Dillon 550 Question

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Dillon 550 Question

Post by Dr.Don on 9/27/2018, 7:42 am

I have reloaded on a Dillon progressive for decades.  It started out as a 450, but has had all of the primer system and powder system upgrades years ago.  So it is essentially a 550 without the changeable die heads.

I noticed recently I can upgrade the whole machine casting to get the replaceable head feature for a reasonable price.  My question is, for those of you who use 550's, do the heads actually align well when you swap them out and stay aligned?  Or is there a lot of fiddling to get them set up when changing calibers?
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Re: Dillon 550 Question

Post by STEVE SAMELAK on 9/27/2018, 8:22 am

I pop out my wad cutter head and toss in my ball head with impunity.
I don't recall having any issues converting calibers either, but then again I started with Lee Pro 1000s and had few problems.
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Re: Dillon 550 Question

Post by JD Mahan on 9/27/2018, 8:55 am

I have 4 heads for 4 calibers (9mm, .38/.357, .40/10, and .45acp).

I pull the 2 pins, slide one out and the other in; never any issues. Takes seconds.

John

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Re: Dillon 550 Question

Post by Sc0 on 9/27/2018, 8:57 am

No fiddling when using the 550 or 650.

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Re: Dillon 550 Question

Post by joy2shoot on 9/27/2018, 9:05 am

I reload .32 ACP, 9 mm, .357 Mag and .45 ACP.  Like the others have stated, pretty much issue free.  And after changing tool heads, I always check the powder measure to be sure it is still on.  If its not, I adjust the micrometer on the powder bar and keep checking until I get the correct charge weight.  Once that is done, I make a few rounds and check bullet seating depth and crimp before I go into full production mode.

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Re: Dillon 550 Question

Post by weber1b on 9/27/2018, 9:22 am

My only tweaking comes from different loads of the same caliber, but swapping heads is quick. The other thing that takes a few minutes is changing from large to small primer or vice versa. Some folks solve that by having two base units.

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Re: Dillon 550 Question

Post by dronning on 9/27/2018, 9:38 am

Back when I was shooting both rifle and pistol I had 12 heads, 7 with powder measures, all loaded with dies ready to go, this made everything so easy, never had a problem.

- Dave
Eventually I bought a 1050 for 45 & 9MM
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Re: Dillon 550 Question

Post by BE Mike on 9/27/2018, 10:32 am

Way back when, my wife gave me a conversion from Dillon to change over my 450 to 550. There may have been changes in the kit since then, but the only difficulty was removing the large pin that connects the linkage. I ended up borrowing a hydraulic shop press and that did the trick. It wasn't possible to get the Dillon roller handle to fit (I tried). Maybe now it fits (the new upgrade kit might be different) or maybe there is an aftermarket roller handle available that works. There is absolutely no fiddling with dies when switching tool heads. Go for it!
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Re: Dillon 550 Question

Post by PhotoEscape on 9/27/2018, 10:33 am

I use XL650s as opposed to Dillon's 550s, and I'm quite a discriminating reloader.  Very often I reload several thousands of rounds non-stop.  There are number of shortcomings in Dillon presses that forced me to develop replacement parts, - funnels, adjusting bolts, fail safety bracket, etc.  Many users on this forum use my PTUs, and feedback is quite positive.  I have two 650 presses and looking forward to adding 1050 as I load more and more rifle calibers.  With that said, I've never had any issues with alignment of toolheads whether on same press or moving from one to another.  The only issue I had are in tolerances between toolheads and presses rails.  Once again, I addressed it on my own, - I removed Dillon's pins, and are locking my toolheads at three points.  Toolheads don't move at all in reaction to platform rising.  So no issues with alignment of toolheads, but tolerances can be better.
AP
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Re: Dillon 550 Question

Post by Dr.Don on 9/27/2018, 11:51 am

Ok guys.  Thanks much for the comments.
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Re: Dillon 550 Question

