Adventures with the Dillon 550, part one

gmerkt

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Okay, today I had time to look over the Dillon 550 a bit more. Specifically the tool head for .223 Rem. I'm trying to determine what the previous owner was doing with it. Here is how that tool head is configured:


8wfQV40.jpg


yer8lC2.jpg


UC8PEVc.jpg


I read the operator's manual so now I at least know the position numbers. I think. How this tool head is set up, I believe, is thus. #1 position has a Lee case mouth expander. To flare the case mouth like loading a pistol case. #2 position has an RCBS powder checker in it. #3 position has a bullet seater in it (unmarked, brand unknown to me). #4 position has a Lee "factory crimp" die in it.

Judging by this arrangement, it seems to me that the previous owner was resizing, priming, and charging his .223 cases with powder. Only then would he go to the Dillon 550 to complete the cartridges. Not so?

I'm wondering about that Lee case mouth flaring die. To my way of thinking, that wouldn't be necessary if typical FMJ bullets with a boat tail were being loaded. So long as the inside of the case mouth is chamfered, is it necessary to flare a case mouth when using a "square" based bullet? I've never found this to be necessary doing single stage using jacketed bullets. Cast, yes.

I'm also wondering about the RCBS powder checker in #2 position. If the guy was charging the powder prior to using the Dillon, presumably he would've checked his powder levels before they made it into the press. Making the checker die redundant.

My own vision of doing this, I wouldn't use the Lee "factory" crimp die, either. I'm pretty serious about case length and I'd probably use a taper crimp die.

So my overall impression of the Dillon 550 is, being that it has four stations or positions, that it's more suited to loading pistol ammo than rifle. In reading the instructional material, I see it mentioned that carbide rifle dies are available and commercial loaders might consider using them. I'm a little confused about this. Even if I had a carbide rifle die to resize the case, and even if I were priming on the Dillon 550, at which point would I be checking for and trimming as necessary? All my experience says that you trim after you size. Without meaning to be funny, I don't see any way to trim a case on the Dillon in normal sequence.

How do most knowledgeable people set up to load .223 on the Dillon 550? If they're gonna use a 550 to do the job, that is.
 
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I think he was doing his case prep sizing and priming off press. 1st stage my not be set up to flair the brass mouth but just used for powder charging 2nd stage powder check, 3rd stage bullet seating 4th stage crimp. Just my guess since I have considered using the same set up for pistol. Except 1st stage flairs as well. It's how you can use a powder check die on a four hole press.
 

bbbass

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So my overall impression of the Dillon 550 is, being that it has four stations or positions, that it's more suited to loading pistol ammo than rifle
Yes. IMO Production rates of the 550 are only useful for those that want to load .223 plinkers. Since I buy my plinkers as factory loads, I reload all my accuracy .223 loadings with a single stage RCBS.
 
I was just cranking out some 5.56 on my 550. I have my tool head similar to LSWC.
My first station is empty because I prefer to do my case prep separately.
Second station is powder.
Third station is bullet seating.
Fourth station is crimp.

If you reload rifle on the 550, the one caution I give concerns powder. With a handgun round typically dropping 8 grains or less, it drops quickly and you can really fly. With 5.56, I'm using around 24 - 26 grains. I have to force myself to slow down and pause on the down stroke to allow the powder to completely drop. With 7.62 (for my M-1A), I have to pause at least 3 seconds. You must also make sure to use a complete stroke on the handle. The powder bar must make a full movement to ensure all the powder gets dropped.

Using ball powder (currently W748, H335, and TAC), I find the loads created on my 550 to be just as accurate as individual loading on my Forster. Once everything is set up, it is a major time saver.

The first time you load on a Dillon, run one piece of brass thru at a time. Watch what happens at each station. Go slow. Even loading one round at a time is still faster than a single stage press but function is more important than speed. When you feel confident, start to load all the stations but never rush. I was amazed the first time I ran my press using all four stations. One complete round with every crank of the handle.

Be sure to check all your settings before reloading a bunch of ammo. Especially the powder charge setting. The one downside of a progressive press is that it allows you to create a bunch of mistakes in a very short time.
 
