Lubrisizing Cast Bullets with a Lyman 4500 Lube Sizer
Lubrisizing Cast Bullets with a Lyman 4500 Lube Sizer
If you’re a bullet-caster, chances are you’re already well-acquainted with the process of lubing and sizing your bullets. While most folks start off pan-lubing their bullets and then sizing them with Lee Precision’s economical lube and size kit, it can get pretty tedious if you’re working with any kind of volume.
Several manufacturers have addressed this problem by producing lubrisizers; essentially presses that both lube and size your bullets simultaneously, greatly reducing the amount of time and energy spent on preparing cast bullets to be reloaded.
In this article we’ll take a look at Lyman’s model 4500 Lube Sizer, including the setup, and what you’ll need to start lubrisizing bullets with it.
The first thing you should know before purchasing the 4500, is it comes in two flavors; with a heater, or without. You should absolutely purchase the package that includes a heater, as it makes a huge difference in ease of use, particularly with harder bullet lubes. As of December 2016 the difference between these two packages is a measly $5. By contrast, if you purchase the heating element separately it’ll cost you a ludicrous $50. Talk about a ripoff.
The next thing you’ll need to buy are sizing dies. Each caliber you want to lubrisize will need it’s own die. Most calibers are pretty easy to find, with some popular ones like 45 available in multiple sizes such as .451 or .452, depending on your needs. Unfortunately, the sizing dies are pretty expensive, so do yourself a favor and make sure you price everything out before taking the plunge. One other thing to note about the 4500’s sizing dies; as of this article’s publication date, they’re fully interchangeable with RCBS’ Lube-a-Matic 2 dies. Savvy reloaders can leverage this fact to save some money by watching for sales on new or used dies in the calibers they need from either manufacturer.
In addition to dies, each caliber also needs a top punch. This part is used by the press to push the bullet down into the sizing die, and needs to be matched to the shape of the bullet nose. In order to address this, Lyman produces different styles for flat nose, round nose and hollow points. The good news is top punches are super-cheap, and if you’re buying custom moulds to cast your bullets they’re typically included free or for just a few extra bucks.
Now that we’ve covered the components, lets discuss the setup.
Once the 4500 is mounted to the bench, the first thing you’ll want to do is install the heater. If you purchased the model that comes with an included element, this is as simple as sliding the heating rod into the matching slot of the press. At this point you can plug it in to get things going while performing the remainder of the configuration.
To install the sizing die, begin by using the included wrench to loosen and remove the die retention nut. When performing this step, take your time to avoid marring the nut or stripping the threads.
With the retention nut out of the way, extract the existing sizing die (if present) by pushing upwards on the return rod below. From this point it’s a simple matter of either pulling the die out by hand, or in the case it’s become stuck, using the included wrench like a bottle opener. As you can probably imagine, bullet-sizing dies will quickly become slick from use, so learning to extract them quickly is as much art as it is science.
With the previous die removed, you can now install a new one. This is a fairly simple process as it will pretty much just drop into place on it’s own. With that done, replace the die retention nut and tighten it back up again, being careful not to cross-thread it.
Now it’s time to tackle the top punch. Begin by lowering the sizing lever until the punch retention screw is visible/accessible. Using the included Allen wrench, loosen the screw enough that the punch can be removed. Now insert the new punch and snug up the punch retention screw. Finish this step by testing the action of the 4500 a couple times to make sure everything is lined up properly.
Finally it’s time to adjust the sizing depth. This is done to ensure lube is forced into the bullet grooves rather than above or below the bullet. Begin by placing a bullet in the 4500, and lowering the handle until it’s reached the correct depth. I’d love to be able to tell you there’s a magic depth that works for every bullet, but that’s just not the case. Depth will vary from bullet to bullet depending on the size, caliber and shape so you’ll need to do this by trial-and-error the first time. Once you’ve figured it out for a particular caliber, it’s easy enough to remember for next time.
With the lube sizer configured it’s time to add a hollow lube stick. These can be loaded in their entirety or cut to size depending on how much capacity remains in the reservoir. Be conservative when loading it for the first time; adding more is a simple process, by contrast trying to remove excess material is an exercise in misery.
To load the 4500, start by taking the included ratchet and turning it clockwise until the reservoir cap begins to rise. After removing the cap, make a few more turns until the plunger can be removed by hand. Next, place a lube stick on the threaded rod and push it down until it’s flush inside the reservoir. If it looks like it’s not going to fit, this is the time to cut it down to size– once it’s installed it’s nearly impossible to extract. Now replace the plunger, threading it on by hand and turning the ratchet counter-clockwise to lower it until cap will fit back into back into place.
At this point the Lyman 4500 should now be ready to begin processing bullets. As you probably imagine, reconfiguring this unit isn’t something you want to do frequently if you can avoid it. I try to plan ahead so that I can do a whole bunch of the same caliber before I have to change over again– after a few caliber conversions I suspect you will, too.
Once it’s set up, actually using the 4500 couldn’t be easier. Simply place a bullet on the sizing die punch, and lower the handle. The top punch punch will push the bullet down into the sizing die where it’s swaged to the exact size listed. At the same time this is happening, the internal pressure of the lube reservoir, coupled with heat from the element forces bullet lube into the grooves around the bullet. When the bullet emerges from the die, if the groove isn’t completely full, simply give the ratchet a 1/4-1/2 turn to increase the reservoir pressure, and run the bullet through again. As the lube and sizer continues to heat up and pressure builds, this will become a faster and more uniform process. As bullets exit the lubrisizer you should see a smooth, shiny surface where the bullet has been swaged to the correct diameter, and a nice uniform bead of lubricant filling the lube groove.
Although it takes a little longer than Lee Precision’s Lube & Size Kit, the fact that you’re completing both the sizing and lubing operations at the same time allows you to process the same volume of ammunition much more quickly.
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