Pistol dies confusion


April 20, 2013, 03:25 PM
I'm brand new to reloading...I am assembling my equipment/components...I am confused about pistol dies and the difference between 3 and 4 die sets. I think the 4th die is a separate crimping die. Five years ago, before I knew ANYthing I bought some used equipment and am just now unboxing it. The dies are each a 3 die set by Lee, with one exception...a 3 die set by RCBS for .357mag/.38Spl. This RCBS set really throws me as it does not have a powder thru die.
I have chosen a Lee Classic 4 hole Turret press to buy and prefer to utilize all 4 die holes/positions. Therefore, if I use a 3 die set of mine and buy a separate crimping die, which I have read is preferred, will the double crimping cause me problems?
Would I be better off to sell my 3 die sets and buy new Lee 4 die sets for each of my several pistol calibers I wish to reload?
I plan to reload .357 Sig and cannot figure out from the ads online what exact bullet (measurements) I should buy because the bullet's length is crucial, as I understand it. The diameter appears to be .355

I have a couple of very old reloading manuals which do not have .357 Sig information in them. I plan to purchase a Lee 2nd Edition manual as well.
As you folks already know it takes a lot of money to assemble all that is needed to begin reloading and on top of that I saw fit to buy a gun safe. So, maybe once I actually start reloading some of my questions will be answered as I progress.
Any info you all can provide will be very helpful. Thank you!

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April 20, 2013, 03:34 PM
4 die sets are exactly the same as 3 die sets with the addition of a crimp die. The seater die has a crimp ridge in it, but if you raise the die up a few threads in the press so that the crimp ridge doesn't reach the brass, then crimp with the 4th die, or just seat and crimp in one step with the seater die.

Lee's powder measure will only work with their expander die. Call FS Reloading and buy just the expander die for 38/357.

For 357 Sig, look for bullets that have a flat nose or a hollow point. They will have a longer shank than round nose bullets in the same weight.

Buy the Speer or the Lyman reloading manual.

April 20, 2013, 03:46 PM
hAkron pretty much answered your questions, but your 3 die RCBS set should be:

Die #1: sizing/decapping die
Die #2: case mouth belling die
Die #3: seating/crimping die

RCBS dies are meant to be used with a separate powder measure, which is why they don't have a powder through expander.

If your RCBS dies are pretty old, the first die will only size, and the second die will decap and expand the case mouth. The third die will be the same as new dies, seating/crimping. I prefer to seat and crimp in two separate operations, which requires another die. The reason for that is I don't like forming the crimp while the bullet is still being seated as the ram pushes the case up into the die.

Hope this helps.


PS: Welcome to The High Road!

April 20, 2013, 04:13 PM
Wow. Thanks to each of you, hAkron and to ReloaderFred for your very prompt replies to this new kid on the block. Both of your answers are detailed and clear, which is somewhat unusual at least from the couple of people I have talked to in person. You two take the Greek out of the subject!!
Also, this is my first ever attempt at an online forum and that is the reason it has taken some time for me to respond. Sorry.

April 20, 2013, 04:35 PM
Welcome to THR.

We have a wealth of knowledge here in our members. No matter what the question, someone here knows the answer. :)

April 20, 2013, 04:36 PM
"Buy the Speer or the Lyman reloading manual."

Great advice,, Read a few ; )

April 20, 2013, 06:27 PM
As someone who is relatively new to reloading as well, I would suggest that you get at least a couple reloading manuals (I have Lyman 49 and the Current Speer manuals).
Read them through, they have a veritable font of knowledge and step by step instructions that will teach you all you need to know. Also, if you happen to peruse YouTube, there are many helpful visual tutorials from several channels there (again I would suggest you check out some of IraqVeteran8888's and Hickok45's reloading/hand loading videos).

April 20, 2013, 09:28 PM
Read your manuals and if you get the Lee manual it will explain a lot about the reloading process and it talks about making bullets too. You can also get the ABC's of reloading and it to will explain the whole process. These books have more information in them than loading data. As for the equipment there is no end to the tools you can buy or the cost.:)

Good luck with your new hobby...

April 20, 2013, 09:46 PM
some times you do not need a separate crimping die and a 3 die set will work. I do not use a crimp die in my autos, but use them in my revolvers so the recoil does not pull the bullet out and jam the cylinder

April 21, 2013, 08:17 AM
I've never need a crimp die for any of my cartridges. I just can't understand why someone wants to do a extra step when there is no need.

April 21, 2013, 08:36 AM
I've only been reloading a year or so and only for pistol. I shoot a lot and use single stage press. I have a few manuals and like Lyman 49 the best.

Some things I learned along the way about crimping: don't flare the case any more than you HAVE to. Seating dies use a roll crimp which is preferred for revolvers. Since most semi-autos headspace from the case mouth a taper crimp is preferred. I have tried both crimps in 9mm, .40 S&W and .45acp.

If my information is wrong someone will correct me I'm sure. Just be nice.

April 21, 2013, 10:02 AM
ReloaderFred: the second die is the expander die that will also flare/bell the case mouth.
If the dies are really old, you will have a sizing die (steel, not carbide), an expander/decapper die, and and seat/crimp die. Back then, pre-'80s, the sizing die had virtually no bevel to help the case enter the die.

April 21, 2013, 11:49 AM
If you bought used dies, make sure they are carbide sizing dies, otherwise you will have to lube your cases. You can keep the old dies and add a carbide sizer. Also, look at the seater plugs, as there are different shapes to fit different bullet nose profiles. I have picked up old seater dies and use them for different bullets. This way, I can just change out the die, not the seater plug, requiring readjustment of the die. For example I have .45 hollow point seater dies and .45 round nose seater dies etc.

April 21, 2013, 12:02 PM

We're both saying the same thing, however carbide sizing dies have been around since the 1960's. I bought my first carbide .38/.357 carbide sizing die in 1968, and I'm still using it. I also have some of the old die sets that only size with the first die, and bell and decap in the second die.

Hope this helps.


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