Saturday, July 24, 2010

Midnight At the Oasis

Actually, it's 1am. I've managed to load 176 rounds ... and the last ten were like pulling teeth

I doubt that this is enough for the match, but if I run out of ammunition I'll just take pictures and videos of the other shooters anyway. The point of the game is that it's a chance to get out of doors, a little light exercise, get sunburned and be humiliated by your friends.

And ... the good folks at Dillon will be receiving a phone call from me next week. This just cannot go on. For the money, the press is suppose to work a lot better than it does now.

The reasonable suggestion, that I send it in for a rebuild?

Did that two years ago. It worked well for 3 months.

But I'm not going to let any of this spoil my weekend. I've check the pistol, ran a solvent rag thru it (which I did when I last used it) and did a little oiling. The batteries on the C-more are up and I have a spare in the bag. There's some ice in the freezer and water bottles in the refrigerator, ready to go in the cooler at 7:30 am.

A good (short) nights sleep, and then a pleasant hour drive to the beautiful Dundee Hills.

Can't way to see what Evil Bill has in store for us this time!
See you on the range.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Dillon Blues

I was very pleased last Wednesday when my order from Dillon arrived.

Mikey D. did right by me. I got the new Primer Cam, of course. The first thing I did when I ripped the package open was to measure the elevation of the old cam and the new one. The new cam stands 0.066" higher than the old one. Visually, they looked the same. But that shiny 'scuff' on the face of the old cam represents enough worn-off metal (I'm thinking) to account for its inability to rotate the primer disk quite far enough to index with the primer punch.

Dillon also sent me a new primer arm, and the return spring, and a "index arm bowed washer". Not to mention two new primer disks: one for small primers, one for large primers.

Since I had already replaced the primer arm, and the return spring, I didn't both replacing them. The "bowed washer" was still bowed (I knew from the inspection I made of parts the last time I tore down the primer assembly; last weekend -- twice.) And as for primer disks, they're good stainless steel and harder than rocks. No need to replace THAT.

So I just replaced the Cam on Wednesday night, poured a tall glass of ice water (it's 85 degrees out in the corner of the garage when the loading bench is), and settled in to make some .38 Super ammunition.

Yes, that primer cam made a difference. But not enough. I would get maybe one 'clean' primer feed out of 6 or 7, and the rest of the time I would have to fiddle with the darned thing. Sometimes the disk wouldn't rotate enough, sometimes it rotated a little too far. You can't tell what the problem is until you pull the case out and peer down into the guts of the thing.

Sometimes, it didn't seem to even try to bring up a new primer.

That kept me off the streets for a couple of hours Wednesday. I had loaded about 40 rounds of ammunition before I got frustrated, then sleepy. So I turned out the lights and called it a night.

Now it's Friday Night, 9pm, and I should be having a late snack and heading to bed sure that 200 rounds should be enough to get through the Dundee match tomorrow.

Trouble is, I've got about 50 rounds loaded. Not 200.

Finally I had a major jam, so I had to dismount the primer assembly to see what was wrong. Turned out one of the primers had turned coming out of the primer tube, and jammed the disk.

The new plan is to disassemble the primer assembly, thoroughly clean EVERYTHING, and then replace all of the old moving parts with the new moving parts.

Surprisingly, I had the whole thing cleaned, reassembled, and mounted on the Dillon XL650 in about 25 minutes. It shouldn't have taken me that long, but I had to sit a spell and admire the shine from my (almost) completely rebuilt gizmo.

Refilling the tube with another 100 primers, I started to work, whistling a tune from "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs".

I didn't get past the first verse before the music changed, from "Hi Ho!" to "Night on Bald Mountain". (You'll remember that one, of course, from "Fantasia". It comes right after "The Sorcerer's Apprentice".)

I didn't have problems with the primer indexing a little short, or a little long. They weren't indexing AT ALL.

Hard as it is to watch the primer disk while my fat fingers are trying to load, but I finally realized that the primer disk was rotating just fine, and the primer arm was returning properly ... but it was dragging the disk backwards with it. Instead of the disk staying in place while the arm returned to pick up the next primer, it reversed the direction of the disk and dragged the new primer back to align the old (now empty) hole in the primer disk.

