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Old February 16, 2012, 10:35 AM   #1
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What order of operations?

When using a collet neck sizing die and a LCT 4-hole press, what order of operations do you use? I can use a Challenger breech lock press along with the LCT. I have not yet used the collet dies, having ordered them yesterday. I will have them for every bolt action chambering that I have a rifle for.

Let me start by describing what I have done so far. When I start working with a batch of fired brass, it gets sorted into bags of like head stamps. I realize that the sorting could be done at any stage, but I do it first.

I clamp the Challenger press to my welding table (that's one that will never move, no matter how hard you use the press) and set up the universal decapping die in it. I set up two bins to the left of the press, using my left hand to handle the brass and my right to work the press handle. I take a bag of brass and dump it into the left bin, then as they get decapped they are moved to the right bin.

Once all cases have been decapped, I either swage the crimps out of them if needed or clean the primer pockets. This is why I sort by headstamps first, so that all the milsurp brass that needs the crimps swaged out is not mixed in with commercial brass that does not need to be swaged. If I need to swage them, the swager die is put into the Challenger press and they all get run through it. If not, I chuck the primer pocket cleaner up in my drill and set the speed to the slowest it can go. The cases then get the primer pockets cleaned and move from the right bin back to the left bin. When they are all back in the left bin all cases from that batch have been decapped and had the primer pockets cleaned/swaged, and they are now ready for the next step.

At this point I use the ultrasonic cleaner to clean the brass. It does a decent job of getting most everything out of the interiors and primer pockets. I use a solution of 6 cups of water to 1.5 cups of white vinegar, and about a tablespoon of dishwashing soap. I need to play around with it some to get the right amount of cases in my cleaner without overfilling it so I get the best cleaning and the most cases per batch. My 2.6 quart unit from Harbor Freight will hold around 150 cases of .30-06 or about 250 of .223.

I had also been trimming to length and chamfering and deburring the brass but have found out that this should be done after FL resizing. Oh well, I guess I just got a lot of practice.

Yesterday I took the brass that I had prepped over to my friend's house and we put some .30-06 rounds together. Using the LCT press, the dies were set up as follows: FL sizing, Universal expander, buller seater, factory crimp.

To recap so far, this is the order of operations I use now:

Sort, decap, PP swaged/cleaned, ultrasonic clean, FL size, prime, expand, charge, seat, crimp.

So now come the questions:
The collet die has a mandrel with a pin. Is this pin meant to act as a decapper or is it just to align the mandrel with the flash hole?
When neck sizing with the collet die, is the FL sizing die used at all? I've read where the shoulder should be bumped back by .001-.002, and it seems like you would have to use the FL sizing die to do that. Can the FL die be set to bump the shoulder without sizing the whole case?
I looked at videos for setting up a collet die where it was adjusted just enough to get the bullet to be snug in the neck. Does this eliminate the need for the expander die? I'm kind of confused on this because the mandrel is a fixed size so even if the collet were adjusted tighter the neck bore should be constant, shouldn't it?
The collet die sets include what Lee calls a "Dead Length Seater" die. From the description of the collet die sets on Lee's site:

"Maximum accuracy is usually achieved by seating the bullet out far enough to touch or almost touch the rifling. This provides the shot start pressure normally supplied by the crimp."

This seems to imply that you don't need the crimp die. Is this just applicable to bench rest shooting, where you only have one round at a time in the rifle? If shooting in something like a Service Rifle match where you have rounds in the mag that you don't want to set back under recoil, would you still use the FCD?

Finally, if using the LCT (4 hole) and Challenger presses, how would you set things up and what order of operations would you use? I will probably be processing lots of up to 100 cases at a time, so doing the batch method is not an issue. I can perform any step either singly on the Challenger or as part of a four step process on the LCT press.

Thanks for any input and insight that you more experienced loaders can give to someone just starting out.
thedaddycat is offline  
Old February 16, 2012, 05:09 PM   #2
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When I load jacketed .308 rounds I use two dies - Lee Collet Neck-Sizer and Lee Dead-Length Seater. The neck tension provided by the collet die is enough to hold the bullet in a bolt gun. I have loaded flat-based and boat-tail jacketed bullets this way.

