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Old March 3, 2011, 03:58 PM   #1
Brian10
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Progressives aren't that difficult

There's a general opinion that progressive presses are a quantum leap in difficulty compared to a single stage. I disagree with this thought. While it is more difficult, yes, but it's just a small step in terms of difficulty. There's really one thing you need to check at each step.

I can only speak from the perspective of a Hornady LNL AP, since that's the only press I've used. When I change the setup to a new caliber, I run a couple of bullets through in single stage/turret mode. I verify charge amount, COL, and proper crimp.

Here's my process in loading handgun rounds:

1. Load empty case on shell plate (this is done at each step as well)
2. Pull handle to size and deprime in station 1
2b. On downpress, prime case.
3. Pull handle to charge case.

3b. * This is now the only truly important part of the process. Check the charge, whether you do it visually or via a powder check die *

4. Place bullet and pull handle to seat
5. Pull handle to crimp (optional)
6. Glance up and verify powder and primer levels

Everything on this process is mechanical in nature. The only thing you really have to check is the powder charge once per handle pull. For me, that's just glancing inside the case. The rest of the steps you really don't have to watch for anything. Once your dies are adjusted, they're generally good to go.

The actual load process is more like:

1. Load case in shellplate
2. Pull handle
3. On downstroke, seat primer
4. Inspect charge in station 3
5. place bullet in station 4
6. Repeat step 1

When the bin fills up, I load all of my handloads into plastic ammo boxes. I place them bullet side down and when the box is full, I do a visual inspection to make sure all primers are seated properly and all rounds are the same height. It's very obvious when 1 in 100 is different.
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Old March 3, 2011, 04:13 PM   #2
south.texas.dead.I
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Yes I also believe that somebody switching from single to progressive doesn't need to say a prayer before he starts, I personally never owned a single stage press went straight to progressive and although I made some mistakes in the beginning found the learning curve to be manageable. This was with a 650 for shotguns which drop powder and shot with every pull as well which makes it harder than the metallic press, in my opinion.
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Old March 3, 2011, 04:47 PM   #3
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I agree that progressives are not difficult, but you must really pay attention. Any distraction that breaks your concentration or rhythm can really screw you thoroughly.

It really helps to use a powder that will not allow a double charge without overflowing. Then you can concentrate on making sure you get everything right. Like getting powder into the case to begin with.
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Old March 3, 2011, 04:56 PM   #4
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It isn't the level of difficulty, it's the level of complexity. There's a difference.

Quote:
There's really one thing you need to check at each step.
Actually, there's up to SEVEN things to check at each step. On a single stage, you only have to worry about one thing and one thing only. A beginner can get himself into real trouble if he becomes too arrogant and complacent.

Quote:
3b. * This is now the only truly important part of the process. Check the charge, whether you do it visually or via a powder check die *
EVERY part of the process is important. If any one item isn't accomplished correctly, things will go awry.
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Old March 3, 2011, 05:15 PM   #5
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This was with a 650 for shotguns which drop powder and shot with every pull as well which makes it harder than the metallic press, in my opinion.
I seriously started reloading with shot-shells in a MEC 650 over 40-years ago. Prior to that, my early experience had been with the original LEE loaders, the ones you whacked with a hammered. I might as well have been loading on Mars for the experience I got with the old LEEs.

Yes, shot-shells have four (minimum) components, instead of a metallic's three, and require a little more attention. But, IMHO, they may be a little easier to use. This is because the components are typically larger and easier to manipulate. It's quicker to put a wad in the guide than a bullet in the case. If you spill some primers, the 209s are easier to police-up than the little boxers. Of course, a shot spill is something metallic loaders don't have to contend with and may balance the difficulty scale.
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Old March 3, 2011, 05:48 PM   #6
Edward429451
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These are things I have seen noobs do on my Dillon 550...

double charge
double seat
seat bullet at powder station
didn't seat primer
short stroke
primer seated upside down
primer seated sideways crunch
detonation of a single live primer (luckily last one in machine!)

One guy ran a decapping pin through his thumbnail, but that was on my Rockchucker single stage press! You tell me how a man can do that? He obviously wasn't paying attention.

I have never double charged on my 550 and I do not use a powder check die. If you stand there and look at your machine before you pull the handle, you can see exactly where in the operation it is. If a bullet is seated in Station 3 (550B) then there is powder in the case at station 2.

If you can pay attention, you will do well with a progressive press. If you do not pay attention, then even a single stage press will bite you.

