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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a great deal of experience reloading centerfire ammunition but I am a complete novice shotshell reloader. Since I have taken up an interest in skeet competition I realize that I am going to have to deal with 410, 28 and 20ga reloading. My question is, to those of you experienced with the Hornady 366, how difficult and time consuming is it to switch between gauges? I currently use a Dillon 550B for much of my centerfire reloading and I am quite satisfied switching "heads" to change from one caliber to the next. Looking at the Hornady 366 I see the availability of conversion kits but I am concerned that a complete dismantling of the unit is required to switch between gauges. How difficult is it? How do you like your 366? I have used one MEC Grabber previously and found it to be a very frustrating experience.
 

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The 366 can be converted, but I suggest you do not plan upon it as a routine. The changing of the 550B, even when you need to change out the shell plate, is a snap in comparison to switching the 366 from one gauge to another. I suppose, though, loading up several cases of one gauge, switching dies out and then loading several cases of another gauge, and so on, might be an effective approach.

I have the 366 in 28 gauge and don't have any serious complaints with it. I'm curious, though, as to the kind of problems you had with the Grabber. It's quite possible you would have the same kind of problems with the 366, so let's kind of talk through it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thank you for the reply. My problems with the MEC Grabber came from the primer feed and my lack of familiarity with using a MEC loader. The model I used has the most current primer feed. Using Remington primers I have routinely suffered the following: primers don't advance far enough on the tray to be picked up by the primer bar, primers fall on to the shell plate but not into the primer hole or primers become wedged in the primer bar on the priming tray and on an angle jamming the entire primer feed mechanism. To cope with the above I have resorted to placing primers individually into the hole in the shell plate. This has saved me a great deal of anguish.

As to other problems, I have had the spring drawing the charging bar back into battery disconnect altogether on two occasions. Each time it let the powder bottle freely pour powder on the entire operation. I have also suffered the rookie problems of not having a shell under the shot station and having shot dispensed all over the shell plate. The shot (#9) then gets caught up in the splines of the resizing die which jams this die shutting the whole operation down until its vaccumed and picked out of the machine.

Along with the spring letting go I have had one dramatic moment when the shot/powder bottles both tipped back freely dispensing both shot and powder all over the machine until I repositioned the jammed charge bar correctly. It was, how shall I say it, a huge mess.

Other than these issues it seems to work OK when I hand feed the primers and avoid having to vaccum powder out of the machine due to having charged a primerless shell.
 

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The primer feed mechanism wasn't adjusted properly. A lot of folks have had problems with the old-style primer feed, but once both the chain link distance and the height and angle of the drop tube are adjusted and everything locked in, it works very well. I've been hearing good things about the new primer feed, but my old-styles are working so well I'm not very tempted to change them out. New or old, though, the primers not falling into the primer hole on the shell plate is simply adjustment.

I don't know about the charge bar return spring slipping out. I've never had anything like that happen. My suspicion is that it wasn't hooked all the way in and slipped out.

The MEC has some advantages over the 366. The ability to easily remove a shell from any station is one of them. Overall I like the MEC primer feed, even the old style, better than the primer feed mechanism on the 366.

As to shot spills in general, any progressive is subject to spilling shot if one isn't very familiar with its operation. I am very familiar with the 366's operation and still spilled some shot just the other day. My own dumb fault, though. I unthinkingly turned the shot drop on at the wrong time.

In any event, I just don't think it is very feasible to plan upon switching die sets in and out unless, as I said previously, you load up several cases of each at a time. Many years ago I had a Pacific DL-366 which I converted from 12 to 20 gauge from time to time. While the conversion wasn't all that difficult, I only converted when I was prepared to load several 20-box cases. Typically I would take a couple of days and load 10 cases or so for each gauge. That generally shot down 12 to 14 hours each day, but I wouldn't need to do any more loading for about three months.

A potentially viable alternative, is a press like one of the P-Ws or the Spolar. The 800 Plus is selling for about $700 and tooling sets cost $295 each. Spolar tooling sets cost about the same, but the Spolar itself is right at twice the cost of the P-W.

I have a Spolar for the .410 bore, but I haven't tried to convert it to something else, nor have I bothered to buy any conversion kits for it. I have, however, been thinking about buying a conversion kit for the 28 gauge, although maybe not very seriously thinking about it. The Spolar advertising says it is very easy to convert, but I can't say anything about that from first-hand experience. Likewise I've heard that the P-Ws are easy to convert, but again I have no first-hand experience. Maybe there are some others with experience converting these machines and will chime in.
 

