What Dies for AR 15 5.56 Nato


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BGD
August 10, 2013, 12:42 AM
What dies should I get to reload for an AR 15. I have reloaded for bolt guns but never for an autoloader and these small base dies have got me confused. Do you need a small base die or can I just go with the regular 223 die?

What die would you buy?

Thanks,
Eric

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Otto
August 10, 2013, 12:56 AM
Full length small base dies are recommended. There's no need to crimp.

ConcernedCitizen
August 10, 2013, 02:39 AM
Small base dies are generally not required unless you're trying to resize brass from something with excessive headspace, such as machine gun brass, or have a rifle with a very tight chamber.

I started with small base dies, but have since switched over to standard full length dies in an effort to help prolong brass life. I have no issues with them feeding in an autoloader, as they are still SAAMI spec.

PACKIN' PLASTIC
August 10, 2013, 03:11 AM
A small base die simply sizes the base a little more and will help if your brass was fired in a fairly loose chamber and needs to fit into a tighter chamber. The disadvantage is you work your brass harder and may get a shorter life from it.

My first choice is the Dillon carbide set followed by the dillon steel die set both of which are small base 3 die sets with seperate crimping dies. If you choose to load mixed range brass that hasn't been trimmed to length I would get a Lee factory crimp die. OTOH if you are running a single stage press and all your brass is matching length you may prefer an RCBS die set which crimps as you seat and your round is done.

A case gauge is a must have item for properly adjusting your sizing die and checking for problems after sizing and crimping. There is no reason you should ever be at the range beating your buttstock on the bench trying to force the bolt open because of a bad reload.


PP

steve4102
August 10, 2013, 04:26 AM
From Sierra.

Despite the oft-repeated advice that autoloaders, pumpguns and lever-actions require small base dies, the Service Rifles may be the exception that proves the rule. While it’s true that all of these action types lack the powerful camming forces of a bolt-action, the more generous chamber dimensions common to most Service Rifles are normally compatible with standard dies. Please understand that this is a general statement, and that there are exceptions to this. The point is, you don’t need to automatically go to a small base die set. Most of the standard reloading dies produced by reputable firms, such as RCBS, will resize fired brass properly to work in these rifles.

Link.

http://www.exteriorballistics.com/reloadbasics/gasgunreload.cfm

I load for a several semi-autos and I do not own a single SB die. Reg FL dies work perfect in my AR's, Rugers and Brownings.

rfwobbly
August 10, 2013, 04:46 AM
+1 on what Steve said above. Run of the mill Lee, RCBS or Hornady dies will work just fine. I ended up with a set from Hornady which have been trouble-free. A previous set from RCBS kept bending the decapping stem due to failure to stay centered correctly, but that seemed to be specific to my particular set.

Learning the lube and correct application of lube which your die set needs seems to be the harder part of reloading for the 223.

The Dillon carbide set is totally unwarranted. Those seem to be needed only for professional, automated reloading.

cfullgraf
August 10, 2013, 09:03 AM
If you do not have a set of 223 Remington dies and are reloading for an AR and plan to use cases from an unknown origin (aka not shot in your AR), I recommend getting a small base sizer die. With the variability of 223 Remington/5.56 NATO chambers the small base die won't hurt anything and will avoid some potential chambering problems.

If you already have a standard 223 Remington resizer die, there is no need to replace it until you absolutely know it is needed.

I use a small base sizing die for all my 223 Rem/5.56 NATO ARs so that I do not have to segregate brass between rifles. I do have a couple rifles with tight chambers that do not like cases fired in the other rifles unless the cases have been small base sized. It is an accumulation of tolerances thing.

X-Rap
August 10, 2013, 09:23 AM
I bought a small base sizer to use on brass that I've never used before but I doubt that it would be necessary since my reloads function well in about a dozen semi, pump and bolt rifles. I did have an AR that needed the chamber reamed but given the number of functioning guns I attributed the problem to a bad chamber rather than bad dies and sizing.
I don't think I'll use the small base beyond the first sizing of used range brass and will just stick with the Redding dies I have always used beyond that. I just use the small base die in a single stage FWIW.

