9mm Cartridge Runout


Friar Whently
January 17, 2013, 02:03 AM
Hey guys, I'm having some difficulty reloading 9mm and I'm about at my wits end. The issue is cartridge runout - in about 10-25% of my rounds, if you lay the cartridge on its side and roll it, the tip of the bullet wobbles a little bit. Essentially some of my bullets are seating slightly crooked.

Brass - mixed, 1-3x fired; this problem happens with equal frequency regardless of the headstamp.
Bullets - Zero 115gr FMJ, 1.125 COAL
Dies - Lee sizing die, Lyman M expander die, Hornady seating die, Lee FCD. The problem was worse before I got the M die and the seating die, but I can't get 100% perfectly alligned bullets. The problem is present regardless of whether or not I use the FCD
Press - Lee hand press (the Nutcracker); I live in a small apartment with no room for a mounted press, unfortunately.

I've tried expanding more and less, to no avail. More expansion actually worsens the problem, as there's more play between the bullet and the case. When seating, I start the bullet in about half-way, lower the press ram and turn the bullet a bit, then seat the rest of the way. This has helped, but again not 100%. I've tried the Lee U die and undersized the cases but this makes it worse. I've even gone so far as to pull apart a crooked round, chuck the bullet in a drill just to make sure the bullet itself isn't a defective, crooked bullet, but the bullets are all fine.

Thinking the bullets would seat straighter with a longer bullet, I've tried some Zero 124gr FMJ. These seat straighter than the 115gr, but about 10% of those are still slightly crooked.

All cartridges chamber and fire just fine, but I'm trying to make the most accurate rounds I can, which means having the straightest rounds possible. Short of spending a bunch of money on a Redding Competition Seater die or somehow mounting a better press to my wall or something, I'm at a loss of what to do. Any ideas?

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January 17, 2013, 02:17 AM
Without any die installed, if you look down the threaded hole and watch the ram go up, does it wobble around and does it look centered in the threaded hole?

January 17, 2013, 03:44 AM
I've never used hornady dies.

On that note, take yer seating die apart and see if the "seating plunger" has 2 sides....

useless signiture

January 17, 2013, 07:39 AM
If you start the bullets crooked, they will seat crooked. The die will not straighten them out entirely. What I do is seat them about half way, rotate 180 degrees, and finish seating. That way they come out straight. You can only do this on a single stage press. If you have a progressive devil machine, good luck.

Friar Whently
January 17, 2013, 09:04 AM
Thanks for the replies so far. Not sure about the ram wobbling as it goes up...I'll check that. I would think though that since it's only a subset of my rounds that seat crooked, it might not be that.

The Hornady die comes with 2 seating stems, one flat and one conical. I'm using the conical one for my conical bullets.

Also, I am stopping half-way through seating and rotating the cartridge before seating the rest of the way...my hand press is single stage.

January 17, 2013, 09:12 AM
Do you have the same issue with other FMJ/RN bullets?

I use Lee dies and the 9mm bullet seater plug is shaped primarily for FMJ/RN bullets but don't have issues with CN/SWC/FP/HP bullets.

Have you inspected the seater plug to make sure it is clean?

When seating, I start the bullet in about half-way
I think that's too much flare. I flare the case just enough so the bullet can be barely set inside the case mouth.

January 17, 2013, 09:25 AM
Check your shell holder, make sure it is clean--dirt could be tipping your case to one side.


Friar Whently
January 17, 2013, 12:45 PM
bds: I've tried Winchester brand bullets as well with the same issues, though they are shaped exactly the same as the Zeros. Haven't tried any others.

Also, when I said that I seat the bullet half-way, I meant half-way with the press. I only flare just enough for the case to accept the bullet, then seat half-way with the press, lower the ram and rotate the bullet 180 degrees, then seat the bullet the rest of the way.

Thanks for all the replies so far guys.

January 17, 2013, 01:18 PM
I think it's the shell holder. I love Lee and I think you said you have a Lee rig but the thing about especially the Lee 9x19 holder is it's quite loose/will hold way more cases than let's say the RCBS holder. It'll rip off rims more often than any other.. just the way it goes.
Barring the wobble, how do they print on paper?

January 17, 2013, 01:30 PM
Since you are working with jacketed bullets you can seat them as I do and have been for decades, as follows. Evenly chamfer the inside of the mouth, set the bullets on top of the mouth, they will allign straight with the mouth, and then seat without belling the mouth and no crimp at all. With the inside of the mouth chamfered the bullets will sit start straight, and seat straight.


Friar Whently
January 17, 2013, 01:37 PM
Quick question...do RCBS shell holders fit in Lee equipment (kinda' like how dies are interchangeable), or does each company do their own thing?

About how they're printing on paper...that's the thing. I've only recently started reloading 9mm (reloaded lots of 38 with zero issues) and have been working up a load. I'm finally at the point where I can make a really large batch of rounds, which will give me a decent amount of crooked ones to really test the accuracy of. Up to this point I've only had 2-5 of these crooked rounds per range trip which, IMO, aren't enough to really make a comparison with. Now I have about 20-25 of them. It may turn out that I can't tell any difference between the crooked ones and the straight ones, but it just seems that they would HAVE to have SOME effect on accuracy. We'll see for sure this weekend...

And gamestalker...that's a brilliant idea. I'll have to try that.

January 17, 2013, 02:14 PM
Friar, if you get better results after rotating the partially seated bullet, I think that implies a concentricity problem. I'd look at the shellholder/ram/die alignment.

Yes, RCBS holders will work just fine a Lee press.

