The Dillon RL550B is basically a turret press, similar to others, with an automatic priming system, and an automatic powder delivery system. To full length size brass you use full length sizing dies and adjust them per the instructions that come with the dies. To neck size only either back off the full length sizing die or use a neck size only sizing die. This press is no different than any other turret press except the cases move instead of the dies and the moving of the cases is done manually rather than automatically by flipping the table that holds the cases with the the thumb. You do the sizing along with the rest of the progressive operations.
The Dillon RL550B is probably the most popular progressive loading press on the market. It has full capablilties in terms of what reloading presses are suppose to be able to do. It is strong and backed by Dillon's No BS Warrantee that really works.
Unfortunately, some people relish in negative comments on anything that is on the top of the heap and recently that seems to be the case with Dillon. My Dillon is 20+ years old and has worked great while reloading 10 of thoussands of rounds for over 20+ calibers over those years. There is no penalty for using a Dillon RL550B reloading press! It is three times faster or more than a turret press and at least 6 times faster than a single stage press, all while making ammo as good as either of those press styles. It can be used in a manner similar to either one, as well, by only using one stage at a time (single stage press) or by putting only one cartrige on the table at a time (turret press). But progressive loading is really where it is at!
There are other presses on the market. Hornady is on version number two (at least). RCBS is on its third version and the current one looks very simialr to the Dillon as does the Hornady. The Lee Progressive has a bad reputation which I personally can attest to, having owned one years ago that broke at every reloading session. The Dillon RL550B design is well over 25 years old and has changed by evolution over that time with free upgrades by Dillon and free re-builds for those of us that really use our presses. They also offer newer designs for pistol only, one with more stations, and one for commercial usage with auto everything. They also have a shotgun press (rather expensive).
It all depends on what kind of accuracy you're after. Hunting, plinking, and most competitive shooting except long range and bench rest are all well served by progressively loaded ammunition. There are a lot of things going on on a progressive press with each pull of the handle, and different things in different cartridges can affect others in the press at the same time, but not generally enough to matter with the above noted exceptions. If you usually uniform flash holes and primer pockets, turn case necks, etc., then you might care about the differences, but otherwise probably not.
If you prefer long grain, extruded powders, many users prefer drum-style powder measures from RCBS or Hornady. They can either be had as standard equipment on RCBS and Hornady progressives, or they can be added, along with case activated linkages from either vendor, to any Dillon progressive press.
LDBENNETT is a knowledgable guy as I have read several of his post and while I agree that the 550b is a great machine for production loading I do not reload any rifle on mine with the exception of Remington 222, because other than the 222 I usually only load 20 to 50 rounds of anything else like 257 STW, 8mm/300 ultra mag all of which I have to trim the cases, lub each case before forming, weigh each powder loading, none of which lends itself to production loading but it does to accuracy.
"I have to trim the cases, lub each case before forming, weigh each powder loading, none of which lends itself to production loading but it does to accuracy."
Case triming is not an everytime thing and you can eliminate it with the RCBS X-Dies. You can, if you don't have those dies, use the first station only for resizing and de-priming, then remove the brass. Do the trimming, and primer pocket cleaning and return the case to the press. Simple remove the sizing die and finish the cases progressively. Since you don't have to do this every time its not that big of a deal.
I use an old fashion case lube pad with RCBS liquid lube. I pick up the brass, roll it one time on the pad that is lightly loaded with the lube and put it in the press. It take zero time and is just part of the rhythm of using the press for rifle cartridges.
The current thinking is weighing each charge is a wasted effort. The variation in powder weight from throwing charges from the excellent Dillon measure affects the performance of the bullet little compared to all other varibles in reloading. This was brought home to me in a recent video by Handloading magazine on "Advanced Reloading". If you use ball or short cut powders the Dillon is as accurate as most drum powder measures and allows accuracy more than adequate for even the pickiest reloader.
If it is accuyracy you are after you are better surved by buying a larger quantity of brass, primers, and powder from the same lots in order to carry that accuracy from reloading session to reloading session. I suggest 100 cases and 5000 primers and 8 lb powder canisters for best accuracy. That leads to quantities of 100 round per caliber reloading and is a perfect reloadng lot size for a progressive press. Remember a progressive reloading sesion, where you produce 100 rounds or more, goes at least five times faster than your current method, and perhaps even faster.
Progressive press are not just for huge quantities. The Dillon makes precision ammo fast. And is used successfully by many competitors in many different shooting games where precision and accuracy are important.
LDBENNETT: I am not familiar with RCBS X dies but I will be tomorrow. That 257 STW is a brass stretcher. I have heard or read before what you say about powder charge not being as critical to accuracy as once thought but I have not tried it. Probably because I have been too busy dealing with other factors to maintain accuracy that I feel like if I weigh each powder loading that is one less factor to deal with. I must also say you make a good spokesman for Dillon (no doubt good stuff) but I still like loading some things on a single stage. I never checked but I don't think Dillon makes a shell plate for 470 Nitro or the 577 Nitro both of which I load for including the 50 BMG that I know as you do won't even fit in a 550b. I understand they are coming out with a progressive for the 50 BMG soon. I have a Bonanza Co-Ax, One of those RCBS 50 BMG rigs, a Dillon square deal that I load my 38 super comp and two 550b because I am too lazy to change out the priming tool. I have never used short cut powders and as such I didn't have very good luck with the Dillon powder drop using regular IMR4831 or 4350 when I tried loading full house 220 Swift or 25-06. Now that I think about it I must admit the last time I tried they didn't even make short cut powder. One other thing I too always used the old fashion lube until a local guy here made up some stuff and you just put a little(and I mean a little) on your hands rub them together and then pick up 5 or 6 pieces of brass at a time and rub with your hands. I can lube about 30 regular rifle cases and about 10 BMG before getting another little dab. You can get some if you are interested from The Nevada Gun Exchange in Carson City. I always enjoy reading your posts.
I have been amazed recently when posters here tell me they reload for those big honking calibers! You are right the 550B press is just not big enough to handle those huge cartridges. Single stage is the way to go for them. But I think you are in a minority of reloaders who do those huge cartridges and a 550B would work just fine for the rest and in fact better than a single stage setup.
Products that work deserve recognition and most Dillon products work well. When I worked (retired for 11 years) and I had people from other departments do work for me and they did excellent jobs, their supervisor got a letter from me commending them. People who do good work also deserve recognition. So I have been promoting people and products all my life with no expected reward. That's the way I do it.
Hodgdon bought (??) the IMR line of powders and the first thing we noticed was they introduced a couple of short cut version of old favorites. We may see more (??).
My system would not work with your sizing lube as I can only lube one case at a time. I find the RCBS pad lube to work just fine and it works with my system. Thank you for the information anyway.