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Old December 7, 2010, 05:20 PM   #1
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Best 9mm dies for specific setup

Greetings all:

It looks like I will be investing in some pistol reloading equipment in a month or so. Most of the equipment is spec'd out (starting with a Lee Classic Turret kit from Kempf, will then add a Hornady LNL Progressive). For the Classic Turret, I'm sticking with the Lee deluxe kit Kempf supplies, and will keep them on a Lee turret; my questions come regarding dies on the Hornady for budgeting purposes.

There are lots of threads on "what's the best die?" and so on; I understand there's a lot of correct answers to that question, depending how much weight you give to ease of use, bang for buck, how well it keeps settings between changes, and so forth. What my question is, what would be the most trouble free, easiest to adjust die assortment in the following specific environment:
  • Hornady LnL Progressive press
  • 9mm pistol (so taper crimp)
  • Processing two different bullet weights (147 at first for me, 115 later for my wife)
  • Will be running plated bullets at first, then moving to cast and jacketed bullets
  • Does not have to be all the same brand of die
  • With the LnL method of swapping dies, I'm willing to consider swapping out multiple clearly marked preset dies of an individual type
  • Will use either a lockout die (preferred) or powder cop die
  • Priming and power loading will be performed on the press
My emphasis is to eliminate as many points of human failure as I can. For example, to seat bullets of different depths, I'd want to either use a seating die with a micrometer so I can visually confirm the setting, or use two different seating dies and clearly mark them. The extra expense would be worth it to me over wondering if I already adjusted the die or not after a "honeydo". I don't intend to be careless reloading - I just want the process to be as robust as possible in the presence of human fallibility.
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Old December 7, 2010, 05:41 PM   #2
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Any dies will work.
If you want to buy a die set, buy the Lee 3-die set and a Lee taper crimp die. You can get the Lee 4-die set, but I consider the Lee Factory Crimp Die to be a special-purpose die rather than a universal die.
Put dies in bushings so you don't have to adjust. You will only have to change the seating stem and, possibly, the seating stem itself when you change bullets.
You will also buy turrets for each die set-up for the LCTP.
If you want to spend money for "optimum" dies, my choices would be:
1) Hornady New Dimension sizing die
2) The Hornady comes with the excellent Hornady powder measure. A lot of people seem unable to get the PTX (powder-through expanders) adjusted to not only expand the case but also bell the case mouth), so read the directions and learn how to set them up. You can get PTXs for lead bullets that are designed to flare/bell the case mouth even more than the standard PTX. I also used the Dillon powder measure (with the Dillon powder die and their cartridge specific "powder funnels") and the Lee Pro Auto-Disk with the Lee PTE dies. All three systems worked great.
3) RCBS Lock-Out die
4) Hornady seating die. Excellent die and you can remove the seating stem without removing the die from the press for cleaning and losing your set-up). Alternative, you can try the Lee seating dies that have the advantage that Lee will cut custom seating stems for a reasonable price and they work with Lee's bullet feeder which works pretty darn good compared to my trying to place the bullet on a case with shaky hands.
5) Lee taper crimp die or the Redding Profile Crimp Die (for roll crimps--this is THE die to have). You will probably want to have a Lee FCD for back-up in case you are having problems with case bulges and rounds not chambering.
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Old December 7, 2010, 07:39 PM   #3
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Easiest die to use Lee, best buy for the money Lee, most usefull Lee. Keeps their setting Lee. Get the deluxe 4 die set pistol sets.

Si vis pacem, para bellum
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Old December 7, 2010, 08:06 PM   #4
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I'll disagree with Jim - I have found Lee to be the worst in the categories he has mentioned, while RCBS, Hornady, Forster and Redding to be much better quality and able to hold their settings......JMO, YMMV
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Old December 7, 2010, 09:24 PM   #5
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"depending how much weight you give to ease of use, bang for buck, how well it keeps settings between changes, and so forth'

Best bang for the buck is Lee of course. For "ease of use" and "keeps settings", I own many dies from some dozen or more brands (several no longer made) and I've never found that to be different with any of them when they are used correctly so I guess I'm not "expert" enough to answer your question!

