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Old January 23, 2012, 01:23 PM   #1
praetorian97
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Progressive Concerns

I started off with an RCBS single stage and then eventually migrated to a Lee 4 Hole Turret Press.

I loved the speed of the turret and the price point seemed to be perfect in comparison to a progressive. I had an overcharge mishap that really shook me. Nothing really bad happen but I took the incident very serious. Basically a combination of a high pressure caliber and I was using unique. Since then I started using a chargemaster and charging at the expander stage with a powder through die.

Ive been seriously looking at progressive presses now. Have any of you progressive users had any issues "trusting" your automatic powder measures?
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Old January 23, 2012, 01:32 PM   #2
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Were you using the auto indexing rod with the turret?

I have used the turret/auto indexing and my progressives with the same powder measure and have never had a problem. I only reload handgun ammo, but I also reload a lot. However, you are wise to review all facts and procedures to ensure that this doesn't happen again. We can all benefit from caution while enjoying this hobby that we can become complacent with. It is also a good idea to check rounds at intervals to verify that everything is still to spec while loading your lot of brass.

Glad that your event was just a learning event and not something more serious.
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Old January 23, 2012, 01:44 PM   #3
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Did the powder measure malfunction or did you? Typically, overcharges (double charges) are due to operator error. Not an uncommon problem with those new to progressive presses. This is especially true when you're using a powder where a double charge won't overflow the case.
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Old January 23, 2012, 02:53 PM   #4
praetorian97
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I am 100% it wasn't a double charge. A 40 s/w cartridge charged with more than 12 grains of powder would have had significantly more damage than what I had.

Either my dispenser had some stuck from the previous throw or it released too much on this round.
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Old January 23, 2012, 02:58 PM   #5
BigJimP
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The progressive machine I use...is a Dillon 650 ....and it has a 3rd station specifically setup for a "powder check" die ....that gives that peace of mind that I think you're addressing.

No, I have not had a squib round or a double charge on my progressive press ...but that powder check really tells me everything is ok.

My powder check will "alarm" or alert me ....if my drop is more than 0.1 grain off of my goal drop ...so it does work.

The powder check die will pick up a variation - that you can't see by just looking into the case. Other companies besides Dillon offer presses with powder check options - like the Hornaday LNL...but I like Dillon's system ( the powder check is not available on the SDB or the 550 Dillon machines - because you need a tool head on the press with 5 stations - with the powder check being station 3 on the 650 press ...station 2 is where you drop powder ...and station 4 is bullet seating).

Last edited by BigJimP; January 23, 2012 at 03:37 PM.
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Old January 23, 2012, 03:07 PM   #6
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As you probably know there are all kinds of issues that may affect the powder drop .... a little bit of static, maybe the relative humidity in your loading area, even temperature ...can all affect the way some powders drop.
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Old January 23, 2012, 03:43 PM   #7
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Quote:
I am 100% it wasn't a double charge. A 40 s/w cartridge charged with more than 12 grains of powder would have had significantly more damage than what I had.

Either my dispenser had some stuck from the previous throw or it released too much on this round.
This is not a progressive problem so much as it is a Unique and attention-to-detail problem, and even that isn't the final word as you don't really know what caused your scare. Could very well have been unintended and unnoticed bullet setback unrelated to the powder drop.

This can be remedied with a Chargemaster or other kind of expensive and horribly slow solution, or it can be resolved with a different powder that runs better through your equipment, and can also be resolved by not loading the most "prone to failure" cartridge in modern history.

If you really want to increase your throughput and save some physical energy and reduce wear and tear on your body, you could do what I did, and go semi-progressive.

I'm faster than a turret press and I've got full control over my powder and bullet seating.

There are also a couple of things that I do to (hopefully?) minimize my worried over .40 S&W.
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Old January 23, 2012, 09:53 PM   #8
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Sevens, what is "semi-progressive"?

Pray tell, what is semi-progressive?

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Old January 23, 2012, 11:45 PM   #9
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Haha, glad you asked. Semi-progressive is my new procedure, for about a year now. I took what I like from a full progressive press and I eliminated the parts that I did not like.

What I like: Not handling the brass in to and out of a shell holder 87 zillion times. Also quite nice that a lever throw is now doing multiple jobs with the same amount of energy I'm spending throwing that lever. No turret press will ever do multiple jobs like this as long as one piece of brass is being lifted toward the dies.

