A comparison between Dillon 650 and Hornadly LNL AP from a guy who owns both
Okay, so I own about 3k worth of reloading equipment and heaven knows I will never make or shoot enough ammo to make up my costs. I collect presses kind of the same way many of us here collect guns. I like to see how they work and how they feel and what I can do with each one. Anyway, I own two Hornady LNL AP presses that have been upgraded to the new EZject system. I recently bought a used Dillon XL650 that came with complete tool heads for 45, 40, 9mm, and .357. Each toolhead has the dies, powder measure, and powder check system. It also came with about 30 primer pickup tubes (which is cool because they work with both the Dillon and Hornady press).
So, after loading about 10k rounds on the Hornadys and this weekend I loaded my first 1000 on the Dillon I have a few impressions about the two I would like to share to guys looking at buying either one of the presses.
First off let me start by saying that the Dillon has a case feeder and I have yet to get one for the Hornadys so I can't really compare how many can be made in an hour or what not. All I am comparing in this is ease of operation and value.
So, the question you all want me to answer is this -Which one is better? Well, I must admit that they both have their pluses and minuses so let me tell you about what I like better about each machine.
Primer Feed: Well, there are things about both primer feeds that I don't like. The Hornady primer feed is easily mucked up with powder or brass shavings. This can throw off the primer feed and cause a stoppage or difficult seating. Also, with some brands of primers the primer feed will refuse to work at all so that is a major downside. I have since started using CCI primers exclusively and I haven't had any primer problems for years so for me the Hornady primer feed has been awesome. I actually prefer the Hornady to the Dillon. The Dillon primer feed works fine for me but I don't really like that you can't stop the primer feed on a Dillon. If you pull the handle, a primer is rotated and you have to pick it up and put it back in the tube. This would be fine if I never got a stoppage, but I did. Maybe the stoppages will get fewer as I load more on the Dillon so its not a huge deal. The two priming systems are vastly different. The Dillon takes a little more time to setup than the Hornady but I think it has the potential to be more reliable and cause less stoppages so the setup time might be made up in less time fiddling with it. However, I feel the Hornady is easier to troubleshoot if there is a problem.
The case retention system is clearly superior on the Hornady. If there is a problem during the process, it is much easier to remove and replace a casing on the Hornady system. The case retaining spring on the Hornady easily moves out of the way whereas the pins on the Dillon need to be pulled out and put back in. I spent about three minutes looking for one pin after I dropped it on my messy garage floor.
It is possible to double charge on both presses. The problem with the Hornady press (a problem that I know has blown up at least two guns) is that in the chance that the decapping pin pulls a primer half way back up into the primer pocket the Hornady press will bind up. The only way to fix that problem is to pull the handle again to push the primer all the way out. Well, if you pull the handle twice on the same station that means you get double the powder charge on the next station. A new reloader may be distracted by the decapping stage and may forget to check the powder stage. KABOOM. This is less likely to happen with the Dillon because it will allow a half primed casing to spin around on the press without binding. The primer stage will just reset the used primer. This is kind of annoying because you will get a loaded round with a used primer. The only way I found to avoid this on both presses is to use the Dillon spring loaded sizing/decapping die.
I definately like the way the Dillon flares on the powder station. However, I think the Dillon powder measure leaves a lot to be desired. It is much more time consuming to set up than the Hornady and its jumpy and rough working. That said, it appears to work just as well as the Hornady and though I don't load trail boss I hear it does a better job than Hornady measures with Trail Boss. I have yet to try it with stick powders but my guess is that neither measure will do an excellent job with it. I know that the Hornady Measure doesn't do too well with stick powders.
The Hornady system for spent primers is far superior. I'm still trying to figure out how to rig up something for the Dillon that will work well. The cup just sucks.
I think the ejection system for the Dillon is better. I have had issues with the EZ ject system not doing a perfect job and so far the Dillon wire has been flawless.
I like how much easier it is to seat primers on the Dillon. However, I have noticed that it is harder to tell when the primers aren't quite lined up and I get a few smashed primers on the Dillon. The Hornady takes a little more force to seat a primer but it is easier to feel when things aren't quite lined up right.
I really wish I could compare the case feeders because I found the Dillon case feeder to be a pain in the butt to set up. It does seem to feed perfectly every time though.
I prefer the Hornady bushings over the Dillon tool heads. I don't like having the tool heads taking up a ton of space on the bench. I can put the dies and bushings inside a die box and store them that way. Its just less clutter.
Both Hornady and Dillon have excellent customer service.
This isn't really about the press, but the Dillon sizing/decapping die is FAR superior to any other that I have tried.
So, here is my final evaluation. The Dillon is a great press with awesome customer service. You should not feel bad about owning a Dillon if you own one and you shouldn't hesitate to get one if you can afford it. That said, I feel that the Hornady press is a better value. It's much cheaper to get the full Hornady setup plus you get free bullets. My biggest complaint about the Dillon is that it has many more parts and it just takes more time to set up. Both presses can pump out ammunition once you learn each press's particular nuances. If I were to compare the presses to handguns I would say that the Dillon is like a 1911. It is proven, accurate, expensive, and beautiful but it can be a pain in the butt to take down and put back together. The Hornady is like a Glock. It is simple, easy to use, relatively cheap, and it just works.
If you are thinking about getting a progressive press, don't let the Dillon naysayers sway you from the value of the Hornady. It will work just as well as the Dillon (this statement is based on the assumption that the Hornady case feeder works). That said, if you have the money I think the Dillon may potentially be able to go longer without a stoppage. One thing is for sure. Both presses have their headaches.
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