I use Dillon XL650 presses and I don't use the powder-check add-on. I didn't get it primarily because of reports that they are not reliable with the worse failure mode being failure to sound when there is no powder in the case. I have no idea how often this occurs, but my low primer warning system has failed to sound a number of times over the years. These are electrical and the two most common failure points are corroded contacts and battery problems. Loading a round without a primer isn’t a major issue, but loading one without powder will lead to a squib. I’m not saying that people should shy away from the Dillon powder-check add-on. That’s just my decision.
For years, I have simply looked into the case when it rotates to the open slot (Station 3) next to the expander/powder measure stage (Station 2). That has worked okay with both a 4' fluorescent fixture above the bench and a separate CFL lamp on an arm close to the press. However, I finally grew tired of two problematic issues. First, I had to stand up in order to be able to look into the case. Secondly, when loading anything smaller than .45ACP, it was difficult to see into the case when using a powder charge that did not significantly fill the case. (Ex. 3.3 gr. Titegroup in 9mm.) I can see it, but the viewing angle is narrow. I wanted to be able to sit in a tall stool to reload and I wanted to be able to see into the case without the critical viewing angle, so I came up with an idea that works great. It's also cheap.
I bought an endoscope/borescope (“camera”) from Amazon for $17. This model has a 7mm shaft and it is threaded on the end. (This is an important installation feature.) With the app CameraFi, it works with any Android device that has a mini-USB connection. The camera has adjustable LEDs that are critical to this application.
I mounted the camera in a shortened 12 Ga shotgun hull that fits perfectly in a die slot in the Dillon tool head. The hull is trimmed such that it extends below the bottom of the tool head, but not enough to touch the shell plate. With an external light source, you can see the powder in the case when the shell plate is in the down position.
When you pull the lever and the shell plate raises, you can see the power even better. I really don't need the extra lamp near the press now, since I can see the powder when I pull the lever. However, I've gotten used to more light on the press so I'm going to leave it. The installation I'm using now is designed for pistol cartridges, but I've tested a way to use it with rifles. I'll publish a separate article when I get that done, but don't hold your breath. The 2017 Texas Legislative Session will make that a very low priority project.
1. Punch out the primer;
2. Drill the brass part of the primer hole to 5/16", but do not drill into the plastic part of the primer hole below the brass;
3. Drill the plastic part of the primer hole with a 17/64" bit. Do Not use a larger bit;
4. The camera will easily pass through the 5/16" hole in the brass, but not the 17/64" hole in the plastic.
5. Screw the camera into the plastic primer hole taking care to stop before it extends past the plastic. This mounts the camera firmly and centered in the middle of the 12 Ga. hull.
Anyone using a bullet feeder in an XL650 will not have an open slot in the tool head for the camera. The Station 3 hole will be used for the bullet-feeding die. However, there is a 0.440" hole next to the #3 Station in the tool head that can be used. It will require a different mounting system and the camera will have to be aimed so you can see the powder charge with the shell plate in the down position. I've experimented with it using 41 Mag. cases and it works well with additional off-camera lighting. I doubt it would work with rifle cases because of the length of the case. For rifle cases, the camera needs to be "looking" directly down into the case.
As noted earlier, this camera combined with the app CameraFi will work with any Android device. I use an HP Android tablet that I keep on my reloading bench. It's much larger than my Samsung Galaxy phone, plus I don't have to hook up my phone to reload. I place it on my bench where it is easy to see as I'm picking up a bullet from the bullet tray. Unlike the Dillon Powder Check, my system doesn't verify the amount of the charge within a specified range, but that's not an issue. My Dillon powder measures are accurate to 1/10 grain so I'm only concerned with making sure a powder charge was dumped.
This was a very easy project that cost less than $20. There are other ways to mount the camera and I'm sure this project can be modified to fit some presses other than a Dillon XL650. Verifying a powder charge now takes no more than a glance at my tablet while placing a bullet on the case at Station 4. I love this feature and I hope you find it useful too.
Now I just need to find a stool with a padded seat, back support and adjustable height and I'm in business. Perhaps I can find one that has a back and foot massage feature too. Nothing like reloading in a spa atmosphere!