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Old March 10, 2012, 10:43 PM   #1
Crosshair
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Helping my boss pick a progressive press

My boss is getting into reloading for the purpose of making making practice 10mm Auto loads that will come close to replicating the Buffalo-Bore loads.

I personally only have a Lee Turret press because I have more time than money, but I am doing my best to help him out. I recommended to him a Dillon 550B, he was thinking about an RCBS Pro 2000. (He was shopping via the sales catalogs.)

I pointed out the following critiques of the Pro 2000 vs the 550B that I found while searching:

Quote:
The primer strip concept sounds neat but it's no faster or less tedious than pickup tubes, and the strip-feeding mechanism in the press is complex, non-intuitive, chews up strips, ugh it's just awful.
The powder measure actuation system mounts directly to the press and not the die plate, which means there's no possibility of quick caliber changes. Every time you change calibers you must re-adjust the whole system.
The powder measure itself is not satisfactorily accurate with small charges of common pistol powders. The Dillon (and also the lowly Lee disk) powder measure is strictly superior.
Because of the direction the shellplate rotates and the placement of the component trays and station 1 on the left side of the press, your left hand ends up doing a disproportionate amount of work, and you are not able to multi-task between press cycles. Compare to the 550 which lets you place a bullet with your left hand while placing an empty case with your right.
What says everyone else?
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Old March 10, 2012, 11:22 PM   #2
chris in va
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I highly recommend he doesn't start with a progressive. A Lee Classic Cast turret would fit the bill nicely as it can be used as a single stage until he gets the hang of things.
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Old March 10, 2012, 11:44 PM   #3
dmazur
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Sorry, I'm going to have to argue the other side, for "equal time".

The 550b can be used to do one thing at a time, not a whole lot different than a turret press. It takes 4 pulls of the handle to run a case through, but you get to see and adjust each step as you go, without fear of multiple stuff happening all at once.

I did it that way, quite a few years ago.

Once you get it all adjusted and you believe it is consistent, you can step up the pace to progressive operation.

And, if it just doesn't feel right, step back to running it like a turret until you figure it all out.

I have read quite a few posts of folks who got themselves into trouble with a single stage. Double charges, squibs, incorrect seating depth, incorrect crimp, and whatever else can be done wrong.

IMO, a single stage press is no guarantee of safety. About all it will help you do is figure out you have made a mistake after 50 rds instead of 500.

The progressive vs. single stage press decision is correctly based on two things -

1. How much do I shoot? 2000 rds/month or 200 rds/month. Do I have time to do this on a single stage press?
2. Can I afford the additional cost of a progressive press?

It can be really, really tiring (and perhaps error-prone) for the guy with the single stage trying to rush his process and get 2000 rds loaded. He is a candidate for a progressive.

On the other hand, the guy who buys a progressive who doesn't load enough to justify one hasn't hurt himself, except financially.

Regardless of the equipment chosen, the individual has to understand proper reloading practice to reload safely...
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Old March 10, 2012, 11:58 PM   #4
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Crosshair, I think the information you found about the Pro2000 is...how to put this politely...a bunch of malarkey It seems to be making the press out to be inconvenient and finicky. This is not the case (at least, not with mine). Here are my thoughts on the 4 points from the OP. Apologies in advance for any excessive snark in the following counter-points

1. I have never used a pickup tube. However, I know I can go from tray of 100 primers to 4 loaded 25-primer strips in about a minute using the strip loader that came with my press. The strip-feeding mechanism is neither complex nor non-intuitive, where is this coming from? I have had mine apart exactly once, and that was before I realized I could clean it with a soft round brush or a pipe cleaner - while fully assembled. It is in no way "just awful", and anyone who says it is has never owned a Lee Loadmaster. THAT priming system is just awful.

2. Yes the powder charge actuation system mounts on the press. This makes caliber changes quicker actually, unless you plan to have a powder actuator for each set of dies you own (which some folks do, I guess, but that seems expensive to me). If the powder system were mounted on one of the dies then you'd have to take the powder actuator off of the die, remove the die plate, replace it with the desired die plate, replace the powder actuator on the new die plate, and then calibrate the powder drop.

