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Old October 1, 2012, 03:29 PM   #1
haskins02
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Lee Bullet Seating Die Problem – Bullets Too Loose

A few months ago I purchased a Lee Deluxe Rifle Die set for my .308, which came with their Dead Length Bullet Seating Die. It seemed to be working fine initially, but for my latest reloads I noticed that no matter what I do, the bullets are too loose after being seated in the neck. After seating, I can push/pull the bullets in the neck relatively easily with my fingers. If I use calipers to measure the OAL, the OAL gets shorter and shorter as the calipers push the bullet further into the case.

I was thinking the problem was with my Lee Collet die, i.e. getting too loose a bullet fit during neck sizing. However, after neck sizing each case, I test it with a bullet to see how easily it fits into the neck. A Lee Precision Youtube video said a bullet should go into the sized case “with light finger pressure.” However, I size mine to be a little tighter so it takes some effort to push a test bullet in the case. So it would seem my problem is not with the Collet Die.

I also noticed that if I shake the Lee seating die, it rattles. I took it apart and there is a little cylinder that is loose within the center of the die – it moves up and down freely if I shake the die. I’m not sure if that is how it is supposed to be, or if something is broken inside the die.

Any help appreciated. Thanks.

Greg
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Old October 1, 2012, 03:56 PM   #2
Brian Pfleuger
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There's no way you should be able to seat a bullet in a sized case with your fingers. No way, no how. You misinterpreted the video.

There's no way a seating die is making the bullets loose either.

You have a sizing issue. My guess is incorrectly adjusted collet die.
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Old October 1, 2012, 03:59 PM   #3
g.willikers
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That little cylinder in the bullet seating die, that rattles when the die is shaken, is the actual bullet seater.
The top part that screws in and out of the die just adjusts the seater for overall cartridge length.
The flat end goes up and the concave end goes down in the die.
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Old October 1, 2012, 05:02 PM   #4
haskins02
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Thanks for clarifying that there is probably no problem with my seating die, and instead the problem is how I use my Collect neck sizing die. I went back to that Lee Video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4PWdVNg4O98

Brian, you are correct that I misinterpreted it – but only somewhat. The Lee guy said “bullet should not enter case with slight finger pressure.” What is implied (to me) by that remark is that the bullet can enter the case with FIRM finger pressure. If the Lee rep really meant that you should not be able to push a bullet into the case at all, then why did he use the expression “slight finger pressure”?

I neck sized so I can push a bullet in with firm finger pressure, but apparently I need to press down harder on the press (or screw the Collet Die a touch more) so that a bullet cannot be inserted AT ALL with finger pressure. Is that the consensus?

Part of the difficulty is judging just how much pressure to put on the press arm, as I read too much can damage the aluminum head of the Collet die. The Lee video says “about 25 pounds” (other Lee instructions say a “minimum” of 25 pounds). So how can you tell if you are putting 25 pounds? Even if you knew exactly what 25 pounds felt like, since there is no instrument on the press that tells you how much pressure you are applying each time, it seems only reasonable that sometime you may apply 22 pounds and at other times 28 pounds. So that leads to the inevitable question: how does this inherent lack of precision using the Lee Collet Die affect accuracy?
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Old October 1, 2012, 07:52 PM   #5
wncchester
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"there is no instrument on the press that tells you how much pressure you are applying each time, it seems only reasonable that sometime you may apply 22 pounds and at other times 28 pounds. So that leads to the inevitable question: how does this inherent lack of precision using the Lee Collet Die affect accuracy?"

You are correct the pressure isn't calibrated and, no, the lever pressure, as such, isn't what matters for accuracy or anything else; all that matters is that we press case necks firmly against the mandrel. Once a neck is firmly squeezed against the central mandrel it won't get any smaller no matter how much we press the lever BUT we can easily push the top cap out of the die if we massively over do it!

With a Lee press and the lever pressure done by the instructions, the 25 # figure is probably correct but I wouldn't know because even tho I've been happily using Lee Collet Neck Dies for maybe 20 years I've never done it on a Lee press. So, how can you tell if you've pushed hard enough? Pay attention to the feel of what's happening and you'll be fine, trying to make it work 'precisely' by the numbers like a computer you won't! Understand that once the lever stops the ram won't move any further until something breaks.