PACKIN' PLASTIC
August 10, 2013, 09:58 AM
The Dillon carbide set is totally unwarranted. Those seem to be needed only for professional, automated reloading.

Dillon carbides last much longer than steel under normal (not perfect) conditions and create less friction sizing the base and expanding the neck while leaving a better finish behind.

Mind you at $153 a set they aren't for everyone but if you are a serious reloader and want the best .223 dies available they are the cat's pajamas.

I agree with you 100% on lubing, if you can't get your brass lubed properly you will never get consistent sizing results (headspace) or trim lengths if you are using a dillon trimmer. I use a lanolin oil and alcohol mixture sprayed on about 500 casings then I mix them by hand to get an even coat. It is very important that lubed brass be processed quickly or put in a sealed container where it won't collect grit.


PP

howlnmad
August 10, 2013, 11:19 AM
I've been using a standard Lee FL sizing die for years and never had a problem chambering a round.

SlamFire1
August 10, 2013, 11:24 AM
The idea that small base dies shorten life has been around a long time and I believe the idea was created by people who did not set up their dies with cartridge headspace gages. If you push the shoulder back too far, which is possible with some small base dies, you will surely have case head separations.

Regardless of what die you use, get a case gage, I use these Wilson, and size the case to gage minimum, the lower step on the second picture.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v479/SlamFire/Reloading/ReducedWilsongagemeasuringnew308bra.jpg (http://smg.photobucket.com/user/SlamFire/media/Reloading/ReducedWilsongagemeasuringnew308bra.jpg.html)

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v479/SlamFire/Reloading/Wilsongagebetweengoandnogage308brass.jpg (http://smg.photobucket.com/user/SlamFire/media/Reloading/Wilsongagebetweengoandnogage308brass.jpg.html)

For my gas guns I size everything with a small base die. I wish I could find small base dies for all calibers as it makes ammunition interchangeable across different rifles. You can get by with standard sizing dies, but be aware, your ammunition will be fatter than factory dimensions and occasionally your AR15 will jam. It takes almost no effort to find threads where the reloader used standard dies and his AR15 jammed.

Most of the bad sizing advice given on gas guns is offered by bolt gunners. As long as these guys can beat their bolt handle down by hand, and beat it open with a block of wood, they consider their ammunition good to go. They do things such as neck size, partial neck size, and many consider full length resizing something that someone else does. To function, semiautomatic mechanisms require much more attention to reloading details than bolt actions.

Walkalong
August 10, 2013, 12:34 PM
We need all the good posts from the 9000 do I need small base dies threads in one big thread. :D


Many people use standard dies and have no problems at all, but even if the rounds chamber fine in their semis, there is always the possibility (due to tolerances etc) that there are guns out their they will be tight or jam in.

I agree with SlamFire1 that brass life is most likely a non issue with small base dies as long as you control how far back you push the should, as that is the biggest culprit in wearing out brass.

But again, if you do not size to minimum headspace, which will work brass more than just pushing the shoulder back say .002 to .003 or to maximum headspace etc, then again, there may be guns out there with minimum headspace that will choke on them.

The cases must be small enough in diameter as well as having to shoulder pushed back to minimum headspace to make sure they will chamber in any gun with proper headspace, (From min to max.), and even then if a gun has under minimum headspace there could be problems. Most don't though.

I use standard dies and size to fit a Wilson gauge. They run in my guns just fine.

If I was loading rainy day ammo that had to absolutely work in any gun, I would use a small base die and size to minimum headspace, or use new brass, or buy new ammo.

carbine85
August 11, 2013, 09:20 AM
The small base die will only work your brass if the fired case came from a larger chamber. Most military brass should be re-sized with a small bass die. I have been using a small base die for 30 years and haven't had any issues. I also don't reload the brass past 6 reloads. If you are shooting from a tight chambered semi auto target rifle I would recommend a small base die. At least you are covering your bases that way.
The case lube you use is very important. Use a good lube and the small base die won't hurt anything.

Tommy Van Alen
August 11, 2013, 09:26 AM
I went with the RCBS small base X sizing die. I trim to 1.74 and with the mandrel on the RCBS small base X sizing die screwed down, it keeps the brass from growing. No more trimming! :D

RustyFN
August 11, 2013, 11:17 AM
I've been using a standard Lee FL sizing die for years and never had a problem chambering a round.

