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Die quality and why do you choose one make over another

Discussion in 'Ammunition & Reloading' started by Stevenav, Aug 15, 2013.

  1. Stevenav

    Stevenav Redmond Active Member

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    Before I get going on asking questions or raising points, full disclosure time.

    I've reloaded on and off since I was 16 or so. I started with reloading using my brothers stuff and only recently got back into it.

    Right now... all my dies are Lee. 45 acp, 5.7x28, 30-06, 9mm and 7.62

    Why did I choose lee over the others. Mostly because I choose a lee O ring single stage press because as an engineer I knew that the o ring was about as strong a form as you can get. I wanted something simple and I liked the overall look of the armature.

    That said... I went with lee dies because I knew they'd work with the press and I wouldn't have press incompatibility weighing me down.

    That said... I now am curious what other people think of Lee as a brand and what maker makes the best dies for the sport and more precisely... why people think one die maker is better than another.

    From what I've seen, Lee has a good rep for making complete die sets... including a factory crimp die... which deliver very good performance and durability... my question though is... what's the best? and why? What sets other dies or die manufacturers above or below each other.

    I've heard some people say they've got to have rcbs or Dillion.. but I've yet to hear anyone say WHY.

    What features or attributes makes for the best dies and why manufacturer really hits it out of the park when it comes to those features?

    Me, I'm pleased with my lee stuff, but I'm not married the brand. What, if anything, is the reason you personally choose to go with a particular die maker?
     
  2. DieselScout

    DieselScout S Clackamas County Well-Known Member

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    I buy RCBS because the guy who taught me how to reload used them and in general they have a good reputation. Their price is middle of the road and from what I have heard their customer service is top notch. I do have a Lee press and bought it used as the price was very good.
     
  3. IheartGUNS

    IheartGUNS WaCo Well-Known Member

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    My first set was rcbs (9mm, and 45acp both carbide) I have no problems with them. Then I was looking for 10mm rcbs dies, no one had them so I figure I'd try Lee and replace them with rcbs later... I still haven't replace the 10mm dies yet lee dies are solid, price is good, service/warranty is great. I buy other brands also, but I will look for Lee first.
     
  4. ma96782

    ma96782 Vancouver, WA Well-Known Member

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    There are "little things" that'll make a difference, when choosing a die set.

    _____________________

    OK......for example:

    Say that you break a LEE decapping pin (yes, it happens). So, have you ever went looking for a LEE brand decapping pin/expander for a .303 at your local store?

    Well, your local store probably has RCBS decapping pins on the shelf.

    Ever tried to get that same exact headspace setting for your LEE F/L sizer die once it was removed from your single stage press?

    For me, the RCBS set screw locking ring is better vs the LEE's rubber O ring lock. With the RCBS (once it's set) you screw it down and you're off to the races. The LEE system requires "setting up" for the correct headspace everytime. Yes, you could modify your LEE rings or just buy some RCBS locking rings. Your choice, spend the money or use your time?

    But then.....

    Got your RCBS die set. But not the shell holder. LOL. Buy the LEE set and you got it all at one great price.
    ______________________

    Oh wait........don't get me wrong. I use LEE dies for my pistol loading with my LEE M1000 press. The dies were free with the press. Anyway, with the dies set into a "head," I don't have to mess with settings. And, instead of switching heads, powder measure settings, shell plates and primer parts to make a caliber change (like when using a Dillon), I simply switch out the entire machine on my bench. The LEE was cheap enough for me to do that.

    Of course the LEE M1000 isn't for making larger caliber rifle cartridges. For me, the single stage press still rules there. BTW, I don't get much use out of the Dillon anymore. LOL.

    Anyway, I tend to buy RCBS for rifle dies. Yes, RCBS does not make a "factory crimp die." So, If you like..........buy the LEE set w/ the FCD or just add it to your "other brand" dies.

    IMHO, quality wise.........they are both good enough to make ammo. But sometimes the "little things" make a difference.

    Aloha, Mark
     
  5. ma96782

    ma96782 Vancouver, WA Well-Known Member

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    I've finally found a single web site with pics of the various mfn's dies...........

    RCBS.........

    dies


    Other Brands

    dies2

    _________________


    You decide...........what you think, is the best for you.

    HTH.

    Aloha, Mark
     
  6. ma96782

    ma96782 Vancouver, WA Well-Known Member

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    More info on the subject............

    I recently bought some die sets in 7.62x39, 7.62x54R, and 300 blk out.

    7.62x39

    The RCBS set comes with expanders for both .308" and .311" bullets.

