Is there a worthwhile difference in quality of various die manufacturers?

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by valleyforge.1777, Feb 13, 2019.

  1. valleyforge.1777

    valleyforge.1777 Member

    May 4, 2013
    I have been loading for about 10 years, 9 mm, 357/38, and 223 using Dillon XL650 and Dillon dies. I want to start loading for the 7.7x58 Japanese (Arisaka) rifle cartridge and Dillon does not make dies for that cartridge, so I've looked around to see what I can buy. RCBS, Lee, Hornady, and Redding sell dies for 7.7x58 Japanese. There is a HUGE price difference going from Lee, to RCBS, to Redding.

    So, the question is, are Redding dies really worth 2 or 3 times the price of the RCBS dies? Is there really any benefit to RCBS over Lee dies? None of these are carbide dies, by the way. Am I missing out on some great quality if I don't buy the Redding dies, or am I a chump who is wasting his money if I do buy the Redding dies?
  2. Hokie_PhD

    Hokie_PhD Member

    Jan 29, 2017
    Central Virginia
    I’ve heard different opinions. So take my comments with a grain of salt and as my opinion.
    I have gear by most of the major manufactures so I’m not biased to any brand.

    Personally I’ve found Lee dies to be an excellent value. Now I’m not doing precision shooting and I’ve only reloaded a few years.

    I have some Hornaday dies that cost more than the Lee. They’re decent and well made but I actually like the Lees better.

    I have an RCBS swagger and it’s well made.

    The reality is most does seem to be well made. Fit, finish and how they adjust and such seem to be the big differences.

    Now if you’re looking to get into really high detail work for long distance precision, or bullseye then the extra money may be worth it with some high end dies.

    But for most of us, I’m pretty sure you’ll find people who like all the brands and like cars they’ll say what they have is the best. Personally, I think that any will suit you fine.
  3. presspuller

    presspuller Member

    Jan 17, 2007
    I agree with what Hokie said. I have all brands and I've never had an issue out of any of them. I do know that RCBS has excellent customer service, but I've never had to use it on dies. If I was buying for your situation I would probably go with the Lee, or the cheapest.
    Hokie_PhD likes this.
  4. Fine Figure of a Man

    Fine Figure of a Man Member

    Jun 11, 2011
    For handgun rounds I prefer Lee dies.
    Hokie_PhD likes this.
  5. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

    Nov 20, 2006
    Redding makes some good stuff, of which I have some, no complaints, but overall it is hard to beat RCBS for quality, value and results.

    I have only had a couple of Dillon products and they seem to be very good as well.

    Not a big Hornady die fan, although I have some handgun seater dies.

    Heck, I have a little of everything, it all "works"
    Buy some RCBS standard dies and know if you have issues it is unlikely to be from the dies, and in the off chance it is, RCBS will take care of it free, as will most die set makers.
    lightman, Jesse Heywood and JimKirk like this.
  6. Galil5.56

    Galil5.56 Member

    Dec 20, 2007
    NW PA
    To add more opinions.

    Way back, Lee did not make 7/8-14 dies, so you had to go elsewhere. RCBS was the king of the heap as for popularity, and they did and do make a fine set of dies. I love my Dillon dies for handgun reloading, esp their quick take-down feature which is nice for cast bullet shooters who use goopy lubricant, as I do. I really like Redding, and you pay for it. They are truly a pleasure to use, and if you load 7.5x55 Swiss they get the dimensions right. I have said set, and they will save a lot of headaches if you reload for a K31.

    Lee... OK overall, and they get the job done. Not too many problems with them in my experience, worst being a 7.5x54 French set that had a sizer that waaay overdid the shoulder. Lee acknowledged as much upon inspection, sent me an engineering drawing with the new sizer, and were very courteous and professional.

    As for 7.7x58 Japanese; I use an RCBS set, and like them a lot. I'm sure if the dies are cut right, it pretty much comes down to features and finish. Sure hard to beat the price for Lee, and many folks seem to love them. Good luck and have fun with your 7.7x58 reloading - It's one of my favorite calibers and rifles to shoot... Don't even mind forming its brass from 30/06.
  7. irishlad

    irishlad Member

    Nov 8, 2016
    I've been happy with my Lee pistol dies and RCBS rifle dies.
  8. Whiterook808

