Die adjustment question


November 10, 2009, 11:11 PM
I seem to be finding conflicting information about adjusting Lee carbide sizing dies. Even video on the Lee web site seems to contradict the pamphlet that comes with the Lee press I bought, which also contradicts the ABCs of reloading. The contradiction in the ABCs of reloading I will ignore since I figure Lee knows more about Lee equipment specifics than the author of ABCs. The contradictory info from the Lee document to the Lee video is disconcerting though.

Some instructions say if using carbide dies not to let the die come into contect with the shell holder, others say to screw the sizing die in with the ram all the way up until it makes contact with the shell holder. The video titled "Carbide Sizing die adjustment" says to insert the die until it makes firm contact with the shell holder then lower the ram and turn the die in another quarter turn; while the instructions with my press say the same except for an additional "NOTE: Carbide dies should not be screwed in the additional 1/4 to 1/2 turn" :scrutiny:

Anyone have any insight on this? I don't know anyone that reloads to mentor me in person, so I am going with an abundance of caution checking most info I learn against multiple sources. Am I being too anal about this?

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November 10, 2009, 11:52 PM
Hey Atroxus, When I set carbide dies (Lee turret press) I run the ram all the way to the top then tighten the sizing die as tight as I can get it by hand - tight enough to take out all the slack. If you put to much pressure on the carbide it will chip or crack. HTH


November 10, 2009, 11:59 PM
Hi Atroxus,
I started Handloading with Lees ann. kit a couple years ago lots of fun.
I read in Handloader Magizine this month, to screw the sizer die into the press untill it just barely touches the shellholder. If you are useing a carbide dies, insert a piece of paper between the shellholder and bottom of the die. Carbide is hard but also brittle so .002 to.003-inch gap.
Hope this helps,

November 11, 2009, 12:13 AM
I agree with Seedtic. What a lot of people don't realize is that a press will reach TDC (top dead center) then "cam over" and go down. The distance it goes down varies with the press.

The dies must be set at TDC not at the cam over low point. As stated before, you run the risk of cracking the carbide ring if the pressure is too great.

November 11, 2009, 01:17 AM
The classic cast turret press (and I assume its brother the cast single stage press too...) have stops on the linkage to prevent cam-over.. :)

November 11, 2009, 06:32 AM
Tighten down as tight as you can by hand, and lock it. You want to size All the case you can;)

Non carbide rifle dies, get an extra 1/4 turn after contact.

November 11, 2009, 08:56 AM
I adjust all my sizers so they barely miss contacting the shell plate. There is no need to get that last few thousandths sized 99% of the time. For straight revolver cases you can stop sizing 1/8" short and it won't hurt a thing. For auto cases you will want to size completely, but again, it doesn't need to be touching the shell holder/plate. If that last few thousandths is making a difference between working or not, you have another problem. :)

November 11, 2009, 09:40 AM
Carbide rings on sizing dies are brittle and at no time should they ever contact the steel shell holder as a non-carbide die is designed to do. If done so , that carbide ring can break or shatter. Use a match book cover or a business card as a feeler gauge to adjust and lock your die that set distance from your shell holder. Check your press' complete cycle action and adjust your sizing die at your ram's lowest point.

November 11, 2009, 09:59 AM
Loadedround said it. Carbide is brittle and will crack if struck on the hardened shellplate.

November 11, 2009, 10:40 AM
Cool, thanks for the info everyone. Sounds like a lot of people let it touch but don't use the extra 1/4 turn and don't have any problems as long as they are not slamming the ram into the carbide. :)

November 11, 2009, 10:58 AM
No touching. Turn it in until it touches, then back out a quarter turn.

November 11, 2009, 11:29 AM
Carbide dies are made almost exclusively for straight-wall pistol calibers.
As noted in the above posts, it is not necessary to size them down to the last gnats azz available from the carbide die contacting the shell holder. The thicker case web near the rim does not expand anyway, so it doesn't need resizing.

Steel dies are almost exclusively used for bottle-neck rifle calibers where the extra 1/4 turn is needed to get all the press flex out and insure full length sizing of the shoulder back to normal dimensions.