    7.62x54R

    I got a LEE set from a mail order place. The LEE set uses a .308 bullet. So, since it was mail order......I also purchased an extra .303 caliber (for use w/.311" bullets) decapper/expander.

    THE RCBS 7.62x54R set, doesn't come with the two expanders like in their 7.62x39 set.

    300 blk out

    It's not easy to find, period. I found it through a mail order place that had LEE dies in stock.

    Aloha, Mark
     
  7. Papercidal

    Papercidal Vancouver ,Wa Active Member

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    So far I only load pistol but for that application I would happily trade my Dillon dies out for Lee. I am much happier with the one Lee die set that I have than I am with the Dillon dies that I have.Better sizing/ decap die by far.
     
  8. Papercidal

    Papercidal Vancouver ,Wa Active Member

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    So far I only load pistol but for that application I would happily trade my Dillon dies out for Lee. I am much happier with the one Lee die set that I have than I am with the Dillon dies that I have.Better sizing/ decap die by far.
     
  9. iusmc2002

    iusmc2002 Colville, WA Active Member

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    I have 2 RCBS die sets, a 3 piece .45ACP and a 2 piece .223 Rem. The .45 is fine, although I don't like having to use tools to make tiny adjustments on my dies, its a PITA. I have a Lee Challenger Breechlock press, and I will never use any other type of single stage. Having the dies all set up in the thingy, not having to set it up in the press every time I want to use it is SOOOOO nice. The other 8 sets of dies I have are all Lee, and other than the .280 Rem, they are all 4 piece sets and THEIR customer service it top notch. When I've broken decapping pins, either in the actual dies or the universal decapper, or part of the linkage for the handle, I email them a pic of the broken piece and then get a return email within 12 hours saying the part is on the way, free of charge. Does RCBS do that? Serious question because I don't know.

    As far as looking for a decapping pin in your local store, the fact that RCBS's comes in packs of FIVE should tell you something. Also, you have to buy a stuck case removal kit, which includes a drill bit, a tap and some other stuff, just to get a stuck case out. With the Lee, if you get a case stuck in the FL sizer, you only need a 5/16" punch and hammer to drive it out, without removing the die from the press, although you could if you want. MUCH easier than drilling the primer pocket out and tapping it.

    The first two cases I did in the .223 die, I had to come up with my own stuck case removal system. I wasn't about to drive 15 miles to town for items I had on hand. Took me a while to put everything together and get the F'n cases out. Those two stuck cases doubled the number of stuck cases I've had since I started reloading in 2009. So, I'm not much of a fan of RCBS, but that's my experience/opinion, so take it with a pound of salt.

    ETA: The .45 dies were a gift from my wife's dad when he gave her the .45, and the .223 RCBS dies were the only ones of that caliber that I could find, so beggars can't really be choosers.
     
  10. xlsbob

    xlsbob coos county Platinum Supporter Platinum Supporter

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    If it's 9mm I'll trade you a set of Lee dies for a set of Dillon in a heartbeat
     
  11. P7id10T

    P7id10T Cedar Hills Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    This is like Ford / Chevy / Dodge. All have their pluses and minuses, really it's what you have in your stable.
    I have RCBS (neck sizing, small base and F/L), Lee (Pistol, decap and crimp), Forster, Hornady, Redding, Pacific and Lyman dies.
    Forster and Redding clamps are the best. RCBS Micrometer dies, with their bullet drop window are awesome.
    Forster Micrometers are dead nutz and easier to read.

    I had a Lee Loadmaster. Loaded several thousand pistol rounds through it. It worked great but it was apparent that it didn't have what it took to load rifle (too much slop).
    Lee's quick change head made changing pistol calibers a snap. No adjustments either.

    Now have Hornady LnL AP. The quick change bushings work great, and I can load 223 and 308 for my ARs without worry for quality. The powder drop is fantastic.

    I had a Lee Challenger press. Sold it before I loaded a single round -- it was too cheesy. Now have two RCBS Rock Chuckers, these are where I load all my precision rounds.

    In short, the thing I have found that makes the big difference between all the different dies is me adhering to a regimented setup and quality check before loading, and then the lube I use while loading. Everything else is really a push.
     
  12. Stevenav

    Stevenav Redmond Active Member

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    Regarding the Lee decapping pin breaking. My understanding is that Lee will replace that pin if you break it. Even after the 2 year point.... for free. But I could be wrong.
     
  13. P7id10T

    P7id10T Cedar Hills Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    I have 5+ spare Lee decapping pins. Bought them all for what, $15? I didn't give a crap whether or not they would replace it -- when it breaks, if I don't have another I'm screwed. A nice thing about the Lee decapper is you can adjust the tension on the pin nut so the pin can slide up if you have a blocked hole or boxer primed case.
     
