As an Amazon Associate, this site earns a commission from Amazon sales.











August 15th, 2021

Guide to Auto-Indexing Progressive Reloading Presses

USAMU Progressive Press auto  self-advancing

The U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit regularly publishes reloading “how-to” articles on the USAMU Facebook page. One very good article, part 5 of a 6-part series, focused on Progressive Presses. This article explains proper procedures for Auto-Indexing Progressives, which advance the shell-plate with every pull of the handle. Auto Progressives are very efficient, but they also require special attention and focus, because so many things are happening at once. You need to train yourself to watch every station. If you run a progressive press now, or are considering getting a progressive, we recommend you read this article. Visit the USAMU Facebook page for other helpful handloading guidance.

Progressive Loading Presses — Self-Advancing Shellplate Type

USAMU Progressive Press auto  self-advancing
Photo courtesy UltimateReloader.com.

Recently, we addressed manually-operated progressive presses for the beginning handloader. This type press requires one to manually advance the shellplate after each handle stroke. An advantage for beginners is that nothing happens at any station until the loader wants it to. This helps users avoid problems from clearing malfunctions without noticing that the shellplate has advanced itself. (Read Previous USAMU Article on Manual Progressives.)

The next, more luxurious type progressive press advances the shellplate automatically whenever the handle is cycled. [Editor: This is also called an “Auto-Indexing” Progressive Press.] Typically, each stroke automatically sizes and primes a case, operates the powder measure (if used) and seats a bullet. Some also have case feeders that automatically put a new case in the shellplate with every cycle. Others require the loader to insert a case each cycle. With both types, the loader usually puts a bullet on each sized/primed/charged case.

[CAVEAT: While our Handloading Shop has several progressive presses, ALL of our powder charges are thrown/weighed by hand. We do not use powder measures on our presses. Our progressives are used for brass preparation, priming, seating, etc., but not for fully-progressive loading.]

The manually-advanced press can be a boon to beginners, but as one gains experience it can be a mixed blessing, depending on one’s style. If one pays close attention to every operation and loads without distractions, the manual press is very reliable and allows full scrutiny of each round as it is loaded. However, if one easily drifts into day-dreaming, or isn’t focused on paying careful attention at all times, the manual progressive can be a bit of a liability. The opportunity for forgetting a powder charge, leading to a squib load, is ever-present. [Editor: A lock-out die can help reduce the risk of a squib load, or a double-charge. See below.]

The automatically-advancing progressives help prevent this by ensuring a powder charge will be dropped each time the handle is operated. Experienced handloaders often appreciate this feature due to the savings of time and effort. Individual preferences between the two press styles are influenced by several factors. These include one’s comfort with more- vs. less-complicated mechanisms, how often one changes calibers (case feeders often must be converted, in addition to dies and shellplates), how many rounds one loads annually, relative ease of changing primer mechanisms from small to large, etc. Automatic progressives and their caliber conversion kits tend to be significantly more expensive than manual progressives and caliber conversions from the same maker.

One USAMU handloader, who likes simple, bullet-proof machines and maximum efficiency when converting presses, owns two manually-advanced progressives. One is set up for large primers, and the other for small primers. He can change calibers in the twinkling of an eye. As he loads for many different calibers, this fits his style. Another handloader here is just the opposite. He loads for a few calibers, but in larger quantities. He much prefers his self-advancing press with case-feeder for its speed. He makes large lots of ammo in a given caliber before switching, to improve overall efficiency. His caliber conversion kits are more expensive than those for the manually-advanced progressive, but he uses fewer of them.

Whichever type one chooses, it is VERY important to buy quality gear from a manufacturer with a long, well-established track record for quality, durability and good customer support. Avoid jumping on the “latest, greatest” model until it has a proven track record. For example, this writer knows a loader who got a brand-new, expensive, self-advancing model press some years back, shortly after its introduction. As is too often the case these days, the manufacturer released it before all the “bugs” were worked out.

Better Safe Than Sorry — the RCBS Lock-Out Die
RCBS Makes a “Lock-Out Die” that senses the powder charge. This will halt the Progressive press if you have a double charge, or an undercharge. Your Editor has the Lock-Out Die on his RCBS Pro 2000. It has “saved his bacon” a half-dozen times over the years. It can be used on Dillon and Hornady progressives as well as RCBS machines.

It would not fully seat primers to the correct depth. No amount of adjustment, extra force, or fiddling would do better than to seat primers barely flush with the case head. Any inattention could result in a slightly “high” primer, protruding above the case head. It created a risk for slam-fires, particularly in semi-autos without spring-retracted firing pins, such as the M1 or M1A. In desperation, he had a machinist buddy study the problem and machine a new part to correct it. No dice. Its engineering didn’t permit full primer seating, even with extended parts. He now wishes he’d heeded his shooting buddies’ advice to stick with the “tried and true,” reliable performer they all used.

