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Old April 20, 2007, 04:27 PM   #1
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How Important

is overall cartridge length? Assuming you can read a tape measure to the
16th of an inch, is that good enough for reloading, or Is a Caliper just as necessary as a toilet?
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Old April 20, 2007, 04:42 PM   #2
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I would go with the calipers. you want to get down to around 1/64
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Old April 20, 2007, 06:19 PM   #3
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Extremely important. Especially for rimless straight walled cases since they headspace off the case mouth. Tape measures are for carpenters. For the precise measurements involved in handloading, calipers are a must have.
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Old April 20, 2007, 06:19 PM   #4
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Cartridge length is limited by the magazine and rifle! A cartridge will vary significantly depending on bullet and seating. There is not a single answer.
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Old April 20, 2007, 06:38 PM   #5
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I'd recommend a good digital caliper - and using a case gague so you can check every load easily. Before I box anything up - I run every round thru a case gague - just takes a couple of minutes ( Dillon and others sell case gagues ).
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Old April 20, 2007, 11:19 PM   #6
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" that good enough for reloading..." No. 1/16" is 62.5 thousands of an inch. 1/16" too long and you'll have feeding issues. A tape measure isn't accurate enough. Calipres aren't terribly expensive.
"...gague..." That'd be a guage. A case guage is ok, but isn't versatile enough. A calipre can be used to measure case length and a whole bunch of other stuff too. Like BigJimP says, go with a digital. Easier to read than a regular vernier. There are dial calipres too. They're not too bad. Obviously not as quick to read as a digital.
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Old April 21, 2007, 07:04 PM   #7
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Using a tape measure to eyebal COL is like using a tablespoon to eyeball a powder charge.

A set of woodworking calipers used in conjunction with the tape measure would be better than a plain tape. However, the dial caliper is essential.
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Old April 21, 2007, 07:35 PM   #8
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Just go down to Harbor Freight and put down the 15-20 bucks for a digital caliper and be done with it.
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Old April 21, 2007, 07:42 PM   #9
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One thing to look for when you buy a digital caliper is how many decimal places. Most of the ones I saw at Harbor Freight only went two decimal places. I bought a good dial caliper at Harbor Freight for $20.
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Old April 22, 2007, 05:15 AM   #10
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without calipers

All blowed up

I hold my ammo to +/-.005" or less, based on load.
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Old April 22, 2007, 10:10 AM   #11
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If you are just blowing away ammo, anything works as long as it goes thru the gun safely. Wanna hit something? Now you are in a different ballpark. Hardly ever do I need to play with various powder loads in working up an accuracy load for my shooters. I pick a powder that will give me 80% or better loading density with a midrange weight bullet. Then all I vary is the cartridge length to dial in accuracy. In the case of the 40SW, the same loading data but varying the OAL, I will go from an extreme spread group of 4" at 25 yds to .75" group at 25 yds just by shortening the OAL by .010 from max length. OAL is critical if you want accurate loads. Also, in loading the smaller pistol cases like the 9mm, pressure can be raised dramatically by seating the bullet deeper.
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Old April 22, 2007, 10:38 AM   #12
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Brownell's and Midway both sell quality dial calipers at a good price. Get one!
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Old April 22, 2007, 07:46 PM   #13
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I have two Harbor Freight digital calipers. They are good to .0005 resolution, and I have never had a problem with either one. The last one cost me $12.95 and came with 2 batteries.
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