4th Die for 9mm Reloading

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Dec 29, 2012
Eastern NC
9mm is a little new to me. Most of my handgun reloading over the last 50 years has been 357 and 45 acp. (Geez, I’m gittin old!)
Presently I’m reloading 9mm with boolits on a Dillon 550. I do not have a die in station #4. For the most part, I experience no ill effects from this since I’m not crimping the boolit.
However occasionally I have a round that will not chamber. I attributed this to a “fat boolit” syndrome!
I’m using MBC 115 LRN.
Question: Would a 4th die, say to squeeze the finished round a little ( of course no roll crimp) eliminate this occasional “fat boolit”?
What do others do—-just live with it?
Again thanks in advance!
Is your 3rd die a seat & crimp and does it properly remove the crimp?
You should be using a light taper to remove the belling completely, but if you still have some issues you could always try the Lee FCD in station 4.

Make sure your sizer is all the way down (No daylight between shell holder and die) when actually sizing a case because the case is tapered. Make sure you are seating bullets straight with a light taper crimp.

Make sure it isn't a case issue where it is too fat near the case head (Not unusual with 9MM range brass), and you may not need to squeeze them.

I had a SAMMI minimum chambered EMP that would lock up with any case over .3915 near the base. I bought a Wilson 9MM case gauge and started scrapping any cases that failed the gauge after sizing, problem solved.


I load 9mm on my 550 (coated lead) and I use the Dillon set, it does use a 4th station taper crimp, if I do not use that last step, the go/no-go fit is iffy...
I size and then chamber check all 9mm rounds to insure the base isn't bloated.

I also use a factory crimp die as the 4th die to help insure the correct crimp and dimensions.
I used to reload 9mm with seating/crimping in one step but troubleshooting cast pc loads became a lot easier when I separated the operations. I had a so-called fat bullet fail to chamber in my G17 this past weekend. It's likely more to do with seating than crimping so being able to only mess with one die at a time is helpful. The only dual operation die set I run is 32 auto because I never had any problems.
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I use the Lee factory crimp die loading 9mm and 40 s&w on my Dillon 550. Its in the 4th hole on my press.
The Lee FCD is a subject of a lot of debate on certain forums, especially when used with cast bullets, and especially when used in 9mm with cast bullets (the OP did state that he was using cast bullets).

The 9mm case has a reputation for swaging cast bullets down to the point that you get horrible leading when loading cast bullets. The Lee FCD can (but not necessarily always) exacerbate the problem, as most guys that are loading cast bullets load one to two thousandths larger diameter than SAAMI standard diameter. Since the Lee FCD will size your case to SAAMI spec, this results in the FCD reducing the diameter of the bullet, and can also negatively effect neck tension. Please note that this isn't always the case, but it is a potential outcome. So you get a double whammy: the diameter of the bullet is reduced (which causes leading), and the neck tension is reduced (which can result in bullet set back). The neck tension is reduced because lead doesn't spring back when it's squeezed by the FCD.

Now please don't take all of this to mean that I'm anti-FCD. I have multiple FCD's, and I find use for them in certain situations. Now having said that, IMO, loading cast bullets in 9mm is NOT a good use case for a Lee FCD. But as always, that isn't a blanket statement, as a lot of it has to do with the bullet you're loading, brass that's used, diameter, etc. It's just something to be aware of should you choose to use a Lee FCD with cast bullets in 9mm.

There are guys that swear by using a Lee FCD with cast bullets in 9mm, and there are guys that swear at using a Lee FCD with cast bullets in 9mm. IMO, it's an unnecessary variable.

There is no advantage to loading .357 or .358 sized bullets if you're just going to squeeze them back down to SAAMI spec with a Lee FCD.

Now to wait for the other side of the fence to comment... ;)
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I load .358” Smallball lead for my .357” bore Beretta and SIG. I use 3 die sets both in LCT and Pro1K.

only issue is their blue line getting smeared all over but the rounds work great.

I use FCD for .40 and .45 acp on the LCT and like them. For .38 I had issues and knocked out the sizing ring and just use it to crimp.
I load on a Dillon 550b for 9mm and .45acp.I use the fourth station for taper crimping on both.
Which brand of three die set?

The Dillon dies have a resizer/decapper, bullet seating die, and crimp die...at least for the 9mm.
The tapered 9mm chamber presents potential problems that a straight-wall cartridge never dreamed of. Rounds "that will not chamber" could be taper crimp issues OR excessive OAL issues. You will never know without solving the issues in order. First you need to verify your Taper Crimp as being less than 0.380" per the case mouth dimensions in your manual. Then you can work on the OAL issues.... which in some barrel-to-bullet combinations can change with every new-to-you bullet maker, weight, and ogive design.

Mention of the barrel maker and the bullet maker would go a long way toward a solution.
I always use a Lee FCD in all my calibers. Even if I use almost no crimp. It does great to at least smooth down the belling. And I always check all my rounds in a cartridge guage. Don't ask me why.:eek: And the Lee Bulge Buster definitely takes care of those occasional “fat boolits” (gotta use the 9mm Makarov FCD insert for the 9mm Luger “fat boolits"). :D
I have not loaded any MBC coated lead.
I have loaded 'other' Major Manufacturers coated lead. ("Meh" but fully admit my lack of technique at the time was a big part of the problem.)
I have loaded 'smaller, perhaps less well known Manufacturers coated lead.

