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Problems with loading .45 ACP

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by John Wayne, Aug 22, 2010.

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  1. John Wayne

    John Wayne Member

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    Hey guys,

    I just started loading .45 ACP for the first time. I'm using Lee carbide dies and once-fired brass that has not been sorted, on a Lee single-stage press.

    I am full-length sizing the cases (decapping at the same time), but my finished rounds do not chamber in my gun's barrel. I am shooting a Glock 30 with a LWD .45 barrel. The finished rounds go in a little easier in the stock barrel, but they do not chamber in it either. This happens with two different bullets that I've tried, the Georgia Arms 185 gr. JHP (.451) and the Georgia Arms 230 gr. LRN (.452). I verified that the bullets are the correct diameter with digital calipers. Both bullets are seated below maximum OAL, but are not quite at minimum OAL.

    I've been reloading .38 special for about a year and have made a few thousand rounds without any problems. The only auto pistol cartridge I load for is 9x19, and I have made fewer than 1,000--none of which failed to chamber and all of which shot just fine.

    I ran the rounds loaded with the jacketed bullets through my Lee FCD and now they all chamber and drop out just fine. I am hesitant to do this with the lead bullets though, as I have heard the FCD can cause problems with cast bullets coming loose and getting set back in the case. I would also like to eliminate using the FCD all together, since it just adds and extra step and there is no reason I shouldn't be able to load ammo with just the regular resizing/decapping, expanding, and bullet seating dies.

    I noticed there is another thread where a poster is having similar issues with loading the .45 auto cartridge, but I did not want to hijack that thread. I am also using different equipment than him. Since I have issues with the few rounds of each, I only loaded 20 rounds (10 JHP, 10 LRN) until I figure out the problem.

    *edit: Forgot to add that the Lee FCD is designed to post-size out of spec rounds. Judging from the resistance encountered, it resized each of the 10 rounds I ran through it. Before using the FCD, none of the 10 would readily chamber and all 10 chamber just fine afterwards.

    Any ideas?
     
  2. loadedround

    loadedround Member

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    What appears to be happening and is very common in 9mm and 45 ACP rounds is that when your expander die is opening up your case mouth to much. It should be adjusted to just let you start a lead bullet into the case mouth w/shaving lead. Your seating/crimping die should take of your problem chambering problem when adjusted properly. Seat your bullet normally and back off your seating stem several turns. Turn your die body down until it contacts the case mouth and then give itanother quarter turn. Reset your seating stem and you're good to go. Your FCD is really not necessary unless you want to use it as the 4th step instead of setting a crimp with your seating die.
     
  3. rfwobbly

    rfwobbly Member

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    John -
    Not to worry. With first time reloading, 99.5% of the time it's a simple matter of not removing enough "belling". Before you seated your lead bullet, you put a "bell" on the case so that the bullet would slide in without shaving. The chamber is looking to have that flair completely removed. This is same for virtually all auto cartridges.

    You're also correct in assuming that your seating die can do this, and you shouldn't need the FCD. Make some test rounds with case and bullets only. Run the body of the seater die down in 1/8 turn increments until the test round will drop under its own weight fully into the tightest 45ACP chamber you have. Then STOP. Lock the body down right there.

    Of course the barrel should be removed from the gun for this test.

    That should do you up.
     
  4. glockgod

    glockgod Member

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    When I first reloaded 45ACPs' years ago I had a Godawful time at first. Problem was solved bigtime when I purchased a taper crimp die. Worked like a charm. I wouldn't hesitate to use the Lee FCD on your lead bullet reloads. I also load a BUNCH of .38 Special for Cowboy Action and use a FCD as a seperate last step. Just add enuf crimp to take the bell off and hold the bullet in place. I test by pushing the bullet tip into the side of the bench. It shouldn't move.
     
  5. UltimateReloader

    UltimateReloader Member

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    I agree with what has been said here, and would add the following:
    The expansion shouldn't be the problem here (when you expand you should be able to tell visually, but it shouldn't be expanded more than just necessary to have bullets sit in the case mouth properly (that'll help prevent lead shaving when seating).

    One easy way to adjust your crimp die is to put a factory (or good previous reload) in the shellplate or shell holder, raise the ram, and screw down the crimp die until you feel resistance. You can usually give it a hair more. Taking the barrel out of your gun will give you a good slip fit test.

    Hope that helps!
     
