Safe ammunition handloading requires attention to detail: the right bullet at the right overall length, the correct powder at the correct charge weight. Whether using a single-stage press or a progressive, you need to be sure that you have powder in the case before you seat the bullet. Visual inspection ensures the powder is there and that you haven’t double charged the case, because sometimes we get distracted, or the machine hiccups and you must stop—which disrupts your rhythm.
Visual inspection requires good lighting, something we don’t always have in our work area. This is especially true with some presses where the press structure and toolhead block the light. For example, in my loading setup there are lights in front of and behind me, but not from the side where it would be most useful.
A close-up look at the KMS Squared UFO LED array.
Sometimes I can see what’s in the case, but the poor lighting often forces me to remove the case from the shell plate to look inside. It’s hard to see gunpowder inside a dark case in poor lighting.
Adding a light to the press or positioning one to shine on the shell plate assures that we have enough light. There are several lighting options for reloading presses. One made by KMS2 (KMS Squared) consists of a strip with multiple LEDs. The LED strip adheres directly to the press—not the toolhead—so you don’t need separate lights for every toolhead, or to move the light when you change it.
I purchased the UFO 650 kit for my Dillon XL650. The kit contains the light strip, 12-volt AC adapter, in-line switch, cable mounts, zip ties, an abrasive pad and instructions. The XL650 light strip has 24 SMD2835 LEDs for 500 lumens of light.
The light strip for the XL650 consists of a C-shaped strip that fits on the underside of the tool head cutout. One big plus of the C-shape array is that it provides illumination from three sides, which eliminates shadows that occur when the light comes from a single point.
The light strip is mounted to the press around the toolhead opening.
Installation is straightforward. The regions where adhesive is to be attached should be cleaned with denatured alcohol. The abrasive pad is used to scuff the surface to remove the gloss coat to help the adhesive stick better. The C-shaped light strip fits around the toolhead opening and the adhesive appears strong. Cable mounts and zip ties are meant to keep the power cable out of the way during press operation and can be attached wherever you want.
Let me tell you, the LEDs are very bright and out of the way. To use an old cliché, it’s a night and day difference. Below are off and on photos of my Dillon XL650 stage looking down from where the toolhead normally sits. The camera is set for the same exposure in both photos, so it shows how much light is added by the LEDs. The off photo shows a view with the LEDs off, although the room lights are on. Obviously, it’s not this dark to my eyes, but our eyes and brains process light levels differently than a camera, which reads and records light in absolute terms.
On (r.) and off photos. Collectively, the 24 LEDs bring lots of light to the shell plate.
KMS Squared makes UFO kits for a variety of presses—Dillon XL650, XL750, 450, 550, Hornady LnL AP and “O” frame single-stage presses, Lee Loadmaster, Lee Turret presses, Forster Co-Ax, MEC Marksman—plus a Universal kit that fits most presses.
This is a practical, effective tool for lighting up the shell plate. If that’s what you’re looking for, check out the company’s UFO lighting system. Kit prices range from $22.99 to $39.99 and have a lifetime warranty.
This is now my view of the XL650 shell plate from where I sit during loading when illuminated with the UFO lighting system. Beautifully well lit. And, there are different kits with LEDs arranged in shapes tailored to individual press designs.