Hmmmmm. This calls for a serious re-think.

Also for a talk with the coach. I poured myself a short McNaughton's and phoned SWMBO. She was having a not particularly good day either, so we sat for a while and talked each other back to a more ... uh ... cheerful mood.

The McNaughton's didn't hurt, either.

But now SWMBO has gone back to "There's Nothing On Television" land, and the McNaughtons is naught but a smokey memory.

And I'm sitting here writing to faceless readers who will turn into giggling spectators when I try to shoot a 150+ round match tomorrow with about 100 rounds.

Don't know right now what I'm going to do. I can't see why the disk should NOT be dragged back from the arm, which means I'm going to have to figure out what this marvel of modern machinery was originally designed to do to prevent reverse rotation.

The best I've done so far has been to irritate the Gods of Alliteration, which is fun but not helpful.

No, don't ask me if I've cleaned the Open gun in preparation for the match. That was suppose to happen with the McNaughton's moment.

Stay tuned. The next article will either be a Reloader's Lament (later tonite), or a long and embarrassing story about the Saturday Match Which Never Were.


Because The Hobo Brasser has promised to loan me enough ammunition to finish the match. And I've assured him that "the situation is well in hand".

I hate it when he laughs. He sounds so ... so ... so Irish!

Monday, July 19, 2010

XL650 - Still Whining, After All These Years

SWMBO keeps telling me that we should just buy a new Loading Press ("We can use the same accessories, right?") and every male friend keeps telling me to "Man Up!"

But no, I'm a Geek and I will continue to do things My Way, regardless of the very good advice provided from Friends and Family.

HOWEVER: Taunted by the possibility that Evil Bill & Company will manage to establish a Club Match at the recently developer-challenged Dundee Gun Club, I have decided to try ... really, REALLY hard, to get enough ammunition loaded for the .38 Super Open Gun that I can "Match Up" before the next anticipated match on Saturday, July 24, 2010. According to the Columbia Cascade Section calendar, there WILL be a match this weekend.

And I want to be there!

Even Though I'm a Geek, the comes a point when I quit whining and I start doing whatever is necessary to get me to a match. That's the situation now. It has been a long time since I competed (a couple of months, at most) and very much longer since I competed in Open Division (October, 2009 .... nine months!)

Accordingly, I have made an effort during the past two weeks to fix the problems with my Dillon XL650, with the goal of loading ammunition at a more productive rate that one round per day ... which actually does not exaggerate my reloading rate during this "Blue Period".

The problem has been that the primer disk does NOT index correctly. That is to say, the primer disk does not line up with the primer punch, so when I try to down-stroke the handle, the primer will not be seated in the case. If you need more description of the technical problem, you don't have a Dillon XL650 and I will need approximately 3,000 more words to describe the problem.


Assume that it's a technical problem, and you really do NOT want to hear the details. Okay? I'm doing you a favor here.

Last week I decided to be pro-active, so I phoned Dillon Precision at their "order parts from the catalog" phone number of 1-800-762-3845. (I should have called them at the "I have a technical question" phone number of 1-800-223-4570 .)

I told the answering operator that I had a problem with my 650. The primer disc wasn't indexing properly and I thought I needed a new Primer Cam.

The guy I talked to doubted that I need the primer cam (page 47,part # 25) .. instead, he suggested that I needed the primer lever.

It's Complicated:
(If you want the gory details of the difference between the primer cam and the primer lever, call me. The point is, the primer CAM ([same link]Page # 48, item # 25, Part # 13630) is a standard attachment which pushes the primer LEVER [same link] Page # xx, item # xx, Part # 13909) until the primer DISC (Page # 53, item 15s, part # 134331) aligns with the primer PUNCH and the primer pocket of the cartridge which is aligned by movement of the base-plate (Page 52, Item 6, Part # [caliber specific]).