Post by chopper on 9/27/2018, 12:11 pm

AP, does the UniqueTek toolhead clamp kit do the same thing as your method of 3 point locking of the toolhead?
 Stan

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Re: Dillon 550 Question

Post by PhotoEscape on 9/27/2018, 2:24 pm

Well, Lee Love of Uniqutek says that their helicoil kit works pretty well.  I cannot prove it one way or another, - I didn't try.  Concern I have is that this kit provides for locking in two positions, - toolhead is drilled and helicoils installed in place of pin holes on toolhead.  Then toolheads locked with screws instead of Dillon's pins.  So toolhead is lifted to the top of rail removing built in tolerances.  That is two point locking that still can provide for some wobbling depending on difference in force on station 2 versus station 4 (I must disclaim once again, that my experience is with 650 presses versus 550).  I instead use set screws installed in pinholes in the body of the press below and above toolhead's rail.  Uniquetek's solution is definitely easier to manage than mine when toolhead change is needed, because with mine I need to remove top screw first, and then use hex wrench to wind in lower screw.  Also, third point of lock, - I replaced one of the screws holding primer tube with longer one, that is also has pointed end (a minute of grinding on grinder).  If you remove toolhead and look in from left to right on 650's press body where toolhead is installed, you will see straight through hole for the screw, I'm talking about.  Replacement of the screw with longer modified one as I describe above would provide for better locking even if you use OEM pins.  Just make sure you unwind screw first when changing toolheads, then remove pins, and re-install in reverse order, with tighting screw last.  I also use brass shims (cut outs of cases) underneath on the left side of toolhead, as a last step of locking.
AP
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Re: Dillon 550 Question

Post by Wobbley on 9/27/2018, 6:25 pm

The heaviest load is sizing, which is usually station 1.  So the tool head will tend to center on that.  I am presuming that the shellplate has room for a little float just like a regular shell holder.  Next highest load would be bullet seating and if that is in station 3.  It’s probably a tossup between charging and crimping (station 2 and 4 respectively).  But the issue is if the others are self centering, what does that do to the expansion stage which aligns the bullet with the chamber.  Pistol bullets could be cockeyed as all get out and that’s where bad ammo gets made.  

I’m not entirely sure that “locking down” a tool head buys you any improvement in the finished product.  I don’t load on a 550 much anymore so I have no data one way or the other.  Just the engineer in me saying this needs real data behind it, echoed by the machinist in me saying we may be defeating our purpose by doing this.  Dunno.

 But the 1050 has a fairly rigid and aligned system on its toolhead/ram combination.  There is an alignment pin that holds the shellplate and toolhead in reasonably close alignment.  The cartridges just float around finding their own centers.  

Hard to say what is best.
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Re: Dillon 550 Question

Post by WillH on 9/28/2018, 1:28 am

I use the UniqueTek 550 tool head clamp kit.  I have them installed on many of them I use most.  Installing the helicoils went well and was easy.  The kit eliminates the play in the tool head.  Whether or not it really matters I can't say but it seems logical that something that reduces variation is a plus. I found the unit runs some better with the lock down since everything stays lined up better once set.  The downside (and there is always one) is that it takes a little longer to lock the tool head in place with allen wrench than just using the stock pins. Lock down is done when all stations filled and handle down.

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Re: Dillon 550 Question

Post by chopper on 9/28/2018, 2:37 am

I do have a UniqueTek 550 toolhead kit, I haven't installed yet. I can see where set screws on the 4 corners would tune in the stations better.
 I also think the PTU that PhotoEscape has will be my first step towards better cartridge production. Right now I use 2 types of 45 cases (WW or Winchesters) and I get some finished cartridges that head space a bit proud of my case gage, and some that bulge on one side of the case where the bullet is located. I've been "smoothing" the bulge by  taking those bulgers and running them through the sizing die without depriming pin.
 Stan

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Re: Dillon 550 Question

Post by PhotoEscape on 9/28/2018, 3:28 am

FYI - UniqueTek resells all my PTUs.  So you can get them there as well.
Thank you,
AP
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