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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
While researching reloading equipment I find there are some brands of reloading dies I've never heard of until now. Brands like Redding, Dillon, and one other I can't remember. I thought I had decided on buying RCBS because that's what I used in the past. However, after doing some research I'm not so sure.

I will be reloading 9 mm and .40 S&W. Lee has a four die set for both calibers that look attractive. Then I came across the Redding brand and they are priced about 3X higher than Lee and about 2X RCBS or Hornady. Wonder if they are that much better?

What is everyone's experience with the various brands of dies? I want good reliable dies that I can set and they will stay set and not wear and cause problems after a year or two. I plan to settle on no more than two recipes for each caliber and I want uniform and consistent loads every time.
 

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I can't comment on Redding, but I do use Hornady, RCBS and Lee. I use the Hornady dies exclusively for my .45 acp loads, and only have Lee for my few 9's. RCBS dies are equally as good as the Hornady, and I use them for my .38/.357 reloads. Lots of folks don't care for Lee dies, but I find them capable and reasonably priced. The Lee Factory Crimp Die is used with each of my calibers loaded.

Enjoy your time reloading and shooting your loads.
 

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I have all the brands that you listed except for Dillon. They all make equal quality ammo. Some say that the Lee are inferior because of the materials that they use but I have yet to see it.
The fourth die in the Lee set is a Factory Crimp Die. I love these because they have a carbide ring that resizes your case after seating a bullet and it isn't case length specific for crimping.
Some have said that the rifle neck sizing die has a problem with gaulling. That would be the collet die but I haven't had that issue either.
If the Lee dies are all you can afford or have available, use them. If you want to spend the money on the higher priced ones, well that's okay too. Redding has pistol dies out now with 2 carbide rings but for the $90 I'll pass.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I have all the brands that you listed except for Dillon. They all make equal quality ammo. Some say that the Lee are inferior because of the materials that they use but I have yet to see it.
The fourth die in the Lee set is a Factory Crimp Die. I love these because they have a carbide ring that resizes your case after seating a bullet and it isn't case length specific for crimping.
Some have said that the rifle neck sizing die has a problem with gaulling. That would be the collet die but I haven't had that issue either.
If the Lee dies are all you can afford or have available, use them. If you want to spend the money on the higher priced ones, well that's okay too. Redding has pistol dies out now with 2 carbide rings but for the $90 I'll pass.
The factory crimp die is what makes the Lee attractive to me. The only problem with Lee is their reputation for lesser quality than other brands. Not sure if that is true today, but I had problems with them years ago and friends that used RCBS didn't have any issues. Cost is not a problem, but I don't want to spend more than necessary to get good quality components.
 

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What ever die set you settle on, you can purchase the Lee Factory Crimp die separately. I really like it, and use it on all my pistol reloads.
 

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The Lee dies use an "O" ring locking system that I don't care for. I thing the best value in dies is RCBS carbide for pistols. My favorite crimping die is a Lyman for my .38's.

Go Carbide for pistol calibers.
 

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I use Lyman, Hornady and Lee dies, and plan on buying my next set in RCBS. I haven't noticed any difference in the 3 brands that I currntly use other than the lock rings on Lee dies leave a bit to be desired. That being said, they are great tools, and I cannot find any flaw in the ammo they have produced. I am also a supporter of the Lee factory crimp dies. I buy Lee crimping dies exclusivley! Just an fyi, Hornady claims to have a crimping die in their auto pistol die sets, it is a roll crimp, not the taper crimp die you need for these cartridges.
 

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I use RCBS 4 die set for pistol caliber reloading; use Lee deluxe sets for my .223 and .243 with good resullts: Full length size for once fired cases new to me and after a number of times use; neck size after fire-formed to my rifle.
 

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Two other questions to consider are these:

1 - are you planning on seating and crimping in seperate or same steps? I prefer seperate steps.

2 - are you going to want a "powder through" expanding die? Dillon dies are designed for use on their machines and thus have "powder through" capability. You can still use them on any press though. Most other die sets are not "powder through", ie dropping the powder charge at the same time as you are expanding the case mouth.
 

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i mostly use rcbs, with lee making up most of my 2nd teir. I also have a few C&H, and a couple other odd ones as well.

