Lubrication Cases

The indentations on the shoulders of these cases were caused by an excessive amount of lubrica-tion. Remember…a little case lube goes a long way. Use it sparingly.

Before resizing a case, a lubricant must be applied. There are several different types of lubes available today, with all intending to provide the same end result; to allow the easy resizing of a fired case, without galling or sticking in the resizing die. The three most popular methods of applying lube to cases today are the case lube pad, spray on lubes, and hand applied wax lubes.

The case lube pad is the oldest, and probably the most commonly used method of applying lube to cases. In use, a case lube pad is saturated with lubricant, and the cases are then rolled across the pad. In doing so, a light film of lubricant will be transferred to the case, readying it for the resizing process.

In the last few years spray lubricants have become popular, largely for their convenience and ease of use. While instructions will vary slightly from one brand to another, most require the cases to be lubed to be spread out on a cookie sheet or similar large tray, where they can be lightly sprayed with the lube. There are some differences in the individual brands that must be observed, in regard to waiting periods after the lube has been applied. Some lubes allow the cases to be resized immediately after application, while others must be left to “dry” for five minutes or so. Follow the manufacturers instructions for the particular type and brand of lubricant you are using for best results.

The last form of lubes are the wax based lubricants, such as Imperial Sizing Die wax. These are applied by wiping a small amount on using the thumb and forefinger. Pulling the case through the fingers with a slight twisting motion will spread enough lube on the case to accomplish the job. One advantage to applying lubes in this manner is the ability to spread lubrication to the case neck and body, while avoiding areas that should not be lubed, such as the shoulder. Wax based lubes give especially good results when being used in case forming operations and other extremely demanding applications. Whichever type of lube is used, be careful not to overdo it. Excessive lubrication doesn’t make the job any easier; it only makes it messier, more expensive, and will damage cases by collapsing the shoulders with “lube dents.”

Regardless of the type of lube, or how it was applied, it must be removed once the sizing process has been completed. This can be done by simply wiping them down with a clean rag, or running them back through the case tumbler. Water soluble lubes can be thoroughly removed with warm water and a touch of detergent, but make sure the cases are completely dry (inside and out) before attempting to continue the reloading process. The cases should be air dried only, and NEVER dried in an oven. The average kitchen oven can easily reach temperatures that will anneal brass, rendering the case excessively soft and extremely dangerous to use. Spreading wet cases out on a cookie sheet placed in direct sunlight is a safe and effective way to dry them and is the preferred method. Again, NEVER USE THE OVEN FOR THIS PURPOSE!

Carbide dies deserve a special mention here. Carbide is an extremely hard material with an extremely low coefficient of friction. As a result, it can be used to serve two different purposes in a resizing die; to reduce or eliminate the need for lubrication, or to greatly increase the service life of the resizing die. Carbide resizing dies have become quite common for straight-walled pistol cases, since they do eliminate the requirement for lubricating cases prior to resizing. Utilizing a carbide ring that is permanently impressed into the base of the die, the remainder of the die is made of more conventional tool steel. This carbide ring is the only portion of the sizing die that actually works the case.

While carbide sizing dies for straight-walled cases do eliminate the requirement for lubrication, in our lab we have found that a small amount of lube on the cases will make the cycling of progressive presses much easier. Considering the vast number of progressive presses in use today, this has become a major selling point for this type of die. When using carbide dies in this role, the amount of lubrication is reduced to a minute fraction of what would normally be used. We generally lubricate a large number of cases by simply placing a drop of lube on the thumb and forefinger, and smearing it about in our hands. With the brass in a dish pan or similar container, we then handle the brass by running our hands through them, letting the cases slip through our fingers. This places a minuscule amount of lube on the cases, and makes the operation of the press noticeably easier. Again, it should be stressed that the amount of lube on the case is so slight that it cannot readily be felt to the touch, and does not need a separate step to wipe it down later. Such is the advantage of carbide dies for straight-walled pistol cases.

There are also carbide dies for bottle-necked rifle cartridges available, but these are intended for another purpose entirely. Constructed with a carbide insert that runs the entire length of the die, carbide dies for bottle-necked cases do require lubrication. Due to the difficulty in working large pieces of carbide they are extremely expensive, often running in excess of $200 for a sizing die alone. Their use is normally limited to commercial reloaders who need the greater tool life offered by carbide, which is said to be well in excess of one million rounds. Given the fact that few reloaders will resize enough rounds in a lifetime to wear out a set of standard steel dies, carbide rifle dies are mentioned here only as a point of curiosity.