Friday, October 19, 2012

Reloading in the Living Room

Over 20 years ago Sir Knight invested in one of our first survival tools (without even realizing it at the time) - a Dillon Progressive Reloading Press, an RL550B, to be precise.    We set it up in a seldom used room in our suburban home and Sir Knight put it through its paces.  Soon, 9mm and .223/5.56 filled every available ammo can and threatened to take over our living area.

Originally, Sir Knight made the investment in his Dillon Press so that he could shoot reloaded ammunition for practice and save our factory ammunition for "good".  The theory was that the factory ammunition was sealed and consequently more moisture resistant than what we could reload (the primers and bullets are sealed in mil spec ammunition), therefore it was prudent to save those and use our reloaded ammo.

Rather than a drudgery, reloading became an anticipated hobby.  .308/7.62x51, 45ACP, 45 Colt (also known by the slang "long colt", given to it by the soldiers of the day so not to confuse it with .45 Smith & Wesson (a shorter cartridge), and 300 Winchester Magnum soon joined the 9mm and .223.  Our home became a regular ammunition factory.  It wasn't the least bit unusual to come home to the gentle hum of the case cleaner putting the final shine on a load of dirty brass.
Installing the press in our living room
Help from Miss Serenity

Back when we started reloading it was far more cost effective than purchasing new ammunition.  Over the years, as the cost of ammo has increased, the cost of reloading components has increased exponentially and the bureaucracy has become more and more off-putting (you now have to pay hazardous material fees for both primers and powder (when ordering online), not to mention that they cannot ship together, which also increases the costs.  It is interesting to note that loaded ammunition is NOT considered that hazardous and can ship ORM-D (although not through the United States Post Office - don't even try!).

Now, rather than a cost saving effort (although it is cost effective in most cases), we reload because it is a necessary survival/preparedness skill.  In addition to the survival aspect, we can also reload match ammunition far cheaper than we can purchase its equivalent.  Reloading exotic calibers (300 H&H, 300 Win Mag, 338 Edge, so on and so on) is much less expensive than purchasing factory ammunition.
Removing .45 Colt conversion from press
Putting .45 Colt tool head on its stand
Shell plate for 9mm
Installing 9mm shell plate
9mm conversion installed
When Sir Knight was researching reloading presses, he came across the Dillon Precision Progressive press.  Although far more expensive than a single stage press, the Dillon was capable of reloading speeds of up to 500 rounds an hour (we have loaded pistol ammunition at this rate).  From a mechanics point of view (Sir Knight), it is one of the finest engineered pieces of equipment we have ever owned.  Dillon's "No BS Warranty" is truly that - no BS.   Sir Knight has accidentally broken several items on his press (due to operator error) and called to purchase new parts only to be informed that the parts were in the mail and "No, you can't pay for them".  They arrived within 2 days, UPS.  
Checking proper load for 9mm with both a reloading manual and internet source
Filling the powder measurer
Picking up primers off the flip tray
Brass in the first stage
One pull and one push - the brass in the first stage gets resized, de-capped
(old primer removed), and the push seats the new primer
Advance the press and install brass in the first stage again
The brass in the second stage receives the powder charge and the case is
slightly belled to allow easier bullet installation in the third stage
Check your powder weight (according to your reloading manual)
The third stage receives the projectile (bullet)
The projectile is seated in the third stage
The fourth stage installs a taper crimp
Check the overall length against your reloading guide
Recently, our Dillon press moved into the living room (all the guys love that).  For the past 12 years, our press has been housed, rather unceremoniously, in our 40 foot container.  Sir Knight and his friends used it from time to time, but it didn't see the action that it had in years past, due to the fact that it was inconvenient - too hot, too cold or just plain inaccessible.  Finally, after years of neglect, we moved our trusty press into the house and it resumed a place of honor.  Oh, we are excited!

Survival equipment is nothing short of an investment.  The Dillon Progressive  has proven to this family to be worth its weight in gold.  It is most definitely a worthy preparedness investment.

Sir Knight's Reloading "Bullet" Points

  • This is not a "how to" reloading post.  This is a basic pictorial featuring the Dillon RL550-B.
  • Using a progressive press is an advanced reloading skill.  Do your research before purchasing and using one.
  • The reason I chose the RL550-B were the mechanical advances on the turntable (you turn it by hand, it does not automatically turn).  There is a feel to using a progressive press.  Once you have used one, you will understand what I am talking about.  If something "feels" wrong, you can stop what you are doing and check the cases in the cases without the press advancing automatically. 
  • I have reloaded close to 20,000 rounds with this press.  Other than routine maintenance and cleaning, I can found no wear at all in this press to date.   
  • Full Disclosure:  I have used this Dillon Press for over 20 years.  We have received no money to do this post.  The only thing we have received from Dillon Precision was excellent customer service.


  1. Great post, thank you for sharing your experience with the Dillon Press.

  2. I gotta show Mrs. Nobody the press in the living room. I'm still regulated to the garage, and in Houston during the summer heat it becomes a workout to reload.

    I would man-up and force the issue, but Mrs. Nobody is quite good with her sidearm and not a gal to be triffled with.

    Great post - as usual.


  3. Enola,


    My eyes where just bugging out' Enola. I thought I died and done gone to Redneck Heaven.

