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Lee Expander Die - Case Mouth Separation

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by XPLSV, Dec 2, 2008.

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  1. XPLSV

    XPLSV Member

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    I've been reloading rifle cartridges for awhile, just had my first run-in with a pistol cartridge. 357 SIG. Lee die set. Full length resized my cases without issue. Moved on to expander die. I've seen some comments during my searches already regarding the roughness of the Lee expander dies. Guess I was probably on the far end of the rough spectrum and perhaps I had the die set to expand too much but...upon retracting the case out of the die, the case mouth separated and I have the top end of the case on the expander column. :cuss:
    [​IMG]
    I would know what to do with a stuck case in a resizer die, but this is kind of an inverted problem. Any suggestions on how to remove this "case ring" off the outside of the expander portion without damaging the die or do I just need to contact Lee for a replacement? Also, I understand the objective is to just slightly expand the case for bullet seating retention, but I have seen posts saying light lube, no lube, only non-petroleum based lube, etc. Any assistance is appreciated!
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2008
  2. Wilburt

    Wilburt Member

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    I don't know how to fix your die but i've never used lube for pistol brass. Some do but I've not found that necessary. How much I expand the case mouth is dependant on if I'm shooting Lead or Plated/Jacketed rounds. I expand a little more with lead to make sure I don't shave any.

    Basically not much expanding is needed. Too much splits the mouths. Just make sure it's enough not to shave lead and deep enough the bullet won't tip or get misaligned easily- causing the bullet to not set correctly.
     
  3. ReloaderFred

    ReloaderFred Member

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    Since you're dealing with a bottleneck cartridge, it's a little different than straight walled cases. For the 357 Sig, I like to chamfer the case mouths first and then give them just a tiny amount of flare to facilitate bullet feeding.

    As to your die, I'm afraid that one is probably really rough. You can get the ring of brass off it by lightly filing a cut on one side. Don't go all the way through the brass, just enough to weaken it. Once weakened, you should be able to use needle nose pliers and peel the brass off.

    Once you get it off, then polish the spindle with Flitz or J-B Bore cleaner by chucking it in a drill press and holding a soft cloth soaked in metal polish against it until it shines like a new penny.

    Hope this helps.

    Fred
     
  4. Steve C

    Steve C Member

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    As the .357 Sig is a bottle neck case the dies will be steel dies and not be carbide so lube will usually be needed. A little lube around the case mouth every so often should stop any sticking. Imperial die wax is the best I've found to use with steel dies though Dillon and Fankfort Arsenal spray lubes would work to for around the inside of case mouth if you wet a Q-tip with them. When loading rifle cartridges I use white graphite for inside the case necks.
     
  5. ants

    ants Member

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    Run-on sentence...

    Sizing dies are carbide but expander dies are not, it's not a carbide issue, Lee 357Sig die set is not available with carbide sizing die anyway, yes your sizing die needs lubrication, and best to lube the expander also with dry case lube according to directions (graphite or mica, says me).

    It is likely that excessive overexpanding extrudes brass between the expander and the inside wall of the die until it freezes. Maybe that's what you did. The expander is removed from the top of the die, unscrew the piece off the top (or remove the powder measure if that's on top) and see if you can tap the expander out the top with or without the brass. Theoretically speaking, that should clear the expander without the brass. You'll have to use your wits and skill to figure it out. Once you get the expander out, examine how it works and you'll see how overexpansion will jamb brass into the die and freeze it all together.

    Once the die is clear, carefully lubricate and expand one case next time. See if it works. It is likely not a roughness issue, but lately it has become popular to blame roughness. Before altering your die you should try it with lube to see if you really have a problem. Maybe you don't.

    Just a friendly observation from a guy who has gotten stuck with just about every possible piece of brass or copper or lead into every possible piece of reloading equipment imaginable. Best of luck. Hope this helped.
     
  6. Sheldon

    Sheldon Member

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    Gotta wonder if the case wasn't already so stretched it just gave out at that moment.
     
  7. Blind Bat

    Blind Bat Member

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    I'd be interested to see the die once you pry the case mouth off of it. I bet it looks like the surface of a record.

