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RCBS 380 set or return for Lee

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by tcanthonyii, Feb 14, 2013.

  1. tcanthonyii

    tcanthonyii Well-Known Member

    So being valentines day and all my girlfriend was sneaky and bought me a .380 die set. I've been using lee pistols dies as that's all I know. I was given a Classic Turret and not knowing anything I've just been buying lee dies. Simple and cheap. More because of the cheap part.

    Anyway she bought me the RCBS .380 Carbide TC dies. I was given the gift reciept and told I could exchange for a different brand or caliber and she's the type of person that is totally OK with me doing that.

    I was thinking I'd give them a try. No powder through die but I was able to make my Lee Auto disk work on my Universal charging die. OK no problem there. Resize, fine. Case belling is so-so but I cannot get for the life of me get the bullet seating and crimping right. I've crushed a case, NEVER done that with a lee. Then the bullet seater is leaving rings on the bullet it self!! It's really pissing me off. I can return this thing, have them order a .380 lee set (they don't sell lee dies but can order them and I'll be gone for a month so it's no big deal) and still have another 20 bucks to buy some bullets. Plus I had to but a shell holder so that's 28 bucks to buy some powder or something. I'm really pissed at this thing. It should be easier. The lee set takes 5 minutes to setup. I've been at this for well over an hour.

    So what says the gods of HighRoad?
  2. ngnrd

    ngnrd Well-Known Member

    I was very disappointed with the one and only RCBS die set I own - and it's the 380acp. I emailed RCBS, and they are mailing me some new guts for the thing. I, too, wish I had stayed with Lee. They seem to work just fine for the other half-dozen cartridges I load. I'll see how I feel about RCBS after the new guts come in...
  3. FROGO207

    FROGO207 Well-Known Member

    Sure, go and get the Lee dies if it makes life easier. Did you read their instructions? I have all the major brands of dies and never had a problem with setting them up. Might be a defective or sticking die. Take it apart--inspect it---clean it, and try using it again. If it does not work as advertised call RCBS and they will talk you through the problems, if it is defective they will send a replacement die. Note to self---if you end up getting the Lee dies spend the difference on HER.:cool: Ask me how I figured that one out.:D
  4. oneounceload

    oneounceload member

    RCBS makes some of the best dies out there and have for several generations. Hopefully you read the directions - I have used their dies for 35 years with zero issues
  5. tcanthonyii

    tcanthonyii Well-Known Member

    Read them 3 times. Setup the die that many times as well.
  6. aerod1

    aerod1 Well-Known Member

    I have a mix of Lee and RCBS dies. All seem to work great.
  7. 45lcshooter

    45lcshooter Well-Known Member

    That's weird I never had an issue with my RCBS carbide pistol dies. My rifle I have some Lyman, RCBS, Lee and Redding. Never had an issue with them either, other than occasionally snapping a decapping pin.

    Maybe its a bad batch of dies. Sorry for your troubles bud.

    But what the difference in money is I agree with the above poster that said, spend it on her. She sounds like a keeper.
  8. Lost Sheep

    Lost Sheep Well-Known Member

    Thanks for asking our advice

    The ring on the bullet nose is probably because that is the contact point where the seater meets the bullet's ogive. They are not precisely the same shape, so leaves a mark. You can get seater plugs that fit the shape of the bullet nose or, if it is purely cosmetic, ignore it. There is no guarantee the Lee seater plug would not leave the same mark. Got pictures?

    I suspect the problems you are having with the crushed case is due to a maladjusted Seat/Crimp die. Because the die does two things at once, it is tricky (but not really all that difficult) to adjust. You are probably crimping too soon, thus having the case walls dig into the bullet before it is completely seated.

    Are you using batch or continuous processing method?

    If using continuous, I suggest the Lee Die Set because the flaring die drops the powder, saving you one of the four die stations. (You do have the 4-station turret, yes? They originally made a 3-station turret which is now discontinued, I believe.) If you dedicate one station to a powder charging station you only have three stations left to put the size/deprime die, flaring die and combination seat/crimp die.

    So, unless you break up the continuous process that makes the Turret so productive, you will probably be better off with the Lee Die Set. However, the last time I checked, they did not make a 4-die set for the 380. The solution, then is to get a spare seat-crimp die. Use one to seat the bullet with the die body backed out so no crimp is applied. Then use the other with the seating stem backed out to apply the crimp.

