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Basic Reloading with an RCBS Single Stage Press



With the previously fired brass case in the shell foot, the handle on the press is pulled to extend the ram to its full height.  The resizing die has been adjusted such that it almost touches the ram at its max extension.  This allows the brass case to be completely resized while the spent primer is being expelled.

An important note should be made in regards to the carbide resizing die.  You should not adjust the die such that it contacts the shell holder when the ram is fully extended.  The carbide ring is held in place by very tight tolerance within the die body and an adhesive.  Excessive force on the face of the carbide ring could cause the adhesive to crack/break and lose its grip on the ring.  My .45 ACP carbide die failed after move than 30 years of use.  The ring came out on a piece of brass as the ram was retracted.  In my case, it appears that the adhesive finally broke down after all those years of use and allowed the ring to come loose. 


As the ram is lowered, you can see the decapping pin protruding below the bottom of the resizing die.  Note the coloration of the freshly resized brass.  A small bit of the case, closest to the shell holder, is not resized by the die.  You can see the difference in appearance of that part of the case that was forced through the carbide resizing ring inside the die.

The ram is lowered to its lowest position and the brass is slipped out of the shell holder.  Another brass case is slid into position and the ram again cycled fully up and back down resulting in another resized and deprimed brass case.

How many cases should you resize/deprime?  You could do just 50, if you wanted to reload just one box of ammunition.  Where I to use a single stage press for loading handgun practice rounds, I would spend a couple of hours resizing/depriming brass the brass.  Why so much?  I find it easier to do just one reloading "step" during a reloading session....and so do a lot of pieces of brass during that session.  Heavy duty gallon size zip lock bags, 4 or 5 quart plastic ice cream containers.....just about anything works well for the temporary storage of brass during the various reloading steps.  With several hundred to several thousand resized/deprimed brass cases on hand, I can easily move onto the next step at any time.  I usually don't sit down with a box of empty brass and finish with a box of loaded ammunition in one reloading session.....it's usually done over a period of time with my stock piling brass at each "step" of the reloading process.


Here is the business end of the expander die.  Where as the resizing die had a decapping stem/pin in it, this one has a rather large looking plunger in it.  The expander is designed to slightly expand the mouth of a straight case shell in order to more easily insert the bullet.  The expander stem is also adjustable within the body of the die.  The depth of the expander is adjusted so it just begins to bell the mouth of the case when the ram is at its max height.  There is no justification to excessively expand the brass.  In doing so, you run the risk of splitting the mouth of the case and/or work hardening the brass itself.


If you want to use a dial calipers to measure the expansion, the Dillon reloading instructions states that the mouth of the brass, expanded .020" more than the outer diameter of the case, should be adequate.  I've personally found that I can get by with less without any issues.  If you are using lead bullets (cast or swagged), you will most likely discover that they require a slightly larger bell than metal jacketed bullets.  You don't want to shave any lead while the bullet is being seated into the case....shaving the copper jacket is not likely to happen as it slides into the brass case easier than the lead bullet. 

At this point, let me draw your attention to a step that I won't cover here in this write-up....and that is that most single stage press reloading operations will have you inserting a new primer during this expanding die step.  I prefer to use another priming tool for inserting a new primer.  All of the single stage presses I have seen come with some type of priming system and it is usually during the down stroke of the case expanding step that a fresh primer is seated into the brass case.  I'll leave you to the documentation that came with your press as to how to perform this step.

Just like in the resizing step, I would normally expand a large quantity of brass cases during this one step.


Speaking of priming tools, this was the one I mentioned previously.  It is the RCBS Automatic Priming Tool and is still available in their product lineup.  To borrow the description from the RCBS web site, "The Automatic Priming Tool is fast, accurate and highly sensitive due to a unique single-stage lever system. Primers feed through the auto primer feed tube one by one, preventing potential contamination from oily fingers. Two primer rod assemblies and two primer feed tubes for large and small primers are included."  Price is slightly under the $100 mark.  Expensive?  Perhaps....but this one has lasted over 30 years and shows no sign of giving out any time soon.  (can you say that about your last computer accessory?)

To state it another way, I really like this priming system.  Is it for everyone?  Perhaps not since the price is nothing to sneeze at....but none the less, I really do like priming cases in this fashion (when using a single stage press).   

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