May 26, 2015
Depending on the task, I have three modes when I am reloading: snail pace with a single-stage press for my precision rifle, slow mode for pistol load development and production mode for mass quantities of pistol cartridges. Once my pistol loads are crafted and the press is properly adjusted, I tend to load several thousand rounds over a few sessions rather than just loading a couple hundred at a time as I shoot.
Looking to increase the production rate of my press, I added a few Dillon accessories to my XL650. My first task was to raise the press up off my bench top with the Strong Mount. The additional 8.5 inches of height reduces my reach downward and helps my back during long reloading sessions. I also changed out the ball arm with the optional Roller Handle. The elongated handle is more comfortable because it spreads the pressure out across my entire hand, and since the handle itself rolls, there is no friction against my skin. This is a welcome change from the standard, static ball armature, which is not as comfortable, especially during long sessions. Due to the angle of the roller handle, it is important that it be mounted very tightly to the press; otherwise, it will rotate as the press cycles.
I added Dillon's Case Feeder, which offered a significant jump in production rate. The motorized Feeder sits atop a casefeed post (metal tube), which bolts directly to the press. With loose cases dumped into the hopper, a plate circulates to orientate the cases mouth up and drop them down to a casefeed tube that leads to the casefeed on the press. The tube is clear so it's easy to see the status of cases. A rocker switch on the hopper — near the top of the tube — turns the case feeder off when the tube is full and reactivates it automatically when the cases start to flow again.
Installation of the Case Feeder entails only a few steps: Mount the casefeed post to the press with two bolts, sit the Feeder on top of the post and tighten one set screw to hold it tight, place the casefeed adapter on to the casefeed body, and insert the feeder tube. Total installation time was about two minutes and — best of all — it worked perfectly the first time. Neither fiddling nor cursing was needed!
The Case Feeder comes in four flavors: Large pistol (.38/.357, .40S&W and larger), Small pistol (.32, 9mm/38 Super), Large Rifle (22-250 and larger) and Small rifle (.204 Ruger, .223 and similar). Calibers can be switched out quickly by way of a caliber conversion kit which includes a casefeed plate and casefeed adapter. The casefeed tube does not need to be changed.
The capacity of the hopper varies depending on the caliber, but Dillon states that no more than half the bowl should be filled. Overloading places too much weight and thereby, tension, on the rotating plate. Considering the speed and ease of installation and increased production speed that I realized, it didn't take me long to wonder why I ever reloaded without it.
As with most things, as the speed of reloading increases, so does the chance of error. The XL650's included Low-Primer Alarm lets you know when you have just a few primers left in the primer tube. Without it, it's easy to run short of primers and find yourself with gunpowder all over the place.
Lack of powder during reloading is a recipe for squib (cartridge with a primer and bullet, but no powder). The primer gives Squibs just enough pressure to launch the bullet into the gun's barrel and to get it good and stuck. If you don't catch the fact that you just shot a squib and continue shooting, the gun's barrel will block up with disastrous results.
Running out of powder on the press may sound unlikely, but if you are moving fast, the supply level can be easily overlooked. The solution is Dillon's Low Powder Sensor. Arriving completely assembled, the sensor system replaces the cap of the Powder Measure. A plate, suspended by a rod, sits on top of the power within the powder measure. When the powder runs low, the sensor trips, offering a warning with both a red light and an audible tone. It took all of 20 seconds to install.
In addition to supply running out, another powder problem can occur with the powder drop itself, namely a double charge, or again, a squib caused by a lack of powder. I installed Dillon's Powder Check Die as a warning signal for both of these issues.
The Powder Check Die is installed on the press in station three, just after the powder measure. It comes with three powder rods for different sized calibers. As the platform rises during its cycle, the powder rod enters the case. It will give an audible alarm if the rod sits too high within the case (double charge) or not high enough (squib). The Powder Check Die is a gross check, not a fine check. It will not alert if the powder drop is inaccurate, only if it's missing or doubled.
Installation includes screwing in the die and setting the powder rod within a properly filled case. The height of the actuator, which is threaded onto the rod, is then adjusted until its bevel is level with the Powder Check's armature. Setup is simpler than it sounds. Total install time was about two minutes, and that includes the time that it took to read the directions.
Some friends that I know like the short respite that filling the primer tube offers. Stopping every 100 rounds gives them a break from the routine. Some prefer to purchase additional primer tubes and fill them all before reloading so they are at hand to refill quickly when needed. Dillon's RF100 Automatic Primer Filler eliminates all that and fills primer tubes in the background as you continue reloading.
The operation of the Filler is quite simple: Dump a box of primers into the hopper on top and press the start button. The unit vibrates the primers into the correct orientation and drops them down the tube in about two minutes. The tube is removed from the filler and emptied into the press's primer tube in the usual fashion.
With the time saved from not hand-filling primer tubes, you can load about 30 extra cartridges. The Primer Filler is available for both large and small primers, and conversion kits are also available. I do have to admit that I have lost more than a few minutes watching this machine run; it's fascinating.
The ease of installation and use says a lot about Dillon's products. The extra speed that these accessories delivered along with the safety sensors that I added reduced the stress and headaches of reloading. It has become less of a "chore" and dare I say, more fun.