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Thread: Lee press not giving consistent OAL.

  1. #1
    Boolit Master



    Idaho45guy's Avatar
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    Lee press not giving consistent OAL.

    I have a basic Lee single-stage press that I use for my low volume reloads. I used used RCBS dies for the .45-70 and .45 Colt with no issues.

    However, I picked up a set of Lee dies for .40 S&W and have been developing loads for it.

    Today, I decided to whip up a batch of .40 S&W using XTP 155gr bullets in virgin Starline brass with 4.5 grains of Titegroup. Specified OAL is 1.126.

    I adjusted the Lee seating/crimping die until I got the perfect length. Since I'm paranoid about over pressure with the .40, I checked every round for OAL after I loaded it. It varied wildly from round to round. Most were longer; around 1.128 to 1.131 and a couple were shorter, around 1.125 to 1.121.

    I'd adjust the die to get that particular round perfect, then the next one would be off. It took forever to get 20 perfect rounds done.

    What is going on? I don't recall having this issue with my RCBS die and .45 Colt, but then again I wasn't as picky. Is this common with the Lee dies? Or could it be the press itself?

    I checked primer depth to make sure I wasn't running into issues there, and then made sure I was measuring on the brass itself. No idea why it would be so inconsistent in seating the bullet.

  2. #2
    Boolit Master
    HeavyMetal's Avatar
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    I'm going to throw out an idea for you to check into, feel free to add any input you may have:

    Lee seating dies are all using the O ring type adjustment "keeper" the idea is once your die is set the O ring keeps it from changing setting and, in the case of the die body itself, supposedly allows instant return to setting if you remove and reinstall the die.

    Now that only applies to settings done and the die returned to the same press.

    However the bullet seating stem has no locknut and even though it does have the O ring you will still fight the "flex" within the threads of the adjusting stem, which can cause the problem your seeing.

    How to stop this is something I am playing with but I hesitate to drill and tap the die body for a set screw as the seating stem is thin aluminum and easily damaged with a heavy hand.

    Might be looking into a Jam nut system as used by every other die maker but Lee is a bit short on adjustment threads in the seating dies so it would have to be very thin and then we got the aluminum parts again!

    To add insult to injury look at a Pro 1000 or Loadmaster, the turret will also move up and down as the press is used which also contributes to OAL flexing as you reload.

    I actual added some clamps to my Pro 1000 to stop that but it removes the instant die change concept, however I think many users are fed up enough with making the Pro 1000 work with one caliber that this isn't the sacrifice one might consider it to be once the unit actually works as it should!

    This is posted as food for thought and hope it helps.

    HM

  3. #3
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    .005 either way is not a lot.....quite a bit of that could be in the bullets. Doesn't take much of a nick or slight imperfection to make .005.
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  4. #4
    Boolit Master dkf's Avatar
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    The seater likely touches the ogive of the bullet when it pushes it into the case. There is going to be variations in the ogive, ogive to tip, tip dimensions etc of the bullet. A few thousandths either way is not going to mean anything.

  5. #5
    Boolit Master
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    First, I believe you're being overly picky. Your handgun isn't a bench rest tack driver and an extreme OAL spread of .010" isn't going to do anything harmful to your safety or accuracy.

    Bullets aren't made with the precision of rocket parts; just for fun, try measuring the length of a few of your bullets. It's easy for normal manufacturing differences in forming the ogive and meplat to vary that much.

    Next, the length variations you see are hardly due to any brand of dies. Properly used, Lee's "Dead Length" dies are probably the most consistent seaters available.

    I have some fifty sets of dies from all current brands but Dillion and a half dozen more makers long gone. They all work very well. I've not wrenched a die in for decades but I've never had a die change in use, including my Lee's. And Lee's alum alloy presses, even their very small "Reloader", are far more ridged than many who have never tested them with a dial indicator believe.

    Finally, a lot of such small differences can come from variations in how hard we lean on the press.
    Last edited by 1hole; 02-26-2017 at 09:31 PM.

  6. #6
    Boolit Master
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    Sorry, but you are in the normal range for COL variation. Measure some factory rounds and you'll find the same thing. Measure your bullets and you'll find a major part of the variation.
    You need to start worrying, maybe, if the extreme spread is more than 0.020".
    I don't find any difference in COL variation between Lee, Hornady, and Redding dies--O-ring or no O-ring.
    If you want to sweat the COL variation, get a cheap Lee reloading press ($35??) and on main press seat all bullets slightly long than take each round to the single stage press and seat the bullet in small increments until you get the Col you want. The rounds won't be any more accurate, but you'll have more confidence in them.

  7. #7
    Boolit Master



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    Thanks for the replies; I'll try to be less picky...

