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Setting up a Full Length die.

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  #1  
Unread 08-10-2009, 01:18 PM
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Setting up a Full Length die.

I've noticed several posts recently that were related to setting up a FL (full length) resizing die. I decided to document how I setup a full length die. If I've missed any steps or failed to fully explain something, please let me know and I'll update this post.

Incorrectly setting up a sizing die can result in too much headspace (slop in the chamber) and will usually result in poor accuracy, short brass life and in extreme cases can lead to case head seperation.

If you are setting up a new die, it should be thoroughly cleaned. Automotive brake cleaner works well for this (do this outside, as the fumes are not good for you). Use some Hoppes afterwards and then swab it out as clean as possible.

Here is a die that is dis-assembled and ready for cleaning. Once it's clean, do not reassemble (leave the decapping assembly out of the die).



Leave the decaping pin out of the die during the first stage of die setup. We will use the decapping pin to remove the spent primers.
Here I've decapped the spent primer by tapping it out over a small hole in the 2x6 on the bench. It is a good idea to remove the primer prior to measurement, because if the primer protrudes at all below the head of the brass, it will affect your measurements.



Here is an example of a primer that has flowed back into the firing pin hole. This was caused by a firing pin hole that is too big, not by a load that was too hot.



What is needed to correctly setup a die is some method of measuring your brass. I use a Caliper and the Hornady headspace gauges (shown below).
There are other purpose built tools (like the tool from Larry Willis, that does a great job of this as well).

Here I'm measuring a new piece of brass. I zeroed the caliper on the new brass, so we can see how much headspace MY RIFLE has with this batch of new Norma brass.



The first step is to find what the once fired length is. You'll want to use once fired brass, since it will have expanded to fit the chamber and then will have 'sprung back' a little.



If you use brass that's been reloaded several times, it will not have sprung back and your measurement will be a bit longer. Your measurement will also be subject to how many times the brass has been fired.
Subsequently, I use once fired to eliminate that variable. In this example, the once fired brass measures .0045" longer than the new brass. If my once fired brass will chamber in my rifle without ANY tightness, I will attempt to resize my brass to match this number.

Once fired brass will typically spring back about .001", so matching this number will give me about .001" clearance with all my reloads.
If the Once fired brass feels tight when chambered, then I will subtract .001" from it's measurement and that will be the length I will use when adjusting the die. For this example, I'll set the resizing die to push the shoulder back to .0035" (or as close as I can make it).

After lubricating the once fired brass with some Imperial sizing wax, I resized it with the die about a quarter inch from the shellholder. I measured it and it hadn't moved the shoulder at all. I repeated this step by screwing the die in about 1/10 of a turn at a time until I achieve the 'bump' I am looking for.

Here is the resized brass.




Continued on next post, to get the final 2 images into post. ...
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Last edited by AJ Peacock; 08-10-2009 at 06:51 PM. Reason: replaced small pics with better closeup pictures.
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  •   #2  
    Unread 08-10-2009, 01:19 PM
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    Re: Setting up a Full Length die.

    Here is a closeup of the shellholder to die clearance after adjustment.



    Notice that the shellholder DOES NOT touch the bottom of the die. Your die instructions will probably tell you to adjust the die until it touches the shell holder, but this will usually result in pushing the shoulders back too far. Your die might be further or closer to the shellholder than this, but it will be adjusted correctly for your rifle.

    Put your die back together and lock it down, so you won't have to re-adjust it later.

    When you put the decapping assembly back in, adjust it so the tip of the decapping pin protrudes just below the shellholder. This will let it fully remove the spent primer.



    In this example, I'm using a full length sizing die that uses neck bushings. I adjust the bushing stop to allow a very slight movement of the neck bushing.


    Hope this helps someone,
    AJ
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    Last edited by AJ Peacock; 08-11-2009 at 03:46 AM. Reason: changed pics to better/closeup pics.
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    Unread 08-10-2009, 06:12 PM
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    Re: Setting up a Full Length die.

    Very well put A J.
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    Unread 08-10-2009, 06:13 PM
    alf alf is offline
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    Re: Setting up a Full Length die.

    Great post. A picture tells a thousand words.

    Just wanted to add that for freshly annealed brass, the setting on your die is mucho less than for work hardened brass, due to spring back, or lack there of on old brass.
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    Unread 08-10-2009, 08:25 PM
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    Re: Setting up a Full Length die.

    Great post. I adjusted mine in a similar manor per the instructions w/ a RCBS Precision mic for headspace. I've been able to get more consistance headspace from the die than from the chamber.

    I find the part about the brass w/ more reloads having a different spring back very helpful. I've been wondering what was goin on. My measurements were drifting as the brass was reloaded and fired more times. That makes since.

    Stalker
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    Unread 08-10-2009, 08:32 PM
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    Re: Setting up a Full Length die.

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SQ Stalker View Post
    Great post. I adjusted mine in a similar manor per the instructions w/ a RCBS Precision mic for headspace. I've been able to get more consistance headspace from the die than from the chamber.

    I find the part about the brass w/ more reloads having a different spring back very helpful. I've been wondering what was goin on. My measurements were drifting as the brass was reloaded and fired more times. That makes since.

    Stalker

    One reason to keep brass together that has the same number of reloads is the springback issue. You'll find you may need to adjust the die down further to get the same shoulder bump with brass that has been reloaded a number of times than with once fired brass.

    AJ
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    Last edited by AJ Peacock; 08-10-2009 at 08:37 PM.
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      #7  
    Unread 08-10-2009, 10:29 PM
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    Re: Setting up a Full Length die.

    Great pics!

    Well I ran into this in American Rifleman May 2009 issue, article on Smith & Wesson's 460XVR on page 54

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    quote:
    Had Hornady's engineers not had prior experience loading the .454 Casull, the 460 S&W Mag.'s case would have presented another dilemma. With pressures similar to those of the .454 Casull and production-type revolvers using the new cartridge, Mittelstaedt determined the cases needed to be "cold worked" to the brass' limits, which resulted in maximum strength/hardness, as well as better "springback". Spring back is the case's ability to, under high pressure, expand to the size of the chamber then retract enough for easy extraction. "Soft" brass doesn't "spring back", making extraction difficult.
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    It always seemed to me that new brass had more springback. That was observing the behavior of the brass in my dies. I went through it on this thread

    Springback - Topic Powered by Eve For Enterprise

    I'm not sure if this is what you're saying here

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    If you use brass that's been reloaded several times, it will not have sprung back and your measurement will be a bit longer. Your measurement will also be subject to how many times the brass has been fired.
    Subsequently, I use once fired to eliminate that variable. In this example, the once fired brass measures .0045" longer than the new brass. If my once fired brass will chamber in my rifle without ANY tightness, I will attempt to resize my brass to match this number.

    Once fired brass will typically spring back about .001", so matching this number will give me about .001" clearance with all my reloads.
    If the Once fired brass feels tight when chambered, then I will subtract .001" from it's measurement and that will be the length I will use when adjusting the die. For this example, I'll set the resizing die to push the shoulder back to .0035" (or as close as I can make it).
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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