Guns shows are not just about guns, ammunition, and beef jerky. If ones looks close, there are other things as well. No, not the black leather purses that scream 'Gun', nor the big table overflowing with worn out green military fatigues. Look past all that... to the boxes dotted here and there, a few to every row, and filled with... Gun Show Gold!
It's the green glow from the RCBS boxes that first attracts attention, and the plastic bags full of finely machined steel that keeps it riveted. Tools and dies from a now passed reloader, hand me down sets, perhaps the spares from calibers no longer owned. Maybe an ancient press, built with more iron and tool steel than any three new fangled offerings put together. Sometimes a tool whose purpose can only be imagined, sold by a company our grandfathers would have recognized.
Its a rare, rare reloading die that wears out. Most are fully capable of lasting several owners lifetimes, if they are maintained in even the most haphazard manner. Even when mishandled or missing pieces they can still be a solid value. Most of the major reloading die makers will sell replacement parts for very reasonable prices, and RCBS is noted for just mailing them out on request, without charge.
Here, we find a bagged set of RCBS dies in 8x57Mauser. A full length sizing die, a neck sizing die, and a seating die. The neck sizing die is the real prize, and the only one in the set I just had to have. My last 8mm neck die was misplaced in a move, and it left a gaping hole in my Grand Old Turk reloading regime. Dickered from $20 down to $15, the neck sizing die alone is worth far more than the price of all three.
The missing box is not an issue, as the neck die soon found a home in the same box as my other 8x57mm RCBS dies. The extra full length sizing and seating dies.... they stay lubed and bagged, as trade fodder or a giveaway to a new reloader.
The last spare 8x57mm seating die I had was remade into a cast bullet seater, with a throat opened enough to just pass the cast bullets from my lubrisizer die. It now lives in a special box of it's own, clearly marked as to caliber, use, and dimensions.
When buying used dies, it's worthwhile to fully strip them down to individual components and give them a good scrub. Treated just like a fine firearm, the inside can be cleaned with a brush and swab, while inside and out should be treated with a preservative and lube like Breakfree CLP.
Check for bent sizing mandrels, and cracked, broken, or bent de-capping pins. The sizing mandrel should be clean and smooth, with no heavy scratches or dings. A quick check with a micrometer is in order, just to be sure it hasn't been altered. Replacing the de-capping pin with a new one is only a moments work, and they can be bought by the six pack from any reloading supply dealer.
The lock rings on the die body and the de-capping rod should fit tightly, and have their locking screws in usable condition. If a lock ring is frozen in place, soaking overnight in penetrating oil will usually help free it up. Under no circumstances should high heat be applied, as it will alter the dimensions of the die body.
The best bargain of all, for the hard core reloader, is a sizing die with a case stuck in it. When encountered, they can be bought for a dollar or two. Ten minutes with an RCBS stuck case removing tool and the die is good as new.
To a reloader, those random boxes full of hand me down dies and loading tools are like a trip through Santa's workshop. There's gold everywhere one looks, there for those with eyes open to it.
"Wild" Bill Guarnere, R.I.P. - Jeff emails from Blighty: This time it is one of yours. The Telegraph hasn't picked him up yet, but I dare say they will: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/...
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