2 cont. And every time you change calibers you don't have to "set the whole system back up". All you have to do is loosen the lock nut, screw the actuator mechanism into or out of the press a few turns (depending on the height of the cartridge you are about to load), re-tighten the lock nut, and then adjust the micrometer on the powder drop to the setting that matches your powder. Here's how it works. At some point you will be working with a new caliber. So you figure out how much of what kind of powder you want to drop, fiddle with the micrometer on the powder drop system until it drops that much, then write the micrometer setting down in your notes. For instance on my press, a micrometer setting of 8.05 drops 35.0 grains of 3031. When you change calibers, you consult your notes for the correct setting for that powder in that cartridge, adjust the micrometer, throw a couple of test charges, and you're ready. Takes a couple minutes.

3. I have thrown charges of Bullseye down to 3.5 grains. (9mm). I haven't gone any lower than that because I don't load .380, .32, or .25acp. But I had no problems down at 3.5. All powder measures have trouble with some powders. The RCBS is no better or worse in that regard. But it throws small charges just fine as long as it doesn't especially "dislike" the powder.

4. I consider this a benefit, not a detriment. My right hand stays on the lever. My left hand loads cases, places bullets, and indexes the shellplate. Have you seen videos of folks using a Dillon 550b fast? They look like an octopus!!

One thing I believe I've heard folks say about the 550b is that caliber changes are expensive and a pain. On the Pro2000 caliber changes are fast and easy, even if you have to change primer sizes. We're talking 5 minutes max and requiring 3 included Allen wrenches for the shell plate, a 7/16" box-end wrench for the primer thing, and a decent-sized crescent wrench for the lock nut on the powder system. And to set yourself up for caliber changes involves a $21 die plate plus a $34 shellplate, plus dies. So that's $55 on top of the dies. That's it. If someone could weigh in regarding the 550b and caliber changes I'd like to hear what the actual skinny is on that.

Dillon makes a great press according to just about everybody so I'm not going to try to say they don't. But the Pro2000 is a great press too. It just happened to be the one I ended up with.

Also, on the "don't start with a progressive" subject...I say go for it. I did, and I still have all my fingers He can run it like a turret press (one cartridge at a time) or even as a single stage if he wants to. Then when he gets more comfortable with it, he can go full progressive. Just like dmazur said.

Here's a picture of mine.

-cls


Last edited by frumious; March 11, 2012 at 12:17 AM.
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Old March 11, 2012, 12:28 AM   #5
dmazur
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The caliber changes on the 550b are more expensive than the Pro2000

Shellplate $34
Toolhead $23
Powder funnel $11
Powder die $15

That's $83 vs $55, which probably reflects the addition of the powder die (which allows quickly changing the powder measure between toolheads without readjusting the die each time.)

With the Dillon press, you don't buy an expander die, as this is done with a caliber-specific "powder through expander" funnel. So, I suppose you could subtract the $11 powder funnel.

The apples vs. oranges part comes into play with the powder measure. With separate expander dies, the powder measure just throws powder and can stay put. With the powder-through expander design, you have to install the powder measure on that die.

You don't have to buy an extra powder die per toolhead. That just makes the caliber change faster. So, if you don't mind moving and readjusting the powder measure (including bell), you can save a few bucks.

In terms of caliber change being a pain, I will agree that is true if it involves reconfiguring the primer feed mechanism. As long as you don't have to change that, caliber change takes less than a minute. With primer feed reconfiguration, it can take 10 minutes.

Some Dillon enthusiasts buy a second 550b (or whatever model they have), just so they don't have to mess with changing the primer feed!

I can't say that's crazy, because all the calibers I reload use large primers, so I keep my small primer parts in a box...

But I will confess to solving the problem of readjusting the powder measures by installing one on each of the 4 toolheads.

IMO, any of the presses from the "big names" are quality machines, with good factory support. Very few reloaders (me included) own more than one brand, as they represent a sizable investment, so I'm not sure how the "color wars" really get much traction.

Probably like Ford vs. Chevy...the one you own is the best truck made, period. Why? Well, because it's the one you bought...
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Old March 11, 2012, 12:44 AM   #6
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Dmazur, are you saying that on the 550b, the part that throws the powder is separate from the part that measures the powder? And that when you are changing from say .45ACP to 44mag you just take the "thrower" and move it from the "measurer" die on the .45 toolhead to the "measurer" die on the .44 toolhead?