When loading lead bullets I use the Collet die, a Lyman M-die expander, the dead-length seater, and a Redding crimp die. The expander is necessary to keep the case mouth from shaving lead off of the lead bullet, and the crimper is just to remove the expansion.

For jacketed bullets in a bolt gun you don't need a crimp usually. For a semiauto you usually do. But to crimp or not to crimp is a hot topic a lot of times

You can use a full-length die to neck size but I don't think it can be used to ONLY bump the shoulder back. There are special dies for that I think. As to bumping the shoulder back...I only do that if the rounds start being hard to chamber...and that hasn't happened yet in like 7 reloadings of the same 100 cases. When I need to I will probably FL-size that time and then go back to neck-sizing.

The mandrel in the neck-sizer is to decap, yes, just like the mandrel in the FL sizer. You will use the neck-size die or the FL sizer but not both. One or the other. Sounds like you maybe have the Deluxe Lee die set?

I do not clean brass at all so I cannot really comment on that but your OA looks good to me.

frumious is offline  
Old February 17, 2012, 01:26 AM   #3
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I am getting collet dies for the chamberings that I already have Pacesetter die sets for. I am getting Delux die sets for the chamberings I don't have dies for yet. I bought the dies and gave them to a friend who reloads but doesn't have those chamberings, and he has reloaded some ammo for me. Now I'm getting into reloading for myself. I have not received any of my equipment yet as I just ordered it the other day.

I have bolt actions in 6.5X55, 7X57, .303 British (2 of them), .30-40 Krag, and .30-06. I want to set up the dies in a seperate turret for each rifle. I will have to see how it works out, but may set the turrets up with the collet dies and just use the Challenger press to FL size when needed. At this point I'm still trying to figure out which way to do things that's the most efficient while giving me the results I'm looking for. That would be clean fire formed neck sized brass for each bolt action rifle.

Thanks for your input, I truly appreciate it.
thedaddycat is offline  
Old February 17, 2012, 09:18 PM   #4
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Well I think cleaning is overrated, especially when you don't FL size (and therefore don't lube), and really especially considering it interrupts my process I have a progressive press and I try to run it full-progressive as often as I can. But I am definitely in the minority when it comes to cleaning brass. I don't clean squat.

The only thing interrupting my process right now is deburring flash holes for my .308's - but I have done all of them already, and weighing individual charges - which I am doing for a couple of loads just to see if I can wring that last bit of accuracy from them. Oh, and the occasional case trimming.

I mean, someday down the line I might clean primer pockets but if it doesn't seem to affect accuracy then I won't ever do it again.

My progressive is an RCBS Pro2000 and I have separate die plates for each caliber - and 2 plates for .308 (one for jacketed, one for lead). I also have a single stage RCBS RS-5; I use that with a universal de-capper sometimes. I will probably use it with the .308 FL sizing die someday too, when it finally comes to that. So I think for you, putting the neck-sizer dies in the turrets and using the BLC press for FL sizing would be great.

frumious is offline  
Old February 18, 2012, 10:09 PM   #5
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With the 303 brit you may want to find a way to keep the brass for each rifle segregated if neck sizing. If you choose to just full length size each time then you would not have to worry about it.

For using the collet die. It works great. You do not have to clean up the brass. Do measure to make sure it is not too long. (When mine gets to trim to length I FL resize it.) Follow the directions on the dies. Also the doing the 180 degree turn of the brass will help with accuracy. It made a small difference in my .223 Rem that keeps me shooting half MOA on a bad day. The mandrel works to decap also so you will not need to run the universal decapping die.

Procedure with fireformed brass

seat bullet
put in container
take to the range
inspect brass before putting back into container
go home and repeat the process

Oh and if you are like me check the range buckets for any good brass to take home. I love it when mall ninjas leave the Hornady brass for me. I picked up 40 pieces of it last weekend, and I found the boxes in the shopping bag with the recipt. I was surprised at what the factory ammo cost.
No matter how many times you do it and nothing happens it only takes something going wrong one time to kill you.
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