Lee Die Question


Blind Bat
November 9, 2008, 09:52 PM
Is it typical for new Lee dies to require polishing?

I just bought the Lee deluxe carbide 9mm die set and I noticed the expander die was chafing on the inside of the case mouths. After expanding 100 cases I had quite a bit of brass shavings at the bottom of my press. I noticed the expander plug had circular grooves on the machined end. Lightly sanding (600 grit) and polishing the expander plug seemed to solve the scratching problem. This is my first set of dies so I'm not certain if this is a Lee design trait or poor quality machining on this one particular set of dies.

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November 9, 2008, 10:00 PM
I have a few Lee dies and have never seen that problem. That kind of malfunction I would have sent the die back.

November 9, 2008, 10:10 PM
IN my experience with their dies,not normal.
I would do what you did..fix it and get on with life.

November 9, 2008, 10:43 PM
I've never had to polish a Lee expander plug, but it is surely possible that a bad one arises now and then.

I had trouble with the machine marks on a Rifle Charging Die drop tube until I changed to a different powder measure. I don't think it is the fault of the powder measure, but the drop tube.

November 9, 2008, 10:50 PM
I've had to polish a few. But only after they rusted because I forgot to put them away. The garage isn't the best place to leave reloading stuff if you live in Houson...

The Bushmaster
November 9, 2008, 10:51 PM
All ten sets of dies that I have are Lee and I have never had that problem. Just got a set that somehow missed QA...

Blind Bat
November 9, 2008, 11:33 PM
I grabbed the expander plug and snapped a couple of pictures. These are obviously after the polish job. Please excuse my poor photography skills.

November 10, 2008, 12:06 AM
This question / observation has popped up before.

One explanation for it is that Lee incorporates that roughness in the expander die to provide a bit of "shake" at the time of the powder dump.

The alternative explanation is that not taking the additional time to do a smoother finish is one way to provide the dies at the price they do.

My own guess is that the QC guidelines have opened up a bit.

I did fiddle with this a bit, and found that I did get more consistent weights with the rough expander finish--but it was pretty hard to call it significant, and it showed up only if one averaged the range of charge weights for 100 rounds.

Jim H.

November 10, 2008, 12:23 AM
Never had that problem but would have done what you did or call Lee and request assistence. Knowing Lee, they more than likely would have sent you a new expander plug. The're excellent people to deal with.

Blind Bat
November 10, 2008, 12:41 AM
Thanks guys. I just found this picture of the plug on Lee's website:

I'll give them a call tomorrow and see if they will send me a replacement part. Off topic - I love the note at the bottom of Lee's website: "This publication is formatted for Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.02 and Netscape 3.0" :)

November 10, 2008, 06:06 AM
I just dumped a set of LEE dies. They were scratching my cases. They offered to polish them if I sent them back. But why bother? If they couldn't do them right the first time, it isn't likely they can on the second try. And why should I pay shipping twice? I just ordered dies from Lyman and wrote off LEE altogether.

November 10, 2008, 07:35 AM
Wonder if you've done this all your life every time you bought something didn't pass your enspection. Never bought a new car and had to take it back to the dealer to have something fixed? Did the dealer reimberse you for the gas it took to get their? Or a new appliance or whatever, If I trashed every item I've had trouble with and did not even attempt to let the mfg. fix/repair/replace it I wouldn't buy anything and live in a cave. A friend of mone just got a brand new Cooper after the long wait and dame it has a slight ding in the stock, well that trashed Cooper, now where do we go? Your logic escapts me. Bottom line, give, the mfg. have a break and a chance to fix it, we don't live in a perfect world and most humans do goof up.

November 10, 2008, 08:12 AM
No, normally I wouldn't have done that. And I have other older LEE dies that I had no problem with over the years. But this was a new set and it even looked rather shoddy. And the letter I got back just irritated me even more.
But if you wish to buy their stuff, don't let me stop you. Spend you money wherever you like. And I'd say this is enuff said on that subject.

November 10, 2008, 09:04 AM
Every Lee expander plug I have ever seen has looked like the one in the pic with the machine marks. (grooves) I have them from over 20 years old to very recently. Nice deep machine marks on every expander. They are cheaper for a reason. That does not mean they don't work, they do, but they are more roughly machined than any other maker. I have polished all of mine, and replaced a couple with other brands.

