Tag Archives: dies

RELOADERS CORNER: 4 Steps To Improve Standard Die Performance

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It’s easily possible to improve the alignment and concentricity of a die set, and the result is getting closer to perfection in your ammo. Here’s how…

Glen Zediker

Last time I wrote about some problems some dies can have. A couple of those things mentioned had a thing or two to do with preparation and setup, and I said then that “next time” I’d address a few ways to improve the results from the dies you already have. So here it is, sizing die first:

Many of the parts that make up a die, including the die body itself, have threaded couplings to allow for adjustment. Well, threads have gaps and that means there’s some amount of free movement afoot, or “afloat” more correctly. If there were no gaps between threaded surfaces then there would be no threading possible. To see it, loosen a locking or jam nut from a die part, the seating die or decapping stem for instance, and wiggle the part. It wiggles… Taking steps to, at the same time, take out that play and improve parts alignment pays off.

ONE: Let the shellholder float. One of the easiest mods to make to improve all die ops is to remove the apparatus that secures the shellholder into the press ram. It’s usually a wire spring clip. Pliers get it gone. Now the shellholder is free to slip in and out, mostly out, of its slot in the press ram, and an appropriately-sized O-ring banded around the slot area keeps it secure. Head to a real hardware store and find one easy enough. This mod has done two things: one is that the spring clip usually cocks the shellholder so it’s not sitting flat and flush with the ram top, which means neither is the case it’s holding, so now it is; and, two, there is now a self-centering action since the shellholder is free to move a tad. Always keep in mind that we’re dealing with small “tads” (0.001s of inches) and even though it might not be visibly noticeable, this floating setup will result in better alignment.

shellholder clip
Here’s an easy trick that will, not may, improve alignment in die ops. The ultimate result from all these steps is a more concentric round of ammunition, and most seem to think that’s worthwhile… It is.

TWO: Flatten the die lock ring. The next little help is to get the die body and press ram as closely aligned as we can. There’s a lot of gap resultant from the helix of 14-pitch threads. After adjusting the die body downward to produce the amount of case shoulder set-back you want, run a case fully into the die and, holding pressure (lightly, not forcibly) down against the press handle, secure the locking ring. This will ensure that the die is sitting “flat” atop the press. Then ONLY install and remove the die using the locking ring itself! Never the die body. By the way, and this actually is important: I don’t like lock rings that secure via a set screw; I prefer those that offer a clamping-style effect. The little set screw will lever against the angled threads on the die body and that, alone, can tilt the lock ring.

handling die by lockring
Once you get the dies secured as outlined here, handle them ONLY by their lock rings. That ensures all the careful prep stays intact. It also means no change of altering the die height, an asset toward maintaining correct case shoulder set back and also consistent bullet seating depths.

If you’re using a standard-form full-length sizing die, it will have an expander ball or sizing button (either term applies the same, just varies with who’s literature you’re reading). This part is mounted to the decapping stem and functions to open up the inside case neck after the case neck has been outside-sized by the die interior area. Depending on the difference in diameters between the newly-sized case neck inside diameter and the sizing button diameter, that’s more or less stress and friction the neck endures.

clamp-style lock rings
I use clamping-style die body lock rings, like these from Forster. Those with a set screw can tilt the lock ring when the screw tightens in against the angled threads.

I’ve talked more than a few times about the value of polishing the expander to reduce friction, but you still need then to make sure it’s sitting dead center within the die. So…

THREE: Align the expander ball. There’s a little bit of “feel” involved in this step, but it’s not hard to develop. The idea is to tighten the locking screw that secures the decapping stem against movement while the expander ball is captive in the sized case neck. After adjusting stem height (and, by the way, noticing the relatively huge amount of free movement the stem has) run a case up fully into the die and then retract it until you feel the expander engage within the case neck. Stop there. Now apply a little pressure against the press handle going the other direction (as if running the case back up) as you tighten the lock ring on the expander stem. That just set the expander in the center. If you have the tooling to determine this, select a case that represents your better examples of case neck wall thickness consistency for ultimate results.

 

expander ball adjustment
When it’s possible, and it usually is, secure locks for the pieces-parts when they’re doing their jobs. For instance, tightening the lock on a decapping stem when the expander is holding inside the case neck helps bring the stem into centered alignment, and the expander along with it.

Moving to the “other” die, the seater, the first step is the same as for the sizing die: flatten its seat atop the press, and that’s done pretty much in the same as for the sizing die. Instead of running a case into the die, though, I set an adequate number of flat washers atop the shellholder to bear some pressure against the die bottom. Then…

FOUR: Center the seater stem. Just like with the decapping stem, there’s thread play in the seating stem. Move the stem more toward an aligned center by simply securing its lock nut when there’s a bullet bearing up against the seating plug. As said, select a case with consistent neck walls to get best results. Now. The only foible with this is when you change seating depths by threading the stem up or down. It’s easy enough to repeat this op-step, but remember to do it. The BEST defense against alignment issues is purchase and use of a “competition”- or “benchrest”-style seating die. I’m talking about those having a spring-loaded sleeve that accepts the case fully before being run up to engage the seating plug. But, those still need to have their seating plug centered following the same sort of process used in these other “tricks”: snug the lock over a little pressure. That only has to be done once, though, for this die type.