    Note: Applying a crimp to a rimless case that headspaces on the case mouth is not very descriptive. You are not really applying a crimp, but merely removing any excessive flare.

    If you are loading in batches, I have different advice for the above last part.

    I have used RCBS and Lee (and Lyman and others) dies. Never had a lick of trouble with any of them, but RCBS does have that lifetime warranty.

    My druthers? Get the Lee Dies. But keeping the RCBS and learning the fine points of adjusting the Seat/Crimp die is a close call.

    Has you girlfriend got a sister? She's a keeper.

    Lost Sheep
  9. slowr1der

    slowr1der Well-Known Member

    I have a set of RCBS 380 dies as well and have had a similar problem. I don't crimp with this die so I can't comment on it. I use a Lee FCD. However, I had the issue with the seating die cutting into the bullet. I've never had this issue on my Lee dies or other RCBS dies to be honest. I ended up calling RCBS and they sent me a new seater plug. This one works fine. I'm not sure what the deal with the first one was. I thought maybe I had a seater plug for hollow point bullets, but when I changed them I saw that the one I had was for RN bullets as well.

    I'm going to be honest, I've had better luck and prefer Lee dies by far over RCBS. The only thing I do to the Lee dies is put a Hornady lock ring on the seating die. However, if you already have the RCBS, you may just want to see if RCBS will send you new parts. I generally like RCBS stuff and the majority of my equipment is theirs, but when it comes to dies I prefer Lee or Redding.
  10. cfullgraf

    cfullgraf Well-Known Member

    I have never had the problems described by the OP from either RCBS or Lee dies. My only complaint with the Lee dies is the o-ring lock ring. But, if you are using a Lee turret press, that is not an issue if you get a turret for each cartridge. Snug 'em and forget 'em.

    i do use and RCBS set for 380 ACP on my Hornady progressive. But, the case is so small that I p[rime and charge the case off the press and use it only for seating and crimping. Another idiosyncrasy.

    My guess would be that you may be over expanding the case mouth in the expander step and it may be catching on the mouth of the seater die. The seater die does not allow too much excessive belling.

    You want to adjust the mouth expanding so that the case is just a bit larger than the ullet, if jacketed. If cast, you need a smidge more belling to avoid shaving lead. Get as little belling as possible.

    As said, the ring in the top of the bullet is a cosmetic thing. you could break the edge of the seater plug and smooth it out and it may reduce or eliminate the ring.

    For crimping, you indicated the die set is a taper crimp seater die. The TC indicates that. You want to set the crimp so that it just removes the mouth belling. To set the die, seat some bullets about correctly. Then set the die body for the proper crimp. Then go back and set the bullet seating for the desired overall length.

    FYI, I prefer to crimp in a separate step from seating, but that is not a requirement. Just one of my idiosyncrasies from the days when many, if not most, semi-auto cartridges dies had roll crimps and you had to buy a separate taper crimp die.

    If you want to run cases in a continuous process on a Lee turret press, you probably want the powder through the die Lee expander die. So swap them out for a Lee set.
  11. tcanthonyii

    tcanthonyii Well-Known Member

    I went back again and re-read the instructions after the girlfriend got here. I was setting it up wrong but when the GF saw these compared to the others she told me to take them back and exchange them.

    I did get the die setup finally. I wasn't belling enough and had the seating/crimping all messed up. I'm so used to the lee stuff now there's too many adjustments. The crimped case was from not having the brass belled enough and from the bullet being crooked I'm pretty sure. My lee dies usually straighten it out and ram her home.

    When it's all said and done there's just too many adjustments. Lee dies you set them and forget it. Even changing bullet types is easy. I don't have to adjust the die body, just the knob on top. I don't want to be going through a whole procedure every time I need to change out a bullet type. Which happens quite often as so far I'm enjoying trying different weights and types etc.

    And really I don't like the seat and crimp in the same operation. That really just kills it. I would need a 5 hole turret to do that with this set. Or replace the belling die with the powder through die and buy a lee FCD. Then I'll have 80 bucks with her money and mine into it, not including the shell holder. That's crazy. The lee set is 30 and the FCD is 15-20. That's what the whole RCBS set cost. with out making work the way I want it to.

    FWIW the re-sizer is amazingly smooth. There is clearly a difference in the quality of the dies. At least in the re-sizer anyway. It was so smooth I'd think about replacing all my re-sizers with it. Maybe it was just this small case but it was nice.

