I am looking to upgrade to a progressive press for pistol and precision rifle loading. For precision rifle I plan on getting a quick measure powder measure so that I can throw precise charges with stick powder and using RCBS X dies to eliminate trimming. I will have 2 tool heads in .308 w/ 2 separate die sets setup for individual shoulder bump and OAL specs for my two rifles. I require a press that will give me consistent (+/- .001) OAL and shoulder bump, that is efficient, and high quality, and efficient tool head/caliber changing. So far the number one seems to be RCBS pro 2000, with honorable mention to the dillon 550B. Guys like the hornady LNL, but they also say you have to buy a special ejector to get it to eject properly and that it drifts out of timing occasionally. Lee cuts cost, but you can only use certain primers, the priming system seems questionable, and guys say they have to tinker with them and mess with preventive maintenance, and (the deal breaker) my Lee turret press does not give me consistent shoulder bump and OAL, which is why I use a hand press for my accurate stuff currently. Anyway, what are your thoughts?
I have a Dillon 650 that I use for high volume rifle reloading. It's a great press and I really like using it. However, I still use a single stage press when I reload precision ammo. Any progressive press will be higher maintenance and more complicated to use than a single stage or turret press. There is no way around that. I would liken it to the difference between a bolt action and a semi auto rifle.
I don't care what type of powder measure you use, you are not going to throw precise charges using stick powders. You may be able to speed things up a bit by throwing charges slightly light and then trickling up to your desired charge. If you are going to use stick powder, then you will need to weigh every powder charge to get optimum precision.
A powder measure can throw precise charges if you are using ball powders, but ball powders tend to be more temp sensitive than stick powders. That can be a problem if you are trying to assemble precise, repeatable ammo.
It's not that a progressive press can't produce precise ammo. It is the need to weigh your charges using extruded powder that makes the progressive a moot point for assembling match grade ammo. My Dillon powder measure works with Varget, but Varget is a pretty fine grained stick powder.
I wouldn't hesitate to load my Dillon up with say, H380, for high volume production of varmint rounds for my 22-250. No way am I going to use it to try to produce precision, long range, ammo.
IMO, long range precision shooting is not a high volume exercise. It is time consuming and exacting to produce that kind of ammo. Doing so requires patience and attention to detail. I just don't see this as being an application suited to a progressive press. My thinking on this is that you are about to spend a lot of money and be disappointed with the results.
id recomend you look at a 550. Its a manual advance press so you can use it just like a single stage if you want. It also because of the manual advance has alot less that can go wrong with it. The 650 is a great press but was designed to be used with a case feeder and is kind of awkward without one. I have three lnls and there ok presses but do tend to go out of time an take a bit more fiddling to keep running smoothly. they are a bit better to use wihtout a case feeder then a 650 is though. Ive ran all the rcbs progressives and although im a big fan of rcbs there progressives can be frustrating to run. I wouldnt give you a plugged nickle for either of the lee progressves. Lee makes some inovative stuff and does it at a reasonable price but there progressives are junk! Bottom line is a 550 is never a mistake. I may not be the fastest press out there but its hands down the most reliable. Ive found that because I spend so much less time fooling with the press and more time actually loading the differnce in ammo output between the 550 and my lnls is about a toss up.
I'll admit that I've never used anything but the 550 from Dillon, and I don't think I'd want to. I've not had one single moment of disappointment since purchasing it several years ago. When I first bought it, I was only reloading for 9mm and .45ACP that I used for IDPA. However, I've since added a few more pistol calibers AND it works great for my rifle calibers.
I don't use it as a progressive for rifle- I have a buddy with a 1050 that we use for bulk .223, but for my hunting and long range rifle loads (.243, .270, .308 supersonic, .308 subsonic, and .300win mag), I only use it to deprime and size the case and to seat the bullet. It's much like a single stage in this manner, but I have the flexibility of going progressive for other applications so I only need one press to do all of my work, which saves space on my bench for the other tools and crap needed for all the calibers I reload for!
It's rock solid to boot, and Dillon customer service is probably the best I've ever seen. Anywhere. Dillon is typically more $$ than other brands, but as the saying goes, "Buy once, cry once." I did get a little teary eyed when I got the bill for the press several years ago, but I have never cried because of this press. I know others with different brand presses that cannot say the same thing.
I think you are going to have issues holding the shoulder bump tolerance you want with any progressive. There are just too many variables and moving parts. I have a LNL AP that I use (and generally like) for pistol and 223. I haven't tried it for truly precision work, but based on what I do use it for I pretty confident it would NOT work for your purposes.