Whichever press one selects, see if the maker has a kit or list of commonly-replaced parts. Having needed springs, pins, etc. on hand in the rare event that one breaks or “goes missing” can save the day when one is busy loading for a match! Another tip for improving one’s overall loading efficiency (rounds loaded with minimal set-up/tear-down time) is to plan one’s handloading by primer size. For example, if your machine is set to use small primers, load all the calibers that you intend to that take small primers, before converting the press to load large-primer calibers.

In our next chapter, we’ll discuss peculiarities of progressive loading for rifle cartridges, with remedies for problems such as excessive cartridge-case headspace variation when sizing, tips for ensuring best powder charge consistency, and so on. Until then, be safe, and good shooting!

Permalink - Articles, - Videos, Gear Review, Reloading No Comments »
October 7th, 2020

Powerful Progressive — Dillon RL-1100 with 8 Stations

Dillon R1100 RL 1100 progressive reloading press MR. bulletfeeder Double alpha 9mm ammo

Factory-loaded ammunition has become very hard to find, particularly pistol ammo. Concerns over social unrest, personal security, and the upcoming election have spiked demand for loaded ammo. Everyone is asking “where has all the ammo gone?”

Dillon R1100 RL 1100 progressive reloading press MR. bulletfeeder Double alpha 9mm ammoPistol Ammo Hard to Find
In particular, 9mm pistol ammo flies off the shelves as soon as it arrives, and even major online vendors such as Midsouth Shooters, MidwayUSA, and Natchez have very limited supplies.

Need Ammo? Load Your Own…
One answer to the ammo shortage is to load your own. And if you want to produce a large quantity of ammo in a short amount of time, the progressive press is the answer. There are many progressive press systems, from modest Lee progressives to high-end, automated systems from Mark 7 (Lyman). In this article we feature the “latest and greatest” progressive press from Dillon — the new eight-station RL 1100 Press with Case-Feeder.

Our friend Gavin Gear of UltimateReloader.com got his hands on Dillon’s impressive new RL 1100. In two videos, Gavin shows how to set up the RL 1100 and then he demonstrates how to produce 9mm pistol ammo with this impressive 8-station press.


Gavin says: “My Dillon RL-1100 is cranking out the 9mm, and in this video we bring it up to ‘full tilt’ speed” [with the MR. Bullet Feeder and the Dillon Case-Feeder]. If you watch the video, you’ll see Gavin produce 9mm ammo at a rate of nearly 50 rounds per MINUTE!

Gavin equipped his new RL 1100 with two cool products from Double Alpha Academy (DAA) — the Mr.Bulletfeeder® as well as an advanced, Magnetic Powder Check. When loading ammo you can never be too safe, so we definitely recommend the use of powder-check dies (we use a conventional RCBS powder-check die on our progressives). The DAA bullet feeding system is an important add-on that significantly increases output rates when used in concert with the Dillon Case-Feeder (blue funnel).

RL 1100 Reloading Stations with Powder Check and Bullet Feeder

Dillon R1100 RL 1100 progressive reloading press MR. bulletfeeder Double alpha 9mm ammo

RL 1100 Stations shown above:
1. Case inserter
2. Sizer/De-Primer
3. Swager (with hold-down)
4. Priming (no die)
5. Powder charge and expansion (expansion for pistol cartridges only)
6. Double Alpha Magnetic Powder Check
7. Mr. Bullet Feeder bullet feed die
8. Bullet seating and Crimping

Note: In order to accommodate the magnetic powder check die AND the bullet feed die, bullet seating and crimping were combined at the last station.

The RL 1100 has some very impressive features that allow faster and easier ammo production. An Eccentric Roller Bearing Drive System reduces friction. The RL 1100’s heavier frame provides greater rigidity for more efficient cranking. The RL 1100 also boasts an improved shellplate indexing system. Priming is enhanced through a spring-loaded Priming Station Locator and Upgraded Primer Pocket Swager.

Dillon RL-1100 Set-Up Video:

Loading with the “Turbocharged” Dillon RL-1100
Gavin was very impressed with his RL-1100: “This reloading setup is [great]. Every crank of the lever yields a completed cartridge, and the attainable speeds are AMAZING. The case feeder and bullet feeder had no trouble keeping up with my quick pace using this setup. And it is great to know that every powder charge is being checked.

This press is very reliable and smooth, bridging the gap between lower cost home set-ups and six-figure commercial loading equipment packages. What’s next? I’ll be performing a caliber changeover to .308 Winchester.”

The DAA Magnetic Powder Check can be used on a variety of Progressive Presses.

