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Selling specialty dies – the ones you don’t find in the box



Specialty dies are items which your customers will need in specific situations but are generally not included with standard types of die sets. Each represents an upgrade in capability or performance to a standard set and may be a good source of added revenue to your business.

By Robin Sharpless, vice-president, Redding Reloading


In each case, these specialised dies enhance the reloading experience, either through added function or ease of use. A good die set is all that is needed to produce adequate volumes of good ammunition. Moving to higher levels of either volume or quality can benefit from the use of these specialised dies.

Business opportunities and good follow-on sales are key values in the process of selling reloading. Supplies of bullets, primers and brass are long-term sources of revenue but additional hardware upgrades, which improve process, keep customers coming back to your stores.


Crimp Dies

Most standard die sets have a crimp ring in their seating die, which will produce a roll crimp into the cannelure on a bullet, which has one. More and more reloaders see the value of a separate crimp die to apply the crimp after the bullet has been seated. One can use the same seating die in two operations by first moving the die body up to eliminate the crimp during bullet seating to depth and then removing the seat stem or seat plug assembly and resetting the die to produce the desired crimp.

In theory this can be done in one step with a judicious set-up procedure but please note, the crimp is being applied as the bullet is still travelling into the case for final seating depth. This can impact the bullet and potentially diminish accuracy and performance.


Taper Crimp Die

Today, especially in the area of high BC (ballistic coeffiicient) bullets, a cannelure or crimp groove is noticeably absent and, many times, simple neck tension alone is relied upon to hold bullets when they are in the magazine under recoil. Hence the addition of a Taper Crimp Die, which squeezes the neck of the case, at a shallow angle against the bullet will add tension and hold the bullet in the case more securely without damaging the bullet and reducing accuracy.

Many believe that a mild taper crimp will also improve and make uniform start pressure, which is a positive for reducing vertical stringing at longer ranges.


Profile Crimp Dies

Profile crimp dies are unique dies with both a mild taper and a final roll crimp for use with straight wall cases which ‘headspace’ off of the rim. A separate crimp is always deemed to be better for the bullet itself, rather than seating and crimping in one step. The profile crimp die offers the taper as a means to truly centre the round in the die prior to crimping, allowing the crimp itself to be far more even and uniform. This is a plus for good and uniform bullet pull and is desirable for an improved level of accuracy.


Micrometer Crimp Dies

Redding Reloading Equipment produces both a taper and profile crimp with a micrometer adjustment. This allows for external adjustment of the crimp location without any adjustment of the die body after set up. These are somewhat in a category of super specialty dies, intended for use on progressive presses where they are very beneficial due to the time it takes to reset a standard crimp die. Progressive reloaders look to maximise their production volume and these crimp dies make that very easy.


Small Base Full-Length Dies

Small base Ddes are full-length sizing dies, which reduce the body diameter of the case to a dimension smaller than the accepted SAAMI (Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute) minimum specs. These are, in many cases, misunderstood and are often used for the wrong reasons but nonetheless consumers do have a demand for them. A small base die is designed to produce case body dimensions which are actually smaller than SAAMI minimums as listed for the cartridge.


Small Base Body Dies

There are also body dies which carry the same set of small base dimensions. A body die will set back the shoulder and resize the diameter of the case’s body. These are the dies most likely to be employed by the AR15 loader as a final step.

In concept, these reduce the dimensions of the case diameter, allowing for easy chambering in a fast-paced, auto-gun, game-type situation. In reality, a good quality standard full-length die will produce a finished round which will chamber and function perfectly but customers have their own opinions, many from internet chat boards.


Trim Dies

Trim dies are as old as reloading itself. These are specialised dies, which, in conjunction with a standard shellholder or in some cases an extended shellholder, allow the operator to use a file to trim the case to the desired length for handloading. This is accomplished in the press with the ram at its full upright position and the shellholder in contact with the bottom of the trim die.

The trim die itself has a flat, smooth, hardened steel top, which a portion of the case extends through. A trim die must be made very precisely as the derived measurement for the case is a mechanical function of the length of the die and the contact with the shellholder. When the case is filed flush with the top of the die, it is now at an appropriate length for safe loading after deburring and chamfering the case mouth.


Form Dies

Form dies are another specialised die to modify case dimensions through forming on a press. Form dies are most generally used to produce one cartridge case from another or a parent case. These dies may come in sets or may simply require one form die and a normal full-length sizing die to complete the task.


Decapping Dies

Universal decapping dies are produced for one purpose, to remove the primer from a case. These dies are often more heavily constructed and use a heavy duty decap rod type of assembly.

In closing, there are numerous other types of uniquely purposed dies available but these are a good beginning to fill out your product line for added value and customer satisfaction. The beauty of selling in the reloading/handloading market is that new and better tools and methods are introduced each year, adding opportunity for the retailer and enjoyment and satisfaction to the consumer.

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