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Old November 7, 2010, 08:23 PM   #1
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Best reloading dies?

Any thoughts on who makes the best reloading dies? By "best" I guess I mean the most dimensionally precise dies.


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Old November 7, 2010, 08:41 PM   #2
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Lee dies are excellent. You can spend a lot more on other brands but the quality will not be any better.
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Old November 7, 2010, 08:52 PM   #3
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RCBS will do everything most reloaders will ever ask.

But when you care to send the very, very dimensionally/runout best...,
only Redding Competition dies will do.
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Old November 7, 2010, 09:17 PM   #4
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Depends on what type of reloading. For the best precsion rifle loading I use Wilson straight line dies with an arbor press. For a conventional press it's hard to beat Redding or Hornady.
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Old November 7, 2010, 10:27 PM   #5
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Another vote for redding competition

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Old November 7, 2010, 10:38 PM   #6
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When I've had a problem with a die set in a single stage press I've been able to solve it with Redding dies. They're a tiny step above the other green box, IMHO.
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Old November 7, 2010, 10:48 PM   #7
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I used the RCBS Gold Medal and Redding Competiton (loading VLD bullets)for my .223 and Redding Competition or Wilson Dies & arbor press for my 6mm BR. I get the least runout with the Wilson die. I have heard people mention the Forster dies are very comparable to the Redding and are cheaper. I know some who gets dies made specific for their chamber.
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Old November 8, 2010, 12:04 AM   #8
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i use redding and rcbs. I use lee crimp dies. All work just fine for me.
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Old November 8, 2010, 01:07 AM   #9
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I have Lyman, RCBS, Hornady, and Lee dies on my bench right now, and have used Dillon and Redding as well. All have been good dies, and have done what they are supposed to. My local stores have a larger selection of RCBS than any other brand, so thats what most of mine are, but, my favorites are Lyman and Redding. Seem to be a little better finished, and tighter tolerances between parts than the other brands. Lee is at the bottom of my list, simply because I hate the sliding powder thru expanded die that my 9mm set came with.......other than that, the Lee dies have done ok, but the finish and feel of the dies seems kinda cheap to me.
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Old November 8, 2010, 09:58 AM   #10
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I have both Lee and Dillon dies. I like the Dillon's more but the cost of Lee's is hard to beat.
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Old November 8, 2010, 11:15 AM   #11
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I have two dislikes about Lee dies. The rubber O-ring and nut combination has to be readjusted each time it is screwed into the press. This situation is acceptable for the sizing die, but personally I do not like to adjust the seating die every time I begin a reloading session especially when I am using the same bullets. The good new is this situation is easily remedied by using single allen screw clamshell nuts.
On the sizing dies, the decapper lock nut has to constantly be retightened.
If you encounter a stuck case, never attempt to remove the stuck case by removing the decapper lock nut and tapping the case out with the decapper rod. The decapper rods are made of soft metal and will bend.

Having said that, IMHO, Lees collet neck size dies, factory, and taper crimp dies are superior products.

RCBS made a mistake when they replaced their clam shell lock nuts and switched to the new type; yes the ones with the allen screw that damages the die threads when you tighten the 7/8 x 3/4 thread nut...what a ^%$# idea.

I do need to add I use Dillon dies on my progressive in the cals I shoot most often. They have larger initial openings. I have never had a problem with Dillon dies.

Last edited by chiefr; November 8, 2010 at 09:36 PM.
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Old November 8, 2010, 11:39 AM   #12
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My RCBS .30-06 dies are 1983 vintage. When I look inside the sizing die, I see circumferential machine marks. When I full length resize, I can see these marks on the resized cases (mostly slightly above the web). I know it's coming from the die because last night I sized some once fired brass that didn't show the marks before resizing. After resizing, they did!

Are carbide sizing dies available for rifle cartridges?

Of course, another solution is to neck size only. I've never done that, but I might have to give that a try.


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Old November 8, 2010, 01:27 PM   #13
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"...who makes the best reloading dies? By "best" I guess I mean the most dimensionally precise dies."

The only thing dimensionally critical in dies is the sizer. All makers purchase commonly available reamers made to SAAMI specifications. That's a range, not a specific point, so anything within the range is fully as in spec as any other. Thus, there is as much variation between sizers of the same brand as there is between brands.

