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Discussion Starter #1
have posted this before and I hesitate to do so now. This topic always starts a ruckus. It is important to note that BOTH SYSTEMS ARE EXCELLENT! But, they operate differently. You need to choose the press that matches your style. Good Luck!

Which is Better? What’s best?

This question usually ignites a firestorm of of "Blue verses Red verses etc." What you are not going to find is very many people that have actually loaded on BOTH DILLON AND HORNADY. I have loaded on the Dillon SDB, 550, 650, 1050 and the Hornady LNL.
I currently own a Hornady LNL and a Dillon SDB.

Here is my perspective:

Consider the Hornady Lock and Load Progressive. It’s cheaper than the Dillon and has several features that, IMHO are better than Dillon.

The Dillon has been on the market a long time and have great customer service, as a result, Dillon users are very dedicated to their blue presses. Dillon presses are EXCEPTIONAL and do an exceptional job in reloading. The competition to the Dillon is the Hornady Lock and Load Auto Progressive. Because most of the Dillon users are so satisfied, when you ask the question “Which is better?”, you get swamped with comments like, "The Hornady LNL is Junk!" If you asked if they have ever loaded on the LNL and 99.9% said no. When I did find someone that had experience with both presses, most liked the LNL and many had sold their Dillon's and bought the LNL. However, there have been those that sold their red presses and bought blue. I can also unequivocally state, based on my experience, that HORNADY has equal customer service. You just have to decide what you like best. Some times it’s just the color, red or blue!!

IMHO the Dillon has one major shortcoming and, most Dillon owners will agree if they are honest. The Dillon powder measure is sorely lacking in ease of use and adjustability. It is sliding bar type measure. It meters ball type powder well but, flake type powder less so. Extruded stick type powder is VERY troublesome and not all that accurate. To be fair, extruded powder is difficult in all powder measures, irregardless of design. Be advised that flake powder has been known to “leak” around the Dillon sliding bar as it is activated back and forth. Particularly if the sliding bar is worn. The LNL powder measure is a rotary barrel design that handles all types of powder MUCH better than the Dillon. A rotary barrel is the same design used by RCBS, Sinclair and other manufacturers. I have never heard of a rotary type measure “leak”. Also, it is a pain to swap out the Dillon powder measure to another die plate. As a result, many owners have several powder measures on separate die plates for changing calibers. This significantly drives UP the COST. I have never heard of a LNL owner that has more than one powder measure. There is no need. It is easy to adjust. Many LNL owners, myself included, own several "Powder Dies" that are pre-adjusted to load a specific case. (Note: Powder measure fits into the Powder Die.) Each LNL powder die costs about $20. A Dillon powder measure costs $75.

Also, IMHO, the Dillon de-priming/priming system is less reliable than the LNL. With the Dillon system, spent primers drop through the bottom of the shell plate into a small cup. It is an “open” system and is easy to empty. However, the press gets dirty with carbon. Whenever carbon/dust/dirt or “primer dust” fouls the primer seating station this causes "flipped" or "skipped" primers. The DILLON de-priming system works well provided it is kept CLEAN. With the Hornady LNL, spent primers are dropped completely through the press into a plastic tube and into the trash or bottle or whatever you want to use. It is a “closed” system. You never get carbon in and around the bottom of the shell plate. The point is the dirt off the spent primers does not foul the workings of the press. I have never had a “flipped” primer. Although, I have had “missed” primers that I feel were operator error (ME!) and not the fault of the primer system. (I forgot to seat the primer!) In all fairness, the LNL primer seating station will also not work properly if the primer slide is fouled with dirt or powder. Please note that neither Dillon or LNL primer systems will work flawlessly unless they are adjusted properly. Users of BOTH systems have expressed exasperation with these adjustments.

If you want a “Powder Check” system you need a press with at least five stations. The Dillon Square Deal and Dillon 550 both have 4 die stations. The LNL and Dillon 650 both have 5 stations. However, the 650 costs significantly more than the LNL. The Dillon 1050 is really an industrial machine and has eight stations.

