RCBS Cowboy dies
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- Last updated: 23/02/2021
.45-70 Government has been around a long time, but unfortunately, we do not have much in the way of factory ammunition available in the UK, and what there is tends to be very expensive! Most shooters reload this calibre, with lead bullets being by far the most popular choice, and of course mandatory for serious cowboy action shooting.
The RCBS Cowboy Dies are designed to produce ammunition that will cycle through lever-action rifles and single-action pistols, plus have the level of consistency required for serious competition. According to RCBS’s own description, the dies are ‘built to slightly different dimensions’ and this is intended to facilitate the best reloading of lead bullets. How different the dimensions are is not possible to determine, without specialist equipment, so the only way to judge them is by the ammunition they produce.
The 3-die set on test includes resizing, expanding and seating/crimping dies in a strong plastic storage box. The dies feature a case-hardened finish and a brass locking ring. They are well made, as you would expect from RCBS, and all of the threads are clean and smooth. Setting up is the same as with their standard dies, with clear instructions provided.
Resizing is smooth and feels no different to any standard die. The expander die is where you feel a difference, both in the amount of resistance and the felt amount of travel into the case. The expander plug is a different shape to that of standard RCBS and Lee dies and it seems to expand the case mouth and bell the case much better.
Lead bullets can easily be damaged during seating and this expander die reduces the case-mouth tension sufficiently to accommodate lead projectiles without any marring. When it comes to the seating operation, the bullets sit nicely into the expanded case mouth.
The seater die also applies the crimp and it seems to do this particularly well, without damaging the bullet. It is often preferred to do the seating and crimping of lead bullets in two separate operations, to avoid any lead being displaced by the case when the bullet is pushed in and crimped in place simultaneously. However, the RCBS cowboy die does both operations well and produces really well-formed ammunition. The roll crimp grips the bullet very well indeed.
The ammunition produced by the dies looks good and all of the dimensions checked, including cartridge overall length and diameter at the case mouth, were very consistent. All of the rounds fed and chambered perfectly and shot well. Using my home cast 405-grain bullets, I shot some tight groups with no flyers at all.
Overall, although these dies are more expensive than the ‘standard’ die sets available they really do seem to produce better ammunition with lead bullets and are well worth giving a try.