How well seaters work depends more on the design than precision. The full length body/bullet sleeves of Forster and Redding Comp dies is the "best" design so they are tied for 1st place. The rest are tied for 2nd place; including some very costly "comp" dies in green boxes. Fact is, if a common seater's parts tolerances stack toward perfection it will seat as well as any other at any price. And micrometer heads are a mildly helpful user aid but they don't do a thing to improve the quality of the ammo produced.

Some really like Lee's "O" die lock rings, some don't. Ditto other makers unique features. Personal opinons of such external features are valid for the user but aren't a valid critique of the "quality" of the dies.

Given reasonably good dies and quality components a highly skilled loader can usually produce high quality ammo. Without the needed skill and understanding of precision reloading, no dies, components (or press) will compensate for that lack.

Bottom line, buy what you want because the fit of what you get is a crap shoot. If you get two dies in the same set that actually match your chamber you are a lucky man and brand/price has nothing to do with it! Pay whatever it takes to give you confidence and be assured the dies willl work just fine or the maker will exchange them.

Last edited by wncchester; November 8, 2010 at 01:42 PM.
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Old November 8, 2010, 02:36 PM   #14
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I started off with Lee dies, which are well worth the money.

Lately I've used Lyman, RCBS, and Hornady, all in pistol calibers. They're all excellent, and it is hard for me to pick a favorite among them.
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Old November 8, 2010, 03:42 PM   #15
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There's no science behind this. Just 45 years of reloading (I started with a Lyman nutcracker and Lee dippers in college). I would rank dies and reloading tools as follows:
1) Redding, 2) RCBS, 3) Lyman, 4) Hornady/Pacific, and 5) Lee.
I have no experience with Dillon.
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Old November 8, 2010, 04:05 PM   #16
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Hammie, we've been hammering 'em out about the same lenght of time, I started in '65. I had some fixed ideas and favorites on dies too...until I bought a concentricity gage and a Stoney Point case gage set (now Hornady)! Now I don't.

I still have old dies from Savage Arms, Herter's, Hollywood, Bair, Eagle, Lachmiller, Pacific, Wells, Ruhr-American and a couple of others as well as all of the current makers ('cept Dillon). If they are set up correctly, I find no average or consistant difference by brand after testing the output of dozens of die sets. The only die I ever found "bad", that meaning no way to make acceptably concentric ammo from it, was a bent necked .243 sizer from Savage...and they really didn't last long in the market!
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Old November 8, 2010, 05:02 PM   #17
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@wncchester: You've got me beat. I think I actually started reloading in 1967 and it was a .222 that I bought for 80$ (a fortune back then). Those were the days. I could feed my surplus .303 SMLE #4 for 3 dollars per hundred, and then in the evenings read about all the "model perfect" sporting goods in my Herters catalog. Oh... and every deer season a local service station raffled off a savage 99. (You had to buy at least 10 gallons of gas to get a raffle ticket.)

You're probably right about die performance. Any ranking is likely a preference, rather than as a result of actual engineering differences. I will hold fast to my opinion about Lee products. I think there is a difference in quality.
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Old November 8, 2010, 06:37 PM   #18
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Are carbide sizing dies available for rifle cartridges?
Carbide dies are pretty much a straight wall cartridge proposition.

1.Forster/Dillon 2.Redding 3.Hornady 4.RCBS 5. Lee
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Old November 8, 2010, 06:53 PM   #19
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I still have my '67 copy of Herter's catalog, finger through it about once a year ... and cry at what politicians, media and the "educational" system has killed off with PC stupidity and planned inflation.

The costs weren't all that cheap at the time, seems most things required about the same number of hours worked as they do today. But some of Herter's stuff was quite low even for the time; my biggest tear stains are on page 221 selling Sako barreled actions for $89.50 and a complete Vixen Delux for $172,50. Didn't get one, priorities; little girls needed shoes, mamma needed a new coat, etc. And I expected things to stay as they were forever. They didn't.

