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Die sets

2156 Views 28 Replies 16 Participants Last post by  bustedmp
Is there a big difference between the name brands of die sets. I see theres a big price difference but what about quality? is lee beter than rcbs or hornady, or what? Im looking for a 9mm set.
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I sense another rainbow war coming.

That said, I have Lee, RCBS, Hornady, C-H, Redding and Lyman dies. They all produce quality ammo. Some say Lee uses inferior materials in their dies and that results in poor quality. I call BS on that. A lot of people don't like the lockrings on Lee dies, I'm one of them so I just replace them.
There is more but I'll let others say it because I hate these tiny buttons on my phone. I'll just say, it's your money in the end.
Some say Lee uses inferior materials in their dies and that results in poor quality. I call BS on that.
Lee does use inferior materials, and that results in dies that may not last as long or may be damaged easier.

All the name brands machine their stuff accurately, and all of them will produce quality ammo.

I was given some die sets about a year ago that were all stored in exactly the same conditions (in their factory boxes in the same cardboard box in basement) for many years. The Lee dies had some surface rust; the RCBS set did not. The rust cleaned right up, and I don't think the dies are damaged at all (don't know for sure; I don't load for .45 ACP yet.. but I have a set of dies when I do :D).

As howlnmad said, it's your money. Even as someone who acknowledges Lee uses cheaper materials, I still buy Lee dies. They're about half the price of many other brands, and I personally got in to reloading largely for the money savings.
Let me clear up my confusing statement from above. I agree that Lee uses a lesser quality steel in the die bodies. I was calling BS on the lesser quality ammo.
Kinda like asking if there if a big difference in automobile quality by brand. You do get what you pay for. Even in same brands, Dillon is an example, their standard dies are reasonable in price and quality, their carbide dies are more expensive but better quality. I've also heard Lee dies are just not as hard/durable as say, RCBS or Redding. I'd say don't skimp on quality dies, they'll pay for themselves in the long run
i have rcbs, lee, lyman, pacific, C&H and herters.

I prefer rcbs the best.

i have a few sets that are chromed.. I tend to like them less.

as for lifespan.. can't add anything.... I do know that i've bought plenty of used die sets.. most are not lee.. don't know if that means lee don't make it.. or others make it better.

my big complaint with lee are the silly excuse for a lock ring with a hollow nut and oring. I've simply repalced all mine as I get them with rcbs lock rings. I hav ethe nifty rcbs lock ring quick wrench.. so it makes it nice. I buy the lock rings in the multi pack.. ans since Ilike the wrench.. it is nice to just swap out all my dies with that style ring...

I've made and shot ammo from all the brands Imentioned.

other than usualy foul ups, like a broke decap pin here and there.. or a stuck case I experienced yesterday ( probably op error? ) I think they can all make ok shootable ammo.
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I will chime in on this, too. I have die sets made by Lee, RCBS, Lyman, and Redding. They all perform the same job and they all perform that job very well. I have had to clean rust off of my RCBS dies and I have had to clean rust off of my Lee dies, does that make one of them inferior to the other? I have been using the same LEE .38/.357 and 30.06 die sets since I bought my first single stage LEE press about 35 or 36 years ago. I have had no real problems with any of the dies that I own from all four makers.
Chevy, Ford, Dodge, Hyundai, Mercedes

Those who hate Lee, hate Lee. I don't, and were they not around (a success for over 50 years by the way) I would not be able to afford to reload. Their products are made stronger than they need to be to get the job done. They also have superb customer service.

I would challenge anyone to tell the difference in ammo made with the same components on every brand and style reloading machine. They ALL make safe, accurate and reliable ammo if the reloader does their part.

Buy what matches your preference and budget.
So far everyone who responded to this thread has praised their choice of dies and defended against an attack on all LEE products. Since no one YET has made that attack there is something lacking in this thread..... The attack of LEE. So someone has to step up and do it, I guess, and I'm qualified.

LEE Dies:

The savings gets eaten away when you have to replace parts and pieces of the LEE dies to make them workable (think never-really locking ring on die body and depriming rod). Their neck size only dies use a collet operating system and is not made of the right materials. Since all parts of the collet system are the same steel, it galls eventually which is a common problem in engineering when two similar metals are run against each other. While I like the rifle version of the Factory Crimp Die (for its innovative design) it too can suffer the same galling as it suffers exactly the same problem. When you inspect the interior of several sizing dies from several different manufacturers (the interior is the working surface of any die, not the exterior) the LEE machining suffers in that comparison. LEE dies are the "Harbor Freight" dies of the reloading industry. They do the job for awhile.

