Differences Between Die Manufacturers


Overthinking things as usual because I've used a few different brands in the past and seems they all worked well. Getting ready to buy some dies and did a bit of, arrrrgh, Internet searches and there are people that use RCBS for this, Lee for that, and Redding for something else. Now I'm all confused so am turning to the good folks at NWFA to help straighten me out.

What are your favorite brands and why? What brands have let you down? I realize to a certain extend that green vs red vs orange vs blue etc. will be like a Ford vs Chevy vs Toyota vs Dodge discussion.

Beyond general brand differences I'm interested specifically in what bullet seating dies work best for you. I use a DIllon 550 so I can swap heads in and out making most die adjustments a one time only thing except for bullet seating. Purpose in not super precision so I'm more interested in convenience and reliability than a sub micron adjustment capability.


I'll start. I use mostly RCBS on my single stage press. Sticking with all Dillon on my blue presses. I do like Lee factory crimp dies and also use a lee taper for 9mm and 38 super. I'm experimenting with Hornady and Forster rifle bullet seating dies...just starting with this. Have Hornady rifle dies for .308 that seem to work fine.

As for negatives, had a set of Lee pistol dies that would not size tight enough to hold bullets. My RCBS 223 dies are having a hard time not crushing a certain plastic tip bullet...working on this issue currently. But other than that every set has worked as needed.
I have a LOT of dies, and a lot of different brands. The bulk are RCBS but there are also Hornady, Redding, Dillon, Lee, Herters, Hollywood, and even a couple other obscure, obsolete brands.

I think if I were loading very particular bench-rest ammo, I'd go with some high-dollar dies, but in my experience they pretty much all work fine. I have a stack of gray-box RCBS in pistol calibers, and I am partial to them, but the cheaper Lee dies that I've used work just fine too, no complaints.

I started with RCBS because that's what Bi-Mart carried when I started in the '80s. They've always been good quality and their warranty is second to none. For example, my daughter accidentally knocked my Uniflow powder measure off my bench a few days ago, and shattered the plastic hopper.

I called RCBS, told them exactly what happened and that I did not want a free part because it was not a defect, and it was on a tool that I had bought new over 30 years ago. What I did want was to buy (and pay for) a new hopper for it. The RCBS rep on the phone just laughed, and said no, I won't sell you one. What's your address? I'll send you one at no cost. Hard to beat customer service like that!

That said, I think a lot of the other reloading tool companies are pretty good, too. I really can't think of any that I specifically don't like.
Depends on what press I'm using. In my 550b I use Dillon. I have dies that date back to the '50's I often use dies of mixed manufactures, sizer from one, seater, etc. from another. The only brand I usually (but not always) is Lee, just not a fan as I've had more of their stuff fail or wear out than from the others.
Bet you can't guess what brand dies I use in my square deal. :s0112:
I use a combination of lee and Dillon dies. Lee sizing dies do a much better job otherwise it’s kind of a tossup between the two the Dillon seater is great for calibers where I use one projectile and lee is much better for calibers where I switch between several with different load lengths
I too use different die manufacturers, I’m not into bench-rest accuracy so I usually go with the less costly Lee’s for pistol and .223/5.56 and RCBS for large calibers (.308, 30-30, 30-06).
I have had a problem with a Hornady .223 resizing die, damn thing loved eating my brass...:eek::eek::eek: YMMV

Good luck with your quest for the right dies.;)


Redding & Forster have been top of the commercially available for a while, Specifically Redding Type S bushing sizing die and Forster Micrometer seating die.

Now that RCBS has come out with their MatchMaster dies, it has kind of made both obsolete, at a cheaper price.

Then there is the custom dies but that's on a different level.

Hornady, Lee and Lyman are the poverty dies.


For sizing, I think there's less of a difference between manufacturers. I own RCBS, Redding, Lee, etc.

Now for rifle BULLET seating, I only go with Forster bench rest micrometer dies. On this I CAN tell you there IS a very measurable difference!

Most of my pistol dies are RCBS carbide.

And as mentioned, customer service should be factored into your purchase.


