Dillon RL-550C: Unboxing, Overview, Setup, Loading Rifle and Pistol Ammunition

The Dillon RL-550C is arguably the most “tried and true” progressive reloading press on the market today. This press offers a blend of affordability, quality, and precision that’s truly unique. In this article, I’ll cover the RL-550C in-depth, starting with an unboxing, and finishing with loading rifle/pistol plus some insights into issues that you as a consumer are probably contemplating.

What’s In the Box

Dillon’s packaging is second to NONE. Everything inside the box is protected from damage by custom-molded inserts. A benefit of this kind of protection is that if you ever need to send the machine to Dillon for any reason (they offer the famous “No B.S. Warranty”) you’ll be confident it will arrive without damage.

The Dillon RL-550C comes with everything you need to load rifle and pistol ammunition (with large and small primers) except a caliber conversion kit and dies. Here’s what’s in the box:

Above we have:

  • Literature
  • Low primer warning system
  • Handle and mounting hardware
  • Priming system components (for large and small primers)
  • Press assembly
  • Powder measure and fail-safe rod (with extra powder bar, both rifle and pistol sizes included)
  • Discharge chute (mounts to bench)
  • Primer catcher cup
  • Indexing components
  • Allen key set
  • Die lock rings (3)
  • Completed cartridge bin

Equipping the RL-550C To Load Ammunition

The RL-550C comes with one toolhead installed on the press. For each caliber you plan to load, you can expect to buy the following:

  1. RL-550 caliber conversion kit
  2. Die set (Dillon, or other 7/8×14 standard die set)
  3. Toolhead (if not using the one that is included with press)

Here’s what’s included with a caliber conversion kit:

In the case above we have (223 conversion kit shown, from top to bottom):

  1. Locator buttons (secure case/cartridge at each station)
  2. Shellplate
  3. Powder funnel (rifle) or funnel/expander (pistol)

Here’s the 9mm dies used for the first loading sequence in the video:

From left to right:

  • 9mm Sizer / De-primer
  • 9mm bullet seating die
  • 9mm crimp die

Loading Pistol Ammunition with the RL-550C

In order to have an optimal pistol loading setup, you need at least 4 stations, and the RL-550C has just that! Here are the stations setup to load 9mm Parabellum:

Above we have:

  1. Sizing and de-priming (top of stroke), priming (bottom of stroke)
  2. Powder charging and case mouth expansion
  3. Bullet seating
  4. Bullet crimping

With the above setup, you have the advantage of separate seating and crimping (makes die setups and adjustments much easier). This requires diligent visual powder level checks.

If you want to use a powder check die or similar sensor, you could setup the dies as follows:

  1. Sizing and de-priming (top of stroke), priming (bottom of stroke)
  2. Powder charging and case mouth expansion
  3. Powder check
  4. Bullet seating and crimping (same die)

Loading Rifle Ammunition with the RL-550C

The RL-550C is a GREAT press for loading rifle ammunition! Here are some resons it’s great for rifle loading:

  1. Capacity: the press frame opening is over 4″ (above where case rim sits in shellplate) and without auto-indexing, capacity is effectively increased
  2. Precision: As shown in the video, this press has great repeatability
  3. Speed: You can crank out a completed round with every stroke of the handle
  4. Standard equipment: The press comes with the rifle charge bar, and both large/small priming setups

Here’s the 6mm Creedmoor setup shown in the video:

Above we have:

  1. Sizing and de-priming (top of stroke), priming (bottom of stroke)
  2. Powder charging
  3. Powder check
  4. Bullet seating

Note that if you are crimping your bullets while loading rifle ammunition, you could use the following setup:

  1. Sizing and de-priming (top of stroke), priming (bottom of stroke)
  2. Powder charging
  3. Bullet seating
  4. Bullet crimping

The above setup would require that you can perform visual powder checks for powder level. This is made more feasible with the addition of an LED lighting system.

Dillon RL-550C Total Cost of Ownership

One of the important factors to consider when purchasing a reloading setup is what your total spend will be once you get things setup for all of the calibers you plan to load. Here’s a quick summary of what you can expect to pay to get your RL-550C setup:

In addition to this, you’ll need other things like dies, powder, primers, and other tools. For complete lists of these supplies, please refer to the following articles:

What you need to load pistol ammunition

What you need to load rifle ammunition

RL-550C Specs and Features

From the Dillon Press Comparison Page:

Cyclic rate (Rounds per hour) 400-600
One hour production rate 500
Caliber change time 5 min
Number of stations 4
Auto index no
Auto Casefeeder optional
Uses standard (7/8” x 14) dies yes
Powdercheck System no
Primer Early Warning System standard
Failsafe Powder System standard
Separate Crimp Station yes
Primer magazine capacity 100
Casefeed capacity(.38/.223) N/A
Powder measure capacity 3/4 lb
Shipping weight 25 lbs.
Height required above bench*** 35 in.
Benchtop overhang required*** 3/4 in.
Pistol All common
Rifle All common

RL-550C Pros and Cons

Is the RL-550C the right press for you? Let’s take a quick look at some pros and cons:

Dillon RL-550C Pros

  • Quality: Dillon is known for this!
  • Price: The RL-550C’s simplicity makes it affordable for what it does and is, inexpensive to add calibers
  • Flexibility: The ability to load pistol and rifle ammunition (including match ammo)
  • Capacity: Will load most bottleneck rifle cartridges
  • No B.S. Warranty
  • Resale value

Dillon RL-550C Cons

  • 4 stations has some limitations (Ex: powder check and separate seat/crimp aren’t possible in the same setup)
  • Lack of auto-index requires diligence with powder checks

In Summary

The Dillon RL-550C is a press that offers versatility, quality, precision, and value. If you are looking for precision and flexibility and don’t want to “break the bank” – this press is most definitely worth looking at!

You can get your RL-550C directly from Dillon Precision here:

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4 thoughts on “Dillon RL-550C: Unboxing, Overview, Setup, Loading Rifle and Pistol Ammunition”

  1. Like all the UR videos, well done. I like how you remain positive on the various products and your pros and cons make them clear to help make decisions on which to purchase. They also give ideas on how a “franken press” could potentially be put together to capture the best of each. I’m looking forward to the forthcoming videos on the other current progressive presses.

  2. If you want a Progressive Press that simply works right out of the box, then I recommend Dillon. Been using my 550 more then 10 years. Added the roller handle, strong mount and the case feeder. great product.

  3. I have an original 550 that was passed on to me by my father-in-law when I got into reloading (after I learned the process and spent a year on my lee single stage). I like to tumbler before and after I size so I do that on a single stage and I use a hand primer. This frees up a spot on the press. I have the powder dispenser in station 1, powder check in station 2, bullet seater and crimper in 3 and 4 respectively.
    It is a longer process overall but I’m not going to run dirty brass in my sizer and I don’t like to have the case lube on there during the rest of my process. I get better feel and feed back from the hand primer and it gives me another chance to inspect the brass before wasting a primer in a split case.
    I’m sure I have loaded upwards of 10,000 rounds of 300 blackout alone on the press in the few years I’ve had the press and my father-in-law reloaded 9mm, 45acp and 30-06 for years and years and the press has worked flawlessly for both of us.

  4. Lube or no lube? I’ve seen it done differently all over. Can the Dillion resizer die be used on unlubed brass?

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