How the presses indexes is an issue for some people. In reading the web about "KABOOMS" (Blowing up a gun!!), many of the kabooms I have read about were directly traced back to a manually indexing press. This is not the fault of the press but, operator error. However, with a manually indexing press, If you get distracted while reloading, you can easily double charge a pistol case. (A double charge will depend on the powder you are using and the charge weight.) IMHO, a double charge is less of a problem with auto-indexing presses. The Hornady LNL, Dillon 650 and, Dillon Square Deal auto index. The MOST POPULAR Dillon press, the 550, is a manually indexing press. Some people prefer manual, some people prefer auto.

In addition, the LNL auto indexing is significantly smoother than the Dillon 650. The LNL indexes 1/2 step while the ram is going up and 1/2 step when the ram goes down. The 650 indexes a full step on the ram down stroke and can cause pistol cases to spill SMALL AMOUNTS or powder with the indexing "bump". IMHO, the LNL is dramatically better. Of course, the amount of powder "bumped" from a case is dependent on the powder charge, operator and, speed of reloading. As I stated above, you get primer problems with a dirty press. "Bumped" powder fouls BOTH Dillon and LNL.

Next, the LNL uses a really slick bushing system for mounting loading dies and powder measure to the press. It makes changing calibers and SNAP. After a die is adjusted for whatever you are loading you can remove the die from the press with an 1/8 turn and insert a different die. Each die has it's own bushing. The Dillon uses a die plate that has the powder measure and all loading dies installed. The Dillon die plate costs more than LNL bushings. Another neat feature with the Hornady is that you can buy a bushing conversion setup and use the same bushings on your RCBS, Lyman or other single stage press and the LNL!

Additionally, the LNL seems to be built like a tank! The ram is about 2"+ in diameter and the basic press is similar in construction to the RCBS Rock Chucker. I would say that a side-by-side comparison to the either the Dillon 550 OR 650, the LNL is at least as sturdily built. And, in some areas I think the LNL is better built. i.e., The massive ram, powder measure, and primer system. The head/top of the press is solid except for where the dies are inserted. The Dillon has a large cutout that is needed for their die plates. By just looking, it would seem the LNL would be stronger. But, of course, that may not be the case.

There is one piece that can get damaged on the LNL. There is a coil spring that holds the cases in the shell holder that can get crushed if you improperly change shell holders. That's the bad news. The good news is that they are only about $2-3 for three and they won't get crushed if you change shell plates correctly. Also, recently Hornady sends these out as a warranty item free of charge. The other good news is that this spring is the primary reason while loading you can easily remove a case at any station. The spring is durable if it is not abused. I have been using my current retainer spring for about 2 years. I have loaded at least 12,000 rounds in that time. With the Dillon you have to remove small individual brass pins in order to take a shell out of a shell plate. My fingers require needle-nose pliers or forceps to remove the brass pins. It is a PITA.

(For the next discussion keep in mind that BOTH DILLON AND LNL shell plates rotate CLOCKWISE.)

Another item to think about. For NON-CASE FEEDER users; all Dillon presses (Except 1050) require you to use BOTH hands to insert brass and bullets on the press. The Dillon 650, 550 and, SDB operates as follows;

1. Right hand inserts an empty case at the right, front side of the press.
2. Left hand then sets the bullet on the case mouth at the left, rear side of the press.
3. Right hand then activates the operating handle.
4. For Dillon 550 only, Left hand manually rotates shell plate.
5. You then release the operating handle and insert another case with your right hand and so forth. (Right, left, right, left, right, left)

(Note: With the Dillon 550 you also have to manually rotate the shell plate at step 4. Most people do this with their LEFT hand.)

With the Dillon, “right-left-right-left” hand operating procedure, clockwise rotation and, the fact that you start your loading process at the front, right side of the press, your bullet seating die is at the rear, left side of the press. Why is this important? The Dillon powder measure drops powder into the case and the case is rotated clockwise to the REAR of the press to the bullet seating die. It is very difficult to see inside of the case to see the gunpowder. Many Dillon owners rig up flashlight, mirror or, believe it or not, a video camera to “look” into the case to see the powder charge.

With the LNL you start your loading process at the REAR, left side of the press. As your case rotates clockwise, after the powder is dropped, your case is directly in the front of the press and the bullet is seated directly in front of the person operating the press. Is is VERY EASY to look directly into the case to see the powder charge. Even though I use a “Powder Check” die. I look directly into each case as I am loading. I have never had a squib load OR a double charge. This is not to say that it can’t happen. It can. I just haven’t experienced one.