  14. orygun

    orygun West Linn Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    All of the handgun dies I have that I use are Lee with one exception. I have a set of Redding dies in 45 ACP my folks bought me for a Christmas gift one year. (uhhh. MANY years ago!) If I were going shopping for handgun dies again, Lee would be on the top of my list. I've never had a problem with them. Period. Many years, many thousands of rounds.
    I also have some RCBS dies, but since they are not carbide dies, they do not get used, so I don't feel I should comment on RCBS handgun dies.
    I do use RCBS bottleneck (rifle) dies. Like them better than the Hornady New Dimension with the exception of the New Dimension seating die. That's a nice product.
    For the record, I have only broken a decapping pin in RCBS dies... But then, yes it was easy to find. Not many places carry Lee replacement parts. A lifetime warranty is great, but not much help when you are in the middle of something.
    P7id10t (you can't be a complete idiot!), your comment about the tension on the pin nut has a lot of validity, in my opinion.
     
  15. AMProducts

    AMProducts Maple Valley, WA Jerk, Ammo Manufacturer Silver Supporter

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    I've been loading for over 20 years, both at home and in a commercial setting. I probably have 200 die sets (many of them are duplicates). The bulk of them are RCBS, followed by redding, forstner, CH4D, lyman, and lee.

    Lee is a great place to start out mainly because of the price point. However as time passes I always found there were other things I wanted that lee simply couldn't offer. I don't like their "unbreakable" decapping pin, as it usually breaks, or worse still with "G" headstamp (guatemalan) brass the flash hole was tight and would regularly pull the decapping pin out. I also found hard brass would pull out the decapping pin as the collet closure wasn't tight enough to keep everything in place. I remember when I started reloading .308 and had a bunch of malaysian military brass, and I snapped my RCBS reloader press in half one day... I replaced it with an RCBS partner press, which has stood up to much more abuse. My main complaints about lee dies: O-ring locking ring, the lack of being able to get tools on the adjustment screws to really lock things down, and I think they're a bit soft and dont have as high a polish as most other brands do. However, I still have the original set of lee shellholders I bought, and I havn't found any need to replace them, I've only added to the stack. The Lee Factory Crimp Dies for bottleneck rifle cases are an absolute must for loading any kind of military ammo. Every other crimp die on the market is absolute failure compared to this thing, and for $12?

    RCBS is still my favorite die brand, their service is top notch... you need a die repolished because you've worn it out? send it in. Jammed a case in it to the point that it's never coming out? send it in. I don't think their dies are of the absolute top of the heap in terms of quality, but they definitely meet the level of "good enough". I think forstner and redding are tied for that honor.

    Dillon IMHO doesn't really rate, and hornady... just throw them out, not even worth keeping.
     
  16. ma96782

    ma96782 Vancouver, WA Well-Known Member

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    LEE does have a good system when it comes to the "slide up decapping pin." It has saved my bacon many times. Having a spare universal decapping pin from LEE runs $2 and can be used w/ their pistol dies. But, the LEE decapper/expanders for rifle calibers are caliber specific and costs about $3 each. It's up to you if you want to stock up for that eventuality. Yes, having spares will save time.

    And, from experiance I know for sure that LEE will replace broken decapper pins. But, I've had to send them the broken piece (at my cost) before they'll replace broken parts. That being said......I've broken several of their "unbreakable GI decappers." I just waited until I had a "collection." Then, I sent them back all at once.

    Don't get me wrong.........RCBS pins can break too. My son recently had a batch of .223 Rem (about 300 range pick ups) that he was reloading. He broke off 2 pins and had one stuck case with that batch. LOL, that kid had so much bad luck with that batch. Or, maybe he was just lazy and didn't check for berdan primers as well as he should have. At any rate the RCBS pins were cheap and I was lucky to have a good supply on hand. Not to mention the stuck case remover kit.

    Aloha, Mark
     
  17. deadshot2

    deadshot2 NW Quadrant WA State Well-Known Member

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    My "working die sets" are made up of dies from several manufacturers. For sizing I go with the die that sizes the case to the closes fit to my rifle. I currently go back and forth with Forster and Hornady sizing dies. Forster for the bushing die and Hornady for the standard. The level of polish inside these dies is excellent and less effort is required than on the others.

    For seating, again it's Forster or Hornady. The Forster "Bonanza type" die seats the bullets the straightest with the Hornady CG New Dimension a close second. Surprisingly, Lee does a good job in this area with their "Dead Length" seater dies.

