I just recently made the decision to jump into the world of reloading. I shoot a lot of 3-gun matches, and while shooting a custom 1911 is very gratifying when I’m competing with and beating guys with high-cap double-stack guns, the cost of .45 ACP ammo is staggering. Enter the Dillon Square Deal-B. I purchased the machine online from Graf & Sons, who offer free shipping on most orders. The machine arrived 2 days later, and I was in business.
This machine has 4 stations: decap/resize, charge/bell, bullet seat, and crimp. This machine will only load straight-walled pistol calibers, which means the handle throw is shorter than rifle-capable machines such as the Dillon 550.
Setup was very straightforward, with detailed instructions provided, and in fact Dillon presets the machine at the factory for loading a lead SWC. Since the bullet I wanted to use was a 185gr plated HP, I had to change the bullet-seating die and adjust the crimp die. This process was simple, as the manual contains detailed photos and step-by-step instructions on the setup procedures of each die.
The machine attaches to the loading bench with three 1/4 bolts, and while this seems perfectly adequate, I am a bit of an overkill builder, and would prefer the option to use more robust mounting hardware. There is an optional ‘strong-mount’ available from Dillon, which raises the machine so that the entire machine is above the bench surface, which would be useful for shorter benches. My bench is waist high, so I don’t have the need to raise the machine at all.
Once all the adjustments were made, I began to set my powder charge. This in an auto-indexing machine, and that does make it a little tricky when setting the powder because you can’t insert and remove the case in the same station when throwing and measuring powder. I also discovered that the charge when thrown by the case varied from the charge thrown when actuating the powder measure by hand in to my powder scale tray. This is a little annoying because it’s much easier to throw powder into the scale tray by hand than it is to charge a case to check the powder charge. I am a super OCD detail person when it comes to things like this, and it’s a good thing because I may not have noticed this otherwise. The difference in charges thrown was about .3 grains, with the hand-actuated charge throwing LESS powder, which could be disastrous if loading near the upper limits of pressure.
After the powder charge was set, and I was satisfied with the consistency of the powder throw, I loaded some rounds. The decap/resize die is smooth, and the powder measure is very accurate. I did have an issue with the primer cup, which had a small burr on one side that caught on the shellplate as it came up to seat the primer and would cause powder from the next case to spill everywhere. Disassembling the primer system, removing the cup, and using a file to remove the burr solved this problem.
The bullet seat and crimp dies are very consistent, with variation of only a few thousands of an inch in cartridge OAL in a 100 round session. Once all the dies are set, you can load very quickly with on this machine. Between handle pulls you place an empty case in station 1, and a bullet in the case at station 3, and a loaded round is produced with each pull of the handle.
The primer system must be changed when switching between primer sizes, and is accomplished by removing 3 bolts and changing the primer feed tube. Switching between primer sizes is about a 10-minute process. Also included is a low primer warning system, which emits an audible beep when there are just few primers left in the feed tube.
Overall, I really like this machine. Some people recommend new reloaders to start with a single-stage press and learn the basics, and that certainly is good advice, but the simplicity of this machine, and the easier learning curve with straight-wall pistol rounds makes this a good beginner machine as well. I had no problems understanding the operation and processes of a progressive reloading machine. Just remember the cardinal rule of reloading, regardless of the type of machine you are using: START LOW AND WORK YOUR WAY UP TO THE RIGHT LOAD!
by: Aaron Hayes
Hayes Custom Guns
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