  6. gun guy

    gun guy Member

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    It never hurts, to load 2 or 3 dummy rounds,(no primer or powder) before running off a 1,000 round lot with a new bullet. Sometimes under expansion leads to a tight seat, and sometimes damaged bullets, too much expansion, some of the problems you are experiencing. Set and mark the dies. make the dummy run, check their fit in the barrel, cycle them thru the weapon, you can even take them to the range, load a dummy, then a live round. Fire the weapon, see if the dummy is picked up and chambered. If all is well, do your production run. The taper crimp die cures alot of ill's due to over expansion. Some automatics are fussy when it comes to hollow points. Use the mic, make lots of notes. The only thing higher on my dislike chores, besides running off a 1,000 lot, is tearing it all back down and starting over. Good luck
     
  7. bds
    • Contributing Member

    bds Member

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    John, take a full-length sized case and drop in the LW barrel. If it does not fall freely and you can't chamber it fully, then you have a resizing problem. If it falls in freely, then as many posted, you have problem with not taking in the flare of the case neck in flat when you are seating the bullet - you would need to adjust the taper crimp of the die.
     
  8. Ky Larry

    Ky Larry Member

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    I've loaded 1,000's of 200gr lswc's for my Kimber. I always seat and crimp in seperate steps. I use a single stage Rock Chucker. I can "feel" the right crimp as I adjust the searing die to crimp the rounds.It just takes practice.
     
  9. John Wayne

    John Wayne Member

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    Ok, I tried my empty sized cases (not expanded yet) and they drop in and out fine of both my .45 ACP barrels, which suggests that, like many have said, the belling has not been adequately removed. I'm not flaring them any more than necessary to seat the bullets, but I may not have been fully removing the flare either. Before going through the FCD, finished rounds go about 3/4 of the way in, and can be lightly pushed in the rest of the way, but do not fall out on their own.

    Not to worry, I can't even afford to buy bullets or primers in quantities over 500 at a time :) At least I have plenty of time to perfect my loads on my humble little Lee single-stage press so I'll have some good ones ready for when I can turn out 2k at a time on a progressive press.

    One thing I did wonder about was whether or not I have a taper crimp die. I know my Lee 9mm set has a taper crimp die, but my .45 one is marked for .45 Auto and .45 Auto Rim--would that mean it's a roll crimp die?
     
  10. bds
    • Contributing Member

    bds Member

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    John, great - looks like you are making progress.

    The 4 die set you have will do taper crimp and roll crimp, depending on how much die adjustment you have with the taper crimp/bullet seat die.

    I do not use the Factory Crimp Die when I set up the dies for a new reloader. I have them use the 3 dies (without the FCD) so all of their rounds chamber OK just with the "flat" taper crimp set at 0.47"-0.472". Once we have 3 dies setup, only then, IF they want the extra "factory" finishing touch, then I have them use the FCD. Use of FCD when you do not have enough "flat" taper crimp just erases the flare you did not take in enough with the taper crimp/bullet seat die.

    For me, all of my 45 ACP reloads are taper crimped without the FCD and they feed/chamber fine in multiple pistols. Try taking out the FCD from your turret and adjust your taper crimp/bullet seat die so your taper crimp is set at 0.47"-0.472" diameter. The reloaded rounds should fall right into your chamber.
     
  11. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

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    Agreed. That should be tried first. Just enough taper crimp to remove the bell, and a hair more. I need magnification to see my taper crimp in .45 ACP.

    [​IMG]
     
  12. John Wayne

    John Wayne Member

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    Well, finally got around to trying some of the reloads. Since I hadn't shot the first batch of 20, I didn't make any more. In order to get them to chamber, I had to run all of them through the Lee FCD. After going through the FCD, they all chambered and dropped out fine.

    When I got to the range about a week later, over half of them would not feed! Most got hung up on the feed ramp--3 went into battery normally, and I fired these three with good results. They shot to POA and ejected fine. 2 rounds chambered and the striker dropped, but they did not go off! There was a pretty good dent in the primer, but it was off-center and did not have the characteristic Glock striker dent. Decided not to push my luck and called it quits, with the following results:

    185 gr. JHP, HS-6 starting load, mixed cases, CCI primers (10 rounds loaded):
    -3 fed, fired, and ejected normally
    -6 would not chamber
    -1 chambered but did not fire (large dent in primer)

    230 gr. LRN, HS-6 using Win 540 starting load data, mixed cases, CCI primers (10 rounds loaded):
    -9 would not chamber
    -1 chambered but did not fire (large dent in primer)

    When I took the barrel out and tried the rounds that failed to chamber, they failed the "drop test" in both the LWD and factory barrel. Well, I decided to load 5 more JHP rounds, paying special attention to remove all case mouth flare. Loaded them as normal, screwed the bullet seating/crimp die down 1/4 past the point where it contacted the case, and seated them just longer than minimum OAL. Finished rounds measured .472 at the mouth. They still didn't chamber!

