Reloading .45 ACP Ammo
.45 Automatic Colt Pistol Reloading Case Prep
In rifle reloading and with some handgun magnum calibers and applications, you measure cases. But when reloading .45 ACP, don’t even bother reaching for those calipers, Bub. Does the headstamp read .45 Auto? Then you’re good to go. Measuring, or God forbid, measuring and trimming, is a colossal waste of time. It is such a waste of time that I’m not even sure any Bullseye shooters do it, and they will do anything to scrape a few more points out of the targets. Nope, sort, clean and get ready to load. That’s your case prep when you’re loading the .45. Didn‘t I say this was easy?
Press Selection for Reloading .45 ACP Ammunition
From here, you’re going to need a press. To load in volume, you need a progressive press. Just how fast a model you buy is a decision between you and your wallet. In that regard, presses are much like racing cars, motorcycles, etc.: how fast you go depends on how much you are willing or able to spend. For reloading, it also matters in how many different calibers you reload. Your choices in press brands come down to: Dillon, Hornady and RCBS. They all have strengths and weaknesses. Hornady and RCBS offer a single progressive model each, but they are very capable models. Dillon offers an array of presses, so I will use them as an example of press feature selection.
If all you ever want to do is reload .45 ACP, you’ll never need another caliber, and if you won’t be tempted by others, you can get all you need with a Dillon Square Deal B. It has an auto-advance; that is, it rotates the shell plate in the proper timing so you simply have to push in cases and bullets and pull the handle.
You get that simplicity (and relative low cost) at a price, however, as changing calibers is a hassle. Also, you have one choice in sizing dies, and that is through Dillon. The SDB uses proprietary dies, and Dillon is the only one who makes them.
Considering the hassle to change calibers, if you ever do want to add another caliber, simply buy another SDB for that one. However, low cost brings another minor shortcoming, and that’s low pressure. If your second caliber is going to be a .44 Magnum, don’t get an SDB. The press leverage won’t like the .44 expanded cases, and you’ll have to really muscle the lever. The tipping point is between two and three calibers or adding a Magnum caliber. If you do that, jump up to the 550B.
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The next step up is the Dillon 550B. Here you get a very easy caliber change system. Dies are locked in place in a removable die plate. To change, you slip out a couple of locator pins and slide the die plate out. You unscrew the shell plate, bolt the new one down, slide in the new die plate and you’re done. Depending on what you’re switching to or from, a change over can be done in a minute. At most, it takes five minutes, maybe 10 if you take the time to do a bit of cleaning and lubing on the press while you have it partially disassembled.
The 550B does not auto-advance the shell plate; you have to do that. You can add case and even bullet feeders to a 550B, but that really muddies the cost/benefit calculation when you consider bigger Dillon presses such as the 650 and 1050. The big advantages of the 650 and the 1050 are a greater number of die locations, as well as the auto-advance feature. The 650 has five locations so you can add a powder-check die to make sure no case slips by without powder in it.
The 1050 has eight, and with it you also get a primer pocket swaging station. So if you get military-crimped cases into your system, the press automatically swages the crimp out. If you change brands, Hornady does not have that kind of lineup for a progressive press. They have a different approach. (You do not want to be reloading .45 ACP on a single-stage press unless it is the absolute only way to get ammo.) The Lock ’n Load press is a multidie press, but to change calibers you don’t slide out a die plate, you remove the individual dies. To save the hassle of unscrewing the dies, Hornady came up with the Lock ’n Load system, which is a bayonet-mount converter for dies.
You screw the die into the converter (and adjust it to the proper location) and then when you switch calibers you simply snap out the dies of one caliber and snap in the dies of another. Change out the shell plate and you’re done. Owners can get very possessive of their press brand, and I would not want to imply that the press you are using isn’t the correct one. If you expect to shoot enough to get good (or even just better) you have to shoot more ammo than a single-stage press can produce. They can even make them for particular displays. Get a progressive, set it up properly, keep it clean and correctly timed and make lots of ammo.
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