Gavin handed me an old set of RCBS dies in an equally vintage cardboard box. He had gotten the 1968 set from a friend and tasked me with cleaning them up and reloading some 30-30 ammunition. I think he knew that my RCBS set dates back to 1974 and I would enjoy the project.
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About the 1968 RCBS Dies
RCBS marks their dies with the year of production — it was easy to determine these were made in 1968 from the “68” on them. Externally they’re very similar to my personal RCBS dies I bought new in the 1970’s. The old dies did need a cleaning. The shell holder in particular had some kind of green goo covering it. We suspected this might have been foam that absorbed some case lube or gun oil.
Cleaning the pieces was straightforward. Rinsing in hot water quickly removed the green goo from the shell holder, exposing a few rust spots. I disassembled the dies using channel lock pliers, then cleaned and lubricated with Hornady One-Shot. Q-tips helped me clean inside the dies.
Once clean and reassembled, I mounted them on a RCBS Turret Press and adjusted the dies to full-length resize and prime the cases. RCBS’s standardization allows vintage dies to fit on modern presses.
Here’s our video covering the RCBS Turret Press (full article HERE):
I then dropped LeverEvolution powder and seated 150 grain round-nose Hornady bullets.
I added a third die for my loading purposes, a Lee Factory Crimp die. I’ve found this die provides an excellent crimp. I now use Lee Factory Crimp dies for both 30-30 and 45-70 cartridges.
About the RCBS Turret Press and Powder Measure
The RCBS turret press is compact and simple! I used it to load 100 30-30 cases in short order.
The turret has space for six dies, turns easily, and has well-defined stops. For a while I added a fourth station, a powder dispenser. This transformed the turret press into what I call a “semi-progressive” press. In this mode, it turns out a good quantity of ammunition in a short period of time. I also appreciate the unit as a simple turret press — keeping the powder dispenser off to the side on its own mount.
While dies are largely the same, the RCBS powder measure is far improved over my 40 year-old equipment! The updated model is easy to adjust. I’ve used it on these 30-30 rifle cartridges as well as to drop some tiny 3-grain powder charges while reloading handgun cases. While using it for the rifle, dropped charges of LeverEvolution powder varied no more than a half grain.
The primer tube system is easy to use. The sliding bar works well to move the primers under the freshly sized cartridge case.
About the Load
I’m planning to hunt mule deer with the 30-30 Henry X-Model this season, so I chose components for that purpose:
150 grain Hornady RNSP Interlock bullet
This has long been a standard choice for deer hunting. Somehow with 1968 dies, a 1970’s Glenfield rifle, an old scope and a gray-haired shooter, it seemed appropriate to use such a traditional and well proven bullet.
38 grains of Hodgdon’s LeverEvolution powder
I’ve seen excellent results from 30-30 loads using this powder and other bullets. It flows very consistently through a manual powder measure like the RCBS unit I was using. Hodgdon lists a maximum of 38.5 grains so I set the powder measure for 38 grains to keep all of my loads below maximum.
Federal 210 large rifle primers
These have been very consistent.
Hornady new and once-fired brass
About the Rifles
Henry provided us with their X-Model side gate 30-30 rifle months ago and we’ve featured it in several stories. The X-Model is Henry’s weather-resistant take on a classic lever action rifle and has proven to be a real favorite around here. It’s easy to shoot and compatible with various accessories.
My personal 30-30 is a 1970’s Glenfield — an economy version of Marlin’s famous 336 lever action rifle. It has a 20” microgroove barrel and is topped with an old 3x Leupold scope.
If you find old dies at a pawn shop or you inherit some, it is possible to clean them up! Also, you shouldn’t only clean old dies. New dies come coated with a preservative that should be removed before you use it.
Keep in mind that some old dies will be reluctant to come apart. In this case, add some penetrating oil or cleaner like Hornady One-Shot and let them sit. Channel lock pliers and a screwdriver may also prove helpful.
You may find areas that need attention. Fine steel wool combined with gun oil can help remove rust. I also like to clean with a scotch-brite pad and Q-tips. There are many things you can use, just do not force anything.
The 150’s averaged 2250 fps, a useful velocity for the modest range I anticipate afield. I shot the old 30-30 Glenfield at 100 yards to zero the old 3x Leupold and to check for group sizes. The crosshairs are so thick on the reticle that they completely obscured the 1” dot I was aiming at! Groups from the bench measured between 1 and 1.5”.
I also did some offhand practice at 100 and 200 yards, banging steel gongs. This was not only great fun, making hits at 200 yards was easy. That’s as far as I intend to shoot with this rifle, during hunting season.
Summary and Conclusion
Don’t discount old dies! After being disassembled and cleaned, they’re as good as ever and produce fine hunting ammunition.
The RCBS Turret Press really impressed me. I like being able to prime on the press and its compact size left my loading bench generally clear.
Get the Gear
The RCBS Turret Press is listed for $344.99 but generally is available for less.
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