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Thoughts on the Dillon Square Deal B 9mm from a first timer

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I've been reloading for about 3-4 years now. I still feel like a beginner and I've benefited immensely from people on this forum. I write this now for the newer people than me getting into reloading and wondering about the SDB. I have been reading and watching videos about Dillon Presses and finally got one a few months ago. I only reload 9mm and I used to reload on the Lee Classic Turret press. After reading so many forums, articles, discussions, and watching videos, here's some of my observations, thoughts, and experiences.

1. I do love the SDB. I hardly ever hear about any negatives about this press and they certainly do exist. But the positives overwhelmingly outweigh the negatives. Thank you again to the awesome seller that I met on this forum for selling me this machine at such an amazing bargain. This press has a surprisingly simple, classic design; and it is built to sturdy such that it is quite the workhorse.

I really thought I would be bothered by having to manually insert a piece of brass and seat a bullet by hand each time before I had to pull down the lever. (which is why I was originally looking at presses with case feeder and bullet feeder options.) But to my pleasant surprise, this requirement of this press does not bother me and it does not add any significant amount of time to the reloading process. I actually had another progressive press for a short period of time right before owning this SDB and that press had both case and bullet feeder options. Using that press, I found that it took more time and stress to make sure the bullet and case feeders were working smoothly, which it often did not. I also find reloading on the SDB to be extremely soothing, therapeutic, and relaxing.

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2. I do believe accessories are some of the most fun aspects of a hobby. And as you can see above, I ordered the Strong Mount which I really recommend. It's pricey but in my opinion, well worth it. The Strong Mount distributes the weight and stress of the press more evenly rather than 3 holes at the edge of a wooden table. I was afraid of the wood of my table cracking over time without the Strong Mount. I also added the Cartridge Bin and Bracket along with the Bullet Tray. Without these, I do think individually seating the bullet/inserting each piece of brass would bother me. But these trays and brackets allowed me the greatest minimization of motion possible because the bin and trays are so close to the shell plate. I decided this over the Inline Fabrication Ultra Mounts since those mounts would make the brass tray too far back of the press, requiring me to reach for the brass too far of a distance.

3. Although not necessary, I also do highly recommend the Tool Holder with Wrench Set. It installs right in the back of the machine and it is pretty useful.

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4. I recommend a couple of other accessories. One is the locator pin tabs that is blue in the above picture. These tabs makes taking the pins on and off incredibly easy, which you will have to do from time to time. I also recommend the Bin Barriers. You can get both of these items from Inline Fabrications, which is an awesome reloading shop. And they are based in Eugene! I had no idea.


5. Don't get me wrong, this press is not without issues. The shell plate pin broke and the primer punch on the first die broke in the first month of my using this machine. However when I called Dillon, they sent out new parts without much questions asked: true to their word of no BS warranty.

I also had trouble with powder spillage whenever the shell plate rotated. I wrote a whole post about that before but I was able to correct that problem by cutting off some of the Index Return Spring. (See that post where I included a bunch of YouTube videos that show how to fix it)

Although I was able to fix all of these issues, it was a pain to research, correct, deal with, and wait for parts. I guess I should expect that since this is an almost 10 year old machine. So to those who thinks that this machine will never break down due to its reputation and since you'll be paying so much more for it, think again. I am realizing that dealing with and having to tinker with a reloading press is inevitable. If you are expecting a problem free press, you need to rethink whether reloading is for you.

6. Another issue I had was with the primer cup. The way Dillon designed it, the spent primers would drop into this small plastic bin or cup which is incredibly small. As a result, I would have to empty it often and the primers would often bounce out of the cup. Picking up spent primers that dropped on the ground is very annoying. It was also difficult to remove and re-insert the primer cup. This drove me crazy and I found the solution from a product below.


I know there are those of you who can make these kits on your own. But for those of you like me who is not machine savvy, I think the above kit is worth it. It works very well and the primer cup doesn't drive me nuts anymore.

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7. Loading primers into this press is probably my least favorite thing about this machine experience. Taking the primer tube and pecking each primer individually is really not fun. I tried the Frankford Arsenal Vibra Prime and I could not get it to work and so I returned it. Now I just use the RCBS primer tray. I recommend this thing since it is square in shape and big enough to fit over the primer package unlike other primer trays.

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8. Finally, I am so glad that I started off reloading on the turret press. That required me to be slower, more deliberate, and pay closer attention to each individual round. The thing about a progressive press is that bad rounds can get by you since you are producing so many rounds in a shorter amount of time. Let's not forget that we need to have a healthy amount of respect for this hobby, as one error round alone can seriously injury us or worse.

