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GettoPhilosopher

Help the New Guy -- 550/.223/Sizing Issues

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Hello all,

I'm a new loader running into a lot of problems that are frankly making me want to give up, sell my stuff, and buy more factory ammo instead. I'm hoping someone can help me...

Relevant Equipment list: RL550B press, Dillon dies (.223), Lyman .223 case gauge, "WFT" .223 trimmer
Relevant Components list: Hornady 75gr BTHP Match bullets, Wolf .223 primers, once-fired Lake City brass (fired from my rifle, all from the same case of Federal M193), H335 powder, 2.260 COAL
Relevant Firearm: home built AR built around a White Oak 20" 1:7 SDM barrel


When I first got my press, everything seemed to adjust and happen the way I expected it to, based on the books and articles and advice I'd read/been given. I got everything adjusted for headspace, seating/COAL, and crimping. After doing something like 50 cases (checking each with my Lyman case gauge), I did about 1000 cases. When I was done, I went to doublecheck my headspace and found that 95% of my resized brass was wrong; it stuck up just past the "no go" top lip of the case gauge. (Yes, I've double checked the case gauge. Factory ammo gauges properly.)

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Ok, so I take 50 of the correct pieces I have and I get the rest nailed down with a ladder. I go test it out, find the load that shoots great for my gun. Success!

I go back to load some more and find that my dies have surface rust spots all over them. Apparently my storage was insufficient and humidity was too high. (I had just moved, long story) I strip it all down, clean it all, and oil it all. Press is back in business, but all my adjustments are gone.

(if relevant: I cleaned the dies by soaking in Hoppes #9, then using a brass chamber brush for the inside of the dies and a brass brush for the outside. I cleaned the press with WD40 and paper towels--no soaking, just spray and wipe)

Now I'm trying to get everything readjusted, and NOTHING IS WORKING CORRECTLY.

I try to adjust my full length sizing die, and nothing works right. I follow the die instructions (raise press, screw in till touches baseplate, back out 1/2 turn) and the case stays the same (slightly too long for the case gauge). Screw it in a little further, nothing happens. Screw it in some more....and suddenly the base of my cases is somehow warped and the case won't fit in the case gauge at all? If I turn the brass around, I literally can't get the base in the gauge; it's stretched or squished or lopsided or SOMETHING. But if I rubber mallet the case in the gauge anyway (can you tell I'm desperate by this point?), it's still slightly too long.

Are my dies screwed up due to the (removed) surface rust spots? Did I ruin them cleaning them? Am I missing some laughably obvious newbie issue? My attempts to Google similar search terms have been utterly unsuccessful thus far.

Help?

Edited by GettoPhilosopher

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I am hearing "too long" a lot. Are you trimming the cases before loading?

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I am hearing "too long" a lot. Are you trimming the cases before loading?

Post edited to reflect my trimming equipment.

I'm using a http://www.littlecrowgunworks.com/wft.html trimmer. When I first ran my 10 "successful" test cases or so (i.e. properly fit my case gauge as far as headspace is concerned), I then adjusted my WFT until it trimmed to 1.750".

Then I repeated the process for...I'm trying to remember, but something like 30 test cases? Same routine, resize/deprime in press, confirm they're properly sized with case gauge, trim, confirm proper trim length.

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I follow the die instructions (raise press, screw in till touches baseplate, back out 1/2 turn)

I think your instructions are wrong. They usually say to screw it in ANOTHER 1/4 turn or so. Regardless, you are not bumping the shoulder back far enough. You want a small amount of interference to "cam over" the linkage in your press. At least that's been the case with every set of dies I've ever had.

Edit to add: You could also be pulling it back out with the expander if you are not lubing the inside of the necks with a dry lube. Don't ask me how I know this. :ph34r:

Edit to add again: I now see that you are using Dillon dies. They have a carbide expander that runs slick as snot. That how I fixed mine so it's probably not an issue for you but something to keep in mind.

Yet another edit: As for rusting dies I've found that Froglube paste is wonderful stuff. Heat them with a hair dryer, slather it on, let cool to room temp, and buff with a microfibre towel. No more rust.

