Thursday, September 15, 2016

Introduction to the 310 tong tool: part 3

In the previous two sections we've covered the tong tool handles, the variations and their features as well as the die identification you should be aware of when trying to identify dies that can be successfully used in a 310 tong tool. In this third section we'll briefly cover die set up and adjustment. Please note instructions for the Lyman 310 tool can be found here on Lyman own website as they still produce and support this unique tool. However these instructions are for the 4 die sets, this tutorial will cover 5 die set up procedures.

As I may have mentioned in one of the first 2 sections you will want a dedicated screwdriver that fits the set screws for the lock rings on the 310 dies. They are quite small and some can be quite set deep into the lock-ring depending on the era the dies were made, so it is important to have a hollow ground screwdriver (Chapman makes a nice set) that will not damage the screw or the lock-ring itself.

I will go over how to set up a 5 die set, much the same as the 4 die set in the Lyman instructions but with the sizing/decapping die functions separated into 2 dies.

First step is to decap all your fired cases, select the "universal" decap die and adjust it so that the decap pin sticks out past the handles about about 3/16" ..ish. The important thing is the pin pops the primer out and does not bottom out on the brass or hit the opposing handle (broken pin).

The nice thing is if you have 2 sets of handles and 2 universal decap dies you may set one up for both handles and never worry about having to adjust them again. They will work for all of your 5 die sets! If you have 310 PRESS dies I believe you can take the decapping rod assembly out and use them just like a 5 die set.
De-cap pin stick out, you run the risk of breaking the pin if you have it lower than necessary.

decap brass, note how far the hook extracts the case.

The next step is to size your fired brass. The die for this step in a 5 die set does not have threads on the inside (where a decap stem, seater or expander is typically threaded). A little lube is recommended although I've never used any with my .38/357 pistol set, I can however see the wisdom in the recommendation.

MR die (neck sizing) 

Adjust die until it is sizing the brass as far down as you plan to seat the bullet.
Pro tip- If you have trouble figuring out how far down the sizer is touching the brass it is recommended that you use a sharpie and color the neck then size. Where the die has touched you will see scratches in the sharpie mark. Layout fluid is also an option.

Die has sized brass as far down as I wish to seat the bullet. Note lower ring on neck

Next we set up the priming die, if you need to clean your primer pockets now is the time to do that. To set up the priming die we loosen the thumb nut and adjust the die with the handles closed until #1 the plunger sticks up into where the brass sits by a little bit and #2 the open part of the shell holder faces us. Set up the tool to the "handedness" you will be using it. I use mine in my left hand so I set it up as pictured below.

Priming chamber installed and ready to adjust.

Amount of protrusion we want for the priming plunger with the handles closed. Any more and we will lose the advantage of leverage. 

It is recommended that you practice priming with "dead" primers if this is the first time you have used a hand priming device. Make sure the primer is oriented correctly and gently squeeze, after a few times you will learn the feel of it and know how much pressure to use.

Case being primed, drop a primer atop the plunger and close gently.

Next we will gently expand or "flare" the case mouth if needed. If we have not chamfered the case mouth and we are loading say a boat tail bullet it is recommended we put a slight flair on the mouth to keep from scraping at the bullet jacket. If we are loading cast then we will need to flare to prevent shaving lead while seating cast bullets.
This is the only type of expander die set up that will work with a 310 tong tool 

Die body is threaded in and stem is installed to desired depth, it is recommended to start backed out and turn 1/2 turn in until desired effect is reached.
If you are getting varying degrees of flare at the case mouth you may be needing to trim your brass as it is not uniform between cases. Trimming options will not be covered here at this time but should be in the not so distant future.

Case in flare die as we are loading cast bullets.
Next we select our bullet seating die which also has the option to crimp the bullet in place (you would of course add powder at this step). Just like normal reloading dies it is a good idea to work out your bullet seating depth first and then crimp the bullet in place and adjust the dies accordingly. You do this by starting with the seating stem further in the die body as to bypass the crimp option. Make small adjustments as needed and once the depth is where you want it you can remove the seating stem entirely if you wish.  Now thread the die body in with the handles closed until you feel a little resistance. It is possible to over crimp with these dies so small adjustments go a very long way. After that is all figured out screw the seating stem back in tightly until it touches the loaded round with handles close.

2 seating stems are shown, as often with die sets the stems are for 2 different nose profiles of bullets.
Round nose and spitzer type seating stems are pictured.
Seating die installed in handles  adjusted to seat a flat nose cast bullet.

Though this is a powder-less dummy round for set up it is important to remember that there will be powder in the case and that keeping everything upright to prevent spilled powder is ideal!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Introduction to the Lyman 310 tong tool: Part 2

In part 1 we looked at the difference and features of the handles that were needed to use the 310 dies. Here in part 2 we see what we need to be looking for in purchasing our tong tool dies either as a group of dies or as individual dies to replace missing dies. As I briefly alluded  the 310 dies come in 2 types, dies intended to be used with the reloading press and dies meant for the tong tools.  It should also be understood that by design the 310 dies are meant to only neck size! There are some full length sizing options out there but those are for the press only. This is fine for bolt actions, single shots and lever actions however most semi auto guns will not like ammo made that have only been neck sized. The die sets you will need for tong tools need to have a "M" type expander, if you have a die set that has the expander AND the decapper in the same die you may run into troubles.

L- 4 die set, R-5 die set

Four die sets have the neck sizer and the decapper in the same die (seen in following pictures). This is fine as it is only the sets that decap and bell or have the button sizer that is drawn back through the neck that you will need to avoid. It is because the hook does not stay engaged with the case long enough to pull it back over that expander. As such either of the die sets pictured above are suitable for the tong tools.