As great as the SDB is, it produces some erroneous rounds on a consistent basis. The frequency of these errors are small; but that makes it more difficult to detect them. And it vital and critical to discover these error rounds. I highly recommend buying the Shockbottle 100 rounds gauge.

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I know, I know; these are ridiculously expensive at about $130 including shipping. However, how else can you inspect each round before you shoot them on a mass level? Using an individual case gauge will take so much longer. And those things are some $35 anyways, which makes the price of the 100 gauge at about $100 more understandable and bearable. It was painful for me to save up for months for this thing but I do not regret it at all. I don't see how any progressive reloader can reload without using one of these. It can save you so much more headaches. By the way, I researched and was able to find one for $99 including shipping.

Also please take a look more closely at the problem rounds:

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Going from left to right, SDB has sometimes not seated a primer. This results in my Titegroup fine powder to spill out among my ammo through the hole, which makes quite the mess. This has happened twice in the thousands of rounds that I've reloaded and so it doesn't happen often. The next one is a primer seated upside down. Thankfully, this has happened only once. The third is a primer seated sideways. This has also only happened once. Finally, the fourth shows that the SDB did not punch out the old primer at all. This happens about once or twice per every one hundred rounds. That's a lot.

A more frequent issue is that the primer does not seat flush but sticks out a bit. This will cause the round to jam in the handgun. This happens 2-4 times per one hundred rounds. Now that is a lot. But thanks to the 100 round gauge, I'm able to discover all of these errors on a mass scale.

None of these errors could have been detected without this 100 round gauge. And so in my opinion, this 100 round gauge (although expensive) is a must and not an option. This also allows me to fill up the 100 count 9mm ammo boxes directly by flipping the box on top of the gauge. (See YouTube review of the Shockbottle 100 round gauge)

In the very first picture on this post, you can see the Lee single stage press off to the left. To those contemplating a progressive press, I highly recommend having one of these. I use it to decap primers when errors occurred on a round that I need to take apart and other decap duties. I also bought the RCBS bullet puller die and this works great on the Lee press to take apart rounds that went wrong, which is inevitable. Also you can use the Lee single stage press to fully seat the primers when they don't seat flush as I mentioned above. It costs about $60 on Amazon and you can use it for rifle reloading if you choose to do so.

Wow, this post turned out to be longer than I thought. Hope this can help someone and hope this was entertaining to read. Thanks everyone.
 
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Your review of this SDB does not make me want to go out and replace my RCBS turret set-up. Thanks for saving me the coin. Cheers!
 

Camelfilter

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Primers not decapped 1-2/100? Yikes!

What happens to those brass at the primer station?

Or do you normally decap then clean then reload? (mayhaps I missed that you do as such...)
 

DirectDrive

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Primers not decapped 1-2/100? Yikes!

What happens to those brass at the primer station?

Or do you normally decap then clean then reload? (mayhaps I missed that you do as such...)
Good questions.
I would gravitate toward a de-cap and primer pocket clean regimen before going to production.
High primers could be the result of debris in the primer pocket.
 
OP
9mm guy
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Good questions.
I would gravitate toward a de-cap and primer pocket clean regimen before going to production.
High primers could be the result of debris in the primer pocket.
Hmm, interesting. I actually first de-primed & cleaned before reloading when I first started. And I asked about this very subject in a previous post years ago; and most people said that they do not de-prime & clean before reloading their 9mm.

It makes sense not to de-prime before cleaning since on all progressive presses, the first die is to decap and the second die is to seat the primer. Thus the progressive presses are created to presume that no cleaning of the primer pockets are necessary. And when I used to reload on the Lee Turret, I never had this problem and I did not de-prime & clean before reloading. Despite the unclean primer pockets, that turret press seated the primer flush 100% of the time. Therefore, I must conclude that one of the weaknesses of the SDB is that it does not always seating the primer as flush.

In addition, one of the main reason for myself moving to a progressive press was because I needed to produce more rounds in a shorter amount of time due to changes in my life. And so adding another step of individually de-priming each piece of brass is something I cannot afford.

Despite this flaw of the SDB, it doesn't really bother me thanks to the Shockbottle 100 round gauge. That thing catches just about every flawed round and I love that I bought it. It's also one of the many fun ways my kids can participate in helping me reload. That's just my own thoughts; thanks everyone.
 

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