-cls
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Old March 11, 2012, 01:29 AM   #7
dmazur
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Sorry for any confusion.

I'm using Dillon's terms for their parts, and they aren't clear even if you look at their catalog or site.

In comparing the 550b to the Pro2000, there is no station available for the expander die on the 550b. While it may be possible to "jury rig" a 550b to do something with a mix of parts from different mfgrs, if you follow their advice, you use a Dillon powder die at Station 2.

Inside this die you have to insert a powder funnel, of the correct size for the caliber you are reloading, and then install the powder measure on top of everything. This funnel also serves as the expander die, and so some call this setup "powder thru expander".

As the critical adjustments for "bell" and powder measure actuation are controlled by the die adjustment to the toolhead, you can buy a powder die for each toolhead and quickly move the powder measure between them without having to adjust that. All that remains is adjusting the powder measure for the throw you want. (And possibly changing powder bars, if you want more/less than the present bar will handle...)

Using the two calibers you mentioned, you could share a powder measure between .44 mag and .45 ACP toolheads by removing the measure from one powder die and attaching it to the other. As the powder measure only comes with one powder die, you have to buy another one ($15) for the other toolhead to take advantage of this. The powder funnel belling adjustments stay intact and the powder dies stay attached to the toolheads.

(This is a "compromise" to full-out quick change, which is having a dedicated powder measure, with the correct bar, for each toolhead.)

Edit - The last time I checked, Dillon shows a picture of a spare toolhead with a spare powder die installed. This is a broad hint... You have to order the two parts separately, unless you order some "deluxe" conversion kit, which I think includes a powder measure. After you've messed with a 550b for a while, this is a little clearer. But I'm not sure it is clear on first examination, from Dillon's information.
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Old March 11, 2012, 02:29 AM   #8
Jammer Six
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Personally, I'm a boss, and I'm not impressed with a "leader"' who would ask an employee something about a hobby. It's too easy for things to go wrong, and bosses are human.

That said, Dillon will protect your job, others might protect your job.
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Old March 11, 2012, 02:42 AM   #9
dmazur
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Jammer Six -

Yeah, I'm a boss too. Hobbies aren't religion or politics, and it's quite common for work groups (where I work) to chat about hobbies. But supervisors generally don't fraternize with their crews after work.

Crosshair -

Do you and your boss have a relationship that can handle things going wrong outside the workplace? While a disagreement with a coworker over a common interest might be somewhat troubling when you still have to work together, that same disagreement with a boss might be untenable.

Unless you guys are family, I wouldn't act as his reloading mentor...
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Old March 11, 2012, 04:34 AM   #10
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I don't engage my employees in conversation outside of work related communication or the Seahawks, and then only if they ask a direct question. I figured out thirty years ago that they don't laugh because my jokes are funny, and I stopped telling jokes.

A friendship (or any other non-professional relationship) is an exercise in equality, with shared power.

My employees and I are not equal, because the power balance is wrong. Washington state is an at-will state, which means I can end their jobs for almost any reason, or no reason. They can't end my job. We are not equal. It's not even fair to tell that joke-- because they'll laugh, on cue.

Therefore, I don't pretend that we're friends, or that we have any relationship other than professional. To do so would be (in my opinion) an abuse of power. The power I hold would overshadow everything.

I leave at lunch, I'm never there at coffee break. I don't ever impinge on their time. I've bought them pizza, but only by buying the whole crew several pizzas, and then leaving. Paydays are at noon on payday, and I've never handed a check over later than eleven. Ever. No one has ever had to ask me for their paycheck. I once drove forty miles to deliver a paycheck, by noon, to an employee who was sick.

I've never been faced with an employee who was a member of my range, I can't say for certain how I'd deal with that.

But there's no chance I'd ask an employee for advice on one of my hobbies, or about a hobby I was thinking of exploring-- there would simply be too much at stake for him or her, and there would be nothing fair about the conversation.

I don't know, for sure, if my employees understand why I do things the way I do, I don't know, for sure, if they appreciate it or resent it.