I like rcbs.. the lee are affordable.. many are 4 die sets if pistol.. and have a powder dipper.

I also like the use of a factory crimp sometimes.. I also have a lee universal decapper..

in the end... they all work... and if I'm looking for a caliber I need.. the name of the die rarely matters as much to me...

I can't even afford to look at dillon.. ;)

i use a rcbs rock chucker supreme press, and a Lee classic C press.
 

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I have been reloading for over 25 years, reload for 30+ calibers, do most all my reloading on a progressive Dillon press. I have die sets from all the manufactures listed above.

The only ones that have been a problem are LEE dies. They are the only ones in my collection of dies that rusted over time. Their locking system is stupid (o-rings, come on, you need a locked on ring to be able to install and remove dies and keep the settings). The internal finish quality is lacking (but appears not to effect the ammo all that much). The LEE collet neck sizing dies have galled, on occasion, requiring some stoning to remove it. The bottom line on all LEE stuff is the designs are often unique and inventive but the materials choices to implement the design are wrong or poor. This goes for virtually all of the LEE stuff and believe me I have tired a major portion of it.

The shining light in the LEE area is their RIFLE Factory Crimp Die (FCD). It does such a credible job of crimping the cases that I use it on most of my RIFLE rounds. It works on a collet that squeezes the case horizontally for a crimp. Normal crimp dies squeeze the case vertically and if the crimp is over done can swell the case neck, and even the body, such that it may not fit in the chamber of the gun. But the collet on those dies can and have galled for me. Again the wrong materials used, at least on the early examples of FCD's I own..

The LEE PISTOL Factory Crimp Die works on a entirely different principal that offers little advantage except to separate the seating process from the crimping process. It crimps just like any normal crimp die (vertically) but includes a sizing ring at the base that assures any bulging of the case due to crimping is ironed out. I suppose that is desirable for those that don't set up their crimping die correctly. I find the Pistol version a waste for ME.

I often bash LEE based on my experience with their reloading stuff and rightfully so, in my opinion. But if your budget is limited then LEE stuff will do you until you can afford better equipment. To me LEE stuff is a stop gap measure but we all get to choose and I choose to only use their Rifle FCD and in that light I have slowly replaced any LEE die sets and equipment still in my possession.

This response is not to bash LEE users and lovers but to express MY opinion of LEE equipment. Your opinion may vary.

LDBennett
 

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The only ones that have been a problem are LEE dies. They are the only ones in my collection of dies that rusted over time.
so far the only ones i have with any rust are some lyman dies.. they look chromed to me. I only have a couple sets, and they are well used. chrome looks flaky too. Not my favorite dies by far. I like rcbs the most, I think.. C&H not bad either..

Their locking system is stupid (o-rings, come on, you need a locked on ring to be able to install and remove dies and keep the settings).
i agree 100%.. that's a totallly usless setup for me. i replace all mine with rcbs lock rings....
 

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I have to go along with the Lee lock rings. They get replaced with Hornady rings first thing.
 

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yep.. IMHO.. they are a joke. luckilly the lee die sets are cheaper than rdbs.. so I can figure in price averaging when i stick a rcbs set ring on there. I buy them in the packs of 5 from midway when i mke an order.. always keep a pack on hand in case i find a lee die. they really are a stupendous joke. I but a set a while back and the orings were so bad they would fall out of the lock ring groove and did nothing at all.. wouldn't even hold the die in place in my press to use.. let along setting it's re-setable position at removal.

i emailed lee.. was surprised to get NO resononse.

any time i have emailed rcbs.. i got qquick response.

had a screw break on a rcbs trimmer... emailed them trying to find a part number to order a repair screw... the reply i got was asking for my address so they could mail me one free.. was quite happy. it came in a few days later!
 

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soundguy:

If a person has to retrofit locking rings on the LEE dies, and the quality of the internal machining doesn't match any other manufacturer's, and LEE doesn't offer reasonable service to email queries, then why buy LEE in the first place???? Like I said before LEE is the "Harbor Freight" of reloading tools.

LDBennett
 

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i've not experienced a quality of internal machining issue with a lee die.

i can get a lee die set 5$ - 6$ cheaper than an rcbs ( which is my preferred ).

