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Old October 24th, 2009, 08:07 PM   #1
bdr2012
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.223 case trimming....

I have only been reloading for a few months now and have been focusing on handgun loads. Primarily 9mm and 45 ACP. I am happy with my results so far.

I am now starting my first batch of .223 and have slowly acquired most of the tools I need. I have a Lee hand trimmer and I unfortunately forgot to order a pilot, shell holder bit for 223.

So, my question is, for those of you experienced in 223 reloading, what have you found to be the best, and most cost effective, case trimming method and tools? Hand trimmer, electric (expensive), hand crank trimmer using a cordless or wired drill rig, or other?

I am just trying to get an idea of which is the best route to go before I order and go through the trial and error routine.

Thanks for the help,

Brian

PS - I have mostly RCBS reloading tools and am pleased with the quality. I may lean toward staying with them, but I'm open to all suggestions.
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Old October 24th, 2009, 08:26 PM   #2
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I purchased an expense RCBS case trimmer but when X-dies came out the trimmer was placed in retirement. I use X-dies for 5.56, 30-06 and 308.
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Old October 24th, 2009, 08:31 PM   #3
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Thanks. Where can I find out more info/prices on X-dies?
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Old October 24th, 2009, 08:53 PM   #4
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I've used Lee's case trimmer system on many calibers over many years with good success. It's inexpensive, but not perfect.

You'll achieve a fixed 'maximum' trim length on .223 cases, but you will also find cases slightly shorter than the pilot's length. That means you may have a slight variance in case length when seating bullets - i.e. your OAL cartridge length is consistent with your die setting, but the line up of the case mouth to a cannelure on the bullet for crimping may vary. It hasn't been a problem for me. Just something to be aware of and adjust for.

I began using a Lee factory crimp die on .223 (and other) rounds for bullets with and without cannelures and the slight difference in case length has been less of an issue.
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Old October 24th, 2009, 09:10 PM   #5
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Is crimping required or suggested? My Lee .223 dies set did not include a crimp die.
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Old October 24th, 2009, 09:32 PM   #6
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Can someone explain to me about the X-Dies. I find it hard to believe that if I use these dies I won't have to trim my .308 cases anymore.


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Old October 24th, 2009, 09:37 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bdr2012 View Post
Is crimping required or suggested? My Lee .223 dies set did not include a crimp die.
For semi-auto rifles (such as AR's etc.), much of what you'll read suggests crimping the bullets. There are many opinions about the need to do it. I do lightly crimp my rounds with a Lee factory crimp die (especially with non-cannelure bullets). If for no other reason than giving me "warm fuzzies" and peace of mind when I load a mag and fire the rounds. The Lee crimp die can be purchased individually or part of a 4 die set. It's worked well for me.

For bolt action .223's, I've found crimping the bullet beyond what the seating die does to be a non-issue.
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Old October 24th, 2009, 09:54 PM   #8
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Thanks. For range ammo, do you think it's necessary?

I'm probably going to purchase the crimping die anyway. I originally bought the Lee 3 die set, but I really prefer RCBS carbide sets.
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Old October 24th, 2009, 10:03 PM   #9
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For trimming .223 I'm a big fan of the Possum Hollow Kwick Trimmer - http://www.possumhollowproducts.com/...-trimmers.html

It has really sped up my trimming time, just chuck it in a power drill and go to town.
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Old October 24th, 2009, 10:20 PM   #10
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For trimming .223 I'm a big fan of the Possum Hollow Kwick Trimmer - http://www.possumhollowproducts.com/...-trimmers.html

It has really sped up my trimming time, just chuck it in a power drill and go to town.
Looks like what I need. Do you just hold the case in your hand while using the power adapter and drill? If I go this route, is all I need the 223 Kwik trimmer and power adapter?

Thanks.
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Old October 24th, 2009, 10:22 PM   #11
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For range .223 ammo loaded with my Lee dies (before crimping with the Factory Crimp die), what I can tell you is there has been no way a kinetic bullet hammer will pop the bullet back out to unload the round. That doesn't mean that particular round is safe to shoot, but it tells me the tension between the bullet and case mouth is very tight without a crimp applied.

