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Old January 12, 2019, 01:34 PM   #1
greaseswabber
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Difficulty sizing 357 brass

I am starting to reload 357 mag. Previously I have reloaded for 270 win. I have some mixed head stamp brass cases, as well as some nickel plated cases. This is range brass. I have two RCBS 38/357 resizing dies that I purchased used from a local shop, for almost nothing. They are not carbide dies. I cleaned the dies as I would a barrel bore. I am using Hornady Unique case lube.

I have tried sizing both the brass and nickel-plated cases in both dies. The brass requires some effort and makes a slight squeaking noise going in to the die. They come out with light scratches along the length. The nickel-plated cases require significant effort to go in to the die. There is a loud squeaking noise and the travel is jerky, not smooth. They are almost as difficult to remove. They are scratched as well.

When I say significant, I mean I need to stand up and lean on the press to go through the entire stroke. I don't need to do that when FL sizing 270 brass.

I haven't stuck a case yet, and would like to avoid that. I don't want to damage the dies, but maybe they are no good to begin with.

Questions: Is this in any way normal? Am I lubing the cases incorrectly, or insufficiently (thin layer of Unique all the way around)? Would polishing the dies help? Am I damaging the dies? Should i just get new, carbide dies and be done with it? Am I missing the root cause?

Thanks in advance. I have been reading this forum for a while, and garnered much useful information.
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Old January 12, 2019, 01:55 PM   #2
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No, it's not normal. 357 Mag has a smaller cross-section than the body of a 270, so it should be easier, not harder. It sounds like the owner of the dies got a lot of grit and debris embedded in them somehow. I think you are looking at doing some honing and polishing to get them smoothed out if you do it yourself. Alternately, since RCBS has a lifetime warranty on everything they make, I would call them and ask them if they will do it or replace it? Otherwise, I would probably just get a Lee carbide sizing die. Midway has them on sale currently for about $22.50. If you have Amazon Prime, they have them for $27. You'd have to see if the difference made up for by the Midway shipping cost.
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Old January 12, 2019, 02:00 PM   #3
F. Guffey
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Quote:
Difficulty sizing 357 brass
The dies are not carbide?

In the big inning there were 38 special dies, us old guys used 38 Special dies to size 38 Special cases. And then came the 357 Magnum; not a problem for us old guys, because we adjusted out dies to size the case. But, even then there were reloaders that were afraid to loose their place so RCBS made another set to size the 357 Magnum cases and then there was that pesky crimp in the 38 Special die, not a problem for us old guys, We simply raised the die and then secured the die to the press with the lock ring.

And now? It appears the concept of spacers are being claimed by all.

RCBS caught on and starting making dies for the 38 special and 357 Magnum; it was the same set that made in the big inning. The third set was the first set with a spacer added for the seating die. Nothing was needed for the sizing die.

As I have said before; "You will not believe how much trouble I have had making some case lubes look good". I clean my dies with a towel on a dowel.

I have sized tens of thousands of 38 Special cases and 357 Magnum cases, I have no fewer that 15 sets of 38 Special dies with combinations of 357 Magnum stampings, the trouble I have had is alignment where I pealed the side of the case.

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Last edited by F. Guffey; January 12, 2019 at 02:02 PM. Reason: change bit to big
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Old January 12, 2019, 02:30 PM   #4
NoSecondBest
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Get a carbide sizing die. I've sized thousands, and thousands of .357mag brass with nary a problem. Lubing straight walled pistol brass is a total waste of time and comes with the associated problems you describe. Of all the things I've ever spent money on related to reloading, the carbide dies were the best money spent. No lubing and no wiping.
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Old January 12, 2019, 02:35 PM   #5
Nick_C_S
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When I first started loading in that summer of 1984, I ran into this same problem. My RCBS 38/357 size die was not carbide. But it was new. I was using lube per my mentor's demonstration. But somehow, the size die started scraping the brass. I think it had something to do with the nickel, actually. At any rate, my non-carbide die was ruined in a matter of a week or so. That's when I bought my first carbide die.

Today, I use carbide size dies - and lube.
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Last edited by Nick_C_S; January 12, 2019 at 06:07 PM. Reason: Typo
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Old January 12, 2019, 03:56 PM   #6
603Country
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Get the carbide sizing Die. The Lee is fine. And you can lube the cases if you want to, but you sure don’t have to - which is why I bought the carbide die.
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Old January 12, 2019, 03:59 PM   #7
IMtheNRA
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The dies are bad. They either have a ton of particles imbedded in them, or they are pitted from rust.

A modern carbide die will solve all these problems. The sizing should be effortless wirh no lube required.
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Old January 12, 2019, 04:11 PM   #8
mgulino
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Resizing 357 cases should be easier than resizing a bottle-necked rifle case. I use the Lee Pacesetter Carbide dies to size 357 cases sparingly lubed with One Shot. I know I don't need the lube, but it does make things easier. So much so, that my 7 year old grandson can run the press easily. No scratches on the cases either.
Do you have a friendly reloader somewhere close by so you could use his dies?
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Old January 12, 2019, 04:39 PM   #9
greaseswabber
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Thanks everyone for the advice. It sounds like a carbide die is the way to go. I'll look for a Lee.

