Monday, May 25, 2009

Used reloading dies: Gun show gold!

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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 c
an 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.


10 comments:

Albert A Rasch said...

What great advice!

Too often we end up looking at stuff we wish we could get, rather than the items we can really use, if we thought about it!

Thanks for reminding us!

Regards,
Albert
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles.
I Review the Nikon Monarch 8X42 Binoculars.

AKA Angrywhiteman said...

I don't know if you're familiar with the Varmint Al's site, if not give it a look. I find it very informative.

Die polishing, third row, right of center.

http://www.varmintal.com/arelo.htm#Polishing_Brass

Commander Zero said...

Used reloading dies are a pretty good deal, but while it is hard to 'wear out' a die the biggest issue is scratches on the inside of the sizing die. In dies that are carbide, this obviously isnt an issue. When buying a used set, always pull the decap assembly and look through the die to make sure the interior isnt scratched up. If it is, take a pass or get used to your cases looking awfully wierd.

Carteach0 said...

Commander,

I've found that light scratches will polish out. Deep ones... equal a dead die for me.

I've run a screw into the primer hole of a throw away case thats been fully sized. Coat with white polishing compound, and chuck into a low speed drill. A few gentle moments working it in and out of the die, and then flush well and clean. It's worked for me, but I;m careful about it.

Carteach0 said...

Commander,

I've found that light scratches will polish out. Deep ones... equal a dead die for me.

I've run a screw into the primer hole of a throw away case thats been fully sized. Coat with white polishing compound, and chuck into a low speed drill. A few gentle moments working it in and out of the die, and then flush well and clean. It's worked for me, but I;m careful about it.

Anonymous said...

About a year ago, I asked to buy anyone's Lee Loader kits they no longer wanted, those slow as molasses but still get the job done loaders. Got all kinds of requests, and I got at least 10 kits of different kits now that can be used for emergencies.

Sven said...

Back in the dark ages I was lucky enough to purchase a whole estate of reloading equipment. It came with a pot and dies for casting and swagging .30, .38 and .44 cal bulletsof various weights....Some other oddball calibers (does anyone still shoot a .218 Bee?) and lots of blackpowder stuff.

15 years later, the purchase still provides me with basic, no-nonsense hand loading.

BTW, The Tanner Gun Show will be in town this weekend at the Denver Merchandise Mart.

Powder, primers and bullets are normally gone by noon on Saturday.

phlegmfatale said...

There's something tremendously satisfying about discovering a cache of tools with which to practice your craft. I'm that way with my jewelry-making supplies. It's one of those the journey IS the destination equations.

B.S. philosopher said...

It's a great way to build up to reloading too. About 10 years ago I started to make a habit of buying a set of used dies and a couple of boxes of factory ammo for each rifle chambered in an oddball caliber that I bought.

When I finally broke down and started reloading this year I had the brass and I had the tool, all I needed was the press and ancillary supplies.

BTW, anybody know where I can find a cheap set of .50-70 US govt. dies? :-)

azasadny said...

I bought several Wilson case gauges at the last local gun show I attended for $8 each. Great find! Thanks for the informative blog!