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Reloading Press wars

Discussion in 'Ammunition & Reloading' started by AMProducts, Oct 7, 2010.

  1. AMProducts

    AMProducts Maple Valley, WA Jerk, Ammo Manufacturer Silver Supporter

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    So based on some debates some of us were having in other threads about which press is best. I figure we may as well have it out without clouding up other threads.

    Here is my contribution:

    While I will concede that dillon is currently the market leader in progressive reloading presses, I do not believe that this is because they are better than everyone else, but rather all of the other reloading equipment manufacturers out there have to a degree refused to compete.

    RCBS has some very nice progressive presses, yet they refuse to put case feeders on them, and any conversion activity requires a greater number of tools than changing piston rings does. Their single stage presses are top notch, and usually demand a premium even if they are 50 years or more old. In terms of fit, finish, and function these presses are top notch, they just let you down in terms of features.

    Hornady at least makes an attempt at competition with the LNL press, which for most purposes is essentially a dillon 650 (imitation being the sincerest form of flattery). There are three ways you can make money selling things, make them better, make them cheaper, or make something no one else does, as a consequence of this analysis, I have no idea which of the three models hornady ascribes to.

    Then there is the retarded uncle of the reloading world... lee precision. In comparison to hornady, lee is definately catering to the "make it cheaper" model. Which has it's own merits, they definately perform a service making the barrier of entry to reloading low enough that even high school kids and broke college students can afford to get into reloading. Despite a few innovative products (the factory crimper, the deburring tool) lee products are a train-wreck in practice. After snapping my "classic reloader" in half one day resizing a stubborn batch of military .308 brass, I bought an RCBS single stage, and didn't think much of it until some years later when lee was selling the pro 1000's factory refurbished for $50. After fighting with these things for nearly a year, I sold them to a friend for $20. My friend after I told him the price gave me this look and asked "did I just buy the monkey's paw". Boy did he ever!

    Getting back to dillon, what is it that I don't like about them so much? They show a great deal of innovation in thier products, however they just don't show enough engineering prowess in how they are assembled. The 550 and 650 with that head that slides in, tends to move up and down during loading, giving inconsistent seating depth (yes, it's in the thousandths, but I notice it). The 650's priming system has a horrible habit of exploding, usually in your face, and usually when you're not expecting it. I think it's happened to me 3 times now. At least I've never been injured. However, these are both very standard toggle link presses. The most interesting one is the RL and XL 1050's. These presses show an astounding level of innovation, the priming system is bulletproof (unless you get a ringer, or a winchester NT in your .45 auto brass). It sizes, it swages the pocket, the priming system is always consistent. However the ram suffers from a chronic lack of leverage. This leads most users to "wind up" as they are bringing the handle down. The RL also has a weakness in the yoke on the bottom of the ram, which in one case actually broke.

    And then there are the still larger commercial loaders... Camdex and Ammoload. These loaders, when set up properly, with good tooling, and proper maintenance performed on them are champions. They will run all day long with minimal effort, and all you have to do is sit there put shell casings, bullets, powder and primers in them, and just watch the ammo fall out the other side.

    However, since never is any machine maintained in this level of readiness ammo load's bullet indexing disk will jam constantly when using cast bullets, requiring constant adjustment and replacement of the shear pins. The primer disk, if exposed to the slightest amount of grit will jam, and occasionally, set off primers. God forbid you don't have a casing under the powder drop station when cycling the press manually, as it will drop powder all over the line. Blowing it out with the compressor will be an exercise in utility as the combination of lead stripped off the bullets, grease, and gunpowder will form into some kind of mutant litharge cement.

    Unlike ammoload where you get the same problems over and over until you find the mystical component that needed SAE30 wt oil and grease, older camdex machines crash with surprising irregularity. A peticular JS-6300 I had would be running fine, and then all of the sudden for no reason, something would jam slightly and all of the shellcasings would come flying out of the rail, usually just in time to get crushed under the decending press head.

    To a certain extent, as a machine's complexity increases, so does it's capacity for mayhem. If done properly, you will produce more ammo than you throw away/blow your hand off with. As much as I hate to focus on the negatives, the positives are never the parts that bother me.
     
  2. Ballistic308

    Ballistic308 Oregon Member

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    I recently added the Hornady LNL AP (the new one) to my bench and I absolutely love it. It's half the price of a Dillon and it suits my needs perfectly!
     
