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Old October 8, 2011, 04:19 PM   #1
603Country
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Lee 4 Die set for 9 mm - use of the 4th die?

Forgive me if this is a question that has been asked and answered. As mentioned, I have the Lee 4 die set in 9 mm, and the 4th die (with carbide) is the factory crimp die. If the bullet seating die will apply a crimp, and the instructions indicate that it will, do I really need to use that 4th die, and why? Thanks. And I should mention that I've reloaded for years on rifle and revolver ammo, but never on semiauto ammo. And as for equipment, I use a single stage press and don't want to run all that ammo through one more die if it isn't necessary.
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Old October 8, 2011, 04:32 PM   #2
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If you're following proper procedure, and assembling the ammunition correctly... the FCD is a waste of time.

It's a band-aid for reloaders that have to use the FCD to "fix" the bulging, buckling, poorly crimped, and misaligned ammunition they created with the first 3 dies.

If your process is sound, you shouldn't ever have to pull that 4th die out of the box. If you do have problems, I would suggest figuring out what is causing the problem, before just "fixing" it with the FCD.


...With an exception:
If you are using a progressive press, the FCD is useful for final crimping. For 9mm on my Dillon 550B, I run RCBS dies in stations 1 and 3 (station two is a PTE funnel in the powder measure), and a Lee FCD die in station 4. Station 3 seats the bullet and starts to remove the bell from the case. Station 4 is the FCD, and finishes crimping.
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Old October 8, 2011, 05:31 PM   #3
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I use it, and I reload single stage. It is just an insurance against that one or tow rounds that would hang. I have had a few times of not using it, and not having a hiccup, though most times I use it for just incase. If you are using reloads for something like IDPA, or IPSC I would heavily reccomend it to prevent a loss of time from that 1 in 100 hanging up while you are being timed.
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Old October 8, 2011, 06:07 PM   #4
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Thanks guys. That's what I was hoping to hear, and it makes perfect sense. I really do appreciate what this forum can do for people like me. There's so much accumulated knowledge available. It's great.
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Old October 8, 2011, 11:57 PM   #5
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FCD does two things-maybe three.

As Frankenmauser states, it can iron out mistakes.

The primary purpose of the FCD is to apply precise shape and size to the case mouth. In the case of cartridges that headspace the case mouth, it is important for both headspace and for bullet pull. In the case of cartridges that headspace on the rim, it allows a crimp to be applied independent of the bullet seating operation. When these are done in one operation, the bullet is still being seated while the crimp is being applied and will tend to make the case mouth dig into the sides of the bullet. Not conducive to well crafted rounds, especially if you want to apply a very heavy crimp.

The second purpose is to remove anomalies in the cartridge body's final dimensions. The FCD has a carbide sizing ring at its mouth for this purpose. As the cartridge goes in (and more importantly, when it comes out) it is made perfectly round and perfectly sized. This can iron our mistakes (buckling and such), but it is INTENDED to size the cartridge to SAAMI dimensions. But more often is is rectifying things like when a slightly oversized bullet has caused the case to bulge a bit.

Some people who eschew this function knock the carbide ring out of the FCD (Frankenmauser obviously would be among those).

Sometimes the FCD is helpful, sometimes not. Sometimes even counterproductive. You don't have to use it if you don't want, but buying the 4-die set is not too much more expensive than the 3-die set. Buying the FCD by itself later is a bigger ticket.

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Old October 9, 2011, 12:12 AM   #6
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Quote:
It's a band-aid for reloaders that have to use the FCD to "fix" the bulging, buckling, poorly crimped, and misaligned ammunition they created with the first 3 dies.
Frank, you have a way with words. (LOL) But basicly true.

But I need some proxoide as well as the band aid and use the FCD on all my pistol loads, not to crimp the case but as insurance that the flare from the powder through die has been taken down properly and that ALL cases will feed into any gun I put the reloads into. Do I need to do it, I don't know, but I have never had a falure to feed because of an odd sized case.

603, You have the die, you make the call as to what you want to do.
Jim
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Old October 9, 2011, 12:39 AM   #7
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if you seat and crimp at the same time, you will shave some lead here and there if you are using cast lead. if you seat and crimp later this would not happen.
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Old October 9, 2011, 12:45 AM   #8
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I love Lee products, especially their dies, and most of my dozen-and-a-half calibers are served by Lee dies. I don't care for the Lee Carbide FCD.

