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Old January 26, 2013, 10:16 AM   #1
eowiggy
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Opinions top-end die sets over standard sets.

I have bben reloading for just a few months, and have gotten alot of good information off this site. I finally registered so I could ask some questions of my own.

I wanted to get some advice from more experienced reloaders concerning the huge array of die sets available. As I'm shopping around, I notice that every manufacturer has their standard die set along with a much more expensive "Competition/Match/Gold/etc...." set. All of these companies go into detail about the quality and precision that goes into their standard die sets. They then one up themselves with bushing dies, and micrometer seating dies and such.

I am looking for a die set that will allow me to make accurate rounds, but I have no intentions of shooting competition or making 1000yd shots. I do however want to have the confidence in my ammo to take a 300-400yd shot on a deer.

I am reloading on a Forster press and am leaning towards Forster or Redding 3 die sets. Forster's set is $156, with their high end an extra $100. Redding's standard set is $110 with their Type S Match Bushing set going for $267 + $36 per bushing.

Is there enough of a difference in accuracy gained from the high end sets to warrant the extra cost when it comes to the hunting/recreational/range shooting that I do. Thanks in advance for any responses.
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Old January 26, 2013, 10:26 AM   #2
Jimro
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Start of with Lee dies. They work just fine. I've reloaded thousands of "match" rounds on Lee dies (ammunition I shoot in High Power).

When you get good enough at reloading that you decide you do want to make bughole groups or 1000 yard shots, then you can easily go the body collet resizing die with a .002 shoulder bump before neck sizing with a collet die on your stainless tumbled sorted by water volume brass trimmed to .0005" tolerance and use a benchrest seater die to put the bullet in straight so you can be sure of only .0005 runnout.

In reality, if you can't shoot to the potential of your rifle/ammo combination your time is better spent on the range than on the reloading bench. Once you are a better shot then it makes much more sense to try to create the ultimate ammo.

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Old January 26, 2013, 10:26 AM   #3
eowiggy
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FYI, I have been cutting my teeth reloading .223 for my AR using a set of Hornady dies (meh). I am wanting to get die sets for .308/30-06/.270. My .308 is my primary rifle and along with the .223 will be the bulk of my reloading. Pistol to soon follow.
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Old January 26, 2013, 11:41 AM   #4
Ifishsum
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I've made a lot of very accurate ammunition with standard dies - for most guys it takes an awful lot of shooting and loading to get to the point where their loading and shooting skills are limited by our equipment. The first thing to upgrade to "match quality" if you're serious about it would be your rifle's barrel and chamber. Then specialty dies start making more sense.

Hornady's seating die is better than most IMO - the sliding bullet guide is very nice to have when seating small bullets, especially those with flat bases. Most seating dies do not have that sliding guide piece, you must hold the bullet in the case mouth until it enters the die. I don't like their sizer dies quite as well as some others, but I usually buy their sets because of the seater. Redding is usually my second choice for rifle dies, although there is nothing wrong with Lee or RCBS. Almost all of my pistol/revolver dies are Lee Carbide sets - the powder-through expander feature can be a time-saver when loading.
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Old January 26, 2013, 11:49 AM   #5
RC20
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Quote:
FYI, I have been cutting my teeth reloading .223 for my AR using a set of Hornady dies (meh). I am wanting to get die sets for .308/30-06/.270. My .308 is my primary rifle and along with the .223 will be the bulk of my reloading. Pistol to soon follow.
For 223 I like the competition dies set as those little bullets are buggers to get going right.

The 270/308 and 3006 are no issue with just a normal die set with the new spray on lubes (I load 270 and 3006)

I would go with 4 dies set carbide dies for pistol. They just work a lot better.

Separating out the function in pistols works better for me and less fiddling with the crimp setting and the bullet seater (and easier with the heavy crimp ones like the magnums if you do those). I went with 3 die carbide and then bought the 4th one after, more better to get the 4 as a set.
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Old January 26, 2013, 01:15 PM   #6
wncchester
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"Is there enough of a difference in accuracy gained from the high end sets to warrant the extra cost when it comes to the hunting/recreational/ranges"

No. On average, standard dies work very well and even the worst do quite well. And any maker will replace defective dies.