I have mostly Redding and RCBS but I do have one set of Hornady pistol dies (.380) and a separate Hornady pistol die (9mm seater). My .380 Hornady set bullet seater does a bad job of crimping (I swear it's machined to roll crimp) but I do like the sleeve that aligns the bullet. I ended up buying an RCBS die set for .380 and using the Hornady seater die for seating and the RCBS for crimping.

When I got a progressive I figured I'd like the Hornady bullet seating die for 9mm and that I'd pair that with my already owned 9mm RCBS set. Bad choice -- I had a real hard time with variation in bullet seating depth. The Hornady uses an Oring to "lock" the seating stem -- I think it budges a varying amount, at least a lot more than the lock nut the RCBS uses. The Hornady .380 bullet seater is designed differently than my Hornady 9mm seater and the Oring lock seems to work on the .380, but something about that 9mm die is just awful (as is the crimp on the .380 awful).

I recently got the LNL AP and I like the press a lot -- the powder measure has been dead on accurate and it uses the Oring lock. Hornady does make good stuff and my issues might just be all the experience I have wrapped up with RCBS dies, but I don't think I'll buy more Hornady dies.


I have used and continue to use a variety of different manufacturer’s dies. Some are die sets I got from my Dad. When I am purchasing a new set, I like Dillon for handgun calibers that I load on the 550 and 650. Mainly because you can take out the inserts from the die body installed on the toolhead to periodically clean them without removing the dies/toolhead. For rifle, I use RCBS, Forster, and Redding. I like the Forster micrometer seating dies for rifle calibers, as they have the floating chamber and a micrometer adjustment which I appreciate for loading rifle rounds.


Beyond general brand differences I'm interested specifically in what bullet seating dies work best for you. I use a DIllon 550 so I can swap heads in and out making most die adjustments a one time only thing except for bullet seating. Purpose in not super precision so I'm more interested in convenience and reliability than a sub micron adjustment capability.
Yes That is the whole purpose of the removable tool heads. I load 7 rifle and 6 pistol calibers on my Dillon 550. I have a few sets of Dillon pistol dies and mostly all rifle dies are RCBS.:D

Pete F

Most of my dies are Hornady, but i have some Lee factory crimp dies and a set of Lee .41 AE dies. I also have some taper crimp dies from Redding for .308, 7.62x39 and .223 for my bolt action match loads.


I too have a hodgepodge of different brands of dies, Most Lee or RCBS, about half acquired used. Having spent many decades hand forming with lee hand loaders, (and for that reason am partial to the lee dies) so I can tout only a half dozen years experience into standard dies and a bench press.
Nonetheless, A couple things I quickly found most useful to me and look for in New dies are:
1. replaceable decapper pin /expander preferably able to buy different size expanders if reworking brass from a different caliber
2. Carbide formers. I wish all my dies were, so I could stop lubing, which I don't mind as much as the cleaning afterword's, that's just me.
3. Factory crimp; (where crimps are appropriate) A marvelous upgrade to an old technology which I believe removes (for me) much angst, detail work, and time, if producing standard handloads

When all is said and done though, if I do not plan to shoot said caliber a lot, The best /lowest price deal (pending inspection) I can find in a die set Is what I would go for, regardless of other wishes.

As an aside, if you are component buying, and / or shoot your stuff in the same bolt gun, neck sizing only will at least double the life of your brass. Something not so important and sometimes even not advised with many hand gun calibers. Neck size only dies are something important to me since I tend to have many different calibers rifles but a single matching device to shoot them from. I'm still shooting with much .270 brass from factory loads I bought in the 70's I believe is due to neck size only loadings.


As other folks have stated, I have dies from different manufacturers. For general purposes, they all work OK. A couple specifics though. I shooT a lot of military calibers, often with heavily crimped primers. The Lee decaping dies have a solid shaft ( non replaceable decap pin). It’s much stronger than the others - if you hit a Berdon primed case the solid pin slides up through a collet, rather than breaking. And Lee replaces them for Free if one breaks. So far in 30 years I have broken two. I don’t like to wait so I keep a spare in the parts box to use while I wait for the free replacement.

The other preference I have is for precision rifle reloads. A Redding or forester seating die is worth the $ if I am loading for long range precision shooting. Much more precise tolerances and consistency of COL.

Lee gives you a lot for your money. I have noticed a deterioration in the quality of some of their other Lee reloading products over the years but not their dies.

