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Old October 27, 2011, 12:06 AM   #1
Lost Sheep
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Caliber changes - how much cost in time and money?

I have had occasion lately to wonder what it takes to change calibers, depending on what kind or brand of press.

Single stage presses, of course, changing calibers is zero dollars (over the price of the dies and one shell holder)

Turret press caliber swaps is the same as a single stage unless you add the convenience of keeping your dies mounted as a set in their own turret head. (Of course, if you have a turret with enough stations to mount two or three full sets of dies, you can have two or three caliber changes without the cost of added turret heads.)

With progressive presses, though the calculation is a bit more complex. Swapping out a tool head (on presses that have removable tool heads) can be pricey, and swapping the shell plate can be time consuming. Having a shell plate/carrier devoted to each caliber makes life simpler, but costs more money.

Is there a comparison chart that would allow me to compare Dillon Square Deal, Dillon 550, Hornady L'N'L, Lee Pro-1000, Lee Loadmaster, RCBS, etc in a side-by-side table that would discuss cost and convenience and complications? Or is the only way to go find the hardware one at a time and research all the questions from scratch?

Particularly interesting is answering the question, "Where is the break-even point between buying multiple progressive presses dedicated to each caliber vs interchangeable heads/carriers vs changing just the bare minimum of parts (dies, shell plate, primer feed and powder measure)?" The break-even point, of course will depend on what price you put on convenience, swap time compared to the extra parts or presses needed to achieve that speed and convenience.

I am using an auto-indexing turret now, but wonder what that simplicity and economy has cost me in terms of speed and convenience.


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Old October 27, 2011, 12:57 AM   #2
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Where is the break-even point between buying multiple progressive presses dedicated to each caliber vs interchangeable heads/carriers vs changing just the bare minimum of parts

Strange question comming from an advanced reloader. How much ammo do you need to reload at a single secession? Shooting IDPA it might pay to keep one press setup just for that round. If you shoot two matches a month, maybe it's time to go progressive (150 rounds per match). As I see it, it is a question of convienance and amount of time to load what I will be shooting this month.

I keep three sets of dies in seperate turrets, will probable purchase 2 or 3 additional turrets ($11.00 each) but outside of 9mm, 223 rem and 40 S&W I really do not shoot others that much that would warrent keeping them setup. All rifle rounds (other than 223) are done on a single stage press and would not help me to keep them set up and don't load more than 100 of them at a time.

Outside of convienance and it only takes seconds to change out the turrets I don't see any savings on going progressive or a press commited to one caliber. I had thought about keeping one press setup for 9mm all the time, but it would sit unused unless I need some more 9mm. Can you load faster with a progressive, yes, about 4 times faster but I don't need to load faster, I do need to trim cases faster and that is where I spend most of my efforts.

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Old October 27, 2011, 01:49 AM   #3
Lost Sheep
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Thanks for the compliment, Jim. However, I hardly think of myself as an advanced reloader.

I am curious, though, and try to pay attention. I have seen a lot of questions about people upgrading to progressives, or starting out with progressives, so I wondered about the wisdom of those choices. What parameters would make which choices wise or unwise.

When I went from my RockChucker to the two Pro-1000s it took me decades to figure out they were not the best fit for me. (I did not know what a turret press was; I was, obviously, somewhat out of touch. The internet has been a Godsend.)

My shooting is all casual plinking, a lot of 22 rimfire and a selection of centerfires that amount to a couple hundred rounds per session once or twice a month in the warm months, rarely in Winter.

Thanks for your thoughts.

Lost Sheep

p.s. 9mm, 357 mag, 45 ACP, 44 mag, 45 Colt/454 Casull, and now, 480 Ruger.
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Old October 27, 2011, 01:55 AM   #4
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For many years, I loaded 9mm, 40S&W and 45ACP on the Pro 1000.

I had the dies preset on separate turrets and to change from 9mm to 40S&W, it only required the turret/dies and large case feeder/bent Z-bar swap. It takes me on average about 3-5 minutes.

Cost? This is excluding dies:

9mm to 40S&W - (3-hole turret $7.50 + large case feeder $19 + and bent Z-bar $2 = $28.

9mm/40S&W to 45ACP - Shell plate #2 $15 + 3 hole turret $7.50 + large primer feed attachment $12 + large case feeder $19 + large case slider $7 + bent Z-bar $2 = $62.

