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Old October 22, 2011, 07:24 PM   #1
George H
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Dillon 550 & 650 questions.

I am planning on buying a new press in the near future (Dillon 550 or 650) and am wondering what the advantage, if any, of one over the other.

How hard is it to change calibers on these presses. I looked at the instruction manuals online and I hope it is not as difficult as it seemed from looking at the manuals. I have never seen either press other than pics and am thinking it would have been easier to understand had I been looking at one of those presses.
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Old October 22, 2011, 07:25 PM   #2
George H
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I am way past the purchase of a first press. I have been loading on a Rockchucker for the past 15 years. I spend all winter and some into the spring and a few hours here and there loading for what I shoot during the spring, summer and fall. I don't shoot much in the winter (seems the older I get the colder winters get).
The price of the 550 or 650 would be no problem but the 1050 is a bit much since I load .38/.357, 40, 9mm and 45.
It would be nice to just sit down and put out several rounds when I need them instead of all of the time I spend loading now.
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Old October 22, 2011, 07:44 PM   #3
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Your question is already answered in detail on Brian Enos's website:
The XL650 is ONLY way to go if you can afford it. I bought a 550 in the 80s, I think before the 650 came out, and I would buy a 650 if I were starting out in a progressive. I have used a friends XL650 and once set up it is a going machine. Since I'm already set up with the 550 loading 9 cartridges it's too costly for me to change over to the 650 now. I recently bought a 550 casefeeder upgrade and it is slick.
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Old October 22, 2011, 07:46 PM   #4
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I loaded on manual presses for 40+ years. I added a 650, never used a 550. So, I'm single minded on this. I love my 650 with the case feeder. Auto index is great. Takes 5-10 minutes to change from one calaber to the next if using the same primer size. Since I hand prime my cases while watching TV with the family, I do not use the Dillon primer seat so can not comment on changing from small/large primers. I set up the powder measure, dump in the primed cases and start turning out ammo.
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Old October 22, 2011, 07:55 PM   #5
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I have a very early 550, predates the 650 but have seen one run and like it. Can't comment on it so will comment only on the 550 but suspect the 650 is similar. Caliber changes can be very rapid but that depends on whether it involves a shell plate and/or change in primer size. Caliber changes are also a bit speedier if one has a seperate powder measure for each caliber. I also do a thorough cleaning when I change calibers so that slows it down a bit as well. I don't enjoy loading pistol ammo and the 550 is the best alternative I have to buying cheap ammo-whatever that is.
Some folks have a rounds-fired threshold for buying a progressive. Mine wasn't that complicated. When time spent at the press cut into my time on the range it was time for a Dillon.
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Old October 22, 2011, 07:59 PM   #6
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Brian Enos site is good for comparing but personal experience to me as much as the list of features.
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Old October 23, 2011, 12:20 AM   #7
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I run a 550B and load pistol (9 calibers) and .223 rounds with it. I set up separate tool heads for each caliber since setting up dies for properly takes time. To change calibers I simply change out the tool head, shell holder plate and possibly the primer tube if primer size is different. For those calibers which I load bullets with different COAL, I use a Redding Competition seating die. Never run a 650 so can't comment. Dillon has a section on their website which helps you select the right press. The 1200 case trimmer is a good piece of equipment for trimming batches of cases quickly.
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Old October 23, 2011, 10:20 AM   #8
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First of all the 1050 does NOT have the no BS warranty, it’s more or less a professional machine and it is just a little too pricy (for me at least). The 550 is manually indexed and has only 4 stations, it‘s a little slower than the 650 but, it‘s capable of loading just about every caliber you will come across. The 650 is auto indexing and has 5 stations (extra station is for powder check) and it’s really designed for loading large quantities of handgun calibers. I load 38/357, 44mag, 45ACP, 9mm, 40S&W, and 223Rem on my 650. I have set up separate tool heads for each (much faster/easier caliber changes). Primer size change can be speeded up by purchasing separate complete priming systems (a little pricy but worth it, to me anyway). For the calibers you listed the 650 is the way to go.
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Old October 23, 2011, 06:28 PM   #9
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550 and 650 are excellent presses. I know, I have loaded on both. There are other alternatives that may better match your needs. Do some more research:
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Old October 23, 2011, 07:19 PM   #10
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Something to consider, depending on your production needs


How much do you shoot? How many different calibers?

I have never used the Dillons (nor any other progressive but the Lee Pro-1000s). But I do have experience with the time needed to produce several hundred rounds from a single stage as you do now and I did since 1975. I did use a pair of Lee Pro-1000 presses for a couple of decades, but recently retired them.

I never got comfortable with multiple simultaneous operations that occur on progressives, but I did like the continuous processing (as opposed to batch processing). So, I went to a turret press.

With a turret press, caliber changes are no more difficult than on a single stage (indeed, easier when you have multiple turret heads already set up with dies). And turret heads are a lot cheaper than the much greater number of parts to change calibers on a progressive.

