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Thread: Dillon 550 vs. 650?

  1. #1
    Boolit Buddy
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    Dillon 550 vs. 650?

    I've seen discussions on the Interwebs about this issue, but they don't address some of the specific questions I have related to my needs. First of all, here's my current setup:

    --I load for 9mm, .45 ACP, and .380 Auto using a Lee Classic Turret Press.
    --I powder coat my boolits and size them .001 over bore size
    --First I decap/size/prime the cases in a separate operation, then I do the following:
    1) Station 1: expand using the plugs made by NOE Bullet Molds in the Lee Universal Case Expander die (so that it works like a Lyman M die)
    2) Station 2: add powder using Lee Autodrum (modified with lighter spring so that it doesn't bell the case mouth)
    3) Station 3: seat the bullet with they Lee die backed out a bit so that it doesn't crimp at the same time
    4) Station 4: run it through the Lee Factory Crimp die (backed out a bit so that it doesn't actually crimp, but just removes the expansion at the case mouth)

    When I first started loading, I was using store-bought bullets and following the directions that came with the press. Then I started casting my own, sizing them .001 oversize, and powder coating, and that necessitated certain changes (especially using the NOE plugs) so that the PC didn't get shaved off and the boolits would seat straight and chamber in my pistols (one of my 9mm's in particular has a tight chamber/throat). In other words, I have had to come up with a number of work-around solutions in order to keep using the Lee setup.

    I also find that I am shooting more and more (not a bad problem to have). I'm averaging about 800 rounds a month, and I just joined a range that a) allows rapid fire and b) hosts a lot of shooting matches, so I expect that number to climb to 1000 or more. I am employed full-time and have three children, so that tells you how much "free" time I have.

    From my research I have gathered that the 650 is great for cranking out a lot of rounds, but is a) considerably more expensive and b) harder to change calibers than the 550. Money IS an object, BUT I don't want to buy another press only to discover a year from now that I should have bought something else. With that in mind, here are my questions:

    1) Which of these two presses would best allow me to accomplish the steps I enumerated above in order to reach a monthly production of, say, 500 rounds of 9mm, 300 rounds of .45, and 200 rounds of .380 Auto?

    2) Can I keep using the dies I have been using, or would I have to use Dillon dies? Or is there a third option that would be better?

    3) What optional equipment would I need? I know it's "optional," but I'm sure there are certain things that it would be stupid NOT to get.

    Any and all help is much appreciated!

    Thanks,

    John

  2. #2
    Boolit Master

    farmerjim's Avatar
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    "2) Station 2: add powder using Lee Autodrum (modified with lighter spring so that it doesn't bell the case mouth)"

    Where did you get the spring?
    There is no difference between communism and socialism, except in the means of achieving the same ultimate end: communism proposes to enslave men by force, socialism—by vote. It is merely the difference between murder and suicide. Ayn Rand

  3. #3
    Boolit Master
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    I've not used Dillon machines, but I'm pretty sure the 550 doesn't have enough stations to do your reloading steps that way. I could do that with my Hornady machine fairly well with the nuisance part being switching from small primers to large primers and back again (primer size switching being a Hornady weak point that could use some improvement imho). So if you want to keep your technique requiring two stages to get the seat/crimp done you are stuck with the 650.

  4. #4
    Boolit Master

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    I have only used the Super 1050, but you can go to Youtube and see videos on the operation of each machine, and some comparing them. They are good equipment and hold their value if you want to trade up.
    There is no difference between communism and socialism, except in the means of achieving the same ultimate end: communism proposes to enslave men by force, socialism—by vote. It is merely the difference between murder and suicide. Ayn Rand

  5. #5
    Boolit Man
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    I have both machines. I bought the 650 because vat the time they didn't offer case feed for the 550. I've only used Dillon dies for pistol and they're set up per the instructions. Either machine should suit your purpose with the 650 being a little faster. The only problems with either have been powder drop and I wasn't doing my part keeping it clean.

    Most of my pistol rounds are loaded on stars now.

    Shelly
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  6. #6
    Boolit Master Mytmousemalibu's Avatar
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    The 550 is a great machine, possibly better for doing rifle cartridges but because of the manual indexing, no case feed (factory option) and less stations, the 650 whoops it in production. Yes the 650 costs more but its a step up in machines. I have my 650 rigged with a press monitor which does many things including round statistics. I have seen 1300rds per hour output on my machine and thats with me manually setting bullets in the cases. Its been the best thing I have ever added to my reloading setup. I burn about 40,000 rds of 9mm per year in my USPSA endeavors. I couldn't do it with less of a machine. You don't have to use all Dillon stuff either. Lots of aftermarket support for Dillon machines too. I love the Dillon dies, they work the best with progressive output due to the nice chamfered dies and smooth, quality construction but I hade several toolheads setup with Lee dies and autodrum's and they work just fine. Its not that bad to swich calibers either. Not degrading the 550, ill probably end up with one at some point but the 650 has my vote.
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  7. #7
    Boolit Master
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    I have a 550 and a few single stages. I love the 550 but am going to eventually get a 650 as well. I find myself loading all of my pistol calibers and .223 on the 550, and everything else on my single stage. If I had it to do over again I would have gotten the 650 instead. So...since you are only loading for pistols... I would definitely get a 650.


