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Thread: 38/357 Lee powder through expander in 9mm die mod

  1. #1
    Boolit Master
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    38/357 Lee powder through expander in 9mm die mod

    EDIT: Thanks to another forum member (sorry but I don't remember who) there is an easier, inexpensive way to achive the same result. See the link below for the information or continue on with the thread for the reasoning behind this mod.

    http://castboolits.gunloads.com/show...=1#post1774406


    Original thread:

    I've been fighting with leading in my 9mm for a while now so I finally decided to pull a couple rounds and see what they measured after they were seated. I found my best luck was sizing them to .358 and it was working OK but I was still getting some leading. I pulled a couple and they measured .355. Ok, so there is my problem, now how do I fix it.

    The expander spud on Lee's 9mm die is really short and measured .353 in diameter. I checked my 38/357 expander and it measured .356 and is much longer. Sooooo, the marbles started rolling around in my head trying to figure out a way to use the 38 expander in the 9mm die. The problem is they are quite different in shape and size. I started taking some measurements and they both have an interior shoulder that sits .430 below the top of the expander that activates the powder measure but the overall length is quite different. So I figure I need an insert to activate the powder measure. Well the insert in Lee's powder measure riser is a perfect match for this.

    I took some measurements and the body on the 9mm expander is 1.197 in length. The body of the 38 expander is .663 in length so I need to make up the difference of .534.




    The difference in length needs to be made up in two different ways. One internally for the powder measure and one externally for the expander.

    To make up the difference for the activation of the powder measure, I trimmed the riser insert by cutting it off with a dremmel and finishing it with a file to a length of .734. For the powder measure to work correctly the difference has to be made up on the interior where the powder measure tube rests on the shoulder of the insert. The shoulder sits .200 down from the top of the insert so that has to be added to the overall dimension.



    For the exterior all I had laying around was some 1/2 inch PVC. The OD of the expanders is a little bit smaller than the OD of the PVC so I had to take it down a bit so it would work. Just my luck 1/2" PVC fits perfectly in a possom hollow trimmer.





    Once I got it sanded down I cut it to length and mocked it all up. It took a few adjustments on the length of the PVC shim but once I got it, everything worked perfectly. I seated a few boolits and they are pulled the same diameter that they were before they were seated and it works the powder measure when expanding the brass.



    Last edited by Jailer; 03-14-2014 at 08:59 PM.

  2. #2
    Boolit Master
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    That's a lot of work. Are you taking custom orders?
    For lead bullets, I measure the case ID after expansion. If it is more than 0.002" smaller than the bullet diameter, I know I need a larger expander. I play with the Lee 9mm, .38 super, .38 special, and 9mm MAK expanders.
    I would like all expander to be close to same length and the length of the bullet seated in the case.
    Sometimes, I simply use a Lyman M-die and use the PTE die as simply a powder funnel and activator for the measure.

  3. #3
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    You probably hit the solution to the problem when using a Lee expander powder thru die set up but I think a M die probably will be the novice (me) approach to same solution. I don't mind the extra step in the reloading process although its a PITA.

    I have the same issues with 9mm bullets getting swaged down when bullet seating. I think
    there is just so much that will work with the 9mm to obtain optimum cast bullet accuracy and then its a zero sum game. Its a tapered case unlike the straight walled 45acp case and that does not help. One does not see alot of match grade 9mm pistols vs 45acp pistols and I think its the limitations of that tapered case which degrades 9mm from being as accurate as a 45acp or 38 super can be. Just my two cents. Yes, I am still trying to chase .358 sizing and make it work as my bore is .357. I may finally get it all sorted out but I doubt 9mm will ever shoot as accurate as 45acp with cast bullets.

    If proven wrong... I hope I prove it wrong myself and can enjoy the accuracy.

  4. #4
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    [QUOTE=milprileb;1361796 One does not see alot of match grade 9mm pistols
    [/QUOTE]

    Many IPSC/USPSA shooters shoot 9mm guns and have abandoned 38 Super because of the plentiful 9mm brass. S&W has a 952 that is a Model 52 chambered in 9mm as a production gun. I shot a 9mm match 1911 at steel plate match every Fri night for years because of the low recoil and it was very accurate.

