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Thread: Lee Collet Die Adjustment

  1. #16
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    Dec 2005
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    Quote Originally Posted by BJS6 View Post
    John,

    Good work. I have used collet dies for many years set up like you said. They worl very well. Like you said, Lee's instructions really are not the best way to set them up. Also a proper locking ring like the Forster ones are a big help, the Lee ones should be thrown away !!

    The set up is one of those things that is very simple to show somebody but hard to actually describe, you did a good job.


    Mr Viper, if you blew the alloy cap out the top you used FAR to much force. Used properly the amount of handle pressure on the press is very small. In a cam over press you can darn near do it with just the weight of the handle if you let it fall a short way. The handle with just "click" over centre as the case neck is sized. Jammed collets, blown tops and marked mandrels are class ic examples of an abused and misunderstood collet die. Ignore your own method of setting up and read and understand what John has written.

    You don't need to alter the handle pressure to gain more neck tension, once the neck is on the mandrel you can't push it any more. If you want more neck tension just polish the mandrel down a smidge. For a 223 collet die I have three mandrels, one standard and a -1 thou and a -2 thou for greater neck tension.


    The collet die is about the best way to size a case neck for a non neck turned/tight necj chamber and may be better than bush dies in a lot of applications. I'd be tempted to try one with my bench rest 6PPC if I could be bothered sizing the neck and body in two operations every loading !!
    Thankyou BJS6 for the encouragement.
    The Lee locking nuts are not great thats for sure.
    However I do something radically different . I turn the Lee lock nut upside down and use the o ring under the Lee lock nut . I also put an extra lock nut on so they cant move.
    I only tighten the die , finger tight and have a mark on the die I line up on the press head .
    This allows the die to float a small amount as it is sizing , to reduce press ram misalignment, die misalignment etc.
    For my 223 I also place a machined washer over the case onto the shell holder to reduce the length of neck sized .
    This leaves a small extra shoulder at the base of the neck that is never sized to tighten up the neck in the chamber. Cases are neck turned to just clean up.
    This works well with a Body die as it does not touch the neck area at all.
    This is a technique for a bolt action mostly.
    If anyone is interested I can post a more detailed explanation.
    Last edited by J. Valentine; 03-03-2008 at 06:12 PM.

  2. #17
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    Oct 2007
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    I have actually been sizing just how you described. When I size, the handle cams over center and locks in place (and fairly tightly too since it seems like I am applying quite a bit of pressure). I think that if I screwed the die down any more at all, that I would not be able to apply enough pressure to let the press cam over center without damaging the die. Does this sound like I am pretty close to the "sweet spot"?

  3. #18
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    Oct 2006
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    Swifty,

    Back the die out just a little bit at a time as you lower the handle so the ram comes over centre. Get the die set and the lock ring locked up so that the handle just sort of "clicks" over centre.

    At that stage you are applying all the pressure needed to size the neck. Having the die down any further will only add load to everything and not do much of anything to the neck tension.

    If with a just firm load on the handle and a nice positive "click" over centre you don't have enough neck tension then remove the mandrel from the die, measure it accurately at the neck area and polish it down 0.5 - 1.0 thou. Reset the die if needed (probably not) and check the neck tension again. I held the mandrel in the chuck of a drill and polished down with about 600 grit paper, it doesn't take much.

    The collet dies I have used seem to create about a 1 thou neck tension. That is fine for carefully handled ammo but if you magazine feed or maybe carry a pocked full of ammo in the field then maybe 2 thou tension might be better. Try the loads at 1 thou first and see how the shoot.

    Just be aware that oncce you have applied enough pressure on the die to close the collet and press the neck on the mandrel all the extra force in the world will not make the neck size smaller, not unless you compress the mandrel. The force needed to press the neck on the mandrel is quite small, no need to press on the handle much at all when you have the die set so that the press does that nice firm "click" over centre thing.

    Bryce

  4. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Swifty View Post
    I have actually been sizing just how you described. When I size, the handle cams over center and locks in place (and fairly tightly too since it seems like I am applying quite a bit of pressure). I think that if I screwed the die down any more at all, that I would not be able to apply enough pressure to let the press cam over center without damaging the die. Does this sound like I am pretty close to the "sweet spot"?
    Thats good .
    It sounds like you may be past the sweet spot a small amount , Try backing the die off (UP) a small fraction so it still goes over center but does not apply as much pressure on the collet. Then check the bullet neck tension again.
    Also have you dismantled the die and greased the tapered end of the collet?
    If you still cant get enough neck tension to hold the bullet properly for a particular purpose then do as BJS6 has outlined .
    Be careful poilishing the mandrel down and only do it a bit at a time as a few thou can be removed pretty quickly if you overdo it.
    You can't get extra neck tension by just applying more force. The amount of adjustment around the sweet spot is very limited and almost not noticable without carrying out tests.
    For example , to go from a .001 neck tension to a .002 or .003 neck tension you would be talking about polishing down the mandrel.
    BJS6 has raised a very good point and I think I will include this info in my instructions.
    Last edited by J. Valentine; 03-03-2008 at 06:31 PM.

  5. #20
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    Ok sounds good, I'm not sure I understand your instructions about putting the grease on however. Do I need to take the collet out of the die to do this? If so how? when you unscrew the top all that readily comes out is the mandrel right? How do you get the collet out to do this?

