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Thread: Thoughts on Progressive Reloading Machines

  1. #1
    Boolit Buddy
    Join Date
    Jan 2018

    Thoughts on Progressive Reloading Machines

    The OEM's are Dillon, Hornady, Lee, and RCBS. Per the internet experts at The NYT Lee sells 3x as many as Dillon, Hornady, & RCBS combined.

    Dillon is typically stated as the best so I will compare others to their design.

    When you watch YouTube Channels you observe things. A long time Hornady LNL guru abandoned his Hornady hear in lieu of sending it to Hornady to have it repaired under warranty for primer bellow flush issues. He has replaced his (1) Hornady LNL with 5 or maybe 6 Dillon Progressive Presses. He is very happy having dedicated Dillions to his calibers and loads instead of caliber changes.

    There are exceptions to buying a Dillon for each load. These are resolved thru complete toolhead assemblies and dedicated primer size presses. Cost is significant. A rare few operate (1) Dillon 550 with (1) powder measure and multiple toolheadS of dies only.

    Why are there so many upgrades for Dillon Presses ? Why are they needed. If the press needs that many upgrades to meet the expectations of the market place you have to add these to the cost of purchase.

    When you watch Hornady LNL on YouTube you see the owner has (1) one. Even in forums people own (1) typically. So evidently those that buy this press load multiple calibers on their press.

    Are there upgrades other than a light for The Hornady LNL ? It seems they are run stock. No after market fixes for a very old press design.

    The RCBS ProChucker 5 &7 are great designs with poor marketing. It is like RCBS does not want to sell them. You can find more Bigfoot sightings than ProChucker videos. Nobody can evaluate this press against other brands. As far as I can see, no after market fixes.

    Lee sells many Loadmasters. Many videos exist showing the press works, how to get it to work, and how to correctly set it up. It is as if Lee does not want people that cannot figure out the directions to use the press. The LM is a very old press design. The current version has factory improvements to the Shell plates, timing, and priming system.

    The Dillon 6/750 is virtually unusable without a case feeder. The press " as shown " on the Dillon Website at this time is over $1300. This will give you 800 per hour. This places it in a production level all its own. Add a bullet feeder and 1,000 is doable per many reports.

    The Dillon 550, basic Hornady LNL, and Lee Loadmaster are in the 4-500 per hour range. Yes, the LNL can be configured as the Hornady Ammo plant to rival the Dillon 800-1000 per hour for the same price. The other presses can reliably be used as a hand/ manual fed case & bullet press.

    Nobody really knows the RCBS production output without case & bullet feeders. I guess the 4-500 basic and 800-1000 automated output numbers would hold.

    The warranties are similar. They all have a clause to require you to send, at your expense, the part needing replaced for a free one shipped to you. Lee only gives a (2) year warranty like Dillon does on the 1100. After (2) years Lee will charge you shipping. With computers, people that routinely wreck their press get treated differently.

    If you load, time at press not prep, (1) hour per week at 500 per hour you make 25,000 per year. The same time on higher output press is 50,000. So, honestly you need to honestly define your need. Many progressive presses are chosen based on time available to reload. Others are chosen to maximize time away from wives...

    So while every brand has zealots they all have weakness. Dillion was the most likely to come out of the box tuned & ready to run. They changed from doing as much factory set up & verification on 550 & 750. The caliber chosen shell plates are not installed and 1st time users are having issues. The other brands are known to require mechanical aptitude, some more & some less, to set up. So you must place a monetary value on your time.

    The best press for you is different than the best press for me. Many Dillon customers get talked down to a 550 by the technician on the phone. Like wise Lee states in print not to get a LM unless you shoot 500+ of that specific caliber each week. The take away is simple is often better. If your press is down waiting for free parts for (1 or 2) weeks you gained little in higher output.

    Just have fun and do not form an ideology and dogmatic arguments about a brand as being best !!!

