When I was contacted about reviewing new pistol sizing and recapping dies I thought, “wow….dies. Big deal”. What are these S3 Reload dies anyways?
Shell Shock Technologies (SST) of Westport, Connecticut has created the S3 RELOAD set; dies not just for “regular” brass, but designed to accommodate the NAS3 casings (their nickel alloy casings for small caliber pistols).
A week later I picked them up (along with a huge bag of the NAS3) and started reloading.
Looking at the dies one would think that the reloading process would be significantly different. On the contrary, I actually found the process a little easier with these dies. The sizing die contains a polyurethane spring that assists in removing the case from the die. The spring-action is counter-intuitive to my typical method of reloading, but I got used it after about a dozen rounds. That small spring effect also gives the bullet a little push, improving the ease of the resizing.
Spent NAS3 casings next to freshly loaded rounds. Note the purple magnet; these are very easy to pick up at the range.
I also think it is important to talk about the NAS3 casings as well. Unlike normal brass, each casing is actually two pieces fused together. Engineered to be 50% lighter and 2x stronger than brass, it ejects cool to the touch and can be picked up with a magnet. This makes picking up your brass much easier at the range, which is especially good since you will want to recover these casings for repeated reloading with the S3 Reload.
Observations of the S3 Reload
While the expander die does look a little alien, I actually like the design more than traditional expanding dies. Since I was given a big bag of brass I figured the few I butchered getting the process down was the price SST was willing to pay. However, to my delight, I did not over-expand a single case!
Some foreign manufactured brass casings have unusual internal dimensions, and those should be avoided with these dies. SST dies WILL work on traditional brass cases, but SST cases CANNOT be used with regular dies. As a test, I loaded 20 brass cases I had on this set with ease (all of which also fired just fine).
During my review, I had some questions about the S3 Reloads and “best practices” for using them, and I reached out to SST and spoke with “Volo” (pretty sure he is one of their engineers but forgot to ask). During the call, he told me has loaded shells up to 30 times (all at normal pressures, no +p’s, or any other “hot loads”). Though the cases are rated for them, hotter loads will wear them out more quickly. He also mentioned that case wear is shown in the stamp in the case head soonest. So make sure you are checking that as part of your inspection process.
Biggest problem? Not using enough lube. I think we have all ran into that one time or another. :). After I dialed in the appropriate amount, everything operated smoothly.
I was also told they are soon releasing other calibers, some even in the high powered rifle arena (.308 Win) which is definitely of interest to this author. It will be interesting to see the life cycle of those cases and if they are able to withstand twenty (or more) reloads.
One of many containers of rounds this author loaded for testing.
I initially loaded 50 rounds and fed them through my Sig P226 without issue. Then I invited a buddy out to shoot with me. We ran through a large Tupperware container of 9mm and didn’t have any problems.
The combination of the S3 Reload dies and NAS3 brass seems like a really decent combination, and the ability to also load regular brass is great. I like the quality of Shell Shock’s products, and I was very impressed with their staff willing to stop their work day and spend 30 minutes to talk to me. I will continue using the dies and SST cases (until I wear them out) and recommend you give them a try if you reload.
You can find out more information at https://s3reload.com/