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Old January 27, 2010, 10:03 AM   #1
rob reber
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38 Special Crimping Question

Hello from eastern Indiana! About a year ago, my great-uncle gave me all of his reloading equipment, and I have been reloading mainly .44 magnum and .357 magnum ammunition for my Ruger single actions. I have been loading principally jacketed bullets for both of these calibers. I have been learning as I go, and I have been pretty successful to this point. I have picked up hints from this board and other written sources. Thanks! Last night, I tried reloading 38 Specials for the first time. I was using a RCBS press and 38/357 three pistol die set (RCBS). Sizing the brass went fine. I expanded, primed, and charged the cases (4.8 grains of Unique) with no problem. I seated the 158 grain lead SWC bullet with no problem. I backed out the seater die and tried to crimp this bullet. Unfortunately, I cannot crimp the case because the bottom of the die hits the shell holder. It seems that the seater/crimp die is too long. I was wondering if I am going to have to purchase a seater/crimp die for the 38 Special? I have a taper crimp die for the 38 Special, but I have never used it, and I was under the impression that this type of crimping die is used for bullets without a crimping groove - the bullet that I am using does have a crimping groove. Any ideas? Thanks in advance for your help.
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Old January 27, 2010, 10:19 AM   #2
SL1
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An RCBS ".38 Special / .357 Magnum" die set is SUPPOSED to be short enough to load .38 Special cases, and you just screw them out another 0.150" to load .357 Magnums. In some sets, a 0.150"-thick ring was supplied so that you could just (supposedly) use the ring when loading Magnums and not when loading Specials, so that you did not need to adjust the die lock ring.

So, the only things that I can think of are: (1) you aren't using a ring for loading the Specials, are you? And, (2) the seater/crimper die does say ".38 Special" or ".38 Special / .357 Magnum" on it, not just ".357 Magnum", right?

If the die is marked for Specials and you aren't using a ring, then try calling RCBS at 1-800-533-5000. They are really helpful and have a reputation for standing behind their products no matter how long ago somebody bought them.

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Old January 27, 2010, 10:24 AM   #3
rob reber
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SL1,
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Old January 27, 2010, 10:27 AM   #4
rob reber
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SL1,
Thanks for the quick reply. I am not using a ring under the locking ring. The RCBS dies that I am using have a label on the outside of the box denoting 38 and 357. I have not looked at the top of the seater die, however. It definitely is too short. I will look at the die. Thanks for your suggestion.

-Rob
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Old January 27, 2010, 11:00 AM   #5
kraigwy
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Sounds like somebody is trying to use a seating/crimping die for a 357 to seat a 38.

Simple solution is to get a Lee carbide crimp die. It can be used in both 38 & 357.

BUT

It has the advantacte of resized the case after crimping. It has a carbide ring at the bottom of the die that resizes the case as it is pulled out of the die.

We run into cases that get out of shape, for many reasons, (case a bit too long, bullet doesnt go into the case perfectly, a bit over size etc etc) leaving a ring our buldge in the case. Often you cant it until you try to push the case in the chamber.

The lee die fixes this as well as your crimping problem.

Another option, I had a fried who bought a 357 die thinking he could load 38s, I let him talk me into trading for my 38 die. I just chucked the 357 die in the lathe and cut it down to the 38 size. I've done that for others too. plus 44 mag to special. I also I have a 44 mag die I cut down to fit the 44 russian.

I'd recommend the lee carbide sizer though. They didnt have them back then.

I have them for all my straight wall cases, (Except for the russian, I dont shoot it that much.)
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Old January 27, 2010, 11:03 AM   #6
Doodlebugger45
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I had kind of a similar problem with my Lee dies. They do 357's just fine for all steps. But the expander die will absolutely not flare the 38 special cases. Sizing and seating work fine, but I can't get a bell to start the bullet. It's not so bad for jacketed bullets but it shaves lead like crazy on cast bullets. I learned later on that had I bought a die set that just says 38 special, it would have been fine for both cases. Likewise, I use my 45 Colt dies to reload the 454 Casull cases just fine.
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Old January 27, 2010, 02:46 PM   #7
rob reber
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Thanks so much for your help. I went home for lunch today, and I found that the RCBS die set that I was using was for the .357 magnum. I thought that the outside of the plastic storage box said 38 and 357 - it did not. The only die in the set that had a .38 designation on it was the sizing die. Both the expanding die and the crimping/seating die were labeled .357. That is why the crimping die would not work for the .38 Special. Thanks again!
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Old January 27, 2010, 02:49 PM   #8
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reset the seating/crimping die for 38; then when you reload 357, use the ring previously mentioned as a spacer and it should work just fine. Been doing that myself for several decades with no issues
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Old January 27, 2010, 02:53 PM   #9
rob reber
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Taper Crimp - 158grain lead SWC -- Merged

I asked a question earlier today regarding probelms that I was having using an RCBS .357 seating/crimping die while trying to crimp .38 Special loads. As I found out, a .357 die will not work for this application. Thanks to the members of this board. However, I found a .38 Special taper crimp die in my reloading box. I have never used a taper crimp die before. My question is this... Can you use a taper crimp die with a lead SWC bullet? There were no instructions with this die, so I am somewhat unsure if it would work on a lead SWC. Thanks in advance for your help.

-Rob
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Old January 27, 2010, 02:59 PM   #10
Mike Irwin
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Yes, you can. No problems at all. I prefer taper crimps as they don't work the case mouth nearly as much.

Also, I've merged this with your other thread since they are related.
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Old January 27, 2010, 03:20 PM   #11
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Similar problem with my .38/.357 Lee die set. The FCD is fine for .357 but doesn't touch the .38s even screwed all the way in. I've just been using the seating die and it seems to work fine.
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Old January 27, 2010, 10:17 PM   #12
dhhardw
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.38 spl lee dies

Spacecoast,

Your experience is not the same as mine. I use the Lee dies in a 4-die turret press in .38 special. (I don't reload .357). I have my bullet seating die set to seat the bullet but not crimp. I crimp in the FCD and it works just fine.

David
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Old January 27, 2010, 11:23 PM   #13
medalguy
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+1 on using the Lee Factory Crimp Die. I use it in my Dillon right after the seating station and it works like a champ!
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Old January 28, 2010, 02:09 AM   #14
joneb
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Quote:
I cannot crimp the case because the bottom of the die hits the shell holder. It seems that the seater/crimp die is too long.
What is the the length of these .38spl cases ? Does the die set recommend a shell holder that coincides with the one you are using ?
Quote:
The shell holder should kiss the bottom of the die when adjusted properly.
whoops, did I say that? Sorry what was I thinkin

Last edited by joneb; January 28, 2010 at 09:52 PM.
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Old January 28, 2010, 10:08 PM   #15
RKG
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Quote:
An RCBS ".38 Special / .357 Magnum" die set is SUPPOSED to be short enough to load .38 Special cases, and you just screw them out another 0.150" to load .357 Magnums. In some sets, a 0.150"-thick ring was supplied so that you could just (supposedly) use the ring when loading Magnums and not when loading Specials, so that you did not need to adjust the die lock ring.
From memory, the difference in nominal case length between .38 Special and .357 Magnum is 0.135, not 0.150.
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