Permalink - Videos, Bullets, Brass, Ammo, Gear Review, New Product, Reloading 3 Comments »
February 9th, 2015

Hornady Progressive with Automated Case Feed and Bullet Feed

Lock and Load Gavin Gear Ultimate Reloader AR-10
Gavin Gear tests .308 ammo with his DPMS LR-308B, AR10-type rifle.

Our friend Gavin Gear of UltimateReloader.com owns a DPMS LR-308B, an AR10-type semi-auto rifle. Gavin finds that his DPMS has a healthy appetite for ammunition. So, he set up his Hornady Lock-N-Load progressive press to produce .308 Win ammo. This video shows the process of press set-up and operation, complete with Hornady’s automated Case Feeder and Bullet Feeder. Employing elevated rotary hoppers, the case feed and bullet feed systems really speed up production. The automated feeders allow the operator to produce cartridges without ever touching case or bullet with his hands.

If you need large quantities of .308 Win ammo for 3-Gun matches or tactical games, and if you value your time, a progressive press may be a wise investment. The progressive can load a complete round with every cycle of the press handle. With Case Feeder and Bullet Feeder in place, the Hornady L-N-L can easily crank out a new .308 round every 3-4 seconds (watch video at 5:25). Conservatively speaking, that’s 15 rounds per minute sustained production (and some guys can go even faster).

Get updates from UltimateReloader.com via Gavin’s twitter feed: @UReloader. To learn more about the Hornady Lock-N-Load Progressive Press (with case/bullet feed options), and to see a list of the dies and accessories Gavin uses, click the link below:

Hornady Rifle Bullet Feeder Part 5: Loading .308 for the AR-10

Lock and Load Gavin Gear Ultimate Reloader AR-10

Permalink - Videos, Reloading 3 Comments »
July 6th, 2013

UltimateReloader.com Tests RCBS Progressive with Bullet Feeder

Service Rifle shooters and varminters burn through a lot of ammunition. If you’re shooting more than 250 rounds of ammo a month, you may want to consider getting a progressive press — at least for your practice and varmint ammo. New technologies have made today’s progressives more efficient than ever. RCBS has developed a rifle-bullet feeding system that works with the RCBS Pro 2000 Progressive. The bullet-feeder can also be fitted to some Dillon units with modifications. There are four main components to the RCBS rifle-bullet feeder system: 1) base and two-piece adjustable column; 2) collator (bowl and motor); 3) drop tube and shutoff assembly; and 4) bullet feed die assembly.

RCBS Bullet Feeder Pro 2000Our friend Gavin Gear has tested the RCBS bulet feeder on an RCBS Pro 2000 for his UltimateReloader.com website. You can see his hands-on video review above. I’m pleased Gavin did this review because I have a Pro 2000 myself, and I can confirm that it is a very good machine. It is sturdy, the rotary-style powder measure is very precise, and the strip primer system works great. (I can change from small primer feeding to large primer feeding in a couple of minutes — honest.) I’ve also found the strip primer system virtually foolproof — so long as you insert the strips in the right direction! I haven’t used the Bullet Feeder yet, but you can see the Pro 2000 in action with the feeder in Gavin’s video above.

On UltimateReloader.com, Gavin puts the RCBS Bullet Feeder through its paces. Gavin writes: “As you can see from this picture (at left), the RCBS Rifle Bullet Feeder adds quite a bit of overall height to the progressive reloader.This is the case with all bullet feeders that use a collator (some add more than others). One of the reasons that these units are tall is to allow for a sufficient ‘buffer’ of dropped bullets so that the collator can keep up with fluctuations in loading speed and to allow enough ‘stack weight’ on the column of bullets so that they drop/feed correctly.” As fitted to the Pro 2000, Gavin says the bullet feeder system achieves “very efficient loading with excellent COL consistency and bullet concentricity.”

More Photos and Details on UltimateReloader.com
To learn more about the RCBS Pro 2000 Progressive and the rifle-bullet feeder system, watch the video above, and then log-in to UltimateReloader.com to read Gavin’s Bullet Feeder Overview and Bullet Feeder Overview Part II.

Permalink - Videos, Gear Review, Reloading 5 Comments »
January 30th, 2012

SHOT Show: New RCBS Reloading Products for 2012

RCBS rolled out some handy new products at SHOT Show 2012. The first item will be welcomed by AR and Service Rifle shooters who reload inexpensive military .223 Rem (5.56×45) and .308 Win (7.62×51) brass. RCBS now has a Primer Pocket Swager Bench Tool that removes military primer pocket crimps quickly and easily. Watch the video and you can see how effortlessly it does the job in just seconds. A hardened steel rod supports the case from the inside allowing the case to float for perfect alignment with the swager head. The RCBS Swager comes complete wtih hardened steel small and large swaging heads and rods to accommodate cases 22-caliber and larger.

