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Thread: What is the ultimate 38/357 die setup for cast boolits?

  1. #1
    Boolit Master Stopsign32v's Avatar
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    What is the ultimate 38/357 die setup for cast boolits?

    I realize this thread might not go anywhere since a lot of people think a set of dies are pretty much a set of dies. But I figured I'd make it anyways.

    I'm looking for the "best" die setup for my 38/357 reloading. Right now I'm using the LEE dies and honestly cannot stand them. The expander die is utter trash and the factory crimp die is somewhat of an on/off switch. Time to graduate to better things...

    So what is your opinion of the best setup?

    Right now I have a set of Lyman Carbide 3 die setup on the way and I've read on the S&W forums that people seem to think the Redding profile crimp die is so good that it's worth ordering by itself...

  2. #2
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    lar45's Avatar
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    I have used the RCBS dies for many decades and have never had a problem with them. You can use your Lee dies to seat the bullets and the RCBS to crimp in a separate step.

  3. #3
    Boolit Man
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    With cast Dillon no question, so you can clean both.

  4. #4
    Boolit Grand Master


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    I like the Dillon dies as they are easy to clean without having to reset them. Just remove the spring slip at the top and done.

    https://www.dillonprecision.com/carb...8_4_24445.html
    Don Verna

    NRA Endowment Member

  5. #5
    Boolit Grand Master

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    I have used mostly RCBS and Dillon for a long time with no problems. I doubt you will have any problems with any other brand.

  6. #6
    Boolit Master Murphy's Avatar
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    I've been an RCBS fan from the beginning 40+ years ago. Following the RCBS line, Redding has a great reputation as well. You didn't mention if you were open to carbide or steel. If it's carbide, I'd chase down a set of Dillon dies (not easily done these days unless you're flush with cash), or once again fall back to my standard dies of choice, RCBS.

    Murphy
    If I should depart this life while defending those who cannot defend themselves, then I have died the most honorable of deaths. Marc R. Murphy '2006'.

  7. #7
    Boolit Master Stopsign32v's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Murphy View Post
    I've been an RCBS fan from the beginning 40+ years ago. Following the RCBS line, Redding has a great reputation as well. You didn't mention if you were open to carbide or steel. If it's carbide, I'd chase down a set of Dillon dies (not easily done these days unless you're flush with cash), or once again fall back to my standard dies of choice, RCBS.

    Murphy
    Carbide for me

    I wanted a RCBS set but couldn't find them anywhere in stock. So I settled for Lyman.

  8. #8
    Boolit Master

    Kraschenbirn's Avatar
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    Another vote for Dillon. Got my first set (.45 ACP), over 30 years ago and, since that time, added .38/357, .44 Spl/Mag, and 9mm 'cause I've found nothing better.

    Bill
    "I'm not often right but I've never been wrong."

    Jimmy Buffett
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  9. #9
    Boolit Master


    Burnt Fingers's Avatar
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    Progressive press???


    Dillon with a custom powder funnel for the win.
    NRA Benefactor.

  10. #10
    Boolit Master
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    If I had my choice, all my dies would be Dillon or maybe Redding. Dillon's are super easy to clean. I am currently using Lee dies for 38 Special with an RCBS taper crimp die.

  11. #11
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    Used on A Lee Turret for 357 Mag.

    1. Lee carbide size die
    2. Lee PTED with 38 S&W expander (it's a bit larger)
    3. RCBS seater with various Nose inserts
    4. Lee Collet style FCD

    I Like most Lee dies. Their Seaters work fine for J-words, but are troublesome for some boolit nose profiles. I'm not a fan of Lee's Carbide FCD.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    “If someone has a gun and is trying to kill you, it would be reasonable to shoot back with your own gun.”
    ― The Dalai Lama, Seattle Times, May 2001

  12. #12
    Boolit Buddy DAFzipper's Avatar
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    I like the RCBS cowboy dies. Designed to load cast bullets

    Sent from my SM-T713 using Tapatalk

  13. #13
    Boolit Grand Master Bazoo's Avatar
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    I use whatever I can get used when I need it. RCBS happens to be the majority of my dies, with 357 being one of them. The expander in my set measures large enough that it works with cast bullets. I don’t recall the exact size without looking.

