NOE molds mfg'd powder thru expander plugs

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Aug 23, 2007
Guys, if you load cast pistol bullets using Lee dies, including their powder through expander die, you might consider one of the NOE powder through expander plugs. It is a direct replacement for the case mouth flaring plug in the powder thru expander die. It works sort of like a Lyman M die, in that it drives a plug down into the case in addition to putting a flare on the case mouth, leaving about .002" neck tension on your cast bullets, whereas the standard Lee flaring plug only opens the case mouth a little bit to ease seating.

To my way of seeing things, use of this handy tool is more likely to assure that your carefully sized cast bullet doesn't get swaged down to an unknown diameter by forcing it into the "as resized" case. It is inexpensive at $9 too.

Thought I'd pass it along if it helps you out.

Great tip, but I can't figure out which one would be most appropriate for a 9x19 setup - the 38P or 38AP?
OK - I assumed that the first dimension was the expander itself and the second was the 'flare' step that would be removed after seating the bullet.

In reality, the P is supposed to be a shorter expander, to work with the longer 357 cases. Just like the Lee plugs.

But I think NOE has (apparently erroneously) made these plugs all the longer 9x19 plug size, so they would all work with 9x19, up until recently.

Great tip, but I can't figure out which one would be most appropriate for a 9x19 setup - the 38P or 38AP?

If you check the specs, the 38AP expands to .353". If you check the diameter of a Lee 9x19 flare die, it is .353". The NOE will flare deeper, but this is still too small for cast bullets, unless you're sizing to less than .355. If you use this die and it works for you, then you might be buying snake oil, cuz you might not need an oversize flaring plug for your sizing die/brass/bullets, anyway. Also notice the flare is only .357. If you're sizing your bullets to .356 1/2 or bigger, you will have bullet shaving issues for sure.

If you are having issues with fouling and swaging, I highly recommend you get the P plug, which measures .356, with a .360 flare.

A lot of people have found good success using the Lee 38S&W flare plug in their 9x19 die. I have. This plug measures .356. I have also bought and used the NOE P plug, and it measures true at .356/.360 as advertised (or maybe just a tiny hair smaller, though it could be my $10.00 calipers). And it works just the same as the Lee38SW plug. And that's with .356 bullets.

leaving about .002" neck tension on your cast bullets
IME, all you really want is the spring back of the case. For a 356 bullet, using a 356 expander, the case might springback half a mil to a mil smaller. That's what holds the bullet in. That leaves plenty of neck tension. My bullets are hard to pull as any. And the unflared case below the base of the bullet is extra insurance against setback. If you use an expander that is 2 mils smaller than the bullet, it will open the case to 2 mils smaller, then springback will take it to 2.5-3 mils smaller. And your bullet will just expand the case that last 2 mils, leaving the same half a mil to a mil of springback holding it in. I have even made a custom .401" expander for my 10mm/40SW reloading, because I could find nowhere to buy that off-the-shelf. (I tried an off-the-shelf Lyman 398/401 expander, which not only did nothing for my fouling issues, it shaved my .401 bullets.)

I'm by no means the first to figure this out. I'm just following the footsteps of those shadowy radicals that left a tiny trail of breadcrumbs before me. Because for some reason, this incredible revelation is not yet general knowledge. And so I've been preaching this off my soap box for a good while now, like a broken record. I hope some other folks will share their experience.

If you're lucky, you can buy this P plug and it will still be the right length for 9x19. If they have fixed this "error" by now and are making the P plug shorter, you would have to put a piece of brass tube or pvc pipe between the funnel/nut and the expander plug.

Give this a try. It's only $10.00 to take this leap of faith with me. Or $6.00 for a non-thru plug. Or heck, $3.00 for a Lee 38SW plug. Say goodbye to fouling, say hello to superb accuracy, and see the powder coat revolution for what it is. A step backwards.
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An expander that depends on case neck "springback" for bullet pull in an autopistol caliber makes me nervous.
If the expander turns out to be slightly larger than the bullets, then for sure you can lose neck tension in a hurry. Springback isn't that much. If this turns out to be the case, you should be able to sand the plug down just a touch, although it will take more than a little elbow grease.