  2. #2
    Boolit Bub
    Join Date
    Jul 2020
    Bowling Green Kentucky
    I have had two 550s for years and have been very satisfied. No need for more expensive models unless you shoot a lot (like 25k+ rounds per year).

  3. #3
    Boolit Master
    Join Date
    May 2013
    5 or 6 dillons to replace 1 LNLAP? theres a bunch o money in 5 or 6 Dillons . it all depends what your wanting to do, if you go out every other day with your binary trigger AR and blast off 1000 rounds and shoot cowboy action on Saturdays and three gun on Sundays I get it.
    ive got a few presses ive accumulated over the years, single stage, turret, hand press and a lnlap. from what ive read there must be two grades of LNLAP or problems with quality control.
    I went with the red press rather than blue because of cost of caliber change stuff on Dillon. I reload for more than 40 different calibers and just the cost of Hornady shell plates, I don't have every one they made but I think I have about 25 of em the value is more than twice what the press cost is. if I had gone with Dillon 650 caliber change kits are much much more cost and they didn't make em for some calibers back when I got a progressive.
    I must have gotten lucky and got a good one because ive probably loaded 20000+ rounds with it, I keep it cleaned and greased and have only had to replaced springs and a primer slide. but I'm pretty careful with my stuff. ive thought about getting a new Dillon 750 because I want a press that's easier to use my Dillon rapid trimmer on but its just a thought as I no longer have plenty of cash to play around with.
    Last edited by farmbif; 09-28-2020 at 02:12 PM.

  4. #4
    Boolit Buddy
    Join Date
    Oct 2016
    So Cal
    I used a RCBS single stage press since 1973. It is still in perfect working condition. About 6 years ago I decided to buy blue, a xl650. I wasn't looking at reckless speed but to reduce single individual stage set ups. I am totally satisfied with my choice. The Dillon is expensive for all the different options but I've spread out the calibers over time while I still use the RCBS. I go at a medium speed and watch each step as the press rotates thru each function. I would recommend the Dillon and have had friends use mine prior to their buying one for them-self. Again there are a lot of great manufactures every one with a following, mine is "Blue" with RCBS dies.

  5. #5
    Boolit Master

    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    I also have a red press. I don't have a case feeder or bullet feeder. I can run it well and never have to take my right hand off the handle. Cases and bullet are fed with the left hand on the left side of the press. Pick a case and a bullet. Set the case, pull the handle halfway, set thr bullet, and finish the stroke while reaching for another pair of components. Number of rounds per hour is more than satisfactory and quality of powder measure and loaded ammo is sufficient. I mostly load pistol calibers. I can load other rifle calibers if I choose, but mainly stick to 556 and 300BO. I want the utmost accuracy out of my other bolt guns and load their ammo on a single stage with powder charges to the nearest 0.05grain or less. I load primer tubes with a FA primer tube filler. Just a couple of minutes or less and primers are refilled. My system works for me. I don't want or need the case and bullet feeders and the LNL works very well without those.

  6. #6
    Boolit Master
    Sig556r's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    West of H-Town
    Took me a while to upgrade from Lee classic single & turret presses to my 2 550s (1 setup for SP & another for LP) mostly due to "value" as I perceive it back then. I still use my Lees for rifles (other than 223, 300BLK, 277WLV) but all pistols now run thru the Dillons. I like the simplicity of the 550 (with autoprime & powderdrop) & let you be in control compared to the 650s, 750s & 1100s. I shoot IDPA & club matches regularly & have never needed to ramp up production from my current setup.
    ...Speak softly & carry a big stick...

  7. #7
    Boolit Master

    retread's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Payson Arizona
    I have two Dillon 550. One set up for small primers and the other for large. I have shellplates, pins and toolheads for all my handgun calibers. I load rifle on turret or single stage presses. Works well for me.