Edited by Shadowrider

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I follow the die instructions (raise press, screw in till touches baseplate, back out 1/2 turn)

I think your instructions are wrong. They usually say to screw it in ANOTHER 1/4 turn or so. Regardless, you are not bumping the shoulder back far enough. You want a small amount of interference to "cam over" the linkage in your press. At least that's been the case with every set of dies I've ever had.

Yeah, I noticed that the first time....I tightened it down more (since that was insufficient), now it's camming over but somehow crushing/warping/squishing the base of the case so it no longer fits in the case gauge?

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It sounds like you are going too far. Do your cases have a ridge in front of the extractor groove looking kind of like a belted magnum? If so, try different settings between your shell plate just touching (with ram at full stroke) and 1/4 turn deeper.

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Yeah, I noticed that the first time....I tightened it down more (since that was insufficient), now it's camming over but somehow crushing/warping/squishing the base of the case so it no longer fits in the case gauge?

Can you post any pics of the crushed/warped cases? What are you using for case lube?

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My advise would be for you to go with your first thought and sell everything. It doesn't sound like you have the patience or the attention to detail for reloading.

IMO, either cut your losses before you hurt yourself or do a lot more reading and research before you attempt to reload again.

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It sounds like you are going too far. Do your cases have a ridge in front of the extractor groove looking kind of like a belted magnum? If so, try different settings between your shell plate just touching (with ram at full stroke) and 1/4 turn deeper.

I'm going to pull out the press again today or tomorrow and try some very fine tuning (say, 1/8 or 1/16 turns at a time)....maybe I'm being too coarse and skipping right over the "sweet spot" between not resizing the cases at all vs. crunching them down too far and warping the rim?

Yeah, I noticed that the first time....I tightened it down more (since that was insufficient), now it's camming over but somehow crushing/warping/squishing the base of the case so it no longer fits in the case gauge?

Can you post any pics of the crushed/warped cases? What are you using for case lube?

Case lube is RCBS Case Slick. I've varied how I apply/how much I lube the cases, trying to see if maybe I was over or under lubing them. I'll see if I can't get some good photos this afternoon, but honestly...I can't see what's wrong with them. They just suddenly no longer fit in the case gauge, and it's only the rim that doesn't fit.

My advise would be for you to go with your first thought and sell everything. It doesn't sound like you have the patience or the attention to detail for reloading.

IMO, either cut your losses before you hurt yourself or do a lot more reading and research before you attempt to reload again.

Thanks for the wonderfully helpful advice. I'll file that one away.

Feel free to chime in with any helpful comments if you'd like to actually point something I'm doing (or not doing) out.

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IMO you need to start from the beginning. You know it can be done correctly because it worked before you took it apart. Do you know anyone who can come over and help reset your dies? Maybe Dillon can help you on the phone while you are at the press. These issues usually have a simple answer but can be frustrating as hell. From your post on trimming, it sounds like the sizing die was set properly. Now it isn't. You're trying to put a puzzle back together. Someone needs to guide you through the whole process, one step at a time. Dillon or a friend work best. Just sayin. Good luck.

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It does sound like your overcamming. Not a good thing on a Dillon press. When I first started reloading .223 rifle rounds back in 1990, I did just what you have been doing. I do not know why your settings changed other than, when you cleaned the dies, they were were never set correctly. Dillon says back it out 1/4 turn. Now you should be set perfectly. Next - I don't know where you got your brass from, but if it was shot out of a MG, there is probably rim damage. Most Machine guns (I have several) will damage the rims so that they will not case gauge correctly even after sizing correctly. To test, reverse the brass and try to insert it into the case gauge backwards. If it will not go into the gauge at least 1/8", you have damaged rims. To fix it, you can file the nicks (Look closely for them), or what I use is a 3M debburing wheel in my grinder. It takes off just the right amount of media so that the rounds will now gauge correctly.

My last suggestion is "Does the brass fit in YOUR weapon ?". The best gauge is "YOUR GUN". if it chambers correctly, don't worry about your case gauge.

Hope this helps.

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IMO you need to start from the beginning. You know it can be done correctly because it worked before you took it apart. Do you know anyone who can come over and help reset your dies? Maybe Dillon can help you on the phone while you are at the press. These issues usually have a simple answer but can be frustrating as hell. From your post on trimming, it sounds like the sizing die was set properly. Now it isn't. You're trying to put a puzzle back together. Someone needs to guide you through the whole process, one step at a time. Dillon or a friend work best. Just sayin. Good luck.

