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Lee 380 ACP dies... 3 or 4 die set?

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by Col. Harrumph, Jul 7, 2020.

  1. Col. Harrumph

    Col. Harrumph Member

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    Will be loading lead pills. Should I spring for the 4 die set which includes a "factory crimp" die, or just go with the 3 die set which both seats and crimps?

    Does factory crimp mean taper crimp? Lee's web site isn't very informative. :(
     
  2. Crazy Horse

    Crazy Horse Member

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    I ended up springing for the 4 die set. The factory crimp die looks like a roll crimp, but it's not, you just have to adjust it slowly.

    I did some research before deciding. I had purchased the specific Lee taper crimp die for 9mm and 45acp (19.00 per die) and like the way those work. Unfortunately, the only taper crimp die for .380 from Lee is the one with the 4 die set. Knowing that I wanted to apply a taper crimp on my 380 reloads I opted for the 4 die set. It works real well.

    Good Luck

    CH
     
  3. Steelworker

    Steelworker Member

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    Get the 4 die set unless money is big concern.

    The Lee FCD Is a good tool IMO.
     
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  4. berettaprofessor

    berettaprofessor Member

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    Always get the 4 die.
     
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  5. Col. Harrumph

    Col. Harrumph Member

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    Well OK then! Thanks!
     
  6. SQLGeek

    SQLGeek Member

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    I got the 4 die when I bought some 9mm dies. I think the FCD swaging down cast bullets is a concern so if I end up loading cast, I may knock the carbide ring out and just use it as a taper crimp die.
     
  7. 1KPerDay

    1KPerDay Member

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    If you like options go with the 4 die set. If you don’t like or use the FCD you can just use the other three dies, which are identical to the three die set.

    I use the three die set because that’s what I have. But I generally like the FCD for semi autos.
     
  8. rkittine

    rkittine Member

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    I always buy the 4 die sets. I used the crimp that works the best in the pistol that the reloads are going into. Especially important for calibers with no rim that headspace on the mouth of the case, or guns like Model 52 smiths or .32 S&W Long WadCutter, that are finicky about feeding.

    Bob
     
  9. Alex Clayton

    Alex Clayton Member

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    From the 1st time I tried one of their FC dies I have loved them. After I found out how they worked I started to buy one for every caliber. They are well worth the extra step.
     
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  10. shamfrod

    shamfrod Member

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    I opted for the 4 die set in 9mm and I'm glad I did. The FCD is very useful in some circumstances. I will pick up another 4 die set in the future when I start reloading 380 ACP.
     
  11. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator Staff Member

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    RCBS three die set. :)
     
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  12. mdi

    mdi Member

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    I have absolutely no use for Lee's FCD for handguns mainly because I know how to set my dies (Not a Lee Hater just bad experience w/FCD). To avoid readjusting the seat/crimp die for deflaring, just get another taper crimp die. The Lee seating die will seat consistently without swaging/ruining your cast bullet without "resizing".

    I reload 4 semi-auto calibers and do not "crimp" any. I have loaded and fired tens of thousands of semi-auto rounds and none were crimped, I just use a taper crimp die to deflare the case mouths for a good plunk. Neck tension is enough to keep a bullet in place and more often than not a newer reloader will "loosen" bullet to case fit when attempting a crimp...
     
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  13. Steelworker

    Steelworker Member

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    If you use the FCD, just don’t use too much crimp. Like another poster said, I use it just enough to take the flare out and maybe just a little more.
     
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  14. irishlad

    irishlad Member

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    I have the 4 die set in 380, 9mm, 45 acp and 45 colt. I polished the expander die on all them. I use the FCD on all of them. Never a problem.
     
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  15. Alex Clayton

    Alex Clayton Member

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    That was the whole point in the Lee FC Die's. There is no crimp adjustment when you use them. You just set what you want the rounds and the FC die puts the correct crimp on them. First time I tried one was for some .38sp rounds. Loaded some for a friend who had an old S&W she had never used. She bought some factory reloads and they had trouble dropping into the chambers. Even some factory stuff was often not dropping free. The cylinders were on the tight side of the spec. Using the "old way" you set the crimp and all the cases then had to be real close to the same length. If they were not the crimp would be too little or too much. Too much and that slight bulge would be the problem. I bought a FC die and took the rounds we had set aside and ran them through and all of a sudden all of them were great. Even some factory ammo you could feel it make slight adjustment to. So ordered one for my .45's and again it made it soo much easier. No longer had to work with getting the die set and no longer had to sort the brass to make sure it was all the same length. Reading some of the comments here looks like some have the wrong idea of how these work. You of course do not "need" one of these, it does add an extra step but, to me it's been well worth it as it made the final product so much easier to make perfect. Especially for making loads for an auto where the crimp can and does make the difference between rounds that feed just like factory and rounds the hang the gun up.
    For those who have never tried one here is the info they give on how to use them instead of using the old process.

    A carbide sizer inside the Carbide Factory Crimp die post-sizes the cartridge while it is crimped so every round will positively chamber freely with factory like dependability. The adjusting screw quickly and easily sets the desired amount of crimp. It is impossible to buckle the case as with a conventional bullet seating die. Trim length is not critical so this extra operation takes less time than it would if cases were trimmed and chamfered.

    Revolver dies roll crimp with no limit as to the amount. A perfect taper crimp is applied to auto-loader rounds. The crimper cannot be misadjusted to make a case mouth too small to properly head-space. A firm crimp is essential for dependable and accurate ammunition. It eliminates the problems of poor ignition of slow burning magnum powders.
     