  8. #8
    Boolit Master Idz's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2013
    New Mexico
    My Lee presses work fine for me. However, the Lee presses require some tweaking and observation when operating. I can see where a mechanical klutz would be incapable of operating a Lee.

  9. #9
    Boolit Master

    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Northern Michigan
    At one time I had 6 (maybe 7) progressive presses set up. I am down to three with one being for 12 ga.

    I do not like to fiddle around "tweaking" stuff and back then I worked very long hours. Time was important so the investment was worth it.

    Too many factors for one size fits all so it is good we have choices. The production numbers quoted are unrealistic JMHO. My experience is about 2/3 to 3/4 what is advertised or some people claim if you have prefilled the primer tubes.

    At one time I was gong to buy a Lee Loadmaster to evaluate it so I could bash it or praise it without prejudice. J Morris proved it can be made to work...but I wondered if a normal guy would do OK...but then I realized I might not be normal...LOL What I have worked for me. My search was over.
    Last edited by dverna; 09-28-2020 at 04:50 PM.
    Don Verna

    NRA Endowment Member

  10. #10
    Boolit Buddy

    Txcowboy52's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2016
    North Texas
    Two Dillon 650's an RCBS Grand and a Forster co-axial .
    Keep your powder dry and watch your six !!

  11. #11
    Boolit Master

    Burnt Fingers's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2019
    There is some aftermarket support for the Hornady.

    The Dilon 650/750 was designed to be used with the case collator.

    The reason there's so much aftermarket support for the Dillon is there are always people who want to improve things. If Dillon incorporated all these "improvements" the cost of the press would go up another $300-$500. However for most people a stock Dillon 650/750 works right out of the box. I've added many of these "improvements" to my presses.

    Inline Fabrication Ergo roller handle
    Quick release powder measure part
    Different spent primer handling
    Primer shutoff
    A couple of bearing upgrades
    Ski jump fix
    EasyDial for the small powder bar.

    Everyone of them make the presses easier for me to operate and use.

    My first progressive was a Hornady LnL...I bought it because it was less expensive than a Dillon 650. In hindsight it was money I basically threw away.

    I now have a pair of Dillon 650 presses. One for small primer and one for large. I load over a dozen different cartridges on these two machines.
    NRA Benefactor.

  12. #12
    Boolit Master

    Kevin Rohrer's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Medina, Ohio USA
    This question has been asked and answered hundreds of times.

    The Search feature is your friend.
    Member: Orange Gunsite Family, NRA-Life, ARTCA, American Legion, & the South Cuyahoga Gun Club.

    Caveat Emptor: Do not trust Cavery Grips/American Gripz/Prestige Grips/Stealth Grips from Clayton, NC. He will rip you off.

  13. #13
    Boolit Master
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    I enjoy my XL 750. I change it over from one setup to another somewhat frequently and don't have issues doing the changeovers. It is much better doing primer changeovers than the 650. That was a much-needed improvement in my opinion. I do use different tool-heads, but use the same powder measure as I change powders and loads nearly every time I set it up. Someday I may get another powder measure for switching from the small powder insert to the large one, but for now I will just use the one.
    I still have three Rockchuckers on the bench. One is used for bullet pulling when necessary, another that I use for de-capping small quantities and a third for whatever I happen to need it for. For larger amounts of de-capping,primer pocket swaging and for bulge busting, I have a Lee APP press. Between them, I can do pretty much what suits me.

  14. #14
    Boolit Buddy
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    I have 3 Dillon 550 presses. One in LP & 1 in SP permanently mounted. Third one in SP on strong mount attached to plywood that can be moved. Really like the Dillons but also have an RCBS Piggyback 2 and a Star Universal. Have used a Lee Load Master and don't have anything bad to say about it, but preferred the other progressives.

    I enjoy loading ammunition, and much of the time use other presses than the progressives mentioned, but with age and stiffening hands, setup time is not what I look forward to.

