Newbie would appreciate assistance with .444 sizing / loading issues


September 19, 2009, 02:55 PM
Good afternoon,

I've been reloading for the 30-30, and though still a newbie, that has gone pretty well and without any noteworthy incidents. Now I am trying to load for the .444 Marlin, and I'm having some problems early on. This being the first straight-walled case that I've tried to load, I'm assuming that the issue is me not understanding something about this particular type of brass.

The problems?

1) I purchased 100 Remington .444 Brass. I full-length sized the brass and ran them through the expander die. The brass seems to 'go' off center in one direction or another while sizing in the full-length sizer pretty often. Even more often, the expander die seems to stretch one side of the mouth further than the other. I have not tried to load them as it just doesn't seem right. I'm using a set of Lee dies fresh out of the box, lubing with Hornady One-Shot, and there is no excessive pressure needed to size. Any idea what is going on here?

2) I'm trying to resize and reload .444 LeveRevolution once-fired brass with the .444 Hornady FTX LE bullets. The dies don't seem to size/expand the neck enough (expander tightened down to the case holder) to allow the bullet to be seated correctly, as when I seat the bullet, there is a bulge in the case along the profile of the bullet along 3/4 of the case, esp along the bottom of the bullet. Do I need some sort of custom seating die for the FTX bullets and/or the shorter LE brass (.16 shorter than the new Remington stuff)?

I'm at a loss, and I'm not sure what is going on. Maybe I got a bad set of dies? Maybe I need a different brand that can adjust or expand lower down specific to the LE brass (though that doesn't explain the issues with the Remington brass)?

Also, I have a related question. I'll be firing these loads out of a Handi-Rifle .444 single-shot gun. With that being the case, and knowing that I don't need to worry about bullets feeding from clip or through an action beyond seating the bullet into the chamber manually through the break action, does the OAL really matter? IE, can I just load the FTX bullets into virgin Remington brass without taking off that .16 of extra length since it's just the tip that puts it over the book OAL?

I've tried finding information on several forums and though I've found some people that have loaded the ftp / LE brass, there aren't a lot of details on what made that a success. Any help here is greatly appreciated!

Thanks in advance!

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September 19, 2009, 05:15 PM
I'll make a couple of comments, straight walled cases are (should be) easy. Back off the expander die. All you need is a very slight flare. I don't even use one. By using the deburring tool aggressively on the inside case wall I'm able to seat most all FMJ bullets. Lead ones can be a problem though. Full length straight wall cases can be hard to resize. I load .44 magnums and am surprised how much pressure I have to put on the press. I use Imperial Wax. This really helps. A little less pressure would prevent some of the instability. Make sure the shell holder is the right size. The case being able to move would result in an off center downward pressure. As far as the bulge, the bullet is larger in diameter than the sized shell case. Not a problem as long as it chambers easily. Same goes with the length. Make sure it completely seats then chamber that mother and shoot it. I've had a couple of NEF Handi rifles. They are well built tough guns.

September 19, 2009, 05:37 PM
I use Lee dies for my 444 and have never experienced the problems you describe, one thing I do differently is I use a RCBS # 18 shell holder, it fits the rim of the case much closer than the standard Lee # 11. The Lee holder will allow the tall case to lean a little, but it should come back to center in the die, oh, I also use a Lyman "M" die for the case mouth.

September 19, 2009, 06:08 PM
So... Don't worry about seeing the bullet's "silhouette" in the case and overall length isn't anything to worry about with the Handi-Rifle, that's good to know (though I'd love to know how to do the load without having the 'silhouette' as the factory stuff doesn't have that). Thanks!

Like I said, pressure wasn't an issue in sizing, was a lot easier than the necked 30-30 cases, just nicely slid in and out (with a bit of pressure along the way). So is having the uneven neck normal? I'm willing to try ordering the RCBS #18 shellholder if there's a chance the lee is just too loose and not doing the job. I have the full lee shellholder kit, is there another lee holder that might work better? 11 is the one that the kit shows as being correct.

Did you have neck expansion issues too, or what was the reason that you went with the lyman expander? I think that because the LE brass is shorter, it may not be contacting enough to expand properly (not reaching up high enough), is that possible?

