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Do steel sizing dies wear out & need replacement?

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by Thirties, Sep 23, 2003.

  1. Thirties

    Thirties Well-Known Member

    I'm new to loading from this spring. I load for handgun cartridges only using carbide dies. But I recently got a steel die set for an oddball cartridge (Lee 7.62 Nagant revolver). Of course, I lubricate the cartridge before resizing.

    My question is does a steel resizing die eventually get worn out and need replacement?

    With this particular die set, one uses .32-20 brass which gets de-shouldered to form the straight tapered Nagant cartridge. Of course, the de-shouldering takes place only once in each cartridge's lifetime, as already fired brass no longer has the shoulder of the new .32-20 brass.

    In the books I've read, I haven't come across any references to steel dies wearing out. Can anyone help me out with some solid info here?
  2. Mikul

    Mikul Well-Known Member

    The man at Dillon that I spoke with claimed that they will wear out after 10,000 rounds.
  3. Mal H

    Mal H Administrator

    I would believe the estimate of the Dillon guy. Steel does wear, but a good lubricant consistently used on clean brass would probably double or triple that estimate. Think about steel pistons/rings in steel cylinders. They do wear, but not very fast due to the constant lubrication. If you lost, say 1/10,000th of an inch for every 10,000 strokes, the engine would be unusable after one long car trip.

    Anyone would be foolish not to pay the few extra bucks for carbide dies for calibers they will be reloading in quantity. On the other hand, steel dies are fine and will last a lifetime for low volume calibers such as used in most rifles or handguns you won't be shooting very often. Your Nagant is a very good example. I dare say you won't be putting anywhere near a thousand rounds or more through it each year.
  4. Mike Irwin

    Mike Irwin Well-Known Member

    I've got FAR more than 10,000 rounds through my old RCBS 9mm dies -- steel ones from the 1970s -- and have yet to wear them out.

    I bought them used from a friend who loaded at LEAST that many through them before he bought a SDB.

    As far as I can tell, they're not worn out.
  5. Mal H

    Mal H Administrator

    I believe you Mike. I think the Dillon estimate was a worst case estimate. With good care, I think you could double or triple my double or triple estimate.

    Another thing to consider is what is "worn". Is it when the brass is starting to get to .001" diameter oversized, .002"? "Worn" can mean different things to different users.
  6. mete

    mete Well-Known Member

    First let me dispell a myth that's out there --that nickel scratches steel dies --this is absolutely untrue - another urban myth. What scratches and wears out dies is dirt, sand etc which is very abrasive . I have never had a problem with worn dies because I always wash my brass, water and detergent will do fine. Remember that brass or nickel plated brass is far softer than hardened steel or carbide. So clean brass with just a little lube and the dies will last a long ,long time.
  7. Thirties

    Thirties Well-Known Member

    Thanks, folks. I get it . . . clean your brass, and don't worry about the dies.
  8. EchoSixMike

    EchoSixMike Well-Known Member

    I wore a 308Win die out. It took 9 years of NRA high power for three shooters and some junior team support and the rounds still work in most of my rifles. They don't work in my Goerge Gardner M40A1 clone or my Kreiger barreled M14, which are both minimum spec chambers. I figure that's well over 40K rds loaded. S/F...Ken M
  9. C.R.Sam

    C.R.Sam Moderator Emeritus

    Dirt is the determinant.

    Even extremely fine dust can be quite abrasive.

  10. Paul "Fitz" Jones

    Paul "Fitz" Jones Moderator - Emeritus

    Die wear

    As a hobby and commercial reloader I always tumble cleaned my brass before reloading it and the only steel dies I wore out were .223 ones as there were no carbide ones available. I have old and modern Star reloaders and one old Star came with a steel sizing die. I don't know its use before I got it but it was made in the 1930's and is still in tolerances.

    It is just more convenient to not have to lubricate cases in a progressive reloader and carbide dies are a boon to all of us.

    John Paul
  11. Khornet

    Khornet Well-Known Member


    for bottleneck rifle cases?
    I didn't know there was such a thing. Do you still have to lube, or is it like carbide pistol dies?
  12. Poodleshooter

    Poodleshooter Well-Known Member

    I think Dillon makes carbide expander buttons for bottleneck cartridges. No need to lube the necks,but you still lube the case walls. I don't know of any fully carbide dies for bottleneck cartridges,however.
  13. Black Snowman

    Black Snowman Well-Known Member

    When I was shopping for dies a few years ago I think I saw Redding having full Titanium Carbide dies for bottleneck rounds. They were VERY expensive however. If I remember correctly it was about $120+ for a full set.
  14. Mike Irwin

    Mike Irwin Well-Known Member

    I'm not sure, but I think you'd STILL need to lube the cartridge cases, even with full carbide dies.

    You've simply got too much case contacting too much die to get away without lubrication.
  15. LewG

    LewG Member

    CH4D will make titanium nitride coated sizing dies out of any of your dies or a new one of theirs.
    This will make brass sizing much easier, even with bottleneck cartridges, and the dies will last longer. - Lew


    Titanium Nitride (TiN) Coating
    Titanium Nitride coatings have been used in industry for many years, primarily to extend the life of carbide tools. It has not been useful in reloading until recent advances in technology permitted TiN coating a die without softening the steel of the die itself. A TiN coated sizer in 308 Win showed no measurable wear after sizing 50,000 rounds. Although Titanium Nitride is harder than Carbide & has a lower coefficient of friction it does not eliminate the need for lubricant when full-length sizing cases. It does reduce sizing effort considerably and minimize the lubricant required.

    TiN coated dies will live longer and require less force to operate than any die available on planet Earth ! Price is for 7/8-14 dies. Call for quote on larger sizes.

    Order No. TiNEB: $10.29

    TiN coated expander balls work smoother and eliminate the need for lubricating the inside of the case neck. Available in 17 to 45cal.
    If you ever manage to wear out your TiN coated die, we will replace it at NO CHARGE to you ! All we ask is that you tell us how many rounds you’ve loaded with it.

    TiN coating other manufacturer's dies; can be done, and is usually successful, however we have no control over the material or heat treatment of these dies and cannot guarantee the results. Any coating of any part nit mfg. by us is done entirely at the customer's risk

    Order No. TiN: $34.50
    (Per Die)

    We coat the entire die, not just a small ring at the bottom.

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