One of those 'smaller' Mfr.'s sent me some of the most 'somewhat non cylindrical' bullets I've ever seen.
While looking 'straight on' at the nose of the bullet, each 'half' of the nose created by the mold is not exactly 100% round.
If one uses the cast line to define 'horizontal', the nose of the bullet looks ever so slightly wider than it is tall.

About all I can say is:
1. Combining my used and abused Range brass with 9mm semi-round nose 'lumpy lead' didn't result in 100% flawless reloads, chambering included. I consider both as Potential Suspects,
2. Why do I claim to somehow know the bullet nose is 'lumpy'? After all, looks can be deceiving,,,

I'm using a Hornady seating die with a stem designed to only engage the bullet in a circle ~near~ the ogive. Over the years, I've seen plenty of 'seating circles' imprinted into the nose of my reloads.

When using the 'same everything' (except for this particular bullet) I see circles...
With these bullets, no circles,,,,,,
With consistency, I'm seeing 2 separate 'half moons' {something like ( ) } with the deepest part of each imprint centered on each cast line.

As a result, I'm considering development of a new, personal, 'just-for-me' policy. Something like:
'Listen up numbskull!!! It doesn't matter how cheap they are! Just say "NO" to Lumpy Lead!'
If you have two seating/crimping dies, you could use one for seating the bullet and in the forth hole, the other one to do the taper crimp. Or you could buy an M-die to do the neck expanding which will help you set the bullets in the cases straighter.
I use an M-die with my 9mm arrangement, it helps alot to fix the problem so it doesn't happen, instead of trying fix it after it does.
Question: Would a 4th die, say to squeeze the finished round a little ( of course no roll crimp) eliminate this occasional “fat boolit”?
What do others do—-just live with it?
You need to figure out the why(s) before you can decide on the what(s). And no, at least for me, I don’t live with it. There can be several reasons why a finished round won’t chamber, keep this in mind since there may be several things you need to do differently. Others have commented on the various problems.
I case gauge all rounds before packaging and labeling. That way if I get an FTC I presume it’s not the round that’s the issue.
Ironing out lumpy lead inside the case is a dubious proposition. Lead and brass have different amounts of "memory." If you squeeze the outside of a round down by, say, .005, you might get the brass to "take" only .003 of that sizing, while the lead might "take" all .005 of it. The net result is that, at the very least, you've reduced tension on the bullet. Meanwhile, if the brass was .003 oversized because of a fat bullet, you have just had to knock .005 off the bullet to get the .003 change in the brass. Now maybe the bullet is undersized for the bore... leading and/or mediocre accuracy results.

This is the dynamic that makes some cast-lead shooters so adamantly opposed to Lee factory crimp dies. I, personally, don't have much use for bare lead/lubed bullets, and I love my FCD's... but I've had enough discussions (online and off) with lead bullet shooter to have the dynamic above drilled into my head as a potential problem.
I never used the FCD when I was using cast boolits and I've not had much issues until I started buying guns with tighter tolerances (specifically a couple of Sig's I own). I eventually switched to plated bullets and FCD everything 380, 9mm, 40, 45. No issues since. I still have a couple thousand lead ones to burn through that are not FCD, but I'll get through them eventually. From now on, it is all plated bullets for me so I can FCD them. Can't afford a fat bullet in competition.
I use range brass and the Lee FCD and on occasion there are some that just will not fit in my case gauge, not many but some.
Most of these will fit in the chambers of my pistol, but since I don't want to check every pistol they get broken down.

In my case it has always been a brass issue.
You probably have but I would check and make sure it is not the brass causing you grief.

Having said that when I started loading I used lead bullets (MBC) and the FCD and had no issues.
Because 9mm is tapered you have some control over how much the FCD does depending on adjustment.

The Lee FCD seems to be a like/hate thing, not much middle ground. I happen to like it for my USPSA match ammo.
And yes I know you can load perfectly good ammo without it.
I’m always here!! But thanks for checking on me! I may croak any any time!
Looks like I may continue status quo. Don’t like the reduction in neck tension aspect of FCD and lead boolits.
I’ve tightened up to almost point of roll crimping, but not quite. We’ll see. I’ve got 150 loaded up now with 231.
I don’t use these rounds for self defense so a hang up every now only adds to the variety of shooting.
I’m always here!! But thanks for checking on me! I may croak any any time!
Looks like I may continue status quo. Don’t like the reduction in neck tension aspect of FCD and lead boolits.
I’ve tightened up to almost point of roll crimping, but not quite. We’ll see. I’ve got 150 loaded up now with 231.

• If you've got an empty 4th die position, then IMHO you'd be much further ahead to go ahead and Taper Crimp in that last position. Here's why: Taper Crimp might be the most difficult die to set correctly. So once set, you really don't want to change/ move/ adjust it. By placing it in a position on its own, you can easily assure this. If TC part of the adjustment of a multi-function die, then that can't be 100% assured.

• For that reason I suggest you raise your Seating Die body by 1/3-1/2 turn. Then fit a Lee or Redding "Taper Crimp" die into that 4th position. Either of these dies becomes solely dedicated to that single job, and therefore only has that one adjustment to worry about. The Lee unit regularly costs about $13, and is not going to break the bank either. https://www.midwayusa.com/product/1016834814

• Set the Taper Crimp die height to consistently deliver 0.378 to 0.376" on the last .04" of the case mouth on your production cartridges. Then your TC concerns will all end.

Hope this helps.
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