Going to specifics, has anyone worked with the Hornady LeveRevolution once-fired brass and / or FTX bullets before? I'd appreciate anyone with specific experience with them chiming in!

Thanks again for the replies so far, that is very helpful in solving some of the pieces of the puzzle!

September 19, 2009, 07:20 PM
The Lee # 11 is used for 45 Colt and 454 Casull as well as the 44 Sp., 44 Mag, and 444. The 45 case rims are slightly larger, the #11 works for most situations but an accumulation of minor differences can lead to noticeable cosmetics.
With the single shot rifle try neck sizing only enough to hold the bullet in place and then crimp in a separate operation, should eliminate the bulge of the bullet somewhat.

September 19, 2009, 08:13 PM
I've loaded 30-30 and 35 Rem FTX bullets in Remington brass and Hornady Leverevolution brass without a problem. I know it's not the same as a straight wall, but I've been loading for a few decades, and I've learned a trick or two.
I believe as you get more familiar with the die set, you'll be making good ammo.
Your bullet seater may not have the ideal point shape for a straight-on bullet install. You may be able to swap with another Lee seater plug that matches up better to the point on your FTX bullet.


Steve Marshall
September 19, 2009, 09:53 PM
The problem you are experiencing with the expander is due to the brass not being centered on the expander or vice versa. If you have sloppy threads on the expander it might not be centered in the die. It also could be that you are pushing the brass over with your fingers. Take the die out of the press then take the expander out of the die. Then take a sized case and see how much you can wiggle the brass around inside your die. That way you can visualize how easy it is to bell off center. If you aren't holding the case against the shellholder try that. Just ensure you aren't leaning the case. If none of this works try centering the loosened expander with a sized case and then tightening the lock rings.

September 19, 2009, 10:04 PM
overall length isn't anything to worry about with the Handi-Rifle,

Didn't mean that, its just the single action/bolt action guns are more tolerant of case length than semi autos. If you start getting resistance when you close the action then the shell case isn't seating all the way in the chamber and closing the action is forcing it in. What could "possibly" happen is that the resistance/pressure could result in ignition without the action being locked. This is possible with reloads if the primer isn't completely seated below the case rim. Seat the primers well. Suggest setting them on a piece of glass to insure there is no wobble. I do that with my .308s, 30-06, and .223s that I shoot in semi autos. Occasionally one won't completely seat and it won't sit flat on the glass.

September 20, 2009, 12:01 AM
Yeah, I've loaded 100 of the 30-30 ftx, no problems. Barnes 150s in the 30-30 took some interesting turns and I learned a bit from that, but it all turned out good as well.

Back to the 444... I'll try holding the shell in place better and see how that goes. It does seem to wobble around quite a bit in there. If I see a slight bulge at the base of the bullet, is it safe to shoot?

In terms of the OAL, I'm thinking that it really should be fine; they seem to shorten the brass to make up mostly for the gummy tip's added length, which would cause feeding issues in a lever or other multi bullet gun, but in the Handi Rifle, it really shouldn't matter since all that matters is that the bullet not get forced into the lands during chambering, right? With all else equal, the FTX bullet seems to be more or less a 265 Hornady XTP bullet with the tip drilled for the gummi that's added, from what I can tell.

I took the expander part out, it didn't look completely centered, and it does look better than it was. Perhaps this is a bit of a few things combined.

In terms of the primers, I use the Lee hand primer, and that works pretty well, and I'm pretty careful about making sure the primers are seated pretty good by feel, and then visually inspect them in a loading tray afterwards as a gut check.

NCSmitty - Are you aware of a suitable seater plug for this particular application? There weren't any tool marks on the bullet from seating, but I guess it's possible that the round seater is tilting the bullet off to one side a bit which may be why the bullet has a bulge around 3/4 of the case around it's bottom if it's being pushed that way a little during seating. Would the 30-30 seating plug work?

BTW, I was planning on using H335 in these, but I can't seem to fit even the posted starting load in the LE brass and be able to fully seat to the cannuelar groove. I've settled on using 48.5 gr of TAC, as that looks like it should fit alright. I've got H4895 around too, but it also seems to be a bit much powder for the case. People seem to like H4198 or H322 for the 444, but I don't have those and just spent a small fortune on what I do have, so I'll need to make it work for now. Anyone else try TAC in the 444? If the powder is getting compressed, could that be a contributing factor in this (esp bulging at the bullet base)? I've never dealt with compressed powders before in loading, are there any tips on doing that "the right way"? If the TAC is getting compressed, it's not by a whole lot, but it's hard to tell.