    I then ran the 5 rounds I just loaded, as well as all the rounds that I had previously loaded, through the Lee FCD, adjusting the die down farther this time. Keep in mind that this is the second time some of the rounds had been through the FCD. All the rounds then passed the chamber drop test, so I went to the range and fired all remaining rounds without issue. They fed fine and proved to be accurate. The two rounds with light strikes went off without a problem.

    All rounds were fired through the LWD barrel, which has a tighter chamber. Also tested this barrel with some factory ammo and it functioned fine (I never suspected a problem with the barrel, but wanted to rule it out as a variable).

    What's going on?
     
  13. bluetopper

    bluetopper Member

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    Screw your seating/crimp die down a bit more.
     
  14. bds
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    bds Member

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    John, there's your answer - If factory ammo fed and chambered fine, then your reloaded rounds are out of spec.

    1. Make sure you are "full length" sizing your spent cases. If you are using a progressive press, recheck the sizing with all the shell plate stations full of cases (on some press, full shell plate stations change the upward travel and you may need to lower your decapping/resizing die). Always chamber check the resized cases using the tightest barrel (in your case, LWD barrel). Cases that are not full length sized will hang at the base of the case and won't fully chamber.

    2. Once your resized cases pass the LWD chamber test but if the loaded rounds won't feed/chamber, then you need to check the taper crimp. Keep adjusting until the loaded round drops into the LWD chamber freely with a "clink". Your loaded bullet diameter should be 0.470" - 0.472" measured at the end of case neck. And again, if you have a progressive press, you may need to recheck the taper crimp measurement with the shell plate stations full of cases.

    As to the primer that did not fire, it may have been a high primer. If it was, it should fire on the second primer strike. Properly seated primers should be just slightly below flush with the case base.

    You are almost there. Keep us posted.
     
  15. 918v

    918v Member

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    Adjust your sizer die to touch the shell holder.

    Adjust your case mouth expander to bell the case mouth just enough to accept the bullet.

    Start the bullet straight in the case.

    Adjust the seater to seat without crimping.

    Seat.

    Adjust the Seater to crimp without seating.

    Crimp minimally, just enough to straighten the case mouth.

    Your handload will now fit just fine.

    I believe you crimped too much and buckled the case. When the case buckles, it grows in diameter and sticks in the chamber.
     
  16. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

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    Agreed. :)
     
  17. bds
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    bds Member

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    John is using Lee 4 die set, so it has a combination bullet seater/taper crimp die and FCD. Are you suggesting to run all the rounds first seating the bullet only then running all the rounds again only to taper crimp them?

    There are plenty of us who do the seating/taper crimping at the same time without issues.

    As to over-taper crimping, if you start with the flared case and gradually take in the flare while checking with the barrel, you should be able to find the point where the flare goes in flat (0.470" - 0.472") without beginning to start the roll crimping of the case neck with this die set.
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2010
  18. noylj