I agree with what FrankenMauser said, I've said the same thing myself in the past. But one thing not yet mentioned that I believe is important is what can happen when you try to post-size a loaded cartridge.

Springback -- it's what you get in brass when you squeeze it down to a smaller size. There's a certain amount of springback when you do this to a brass cartridge case.

What doesn't spring back is a bullet. So you can crush, squeeze, and smash the entire loaded round in any manner your tool will allow you to... but you can't get that bullet to come back after you've squashed it.

The risk here is that your bullet gets sized down even a little bit and your brass doesn't grip it as well as you plan or hope.

When you have suspect case mouth tension, you have a a serious problem waiting to happen. If you don't have proper case mouth tension on your bullet and it gets set-back unintentionally, you will raise pressures, and the possibility exists that you will raise them exponentially.

When handloaders experience a colossal overpressure event in a handgun round, e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e and their brother is just certain that it must have been a double charge. But nobody will EVER know, because after the event, the evidence is gone and only the damage remains.

How many of these events are caused by catastrophic pressures due to unnoticed and unintended bullet setback?

Here's what I know -- I'm a thousand miles from an "expert" at this hobby, but I can make terrific ammo in 9mm and .45, with cast lead, plated and jacketed bullets. I can make ammo that feeds 100% of the time, fires and ejects 100% of the time and is as accurate as I ask for in handgun ammo.

I can do this with a simple Lee 3-die set. There are countless others that can do the same thing. And the folks shooting hardcore, high round count competition handgun games can do it also without a Lee FCD.

My suggestion for anyone who wants to use that die is to figure out WHY you think you need it and try to solve that problem without using it.
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Old October 9, 2011, 12:56 AM   #9
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I have a Lee four station Classic Turrent. The Lee FCD fills the fourth spot. I still gotta pull the handle. I might as well accomplish something when I do. I don't see a problem using it for 9mm.
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Old October 9, 2011, 12:59 AM   #10
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I have never used the FCD and use cast boolits exclusively. I have never shaved lead. If you set up your dies properly the FCD is never needed.
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Old October 9, 2011, 01:15 AM   #11
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Quote:
When you have suspect case mouth tension, you have a a serious problem waiting to happen. If you don't have proper case mouth tension on your bullet and it gets set-back unintentionally, you will raise pressures, and the possibility exists that you will raise them exponentially.
Sevens, you are absolutely correct. But no one is suggesting that you actually crimp the case. Just set the die so that you can run your case into it and insure that the flare has been take out and will fit into your chamber.

I have had only one falure to feed on a 45 ACP nickel case due to the fact that this case was not run through the FCD to insure that the flare was out completely. Yes, I know that nickel cases are harder to work with.

But I too shoot IDPA and a jammed case not only cost you the time to clear the round from your gun, but gives you one less bullet to use in completing a stage, that can cost you 10 points for falure to neutralize a target or a 5 second penalty, and a 5 second penalty can take you from 1st to last place on a close competition.

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Old October 9, 2011, 02:18 AM   #12
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Three steps or four?

As Sevens (and others) have said, the "springback" phenomenon is real. Not usually significant, but it can be.

There is an easy cure. Don't post-size.

There are two ways to accomplish this. Knock the post-sizing ring out of the FCD or use a separate seat/crimp die with the seating post adjusted out (or removed).

Most of the time combining the operations in the seat/crimp die creates no problems. But if it does cause problems with your ammunition (or you just want to simplify your die adjustment process), handloading with four operations instead of three will cure them.

For me, adjusting the seat die and crimp die separately is not that much easier than making the adjustments in a single die. But the biggest advantage is that I can apply whatever degree of crimp you want without concern over the bullet moving as you crimp, which ALWAYS happens when you combine the seat/crimp operations (though, as I said earlier, not always causing problems).

Thanks for reading,
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Old October 9, 2011, 02:23 AM   #13
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I use a FCD in the 4th hole of my 550b. The carbide sizing ring doesn't touch anything when the first three dies are set up properly. No need to knock it out. Like somebody said above, it is only there to iron out mistakes.
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Old October 9, 2011, 08:52 AM   #14
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So you can see there are lots of uses/opinions about the Lee FCD.

