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Handloading Beyond The Basics
Rifle Magazine
February - March 2003
Volume 38, Number 1
ISSN: 0017-7393
Number 221
On the cover...
The Kimber Stainless Target II is chambered for the .38 Super. Photo by Stan Trzoniec. Pronghorn photo by John R. Ford.
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Product Tests

Lee Precision’s Easy X Expander

Most of us, by now, have seen Lee Precision’s latest advertisement announcing its new Easy X expander. It’s just that: not a new die or die set but simply a redesigned expander/decapper stem. As such it can be ordered as a replacement part for older Lee rifle dies and will be included in new die purchases.

Lee rifle dies are packaged in several guises. The basic, least expensive, is the RGB series. This is simply a basic two-die set, full-length sizer and bullet seater with no frills or extras. Next up is the standard Pacesetter Die Set that includes a full-length sizer, bullet seater and Lee’s Factory Crimp Die. Also included are a shellholder, powder dipper and load data. It’s a very good buy. Lee’s Collet Die set is another two-die set with a collet or neck sizing only die and a bullet seater. This set also includes a shellholder, powder dipper and load data. At the top of the line is the Lee Deluxe Rifle Set (see Handloader No. 209, February 2001). This is the Collet Die set with the inclusion of a full-length sizer die. The new Easy X expander will be included in, or can be added to, the RGB or Pacesetter dies and the full-length sizer die in the Deluxe Die Set. It is not consistent with a Collet Die, which squeezes the case mouth against a parallel-sided mandrell.

When the Easy X expander was announced, I contacted the company to obtain a sample for review. What I ended up with was a new Pacesetter Die Set in .257 Roberts with the Easy X expander in place and extra .30-caliber expander/decappers in both old and new styles for photographic purposes.

As users of Lee full-length sizer dies can attest, the die is something of a mixed bag. On the one hand, its use of a screw-in collet to hold the expander/decapper stem requires two wrenches or, better, a wrench and a vise for disassembly when adjusting the stem or cleaning the die. On the other, this      approach allows the expander/decapper to slip rather than break in case we try to decap a Berdan-primed case. Also, and this more than offsets the former, no maker’s die holds its expander/decapper more centrally than does the Lee.

Lee die users are also familiar with the company’s packaging. Three-die sets are packaged in Lee’s round die box. Since most three-die sets are handgun dies, the box is designed to accept the dies as is or mounted on a turret from the Lee 3-Hole or 4-Hole Turret Press (see Handloader No. 218, August 2002). Two-die sets are packaged in a rectangular flat box of appropriate size and four-die sets in a larger rectangular flat box. As I had recently received a new 4-die Lee Deluxe Pistol Die Set (to be reviewed here soon) in the larger flat box, I mounted them on a new 4-Hole turret and put them in the round Pacesetter box and put the new .257 Roberts Pacesetter set in the larger flat box. This arrangement meets my storage needs much better. Fortunately, Lee sells all three of its die boxes separately at very reasonable prices.

Setting up to use the new die set with its Easy X expander/decapper was simplicity itself. I did disassemble and clean the dies beforehand and adjusted them once in the press. Everything worked as expected with no problems of any kind. Drawing the new expander back through the sized case necks was very smooth even when the inside case necks had not been properly cleaned.

Taking a closer look at the new Easy X expander revealed several changes from the previous style. Starting at the top, the necessary diameter to fit the collet is the same as the older style: about .202 inch. After about .75 inch - the approximate depth of the collet - the diameter drops down to about .185 inch. Then the diameter gradually increases to that necessary for proper expansion. For the .257 Roberts expander, this was .2565 inch; for the .30 caliber, it was .307 inch. Almost immediately after reaching its maximum diameter, the expander portion begins a long taper down to about .202 inch,   followed by the decapping pin. Overall length for the old and new expander/decappers on hand is about 3.5 inches. On the old-style stem, the maximum expander diameter is maintained for about 1.25 inches followed by an abrupt taper to the decapper. The purposes for the more gradual taper on the new stem are for a smoother entry into the case mouth and to serve as a neck expander when it is desirable to expand smaller-caliber cases to make a different caliber. To test this I took some 6mm Remington cases that are essentially the .257 Roberts case necked down and necked them back up to accept .257-inch bullets. Resizing and fireforming would have created perfectly satisfactory .257 Roberts cases. The operation went very smoothly with no hitches whatsoever.

Taking everything into consideration, I’d have to say Lee has improved an al- ready fine product, with no change in price, as far as I can tell. Even better, users of older dies can easily upgrade them to include the new Easy X expander/decapper for very little money. Not bad. For more information, you can contact the company at Lee Precision Inc., Dept. 701, 4275 Hwy. U, Hartford WI 53027. - R.H. VanDenburg, Jr.

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