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:s0101:
I was just cranking out some 5.56 on my 550. I have my tool head similar to LSWC.
My first station is empty because I prefer to do my case prep separately.
Second station is powder.
Third station is bullet seating.
Fourth station is crimp.

If you reload rifle on the 550, the one caution I give concerns powder. With a handgun round typically dropping 8 grains or less, it drops quickly and you can really fly. With 5.56, I'm using around 24 - 26 grains. I have to force myself to slow down and pause on the down stroke to allow the powder to completely drop. With 7.62 (for my M-1A), I have to pause at least 3 seconds. You must also make sure to use a complete stroke on the handle. The powder bar must make a full movement to ensure all the powder gets dropped.

Using ball powder (currently W748, H335, and TAC), I find the loads created on my 550 to be just as accurate as individual loading on my Forster. Once everything is set up, it is a major time saver.

The first time you load on a Dillon, run one piece of brass thru at a time. Watch what happens at each station. Go slow. Even loading one round at a time is still faster than a single stage press but function is more important than speed. When you feel confident, start to load all the stations but never rush. I was amazed the first time I ran my press using all four stations. One complete round with every crank of the handle.

Be sure to check all your settings before reloading a bunch of ammo. Especially the powder charge setting. The one downside of a progressive press is that it allows you to create a bunch of mistakes in a very short time.
 
I also wanted to add that if you have any questions about your 550 or any other piece of Dillon equipment - call them! (800) 223-4570. They will happily spend the time on the phone with you to explain how things work or how to adjust it. If you break any parts, call them. They really are great about it.

A true Dillon story from the early 90's. I was working at a gun shop that was a Dillon Dealer. A customer bought a 550B, placed it in his truck bed and headed home. An hour later he was back. Something happened on the freeway (he would not tell me what) but the 550 (still in the box)) flew out of the back of his truck. It hit the road at freeway speeds. He brought back a badly chewed up press and a few parts. We called Dillon and they told him to mail back what is left of his press at his expense and they will ship him a new one at their expense. Two weeks later the customer was back and happy with his new press.
 

DizzyJ

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I also wanted to add that if you have any questions about your 550 or any other piece of Dillon equipment - call them! (800) 223-4570. They will happily spend the time on the phone with you to explain how things work or how to adjust it. If you break any parts, call them. They really are great about it.

A true Dillon story from the early 90's. I was working at a gun shop that was a Dillon Dealer. A customer bought a 550B, placed it in his truck bed and headed home. An hour later he was back. Something happened on the freeway (he would not tell me what) but the 550 (still in the box)) flew out of the back of his truck. It hit the road at freeway speeds. He brought back a badly chewed up press and a few parts. We called Dillon and they told him to mail back what is left of his press at his expense and they will ship him a new one at their expense. Two weeks later the customer was back and happy with his new press.
Wow!
 

bbbass

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I also wanted to add that if you have any questions about your 550 or any other piece of Dillon equipment - call them! (800) 223-4570. They will happily spend the time on the phone with you to explain how things work or how to adjust it. If you break any parts, call them. They really are great about it.

A true Dillon story from the early 90's. I was working at a gun shop that was a Dillon Dealer. A customer bought a 550B, placed it in his truck bed and headed home. An hour later he was back. Something happened on the freeway (he would not tell me what) but the 550 (still in the box)) flew out of the back of his truck. It hit the road at freeway speeds. He brought back a badly chewed up press and a few parts. We called Dillon and they told him to mail back what is left of his press at his expense and they will ship him a new one at their expense. Two weeks later the customer was back and happy with his new press.
I found they are not nearly as forthcoming with free parts as they used to be. I lost a few pieces in the process of getting my press back from the brother with whom I no longer speak. Dillon charged me full bore. Oh well, it's still good stuff!!!
 
OP
gmerkt

gmerkt

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1st stage my not be set up to flair the brass mouth but just used for powder charging
I don't think so, as this die has no powder through feature. For whatever reason, because I've never found this to be necessary when reloading rifle cartridges with jacketed bullets so long as the inside of the mouth has been chamfered. I don't see an imperative for this die in the process.