I have the same experience and all of my brass is range brass that have been shot in many different guns unknown to me.

Muddydogs
August 11, 2013, 12:54 PM
Small base dies are just another gimmick to sell to reloaders. Normal full length dies are made to size to SAAMI specs. Military chambers are usually reamed to the upper end of SAAMI specs so they will feed dirty nasty rounds. If anything a small base die might be beneficial to the guy that has a custom rifle that was built to minimum SAAMI specs and has a tight chamber. As for brass shot out of a machine gun or anything else its going to get sized to SAAMI specs in a full length die as well as a small base die. The brass might start out bigger due to the larger reamed out chamber of a machine gun but once its run through the full length die it will be SAAMI spec.

I would forgo the Wilson or similar case gauge and get the Hornady case gauge tool. All the Wilson tells you is the case will fit. With the Hornady you can measure how far the shoulder gets pushed out during firing and then measure how much the die is pushing it back during sizing and adjust your die to get the amount of shoulder resizing you want. I went through my 3 AR's and measured cases from each one after they had been fired. I then set the sizing die up to fit the tightest chamber and load all my 223 rounds to fit this one. All 3 rifles have sent a lot of rounds down range with no problems and my rounds feed it other AR's as well.

moxie
August 11, 2013, 03:51 PM
Plain RCBS FL two die set. No crimp. No problems. And I use One Shot spray lube.

marchboom
November 21, 2013, 01:33 AM
Seems that only RCBS offers small base dies (to my knowledge). I wonder what dimensions all the other die manufacturers make their dies?

I only had one barrel that needed small base dies and that was a custom barrel for a .223 Contender. Factory ammo wouldn't even fit. I'm guessing the 'smith used a match chamber reamer by mistake. My 2 AR's and my T/C brand .223 barrel all use ammo sized with standard dies without any problems.

cfullgraf
November 21, 2013, 10:20 AM
Seems that only RCBS offers small base dies (to my knowledge). I wonder what dimensions all the other die manufacturers make their dies?



RCBS sells a line of dies called "AR" dies, they come with a small base sizing die. RCBS also sells small base dies al-a-carte.

Redding makes small base dies.

Dillon dies are made "to minimum tolerances, sizing cases down to function in semi- and full-automatic firearms." (per Dillon's website).

I have seen comments that Dillon dies are small base.

plmitch
November 21, 2013, 11:03 AM
I have a old set of Lee dies that I paid $5.00 for at the swap meet. I have made a few thousand rounds with them, not small base and they work just great.

ranger335v
November 21, 2013, 08:22 PM
"Seems that only RCBS offers small base dies (to my knowledge). I wonder what dimensions all the other die manufacturers make their dies? "

They all make their standard dies to standard SAAMI specs. There is no standard spec for small base dies. Most factory ammo is typically made a tad smaller than SAAMI minimums simply to insure it will chamber. Small base sizers are typically a couple thou smaller than SAAMI at the base, which makes the cases about like most facrory ammo.

The "conventional wisdom" of using SB sizers on factory autoloaders with standard chambers is "common BS". Size properly and keep your rifle clean, you should have no need for a SB sizer. Anyone thinking autos have little chambering power hasn't yet stuck his finger inside the ejection port when the bolt goes home.

Carbide sizers for bottle necked cartridges are horribly costly and have zero benefit for anyone but a commercial reloader who expects to run maybe 800,000 cases through his dies before replacement. Common steel dies are typically good for 'only' a tenth of that many.

Rule3
November 21, 2013, 08:51 PM
I have a old set of Lee dies that I paid $5.00 for at the swap meet. I have made a few thousand rounds with them, not small base and they work just great.

I also just use LEE dies for 223 and/or 5.56. Have no idea if it is small, large or medium base,;) They all work, bolt or semi auto and fit in a Wilson case gauge.

