Posts Tagged ‘Bullet Feeder’

Do I really need a bullet feeder?

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

So there you are sitting at your reloading bench cranking out some ammunition and a thought comes into your head. What if I added a bullet feeder to this press? I could really speed things up, and it would be fun to get a new press accessory! But you may also ask yourself: Will it be worth it? What’s really involved in adding a bullet feeder? In this post I’ll answer some of these questions and hopefully make your decision process easier if you are wondering whether or not to buy a bullet feeder.

Hornady Lock-N-Load Bullet feeder collating 45 ACP bullets - Image copyright 2013 Ultimate Reloader

Hornady Lock-N-Load Bullet feeder collating 45 ACP bullets – Image copyright 2013 Ultimate Reloader

Here are some basic considerations to think about:

  • Pistol -vs- rifle: Feeding pistol bullets is generally more straightforward than feeding rifle bullets. If you are planning on loading rifle bullets with a bullet feeder make sure that the feeder is compatible with your press and is offered in the caliber/cartridge that you plan to load.
  • Bullet type: In general bullet feed systems are designed only to work with plated and jacketed bullets. If you are loading cast lead bullets then chances are that you won’t be able to use them with your bullet feeder. The reason: cast lead bullets are not as consistent dimensionally *and* the lube gums up feed parts.
  • Available stations and press setup: Adding a bullet feed setup will typically require at least one dedicated station in your press, and in some cases adding a bullet feed die will have multi-station dependencies (example: RCBS Rifle Bullet Feeder die has to be actuated by adjacent powder measure). You may be able to free up stations by employing combination features like powder charging and expanding in the same station (Hornady’s PTX expander for example). Just make sure you know the implications and requirements before you spring for that bullet feed system.
  • Mounting and Storage: You’ll need a place to mount the bullet feeder (some bolt to the press, some to your bench) and you’ll also need space to store the bullet feeder (hanging from the wall works good). Bullet feeders can be quite tall (bullet collator) so make sure you have “headroom” in your space as well.
  • Complexity and Setup: A bullet feeder does require per-caliber setup, and they can take a while to get “dialed in” – so make sure your loading quantities will justify the extra setup overhead if you are contemplating a bullet feeder.
  • Power: If your bullet feeder has an electric bullet collator, you’ll need AC power at your bench. One more thing to think about!
  • Cost: Make sure you add up all of the components and parts that you’ll need to buy in order to get a realistic “total cost of ownership”. It’s also a good idea to make sure that all of the parts are available (given recent shortages).

Finally, I’ve found that the biggest increase in loading speed happens when you add either a bullet feeder *or* a case feeder to a press. Having at least one feeder enables one hand to stay on the handle at all times which makes your loading go a lot faster. Adding the second feeder (meaning that you have both bullet feed and case feed attachments) definitely speeds up loading, but the gain is not quite as dramatic as when you add the first feeder.

Have thoughts about bullet feeders? Please leave a comment!

Thanks,
Gavin

Hornady Bullet Feeder – Have you used it?

Friday, September 9th, 2011

Hey everyone, just wanted to recap the information and videos that I’ve posted on the Hornady Bullet Feeder for pistol cartridges.

Here are the previous posts related to this bullet feeder:

And here’s a diagram showing a representative die setup that’s worked well for me:

…just need to keep an eye on the powder cop station at the top of each stroke.

Long-term update: I’ve had good luck with the metal two-piece collet setup inside the die- it seems to be wearing well (not wearing out :) ).

How are you all liking your Hornady bullet feeders? Have any tips/tricks that you’d like to share? I’d love to hear more about your experiences.

-Gavin

Hornady Lock-N-Load Bullet Feeder – Loading 45 ACP

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

This video shows setting up and loading 45 ACP with the new Hornady Lock-N-Load Bullet feeder on the Hornady Lock-N-Load AP press. Here’ I’ll show the preferred die setup from the following post:

Hornady Lock-N-Load Bullet Feeder – Die Stations

Thanks,
Gavin

Hornady Lock-N-Load Bullet Feeder – Die Stations

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

One important thing to consider when contemplating a bullet feed system is – “How am I going to setup my dies and powder measure, and do I really have room and enough stations to make this thing work?”. Well, those are good questions, and this post will discuss a few different die configurations on the Hornady Lock-N-Load AP when using the Hornady Lock-N-Load Bullet Feeder.

Five stations may sound like a lot when you first get your press, but as you setup dies, change calibers, add powder check stations and so on – you’ll realize that in some cases more stations would actually be better! So, there are compromises to make.

Ideally, if we dream for a moment, and consider all of the possibilities for progressive loading of rifle and pistol calibers, one could arrive at something like the following for die stations and operations on a progressive reloading press:

Ideal dedicated station die placement:

Station 1: Size/Deprime
Station 2: Expander
Station 3: Powder Charge
Station 4: Powder Check
Station 5: Bullet Feed
Station 6: Bullet Seat
Station 7: Bullet Crimp

Yes, 7 stations would be nice, but most progressive presses have only 4 or 5 stations (The Hornady Lock-N-Load AP has 5), and most people would not be able to rationalize a press with more than 5 stations from a cost standpoint (think of the caliber conversion parts!). In reality, 5 station presses work quite well, and are cost effective. Just spend some time on a press with less than 5 stations, and you’ll know what I’m talking about…

So, having said all that- what would the typical die setups look like for a complete Lock-N-Load AP press with case feeder and bullet feeder? Here are the top three die setups that I’ve come up with and their corresponding tradeoffs.

