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Old December 20, 2000, 05:16 PM   #1
Join Date: January 13, 2000
Posts: 54
I've been using a set of Lee dies in .357 SIG for a few years now with very good results.
Up until this point, I had used Starline brass exclusively.
The last 400 rounds I loaded up were with some Speer nickel brass.
Now any brass that I size has very obvious and deep scratches on it. (ie: if you run a thumbnail around the brass, it will catch on every scratch)
I cleaned my dies just before I started to reload this batch of nickel brass. The first bunch of nickel rounds look just like all the previous reloads... which is just fine! No deep scratches at all.

Has anyone else experienced this? Is nickel known to do this, and I am just unfortunate to have not heard of the problem?
Is it only a problem with steel dies and not carbide dies?

Are my dies ruined now? Anything I can do to fix the problem?
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Old December 20, 2000, 06:40 PM   #2
Chris McDermott
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Join Date: March 30, 2000
Posts: 245
Small bits of nickel plating can flake off of the brass during re-sizing and get stuck to the side wall of the die. Then when you re-size the next case, these bits of nickel scratch it. A good scrubbing of the die will probably remove the bits of nickel; use your favorite bore cleaner with a size up brush - for a 357 Sig which is based on the 40 S&W case, that means a 44/45 caliber brush. You'll need to clean the dies everytime after re-loading your nickel cases.

Yes, this is a known problem, and it can happen even with carbide dies. The carbide part is just a ring at the bottom of the die, and the steel die body is usually a little bigger in diameter, but not much. The titanium nitride coated dies might not have this problem if the entire inside of the die is coated, but I really don't know. You could talk to CH4D who applies TiN coatings to find out.

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Old December 20, 2000, 06:45 PM   #3
Paul B.
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Join Date: March 28, 1999
Location: Tucson, AZ
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Reg. Will nickel cases ruin your dies? I don't think so. Dirt will. You said you cleaned your dies prior to using them. Good move. But! Did you clean the brass? And is your lube pad clean. It doesn't take a lot to scratch a set of steel dies. As the .357 Sig is a bottlenecked round, I don't think they make carbide dies for it, but I could be wrong.
Can the die be saved? Maybe, depending on how deep the the scratches in the die are.
Tools and supplies needed: electric drill, hacksaw. wooden dowel of appropriate size to fit into the sizing die body, including the neck, one sheet crocus cloth, and (maybe) one sheet, wet or dry (the black stuff) sandpaper.
Take a piece of dowel about 5 or 6 inches long and cut a slot about 3/4 inch in one end. Cut a piece of crocus cloth about 1.5 inches long and 1 inch wide. Fold in half and place it in the slot on the piece of dowel. Kind of twist it around the dowel and withthe drill at a medium fast speed, run the crocus cloth in an up and down motion inside the die. This will take just a few minutes. Clean the die and try it. If it turns out that the scratches are too deep to be fixed with the crocus cloth, cut a piece of the wet or dry the same size and oil it lightly, and do the same thing for about 2 minutes at the most. Clean and polish with the crocus cloth, and size a case. This should fix it.
I have fixed more than one scratched die by this method.
If the die is too badly scratched, well, you haven't lost that much by trying to fix it, and in that case, you would have had to replace it anyway.
Good luck.
Paul B.
PS. Let me know if it worked for you.
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Old December 21, 2000, 09:59 AM   #4
Join Date: January 13, 2000
Posts: 54
Thanks for the replies so far.
Yes, the brass was squeeky clean before resizing. I don't use a lube pad, I use spray-on lube... so that rules out a couple common ways for dirt to enter.
Since I noticed the scratches on the brass, I've tried cleaning out the die by using a .40 brass bore cleaning brush. This did not seem to help much at all. I'm not sure that a .45 brush will do much better, but I'll give it a try.
I did not notice any nickel flaking off the cases, but this is the only thing that I can think of. At a minimum, I will avoid reloading any nickel brass unless I find the cause of my scratches to be something different.

I will try Paul's buffing method on the dies... don't have much to loose at this point.

PS: Dillon makes a carbide die for .357SIG, but they pretty much want a body part along with your money for it.
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Old December 21, 2000, 11:30 AM   #5
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Join Date: August 27, 1999
Posts: 304
I've loaded tens of thousands of .38/.357/.45ACP nickel cases and have not experienced the problem of which you speak. For at least twenty years I have used only carbide dies for handgun cartridges and thus may have "forgotten" about the flaking nickel problem relative to steel dies.

Some folks reload bottlenecked nickel rifle cases without problem--so I don't know what could be causing your problem with scratches. Luck!!!!
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Old December 21, 2000, 02:21 PM   #6
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You state you're using spray on lube... I've done this also with bottlenecked pistol brass and the way I was taught to do it was to place the bass in a shoebox, spray 'em and lightly shake the box to spread the lube equally... just wondering if this might be the source of your trouble (dirt particles in the box perhaps?)

FWIW, when I load rifle cartridges other than the .223, I use Imperial Sizing die wax and lighly lube by hand.
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Old December 21, 2000, 03:44 PM   #7
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What's your opinion on the Imperial Resizing lube? Was thinking of trying it out.
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