ArchAngelCD
November 21, 2013, 09:02 PM
I have a set of "normal" RCBS full length .223 dies and I have never needed anything else. If you buy quality dies and adjust them correctly you won't need gimmick, ummm, I mean small base dies. (IMO of course)

TBH
November 21, 2013, 09:19 PM
Dillon carbide! If you are going for match ammo, I would look at bushing dies.

ranger335v
November 21, 2013, 09:42 PM
"Dillon carbide! If you are going for match ammo, I would look at bushing dies. "

Why? I mean, what would they do that common dies can't do just as well? (For both statements.)

cfullgraf
November 21, 2013, 09:59 PM
Dillon carbide! If you are going for match ammo, I would look at bushing dies.

Dillon carbide dies are for high volume loaders, those loaders who load enough to wear out a steel sizer die in short order.

TBH
November 21, 2013, 10:07 PM
I have upgraded to all Dillon dies for hand gun and for .223. They just run smoother on my 550b press. Carbide may be overkill, but I bet you won't wear them out!
Bushing dies are amazing! If you check the concitricty on fired rifle brass, resize and recheck, you should find they are not as true as before. As you pull the carbide button out of the neck, it can pull the case out of alignment. I have tried spray lube, polishing the button, ect.
Bushing dies avoid that. They may actually help true the brass up. They also have less resistance when sizing (at least on the up stroke). You can also change the neck tension by using different size bushings.

cfullgraf
November 21, 2013, 10:12 PM
I have a set of "normal" RCBS full length .223 dies and I have never needed anything else. If you buy quality dies and adjust them correctly you won't need gimmick, ummm, I mean small base dies. (IMO of course)

There are enough different "standard" 223 Remington chambers in AR-15s out there that you can get into an accumulation of tolerances where a standard resizing die will not size a case fired in one rifle enough to fit a different rifle.

It does not happen very often, but I have such a combination of dies and AR-15 rifles.

The resizing die in question is a quality, standard, in spec RCBS 223 Remington sizing die. I do not have the same issues with a Redding standard sizing die.

So that I do not have to segregate cases by rifles, I small base resize all my 223 Remington cases and avoid the issue.

Bart B.
November 22, 2013, 08:06 AM
Bushing dies without expanders do make straighter case necks resizing brass than standard dies with expanders. Just don't be hyped into the marketing ploy makers of bushing dies claim. RCBS and Reddijng bushing dies size most of the fired case neck, but stop several thousanths short of sizing all the way to the shoulder. That unsized part of the case neck is claimed to better center the round in the chamber; an untrue statement. It does help centering before the bolt's closed on it, but the round's not fired with the bolt open.

Bottleneck cases headspacing on their shoulder perfectly center their front end in the chamber when something pushes them there to fire it, it's always the firing pin and sometimes an inline ejector pushing the case forward against the chamber shoulder when loaded. The case shoulder perfectly centers in the chamber shoulder; doesn't matter how much clearance there is between the case neck and chamber neck. The case neck floats clear of any contact with the chamber neck when the round's fired. Any amount of off center case necks will also off center the bullet relative to the bore.

Full length bushing dies don't center the sized case neck quite as perfect on the case shoulder as standard full length dies with their necks opened up to a couple thousandths smaller than a loaded round's neck diameter. The difference is small and typically isn't noticed until the rifle shoots ammo into sub 1/4 MOA groups at 100 yards.

RussellC
November 22, 2013, 09:35 AM
Glad you added that. I like Lee stuff, and am about to get them to reload for an AR. Call me a cheapskate, (Well I do spring for the deluxe carbide versions) but Lee stuff has always done me right.

Russellc

Walkalong
November 22, 2013, 09:56 AM
Bushing dies without expanders do make straighter case necks resizing brass than standard dies with expanders. Just don't be hyped into the marketing ploy makers of bushing dies claim. RCBS and Reddijng bushing dies size most of the fired case neck, but stop several thousanths short of sizing all the way to the shoulder. That unsized part of the case neck is claimed to better center the round in the chamber; an untrue statement. It does help centering before the bolt's closed on it, but the round's not fired with the bolt open.

Bottleneck cases headspacing on their shoulder perfectly center their front end in the chamber when something pushes them there to fire it, it's always the firing pin and sometimes an inline ejector pushing the case forward against the chamber shoulder when loaded. The case shoulder perfectly centers in the chamber shoulder; doesn't matter how much clearance there is between the case neck and chamber neck. The case neck floats clear of any contact with the chamber neck when the round's fired. Any amount of off center case necks will also off center the bullet relative to the bore.

