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Caliper recommendations?

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by BunnMan, Jun 11, 2013.

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  1. BunnMan

    BunnMan Member

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    I made a potentially gruesome discovery tonight. Loading 9mm at a COL of 1.067" on the progressive I was checking periodically as good practice goes and coming up with acceptable deviation using bulk bulkets once I got the seater set where I wanted it. I had a few long ones on the bench from when I was getting it set so when I was finishing up I ran them through to "fix" them. I got down to the last one and cycled it without a case going into the sizer die...figured it would be close and didnt mind gambling on having to toss one 9mm plinker. I hit it with my very reasonably priced digital calipers and it measured 1.019"!!! I figured it would be a touch shorter but not .048 shorter!! Then i stared at the digital display while rolling the claiper slowly in and out and noticed it incremented from 1.019 to 1.062!! I checked the round on an even cheaper set of plastic calipers and it was actually 1.055" still unsafe no doubt but those digitals skipped right through that range!! I doublechecked the small lot I loaded and found them to be over minimum according to the cheapo plastic calipers but I'm not real damn thrilled about shooting them all until I check them on an instrument I feel like Ican have some faith in.

    Moral of the story is don't invest in blue calipers in the $25 range. What"s a good digital caliper and how much should I plan on investing to get something I can trust?

    Thanks,

    -Bargainhuntingdip****
     
  2. kevinakaq

    kevinakaq Member

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    Had the exact same problem with a Frandford Arsenel set of calipers. Very unnerving and potentially dangerous. I emailed FA and they sent me a replacement set asap, but I left them in the package and have not opened. I checked it again after I received the new set and the old one was working properly, but I can hardly ever trust it again. I switched to a dial caliper and haven't looked back. I have the hard measurements on the scale that can never change and I dont have to worry about battery life. As for the brand, and I'm sure this will cause some comments, but i paid twenty bucks for a harbor freight dial scale and am satisfied. As always YMMV.

    Kevin
     
  3. Hondo 60
    • Contributing Member

    Hondo 60 Member

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    A good one, like Starrett is about $125.

    I've been using the same $12 one for about 4 years.
    Changed the battery 3? times.

    Guess I got lucky
     
  4. PapaG

    PapaG Member

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    Go to harbor freight and get a $20 set of dial calipers. No battery, just two things to read...the dial and the shaft. Anyone can learn it in minutes and zeroing os next to instantaneous.
     
  5. jstein650

    jstein650 Member

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    Exactly why I never considered digital calipers. I'm thinking I spent $20 or less on Midway's stainless steel dial caliper years ago and never looked back. They may market them under the 'Frankford Arsenal' name now, but you can always trust a steel dial caliper, as well as micrometers. (as for micrometer's, I guess vernier is what I mean as opposed to digital)
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2013
  6. jwrowland77

    jwrowland77 Member

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    I got a decent digital caliper at Home Depot and they work great. Haven't had any complaints with them yet. Been using them about a year and a half now.
     
  7. American Finn

    American Finn Member

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    I agree with Hondo. Starrett are the best measuring tools available on the market. When working with tolerances that are so tight and critical, you want the best. The $125 is well worth the money, and I recommend you get yourself a dial caliper...no need to worry about batteries. :)
     
  8. jstein650

    jstein650 Member

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    jrowland77: I guess unless I constantly tested them against any number of 'known' constant and fixed pre-measured items, it's kind of hard to really KNOW that what I was reading wasn't some kind of electronic anomaly. Rack & pinion dials, to me, are just more trustworthy.
     
  9. BunnMan

    BunnMan Member

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    These sre made by Fankford Arsenal. The display is flashing which I imagine indicates they need a battery. Do they start acting haywire like this when the battery is weak?

    The cheapo plastics I mentioned are dial calipers. Are the Starrets you mention for $125 digital Hondo?
     
  10. American Finn

    American Finn Member

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  11. bigfinger76

    bigfinger76 Member

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    Yes, needs a new battery.
     
  12. ColtPythonElite

    ColtPythonElite Member

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    X2.....A decent set of dials will last a lifetime.
     
  13. maxyedor

    maxyedor Member

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    I'll disagree with Starrett being the best around, but they're certainly among the best.

    I like my Brown & Sharpe 6" dial calipers, about $140 and rock solid, also have lots of Starrett and Mitutoyo measuring tools. At home I have Mitutoyo 6", I don't like the ratchet mechanism as much, which is how they became my home calipers, but they're the same quality and about $100 from Enco. I spend a lot on my measuring tools, but they'll last forever, I have some old Starrett and B&S stuff from the 20s and 30s that get the job done just fine.

    I use Fowler on my waterjet since they get destroyed no matter what, for $45, they're really pretty decent, and would definitely be my low budget recommendation.

    Whatever you get, get a dial, they're 100% mechanical, never need batteries and will be much more reliable.
     
  14. GT1

    GT1 Member

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    All the inexpensive digitals(HF-FA etc, etc) are from the same place, same factory most likely. They are fine.
    We are not even remotely measuring something as precise as fine machining work where you need machinist quality gauges.
    I have an inexpensive Fowler dial to double check my digitals, they are spot on.
    My old eyes prefer the big read out and speed of the digitals.
     
