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3- or 4-Die Lee Set

This is a discussion on 3- or 4-Die Lee Set within the Reloading forums, part of the Firearm Forum category; For loading 38sp and 357mag would anyone recommend the 4-die set with the factory crimp die (FCD) over the 3-die set? Does the FCD do ...


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Old September 2nd, 2009, 08:42 PM   #1
 
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3- or 4-Die Lee Set

For loading 38sp and 357mag would anyone recommend the 4-die set with the factory crimp die (FCD) over the 3-die set? Does the FCD do that much better of a job over the bullet seating die? Thanks!



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Old September 2nd, 2009, 09:13 PM   #2
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sodbuster View Post
For loading 38sp and 357mag would anyone recommend the 4-die set with the factory crimp die (FCD) over the 3-die set? Does the FCD do that much better of a job over the bullet seating die? Thanks!
IMHO, it may not do a "better job", but it makes it easier. I use the FCD for EVERY caliber I load. I'm sure that loads can be made adequately without it, but since it's pretty cheap, and I KNOW I can do it easier (and probably better) WITH it, why not?

Unless you use the seating die twice, (once for seating and then again for crimping), and readjust it between uses, you are still putting downward pressure on the bullet while the crimping is happening.

Besides, my Lee Classic turret press has 4 holes in the turret, so . . . .
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Old September 2nd, 2009, 10:34 PM   #3
 
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While one may be able to use a FCD on all calibers, the vast majority of revolver bullets have a cannular which accepts a roll crimp, along with the seating operation. Now this works very well when the cases are of consistent length, and are SQUARE for consistency in the crimp.

FCD’s are designed for auto loaders, where the round indexes on the case mouth edge in the chamber. A revolver on the other hand, indexes on the case rim. Likewise, in the revolver, certainly in the magnum loads, recoil can easily unseat a bullet if not crimped properly. Revolvers can easily handle a much wider range of loads that an auto loader.

For a cannular bullet, it is easy to set the die up to seat and crimp on the same stroke. Just follow the directions that came with the die set.

Sorry Shoot44, but I don’t advocate using a FCD for a revolver round.

Chris
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Old September 3rd, 2009, 03:48 AM   #4
 
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I use a four die set for both .45acp and .45 Colt. The FCD for .45acp is a taper crimp and the one for .45 Colt is the roll cxrimp variety. I saves time by eliminating resetting the seating die for the crimping operation. Both also have a carbide sizing ring that checks the size of the case to ensure the round will chamber. It has been helpful in .45acp as I can feel it resizing some of the cases on the upstroke of the crimping operation. It hasn't come into play when crimping .45 Colt cases.
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Old September 3rd, 2009, 06:02 AM   #5
 
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I use the 4 die set for .45 and the 3 die set for .38 special and .357 mag.
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Old September 3rd, 2009, 06:04 AM   #6
 
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Spike, is that 45acp or 45 colt? My question was more concerning the value of the FCD in non-auto cartridges. Of course, I guess it's not that much more money to have it if I needed it. The issue is whether or not the stores have the 4-die over the 3-die.
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Old September 3rd, 2009, 06:16 AM   #7
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sodbuster View Post
Spike, is that 45acp or 45 colt? My question was more concerning the value of the FCD in non-auto cartridges. Of course, I guess it's not that much more money to have it if I needed it. The issue is whether or not the stores have the 4-die over the 3-die.
Sorry, I should have specified: .45 ACP
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Old September 3rd, 2009, 07:15 AM   #8
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sodbuster View Post
Spike, is that 45acp or 45 colt? My question was more concerning the value of the FCD in non-auto cartridges. Of course, I guess it's not that much more money to have it if I needed it. The issue is whether or not the stores have the 4-die over the 3-die.
As mentioned by GSCSA, it doesn't matter which type of cartridge you are loading; the FCD does the appropriate crimp, either roll or taper for the one you buy it for. The FCD for the 45 ACP is DIFFERENT from the one for the 45 Colt!

Many/most Lee die sets can be purchased WITH the FCD, in a 4-die set. I have some that I could not get that way, (such as my 41 Mag), and thus I had to buy the FCD for it separately. Some, (such as my 45 Colt set) come BOTH ways; you just have to find the 4-die version if you want to avoid having to pay more by buying the 3-die set and then the FCD separately.