Aforementioned hook shows just how far it will extract a 30/06 case before it disengages. 

4 die set, note left die is both decapper and neck sizer  as opposed to being 2 dies in 5 die sets

5 die sets, The "Universal" type decapping die and then the "muzzle resizer" which is the neck sizer are the left most 2 dies.
 Something to note in the above picture the "Universal" type decapping die assembly is one give away you may be looking at a 5 die set for the tong tool. Most die sets for use in the reloading press set ups will have a skinny stem with a button part way up the stem, note the fatter threaded rod in the "universal" decap die.
Another view of decap/sizer die from 4 die set and the 2 dies that perform the same operation from 5 die set.
In the pictures below we start to take a look at the expander dies as another way to identify die sets for use with the 310 tong tool. If the die set you are looking at combines these two operations into one die it is not for the tong tool but for the press.

Here we see the "universal" decap stems from 2 rifle die sets as well as the "M" type expander die.

These expander dies were taking from 3 different sets, 30/06, 30-30 and 357. Note die body length difference between the three.

Close up of expander die body and stem from 30-30 die set.
 In the next picture we see the decap, sizing and expanding operation combined all into one die. This die as is will not work with the tong tool handles. You could remove the expander button however you'll still need a way to expand the case mouth.

This die intended for the 310 series of bench presses WILL NOT work for our tong tool handles!

Left-310 dies for expanding case mouth and decapping. R- die for the press that combines these operations.

Differences in stem sizes, Also note on right die "CMR" stamp that denotes this as a "combination muzzle re-sizer die"
Another clue you might be looking at a 310 tong tool die set is the priming unit  that has a built in shell holder and captive plunger assembly but it is not a absolute as this was something that could also be used on the press. The bullet seater die (double adjustment) is the same so far as I understand it between the press dies and the tong toll type dies. I mentioned the bullet seater as having double adjustments because the stem is threaded as well. I have yet to see a non adjustable type bullet seater however I'm sure they are out there.

Priming unit shown as 2nd die from left and double adjustable bullet seating die shown far right

This may seem confusing at first (I sure was) but it is worth understanding if your wanting to build a reloading set up that takes up very little space and is easy to use. The 310 tong tool is still a relevant system perfect for the RV or cabin. In the next  part we will go over die adjustments and set up for reloading.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Introduction to the Lyman 310 tong tool: Part 1

Last June I wrote an article on making a simple powder dipper for a "project" and it wasn't until recently I realized that I never explained the project further. This last year I've been living in a very small space while preparing to move yet again. The project was a complete reloading set up I could fit in a small tool box, I had reviewed a lee whack-a-mole type reloader and this was indeed one option for such a set up however... The room I was staying in was in a house with about 10 other people. The whack-a-mole was not going to work (hint it makes a lot of noise unless you have a heavy block to use under it). The next option I had I came across by accident. Lyman 310 tong tools...something I've seen but never really looked into.  I happened to obtain a set of the tongs with a few dies from an estate purchase I had made earlier in the year. I liked the theory behind the tool and thought it would work out very well for what I had in mind. The room I was staying in was about 10'x6' give or take so not even a true reloading bench was possible. I did however have a small computer desk as a multi function surface...dining table, reloading bench, computer desk, writing desk etc.  This gave me enough space for a powder scale, reloading block and misc accessories.

The 310 tool gets its model number from the combination of the "Ideal #3" tool and the "Ideal #10" tool. I am not going to present much info on the rarity or collectible value of the plethora of iterations these types tools have had since their inception rather this is meant to be a practical introduction to somebody who wants to get one of these unique loading tools for themselves. And some things to watch out for along the road to building your micro reloading kit. Note if you are looking at a die set to purchase you may want to skip to part 2 to gain a understanding of what to look for in purchasing your 310 tong tool dies.

#1.Handles a.k.a tongs, pliers, nutcrackers.....

Two types of "modern" 310 tongs. Large/rifle type on the left, small/pistol type on the right.
First you will need to decide what caliber you will be reloading for as your handle selection will be based on this. Above you can see the Lyman 310 large handle (left) and small handle (right). I desired to load .38spl and .357 magnum so a small handle is what the dies I were to be using required. The handles themselves have some important features that make it a truly versatile tool in it of itself.

First feature you might notice is the shell hook, this spring loaded hook acts as an extractor pulling cases out of the dies once you've performed the desired step (bullet seating, decapping, belling, etc.). The hook is adjustable for engagement using the adjusting screw on the other side of the grip. You will need to tune the hook for proper engagement as too much may scrape and damage brass and too little will slip off the case rims.

Side view of hook and adjustment screw 

Loosen nut, adjust as needed, tighten nut.

The next feature you will notice is the where the case is inserted for the various operations. There should be a  ring present on any "complete" die set you purchase for tong tool use. These rings are the "shell adapters" each one is stamped with a number that correlates with a cartridge, below we see #1 which is for my beloved 38/357 as well as the #2 which is for 30/06 and 45ACP type cases.

#2 adapter for 30/06, .243, 45acp etc.

Side view of shell adapter needed for tong tools

Threaded shell adapters help align the cartridge cases ensuring accurate introduction to the dies.

It is important to note that 310 reloading dies come in 2 types, the tong tool type that can be used with the aforementioned type handles and the reloading press type. The reloading press dies can not be used with the tool handles successfully, you will run into problems. The biggest issue is with the combination re-sizer die or CMR marked die. More info on this issue will be covered in part 2.