    Other calibers I have switched to noe expanders as I couldn’t get the factory expanders to be suitable, some in too small diameter and some in too short length.

  14. #14
    Boolit Master


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    No company makes a die set that suits me, especially for fatter than usual cast bullets. So, I use an ala carte set for most calibers.

    I have accumulated a range of carbide sizers and have measured the results of each on new brass. I select the one that gives me the least sizing for the bullet diameter I want. Dillons are often the chosen ones. The Dillons I have do a superb job without overworking the brass.

    I like the Lyman M-die expander design, but, again, usually want diameters not on offer. So, the nod goes to the custom expanders from Buffalo Arms. I choose a base diameter about a thou under bullet diameter and a neck step about two thou over. With a gentle case neck internal debur, no further expansion is needed. Bullets snap into the necks and are held straight for seating. When that snap in fit gets difficult, it's time to anneal the necks.

    I use Hornady sliding sleeve seating dies, factory if they work, or with lathe turned sleeves if more diameter is wanted.

    Crimpers are Redding Profile, Dillon AccuCrimp or Lee collet crimpers, if available. Short cases like 45 Auto Rim or 38 S&W get whatever I have, generally RCBS or CH roll crimpers.

    Yeah, it's a PITA and took years to figure all this out, but I greatly enjoy the results. My CAS 45 Colt loads look like factory rounds, straight brass, perfect crimps.

    So, to address the posed question, for 38/357 SWC loads, I use a Dillon carbide sizer, Buffalo Arms expander, Hornady seater and Dillon AccuCrimp.

  15. #15
    Curious Caster
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    I haven't tried any other options, but I got A Redding 3-die set in carbide and swapped the seating stem for a Redding flat-nose micrometer instead. I wish I had not waited so long to buy the micrometer stem, it is FAR easier, more repeatable, and doesn't damage the front of cast boolits like the factory stem can with certain profiles.
    I'm a big fan of data-driven decisions. You want to make me smile, show me a spreadsheet! Extra points for graphs and best-fit predictive equations.

  16. #16
    Boolit Master
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    I dont have Dillion dies so I can't comment about them, but I do have several other 357 die sets and for cast bullet loading I usually end up using the RCBS cowboy die set. they work very well for me.

  17. #17
    Boolit Master Stopsign32v's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by farmbif View Post
    I dont have Dillion dies so I can't comment about them, but I do have several other 357 die sets and for cast bullet loading I usually end up using the RCBS cowboy die set. they work very well for me.
    I've read that the RCBS cowboy die set is nothing more than their normal die set prettied up.

  18. #18
    Boolit Buddy
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    I've pretty much switched to dillon for everything pistol. Swapping the profile insert was the deciding factor.

  19. #19
    Boolit Master Stopsign32v's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by anothernewb View Post
    I've pretty much switched to dillon for everything pistol. Swapping the profile insert was the deciding factor.
    What do you mean? You guys are really starting to make me wonder what I'm missing with $100+ Dillon dies.

  20. #20
    Boolit Buddy
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    I don't know about Dillon, but I replaced my RCBS 357 carbide die set with Hornady set more than a decade. No problems with cast or jacketed since then. And Hornady also helped me with the neck tension difference between cast and jacketed in 45 ACP by sending a second TiN sizer at no charge a few years ago. That said, if I need something oddball in terms of expanders for cast or powder through expanders, I visit the lathe and spin up exactly what I need. Oddball used dies picked up used are also handy for mix and match applications. At last count I had dies from 5 makers, plus several home turned specials.

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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