Lee dies are inexpensive for a reason. They load perfectly good ammo, but they are full of it in their advertising about how well they are machined. Machine work costs money, period.

Blind Bat
November 10, 2008, 03:44 PM
I just got off the phone with Lee. It looks like they going to stand behind their dies. A guy by the name of Pat (who sounded like he was in a machine shop) said they must have had a bad "machine head" when they produced the die and he is going to send me out a new expander plug. Whooo hooo. I'll snap a comparison picture when the new one comes in. Bravo to Lee for good customer service. I only had to spend about ten minutes on the phone with them.

November 10, 2008, 04:51 PM
Hey SUPER! Glad everything worked out for you. I know they always taken care of me, even if it was only a question.

The Bushmaster
November 10, 2008, 05:42 PM
I wish I knew what the problem was. I have ten sets and two of them (I was forced to go look at them because of this). f
Found one that seemed to be or looked rough. But didn't feel rough. Found one that was rough. Funny...I've been loading .38 Specials with it for 20 years with no issues.

Blind bat...Could you explain, again, how it was causing you problems?

Steve C
November 10, 2008, 06:50 PM
If you are loading virgin brass or freshly trimmed brass then its usuall to have brass wire like shavings as the sharp square edges of the mouth are broken by the expander. You can chamfer the case mouth to break this sharp edge and then you wont have the brass shavings.

November 10, 2008, 07:01 PM
Yep, it is worst with new brass, as are all crimp dies when the edge is not chamfered. (You will sometimes see a very thin partial ring of brass from crimping new brass that was not prepped.) The rough expander plug also "grabs" at the case when being pulled out. Does not hurt a thing, just bugs me. :)

November 10, 2008, 09:04 PM
for what it's worth, the expander on my .38spl die set is almost as rough as what you pictured.

It works fine, not causing shavings, but then again, I don't buy new or trim old .38 brass, so I'm not getting shavings.

I've intended to chuck it in my drill press and hit it with emery cloth, but have consumed pretty much all of my precious little reloading time feeding my long guns. Haven't loaded a pistol round in over a year.

The Bushmaster
November 10, 2008, 10:33 PM
I bet Blind Bat gets one just like the one he has now back from Lee...;)

Blind Bat
November 12, 2008, 11:45 PM
FYI, I am reloading once fired WWB brass. Attached are pics of a case before I polished the expander plug. Also, please note I don't have pics of the expander plug before the polish job. The end of the plug is now perfectly smooth and I've belled ~1500 cases since the polish job without any binding or scratched brass. Of course being that the die's expander plug has been worked on it's missing .001+ of material towards the base and doesn't have a smooth taper.

I think it will get me by until the new expander plug gets here. I hope... It's starting to get cold here in New England. I'm hoping to work up a 9mm plinking load and then stock pile a couple thousand rounds before it gets too cold to shoot at my outdoor range. This stuff will be used to make shooting at my semi-local indoor range (http://www.gunsnh.com) more affordable this winter.

November 13, 2008, 06:41 AM
The reviews at midway are favorable for Lee dies, so that is all I need.

November 13, 2008, 09:10 AM
"I just dumped a set of LEE dies. They were scratching my cases. They offered to polish them if I sent them back. But why bother?"

Well, they did offer to fix it for you, so...?

By far, most such case "scratches" are from tiny bits of brass galled onto the surface of the sizer due to poor luberication before sizing, there's nothing the die maker can do to stop that. It's such a normal occurance, maybe they didn't feel that covering the cost of shipping was rightfully theirs since the cause of the problem was unlikely to have been theirs. When that happens to my dies, and it does, I just polish it out myself.

If we all take this approach to everything it wouldn't take long before we couldn't buy anything.

Whatever ....

The Bushmaster
November 13, 2008, 09:20 AM
I agree with ranger335v to some extent. I don't believe that brass will imbed in steel. It might, but dirt and grit will. That's why you clean or tumble the cases before you resize/decap them. I have Lee die sets that are over 22 years old and they still don't scratch my brass. I picked up a used set of .38 Special RCBS dies a few months back for a dime an a song. They scratched my cases. They don't now because I didn't whine or snivel. I polished the resizer and went about my business.