Bottom line:
Straight case carbide die = No die contact is needed.
Bottle-neck case steel die = Tighten to contact and add a 1/4 turn or so more until you can feel the press "bump" TDC.


November 11, 2009, 12:32 PM
It seems that many are assuming that the carbide ring sticks out past the steel of the die encircling it. It doesn't on the Dillon dies I have, unless I measured them wrong or your shellholder isn't flat. So it is a non-issue because the shellholder won't contact and apply pressure to the carbide directly, at least on the dies I measured. Has anyone on here actually cracked a carbide die?

Even with Dillon's carbide 223 die which I have adjusted into the shellplate for proper headspace, I have no issues after thousands upon thousands of rounds loaded. Of course the plate isn't hardened steel and has play in it, but again, there is no carbide to shellholder contact.

November 11, 2009, 08:31 PM
The carbide dies overly squeeze the lower portion of our cases, much more than is needed. Sizing pistol brass as low as possible accomplishes nothing good and actually insures premature body splits. Leave the bottom of the carbide sizer a full turn off the shell holder, it will work fine and your cases will last a lttle longer.

Brand othe die doesn't matter at all.

November 11, 2009, 10:20 PM
I have three sets of carbide 44 mag dies, two RCBS and a Lyman. With the RCBS sets, the carbide insert is flush with the bottom of the dies. There would be now way I would let them contact the shell holder! With the Lyman set, the carbide insert is recessed up from the die bottom, I could see where it may not hurt that carbide insert, but I do not allow it to touch either, works just as good! I have carbide expander buttons for most of my rifle dies and was cleaning a set and was looking at the button and was amazed how easy they work compared to the hard steel. I proceeded to place the button and expander stem into and unsized cased and I guess I put a little sideways pressure some how, busted that $30 sucker in half! Carbide is brittle!

Jimmy K

November 12, 2009, 01:52 AM
Well I have my sizing die adjusted and have sized my first 50 cases. I am curious though if it is okay to leave dies in the press when not in use? For example if I know I am going to be doing more resizing next time I am using my press would it hurt anything to leave the sizing die in? Or should I remove the dies immediately when finished for the day?

November 12, 2009, 10:24 AM
Perfectly fine.

David Wile
November 12, 2009, 10:40 AM
Hey Atroxus,

I don't own any Lee dies, so I cannot speak for them and what their instructions tell you to do. However, I have at least ten sets of carbide dies (mostly RCBS), and I have been using carbide since they first came out a long time ago. From my first set of carbide dies, it has been my practice to place a piece of thin matchbook cardboard atop the shellholder after the ram has been raised all the way. I then screw the carbide die all the way down until it is finger tight on the cardboard, and then I lock it in with the ring. I lower the ram and remove the cardboard matchbook, and then when I raise the ram again, I can see a thin sliver of light between the bottom of the die and the top of the shellholder. This keeps the ram and shellholder from hitting and breaking the more brittle carbide ring in the sizing die. No, I have never broken a carbide die.

When it comes to adjusting the case neck expanding die and the bullet seating die, I do adjust both so they are firmly touching the shellholder. However, when adjusting the bullet seating die, I seat and crimp the bullets in one step. To do this properly, you must make the adjustments in several steps to get the die adjusted so that it seats the bullet and crimps it just as the ram and shellholder hit the bottom of the die.

As to leaving your sizing die in your press, sure why not? However, my thoughts are that you finish loading with your seating/crimping die in the press. Wouldn't you then have to take that die out before using your sizing die? On a single stage press, I am more likely to simply take the last die out ouf the press and put it back in its die case when I am finished.

Best wishes,
Dave Wile

November 13, 2009, 10:35 AM
Go with instructions and read info here. http://www.leeprecision.com/cgi/faq/index.cgi You can also Email Lee.

November 13, 2009, 07:20 PM
Or should I remove the dies immediately when finished for the day?

If you don't remove then the Reloading Police will bang on your door at 3AM !!


Congrats on the re-sizing. Your mom and I are really proud of you. Are you using lube? I find that even with carbide, just the tiniest bit of lube or wax really smooths things out. If you're tumbling with wax, the lube is the wax.

November 13, 2009, 07:27 PM
I like to put mine away, but it won't hurt a thing. :)

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