  8. #8
    Boolit Man
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    Quote Originally Posted by Idaho45guy View Post
    Thanks for the replies; I'll try to be less picky...
    You're a Lee user; SOP to blame the tool. Go to Midway and look at the user ratings for anything Lee, that's all you'll see for most of their stuff. But, as previous posters have pointed out, the seating die contacts the ogive and you're measuring off the end of the bullet. I've seen this complaint from Lee users for the last 15 years. If it was some other color press, the first inclination is user error. But if it's a Lee, it's always the tool.....

    Personally, half the population is by definition, below average when it comes to mechanical ability. Those are the peeps when you tell them to adjust a spark plug gap to the thickness of dime, don't have a dime so use two nickels....

  9. #9
    Boolit Master
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    As others have already noted, the issue may be the bullets, the die, or (most likely) the method of measurement. If it really bothers you, acquire a bullet comparator and see if the problem is still there. This measurement method will help you determine where the discrepancy is, IF there is one.

  10. #10
    Boolit Master
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    "but if it's a Lee it's always the tool" what's your point??

  11. #11
    Boolit Master LAKEMASTER's Avatar
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    i was getting insanely erratic oal once i switched to my new bench.

    the 2x6 that the press was mounted to was flexing a little.

    added a 2x6 to hold all the boards in place and the problem went away. i can only assume the fluctuation in the ram pressure was changing the " umph " the seating die gave...

    stuff like that makes me wonder how many reloaders suffer from problems that their mounting equipment causes...
    Lee Loadmaster - Lee O-frame - Lee Melting Pot - Lee......... EVERYTHING

  12. #12
    Boolit Master
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    I ain't the press. Unless it's so worn out there is .125" slop all around, and prolly not even then. Bullets will vary that much, they are a swaged mass produced item that will vary in ogive, OAL, and weight. Not all bullets come off one machine and there will be variations.

    Often, it's the nut behind the handle that causes variations and dirt dies. The press, even with slop, will still have the same ram travel, round to round, and the dies are solidly mounted...
    My Anchor is holding fast!

  13. #13
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by HeavyMetal View Post
    I'm going to throw out an idea for you to check into, feel free to add any input you may have:

    However the bullet seating stem has no locknut and even though it does have the O ring you will still fight the "flex" within the threads of the adjusting stem, which can cause the problem your seeing.

    How to stop this is something I am playing with but I hesitate to drill and tap the die body for a set screw as the seating stem is thin aluminum and easily damaged with a heavy hand.

    HM
    I have had the same problem and I'm considering using a set screw with a plastic 'thread saver' tip.

    https://www.mcmaster.com/#set-screws/=16k0pfk
    Warning: I know Judo. If you force me to prove it I'll shoot you.

  14. #14
    Boolit Master PaulG67's Avatar
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    "I adjusted the Lee seating/crimping die until I got the perfect length."

    Are you seating and crimping at the same time??
    Paul Gauthier AKA Dragonrider


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  15. #15
    Boolit Master
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    I seat and crimp separately and still have +/-.005" For most of my shooting that's close enough. If I need an exact length for a small run I've been deliberately setting the die 'a little long' and running them through again after a final adjustment.
    Warning: I know Judo. If you force me to prove it I'll shoot you.

  16. #16
    Boolit Man
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    Quote Originally Posted by MT Chambers View Post
    "but if it's a Lee it's always the tool" what's your point??
    That if it's a Lee tool, it can NEVER be a user produced screw up. It's always the fault of the tool; even when it's not.

    If you have green, blue, orange, or the other red, any malfunctions are operator error. Can't be the tool. With Lee, it's always the tools fault.

    You'd have to be completely clueless not to notice or understand that fact.

  17. #17
    Boolit Master Johnny_Cyclone's Avatar
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    Just measure a box of factory for consistent OAL. I'll bet your (+/-) tolerance is equal to, and probably tighter.

  18. #18
    Boolit Master Driver man's Avatar
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    I had a similar issue. I found a bit of lube in the seating die. Cleaned it ,fixed it.
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  19. #19
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by Driver man View Post
    I had a similar issue. I found a bit of lube in the seating die. Cleaned it ,fixed it.
    This is also good advice. If your OAL starts to get screwy it might just be time to clean your dies.
    Warning: I know Judo. If you force me to prove it I'll shoot you.

  20. #20
    Boolit Master

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    I've found that a thinned partial coat ( see thru thinned ) of fn polish on those aluminum threads, then allowed to dry, makes for a very good way to keep them from self adjusting, or at less limit it.

    I keep a bottle at the press to mark and wipe case heads for test purposes.

    Heck, primer sealer would likely work too. I got that too, but its too spendy to use on lee dies.

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