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Safety questions and a lee crimping question.

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by sceper, Sep 8, 2008.

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  1. sceper

    sceper Member

    Sep 8, 2008
    I've just purchased my first reloading equipment and am still reading the books and manuals to become familiar with everything; however, the books are filled with horror stories about people who destroyed their guns, through too much, too little powder, too much crimping, no crimping -- almost to the point of making me wonder if I made the right decision to start reloading. I'm good with instructions, although I think the Lee manuals leave a lot to be desired.

    So, I have a few questions:

    1. Are there common errors made by novices that I should watch for?
    2. What type of mistakes have you made?
    3. finally, although off topic, I bought lee's carbide 3-die set. Lee says its seating die crimps, but recommends a fourth, factory crimping die for "ammunition that has to work." What does this mean? I'll be starting with .357, 38 special and .45 acps. Assuming that I would like the cartridge to fire and the bullet to leave the barrel and hit a target, preferably in response to my pulling the trigger, do I need to get a crimping die or not? Lee really isn't very clear on this point. Also, the instructions say crimp to suit. How do I know what an acceptable crimp is?

    Last edited: Sep 8, 2008
  2. shadowalker

    shadowalker Member

    Sep 6, 2006
    Welcome to to world of reloading! Most people that reload go through the same thing, Despite taking great care to do everything right I remember standing on the line, pulling the trigger and praying my gun didn't explode in my hand.

    Reloading can be dangerous if done carelessly but with the proper mindset and care is great fun. It is like a lot of other activities like driving, diving, etc. Respect it and you'll probably be fine, get careless and you'll probably get hurt.

    It is possible to get a bad batch of powder, brass, etc but most the problems I've heard of can be traced to a failure of the person doing the reloading.

    If you don't have it yet see if you can get a copy of "The ABCs of reloading."

    There might be a reloading class near you, Dillon makes video manuals for their presses, even if you don't have a Dillon press it is informative.

    Start with starting loads with a medium to high volume powder, makes missing or double a charge more noticeable. There are a lot of powder choices, Universal and Unique are kind of like duck tape, probably not the best for anything but workable in just about everything.

    Inspect your brass, watch for no charges, double charges, bullet seated too deeply.

    Most the manuals have pretty good safety lists. There is a huge amount of useful information in this forum, read the things you've learned thread for sure.

    #1 Be alert and aware of what you are doing and why, if you get into a grove or start to glass over stop.

    Take your time, if it takes 2 hours to make your first few rounds that is OK. Don't split your attention, if are reloading make that your only task.

    Make sure you are using the components you think you are, it is easy to grab 124 grain bullets instead of 115. Validate your load data too, you could be on the wrong page, be looking at 10mm load data instead of 40 S&W, etc.

    #2 Keep only one powder on the bench at a time, don't store powder in the measure if you are done reloading put it back in the (correct) powder container. That way you never have to guess what is in the measure.

    #3 Develop a feel for what is normal on the press, don't force the press, if it seems to be stuck the solution probably is not to push or pull harder.

    #4 Buy the necessary tools and manuals but don't spend a lot on extras until you know you need it. There are a lot of toys that speed up certain things but a lot of times stuff sits unused on the bench too.

    #5 Check bullet tension press your thumb, bullet shouldn't fall into the case. I also press it on my bench and then measure, I have yet to see more than .001 variation with most my body weight pushing, even with no crimp.

    #6 Don't over crimp, it does not follow the rule that if a little is good more is better :)

    #7 Don't get comfortable and careless. After reloading for a year or two a lot of people feel like they know what they are doing, get cocky and get into trouble.

    #8 Watch your fingers, the press will happily crush your thumb and most other things :)

    #9 Make sure stuff is tightened down, presses and dies can work loose.

    #10 Some manuals recommend weighing complete rounds to determine if there is too much or too little powder, this doesn't work well with handgun calibers. The weight variance between pieces of brass is often more than the entire powder charge.

    Lee's Factory Crimp Die (FCD) post sizes and crimps the case, this can bring an out of spec round back into spec. Lots of people love them, others say that if you are properly configured you shouldn't need it. They can be helpful when getting started and are cheap. I stopped using mine but still seat and crimp separately.

    A case gauge can be very helpful, it helps make sure the physical dimensions are within spec.
  3. Otto

    Otto Member

    May 14, 2007
    Lone Star State
    Lee's right, it's better to seat the bullet in one step and crimp the bullet in a second step.
    If you try to seat and crimp in the same step you'll likely run into some problems.
    But any taper crimp die will do the job...you don't necessarily need the Lee Factory Carbide crimp die which is a specialized crimping die. Personally, I don't recommend the FCD because I feel it covers up mistakes when it post sizes.
    Crimp your bullet just enough to remove the belling of the case and no more. Crimping is not intended to hold the bullet in place, the tension of the case does. After you crimp, use a case gage or your firearms chamber to check if your round drops in freely.
  4. janobles14

    janobles14 Member

    Apr 22, 2008
    dont smoke a cigar while reloading...also to that note, dont empty the little bits of extra powder in the closest thing at hand (oh say...an ashtray). :)

    follow the recipes and you'll be fine. also, the lee die sets come with some pretty great instructions in them! really breaks down how far to screw in or unscrew your dies to achieve desired results.
  5. TX1911fan

    TX1911fan Member

    Mar 7, 2006
    The Lee FCD is most useful for semi-auto pistols where you want to make sure the cartridge will fit in the chamber. The FCD makes sure to take the cartridge down to the size of the standard chamber for that size round. I use it and it works well.
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