It's usually a 3/4 die set.. not 3/2 , and comes with a powder dipper. I kinda like that dipper.

when i average out the cost of the rcbs lock rings they are only about 80 cents each.

the lee ring I pull from that die then goes into a cup. 2 lee lock rings can then be used as a pal ut / double nut and will lock a die in place.

thus ever 2 lee die sets i buy, one of them can get the nuts from the other set.. and one set gets rcbs lock rings.

thus I'm out about 1.50$ per 2 lee sets

the cost savings on 2 lee stes is .. lets call it 5.5$ for an average.. thus on 2 sets lee vs 2 sets rcbs.. that's 11$ savings.. minus the 1.5$ extra cost that's a net savings of 9.5$

that means after I buy 6 lee die sets.. my 7th is free or I can get an rcbs for a couple bucks.

I don't reload 1000 rounds a day.. so the lee dies are fine so far.

i havn't experienced and brass or projectile damage.. no scratches.. no rust (yet? )

I DO like the universal decapper from lee.. i know other have them too. I also like those crimp dies.

If I turned out thousands of cartridges a day... it might mean more to me.

I would like to note. just from observation.. some of the mst expensive relaod stuff I've come across is dillon.

Considering dillon and lee are on polr opposite ends of the price spectrum.. I don't find it the least bit odd that a dillon person doesn't like lee equipment.

I do agree that lee is the cheapest reloading equipment you can get.

i also agree that you can't compair the 20$ classic C lee press i have in terms of quality, ergonomics or functionality to the 190$ rock chucker supreme that i have.

IMHO.. both have their places.

for someone wanting to get into and starting and staying cheap on a single caliber.. perhaps a pistol caliber tht will not requitre trimming.. a person can step into a lee kit for about 110$ and then just buy powder and primers, brass and projectiles and be relaoding in an hour...

I plan on getting one of those lee handloader 2-fist, no bench jobs.. again.. cheap but would let me crank out a few rounds while fishing or something.

:)


not sure there are right or wrong answers to this question.. just issues of cost and perhaps even durability or suitability.

the lee lock rings are a joke peronally. I look at it as an 80cent cost thing... Unless I live a very long time.. I'll probably never waer out my cheaper lee die's and surely not my rcbs dies. if i do live long enough to wear out one of the lee's and can still shoot.. I'll invest another 28$ .. :) or 33$ depending on who's die set I pass first, when i need it.

soundguy
 

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soundguy:

We all buy what suits us. But I shudder to think that a newby who comes here for help on reloading equipment is only subjected to "Buy LEE". What a way to get frustrated when the LEE equipment fails when a few dollars more would have gotten lifetime equipment. I've been through this with LEE stuff over and over through the years. I only try to get a newby aligned as to what you get for your money. And I agree for some it is LEE or perhaps nothing. But the newby should know that there is something better that is made of the right materials and will last. I care not what anyone buys nor do I care if they align themselves with what I buy or do. I only offer my experience and opinions based on over 25+ years of reloading for about 30 different cartridges, both rifle and pistol. They can take it or leave it. Their choice but at least I got a view forward that is not "Buy LEE" to start.

As for Dillon dies...way too expensive and not much better than good old RCBS. The Dillon press is great as is their service. My Dillon RL550B is my only reloading press currently (and for the last 25 years!) except for a huge RCBS single stage press I need for 50BMG.

I challenge you to take an RCBS sizing die, invert it and look at the machining done to the interior. Now take a LEE die and do the same. On the dies I have (and yours may differ as mine are all not current versions) the difference is great. I have a lathe and a mill and understand a little bit about machining. The LEE machined surface may be adequate but just. I don't buy "Harbor Freight" tools and, with only a few exceptions, no longer buy LEE stuff. (The exception is the LEE RIFLE Factory Crimp Dies because no one else makes anything better. The RIFLE FCD are truly unique and very inventive and work very well.) But that's it for me and LEE.

Others can choose to do and buy whatever they like and they will. But at least I got my 2 cents in and hopefully educated them a bit.

LDBennett
 

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I wasn't under the impression that people were being subjected to a 'lee only' environment here.