January 17, 2013, 02:23 PM
Lee makes two different 9mm shell holders.
The #19 is a one size fits all used with 9mm, .40 S&W, 10mm, etc.

It is by necessity a sloppy fit on the smaller 9mm case.

The other one is the #6, which is made to fit the 9mm case, but is too small to fit .40 S&W/10mm.

For some perverse reason, they provide the sloppy loose #19 with 9mm die sets.


John C
January 17, 2013, 02:24 PM
I've been wondering about this exact same thing, myself, but for rifle rounds.

My plan is to accumulate a batch of off-center rounds and mark the side of the case where the bullet is tilted. Then shoot the batch with the marks in the same position, to see if I get a group away from the normal POI. That will tell you the degree of which the runout is affecting accuracy. I plan on facing all the bullets to the right or left, since that would work better for me. Off of a rest, horizontal stringing is more apparent than vertical stringing, for me.


January 17, 2013, 04:06 PM
seating the bullet half way then turning 180 degrees and finishing the seating will not cure a canted bullet. seat the bullet just enough to hold it in the case, then turn 180 degrees and finish the seating.

worth a try!


January 17, 2013, 04:32 PM
So you didn't say if you were in fact using a "whole" Lee rig (holder).. anyway, you're probably in good shape.

Friar Whently
January 17, 2013, 09:11 PM
Well guys, I went out and got a RCBS shellholder. It seems like the casing has a lot less play in the RCBS holder than the Lee #19 shellholder I have (they were out of the Lee #6), and it seems to have helped a lot. Still not 100%, but the crooked rounds are consistently only 1 out of 10, and the ones that are have a pretty minimal runout. Things are even more improved with the longer 124gr bullets.

Gamestalker - I tried your chamfer trick, but it didn't really work out for me. The bullets wouldn't really sit well and I had to really balance them on the case mouth, lest they fall to one side. Consequently most had a pretty pronounced runout.

I'll continue to tweak things here and there and see how things go. Who knows, I may not be able to tell any difference between the crooked rounds and the straight ones on paper, and I will have been driving myself nuts for nothing. Though I suppose the more you struggle with an issue and think of ways to solve it, you end up with a better understanding of the process, which is always a good thing. Thanks for all the help!

January 17, 2013, 09:29 PM
"The Hornady Custom Grade New Dimension Seater Die is a great die for the avid reloader. The CGND Seater Die will improve your bullet seating and accuracy with its floating bullet alignment sleeve and stem. The floating sleeve is designed to align the bullet and case prior to seating, preventing any deformations on the base of the bullet. The Seater Die features a roll crimp. For the ultimate accuracy and precision, you can add the Hornady Microjust Seating Stem (sold separately #394708) to create your own Micrometer Seating Die! The CGND Seater Die is also compatible with popular bullets like the A-Max and FTX bullet lines with the addition of the appropriate Hornady Die Seater Stem (sold separately). Shellholder sold separately." And it works with 3 different calibers? No wonder there is alignment problems. It floats & rolls. Buy RCBS, no float.

January 17, 2013, 09:46 PM
38 Super .384"
9MM .380"
.380 .373"
The loaded rounds have a very different diameter when measured on the brass at the case mouth. If the seating die is made to work with the largest, this may leave a lot of slop when seating? Add in a floating bullet alignment sleeve and stem for more slop. Just how i see it. :confused: http://i338.photobucket.com/albums/n420/joe1944usa/Firearms%20%20and%20%20Reloading/9MMLuger1.jpg

January 17, 2013, 11:03 PM
I ran into the same issue. Even the manufacturers of 9mm ammo have problems with run-out. (Look at some of the Remington 9mm JHP ammo some time.... A LOT OF RUNOUT!!)/

I've done several things to improve the run-out of my match 9mm ammo.
1. I got a Lee Carbide "over size" die. It's 0.003" larger than the regular sizer dies.
2. I had a machinist turn down the powder through expander to "true" it up so that it expands the cases uniformly. This also helped.
3. Use Federal or Starline brass. It is more uniform. I had a 200rd batch of Winchester that I turned down with a Forster neck turner. These shot well until they eventually split. They needed to be annealed after turning to get decent life from them.
Also, minimally flare the case for bullet seating. Most expanders will expand the cases assymetrically and this contributes to the seated bullet run-out...
4. Get a Redding Micrometer "Match" inline bullet seater die. This will start and seat the bullets straighter than the Lee.
5. Get a 0.003" over-size Factory crimp die. In the 9mm, this will align the bullet slightly after the seating will taper crimp the case neck.

Some bullets are better about seating straightly. I prefer the Hornady 115 and 124gr XTP's in this regard. Sierra's are quite good too, and they have long bearing surfaces and fairly blount ogives and wide hollow points that contribute to straight seating.

January 17, 2013, 11:22 PM
4. Get a Redding Micrometer "Match" inline bullet seater die. This will start and seat the bullets straighter than the Lee.
Friar Whently is using a Hornday Seating Die. Not a Lee :)

January 20, 2013, 03:28 PM
Custom seating plug. See if Hornady can make one for you. With LEE, you can send them 4 of your bullets, and they'll make a custom seating plug for a reasonable charge. I've never used their service, but I've cut a lot of custom seater plugs myself. A good fit on the seater plug reduces runout, OAL variation, and deformation of plated and hollowpoint bullets.

You might also try the Lyman M die instead of your regular expander. It works wonders on my cast rifle bullets. It might help with pistol bullets, too.

January 20, 2013, 03:39 PM
OP is using an M die.

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