    I am interested in Reloading, however for me at this time. It may not be the most cost effective way to go. I am a one man band down here. I have a few friends that I shoot with on occasion but that is infrequent at best. I may however move some of the stuff out of my living room to make room for more "man cave stuff' (I lived in a townhouse when I was in the Navy with some other squids, we had several engine blocks from different hot rods in various stages of being rebuilt, sitting in engine stands in the living room. In every cylinder hole there were empty beer cans)

    I can say with pride I have a semi-auto AK-47 in the kitchen where the dish washer is supposed to go. I never know if somethin's gonna pop out of my refrigerator, like in some horror movie and attack me.

    I am trying to do more amateur gunsmith stuff and I may move some of that stuff into my living room were the TV used to be. Being a bachelor has its moments, however having a like minded wife would have had many advantages.

    There is a Carbine Match this weekend. I will be helping to set up at the range with the club members and then I will be participating in the match on Sunday.

  4. Enola,

    (captain crunch again)

    Joe Nobody's book (Holding there own 3) just keeps getting better.

  5. Awesome stuff. I appreciate hearing all this. I shoot a 45-70, so the ammo is a bit pricy when you can find it. I usually have to order it from Cabelas. But I am definitely considering reloading. Thanks again.

  6. Totally unrelated, but I love the new picture at the top of your blog. I love arriving here and seeing something new and beautiful that you've captured in a picture.

    And good info on the reloading press too.

  7. Great posting. I always wondered how the progressives work. All my experience is one at a time with RCBS rockchucker. Thanks again...

  8. As an old guy, I don't know what a URL is, otherwise I wouldn't be anonymous.
    I've had a Dillon 550B for about 20 years also. I weigh every 10th round of powder just to be sure. The best I can do is 200 rounds of pistol ammo per hour.
    Dillon has the finest customer service I've ever encountered.
    Lucky Sir Knight! Mine is in the garage.

  9. Dang.... my single stage RCBS just doesn't add up! Got to get a progressive reloader.... (and yes, I've known that for many years now).
    No time like the present I suppose. :-)

  10. I've been considering getting into reloading (more for quality control and experimentation than any other reason). Your comments on Dillion's customer service have me sold!

  11. Something to consider-grounding the frame of the reloader to a good, earth ground(like a chunk of pipe driven five or six feet in the ground), with some heavy solid #10 wire. Years ago, my cousin's reloader ignited while in use-no obvious source of ignition. Our best guess was static electricity-it was a cold, windy, dry day. The plastic powder hopper was destroyed and the house got powder-scented some, but no real harm..

  12. Enola,


    I was meeting with a group of "tea partiers" today and the subject of reloading came up. The Dillion press that you guys own is one model that was "highly recommended" by all the reloaders.

    Just thought you and Sir Knight would appreciate that.

  13. I have had at least one (up to 3) Dillon 550's for 15+ years and have loaded well over 100,000 round on the original one. Currently I keep one set up for small primers and one for large primers. Caliber changes take less than 5 minutes that way and I have 8 caliber changes fully ready to go. The ammo is top quality and the manual advance makes it easier for me to keep track of what is going on. Safety and consistency are critical in reloading and I have seen many more kabooms from ammo loaded on fully progressive machines, in part due to a lack of attention from the operators. I typically load no more than 300 rounds in a sitting, so I don't start running on autopilot.

    I do keep a couple of single stage presses for prototyping and small runs, but the 550's get the lion's share of the reloading duties.

    In my case, the reloader is essential as I am a competitive shooter and shoot 20,000+ rounds per year. It is also extremely good to know if the SHTF I have a marketable skill and commodity to fall back on.

  14. Hi Enola,

    Long time reader here. Just wanted to say I mentioned your blog and linked to it today on my radio show. You can listen here....

    It is the episode where I discuss what Homeschoolers and Homemakers can learn from preppers.

    Thank you for all you do.
    The Homeschool Homemaker

  15. A fun family activity that everyone can enjoy!

    My father used to reload extensively, and I remember watching him a few times, but that's the extent of what I know about reloading. Yet something else I need to learn along the road that is life. :)

  16. Very nice article. Handloading is an essential capability that enables many benefits including assembly of better ammunition than can be bought anywhere, for any amount of money.

    Not into casting your own bullets? For about $20 Lee Engineering can provide a variety of aluminum block bullet molds, each complete with mold handles. An old cast iron pot, a propane campstove or Cajuncooker, a dipper to pour lead to mold and you have the basics. A 5gal bucket of used Wheelweights from a tire store will make thousands of bullets; bullets that won't wear-out barrel rifling. Tougher bullets than any jacketed you can buy. Get a mold for your main handgun and rifle ctgs and you'll restore much of the economy potential to your loading activities and be that much more self-sufficient....

  17. I reload .38 Special, .380 ACP, .44 Magnum and .300 Win. Mag. . The "need" is simple to figure. If you are one of those hunters that go out once a year and shoot for accuracy (usually 3 rounds) just before going ..... reloading is probably NOT for you. Reloading serves 2 main purposes. It makes shooting a lot less expensive if you do it regularly and it will increase your accuracy a BUNCH. Factory ammo has parameters which means they come "close". Reloading can range from very very close to anal. Some guys figure temp., humidity, even the slightest wind, and a plethora of other things. You don't have to get carried away but some guys do. The 2 main things still win out. Cost and MUCH increased accuracy.

  18. Nice setup. I use a Lee turret press myself. Not quite ready for a progressive press yet, though. Great article!

  19. Great post I personally use Dillon XL 650 and I know to hard to setup this. If any want to use this progressive press then I believe this article helps a lot.

  20. Nothing is better than making your own ammo at home!