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Thread: RCBS swage dies

  1. #1
    Boolit Master Pavogrande's Avatar
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    Question RCBS swage dies

    I recently acquired some rcbs "rock chucker" jacketed swage dies. 22 and 25 cal -
    Rather interesting contruction, but I am not sure if all the bits are there -
    Anyone familar with them? How many bits make a set ? Are there any pictures available showing them in use?

    I also got some more jacketed swaging dies, unmarked as to maker, same questions but one problem at a time --

    thanks for any help -- gb

  2. #2
    Boolit Master

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  3. #3
    Boolit Master

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    My reccomendation to Pavogrande is the same as in the thread linked by hardcase54.

    Pressman maybe able to help. But for the help you should also consider offering some pesos to the Antique Reloading Tool Collectors Association as the info from Pressman will be from the archive for the group and he is the curator of the paper and hardware archive.

  4. #4
    Boolit Master Pavogrande's Avatar
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    Thanks for the info --
    I rather anticipated there was more to the sets than I have.
    I only have the "T" handle upper and and cannon breech lower die pieces of the sets , and a few push pins which may or may not be relavent.
    I will set them aside for a while and cogitate on the problem -- gb

  5. #5
    Boolit Master Pressman's Avatar
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    There are many, many parts to the several variations of swaging dies RCBS made. Post a clear picture if you can and we may be able to help you ID what you have.
    Ken

  6. #6
    Boolit Master

    Bent Ramrod's Avatar
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    The most basic setup was the two piece RCB Swage die with the T handle and the interrupted thread, plus a replacement ram for whatever press you told Fred Huntington you had, and two pins of different lengths to fit the ram.

    You would cut off cores from a roll of lead wire of the proper diameter (core cutters were available, but a pair of dykes or tinsnips would work) and insert a core into a lightly lubed jacket. Wire and jackets were available from RCBS and other sources. The ram was changed out, the short pin inserted, the die set was screwed into the press and the core assembly was guided into the die open end up, with the ram and pin.

    By judicious adjustment of the die, screwing the bottom into the press and unscrewing the top each iteration to check progress, the pin would be raised deeper and deeper into the die until the point was formed to the extent wanted. Some people recommended taking the top portion of the die off, putting it back on and giving the press ram another push, to get the "trapped air" out of the top of the die and finish the point forming. Once the bullet was pointed up the way the operator wished, the top of the die was removed. The longer pin would be substituted for the shorter and the bullet pushed out the top. Then the shorter pin was replaced and another core/jacket assembly started in the die as before.

    Some people didn't bother using the longer pin and would just start a new core/jacket assembly into the open die with the short pin, using the assembly to push the finished bullet out. Then the top of the die was screwed back on and the swaging continued.

    The basic setup could be augmented with a core seating die. Here the wire was swaged into the jacket in a separate operation before the pointing-up. This die was sold with a frame which went between the ram and the top of the die to eject the seated core. There would be more pins of different diameters, both for seating and for ejection of the seated core. All this stuff would be made up according to whatever press the customer was using as a swage press, and RCBS would obviously give the customer whatever he wanted. I have a couple sets of RCBS dies with a lot of "mystery parts" I have yet to sort out.

    Pressman has the RCBS instructions available, and it is worth the modest donation to the ARTCA to get this item alone. Even RCBS doesn't have copies anymore. In addition to access to the archival instructions for obsolete reloading stuff, membership in ARTCA gets you a newsletter in which the finest, most erudite writers and experts (*a-HEM!!*) hold forth on the various arcane aspects of obsolete reloading equipment.

    Other info on the use of these early bullet swages is available in the early volumes of "The Ultimate in Rifle Precision," which was a yearly book produced by the NBRSA and edited by Townsend Whelen. You have to get the versions from the early '50's, because the RCBS design became obsolete in only a few years. Of course, the users of the RCB Swage for benchrest competition took a lot more care as to weights and procedures, but bullets made in RCB Swages held many accuracy records for several years.

  7. #7
    Boolit Master Pavogrande's Avatar
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    Pressman -- thank you -- Unfortunatly, I have not yet mastered the photo posting difficulties-

    Bent R - thank you as well -- I was hopeful that the proceedure was somewhat as you described -- cobbling up pins and attachment to the ram would be doable - The two dies, 22 and 25, appear to still be in excellent condition and worth expending the effort to return them to service.
    gb

  8. #8
    Boolit Mold
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    That is funny - I won a .223 and a .257 RCBS die set on ebay a month ago myself.

    The dies were good, and I had a bit of luck with the .223 dies (yes, .223,not .224).

    I posted most of this on another board, and perhaps I can add something of note to the stunning quality of this forum.

    The die set is of very high quality, with carefully machined and hardened parts. Even the die lock ring was hardened with a machined boss that contacts the top of the press. I wire wheeled some congealed grease off it and lubed it up with my favorite lube, chainsaw bar oil. The ogive swage top spins right off with enough leverage with the ~5" T handle. No load on threads, hardened steel = fast. The ogive swage top unscrews as easily as stirring coffee with your index finger.