  3. Page.k

    Page.k Seattle Active Member

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    I like the Lee stuff. So far I have yet to have a bad time with them.:thumbup:
    Hand press
    Single stage(basic)
    (2) Lee Pro 1000 one for 40S&W/9mm and the other 45acp/44Mag
    Lee Auto prime
    Lee's beam powder scale
    Lee die sets like 9 or 10 so far
     
  4. browntown

    browntown Salem, Oregon, United States Active Member

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    It gets worse with shotshell. I have a mec 9000 (their top model) and although very capable - I already want a ponsness or a spolar. It's all overpriced and unremarkable. Seems like the hornady lnl gets lots of good press on the internetz in the metallic game.
     
  5. AMProducts

    AMProducts Maple Valley, WA Jerk, Ammo Manufacturer Silver Supporter

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    I have a mec9000 I use for loading slugs... it has a few things I don't like, but over-all it's a pretty nice press. The one thing which chaps my butt about it is the priming systems propensity to jam. However, they have since rebuilt the priming system with a new design which is very nice. I need to get around to bolting on that upgrade.

    We have a dillon SL900 at work, which I use quite frequently, and it's a phenomenal machine. It is uniquely free from the design defects inherent in many dillon presses... it's fast, it doesn't jam very often (usually related to the case feeder) We also have several of the ponsness-warren presses of various generations and pedigrees. One of them is the old bottom-feed version. I never understood what they were thinking with that. About the only thing I don't like about my mec is that it doesn't have a case feeder. Other than that, it is a very well designed press.
     
  6. rodell

    rodell Newcastle, WA Active Member

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    I don't understand the "wars". I have Dillon progessives (two) but I would never tell someone NOT to buy a Hornady. I think they have a good press and are competing.

    I do think the Dillon priming system on the 650 doesn't work as well as the Square Deal. It seems much more prone to upset. Still, I can crank out more rounds than I will ever need, even tending to the occasional issue.

    One has to learn whatever press they operate. Improper maintenance, adjustment, or expectation can lead to problems and bad feelings and rumors. So can bad quality and crappy engineering, I suppose.

    When I got each of my presses, I took them apart and put them back together so I would understand how they work. I'm comfortable with them and have a spare parts kit in case I ever need it. Other people are looking for a plug and play solution - I'm not sure that exists in the progressive world.

    I have a Pacific (Hornady) 366 for shotshell. It was **** to get right, but, once I did it would purr along until I did something stupid. I loaded exactly one recipe, which added to its usefulness. I wouldn't want to do load development on it.
     
  7. Partsproduction

    Partsproduction Tillamook Oregon Active Member

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    I love my RCBS Pro2000, and above all else just knowing I didn't buy the "Lemming 2500" with the purple paint. :D

    Seriously, I couldn't stand having the same thing everyone else has, and I really like the APS primer system. Changing calibers only takes five minutes, I don't know about all those tools the OP was talking about, I've heard it's faster to swap than anything else on the market.

    If someone came out with a press that had 6 or 7 stages that would be far superior to anything out there now, but I suppose it's a matter of side load differential problems. I'd like to run mine with both a lockout die and a Lee factory crimp die, but currently just have a second single stage press for the FCD.

    But I've noticed that if you don't have a Dillon "you ain't nuthin man!" :bluelaugh:
     
  8. gehrheart

    gehrheart fidalgo island Well-Known Member

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    AMproducts, I have to wonder from your post what is the problems you have with the L&L AP?

    I debated a long time before I bought mine. When I was a teenager I learned on my dads rl550, then upgraded to the RL650. It certainly is capable and does work well. I do not like the primer system and the auto indexing seemed to be problematic. Had to send it back Dillon a few times.
    Went shopping for myself when I needed my own progressive, (being how access to the RL650 is now 1000 miles away.) I really liked all the features of the L&L AP. Its smooth, indexes well, primer system is OK, Powder charge works really well. The only issues I have had as of yet is to pull the shell plate about every 500rds to clean and re-lube. Not really much of an issue. I like the bushings system for the dies. I have had the single stage L&L for years and it works great. I have never felt the need to buy the RCBS rock chucker. Although that is a great press that no one can ague with. I am hoping to give the case loader a shot this coming spring. From what I am reading there will be a bullet feeder soon.

    For the money, I have been really pleased with the Hornady stuff.
    Don't think any one could go wrong with the blue kool-aid either, (besides they have great calendars.)
    RCBS has always made great products.