    If a crimp is required the Lee Factory Crimp Die has it all over the rest.

    I've got an odd Redding and RCBS die sitting around but they've been relegated to backup duty after I settled on the above.

    The above are my rifle dies. For pistol loading I use Dillon Dies on my XL650. The De-Priming feature in the sizing die is fantastic for preventing primer "pull back". Not a single issue since I started using it many thousand rounds ago.

    One thing to note, Hornady's CG ND dies have incorporated a lot of the features of the Forster/Bonanza seater dies. You can buy a whole set of Hornady CG ND dies for less than the cost of just the Forster Seater Die. The last batch of .223 ammo I loaded using the Hornady dies had a total indicated runout for the finished round of less than .001", across the board. Pretty much the same results on my .308 ammo as well although loading of that caliber has been on hold since my rifle went to Benchmark for a new barrel.
     
  18. SinisterSouthpaw

    SinisterSouthpaw SW WA Active Member

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    Lee pros:

    1 Cheap
    a-Yes I mean cheap not inexpensive
    1- I have broken more Lee parts than any other-- and for no apparent reason--oops that could be a con!!!!Still, the parts are also CHEAP and you can buy a zillion for what other dies cost......
    2- Widely available--anyone who only buys reloading EQ from "the local store" cannot be trusted to know what he is talking about--or what decade it is....
    3- A wide variety of common calibers and types of dies
    4- As close tolerances as 87.34% of the reloading public needs.
    5- innovation--except in the powder handling area Lee has been the leader in many new ideas and holder of patents leased by other die makers. Some they refuse to lease--which is why RCBS--the Sears of reloading--does not have a factory crimp rifle die.

    Lee Cons:

    1- did I mention the cheap construction?
    a- it does not matter much unless you are a match shooter---a serious match shooter-- I mean SERIOUS not just club comp--and you need to clean these dies EVERY time you use them or they will rust and corrode and your greasy oily acid tinged fingerprints will ruin them---keep them in a dry place--when you live where I do that means dehumidifiers of some type are needed--but that goes for all ALL dies here.

    I have and use many Lee dies-- I do not use them for match rifle cartridge loads--but I use them for all my handguns--match guns or fun guns Lee dies do the job for most of my cartridges and have allowed me to load and shoot a wide variety of guns over the years since I saved a lot of money by using them...........

    Some Dies I use that Lee does not make:

    Redding profile crimp die
    Redding "S" FL die
    Redding small base "S" FL die
    Forster body bump neck bushing die
    Redding competition seating die for standard and VLD bullets
    Forster Ultra Micrometer seating die

    Most of the above are dies that no one makes but the manufacturers named with the exception of the profile crimper--this is a direct competitor with Lee's roll crimp die- which Lee calls a factory crimp die--misleading if you ask me--I think the Redding die does a better more consistent job---but if I were just plinking with the revolver I load for--then I would be hard pressed to find a reason to spend the extra money for the Redding..........
     
  19. Otter

    Otter Oregon - mid Willamette Valley Active Member

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    I select a die based on the potential accuracy of the firearm I plan to reload for. Pistols, where pinpoint accuracy is never going to be an issue in my hands, I go with inexpensive Lee dies. For a hunting rifle where good enough accuracy is acceptable I go with RCBS dies. For varmint hunting rifles where the target is going to be small, or for a factory target rifle, I go with Redding match grade and Wilson dies. For a target rifle capable of consistent quarter inch groups I go with the best die I can get. The last BAT target rifle I bought I purchased a custom die made to match the chamber. Along with that sizing die I bought a stainless Wilson micrometer seating die.
     
  20. iusmc2002

    iusmc2002 Colville, WA Active Member

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    This post is so confusing.

    1. Is the number of Lee pieces you've broken because you have and use LOTS of Lee dies?? So, the number of broken pieces coincides with the amount of dies you have and use of that particular brand? Or is it percentage-wise? i.e. (You've broken 10 pieces, and 9 of them were from one of the many Lee die sets you have, but only 1 piece was from one of the few non-Lee dies you have?)
    2. So, 12.66% of the public are SERIOUS (not just club-comp) competitors?
    3. In relation to RCBS, are you talking about the Sears of yesteryear where you could find a broken Craftsman tool on the ground, take it to the closest Sears store and they replaced if for free? Or the Sears of today where they don't warranty their Craftsman products?
    4. Why are your hands so nasty that they rust ANY die? I will admit that my first set of Lee dies got a little rusted, but I evolved and now have chemo-certified gloves that I wear when I reload. Keeps the brass cleaner, too. Didn't need to spend money on dehumidifiers in Longview. Just some cheap gloves.