218 Bee vs. Rifle Charging Dies

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218 Bee vs. Rifle Charging Dies

Postby Ranch Dog » 13 May 2018 09

Like the other cartridges I reload, it was time to add the Auto Disk to my 218 Bee turret as I will be using that dispenser for all my cartridge charging. I use the Marlin 1894CL Bee as a replacement for my Marlin 39A 22 Rim Fire, loading it to approximately 1500 FPS with a cast bullet of my design.

I tried to use the Auto Drum with last years loadings, but it did not work with Trail Boss at all (bridging), and it did not free fall into the 22 caliber case neck. I had a mess on my hands but finally was able to load 50 cartridges and call it a year. This year, I will be using a light load of Clays and BPI buffer as filler but more on that in another post.

The 218 Bee does not have a Powder Through Expander Die as the case is bottle-necked, so you need a rifle charging die to actuate the Auto Drum. With the introduction of the Auto Drum, Lee started offering a Short and a Long Rifle Charging Die vs. the single Rifle Charging Die offered in the past. The old die became the Short, and the Long is new. It can be a bit confusing if you are looking at part numbers as the new Long die uses the part number of the original die (90194). The Short die is now part number 90668. Confusing, you bet it is and I mention it just in case you buy used dies or old stock from sources such as eBay, be sure of what your need is and what die you are buying.

I bought a number of the new Long Rifle Charging dies for cartridges that I could not charge in the past, but none of the new Short dies as I had enough of the original dies to fill that need. As soon as a cycled brass into the Rifle Charging Die, I ran into a problem. The drop tube within the die started to neck size the case!

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The instructions for the original Rifle die state that the die will charge cases "from the 22 Hornet through 308 Win." The 22 Hornet uses the same bullet diameter as the Bee, .2245", but the Bee's spec is outside diameter of .2420" at the outside of the case mouth vs. the Hornet's .2425". I doubt that .0005" would make a difference plus with the slightly over diameter cast bullet, the outside of my case neck is .2430".

A quick check of the inside diameter of the drop tube of the Charging die with an inside micrometer measured .233". Yep, with a 22 caliber cartridge, the tube is a sizing die. I sat for a bit while the gears turned in my head and then pulled the drop tube from the new Long Charging die. It measured .222" inside, not good enough in my opinion as I also had a problem when the case mouth did not engage the funnel completely centered.

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The case on the left was impacted enough that I knew there was a problem. The case on the right was more subtle, slightly out of round, and I did not know the there was a problem until I started the cartridge up into the bullet seating die and the seating stem "bottomed" out.

I sat at the bench some more, then pulled out the discontinued Universal Powder Charging Die (#90273), primarily thinking about its brass drop tubes being a bit more case friendly than the steel tubes in the current dies. This die was designed for use with the Perfect Powder Measure, automating it for use on the Pro 1000 and Load-Master. The instructions state "... cases from the 218 Bee...". I checked the inside diameter of the tube, .220"! That should work and it did.

The Universal die uses a stack of three brass tubes for various cases and bullet diameters. Here is how the 218 Bee stack compares to the "Short" charging die.

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The Auto Drum had no issue working with the Universal Die and my initial loads of Clays are ready for testing. I also decided to use the Universal Die with my 25-20 Win and had a heck of a time finding my second die set. I began to think that I sold it but found it attached to an idle Perfect Powder Measure. I became curious about the availability of the #90273 and an eBay and Google search revealed none available anywhere. At least I'm set for what for my cartridges.

The hasn't been much conversation about the Universal Charging Die on the forum, mainly between horseman and myself, but I will be interested to know if anyone using the new Short Charging Die with the 223 experiences any problems with the post neck sizing as that cartridge's bullet and neck dimensions are the same as the Bee/Hornet. Here are the two topics about the Universal Charging Die.

Load Master & 7.62x39

Perfect Powder Measure on a LM

As a note, I don't expand or flare the mouth of bottle-necked cartridges for cast bullets. Instead, I use oversized expanders in the sizing die and size the entire neck. The groups for every bottle-necked cartridge I shoot shrunk when I started to do this.
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Re: 218 Bee vs. Rifle Charging Dies

Postby horseman » 13 May 2018 11

You made me go into my reloading room to check on my "specialty" dies and sure enough I still have the Universal charging die and the "original" rifle charging die. The only Lee powder measure I still have is a Perfect Powder measure set up on one of my "plates" with a Lee Classic Cast press. I no longer have a Loadmaster or Turret press so not sure if I'll be using them (the dies) anymore. Thought I had sent them along with the last LM I sold. Somewhere in the midst of all the "stuff" I've accumulated there's a Lee Auto prime (the one that sits on top of the press and came with the round primer tray). I used to use that system quite regularly but haven't in several years as I've changed how I prime cases now. Actually I've found several items I haven't used in a looooong time, Pat Marlin 45 cal checkmaker die, RCBS crimp swager, a few Lee case trimmers (bottleneck cases) along with those little Lee shell holders. Amazing the things we accumulate over time and no longer use. Actually I've done very little reloading or shooting for quite some time, my RCBS pot hasn't been fired up for a couple years and is sitting there with half pot of lead in it. Probably have in the neighborhood of 5 thousand rounds each of 223/556 and 9mm loaded up in my my ammo closet along with who knows how many 45colt and 44 mag. It's getting embarrassing to have so many loaded rounds and not have at least one dirty gun..... +guns (dust doesn't count..... :oops: ) Need to get started with both "hobby's" again.
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Re: 218 Bee vs. Rifle Charging Dies

Postby GasGuzzler » 14 May 2018 05

I have two of them, both numbered 90194.

The older one I use with .223/5.56X45 and an Auto Disk and it's called "RIFLE CHARGING DIE" and as described is suited for .22 Hornet to .308 Winchester.

The other (used with 7.62X39 and an Auto Drum) is called "LONG CHARGING DIE" and is spec'd for 1.170"-2.620".

All that helps little because I don't have the new "short" one.
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Re: 218 Bee vs. Rifle Charging Dies

Postby Ranch Dog » 14 May 2018 06

GasGuzzler wrote:I have two of them, both numbered 90194.

The older one I use with .223/5.56X45 and an Auto Disk and it's called "RIFLE CHARGING DIE" and as described is suited for .22 Hornet to .308 Winchester.

The other (used with 7.62X39 and an Auto Drum) is called "LONG CHARGING DIE" and is spec'd for 1.170"-2.620".

All that helps little because I don't have the new "short" one.

Have you experienced any problems with the Rifle Charging Die resizing the case mouth? Might not with the Auto Disk as the spring pressure is different.
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Re: 218 Bee vs. Rifle Charging Dies

Postby Macd » 14 May 2018 15

I seldom use rifle die (90194 old version) as I find the taper on the die's drop tube tends to roll in the case mouth if the die isn't perfectly set-up (just moving the measure enough to dump the powder). I have had it mash up a number of .223 cases that were on the long side and it is almost out of the press when adjusted for a 6.5x55. If I had a permanent set-up for one calibre then I might use it more but I don't load enough rifle to warrant the investment in another turret. If I had access to a lathe I would look at perhaps making some calibre specific drop tubes that engaged the case mouth on the inside and would slightly flair the mouth. A shoulder would limit the flair and then further ram travel would actuate the drop mechanism. The lower portion of the tube would have to have a tapered internal profile to guide the case into position.
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Re: 218 Bee vs. Rifle Charging Dies

Postby GasGuzzler » 14 May 2018 19

I might have had issues with crushing cases, etc. but I cannot remember and I likely blamed myself if so.

I have not had any issues with belling for no reason or down-sizing as in your example picture.
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