    Whiterook808 Member

    Dec 14, 2017
    21.3069° N, 157.8583° W
    You might want to search on the Japanese arm forums on gunboards to see if anyone has had an issue with a particular brand. If you check around you will find that everything Galil5.56 said above can be verified. Lee has been very good to us milsurp shooters. They come came out with production dies before the others many times and their dies work pretty well. And of course the price is right. These guns are not precision rifles, so you do not need benchrest quality.
  9. MI2600

    MI2600 Member

    Jan 7, 2012
    Western Michigan
    I have a variety of the usual brands, even a set of old Herter's. As stated above, they all work. So, I haven't seen the need to go to the expensive ones.
  10. Bfh_auto

    Bfh_auto Member

    Feb 23, 2016
    My order of preference are Hornady, Lee with Hornady lockring installed, then RCBS. Quality of ammo is comparable between the 3.
  11. Wreck-n-Crew
    • Contributing Member

    Wreck-n-Crew Member

    Jan 15, 2014
    Technically speaking there is definitely a difference in manufacturers although Lee dies fit most needs and in your case if Lee makes one it will do just fine. Most RCBS and Hornady dies are pretty good dies. Top end dies for Bench Rest you would be looking at something like a Forster. I just bought a Forster Bench Rest seating die that I will use with a Lee Collet neck sizing die. Crazy as it may sound to some people the Lee Collet Neck sizer produces fine straight necks with little to no runout. Top end die with a Value priced die make sweet harmony. Life is good. ..
    Hokie_PhD likes this.
  12. splattergun

    splattergun Member

    Jan 12, 2012
    /They all make ammo that works, and works well. I have an RCBS .38/.357 pistol set. The machining seems to be finer and the finish smoother than my Lee dies and they will last generations, but I can't say the rounds made on it perform any better the Lee's. I'm not afraid to shoot my 30-06 over 600 yards with ammo produced on Lee dies, even if those dies needed a touch of polishing before I used them. Those Lee dies will go to my grandson when he's old enough. So will the RCBS.
    Despite what some might have you believe, you don't have to wear a brown paper bag over your head when you use less expensive dies.
    What are your priorities? Budget? Brag factor?
  13. Laphroaig

    Laphroaig Member

    Feb 24, 2013
    W. PA
    I only have a few Redding dies and think they are nicer than most I've seen. I think Dillons are great too, but wouldn't spend the extra bucks for a rifle set since I don't crimp any rifle rounds that I typically load and a dedicated crimp die is included. Most of the rest of my dies are RCBS, which have done a great job, except...

    (and I'm thinking of the OP's cartridge choice) is 7.5 x 55 Swiss. My sizing was a little big and the straight pull action required a pretty hard rap to close the bolt with my handloads . I tried grinding the shell holder down and it didn't seem to help much. I got a Redding K-31 chamber spec sizing die and it cured my problem.

    My opinion is that non-SAAMI spec cartridges might be more prone to questionable dimensions. I'm not sure if a Redding would be more dimensionally correct than the others but I wouldn't bet against it.
  14. Eugen

    Eugen Member

    Dec 17, 2016
    Rural Illinois
    I'm a pistol plinker and a novice handloader. I find each brand of dies seems to have a slightly different look, feel and adjustments. Based totally on my personal subjectivity I like my Redding, RCBS, and Hornady dies in that order. But, they all work fine for me. So i guess the best value is Hornady. I use the Hornady LNL locking rings with all of them on a single stage Redding press. I have no experience with Lee products. Many of my dies sets and reloading equipment is used. You can score some great deals at gun shows if you are careful.
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2019
  15. 300Whspr

    300Whspr Member

    Dec 16, 2015
    Southern Illissouri
    I've got dies from most all the manufacturers as well, but my favorite and the brand I have the most of has always been Redding. They are just nice... but I can't say that they are "better" (in terms of making quality ammunition) than RCBS or Lee or Hornady. But to hold them in your hand, to look at them, the machining, the finishing, the craftsmanship is just a notch above all the others... and if they are that good on the outside, I would like to believe that they are a notch better on the inside as well.

    That being said... I've got several sets of Lee dies also, in fact, all of my straight wall handgun dies are Lee, and you can't beat Lee's Collet Neck Sizing dies. Ain't a thing wrong with Lee dies, and the price is right.
    Galil5.56 likes this.
  16. Blue68f100

    Blue68f100 Member

    May 25, 2011
    Piney Woods of East Texas
    I have most mfg except Lee. It seams when someone is having a problem it's with Lee. Most of the time they work. The reason is they do not hold as tight of tolerances as others. Their answer is to buy a small base. I have min spec chambers and all my std dies work just fine. I noticed your using a AP. Hornady and Redding both make special dies for AP, not sure about RCBS. These dies have a larger radius to help feed, this only apples to straight wall calibers/pistols. Redding may give you the most wiggle room when it comes to moving the shoulder. Mainly since they set them up to be used with the +0.010" height shell holders. My precision dies are Redding, general rifle RCBS or Hornady. Most all my handgun dies are Hornady. As you go up in price you actually get a few more features, like micrometer seating dies.
  17. cfullgraf

    cfullgraf Member

    Oct 19, 2010
    East TN
    My preference for dies is Redding or RCBS.