November 13, 2008, 09:44 AM
I am like the Bushmaster. I have a Lee .44 Mag sizer I have been using going on 25 years. Works great. Same for the Lee 9MM sizer I bought 23 plus years ago to replace the Hornady I wore the Nitride coating off of. :)

November 13, 2008, 09:56 AM
Never had a problem with Lee dies. Had the carbide ring pull out of Hornady and RCBS sizing dies, but Lee, Lyman, Redding and CH keep doing their job.

November 13, 2008, 11:02 AM
I have had the carbide ring pull out of a Redding sizer. Stuff happens. The good news is pretty much all the die makers stand behind their products well.

November 13, 2008, 12:08 PM
I was able to clean up the ring and seat in the dies and reseat the ring with a bonding agent from the Caterpillar Tractor Co. chemical catalog.

November 13, 2008, 01:04 PM
"I agree with ranger335v to some extent. I don't believe that brass will imbed in steel."

Don't misunderstand, I din't mean brass could imbed IN steel, but it for sure will gall - stick to - ON dry steel as firmly as if it were weilded.

Most dissimular metals will gall the softer onto the harder under heavy sliding pressure. That's why some folks get case scratches from carbide sizers too, the dry brass will gall and stick to carbide too, then scratching will start. A good case lubing for steel dies is the preventitive. And an occasional lubed case for carbide dies goes a long way to keep them working without scratching too.

We can safely polish the brass off a case hardened die at home because it's quite hard to cut that super hard surface with common materials. We CAN'T damage a carbide sizer ring because it takes diamond grit to cut it, even a little bit! :)

The Bushmaster
November 13, 2008, 04:00 PM
Walkalong...I'm in trouble again.:what: Should have been lubing my handgun cases...:rolleyes:

Ranger335v...I have never lubed any of my pistol or revolver cases and have been running them through these dies for all those 22 years. They are not brass galled or scratched. I know to be a fact as I cleaned and inspected them last week. Again...dirty or gritty cases are what scratch dies... The only cases I lube are my rifle cases...You must have cheaper dies then my Lee dies...

pilot teacher
November 13, 2008, 05:24 PM
Came across that issue with a 45 expander. Sent it back and they replaced it with a non defective die and no comments.

I also have 2 other sets of Lee 45ACP dies and thay are o.k.

November 13, 2008, 06:34 PM
Well I guess the die issue got fixed one way or another. Wonder if everyone gets this worked up over a $20/$30 dollar item. Bottom line is Lee makes a VERY good product at a VERY reasonable price, and they stand behind their products. There are probably 1,000's of reloaders out their that wouldn't have ever gotten into this hobby if not for Lee and their reasonable prices. Just my 2 cents.

November 13, 2008, 07:06 PM
Dang. I rarely lube a case going through a carbide die either, and never did for over 20 years, and mine are still scratchless!

If you are running a LOT of cases through a carbide die, a touch of lube on every 10th case or so makes it easier on old shoulders. http://i183.photobucket.com/albums/x37/Walkalong/oldfella.gif?t=1226621281

pilot teacher
November 17, 2008, 10:37 AM
Blindbat said he called Lee and they said, they must have had a bad "machine head" when they produced the die ,

reading between the lines, Lee admitted they have no quality control plan and therefore no QA. That's why they have an admirable warranty service.
It's more economical to have a warranty service than to implement quality control.

I've returned "lots of stuff" and they always made good.

November 17, 2008, 12:51 PM
Now I understand why RCBS has a full replacement warranty. Because their product is lacking in QC. With that said I believe Lee represents excellant value for $ spent.

November 17, 2008, 12:59 PM
Just got to thinking about how worked up people get over a $20/$30 set of dies. My God, do they get this upset over a $100 pr of athletic shoes that only last a year?

The Bushmaster
November 17, 2008, 01:09 PM
They do don't they. I don't mind paying the price for quality, but when you can get quality at a cheaper price, why pay extra for the name.

In contrast...I have no cheap weapons. At least they were not cheap when they were purchased and some were gotten 48 years ago. The cheapest firearm I have is a 1949 Winchester .30 WCF that I paid $50.00 for when I was 18. It was old when I bought it. You want to price it now? I bought a Colt SAA .357 magnum in 1966 brand new in the box for $136. and change. Want to price it now?