All our die makers work to the same SAAMI specifications and that's a range, not a specific point, so claims that one brand is made to 'tighter tolerances' is foolishness. High cost dies won't automatically do you any good anyway, it takes a very accurate rifle and highly skilled reloader to take avantage of the few things the best dies may allow.

Start with the Lee's and they may well be all you'll ever need. IF/when you do spring for costly dies get Forster or Redding because they are the ONLY threaded dies that have full length alignment sleeves to insure the case AND bullet are inline before seating starts - and, IMHO, that's all the high dollar dies do for us. Micrometer seater heads are only user aids, they don't do a thing for the finished ammo.

The costs you mention can be beaten by most mail order companies.
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Old January 26, 2013, 01:38 PM   #7
603Country
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The advice to start with Lee dies is probably good advice, but it only costs a bit more to get the good stuff if the good stuff will really help your shooting more than Lee dies will. I suggest that you listen to the opinions of the real competition shooters on the forum. The little things matter to those guys and their preferences are most likely justified by use and experience. They want to win, so they'll spend the money to get the gear that will help them do that. That said, great ammo won't be what makes you a great shot, but it can't hurt.
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Old January 26, 2013, 02:57 PM   #8
NWPilgrim
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I agree with the other posts. Lee is way cheaper to start with especially if you buy several die sets for different cartridges. And you will assemble ammo accurate enough for the ability if most shooters. If you get to the point of measuring neck wall thickness, concentricity, and seating a few thousandths off the lands then look into which die brand does that best.

I use basic Lee and RCBS FL dies and can get .223 and .30-06 loads in milspec barrels (certainly not target barrels) down to 5 shot 3/4" groups. I am no great shakes at target shooting so thus more than meets my needs.

Most shooters can benefit more from better shooting technique and rifle/barrel/trigger quality than from more expensive dies.

When it comes to handguns I would definitely not spend extra. If you load with a progressive then some dies like Dillon are beveled for better feeding of cases on a progressive.
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Old January 26, 2013, 03:12 PM   #9
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Standard Redding dies are about as good as I'll ever need but I'm no comp shooter. If you have no aspirations of comp shooting comp dies and techniques will be a waste of money & time, better spent on components and trigger time. I have mostly RCBS dies but sometimes the Reddings are only a few $ more and seem to be worth it.
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Old January 26, 2013, 03:57 PM   #10
edward5759
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I started reloading in1956 I had a 222 with a die that was cut from the chamber reamer.
Was at a bench rest match and someone took my die. yea we had people who played games back then!
I went and purchased a lee loader. This was like the classic loader sold today.
Instead of hammering the case in I used an arbor press for everything while loading with it. some guys were impressed with the little thing when I started cleaning up at matches and winning. a year later I got my old die back It was sitting on my bench that I was at in a towel. My wife sitting there did not know who put it there.
I still use that lee loader when loading for a 222 at the bench.
I no longer win matches, I shake, but do like to shoot.

Never under estimate any type of die, if you do you will lose or miss that deer.
I paid somewhere around 2.96, it still is marked on that old box.
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Old January 26, 2013, 05:27 PM   #11
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A vote for a Lee...

E O Wiggy--For accurate reloading, IMHO, you'll have to be an AWFULLY good shot--and an awfully good reloader, to boot--to yourself exceed the capacity of Lee Collet Necksizing Dies in producing accurate bottleneck rifle ammo.

You use 'em only with cases fire-formed in the rifle in question, and it almost has to be a bolt action.