  6. #21
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    Oct 2006
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    Swifty,

    Once the top is taken off the mandrel, collet and the collet closing piece should all come out. You may need to push the collet out from the bottom, press it on the table with the cap off the die. Sometimes they can press on the sides of the die a little but should come out without undue effort.

    A small amount of grease on the tapered outer area of the collet where it presses into the recess on the collet closer.

    While it is apart make sire there are no machining dags anywhere that might jam things up.

    Bryce

  7. #22
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    Dec 2005
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    91

    Don't over do it

    It is easy to use more pressure than needed with a collet die. My Forster press will easily reform the die until it will not work properly. The way to set up for the max resize is to measure the neck as you screw down the die. When it no longer gets smaller it's time to actually raise it until it start to get bigger and be happy with the least force to get the smallest neck. If still too large the mandrel needs to be made smaller. No "feel" required, just measure it!

  8. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by IanRobertson View Post
    It is easy to use more pressure than needed with a collet die. My Forster press will easily reform the die until it will not work properly. The way to set up for the max resize is to measure the neck as you screw down the die. When it no longer gets smaller it's time to actually raise it until it start to get bigger and be happy with the least force to get the smallest neck. If still too large the mandrel needs to be made smaller. No "feel" required, just measure it!
    You are assuming that all users have micrometers or calipers and know how to use them .
    I have used neck diameter at times to indicate amount of sizing taking place and considered it for my instructions . However I opted for an explanation that will also work for people without such tools.

  9. #24
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    Feb 2003
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    A workable set of dial calipers costs $20-30 USD... far less than most people spend on dies, press, etc. It's considered minimum standard equipment. Someone who doesn't have a set of calipers has no business reloading with anything more sophisticated than a Lee Loader (the one that uses a powder scoop and a mallet), IMO.

  10. #25
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    Mar 2005
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    5

    removing the collet

    The way I remove the collet is to pull it out from the bottom of the die . By pressing it up with the cap and mandrel removed , still presses the collet into the taper of the die . The collet is held in place by a floating ring that pops past a slight lip in the bottom of the die body . Just pull down , by hand and slightly twist and it will come right out . You don't even realy have to remove the mandrel at all .

    I also , every so often , like every 4 or 5 rounds sized , slightly twist the collet a little . This keeps the collet from getting a wear pattern inside the die body .

    And lastly , do use a good grease on the outside of the collet / inside of the die body . The ones that I have gotten are coated with a rust inhibitator that does nothing for lubricating the contact points between the collet and body . These dies work very differently than standard dies . On the standard dies the case is slid inside the die doing the sizing , and you do not size the case dry . On the collet die the die itself is what does the movement , collet sliding on the die body . Every few hundred sizings it is also a good ideal to pull the collet out through the bottom and clean and re- lubricate the die .This can be done without removing the die from the press.

    Doug

  11. #26
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    Dec 2007
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    My bad

    I was recently convinced of the benefit of not dropping primer crud on my good press, so I deptime in a separate step, something I haven't done for all that long. It's not totally incorporated in my loading routine yet &, as a consequence, I have one extra mandrel. That one is set up with a short decapping pin - one that doesn't quite protrude out of the bottom of the flash hole but still aligns the mandrel- which allows me to neck size when I've already primed the cases.

    I've only done that twice, but boy, was I sweating until I nutted out a workaround.

    While I'm in the confessional, should I say that my depriming die is a Redding Competition neck die with the bushing removed? Well, you have to amortise that cost somehow when the Lee does a better job.

  12. #27
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    John,

    Another way to contain all the nasty primer crud... Forster Co-Ax press... all the nastiness goes down the pipe into the spent primer cup, and unlike other designs... there are no 'escapees' The Lee Collet die does work in there, but I think a Forster die ring might work better on it than the Lee o-ring affair. Haven't tried it, but planning on it.

    Monte

  13. #28
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    Oct 2007
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    Quote Originally Posted by milanuk View Post
    John,

    Another way to contain all the nasty primer crud... Forster Co-Ax press... all the nastiness goes down the pipe into the spent primer cup, and unlike other designs... there are no 'escapees' The Lee Collet die does work in there, but I think a Forster die ring might work better on it than the Lee o-ring affair. Haven't tried it, but planning on it.

    Monte
    Speaking of which, where can a guy buy a few replacement locking die rings. I don't need anything fancy, heck an RCBS type locking die ring would work, but like you said the o-ring deal on the lee dies doesnt really fit my fancy. I like to be able to lock them so I can just screw it in the press or unscrew it and put it away whenever I want.

  14. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by milanuk View Post
    Another way to contain all the nasty primer crud... Forster Co-Ax press...
    Monte,

    Yeah, but I had the bubba press & I'm figuring to spend my spare cash on a nose former & a new stock - besides, I don't think we see many in Australia since they lost the Bonanza brand.

    John

  15. #30
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    Feb 2003
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    Swifty,

    Midway USA sells spare die lock rings for several brands... I dislike the set-screw type lock rings that Redding/RCBS use almost as much as I do the Lee rings... a while back I purchased several packs of Hornady split-clamp rings - they have a wrench flat built in, handy for conventional presses and such.

    John,

    Gotcha. Well, Lee's classic cast press (the one built kinda like a Rockchucker) happened to nab that particular feature from Forster/Bonanza as far as I can tell... its another option, depending on how bad you want to keep the primer crud contained. I never realized how bad/annoying the mess was until it was *gone* and I had a clean press...

    Monte

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