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Thread: Case trimmer vs File Trim Die

  1. #1
    Boolit Master Bazoo's Avatar
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    Case trimmer vs File Trim Die

    I started with a lyman univeral case trimmer. I like it pretty good. I can see it wont be the absolute most square cutting, but its fast, and accurate enough for all of my needs. And its relatively easy to use.

    As of late, i've been thinking about getting a file trim die for my 30-30. Why? I ask myself this often. Maybe, something simple about it, back to basics. I wouldnt be tied to the bench, using my lee hand press.

    So is who uses file trim dies, and why do you use them? is there any advantages or disadvantages to them verses and bench mounted case trimmer?

    ~Bazoo

  2. #2
    Boolit Master

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    Funny you ask. The first bottleneck cartridge I loaded, and thus needed to trim was 30-30, and yeah, have a trim die for it.

    Best money I ever spent was for an rcbs trim pro.

    I've not used the trim die in ?? Years.

  3. #3
    Boolit Master Bazoo's Avatar
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    Sound guy... do you have any notion to sell the trim die?

    In my research, I found that some of the dies also sized, and some did not. Which version do you have?

  4. #4
    Boolit Master


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    I kind of like trim dies. No fuss, about as simple as it gets. Only ever used a .222 one, but am considering getting a few others.

  5. #5
    Boolit Master
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    I have been hand loading since about 1964. I have one trim die, and I use it for case forming, not trimming.


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  6. #6
    Boolit Master Char-Gar's Avatar
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    I have file trim dies in most calibers I load for, but seldom use them. I prefer to use my Wilson lathe type trimer for absolute precision and square cut. It take no more time to use the Wilson than it does a file trim die.

    IIRC the Redding dies only trim while the RCBS dies FL size as well as trim. That is what I have Redding file trim dies. If I am using a fire formed case to my chamber that I neck size only, why would I want to full length resize it.
    Disclaimer: The above is not holy writ. It is just my opinion based on my experience and knowledge. Your mileage may vary.

  7. #7
    Boolit Master

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    It depends on the amount needed to be removed from the case, Under .015 - .020 the trimmer gets used On 357 herrets and case forming where large amounts need to be removed the trim die as a pre trim form die. I use a jewelers saw here and leave .005-.010 to remove in the trimmer. On cases where 1/8"-1/4" are being removed it speeds things up and cuts down on heavy burrs.

  8. #8
    Boolit Master
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    I have several dozen trim dies. I like them for case forming and sometimes they are good for resizing.

    As far as I am concerned they are just a good way to ruin a file. All my trimming is done with a Forster case trimmer. I can trim almost every normal size case without buying anymore stuff with the Forster trimmer. On the other hand there are a lot of file trim dies that cost $40 to more than $100 for some of the obscure calibers.

    The real reason for a file trim die is for forming cases and cutting them to length.

    For example for years Norma's very expensive brass was the only game around for the many cheap 1891 Mausers. Three or 4 boxes of ammo cost as much as the rifles.
    A file trim die could be used to make 7.65 Mauser brass from cheap and easy to find 30-06 and .270 Win. To protect the trim die and saber saw blade from each other I put a soft steel washer over the case neck and cut off the case with the saw. Then I trim to finished length with the Forster trimmer powered by a drill.
    Forming 250 Savage cases is another favorite trim die application.

    So I buy trim dies when I find them cheap and useful for forming brass. But I only used them to form and cut off cases and never use a file on them. Good files are too expensive to ruin and they can eventually chew up the trim die too.
    EDG

  9. #9
    Boolit Master
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    I use the Lee cutter/ball grip & pilot. I also have their case spinner/3 jaw chuck. Fast & easy as I spin the case on my drill. The pilot ensures that you trim always to the correct length. I then chamfer the case mouths while the case is still mounted on the chuck. I find this faster than using a Forrester tool.




  10. #10
    Boolit Master

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    I use the only trim die that I own about the same way Country Gent does. Its also a 357 Herrett. For routine trimming I prefer using a case trimmer. The fine shavings created by filing are harder to clean up than those from a case trimmer.