Just browsong the forums I see a pretty good mix of equipment being used and sugested.

personally, i have the lee and rcbs press.. the recbs does all the real work, the lee is a decapper station.

for scales I have rcbs and lyman.

for case prep, I have a manual rcbs trimer and a power trimmer, plus a lyman case prep station that is one of those multi headed powered jobs.

my case gauge sets are lyman ( i think? )

I have a set of dippers.. lee

my die's are about 50% rcbs, 30% lee, 15% C&H, and 5% lyman

most of my reloading 'hand tools' are winchester or rcbs

I have some generic powder handling and mor emanual case handling tools that are lyman.

for cleaning.. I have a harbor freight vibro tumbler ( works great .. was less than 1/2 the price of another model.. including a long extended warranty )

I do some metal work myslef, though don't currently own a lathe or mill. While I have not visually compaired an rcbs or other dies to each other, I will for sure go take a look tonight. I assume I will find more pronounced millmark ridges on the lee if that's what you are refering to. I'm not doubting you.. So far for limited reloading.. it's not been an issue. Again.. if I was a bulk loader.. it might? If I was a bulk loader.. I might have more than a 28$ die and single stage press setup too. more investment usually equals more results. no argument there.

As for harbor freight tools... I gotta tell you. same chinese factrory that makes craftsman makes harbor freight ;)

My other hobby is rebuilding tractors. I've got a few acers full of rebuilt antiques in equipment barns. ROWS of them. I'm well published in many antique equipmetn magazines.

i can tell you that 99% of the work was done with chines hand and power tools. I've had no more breakage from chinese tools now than i have had in the past on craftsman or snap on or matco. And the repalcement policy is the same on hand tools.

break it.. .. free replacement.

hard to pay 26$ for a 1" sears wrench.. see COO of china on it.. and it has a lifetime warranty... or pay 5$ for a pittsburg wrench.. smae COO.. same warranty.

both turn a nut off a bolt... made same place... kinda hard to argue on that one.. unless you are flush with cash and the 'name' thing is the issue.

for people that are rich... cool... buy the most expensive brand there is. It stands a good chance of being the best.. ( but may not be ). it may even be a few % points higher in quality than one many times lower in price if you are lucky... ;)

again.. to others.. buy what you want or can afford.

if it costs more. it might be worth more. if it costs less, it likely is worth less. Quality is going to be some strange variable between the 2.

I really wanted a rifle in 416 rigby.

i couldn't afford a real nice one.. but still wanted the sore shoulder.. i ended up getting a cz550

it was buy cheaper and use.. or not get at all. sadly many decisions are like that.

good day to all. ( no argument intended )
 

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Personally, I'd say get a 3 die set and an extra taper crimp die. I have no love for "post seating sizing dies", and can see no use for them when dies are properly adjusted (I think of the millions of rounds of ammo that were reloaded successfully prior to Lee's FCD). I believe different reloading dies are pretty close (some more precise than others and that is reflected in the price) and you can make safe, accurate ammo with any. Many reloaders are "dedicated fans" of one manufacturer of equipment and will defend their choices to the death! :D
 

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Just a couple more comments.

CZ rifles (and actually all their guns) are the most guns for the least money. I have many of them and have even replaced Winchester and Remington rifles with CZ's. You'll never get an argument from me that CZ guns are not excellent.

I too at one time was looking at one of the "Elephant cartridge" guns but never went through with it. It would have been a CZ 550 if I bought one. Instead I have a 50 BMG wildcat (actually 50DTC, legal for sale in California whereas the 50 BMG is not...same case with the shoulder pushed by a few thousandths and renamed to get around CA's 50 BMG ban). It is a bolt operated conversion unit that goes on a AR-15 lower. Now that's recoil! In watching others shoot it, it pushes the shoulder of a seated person back about a foot. We got it all recoil padded up so it doesn't hurt but just pushes you far. We are shooting at 800 yds. I reload for it with my RCBS huge single stage press, some old LEE dippers, and a digital scale. The brass is all Lake City once fired, fire formed for the 50 DTC chamber. The load is 220 grains of slow burning powder using a 650 grain bullet...impressive.

I have been through the years of buying cheap guns and cheap tools and cheap cars...NO MORE. I'm too old to be sacrificing any more. I buy what I want when I want it when I have the money in hand. My plan is to spend the last dime the day I die. Screw buying Harbor Freight tools and cheap LEE reloading stuff.

LDBennett
 
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