how to set up FL sizing dies from one of the masters of the game.


Well-Known Member
Jun 13, 2007
Wilmington NC
This is an interesting discussion on setting up dies and FL vs NS from BR central and some of the top gunsmiths and shooters in the game gave their insights of years of building and shooting LR rifles.

Note the comments by George Kelby and Dave Tooley below.

I will admit, I often set up dies for match guns a little tighter than hunting guns (.002 max). I have had hunts ruined with gun failures early on and do not want to go there again. Brass is cheap and hunts are not.

I am betting 90% of the shooters do not even have a firing pin removal tool for all the actions to even run the tests the proper way. Cost is under $50 and you will be surprised how much easier it makes your life in reloading for accuracy and reliability.

The "click" when extracting a case?

Anyway enjoy and print off a copy to keep with your reloading equipment and if you disagree go to BR central and tell them why they are wrong. :)

Full-Length Resizing Instructions
Sticking brass after multiple reloadings is the most common problem in the precision shooting discipline. The following are the instructions I send to our customers when they have this problem:

A clarification on the procedure for correct shoulder setback (headspace) tolerances

Firing pin assembly should be removed from bolt for the following procedures:

• Use a case that chambers tightly using the stripped bolt.

• Set up the full-length sizing die in press so there is approximately a 0.010” to 0.020” gap between the bottom of the die and the shell holder.

• Size the case, and check your shoulder setback dimensions to insure that the shoulder isn’t being set back greater than 0.001”

• Screw the die in closer to the shell holder in small increments, checking your trial and error progress with the setback gauge.

• When you are able to measure a setback of 0.001”, try chambering the case. The goal is to obtain a light press fit of the case in the chamber. The bolt handle should move approximately half way down its travel, and a light press with your finger should allow the case to chamber easily to the bottom of the bolt stroke.

• Usually, a measurement of 0.001” with a shoulder gauge and calipers will be too great to allow a light press fit of the brass in the chamber, and the bolt handle will fall down through its complete travel with no resistance. This is influenced by the skill of the operator in the use of calipers.

Typically throughout the life of the case, the die will need to be advanced closer to the shell holder from 0.001” to 0.003” to achieve the same light press-fit, overcoming the work-hardening of the brass. This incremental advance of the die will vary, depending on the loads used, type of brass, etc.

A facile way to advance the die small increments without moving the lock-ring, is to use “die-shim” kits. The shims are sold in 0.001 increments, and the lock-ring is set approximately a half turn short, and the shims are inserted between the top of the press and the die lock ring.

A warning on exchanging cartridge brass among different rifles and/or barrels

No two chambers are exactly alike. It is tricky business exchanging brass between barrels especially with tight tolerance match grade chambers. Also, if barrels are swapped from one action to another, even a 0.001” difference in headspace can potentially cause trouble when trying to exchange the same batch of brass. Shoulder setback for headspace should be less than 0.001” for proper function. Even chambers that are cut with the same reamer by the same gunsmith may not be identical. In my experience, I can assure you that many gunsmiths will cut widely differing sized chambers even when using the same reamer for the identical job.

Typically when one tries to measure headspace/shoulder setback with a shoulder gauge and vernier calipers; when 0.001” registers on the instrument, the setback is probably too great. Shoulder setback more than 0.001” will excessively stretch the brass. Continual over sizing combined with work-hardening of the brass will make it stick hard in the chamber. This problem is exacerbated when using anything other than Lapua or RWS brass. In my experience, most American brass is of poor quality and needs to be discarded after a half-dozen reloadings or so since it rapidly loses its resiliency. Continually resizing of brass to headspace dimensions greater than -0.003” will cause the brass to stick so hard in the chamber that it will be nearly impossible to remove it after firing. Often times one will break extractors or break off the bolt handle when trying to remove excessively resized and work-hardened brass.

Furthermore, the practice of neck sizing the brass for multiple reloadings...with subsequent full-length resizing once the brass gets tight will reduce the useful life of the brass. What typically happens is the brass becomes work-hardened to the chamber size and won’t squeeze down sufficiently with a full-length resizing die. It is best to full-length resize each time to keep the brass “in size” throughout its useful life.

Greg Walley
Kelbly's Inc.

Greg is correct as usual. I have brass I've used in 3 different barrels and the only way to achieve this is FL sizing each and every time. Once it develops a memory/work hardens nothing will help. Neck sizing is one of many out dated techniques that just won't go away.

Dave Tooley
Tooley Custom Rifles