Problem with Lee .223 bullet seating die


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Z-Michigan
August 1, 2008, 11:54 PM
OK, while I've done a moderate amount of handgun reloading, I'm just starting out with rifle (bottleneck case) reloading, with .223 Remington. I have the Lee deluxe die set, but am using only the resizing and seating dies for now. I am using RP/UMC cases and 55gr FMJ cannelured Remington bullets.

I seem to have the resizing die working (first time I used it the expander got pulled out - even though I had lubed case necks inside). However, I went to try the seating die, with a case that had been resized but neither primed nor charged, and I had this problem: following the instructions, I screw in the seating die (itself) until I feel it touch the case mouth. Then I back out 1/2 turn to avoid a crimp. Now I screw in the bullet seating plug to try and seat the bullet. Nothing happens. I finally screw in the seating plug all the way, and even with that the bullet is seated way too long - there is easily 5mm between the case mouth and the cannelure. No good. So, realizing this isn't how the instructions said, I try screwing in the die body some in case I didn't have it right. I do this with baby steps, leaving the seating plug all the way in, and get the bullet seated slightly deeper, then on another attempt I feel a crunch and find the whole case has been crushed just below the shoulder. Yet the bullet is still seated too long, with about 4mm between the mouth and the cannelure.

I'm guessing that my seating die is somehow defective - probably the seating plug is way too short. I disassembled it and found the seating plug is in fact slightly shorter than the recess for it in the screw-top that adjusts the seating plug. However, I don't own any other rifle dies (Lee or otherwise) to compare to for what the normal plug length is. Of course I may also not have things adjusted right, but I obviously need some advice. What can you tell me?

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Sunray
August 2, 2008, 12:23 AM
"...until I feel it touch the case mouth..." Set up all the dies so the shell holder just kisses the bottom of the die with the ram all the way up. No cases are involved.
Then, with a sized case, adjust the seating plug to seat the bullet to the depth you want. Forget the cannelure altogether.
"...the expander got pulled out..." Not tight enough.

jim147
August 2, 2008, 12:29 AM
Do you have a way to measure the seating plug? Calipers? I can check mine tomorrow and see if it matches. I've never had a problem with any Lee dies but something could always get put together wrong at the factory.

ants
August 2, 2008, 02:16 AM
With the entire seating die fully assembled, holding it upside down in your hand, with the seater plug screwed all the way in as far as it will go:

Insert the depth gauge of your caliper (the long thing that sticks out the bottom end of the unit, away from the jaws) into the die and measure the depth from the bottom of the die to the center recess of the seater stem. Be careful to get the point of the depth gauge gently way down into the recess in the seater stem where the bullet nose goes. Read the measurment on your caliper display. This is the minimum cartridge overall length your die is capable of making. Measured that way, my Lee seating die could make an OAL of 2.185". If yours varies widely from that dimension, first check to make sure you have it assembled correctly.

When disassembled, the seater stem in my Lee die is 1.2" long and the hole in the threaded plug is 1.4" deep, so approximately 0.2" of stem sticks out from the plug.

Two other suggestions:
-I know it sounds dumb, but read the markings on side of the die and make sure you were given the right one.
-Check the threads inside the die and make sure your threaded plug can screw all the way down. There may be burrs or damaged threads or debris stopping it.

ants
August 2, 2008, 02:22 AM
With all due respect to my friend Sunray, that procedure will not properly adjust the seating dies in any of my rifle sets. It will crush the shoulder if you screw the seating die all the way down until it kisses the shellholder. I believe Sunray describes a good way to adjust the sizing die, but perhaps not the seating die.

everallm
August 2, 2008, 10:23 AM
Just started reloading, using a Lee Turret and Deluxe .223 die set and had a similar issue.

Loading 55gr Hornady, no issues, OAL correct, cannelure at right position for a light crimp.

Change to 75gr A-MAx and I could not get the bullet to seat down far enough, well over max OAL

I had a separate NON deluxe .223 die set I was going to use on the Lee Hand press, swapped the bullet seating die and it worked OK.

Also had the same occasional issue with shoulder collapse with the deluxe set and the 75gr A-max

LotI
August 2, 2008, 11:06 AM
Sunray is right. It appears the original poster is adjusting the die while there is a case in the shellholder. Your die is adjusted way too far out.

As he mentioned..."No case is needed"

If your die is defective, lee will replace it. Happened to me. It wasn't polished and was scratching cases. A quick trip to Hartford and they swapped it on the spot.

mkl
August 2, 2008, 12:04 PM
Sunray is right. It appears the original poster is adjusting the die while there is a case in the shellholder. Your die is adjusted way too far out.

As he mentioned..."No case is needed"

I must be missing something here.

If you screw the seating die in so it is touching the shell holder, the crimp shoulder in the die will be too far down and probably will crush the case -- just like the OP described when he screwed the die in too far.

