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 😀 )
Next, I am assuming that you shoot A LOT of 1 bullet configuration – hence 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.
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 – because – if 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 – like I did, and never used a Dillon 1050 beforehand – you 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 – load 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.
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.