The information in this article is from Glen’s newest book, Top-Grade Ammo, available HERE at Midsouth. Also check HERE for more information about this and other publications from Zediker Publishing.

Ultimate Reloader: .25-45 Sharps AR-15 Part 6: LEE .25-45 Sharps Dies Overview

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By Gavin Gear, Ultimate Reloader

lee .25-45 sharps dies

One of the challenges with picking up a “new” cartridge to reload is finding the right dies at the right price. .25-45 Sharps is becoming more popular with AR-15 shooter and reloaders, and the industry is responding with new products that give reloaders more options. One such example is the new .25-45 Sharps dies from LEE. This “Pacesetter” die set includes a full-length sizer/de-primer, a dead-length bullet seater, and a Factory Crimp Die- everything you need to form .25-45 Sharps brass and reload .25-45 Sharps ammunition for your AR-15. These dies are “Very Limited Production” – but I’ll note that Midsouth Shooters Supply has these dies for ~$35. and they are in stock as of today! That’s about 1/2 what other .25-45 Sharps die sets cost!

If you are curious about LEE rifle dies, I posted an in-depth write-up that covers pretty much every detail you can think of. I also posted the following in-depth write-up that covers .25-45 Sharps precision reloading from start to finish, a great resource if you are going to use these LEE dies to load .25-45 Sharps:

.25-45 Sharps AR-15 Part 5: Precision Loads with the MEC Marksman

As noted in that article, I found once again when testing the LEE dies how critical it is to chamfer case mouths after forming brass as pictured here:

time to chamfer and debur!

The cartridges I loaded with the LEE dies turned out great, and of course I tested my sizing/forming die setup with my L.E. Wilson case gage to make sure dimensions were correct.

time to break out the l.e. wilson gauges

I can’t wait to shoot some of the ammunition loaded with these LEE Pacesetter .25-45 Sharps dies- I’ll keep you all posted with how they work out!

Thanks,
Gavin

Improving Tool Alignment: 5 Ways To “Float”

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“If it’s not perfectly aligned, then it should float…” Here’s a few tips on improving concentricity in the handloading process.


Glen Zediker


Water seeks its own level. Moving parts seek their own centers. Trick is getting the centers to agree. When centers coincide, that’s “concentricity,” and that a prime goal in the process of creating better ammunition. Anything under pressure and moveable, such as a cartridge case being sized or a bullet being seated into a case neck, moves toward a path of least resistance. If all the tooling associated is straight, and the case hisseff is uniform, then the result is “straight.” However! That’s in a perfect world.

In reality, which is accepting existence of tolerances and misalignments, taking steps to help two conflicting centers come close together comes from providing some free-play in the apparatus. I call it “floating.” And it works, and here are a few ways to use it.

Now, free-floating can work two ways. One is to incorporate a float into the mechanism in use, and another is to create float, and then use that to center a piece prior to snugging it down.

1. Shellholder
This first one might seem a tad amount clumsy, but it’s really easy to get used to in operation. Presses with conventional shellholder arrangements use a spring clip to retain the shellholder in its slot atop the press ram. Get this clip gone! It cocks the shellholder askew.

The solution is to incorporate an o-ring to retain the shellholder in its slot. Get one at any real hardware store. Size that works is usually 7/8-inch outside diameter, 11/16 inside diameter, 3/32 thickness. The o-ring fits into the exterior channel previously occupied by the spring clip. To install a shellholder you just roll the ring down a tad, slide in the holder, and let the ring back up to block its exit out the front.

This modification lets the shellholder sit flat, as it should, and also provides some wiggle room so the case can align itself with the die opening. [Photo from Top-Grade Ammo]
This modification lets the shellholder sit flat, as it should, and also provides some wiggle room so the case can align itself with the die opening. [Photo from Top-Grade Ammo]
2. Sizing die lock ring
Speaking of wiggle room, there’s a whopping lot of it in a 7/8-14 thread set. That’s pretty coarse. Taking up the play created by thread-to-thread gaps goes a good ways toward “straight” installation of a die into a press. There are a couple of ways to help this.

One is to always (always) tighten a die locking collar ring when there is a case inside the die, and the ram is fully extended upward (handle all the way down). This bit of pressure helps to bring the die into straight alignment. Problem is that it also makes the daggone die hard to remove. Just get stern with it. After initial removal, subsequent re-fittings are easy. I use a “strap wrench” (plumbing supply and real auto parts stores have one for you) if it’s stubborn to turn loose after being tightened initally. Pliers result in cosmetic, but not real, damage. Lock rings with wrench-flats are dandy.