If I want a specific die with a specific feature I buy it specifically for that, otherwise I just get a Lee set. On average, there is as much difference between common die sets of the same brand as there is between brands.
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Old December 8, 2010, 07:07 AM   #6
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I'll agree with Jim; best value is the Lee die set. Easy to use and adjust as you reload.
I don't use them. They don't fit well in my Dillon press. (too short for the thickness of the tool head) I'm now using the Dillon dies. Very nice dies but they cost 2 1/2 times more than the Lee dies to make the same round. If you can get the Lee dies to work for you that would be great.
I've found very small differences in dies and shell holders. Your safest choice is the get the Hornady dies that the press maker used to develope the press.
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Old December 8, 2010, 08:00 AM   #7
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With the 100 free bullet offer the Hornady dies are competitive with the lee product. Get the Hornady 9mm dies set and a Hornady 9mm taper crimp die.

Remember you also get 500 free bullets with the LNL press.
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Old December 8, 2010, 08:16 AM   #8
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I recently picked up a LNL, and tried to go with the Lee dies, as I had been reloading for over a year on a Lee Classic Turret, and was comfortable with their dies. I ran into a difficulty trying to get the Hornady LNL powder drop to work with the Lee die, so I decied to just go with the Hornady dies, and have been very pleased ever since. Something else for you to consider.

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Old December 8, 2010, 08:52 AM   #9
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Sounds like you may be over-thinking this, especially for pistol reloading. I've reloaded over 9K rounds of lead, plated and jacketed bullets in the last year using a Lee hand press kit, powder dippers and 4-die sets for .38/.357, 9mm, .45 and .380. Total cost of the hardware, including tumbler, was about $200.

I recommend that you start out simple, find out if you like reloading or not, don't put any extra hurdles in your way with complex equipment, and then go from there once you understand what you are doing.

Last edited by spacecoast; December 8, 2010 at 12:01 PM.
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Old December 8, 2010, 09:04 PM   #10
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If cost is not an issue, then I would recommend Redding Competition Pro Series Carbide 3-Die Set. The die set includes a Carbide Sizing Die, Competition Seating Die ( with micrometer) and Profile Crimp Die. The die set does not include an expander die.

I have used a Hornady LNL progressive press and these Redding dies to load 25,000+ rounds of 9mm over the last 2 years and have had excellent results.

At MidwayUSA, the 3 die set is $153.
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Old December 8, 2010, 10:53 PM   #11
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I use Lee dies on all my Dillon 1050s. All I ever had to do for the 1050s and my Hornady L-N-L AP was to unscrew the Lee lock ring off the die, remove the o-ring, and put the lock ring back on upside down. That gets you an additional 3 threads or so. Also, some people put the die's lock ring on the bottom of the die under the tool head.
If I had the willingness and money to do it, I would replace all my lockrings with the Dillon one-inchers.
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Old December 8, 2010, 11:10 PM   #12
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Considering how broke I am right now, if I was to consider reloading, I would get the little Lee reloading press and the Lee book for about $35(?), a set of Lee carbide dies, a Lee Auto-Prime and the set of special shell holders, and the set of Lee scoops. Sort of going back to where I was in the early '70s, except then I had to place the individual primers in the seating cup and prime on the press.
Just need some accurate loads and don't need anything even close to max. Put most of my money into some powder (231/HP-38), primers, and bullets.
As I learn if I like reloading, I would save all my money for a decent scale and powder measure. I have seen some very nice $30 digital balances that take batteries (and several POS ones). Balance beams are to be found at flea markets, eBay, and your local drug dealer's house.
Speaking of "the old days," in the '70s an RCBS die set consisted of a steel sizing die, an expander and depriming die, and a seating and crimp die. The die sets today are the way they are because Hornady and Dillon brought progressive presses down in cost where most reloaders could afford and justify them. Dillon had a 4-station and Hornady had a 5-station. Dillon sold mail-order only (so you bought it sight unseen but they were really priced well) and the Hornady could be found at really good gun stores.
Heck, I remember when Sears was one of the better local gun stores and you could order directly from Shotgun News and have your gun delivered in the mail. Back in the early '60s (pre-Johnson administration), you would go to the local high school gym for the NRA shooter's training program and you could drop your rifle or shotgun off with the principal so you could go hunting after school.
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