I do it because I think it's the right way to do business, and because I think it affords my employees the most dignity I can generate for them.

All of this to say that I've put a lot of thought into this issue, and hammered out my rules, for me, late at night.

I hope the boss you're talking to about reloading has done the same.
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Old March 11, 2012, 07:08 AM   #11
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primer pickup tubes are a pain in the behind in my opinion, they are the main thing I would change on my Hornady LnL. I seriously doubt the Dillon primer pickup tube is any easier. If I had my purchase to do over I would go RCBS over Hornady or Dillon
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Old March 11, 2012, 07:18 AM   #12
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If your going to reccomend a press reccomend the best
Dillon.
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Old March 11, 2012, 02:48 PM   #13
Crosshair
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Quote:
Do you and your boss have a relationship that can handle things going wrong outside the workplace?
Yes, I should mention that the company is less than 20 people and the boss is also the owner.

Quote:
While a disagreement with a coworker over a common interest might be somewhat troubling when you still have to work together, that same disagreement with a boss might be untenable.
We've managed to co-exist with him being a Glock and AR-10 guy and me being a Mini/AK and 1911/revolver guy.

Quote:
I highly recommend he doesn't start with a progressive. A Lee Classic Cast turret would fit the bill nicely as it can be used as a single stage until he gets the hang of things.
Not gonna happen, besides, as was pointed out, I'm going to start him one stage at a time and then move up to turret press mode and then full progressive. So we only need one press anyway.

Quote:
Crosshair, I think the information you found about the Pro2000 is...how to put this politely...a bunch of malarkey It seems to be making the press out to be inconvenient and finicky. This is not the case (at least, not with mine). Here are my thoughts on the 4 points from the OP. Apologies in advance for any excessive snark in the following counter-points
Not at all. My boss and I are not set on the RCBS or the Dillon, we are simply trying to find the best press for him to do what he wants. I honestly would like the RCBS for that 5th station for a powder lockout die, but there of course are other factors to consider. If the RCBS is the better choice then that is what we will go with.

Quote:
1. I have never used a pickup tube. However, I know I can go from tray of 100 primers to 4 loaded 25-primer strips in about a minute using the strip loader that came with my press. The strip-feeding mechanism is neither complex nor non-intuitive, where is this coming from? I have had mine apart exactly once, and that was before I realized I could clean it with a soft round brush or a pipe cleaner - while fully assembled. It is in no way "just awful", and anyone who says it is has never owned a Lee Loadmaster. THAT priming system is just awful.
Thank you for this. As I said before I have never used either priming system so this was one of my big worry points.

Quote:
2. Yes the powder charge actuation system mounts on the press. This makes caliber changes quicker actually, unless you plan to have a powder actuator for each set of dies you own (which some folks do, I guess, but that seems expensive to me). If the powder system were mounted on one of the dies then you'd have to take the powder actuator off of the die, remove the die plate, replace it with the desired die plate, replace the powder actuator on the new die plate, and then calibrate the powder drop.
OK, I'll have to ask him about that. He may indeed want a powder measure for every caliber for simplicity.

Quote:
2 cont. And every time you change calibers you don't have to "set the whole system back up". All you have to do is loosen the lock nut, screw the actuator mechanism into or out of the press a few turns (depending on the height of the cartridge you are about to load), re-tighten the lock nut, and then adjust the micrometer on the powder drop to the setting that matches your powder. Here's how it works. At some point you will be working with a new caliber. So you figure out how much of what kind of powder you want to drop, fiddle with the micrometer on the powder drop system until it drops that much, then write the micrometer setting down in your notes. For instance on my press, a micrometer setting of 8.05 drops 35.0 grains of 3031. When you change calibers, you consult your notes for the correct setting for that powder in that cartridge, adjust the micrometer, throw a couple of test charges, and you're ready. Takes a couple minutes.
Kewl, good to have someone who knows exactly how a system works. I'll of course set him up with a Lyman digital powder scale, love mine.

Quote:
3. I have thrown charges of Bullseye down to 3.5 grains. (9mm). I haven't gone any lower than that because I don't load .380, .32, or .25acp. But I had no problems down at 3.5. All powder measures have trouble with some powders. The RCBS is no better or worse in that regard. But it throws small charges just fine as long as it doesn't especially "dislike" the powder.
OK, very good to know. I'll set him up with several different powders and we'll see what meters best.

