I have a Dillon 650 with casefeeder that I've been using to produce 9mm, and it's done a good job of it for the most part (I've had to tighten up the primer punch assembly and adjust and tighten the casefeeder mechanism -- these things probably worked slightly loose during shipping or something and eventually started to cause operational issues). It has given me valuable experience with a progressive press.
I've started shooting .40 and my LCT just isn't fast enough for my purposes. Since .40 is a more demanding round than 9mm, I decided I would switch the 650 to .40 production, but that left me with doing 9mm on the LCT which is too slow for my purposes (having a good progressive has spoiled me rotten!).
Enter the Lee Pro 1000. I knew I wanted a progressive press, I wanted something relatively small, something dirt simple, and something I knew was possible to get operating properly (only half the reviews are negative, after all, so some
people are getting it to work reliably). Having only 3 stations shouldn't be a problem.
And, frankly, I was looking forward to the challenge of getting a press known for being finicky and making it rock-solid reliable. And the price made it a no-brainer.
I knew going into it, as a result of much reading, that if I wanted it to produce ammo reliably, I would have to set everything up properly and perhaps even take steps to address any deficiencies I ran across. This is not the sort of press you just mount to the bench and start production with. You have to operate it and watch it to learn exactly how it does everything it does.
So I started setting it up and playing with it last night.
The first thing I did was to start running cases through it to get a feel for how the casefeeder slide mechanism worked, how the shellplate indexing worked, etc. I adjusted the shellplate indexing so that the casefeeder mechanism was as reliable as possible. But hmm...looks like to accomplish that, the indexing causes the case cutouts in the shellplate to travel slightly past the ideal point relative to the priming pin, so that the priming pin isn't centered within the case cutouts. Hmm...maybe that won't matter.
There was only one way to find out! To experiment with and verify the operation of the priming system, I carefully placed a number of spent primers in the primer feed tray (oriented properly) and fed cases into the press by placing them individually in front of the case feeder pusher and letting it slide the cases into place. The priming system wasn't as reliable as I wanted: sometimes the primer could be pushed into place but other times it couldn't. When it couldn't, this left a primer sitting on the pin (at best! Sometimes the primer would tip sideways). So I reset the indexing such that the priming pin would be centered in the case cutout in the shellplate when it indexed.
However, when the shellplate is set up to index in such a way as to maximize the reliability of the priming step (i.e., set up so that the primer punch is centered within the case cutout in the shellplate), the case feeder would often misfeed a case, by causing the case to be tipped slightly sideways in such a way that only one side of the case would engage the lip in the case cutout. The other side would be sitting above the lip.
And so I had my first engineering challenge on my hands. How to arrange things so that both the casefeeder and the priming system worked reliably at the same time?
What I noticed was that when the case pusher was located such that the case was just touching where the edge of the shellplate would be, the shellplate hadn't quite finished indexing. It was very close, but not quite there.
Clearly, you really don't want the pusher to start pushing the case into the cutout in the shellplate until well after the shellplate has stopped moving. The current setup basically has the case pusher too close to the shellplate. It therefore needs to somehow be moved slightly further away.
So what I did was to find the drill bit that matched the size of the hole in the case pusher into which the z-bar fits and to drill a hole next to the one that is already there, so the new hole is slightly closer to the front of the case pusher than the original hole.
A picture is worth a thousand words:
The slider as it came had the two leftmost holes. As you can see, I drilled a third hole. The only problem with that hole is that it doesn't have the additional reinforcing material on the inside the way the original (now middle) hole does. I'm tempted to put some sort of reinforcing material in there but the thickness of the surface into which I drilled the hole is sufficient for now.
The location of the new hole is such that with the ram all the way down, a slight amount of tension is put on the casefeeder slide with the slide at the forward stop. It should be enough to ensure that cases get pushed all the way into the cutout but not so much as to bend or break anything if the case is stubborn and won't go in. But the difference it makes in the timing of when the case arrives at the shellplate is significant. At that point, the shellplate has easily stopped rotating and is in proper position to accept a new case. And it's also aligned such that the primer punch is located properly within the case cutout.
I haven't loaded any real ammo with this setup yet. I've yet to set up the dies exactly the way I want them to be. It appears the factory did a decent job with the sizing die, at least.
What I wonder is whether or not I should take the entire thing apart first. I'm tempted, but my tests show the press to be reliable at the moment, so maybe I should leave well enough alone...
The next thing on my list of mods is to fix the case collator so that it reliably feeds 9mm brass right-side-up. Seems to me the most reliable answer would be to place inserts into the holes in the collator to reduce the effective diameter of the holes. Maybe it's possible to get PVC pipe or something that would be the right size for both the inside and the outside diameters...
Merry Christmas, everyone!