Thanks again for the tips, please keep them coming! You can never learn enough about this stuff, and I know I won't be happy until I'm making rounds that look and perform as well as those that I've done for the 30-30.

September 20, 2009, 10:29 AM
Would the 30-30 seating plug work?

gmbailey21, if your 30-30 seater plug is a Lee and it has a better profile to match the 444 FTX bullet tip , then try it.
If you cannot center the bullet tip in the seater because of the seater profile, the bullet has the potential to be started off-center and will stretch the case on one side. You can end up with a loaded bullet that is not concentric to the axis of the bore.

As far as powder selection, you need to pick some powders that will give top performance with a charge weight that is not compromised by the depth of the bullet.
IMR/H4198, and Alliant Rel-7 should give you the best velocity with good load density.
The powders that you have in stock will work, but chances are, will not give you top velocity because the bullet encroaches on the powder space. They still may give you good enough velocity and the accuracy that you want.


September 20, 2009, 01:02 PM
I'm going to try to find a better seater plug and shell holder and go from there, it sounds like the combo is causing my problems (shell holder is causing the brass stretch more on one side and the seater may be tilting the bullet slightly during seating, which is putting it ever so slightly off center.

I'll yank out the plug from the 30-30 die and see how that lines up on the bullets and go from there, any common plug known for a wide conical bullet? I bet Hornady has some sort of custom job out there; I'll have to call them on Monday if the 30-30 one doesn't look quite right. Maybe they have a custom set just for the FTX LE brass.

I guess it is also possible that just because one side of the brass is stretched more, it is weaker and thus the bullet shifts in that direction during seating.

At any rate, I need to def get the brass issue fixed first. Anyone aware of a better shellholder than the RCBS #18 shell holder MMCSRET recommended for 444 brass?

The wife won't be happy with me heading to grab yet MORE reloading supplies... Just spent 200 on powder,primers, and supplies last week. I'll try TAC and then grab H4198 or RL7 if that doesn't do the job. I heard that RL7 is VERY temp sensitive though, is that true? I'm not a crazy man, so I only hunt down to about single digits F. I've heard that H322 works well too, but I'd have to double check the load to see if it's below 48 gr to make sure it would fit. It is a smaller grain, so it makes sense that it may fit more densely and thus fit more in the case. I've never worked with H4198 or any RL powders yet, so I don't know how they look/handle.

Thanks again for the replies, they are appreciated!

September 20, 2009, 01:50 PM
For the shellholder, the RCBS #18 isn't listed as being for the .444, can you confirm that you don't mean the #28, which is for the .444?

These are the ones that I'm looking at, if you know that one holds the case for the .444 tightly, please chime in!

Hornady #27 - Listed for 308 Marlin Express and 444 Marlin

RCBS #28 - Listed 444 Marlin

RCBS #18???? - Listed for 44 Special and 44 Mag

Redding #19 - Listed for 44 Special, 44 Mag, and 444 Marlin

Any of these should fit a lee press, right? I'm leaning towards the Hornady #27 just because it is for the Marlin Express 308 and the 444, which I would hope means that the 444 fits pretty tightly.

Thoughts or experience with one holding the shell solidly? Likely nearly all of these will probably be better than the current Lee #11 that I've got from the sounds of things. I'll prob put the order in on Monday night or Tuesday, so any thoughts on this is appreciated.

Thanks again for the replies, and please keep them coming!

September 21, 2009, 11:55 AM
Just a note, I took out the seater plugs, the 30-30 plug I looked at first, which didn't line up at all, then I looked at the actual 444 seater plug on a bullet, and it was spot on, very little if any wiggle, it fit quite snuggly, so it looks like maybe the shell holder is my only problem here.

Any comments on the listed shellholders in the prior post would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks for all of your suggestions and assistance!

September 21, 2009, 02:03 PM
I was aware that RCBS listed #28 for 444, I don't know why, I'm sure they do. I tried the Lee #11 that came with my die set and didn't like it so I took the RCBS#18 off my rack and it worked much more gooder, so thats what I use. This way I didn't invest in a duplicate shell holder. I already have a lot of duplicates from trades and experiments, etc.

