Clean reloading dies with a degreasing spray. Be sure to wear eye protection. Gloves are also a good idea, even though they are not shown in this photograph.
Lubrication is a messy, but necessary evil when resizing cartridge cases. It takes time to apply and then has to be cleaned off before firing the cartridge, but without it you can’t resize rifle brass. Sometimes though, it seems almost as if lubrication’s main job is to cause problems. If you put too much lube on a bottleneck case it ends up with dents in the shoulder. That happens sometimes even if you put on exactly the right amount of lubrication because of the lube that builds up inside the die. In that case, you must clean the inside of the die before using it or the problem will persist. Use a good spray degreaser to blast out the gunk, but make sure you have eye protection and that all your skin is covered, as it will splash back. It’s nasty stuff; you don’t want it on your hands and you really don’t want it in your eyes.
Remember, once you have cleaned the die it is bare metal, which can rust quickly. You must protect it. Most rust-preventative sprays work on the outside, but use case lube on the inside. Remove the depriming stem, spray lube inside the die, then use a patch on a cleaning rod to wipe out the inside so there is just a slight coating left behind.
Just as with plumbing, sometimes the problem is a plugged hole. Most dies will have one or more small relief holes drilled in the sides to allow excess lubrication to squeeze out. If you are getting dents in the shoulder, often these are plugged. Use a straightened paper clip to poke through and make sure they are clear and open.
Don’t worry too much about the dents in the shoulder—unless they are huge they don’t cause any major problems, but they sure are ugly. When you shoot the cartridge the dents will iron out and the case will look fine again. If it bothers you, use that ammo for practice.
The other side of the proverbial case-lubrication coin is when there is not enough lube. It happens to everybody sooner or later. You forget to lubricate a case or don’t put enough lube on, or sometimes you do everything right, but the reloading gremlins just like to mess with you. But now, you have a case stuck in your resizing die. The shell holder has pulled the rim off and you are at a stalemate until you can remove it.
This seems to happen a lot more often with spray lubrication. I am a huge fan of the ease of use for spray lubrication, but stuck cases are an unfortunate side effect. It’s not the lube’s fault, it’s operator error, but one die manufacturer told me that most of the stuck cases they get back in dies are from people using spray lubrication. Sure, it happens with using a lubrication pad too, but not as often. Also, make sure your cases are clean—dirt, corrosion or grit can cause them to seize in the resizing die. It can also damage the die.
Regardless, you are done reloading until the stuck case is removed. A lot of handloaders send the dies back to the factory to remove the case and that’s an option, but in my never humble opinion a poor one. Why spend all that money and tie up your equipment for all that time for something you can fix yourself in a few minutes?
My grandfather taught me to reload. His method for removing a stuck case was to back up the depriming stem as far as possible. Next, he’d drill a hole in the base of the case a little smaller than the case head diameter. That would allow the depriming stem and neck sizing button to unscrew and drop out the bottom with most dies. Then he would run the correct size tapered pipe tap into the case far enough to be sure of good thread strength. Using a brass punch, he would go in from the top and drive the case out.
This works great on larger cases like the .30-06 family, but with the .223 Remington families of cases the hole is often not big enough to remove the guts from the die. It also will not work with all sizing die designs. If you can’t remove the inside parts, you can’t access the bottom of the die to drive out the case. So you will need a stuck case removal kit. Mine is from RCBS. In addition to the kit you will need a drill, a tap handle and a bench-mounted vise.
The RCBS Way
CLAMP IT: Remove the die from the reloading press. Then back the depriming stem out as far as possible. It will stop at the neck of the cartridge. You can’t remove it, but at least get it backed up as far as possible. Now lock the die in a vise. Never clamp on the threads, but on the flats on the locking ring. If the die does not have flats, use soft jaws in the vise. If you don’t have a vise, sometimes you can install the die upside down in the reloading press to hold it while you work.
DRILL & TAP: Using the primer pocket as a guide to center the drill bit, use the #7 or 13/64 drill bit to drill a hole completely through the shell’s web. Be very careful when it exits out the other side that you don’t go too far into the case and damage the depriming pin or the neck sizing button. Now mount the ¼-20 tap in a tap handle and cut threads in the hole you just drilled. Remember, even though it is brass, you still should use a little cutting oil. Don’t forget to reverse the tap now and then to clear the threads.
PULL THE CASE: Install the cup on top of the die and thread the supplied bolt through the hole on the top of the cup and screw it into the threads. Finger-tighten the bolt until the head is contacting the cup. Use an Allen wrench to tighten the bolt. This will pull the stuck case out of the die. Sometimes you really need to crank on the wrench to pull them out.
FREE THE BUTTON: Remove the bolt and cup from the case and clamp the case in a vise. The depriming stem will still be attached. Sometimes you can unscrew the sizing button from the stem, but the button will be inside. Use a hacksaw with a fine tooth blade, to cut the case in half just forward of the web. Now you can remove the depriming stem and neck sizing button from the case.
INSPECT FOR DAMAGE: It’s not unusual for the decapping pin to be bent or damaged. You should have an extra supply on hand as they break now and then. If it’s damaged, replace it. Clean the stem and the die with degreaser spray, reassemble and lubricate. Reinstall the die in your reloading press. If you didn’t move the locking ring, it should return to the correct adjustment position.
You are back in business. Start resizing your cases again, but make sure they are lubricated. Not over lubricated, not under lubricated, but slicked up just right.
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