What I did not like: Powder metering being done by equipment that I do not like and have trouble giving my trust. Also, don't care for imprecise "feel" when seating bullets because many other jobs are being performed at the same time. On more expensive progressive presses, you get better powder measures. But on the progressive press that fit in to my budget, you get Lee powder measures, which I don't care for.

My handloading adventures have a pretty large budget... but when looking for a progressive to handle nearly a dozen calibers, reality stepped in. Somebody do the math and conjure up the costs for caliber changes with a Dillon SDB or 550 or 650 even if someone gave you the press for FREE and forget the $400-$650 just to get the machine.

I have a lot of respect for Dillon equipment and if I were a competition shooter that needed 3,000 rounds a month in ONE caliber, I'd likely go that route. But I ammo to feed .327, .380, 9mm, 10mm, .40 S&W, .38 Special, .357 Mag, .45 Auto and .44 Mag... and with room to add even more if it strikes my fancy. The Hornady is cheaper to swap calibers, but not nearly as cheap as I'm doing it.

I snagged a used Lee Pro-1000 and I use it strictly as a bress prep machine. In a matter of minutes, I can turn out a coffee can full of brass that is sized, primed and flared, and I simply drop pieces in to it and they auto advance, auto eject and get chucked out the left side of the machine in to a box. All I have to do is stop every 100 pieces to fill the primer tray.

Caliber changes are $12 for a shell plate. I did buy one extra carrier so I have the flexibility of swapping a carrier rather than primer bits. That was $23 for that convenience, considering it included the $12 shell plate. Oh, forgot turrets at $6 each. I've probably got $200 in to my Pro-1000 and it churns out prepped brass in each of those calibers I listed. 100 pieces of fully prepped and ready brass spits out in about 15 minutes.

I'm still loading my rounds single stage on the Classic Cast. I meter all my powder by hand with the Lyman 55, exactly the way I want. The confidence I have in my handloads is soaring. The wear and tear on my body is minimized and my production rate is terrific.

In .327, .380, .44 and .45, I have hundreds of pieces of prepped brass waiting right now. In 9, .38, .357, .40 and 10mm, I have thousands of pieces of prepped brass on the shelf waiting to be loaded whenever I wish.

I got this idea a couple years ago... I put it in motion a year ago... and now, I wish I had done this 10 years ago. It's not every day that you come up with an idea that seems like it might work... and then it ends up working every bit as good or better than you had hoped.

For me, this was one of those moments.
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Old January 24, 2012, 01:58 AM   #10
Lost Sheep
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And to think I just traded off my two Pro-1000s when I got my Classic Turret.

Sevens, thanks for sharing. Glad they are working for you.

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Old January 24, 2012, 07:19 AM   #11
Sevens
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I know that everyone's experiences are a bit different. And for certain, I know of the reputation of Lee's progressive machines-- really, I do.

It just kind of baffles me that this machine works as incredibly well and smoothly as it does. Of course, I'm not using the powder drop and I've only got 2 of 3 dies in it. But I've run probably 30,000 pieces through it since I've had it and with the records I keep, that is a conservative estimate.

It's a monster.
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Old January 24, 2012, 07:33 AM   #12
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when I went to a progressive someone here suggested I get a powder cop die, I think Hornady and RCBS make them.
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Old January 24, 2012, 10:03 AM   #13
Kevin Rohrer
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Quote:
Pray tell, what is semi-progressive?
Any multi-stage press that forces you to manually cycle the shellholder after cycling the handle and performing the combination of De-prime/Re-size, Prime, Dump powder, Seat the bullet. and Crimp (e.g. Dillon 450 & 550B).
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Old January 24, 2012, 10:06 AM   #14
Kevin Rohrer
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Quote:
Have any of you progressive users had any issues "trusting" your automatic powder measures?
I have not had a problem with the Dillon powder measure on my 550B. But I always use the Mark-1 Eyeball to check all the charged cases I am running thru my 550B prior to cycling the shellholder. It has never failed me, and I use Unique exclusively for pistol cartridges.
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Old January 24, 2012, 10:24 AM   #15
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+1 for Kevin Rohrer's response. I have always used the eyeball check, if the charge looks even a little off I weigh it. I also try and stick with ball powders as they meter better in my experience and I don't do max loads on my progressive.
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Old January 24, 2012, 10:44 AM   #16
SL1
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Semi-progressive

I have been doing what Sevens is doing for my .40 S&W reloads, but with an addition. I also use the Lee Pro-1000 with the 3-hole turrets. BUT, I use two of them per caliber. The first is used to prep cases, like Sevens does it. Then I prime and measure powder off-press. When I have a batch of primed and charged cases where I have checked the powder charges, I use a second 3-hole turret to start, seat and crimp my bullets in those cases.