I first run my ram/case fully up and screw the die down as far as I can get it to go, then release the lever pressure and screw it down another half turn or less and do it again. After each try I remove the case and see if a bullet will go in easily; if it still goes in easy I turn the die down a little more and try again, repeating that until I can't seat the bullet by hand. IF I can see four slightly raised "humps" equally spaced up the neck I know I've gone too far, so I back off half of the last change and lock the die body right there. That process will work with ANY press and the die won't be harmed either.

Last edited by wncchester; October 1, 2012 at 08:06 PM.
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Old October 2, 2012, 10:18 AM   #6
Brian Pfleuger
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Quote:
Brian, you are correct that I misinterpreted it – but only somewhat. The Lee guy said “bullet should not enter case with slight finger pressure.” What is implied (to me) by that remark is that the bullet can enter the case with FIRM finger pressure. If the Lee rep really meant that you should not be able to push a bullet into the case at all, then why did he use the expression “slight finger pressure”?

I neck sized so I can push a bullet in with firm finger pressure, but apparently I need to press down harder on the press (or screw the Collet Die a touch more) so that a bullet cannot be inserted AT ALL with finger pressure. Is that the consensus?
Sorry, I actually responded yesterday but I was in a tree stand with variable cell service, apparently it didn't go through...

Anyway, as I said before, you should never be able to seat a bullet by hand... no way, no how. Even using the seating die in the press, which gives you considerable leverage, you should notice definite resistance when seating. You should need a hammer to seat a bullet by hand.

wnnchester is correct on his adjustment suggestions. You don't need exactly the 25 pounds that Lee suggest. Once the collets are closed, they're closed, and more pressure doesn't do anything.
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Old October 2, 2012, 10:35 AM   #7
browninghunter86
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yep bullet should not be able to even move any into the case with any ammount of finger pressure. This is the method I use and a few others I have talked to use and giving me consistant 0.0018 neck tension take a look http://ammosmith.com/general-reloadi...sizing-die.php
Doesn't require pushing 25# on the lever to size the neck just normal stroke like full length sizing or seating a bullet
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Old October 2, 2012, 01:07 PM   #8
haskins02
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Thanks for all the great advice. The explanation and instruction provided by Wncchester really clarified the issue.
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Old October 2, 2012, 07:10 PM   #9
jepp2
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The amount of force on your press handle will vary by caliber and if you take the time to smooth the mating surfaces of the collet die and apply lube.

With experience you will feel the die size the case neck. The force is just a guideline to keep you from stripping the threads of the aluminum cap. This can happen if you apply excessive force.

I am a big fan of the collet die. I only mention the variables that you need to learn to use the die properly.
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Old October 2, 2012, 09:17 PM   #10
NWPilgrim
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Brass is springy so the collet should squeeze the neck down to around 0.003" less than the bullet diameter and it will spring back to around 0.002" less. This will give the proper tension when the bullet is inserted in the neck. And no you should not be able to seat the bullet by hand.
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Old October 3, 2012, 08:49 AM   #11
stubbicatt
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Also If you need more neck tension you can have the collet turned down another 001" if necessary. You can also do this with a drill and sandpaper, although I would just either send it to Lee or have your gunsmith do this.

Typically I full length resize as I have not noticed a difference in accuracy from simply neck sizing.
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Old October 3, 2012, 09:53 AM   #12
browninghunter86
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Quote:
you can have the collet turned down another 001" if necessary
I think you meant the mandrel polished down 0.001"


Also if you have not done so take the die apart. And give all the parts a good cleaning. Then use some fine grit sand paper and put the collet in and lightly smooth out the top part with the fingers(inside and out) and then the piece that the collet slides up into polish the inside of it some. Then clean again and put a light coat of lube/oil on the collet fingers
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Old October 3, 2012, 01:27 PM   #13
NWPilgrim
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Yes, you don't want to sand down the collet that will INCREASE the diameter. You have to determine if the problem is the mandrel or the collet. The case will have the neck squeezed by the collet, then the mandrel is pulled back up through the neck to push it out to around minus 0.003" - 0.006".

I tried to simplify it in my post above but this is a more detailed description of the process of neck sizing.

So, if the collet is not small enough then it may not reduce the neck enough for the mandrel to even have contact. You can test this by removing the mandrel and see how the bullet fits in the neck after sizing with just the collet.

If the collet is reducing it properly then the mandrel may be too big. You can either ask for a replacement or sand it down.

My RCBS .223 Rem die has a mandrel diameter of .222" and a sized case has an inside neck diameter of .218"-.219". Bullets of course are .224" so trying to stuff a .224" bullet into a .218" neck is not happening by hand.
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