  11. #11
    Boolit Master
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    Only one mention of Lee's case trimming system? I simplified my reloading first with a Lee set for my bottle necked brass, and then the Lyman's E-Zee Trim, which I think is a better design than Lee's. I have a "lathe type" trimmer, but adjusting, getting square mouths, etc. isn't easy (forgot the make, it's been several years since I took it out).
    My Anchor is holding fast!

  12. #12
    Boolit Man
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    I have the Lee power quick trim with requisite dies. Works well with a cheap Harbor Freight power screwdriver. Chamfers trims and deburrs. Not sure what I am missing by getting one of those bench mounted types, since I have a cheap C reloader single stage I dedicate to jobs like these

  13. #13
    Boolit Master

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    I've used a few file trim dies. For reducing stretched or sawed-off case mouths to standard length, they do fine, unless you don't want to full-length size the cases. I use one of my crummier, worn Chinese files for this task. Plenty good enough for thin brass, and if I press down too hard, nothing important is damaged.

    If you only neck size, or don't size at all, and have a case you want to trim to standard length, the quickest and most versatile tool by far is the Lee setup, with the shell holder in a power drill or screwdriver, or, better, the cutter and rod chucked in a drill press.

    If you load for a lot of calibers, or obsolete calibers or wildcats, one of the lathe-type trimmers is the best option. I like the Forster and the Lyman, as the pilots can be accumulated cheaply, or made, and stored in a small space.

    For some reason, case trimming is the one reloading-related operation that really, really bores me. The tiny variations in case length that certain trimmers allegedly cause aren't significant on my crude measuring tools, and I have never seen any effect on a target. So for me, the reason for the trimmer, whatever it is and however set up, is to get the whole miserable ordeal over with as expeditiously as possible. I use the Lyman (with a power screwdriver) 85% of the time, the Lees (on drill press) another 10%, the Forster (hand cranked) 5%, and the file dies once in a blue moon.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by EDG View Post
    I have several dozen trim dies. I like them for case forming and sometimes they are good for resizing.

    As far as I am concerned they are just a good way to ruin a file. All my trimming is done with a Forster case trimmer. I can trim almost every normal size case without buying anymore stuff with the Forster trimmer. On the other hand there are a lot of file trim dies that cost $40 to more than $100 for some of the obscure calibers.

    The real reason for a file trim die is for forming cases and cutting them to length.

    For example for years Norma's very expensive brass was the only game around for the many cheap 1891 Mausers. Three or 4 boxes of ammo cost as much as the rifles.
    A file trim die could be used to make 7.65 Mauser brass from cheap and easy to find 30-06 and .270 Win. To protect the trim die and saber saw blade from each other I put a soft steel washer over the case neck and cut off the case with the saw. Then I trim to finished length with the Forster trimmer powered by a drill.
    Forming 250 Savage cases is another favorite trim die application.

    So I buy trim dies when I find them cheap and useful for forming brass. But I only used them to form and cut off cases and never use a file on them. Good files are too expensive to ruin and they can eventually chew up the trim die too.
    That about sums it up. They are only really quick and easy to use when you have a good, sharp file, and pretty soon you don't have a good, sharp file any more. I don't know about all RCBS trim dies sizing as well, but the only one I have used, 8x60R Portuguese, certainly did.

    As it happens I found that .348 Winchester brass was small on diameter, and therefore better, cheaper and easier than .450 Express, although a little under length, so I ended up not having to use it for trimming. If I did use one again, it wouldn't be for curing brass lengthening in use, but for case forming from longer brass. In this case I would use a fine jeweller's saw (the sheet steel kind, not the metal-piercing fretsaw), and if it had an outward set on the teeth I would remove it with an oilstone or diamond hone.

    A trim die is also good for fireforming in the die with a light charge and filler, screwed into a threaded holder. There is nowhere in the die for unburnt powder to lodge.

