Home > Articles > How to Reload > Tools > Die Settings Part 1

Die Settings Part 1

Small die setting mistakes can lead to problems that plague handloaders. After all, there’s nothing worse than having the same problem consistently, but have no idea why it keeps happening. In this two-part series, we are going to examine five common die setting mistakes and how to fix them.

Dimples in Case Shoulders
Shoulder dimples in bottle neck cartridges are unsightly, but relatively benign issues that can be easily remedied. The problem is caused by using excess case lubrication during the resizing process which hydraulically formed dents.

Die Settings Part 1
Correcting the problem is simple. Clean out the die with a swab, reassemble and then use less lubrication during the sizing step. The dimples will blow out during firing, returning the case to its original configuration.Use enough lube to ensure the case will easily enter the resizing die. If the case seems sticky going in, stop and re-lube. Dimples aren’t much of a problem, but removing a case stuck in a resizing die is a different story all together.

Crushed Cartridge Shoulder
Crushed or set-back shoulders are very common and caused by a couple of mistakes. Crushed shoulders can cause problems with chambering as well as accuracy because the issue may affect headspace. Glancing at the problem, the resizing process would seem like a likely culprit, but it is usually associated with bullet seating.The problem occurs when enough downward force is applied to the case neck during seating or crimping that it forces the shoulder to bulge within the seating die. There are two main causes for this problem. The first is neck tension. As part of the sizing process, a button passes through the case neck, leaving it several thousandths smaller than the bullet diameter. This neck tension is what holds a bullet in place. If the neck tension is too great (meaning the sizer button is too small) the force needed to insert a bullet can crush the cartridge shoulder. Replacing the sizing buttons may be necessary. A much more common reason for shoulder set-back is excessive crimping. Seating dies are designed to crimp the case neck into the bullet to increase neck tension. The deeper a cartridge is pushed into the die, the more pronounced the crimp becomes. Setting a die to crimp heavily, or having cases with over-long necks, can crush the shoulder. The best way to avoid crushed shoulders is to trim cartridges to the same length so they receive the same crimping force within the die. The other options are to reduce crimp pressure, or in the case of most bottleneck cartridges, forgo it completely and rely on neck tension to hold the bullet in place.

Over Crimping
Here is a simple rule: Crimping can be a good thing, especially in magnum pistol cartridges .Here is another simple rule: Too much crimp is always a bad thing. Over-crimping damages the bullet, even if it has a cannelure. This will affect accuracy. Extreme over-crimping will damage the case body, collapsing the case body (or shoulder if present) to the point that it will not chamber. Correcting over-crimp requires a simple adjustment to the seater die. Back the die out and then re-set it on another charged case. Once the bullet is set to the correct depth, adjust the seater die body down until the proper crimp is set. Finally, set the seater down onto the seated bullet and return to loading.Another very good option is to crimp using another die after the bullet has been set to the correct depth. This adds another step, but it is the best method for producing high quality handloads.

That does it for part 1 of this series. In part two, we will examine Belling Issues and Bullet seating to deep.