September 21, 2009, 02:54 PM
Thanks for replying, it looks like most of the ones that list the 444 also are listed for the 44 Mag and 44 Special, so it makes sense that they'd both fit, just wanted to verify since the number (28 vs 18) is only one digit off. Not sure why they go through the trouble of offering separate ones, maybe to try to sell an extra holder here and there?

Thanks again!

I hope to hear from others about experiences with the other shell holders, esp Hornady, so please reply if you have used any of these!

September 21, 2009, 04:50 PM
I have a few Hornady shell holders, I tried several different brands for 22 Hornet before I settled on Hornady, it held the case better than any of the others.

Steve Marshall
September 21, 2009, 07:58 PM
The reason for different shellholders is that the 444 is bigger in diameter than the 44 by about .015".

September 21, 2009, 09:19 PM
Just measured a new Winchester 44 case and a new Remington 444 case and I came up with a difference of .003. Neither case has ever been loaded or fired.
Veeeerrrryyyyy interesting!!!!!!!!

September 22, 2009, 12:16 AM
Did you look in the shellholder where the shell slides in or the base where it slides into the press? If either of the joints have any crud in them the lineup will not be straight. I do have to occasionally clean out that area on the press and on the shellholder with a jewelers screwdriver. Crud seems to stick in the side of the notch and cause problems. May also be a defective shell holder. I have Lyman carbide dies and use that shellholder as well as the one with the lee shellholder set. Both work OK for me. You may gain some answers if you take the die out of the press and run a unsized brass up inside the threaded area. Look and see if the brass is centered in the hole, if not find out why. Good luck.

September 25, 2009, 12:05 PM
Thanks for the pointers, the holder lines up and the slot where it fits into looks clear, but the holder holds the shell very loosely.

I'll use a loaded 444 to align the seater plug and then tighten it up, hopefully that'll help too, thanks for the suggestion.

I've settled on the Hornady shellholder as it looks solid, and is a few bucks cheaper than the RCBS at Midway. I'm grabbing the Lyman expander die while I'm at it to see if that does a better job than the Lee one is doing.

Would having a machine shop chop off the .16 difference from the bottom of the die help resolve these issues on the LE once fired brass?

Quick question, is the brass that has been sized, and stretched more on one side than the other, ruined? How do I know if it's safe to use, or is there a way to correct it? An expensive lesson learned if not (60 pieces of brass sized already...).

Thanks again for the great replies, I appreciate the pointers and suggestions!

September 25, 2009, 12:54 PM
You should not experience any problems with the sized cases, maybe, possibly, could be that, might not, last quite as long. I would go ahead and verify length and load and fire them. As long as your firearm is in good shape you will not have any problems due to case failure. I would not alter the die until you have eliminated all other possible contributing factors. If the die is wrong, Lee will make it right, so you shouldn't have to.
Good shooting!!!

October 7, 2009, 12:48 AM
Thanks again for all of the feedback and recommendations!

The Hornady shellholder is still a bit loose, but much better than the Lee (wowzers much better!), that combined with the Lyman expander die (works much better than the Lee) and using a factory bullet to line up and tighten the seating plug seems to have pretty much done the trick.

They aren't perfect, but they are much better, and I don't know how much of the imperfections are due to the first round of sizing. I resized again and then trimmed and then expanded, rechamfered/deburred before loading.

The only thing that has me still scratching my head is the Max OAL is listed at 2.570 for the cartridge, but the load data has a Min OAL of 2.62.

Loaded to the first (lower) cannulure, the OAL is about 2.67, to the second is about 2.52. I've loaded 10 to 2.67, is that fine based on the conflicting data (from the current lee loading manual) or should I go to the second cannulure and be at 2.52?

I'm using 300 Gr Hornady XTP double cannulured bullets with 40 Gr of IMR 4198

I couldn't find solid load data for IMR 4198, despite IMR showing on the description that it is great for .444. IMR 4198 is a little punchier than H4198, which is Max of 42.x, so it should be fine, and I've found some postings with people using 43-46gr for the same bullets with IMR (seems really hot), so I should be safe. Of course, if anyone has a manual with actual load data, any postings would be appreciated!


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