  15. #15
    Boolit Master

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    I use them and like them, and have one for almost every rifle caliber that I own. True, they will dull a file, but one gets a lot of cases processed before that happens. I started off with the Forrester case trimmers and soon learned that I needed one large and one small, plus a whole bunch of cutter pilots. One has to clamp the base of the case in a stepped chuck and has to get it in the right step. Then I went to the L.D. Wilson case trimmer which requires a die-type holder for each caliber to be trimmed, and I liked that one better but there's the fooling around with putting the case in and out of the die, and sometimes when turning the cutter the case spins in the die. With the file trim dies one just adjusts the die to trim to the desired length (using a new, unfired case as a pattern is a good method) and then you run the ram up, file off everything flush to the top of the die, drop the ram, remove the case and give it one light pass inside and outside the neck with the de-burring tool and you're finished. Goes pretty quickly and the results are very uniform. Last winter I processes 500+ pieces of .30-06 range pick up cases for my M1 rifles. It went quickly and the file is still working.

  16. #16
    Boolit Master


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    Started with a Forester, but didn't like the collet system of shell holders. Got a Lyman with the universal chuck and have used it for decades. I did purchase the drill driven arbor shaft to aid my arthritis a few years ago.
    I don't understand the problem some folks report about mouths being out of square. If you fully seat the case and have a proper pilot how can it cut out of square?
    Information not shared. is wasted.

  17. #17
    Boolit Master Bazoo's Avatar
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    Hmm....an interesting variation in responses. Thanks everyone.

  18. #18
    Boolit Master
    mdi's Avatar
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    With all the positive responses for file trim dies, I may get one for my .308...

    Later; I was looking at trim dies on google and didn't see any dimensions for trim length. Anybody know what a .308 Win. trim die trims to? But a trim die may not work on my Co-Ax...
    Last edited by mdi; 04-08-2017 at 11:38 AM.
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  19. #19
    Boolit Master
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    I have used file trim dies in the past and still have one for the 8x57mm mauser which I convert from 30-06 military cases and sometimes .270, .280, and even 25-06. My method is to first run the case through a form die, then go to the trim die where I cut the excess neck off with a hack saw instead of using a file. Then I chamfer the inside and outside of the mouth to removes burrs. I then run the case through a full length die. Then I use a Forster trimmer set up with and inside neck reamer to trim to exact length and cut the case mouth to correct thickness using a custom inside neck trimmer made for me by Forster. I finish the case off by again chamfering the inside and outside of the case mouth again. I then check the case with a Forster case length/ headspace gage. Never had one to fail yet. I then check the case in the rifle I am going to load the case for. This process works for me even though it may be a little more involved than others methods, but I get some pretty accurate ammo by using this method. I have used the same method to form.300 Savage brass from 7.62x51mm military brass in the past. As I said, works for me, james

  20. #20
    Boolit Master
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    I only use file trim die for 30-06 conversion to 8mm Mauser. I form, mark, then take to the HF chop saw to shorten, then back in the form/trim die to file close before finish trim in the Lee EZ trim to square and chamfer the mouth. It s a little extra handling but by cutting close but leaving a little to file gives me room to true up mouth with the file since the HF chop saw is not a true 90* cut and the file allows squaring by eye before final trim.

    I didn't even consider that the file dies existed as a method of trimming stretched brass. Makes sense, just didn't think of them as a sizing tool, only as a brass conversion tool.
    Last edited by RogerDat; 04-08-2017 at 03:52 PM.
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    Scrap.... because all the really pithy and emphatic four letter words were taken and we had to describe this way of getting casting material somehow.
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Abbreviations used in Reloading

BP Bronze Point IMR Improved Military Rifle PTD Pointed
BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
C Compressed Charge PR Primer SPCL Soft Point "Core-Lokt"
HP Hollow Point PSPCL Pointed Soft Point "Core Lokt" C.O.L. Cartridge Overall Length
PSP Pointed Soft Point Spz Spitzer Point SBT Spitzer Boat Tail
LRN Lead Round Nose LWC Lead Wad Cutter LSWC Lead Semi Wad Cutter
GC Gas Check