The instructions that came with the die are correct. Run the ram all the way up with a case in the shell holder. Slowly screw the seat die down until you feel the crimp shoulder contact the case mouth. Back out 1/2 turn.

Then adjust the seating stem to seat the bullet to the proper depth.

After all bullets are seated correctly, back out the seating stem all the way and screw the die down 1/4 turn past crimp shoulder/case mouth contact. Check crimp, and adjust die up/down until you get the crimp you want.

It the above does not work, he has a problem with the seating stem being too short to screw down far enough to push the bullet to the proper depth.

All the dies I have (14 calibers or so) adjust as above. The only exception is the Lee FCD, which I don't think he is using.

Above incorrect for the Lee Deluxe Die Set. See my following post.

rcmodel
August 2, 2008, 12:06 PM
I have never used Lee bottle-neck rifle dies in any caliber, but:

Both .223 seating dies I have from RCBS & Pacific will do a crimp, and / or buckle the case if you adjust them down against the shell holder.

rcmodel

mkl
August 2, 2008, 12:55 PM
I just went back and dug out my only Lee Deluxe Rifle Die Set that I bought a year or so ago and have yet to use.

This Lee set has something called a "Dead Length Bullet Seating Die" that is unlike all my other dies.

It does say to screw the die down until it touches the shell holder plus 1/4 turn. Then adjust the bullet seating screw on top of the die to give the appropriate seating depth.

It also states: "This die will not crimp the bullet in place."

Never seen anything like it. I stand corrected that all my dies adjust like in my previous post. I have one that does not!

Guess I need to try it and see if it works; I bought this set for a caliber I have yet to reload for.

Sorry 'bout that.

rcmodel
August 2, 2008, 01:01 PM
Well there you go then!

"If all else fails, read the directions!"

Thanks MKL!

rcmodel

mkl
August 2, 2008, 01:22 PM
"If all else fails, read the directions!"

Sage advice.

I generally do that after three trips to the hardware store and the line to the factory is busy. :D

As far as the OP is concerned, perhaps he has instructions for a conventional seating die and is trying to apply them to the Lee Dead Length Seating Die (however the durn thing works).

evan price
August 2, 2008, 02:08 PM
If this is a conventional Lee .223 seating/crimp die, the first thing to do is adjust the die body itself, without the seater plug, to get the case mouth to just start to crimp the end of the case mouth. Then back out 1/4 turn.
Now put the seater plug in, and seat the bullet, tightening the seater knob on top until you have the bullet seated to the depth you want. Now, turn the whole die down that 1/4 turn so that you are applying a light crimp.
Now check your OAL and your crimp and make the slight adjustments needed to get it how you want it.

Turning the seater plug knob moves the length of the bullet up or down. Turning the entire die makes more or less crimp, HOWEVER!!!! Turning the entire die also moves the bullet length as well because the whole die (Seater plug and all) moves when you adjust it.
So if your length is correct, and you adjust the die down further for more crimp, you are ALSO making the length shorter, and you need to adjust the knob on top to change the length of the bullet.

It's a balancing act. Once it's setup, it works fine.

mkl
August 2, 2008, 02:47 PM
If this is a conventional Lee .223 seating/crimp die,

It is not.

Read my post #8. Same advice as you gave.

See my correction, post #10.

Durnest seat die I have ever seen!

ranger335v
August 2, 2008, 04:55 PM
If I remember right, Lee developed the "Dead Length" seaters after they started making Factory Crimp Dies (the best crimpers available, IMHO).

Suspect they realised that crimping, if any, would best be done as a seperate step. Thus, they eliminated the crimping shoulder in the new seater.

By adjusting the newer seater die body into firm contact with the shell holder they could take press linkage compression out of the equation and loaded OAL would be more consistant. An excellant design but you do have to know which type seater you have and adjust it accordingly.

ranger335v
August 2, 2008, 04:59 PM
If I remember right, Lee developed the "Dead Length" seaters after they started making Factory Crimp Dies (the best crimpers available, IMHO).

Suspect they realised that crimping, if any, would best be done as a seperate step. Thus, they eliminated the crimping shoulder in the newer seater. Adjusting the old die in by the new instructions will get you some crunched necks.

By adjusting the newer seater die body into firm contact with the shell holder will take press/linkage compression out of the seating depth equation and loaded OAL would be more consistant, thus "Dead Length" reliability. It's an excellant design but you do have to know which type seater you have and adjust it accordingly.

If you get crunched necks, you have the old design.

Z-Michigan
August 2, 2008, 10:41 PM
Thanks for all the replies. Since I got a crunched shoulder (actually side just below the shoulder) I assume I have the conventional style.

I looked at the die box. It doesn't say anything special other than including the FCD. It does not say anything about a "dead length seating die." I'm guessing maybe that's something you get with the neck-only collet resizing die?

Both the seating die and the resizing die are roll-marked "Lee-223-A8." The FCD is marked "Lee-223-L7." This die set was bought at Cabela's in Michigan about two months ago and was in the flat box. I have no idea how long or short it might have been on their shelf.

