Lee Precision has done an excellent job of explaining the usage and advantages of its Collet Neck Die. For that reason, I find very little to add to what Lee notes in its discussion of this die, but I will mention a few things of particular interest to me, perhaps to others, and possibly to you.
First, neck sizing with the Lee Collet Neck Die (CND) eliminates the need to lubricate the case. This is no small matter for several reasons. First, application of lubrication takes time. Second, getting the lubrication uniform is never simple, and lack of lubrication uniformity is detrimental to resulting neck sizing. Third, removing the lubrication is time consuming, and failure to remove all lubrication from inside and outside the case is detrimental to accuracy. Fourth, with the addition of several differently sized decapping rods with each CND (Lee offers these at a very fair price), one can idealize the neck tension for the combination of: case type, case neck hardness (number of uses without annealing), and bullet hardness (an issue when shooting very soft bullets, such as swaged lead).
If one is willing to neck size the case, pull it back out of the die, rotate the case half a turn, and size the neck again, it is even possible that one might straighten a bent neck (actually, it is the shoulder that bends). Might not help, but it might!
Oddly enough, if you think it helps, it is a well-proven scientific fact that it will help (this is known as the self-fulfilling prophecy). Your beliefs matter to your results. Surprising as this might be, nothing in all of science is as well proven as the reality of the self-fulfilling prophecy. This is precisely why all scientific studies are always done using double blind testing whenever possible.
In a double-blind study, the person running the study is not involved with anything beyond describing what to compare and how to compare it, and then analyzing the results that others got from doing the study. If handloaders did double-blind studies when comparing various loads, they would have someone whom they did not know, load the prescribed ammo and mark the resulting loads with a code known only to the loader. Then, they would ship that ammo to someone they do not know, who also does not know the person running the test, who would fire the loads for accuracy, velocity, ballistic uniformity, terminal performance testing, or whatever. That person would record the results of each batch of ammo, along with the code for that batch. Finally, the person running the test would review the result, compile all the data and do all the statistical analysis, all before they knew what the codes meant. Then, a final separate and disinterested person would get the data and the codes and tabulate the results. Even then, pre-conceived notions can foul the result. For example, if the person loading the ammo expects bad results with one load combination, they can easily foul things by not as carefully loading that ammo, whether they realize it or not. Science is not easy!
Lee’s latest improvement of the basic CND is a good one. This is something I have been doing for many years to all CND dies I use — and I use these for many applications, including the 11mm Mauser, for which I had a custom CND made. Anyway, Lee shortened the working portion of the collet, so a short section of the case neck is not resized. This does two important things that result in at least three worthwhile advantages:
1. It reduces working on the case mouth, to almost zero
2. It leaves the case mouth expanded enough to allow the bullet base to enter freely
Because the case mouth is the portion of the case that is normally worked the most, the first advantage means that, for handloaders who are unable or unwilling to anneal the case necks periodically, cases will last longer before neck spits occur.
Leaving the case mouth at or near fired diameter allows a bullet to enter and align effortlessly. This eases the handloading process, and it reduces the risk of damaging a bullet, a case, or ones finger (if you have never crushed or decapitated a finger while trying to get a recalcitrant bullet to stay in the case moth and aligned with the die opening as you raise the ram, just wait!
So long as one does not trim case necks too short, this die will have the described advantages, and it has another advantage that few would consider. It can reduce variations in bullet pull that would otherwise result from variations in case neck length and degree of case mouth chamfering. When using the new version of the CND, variations in actual or effective neck length only result in the existence of more-or-less unsized case neck, the portion of the neck that grips the bullet will always be the same length. Therefore, neck tension will be more uniform.
The Lee CND also generates far less case neck hardening than any conventional sizing die does. This increases case life before either the neck will split or it must be annealed to prevent cracking. This is particularly important to handloaders who cannot or will not anneal case necks occasionally.
Finally, I’ll note that I have been modifying CNDs for many years, to work in chamberings for which Lee does not offer this die. For example, I modify the 17 Remington die to work with the 17 Hornet and the 17 JAV (4.6x30 H&K necked down) by altering the die body, the collet, the decapping rod, and an extended shellholder. Similarly, I have modified CNDs to work with the 22 Hornet and 221 Fireball and several other cartridges, for which Lee did not offer the CND at the time, some for which it still does not offer the CND, and some for which it will likely never offer the CND. The noted conversion is a considerable lot of work for one-off manufacturing by hand, but it is absolutely worth it.
With the smallest of cases, such as the 17 JAV, 17 Hornet, and 22 Hornet, and with many larger bottlenecked cases loaded at less than about 40,000-psi peak pressure (e.g., 30-30 Winchester), it is never necessary to full-length resize any case for reuse in the same gun. So, loading such ammo is particularly simple with the CND:
· Size the neck and decap the case
· Prime the case
· Charge the case
· Seat a bullet
That’s it! You can clean the case if doing so makes you happy, but this is entirely unnecessary. The vermin I shoot never seem to notice that my cases are not always shiny and new looking.
I will offer one story related to using the CND. Two years ago, while varminting for Prairie Dogs, I had the opportunity to take two smaller examples at 506 yards. The wind was very mild and steady. We were packing up to leave. I knew the distance, according to the Geovid Rangefinder. The vermin targets were standing and stationary.
I had been shooting at about 400 yards, so I just dialed in a couple minutes of elevation, held on the center of mass of the right-hand target, and fired a shot, just to see where it went. The scope on that gun has a reticle with MOA marks, for elevation and windage. And, that gun, with the LAW muzzle brake, literally does not move perceptibly when it fires.
This is one of those things, I can explain to other varminters and they can claim to understand what I am saying and what that means, but until they shoot such a gun and personally experience what zero recoil means, they simply do not get it!). So, I saw the hit, about two-MOA each, low and right of where I was aiming.
I added eight-each elevation and windage clicks. Used the same aiming point and fired another shot. That bullet hit just right and at the vermin’s feet. I added two more elevation clicks, held on the left edge and fired. Center hit. Chambered another round, held the same sight-picture on the other target and fired. Center hit.
Not too bad for a load using a whopping 8.3 grains of Lil’Gun in the tiny 17 JAV cartridge, and launching the 20-grain V-Max at 3550 fps.
Germaine here is that I load that ammo using a custom Lee CND. The loads are always that accurate when fired from my custom Savage, built using the Target-Action and the 8-twist polygonal Pac-Nor barrel rifled to my design specifications. (The standard centerfire 17-caliber twist, 9, is simply too slow for best results with modern bullets; the faster twist gives better accuracy and significantly better terminal performance.)
My only frustration with the Lee CND is that it is not available in everything I use it for. The related frustration is that, with larger cartridges loaded at full pressure it is eventually necessary to full-length resize cases. Using the CND with smaller cases has so spoiled me that I now find conventional full-length case resizing to be a chore that I wish was not necessary!
If you are not a fan of the Lee CND, most likely, that is because you have never used one.
Another die Lee offers that is generally superior, compared to anything any other manufacturer offers is the Factory Crimp Die, but that is a story for another post.