When I started reloading a few years ago, I started out on a Lee Pro 1000 that was given to me. It made my entry into the reloading world a little cheaper. This post isn’t going to be a bash Lee Precision because Dillon Precision is better. I think each company’s products fill a niche. I’ve loaded several thousand rounds of 9mm and 45 ACP on my Lee press. And all my rifle ammo is produced using Lee presses, using Lee and RCBS dies, and I’ve been very pleased with the quality of the ammo churned out using this equipment.
But that doesn’t mean the Lee Pro 1000 doesn’t have it’s issues. It requires a lot of care and feeding to make it run reliably. And I’ve reached the point that I was tired of dealing with it.
This is very solidly build press.
The cases are inserted in the right – front side where they are sized, de-primed, and primed. They eject out the back on the right side after running through the crimp die. The press comes with a metal bracket from which the blue box hangs and catches the completed cartridges.
The powder drop is on the left front side of the press, making it easy to visually check that each case has powder in it.
Bullets are set on the cases on the left rear of the press.
It is important to note that while this is a progressive press, it does not auto-index like the Lee Pro 1000 or the Dillon 650 or Square Deal B. This may be a big deal to some people, but I really don’t mind. I like having the control of indexing the shell carrier when I’m satisfied with the condition of all the stages.
One nice feature of the 550, is the brass buttons on the shell carrier. It makes it very simple to remove and inspect a case as it progresses through the stages.
You can see the brass button on the bullet seating stage, and it’s removed on the case charging stage so I could spot check the amount of powder being dropped. You could remove cases on the Lee Pro 1000 as well, but it required you to partially index the shell carrier to pull out a case, which was kind of a headache after a while because I was having to do it so often.
Another nice feature of the Dillon 550 is how spent primers are handled. When cases are de-capped then primer is pushed out the bottom of the case and it falls in to a little chute. When the ram is lowered, it opens the chute and drops the spent primer into a small container. This can be easily removed and periodically emptied. On the Lee Pro 1000, you had to remove the press from the bench to clear out the spent primers.
Priming is a bit different on the Dillon 550 than the Lee Pro 1000. On the Lee, primers were loaded in a tray, and gravity fed down a chute and land underneath the charging die. On the down stroke, you would seat the primer. This was the most problematic stage on the Lee. Sometimes the primers wouldn’t feed correctly, and you’d end up with crushed primers, or they would be seated incorrectly.
This isn’t to say that the Dillon 550 doesn’t have its issues with priming either. On the 550, primers are loaded into a pick up tube, bottom side up. You then flip the pick up tube, set it on top of the primer magazine tube, and pull a cotter pin to load the primer magazine. When I first set it up, I could not get the primers to feed at all. The Dillon comes set up for large primers, but it is very easy to switch to small primers. My problem was that my press was shipped with 2 Large Primer magazine tubes instead of a large and small. A phone call to Dillon and 5 minutes later, they had determined the problem, and shipped me a new tube, no questions asked. Once this issue was resolved, priming seemed to work without a problem.
I am very pleased with Dillon support. The quickly determined the problem, asked for my zip code and last name, found me in the system, and told me the part would be on its way. There was no verification that I actually owned the press, no registration, no nothing.
My one complaint with the press would be with the powder drop. It works better than the Lee Pro Auto Disk powder measure. When it the powder measure worked on the Lee, it worked well. But when it didn’t, it was a nightmare. I can’t tell you how many times I broke that damned chain. My complaint with the Dillon is that you can’t turn off the flow of the powder and remove it from the press. It involves unhooking linkages, and unbolting it form the charge/expanding die. Not a huge deal, just a minor inconvenience.
It’s also a bit of a headache to get the expanding die adjusted. I can understand why people buy multiple head and a dedicated expanding die for each one.
Overall I’m very pleased with the press. My Lee dies seem to work just fine in it, which is a huge bonus to me and I didn’t want to drop the money on new dies. The caliber conversion kits are a little more expensive than say switching calibers on the Lee, or even the Hornday. I think once I get well acquainted with the press, I think I could churn out 300, maybe 400 rounds an hour out of the press.