    Lee, well, is always cheap.
     
  9. olyshoots

    olyshoots Vancouver USA Member

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    I am an RCBS fan - for everything. Pick one brand, stick with it - there's a rhythm to each brand. That's my .02 anyway. They're all the best, or there's another better, depending on who you're talking too.

    Good luck.
     
  10. ZeroRing

    ZeroRing 26th District, WA Active Member

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    Seems like the trusty ole' turret press is always overlooked. I'll stick with my 25 year old Lyman T-Mag press since the rapid-reloading features of a progressive just doesn't fit with my particular reloading philosophy. :thumbup:

    No disrespect to those that love their progressives though!
     
  11. gehrheart

    gehrheart fidalgo island Well-Known Member

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    My t-mag sees quite a bit of use as well. Mostly leave it set up for 44 and the 45 long. Great press as well. When in the swing of it can push out a decent # of loaded rounds.
     
  12. rodell

    rodell Newcastle, WA Active Member

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    I have a Model 25 Redding that has loaded untold rounds. The rounds I turn out are consistent and it is absorbing to do. I will probably always load my rifle rounds with it or my Ultramag.

    Fortunately, I've been able to shoot a lot more handgun rounds than I have in a long time. I would be many, many hours on the trusty Redding cranking them out and I just don't have the time. The Dillon fills the box pretty quickly. Now, if the rounds would just jump into the mags.

    There's a place for all of the presses, even my single stage.
     
  13. Partsproduction

    Partsproduction Tillamook Oregon Active Member

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    Yes, it seems to break down generally by type of firearms being shot as well. If you are shooting a single shot Hiwall you might wonder why people want a progressive, and a revolver guy would most likely be happy with a turret press, but if you are shooting auto pistol, especially if you are shooting competition, you need volume.
    I have no problem pumping 400 rounds per hour from my Pro2000 and could get 600 if I had a bullet feeder. Again, the problem with the RCBS and their bullet feeder is that you lose yet another station. If you want to set your bullets depth with one die and crimp with another (Mandatory with lead bullets in my opinion) you need two stations.
    1. size/decap
    2. prime/bell
    3. powder
    4. lockout die
    5. seat bullet
    6. factory crimp die

    And we haven't put in the bullet feeder which wants another station.
     
  14. AMProducts

    AMProducts Maple Valley, WA Jerk, Ammo Manufacturer Silver Supporter

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    The only problem I have with the Hornady LNL is it doesn't have a quick change head. That is the only thing dillon seems to have over everyone else in the progressive market. It's two pins, and it slides out (at least on the 550 and 650, 1050 needs an 13/16 wrench).

    The Pro2000 is a pretty neat press, the only thing I never understood about it was whether it was auto-index or not. I know that was sold as an upgrade for a while, and I'm still not a fan of the APS. However, I see that as a personal objection, and not an indictment of the press. And yes, I realize that it's fairly easy to change over, you just need to bust out an allen wrench to take the head off.

    Based on some stuff that was going on in another thread, I bought a hornady LNL AP off a buddy of mine, and I like it way better than the 650's I run at work. It's about 100 times smoother, and priming is a lot easier and more reliable. I think I will probably buy a casefeeder for it, and use it for most of my personal reloading. I am running RCBS dies in it though, the hornady dies just irk me too much (that floating seating stem/crimper attachment they have buts me).
     
  15. Partsproduction

    Partsproduction Tillamook Oregon Active Member

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    The RCBS uses two pins that retain the die plate, no wrench needed unless you are going to a caliber that uses a different size primer. An allen wrench is needed to swap out the shell plates.

    The APS system, if it were put out by Dillon it would soon become standard for everyone, it's that good. Since only RCBS has it it will never catch on, what a shame. I can't think of any objections to it, and they have a replacement for the old way available for those who don't take the time to get used to the APS. I really believe it's superior enough to drive sales to RCBS if people knew.

    The Pro2000 came as a manual index machine, but is being sold with or without auto index. I put the conversion on mine.
     
  16. AMProducts

    AMProducts Maple Valley, WA Jerk, Ammo Manufacturer Silver Supporter

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    Oh yea that's right, I forgot they changed it.... Every time I think of the Pro2K I instead think of the old piggyback II I used to have...

    I don't really have anything negative to say against APS, I remember for a while there, CCI was on board selling primers in the APS strips, only thing that turned me off is they were more expensive. I imagine if APS became a little more prevalent as far as vendor support, (RCBS is owned by ATK, who also owns CCI, Federal, Lake City etc) it might catch on, I don't really get too excited about the idea of having to load plastic strips with primers.