Your mileage may be different


I'm another one that uses a bunch of different dies. Specifically on bullet seaters, and keeping in mind I'm only loading for .380 ACP, 9mm Luger, and .45ACP, I find that the seating die I choose has more to do with the bullet I'm using than the supposed quality of the die. Some just work better, or just work, where another doesn't. If one isn't consistent, or marks the bullet, I try a different one, and make notes in the reloading log as to what worked with that bullet.
I have noticed that what you use for neck sizing and belling makes a difference on seating. Mostly I prefer the Redding die for this, but I know most folks are using a flaring die that goes in the powder drop. What I like about the Redding sizer is the material they use to coat the business end of it ( forgetting what sort of nitride it is, titanium? ) has a denser structure, and slips easier on the brass than anything else I've tried, so the press runs smooth, without that sticking as the inside part pops out of the case. The resulting neck size seems to be real consistent, as much as you can get running mixed range brass, so the bullets seat well.

Edited to add that I like having the seating and crimping in separate dies, since I use a lot of poly coated lead bullets, this prevents shaving the bullet as happens in a seat/crimp combo die.
I wore out my Lee 45ACP carbide after what I suspect was 60k. First one I ever did that too. I think I got my $25 worth. They all seem to work just fine on a single stage press. The progressives where you have a rotating shell holder can become problematic for the resizing die. If you don't keep the shell holder clean... the shell casing may only go into the shell holder almost all the way, creating a slight misalignment between the case mouth and the resizing die mouth when you raise the ram. When this happens the case mouth hits die mouth. Dillon dies have a bevel at the case mouth that eliminates jamming due to any slight misalignment. Key item here is to keep your press clean; them most any die will work. On a progressive such as the 650/750/1050, especially when used with the case feeders - the Dillon dies shine. You're trying to crank out ammo quick and any little thing to reduce hic-ups are appreciated. Other presses where you manually insert each case into the shell holder, well you can tell right then and there if the case is inserted fully or not. Lymans M-die are a real boon to increasing pistol ammo accuracy especially when seating lead bullets. Bullet seating dies with floating alignment sleeves such as that found in the Redding line do wonders for reducing run-out.


Sign me up in the "uses mixed dies" column. Through long years of experience, I've learned what I like best and what works best. And what works best with one given cartridge or brand case may not work best in another. I've got a mix of RCBS, Lee, Hornady and Redding sets. Also many individual, single purpose dies from those companies, plus Dillon and CH. I won't use anything made by Lyman with the exception of one M die. They may be an older company, but perhaps that's the reason they're 30 years behind everybody else.

I don't necessarily use dies in branded sets. If I've found that Brand A works best in a given cartridge for sizing, and Brand B works best for the same cartridge for belling, and Brand C works best for bullet seating and possibly for taper crimping which I normally do as a separate step, so be it. Rarely is the crimp built into a standard seating die to my liking, so usually Brand D is needed for the taper crimp.

I have some pistol sizing dies that are titanium/nitride/whatever but also have some steel die sets. Because of the way some cases sized on no-lube sizing dies get distorted with a mild hourglass shape.

Sometimes a Lee undersize pistol sizing die is nice to have to get adequate bullet pull on thin cases.

I don't have any now, but I've used the Lee factory crimp pistol die when I had a Dillon 550 and liked how it worked.

It's amazing how different taper crimp dies are from one maker to the next but they do vary a lot.

As I said from the outset, all of the above is based on experience. When a reloader first starts out, I think it's pretty normal for them to stick with using dies in sets and maybe even having a preference for a certain brand simply because their experience may be limited to those.
This question came up a few years back.
I reload with Lee, Lyman, Redding, Forster, RCBS, Hornady and CH4D dies. If I had the money and patience, I'd have Whidden dies in there too.
For rifle and large caliber cartridges (44 Mag, 45 ACP) I decap and then wet tumble before loading. For this I will use the Hornady, Lyman, RCBS and Lee decapper dies. The Hornady fits every cartridge I load for. The Lyman won't do the RUMs, 338 Lapua or 416 Rigby, the Lee is seldom used because I don't have spare decapper rods, and the RCBS is out of commission - broke a decapper pin and it's not replaceable (I should write RCBS).
Of all the die brands below, if I needed something like 300 WSM where price was no issue, I would buy them in this order:
Forster | CH4D | Redding | RCBS | Hornady or Lyman (equal) | Lee
If price were an issue, it'd be the reverse. With their "Get Loaded" promotion, Hornady consistently moves to the top of the list.