You can also buy another complete shell plate carrier to speed up the caliber change - Shell plate carrier/shell plate/primer feed attachment $39 + 3 hole turret $7.50 + large case feeder $19 + large case slider $7 + bent Z-bar $2 = $74.50

Now, I have 2 Pro 1000s set up (1 for 9/40 and 1 for 45) and have almost no downtime switching calibers. Classic Turret is setup for .308/.223. and still have a single stage for load development/resizing duties.
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Old October 27, 2011, 08:20 AM   #5
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Lets see 1, 3 hole manual turret press, 5 calibers, 5 turrets with dies installed. Whether you are using a single stage or turret press you still need the dies so the only added expense is the turret plates. I use my single stage press to decap/size my brass. It works for me. Time frame to change calibers less than a minute.
For me a turret press would be the most cost effective and least troublesome when changing calibers out. If money is no object at all the just buy a press for each caliber. My break even point was 2,500 rounds with a $100 bill in my pocket, 5 year ago prices is when I started. I figured my break even point at factory prices verses what I loaded up and all my equipment and reloading supplies for the 2,500 rounds.
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Last edited by Don P; October 27, 2011 at 08:25 AM.
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Old October 27, 2011, 08:28 AM   #6
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How much ammo do you need to reload at a single secession?
I like the way you worded that!

Hornady LNL, the cost is just a shell plate, and changing the plate is pretty fast, but it's time consuming to get the powder measure & drop readjusted. So I just leave it set up for the last caliber I did a big run of, and I use one of my single stage presses for everything else until I need to load a bunch of another caliber.
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Old October 27, 2011, 07:54 PM   #7
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I have an RCBS Pro2000. It came with both small and large primer seaters and one die plate but no shell plate. Also it came with a press-mounted (no die required) powder-drop assembly with a micrometer adjustment and inserts for pistol/rifle/big rifle).

Shell plates are $31 and die plates are $19 (MidwayUSA pricing). So that's it for cost. Assuming you want to keep your dies mounted and adjusted, and assuming none of your shellplates do "double duty" it will cost you $50 per caliber.

Changing calibers can be done in less than 2-3 minutes, and I'm not talking moving like a NASCAR pit crew or anything. Everything is really easy to get to and the whole thing requires 3 allen wrenches, which are included with the press. Although if you are changing primer sizes then you will need a regular 7/16 wrench but I think everybody has one of those

Adjusting the powder drop is as simple as adjusting the micrometer to the setting you previously wrote down for whatever load you are working with and dropping 3-5 charges to get the powder flow "settled". And of course weighing the final throw as a sanity check.

If you are going from a rifle case to a pistol case you have to take the top half of the powder drop assembly off (it comes off in one piece with one thumbscrew) and swap the rifle insert for the pistol one. Or vice-versa.

So all told, the most time-consuming change (say, large rifle to small pistol) can easily be accomplished in 5 minutes or less. And none of it requires 3 hands or special tools. It is really easy.

Also I would like to point out that if I were thinking about buying multiple presses I would still need the same $31 worth of shell plate per caliber. I'd effectively be trading the expense of a $19 die plate for the expense of a whole 'nother $600 press (and for each caliber!!). In my mind there is no break-even point for any progressive press unless caliber changes are a ROYAL PITA. Like for a Dillon 550


Last edited by frumious; October 27, 2011 at 08:03 PM.
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Old October 28, 2011, 09:30 PM   #8
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You can watch several presses and their features in action here.

Other than that it's like asking for the best pistol to buy.
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Old October 29, 2011, 12:50 AM   #9
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but it's time consuming to get the powder measure & drop readjusted
I use my calipers for this: Once you have the drop set up for a particular volume/powder combo, use the depth measuring feature of your calipers. Set the bottom of the calipers on the powder measure adjusting screw, and dial out until the caliper shaft touches the locking/tension nut. Record that measurement and match it the next time you use that load. The flat top of the adjusting screw helps with consistent positioning of the caliper. I usually use the standard pistol insert. I have a "micrometer" pistol insert but it's nearly impossible to read the markings on that thing.

I usually end up within a tenth of a grain on the first throw.

Some folks buy a new insert for each of their production loads but that can run into a bunch of money.
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Last edited by DarthNul; October 29, 2011 at 01:34 AM.
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