Let me share how I use my Lee FCD's. For rimmed cases I use the Lee FCD die for full length sizing, then I use my normal carbide sizing die on the upper half of the case for neck tension. This gives me a smoother looking round. The normal carbide sizing die can leave a "step" where it stops. I no longer get that and everything chambers just fine.

I use the 40 S&W Lee FCD in their bulge buster to run the entire case through. Again, this is to properly size brass so I don't have to check it in a case gage. And I do this at the start of my loading process.

So in either case I don't use it after the round is loaded, but instead prior with the top portion removed. I agree with the statements that if you dies are set up properly you shouldn't need to use it on loaded rounds. As a final crimp station it just takes the place of your normal roll or taper crimp die. But for rounds with lead bullets I would worry it might undersize the bullet. And it will not recover neck tension lost in over expanding the case.
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Old October 9, 2011, 09:14 AM   #15
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Quote:
But for rounds with lead bullets I would worry it might undersize the bullet.
How is it going to do that? There's plenty of room for the cartridge to go through the sizer as it's practically the same size as a chamber.

You can over-crimp with any seat/crimp die.
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Old October 9, 2011, 10:21 AM   #16
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I disagree that the FCD is unnecessary if the other steps are done correctly. In addition to applying a taper crimp, mine usually slightly reduces the size of the case nearest the base of the cartridge. Whether this helps with feed problems or not in both my pistol and carbine, I do not know, as I always use it.
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Old October 9, 2011, 10:34 AM   #17
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Quote:
Whether this helps with feed problems or not in both my pistol and carbine, I do not know, as I always use it.
Then why don't you load some without using it and see if it makes a difference???
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Old October 9, 2011, 11:58 AM   #18
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I loaded for years without the FCD but now use it on all pistol rounds, I prefer to seat and crimp in 2 operations, the FCD seldom does much work on my rounds however I've noticed fewer ftf since I begin using, having said that the battle will continue between those who use it and the ones who don't, I always enjoy the threads on the FCD.
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Old October 9, 2011, 12:22 PM   #19
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I have reloaded for quite some time and I use a Lee FCD on all of my reloads, pistol and rifle alike. Is it necessary? Probably not. The reasons I use the FCD are first, I started reloading using them and that it guarantees uniformity and precision in every cartridge I load. I don't get buckles or flares as Frank points out, so it is not a band aid for me. I get one-hole groups from all of my friends' and my rifles and quarter-sized pistol groups-regardless of caliber by making sure every round is identical. The FCD is simple and takes just a few seconds to make that possible. Do what makes your ammo safe and reliable and makes you happy
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Old October 9, 2011, 01:18 PM   #20
Lost Sheep
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sport45
Quote:
But for rounds with lead bullets I would worry it might undersize the bullet.
How is it going to do that? There's plenty of room for the cartridge to go through the sizer as it's practically the same size as a chamber.
See Sevens' post (#8), paragraphs 3, 4 and 5.

I have had this happen, so let me explain what I observed myself.

I loaded up some cast lead .357 rounds and found they would not chamber in my Dan Wesson (Mine has tight chambers). The cast lead bullets may have been a little oversized or the brass (nickled brass) may have been a little thick. Whatever the cause, the cases from the mouth to the base of the bullets were slightly bulged and would not fit in the chambers.

Note that this was not a fault of the loading process. Please accept my word for this. Debating how you can be certain of my assertion is beside the point of this thread. PM if you must.

I cured it by running the cartridges through my sizing die. This sized the case down and the lead bullet inside the case as well. As the cases withdrew from the sizing ring, the brass, having some elasticity, sprang back a little. The lead, having much less elasticity, did not spring back. So there was virtually no friction between the bullet and the inside of the brass

Though the crimp was still intact and I could neither pull the bullets out of the cases nor push them deeper, but could easily turn them. Without the crimp, I am certain they would have easily pulled out or pushed deeper into the cases.

