Save time, save money

By Darby Darrow

Of course by now we know how valuable dry fire training is for improving our shooting skills. However there are some aspects of shooting that cannot be improved with dry fire. So at some point we need to get out on the range. And to be honest, we here at Trucks & Guns sometimes just want to go to the range and shoot things. Which means burning through some actual ammunition. That leaves us with a couple of options. If we have bottomless pockets we can just buy all the ammo that we want, provided that we can find it in stock. Or we can purchase smaller quantities and limit our shooting. Or we can reload our own ammo.

WHY WOULD I WANT TO RELOAD?

There are several reasons for wanting to reload. One reason would be reloading gives us the ability to load the rounds exactly as we would like them. If the off-the-shelf ammo doesn’t pack a punch like you want, you can work your way up to a hotter load by reloading. Perhaps the stock rounds are too hot for your taste and you would like to download your practice rounds to make the sessions more enjoyable. You can reload lighter rounds as well. Perhaps you find yourself wanted to shoot during an ammo shortage. If you had prudently stockpiled the required components, you can load and shoot to your hearts content. Or perhaps you just want to save some money over shooting factory rounds.

HOW MUCH CAN I SAVE?

After the initial price of the loading press and accessories, and ignoring your labor involved (because after all it is a labor of love!), we reload .45 ACP for about 1/3 of the price of factory loads. The most expensive component is the brass. If you are purchasing your brass the cost will go up, but if you are using your old brass or able to pick up some discarded brass at your favorite shooting location, you can save about 2/3 of the cost of factory ammo.

WHAT TYPE OF LOADER TO GET?

There are two basic types of reloading presses. The single stage and the progressive/turret style. Back in the day we cut our teeth on a single stage Rockchucker press. For this discussion we will confine our reloading to .45 ACP pistol ammo, other handgun ammo will be similar, rifle ammo may involve a few more steps. With a single stage press, after cleaning and inspecting your brass you reload your ammo one step at a time. You first resize and de-prime all of your brass, install the next die which will expand the mouth of the case. Then use your priming tool to prime the casing. Next you would meter out the correct amount of powder into each casing and visually verify the amount. Finally you would place a bullet in the mouth of the casing and run the casing into the seater/crimper die to complete the reloading process.

The other progressive/turret style of reloading press uses all of the dies loaded into the press moves the shell casing through all of the steps that you would individually do in a single stage press.

THE DILLON PRECISION XL650

Dillon Precision (www. dillonprecision.com) has been making progressive loaders since the early 1980s and has a “no B.S.” warranty on their consumer level machines. All of their presses, except for their commercial model Super 1050 come with a lifetime warranty. Whether you are the original owner or the 17th owner, if something breaks they will make it right. Last year we had a primer pickup tube break. A quick call to Dillon and the new part was on its way here. Gotta love that level of customer service! We chose the $650 XL650 for our shop reloading duties. It has proven to be a smooth, efficient, fast and overall reliable machine that saves us big money on ammo.

THE PERFECT MACHINE

There are a few issues that we would like to see addressed. First item that we noticed was the rotation of the shell plate. The rotation snaps from one station to the next. This snap tends to fling a little bit of gun powder from the shell as it advances to the next station. The fix was simple enough but did require an additional purchase. Go to McMaster Carr (www.mcmaster.com) and purchase a Steel needle roller thrust bearing cage assembly with 1/2 inch shaft diameter and 15/16 in OD (#5909K31) and a single .032 in thick washer for 1/2 in shaft (#5909K44). By placing the bearing cage and then the washer between the shell plate and the shell plate bolt will substantially smooth out the rotation of the shell plate. Total retail cost would be around $5.

The second issue is the unused primer “ski jump”. If you don’t have a case ready to accept a new primer the primer drops out of the primer carrier and slides down a short ramp for storage. At some point you remove the primers and replace them in the primer tube for reuse. But occasionally the primer will roll down the ramp and jump off the end, hence the “ski jump” nick name. There are many fixes involving drills, tubes and additional containers, but we have opted to just cut the finger off of a latex glove and place it on the end of the ramp. Problem solved, but hardly elegant. We would really like to see Dillon Precision address these two minor issues.

But in the whole scheme of things there are many more advantages than disadvantages with the Dillon Precision XL650. When you factor in the ease of use, efficiency of reloading, quality of components and no B.S. warrantee the XL650 comes out a winner! Check out www.dillonprecision.com.

Dillon Precision XL600 Reloader

The Dillon XL650 with optional case feed and powder check mounted to the workbench with the optional Strong Mount.

Dillon Precision XL600 Reloader

Clean cases are fed into the tube by the optional case feeder. The case feeder allows you to increase your production rate.

EDITOR’S NOTE AND DISCLAIMER: Hand loading ammo should only be performed by a trained professional. Do not attempt to recreate or re-enact anything you see in Trucks & Guns Magazine. This is not an article on the best practices of reloading. Follow the official Dillon instruction manual to the letter. Always consult your manual, and the manufacturer’s powder load tables and work your way slowly up to your desired load. Always wear protective equipment and pay attention to what you are doing. Violating any of these practices can result in a situation where bodily injury or death can occur for which we are not responsible.

Dillon Precision XL600 Reloader

By pushing the handle forward the next casing is positioned into the caliber specific shell plate at position #1. Pulling the handle down raises the shell plate, forcing the casing into the resizing die, which will size the case down to original size and remove the spent primer.

Dillon Precision XL600 Reloader

Each time you lower the handle, the shell plate is lowered and indexed to the next station. The deprimed case is ready for a new primer and gun powder at position #2.

Dillon Precision XL600 Reloader

The low primer sensor notifies you with an audible tone that the primers in the primer tube are getting low

Dillon Precision XL600 Reloader

When you push the handle forward a new primer is seated into the primer pocket, while the next case is moved into position at station #1. The case has been removed to show the primer.

Dillon Precision XL600 Reloader

Pulling the handle down will move the shell plate up and activate the powder dispenser charging the newly primed case. And of course the case at position #1 is being resized and deprimed.

Dillon Precision XL600 Reloader

At position #3 we have the optional powder check die. The die has a rod that will provide an audible tone if amount of powder in the case is substantially less than, or more than you desire.

Dillon Precision XL600 Reloader

At position #4 we do a quick visual check on the powder level as we place a bullet in the mouth of the primed and charged case.

Dillon Precision XL600 Reloader

Pulling the handle down moves the shell plate up and properly seated the bullet to the correct depth. Then at position #5 the bullet is crimped in place. With the .45 ACP the bullet is held in with a taper crimp.

Dillon Precision XL600 Reloader

It has taken five manipulations of the handle (pushing and pulling each time) to complete a reloaded round, but now with each pull of the handle you are finishing another round! This is where a progressive press shines! The XL650 has a cyclic rate of 1000 rounds per hour. We don’t normally hurry the process, which minimizes the opportunities for mistakes. However we regularly reload about 200 rounds in 15-20 minutes. The ultimate goal: Freshly loaded ammo for your range day!

Dillon Precision XL600 Reloader

The ski jump. This ramp is to catch unused primers. Occasionally a primer will fly off the end of the ramp and escape!