I've got a .338 Lapua that I have been tinkering around with for a few years. I've learned a great deal with it. In the past I've always just reloaded cheap to save money, 9mm, .223, .308, plinking stuff. But with this .338 I'm learning a lot about reloading for accuracy.
I'm not satisfied with my current dies. I bought standard RCBS dies years ago, but now I want a micrometer seater die and neck sizing die. I don't want to discuss the pros & cons of neck sizing vs. full case sizing; I've made up my mind I want to neck size so what I need is some advice on dies. I can buy Redding micrometer seating die and neck sizing die for $150 ea. That is just more than I think I want to spend. I can buy a Forster micrometer seating die for $68 and I can get a Redding S series neck sizing die for about $75. I've also looked at Wilson hand dies, but I am not as familiar with arbor presses an hand dies. I do not know exactly how they work. The idea of being able to reload anywhere is appealing, but all of my experience has been with traditional presses with threaded dies.
So my questions are: 1. Would Wilson dies with a Sinclair arbor press be the best way to go? Or is it just another way to go? 2. Forster micrometer seating die is less than half the price of the Redding competition, is it also less than half the die? 3. Same question about the Redding S series neck sizing die, it is about half the price of the Redding competition neck sizing die, is it half the die?
Keep in mind that while I am trying to get the appropriate equipment to work up some accurate loads, I'm not a competition shooter. I'm not chasing perfection and I don't want to spend exponentially more money to obtain that last frog hair's worth of improvement in accuracy.
"I'm not chasing perfection and I don't want to spend exponentially more money to obtain that last frog hair's worth of improvement in accuracy."
That's an intelligent position but your quest seems to be running counter to that. Unless you actually have a known reason to discard your present dies it's unlikely you would ever see any certain average improvement using the BR tools compaired to what you can obtain with any brand of common dies and presses. You don't mention your current groups but it's REALLY hard to see the small group reductions that meticulous reloading tools and methods can produce if the rifle is a heavy kicker that needs thousands of rounds of practice to learn to control.
There certainly isn't any positive and automatic correlation between costs and average accuracy of seating between the Forster and Redding; Reddings are prettier and that's about it but some people are willing to pay for that. Both seaters have an excellant "full body and bullet" straight line sleeve that aligns them before seating starts. They CAN be counted on to produce low runout IF your case necks are good, BUT conventional dies are really quite good so any concentricity improvement will be luck of the draw more than price. (Neither the very costly RCBS or Hornady New Dimension "comp" short sliding seater sleeves are any better than conventional seaters so far as average concentricity goes.)
A micrometer seater die head is kool and does make it easier to change OAL a given amount, but that's all. It sure doessn't add anything to accuracy. Redding simply copied Forster's seater after their patent ran out, so they are basically the same if that helps.
A bushing neck sizing die is most helpful in minimising working of the neck, less so for accuracy. How well it works depends more on the users skill than the device itself. Most people seem to want far too much "bullet tension". Lowest bullet runout normally happens when the neck is only about 1 thou smaller than the bullet to be used.
Go with the standard Type S die and don't worry about the micometer neck die. Gilding the lily here, and the Type S does precisely the same thing for a whole lot less. The standard dies aren't hard to adjust, and I've never seen the utilility of being able to adjust my neck bushing down just another .001" or .003", so long as I've gotten a sufficient powrtion of the neck sized to begin with. You're going to need a full length or body die at some point anyway, and the savings on the micrometer neck die will just about pay for that.
Different story on the seating die, and there I definately do like the micrometer adjustment here. Redding or Forster, both are good, pick one and call it a day. Boomtube's perfectly correct that they don't load any straighter ammo than the non-micrometer version, but I like the added convenience of being able to fine tune the seating depth and am willing to pay the difference.
What Flashhole said, but get a cross-bolt lock ring from Forster, Hornady, Sinclair or others to put on the collet die. And do a little polishing on the collet & closer too. Trust me, the collet die is worth a little extra trouble to make it just perfect.
I think this has been the most useful thread I've ever started. You guys have given me some very good feedback. I appreciate you sharing your experience with me. I agree that the micrometer die will not necessarily produce more accuracy. For me it just seems like I will have a bit more confident in my work. As it is, I just feel like I'm blind when I'm seating my bullets.