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Possible upgrade from Lee for 223 loading?

Discussion in 'Ammunition & Reloading' started by sneakboxer, Dec 9, 2012.

  1. sneakboxer

    sneakboxer NW OR Active Member

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    Santa (my wife) is looking to get me something for Christmas and i have been debating on upgrading from my mostly Lee reloading set up. I just built a White Oak AR and intend to do a little high-power shooting in the future and i'm thinking that my Lee dies and scale might not be the best for serious rifle work. I would like to say that the Lee equipment has served me well for everything so far and are worth the money for a beginner. Foster, Redding, and RCBS seem to be the names to buy but what would recommend for a scale and full sizing die set? The scale i have works but is slow and not 100% repeatable with out adjustment and check weights. I would like something faster and more positive than the plastic push-pin 1/10 setting. I just returned the Lee full length sizing die due to a stripped decapper lock and now i'm second guessing Lee's quality. Foster and Redding offer some pretty complex dies and some are very pricy are they worth it?
    Thanks for you help, reloading has now officially became an addiction/obsession!
     
  2. Otter

    Otter Oregon - mid Willamette Valley Active Member

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    Of all the Lee products I actually like their dies the best. I've found the only way to accurately assess the quality of a die is to measure the runout on the necks after you size, and then the bullets after you seat them. I have some inexpensive RCBS dies that produce as little runout as $200 competition and custom dies. To measure runout you need a special tool that will cost about $100. Better yet, find someone that has one of these tools to check your reloaded ammo on.

    Give a choice between the dies you suggested I would go with the Forester dies. Just as good as the Redding dies for less money. If you are serious about accuracy, you might want to consider bushing dies. That way you can control neck tension. Different brands of brass will have different neck wall thickness. If the brass has a thicker or thinner neck, a one size fits all FL or neck die will produce different neck tension, which can have a big impact on accuracy.

    Lee scales look cheap and I've never used them. My experience is with RCBS and Redding mechanical scales and in my opinion they are both excellent products. But they are no faster. To solve that problem take a look at the electronic RCBS scale...it seems to be the standard.
     
  3. Darkker

    Darkker Mesa, Wa Active Member

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    Another way to "assess" the quality of the dies would be look at who holds patents for design..... Lee is CLEARLY the winner in the die category, most everyone used/use his patents.

    If you can't get the scale to work, something is wrong.... Since it has a "zero" setting, there is no need to ever use "check weights", if you honestly do have "standards" to check a scale, you know that you NEVER touch them with bare hands, right??


    To address your need for speed. Use the Perfect Powder Measure. If you don't already have it, buy Lee's Modern Reloading, and read, then re-read, and read again; the section on Weight Verses Volume. Given HOW extruded powders are built, that is the ONLY way to fly when using them. Given the consistency of Ball powders, it works.

    Remember that Volume is NOT weight, they are referenced only. Everytime someone in reloading land forgets that, and checks the weight of a volume, an angel looses it's wings.
     
  4. sneakboxer

    sneakboxer NW OR Active Member

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    My scale does work it is just that the last 1/10 of a grain is off depending on the day. In all reality its probably not worth complaining about. Lets say i want a 25.5gr charge for the 223. I set the scale up and then (using tweezers) place the check weights in the pan and adjust the brass wheel until the arrows line up (about an 1/8-1/4 turn). Then i want to run some 308 loads at 45gr and i'm off about 1/8-1/4turn. The scale is stored in the factory box and handled gingerly. I can deal with it but my check weights are in .5gr increments and during a load workup i might be off a little. I'm i just being OCD?
    Everything is working but i'm trying to keep my wife from getting me a silly non-hunting/shooting Christmas gift. She thinks components are not very personal. I'd love to get a stocking full of lead and brass!
    Thanks and please keep the opinions coming.
     
  5. PX4WA

    PX4WA Tacoma, WA Active Member

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    Seriously consider an rcbs auto powder dispenser if the budget allows...

    Makes things so much easier
     
  6. AMProducts

    AMProducts Maple Valley, WA Jerk, Ammo Manufacturer Silver Supporter

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    Since you're loading for an auto-loader you want:

    RCBS Small base die set (.223 caliber)
    RCBS/Forster/Redding/Lyman/hornady powder dispenser (buy whatever's cheapest, most of the generic ones are all of very similar quality, that doesn't change until you start to look at the benchrest measures. Also, don't buy the lee one, it sucks)

    You could go with an electronic scale, however I personally prefer the balance beam scales for setup, as long as you arn't running a fan in the room they're perfectly repeatable don't eat batteries (my electric scale has dead batteries every time I try to use it). I have the RCBS 505 and 510 scales. I like both of them quite a bit, but this doesn't mean you have to also. The important feature to check is that it measures 10ths, and that it has a screw leveler.

    If you really want to throw money at the problem, you can also get a micrometer seating die. The auto powder dispensers (you type in a charge on a keypad, and it drops that powder in the pan for you) are awesome for doing lots of match loads, but are overkill for every day reloading.
     