Just be 10% smarter than the press.
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Old March 3, 2011, 06:06 PM   #7
silvercorvette
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My first press was a Dillon 650. The fact that the Dillon is progress does not mean you can't load it as a single stage. I fed each case as if it was a single stage till I got the hang of things once I was confident I went to full progressive mode. I know that with my personality eventually I would get get boarded spending a lot of time pulling the handle and not have much to show for the time I spent. I love to reload but there needs to be some kind of reward on the form of a large amount of ammo to show for the time I put in.
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Old March 3, 2011, 06:16 PM   #8
BigJimP
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I use a Dillon 650 progressive press for all my metallic handgun ammo / and MEC 9000-HN hydraulic progressive presses for all my shotshells....

They're all fairly basic machines / reading the manuals ...and really understanding the adjustments and setup will take you a long ways in ensuring that all of your reloading is done safely.

But like any machine / you do need to focus and pay attention to what you're doing. I can't emphasize enough, on metallic, that using a press that allows the installation of a "powder cop" or a "powder check die" is a big plus in increasing your level of safety in your operation - to prevent squibs and double charges in metallic.

I would also recommend you add using a case gague ....as your final process - as you box your rounds up. Run each finished round in and out of a case gague ...if it drops in easily and out easily ....you're reasonably assured there will be no feeding issues on that round .
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Old March 3, 2011, 06:54 PM   #9
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Quote:
But like any machine / you do need to focus and pay attention to what you're doing. I can't emphasize enough, on metallic, that using a press that allows the installation of a "powder cop" or a "powder check die" is a big plus in increasing your level of safety in your operation - to prevent squibs and double charges in metallic.
That is why I like the 5 station over a 4 station press. 5 make it possible to add a powder check.
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Old March 3, 2011, 08:29 PM   #10
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What I see from posters on these forums, especially the newer young folks, is that they all seem to have the attention span of a gnat - whether it is environmental, or whatnot is irrelevant - the point is, they feel the need to do everything faster and faster

These are the same folks who shoot semis as fast as they can pull the trigger. They want to load mega quantities of ammo as fast as possible since they don't have that attention span previously mentioned. THIS is where the trouble comes from - double charges, no charges, not understanding the entire process or how to make sure their quality is as good as their quantity - all can lead to some serious issues - and they might be standing in the lane next yo YOU........
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Old March 3, 2011, 08:51 PM   #11
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I started with a progressive press and still load with with a progressive press. Unless you're mechanically declined, progressive presses are great. The only problem is the cost of caliber changes. I ended up getting a single stage press just for the odd round or for de-capping brass.
I always recommend that new reloaders start with a single stage press for two reasons:
You will get one sooner or later, so start here anyway.
You can learn the basics more easily; one step at a time.
I have to agree with the basic premisse, progressive press are not the difficult if you pay close attention to all steps at once.
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Old March 3, 2011, 10:17 PM   #12
Brian10
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I will stand by my statement that there's really one thing you have to worry about on a LNL progressive, and that is the powder charge level. A double charge is near impossible to do, but a squib is a possibility. The charge cannot be checked after the round is completed, unlike the other steps.

Can other things go wrong? Sure they can, but they are easily caught.

1. Decapped didn't properly remove old primer. The LNL seizes and stops operating.

2. Primer doesn't seat. Powder spillage everywhere.

3. Bullet doesn't properly seat. Can be easily caught when you're boxing up the completed rounds.

4. Improper crimp. Can be easily caught when boxing up rounds.

Again, the powder is really the only thing you have to worry about DURING the process.
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Old March 4, 2011, 08:12 AM   #13
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I started with the Dillon RL-550B reloading 9mm for IPSC shooting back in the '80's.

I have never understood the "start with a single then go to a progressive" advice.

With the Dillon, I could get each stage set up and run just that stage until I got it right. After that, I could go on to the next stage and so forth.

In between, there was none of this tearing down and completely destroying whatever settings I had set with the previous stage. It didn't take very long before I was putting out goombaw amounts of 9mm (I was reloading for myself and my GF).

Another good thing about a progressive is the ability to operate it as a multi-single stage (i.e. a single round through all four stages, one at a time). I use it in this way lots of times, mostly for high power rifle or hunting rounds where I don't need high quantities of ammo.