Loading cases and bullets with the left hand is very natural to me. Others may really dislike this feature and prefer the right/left/right/left/right operation of Dillon. Please note that a case feeder eliminates this operation and both Dillon and LNL only load bullets on the left side of the press. Dillon at the back of the press and LNL at the front of the press.

Dillon Customer service is legendary. You can buy a used Dillon press that is a total wreak and they will rebuild or send you a new one for about $40-$50 bucks. Any parts you break will be replaced free of charge. Hornady service, in my experience, is equal. When I needed some replacement springs that broke do to age, Hornady replaced them free of charge. They will also rebuild your press if it needs it. I think most other manufacturers are matching Dillon’s service. Dillon raised the bar pretty high for customer service and other companies see how devoted customers are to the BLUE presses. I do feel that is one of the primary reasons Dillon’s prices are HIGH. But of course, I have no way of knowing that.

You can load anything on both the Dillon and LNL from .25 ACP to 500 N.E. Realistically, I would say that people with progressive loaders mostly load pistol ammo 99% of the time. After using the LNL, I feel confident that my Grandkids will be using when I'm gone.

In summary, the Hornady LNL has all the features of the Dillon 650 but, is much cheaper. However, the Dillon automatic case feeder is about $50 cheaper than the Hornady. Changing calipers on the LNL is faster and cheaper. The powder measure on the LNL is VASTLY SUPERIOR TO THE DILLON, at least in my opinion. I bought the LNL and am very satisfied. A shooting buddy of mine is a long time, dedicated Dillon user. He has three! After giving me a ration of "stuff" about my choice, he came over and used my LNL and sheepishly said, "That's a very nice setup!!"
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thewelshm
 

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Wow..........Thank You for this review WelshM! Bought a single stage Hornady press last year as I have never loaded any metal shells. Was about to start throwing powder into cases then fishing/boating season set in. Now that the cold weather is moving back in the reloading table is going to be one of my best friends. Looked long and hard, spent many hours surfing reloading, gun and hunting websites and decided to go single stage and see if reloading 'works' for me. If it turns out to be the winter hobby/money saver it may be another full blown addiction for me.

Your review is one of the most informative I have ever read!

Thanks again!
 

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I went blue and have never been sorry.
 

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I have a used RCBS Jr 2 and recently got a Hornady LNL. I love the simplicity of a single stage press. The LNL requires a good amount of time to get every station set up properly, but once it is, the bushing system make it so that you do not have to do it again. The LNL is also much faster than a single stage. I have not used a Dillon to be able to compare. I did some research and came across some good reviews that were not the stupid mantra of "go blue or die" or whatever. Seriously, that stuff annoys me. Give me reasons you like blue or red or whatever. That being said, here is some of the research I came across that helped me make my decision. I hope the writer doesn't mind my posting it. If he does I will take it down.
 

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For a moment I thought this post had something to do with politics but now see that is about a nice agreeable subject like making ammo.

I have a 38 year old Green Press named for a rodent and with my simple but constant demands has never failed.
 

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My Forster is red. I primarily load for accuracy and weigh each and every charge so the Forster is my choice. If I was reloading primarily pistol rounds for quantity, then I really don't know what color I would pick. But, I would absolutely not part with my Forster.
 

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My Lee is red, I'm happy with it because all my ammo goes bang.:D
+1

Would like one of those fancy, more expensive machines, but I'm a on a poor mans budget. :eek: :rolleyes: ;)
+1! I use a single stage Lee & really like the quick die change feature.
I make quality ammo that is more consistent than factory & tailored for my pistols.

The important part is I have fun doing it.:cool:

I must say that the Forester press is interesting & I would like to see one in action. I guess a trip to Youtube is in my future.

Happy, safe reloading everyone.:)
 

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Man I thought you were talking about the red or blue hard lube for casting. I use the red lube, but when it comes to reloading my cast bullets I use the green machine in the progressive, or the Rock Chucker in the rifle cases.:D
 

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I got both of my presses used at a very steep discount from retail. If I were to buy new the Forester press would definitely be a press I would be looking at. It looks slick.

