My dad let me do some reloading with him when I was around 10 years old on his old green RCBS single stage press. I still have it mounted to a bench, and it is still cranking out rifle and pistol bullets some 50 years later. I have three Dillon progressive loaders that can load hundreds of rounds per hour as long as you keep them stocked with components, but that old RCBS press keeps chugging along. Founded in 1943, RCBS remains one of the biggest reloading equipment companies in the world and continues to have one of the best warranty service departments in the industry.
I had a pretty spectacular issue couple weeks ago with an old RCBS .223 reloading die, when a brass case got stuck in the de-priming and case resizing die. Somehow the base of the cartridge slipped past its shell holder and the whole cartridge was stuck up inside the die. I tried whacking on it with increasingly larger hammers to no effect and pulling at it with several types of pliers and a bench vise-again with no luck. Along the way I made it worse and mangled the heck out of the protruding base.
After mulling it over for a while, (my Adventure Wife says it is admitting my failures…what does she know about reloading?) I took up the matter with the internet and some reloading Facebook groups, which led to several bizarre and similarly unsuccessful attempts to get that stuck case out of the die. This included trying to “soak” the die and cartridge in not one, but two different stinky penetrating oils over nights. After that, I even put the die in the freezer overnight hoping to get it to let go. Failing at that, I was reportedly seen dancing in the backyard under a rather full moon, muttering strange words and holding the die aloft…I can neither confirm nor deny any such behavior…my neighbors are prone to exaggeration…and I did have on a loin cloth!
I did somehow stumble upon an RCBS product called a “Stuck Case Puller Kit.” Paid extra to Amazon to get it to me super quick so I could rectify my own self-created problem before having to talk to actual human beings about it. The Stuck Case Puller kit was brilliant. They provide you a tap which you thread into the empty primer pocket thus threading the hole. Then you put a collar on top of the base and thread a supplied bolt down into the now threaded flash hole. Fabulous. By screwing the bolt in with a supplied hex key, it presses down against the collar and should pull that bad old piece of brass out right out of the die! So simple even a caveman could do it!
This of course led to my actually calling RCBS the next day.
“Ring” Hello RCBS how may I direct your call?
Me: Mutter, grumble, intelligible- Tech Support.
RCBS: Mike is that you?
Me: Uh. Yeah. How did you know?
RCBS: Oh, we all know who you are Mike.
Me: Heh. Well, uh, yeah, I um, I um got a brass case stuck in a die.
RCBS: No problem. Just send it in.
Me: But I never did this before. I am really good at reloading, and I have been doing it forever, and I have never gotten a case stuck before. It’s all very embarrassing. Do you have a counselor or someone I could talk to about my feelings on this?
RCBS: We see it all the time. No problem. Just send it in.
Me: But don’t you want to know about it? See it got stuck and I pulled and pounded on it and put oil down it and put it in the freezer, and danced a little dance, and then I made it worse.
RCBS: Oh please do go on.
Me: Then to make matters worse, I uh tried to drive the cartridge out of the die by hammering in a nail from the top.
RCBS: 10 penny or 12 penny?
Me: Um, about a 12 penny nail, I think. And, um, well the nail is now stuck inside the stuck shell casing as well and it won’t come out.
RCBS: Hold the line for a second…. (muted conversation) “Yes. It’s him. He got a stuck case and then drove a nail into it and it’s stuck too. I know! You ought to hear him.” Sorry Mike. Do go on. Have you heard about our stuck cartridge kits?
Me: Yeah. I got one through Amazon. Brilliant design. I tapped that bad boy primer pocket and put the collar on and threaded the bolt into the primer pocket and cranked on it real good. But it didn’t move the stuck piece of brass.
RCBS: Oh please continue…
Me: Well, I of course wasn’t going to be defeated by this, so I got down a crescent wrench and used the hole at the bottom of the wrench to loop around the hex key that turns the bolt to use as a torque wrench.
RCBS: Was that an eight-inch or a ten-inch crescent wrench?
Me: Oh no, I got down the biggest one I had. It was a twelve-inch crescent wrench.
RCBS: So you looped a foot long crescent wrench backwards around the hex key of a bolt in the stuck cartridge that also had a 12 penny nail sticking out the other end. Is that about, right?
Me: Well, yeah when you put it that way… and so I cranked the heck out of it and…
RCBS: Oh, you must go on!
Me: I snapped the bolt off inside the primer pocket of the stuck case too. Decided to call you as I was down to using some sort of explosive as my last option.
RCBS: Probably good you called. Send it in. It’s all warranty repair.
Me: I don’t have original receipts.
RCBS: That’s ok, is the box tab a snap or pull tabs? That tells us the date of manufacture.
Me: I am not sure; I don’t even know where I got those dies. The Vietnam War may have still been going on.
RCBS: It’s warranty. We have limited lifetime warranty. We have a guy who fixes them. He has all the tools, and if he can’t fix it, he will ship you a brand new one.
Me: Tell him I’m really sorry he has to see a die in this condition. I hope he does not cry or have a breakdown when he sees the nail sticking out of it.
RCBS: It’s all good. Just send it in.
Me: Thank you so much.
RCBS: No thank you, we always look forward to your calls Mike. They make our day.
So yesterday I got my die and box back in the mail postage paid by RCBS. There is a repair invoice -no charge- and it notes “Removed Case and Polished”. Examining the die, I am amazed there is no evidence of my previous interactions and also find a brand-new decapping pin and rod have been installed as well. If you hold the invoice up to the light, I swear you can see a couple of tear stains on the paper. Maybe it’s just my eyesight.
Thank you RCBS for such wonderful service and standing by your Lifetime Warranty Service for ham handed apes like me! My only regret, is I did not take a picture of this messed up die and brass before I sent it in.
I have a hunch a picture of it may exist however and is pinned to a bulletin board in the RCBS employee break room!