Since a lot of shooters are getting back into hand loading or starting into handloading we have been getting a lot of questions on Wilson hand dies; how they work, what press to use and what do you use for full length sizing the brass.
Wilson Chamber Type Bullet Seaters
The Wilson “Chamber type bullet seater” is one of the few tools that wasn’t an original idea of Sam Wilson. The Wilson seater die is an improvement on an A. O. Niedner design. Sam Wilson borrowed the Niedner design and improved it by making the seater stem adjustable for bullet seating depth. In the late 1980’s Fred Sinclair (Sinclair International) added a micrometer top to the Wilson seater so that shooters could accurately make graduated adjustments to their seating depth. Then Sinclair developed an upgrade kit (#WSA) for existing Wilson seaters that replaced the standard seating cap while utilizing the existing seating stem. This allowed shooters to add a micrometer to any available Wilson seater except for the 338 Lapua Mag. In recent years, Wilson has designed their own stainless steel micrometer seater for some of the most popular cartridges. Today, both the Sinclair Micrometer Top (#WSA) and the Wilson Seaters equipped with an integral micrometer top are adjustable in .001” increments. For a standard Wilson seater die without a micrometer top, the easy, fast way to make small seating depth adjustments is to use the Skips Seater die shims. These shims go between the seater cap and the die body to change bullet seating depth. They come in sets of 10 shims from .003” to .020” . For seaters chambered in calibers .22 caliber thru 6mm caliber, use shim kit #22-450. For .25 caliber thru .30 caliber, use shim kit #22-475.
All Wilson seater dies work the same way. First, place the seater die base that comes with each Wilson seater on your arbor press, not quite directly under the ram. Next place the bullet on the cartridge case and while supporting the bullet on the case move the assembly over to the seater die base. While holding the bullet/case together place the seating die over the assembly releasing the bullet and case as the die encapsulates the two pieces. The base of the seater should sit inside the rim of the seater die base. You will notice the cap and stem assembly is pushed up exposing some of the stem. Then slide assembled die and base directly under the ram of the arbor press (#AP-1000) and push the cap down using the arbor press until the cap is completely seated or flush with the top of the die. (all of this has assumed the die has been properly adjusted by the reloader). To remove the finished round you may have to raise and lower the seater cap and stem assembly in a rapid motion a few times to break the vacuum between the cartridge case and the die so the cartridge falls free. The fit is that close!
Wilson Neck Sizing Dies
Wilson neck sizing dies were designed for minimal movement of the brass during sizing. Traditional sizing dies (7/8”-14) dies) size the outside neck of the cartridge so the resulting inner diameter is several thousandths smaller than needed for proper bullet grip. Then as the die is retracted an expander ball opens up the case neck to the proper diameter. The 7/8”-14 dies are accurate but overwork the brass and concentricity problems can occur because of press alignment issues, bent decapping assemblies, shell holder issues, etc. The Wilson hand neck dies alleviate many of those problems First, the Wilson neck sizing dies utilize a changeable “bushing” to size the case neck down to the exact dimension without sizing the brass down further than needed and then bringing it back up. The case is pressed directly into the die using an arbor press without experiencing any alignment issues. The case is deprimed as it is ejected from the die and no bent decapping assembly exists to affect the concentricity of the case. The use of bushings available in .001” varying sizes allows you to custom tune and fit the amount of bullet tension that works best for you and the particular lot of brass you are using. Bushings are installed by removing two screws securing a cap on the top of the die, placing the bushing number side up into the recess and then re-installing the cap and screws. An arbor press such as the Sinclair Arbor Press (#AP-1000) and the Sinclair Arbor Press Base (#APB) are companion products used with the Wilson Neck Die. The Arbor Press Base has several functions; 1) holds the die securely in place under the ram, 2) captures the spent primers underneath, and 3) raises the die to approximately the same height as the Wilson seater so you don’t have to adjust your arbor press head or if you do the movement is minimal. These dies come in stainless steel for some of the popular cartridges and in standard steel for a much, wider offering. The procedure for using a neck die with an arbor press is as follows:
Place the Sinclair Arbor Press Base onto the arbor press base plate just so it isn’t under the ram.
Place the neck die with the neck sizing bushing installed onto the arbor press base with the decapping pin end of the decapping rod oriented up so the cartridge chamber opening is exposed.
Put the cartridge case over the decapping stem with the spent primer up and slide the die and arbor press base underneath the ram of the arbor press.
Move the ram down pushing the case fully into the die so the case head is flush with the top of the neck die. This step sizes the case neck.
Slide the die and arbor press base back from under the ram, then turn the neck die 180 degrees so the large end of the decapping rod is up, place the neck die back on the arbor press base.
Slide the die and base back under the arbor press ram and while holding the assembly depress the decapping rod until you feel the case is pushed out of the neck die. Continue moving the arbor press ram down until you feel the case head reach the bottom of the recess of the arbor press base and then you will feel the primer release as it is pressed out of the cartridge case. Your cartridge case has now been neck sized, decapped, and ejected from the die.
As you remove the die from the arbor press base, the sized, de-primed case should fall out and you can flip the die back over 180 degrees so you are ready for the next case.
Occasionally, you can slide the arbor press over to the edge of the table and slide the arbor press base to the edge of the base plate and empty the spent primers into a trash can or other container.
Your question may now be “can I full length size using Wilson dies and the AP-1000 arbor press”?
The answer is no. The AP-1000 is not designed for this operation. Also Wilson no longer lists full length sizing dies in their catalog. When you need to size the case body or bump the shoulder, we suggest using your standard reloading press and a Redding body die, a Forster bushing bump die, or any good die manufacturer’s full length die.
It is the best and easiest way.
Once you get the “hang” of using the Wilson hand dies you will find that they are not only fast, fun, and incredibly accurate,but they also may be the solution to that pesky concentricity problem!
If you have any questions we are always here to help.
Hold hard and squeeze em!
Sinclair International Reloading Technician
NRA Certified Metallic Cartridge Reloading Instructor
NRA Certified Shotgun Shell Reloading Instructor
NRA Certified Range Safety Officer
200 S. Front Street, Montezuma, IA 50171
Reloading Support: 260-482-3670