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Setting the Dies

Press Table
Theory of Operation
Press Identification
Primer Pin
Shell Plate
Case Retainer
Primer Depth Setup
Setting the Dies
Primer Tray
Powder Disk
Final Adjustments
Case Feeder
Calibers Change
Bullet Feeder


Most people reloading pistol calibers use 3 or 4 dies.

The first die, which goes into station 1 is the decapping/resizing die.

The pin in the center of this die pushes the old primer from the case as the carrier rises. As the case enters the die it is also squeezed by the resizing die, which brings the case back down to it's proper size and shape. Cases expand when they are fired, the expansion being stopped by the chamber in the firearm. Carbide dies don't normally need the cases to be lubricated, although doing so can reduce the effort required to resize cases.

Station 2 normally has no die in it. This is where each case is primed with a new primer.

The second die is the expansion/powder drop die. Like the first die it performs two jobs at once. As the die enters the case it pushes up on the drop tube in the die which in turn activates the powder measure to deliver a charge of powder down into the case. At the top of the stroke, the drop tube also flares the top of the case (the neck) to ease bullet placement in the next step. The amount of flare applied is adjusted by raising or lowering the die in the frame. Lowering the die applies more flare, raising it flares the neck less.

The third die is the bullet seating/crimping die which goes into station 4. Most people reloading for semi auto pistols only seat the bullet with this die. The crimping is done in station 5 with the Factory Crimp Die. People reloading for revolvers may crimp with this die as well as seat the bullet. In this case the Factory Crimp Die is not used.

The fourth die, which is optional but used by many reloaders is the Factory Crimp die, which goes into station 5. It applies a taper crimp which works very well, especially in semi auto guns which headspace with the neck. People reloading for revolver often apply a roll crimp with the bullet seating die. Revolvers headspace with the rim on the case, not the neck.

Setting the dies

When adjusting dies, always have the handle pulled all of the way down, which brings the carrier all of the way to the top of it's stroke when making die adjustments. Apply steady downward pressure to the handle as you adjust the dies..

Run the nuts up near the top of the threads before placing them into the press. Putting a little oil on the threads first makes the nuts easier to turn. You may find it better to discard the rubber O rings and use a wrench to tighten the lock nuts down tightly. RCBS sells a wrench for this purpose for $6.95. Go here and search for "wrench". If you install the dies in order, you should be able to get a wrench or a pair of slip joint pliers on each die until you get to station 5. Getting the dies properly adjusted and tightened down really well makes reloading much more successful and accurate.

 On dies with an internal adjustment, like the bullet seating or factory crimp die, adjust the inner piece up until you can see the threads of the inner piece. VIDEO


Station 1 resizing/decapping die

With the handle all of the way down, run the die down until it makes contact with the shellplate. Lift the handle slightly, adjust the die another 1/4 turn downward.

Push handle back down to hold the die into place and tighten the die's nut tightly. This is the most important die adjustment, as it can also affect the primer depth adjustment. Also make sure the nut holding the decapping pin in place is tight.



Station 2 - There is no die in station 2. Some people decap only in station 1 using a Universal Decapping die and remove the decapping pin from the resizing die and place that die is station 2. This ensures that the case is perfectly aligned for priming. This subject will be covered later. In the normal setup, only priming is done in station 2 and since this is the way the press is designed, it works quite well this way.

Station 3 - The expanding/powder drop die

With the handle all of the way down, screw the die in until it makes shellplate contact. Adjust the die out from between 1/2 and 3/4 turn. Tighten the nut.

Place the drop tube into the die with the tapered end down. Install the powder funnel or the powder measure onto the die and finger tighten securely. Place a case into station one, decap and resize it and advance it around to station 3. There should be no primers in the primer assembly or powder in the powder measure. Make sure the die lock nut is pretty tight.