Option 1: Powder Check Enabled (Recommended)

 

Lock-N-Load AP Die Stations - With Powder Cop - Image Copyright 2011 Ultimate Reloader

 

The reason I recommend this die placement is that when you have both a case feed system and bullet feed system in place, you’ll inevitably start loading much more quickly. When you’re moving faster, you tend to spend less time performing tasks such as inspecting and validating the powder charge visually. This means more of a chance of either a squib (empty) load, or a double charge. You could also use other powder check systems such as the RCBS Lock-Out Die in this station just as easily.

Benefit: Safety

Cost: No separate seat/crimp capability (combined in station 5)

Option 2: Separate Seat/Crimp

 

Lock-N-Load AP Die Stations - With Separate Seat/Crimp - Image Copyright 2011 Ultimate Reloader

 

Here we see what it looks like to have separate seat and crimp stations when using the Hornady Lock-N-Load Bullet Feeder. This is a popular setup, but is not as safe as when using a powder check die.

Benefit: Seating Precision, No lead shaving, Isolated die setups for seat and crimp

Cost: No powder check (not as safe – must be vigilant about visual powder level inspection!)

Option 3: Separate Expander and Powder Charge

 

Lock-N-Load AP Die Stations - With Separate Seat/Crimp - Image Copyright 2011 Ultimate Reloader

Finally, we see the setup when using separate expander and powder charge stations. This negates the need for using PTX expanders (and buying the powder die bodies if you want quick changeovers) but like the separate seat/crimp setup does not allow the user of a powder check die.

 

Benefit: Simplified Powder measure Setup

Cost: No powder check (not as safe – must be vigilant about visual powder level inspection!)

While I’m sure folks will come up with other options, these are the primary setups that I’ve experimented with, and I feel they represent the “mainstream” options that one would be likely to use. For me, I’ll stick with the powder check enabled option because of the safety factor. The new PTX expander bracket and enhanced design of the PTX expander profile (launched with bullet feed dies) makes for both easy setups and consistent/reliable case mouth expansion. When you have reliable case mouth expansion, you have more consistent automated bullet feed action.

Now, we’ve covered most of the basics for the Hornady Lock-N-Load bullet feed system. Next, let’s see this system in action! Sounds like it’s time for some HD videos :)

Do you have other die setups that you’ve employed with this system? Please share by commenting on this post!

Thanks,
Gavin

Hornady Lock-N-Load Bullet Feeder – Overview

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

In my last related post -  Hornady Bullet Feed Dies – Overview I covered the basics of the bullet feed die that is integral to the new Hornady Lock-N-Load Bullet Feeder system. In this post, we’ll take a step back and look at a “high level” feature overview of this new product.

The Complete Hornady Lock-N-Load AP Progressive System:

 

 

 

The Hornady Lock-N-Load Bullet Feeder setup to load 45 ACP on a Hornady Lock-N-Load AP press with case feeder and extras - Image copyright 2011 Ultimate Reloader - Click for larger view

 

The Hornady Lock-N-Load Progressive system shown above features the Hornady Lock-N-Load AP press (5 station auto-indexing progressive), the Hornady Lock-N-Load AP Case Feeder, and the Hornady Lock-N-Load Bullet Feeder. The Hornady Lock-N-Load Bullet Feeder mounts behind the press and to the “left” (looking from the operator’s view).

Bird’s Eye View:

 

 

Looking from above the Hornady Lock-N-Load Bullet Feeder and press - click image for larger view - Image copyright 2011 Ultimate Reloader - Click for larger view

This view demonstrates the spatial relationship between the bullet feeder and press. As you can see here, the drop tube (actually a spring) can flex around to accommodate different stations for the bullet feed die placement.

 

The Hornady Lock-N-Load Bullet Feeder is unique in that it has been engineered as a part of a system that includes a 5 station progressive, electric case feeder, and bullet feeder all from the same manufacturer. While this means it will work well with the Hornady press, it doesn’t mean that this bullet feeder won’t work well with any other press that has an empty station in the right location, and utilizes 7/8″ X 14 die threading. I have not yet as of the writing of this post tried this bullet feeder on anything other than the Lock-N-Load, but my experiences with the RCBS bullet feeder would indicate that the biggest challenge when moving the bullet feeder to another press is mounting the bracket in the right relationship and position with respect to the press and specifically the bullet feed station.

So what exactly do you get with this press? This is a question that I ask myself about many products that I contemplate buying online- what exactly do I get? Does it come with all of the bits and pieces that I’ll need? The short answer here is that for loading pistol (for supported calibers – 9mm, 38/357, 40 S&W / 10mm, 44 cal, 45 cal) you’ll get everything you need for a standard bench mounted unit except the bullet feed dies.

Box Contents:

 

 

Here's what you'll get with the Hornady Lock-N-Load Bullet Feed kit - Image copyright 2011 Ultimate Reloader - Click for larger view

 

In the above image from top moving clockwise we have:

  1. The box
  2. The bullet feed bowl assembly
  3. The instructions DVD
  4. The drop tube support wire
  5. The drop tubes and adapters
  6. Center left: Bullet wiper assemblies
  7. Center right: Bowl mounting hardware

In operation, this unit works very similar to the RCBS pistol bullet feeder. You pour in bullets, a plate with grooves revolves and picks up bullets, drops them down a tube, and is finally placed onto cases by a special bullet feed die. I’ve used this system with many calibers including 9mm, 38/357, 44, and 45 caliber bullets (40 S&W is ready to go here soon). The system works quite well from my experience. I’ll elaborate more about strengths and weaknesses in future posts and videos.

I’ll be posting plenty more articles and HD videos showing this unit in use with a variety of calibers and presses, so stay tuned!

-Gavin