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Old October 9, 2011, 02:03 PM   #21
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Quote:
Then why don't you load some without using it and see if it makes a difference???
Why should I? Why have to mess around with seating/crimping in one operation and take a chance on getting it wrong? Using a hand press, I'm obviously not concerned about max. throughput anyway. I'd rather make it as simple and consistent as possible the first time. My observation is that the FCD, in addition toapplying a proper crimp, corrects case dimension issues that are not addressed by the other three dies.
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Old October 9, 2011, 02:15 PM   #22
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I don't know what reloaders did before the FCD??!!

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Old October 9, 2011, 03:12 PM   #23
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Ok then...I've read all the opinions. They were well stated and appreciated. I think what I'll do is to load (seat and crimp) some rounds without use of the FCD and see how that goes and how the rounds work in the pistol. I'd prefer to not have to use that extra step, simply because loading 1000 rounds means pulling the handle that extra 1000 times. But, even though I don't compete, I still don't want any rounds to fail to chamber, so if I have more than the rare failure to chamber, then I'll use that FCD on the ammo.
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Old October 9, 2011, 03:13 PM   #24
Lost Sheep
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Why should I? To find the answer!

Quote:
Originally Posted by spacecoast
I disagree that the FCD is unnecessary if the other steps are done correctly. In addition to applying a taper crimp, mine usually slightly reduces the size of the case nearest the base of the cartridge. Whether this helps with feed problems or not in both my pistol and carbine, I do not know, as I always use it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by IllinoisCoyoteHunter
Then why don't you load some without using it and see if it makes a difference???
Quote:
Originally Posted by spacecoast
Why should I? Why have to mess around with seating/crimping in one operation and take a chance on getting it wrong? Using a hand press, I'm obviously not concerned about max. throughput anyway. I'd rather make it as simple and consistent as possible the first time. My observation is that the FCD, in addition toapplying a proper crimp, corrects case dimension issues that are not addressed by the other three dies.
It's kind of like a safety device that does not signal an alarm when it saves you. THE FCD post-sizing function irons out (some) discrepancies. If you did not notice them before, you will not find them after.


Quote:
Originally Posted by IllinoisCoyoteHunter
I don't know what reloaders did before the FCD??!!

They dealt with it. Pretty successfully most of the time. Then one day they invented the FCD. By the way, Lee is not the only one to have a dedicated crimp die.

Crimping in a separate operation from bullet seating 1) simplifies die adjustment 2) allows a very strong crimp without the bullet being pushed deeper into the case as the crimp is applied.

Post-sizing (sizing after the crimp has been applied) is an function independent of the crimping and also has uses. Mainly, ironing out mis-shapen cartridges (This is of dubious value or advisability to some; others find it usefu, Jim243 and Huntner11 among them. IllinoisCoyoteHunter, not so much.).

Spacecoast, you ask "Why should I?" To find out the answer. You said that "whether this helps with feed problems or not in both my pistol and carbine, I do not know, as I always use it." If you don't want to know, then you shouldn't do it. If you do want to know, then you should. And that answers the question of "Why should I?" ... Unless your question was just rhetorical. In that case, never mind.

Lost Sheep

P.S. It occurs to me to ask, is this a tempest in a teapot?

edit P.P.S. 603Country #23 posted while I was composing my post. An imminently reasonable and practical approach that should offend no one ans waste minimal time. One suggestion about the 1,000 rounds. Instead of passing all rounds through the press, just pass them all through your chamber (taking the barrel out of the firearm or opening the cylinder) and only post-size the ones that are hard to chamber. If you work in smaller batches, testing each one as it comes off the press also alerts you to mis-adjusted dies a earlier in the process and lets you take corrective action timely.

Last edited by Lost Sheep; October 9, 2011 at 03:20 PM. Reason: Add P.P.S.
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Old October 9, 2011, 03:29 PM   #25
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I had one and never used it much until recently. I'm in the "only use it if you need to camp". It has given my problems with 9mm in the past deforming the base of the bullet.

My new barrel on my 1911 has a very tight chamber though, tight to the point that a round that perfectly fits the factory barrel and my P90's barrel will fit very tightly and sometimes cause a FTRB jam. To combat this I have seperated my seating and crimping steps as others have done and now that every round passes through the FCD the problem is a thing of the past.

Saying it is a waste of time just means it is a waste of time to you. It was a waste of time for thousands of rounds for me as well, but not anymore.
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