*nods* That's what I was just thinking. Separate from this thread, I've been chatting with my "gun buddies" trying to find anyone within driving distance who has the experience to walk me through it.

On another note, I did just find an issue that at the very least isn't helping. I inspected my sizing die -- as I said, I had rust spotting issues from poor storage on my part, so in the back of my head I'm wondering if I don't just need to replace the dies -- and I noticed that my depriming pin/expansion ball assembly (pardon any errors in nomenclature) wasn't centered! I.e. if you set the die upside down on a flat surface and look straight down, the assembly was canted to one side. Doing a basic "spin die in fingers and watch pin" test, you can see the "wobble" from the bent pin.

I unscrewed the depriming pin, and I noticed a couple things:

(It's worth noting I bought this set used. Reputable purchaser and all, but it's still used.)

1) There's some kind of dried "crap" in the threads on the pin. It's light red, and looks kind of like Loctite.

2) The carbide expanding ball looks like it's dried off center with the dried red crap (loctite?) keeping it off center.

I'm trying to (delicately...I know it's carbide but I'm still scared of scratching it) remove the ball and install my replacement pin. Updates when I have them.

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It does sound like your overcamming. Not a good thing on a Dillon press. When I first started reloading .223 rifle rounds back in 1990, I did just what you have been doing. I do not know why your settings changed other than, when you cleaned the dies, they were were never set correctly. Dillon says back it out 1/4 turn. Now you should be set perfectly. Next - I don't know where you got your brass from, but if it was shot out of a MG, there is probably rim damage. Most Machine guns (I have several) will damage the rims so that they will not case gauge correctly even after sizing correctly. To test, reverse the brass and try to insert it into the case gauge backwards. If it will not go into the gauge at least 1/8", you have damaged rims. To fix it, you can file the nicks (Look closely for them), or what I use is a 3M debburing wheel in my grinder. It takes off just the right amount of media so that the rounds will now gauge correctly.

My last suggestion is "Does the brass fit in YOUR weapon ?". The best gauge is "YOUR GUN". if it chambers correctly, don't worry about your case gauge.

Hope this helps.

Thanks for the info!

Yes, I tried the "backwards brass" test, and they do not fit.

I've...considered just seeing if they fit in my rifle(s) and calling it a day, but I'm trying to be cautious and patient about this (despite SWThomas' opinion ;)) as I know I'm new and don't have the experience to cut corners. It's also worth noting that I'm loading for 2+ AR15s...both are White Oak 1:7 SDM barrels (a 20" and a 16"), but I am trying to load ammo that's interchangeable between the two, and usable in one of my other vanilla AR carbines in a jam.

Recognizing that the original problem I was having (seriously, what's the correct term for "sticks slightly too far out of the case gauge"? I hate being imprecise) is so minute of a sizing issue that I literally have to take a straightedge and feel the slight wobble to even notice it....is that "close enough" that I can make sure it chambers and just move on? Obviously a KB is the last thing I want.

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Ok here's my two cents. Take it or leave it.

Ditch the case gauge. They're great for checking pistol rounds, but pretty worthless for rifle cartridges. You can drop a freshly fired case in one and it'll pass.

Get yourself a comparator body and a 223 bump gauge from Sinclair. Then you will be able to set the die to bump the shoulder back 0.003-0.005, which is what you want anyway. None of this screw the die in and back it off a 1/2 turn mumbo jumbo. Set the die based on the brass that has been fire formed in your chamber.

If you wanna know how to use one, check out YouTube.

Edited by SWThomas

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Ok here's my two cents. Take it or leave it.

Ditch the case gauge. They're great for checking pistol rounds, but pretty worthless for rifle cartridges. You can drop a freshly fired case in one and it'll pass.

Get yourself a comparator body and a 223 bump gauge from Sinclair. Then you will be able to set the die to bump the shoulder back 0.003-0.005, which is what you want anyway. None of this screw the die in and back it off a 1/2 turn mumbo jumbo. Set the die based on the brass that has been fire formed in your chamber.

If you wanna know how to use one, check out YouTube.