That eliminates the problems with priming and charge dropping that constitute MOST of the safety issues with progressive presses.

And, it effectively gives me SIX die stations to use in the progressive parts of the process. Typically, I deprime and clean the brass before doing on-the-press steps. Then, the first station is a full-length sizing, usually with ONLY the body from a Lee FCD with the carbide ring in it, which goes all the way to the case head to get any bulges back to SAAMI max case diameter. The second die uses a regular carbide sizer, but goes down the case only far enough to get a little below where the bullet base will be when seated. The third die is the expander/flarer, for which I prefer a "step" expander like the Lyman "M" die. Then, after charging, I insert the second turret, where the first die is a taper-crimp die that is adjusted up high enough that it only centers the flared case mouth in the die. I start a bullet at that die station by dropping it down the open top of the taper crimper, and slightly seat it with a punch that fits down the same hole. The second die is the usual seater die that puts the bullet down to final depth, and the third die is the usual crimper. For taper crimps, that will be a second taper crimp die, but it does not have to be the type with the open top.

I think it may have been Sevens that got me thinking about this, so THANK YOU sir. It works great, and allows me to focus my in-progress inspections on the steps that really need it most, priming and charging.

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Old January 24, 2012, 10:54 AM   #17
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Quote:
Any multi-stage press that forces you to manually cycle the shellholder after cycling the handle and performing the combination of De-prime/Re-size, Prime, Dump powder, Seat the bullet. and Crimp (e.g. Dillon 450 & 550B).
That's funny Dillon says the 550B is a progressive not semi-progresive.

RL 550B
Stock Number: 14261
4 station progressive loader
Station 1) resize/deprime/prime
Station 2) powder drop/flare
Station 3) seat
Station 4) crimp
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Old January 24, 2012, 11:37 AM   #18
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A thanks to Stevens and SL1 for their discussion of "semi-progressive" mode of operation.

With less than one year of experience in the reloading sport, I've been thinking about how to pick up speed beyond my current single stage operation. Acceptable loads have been developed and tested, components purchased and now it’s time to crank out some rounds.
But it appears I’m more of a “batch-semi-progressive” mind set. Thus far, I like to batch as follows:
1. de-cap and wet tumble with stainless steel pins
2. size, expand, sort by head stamp, label and store
3. prime with hand primer and drop powder
4. seat and remove case mouth expansion (separate steps)
A coworker has an old Dillon press that he said he will loan me once he digs it out of storage and I was wondering about running in “semi-progressive” mode for my steps 2 and 4 simply because I don’t think I’d trust a powder measure on a progressive unless I had a powder cop. I don't even trust my Uniflow to consistently drop Unique powder.
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Old January 25, 2012, 05:28 PM   #19
Kevin Rohrer
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Quote:
That's funny Dillon says the 550B is a progressive not semi-progressive.
I guess it depends on your definition and whether the definer sells them or not. I figure that since the shellholder must be manually advanced after cycling the handle to load cartridges before the operation can be repeated, it is a "semi-progressive" as opposed to a true progressive like the 650 or 1050.
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Old January 25, 2012, 07:56 PM   #20
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My understanding has been that the following applies -

1. Single stage press - one die in the press, one case in a shellholder, one operation per handle pull
2. Turret press - multiple dies in the press, one case in a shellholder, one operation per handle pull
3. Progressive press - multiple dies in the press, multiple cases in a shellplate, multiple operations per handle pull

I'm not sure there is any real advantage in coining the term "semi-progressive", as the terms "manual indexing" and "auto indexing" are already used in manufacturer's descriptions.

As long as the definition remains tied to the number of cases present and the number of operations performed per handle pull, IMO the 550 and 650 and both progressive presses. Different design, different available options, and different price, but both still progressives.

Kind of sounds like someone saying a sports car isn't a car because it has a manual transmission rather than an automatic transmission. It has 4 wheels, it's enclosed, it has an engine -- it's a car. Open vehicles with 2 wheels and an engine are motorcycles. Drop the engine and you have a bicycle.

And, yes, running a single stage vs a progressive reminds me of transportation by bicycle compared to car...
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Old January 25, 2012, 09:00 PM   #21
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To cut it finer:

Quote:
Originally Posted by dmazur
1. Single stage press - one die in the press, one case in a shellholder, one operation per handle pull
2. Turret press - multiple dies in the press, one case in a shellholder, one operation per handle pull
3. Progressive press - multiple dies in the press, multiple cases in a shellplate, multiple operations per handle pull
2.3 Turret press with automatic indexing (allowing easy access to continuous processing instead of batch processing)
2.7 Progressive press with manual indexing. allows multiple operations per handle stroke, but requires manual rotation of the shell plate between handle strokes.