Years later, I got a single stage from a friend and started using it. Good god almighty, if I had been given that SS first, I would have never got started in reloading. Talk about a monotonous, boring, waste of time. Now, I only use the single stage for certain work like decapping .223 ammo, not full reloading.

My .02.
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Old March 4, 2011, 08:26 AM   #14
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Quote:
There's a general opinion that progressive presses are a quantum leap in difficulty compared to a single stage.
Everybody has a different mechanical aptitude. When I got my 550B, I noticed the difficulty in assembling it despite being a mechanically inclined person (jig/fixture designer-machinist, machine shop teacher, industrial trainer, etc.). I had a father and have brothers that would have found the assembly and use of the 550B nearly beyond their abilities. They could have, however, been able to deal with the simplicity of a single-stage press.

All people do not have the same abilities.
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Old March 4, 2011, 08:45 AM   #15
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I had similar "first time experience" with the Whack-a-mole loaders. While you do get to see the components used, there isn't much knowledge that transfers to setting up a press.

The first cartridge I reloaded on my 550B was the .45ACP. I later learned this is a "forgiving" cartridge, in that seating depth isn't as critical as it can be with others, case is larger and a little easier to handle, etc. I reloaded thousands of .45ACP.

I'll admit to having some trouble with cartridge headspace when I started reloading .30-06, but I don't think it had anything to do with doing it on a progressive. Once I figured out proper case lube, and using a Wilson gauge, things worked fine.

I've never had any trouble with the primer system, but I do occasionally take it off and clean the slide.

The one problem I had that I might have not experienced with a single-stage was a slightly loose shellplate. It resulted in crooked primers. The loaded rounds fired OK but they didn't look right. So, yes, there are a few things you have to be aware of and make sure they are set up correctly.

I do not agree with the advice that someone starting in reloading has to start with a single-stage press. With the proper approach (a willingness to learn, combined with some patience and mechanical skills) I can't see any problem with starting with a progressive.

What I don't see mentioned very often is that starting with a single-stage is no guarantee that the individual will learn the details and will be reloading according to safe practice. True, he isn't likely to make 500 bad rounds, but sometimes it only takes one.

What the advice probably should be is that the proper approach is necessary regardless of the equipment used. We should explain that turrets and progressives offer increased production, at greater cost and mechanical complexity. If the reloader isn't willing to invest in both dollars and setup time, a single-stage may be the best choice.
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Old March 4, 2011, 10:02 AM   #16
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All I'm going to say is, don't get over confident in running your progressive, I don't care how much experience you have or how long you have been reloading.
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Old March 4, 2011, 11:18 AM   #17
Brian Pfleuger
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Reloading is not that difficult... and yet there are people who don't understand that "gun powder" isn't all the same or that you don't just fill the case with it and cram a bullet on there.

I have no doubt that I could have safely and successfully started reloading on a progressive press. Most avid and successful reloaders are the type of people who learn quickly, understand concepts, seek to learn when they do not understand and can easily visualize concepts. Such people will invariably figure out how to use pretty much anything you put in front of them.

The problem I see is that starting on a progressive has one real upside, speed, and a number of potential problems. For "you", maybe not, for "me", maybe not, but for John Q Public, who doesn't know powder has to be measured, doesn't know rifle bullets come in different diameters and finds "The ABCs of Reloading" to be akin to reading a PhD thesis paper, well, they should probably start slow.

In context with this forum, that is why I think it's hazardous to recommend that a new reloader starts with a progressive. We have no idea if the guy is Joe Nosepicker and doesn't realize that "7mm" is not enough to know about a cartridge or if he's a PhD mechanical engineer.... and if he is a PhD, he still may not know that 7mm does not define a cartridge.
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Old March 4, 2011, 01:02 PM   #18
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All responsible reloaders use some type of checks and balances. With the LNL my mine concentration is the level of powder in each and every case. As far as checking the primmer depth, bullet seating and crimp.... once set they stay set. As stated earlier those are easily checked after the cartridges are loaded either with a case gage or a quick comparison in the box.
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Old March 4, 2011, 01:20 PM   #19
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I believe there is a definate place for progressive presses in reloading. One with little time or who shoots thousands of round per month, or one who doesn't like to spend time reloading, a progressive is a good choice. But, for the new reloader a single stage press is MUCH better (on another forum there is a current thread where the poster, a brand new reloader with a progressive press, made a 500 round oops!). Lee Loaders have been mentioned and one said there was nothing to be learned from using them. But if the user never seated a primer, or seen a primer seated, or sized a case, even with a Lee loader, how would they have any knowledge or "feel" of the operation? A new reloader should learn the whys and wherefores (theories) behind each step, and get the "feel" of the operation. On a progressive there are too many things happening every time the handle is pulled. Sure, one can learn on a progressive, but why subject oneself to the frustrations and maybe learning bad habits? (I learned to drive in a 10 wheeler with a 10 speed & Brownie, not a pleasant experience!)