My first station is empty because I prefer to do my case prep separately.
Second station is powder.
Third station is bullet seating.
Fourth station is crimp.
This will probably be my approach for .223. Particularly in view of the fact that I already have so many cases prepped, many pre-primed.

Or maybe:

#1 position - powder charge
#2 position - powder checker
#3 position - bullet seating
#4 position - taper crimp

As long as there is an empty hole and I have the powder checker, why not use it? I already know the answer, extra stroke each round. With rifle ammo, maybe it would just be quicker to load the powder in blocks outside the Dillon, then just use the press for seating and crimping. You'd be doing a stroke per case, but a much shorter one from a separate powder measure. And you'd still get the powder check feature visually of all cases which would be faster than the extra stroke on the press.

You Dillon 550 veterans may find the following amusing. I've never been around anyone using the Dillon or any progressive press. Never saw one in operation. I thought that the shell plate platform moved automatically in rotation whenever the arm was raised. I didn't realize that the operator moves the shell plate around manually via the index sprocket with each change of station. I thought I was a pretty seasoned handloader until I got this outfit.
 
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you will find that manual advance to be a good thing. Just be aware that if you set up the dies to load a single round at a time, that when you start running it as a progressive you will need to readjust the bullet and crimp die.
 
You Dillon 550 veterans may find the following amusing. I've never been around anyone using the Dillon or any progressive press. Never saw one in operation. I thought that the shell plate platform moved automatically in rotation whenever the arm was raised. I didn't realize that the operator moves the shell plate around manually via the index sprocket with each change of station. I thought I was a pretty seasoned handloader until I got this outfit.
Actually, one of the main things that attracted me to the 550 was that it was a manual index. I like being able to just stop where I am without it advancing because if I have that "brain fart", I want to able to stop everything. I want that full control. Most of the other progressive presses are auto indexing.

I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts after you've had some time to use the 550. I used to tell customers that once you're rolling, it's "Brass - bullet - crank - index (plop). That is, you insert a brass at Station 1, a bullet at Station 3, crank the handle, index, and a completed round goes "plop" in the box.
 

Dyjital

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I will say the previous owner wasn't flaring the case mouths. There is a piece missing that is the powder drop OR, he was using a pre-measured powder with a funnel and dropping itnto the cause from that die.

Loading with a good powder drop on the 550 will produce good rifle ammo. I know that @tarster has loaded some good bulk loads that shoot sub MOA for his .308 and some for .223 if I'm not mistaken out of his bulk load.

Remember it's the nut behind the press arm that makes good quality ammo, if a $125 lee turret press can produce sub MOA ammo, the dillon can too!


-D
 
OP
gmerkt

gmerkt

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I will say the previous owner wasn't flaring the case mouths. There is a piece missing that is the powder drop OR, he was using a pre-measured powder with a funnel and dropping itnto the cause from that die.
I removed the die in question from the tool head to check it out further. The die body is marked "Lee" and also "Expndr" which I took to mean expander. I took the aluminum cap off the die to take a look at what I thought might be an expander plug. But it isn't one; it's a straight metal dowel with no taper and it's slightly less than the ID of a sized .223 case. This dowel is machined onto a larger cylinder that rides up and down inside the die body. Pictures:

GP8Itm1.jpg

BfZEsCO.jpg

1vE5LAT.jpg

VHnQRVB.jpg

I think I've figured out what this is. A Red Herring. This die has nothing to do with .223 Rem, even thought it was screwed into the tool head for that cartridge. I think this is an older Lee pistol expander die, one made before they started including the hole for the powder drop. This one is missing the expander. Since there is the powder checker in #2 position, this likely should have a powder drop in #1 position. There are several loose dies in the parts that came in a plastic bucket along with the other stuff. The powder drop is probably there. At some point, this mystery die got installed in the .223 tool head my mistake.
 