    I've been meaning to update my previous post but I need to bum a camera to take pictures. Lee sent me a new expander plug and which had much better machining but I can still feel slight machining grooves when I run my finger nail over the machined surface. After expanding 50 cases there was a decent amount of brass on the end of the plug even though it didn't visibly scratch the brass or leave shavings on the press. The original plug after polishing didn't scratch the brass at all even after expanding almost 1000 rounds it didn't show any brass residue.

    The original expander took significantly more force before I polished it. I'd bet if you very lightly sand the worst of the burs of the end of the plug and then polish it up you won't have any more problems.
     
  8. Sport45

    Sport45 Member

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    Something else is going on here. It's hard for me to imagine a case failing like this no matter how rough the expander is. I think this failure indicates a problem with the brass, not the expander.

    Was that a .357sig case or was it formed from .40S&W or 10mm?
     
  9. qajaq59

    qajaq59 Member

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    Seems like the Lee dies aren't being polished at all lately. But my guess is that if you call them they'll have you ship it back to them to either fix or replace it. Or at least I would hope they would
     
  10. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

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    Do what Fred said, and you will be OK.
     
  11. 243winxb

    243winxb Member

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    Bottle Neck Case -Set Back On Firing.

    When flrs your pushing the shoulder back to much causing excessive headspace. The case is stretch-separating at the weak spot. Check you brass before reloading. Lube the inside of the case mouth.
     
  12. Wilburt

    Wilburt Member

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    +1
    Yep I forgot it's a bottle neck :banghead:
     
  13. XPLSV

    XPLSV Member

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    Fred...the file idea sounds great, I'll take a shot at that this evening.

    The cases I'm using are once-fired Speer Gold Dot. (I've got an order pending for some Starline brass). As previously pointed out, Lee doesn't make carbide dies and these are steel...only Dillon makes carbide and I currently have a single stage press and figured I would just work with steel dies for now.

    I'll mention here that after the initial resizing using the Lee 357 SIG resizing die, I was going to trim the cases using my RCBS Trimmer but I had a problem getting the 9mm size pilot into the case mouth. Checked a couple of cases and figured I needed to expand the case mouth prior to trimming. The cases still had the lube on them at this point from the resizing operation. The first case I attempted to expand collapsed...it crushed downward. I didn't think the expander made it into the case mouth. On the second case, I put additional lube inside the case mouth, figuring the expander plug would get into it via that route. It took a good amount of pressure to get the expander into the case mouth. It took even more pressure to get it back out...pressure like the amount I've never experienced when reloading rifle cartridges over the past few years. When it did come out, it had ripped off the top of the case mouth and it was tightly wrapped around the expander plug of the die, as pictured. I have now been wondering if the fact I could not get the trimmer pilot into the case mouth might possibly indicated the neck size that resulted from resizing the case was possibly too small and that may have also attributed to my problem???

    Bernie
     
  14. ReloaderFred

    ReloaderFred Member

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    You have properly evaluated the problem. If the expander collapsed the first case, and stuck in the second one, then one of two things are occuring. The first may well be that the case necks are being sized too small in diameter. The second may be that the expander is oversized.

    Since you mentioned that the 9mm pilot from your case trimmer wouldn't go inside the case mouth after sizing, I think the former is the case. They may be getting squeezed down too much. (how's that for a technical term?)

    I have the Dillon carbide 357 Sig dies. Don't waste your money on them. I also have the Redding steel 357 Sig dies. They aren't a waste of money. As for your Lee dies, I've seen Lee dies that run the gamut from really good, to really trash.

    You're going to have to do some precise measuring to find out where the actual problem lies, but I'm inclined to believe it's in the dies, and not the brass. I've got about 10,000 rounds of Speer 357 Sig cases loaded right now, and none of it suffered any problems in loading at all.

    What's interesting, and off subject, is I had some new Starline .38 Special brass do the same thing you experienced when I was using a Lyman M die on it. The first few were tough to pull out of the expander die, and on about the 10th one, the case pulled in half, leaving the top half stuck on the expander. I used the file to cut a line in the brass and peeled it off the expander after I removed the spindle from the die. It was heavily coated with brass and I chucked it in the lathe and polished off all traces of brass from it. I then polished it to a high shine with Flitz and replaced it in the die and tried it again. It stuck in the new Starline case and visibly stretched it on the first try. This had never happened before with loading probably 100,000 rounds of .38 Special, and I can only attribute it to the new brass, in this case. I'm once again using the Lyman M die, but not the new Starline brass......

