had been run through a machine gun. Some of them were quite a bit out of spec, and despite having lubed them rather liberally, I got one so stuck that I broke the shellplate and bent the shellplate bolt. I was putting my full weight on the lever. I called Dillon up, and told them what I had done, and asked them to send me the replacement parts. They took my particulars and were in the process of signing off, and I asked them what the cost was. They said ‘no charge’. I reiterated what I had done, and told them that I was probably abusing the press. They still refused to take my money.

    And Bob, although I *do* very occasionally use a single stage press (a fine old vintage Hollywood Jr) when I am going for full precision, I use my Dillon for everything else. I have toolheads for every one of my main calibers, and it takes me about 15 minutes to change it over, maybe 20 if I need to change out BOTH the powder slide and the primer setup. I don’t *hate* reloading, but I have one VERY hungry mouth to feed, and several others as well. Why sit there all afternoon if you can get’er done in an hour?

    I don’t experiment much these days. I have several loads for my main firearms that I have developed over the years, and I don’t deviate from them.

    I’d rather be pulling a trigger than a handle……

  11. UnReconstructed says:

    Joel, if you don’t have the Dillon carbide sizing dies for the ’06 and 308, (and even if you do) make sure you lube the cases well. You probably already know that.

    And one more thing. The Dillon is set up to do the crimp in a separate stage. Many regular single stage presses (and dies) do this in a single stage with seating the bullet. This is one reason why Dillon has its own dies. For the calibers that I have other-than-dillon-dies for, I buy a separate seating die and back the bullet seater out and out that in the last stage.

  12. b says:

    My first conversation with Dillon:

    “Hi, I bought a press at a garage sale, and the primer tube assy. is stripped.”

    “Ok, I will send you one. ”

    “Cool, how much?”

    “I’ll send you one.”

    “I got that,…How much?”

    “I will try to get it out today.”

    “So what credit card can I use, and how much is it? ”

    “Should ship maybe today or tomorrow….”

    “Yes, I got that, You aren’t answering my question…How much will it cost me to have you ship me the part i need. ”

    “It is free, dude. Lifetime warranty. Doesn’t mean lifetime of ownership,… lifetime of the press. If it breaks, we replace it.”

    “But someone overtightened this screw and stripped it. Not the first owner either”

    “So we will send you a new one. Try not to overtighten it.”

    THey did.

    I have purchased a LOT of Dillon products. I had a .25 case inside a 9mm case. Got it caught up in the die. Sent it to them, they sent me a new die. No cost.

  13. MJR says:

    It is kinda funny, I have been looking into reloading for a while because of the amount that I shoot these days and the cost. One of the presses I have been looking at is a Dillon 550B but they are a little pricy. Here I am looking at serious bucks and there you are with one that has fallen into your lap. Now I have progressive press envy. :-)

    I am really looking forward to hearing how well the press works and if there are any shortcomings with Dillon

  14. Jerry Rigg says:

    to MJR: I recommend that you learn how on a single stage press. Get a buddy to show you how to load your first box. Then take a look at the Hornady progressive press too – it is a bit cheaper if you aren’t getting it for free like Joel. (or the Lee progressive, if you have low standards.)

    Joel: Take a look at youtube for dillon press videos. There are all kinds of how-to, and DIY upgrades (Especially for the spent primer catcher – I used a 303 shell and am pleased with the result) Or you could order a RL 550 DVD from Dillon for $20 if you were a spendthrift, and had a dvd drive on your laptop. I save these using the Video Downloadhelper add-on for Firefox.

  15. Buck. says:

    “May you actually wear it out!”

    I have doubts. Dillions presses are expensive for a reason.

    I have a Dillon 450 Jr that was worn out when it came to me. About 50k rounds later it’s still worn out. But it still makes good ammo.
    Sadly the usual accolades regarding Dillion’s customer service don’t apply as readily to the 450 I use as they quit making parts for it in the 90’s when the “square deal” presses and later the 550s came out. That said….it’s worn out but still works. It has the best powder measure with the most consistent throw I have ever seen.

  16. wyowanderer says:

    Addressing the “purity” issue-I doubt either of us needs to worry. 😉

  17. blindshooter says:

    I love progressives, own 4 of them. Two Hornady projectors (old but still work) one RCBS ammo master (another old one but still works) and one Lee. Don’t use the Lee much. If the Hornady’s give up I’ll probably go to the blue ones. I love to tinker so the old ones are fine for me.

To the stake with the heretic!