Mark 7 Autodrive – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

First off – disclosures: As of the writing of this post (2017), I do not have any affiliation with Mark 7 or Dillon Precision. ¬†(Mark7/Dillon – I am, however, open to anything haha ūüėÄ )

Next, I am assuming that you shoot A LOT of 1 bullet configuration Рhence the need to automate.  If you like to load a few rounds (less than 5K IMO)  before switching calibers, then automation on a single press may not make sense for you.

My Mark 7 Setup

I have the first year model of the Mark 7 Autodrive with the upgraded engine. I think this makes my setup a “Pro,” or whatever is the highest level. Press is a Dillon Super 1050 with a Mr. Bulletfeeder.

Impressions

The Mark 7 Autodrive is a game changer – provided that you already have a functioning Dillon 1050. ¬† Setting up the Autodrive itself a very quick process – I’d say about 30-45 minutes to get it properly attached to the press. ¬†YMMV.

Using the Mark 7 is very straight-forward and intuitive.  Even though you should read the manuals, you can infer how to use the tool by the setup of the user interface.

Once I got the 1050 set up properly, the Mark 7 makes very consistent ammo. ¬†Std dev of velocity via chrono seems lower than when I was “using the stick.” ¬†Though to be fair, pre-Mark 7, I was loading on a Hornady LNL. ¬†Again, YMMV.

Lastly, it is very convenient.  As a hobbyist shooter, I never know when I have the time to squeeze a match into the schedule.  On those seemingly rare events, running the Mark 7 for 30 minutes makes more than enough ammo for the match and for a possible pre-match practice session.

Bottom line: ¬†Mark 7 is very very good! ¬†It is a well thought-out design, and exceeded my expectations for the machine. ¬†Their support staff is also very good, so if you ever run into a snag, they’re really happy to help you out!

Key Recommendation – Dial in the 1050 before attaching the Mark 7

Read and infer into the verbiage that I used above – “…Mark 7… is a game changer –¬†provided that you have a functioning Dillon 1050…” and “…Once I got the 1050 set up properly…”

I highly recommend that you load at least 3k-5k rounds on your Dillon 1050 BEFORE you attach a Mark 7.  You need to ensure that everything works fluidly before you automate it Рbecause Рif you have something set up incorrectly, Mark 7 may replicate the problem 100 times before you catch it.

Start at the beginning, knowing that what I write is not an inclusive list of the things you need to verify – it’s just what I can think of in 5 minutes:

  • Do your cases feed onto the plate properly?
  • Does your decapping pin set properly?
  • Are spent primers getting caught in the swaging station?
  • Do I have enough flare? ¬†Too much?
  • Is my primer depth setting set properly?
  • Is the center ring tight enough so that primers seat consistently?
  • Is my primer slide arm tightened enough that it doesn’t slide up on the primer tube?
  • Is my powder station set properly?
  • Does my Mr. Bulletfeeder work at least 95% of the time? (this. drove. me. crazy.)
  • Seating depth ok?
  • Am I crimping enough? ¬†Too much?

Once you get this far and connect the Mark 7, you’ll have to re-verify all of the above again – with the following new questions:

  • Will my dies work with rapid reloading? – I have really nice Redding adjustable dies for seating and crimp, and a Lyman 2-stage flare die. ¬†All are really nice for hand press operation. ¬†At the rapid rate that the Mark 7 introduces, I noticed that the Redding dies didn’t hold the setting, and I needed to red Loctite the Lyman to keep the internal parts from unscrewing themselves. ¬†At the end, I ended up going back to the stock Dillon 1050 dies.
  • Do I have enough torque? ¬†Too much? – This will vary depending on the type and condition of the brass.

If you attach a brand new 1050 to a brand new Mark 7 Рlike I did, and never used a Dillon 1050 beforehand Рyou will be trying to do all of this troubleshooting simultaneously.  It can be done, but it is not for the feint of heart.

In retrospect, I would do as I said above Рload 3k-5k rounds on a naked 1050 with Mr. Bulletfeeder, and then add Mark 7 once I felt confident in the settings.  Then, revisit and tweak the settings when the press is automated.

Final Thoughts

The Mark 7 is a very useful machine that helps me make consistent and reliable ammo relatively quickly, without having to buy a truly industrial ammo-making machine.  I highly recommend it to anyone!

Any “issues” I experienced with the Mark 7/Dillon 1050 combo were mainly around the tweaking of the 1050. ¬†This is not the fault of the Dillon machine – Dillon makes fantastic reloading machines! ¬†It is instead a product of my impatience. ¬†If you take the time to learn and properly set up the 1050, then you add the Mark 7 for automation, you too will be able to create very consistent ammo reliably and rapidly.

38 SC vs 9Maj – My impressions

Not to delve too much into gear, but the config is pertinent to the comparison:

Infinity IMM РBianchi Frame.  38SC and 9Maj full conversion kits.  Infinity Comp on both barrels.

  • 38SC – 4 popple holes
    • VV 3n38 Powder; 124 PD JHP
  • 9Maj – 2 popple holes
    • Ramshot Silhouette Powder; 124 PD JHP

My Pattern

I generally shoot 9Maj for practice and locals (LV1). This year, my practice round goal is¬†25000¬†(about 1/5 done as of this article). ¬†When I go to LV2 or anything higher, I’ll switch to 38SC for about 2-4 weeks before, shoot about 500-1000 rounds, shoot the match, then switch back.

38 SC

This has a much better “feel” than 9Maj. ¬†The dot is more predictable, the rounds are more reliable from an extraction/ejection perspective, and I think there is less felt recoil. ¬† Every time I go to 38SC, I think “smooth.”

The bad part, and it is pretty bad, is brass pickup. ¬†It’s awful – you can’t convince me otherwise. ¬†It’s also quite costly if you shoot a lot of rounds. ¬†My cost comparison said that it would be about $1000 extra on the year, assuming I recovered 50% of my brass every time I shot.

9Maj

It is more lively, but the dot still stays in the lens. ¬†It’s still very controllable, and you get used to the extra snappiness¬†quickly. ¬†The best part, obviously, is that you don’t have to pick up brass to be cost effective. ¬†…and it is very close to 38SC… very close.

The bad part, to me, is that with mixed head stamps, you may run into feeding issues.

Yes, it is typically up to the builder, but I picked Infinity for their reliability reputation.

The Infinity 38SC IMM is like shooting a Glock – I’ve never had any issues (that I didn’t cause). ¬†Infinity (as of the writing of this article) no longer makes 9Maj because it doesn’t hold up to their reliability standards. ¬†My issues tend to be around extraction. ¬†Admittedly, a lot of it was caused by my 1050 Mark7 being a little out of whack. ¬†But I experienced feeding issues before I got the M7 – not as much, but enough to notice.

Draw and Reload

Back to fundamentals this week.  Looking at the video, you can see that my support hand on the draw never passes the center-line of my body.  It needs to be closer to the gun (Draw fix)so I can get a better, stronger grip.

Also on reloads, I need to cut out the excess motion.  In the video, you can see that I raise the gun and pronate it outward before turning it inward.

Dry fire draw and reload drills this week.  Retest.

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