Accuracy and economy are the top two reasons I started reloading. I would have been happy with just a single stage but then my brother gave me about 1000 empty 9MM brass. I loaded some test rounds and found a load I like and then I calculated how long it would take for me to reload all that brass. I started looking for a used progressive right then. I figured I could afford it if I could keep the cost of the whole progressive setup under $300.

I still only reload semi auto calibers on the progressive press and everything else on the single stage press.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Another, and respect given to other brands..


thewelshm
 

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THEWELSHM, If Hornady had been making progressive presses back when I bought my Dillon, I would have seriously considered buying one. This Christmas, my Dillon RL550 will be 22 years old. It has loaded literally tons of ammo in many different calibers by myself and my customers. In all those years I've had exactly one malfunction ... a loading shelf in the first station broke because I had a dumbass attack. 3 days later I had a new part and was back in business ... no questions, no cost. This machine has paid for itself many times over. What's not to like??? Maybe if Hornady put out a monthly magazine with pretty girls on the cover (like Dillon's Blue Press), it might be more enticing :).

No doubt, anyone that makes an investment in a good machine, buys a bunch of accessories, and gets committed to the brand .... there's not much short of a free machine that will change his mind. I'm sure you are just as proud of your Hornady as I am of my Dillon. As for your critique ... I have some very different opinions, especially about the powder measure .... but then again, they are only opinions not worthy of an argument. BTW, your link to the "How I spent my winter and then some" had already been posted by notathome in post #5.
 

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This has been a very information discussion. I am reaching the point where cranking out finished loads in a reasonable time is looking attractive as I will go through at least 200 rounds per range session. The one thing I know, the Dillon 650 is off my wish list ($$$) which is down to the Dillon 550 or the Hornaday LnL.

My concern is on the powder measure stage as I currently use the RCBS Chargemaster to turn out repeatable powder measures and then seat and crimp on my single-stage. I am not familiar with the various powder charging systems to be comfortable with measure accuracy and being able to correctly set them.

Primer seating is another concern point. Tried a couple of manual tools and found the RCBS the "better" of the offerings. Got a Forester CoAx bench primer. Works but, it has its quirks.

I have looked at the possibility of a turret but am not convinced it is a big time saver for the $$$ involved.
 

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This has been a very information discussion. I am reaching the point where cranking out finished loads in a reasonable time is looking attractive as I will go through at least 200 rounds per range session. The one thing I know, the Dillon 650 is off my wish list ($$$) which is down to the Dillon 550 or the Hornaday LnL.

My concern is on the powder measure stage as I currently use the RCBS Chargemaster to turn out repeatable powder measures and then seat and crimp on my single-stage. I am not familiar with the various powder charging systems to be comfortable with measure accuracy and being able to correctly set them.

Primer seating is another concern point. Tried a couple of manual tools and found the RCBS the "better" of the offerings. Got a Forester CoAx bench primer. Works but, it has its quirks.

I have looked at the possibility of a turret but am not convinced it is a big time saver for the $$$ involved.
I have the Hornady LnL progressive and love it. Once it's set, it works like clock work and for $399 + free shipping it's a deal. Might even get it cheaper closer to the holidays now. It uses my Lee and RCBS dies with no issues and shell plates are coming down in price so adding calibers is not to bad on price either.
 

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kf6zpl, I understand your concerns about powder measures used on progressive presses. First of all, if you have to stop and weigh each powder charge, it totally defeats the very purpose of a progressive. So how do you deal with it? The simplest way is to use a powder that meters exceptionally well. I prefer W-231 for many loads that use fast burning powder because it meters about the best of any powder on the market (in any powder measure), as does it twin, HP-38. AA#5 is great for mid-burn rate loads. I also use W-296 (or its twin H-110) for magnum loads because it also meters about perfect. In my Dillon powder measure, the two worst powders are AA#2 ... it meters great but it is so fine that it often causes the slider baffle to bind up. 800x just plane meters poorly in any powder measure. Flake powders like Unique meters quite well in my Dillon, providing the charge weights are above 5 grains. At lower charge weights, drops can vary more than .1 grains, which is the general standard used for reloading. So .... by choosing a powder that meters well, you just never have an issue. Being "old school", I always stop every once in a while and take a weight sample. In over 21 years of using this press, I have never had a powder charge out of tolerance, however that wouldn't count 700x, 800x, or a few other powders that are known for metering poorly (which I never use). I have a gem stone scale that is accurate to .02 grains ... 5 times more accurate than most reloading scales. When I get my powder charge set on my Dillon with W-231, it drops within .04 grains, which is more accurate than any Chargemaster.