Other LEE products:

I have tried many of their products from powder measures to balances and all suffer from the use of the wrong materials (mostly plastic) whereas others make the equivalent tools of metal. Sometimes the operability of the LEE tool suffers as well as not being all that precision or durable.

LEE stuff is cheaply made to a low price but is often very inventive. Too bad they don't use the right materials. But I give it to LEE because they forced the reloading industry to lower their prices. This happened decades ago when reloading tools were very expensive compared to now (adjusted for inflation).

I still use LEE Factory Crimp Dies for rifle cartridges (not pistol FCD's because they are a completely different and less desirable design). The Rifle version work well until galling takes over on the collets.

But we each get to choose. I typically pop for the better tools because I can. Your financial position in life may not allow that. But remember you kind of get what you pay for.

LEE Bashing over and out. This thread is now complete.

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Thanks LD, we knew you wouldn't disappoint us.

We did bash the Lee a little but since the OP was refering to 9mm dies, I didn't see a reason to bash some of the other products.
Thanks LD, we knew you wouldn't disappoint us.
Yes, we are complete, now!
I have lee and RCBS.
I like lee for handgun and RCBS for rifle. just my personel pref.
Well all the replays were interesting. It's all personal opinion I guess. I don't really want to be buying extra parts in order for the die to work good. I'd rather buy 1 and have it last, so I guess if I can pick up a rcbs 3 die carbide set for $50 ill get it cuz it's a good price and its gunna last for a good while. After all its only 15$ more than the lee classic 3 die set. Well thanks again for all the interesting information.
Don't forget to buy extra decapping pins for the RCBS dies, you will need them. Or wait til it breaks and call RCBS, they'll send you some for free.
Ok will do thanks.
a rcbs decap 4 or 5 pack is on the shelf at most rcbs sellers... I've used a couple so far... just stay away from berdan and always keep the decap/size stem tight and not wobbly loose after cleaning and the broke decap pin issue is almost non existant.

as for the lock rings. well.. lee failed there IMHO.. as I said. i reblac all my rings with rcbs style so i can use my rcbs sleeve wrench.. just makes it easier for all my dies to use it.

thus on a 3 die set.. that; a few extra bucks for locking rings.. on the flip side.. the lee rings are not complete throw aways.. 2 of the back to back, used as pal or locking nuts biased agaist each other will work. occasionally I'll get a used die set with no lock rings.. and if it's a limited use thing.. I'll toss a couple of my lee rings on it since I have a cup full of them... 2 of them lock a die in place.. ;)
Does it really matter? Lee Dies are not expensive but they work. If you reload many calibers some dies are not often used. The high use dies in my Dillion are Dillion and the CO-AX Press is mostly RCBS. Small batch runs Lee works just fine. I see many post looking for deals on Walmart Rifles as they are low cost. Why buy enconomy rifles and expensive dies?:confused:
Well spoken dog soldier; all my reloading gear is lee with the exception of my scale, which was a gift. Lee works fine for me, and it is all that I can afford
I understand that finances often force a particular buy (like not buying a Cadillac and instead, buying a econo Chevy) but I just want newcomers to reloading to understand that there are choices and better tools are just better. So I give reasons to back up my position that sometimes better tools cost less in the long run.

In my early reloading days well over several decades ago, I bought lots of LEE stuff because at that time that is all I could afford. But over the years it has all been replaced with better reloading tools not because I could, so much, but as I found the LEE stuff lacking in one way or another.

Some who come here can afford better reloading tools but are pulled way from that by the apparent low LEE pricing. Those are the reloaders I want to get to, to explain that if you can buy the better tools then do it because in the end you will be money ahead. I present my finding on LEE stuff only as proof. There has never been anything else in reloading that has been as frustrating to me as the failed LEE reloading tools, from presses to balance beams and most all of the other LEE stuff in-between.

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Let us look at Lee products as an entry level reloading tool. I have been reloading for over 50 years. In all those years I have never bought dies as an investment product. I started out with a Lyman Tong Tool as it was all I could afford at the time. I enjoyed reloading and over the years that little Lyman Tool which I still have has been replaced by 7 modern presses.
Lee Loading tools are a great tool for begining handloaders. If you want to learn handloading and you are on a tight budget Lee tools will serve you well. Just start handloading.:D
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