Several people suggested that I go with the Master kit from RCBS. I had done a lot of reading on their site, and had come across the Master Kit. It just seemed to me that they were "larding" the kit with stuff they wanted to get rid of. I was trying to narrow down a list to the _bare_ minimum.
Back when I was studying locksmithing, I would see "starter kits" of lock picks for sale, 80% of which would never be used. Turns out that most locksmiths use two or three picks and a few different wrenches. The kit-makers wanted you to think that if you just bought the 55-pick set you'd be better able to tackle the next lock you came across.
I suspected that something similar was true with the RCBS Master Kit, and discussion here and on an email list seemed to bear that out. The kit seems to have more than you need for pistol reloading, while lacking other things.
Obviously, being brand new to this, I'm talking though my hat. But would you say that I could have headed to the store, bought the RCBS Master kit, some bullets, powder, and primers, and started turning out finished rounds?
Even if this is true, I would have been spending (as people pointed out here) almost as much as I needed to get the SDB.
In the kit, I knew I didn't need this stuff:
Speer Reloading Manual #13
Trim Pro Manual Case Trimmer Kit
Hex Key Set
Case Loading Block
Case Lube Kit
Which is a good chunk of what is _in_ the kit. I still needed the caliper, dies, and shell holder
In effect, I was trying to build my own customized version of the Master Kit... and still would be if I hadn't gotten a reasonable deal on eBay (and I'm just praying that the unit is everything the guy claimed it is... there is a reason I like to buy new stuff if I can)
It may be that the Master Kit's components are so deeply discounted that I couldn't have done any better on my own. If so... live and learn! It does irk me to buy stuff I don't need, just because it is in a kit. I'm sure I'll be looking that kit over again in a few months when I have a better idea what all this is about. Maybe then I'll realize that I should just have gone ahead and gotten the kit!
Meanwhile, the voices the "Square Deal B Fan Club" on this board and the 1911forum were very persuasive... Dillon should be paying a referral fee to you folks!
Thanks again for all the good advice.