    noylj Member

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    John: Let's walk through setting up the dies and then reloading.
    1) Remove barrels from gun and take them to your loading bench. Clean them if need be.
    2) Place shell holder in ram. Raise ram. Insert and screw sizing die down until it just touched the shellholder. Turn the die UP about 1/16 of a turn. If you haven't previously done this, chamfer the case mouth inside and out lightly to remove any burrs. Insert empty case in shellholder. Raise ram and size case. While case is in the die, you will want to turn the lock ring down to lock it in position. Drop empty case in barrels. The case should drop in with a nice metallic CLUNK. If not, the cases may be bulged or the die has a problem. I have NEVER not had the case just drop in. If case drops in, lock the ring down and resize all your cases. If any feel different, do the drop test.
    3) The cases now needs to be primed—generally you will prime in-line with the sizing operation. If so, leave at least two cases unprimed for setting up the following die stations. If you are using an expansion die that also acts as the powder die (such as the Lee Powder-Through Expansion die or the Lee and Hornady variations, you will have to seat the primers before expansion. Personally, I prefer to prime by hand or with the RCBS bench priming tool.
    3a) Expanding with a dedicated expansion die (Hornady, RCBS, others). Raise the ram to its full height with a case in the shell holder. Thread the expander die into the press until the expander touches the case mouth. Raise the handle (lower the ram) a little and screw down the die in small increments (each time inspecting the mouth for the first hint of the mouth being flared/belled) until the mouth of the case has been flared just enough to rest a bullet on the case. Insert the empty case into the die and tighten the die body lock ring.
    3b) Expand with a powder-through die where the case is expanded and charged with powder in one step.
    Easiest is the Lee PTE die. Same idea applies to others, but you need to have the powder measure attached and turing the die can be frustrating. Raise the ram so the shellholder is all the way up. Screw down the Lee PTE die until it touched the shellholder. Back the die out about 1/2 turn. Lower ram, insert empty case, and raise ram to expand the case. Lower ram and remove the case. Do you see a slight flare/bell at the case mouth? Put the case down on the bench and see if a bullet will rest on the case mouth. Inspect and be sure the case mouth doesn't contact the bullet's body. Adjust die in or out to achieve minimum flare that lets the bullet rest on the case mouth and the case mouth will not scrape the sides of the bullet.
    If you are not charging the cases at this point with powder, expand all cases (again, set the unprimed cases aside for use in die set-up and as dummy rounds for the following operations).
    4) The next step is powder charging. I have always charged the cases and seated the bullets. I knocked over charged cases a couple of times and decided the loading block route was not for me. If you are doing the loading block route, then charge all the primed cases and inspect them that all powder levels are the same.
    5) Bullet seating. This is the critical step that determines if your reloads will function in your guns. It is important to note that the SAAMI “COL” values listed in reloading manuals are for the firearms and ammunition manufacturers industry and must
    be seen as a guideline only. The individual reloader is free to adjust this dimension to suit their particular firearm-component-weapon combination. This parameter is determined by various dimensions such as 1) magazine length (space), 2) freebore-lead dimensions of the barrel, 3) ogive or profile of the projectile and 4) position of cannelure or crimp groove.
    Take one of the unprimed cases to set-up the seating and crimp dies. Look in the loading manual for the maximum COL (for the .45ACP this is about 1.28"). The following is complicated if you want to seat and crimp in one operations. I will describe it, but if you perform these two operations separately, you will simply set the seating die so it does NOT crimp and lock the die down at that position.
    To set-up for simultaneous seating and crimping (not recommended), you will place an empty unprimed case in the shellholder and raise the ram. Turn the seating stem in the seating die all the way up and out of the way. Screw the die body down until you feel the die hit the case. This is the start of the crimping part of the die. Turn the die body up two turns. Lower the empty case, place a bullet on it, and raise the ram. Screw the seating stem down until it contact the bullet. Lower the ram a little, turn the seating stem down 1/2 turn, and raise the ram. While the ram in up, turn the lock ring to lock the die body in position.
    Lower the case and determine the COL. You should be able to see that the bullet is not seated to a proper depth yet. Some people measure the COL, determine how far they are from Max COL, and calculate how many turns of the seating stem they need. I just screw in the seating stem about 1/2 turn, seat, and measure the COL. In general, your eye is good enough to let you know if the bullet isn't seated deep enough yet. As you approach max COL, turn the seating stem in smaller amounts. When you get to the max COL, you will need to remove the flare/belling so the case can be chambered. Turn the seating stem all the way up, loosen the lock ring on the die body, and turn the die down 1/2 turn. Insert the unprimed case with the seated bullet and raise the ram. Lower ram and inspect for any remaining flare. You can also try to chamber the dummy round in your barrels. If there is any visible flare, the round should not chamber. Turn the seating die down about 1/4 turn until the dummy round freely chambers. This is all the crimp you need. You should see a slightly shiny "ring" around the case mouth from the crimping. Reassemble your guns.
    Now, does the dummy round fit in your magazine? If not, you will need to seat deeper until it does. Load another dummy round (unprimed, no powder). Put both in your gun, pull the slide back and release (don't "help" it, let it slam shut). Did the round feed and chamber? If not, the round may be too long. If there is bullet set-back, you will need to use more crimp later. Adjust seating depth until both dummy rounds function in your gun.
    You now have a COL that functions in both your guns and is as long as possible.
    Place a dummy in the shellholder, back out the seating die and seating stem, and raise the ram. Turn the seating die body down until it contact the case. slightly lower the ram and turn the die body down about 1/16 turn. Raise the ram and lock the die body with the lock ring. Now, turn the seating stem down until it contacts the bullet. Lock the seating stem down.
    You are now ready to seat and crimp the charged cases.
    As you can see, the seating and crimping steps are where so many things can go wrong. Actions must be performed in the correct order and the seating stem has to be out of the way when adjusting crimp and the crimp section has to be out of the way when adjusting the bullet seating.
    This is also why you want to keep those dummy rounds, properly labeled, and a reloading log book so you know what COL you used with each bullet you load. When you come back, you use the dummy rounds to set-up the seating and crimp dies.
    Load about 20 rounds. In a safe location, cycle them through your gun. I generally do this at the range. Check them for bullet set-back (there should be only 0.002" at the most). Then fire them at the range.
    If there are problems, determine cause. If all goes well, you are now ready to load a mess of rounds with that bullets and you can start checking different charge weights and powders.
     