Other than surface finish, which is good enough, I like Lee dies about as well as any of their general type. And I prefer Lee's Factory Crimp Dies and Collet Neck Sizers above all others of their types.
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Old November 8, 2010, 07:23 PM   #20
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With precision manufacturing processes, all die makers can make dies that are dimensionally precise using the best carbon steel.

I use Dillon on my 550B press, RCBS on my single stage Rock Chucker, and have some custom dies made by Neil Jones as well.

If you're looking for something that standard dies don't do, then you might look at custom dies that have different sized bushing to compensate for different case neck thicknesses from one manufacturer to another.

Standard dies simply size the case down more than is needed and the expander ball pops it back out. This wears on the case neck and can pull it out of alignment. The custom die bushings only reduce the outside diameter and different bushings are used to vary the INSIDE diameter that holds the bullet based on their neck wall thickness. For example, .003 bullet tension in the Winchester case would equal about .001 in the Remington--not adequate.

Get the tension you want with the different bushings. More for hunting ammo. Less for target.

The Custom die's body can be made to your specific rifles' chamber. All you need to do is send in a couple fired cases.

For a good die set, RCBS is very good and they had good customer service last time I dealt with them. And they also will make a custom die for your rifles chamber, though I don't think they use the bushing system.

Didn't mean to get long winded talking about rifle dies. For pistol dies, all of the recommended dies have worked for their users. Dies the same make as the machine should work fine.
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Old November 8, 2010, 07:29 PM   #21
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I have LEE and Dillon......But I prefer the Dillons because of the large radius
Lee's seem sticky and dont load for me as fast - I toss the Orings ,as someone complained earlier

Dillon could use a seating die w adjustment knob would be nice
I often end up using my Lee Auto Disc instead of the Dillon powder
hopper,its just easier for me to slap in a disk and reload without having to
turn a knob for 15 mins finding a load
Dillons cost allot more but they clearly show more machine work and
I love that I can clean them without having to dissasemble
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Old November 8, 2010, 10:07 PM   #22
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Almost anyone's carbide or Titanium Nitride pistol sizing dies are serviceable. Hornady's come with the best lock rings.

Rifle sizing dies vary by what you want to do with them (neck size, full length size, shoulder bump, etc.). Most conventional full length sizing dies are about the same. Lee makes an excellent collet neck sizing die. RCBS makes and X-sizer die which does not require recurring case trimming after an initial trim to min length. Forster and RCBS Gold Medal sizer dies have a raised expander ball. Forster and Hornady come with the best lock rings.

Pistol seating dies vary considerably in design features. I like Hornady pistol seaters because they have a floating alignment sleeve, come apart without tools, on the press, for cleaning, and go back together without affecting the settings. They also have optional micrometer adjustment, and the best lock rings on a pistol die. Redding offers the competition pistol seating die with micrometer adjustment.

Rifle seating dies are also differentiated by design. The floating sleeve design of Forster or Redding Competition series is superior to any other seating die. The Forster is available with the same insides, with or without micrometer adjustment. The Redding competition rifle seater is only offered with micrometer adjustment. RCBS Competition and Gold Medal seating dies have a sliding alignment sleeve, but it only engages the case neck. They also have a window cut in the side of the die body to allow insertion of the bullet that works well. Hornady rifle seating dies have the same alignment sleeve design as their pistol seaters do. It is about the same performance as the RCBS Competition or Gold Medal series seaters. Forster and Hornady have the best lock rings.

For pistol (or rifle) neck expander, I prefer the Lyman or Redding M-type expanders, especially if you are reloading lead bullets.

For crimp dies, I prefer the Lee Factory Crimp die for rifle and bottleneck pistol cartridges, with a collet to crimp the case mouth. For straight wall pistol cartridges, most anyone's taper or roll crimp die is serviceable, with a slight nod to the Redding Profile crimp die for roll crimped cartridges.

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Old November 9, 2010, 04:18 AM   #23
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I prefer Redding followed by RCBS
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Old November 9, 2010, 07:57 AM   #24
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I have RCBS, Lyman, & Lee and haven't had a problem with any of them.
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Old November 9, 2010, 12:46 PM   #25
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So Flintlock.50, there you have it in a nutshell.

Everybody loves what they love but no one can tell you if, how or why their beloved makes any better ammo than any other! They can't, because there is no consistant difference to any of them.
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