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Old March 15, 2009, 03:29 AM   #1
Acenes
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Pros/cons of steel/carbide dies?

Okay, I'm new. I'm going to be reloading several calibers and am ready to buy some dies. I am reloading for economy reasons, and so am willing to trade a little accuracy for cost savings.

What I am really wondering is this. Long term if I invest in carbide dies, which are more expensive, will I be saving money over buying the cheaper steel dies. So what is life expectancy of each, and what saving will I get viz not needing to lubricate, etc.?

Also what type of die is best economically, 3 die, 4 die, pacesetter, etc.; and why do you think so? I know asking preference on type is going to open a real can of worms, but hey, how else am I going to learn from you guys?- And potential gals-
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Old March 15, 2009, 04:40 AM   #2
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Always go carbide

Steel would wear out heaps quicker. If your FL sizing die wears, your rounds will end up not chambering properly (especially wheel guns) I use a Lee 3 die turret press (manual) and have spare turrets set up to load .44 mag, .44-40, .32 S&W and 9 x 19. I have no trouble with Lee carbide dies, after use I just run a jag and wad damp with oil up them and a light spray of oil on the outside to keep them from rusting. With carbide, I dont bother using case lube, coz when I tumble the cases again once fired, if you have used case lube, the media dust sticks to the cases and you need to hand wipe them before reloading them (or you transfer the media residue into your dies) If you dont use case lube, you can go straight from the tumbler to priming then straight to the press.

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Old March 15, 2009, 05:07 AM   #3
SKULLANDCROSSBONES65
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G'day.
Use carbide for straight wall, no lube required.
Use steel for bottle neck, must use lube.
Straight wall require 3 die set.
Bottle neck only require 2 dies.
Any extra dies only do limited tasks. (They may do that task better) Or increase options, e.g. roll crimp / taper crimp.
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Old March 15, 2009, 07:36 AM   #4
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It's actually easier than you think.
First of all, if we are talking about a straight walled case, like most handgun rounds (and a few rifle rounds), then we are pretty much talking about carbide dies... nobody buys them in non-carbide (or Titanium Nitride, which is Hornady's answer to carbide). It's been this way since the 80s.

Also worth noting is that it's not the whole set that is steel or carbide steel. It's the sizing die and that's it, no more and no less.

I see some catalogs offer them in non-carbide, and I'm sure that one of our gurus that knows much more than I do can lend some insight... but for the lion's share of the reloaders out there (and certainly for most brand new reloaders), carbide is what you need and anything else is a silly purchase.

But remember-- carbide dies are for straight wall cases. .25, .32, .380, .38/.357, 9mm, 10mm, .40 S&W, .41, .44, .45, etc etc etc. And handgun die sets come standard in 3-die sets. That's a size/decap die, a mouth flaring die, and a bullet seat/crimp die. Lee does offer a "deluxe" that includes the "Factory Crimp Die." Some folks really like the Lee FCD, but it's not an absolutely necessary die no matter how much they like it. Many of us have gotten by for many years without one.

That info is all for handgun rounds. For bottle neck rifle calibers, it's a bit different. First is that there is no carbide dies for these caliber. You need to use case lube when resizing these calibers. Die sets typically come with 2 dies. One full-length sizer and one bullet seat/crimp die. You don't typically flare the case mouth for bottle neck rifle rounds. Again here, Lee offers options for 2, 3 and 4-die sets. The 3 die sets sometimes includes their FCD, sometimes includes their collet neck-only size die. They also offer a 4-die set which adds both of those dies.

Those two extra dies need a little more explanation, but this is enough to start.

The next time you post a question, I suggest you add some pertinent info so folks can help tailor their answers to your needs. In this case, tell us what caliber, what press, what firearm you intend to load for... etc etc. At the least, we'll find that info interesting, and it might make someone want to reply.
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Old March 15, 2009, 07:52 AM   #5
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Quote:
Steel would wear out heaps quicker.
Nobody has ever "worn out" a steel die set with use. If they lube their cases and do not ruin they by getting sand embedded in the die, they will last longer than the person using them. However, carbide/titanium nitride dies are the only way to go if you are loading straight walled cases due to the large savings in time and trouble of not having to lube and clean cases.
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Old March 15, 2009, 08:04 AM   #6
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As others have said, get the carbide dies when you can (i.e., for straight-sided pistol cases) - not because of die life, which will be longer than yours, but to avoid the significant aggravation of lubing cases.

While it's [virtually] impossible to wear dies out, I have had the carbide ring pull out of a sizer die twice - once with a Lyman die and once with an RCBS (the latter after regular and heavy use for about 35 years). In both cases, the manufacturer promptly sent me a new die at no cost - there are few products of any kind that have such good manufacturer support as reloading components.
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Old March 15, 2009, 08:27 AM   #7
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Besides pistol dies, If you load any quanity of shells in a rifle cal. it would pay to get carbide dies. I have wore out several 223 & 308 dies in the last 40 years, I went to a Carbide die for both. You still have to lube them but the die just dosnt wear out. Its consistant, and CONSISTANCY IS ACCURACY.
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Old March 15, 2009, 08:48 AM   #8
NuJudge
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A lot of pistol calibers are tapered

The 9mm Parabellum is tapered, and I've seen drawings of the .45 acp that show a taper. For these and other only-sort-of-straight calibers, I use Steel dies. Carbide dies don't give any sort of taper. Especially in the 9mm, Carbide dies can leave a belt of sorts at the bottom of the case.

