and the fine folks that work for him in Scottsdale, Arizona have
been in the business of making quality ammunition loading
equipment for about twenty years. Dillon's line of equipment has
grown extensively over the years, and they have an ammunition
loading machine to cover just about any need that a shooter may
I became familiar
with Dillon products in 1987. I was working on the Gulf
coast at the time, in Biloxi, Mississippi at the Keesler Air
Force Base. There was a lot of organized shooting activity in
the area, and I got involved in the sport of bowling pin
shooting. It was a real hoot watching grown men stand on their
hind legs and completely miss bowling pins at a distance of 25
feet. Anyway, I was burning up lots of ammo in practice, and
reloading the cases was becoming very time-consuming. I
would usually shoot four boxes of .45 ACP every afternoon, then
reload the empties every night on an old RCBS Jr. press.
It was a good press, but the time it took to load 200 rounds
every night was getting to be less enjoyable each time.
I was shooting a
lot with a friend named Ed Guthrie who was an Airman at
the base, and he knew a guy who had just purchased a new
progressive press from Dillon Precision. It was decided
that we should have a look at his new loader. The Dillon was
like no press that I'd ever seen, and seemed to convert empty
cases into loaded rounds almost as fast as our .45s would spit
them out. I had to have one.
After the press
arrived, shooting suddenly became much more fun, as the
anticipation of getting to reload the cases became an incentive
to shoot more. Reloading was no longer a time-consuming chore,
but a real fun part of the shooting experience.
Those were fun
times. Ed and myself became the ones to beat at our local pin
shoots. He was younger than me, and a better shot, but sometimes
I would still beat him, just to keep him humble. Had we not had
the progressive press to load our ammo, we could not have
practiced enough to reach the level that we did. It was a good
investment. The press was a Dillon model 550B, and I still load
all of my rifle and handgun ammo on that same press today.
The Dillon 550B is
their most popular loading machine. In fact, the 550B is the
most popular progressive loading machine in the world, and for
good reason. The versatility of the machine is unsurpassed by
any other progressive machine. The 550B can load just about any
centerfire metallic cartridge in existence. Dillon's literature
says over 120 different cartridges. I won't argue with that.
The reason that I
favor the 550B over Dillon's other machines is that it is so
versatile and easy to use. It can be used as a single stage
press for careful load development, allowing me to stop and
weigh each powder charge, adjust the bullet seating depth, and
regulate the crimp, all without advancing the shell plate. When
all adjustments have been made, the 550B can then spit out
loaded rounds at a rate approaching 600 rounds per hour. It can
be done, as I have been timed doing so. However, what really
endears this press to me, is that I can load just five or
ten rounds for testing just as simply as on my old RCBS single
stage. The Dillon 550B has an easy learning curve, allowing an
individual to load at whatever pace he chooses, without
sacrificing ammo quality.
While on the
subject of ammo quality, I know of several custom and premium
ammunition companies that use the Dillon 550B to manufacture the
finest factory ammo available. These people need a machine that
will load a few hundred rounds of one caliber, and quickly
change over to load another, and do this every day without fail.
The Dillon delivers.
The 550B has interchangeable
tool heads that hold the dies in adjustment when changing
calibers. These tool heads take standard 7/8 inch loading dies,
and changing tool heads takes about ten seconds, if you're slow.
Some shooters start out using one tool head and change the
dies each time, but sooner or later the advantage of having a tool head
for each set of dies becomes apparent. It just makes life so
The Dillon 550B
also has interchangeable shell plates to fit different size
cartridge heads. The shell plates, which perform the same
function as single-stage shell holders, can be changed in less
than a minute from one caliber to the next. Many cartridges use
the same plate, however, so it is not always necessary to change
the shell plate when switching to load another caliber.
The Dillon comes
with both large and small primer systems, which can be switched
in about five minutes. Dillon's primer system is as smooth and
trouble-free as an automatic priming system can be. It is easy
to feel the primer seat into the case with the Dillon, so if you
let the primer tube run out, you can instantly feel that a
primer was not seated. Dillon also sells a really neat warning
buzzer to let you know when the primers are getting low.
The most impressive
thing about the 550B is the sense of quality and durability
built into the press. The main ram is a full one and one-half
inch diameter steel bar. The main frame of the press is massive.
Every part on the 550B seems over-built. Some other brands on
the market use cheaper alloys and weaker parts than the Dillon.
There are other
well-built progressive presses available to the reloader, but
none with the long-term track record of the 550B. Dillon also
makes other loading machines, but none with the versatility of
the 550B. If I were loading thousands of rounds of one caliber,
I would choose their Super 1050, for unmatched speed of loading,
or even their excellent XL 650, but for my needs, and those of
the majority of shooters, the 550B can't be beat. For
versatility, quality, value, and ease-of-use, nothing else comes
item included with every Dillon loading machine is their
lifetime, "No B.S." warranty. If it breaks, they will
fix it. I have no personal experience with their warranty
department, as my 550B, after 14 years of hard use, has never
failed me. I am confident, however, after talking to others who
have used Dillon's warranty service, that they definitely stand
behind their products.
Check out the 550B
and other Dillon products online at: www.dillonprecision.com
or call 1-800-223-4570 and request their catalog, "The
Blue Press". It is filled with fine products and
When you realize
that you need a better, faster loader than a single-stage press,
look at the 550B. It is readily apparent why it has
become.......... America's loading machine.
Got something to say about this article? Want to agree (or
disagree) with it? Click the following link to go to the GUNBlast Feedback Page.
All content © 2001 GunBlast.com.
All rights reserved.