  19. 918v

    918v Member

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    What I'm suggesting is that he has his seater die adjusted wrong. He's seating and crimping at the same time, buckling the case in the process. If he seperates these steps, life will be easier. If he has a separate taper crimp die, then he can ajust his seater die to seat only and use the taper crim die to crimp only.
     
  20. mboylan

    mboylan Member

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    Agree with everyone here. You need to learn how to adjust your dies. Bell just enough to seat the bullet, seat at the correct depth and crimp just enough to take out the bell.
     
  21. The Bushmaster

    The Bushmaster Member

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    And get the damned FCD out of there!!
     
  22. John Wayne

    John Wayne Member

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    Cases are, as previously stated, full length sized and drop in fine to both barrels. It is the finished rounds I am having trouble with.

    Also, the finished rounds measure .472, indicating that the belling has been removed.

    Yes, I am crimping and seating the bullet at the same time. This is the way I load 9mm rounds, without issue, and also the way described in the instructions that came with my dies. I would prefer to do it this way to simplify things; I did not know there were any problems associated with this method.

    As for getting rid of the FCD, why? I agree that it should be an unneccesary step, but at this point it is the only thing that let me fire my finished rounds without having to pull the bullets and start all over again.

    I'll try seating and crimping in seperate steps and see if that helps.
     
  23. bds
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    bds Member

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    John, I spent yesterday afternoon setting up a brand new reloader (Pro 1000) with 9mm, 40S&W and 45ACP dies (Lee carbide) for a shooter new to reloading.

    For 45ACP, after sizing/decapping die was set to full-length size (bottom of the sizer "kissing" the shell plate), slight flare was added to set jacketed/plated/lead bullets (230 gr RN) on top of the case neck just inside the case rim. Then the crimp/seating die was set for 0.472" taper crimp and 1.25" OAL.

    I pointed out too much crimp adjustment will start the "roll crimp" on the case neck with a grinding noise and shiny case neck rim - we backed off the crimp adjustment until we got 0.472" tamper crimp with no damage to the case neck rim.

    All the rounds dropped into his chambers with a "clink". BTW, FCD was not used.

    Since factory ammo chambers fine in your LWD barrel, I think if you carefully measure your reloaded case dimensions, you should find where in the reloading steps you are causing the case to go out of specs.
     
  24. RealGun

    RealGun Member

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    Well, that's just it, isn't it? That is what the FCD is all about in theory, but too many times it appears indispensable.

    If I eliminated an FCD operation, I certainly would still want to own an FCD and have it standing by as needed. Problem is, now I have to gauge every round because I didn't cover variations with an FCD operation. I don't want to find out later that the ammo is not reliable.

    Why should I be forced to use someone else's commercial ammo just to gain confidence that it is reliable enough for a match? Why is my ammo only considered good enough for range practice just because I am too stubborn to use an FCD? The part I don't appreciate is having to own a certain type of press just to fit in that extra operation. Oh well.

    I plan to carefully go through the process laid out in noylj's post. I will try one more time to see if I can get consistent OAL without a case collapsing. I will also check the .472 finished diameter at the case mouth that bds stressed a number of times. I have a lot more skill and insight now than when I first tried to set up dies. That's always the way. Here I am using an FCD and nothing is broken, and I am trying to fix something. Actually, being able to drop an operation would be very useful in a couple of my scenarios, primarily when limited to three stations and doing all operations on the press (priming).
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2010
  25. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

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    Bottom line is the FCD should not be needed unless the bullets are oversized. (At least .453, or more) The fix for that is buy different bullets next time.
     
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