We think the RCBS Swager certainly rivals Dillon’s Super Swage 600 which performs the same task. The Dillon employs a vertical (up/down) lever, while the new RCBS Swager uses a horizontal lever arm, with a nice cushioned handle. MSRP on the RCBS Swager is $106.00 compared to $100.95 for the Dillon Super Swage. Either tool will pay for itself by allowing you to reload inexpensive milsurp brass.

RCBS Primer Pocket Swager Bench Tool

RCBS Adds Universal Shell-Holder to Trim Pro
RCBS has also updated its popular Trim Pro® case trimmer with the addition of a spring-loaded universal shell holder. This has spring-loaded jaws that can hold anything from a 17 Fireball case up to the large magnums. No more fiddling around with cartridge-specific shell-holders — you just snap your cases (of any size) in and out of the spring-loaded jaws. The system works well and the jaws hold cases securely during the trimming process. Again, watch the video to see the system in action.

Pistol Bullet-Feeder Kit
Last but not least, RCBS has released an inexpensive, gravity-fed bullet feeding system. Much cheaper and simpler than a motor-driven feeder, this system, which combines a tube with a special die, reliably drops pistol bullets, one by one, as you operate your progressive press. Importantly, this manual bullet-feeder works with jacketed, plated, cast or swaged lead bullets. (Some other bullet feeders cannot handle lead bullets). This device should be a major time-saver for those who load a lot of pistol rounds.

This Editor was sufficiently impressed with the gravity-fed bullet feeder that I ordered one for my own RCBS Pro 2000 Progressive. Note, however, the RCBS feeders work on Dillon and Hornady presses also — these Bullet Feeder Kits are designed to be used with ANY 7/8″-14 threaded progressive press. Each clear tube holds 20-25 bullets depending on weight and profile. Two bullet tubes are included with each unit. Extra bullet tubes sold separately. MSRP is just $36.00.

RCBS 2012 Rebate — $10 Off $50.00 Order
RCBS has a “Get Green” Rebate Offer that runs through December 31, 2012. When you purchase $50.00 of any RCBS product, you qualify for a $10.00 mail-in rebate. Then, earn a bonus $5.00 mail-in rebate when you purchase one of the following: 5 sleeves of Federal Premium or CCI primers, 1 pound of Alliant Powder, 1 box of Speer Bullets, 1 bag of Federal Premium brass. There is also a $50.00 Rebate on a purchase of $300.00 worth of RCBS Products.

CLICK HERE for RCBS 2012 Rebate Form

Permalink - Videos, New Product, Reloading 2 Comments »
October 10th, 2010

RCBS Powered Bullet Feeders for Progressive Presses

RCBS Bullet Feeder 30 CaliberRCBS has recently started shipping two new Rifle Bullet Feeder Kits for progressive metallic reloading presses. Availble for 30-caliber and 22-caliber, the Rifle Bullet Feeder Kits are designed to fit on most 7/8″-14 threaded progressive presses. An electrically-powered collator unit orients the bullets to drop directly into the feed mechanism where they are placed precisely in the case-mouths of your cartidges.

Feeder Kit Can Increase Load Rate by 50%
The 30-Cal hopper holds approximately 125 (180gr) 30-caliber bullets while the 22-Cal feeder holds about 250 (55gr) 22-caliber bullets. RCBS claims that both units increase load rates by 50%. We’d say that depends on how fast you operate your machine. On this Editor’s RCBS 2000 Progressive press I can usually pick up a bullet and place it in the case mouth in about 2-3 seconds. But now and then I will fumble with a bullet or place it in slightly tilted, requiring me to do it all over again. That’s where the feeder comes in very handy — the bullets always orient correctly in the case. We just wish RCBS offered .45 caliber and 9mm versions for pistol ammo and a 6mm version for rifles. RCBS says these calibers may be offered in the future.

RCBS Bullet Feeder Features:
• Available for either 22-caliber or 30-caliber
• Large hopper for non-stop reloading and max output
• Bullets are oriented to drop directly into feed mechanism/seat die
• Bullet feeding and seating are accomplished in one station.
• Adjustable collator height
• RCBS® two-year warranty

Feeders Increase Reloading Efficiency
The power-operated collator unit ensures each bullet component is properly oriented for feeding directly into the seat die. “This steady stream of properly-aligned bullets increases the consistency of your reloading process,” explains Kent Sakamoto, product line manager. “Red, green or blue, our new Rifle Bullet Feeders fit all progressive presses and increase the seed and consistency of reloading. That’s what these Bullet Feeders bring to the reloading table.” Here is a video we took at SHOW Show 2010 where the RCBS Bullet Feeder was previewed by Sakamoto:

YouTube Preview Image
Permalink New Product, Reloading No Comments »