  16. Average Joe

    Average Joe Member

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    4 die set, worth it in the long run
     
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  17. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator Staff Member

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    You have to adjust the crimp on the Lee FCD just like other crimp dies, just a little differently since the crimp ledge isn't built into the body, but it still has to be adjusted.
     
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  18. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator Staff Member

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    This is straight from the Lee advertising., which takes a lot of poetic license. Of course there is a limit, but if you go over it, the post sizer mashes it back out is all. The crimp needs to be adjusted properly.
     
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  19. Alex Clayton

    Alex Clayton Member

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    A carbide sizer inside the Carbide Factory Crimp die post-sizes the cartridge while it is crimped so every round will positively chamber freely with factory like dependability. The adjusting screw quickly and easily sets the desired amount of crimp. It is impossible to buckle the case as with a conventional bullet seating die. Trim length is not critical so this extra operation takes less time than it would if cases were trimmed and chamfered.

    Revolver dies roll crimp with no limit as to the amount. A perfect taper crimp is applied to auto-loader rounds. The crimper cannot be misadjusted to make a case mouth too small to properly head-space. A firm crimp is essential for dependable and accurate ammunition. It eliminates the problems of poor ignition of slow burning magnum powders.

    The above is from the people who make the die. I guess some who do not reload may not get what I am saying. When you learn to roll the first thing you find is the crimp is something you have to work with. To do it the "old way" the cases have to be very close to the same length. When setting up it's trial and error to get it correct. Then you have to make sure you get enough crimp so rounds do not set back in an auto, or jump forward and jam a wheel gun. If you go too much old way you can buckle the case ruining the load. Once you get your die set (old way) it only works if all the cases are very close to the same. Get some a little longer or shorter and they do not crimp the same. The FC die does away with this problem which is what I mean. As newbies learn to roll their own trying it the old way they will quickly see what I mean. It was why as soon as I tried a FC one time I ordered one for all my pistol dies. I ended up buying a new press with 4 hold turrets later too even though the old press works fine so that I could have all 4 dies set up. Gave the old press to a newbie during one of the great panic shortages where you could not buy one and he was happy:D
     
  20. kmw1954

    kmw1954 Member

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    This seems to be more a discussion of the Lee FCD in general and not as it pertains to using it with cast lead. I do use a FCD but not while loading cast lead especially oversized cast lead as has already been stated the FCD will post size an oversize bullet down to jacketed size which in many cases is too small a bullet to work properly in a particular barrel.

    I do load a Lee 356-102-R1 cast bullet that has been cast with both COWW and range scrap then sized to .356". I do not use a Lee FCD to load this and this has proven to be one of the most accurate and reliable 380 loads I use.
     
  21. cfullgraf

    cfullgraf Member

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    Back around 1980, I got into taper crimping 45 ACP in a separate step from seating. I found I liked it better than seating and crimping in the same die as I could set each step independently from the other.

    With finally switching to a progressive press in the 2000's, crimping separately was no longer an "added" step in the process.

    But, crimping separately from seating is definitely not a necessity, what ever floats your boat.
     
  22. mdi

    mdi Member

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    I'm reading some very strange "facts" about the Lee FCD. I have read what Lee says, what "experienced" reloaders say, and what I actually experienced. The main "feature" of the Lee FCD for handguns is it sizes the case post crimping. Meaning it hides poor (sloppy) reloading techniques (I started reloading in 1969 and if a round didn't chamber, I found out why, and fixed the problem, which was very often just by adjusting dies. BTW, I can't remember a round that didn't chamber, even with my .003" oversize cast bullets). Yes, the FCD is adjustable, just like any reloading die.

    I have reloaded tens of thousands of semi-auto rounds and never needed to post crimp size any cartridges. I do not crimp any semi-auto ammo as neck tension holds the bullet in place and most problems newer reloaders have is too much crimp that either bulges the case and/or loosens the bullet. I use a taper crimp die to deflare the case mouth.

    My first handloads were 38 Special and I can't remember trimming any cases and all my crimps were even and consistent (I made a lot of very accurate ammo for a tight S&W M10 that on a good day gave me sub 1" groups @ 25 yards), using a plain old Lee roll crimp die, which I was able to adjust from barely visible roll to an extra heavy roll into a cast bullet with a deep crimp groove.

    Sometimes a guy just has to say something about the "facts" some post as "gospel"...
     
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  23. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator Staff Member

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    Yep.
     
  24. MySuomi

    MySuomi Member

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    I like the Lee 4 die sets, but I switched to the 3 die set to save a step. (Since I have a single stage press) Having one die do the seating and the same die do a mild crimp saved me serious time over several hundred rounds. One of the benefits of the 4 die set is ease of setup. I found it more tricky to set up the combo seating/crimp die. But, definitely worth the setup trouble for me.

    If I had a progressive or turret press I would probably go back to the 4 die set.
     
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  25. Dudedog
    • Contributing Member

    Dudedog Contributing Member

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    Get the 4 die set. You may or may not use the FCD. (you don't have to)
    I like the FCD for 9mm Plated/jacketed.

    I don't shoot lead/coated lead any more but when I did sometime I would use it and sometimes I wouldn't.
    In .45 when loading lead I generally didn't use it.
    I can resize lead bullets. (well any bullet bit more of an issue with lead)
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2020
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