On top of that, if you get an automatic-indexing turret, you can easily triple or quadruple your output over that of a single staqe. This is not close to the output you can get from a Dillon 650, but does get you about halfway to the output of the 550, and for a much lower cash outlay.

Now, if you want a Dillon, by all means, get a Dillon. An auto-indexing turret is ideal for me, but if it is short of your needs, you will never be happy. But if the Dillons are in excess of your needs, you will never know the delight of a good fit. Easy and cheap caliber swaps. Much simpler operation that is MUCH easier to monitor.

Consider the Lee Classic Turret. The first batch of 100 rounds I put through it took 47 minutes. That included setting a bowl of empty brass on the floor and a box of bullets on the bench, filling the primer feed and powder hopper beforehand, emptying the powder and putting the dies away afterwards. The only thing left to do was pick up my two boxed cartons of .357 Magnums. 47 minutes. I was ready to do another 47 minutes of a hundred 45 ACP (I have a second powder measure already set for my 45s).

By the way, Lee makes the only turret presses that do auto-indexing, but all turrets are capable of continuous processing. You just have to rotate the head by hand, much like the 550 indexes manually. With any turret, you can do batch processing exactly as you do on a single stage if you want to.

Something to consider if you load less than 500 rounds at a sitting of a single caliber before switching. If you load 100 of one and then 50 of another and 200 of a third, the time you spend swapping parts on a progressive may well eat up all the time you saved with faster production rates.

Good luck,

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Old October 23, 2011, 07:32 PM   #11
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If you are going to get a progressive, make it either a 550 or 650; nothing else compares, although I hear good things about the Hornady LNL.

Having written that and having used both presses, I can say that the 550 is more forgiving of inevitable mistakes. Is you want speed, get the 650. If you want control and forgivability, get a 550.
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Old October 23, 2011, 07:56 PM   #12
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Just got a 650, after reading about and researching several. I only used a single stage before that. It took a few hours to put it together and set up the dies for my first run. I recommend you follow the assembly instructions closely. It is easy to miss something then have to take things apart to fix it. The only real problem I had with assembly was getting the chute that drops the loaded round into the tray to clear the moving parts of the press. I have only made 300 rounds so far but even with being new to the press it was lighting fast compared to single stage. I did not get the auto case feeder and my only complaint so far is that the shells hang up on the feed arm sometimes and you end up not feeding a new shell all the time. I have not used the primer feature yet because I had a bunch of hand primed brass. I bought mine from Scheels for a couple of reasons, one I did not have to wait for delivery, and two it was cheaper than online. If you get it from the store check what caliber it is preset for, all of them at Scheels were .223 and I wanted it for .38/.357. So the change over kit did take the price up a bit, I did not mind to much because I do have a .223.
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Old October 23, 2011, 09:11 PM   #13
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I have both. I bought the 650 first, without the case feeder and have not missed it, and found that changing the primer sizes was a pain.Accordingly I bought a 550. It is much easier with the 550. I leave the 650 set up for large primers.

If I were going to load only cartridges with one primer size it the 650 would be my choice. If I wanted to change cartridges that had different primer sizes often I would go the 550.
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Old October 23, 2011, 09:33 PM   #14
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I have owned a 450 and currently own a 550.

I would like to try a 650 (and had the opportuity to pick one up at a decent price a year or so ago) but I have so many 550 tool heads and shell plates that converting is cost-prohibitive.

So, my advice your homework, make up your mind, and commit to it. Whichever way you may go.

Honestly, for my purposes, (~500 rounds per month, usually done in a total of two hours over one or two evenings) the 550 is more than adequate.

But I always wonder what it would be like to run the 650...maybe I'd shoot twice as much Not that I could necessarily afford to...
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Old October 24, 2011, 02:02 PM   #15
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If your only going to load handgun ammo, and loading very large volumes then the 650 with case feed is the way to go. I load large volumes of rifle ammo and in many different calibers and prefer the 550 for what I do. The main reason is that conversion kits are alot cheaper and with the number of different rounds I load it would cost me a small fortune to change. As for changeing from 1 round to another it depends on what rounds your changeing to and from, and how many powder measures you have. If you are useing the same shell holder it only a matter of pulling 2 pins and slideing out 1 tool head and in the other and putting the pins back. If you need to change the powder measure also then you have 2 allen screws to loosen to get it off of the powder funnel and then tighten them on the new one. To change shell holders you have a set screw to loosen and then another to screw out the shell holder and reverce to install the new one. You CAN NOT go wrong with a Dillon.
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Old October 27, 2011, 01:47 PM   #16
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I bought a 550 as my first press and changing over calibers takes about 10-15 minutes not including setting up dies. Very easy and highly recommended. I would not want a press that auto indexed personally, unless it was doing everything else by itself.
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Old October 30, 2011, 07:40 AM   #17
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Your stated concern was how hard it is to change calibers w/ each of those presses. The 550 is easier to change (5-minutes if you are not changing primer sizes and have a die plate already setup for the other caliber) than the 650.

Reloading mistakes are also easier to correct w/ a 550. I had a 550, went to the 650, and went back to a 550.
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