  5. #5
    Boolit Master
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    I did this so I could continue to use the powder through expander die in my Classic Turret press and keep the seating and crimping operations separate. If you have a press with 5 stations such as a progressive then yes the M die would be an easier solution.

    This fix for me was done cheap with parts I had available to me that I could work with. The alternative would be to have a custom insert made or get a progressive press. Both options would have cost me money. This was done with a $3 part.

  6. #6
    Boolit Man lts70's Avatar
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    As a beginner this is one aspect I had not even considered. To think all of the effort of casting and sizing to the right diameter for the guns barrel diameter can be for nothing if your reloading dies swage it down to too small of a diameter.

    I have Lee carbide die sets for my 9mm, 38 special, and 45acp. Do most Lee sets have this problem? I am just using the challenger single stage press, if my dies are having the same problem what would be the best solution? I guess I will need to buy a bullet puller and check things out.

  7. #7
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by lts70 View Post
    I guess I will need to buy a bullet puller and check things out.
    You've got to take the first step and figure out where you are before you can answer any of the other questions you have.

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    Dang good thread.
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    Quote Originally Posted by lts70 View Post
    I am just using the challenger single stage press, if my dies are having the same problem what would be the best solution? I guess I will need to buy a bullet puller and check things out.
    If your dies are causing the problem one solution would be the purchase of a Lyman "M" die to use as your expander. You would only need 1 die and can buy extra expander plugs for different calibers for a couple bucks each from Lyman.
    Last edited by fecmech; 09-15-2011 at 12:47 PM.
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  10. #10
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by fecmech View Post
    If your dies are causing the problem one solution would be the purchase of a Lyman "M" die to use as your expander. You would only need 1 die and can buy extra expander plugs for different calibers for a couple bucks each from Lyman.
    Thing is I use a Lee Classic Turret press and I wanted to keep the powder through expander so I could seat and crimp in separate steps. The Classic Turret only has 4 holes so if I use an M die I'd have to expand in one step then drop powder in the next and give up a separate crimp operation. This mod allows me to expand and drop powder in one step.

    If I had a progressive press and more stations then the M die would be a no brainer.

  11. #11
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    Another solution rather than using a Lyman M die would be to get the Lyman Multi-Expand Powder Charge die. Basically it's a die that comes with M style expander inserts in 32, 38, 41, 44, and 45 sizes, but they're hollow, and the top of the die is threaded with the standard 7/8-14 thread so you can screw on a powder measure. I use it with a Lyman Accumeasure, and while it's not automatic, it is a nice setup. I believe there are also expanders for 9mm as well, I don't recall offhand. I use the 32 expander for reloading my 30 caliber rifles, so I can use this die for all my reloading needs. I bought mine used, and also had some of the expanders (without the body) that I got in a lot of stuff I bought a while ago, but I think new they sell for around $35.00 or so, and come with most of the expanders 'normally' used. The advantages of an M die, the powder thru capability of the Lee expanders, what more could you ask for? Well, I guess a way to automatically activate the powder measure, but who's being picky?
    - MikeS

    Want to checkout my feedback? It's here:
    http://www.castboolits.gunloads.com/...d.php?t=136410

  12. #12
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    Another thought would be to order the expander plug from Lee for a9x18 Makarov sizer. It would be over size, but nothing some fine sand paper wouldn't cure, and then you'd not have to worry about the PVC compressing or cracking over time.

  13. #13
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    I experimented with my Lee powder through expander back when I was having case swage issues with 9mm. My modification was similar to yours, except you put more detail into yours. I just dropped a bushing on top of the expander plug to keep it from floating up and down. It worked pretty good. I dont use it anymore because I got a 38 spl M die. Back then, I stated that the 38spl M die expander plug was too long for 9mm. I was incorrect. After I sat down with my friend, we discovered that it wasnt the length that was the problem, it was the taper. He altered the taper to look like the taper of the 9mm M die plug. It works like a charm now.