Quote:
4. I consider this a benefit, not a detriment. My right hand stays on the lever. My left hand loads cases, places bullets, and indexes the shellplate. Have you seen videos of folks using a Dillon 550b fast? They look like an octopus!!
Yup, I've watched and sent him videos of both but since I've never used either I didn't know which may be easier. We'll just have to make sure to have plenty of space on the left side of the press. With my Lee Turret using my left hand for everything is fine as long as you have things organized.

OK, I have to go get some stuff done, I'll be back later to respond some more.
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Old March 11, 2012, 06:46 PM   #14
frumious
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Dmazur,

Thanks for the explanation of the Dillon powder system. Kind of sounds like the Lee auto-disk system, but with charge bars instead of disks. I still use my Lee powder-through expander dies for expanding (in fact I use all of my Lee dies...I kept them after selling my LoadBastard).

Crosshair,

I have a Lyman digital powder scale too...1200-DPS3. I use it when working up loads because it is 100% accurate, and easier to use for incremental changes than the RCBS powder system. The RCBS system IMHO works best when you set it and forget it. As in set it and then run a few hundred rounds, not set it and run 5 rounds and then set it and run 5 more, etc.

On the "one powder system for each caliber"...I will register one last opinion (and then I will shut up )...this is really not much of a timesaver, and is quite a bit more expense. To see why I think this, consider the powder-calibration steps of the caliber change process, in each case:

RCBS
1. Adjust micrometer.
2. Fill hopper with powder.
3. Throw 2-3 charges without weighing and put them back into the hopper.
4. Throw 2-3 charges and weigh them to make sure your micrometer setting is right.

Dillon, with 1 powder setup for each set of dies
1. Fill hopper with powder.
2. Throw 2-3 charges without weighing and put them back into the hopper.
3. Throw 2-3 charges and weigh them to make sure your charge bar setting is right.

So the only time you save is the literally 2-3 seconds to twist the handle on the micrometer. If this is worth the money for another powder setup then OK It just isnt for me (or wouldn't be, if I had a Dillon).

Good luck!

-cls
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Old March 11, 2012, 06:58 PM   #15
dmazur
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Frumious -

Dillon's system isn't the Auto-disk design.

The powder measure ships with 2 different "height" bars, and a spacer. The bars are fully adjustable, but the large bar works better for large charges (rifle) and the small bar works better for smaller charges (pistol).

I believe there is a magnum bar as well.

Some of us just don't experiment with loads all that much. Once we get an accurate load for .45 ACP, that's what we use. For the Dillon, the time saving is not having to mess with swapping between large and small powder bars, and not having to adjust the powder bar setting.

Fill the powder measure with the powder marked on it, throw a few charges to settle the measure and verify it is doing the same thing it did two weeks earlier, and then start reloading.

Many, many Dillon users move the powder measure between toolheads and just have a powder die set with the correct bell. It's fast enough, and saves $75 or so per toolhead.

Multiple powder measures are not necessary. (It is a technique for the terminally lazy...)
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Old March 11, 2012, 08:21 PM   #16
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Quote:
Dillon's system isn't the Auto-disk design.
The sliding hole under a measure is a Lee patent if I recall right, seems like I have read that Dillon pays(Or paid) Lee for the rights to use the design.

So yes, that is why it does sound like the same idea.
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Old March 11, 2012, 09:07 PM   #17
frumious
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dmazur, didn't mean to imply I thought they were the same, just that they sound similar. Thanks for the clarification.

One point about the RCBS I failed to mention...I believe there are 2 sets of "guts" for the micrometer powder thingy. One set of guts throws powder from 0 to about 60 grains of powder depending on the powder. This is the "pistol" set. The other set (which comes with the press but which I haven't needed) throws larger amounts of powder. I am fortunate in that I have only needed the "pistol" guts so far...even for rifle cartridges up to and including 45-70. If I had to change to the larger set of guts I'd buy a whole 'nother powder measure and swap it out when I was loading large magnum rifle cartridges or whatever. Changing those guts sure looks like a PAIN.

I understand "terminally lazy"

-cls
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