MGulino - I know a couple of reloaders, but they are 9mm and 44 guys. The Lee die price isn't too bad though.
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Old January 12, 2019, 04:49 PM   #10
FITASC
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Buy a new carbide sizing die and your issues disappear
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Old January 13, 2019, 11:11 AM   #11
RC20
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FWIW: I tried sizing Nickle 9mm, I have an RCBS Rock Chucker, really rough.

Life is to short and pick up range brass too easy, I don't do nickle.

I agree on the Lee dies. Low cost and they work fine for pistol. Maybe rifle but I tend to RCBS for those because I like the competition dies with the bullet loading hole in the seater.

RCBS may take em and polish or replace them. Really good to deal with.

I am not noted for clean and tidy, but I have never had cases scratch in a die.
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Old January 13, 2019, 12:38 PM   #12
jimmy lowboy
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hard sizing

You may have dies that are damaged by pitting, but more likely have nickel particles smeared on the inside of your steel dies. I have used coarse steel wool and a dowel to clean several older steel dies. My method is to put a 2x2 tuft of steel wool over the end of the die and push it in about the depth of a case with an unsharpened pencil while allowing the wool to cover the sides of the pencil as it goes in. The fit should be snug enough to scrub inside the die if you hold the pencil and wool and twist the die left and right in and out like a cylinder hone. If steel wool damages or scratches the die then it is way too soft anyway.It would help to put a few drops of number 9 to help with the scrub.Clean up with cloth patch put the spindle back and see if it works any better.
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Old January 13, 2019, 01:37 PM   #13
F. Guffey
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Quote:
I mean I need to stand up and lean on the press to go through the entire stroke. I don't need to do that when FL sizing 270 brass.
I have crushed cases by turning them into accordion looking cases, to prove to reloaders it is impossible to move the shoulder back on a case the die must have case body support when bumping I formed cases with bellows that liked like a Volkswagen thermostat.

Back to the dies RCBS made in the big inning. The sizing die for the 38/357 (early models) did not have a primer punch, the primer punch was installed on the case mouth expander. I understand that makes little to no sense to most but if the top of the sizing die is threaded for a primer punch there is a possibility your dies are not assembled correctly.

This will never happen to anyone but there is a remote possibility it could: The threads in the top of the Herter sizing die is the same thread that is used on the seating die; and Herter sold a kit for their universal seater dies. So? I have found sizing dies with seater plugs installed.

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Old January 13, 2019, 02:19 PM   #14
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If the brass is clean, and you are getting scratches, that means there is something in the die, and its imbedded, so just cleaning them won't remove it. Dirt, grit, nickel flakes, machts nichts, the exact materiel, it's there, and scratches are the proof.

Squeaking, in my experience is a lack of lube. And this includes lube distribution on the case. Also the same cause results in needing excessive force to resize. From here it looks like either your lube is inadequate, or your technique is incorrect. I have used Hornady "One Shot" spray lube, and did NOT have satisfactory results. Don't know anything about Hornady "Unique" lube, sorry. I have been using RCBS lube (the stuff in the pump spray bottle) for several years now, with no complaints.

You will probably be better off buying a new carbide die set. Lee is the cheapest, and they do work. Personally, I don't like them. I don't care for the features or the finish of LEE dies, its a personal matter. A good die set is something you will only buy once, so why cheap out?? Get what you want, nothing wrong with cheap, if its what you want.

One thing I don't really care for is the Lee .38/.357 sizer that I have really sizes the case down, leaving a very visible "step" in the case where the solid head is. Doesn't affect function in any way, but to me, looks like crap. I have had other brand sizers do something similar to some cases, but not to the degree my Lee die does it. A personal matter.

If you have to stand on your press handle, something is definitely WRONG, and the most likely (and easiest to change) is the lube /and or the way it is being applied. I've used the thick stuff and pad from Lyman, and RCBS, done right its all good. Done wrong, its not. Have used the sprays from Dillon, RCBS, and Hornady. Same thing, though the Hornady stuff I used (and it was several years ago) was less satisfactory than the others.
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Old January 13, 2019, 05:14 PM   #15
buck460XVR
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Me thinks there was a reason you got those dies ''that I purchased used from a local shop, for almost nothing.''

For the small cost of a good carbide sizing die for .357, I wouldn't bother with those other ones and the mess of using lube, not to say what's making the scratches.
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Old January 13, 2019, 06:12 PM   #16
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You may be able to clean the brass/nickle that has welded itself to the die but it isn't worth it. Get a carbide sizing die and be done with it. I have sized thousands of 38 and 357 cases in my RCBS carbide dies without a problem. For some reason nickle .45 ACP galls and messes up my sizer die and my taper crimp dies. I have had better results with RCBS dies than I have Lee but RCBS does cost more.
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Old January 14, 2019, 11:02 AM   #17
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I don't like the Lee rifle dies much, but the pistol carbide dies are the cat's meow..
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Old January 14, 2019, 02:58 PM   #18
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I've used valve lapping compound on a 20 gauge shotgun cleaning swab and a drill press to clean up the inside of a steel 45 ACP RCBS die. It worked well for me, but without knowing what exactly is causing your problems it's kind of a crap shoot as to what would fix it.
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Old January 14, 2019, 04:18 PM   #19
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I would send them back to RCBS for refurbishing, lifetime warranty ....call or Email them first.
I bought a Lee carbide die when they came out and since have gone back to my steel RCBS sizer....the Lee sized down the base too much leaving an unsightly ring , the stell RCBS doesn't do this. Spray on wax based lube dries in seconds and eliminates the need to clean it off the sized cases .
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