  • Least expensive
  • Very effective for pistol cartridges
  • Their decapping pin concept sucks ballz
  • Hate, and I mean *hate* their lock rings with the O-ring
  • Many claim their collet dies for bottle necked rifles product extremely accurate ammo. I do not doubt that.
  • I also have their "factory" crimp dies for rifle cartridges. When you load bottle necked cartridges properly, the crimp die is superfluous.

  • Work very well. Unremarkable in every other way.
  • Parts rarely obtainable at a place like Sportsmans or Cabelas, like a decapping pin, when you break it.
  • Their caliber check gauges are great.
  • All their case prep tools rock.

  • If I had known in advance, all my standard die sets would be Forster or Redding, with the exception of the RCBS Gold seater die.
  • The locking ring is the best of all the dies manufacturers. Large diameter knurled ring, you can put some torque on it. I seldom put much torque on the locking ring set screw because I would hate gaureing the threads on the die. It also works best in their Co-Ax press, which I use.
  • The Micrometer Seater works the best of all my seater dies. Easy to use too. It is the only one that, without modification, handled extremely pointy bullets like Berger OTMs. Costs less than the RCBS GMM micrometer seater with bullet window, but I *really* like that window.
  • I also have their neck turning tool set and brass trim set. They are top notch.
  • Excellent collet bullet puller, but because it's a screw to tighten it, it's slower than the Hornady Cam-Lok
  • They work well. Would be my fifth choice among those listed here. I mostly buy these for their "free bullets" promotion, which functionally makes them almost free. Otherwise, my dies would all be other brands.
  • I have a few sets of their dies where the die body is not stamped/engraved with the cartridge info. No idea why, so I marker'd them and keep them sorted properly in their original case.
  • The split locking ring is the 2nd best. No stupid set screw, plus a large flat that makes it easy to torque down on the press head.
  • The flats on the split ring can make it wonky in the Co-Ax.
  • Their neck expanders are the best in concept because they're mandrels. The expander mounting suckz - set up like a threaded collet. Cannot tell you now many times I've had the sucker pull out when moving the cartridge ram back down, even though I have reefed on the collet to hold the decapper mandrel in place.
  • The seater dies have a floating bullet guide. Not sure whether it helps, because all my dies produce excellent TIR concentric ammo.
  • I have a set of their "custom dies" for a wildcat. A waste of money.
  • Their Cam-Lok bullet puller is simply the best, hands down.
  • They work well. Like Lyman, except for availability, pretty much unremarkable.
  • Don't like their Collet bullet puller.Tightening it, the collet pulls up/back which is goofy for tangential olive bullets.
  • Parts availability is probably the best in the store.
  • Superb case trimmer but drat, it can be challenging to find a replacement cutter head with their parts system.
  • Decapping pins on the FL Sizing dies come in two types - those with an anvil head, and those that are just a pin. Love that they are easily swapped (same fir same), so you have to carry both types. It also functions like a mandrel.
  • Their neck bushing dies (replaceable neck OD ring dies in the FL sizer) are fantastic.
  • Their Gold Medal Match bullet seater, with the "bullet window" is absolutely the best.
  • I appreciate that their locking ring has a brass set screw. They're ho-hum otherwise.

  • These are outstanding quality dies where you get what you pay for. They are also pretty darned expensive, but IMO well worth it.
  • I recently loaded a batch of 7mm-08 mono-copper ammo with Redding dies. Supposedly these bullets are CNC produced in a lathe. The seater was producing ammo that varied by 6mil OAL. I thought, "WTH!" Measured them all B2O, and they were dead nuts. Go figure. That ammo gave 1/8 MOA performance at 200 yards.
CH4D :
  • I have custom dies by CH4D and Redding for a wildcat. The CH4D consistently produces ammo with less TIR loaded case runout.
  • Custom dies from these guys are cheaper than Redding, but take a long time to receive.
  • They use the Forster locking ring.
  • The bushing dies also rock, but I seldom shoulder bump.
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