I took another look at the directions and I think I'm following them correctly. My understanding is the same as what's described in posts #8 and #13.

Anyway, I made the following measurements:
Overall length of seating die (fully assembled, with seating plug screwed all the way in): 3.1"
length of seating plug: 1.20"
recess in the seating die adjusting piece, where the plug sits: 1.340"
depth with seater plug screwed all the way in: 2.150"
depth inside the seating plug itself: 0.388"

Note that the two depth measurements may not compare directly to someone else's depth measurement, because they would be affected by the width of the depth gauge on my caliper, and I don't know if that's a standardized width.

The case that is crushed has an OAL, with bullet, of 2.257". This is the shortest I can/could make any cartridge using this die. I realize that is a tiny bit (0.004") shorter than the max OAL of a .223 round, but I think that proves the point that there is an issue.

Ants, special thanks for taking the time to make those measurements. One question though:
When disassembled, the seater stem in my Lee die is 1.2" long and the hole in the threaded plug is 1.4" deep, so approximately 0.2" of stem sticks out from the plug.

Since you're saying that the seater stem sticks out from the plug, I assume you must have written the measurements incorrectly. In my die, with the measurements above, the internal plug/stem in fact retracts entirely inside of the threaded plug that adjusts the seating length.

So, where do I go from here? I think I probably got a set made with the seating plug too short and/or the recess in the threaded seating plug adjuster too long. So I guess I can contact Lee for a replacement. I just want to be sure I'm not doing something wrong, first.

ants
August 3, 2008, 03:18 AM
Where do you go from here. That's the easy part!

Of course you could deal directly with Lee, their customer service is absolutely excellent.

OR, get yourself something like a ball bearing or a short piece of steel rod, maybe a quarter inch long, and drop it in the threaded plug. Then insert the seater stem and screw it in the die. The spacer will extend the stem downward so it seats the bullet deeper. Check to make sure it seats the bullets consistently; if seating is not consistent check to see if your spacer is getting hung up somewhere.

Did you notice that the stem can move up and down when the threaded plug is not screwed all the way down (shake the die and hear it move)? You want the stem to be able to move a little so it lets the nose of the bullet center itself as it lifts the stem upward, until the top of the stem bottoms out in the threaded plug. Then the bullet is pushed into the case neck to the preset depth.

[By the way, I got the dimensions crossed up. The stem is 1.4" and the recess is 1.2". Yes, the stem does stick out 0.2" from the threaded plug.]

Z-Michigan
August 3, 2008, 09:59 AM
Thanks, Ants. Based on this:
By the way, I got the dimensions crossed up. The stem is 1.4" and the recess is 1.2". Yes, the stem does stick out 0.2" from the threaded plug.

I would guess that my seating die was made at 4:59pm Friday before a holiday weekend, given that the dimensions are basically reversed on mine. I think I will contact Lee for a replacement.

BLJimmy
March 25, 2009, 06:09 PM
This is kind of an old post, but I was searching for an answer too and found the answer. I called Lee, and explained the problem. They sent me a new insert for the seating die. Works perfectly.

BornAgainBullseye
April 8, 2009, 09:18 PM
I searched and found this ole thread. I just got the same die set from midway. I necksized a case primed it and have it 26 grains of varget. When I went to seat the bullet in the dead length seater die the bullet would not seat. I then started screwing it in until it would not screw in anymore. It just barely seated the bullet. Like 1/16 of a inch into the neck. It appears that there is a problem with the bullet seating plug like the cone that was cut into it is way too big. It swallows a .223 I also dis assembled my .308 die and it looks like the same plug. I will call Lee in the morning and see what is going on. I hope it is not backordered like everything else! Hurray for the ones who bought all the .223 now dies are backed up. Over 300 sets of lee deluxe sets backordered with midway.

Walkalong
April 8, 2009, 09:39 PM
I have one of those Lee seaters in .222 Mag. It does a very good job of seating bullets. I replaced it with a Forster that does a great as well. Neither seater will crimp.

ole farmerbuck
September 9, 2009, 06:40 AM
My new die will only seat a 40gr v-max .223 down to 2.254. Time to grind!

ole farmerbuck
September 10, 2009, 10:34 PM
No grinding i guess. I called Lee today. The man said if i grind it down that it will crimp like other dies. He said it wasnt made for 40gr bullets but was made for 55gr and higher. hmm Lee is sending me something for it to see if it will make it work for 40's but if not, i have to send it to them. I think i'd better plan on sending it in.

ole farmerbuck
September 14, 2009, 08:07 AM
Its fixed! Thanks Lee. They sent a longer seating stem. Works great and only took 2 days.

243winxb
September 14, 2009, 08:54 AM
I tried 1 lee 223 die set, will always use RCBS, no more lee. You will need the lee tech assistant soon or later.

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