May 12th, 2020

RCBS Lock-Out Die Helps Prevent Faulty Charges on Progressives

RCBS Lock-out dieIf you load pistol or rifle ammo with a progressive press, we strongly recommend you get a Lock-Out Die from RCBS. This unique reloading die will prevent your progressive press from advancing if the dispensed powder charge is more or less than about 0.3 grains too high or too low. The Lock-Out Die really works. Your Editor uses it on his RCBS 2000 progressive press. I can affirm that a Lock-Out Die has “saved my bacon” a half-dozen times over the years when there was an over-charge (which could cause a Kaboom) or a low charge (which could cause a squib load).

The Lock-Out Die works by using a central die detection rod that sets its vertical position based on the height of the powder column in the case. Through an ingenious design, if the powder column height is too low or too high, the rod locks in place as you start to pull the press handle. This halts the press before the ram can lift and the cartridge plate can advance. Unlike a beeping alarm system (which can be ignored or defeated), the Lock-Out Die physically stops the movement of the press ram and prevents a bullet being seated in the “problem” case.

RCBS Lock-out dieIt takes a bit of tweaking to get the Lock-Out Die detection rod setting just right, but once it is correctly positioned, the Lock-Out Die works smoothly in the background. The Lock-Out Die won’t interfere with the loading process unless it detects a high or low charge — and then it positively stops the progressive loading cycle.

While crafted for use in RCBS progressive presses, the RCBS Lock-Out Die can also be used on a Dillon XL Progressive (see video below) or Hornady Lock-N-Load progressive — though it does take up one station which could otherwise be used for a final crimp die (after the seating die). The RCBS 2000 has one more station than a Dillon 550/650, so it’s an ideal platform for using the Lock-Out Die.

Learn More at UltimateReloader.com
On the UltimateReloader.com website, run by our friend Gavin, you’ll find an excellent two-part series on the function and set-up of the RCBS Lock-Out Die. Part One explains how the Lock-Out Die functions, using cut-away illustrations. Part Two shows how to install and adjust the Lock-Out Die on various progressive presses. The video below shows setup of the RCBS Lock-Out Die on the Dillon XL-650 progressive press.

Images © 2011 UltimateReloader.com, used by permission.
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December 20th, 2019

USAMU Tips for Using a Progressive Reloading Press

Accurateshooter.com USAMU progressive press reloading

Each Wednesday, the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) publishes a reloading “how-to” article on the USAMU Facebook page. In this article, the USAMU’s reloading gurus help you avoid potentially disastrous mistakes with a progressive — such as double powder changes. The USAMU experts caution that: “beginners would be better served by starting on a single-stage press”. That said, owning a progressive makes sense if you shoot more than 100 centerfire rounds a week. If you own a progressive press, or are thinking of buying one, you should read this article.

USAMU Reloading

For those interested in progressives, we’ll examine different key features among the types and relate them to handloading processes. The first, and simplest, type is the manually-advanced progressive. The shellplate holds the several cartridges being processed with each stroke of the handle. On these presses, the loader must manually advance the shellplate after each handle stroke.

While this obviously slows production vs. a press that cycles the shellplate automatically, this feature does have advantages though. (The disadvantages follow shortly.) No case is advanced to the next station until the operator deliberately does so – which is especially helpful for the new handloader.

Problems that arise during loading can be diagnosed and fixed without fears of some “extra” operation happening unnoticed with cartridges at the other stations. Beginners NOTE: one way to positively prevent this risk is to remove the cases from each press station when a problem emerges, before beginning diagnosis. Usually, however, experienced loaders omit this step as a time-saving measure, being confident in their understanding of the loading machine, process and the appropriate remedy.

Progressive press reloading ultimate reloader USAMU

If all cartridge cases are left in place, the operator must monitor what’s happening at each station. For example, raising the press ram twice may result in a double-charge of powder. With rifle cartridges, this usually results in a massive powder over-flow, alerting the loader to the problem. With pistol cases or small rifle charges in large cases, such an over-flow isn’t guaranteed. [Editor — one way to be sure you don’t have an overcharge or undercharge is to use a Lock-Out Die — see below.] The manually-advanced progressive keeps all operations under the loader’s control at all times. This is intuitively easier for the beginning loader to understand and to operate with confidence.