And once again. just my opinion...
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Old March 4, 2011, 02:04 PM   #20
Brian10
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I believe the only true reason to not go with a progressive is price. That's a very, very valid reason.

Difficulty should not be a reason. It isn't that difficult.

Another general assumption that is made is that a progressive must be run in progressive mode and you must produce 1 zillion rounds per hour. That is simply not true.

A progressive can be run in strictly single stage mode, single stage auto-indexed turret mode, and full progressive mode. If you are learning, it is obvious that you should not be running it in full blown progressive mode. If you are reloading precision rifle rounds, don't run it in full blown progressive mode.

If you have the aptitude to setup and run a single stage, you can run a progressive. It isn't that difficult.
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Old March 4, 2011, 02:17 PM   #21
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Quote:
...that is why I think it's hazardous to recommend that a new reloader starts with a progressive.
My point was, perhaps we shouldn't be recommending either single-stage, or progressive, or turret. If we recommend a new reloader get a single-stage press, are we unintentionally implying that he will be safer? If he has the wrong attitude, it won't make any difference what equipment he is using.

I see a lot of recommendations to buy a manual, and then buy another one. Read both of them and then come back with some questions. Those recommendations make sense, to me.

The forums are a tremendous resource, but I really don't think they should be used as an "instant gratification" answer to the "I want to get into reloading. What do I do now?" type of question.

In other words, after the prospective reloader reads up on it, and maybe poses a few questions about what he's reading in the manuals, he shouldn't have to ask what kind of press he should buy. At that point, he should know.
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Old March 5, 2011, 03:27 PM   #22
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"The forums are a tremendous resource, but I really don't think they should be used as an "instant gratification" answer to the "I want to get into reloading. What do I do now?" type of question.

Agree 100%
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Old March 5, 2011, 05:30 PM   #23
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I did a brief stint with a lee hand press and then to a Dillon 550B. This was just prior to the internet. I bought the current Speer reloading manual and read the reloading section through and then referred to it as I went. I reloaded for about 7yrs and then didnt for about 10. Last year I unpacked the 550, built a new bench, cleaned and lubed it and put it back in action. I will say that reading reloading forums has provided alot of "fill in" information but not changed my processes at all. I have enjoyed catching up. Back then I started with the Lee due to being a poor soldier. I got the 550 as a gift, the best way to jump into "saving money" while reloading.
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Old March 5, 2011, 09:57 PM   #24
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There are a lot of stupid people, and for them the single stage is still a high risk. Honestly, if you can't handle a progressive, then reloading is too much for you and you should buy your ammo.
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Old March 6, 2011, 06:29 PM   #25
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JMHO

A lot of valid opinions here, as usual. OneOunceload, Peetza, and dahermit, all valid OPINIONS.
Totaldla, I get what you are saying to a point, but stupid and "not Mechanicly inclined" I think are two different things. I know an engineer or two that are very good at what they do, but not real on top of things when it comes to the rest of the world. I also know a few very bright people in other disciplines, two of which are very well respected Attorneys, one of which is a Phd. in the field of agriculture, and neither of those people can be trusted to put a spark plug in a lawnmower!
Anyway I digress, I am one of those who is in the "get a single stage first" camp. Most people are served better when they are taught to walk first, before they are taught to run. Just my OPINION.
For some reason, most of the threads pertaining to reloaders, single stage vs. Prog. vs. Turret get very heated, very quickly. I just did a search, and mostly they seem to go the same way, some even getting closed because they got out of hand, ie; A single stage is great if you are still in fourth grade, but have a drivers license and can buy liquor legaley. Or the only reason to own a-insert brand name here- is to make up for a shortcoming in your manhood.
And of course, the "Blue vs. Red vs. Green vs. the other Red, springs eternal.
Having said all of that, I am about to open a thread about why I may just put my old Blue 650 up for sale, and switch to a Red Turret. I will give my reasons why, because I would like to here your OPINIONS. If you feel the need to question my heritage for why I think it may be a good idea, have at it!
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