Every reloader needs to set up their sizing dies and the instructions provided by most manufacturers are terse at best. Beginning reloaders also struggle because they are not yet familiar with certain practices that can optimize sizing die setup and use. The 6.5 Guys recently changed over their 6.5×47 Lapua sizing dies to Redding Type S bushing style full length sizing dies. While setting up the new dies we documented the procedure for the benefit of our audience and discussed the technique we use to measure shoulder setback.
We both started out with Forster dies. Ed was using the Forster Bench Rest Full Length Sizer Die (Forster #: 005346), but being a non-bushing die he wanted to avoid overworking the case neck. The aggressive over sizing of the neck also resulted in brass spring-back which increased neck tension to the point that the bullet jackets were shaving slightly (Note: This was not a shortcoming of the Forster die – you would have this problem with any non-bushing die as they are designed to accommodate brass of varying neck thickness). Steve was using the Forster Bushing Bump Neck Sizer Die (Forster #: BBK2261) but wanted the ability to size the entire case. Steve noticed that every 2-3 firings he was getting heavy bolt life and had to size the body using a .308 die. Having both used the Redding dies in other calibers, we were comfortable with them and decided to get the Redding Type S Bushing Full Length Sizer Die (Redding #: 77479). We also purchased the 6.5mm Redding carbide expander ball (Redding #: 48263).
What size bushing should you use with the 6.5×47 cartridge? We’ve found .287″ works well. It sizes the neck enough to accommodate any variations in Lapua brass. The expander ball just “kisses” the inside of the neck pushing any inconsistencies to the outside. Either the plain steel or titanium nitride coated bushings work. Ed went with the plain steel bushing but Steve went with the coated bushing. Note: Once you determine the proper bushing size, Forster can hone the neck of their non-bushing dies accordingly – this only costs $12. Many believe that a properly honed full length die will produce brass with better concentricity than a bushing die.
Here are some of the tips and tricks we picked up from Glen Zedicker’s book Handloading for Competition:
- Glen is a big proponent of floating the die and this is the main philosophy behind the Forster Co-Ax press. It may seem counter intuitive, but floating the die enhances concentricity.
O-rings can be used to float die. We use one underneath the lock ring and one underneath the decapping rod lock ring.
- If you are using a standard press, you can float the die by inserting an o-ring underneath the lock ring. This also makes it easier to make small adjustments to the die without having to loosen the lock ring. You’ll notice that the lock rings on Lee dies have an integrated o-ring. If you have a Forster press, this step is not necessary as the design of the press floats the die. We also insert an o-ring underneath the lock ring for the decapping rod. This allows the rod to float and it also addresses the nagging tendency of the lock ring to come loose.
- Redding recommends turning the decapping rod by 1/16 turn to float the bushing. We opt for 1/8 turn because it leaves a slightly larger un-sized portion on the neck which will help center the cartridge in the throat. Some will even go half a turn or more. If you don’t subscribe to this philosophy, follow Redding’s instructions. In the video we show how you can add hash marks to make the adjustment easier.
To measure shoulder setback we use the Hornady Lock-N-Load headspace gage. You can find similar tools from other manufacturers. What they all have in common is they measure the shoulder setback from the middle of the shoulder (or datum line) to the base of the cartridge. When performing these measurements, you want to remove the primer as any primer cratering can throw off the measurement. We aim to set the shoulder back by .002″ given that we shoot in some dirty environments.
Align index mark on die with slit in lock ring
To set up the die in your press, screw it in until you get the slightest degree of cam over. From our experience, this will get your shoulder setback in the ballpark. If you start adjusting the die from a position further out, the case will actually start to grow before the shoulder gets set back. This can be very confusing and lead to improper die adjustment. If when adjusting your die some of your cases are set back too much (say .005″) they will be safe to fire. As illustrated in the video, you will want to create index marks on your die to facilitate adjustment. We also replace the Redding lock rings with Forster lock rings because they are easier to index and adjust.
Update 4/12/15: Some of our viewers use the Redding Competition shell holders to adjust shoulder setback. These shell holders allow you to adjust shoulder bump in .002″ increments.
The use of an expander ball borders on a religious debate in reloading circles with passionate viewpoints on each side. Glen Zediker does a good job of explaining both sides of the debate in his book. If you neck turn, we could see the merits of not using an expander ball. However, even high quality brass like Lapua will have neck thickness variations. You can either deal with those variations by using an expander ball or letting the bullet act as an expander. For us, we prefer to let the expander ball do the work.
Update 3/1/17: We have been using a mandrel for some time to size the case necks in lieu of the expander ball. Please read our article on the topic.
You will find the video below quite useful as illustrates the various points made above. As with any reloading pursuit, follow all manufacturer’s directions and use common sense. If you encounter anything in this article or video that do not make sense, STOP what you are doing and consult with a knowledgeable source.