The tumbler takes the sizing lube off, and it really takes no extra time, there is just a bit more mess.

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Old March 15, 2009, 09:04 AM   #9
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Quote:
Carbide dies don't give any sort of taper

You get your taper with the (taper) crimp die. You dont want a taper before you seat the bullet.
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Old March 15, 2009, 10:03 AM   #10
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Quote:
The 9mm Parabellum is tapered, and I've seen drawings of the .45 acp that show a taper.
The 9 mm is designed to have a slight but clearly visible taper. I've also seen drawings of .45 ACP dimensions that show a tiny (as in hundredths of a millimeter) amount of taper, but for all practical purposes it's a straight-sided cartridge and everyone I know uses carbide dies.
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Old March 15, 2009, 10:19 AM   #11
Jim Watson
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The taper on a .45 ACP case is miniscule and the same type of carbide die insert that works on a straight case like .38 Special or .38 Super works on .45.

At one time carbide 9mm P dies cost more than others because they made the inserts longer with taper ground in. Redding still charges extra for 9mm titanium carbide dies, but tungsten carbide and Hornady's titanium nitride are no more expensive than for straight cases.
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Old March 15, 2009, 12:03 PM   #12
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More than likely you'll not have to give up any accuracy at all by reloading your own ammo. It's more likely you'll be able to load ammo as accurate or more accurate than factory stuff. The primer, powder quality is always excellent. Some bullets are better than others but the large majority are of good quality.
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Old March 15, 2009, 12:13 PM   #13
Sevens
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9mm and .30 Carbine cases are both tapered cases. Not taper crimped (they are that also) but the case body itself is not entirely straight... they are a little larger in circumference at the base than at the mouth.

For most typically reloaders, you often end up with a loaded round that looks a little odd where you can see the outline of the bullet loaded in the case, but functionally, it really doesn't matter. It's more about the way it looks than the way it performs.

I've never used a non-carbide die to size either caliber to see if it makes any difference.
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Old March 15, 2009, 11:34 PM   #14
Acenes
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Sevens, thank you for the forum etiquette critique.

I'm reloading .32ACP, .380ACP, .38 Special, 9mm P, 30-30, 30-06. This is basically for several of the guns in the family, hunting and carry guns. I bought a Lee Challenger press as a kit because it was available/affordable. I've been doing as much research as possible though, so I don't wind up buying a bunch of stuff I don't need,( which I may have already done with the kit).

Really I just don't want to make any purchases I'll regret, which is why I really do appreciate all these responses.

Another question,since you guys pointed it out I looked, the only rifle carbide dies I could find were for sizing the neck only, why don't they make them for full length in carbide? Or do they and I'm just ignorant about it?
-Though anyone would tell you my ignorance has never been questioned-
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Old March 16, 2009, 01:30 AM   #15
Sevens
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I'm not aware of carbide sizing dies for bottle neck rifle rounds. Lee does call some of their FCD's (Factory Crimp Die) carbide FCD's.

For the two .30 cals you intend to load for, you might be interested in Lee's Collet Neck-only sizing die. You can buy it separate from the die set, or it comes as one of the dies in on of their sets... the name of which I don't recall, but they will tell you up front that it includes the collet neck die.

This die will re-size only the neck, which is a neat idea IF -- and only IF, you are shooting the reloads in the same rifle from which they were fired. And, if that rifle is a bolt action or a single shot.

Because the brass is fire formed to your chamber, you can resize only the case mouth which not only makes resizing quicker, but you don't have to use any lube, you don't need near as much physical work as full length sizing, and it extends the life of the brass.

For .30/30 if it's a lever gun, may not make good, easy-to-chamber ammo. For a .30-06 bolt gun, it'll make great ammo.
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Old March 16, 2009, 05:09 AM   #16
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For pistol you want to buy carbide or nitride coated. You also want to make sure you get a 4 die set, especially if you plan to use this die set on a progressive in the future. If you plan to load calibers that are close to the same diameter (9mm, 38, 357) then you can buy 3 die sets for those calibers, and buy a separate taper crimp die. This will make your life easier if you don't plan to trim cases since pistol brass gets shorter upon shooting (You can still trim them if you want to but why?).

Lee makes quiet possibly the most affordable and serviceable dies of all the reloading companies. I like RCBS and Hornady dies myself, but do own some Lee.

It appears Dillon makes carbide full length sizing dies for both .223 and .308 (Probably due to the popularity of these two cartridges), but I am sure they recommend the use of sizing lube with them just the same but the carbide makes things slide much easier.
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Old March 16, 2009, 05:18 AM   #17
teeroux
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Quote:
Nobody has ever "worn out" a steel die set with use.
Even loading steel cases?
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Old March 16, 2009, 05:25 AM   #18
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Dillon has .223 and .308 Carbide dies

And maybe more.

CDD
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Old March 16, 2009, 06:01 AM   #19
cgaengineer
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Quote:
Even loading steel cases?
I am sure people have worn out steel dies, but why reload steel cases anyway?
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