If you are loading rounds for an AR, I do highly recommend using an RCBS small base sizing die vs. the Lee sizing die. At first I didn't think it made a lot of difference. That is until I tried some of my 'already loaded rounds' I've used very successfully in my Savage bolt in my Bushmaster. The sizing difference doesn't look like much, but after one live round - sized in the Lee die - stuck in my AR's chamber...enough. I'm convinced there's a difference.
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Old October 24th, 2009, 10:36 PM   #12
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For range .223 ammo loaded with my Lee dies (before crimping with the Factory Crimp die), what I can tell you is there has been no way a kinetic bullet hammer will pop the bullet back out to unload the round. That doesn't mean that particular round is safe to shoot, but it tells me the tension between the bullet and case mouth is very tight without a crimp applied.

If you are loading rounds for an AR, I do highly recommend using an RCBS small base sizing die vs. the Lee sizing die. At first I didn't think it made a lot of difference. That is until I tried some of my 'already loaded rounds' I've used very successfully in my Savage bolt in my Bushmaster. The sizing difference doesn't look like much, but after one live round - sized in the Lee die - stuck in my AR's chamber...enough. I'm convinced there's a difference.
So, I would use the small base sizer instead of the full length Lee sizer/decapper? Any concerns with the Lee seating die? Just trying to decide if I should get the full RCBS set, which was not available when i was shopping for 223 dies, or be safe just getting the individual small base die?
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Old October 24th, 2009, 10:49 PM   #13
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I saw in another thread, that some one mentioned only lubing 1 out of every 10 cases when resizing. Did I understand that correctly? It would same me a lot of lube time and lube.... ;-)

Thanks
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Old October 24th, 2009, 11:10 PM   #14
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Looks like what I need. Do you just hold the case in your hand while using the power adapter and drill? If I go this route, is all I need the 223 Kwik trimmer and power adapter?

Thanks.
Yes, you will need the trimmer and the power adapter. The cases are held in your hand and pressed into the trimmer. It indexes off the shoulder, so this will give you great uniformity in case lengths. Every one I've measured (I do this periodically) has been right on the money.

As for case lube, if you get some Dillon spray lube or Hornady One Shot, you can just throw a bunch of cases in a plastic box and lube them all at once.
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Old October 24th, 2009, 11:22 PM   #15
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Yes, you will need the trimmer and the power adapter. The cases are held in your hand and pressed into the trimmer. It indexes off the shoulder, so this will give you great uniformity in case lengths. Every one I've measured (I do this periodically) has been right on the money.

As for case lube, if you get some Dillon spray lube or Hornady One Shot, you can just throw a bunch of cases in a plastic box and lube them all at once.
Thanks. I asked this somewhere else, but do you worry about lubing inside the case neck with Q-tip?
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Old October 24th, 2009, 11:31 PM   #16
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Thanks. I asked this somewhere else, but do you worry about lubing inside the case neck with Q-tip?

Nope. I dump between 100 and 200 cases in a large plastic shoebox and shake them around so that a large number of them are sitting with the case neck up, then spay them with either the Dillon lube or Hornady One Shot. Then I shake the whole box up to make sure all the cases have and even coating on the outside.

Enough of the cases get lube inside the case necks to keep the expander in the die lubed.
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Old October 24th, 2009, 11:36 PM   #17
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Nope. I dump between 100 and 200 cases in a large plastic shoebox and shake them around so that a large number of them are sitting with the case neck up, then spay them with either the Dillon lube or Hornady One Shot. Then I shake the whole box up to make sure all the cases have and even coating on the outside.

Enough of the cases get lube inside the case necks to keep the expander in the die lubed.
Cool. Thanks.
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Old October 25th, 2009, 10:10 AM   #18
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Yes I said when I re-size .223 cases I only lube every 10th case.I also use regular X-dies you don't need small base dies if you have a 5.56 or Wylde chamber
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Old October 25th, 2009, 10:40 AM   #19
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ChrisL covered lubing pretty well, however with one shot spray it is better to overlube than underlube. If you overlube, you may notice a couple small dents in the case shoulders after sizing, especially with X-dies, most are no big deal as long as you are not running a max load, being they slightly reduce case volume, and increase pressure, however probably less than normal variances in case thickness. Underlubing can lead to the dreaded stuck case, where the rim gets mangled, and you have to basically hammer the case out of the die, which sucks, can damae the die, and definitely ruins the case, it can also cause the cases to be gouged, and rims bent even if the case does not get stuck in the die. You do want to tumble the sized cases, or at least clean the lube off as lube left on the cases causes excess fouling when fired, and can stress your bolt head more, being the case slides back in the chamber putting more pressure on the bolt instead of expanding, and gripping the chamber walls and streaching to meet the bolt as they are supposed to do. Using thicker types of lube spreading it by hand, with a lube die, or a lube pad can pt enough lube on the cases and in the die that you may get away with lubing only oe out of every few cases, but it takes time and experience to see how much lube is required, and to get close to that, with just starting out, spray lube is easier, but even if you use paste lube, the same rule still applies, better to overlube than underlube.

