Lee Universal decapper - fragile?


July 25, 2007, 12:12 PM
First 300 cases using the Universal decapper - snapped 2 pins off flush at their base...doing military crimp 223s with the pin protruding the minimum necessary to get the primer. Is this rate of breakage normal or did I just luck into a bad batch?

Is anyone aware of a sturdier pin that'll fit that die?

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Bad Flynch
July 25, 2007, 12:37 PM

In my experience, the Lee Universal Decappers are anything but fragile. I believe that Lee will replace the decapping rod free, but check on that.

IIRC, RCBS and Redding both make universal decappers and L.E. Wilson makes a hand punch and base set that is very sturdy specifically for the military primer problem.

I do not know what brand of case that you are using, but it sounds as if something else is amiss. Perhaps you have PMC brass, which is basically junk, that has off-center and odd-sized flash holes. This or some other anomaly that is really causing the trouble: get a flashlight and inspect your cases and even check for an off-center decapping rod.

July 25, 2007, 12:56 PM
My RCBS decapper kept breaking pins so I replaced it with a Lee and haven't had any trouble.

Do make sure the collet is tightened properly.

July 25, 2007, 01:09 PM
Interesting - so PMC in 223 is the equivalent of Amerc for pistols. Probably 1/4 of the cases were PMC.

Lee is sending the replacement pins after a warning that I should have sent in the broken ones to get replacements but they're overlooking it this time.


July 25, 2007, 03:28 PM
Next time somebody tells you that you need to send in a broken decapping pin ask, in a polite and respectful way if you might speak with John Lee, or Pat or Dave. This small, broken part that is required is just a pain and you don't have to do that.

Any customer service system can have a quirk or two; this is an old one at Lee. They do have a point in one sense; they can examine the busted one and see how it could be improved.

Edit: I forgot to say--the decappers I have for pistol brass are anything but fragile!

July 25, 2007, 05:52 PM
If you're talking about the Lee Decapping DIE, I've been using one for years with nary a hint of a problem, and I'm a bit mystified as to how you could break a pin on one of these things. The pin is held in a collet, and is designed to slide up through the collet if it meets "too much" resistance. So if you have a Berdan primed case, or an off center flash hole, or a primer that was welded in, you still shouldn't break the pin, just push it up in its collet. You then have to loosen the collet a bit, push the pin back down, and tighten the collet again, but nothing is broken.

If you're talking about the decapper you smack with a hammer, well you do have to be sure you have the pin in the flash hole before you smack the rod, and that is a feel you just have to develop.

July 25, 2007, 06:15 PM
Several of the crimped cases did push the rod up thru the collet - not a problem...put gloves on and tightened it to death, no further issues on military cases.

I suspect off-center primer holes on PMC as Fynch suggested above - the 2 pins snapped off right at the junction to the wider body part.


July 25, 2007, 09:07 PM
I've noticed that pmc flash holes do tend to not be in the center of the primer pocket. Realized this after a couple of rcbs decapping pins. However using Lee decaping rods I accidentally decapped a berdan primed 7.62x39 litterally blew a hole right through the center, my stupidity yes but the decapping rod lived to fight primers another day.

July 30, 2007, 06:36 PM
Well, Lee sent me 1 (I told them 2 broken but...?) decapping rod and I had 600 cases left so, results were .... FC are fairly tough, Rem, Win, LC, and misc (Frontier, BHA, and others) are smooth and easy and PMC are clearly an issue - you actually have to pay attention when depriming them. I got through 150 w/o breaking the rod but I did discard 6 cases w primers that just weren't going to pop. Several others came out by rotating the case and trying again...off-center flash holes.

In the future, when I have a choice, no more PMC. All this prep time sure makes the $89 deal from Scharch seem like a no-brainer!

July 30, 2007, 09:36 PM
I have decapped tens of thousands of 5.56mm/.223 Rem. cases, including thousands of PMC (both commercial and PS/PSD), with absolutely no problems...

These all using the Lee Decapping Die...

By far the majority of the cases had crimped in primers, too...

I won't even bother to mention another few thousand .30-06 and 7.62x51mm military cases, and several thousand military 9x19mmP cases with a crimped in primer...

My point in mentioning all this is that something is going wrong if you're breaking the pin. I've had a few cases (I can't remember the headstamp off the top of my head) that had undersized flash holes, but the decapper still worked. It just made the hole somewhat bigger.

You can feel the pin begin to enter the flash hole. If you don't feel it do that, stop and see what's wrong...

Now that I think of it, I probably should also mention that my decapping technique using the Lee Decapper Die is not quite 'normal'...

I use an old Herter's U3 press that it dedicated to the decapping die. The first thing that I do when I bring fired cases into the house is to decap them. The Herter's press uses proprietary shellholders that are held in place with setscrews. Changing the shellholders is a royal pain in the butt when you have several different cartridges that you're decapping. Therefore, I leave the Herter's shellholder for the .223 Rem./5.56x45mm/.380ACP in the press all of the time. If I'm depriming any of those cartridges, I place the case in the shellholder. If I'm decapping any other cases, I first insert the case into the die with my fingers until I feel the decapping pin slip into the flash hole. Then, I raise the ram and punch out the primer with the case just resting on top of the shellholder (which actually works quite a bit quicker than having to insert each case in the shellholder)...

Works for me...

Word to the wise: Don't leave your finger between the shellholder and the die when you raise the ram...:)


July 30, 2007, 10:44 PM
Interesting sounding arrangement...I'd love to know of a technique that would run through fewer rods - it's annoying to have to leave the cases sitting there unprocessed while I wait for the US mail from WI or Midway.

Using an O-frame (D-frame??) press from Lee - only use it for decapping. Lee 223 shellholder, no problems w 7.5 Swiss or any pistol cartridges. The first 2 broken rods were on the 223s and, while I didn't check case names at first, after Bad Flynch suggested above that PMC in 223 was suspect brass, I sorted the headstamps for the last 600.

The PMCs definitely had a higher incidence of off-center flash holes. To me, you just shouldn't have to pay that much attention to just "feel the decapping pin slip into the flash hole." Yes, it worked well enough - I didn't break the 3rd pin but way too much time and attention required to finesse PMC cases. Not so with the other brands.


July 31, 2007, 10:15 PM
Within the strenth limits of the neccessarly small pin required to enter the flash hole, the Lee Universal Decapper is as fragile as an anvil.

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