    Hope this helps.

    Fred
     
  15. 243winxb

    243winxb Member

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  16. BigJakeJ1s

    BigJakeJ1s Member

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    Some folks use a 40s&w carbide die first, then a steel 357 sig die can be used without lube.

    Andy
     
  17. evan price

    evan price Member

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    +1 above, however, with the caveat, you NEED to use some mica or graphite on the inside for the expander. I resize .357 Sig with my carbide .40 dies to outside-size the Sig case, then hit it with the Sig die to do the neck.
     
  18. XPLSV

    XPLSV Member

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    Andy, Evan,

    Check on that...I figured I would find a good deal on a .40 carbide sizer and add that as the next die, just thought I could get away using the Lee set for a few dozen rounds at this point. I have yet to measure the die and determine if I have problem with the neck size as it comes out of that 357 SIG resizing die...if the tolerences are off, I might still have the problem with too small of a neck.

    Bernie
     
  19. XPLSV

    XPLSV Member

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    The relatives departed and I finally got back to the reloading bench. I was able to use the file to remove the stuck case mouth, per Fred's great advice. I also smoothed out the expander plug AND reduced the amount of belling that I was putting on the case. I think I was taking it far too deep and that may have been the biggest part of the problem.

    I proceeded onward and found a couple other things that puzzled me. I've reloaded several bottleneck caliber rifle cartridges for the past few years, but this is my first pistol cartridge.

    1. After belling the case mouth, I went to trim some cases and found they didn't need trimming. I've always had to trim my rifle cartridges (at least the first time, as I now use the RCBS X-dies) so this really stopped me in my tracks at first. Then I thought...perhaps the pressures aren't great enough to cause expansion to the point of needing trimming? I did some searching and it seems there needs to be enough case length to successfully capture the bullet and leave room for a crimp and...when I measured some of the Speer Gold Dots I have, the cases were, essentially, the same length. I'm guessing I don't really have a problem here?

    2. I couldn't find my Lee instructions at one point, so I went to look online. Couldn't download a set but they had the video instructions. I have noticed that the procedures differ in their written instructions and their online video instructions. On both the reloading dies and the factory crimp die, there was a difference in each of them of "raising the ram up, screwing the die down until it makes contact, and then turniing an extra half turn." They happened to be reversed. I think I finagled back and forth to the point of obtaining what I needed during the process to get a few sample cartridges completed (oh, I had also picked up a .40 S&W RCBS carbide die and used that for initial resizing of the case). The question that I am currently left with is adjustment of the factory crimp die. I want to get a tighter crimp. Between the written and video instructions, I am at a loss as to whether to tighten the top knob for a tighter crimp or turn the entire die down. I would suspect that turning the entire die down would move the crimp location downward and that turning the top knob would tighten the crimp. That said, upon my experimentation with turning the entire die downward, I think I slightly decreased the cartridge OAL by pushing the bullet further into the case.

    3. The last question I have comes to the headspacing off the shoulder. I've read a lot of posts on this and have fired some reloads I bought at a gun show and had the only misfeeds I've ever had on my G32--and we are talking 50%+. My initial thoughts were to fire some of my initial cartridges to see if I have problems or not...maybe the die and shell holder combination will work properly after everything else I've encountered to date. I have read about folks taking some thickness off the shellholder. My question is: what type of techniques are available for measure this headspacing off the shoulder...or it is a general trial and error for those without special tools?

    Again, thanks to all for your inputs!

    Bernie
     
  20. 243winxb

    243winxb Member

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    http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=412909 The item in post #2 might help. LNL HEADSPACE KIT WITH BODY
     
  21. 243winxb

    243winxb Member

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  22. ReloaderFred

    ReloaderFred Member

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    Bernie,

    The 357 Sig round is like a bottleneck rifle round in some respects, but not in others. First off, all the information on this caliber will tell you it headspaces off the case mouth. While this is true, there is also the second datum point, which is the shoulder. If the shoulder isn't set back properly, then it contacts the chamber prematurely and causes an excessive headspace problem, but it's caused by the early contact with the shoulder, and not caused by the case mouth. I suspect this is what you encountered with your gunshow reloads. This is pretty common with this caliber.