The tools I used for over 45 years in my chosen ocupation were rather expensive (S&K). I had very few of the other tool manufacturers in my tool boxes. Some Proto, some Williams, and some Snap-on, but about 90% S&K. Some were even S&K Wayne.

Lee presses work for me. I'm not brand loyal in that sense as I have RCBS, Midway and other brand names mixed in on my loading bench.

Most of the other press and accessory manufactureres are just as good or maybe better, but not by much...

November 17, 2008, 01:38 PM
My God, do they get this upset over a $100 pr of athletic shoes that only last a year?

do I get worked up about them... no

do I buy them.... no!

November 17, 2008, 01:40 PM
It's more economical to have a warranty service than to implement quality control.

that's exactly the policy at the company I work for....

and the company is doing very well..

we tend to do very well during tight economies when our competitors go belly up and we cherry pick their assets at auction. Or when our customers are looking to cut costs.

November 17, 2008, 01:41 PM
There are probably 1,000's of reloaders out their that wouldn't have ever gotten into this hobby if not for Lee and their reasonable prices.

1,001 counting me

Blind Bat
December 7, 2008, 01:29 AM
Sorry for not updating this post earlier i needed to get my hands on a camera. Four business days after calling Lee a new expander plug showed up in the mail. The machining and finish on the replacement expander is much nicer than the original (prior to polishing). To the naked eye there are almost no machining marks, very similar to the pic from Lee's website (see the middle of page 1). When I run my finger nail across the machined end of the plug I can feel light machining groves. It's not polished but well machined. By comparison, the old die came from the factory with a surface that looked like the surface of a record with regular, deep, spiraling grooves.

In use, the new expander plug feels just like the polished one. You get a very light snap or pop as you lower a cartridge from the die. On the original die, there was a very noticeable bind/tug when your removed the brass, almost like using the factory crimp die. I noticed that with the same adjustments the new die plug expands the case mouth about an extra .001" which is to be expected being that I sanded and polished the old plug. After expanding 50 cases I noticed some light brass residue on the tip of the expander. Surely caused by the plug's slight machining marks. I inspected the expanded cases and couldn't find any scratch marks or brass shavings on the press.

It's obvious that not polishing the expander plug is cheaper for Lee but it might also help people who dispense powder through the expander die as a slightly rough surface on the expander plug might serve to jiggle powder in the hopper. Since I use my powder measure separately from the press, I'll probably polish the surface of the expander plug but that's just because I'm anal retentive and I love to play with my polishing wheel.

Long story short... No, you don't need to polish Lee dies under normal circumstances but their QA isn't the best and if your new expander die scratches the inside of the case mouths you should inspect the plug and possibly contact Lee for a replacement. If you want a silky smooth expanding operation a little polishing will be necessary.

Attached are two pictures. One is a close up of the new plug after expanding 50 rounds, and the second is a comparison show between the old (now polished) plug and its replacement. Unfortunately, they aren't that great pics because I used the wrong camera settings. Thanks again to Lee for superb customer service. Cheers!

December 7, 2008, 01:42 PM
Sometimes the old saying "you get what you pay for" is true.
Need we say anymore.

December 7, 2008, 04:55 PM
Sometimes the rule of value for dollar spent holds true also. Never had trouble with LEE Products, excellent value.

Blind Bat
December 7, 2008, 05:21 PM
True, many times you pay for what you get. I picked Lee Dies because I had heard good things about the FC die and it included the necessary shellholder. Frankly the price of these dies is half the price of other (non-match) die sets and I could figure out the justification for the extra expense. The only difference I could find between the Lee,RCBS, Hornady and Redding dies was cheap or non-existent lock rings. After playing with these dies I'd say the quality of the ammo they produce is excellent but certain aspect of the dies feel cheap. Like the sloppiness in the adjustment knob on the seater die. I still think Lee makes great dies for people who want to produce factory(+) quality ammo without spending a lot of cash.

It would be awesome if someone with lots of different pistol die sets would come up with a chart comparing the different features between the different die manufacturers.

December 7, 2008, 05:28 PM
Lee dies are a good value and load good ammo, but every expander I have from them was rough. I polished them all, and they do fine.

I much prefer the Lyman Two Step style expander. I have replaced several expanders from different companys with that style.

The Bushmaster
December 7, 2008, 05:49 PM
That's wierd...None of my expanders collect brass like that.

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