On to your RCBS Chargemaster ... these things tend to spoil you because they work exceptionally well with just about all powders, including extruded rifle powder that don't meter well in any powder measures. That said, they are not totally fool proof and aren't quite as accurate as one might expect. I think if you look in your operating manual, it says the scale is accurate to +or- .1 grains. If you disperse/weigh a load that was actually 10.05 grains, the scale would round up to 10.1gr. If the actual weight was 10.04gr, the scale would round down to 10.0gr. When you couple the scale's software algorithm with the actual accuracy of the scale, you could be as much as .15 grains off and still have a dead nuts reading on the display.

I don't know if Hornady has a system for using an external powder source or not (like your Chargemaster) but my Dillon has a manual system you can buy. It amounts to removing the Dillon powder measure and replacing it with an AT-550 powder die and a plastic funnel. When I load any rifle cartridge larger than a 223 Rem on my RL550, I use my old AMT AUTOSCALE (works just like your Chargemaster only it has a balance beam scale instead of a digital scale, pictured below). This slows the process down but I know I'm getting a precision powder charge. I only use the AT-550 powder die and funnel when I load large batches of rifle ammo because I tend to use my Rockchucker for smaller batches. A few weeks ago, I cranked out 250ea 308 Win cartridges and it took less than two hours, but that didn't count case prep time (cleaning, annealing, and trimming).

So .... if you buy a progressive, don't throw away your Chargemaster or your current press because they may just come in handy some day.



Priming on a progressive is a piece of cake ... no need at all for a hand primer tool. Again, if you have to hand prime, it defeats the very purpose of a progressive. With my Dillon, as long as I keep the primer slider brushed off every 50 rounds or so, it runs flawless. One of the issues with Dillon 550s is ... primer pucky (primer residue and tumbler media) will get punched out when you deprime. If you are not careful to remove all tumbler media before sizing, it will drop down on the primer slider and bind it up .... something you learn the very first time you operate it. A few years ago I started using a universal depriming die in my Rockchucker so I could run all my cases through an ultrasonic cleaner. This totally eliminates any possibility of the primer slider getting bound plus my cases come out super clean, inside and out. For the first 19 years I owned the Dillon, I never cleaned primer pockets and I never had the slightest problem with my reloads going bang. In fact, other than when the machine was brand new and I didn't know about the primer pucky issue, I have never had the primer slider bind, never had a primer flip, or fail to feed. I think a properly adjusted Hornady would run just as well, both for powder drops and priming.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
THEWELSHM, If Hornady had been making progressive presses back when I bought my Dillon, I would have seriously considered buying one. This Christmas, my Dillon RL550 will be 22 years old. It has loaded literally tons of ammo in many different calibers by myself and my customers. In all those years I've had exactly one malfunction ... a loading shelf in the first station broke because I had a dumbass attack. 3 days later I had a new part and was back in business ... no questions, no cost. This machine has paid for itself many times over. What's not to like??? Maybe if Hornady put out a monthly magazine with pretty girls on the cover (like Dillon's Blue Press), it might be more enticing :).

No doubt, anyone that makes an investment in a good machine, buys a bunch of accessories, and gets committed to the brand .... there's not much short of a free machine that will change his mind. I'm sure you are just as proud of your Hornady as I am of my Dillon. As for your critique ... I have some very different opinions, especially about the powder measure .... but then again, they are only opinions not worthy of an argument. BTW, your link to the "How I spent my winter and then some" had already been posted by notathome in post #5.
I concur glad you enjoyed it it's like ford Chevy or dodge . Each to their own.

THEWELSHM
 

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kf6zpl, I almost forgot ... over 3 years ago, I put a document in the Forum Library titled "Dillon RL550B". It gives a quick rundown on how a 550 press works, what accessories you need, etc. It does not go into the adjustments such as installing dies, changing from one size primer to another, or adjusting the powder measure. You might want to take a quick look at it if you are considering a RL 550. BTW, other progressive presses operate in a very similar manner ... different accessories and slightly different operating procedures but similar none the less. Here's a link: http://rugerforum.net/library/36988-dillon-rl550b.html
 
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