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Steve's Rifle Cartridge Reloading

These are the techniques and equipment that I use to produce reloaded cartridges for bolt and semi-automatic rifles. Other techniques and equipment may be: better/worse, cheaper/costlier, safer/more dangerous or whatever. Read this stuff and use it or not, at your own risk!

Dies and Die Sets

 The bulk of the work done to the case is performed using "Dies" Dies are used to: decap (remove the spent primer); resize (squeeze the brass case back to the desired dimension); seat the bullet (do I need to explain?); crimp the case into the bullet cannelure (optional).

Dies can be purchased individually or in sets, above is a "F L Die Set 6.5 x 55" set. (on the end of the box J ) "F L" means that the "resize" die will "Full Length" resize the case as well as reform the neck. Also available are N S or "Neck Size" dies and die sets. These dies reform ONLY the neck area, and leave the body of the case untouched. The die on the right is a sizing die while the one on the left is a bullet-seating die.

The above photo shows the dies disassembled into their component parts. Each die has a "body", threaded at one end and an associated lock nut, seen below the bodies. Into the center of each body is installed a "stem", and these are locked in place with small lock nuts. The stems and lock nuts are shown in the photo to the left and right of the bodies. On the right is the sizing die body and sizing stem, with the decapping pin opposite the threaded end of the stem. To the left is the seating die with its seating stem, shown with a bullet in the stem.

The sizing die does a few things. It decaps, or removes the expended primer, it over-squeezes the neck, until it is way too small in diameter, if it's a F L die it squeezes the body of the case back to factory dimensions, and lastly, it EXPANDS the over-squeezed neck to just the right size.

Above can be seen the business end of the sizing stem. At the very bottom is a pin that enters the center flash hole and pushes out the primer. Just above the pin, at the point of the bullet, is the expander ball. As this ball is removed from the case being sized, it expands the neck to the proper diameter to hold the bullet.

Again the bullet is pointing to the expander ball. This die (RCBS) employ's a replaceable decapping pin that fits into a collet-like opening in the end of the stem, and is secured by internal threads in the expander ball body. Decapping pins can be bent or broken if; it s used on a Berdan style case, if the flash hole is clogged with dirt or a piece of cob media, or if (sometimes) a crimped in primer (military ammo) is exceptionally stubborn. Not all die manufactures offer replaceable pins; I feel it's a necessity. The expander shown above is an RCBS factory standard expander, made of hardened steel. The Hornady Company manufacturers a Solid Carbide "Expander Spindle" (Hornady terminology J ) to replace the RCBS unit.

The "other half" of the die requirements is the shell holder. These engage the case rim and hold the case as it is inserted and withdrawn from a die. Most press and die manufacturers will accept each other's shell holders and dies. These photos will be showing my RCBS presses, but I will be using Lyman shell holders, seen above. BEWARE, that although these shell holders interchange, each manufacturer uses their own number identification system, a RCBS #2 is not the same as a Lyman #2, so don't buy by #, buy by (birdie?) caliber. And, the shell holder (by any manufacturer) for a 30-06 will fit 22-250, 308, 7mm and 8mm Mauser and a bunch of others. Some manufacturers include shell holders in their die sets (Lee) while others (RCBS) require you to buy the holders separately.


Some Die Set Prices for Comparison

These are wholesale prices effective 3-7-03

All sets are Full Length Two Die Sets for the 30-06 Cartridge

Hornady - $18.99

RCBS - $20.50

Lee - $8.39

Lyman - $16.99


More Dies

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