As also mentioned, the primary reason (that Lee advertises) for using it is that it does a 'mild' resizing on the downstroke of the case. Thus if you crimp very strongly, and 'crunch' the case slightly, it resizes it on the final stroke so that it WILL chamber anyway. THIS is why most folks use it, BTW.

As far as Varmiter's comment, that's fine. If you don't feel you need it, then don't buy it. But in EITHER case, (auto or revolver), if you use the normal seating die to crimp, either you must reset it and use it twice, OR, it DOES push the bullet a tiny bit farther down into the case while the resizing is happening. Yes, you surely can use it according to instructions to do both, (and MANY folks do) but you can't escape that fact. Whether the bullet has a cannelure or not is really not germane.

As far as the bullet being unseated in the revolver, that is surely a reason that one crimps 'vigorously' for the magnums; I sure do! However the auto's have a similar problem, and - in fact - a much more serious one: if the crimp is not tight enough, the bullet can be seated more deeply when it slams into the loading ramp going into the chamber. In the case of 40 S&W's particularly, this can be VERY serious, as any small decrease in case volume that this would cause can result in a VERY significant increase in pressure.

No, I'm sorry, but the FCD was not designed for auto's only.

Sodbuster: if you want to verify any of this, just call Lee and ask them. They are very nice folks, and will happily give you any info you need on their equipment. I've done it, and it was a good experience.

P.S. If you don't believe me, go to
http://www.rugerforum.net/showthread.php?t=16174
and see what Iowegan says about the subject.

Last edited by shoot44; September 3rd, 2009 at 07:21 AM.
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Old September 3rd, 2009, 09:09 AM   #9
 
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Thanks everyone for their responses. Basically, when I was out shopping for the dies they only had the 3-die sets for 38/357 and I was contemplating getting that vs holding out for the 4-die set with the FCD. Since it's only an $11-12 difference and the FCD is more on its own it would be smarter to hold out for the 4-die set.

Shoot44, thank you for your detailed response.
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Old September 3rd, 2009, 10:33 AM   #10
 
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I`ve never used a fc die ,in some instances it can "resize" lead boolits .
if the nose of the boolits are tender i seat then roll crimp.
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Old September 3rd, 2009, 11:24 AM   #11
 
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The FCD will, as GP100man said, resize cast bullets, which promotes leading. I have no use for it.
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Old September 3rd, 2009, 03:49 PM   #12
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Looks like it's time for some education on Lee FCDs. First of all, Lee uses a taper crimp inside the FCD for semi-auto cartridges where bullets do not have a crimp groove or cannelure. Second, Lee uses a roll crimp in the FCDs for revolver cartridges where bullets DO have a crimp groove or cannelure. If you are loading "smooth" bullets without a cannelure in revolver cases, you need to use a taper crimp. A good example is using 45 ACP FMJ bullets (no cannelure) in a 45 Colt case. If you use the 45 Colt roll crimp FCD with a bullet that doesn't have a cannelure or crimp groove, the roll crimp will "bite" into the bullet and distort it. This can result in accuracy issues and with lead bullets, it also causes lead fouling. With "conventional" crimp dies, you can use a 45 ACP taper crimp die but with Lee FCDs, you cannot use a 45 ACP FCD with a 45 Colt case because the sizing ring is .007" tighter (.473" vs .480"). You can purchase a taper crimp FCD for 45 Colt or other revolver cartridges.

The second function of a FCD is post full length sizing. Lee uses a carbide ring inside the FCD that "irons out" the case and makes it a uniform diameter from the base to the mouth. No one can deny .... the loaded cartridges look more like a factory load whereas conventional dies makes the cartridge a bit "hour glass" shaped. Looks and function do not always go hand-in-hand. To better explain this, I need to go back to the very first step ... case sizing.

