Saturday, October 13, 2012
Review: Lee Pacesetter .223Rem Dies
All my reloading dies are LEE. Started loading .45ACP, and then 9mm for a race gun. Then ammo started getting more and more expensive, and I started using the 9mm dies a lot more. Loaded over 10,000 rounds with these LEE dies. When I really started shooting carbines, and working up precision loads, I didn't see any point in trying other brands and Lee was pretty commonly recommended for semi-auto rifles.
Initially, I tried using the decapping and resizing die with my Lee hand press while watching TV. Although this would work fine for two of my rifles, I have one rifle with short(er) headspace. Using the Lee shell-holder and sizing die that come with the kit, I can not get the brass resized down to factory spec, and the bolt of the one rifle would not fully lock. Using the sizing die on my progressive press with the shell-plate for that press, I can resize the brass to work with all my rifles. If I had a belt sander, or better yet a lathe, I could probably shave down the Lee shell-holder to make it work.
On the rifle dies, the lock-ring with the inset o-rings work nicely. Maybe it's my technique with the case lube, and lot-to-lot variations in cartridge cases, but I need to make fine adjustments to the resizing die to get consistent headspace dimensions on the casings, and the Lee lock-rings allow for easy adjustments, but they do stay put when set. It may well be that I'm just too picky about the headspace dimension of resized cases.
The Factory Crimp Die does work. When the round is raised up into the die, the shell-plate (or shell-holder) presses on the bottom of the die and the collet closes on the neck of the cartridge case and bullet. You can adjust the amount of crimp by turning the die in the press. You can also crimp with the bullet seating die, but I have not tried this. I don't crimp match bullets, as I have found that is not necessary. When I'm making bulk ammo for a semi-auto rifle, I'll crimp with the FCD, but when I'm loading ammo for bullseye shooting, I skip the crimp. I have gotten less than 1" 10-shot groups at 100 yards, and groups around 1 1/8" are fairly common, and I don't really have a .223Rem target rifle. These groups were shot though a LMT 16" M4 barrel with chrome lining.
FCD collet closed on a round from a recent batch
A micrometer adjustable bullet seating die would be handy, but I nearly passed out when I saw the price for one. The Lee bullet seating die is easy to adjust with just your fingers, and the micrometer die costs more than double the price of the whole Lee die set. The LEE seating die gives reasonably consistent overall length when using good bullets. If you are using cheap bullets your overall length may well be a little inconsistent, but that may be the least of your problems.
The collet-held decapping rod has saved me a couple times. Even with .223 cases, you can still get pebbles into the neck, and sometimes a Berdan-primed case will make it past my visual inspection. I have broken a decapping pin, but it was my fault for not using enough case lube to start with, and then I manhandled the pin trying to remove it from the case. Because the case mouth expander and decapper are all one piece with the Lee dies, you may have to cut the case in half around the pin to remove. You can buy spare decapper/expander pins direct from LEE, and the current price of $3 is pretty reasonable.
The box I got with the dies is a rectangular one that stacks with my other Lee die boxes.
The only thing, practically speaking, that I would like to see, is an option to have the steel parts plated or otherwise treated to prevent rusting, for an added fee.
I have fired over 2500 rounds of reloads. The only issues I've had, have been my own fault, with the exception of the rounds that didn't fit the one rifle due to the Lee shell-holder.