However, this same characteristic can be problematic if the loader isn’t paying 100% attention to what they are doing during routine operation. Some new handloaders apparently aspire to load progressively while daydreaming and paying little attention to the operation. Their plan is to feed components in, like feeding potato chips to a monkey, while good ammo drops out at the other end. Unfortunately, such an approach may likely result in something other than “good” ammo dropping out at the end…

Forgetting to cycle the shellplate when appropriate will cause problems. As with all handloading, distractions MUST be kept to a minimum for safety purposes. Never watch TV, talk with friends, or have other distractions (such as a rambunctious pet or child) in the room when loading. Avoiding distractions will do much to ensure that one produces consistent, high-quality ammunition, free of defects. For example, when a case doesn’t line up correctly with the case mouth expander or powder drop tube, a difference in “feel” often alerts the loader to correct the problem without ruining a case. If one is interrupted or becomes distracted, be certain to examine ALL cases in the shellplate before resuming loading.

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.

Other advantages of the typical manually-advanced progressives are that they are usually simpler in design, with fewer moving parts to get out of adjustment. This appeals to the mechanically dis-inclined! Caliber conversion kits are usually cheaper and take less time to install. This especially benefits the enthusiast who reloads for a wide variety of calibers.

However, many popular manually-advanced progressives have fewer die stations than the higher-end, auto-advancing machines. One item that is very useful when actually dispensing powder on a progressive press is a cartridge case powder-level sensor. This warns if powder levels in each case are too high or too low; however, it does require a die station of its own.

This condition (incorrect powder charges) often results from powder (especially extruded rifle powder) “bridging” in the powder measure. That is, one charge doesn’t fully empty into its cartridge case. This leaves some extra powder hanging up in the measure to join the normal charge in the next case. With some extruded powders, this can be quite obvious without a sensor. However, the sensor can detect small variations that would not be obvious to even an experienced, attentive operator. Considering the machine’s potential to use a powder sensor in addition to one’s other customary dies is a wise idea.

Similarly, pistol shooters are best served to seat bullets and crimp cartridges in separate operations. This should be taken into account when selecting a progressive press. Whenever loading fully-progressively, choosing powders that dispense very easily, e.g., ball/spherical or very fine-grain extruded powders, can help keep charges quite uniform.

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December 6th, 2018

Choosing and Using a Progressive Press — 6.5 Guys Video

6.5 Guys Progressive Press video Gavin Gear Ultimate Reloader

Progressive reloading presses offer shooters speed and efficiency in producing custom-tailored rifle and pistol ammunition. However, there is a wide choice of Progressive Presses and a bewildering array of options to consider. In this video, the 6.5 Guys and UltimateReloader.com’s Gavin Gear provide an overview of the leading Progressive Presses on the market along with key considerations for precision rifle shooters. If you are considering getting a Progessive for rifle ammo reloading, you should watch this informative, 25-minute video.

10 Tips for Reloading Precision Rifle Ammo on a Progressive Press:

1. Make sure the brass is very clean. Don’t mix old range pick-up brass with newer brass.

2. Apply a thin, spray lube to all cases before the sizing/loading cycle.

3. Consider priming your brass separately (with a hand or bench tool) before the operation. Then inspect the primers before loading powder and bullets.

4. Always wear eye protection when loading with the Progressive, particularly if you are priming cases.

5. With tape, mark the powder measure/dropper with the powder type and charge weight.

6. Cycle a few cases, sizing and adding powder but NOT seating bullets. Weigh the powder charges to ensure the powder measure is dispensing the correct charge. Sometimes this will change a couple tenths as it “settles down” after the first few charges.

7. Check the brass for shoulder bump and bullet seating depth carefully for the first few rounds, then check again periodically.

8. Try to maintain a steady pace and operate the handle the same way every time.

9. Visually inspect the powder charge in each case (before bullet seating), and use a lock-out die if your Progressive Press has enough stations.

10. Never, ever mix pistol and rifle powders! If you have previously loaded pistol ammo with your Progressive, make sure ALL the powder (every flake and kernel) is removed from all components of the powder-dropping system before you add rifle powder.

Loading Pistol Ammo on a Dillon

The .45 ACP is probably our favorite centerfire pistol cartridge. In this video, Gavin Gear shows how to load this popular round on a Dillon 550B Progressive Press:

Visit these sites for more Reloading and Precision Shooting Videos:

6.5 Guys
https://www.youtube.com/user/65guys
http://www.65Guys.com

Ultimate Reloader
https://www.youtube.com/ultimatereloader
http://www.UltimateReloader.com

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