    The die set, consisting of 3 parts, left to right: the punch, die body, and ogive swage. The die body has a straight cylinder hole end to end, about .223 in diameter, and the ogive section contains the ogive and lead point forming cone.



    The dies were meant as a one-piece unit. Unlike modern units, the core was seated and swaged in the point forming die. I was fairly skeptical of the idea as the core 'must' be tightly seated for best accuracy prior to point forming, according to modern thinking. I tried the die set out with derimmed .22 RF hulls and 0.187" fishing lead as I had run out of lead wire years ago. I swaged the RF hulls 20 years ago, and cut and swaged the lead this morning using my Blackmun die set. The RF hull weighed about 11 grains, and the lead slug core brought the balance to 52/53 grains, the classic weight for these bullets in this era.



    I had a dilemma on my hands. The die set was incomplete as I had nothing to hold the punch. The punch was made to fit a holder and held in place with a setscrew, but I did not have anything on hand yet. I made do, but I'll do better when I really put this die through its paces.

    Anyways, the punch was curiously formed, .220" diameter with a 0.190" step on top of it. The point of this was to avoid a sharp cornered punch that may chip or gouge the die body, and to make a square shouldered cup on the bullet base.

    I sacrificed a couple jackets and lead cores setting up the die set. No big loss, as a jacket represents 5 seconds work and a core is 3 cents worth of lead. I set up the die for the press to 'break over' when filling up the bullet tip on a lead nosed bullet at 52 grains.

    My first 'real' bullet. I unscrewed the ogive swage, and dropped a jacket and core inside the die body to the top of the punch. Pinkie finger pressure pushed the jacket/core/punch down to be level with the top of the die body.



    I screwed the ogive swage onto the body, and moved the ram up to partially form the bullet. Checking progress after taking the pressure off the die:



    You can see the ogive form in the bullet, and the reverse form in the ogive die above. There is about 3/8" of the bullet shank inside the die body. The bosses on the top of the die body and the bottom of the ogive forming die match up for no visible axial misalignment. Of course, the proof of that is going to be on paper.



    The completed lead tipped 52 grain bullet on the left, measuring .223" diameter. The mistake on the right was caused by letting the press handle bounce the bullet up a smidgen, and then putting the ogive form die back on and starting to finish the bullet, forming a ring.

    On another test bullet a modest hollowpoint put the 52 grain bullet's core about 1/8" below the open point and appeared to force out the bullet shank to a full .223 diameter. The die should be able to handle open tipped bullets, as previous reading on the subject indicates.



    Showing the square shouldered cup on the bullet base.

    In a nutshell, this die set is not as cumbersome as it looks. I would make a longer punch with the ability to eject the bullet from the die body without having to wiggle it out, but I may be using the die incorrectly. I'll make a longer punch that fits my Rockchucker press conversion I can twist a half turn to increase its apparent length a half inch to eject the bullet. I also need to break down and buy some lead. Hard to do with a half ton of casting lead around the house.

    I am making up a derimming die and a trim die for .22 mag brass to make brass for the .257 dies. I'll finish it sometime and post it here.

  9. #9
    Boolit Master Pavogrande's Avatar
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    Very nice pogo --- My die sets are functioally the same except --
    Instead of screwing the top die all the way on mine have an interesting interupted thread. There is an index mark and it only requres about two turns to close. -- Hope I have described that correctly --
    I did not think to measure the bore, but considering the age of the dies mine possibly are 223 as well -
    Sorry I am unable to post photos, but if anyone has an interest I can email them --

    There are several pins with my set but I have not yet measured to make sure they are the correct ones.

    I have some other old swage dies, maybe herter, that use a "socket" type affair that fits into a standard shell holder. That possibly would work with these dies.

    I take it there is no leade in the bottom of the die?

    thank you all -- I think I am going to be able mash boolits -- at least as many as I have cores and cups for.

  10. #10
    Boolit Master

    Bent Ramrod's Avatar
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    Pogo123,

    You have a very early version of the Rock Chuck Bullet Swage with the continuous thread between the two die parts. According to The Ultimate in Rifle Precision, after a few of that design had been put on the market, Huntington started making them with the interrupted thread at the suggestion of Whelen and a number of other bench rest shooters.

    It is my understanding that the slight ring at the start of the ogive is normal, and a consequence of this type of design. The Hollywood swaging dies are supposed to generate this slight ring also.

    I get from my reading that the RCBS dies were discontinued even before they were obsoleted by the later Biehler and Astles designs. The story was that Fred Huntington made the first die and it was so quick and easy that he figured this was going to be a gold mine business. He had to make 14 more before he got a second one that worked.

    Thanks for posting the pictures. I have to get my sets out and give them a try one of these days.

  11. #11
    Boolit Mold
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    Pavogrande, there is no lead into the bottom of the die body to speak of, just a very slightly rounded entrance.

    Thanks for the excellent info, Bent. The ring is very minimal if at all, and I did not notice anything with the calipers. I thought I had a pic of a very exaggerated ring due to bumping up the bullet a few thou and feeling something wrong.

    That is a very encouraging story about Fred Huntington. I have only 10 more tries before I can expect to make a good die! It ain't just me!

    Yeah, it could be a gold mine business. There are not many die makers out there, and they do not work cheap.

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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