As a novice to any kind of reloading, I made many calls to Dillon techs.
The versatility of the 550 was impressive. The larger rifle powder drop bar solved some issues

The closer I stayed to factory set up the less trouble I had.
There came a point I abandoned all other mfg dies in favor of Dillons. In one case I avoided 45acp for a couple years due to what eventually was revealed to be mfg flaw. When I upgraded to 650 after 20 years on the 550, all old dies went with the press.
 

ron

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I reload thousands of rounds of 223 match ammo annually on my 550 that I have reloaded
on for 25 years. Stage one: RCBS full length sizer and primer removal. Stage two:
Powder thrower. Stage three. Bullet RCBS seat. Stage four: Lee crimp die.
Rarely used. Reloading process. All brass is cleaned in a tumbler. I measure my
OAL length. Anything longer than 1.755 goes into the 'Need to trim pile'. Max
length is 1.760 and trim length is 1.750. Cases will grow a little when sizing.
I am measuring a un-sized cases I use the 1.755 measurement. For 'Need to Trim"
pile I remove the powder thrower and run the lubed cases through the sizer die.
Cases are trimmed with a WFT. They then go to a RCBS trim mate case prep
center. #1 primer pocket cleaner. #2 Primer pocket uniformer. #3 debur
#4 chamfer. The prepped case goes to the 550 skipping stage 1 sizing since it
is already sized. Brass that is in the 'Length Check OK' pile go straight to the 550.
These are cases that were previously trimmed and PP uniformer. I use the powder
thrower for powders that meter consistently. Such as W748 and IMR 8208 XBR.
Powders that do not meter consistently I weigh each charge on a RCBS charge
master. Like Varget and VV N140.
I like most competitive shooters do not crimp 223 they are more accurate.
They are fired in a AR rifle no issues with bullets being pushed back.
 

bbbass

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You Dillon 550 veterans may find the following amusing. I've never been around anyone using the Dillon or any progressive press. Never saw one in operation. I thought that the shell plate platform moved automatically in rotation whenever the arm was raised. I didn't realize that the operator moves the shell plate around manually via the index sprocket with each change of station. I thought I was a pretty seasoned handloader until I got this outfit.
As others have opined, I bought the 550 instead of the 650 precisely because of the manual indexing feature. It lets me have full control, yet still crank out loads pretty fast.

you will find that manual advance to be a good thing. Just be aware that if you set up the dies to load a single round at a time, that when you start running it as a progressive you will need to readjust the bullet and crimp die.
I don't get it... please explain. Not challenging you, I just want to know.
 

Dyjital

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I removed the die in question from the tool head to check it out further. The die body is marked "Lee" and also "Expndr" which I took to mean expander. I took the aluminum cap off the die to take a look at what I thought might be an expander plug. But it isn't one; it's a straight metal dowel with no taper and it's slightly less than the ID of a sized .223 case. This dowel is machined onto a larger cylinder that rides up and down inside the die body. Pictures:

View attachment 595630

View attachment 595631

View attachment 595632

View attachment 595633

I think I've figured out what this is. A Red Herring. This die has nothing to do with .223 Rem, even thought it was screwed into the tool head for that cartridge. I think this is an older Lee pistol expander die, one made before they started including the hole for the powder drop. This one is missing the expander. Since there is the powder checker in #2 position, this likely should have a powder drop in #1 position. There are several loose dies in the parts that came in a plastic bucket along with the other stuff. The powder drop is probably there. At some point, this mystery die got installed in the .223 tool head my mistake.
Wow, yeah that’s not anything to do with .223, I was thinking the other die which I see now must be the crimper.

You were chasing a tail that didn’t exist. Glad you continued the quest to find out what it is.

What’s the remainder of the numbers on the die? Would be interesting to find out what this one really is now...
 
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As others have opined, I bought the 550 instead of the 650 precisely because of the manual indexing feature. It lets me have full control, yet still crank out loads pretty fast.



I don't get it... please explain. Not challenging you, I just want to know.
Some say it's flex in the shell plate. But I think it's more the tolerance's in the head. when you insert the head on a Dillon you will IMG_20190630_081447.jpg IMG_20190630_081346.jpg IMG_20190630_081308.jpg have some play. IMG_20190630_081523.jpg with these tolerances if you are running one case at a time the head does not react the same as a case in each stage. I know a pic is worth a thousand words so here are some maybe this helps.
 

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