As long as your expander is somewhere between 1 mil smaller or up to just about exactly the same size as the bullet, you should have more or less full neck tension, the way I reckon it.

Here's a neck tension experiment you can do next time you are expanding pistol cases. You know how some cases are harder to expand than other? Well next time you get a nice and tight case, stop and feel how hard it is to pull the expander back out. Pretend that the expander is your bullet. That's the neck tension. Now leave the case in there and push the expander back into the same case. It will feel a little easier to push in, because it's already expanded. But pay attention to how hard it is to pull it out, again. It's more or less the same as before, IME. You can sit there and do this a bunch of times, and there's no significant change.

The only thing you really need to worry more about is if you come across an undersized bullet. If you're using a -0 expander, you can lose a lot of neck tension on a bum bullet. But on the bright side, if you notice this while seating or during later inspection, you might save yourself some fouling and inaccuracy, and really maybe start making/buying better bullets, because I have personally never had this problem with cast bullets, commercial or my own. I have had this issue with FMJ's, and maybe that's the reason manufacturers decided to give us 2 mil-under-jacketed bullet expanders.

I suppose with a dead soft annealed case you might only get one try to get any neck tension, and expanding to even a couple microns over would lose all tension, but I don't know anyone annealing straight wall pistol cases.
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I'm loading cast lead, so expanding the case neck to .356 still puts me a thou' under bullet diameter. If I can induce setback, I'll take another thou' off the expander.
0.001" under bullet diameter will give you all the bullet tension you can get. If you load a case with ID of 0.353" with a bullet of 0.356", and you pull the bullet, you will find that the new difference between the bullet OD and the case ID will almost always be 0.001". Can't say how much the bullet will be swaged down or how much the case will be expanded, but the difference in 0.001-0.002" in, I believe, every case I have checked.
One interesting thing I found was that I have a lot of OLD 9x19 cases (pre-'70s) that have been fired many, many times.
I found that initial expanding wasn't expanding enough for these work hardened cases, so I installed a second expander. Low and behold, though both expanders were the same (~0.354"), the cases after the second expander step could not hold a bullet (they were running about 0.355-0.356" ID, despite the expanders both being less than that). Glad I check bullet tension after seating. I think I ran about 20 rounds before I concluded that I was seeing a REAL phenomenon, and not just a freaky case to two.
and you pull the bullet, you will find that the new difference between the bullet OD and the case ID will almost always be 0.001".

Another way to say this, is if you measure the OD of a round of ammo, then you pull the bullet, the OD of the empty case will be bout 1 mil less. I agree, it's somewhere close to that, but it depends on the alloy and the workhardening, to some degree. And of course, it's dependent that the case was sized enough to begin with. If the case was a slip fit to the bullet before it was seated, then it's not going to springback after you pull the bullet.

Likewise, if you were able to measure a case with the expander in it, then measure after you pull the expander, the difference would be about 1 mil. So when you use a -1 mil expander, the case ends up about 2 mils smaller than the bullet, and exactly that 1 mil smaller than it really needs to be. The bullet will end up expanding that last mil, doing the work that a -0 expander would have.

If I can induce setback, I'll take another thou' off the expander.
For sure, you better check for it. But if you CAN induce setback with a -1 mil expander, I highly suggest you investigate deeper before turning down the plug. Because it's not the plug.

Don't make the mistake of thinking that if a -1 expander gives X tension that a -2 will give more. The expander has nothing to do with tension up until it starts to approach the exact size of the bullet within, say, a ten thousandth inch of the bullet diameter. (I say that, because that's about when you may want to start factoring in the elasticity of the bullet; i.e., the OD of a bullet being squeezed by a case is going to be ever so slightly smaller than the same bullet sitting on your bench.) Until then, tension is simply "yes." If you have variation, it's because of your sizing die/brass. Making the expander smaller won't change anything, at all.
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