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Primer system woes

Discussion in 'Reloading' started by PCJim, Dec 3, 2011.

  1. PCJim

    PCJim Senior Member

    Aug 4, 2008
    For the last several reloading sessions, the 550 priming system has been giving me a fit. Reloading several hundred 223 cases over the last month, I experienced numerous instances where the slider bar moves in a very jumpy / erratic movement, fails to pick up a new primer or hangs completely in the retracted position. I tried compressed air, wiping clean the bar and housing, even slowing to a crawl (actually was already there) to manually pull the bar back to pick up a primer and push it into priming position. Another reloader had given me some mica a year ago - tried it too without success. This scenario obviously is not in keeping with the reliability which Dillon's presses are known for.

    Last night, while educating my 8yo grandson on the facets of reloading, I completely removed the priming system and proceeded to polish all surfaces with 0000 steel wool. I also taught my grandson how steel wool will fly thru the air (while within a magnet's magnetic field). He thoroughly enjoyed the evening's lessons. While examining the bar and housing, I noticed the bar had wear patterns on it as well as a distinct cut that apparently was the result of numerous contacts with the spent primer chute. The housing had a noticible swell just forward of the side where the mounting holes are located. I was displeased to see these wear marks.

    Anyway, after the through polishing and a final blast from the air compressor, I reassembled the system. The next 300+ rounds were loaded without a hitch. Today, while reloading the last of the now three times reloaded cases, the primer bar was again starting to act in a jumpy manner, not entirely smooth. Two cases needed assistance to pickup primers for loading.

    I mention this because this press has reloaded tens of thousands of error free ammo. To begin experiencing a problem of this nature is very disappointing. I must admit that the smoothness of the entire press's operation was again very much appreciated, in fact impressive, in the manner of operation when it was running without hiccups.

    Guess I'll take it apart again and see what it is that I missed the first time around.
  2. Glock 21 Dan

    Glock 21 Dan NRA Member

    Apr 15, 2004
    Call Dillon first thing Mon. morning and explain the problem. They will probably send you a whole new primer system free of charge. Sounds like the system is worn out.

  3. TX Archer

    TX Archer

    Jun 4, 2011
    Austin, TX
    What timing! I just came inside after struggling with mine, too. Mine has had much less run through it previously but my experiences are otherwise mirroring yours. I've reloaded somewhere between 1500-2000 rounds so far. The bar started acting erratic/jerky just as you describe so last week I took it apart, cleaned it with alcohol, and lightly buffed it with 0000 steel wool. Things went smoothly for 200 rounds after that. I started another session this afternoon and the first 100 went fine then it went downhill exactly as you describe. I figured I'd try steel wool or scotch-brite tomorrow along with some Tuf Glide. Then I stumbled across your post.

    I'll be following along here to see what's suggested.
  4. halfmoonclip


    Feb 24, 2003
    Couple possibilities, and I'm speaking from experience; my 550 is 30 years old and a pile of rounds...
    -Check the rod that operates the primer bar, and the nylon roller wheels it passes over; if the bar is too slippery and slides over the rollers rather than rolling on them, it can cause trouble. Assuming the rollers aren't flat spotted, take the rod and twirl it in 3M cloth to roughen it a little.
    -Also make sure the bar is adjusted correctly; you may need to loosen the bushing that is clamped on the primer shield and raise or lower it a bit.
    -Try graphite as a lube on the steel plate that the primer shuttle rides on (you do have that plate in place?)
    -Current primer bars are coated with a white Teflon surface, so the factory is aware that the bar can be problematic.
    You may indeed need to replace a great deal of the primer system; listen to Glock Dan and give Dillon a call. They have the most extraordinary customer service I have ever seen. I have literally gotten parts overnight from AZ, and I'm in the East.
  5. Three-Five-Seven

    Three-Five-Seven Señor Mombo Millennium Member

    Aug 8, 1999
    Great Southwest
    Hornady One Shot Gun Cleaner/Lubricant is a dry lube that works great on primer systems and doesn't contaminate primers.
  6. Colorado4Wheel


    Nov 2, 2006
    Brian Enos has a great write up on the adjustment of the primer setup. Join his site and find it in his Dillon Section.

    But a couple things.
    -Check the height of the primer cup. Spec is in the manual.
    -Check the blocks holding the lever. Should be slightly above the press (about .125"). Flip the lever up and see if it is bent toward the left, center or right. It should be center to a little right, never to the left. If you press is not picking up new primers you may need to rebend it a little. You will need a vice. It's hard to bend.
    -obviously, it needs to be clean, no oil ever, polish everything the first time it ever hangs up. Wipe the setup (without disassembly) every to you start loading.

    Brians site has more good info. I have posted it here as well.
  7. ron59

    ron59 Bustin Caps

    Jan 3, 2009
    Smyrna, GA
    I had absolutely no problems with the first 35,000 or so rounds with my 550B. Then... same thing you described. If I cleaned it up super good, and kinda "polished" that groove from the spent primer chute it would work okay for a few hundred rounds. Then back to sticking in the out position, other stuff.

    They sent me an entire new priming system. Good as new.
  8. EL_NinO619

    EL_NinO619 EX-Swage Monkey

    Aug 11, 2010
    San Diego

  9. Steve Koski

    Steve Koski Got Insurance? Millennium Member

    Jan 31, 1999
    I've found 550 primer problems to be highly powder dependant.