  15. #15
    Boolit Buddy
    Join Date
    Dec 2015
    I own both the LNL and the 550. The 550's priming system is far superior to the Hornady. I've heard people say that the 750 would have come out a lot sooner had Hornady had a decent priming system and I'm inclined to believe it based on my experiences. I have an earlier model and got the "fix" parts (that I paid for btw as a non original owner) and it still sucks. A lot of people have stuff up where they tinker with em. If I wanted that I would have bought a Lee tbh. I am also of mixed opinion on the bushings that Hornady uses. You want locking rings when you twist them out because some times the dies twist loose of the bushings and you lose your settings. Lee at least has an option to buy rings that you can lock your dies into which is a superior method IMO. You absolutely need their metal ring or some other retention method for the powder measure too since I've had it work its way out and cause me some bad lots. If I was doing a bunch of calibers and wanted to swap individual dies (e.g. have a seater for say 80gr and another for 100gr for instance) the LNL would be awesome. I will say I am not as much a fan of having to push back on the handle with the 550 to seat primers but that's a muscle memory thing.

    In terms of the Dillon, I could easily do with 2, just set one up with large primers and the other with small primers. I have 2 measures and 2 calibers and am overall okay with that. The next setup I'm doing is actually 1 caliber with 2 tool heads (getting into some weird sizing territory for rifle) and I will probably be trickling loads instead of having a measure.I could also see some people having a few 550s because they load a crapton of ammo.
    Last edited by drac0nic; 09-28-2020 at 11:22 PM.

  16. #16
    I’ve had Lee turret press and the load master something would always break. I have a Hornaday now All been good with it And they gave me five boxes of bullets with it as a rebate

  17. #17
    Boolit Master

    Winger Ed.'s Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Just outside Gun Barrel City, Texas
    I've got a LNL progressive. I was happy with the old pro-jector version but sold it when I thought I was done reloading.

    I like the improvements on the LNL- except the bushing thing.
    It's made to compete with other company's quick caliber change features.
    For me, its a solution to a problem I really don't have, and I don't like the rubber O rings they have.
    Except for the powder measure spot, I took off the O rings and JB welded the bushings.

    When I get it set for one caliber, I'll load all of them I plan to shoot for at least a year or two.
    As often as not, I offer sarcasm rather than advice.

    It wasn't playing the blame game, finding fault, and complaining about every little thing that made America great.
    It was God, guns, and guts.

  18. #18
    Boolit Bub monkey wrangler's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2020
    Land of tall cactus central AZ
    I started with lee classic cast and found out fairly early that was kind of slow for some of my ammo that I shoot a lot of. Then went with lee loadmaster and decided I could by 3 presses. One for each of the main calibers I like to shoot a lot of, for the price of one XL650. Then in one night I had all 3 lee presses go down because of a .05 piece of plastic. That was the night I ordered a new XL 750 because they finally improved the primer function in my mind. Besides Dillon is the home town brand for me. Still haven't decided what to do with the loadmaster's. Not saying Lee makes bad things just the Dillon is the Cadillac I wanted, and fewer important things made out of plastic, and you can buy an entire parts kit from Dillon instead of piece mill with Lee. Yes I change tool heads on the Dillon and it takes a little time but I over run what I need right away and that helps take that sting away a little. Cant wait for things to calm down a little then I will buy more powder dispensers and speed that part up on the setup. Just my opinion. Do what your wallet can afford or makes you happy.
    Life is tough, but it's tougher when you're stupid. John Wayne

  19. #19
    Boolit Master
    GARD72977's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    If it ain't Blue throw it out..........
    " If you cant do it with a 308 , you dont need to do it!

  20. #20
    Boolit Master jmorris's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    The 650 comes from the factory with a tube and all of the mechanics to take a case from the tube and insert it into the shell plate, with the base model, from the factory. The part they sell as an option is a case collator or case feed, feeder.

    Add a collated bullet feeder and 100 round can be loaded in under 4 minutes with everything ready to go.

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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