  15. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

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    My B&S dial caliper slides like butter, my Mitutoyo is nice and it is with my hobby lathe in the shed, but my cheapo HF digital just keeps on working fine. It will act up if the battery is low. Store it outside the box to keep the box lid from turning it on. For precise measurements I use a Mitutoyo or B&S micrometer.

    You will never regret, in the long run, buying quality measuring tools, but the HF digital caliper works very well and handles most reloading requirements just fine. If you buy it on sale and it craps out, you really haven't lost much.

    Don't cheap out on a micrometer.
     
  16. HexHead

    HexHead Member

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    I switched from digital to dial and couldn't be happier. I use the steel RCBS dial calipers.
     
  17. cfullgraf

    cfullgraf Member

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    I have several Frankfort Arsenal calipers as well as several machine digital read outs that use a similar slider system and all work fine and read consistently.

    I remove the batteries from the calipers when in storage as I find the battery life is short, but that may be the caliper is getting turned on in the box. I have never have really investigated it.

    When I was working for the man, I had a Starret digital micrometer that was hard on batteries. We would use the micrometer once every few weeks and if we left the battery in the caliper, they would be dead at the next use. I doubt the wooden case stored in my desk drawer would have turned on the micrometer when not in use.

    On the other hand, the battery powered digital read outs on my machine tools are easy on batteries even if I forget to turn them off. Go figure.

    I do have an old set of Starret dial calipers that I use in the shop a lot and a Mitutoya solar calipers that I use regularly in the reloading room. Neither require battery replacement and are great for quick measurements.

    I use the Frankfort calipers when i am doing frequent measurements or where I attach a measuring aid to the caliper such as a Sinclair Bump gauge.
     
  18. higgite

    higgite Member

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    I like my 6" and 8" Mitutoyo 500 series digital calipers. They're smooth as glass and have been 100% repeatable. They don't have auto-off and auto-on like my old cheap calipers did, but they don't eat batteries like popcorn, either. I don't turn them off (too lazy and forgetful), so they have been on 24/7 for 15 months and 10 months, respectively. I had to change the battery once on the 6" and not yet on the 8". And I probably just jinxed them. :cuss:
     
  19. John3921

    John3921 Member

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    The Starrett 1202 global series calipers are imported (chinese). The good USA built Starrett is the 120 series - they run closer to $200 and more.

    The Mitutoyo Calipers at about $120 are pretty highly thought of.

    http://www.mscdirect.com/product/84477736

    The roughly equivalent B&S dial calipers run about $158 through MSC
     
  20. BunnMan

    BunnMan Member

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    Is there a vendor that carries starret, B&S, Mitutoyo that I could go to to pick then up instead of mail ordering? Grainger, Ace, Home Depot, Lowes...etc.? I'd like to get them in my hands right away if I could. I live around Baltimore/Annapolis, MD.
     
  21. Rule3

    Rule3 Member

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    I have been using the FA digital for years. Even bought a extra one on sale as I thought this one would die but it hasn't yet. Without some sort of precise calibration test how can you determine 1/1000th. Guess all my ammo is wrong:D

    Not to say I do not agree with using the best tools if possible. My dear old Dad sure beat that into me.:)
     
  22. Clark

    Clark Member

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    My cousin got a patent on the Mitutoyo coolant proof calipers, so I got some digital calipers. Those are not as good for reloading as dial calipers. They are great for my amateurish gunsmithing.

    Just about any $20 dial calipers are good enough for reloading. I have lots and lots of dial calipers. The expensive brands are nicer, but not needed.

    Making measurements with calipers is like target shooting. It takes practice and good equipment to get accuracy and precision.
    I like to use pin gauges as a reference.
    Measure the same object 10 times.
    The variation is the precision.
    Measure a pin gauge.
    The difference between your measurement and what is marked on the pin gauge is your accuracy.

    Using dial calipers and beating your machinist buddies with their micrometers will take lots of practice.

    Practice measuring with calipers and strive to improve both your precision and accuracy.
     
  23. John3921

    John3921 Member

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    I ordered a mitutoyo dial caliper from MSC direct. Selected 2 day shipping. It was on my porch the next day - shipping was something like $8. After all the money I've spent on shipping reloading equipment it was a pleasant surprise. They carry the Starrett, B$S, Mitutoyo and several other brands.

    MSC has a Baltimore location:

    Baltimore, MD
    1550 Caton Center Drive
    Suite F - G
    Baltimore, MD 21227
    Local: (410) 644-1313
    Fax: (410) 368-3888
    branchbal@mscdirect.com
    Map and Directions
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2013
  24. HJ857

    HJ857 Member

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    I had issues with the cheap digital calipers dropping zero. I took a chance on digital calipers from Home Depot, as previously mentioned. The brand is General and the model is I believe Ultra Tech and cost around 35 or 40 bucks. These are very nice and I have had no trouble trusting it's consistency. I've been using it for maybe three years now.
     
  25. RainDodger

    RainDodger Member

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    The good ones have been mentioned above. I have my father's OLD vernier calipers (never use them - what a PAIN!), a dial caliper and a digital caliper.

    The only one I trust is the dial caliper. It has a mechanical linkage between the needle and the caliper... I trust that a lot more than the digital things that have to "see" the scale to read it, as it moves I think. Anyway, I prefer mechanical over magic.

    I'm an old guy, but my hand loads are trustworthy. :)
     
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