    Luckily the GF is awsome!! For christmas she had a custom leather sling modeled after one of my tattoos mady for my 30-30. it fits the style of the gun very nicely.
  12. gamestalker

    gamestalker member

    Check to be sure you are using the correct seating plug. If your not, it could easily cause that ring you are seeing on the bullet. But, I as well prefer the Lee dies when working with handgun cartridges, primarily because of the powder thru feature, the adjustment system on the Lee seating die, and I actually like that little notch or catch feeling that bumps the powder, which helps reduce powder hanging, or funneling as it were.

  13. mgmorden

    mgmorden Well-Known Member

    Truth be told, I've never used any RCBS pistol dies. I've used their rifle dies and have always found them to be of high quality.

    I'm not sure about your seating issue though. The die body regardless of die maker should be adjusted based on the case, not the bullet (screw it down until it touches a resized case and you're golden). All that you should need to do after that is adjust the seater plug. OR, if you want to crimp in a separate step as you mention, screw it down until it touches a resized case then back the die out a half turn and adjust the seater.
  14. joneb

    joneb Well-Known Member

    I have been very pleased with RCBS dies for handgun and rifle, if there were a problem, RCBS will take care of it. Their service is 2nd to none.
  15. Xfire68

    Xfire68 Well-Known Member

    I have RCBS,Lee,Redding and Hornady dies and all work well.

    My preference is the Hornady dies but, most of the dies I have are Lee and recommend them to new reloaders all the time.

    I like Lees decapping pin over RCBS's.

    VINTAGE-SLOTCARS Well-Known Member

    RCBS Dies

    RCBS are first Quality, these are the only mfg I own. They will work with you on your problem. Give them a call.
  17. tcanthonyii

    tcanthonyii Well-Known Member

    Lost sheep--- you nailed it I think. Forgot to mention that last night. I am using continuous mode on a 4 station lee classic turret. Lee does only make a 3 die set but I can buy a FCD for it which I will do. Is it needed? Probably not but for semi autos they sure do a decent job on producing uniform ammo.
  18. JohnM

    JohnM Well-Known Member

    Not all dies set up and work exactly the same.
    If you're more comfortable with Lee, stick with them.
    I've got dies from Herters to Pacific and from Lee to Redding.
    About every major maker around, they all do their job right if you do.
  19. mtrmn

    mtrmn Well-Known Member

    You just weren't adjusting the case bell down far enough. The expander enters the case about as far as you would seat a bullet. Then there's a slight upset in the OD of the expander that actually bell-mouths the case after it has entered the case that far. This will make the bullets easy to insert and no more crushed cases. The cuts on the bullets will go away as well when you don't have to put so much force into seating bullets.
    IMO-the RCBS are much higher quality than the Lee, but whatever makes you happy. Too many adjustments? Will handle virtually any situation. Adjust it properly once and lock it down.
  20. tcanthonyii

    tcanthonyii Well-Known Member

    Yea I know now I had it all setup wrong. Way more complicated than the lee sets. IMO.

    That said I really only liked the re-sizer. To make it work correctly for how I want to reload I would have had to buy a Lee powder through expanding die and a FCD from lee. For what I would have had into the set, even skipping the FCD it didn't make sense. I hate waste. Just bred this way I think and it would have ticked me off to have a piece of the die set sitting in a box not being used. I'm also just more comfortable with the lee sets. I actually like the lee locking rings too. I prefer them. On the turret the RCBS rings made it hard to get to some of the locking bolts to lock it down.

    I do feel there was something wrong with the bullet seater itself. I was using RN bullets and the seater looked identical to my 9mm lee seater. However the lee seater was smooth and RCBS one was anything but. It's like it was machined rough on the edges causing the problems with the ring on the bullets.

    My ultimate deciding factor other than throwing more money at it to get the parts I wanted for it, was that it just plain ticked me off. All my other dies I had setup in 10 minutes. No muss no fuss, just working and when the GF saw how the RCBS ones worked in comparison she just said take it back.

    I'd like to try another set someday but I doubt I will. They are just too expensive for putting holes in paper and car doors. Yes I shoot at cars in the pasture. I'm thinking for my 7.62x54 I'll try an RCBS set. Even if it's more. Something different anyway.

    Thanks for the help guys.

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