As the previous posters have said: practice, practice, practice!
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Old January 26, 2013, 05:41 PM   #12
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I have , over the years weeded out most of my non Redding dies , thought I do have some RCBS specialty dies . Why ? Because I think Reddings have the finest internal finish of any non premium dies . Others may think differently , as is their right !
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Old January 26, 2013, 09:51 PM   #13
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I started out with basic dies when I started out 30+ years ago but if I was starting out today I would get competition dies.
Having a depth gage in the seater that’s calibrated in .001 inches is well worth the money when most others use a screwdriver head and a nut to hold it in place. Also I really like the sliding chamber.
It’s not so much being better due to improved accuracy, it’s the ease in making good ammunition that makes them better.
150$ is a lot to spend on a seater I grant you. But if you’re going to use it the rest of your life like I have been doing for over 3 decades it’s not that much and worth the investment.
I have always lived with the thought that you should buy the best tool you can afford. So start out with the best, these things won’t wear out for a long time.
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Old January 27, 2013, 07:42 AM   #14
UncleGrumpy
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Quote:
But if you’re going to use it the rest of your life like I have been doing for over 3 decades it’s not that much and worth the investment.
I have always lived with the thought that you should buy the best tool you can afford. So start out with the best, these things won’t wear out for a long time.
I also believe in Ozziemans statement. If possible always buy the best you can afford. Normally you will not be disappointed. As far as reloading gear goes many are saying you will never out shoot the basic dies, but in 20 years you may.
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Old January 27, 2013, 08:15 AM   #15
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Like any serious reloader bent on saving money, you would sure not want to use a $30 die set when a $300 one will do just as well.
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Old January 27, 2013, 10:22 AM   #16
the led farmer
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NWPilgrim View Post
I

Most shooters can benefit more from better shooting technique and rifle/barrel/trigger quality than from more expensive dies.
This sums it up best. Spend the extra money on something else
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Old January 27, 2013, 11:16 AM   #17
floydster
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All of my Lee dies work just fine And I have RCBS, Hornady and CH dies.

Smokeyloads
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Old January 27, 2013, 11:46 AM   #18
mohr308
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I use RCBS ar series dies for the semi autos, it was worth the extra few bucks. I get great groupings and no feeding problems.
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Old January 27, 2013, 01:53 PM   #19
Jimro
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If you are going to use a micrometer style seater die, you really need to be measuring your chamber. Those seater dies are great when you are "chasing the lands" to maintain a consistent jump for your match bullets as the throat wears.

But then again, if you are chasing the lands of your throat, you are competing at a level where you need a 150 dollar seating die.

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Old January 27, 2013, 02:35 PM   #20
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I like the Redding competition seating dies (handgun) for two reasons, I don't have to flare my cases as much with plated and lead bullets, which improves bullet tension and minimizes working the brass. And they reduce set up time considerably. I use 5 or 6 bullet styles on a regular basis in .357 and I just dial in the setting and my OAL's are right where I want them. No fussing back and forth.
My other dies are a mix of Lee, RCBS, Lyman and standard Redding dies.
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Old January 27, 2013, 03:42 PM   #21
wncchester
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I firmly believe in buying what's as "good" as will be needed. To use an anology, a $10 Chinese Walmart wrist watch will last 2-3 years and tell time as accurately as a "much better" $3,000 Rolex so what's the additional $2,990 buying? Longer life! Yeah, but I won't live long enough for that to make much difference so my watches come from Walmart. A Rolls-Royce is much better made auto than my Ford but I'm perfectly satisfied with my 'cheep' Ford. In application, that means most of the difference in the price of Lee's dies and other common style dies is how polished the exteriors are and how purty the knurling is but neither will do a thing to help anyone make higher quality ammo.

As previously mentioned, even the most costly 'competition/BR' dies won't make any automatic difference. Reloading skill (and load development) has a much larger effect on accuracy than any dies at all and skill can't be bought in a box of any color or price.

Last edited by wncchester; January 27, 2013 at 03:50 PM.
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Old January 28, 2013, 12:42 AM   #22
eowiggy
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Awesome guys! As a 1st time poster, I couldn't have asked for a better response. I really appreciate the feedback.

I have a "Deluxe" set of Lee dies enroute. I am sure they will suit me for the time being. If I ever feel like I am outshooting my equipment, I'll drop the coin to upgrade. If I am still reloading many years down the line, the $45 buck I dropped for the Lee's will not be relevant. Thanks again.
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Old January 30, 2013, 07:23 AM   #23
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Near as I can tell, FL sizing dies for bottleneck cases create the same ammunition, although SB dies create smaller cartridges all around, and X dies are the cat's meow.