    In my case, I placed a shellholder in my drill press vice, and inserted an arbor mounted grinding wheel in the drill press. Then I lowed the drill press spindle and locked it in place, so that it would remove just a couple thousandths off the top of the shellholder, and using the drillpress vice like a milling machine table, I slowly ground off the top of the shellholder. Through trial and error, I achieved what I needed to set the shoulder back properly and dedicated that shellholder to the 357 Sig.

    To my knowledge, no one makes a case gauge for the 357 Sig, though I tried to get Midway to do it at the last two SHOT Shows. Wilson makes a gauge, but it's not for a loaded round, only an empty case.

    As for trimming, I've only had to trim some Federal nickel plated brass that I picked up at the range. I've loaded somewhere around 13,000 to 14,000 rounds of 357 Sig brass, and only trimmed about 30 cases, so don't worry about it.

    For the crimp, I just make sure I have good neck tension to start with, and then a firm crimp. Both are important with the short neck of this round. I also load with AA #9, which completely fills the case and results in a compressed load, thereby preventing any possibility of bullet setback.

    And on the FCD, turning the knob makes the crimp tighter.

    One thing that I do with all my 357 Sig brass is chamfer the case mouths. To me, this is more important than belling the case mouth, and with the chamfer, you won't need as much belling, which helps with neck tension. You only have to chamfer one time, unless you end up trimming the brass, and that's a pain with such a short case.

    Hope this helps.

    Fred
     
  23. XPLSV

    XPLSV Member

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    Fred,

    I did chamfer the cases, as I generally do with my rifle cases. I heartily agree it is more work holding on to the short case!

    I had done two empty cases (no primer, no powder) as I was experimenting and had no problem chambering in my G32. I then went ahead and ran through 20 cartridges which I had planned to take to the range and see how they would feed through the pistol. After loading and seating them, I ran the first two through the factory crimp die and then decided to ensure they would feed into the chamber. They would not. I failed to notice that at some point, I had buckled the cases. They were all like this. :banghead: I went back through with another from start to finish and paid better attention to the problem. The problem occurred during the bullet seating operation. I measured the inside of the diameter after sizing the neck, getting .3480 to .3485. I expanded the case mouth and measure .3550. I tried seating a bullet and buckled the case just below the shoulder. At this point, I thought maybe I wasn't belling the case mouth enough, so the next one through, I adjusted according. This time I buckled the case using the expander. Measurement at the case mouth on the buckled case was .3590, so I had certainly increased. I'm using a dry powder lube (RCBS) inside the case mouth during the expanding operation. Below is a pic showing one of the original 20 (yeah, I kind of wonder how I missed that at the time), a belled case that collapsed (last one I tried), and one of the ones that was OK after minimal belling but buckled upon bullet seating (which I assume was the case with the first one when I loaded the initial 20).


    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2008
  24. ReloaderFred

    ReloaderFred Member

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    Those certainly are buckled cases! From what I see in the middle case, the one without the bullet, there isn't enough chamfer on the inside of the case mouth. The bullet is catching there and by the time you've overcome the resistance, the shoulder has buckled.

    Try this on a couple: Give them a severe chamfer. All the way to the outside edge of the case mouth. Then bell as usual, making sure you can set a bullet on the case mouth and see that it's started into the neck without any pressure on it.

    I just looked at your original post and pictures again. I would take the expander and chuck it in my lathe and put a long taper on it. I would then polish the bejeebers out of it (that's a technical reloading term, only used by very advanced reloaders). My Redding expander for 357 Sig has a lot of taper and it's never buckled a case, and I use it on both 357 sig and 9x25 Dillon.

    If that doesn't work, then send them to me and I'll process them for you and I guarantee you'll be able to load them........

    Hope this helps.

    Fred
     
  25. 243winxb

    243winxb Member

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    Excuse me if i am wrong, BUT

    Seem to me a RCBS 2 die set would solve the problem. The neck is expanded in the normal fashon for a bottle neck case. :confused: The 22 Remington Jet, a bottle neck type, never worked right, not made to be in a pistol. IMO. You are using a .355" bullet diameter? NOT a .357/.358" ?
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2008
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