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Sharpshootin'.

There was a long dry spell in the advancement of metallic reloading tools, but Dillon Precision, among others, is really setting new trends. If there are ways to learn to shoot without ammunition, I haven't found them yet. The question I'm most often asked when the subject of shooting is at hand is "How can I improve my shooting?" The answer is simple, although the details take several books, but in condensed form it is to study the basic techniques, and then ruin enough primers to master them.

Now the rub sets in. Ruining primers is generally associated with reloading ammunition, unless you happen to own an ammunition company or are wealthy enough to buy one. This reloading normally takes a commodity that for most of us is scarcer than money ... time. Now I started my shooting career and got well into advanced competition with ammo made with the four-pulls-of-the-handle-per-bang ammunition. I still have nightmares over the two-hours-per-hundred-rounds loading sessions that loomed ahead of every practice. The answer for me, and for all of you who want to totally master the handgun, rifle or shotgun is a good automatic reloading machine, one that gives a loaded round every time the handle is pulled.

The bulwark of such machines was, and is, the Star, still in production, still wonderful, and still on back order and strictly limited to handgun ammo. There were other attempts at an automatic machine, but unfortunately most were designed and manufactured by those who evidently had never run an automatic machine or slaved hours over a loading bench.

Enter Mike Dillon ... a man with a need, or at least that's the way I see it. I happen to know that Mike has a particular passion for things that are belt fed, the ultimate adult pacifier. Now I doubt if many u have had the pleasure of sitting behind one of these once-fired brass makers, but you can guess that in about 30 seconds you can make a pile of brass that will take you most of a Colorado blizzard to refill. Mike needed a machine that didn't exist, so in the American way he simply made one, the RL-1000.

This goes a lot beyond what most of us need to make ammunition at home; in fact, these machines, are generally in the hands of commercial reloaders. It will load any round fromt he little pistol poppers to heavy rifle rounds with the same efficiency, about 1,000 rounds per hour. However, the RL-1000 costs $2,000. Now it's easy to see that it gets out of the realm of a lot of our pockets or needs, so after Dillon had the 1000 in production, he set to work on a smaller machine suited to the needs of the home loader who shoots a lot.

The first new offering was the RL-300, now superceded by the great RL-450. When you open the instruction manual for the RL-450 you are greeted by "THE RELOADING MACHINE FOR SHOOTERS WHO HATE TO RELOAD" booklet, and my immediate reaction is, by jove the boy is on the right track. I don't really hate to reload, but like dancing, view it as a good preliminary for great things to follow. At a distance the 450 is much like other "O" frame reloaders--with heavy compound leverage--that are on the market, but up close the differences are immediately apparent. On top of the massive ram is the four-station turret shell holder and at the top are holes for four dies. These accommodate the sizing-decap die, a powder measure belling die, seating, and taper crimp dies. Each die is adjusted just as if you were setting one die in your standard one-hole reloader. Then, when all four are set you have a case under each operation and you load as follows: pull the lever, prime, powder, reverse the lever and pull out a loaded round ... too easy!

When you unpack the 450 you are pleasantly greeted with the best instruction manual I have seen. It is beautifully illustrated with step-by-step photos for setup and operation, as well as a trouble-shooting section that will iron out most difficulties, including tips on how the normal single-stage reloading dies may need to be modified to make them compatible with the progressive reloader. It is written by a man who understands progressive loaders and their temper tantrums. The last line in the instructions is if you have any questions call the factory--followed by their phone number! Now that's a switch!

When you talk to Mike Dillon about his machines there is one overriding point he will make about progressive reloading, "Just because it's fast it doesn't have to be inaccurate." Now that says a lot. I know my own past suspicious about progressive loaders, and how I used to think that a progressive press was fine for practice ammo, but personal defense and high level competition rounds still should be made the old way ... it's not true. Certainly you must exercise care when you load on a progressive, Dillon's included, but if you use good technique you can and will turn out the finest ammunition available.