  7. deadshot2

    deadshot2 NW Quadrant WA State Well-Known Member

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    That's strange. I think my Chargemaster is just right for every day reloading. Of course I might just load a few more rounds each day than most. The Chargemaster has proven itself as a powder dispenser/scale combination that more and more Bench Rest shooters are using them, just powering them from batteries when loading at the range. A small motorcycle battery, fully charged, will run the average Chargemaster for several days of normal "Range Loading".

    I agree that a basic beam scale is an essential piece but rather than the "screw type adjustment for tenths, I prefer to just use the old 5-0-5 that I've tuned up. Spend the extra money on a set of check weights.

    BTW, a Chargemaster type dispenser/scale is just about the only way to dispense difficult to dispense powders like Varget unless you want to spend about $3,000 for a Promethius and then wait a couple of years for delivery:cool:
     
  8. AMProducts

    AMProducts Maple Valley, WA Jerk, Ammo Manufacturer Silver Supporter

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    I don't usually load just a few cartridges unless I'm doing load testing. I usually load a few hundred, even match ammo. I have the older RCBS powder dispenser/scale combos back when they were made by PACT. I think the new ones are faster, and don't have the same issues as the older versions. Dumping a whole load of varget for .308 usually takes 30 seconds or better. Usually what I do is set up my uniflow (that I have a long dump stem for) to pre-dump 38 grains or so, and then the dispenser only has to dump about 7grs, and it does this with pretty good precision.

    For doing load testing, the auto dispensers are awesome. Just plug in how many grains you want and hit dispense.
     
  9. deadshot2

    deadshot2 NW Quadrant WA State Well-Known Member

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    The old RCBS/Pact was like following a senior citizen walking through the mall compared to the new ones. Mine drops 45 grains of Varget in 12-15 seconds.

    I picked up one of these for my "Range Setup":

    689653.jpg

    I mounted my Uniflow on it and use a Dillon D-Terminator for the scale. Only thing wrong with this setup is that the powder gets such a run down the tube it splashes out of the measure's pan. I solved by just cutting off a 1.5" section from the bottom of a pop can. Cut a small relief notch so I can slip it under the tube's nozzle and pinched a pour spout on the other side. Won't win any awards for style but it works great and no static electricity issues. Maybe I'll find a small, thin walled, stainless or aluminium beaker style piece to replace my "hillbilly style pan":cool: Will get fewer laughs and shaking heads at the range then.

    Adjust the Uniflow to a drop weight about .2 under desired weight and then use the built in trickler to finish. About two turns when using varget puts the load spot on and time wise about 5 seconds. Went this way 'cause I had the Uniflow just sitting and gathering dust. No need to worry about dead batteries to run my chargemaster and the D-Terminator will last for weeks with a single set of AA Batteries.
     
  10. AMProducts

    AMProducts Maple Valley, WA Jerk, Ammo Manufacturer Silver Supporter

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    This is pretty similar to the setup I use, I have a drop tube that I made out of copper water tubing that dumps powder into the pan, and then the auto-trickler dumps the last few grains. Makes it pretty quick. I honestly almost wonder if these new drop tubes with the built in trickler wouldn't be as fast as some of the electric systems out there. One of those nice things is the equipment manufacturers are starting to make things that run on AA batteries... I hate 9v batteries, they are expensive, hard to find and are usually dead when you need them most.

    Interestingly, the older PACT powder droppers used a 9vAC wall-wart, and the system used the AC voltage to control timing internally. What we found would happen is if it was on the same circuit as the case feeder, the power drop would cause the scale to drop out of calibration quickly. I ended up having to use it with a UPS to condition the power so it would work properly. It's a bit annoying, but I got it for a song... if I paid full price I would have set it on fire by now.
     
  11. Tim K

    Tim K Colorado Member

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    Superb advice. It's the best single reloading purchase I've ever made.

    For precision loading, I really like the Redding Type S die sets with the micrometer seater. Bushings let you control neck tension precisely so you can tailor to your specific case neck thickness.
     
  12. deadshot2

    deadshot2 NW Quadrant WA State Well-Known Member

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    Have you ever had any experience with the Forster Shoulder Bump/Neck Size bushing dies? You can do as much as you want, or as little as you want with this die. De-Cap, Neck Size, Shoulder bump, expand (with optional expander ball), just not F/L size, all from a single die.
     
  13. Tim K

    Tim K Colorado Member

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    I don't have any firsthand experience. Are you saying you can neck size only? If so, that is a cool option. I don't just neck size anymore, but having the capability would not be a bad thing. The S dies can do everything else you mention.
     
  14. deadshot2

    deadshot2 NW Quadrant WA State Well-Known Member

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    With the Forster die I mentioned, it is a shoulder bump only body that accepts bushings for neck sizing. You can set it up in a variety of ways. Set it so the die body just contacts the shoulder of a fired case and all it will do is make sure that the OD of he shoulder is the same from case to case. Adjust it down a little more and it will "bump" the shoulder back the desired amount but not size any other part of the case.

    Add a bushing of the desired diameter and you can do one or both of the previous steps AND neck size, still without sizing the case body. If you want, you can get an expander ball to fit on the de-priming rod. You can also operate the die without a de-priming rod, or with a rod, expander ball, and without a de-priming pin installed in the rod should you want to do any work on pre-primed brass.

    As I said, a very versatile die. Some even partially neck size by backing off the lock screw for the bushing, yet still shoulder bump.