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I've never really ran a 9000g, but do run a 366 some, both the manual advance and the auto version. It you have the extra head all set up for another gauge I don't think it would be all that difficult to change gauges, but, is it something I would do regularly? I doubt it, since I have one in 12 ga and the other in 20 myself! I wonder how much the head complete with dies and the shell holder ring costs compared to another complete machine?? I doubt that having changable loaders is all that cost effective with shotgun shell loaders. Way different than with metalic rifle or handgun loading.

BP
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Having a separate complete head must be the alternative that I was thinking about. I guess separate heads can be purchased from Hornady as a spare part, though they are not listed in the catalog like, say, the 20 or 28ga die set. So to make this machine easy to change over takes the complete die set, plus a complete head, plus powder measure/shot measure with charge bar set, etc. I better check on what these other parts cost before I could decide if this is a viable alternative. Thanks.
 

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OK is correct! Only thing you need is the head, shell plate, and the dies, obviously and the correct BUSHINGS for the charge you are going to load. Bar and hoppers, etc, sameo, sameo! I don't believe you can buy that stuff for a .410 though. It is a special animal I guess? 12, 16, 20, and 28 can be done on the same machine, something differnt about a .410 I'm told.

BP
 

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GC I bought a tool head from Hornady to do what has been suggested. I think it was about $40. It makes changing easy. I suggest you do a search on this forum. There have been many threads on the plus and minus of the hornady 366 and changing different gauges.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Well, this gets curious-er and curious-er. I contacted Hornady and this is what they told me. First, they offer an already put together head, ready to go, for the various calibers. These cost $292 from them. Second, they will sell just the stripped head for $40, but there are other parts necessary to make the head really easy to swap.

And get this, they say I can't do anything but 410 with my 410 loader. They tell me that there are particular parts that don't allow me to adapt this machine to the other gauges. I thought that I have read about others out there that switch out heads on their 410 machines. What am I missing? Thanks!
 

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BP - can you be a bit more specific about what the lie was?

For the "currently available" 366 and parts that Hornady now has in stock it sounds like accurate information. Not everyone has a set of 410 dies that were made before Hornady "reengineered" the 410 loader and made it a "different" configuration. I think a lot depends on the age of the machine and if it is the 366 that is intended for the newer 410 die set only.
 

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I have a old Pacific 366 which is about the same animal as Hornady's current 366. I bought 16 and 20 gauge conversion kits for it about 25 years ago and used them sporatically over the next 10 years. The conversion kits consisted of a shell plate, the ring that goes around the shell plate and the set of dies themselves. This was before the days of having a separate head to have the dies attached to. I remember it taking about 45 minutes to switch everything out. That was the easy part. Adjusting all the dies properly to produce good looking shells was the hard part and took the longest. It would seem to me if you could get a head to attach all of the dies, most of the die adjustments could be eliminated. If that were the case, switching gauges would maybe be practical. I got tired of switching and bought a Mec Sizemaster in 20 gauge and haven't switched the dies in years.

By the way, all of the powder and shot hopper assembly was universal and worked for any of the gauges.
 

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I don't know about the feasibiilty of converting from/to a .410; but with respect to those other mysterious parts, I suspect it is that lever-like thing that pushes down on a pin to eject a resized shotshell. If I could put my hands on the 366 manual, I would be able to tell you the name of the part. If it's not that, I don't really see what it could be.
 

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It's been a while since I researched this .410 366 thing, but I think the platten of the press is a bit different than with the other gauges. The old (.410 machine) 366s maybe the blue Pacific and the later red Hornady 366s, not the autos can or could be converted to some size other than .410. I recall talking with the tech folks at Hornady about this some years back, and remember a conversation kind of like,"nothing is impossible, but cost effective it is not." "You can probably save the handle and the frame base and the hopper and tube assy, but the rest of the machine just isn't friendly to converting to or from .410." That is pretty much paraphrased how I remember the conversation going! If the old ones can be converted, then Hornady lied, if the new ones can't be converted, then those who said they could lied! From the best information I've been able to gather the .410 on an auto progressive machine like the Hornady 366 is really a pain in the rear. The hulls are so small and the crimps so erratic or varied that it takes a lot of fooling arround with individual hulls during the reloading process to get them right. It is just more trouble than it is worth trying to load .410s on a progressive unles you have very good hulls or a machine with the design of a Spolar built into it. But, what do I know, I load only 12 and 20 ga on the 366 and my .410s are on a MEC 600 Jr. Mostly because of the cost to convert one of my 366s to .410. It would be far cheaper to just buy a new one. So I did, a MEC!

So, who lied? Maybe it was ME? :?

BP
 

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BP: I reload on a .410 366 with a Gas Advance retro fit. I can crank out 300 per hour with no problems. The machine works almost as good as a 12 gauge machine.

I like machine so much I wouldn't trade it for a Spolar. Well Almost, maybe if the gave me a couple hundred $$$ plus the Spolar. LOL
 
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