For trimming, the Possum hollow trimmers work well, and are quick, I use one for .223 and have been happy with it, however the Lee trimmer I used before did a decent job too, and I use that for most other calibers. No 2 cases streach the same way, and after firing once, cases may still be within spec, or may be longer, you have to check EVERY CASE EVERY TIME. Use a decent steel caliper set to the max case length(1.760"), and simply use it as a go-no go guage, if a sized case slips in between the jaws, no trimming is neccesary, if it doesn't, then set it aside in a pile to trim, this will eliminate at least 1/2 of the cases, being they didn't streach enough to require trimming. The Lee and Possum hollow trimmers cut the case a few thousandths shorter than max length, so they should be good for another firing or two. Using a collet crimp die like the lee FCD in bullets with a cannelure will securely crimp cases of slightly varying lengths, and the cannelure is wide enough that these minor differences don't really matter. My Possum and lee cutters trims to about 1.755", and being I trim anything that is longer than 1.760, all the brass is within .005" in length, so not much difference at all. There are other trim setups that are faster, and/or more precise, but they cost a few hundred, and are really not much faster unless you are regularly trimming hundreds or thousands of cases. For match bullets without a cannelure, I do not crimp them, there is really no need being they are more precise than cheap FMJ bullets, and don't setback as easily as uncrimped FMJBT bullets. crimping also introduces variables in them that can cost accuracy.

As far as the Lee collet/neck dies vs lee full length vs X-die vs small base die argument, they are 4 different dies that serve 4 different purposes. Neck sizing dies like the Lee collet dies size the neck of the case only, not the body, not the shoulders. Being a fired case streaches to fill the chamber sizing them in this way minimizes case movement and streaching being the case has been fire formed to that specific chamber (will probably jam in any other rifle due to minor chamber spec and headspace differences), and in a bolt gun this can help make cases last longer and eek out a little more accuracy. The downside is that the tight fit of loaded ammo will cause jams in semi-autos. Lee or similar full length dies simply size the case to their SAAMI dimentions, they are cheap, and the base is flared slightly to make the case feed in easier, for most applications this is the only sizing die type you need. Full length dies can also be used to neck size only by backing them out about 1 turn from contact with the shell plate, or to "shoulder bump" where the die is about 1/2 turn from contacting the shell plate, will completely size the neck and push the case shoulders back a hair bit, leaving the body largely unsized and fireformed giving a good compromise between a tight fit in the chamber, and reliability. For semi-autos the die sold be used only for full length sizing, let the die contact the shell plate, then an additional 1/2 turn tighter to take out the slack, this will give the best reliability.

Small base dies work just like full length dies, but with a small exception, the base is not flared, it takes a little more effort to size with these, but they will size all the way down to the case head right about where the extractor groove starts. Comparitively garden variety full length dies stop about 1/4"-1/2" from the groove, and don't size the case head/web area. This is not really needed for the vast majority of guns, however some that lack case head support, or oversized military chambers with "good enough for the gubermint" headspacing can sligtly bulge the case in this thick reinforced area of the case. A gun with this sloppy of a chamber will probably be tough on brass anyway, and you may only get a cople reloads before the case cracks, however there may be reliability problems with this reloaded ammo because of this slight "fireformed" bulge. Requiring a small base die is more of a symptom of a problem than a cure IMO, but for people that have access to large ammounts of once fired military brass fired from M249s worn out M16s or so, a small base die can save the brass, and after using it once to get the brass in spec for your rifle it may not need to be used again.