The problem is clearly discussed on page 42 of the manual under Problem Descriptions "E" and "F":

E. Rotary primer disc not indexing/jammed.
1. Check indexing lever and replace if
2. Inspect primer cam (#13670).
a. Missing.
b. Worn camming surface.
3. Powder debris on platform.
4. Stuck primer catching on shim
(#14117) and platform body.
F. Primers going in upside down or sideways.
1. Primer punch is not properly aligned
with the indexing shellplate.
a. Using old index cam (if purchased
machine prior to March 1995).

In this instance, the machine was delivered in December of 1994, and it has been used to reload over 250,000 rounds of ammunition. Clearly, the possibility of excessive wear on the parts must be included in evaluating the problem.

The Story:

Last Wednesday I phoned Dillon Precision and asked them to send me a Primer cam, because the Primer Disc was not indexing fully. The guy on the phones chortled and said "
I don't think you need that", and instead encouraged me to accept the Primer Lever.

Which I did, because he was the professional and I'm just a dumb customer who has let my Dillon XL650 sit for six months because I was pissed off at the stupid machinery.

I even asked for (and paid $13.00) for the "Second Day Delivery", because I wanted it in time to spend my weekend installing, testing and reloading.

The Weekend:
Last weekend I got home Friday Night and found the parts from Dillon in a FEDEX package on my doorstep. I replaced the primer lever, according to the manual, but it still didn't index correctly. The primer disk would be within a very few degrees of aligning with the primer punch, but I found that it was necessary for me to push up on the underside of the primer disk and push it to the right to achieve correct alignment. In fact, it was usually too much movement, and I had to re-adjust back and forth before the primer would correctly align with the primer punch, and the primer packet of the de-capped brass.

I wasted too much time trying to make this arrangement work, and finally I just .. gave up. I was angry, and disappointed, and frustrated.

Monday Morning:
This morning I phoned Dillon and talked to a different person. I called the 'problem number' (or 'technical help') and talked to a different person. I described my problem, mentioned that the Customer Service Representative last week and told me that I needed a new Primer Lever, not a new Primer Cam.

The CSR today just laughed and said "whenever you need to replace one, you need to replace both of them. It's like when you get a hole in your socks because your shoe doesn't fit; you have to replace the socks, sure, but you need to replace the shoe too!"

He went on to say that it was a standard response to this kind of primer-disk-indexing problem; they're on warranty, so send both the primer cam and the primer lever, so you only have to deal with the problem one time.

Dillon "No Questions" Warranty:
So the guy I was talking to insisted on replacing 'the whole thing', which I understood was just the two parts -- even though I had just received and installed a new Primer Cam.

I had some questions, and the big one was that I wondered when the parts would get here? I wanted to install the parts and load some ammunition before the weekend. The delivery was schedules by USPS, and I wasn't confident that this would fit my schedule.

"You know" I said; "I would really like to get the new parts in the next couple of days so I don't have to leave my reloading until the last minute on Friday. How about you make that "Second Day Delivery" via UPS?"

The CSR said: "Sure, but I'll have to charge you for the delivery"/

I told him "I paid for the 2nd Day Delivery last week, because I wanted to have the weekend to work on it. It didn't work out for me, but I didn't mind paying for the fast delivery then, and I don't mind paying for it now. Just get the parts to me in 2 days, and I don't mind paying another $13 to get the parts that I need, when I need them."

The CSR thought about that for about seconds, and replied: "You know, you paid extra for fast delivery last week, and we didn't send you the parts you needed. So this week, I'll send the parts you need via '2-day delivery', and the delivery is free."

I was a little surprised at this offer, but not so surprised that I couldn't accept the generous offer in about 1.01 seconds.

The CSR went on to say: "Okay, we'll send you the primer cam and primer lever, on warranty, and get them to you via 2-day deliver. My name is Mike, and if there are any more problems you let us know. Okay?"

I thanked the CSR and hung up, confident that this time the very expensive Dillon XL-650 would work for me as well as it did when it was brand new.

After all, I had the owner's word on it.


Mike ... Dillon.

How many manufacturers have the CEO manning the CSR phone lines on Monday Mornings?

Well, one. One that I know of.

I'll keep you advised.