Always put an index mark from die lock ring to die body to press top. That’s a simple way to verify return to “zero” when a die is installed back into your press. And ALWAYS install and remove the die holding ONLY the locking ring! Never-ever the die body. Any teeny body rotation within the locking ring, which is easily undetectable, requires repeating the process of die adjustment.
Always put an index mark from die lock ring to die body to press top. That’s a simple way to verify return to “zero” when a die is installed back into your press. And ALWAYS install and remove the die holding ONLY the locking ring! Never-ever the die body. Any teeny body rotation within the locking ring, which is easily undetectable, requires repeating the process of die adjustment.
I prefer clamping lock rings, like these from Forster. Those with a set screw can cock when the screw tightens in against the angled threads.
I prefer clamping lock rings, like these from Forster. Those with a set screw can cock when the screw tightens in against the angled threads.

For these tricks, choose a case that represents your best: get one with the most consistent neck wall thickness.


3. Expander/decapping assembly
There’s some “feel” involved in this one, but it is worthwhile. To get the expander in your sizing die sitting on center, run up a case fully and then slowly withdraw it until you feel the expander lodge inside the case neck. Then put a little pressure down on the handle, in the direction of raising the ram, while you tighten the locking apparatus.

When it’s possible, and it almost always is, secure the pieces-parts when they’re doing their jobs. For instance, tightening the locking rings on a decapping stem when the expander is holding inside the case neck helps bring the stem into straight alignment, and the expander along with it.
When it’s possible, and it almost always is, secure the pieces-parts when they’re doing their jobs. For instance, tightening the locking rings on a decapping stem when the expander is holding inside the case neck helps bring the stem into straight alignment, and the expander along with it.

4. Lock-ring o-rings
Here’s one I suggest but don’t usually follow… Lemmesplain: It works but I prefer these other means because they’re more “secure.” However! Installing an o-ring up under the die body locking ring (sizers and seaters) provides a cushioned flexibility that provides for takeup in the amount and “direction” needed when a case is run up into a die. O-ring size is 7/8-inch inside diameter and a thickness of 1/8-inch.

O-ring trick: the flexible ring allows for some “wiggle room” to help case and die centers match. Trick is reinstalling the die to hold the desired setting, and the index mark really helps. Hold only the lock ring when threading the die in and out!!
O-ring trick: the flexible ring allows for some “wiggle room” to help case and die centers match. Trick is reinstalling the die to hold the desired setting, and the index mark really helps. Hold only the lock ring when threading the die in and out!!

5. Bullet seating die stem
This one is pretty simple: tighten the lock on the stem when there’s a seated bullet run up into the die. Threads are finer on stems than on die bodies, but better is a better. This is for a conventional-style seating arrangement. Those that use a spring-loaded sleeve arrangement, like a Redding Competition Seater, are good to go as are.


The preceding is a specially-adapted excerpt from the book Top-Grade Ammo just released by Zediker Publishing.

Forming .25-45 Sharps Cases

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From Ultimate Reloader:

Gavin, much like the rest of us, doesn’t like to spend a lot on brass, especially if we’re not looking for dime-sized five shot groups at 300 yards, so the Ultimate Reloaders takes us through a step-by-step guide on how to form .25-45 Sharps cases from .223/5.56 Brass.

Click Here to visit Ultimate Reloader to follow along each of the steps in the process!

Neck Bushing Dies — The Goods and Bads

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These are widely considered a “step up” from a routine case sizing die. Well. Not always, or at least not in all ways. Lemmesplain. Continue reading Neck Bushing Dies — The Goods and Bads

Ultimate Reloader: LEE Pistol Dies

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If we were to ask you what kind of dies you started out with, there’s a good chance you’d respond with some caliber of LEE dies. Gavin, with Ultimate Reloader, takes us back through the LEE Pistol Dies, like it’s the first time.

“My very first set of reloading dies were LEE 44 Magnum pistol dies that came with the LEE Pro-1000 press that I started out with. Since then, I’ve acquired many more sets of LEE dies ranging from 30-06 to 9mm to 45 ACP to 357 SIG and quite a few in between. LEE Pistol Dies (technically handgun dies, but I’ll use the term “pistol” to cover both autoloader and revolver here) are some of the most popular dies because of their combination of features and value. In this post, I’ll cover the different die sets that LEE offers, compare features, and I’ll even show a demonstration of setting up some dies on a progressive reloading press!”

Feel free to hit this link to check out the full article on Ultimate Reloader!

Check out Midsouth Shooters selection of LEE Dies HERE:

and watch the video from Ultimate Reloader below!

How many of you are still using LEE dies and products today?