Yeah Zig, guess we all have our favorites. I sure do. But I don't confuse my favorites with what's "best" for others. I know that, aside from some snob appeal, there just isn't a vast difference in what can be done with any of our reloading makers products.
I had a real chuckle last week reading where two guys were posting on equipment. One of them, said, in effect, the two of them were superiour reloaders because they each had chosen to pay for the "best" press, a Redding Big Boss, IIRC. When anyone is REALLY a good reloader he knows it takes much more than the simple purchase of expensive tools!
I know an auto "mechanic" who owns a great set of Snap-On tools. He has trouble changing a set of brake shoes without bending or braking something else! Proving that good tools help get a job done somewhat easier but it sure doesn't convey any knowledge or understanding and that's the vital part.
What brands of dies have you run tests on so far and what did you find, by brand?
I'm not that weird. I don't test dies. I take advice from people who have demonstrated that they know what they are talking about.
A lot of people recommended the Lee neck die and being just about idiot proof. Having used the RCBS case master I knew from the readings I was getting over in the red zone for idiots that the RCBS dies were not idiot proof. I ordered one Lee neck die and it really reduced my neck runouts so I started ordering more and then to avoid screwing everything up I had to have "body" dies.
AS far as seating dies, I suspect with a lot of tinkering I could make the regular RCBS work but the competition seaters are so good that it is easy to do a good job. I do just order Redding or Forster and do not much worry about which one.
There is not much point in doing a lot of work if you are not a good shot or if your rifle and scope will not do the job. So for me, I am happy with reasonably low runouts because I am only a reasonable shot. I do not need true one of a kind custom dies being as I will never be that good.
I found that no one makes the "best" dies, consistantly. Why do I say that? Well one long, cold winter several years back I borrowed as many dies as I could and started testing, something like fifty sets in addition to my own 35 sets. Many were of the same brand and cartridge. It took awhile to do the tests. What I found is that dies all dies are pretty good but they vary as much within a brand as they do between brands, both sizers and seaters, with a very few specific exceptions. I'll explain them.
Forster's BR sizer dies do tend to make for straighter FL sized necks due to their exclusive raised expander button system. But, on average, no other brand of FL sizers seems superior to others. They all meet SAAMI specifications, no more, no less.
I found NO average advantage to any conventional OR bushing neck sizer dies for producing straightest necks, even compaired to most FL dies. BUT, the Lee Collet Neck Sizers DID consistantly maintain straighter necks than any other dies I had to test.
I found no short sliding sleeve seaters, such as the Hornady or RCBS (exensive!) "Competition" types, to be consistantly better than conventional seaters, but they ARE easy to use!
I found that only the Redding and Forster full length body sleeve "straight line' seaters are consistanly better than any others. (And even they can't seat straight in crooked necks!)
That's basically what I found, just wanted to hear what you might have learned.
So, I now load much like B.B., with either an occasional FL size as needed and a Lyman "M" expander die OR a Lee collet neck sizer, both followed by a Forster (for me) BR seater.
My "body dies" are an -06 for .270, a .260 for .243, and slightly neck bored conventional sizers for my .22-250, 6mm International and 30-06. (I had to grind down carbide bits to bore the sizers so I could get to the right diameter. I'm just too cheap to pay what Redding, et al, wants for "real" body dies!)
Now I buy any new dies I need and work with them. If I find either the sizer or seater lacking, I'll buy another set,new or used, and test them. Keeping the best of each, sizer and seater, I'll sell or trade the others, repeating until I can find the best FIT to my rifle.
" I take advice from people who have demonstrated that they know what they are talking about."
Seems buying dies by brand is a hit or miss thing with any of them! Anyone wanting to say his favorite brand is better than others needs to come with some values other than opinon or reputation.
I do understand that the equipment isn't going to make me better at reloading by it's self however, I would prefer to spend a little extra for quality, not necassarilly fancy, equipment now as opposed to buying something that is currently good enough for my current skill set. To use an anallogy, I have always had a fairly decent set of golf clubs but it seemed like I could practice all I wanted but I would always hit a plateau. Last year I bit the bullet and purchased a custom set of clubs. In the month following I cut my handicap in half. So to me I want to do it right this time. Especially as I believe this will become a lifelong hobby. Anyway, I think I have made up my mind on the press. I am still looking around at the extras. I prefer to assemble my own equipment rather than use a kit. I think it gives me more control over my purchase, but it seems to be much more work. I was curious if you guys would share with me what tools you use in reloading you long range rounds. Anyway thank you all for the info so far it has sent me out looking for more information. Seems to be how it always works, the more you learn, the more you understand how much more there is to learn. Thanks again.
Everyone brings up great points, but I think you have to look at lifestyle as well!
If... you are an old retired husband that enjoys tinkering in the garage while the kids are off to college and your wife cooks in the kitchen (boomtube?), maybe all those "traditional" methods work well...for you
I live in a hectic environment with a stressful job, a new kid, and a wife who wants me to spend as little time in the shop as possible. I have to get quality work done fast. New fangled dadburned "gadgets" (as the old timers call them) mean that I work smarter, not harder! Oddly enough the wife doesn't mind time on the range, its when I'm home and not in the house...
The point is before buying, look at your lifestyle, and what is asked of you as a husband, father, etc and see what will give you the biggest bang for your buck (pun intended). Don't shy away from "gadgets" if it will give you quality in a shorter amount of time!
I maintain marital bliss and OCRD (obsessive compulsive reloading disorder)!