  14. #14
    Boolit Master
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    I can see from this thread and the posts that I'm going to have problems with my Lee 9mm carbide dies swaging down the seated boolit. So what would be the least expensive way to get my boolits from swaging down to the .353 size reported? Will the 9x18 Makarov expander plug from Lee fit the 9mm carbide die set? As soon as I get my calipers I will make up a dummy round and check to see what the final dia. is on the seated boolit after I pull it. If everything goes as mentioned in the thread, I will have the problem solved before I even reload one round. Also I'm going to slug my bore and see just what dia. the grooves are. Thanks. BC
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    Boolit Master prickett's Avatar
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    I too am interested in the answer. Would the .38 Super expander work? (or get you closer than either the .38 Special or Makarov?

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    Boolit Master prickett's Avatar
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    The more I think of this, the more confused I get. Seems like if I were to use a .38/.357 plug in my Lee 9mm expander/powder drop die, all that would do is to bell the mouth larger, NOT expand deep into the case (i.e. .25" to .50"), preventing swaging from occurring. Am I thinking correctly?

  17. #17
    I use my Lee 38 cal dies (Minus the 38 cal powder-through-die. I use my 9mm powder-through-die) to load my 9mm cases with Lee TL .358-105 SWC bullets. Before, (with my 9mm dies) I would get a ridiculous amount of leading...With the 38 dies, I now get trace amounts of leading.
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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by prickett View Post
    The more I think of this, the more confused I get. Seems like if I were to use a .38/.357 plug in my Lee 9mm expander/powder drop die, all that would do is to bell the mouth larger, NOT expand deep into the case (i.e. .25" to .50"), preventing swaging from occurring. Am I thinking correctly?
    Neither.
    The 38 special plug is shorter than the 9mm. You need some type of spacer to push it down further in the 9mm die body. The plug dia is 9/16" and I can't find any rod or tubing that size to make a spacer. No access to a lathe either.

    I've heard the 38 S&W plug #1699 may be the ticket. It's a bit longer but longer is ok, shorter won't work. The 38 S&W is supposed to be .360 but nobody makes commercial bullets for this and it's a cowboy action caliber so much of the equipment out there is for .358 bullets, just what we need for these oversized 9mm barrels.

  19. #19
    Boolit Master prickett's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 30yrcaster View Post
    Neither.
    The 38 special plug is shorter than the 9mm. You need some type of spacer to push it down further in the 9mm die body. The plug dia is 9/16" and I can't find any rod or tubing that size to make a spacer. No access to a lathe either.

    I've heard the 38 S&W plug #1699 may be the ticket. It's a bit longer but longer is ok, shorter won't work. The 38 S&W is supposed to be .360 but nobody makes commercial bullets for this and it's a cowboy action caliber so much of the equipment out there is for .358 bullets, just what we need for these oversized 9mm barrels.
    I realize the plug is shorter, but the plug is only designed to bell the mouth, not expand the case to a depth suitable to seat the entire bullet (if my understanding of the expander die is correct). The Lyman M die is designed to actually expand to the depth of the seated bullet (again, if my understanding is correct).

    My question is was - based on the OP's rigging up of an oversized expander, whether it would actually expand the portion of the case in which the bullet sits, or just expand the mouth a little more.

    I'll be interested to see if you make any progress on the .360/.358 dies though as it sounds like a possible solution.

  20. #20
    Boolit Master
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    If you look closely at the expander insert of the 2 dies that I posted above you'll see that the expander portion of the 38/357 die is quite a bit longer than the 9mm expander. But the overall length of the insert is much shorter. That's where the PVC spacer comes into play.

    There are two contact points that make the powder through expander dies work. The inner contact point activates the powder measure and the outer contact point limits the expander insert travel to expand and bell the brass.

    The insert floats inside the die body. When you raise the brass up into the die the insert raises with it until the innner portion contacts the bottom of the powder measure delivery tube. It then continues upward activating the powder drop until the outer portion of the insert contacts the threaded portion of the powder measure body and stops. As the brass continues to get pushed up by the ram it pushes it over the expander portion of the insert expanding and belling the brass.

    If you run a 9mm brass up a 38/357 die it will never bottom out the insert since 9mm brass is shorter than 38 or 357 brass. That's why you have to add the spacers. If you just added one to the outer diameter it would expand the brass but it wouldn't activate the powder measure.

    I'm not the best at explaining things so I hope that helped clear it up for you. If not maybe someone else will come along and explain it better than I can.

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