Pull the handle down all of the way, applying some firm pressure at the top of the stoke. Back the handle off a bit and run a finger up the side of the case. You are feeling the amount of flare is present at the top of the case, at the neck. If you feel little or no flare, adjust the .die down further in the press by loosening the die lock nut and the powder measure, if present. Then turn the die down into the press and re tighten the nut and powder measure, if present. Try again until you get the right amount of flare. You don't need much, only enough to allow the bullet to enter the case without splintering material off of the bullet. The flare also makes it easier for the bullet to sit upright as the bullet is about to be seated. Too much flare can cause the case neck to crack prematurely. If you find you have too much flare in the case, you must start with a new case. Adjusting the die upwards won't remove flare already present in the case. Once you have the adjustment done, tighten the die lock nut, being careful not to allow the die adjustment to change. VIDEO


Station 4 - The bullet seating die

As with the dies installed so far, the bullet seating/crimp die can do 2 jobs at once. Many or most people using the Load Master do the bullet seating only with this die and crimp separately.

There are two ways to set up this die. With a finished round or with the case from station 3 and placing a bullet at the time of die adjustment. We will cover using a finished round first, as it is easier to do.

Pull the case retainer in station 4 out enough to insert a finished round into station 4. With the handle all of the way down, adjust the die inward until it makes firm contact with the round. If you are going to use the Factory Crimp Die in station 5 to crimp, tighten the die lock nut and proceed to the bullet depth adjustment.

Die adjustment with a finished round

With the finished round in place in station 4, lower the handle to raise the carrier and round firmly into place at the top of the stroke. Screw the bullet depth portion of the die down until it makes firm contact with the bullet. You will have to check the OAL (overall length) with calipers when you start to reload. Bullet shape can change the OAL and you want to make sure that you have this right. Rounds that are too long can fail to feed into the firearm properly and rounds that are too short can cause dangerously high pressures. VIDEO using a finished round

Die adjustment without a finished round

Advance the case that you flared in station 3 to station 4. Place a bullet on top of the case and lower the handle all of the way. Continue applying pressure to the handle while making all adjustments to the die. Screw the die downward until you make firm contact with the case. Finger tighten the die lock nut. 

Screw the bullet seating adjuster inward. You will feel resistance as it pushes the bullet down into the case. Raise the handle enough to see the round. Check to see how far the bullet is pushed into the case. If it is clearly too long, lower the handle and tighten the bullet adjustment a bit more. Work in small increments. Pull the case retainer out and remove the round. Check the OAL with calipers. If it is too long, return the round into station 4 and repeat the process, tightening the bullet seater a little at a time. Recheck the length after every adjustment. If it gets too short you must start gain with a new round./backing the bullet seater depth will not make the round in station 4 longer. Once you get the length right tighten the lock nut securely. VIDEO without a finished round

Crimp adjustment

If you are going to use this die to crimp the round, you add more crimp by adjusting the die down further. First place a bullet in the case, set the bullet depth for the OAL then back off the seating adjuster. Lowering the die also lowers the bullet seating adjuster, so as you adjust for more crimp you are also shortening the OAL if you don't do this. You decrease the crimp by adjusting the die upward. . Lower the handle fully which raises the carrier completely to the top of the stroke. Lower the carrier a bit and remove the round. You normally want to only crimp enough to remove the flare from station 3. People reloading for revolvers, especially with lead bullets, may apply a deeper crimp.

Adjust the die deeper until you get the proper amount of crimp. If you go too far you must start checking with a new round. Adjusting the die upward will reduce the amount of crimp applied but will not remove crimp already there. Once you get this set properly, tighten the die lock nut and set the bullet depth as above with a finished round.

You will find it useful to make a round with no primer or powder to use as a template later. This is especially useful if you load various calibers, bullet weights, bullets shapes, etc.


Station 5 -The factory crimp die

This die applies a taper crimp, much like that applied at the factory. This die is very popular with reloaders because it applies a consistent crimp, even if case lengths vary a bit. The crimp in station 4 is very sensitive to case length. Case length is not often a problem in pistol calibers.

With the handle all of the way down adjust the die down until it makes shellplate contact. Tighten the die lock nut. Place a round into station 5. Lower the handle fully and while applying pressure to the handle, tighten the adjuster on the die until it makes firm contact with the round. Back the carrier off a bit and tighten the adjuster an additional turn. Using a marker to make a mark on the adjuster makes it easier to see how much you are adjusting it. VIDEO



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Last modified: 04/11/08