For me, ease of adjustability of seating depth is important, and so I like the Lee seater dies. These dies can be adjusted to provide a crimp if it is desired as well. I have used Forster, RCBS, and Redding micrometer seating dies, which when used in conjunction with a comparator will get you pretty close to the lands with a little variance.

However, I have found that since the bullets in the box are created in more than one pointer die press at the factory, the seating depths vary more with these dies than the seating depths vary with my el cheapo Lee die, because they engage the bullets at a point higher up on the ogive rather than near the shank portion of the bullets. RCBS at one point created two seating punches for me for their Competition seating die, one for 80 grain Sierra .224 bullets and the other for the 69 grain Sierra bullets. It was more consistent then.

Even so I use my Lee seater die now. Once set using the comparator, it produces very consistent seating depths, as measured with the Stoney Point/Hornady comparator.

The Lee FCD is a very nice touch for ammo to be run in semi autos where the bullets have cannellures.
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Old January 30, 2013, 08:36 AM   #24
Bart B.
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Gotta put a few comments in this thread. . . . .

If Lee Collet dies are so darned good, how come none of the match winning and record setting folks use them? Even the benchresters finally learned not too long ago that full length sizing their fired cases makes the bullets in their necks shoot straighter. They finally gave up on neck sized cases because neck only sizing dies do not hold the case body in line with the case neck sizing part of the die during the sizing process.

I think the oft stated advice about dies suggesting one doesn't need "good" ones until they shoot better is ill advised. Consider the fact that whatever rifle holding, aiming and trigger pulling skills one has, the inaccuracies of their ammo adds to it. Therefore, the closer bullet strikes to one's point of aim when the rifle fires, the better its hole represents where the shooter aimed and fired the rifle at. If one doesn't have accurate ammo, they'll have a hard time evaluating how well they shoot 'cause the feedback from poor ammo's not reliable.

Nobody needs a 150 dollar seating die. If your fired case sizing die ends up making case necks straight, correctly sized to the right diameter and well centered on the case neck, a standard, cheap, standard seating dies will make ammo good enough to shoot with the best. Full length sizing dies end up centering case necks best on case shoulders. And those with bushings do a better job because there's no expander ball around to bend a sized down case neck. No seating die makes a bullet straight in a case with a bent neck.

Bullets in the box are not created in more than one pointer die press at most bullet making factories; if you know of one that does, please state their name. Ogive's are not the same across them 'cause the jacket material has dimensional and structural tolerances. A few thosandths dimensional spread has no effect on shooting 1/4 MOA groups, at worst, in 200 yard indoor test ranges. And they'll shoot 1/2 MOA at 1000 yards.
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Old January 30, 2013, 09:22 AM   #25
Jimro
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Quote:
If Lee Collet dies are so darned good, how come none of the match winning and record setting folks use them? Even the benchresters finally learned not too long ago that full length sizing their fired cases makes the bullets in their necks shoot straighter. They finally gave up on neck sized cases because neck only sizing dies do not hold the case body in line with the case neck sizing part of the die during the sizing process.
Because match winning and record setting folks use what works for them. You know that you'll see a variety of reloading gear used by the top shooters. I mean, your question is one of the logical fallacies, begging the question. "If Redding Turret Presses are so good how come none of the match winning and record setting folks use them?" is an equally ludicrous logical fallacy.

If you think about all the top shooters that have custom dies made to fit their chamber specifications (for things like Palma and Benchrest) then it becomes obvious that those shooters won't be using collett dies. Does that mean you need custom dies to be a good shot?

And "start out with the best ammo possible" is one theory, but once you get down to MOA level of accuracy, which is completely doable with the cheapest set of Lee RGB dies. I know, because I've done it with Lee RGB dies in 308 and 223. RCBS Dies didn't produce any better ammo in 308, but it wasn't any worse either.

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