A good caliper?


December 7, 2006, 06:41 PM
Hello all, I am just getting started to tool up for reloading. I am looking for a good (exact and reliable) caliper to assist me in my reloading venture. So can anyone recommend a good caliper for a decent price? I am on a budget (reason why I finally decided to start reloading) so I can't really afford an expensive fancy one but I don't want to get a caliper that is unusable either. Just one thats good enough to get the job done well. Are the ones made by Frankford Arsenal any good?

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December 7, 2006, 07:14 PM
I have a Frankford Arsenal and they work fine...easier to read than I thought it would be

December 7, 2006, 08:02 PM
Best of all:


Unfortunately it isn't cheap, but it'll last for a lifetime.

December 7, 2006, 08:40 PM

December 7, 2006, 10:06 PM
RCBS is ok too, I had no problems with mine.

December 7, 2006, 11:17 PM
We use a lot of the cheap Harbor Freight dial calipers at the shop. Calipers themselves are only accurate to .001" anyway, and the HFs work fine in that regard. Shopmaster Steve says he has found some Starrett digitals that are accurate to .0005", but theres no guarantee of that. The HFs are affordable and you don't cry if you get junk in the rack. Helps to have a set of guage blocks or similar to check them against though. I do with my Craftsmans from time to time.


December 8, 2006, 02:39 AM
I second AnthonyRSS, the Harbor Freight 6" digital caliper ($15 on Sale) is an excellent choice. I have a dial Mitutoyo and have compared it to HF caliper and and never found a discrepancy between the two. Don't let anyone scare you off the HF caliper it is accuracy far exceeds the requirements needed for trimming cases.

December 8, 2006, 05:31 AM
I'm a part time gunsmith. When I'm making a part to repair a very old gun, I use the Starrett, which stays in the shop. When I'm reloading, I use a Harbor Freight Centech digital. Works great for the accuracies required in reloading, only costs $15.00. My suggestion is to go for the Harbor Freight one. Anything more and you're overspending for the requirements of the application.



December 8, 2006, 07:25 AM
They have pegged this one. I break out the Starrett for serious work & cannot usualy measure any real difference from my Mitutoyo that I bought for $25 at a pawn shop. I have to go to a micrometer to get finer readings. Harbor Frieghts seems just as good as my Mituyoyo.. Catch it on sale. :)

December 9, 2006, 12:33 AM
mitutoyo are very good. I use them at work and at home. My work is pretty abusive. are tools go threw alot. mitutoyo's have held up to every thing. thats why we all use them. so when i pair for home they were mitutoyo.

December 9, 2006, 06:50 AM
I use the frankford arsenal one's as well. My buddy just got into reloading and I was able to get him a free set from Midway by using a coupon out of either Handloader or Guns magazine. (You place an order on the web, type in the promo code and voila . .free calipers) I don't know how often they run it, but it worked out well for him.

Have a good one,

The Bushmaster
December 9, 2006, 09:33 AM
Starrett is the BEST money can buy. 45 years as a Master marine/industrial diesel mechanic has taught me that. With that said, I use the $25.00 one that Midway sells and leave my Starrett in my work bench at the shop.

For reloading where you will have a relatively clean, dry and controled place the less expensive calipers are just fine. Like was said. Even Starrett dial calipers are only accurate to +/- .001...You want accuracy to +/- .0001 you will need a micrometer.

Besides Starrett would cost you an arm and a leg on todays market.

December 9, 2006, 09:59 AM
I have used a Frankford Arsenal from Midway for a few years, and it works just fine.

December 9, 2006, 10:02 AM
Don't cheat yourself when it comes to tools! Get a Starrett, they're the best.

cracked butt
December 9, 2006, 10:22 AM
Most of the cheap ones <$35 are made in china and are branded with different names, mine is 'Cabela's' brand. They aren't perfect but do the job good enough. I'd love to have a Starrett, but for the price difference, Icould buy 3 or 4 sets of reloading dies- not worth it to me.

December 9, 2006, 08:57 PM
Don't know how I ever got by without my inexpensive reloading dial calipers! I can't prove it of course, but I feel pretty sure that ALL of the 6" "store brand" dial calipers - Cabela's, Midway, RCBS, Lyman, Hornady, etc. - are made on the same Chinese production line as the much less expensive Harbor Freight versions. HF often has them on "sale" for as little as $14 or so.

I have an old 6" "made in Germany" Craftsman vernier caliper of excellant quality plus two 6" and a 12" dial calipers, one from Midway and two from HF. They all read the same on my precision gage blocks, within a half thousant anyway, so the cheaper calipers are plenty good enough for my reloading needs. There is no doubt they aren't Mitutoyo or Starret quality so they won't last as long, but my cheaper tools will likely last longer than I will so who cares?

If you need to use your calipers daily in a machine shop, get the better ones. But for reloading, get one of the cheepies and spend the (large amount) of saved money on components!

December 9, 2006, 09:17 PM
Like everyone says, get the $15 6" digital from Harbor Freight. Mine have worked great so far and they even come with a spare battery. I'm guessing it's probably what the Chicoms are using when they manufacture everything we used to make here.:(

December 9, 2006, 09:56 PM
I have Starrett, Mitutoyo, SPI, Brown and Sharpe, michrometers, dial indictators, test indicators, etc.

All you need for handloading is 4" or 6" no-name $20 dial calipers made in China.


The technique is more important than the cost of the calipers:
1) Use the same force for zero'ing as measuring.
2) Wipe off the jaws before each measurement.
3) Orient the unit under test perpendicular to the caliper jaws
4) Place the unit under test in the same place in the jaws [distance from frame]
5) Get a reference to check your measurements; pin gauge, gauge block, Carbide end mill, or something.
6) Practice with the calipers until you can got .0002" reproducability, or however good your eyes and magnifiction permit.

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