I am in the process of designing a "turret" press with a straight (rather than round) turret which would auto-advance to the next die station, but returning to station 1 would be manual (like a manual typewriter). That would probably fall around 2.2, but would have the advantage of any desired number of die stations.

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Old January 25, 2012, 10:45 PM   #22
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I followed Sevens' advice and went "semi progressive" as well.

I *love* the reloading process, but it was killing my hands. One of the biggest contributors to the hand pain was the constant handling of the brass that the turret press required. I bought a Lee 1000 with all the necessary pieces to do the calibers that I need to produce in more volume. I let the 1000 handle the deprime/size/prime/flare operation. The turret handles the rest -- and I can still get the attention to detail that I want in the powder charge, bullet seating, and crimp operations.

I'm incredibly happy with the results. My throughput for the rounds that I run "semi progressive" is WAY up, but there is no decrease in quality. The reduction in hand pain has been significant, too.
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Old January 25, 2012, 11:29 PM   #23
Sevens
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Suppose I should slink back in here and admit fully that "semi-progressive" is a term that I didn't pick up from any manufacturer, designer, distributor or retailer. I made it up.

My only motivating factor for making up this term as I've used it was to describe the fact that I'm using a fully progressive machine, but to only about half of it's ability. I'm not handling any powder with this machine and I don't get a bullet anywhere near it. I don't even have a die in the third station, I keep only two dies in the press when I'm running it.

More to the point, it's what I also called it-- it's a brass prep machine. It takes clean brass and it makes that brass ready to be loaded.

It does this miraculously well and frankly, it does it on a shoestring budget.

I was reading the latest copy of the Blue Press. I enjoy reading that little thing on occasion. (for those who may not know, the Blue Press is a Dillon catalog, but it's produced almost like a magazine and includes a couple of feature articles along with a full catalog of every single item that Dillon Precision offers, along with prices and gobs of terrific pictures of all the equipment. It's like handloading ****)

Anyhow, I'm looking over this terrific equipment and I'm trying to do some of the math in my head and I can't stop laughing. I mean, we've all got our budgets and I'm sure it varies wildly, but I do far too many different calibers (and really, I enjoy all of them, it's not like some of them only come out of the safe once a year) that I simply couldn't outfit one of these machines to do what I need without spending a King's ransom.

"Semi-progressive" gives me a great output rate and still gives me the control that single stage loading has spoiled me with for a couple of decades.
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Old January 26, 2012, 12:36 AM   #24
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Sorry. I wasn't trying to be critical.

I also use the 550b in a "semi-progressive" mode, for bottleneck cartridges. I do depriming/resizing/repriming at Station 1, then remove the case for inspection, wiping off lube, and trimming as necessary.

After I have a bin of prepped brass, I resume progressive operation by indexing before pulling the handle, skipping Station 1. Some folks have a separate toolhead with the die missing at Station 1, but I just index past it.

This isn't as fully automatic as pistol cartridge reloading can be, obviously.

IMO, one of the nice things about the 550b is that its lack of auto-indexing permits a great deal of variation in how the tool is used, without disconnecting or disabling anything.

So, all you "semi-progressive" folks can carry on and ignore my pedantic rantings.
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Old January 26, 2012, 02:03 AM   #25
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I too am incredibly happy

Quote:
Originally Posted by Orochimaru
I followed Sevens' advice and went "semi progressive" as well.

I *love* the reloading process, but it was killing my hands. One of the biggest contributors to the hand pain was the constant handling of the brass that the turret press required. I bought a Lee 1000 with all the necessary pieces to do the calibers that I need to produce in more volume. I let the 1000 handle the deprime/size/prime/flare operation. The turret handles the rest -- and I can still get the attention to detail that I want in the powder charge, bullet seating, and crimp operations.

I'm incredibly happy with the results. My throughput for the rounds that I run "semi progressive" is WAY up, but there is no decrease in quality. The reduction in hand pain has been significant, too.
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I switched from Pro-1000 presses to a Lee Classic Turret. 4 times as many strokes per cartridge as my progressives, but the number of times I handled the brass is still just one time per round loaded. So "the constant handling of the brass that the turret press required" comment puzzles me. Did you use the auto-indexing feature?

Note, I am not faulting you or Sevens, I just have a different style.

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