This year there have been three top level pistol tournaments held in the U.S.: the Bianchi Cup, the United States Practical Championships and the World Championships. Starting with the Bianchi, Brian Enos won that match shooting .38 Special ammo loaded on Dillon machinery. This was super accurate stuff loaded with a little extra time and care in once-fired brass with selected bullets--but the saga continues. One stage of that match consists of shooting 48 eight-inch steel plates from 10 to 25 yards and over the years a tiny few of the world's greatest pistol shots have managed to knock down all 48. Should you be the rare one who is up to this test of skill and control, the rules let you go on shooting to see how good you really are, working on these banks of six targets from 25 yards in nine seconds per string. You keep shooting until you miss. Keep in mind now that it is rare enough to be remarkable when someone shoots down 48 ... Brian Enos walked on the line, stood there on his hind feet and took out five hundred and five ... 505! The resutls speak for themselves. A month later Brian place second behind his sidekick Rob Leatham in U.S. practical pistol championships; both were shooting .45 ACP cartridges loaded on Dillons.

Then in September Rob Leatham turned in his hammering domination of the World Pistol Championships and again he was shooting reloaded ammunition off of the Dillion machinery. Now brother, that's most of the winning there is to be done for a while with no ammo or any other alibis.

Ammunition must be super accurate and function flawlessly for hundreds of rounds and the gold medals prove that humble reloads did. In 1981 I saw our American team plagued by factory ammunition failures, as well as seeing Jimmy Von Sorgenfrei, the reigning world champion at that time, put out of action by a commercial round without powder. Ray Chapman was hammered by a round without a flash hole in the world championships held in Rhodeesia in 1977.

Now I'm not saying factory fodder is bad; quite on the contrary. However, just how good are the Dillon production reloads? Yes, I practice what I preach. Last night I loaded a batch of absolute red line experimental .45 Colt loads, then a large sack full of .44 Mags and then switched over so my son could load some .30-06 on the same Dillon .450 tool.

As accessories to his reloaders, Dillon offers special carbide sizers for .45

ACP and 9 mm ammo that will hold the bullets with proper tension even in thin cases as well as full length carbide dies for .223 and .308 rifle cartridges. In case you are bothered by case trimming, or do a lot of it, Dillon offers the "RT," rapid trim. Now get this, it's a sizing die set up that sizes and trims the cases automatically with a 1/4 horsepower electric motor and attaches to a vacuum cleaner to suck off the chips all during the normal loading cycle on your Dillon 450 or 1000!

When I look at the fine job that Dillon machinery does I keep having to remind myself that unlike most of their high speed predecessors the Dillon progressive machines are not just for pistols. Looking over their list of shell holder plates I see a range from .25 automatic to the big belted magnums. Just in case you're into rapid fire practice or plan on a small invasion of elephant, you can load progressive high rate of production .458 Winchester Magnums on your .450 Dillon. A bit of an extreme case, but there is nothing wrong with being able to load enough rifle ammunition in an evening to give yourself a lot of serious practice over several weeks. With this, instead of being the box-or-two-a-year shooter, you can shoot the several hundred rounds that you should before a hunt, thus giving yourself every chance to score a one-round kill of a trophy in the field.

Aside from the superb line of loading tools, filling a badly needed void in both the hobby and commercial reloading market, there is another very bright side to the Dillon story. Mike Dillon is a serioius reloader and shooter and, best of all, a supporter of the shooting sports and American shooting athletes. Mike made contributions toward the efforts of the 1983 United States of America pistol team and plans to do even more in the future. In case you don't know it, this is quite a switch from many of our companies who make their profits from America's shooters but return nothing to the welfare of the shooting sports. I know that when given a choice, my shooting dollars go to a company who knows and cares that we are out here.

It came to light during the preparation of this piece that starting in January 1984, Dillon will be offering its reloading machines directly to the consumer. Now you can buy the magical 450 directly from the company at $185, less dies, instead of the old retail price of just under $400. Remember, the standard 7/8-14 dies you have now work in the 450 and the machine is complete with everything else you need. Mike Dillon is definitely on our side! Dillon's address is Dillon Precision, 7755 E. Gelding Dr., Scottsdale, AZ 85260.
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Title Annotation:reloading-tool evaluation
Author:Seyfried, Ross
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Date:Mar 1, 1984
Words:1759
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