X-dies are a relatively newcommer, and one that I personally have not reloaded with yet, although I have looked at them in detail. They do require trimming, although only once, when the case is first sized in them. It seems that instead of the die sliding down the body of the streached case as the shoulders and neck are extruded with the excess brass from streaching flowing out in the form of a longer neck, and requiring trimming, the X-dies take a slightly different, simple and ingenious approach. They have a ridge at the top of the decapper mandrel set to max length. When the case enters the die, the case body and shoulder begin to extrude into the neck as it does with any other die, but when the case mouth hits this ridge instead of the extra brass flowing into a longer neck, it is then forced back into the case where the extra brass forms a sharper angle between the neck and front edge of the shoulder, using up the roughly .002-.004 of extra brass. When fired the case irons out in the chamber and retains the thickness of the sholders and neck instead of gradually getting thinner if this extra brass was removed by trimming. Because of the design, starting with cases that have been sized and trimmed to the X-die spec is imperitive as a range pickup or brass sized in another die and not trimmed will buckle as there is more brass flow than the die can handle. The additional pressure and friction also requires more lube than other full length dies. More or less they work, but you have to be aware f how they work, and the limitations due to the design. Also brass fired in oversized chambers cause more streaching, and there is more brass flow to deal with, possibly too much for the X-die to handle, and it will probably buckle the case.

As far as seating dies, there are basically a couple types. Those that seat only, combo seat/crimp dies, and specialized/micrometer dies. If you are using a separate crimp die, which is reccomended, then it doesn't really matter if you use a seat only, or a combo die turned out far enough that it won't crimp, either is fine. For straight walled rifle and pistol cases I set the combo die to crimp very lightly, just enough to take most of the case belling out before using a separate crimp and post sizing die (most bottleneck cases are not belled, and this step can be skipped). The combo dies tend to produce erratic and uneven crimps, they also use an angled ridge in the die to crimp, similar to how the X-dies function, and as such they are sensitive to slight variations in case length, you can have cases go from barely crimped, to bulged with only a few thousandths difference in length, and if you do this method, instead of trimming only the cases that need it, you need to trim all the case to the same length, or use an X-die to make sure all the cases are uniform. A collet type crimp die makes this a moot point in that instead of using a mandrel to form the case mouth into a crimp as the case is forced into it, these use a ring that contacts the shell plate, and squeezes a ring into the case neck from the sides, putting no pressure aggainst the case from the front, both eliminating the chances of buckling a case, and producing a strong and uniform crimp. There are also specialized dies that use seating inserts for specific bullets in order to more concentrically seat them, others that use a shape that once set will seat most any bullet to a certain depth depending on it's ogive(shape of bullet, and front of the area that engages rifling). Or micrometer adjustable seating dies That have measured seating depth adjustments to precisely seat a bullet to an exact OAL relative to the case and shell holder instead of a relaive adjustment to the die and top of the press. All of these are usually reserved for precision rifle work, and are overkill unless you are looking to eek the last fraction of an MOA in your groups, and don't really make a difference outside of match or precision rifles. These specialty bench rest and competition dies also do not crimp, to load match bullets, the bullet is seated to a certain exact OAL measured with a gauge to be usually just a couple thousandths from the rifling, or in direct contact with it. Similar to a crimp that allows some pressure to build in the case before the bullet leaves in order to give more consistent ignition, this uses the rifling itself as the "crimp" to allow pressure to build, and ignition to perpetrate in the powder charge. This also avoids problems in crimping match bullets witout cannelures, where the shape can be distorted, and the case neck does not let the bullet slide out cleanly.


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Last edited by alucard0822; October 25th, 2009 at 11:20 AM.
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Old October 25th, 2009, 02:24 PM   #20
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Great info alucard! Thanks.

Couple of questions....

I have read in other threads that many folks don't bother crimping 223. I have a bunch of BTFMJ with cannelures. Do I need to crimp cannelure bullets? If so, recommendations on a crimp die. The Lee 3 die set I purchased did not include a crimp die, but they do sell one separately. Also, I have not been crimping my 9mm and 45's.

Is it best to fully resize each time I reuse a 223 case? Won't that weaken the neck?

I understand the max case length of 1.760, my manual indicates the same. So is it safe to assume that that is under 1.760, within reason, is okay to use without trimming. Or, should I try to get all my cases to a uniform length of say 1.755, or as close as possible?

Sorry if this has been covered already, just wanted to get it clear in my mind.

Thanks for all the help here!
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