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Die Settings

In Part 2 of our series on die setting mistakes,

Belling Issues
A lot of misery is caused because handloaders do not flair their straight-walled cases enough. Flaring (also called “Belling”) opens the case mouth like a funnel, allowing the bullet to be seated slightly inside, rather than on the case mouth.

There are many cautionary tales told regarding case belling, owing to the fact that unnecessary working of brass reduces case life. The result is that handloaders under-bell their cases and end up damaging bullets, ruining cases, hurting accuracy and making a mess inside their dies. Here are some simple guidelines regarding case mouth bell:

· Lead bullets need more flare than jacketed bullets.

· Shaving of lead or jacket material is sign that more bell is needed.

· If jacketed bullets damage the case wall, increasing the flare may help.

· If the case drags in the seater die, it is over-belled.

· If the bullets seems canted to one side in the loaded case, decrease the flare.

Sometimes going too fast will result in a bullet that is misaligned before the cartridge is run up into the seater die. Just be aware that an occasional damaged cartridge is not be directly related to an under-belled case mouth. It may have been careless placement of the bullet instead.

Like most handloading skills, judging proper case bell is a skill that develops over time. For beginners, it is easier to simply bell the case large enough to easily accept a bullet and small enough that it will fit into the seater die without scraping. The increased case stress is worth the resulting well-seated bullet. Over time, setting the belling die will become more practiced and the amount of flare reduced to match the individual loading project.

Bullet Seated to Deeply
There is a difference here between rifles and pistols when it comes to the question of bullets that have been seated too deeply into the case. Rifles are more forgiving than small capacity, high pressure pistol cases. However, it is a problem regardless of the type of firearm used. The next rule applies to handloading across the board, but especially here: IF IT LOOKS FUNNY, DON’T SHOOT IT.

Internal changes within this case are significant. 9mm Parabellum cartridges operate at a SAAMI maximum of 35,000 psi, which is the same pressure threshold as a .357 Remington Magnum. What makes the 9mm Para especially nasty in this situation is that it uses faster powders in a smaller space than the .357 Magnum. It is very sensitive to changes in case volume. When the bullet is to deep, it takes up case volume that would have been available to allow gas expansion before the bullet began to move. The bullet is also compressing the powder charge, which can radically affect burn rates. This will cause more pressure than one using the correct Cartridge Overall Length and the same powder charge. If you are confronted with this problem, salvage the components or safely dispose of the cartridge. Don’t shoot it and don’t keep it in a box of duds for your beneficiaries to find after you have passed on. This type of mistake is potentially dangerous.

Small mistakes in handloading are common and most are easily remedied. Some, like pressure dimples in rifle cartridges are unsightly but harmless. Others may damage cases and components beyond salvage, but that is part of the challenge of learning a new hobby. Please, let caution rule your handloading choices. If you suspect something is wrong, safely dispose of it and move on. Some mistakes are trivial, but others ruin guns, hands and eyes. Always put safety first.