    Not that dillon's system is that much better, but primers in a tube is the industry standard. The Ammoload's take primers in a tube, Camdex takes primers in a tube, dillons, most of the old priming accessories take primers in a tube.

    One of the most interesting reloading machines I've come across recently was an old press made by RCBS called the "PRT" not sure what that stood for, but it was a 4 position, inline reloader. It had some interesting things... the one I saw was set up to handle .38 SPL, the cases would drop down a tube, be pushed out in between two rails by little one-way lifters, it used a little dandy powder measure, but most interestingly the bullet seating system was a lot more like the bullet feeder systems you see these days. It had a lever system that you put a bullet into a slot in the die, and as you drove the press down, it would seat the bullet by a ram coming down. I have been able to find out nothing on the web about it. The guy who owns it is doing all the black oxide on some stuff I'm working on, so next time I'm there I'll see if I can get a picture.
     
  17. gehrheart

    gehrheart fidalgo island Well-Known Member

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    The bushing system works pretty well I think for quick change. I don't use it much as most of what (90%) I load on it is .45acp.

    I have been seeing a lot people change over from the blue to The L&L AP. The indexing I feel is better and the whole operation moves as you say "smother".

    I think both systems work well, my preference is hornady.
    I agree there dies, Im not sure I am sold on them. I did buy another set recently So I do have another 100 free bullets coming. :thumbup:
     
  18. Partsproduction

    Partsproduction Tillamook Oregon Active Member

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    Of course the best feature of the RCBS press is that it's made of cast iron. That was why I chose it over all the others. As a machine shop owner I'd never deliberately choose a machine with an aluminum frame.

    On the APS being more expensive, they send a little tray device that loads old strips in seconds, way way way less time and hassle than loading the tubes! So, you buy whatever brand primers you want and load them, I buy Wolf. But, as for being more expensive, the APS loaded strips, both Federal and CCI, are only about $3 more per K, and you only need to buy a few to have the strips needed for reloading with primers of your choice. I really believe that if the average reloader used the APS system a few thousand rounds they would demand the system on their aluminum framed machines. ;)

    The only people I've talked to that found objections to the APS system are those who either haven't used them or gave up within a few days, it does demand a bit of attention, if you just go pumping away without glancing at the progress of the strip it will begin to disappear before you an attach another strip to it. Once one gets the hang of glancing at it it becomes automatic.

    If there were a legitimate objection to the Pro2000 it would, in my opinion, be the permanent placement of the powder dispenser at station #3, it would be far better to just have a fifth hole in the plate so one could put the powder measure at station #2 with the prime and bell die as Lee does. That would free a station for the Lee factory crimp die as a last station before ejection. Some folks use the Lee system and place the lockout die at station #3 permanently, but then one needs to adjust it for every caliber change.


    RCBSpress.jpg
    This is my press, I installed several changes to make things easier. The press comes with a micrometer type powder measure but it had no clamp to keep your settings, I put a setscrew that makes the setting stay where I put it. Towards the back at the bottom of the linkage is a small wheel with 8 holes in it, this is an eccentric adjustment device that allows me to adjust the location of the micrometer measure when it comes to a stop. The directions say that the stopped location should be within 1/16"of the top of travel, with that wheel it is easy to adjust. The 8 holes are for a spring loaded pin to insert to fix the position of the wheel.
    I put a knob at the front of the linkage so I could more easily dump a couple of shots of powder after the press has been sitting a while, because the powder settles and the first few charges are slightly heavier. Without the knob you have to grasp the barrel of the micrometer powder measure, and before I put the setscrew on it that would make it move.
    As it sits it's a pretty fast press, but if I can get a bullet collator it will be a lot faster. Just orienting the bullet the same way every time would make a huge difference.
     
  19. AMProducts

    AMProducts Maple Valley, WA Jerk, Ammo Manufacturer Silver Supporter

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    Yea, I've seen the little tools for loading the strips. I use an ammoload primer tube filler. Which is like the dillon one, except it actually works without jamming, and you can throw 1000+ primers into them. This is a vibratory bowl type feeder, and will fill a stick of about 120-130 primers in about a minute. For the most part, it's fast enough to keep up with an ammoload running at full tilt (about 4K/hr) provided you don't get primers that are dinged up or out of round.