    Unique: I Can load 1500+ rounds before I need to disassemble the 550 priming system and wipe it down with alcohol.

    WST: Begins to stick after 200 rounds, missed primers around 300 rounds. When using WST, I've basically gone to alcohol wipe down cleanings (no disassembly) every 200ish rounds (without dissasembly) and teardown cleanings roughly every 600 rounds. These take 3-4 minutes, but if you don't do it, you waste more time dealing with skipped primers.

    I'm going to try the HOS idea.

    I've never polished anything, but I did let Dillon mail me a new slider plate a year ago when frustration using WST reached an all time high. My old slider plate (12+ years old) was grooved. However, the new slider plate doesn't make a noticeable difference. The problems are still there, about the same interval as before.

    Last edited: Dec 4, 2011
  10. Murphy's Law

    Murphy's Law

    Nov 1, 2007
    Tampa, FL
    I can almost bet anything your problem is the " Primer Track Bearing" part # 14015. This exact problem happened to me and after speaking with Gary (Dillon) and sending one Gratis, the problem was taken care of. It's hard to believe that little piece of metal caused me all that darn trouble. It gets nicked up a bit and then the primer system does not go forward smoothly (jerks) where all kinds of problems develop. FYI no charge for my diagnostics LOL
  11. halfmoonclip


    Feb 24, 2003
    Murph, is that the flat metal plate that lives under the primer slide? My press is old enough that it didn't come with one originally.

    The primer feed on a 550 is a known problem; on really old presses it was manually operated, just like on old RCBS presses; pull it back and ease it forward.

    I've updated mine several times over the years, and the gang in Scottsdale keeps trying tweaks and modifications.

    It's a big enough pain that the 650 uses a totally different system, which entails its own can of worms. Apparently changing primer size is a major task, a problem we don't have with the 550.
  12. WiskyT

    WiskyT Malcontent

    Jun 12, 2002
    North Carolina
    There is some definate dirty laundry being aired regarding Dillon priming family secrets.
  13. BK63


    Sep 15, 2005
    I take mine apart now and then and clean it and put a little dry lube on it as others have said. IMO if there are metal pieces rubbing together they should have some kind of lube on them. Never had a problem and tens of thousands of loaded rounds.
  14. I had problems with mine only on large pistol primers. The slide did not retract fully, and had to be manually pulled. I called Dillon, they suggested the operating rod needed to be bent out some more. I tried that with at least partial success.
    My small primer slide works without a hitch, so I suppose its a problem with the slide.
  15. F106 Fan

    F106 Fan

    Oct 19, 2011
    Over the last two days, I have become somewhat of an expert on the disassembly and reassembly of the 1050 priming system. What a PITA!

    AFAICT, all of the problems were a result of Federal primers. Not that I did any comparison but Federal is what I use. I would get jams in the transfer bar, primers stuck in the feed tube (what's that about?), failure to pick up a primer and that little rubber sleeve at the back of the transfer bar was split (the original problem, I believe).

    I now know exactly how to set up the primer mechanism and the last 700 rounds came out fine.

    Back on topic, I sometimes have primer feed issues with my 550B. I take it apart and clean it and that solves the problem. I have had issues with that wire that pushes on the roller. Sometimes it just doesn't line up right with the roller and a small adjustment will solve the problem.

    As I mentioned the other day, I NEVER get the as many rounds per hour as other users. Just doing an R&R on the primer mechanism takes 10 minutes and produces 0 rounds of loaded ammo. Why does it take so long? Well, the primer tube is full and it is better not to drop the primers all over the bench. Then I have to pick up the primers and put them back in the tube. And so on...

    I am convinced that the primer feed mechanism is the weak spot in almost every reloader.

  16. Colorado4Wheel


    Nov 2, 2006
    There is a safety "star" like thing on the 1050. Take it off.
  17. F106 Fan

    F106 Fan

    Oct 19, 2011
    Which part are you talking about?

  18. Colorado4Wheel


    Nov 2, 2006
    I don't own a 1050 personally. But every local owner I shoot with that has a 1050 has removed some star like thing on the back of the machine. I don't know what it does but read the instructions, find the part. It's some sort of safety thing. Older presses didn't have it. It makes the press a lot more finicky. Go to brian enos and search around there as well.
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2011
  19. F106 Fan

    F106 Fan

    Oct 19, 2011
    The part they are modifying is the ratchet that prevents short-stroking the press. When I first got my 1050, I REALLY wanted to raise the handle part way through crushing a case. I REALLY, REALLY wanted to raise the handle so I broke the ratchet piece - fractured the steel piece completely in two.

    That was a mistake! I ordered the replacement parts and reinstalled the ratchet. As other users at note, removing the ratchet is defeating an important feature of the press.

    In every case where the handle needs to be raised, the ratchet can be manually disengaged and all is well. This comes up from time to time when I get a piece of Blazer brass or something goes wrong in the decapping station. No big deal... Just toss the case that was just filled with powder.

    Having to manually disengage the ratchet causes me to stop and think. Something is wrong, something is different, what do I do next? A useful break in the mind-numbing process of reloading.

    I'm going to leave the ratchet in place. If reduces the likelihood of a much larger mistake.

  20. Colorado4Wheel


    Nov 2, 2006
    Just be aware that it can cause issues. I never, ever short stroke a press. So it's not a issue for me. None of my other presses had that feature so I wouldn't miss it.