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  8. #8
    Boolit Master lefty o's Avatar
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    for hi volume pistol loading the 650 is your machine. change overs arent bad. only takes seconds to change the shell plate and a couple minutes to change the shell plate, and changing from small to large primer does take a few more minutes, but its not a huge ordeal.

  9. #9
    Boolit Master
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    I'll throw another option out for the little pistol rounds in the qty's you listed. Look for a used Square Deal. The 550 & 650's are great presses. I didn't know how well the Square Deal worked until I got one. Easy to change from one cartridge to another also.

  10. #10
    Boolit Buddy
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    Great advice! Sounds like the 650 is probably the way to go, but since the case feeder is now available for the 550, I'll have to look more closely at that one too. Can anyone give me a ballpark as to what a full set-up for each would cost me if I went the used route? That might end up being the deciding factor if it's a huge difference.

  11. #11
    Boolit Master Reddirt62's Avatar
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    I have both and to do what you describe you want the 650. You can use your dies but Dillon dies have separate seat and crimp.

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  12. #12
    Moderator

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    Currently owning SDB, 550, 650 and previously owned a LnL, 650 all the way based on your needs. Superior output with the "freetime" you will have and once set, needs minimal adjustments.

  13. #13
    Boolit Master
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    I do own both 550 and 650. I use 550 for small batches (under 200) 650 for everything else. Keep in mind that there are more caliber conversions for 550 and they cost almost half from 650 ($48 vs $80). As for the optional accessories - I got roller handle, strong mount and bullet trays for both - love it.

  14. #14
    Boolit Master
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    I wouldn’t put a case feeder on my 550...I looked into it and realized quickly that wasn’t what I wanted to do. Research it...


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  15. #15
    Boolit Master
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    Same as sukivel I've researched case feeder for 550 and decided not going that route. If you want case feeder - go 650.

  16. #16
    Boolit Bub
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    I run a 650 mostly for my 9mm very fast, just need to slow down when something goes wrong. Once you get a feel for what your running, you limp wrist every thing,that way if something don’t feel right you can stop. The ball handle you get with the 650 is ok for a while but gets tiresome, you can always upgrade later. Have had mine for 3 years and nothing has broken yet,knock on wood, but if it did i’m told Dillon will take care of it with the no BS warranty. The only hard thing to do on this press is changing from Small priming to large. If your going to go for volume you will also need extra primer tubes filled ahead of time. Plenty of primers, boolits,cases, and powder, you will run out faster than you would imagine.

  17. #17
    Boolit Bub
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    I have a 550 with case feeder and hornady tube bullet feeder. It increases production to easily 500 to 600 rounds per hour. The only drawback is the bullet tubes. They hold approximately 50 115g 9mm and if you don't have one of your kids loading tubes, you spend about 10 minutes filling tubes. The case feeder setup is nice but also has its issues. When you have a stoppage with the case feeder, everything stops. Usually its operator error like a wrong case. I have not had a misfeed otherwise. I like very much. If I thought I needed a 650, I would already have one. I have too much 550 parts to swap now.

  18. #18
    Boolit Master


    Fishman's Avatar
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    I have a 650.

    If you want to size decap and prime as a first step, you can have a tool head set up with a sizer die and nothing else. The case feeder makes this so easy. Once that is done, replace the tool head with another that is set up to complete your remaining tasks.

    Or you can do it in one shot, you’ve got enough stations with the 650.
    "Is all this REALLY necessary?"

  19. #19
    Boolit Mold
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    for the 650 , mr bullet feeder has a powder die that works like a m-die as the Dillon only flairs the case ,midway and dillon sells these but I don't think they have one in 380,
    650 stations
    #1 - case drop size and decap
    #2 - primer seat(forward stroke) flair and powder drop, I use mr bullet feeder powder die in place of the Dillon flair die
    #3 - is used for a optional powder check or bullet feeder system or what ever,
    #4 - bullet seat
    #5 - crimp

    you can also keep your present press set up for 380 and use the Dillon for 9 and 45
    and you can use your dies on the Dillon just note how each station is used for on the 650
    and I recommend the strong mount

  20. #20
    Boolit Master
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    If I were in your shoes, I'd go for the 650.

    One thing I'd recommend is trying to load in larger batches than what you describe. For instance, If you can load a couple of thousand rounds between switch-overs, you'll save a lot of time and frustration. The dillons aren't hard to change over once you've got he hang of it, but especially changes that require priming system changes can take a little bit to get adjusted properly.
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Abbreviations used in Reloading

BP Bronze Point IMR Improved Military Rifle PTD Pointed
BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
C Compressed Charge PR Primer SPCL Soft Point "Core-Lokt"
HP Hollow Point PSPCL Pointed Soft Point "Core Lokt" C.O.L. Cartridge Overall Length
PSP Pointed Soft Point Spz Spitzer Point SBT Spitzer Boat Tail
LRN Lead Round Nose LWC Lead Wad Cutter LSWC Lead Semi Wad Cutter
GC Gas Check