Full length bushing dies don't center the sized case neck quite as perfect on the case shoulder as standard full length dies with their necks opened up to a couple thousandths smaller than a loaded round's neck diameter. The difference is small and typically isn't noticed until the rifle shoots ammo into sub 1/4 MOA groups at 100 yards.

The partially sized neck can indeed help center a round in a static state, but the problem is the rear of the case. It doesn't matter if the front is centered if the rear is hanging down in a sloppy chamber.

Does the firing pint center the shoulder in the chamber? Sounds feasible, and why FL sized or new ammo can shoot so well, but I do not know this for fact.

My question would be can it center the rear by centering the shoulder, or will drag from the firing pin stop the case head from sliding to center, which should (Hopefully) be a short journey. I do not know the answer to this either.

I do know BR guns shoot well below 1/4 MOA, and I do know many of the top competitors used FL bushing dies cut with reamers with the bushing adjusted to size only part of the neck. This is how I sized my cases. This is on top of using tight necked chambers with the round barely clearing in the neck area and fairly tight in the rest of the chamber, all of which help center a round. If the firing pin pushing the round forward also tends to center the round, this has to be a good thing, as the less the round needs to move towards center, especially at the rear, the better the chance of the firing pin centering the round.

Thoughts?

TBH
November 22, 2013, 11:43 AM
For me it's the confidence factor. I have a lot more confidence in a loaded round with a runout of less than .002" then I would if it was .007" or greater. Even though I have measured many Factory rounds that were much worse than .007".

The price of a decent set of dies you only have to buy once, verses that flier that you are not sure if it was you or your reload...

Hondo 60
November 22, 2013, 11:00 PM
I don't have small base dies & have reloaded 1,000s of rounds for my AR.

Not saying small base dies are worthless, just that I wouldn't bother unless I were having problems.

RustyFN
November 22, 2013, 11:46 PM
All of my 223 brass is unknown. I pick it up at the range. It's a private club. The police use our range for training so a lot of my brass was shot out of their AR's on auto. I size with a standard Lee FL sizing die and have never had any issues. I don't see the need for a SB die.

ranger335v
November 23, 2013, 02:21 PM
"...for .223. They just run smoother on my 550b press. Carbide may be overkill, but I bet you won't wear them out!"

I bet you're right. I also bet you won't wear out a steel die. Since carbide bottle neck dies require lubing same as steel, if your carbide dies actually "run smoother" than steel there's something more in play than just a very costly carbide sizer.

Adjusting "neck tension" with bushings isn't as simplistic or beneficial as some hopeful guys have been led to believe. There's a lot more to bullet grip than the outside diameter of the necks - or even the inside diameter for that matter.

Not a lot of experienced reloaders know how to properly use bushing dies and no noobs at all - not a slam, just a fact. Bushing dies incorrectly used - and from what I read on the 'net, many are - can leave case necks 'bent' about as badly as any others; straight necks just aren't as easy to obtain as saying "buy a bushing die" makes it sound. And saying it to a new guy suggests a significant lack of experience.

TBH
November 23, 2013, 04:15 PM
"And saying it to a new guy suggests a significant lack of experience."

Was this intended as a slam? If so, let me say I am still learning but have been reloading for 35 years. Handgun, shotgun, and rifle. I use bushings for two calibers. 6.5 Grendel in an Ar-15 and .308 Rem.
I do use Lapua brass in both. The instructions that came with the dies explained how to figure out what size bushings to use. Have had no issues with them.
Would I use bushing dies to size cheap multi manufactured brass? I don't think so.

Stopping here.

Walkalong
November 23, 2013, 07:05 PM
Not a lot of experienced reloaders know how to properly use bushing dies and no noobs at all - not a slam, just a fact. Bushing dies incorrectly used - and from what I read on the 'net, many are - can leave case necks 'bent' about as badly as any others; straight necks just aren't as easy to obtain as saying "buy a bushing die" makes it sound. And saying it to a new guy suggests a significant lack of experience.While I do not, and have not, ever advised anyone to use a bushing die for AR 15 reloading, bushing dies are are reasonably easy to use. Not rocket science, that's for sure. :)

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