loading 357 magnum

Discussion in 'The Ammo & Reloading Forum' started by Harralson, Oct 24, 2009.

  1. Harralson

    Harralson New Member

    Oct 1, 2009
    Another question from a new reloader
    I have a set of 4 Lee carbide relaoding dies for .38 special. I was under the impression that this die set could also be used to load .357 magnum. The adjustment instructions that come with it clearly do not work for .357 magnum cartridges.

    Are these .38 special dies supposed to work with .357 magnum?

    If so, are there special adjustment instructions somewhere?

    Thanks in advance for your help.
  2. woolleyworm

    woolleyworm Well-Known Member

    Feb 23, 2009
    SW Fort Worth
    It all depends upon the dimensions of the die. In most cases; dies marked 38 will work for 357 when backed off. However, if you have custom or specialty dies specific for 38, there probably is not enough range to handle the increased case length. i know for fact that lee's standard dies when ordered for .38, will do 357 as well. Along with the Pacific and redding dies, but they are both marked with both ctgs.

    Since you have the Lee dies, can you post up the die set part number. I believe that they probably will handle 357's also.
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2009

  3. Harralson

    Harralson New Member

    Oct 1, 2009
    The set is Lee part number 90964.

    The problem comes in die adjustment. To set the expander die you screw the die in to the shell holder and back out one turn. This works fine for .38 special, but causes the dies to extend well into .357 cases. I backed upthe die until it just barely flared the cases, and flared them all, but then had trouble with bullet seating. When I adjusted the die per the instructions, it mashed the cartridge instead of seating the bullet.

    Either this set is not intended for .357 magnum, or I am doing something terribly wrong.

    Any help is appreciated.
  4. woolleyworm

    woolleyworm Well-Known Member

    Feb 23, 2009
    SW Fort Worth

    go down to the single stage die adjustment section and go through the expander die adjustment. You'll be able to load the 357 no problem with these dies. you've just got a little adjusting to do. sorry for the "jello quick" reply, I gotta take the easy way out at 230 in the morning.
  5. Snakedriver

    Snakedriver Active Member

    Mar 4, 2009
    SW. Florida
    My RCBS dies are clearly marked as .38 / .357. You set them up for .38 first and then insert a spacer, that was provided with the die set, beneath the dies to account for the additional length needed for the .357 Mag. cartridge. I don't ever reload for .38's so I haven't ever tried the spacer set-up, but that's how it's supposed to work. Check your box that came with your dies to see if a washer-like spacer was provided with your specific brand of dies.:)
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2009
  6. Bindernut

    Bindernut Well-Known Member

    Oct 24, 2007
    ND, USA
    The Lee .38spcl dies don't come with the spacer...I think RCBS is the only one that was smart enough to do that trick. I borrowed one of those spacers from a friend's RCBS set and turned my own on the lathe to use with my Hornady 38/357 dies. That way I don't need to readjust them when swapping between the two calibers. The thickness of the washer should be 0.135" (the length difference between the two cartridges).

    And yup, that 90964 set is listed in their catalog as .38/.357. You can use it for .357 no problem...just follow the suggestion in woolleyworm's post.
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2009
  7. Harralson

    Harralson New Member

    Oct 1, 2009
    Thanks for the reply. I had overexpanded the necks to the extent that they would not enter the bullet seating die without crushing. I still am not sure what I did wrong setting the expanding die. I'll have to get more cases and try again.
  8. Bindernut

    Bindernut Well-Known Member

    Oct 24, 2007
    ND, USA
    Here's a quick link to a page on the Chuck Hawks site for adjusting dies.

    You are reloading .357s at the moment with this die set?

    The expander die is fairly simple to set up but easy to go too far with too.
    -Put a resized case in the shellholder and raise the ram up to the top of it's stroke.
    -Next, thread the expander into the press until it's just touching the top of the case.
    -Tighten the lock ring and cycle the ram again...one full stroke.
    -If the case mouth isn't expanded enough to get the bullet started in the case without "shaving" some material off, loosen the lock ring and lower the die a small bit...I usually go in 1/16 of a turn increments.
    -Cycle the press again and check if the mouth is belled enough to start the bullet. If not, repeat lowering the die a hair & check again.
    -Once you've got it expanded just enough to get the bullet started, lock the ring and try another couple cases.

    If your cases are being expanded erratically (some more than others) use a caliper to check the length of the brass...they may be different lengths and need to be trimmed to uniform length. Uniform length is a big key to uniform expanding.

    Are you loading jacketed bullets or cast lead?
    If cast lead, you'll have to expand the case mouth a little bit more than for jacketed bullets since cast lead bullets are usually .001" larger in diameter than jacketed bullets for the same caliber. (.358" vs .357" in your situation)
  9. Harralson

    Harralson New Member

    Oct 1, 2009
    Thanks for the reply. I bought some new 357 brass today and will give it another try tomorrow.
    This is a great forum. I really appreciate all of the help.
    Regards, Mark
  10. pmeisel

    pmeisel New Member

    Oct 17, 2009
    Don't feel bad. I have crumpled a few cases getting the die adjusted properly myself......
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