Thanks!

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Also, if you should happen to need to clean dies again, or magazine bodies, small gun parts, etc, just throw in your tumbler for a few hours. If anything remains that you don't like, back in for a few more hours.

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Update, then I'm off to dinner:

Ignoring the case gauge, I took the brass I'd previously sized and trimmed (the ones slightly too long for the gauge) and tested if they'd smoothly chamber in my rifle(s). Chambered and extracted like butter; apparently whatever's wrong with my setup now, the slightly off-gauge cases still work just fine in my rifle. I'll try some more when I get home to ensure I'm not just getting a small lucky batch, then move on to getting my seating die set up right, and use those test rounds (brass + bullet, no powder or primer) to further test.

If I'm confident they all fit just fine despite the gauging issues, I'll load some up and take a (cautious) trip to the range. Like I said in my first post, I have something like 1,000 cases already sized and trimmed, so I could technically ignore my resizing die issues for now. Or at least get some ammo loaded while I figure them out.

Thanks again everyone for all your help. I'll keep updating the thread as I get this nailed down.

Steve RA: Thanks for the heads up!
SWThomas: I'll definitely add them to the shopping list.
Youngeyes: Yup! I'll get it figured out. But it's that very fact--I know this works, because it DID before, but why the I()!&@!@ isn't it working anymore, and how do I get it to work again??--that was driving me nuts.

AMN2_Man: They were all fired in my rifle only, and my rifle didn't damage them--they fit backwards in the gauge just fine before I put them through the press, only stop fitting afterwards. I'm thinking my adjustments may be too coarse; I'll try finer tuning this weekend.

Edited by GettoPhilosopher

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It sounds like you are going too far. Do your cases have a ridge in front of the extractor groove looking kind of like a belted magnum? If so, try different settings between your shell plate just touching (with ram at full stroke) and 1/4 turn deeper.

I'm going to pull out the press again today or tomorrow and try some very fine tuning (say, 1/8 or 1/16 turns at a time)....maybe I'm being too coarse and skipping right over the "sweet spot" between not resizing the cases at all vs. crunching them down too far and warping the rim?

Quite possibly. Your dies have a 14 pitch thread on them. One full turn = .071429" movement. So 1/4 = .017857", 1/8 = .008929", etc. When you get close you need to be moving in real small increments, say 1/16 of a turn at a time. Get your dies situated and start over from scratch following the instructions with this in mind.

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I neglected to mention - disassemble anything you want to tumble, assuming it comes apart in the first place.

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I started on a rcbs press. Until its worked out work with one case on the press at a time. Make sure you have safe charges of powder with appropriate load. If you can cycle your sized cases in your rifle and they are trimmed load and shoot.

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Update: Loaded a couple hundred rounds, chamber tested them all (they all fed, chambered, and extracted just fine), then went out and fired them off last weekend.

None of the brass looks problematic, and they all fed fine. Only issue I had was one failure to fire (primer didn't "pop")....I had one last batch too. Not sure if it's my choice of primer (Tula, don't judge me, I was broke when I ordered them... ;)), or if it's the same problem as I had with my press (inadequate storage during the move...maybe they got damp or something?).

Thanks all for the help!

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I would not worry about one Tula primer in a batch not going off, I have read that several times here from people using them. You just get a bad one now and again. This stuff can be maddening. Sometimes I just have to get up and walk away and come back in a day or two. Stuff has a way of working out if you step back and give it some thought or do something different. Loading .223 can be problematic, as can loading for the AR rifle. Lots of stuff to go wrong with the loading process and the rifle. Particularly when you are using range-scrounge brass and a home built franken rifle (speaking for me). It is a wonder they work at all.

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Contrary to some advice above, always set up your dies with every station on the shell plate with a case in it. If you don't the plate can tilt ever so slightly and then when you start to load with a full complement of cases, some dimensions will be off.

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Also, if your loading for an AR, full length sizing is your friend. Bumping the neck back as suggested above is not adequate for gas guns like it is for a bolt gun.

Also, with the round that did not fire check for a high primer. I have failed to give the handle as firm a push as needed on my 550 and did not seat it to full depth causing the same issue. If the primer isn't seated completely it can't work properly.

Best of luck to you.

Edited by Colodrew

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