The purpose of the sizer die is to under size the case slightly so when a bullet is seated, it will have adequate neck tension. Without good neck tension, the bullet will be pushed out of the case prematurely and result in an incomplete powder burn. This will affect accuracy, velocity, and fouling. So ... all sizer dies are designed to undersize the case a couple thousandths for best neck tension. The minimum neck tension is where it takes 45 lbs of force or more to dislodge a seated and crimped bullet. Anything over 50 lbs doesn't seem to matter. "Conventional" dies typically result in 50 lb of neck tension from the sizer die and another 10% from the crimp for a total neck tension of 55 lbs (+or- 5 lbs) Using Lee FCD dies typically result in about 50 lbs total neck tension (+or- 5 lbs). This is still adequate but with thin cases (nickle plated) or with brass that has been loaded too many times, Lee FCDs can fall short for minimum neck tension.

After you seat a bullet, you will notice the bullet makes the case bulge slightly. The FCD's internal sizer ring post sizes the cartridge, making the case diameter uniform. In this process, something has to give. With jacketed bullets, the entire case diameter is post sized a bit smaller than spec just to make the cartridge "look nice". Neck tension will be a bit less than with "conventional" crimp dies but is still adequate. Because lead bullets are typically .001" larger than jacketed bullets and are much softer, the bullet yields to the sizer ring and ends up being "squished" smaller in diameter. This defeats the very reason for using .001" oversized lead bullets.

Example using a 38 Special: FCDs are made to size the OD to .377" so the case will look straight when loaded with a .357" bullet (case walls are .010"x2=.020+.357=.377). When you load a .358" bullet, the FCD sizing ring OD is still .377" so that means the bullet is now squished to .357" diameter. You can easily prove this by pulling and measuring a lead bullet after the cartridge has been post sized.

What does all this mean? Lee FCD dies will work well for most shooters; however, any properly adjusted crimp die will work just as well as a Lee FCD and in some cases, conventional crimp dies work better. When I say "work", I really mean down range accuracy because that's the only true measure. The key here is "properly adjusted" because many reloaders don't adjust dies for optimum crimp and in fact tend to over crimp. If you have a revolver "optimized" for lead bullets with throats .001" larger than bore size, FCDs are not the best choice. FCDs stress cases more than conventional crimp dies so brass won't last as long. FCDs do make the loaded cartridge look better. I'm sure some people will argue .... claiming FCDs are the best thing since sliced bread but I wonder how many of those people have actually done side-by-side accuracy tests.

Believe me ... I am not bashing Lee dies, just trying to set the record straight.

Last edited by Iowegan; September 3rd, 2009 at 03:59 PM.
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Old September 3rd, 2009, 04:54 PM   #13
 
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Like with Iowegan, I don't want to bash Lee dies, Lord knows I've used enough of them. That said, I found that their seating die would down-size my .44 cast bullets. My first course of action was to enlarge the die so that it wasn't resizing the bullet, and dedicate that die to that bullet only. Problem solved.

Then I discovered Lyman dies. Their neck expander die expands and installs a step in the case mouth, rather than flaring the mouth like Lee's. The step permits the bullet to be set squarely in the case mouth, whereas with a Lee flared mouth, the bullet will wobble inside the neck. More importantly, though, their seating die does not resize the cast bullet.

I've come to the un-scientific conclusion that Lee dies should not be used with cast bullets.
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Old September 3rd, 2009, 07:04 PM   #14
 
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Wow, Iowegan, that pretty much covers the whole deal. Thanks for the explanation!
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Old September 3rd, 2009, 07:21 PM   #15
 
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Yeah, thnx for getting in here and giving us the scoop, . . . again. It is really nice to have someone on board here that knows the stuff you do.

Having said that, though, your post raised a question for me: I use FCD's for all calibers, and - as you said - they do 'resize' a bit when withdrawing the cartridge from the die. But not always. In many cases they do not even TOUCH the case at that point. So they are clearly just a bit, (how much???) larger than the decapping/sizing dies. I know this is true because I have put a fired case through the FCD and THEN through the sizer. And the reverse. The FCD - on all of the die sets that I have anyway - is always larger than the sizer. And they do not make the cases the same diameter all the way down. The 'bulge' from the seated bullet is still there.

So are my dies 'bad', or what? If they are supposed to resize to the SAME size as the decappers, then they must be.

????

BTW, your explanation about the lead bullets answered a question I have had for a long time. Thnx again!
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