    I've never tried a Dillon set because I need a mouth expander die for my handgun die sets. Dillon uses a powder funnel with the powder measure for mouth expansion so, their die sets do not include a mouth expander. I'd have to buy a mouth expander die al-a-carte. I understand the dies are well made.

    I've had issues with a couple of Hornady dies and I do not like the handgun mouth expander dies because you cannot remove the expander, at least I have not figured how to remove it yet. I do like the seater dies and the easy way you can replace the seater stem with a micrometer adjuster. Even so, I do not buy any Hornady dies any more.

    I do not like the o-ring lock ring that accompanies Lee dies. or the storage box. If you are using a die plate, the o-ring lock ring would work fine. Set the die and lock it down with the nut. I remove my dies from the press or die plate and I use the lock ring to maintain the dies position. I find the o-ring lock ring doe not maintain its position to my satisfaction. So, by the time I replace the lock rings and buy a storage box I like, I've about paid for an RCBS die set.

    I have one set of Lyman dies, 32 S&WL, and they perform well. I'd probably buy another set if I could not find the die set I needed from Redding or RCBS but could find a Lyman set.
  18. 9mmepiphany

    9mmepiphany Moderator

    Dec 27, 2002
    northern california
    Sometimes it comes down to which quality or features you are looking for. I have dies from Dillon, Hornady, Lee, Lyman, RCBS, and Redding...and that is just for handguns.

    If you didn't no anything about cost or brand loyalty and you were to pick up and compare a Lee to a Redding die, there would be no doubt in your mind which was the higher quality tool...but every manufacturer does something better than the competition

    I hate the lock rings on Lee dies, how short their bodies are, and how their adjustments don't always hold (FCD)...and yet I wouldn't use anything other than the Lee Universal Depriming die (even though I did replace the pins with Squirrel Daddy ones) and I do really like the FCD in 9mm

    I hate how you can't adjust or remove the expander insert in Hormady dies...but I love their longer bodies for my LNL AP press and I have their lock rings on all my dies, except the Redding ones

    The workmanship on Lyman dies was much less than I expected for what they charge, but I bought their M die for the expander profile...I replaced it with a Redding copy as soon as they were available.

    I started with Redding dies because they were the only manufacturer who offer a Dual Ring resizing die. Their Competition Seating die eliminates problems with crooked bullets and the micrometer adjustment makes setting OAL very easy on a progressive press
  19. Bat Rastard

    Bat Rastard Member

    Jul 29, 2018
    I agree with all of the above.

    I have been happy with Lee, Hornady, and RCBS.
    My next project, 6.5 Creed, I am going to step up into some Redding.
    Who knows, if you pay more, you think you get more. We will see.
  20. edwardware

    edwardware Member

    Feb 23, 2010
    Short version: buy RCBS for the warranty, Lee for the price, and something else only for specific features.

    I can't tell the quality difference between RCBS and Redding, so I wouldn't pay for it. I will spend the difference for specific features (ex. micro-seaters, obsolete calibers, XDie sizers).

    For rifles where I'm not chasing subMOA, or pistols, I've never regretted Lee. RCBS is a little more nicely finished, but I'm not certain it matters.
  21. jaguarxk120

    jaguarxk120 Member

    Dec 30, 2011
    What I don't understand is people will go out and spend $1000 to $3000 for a handgun or rifle and
    brag about the quality. How accurate those guns will shoot, being so very proud of what they own.

    When it come to reloading presses or dies Those same gun owners will buy the cheapest most inexpensive stuff out there.
    Quality in handloading tools makes the whole process so much better and rewarding.
    I like working on great presses and using tools that are much higher quality.
  22. CMV

    CMV Member

    Dec 18, 2011
    Winston-Salem, NC
    I primarily use Lee dies and am very happy with them. Some other brands in the mix, but 90% Lee. For most things they work really well. The only time I feel there is a quality difference vs paying more for is the seating die for precision ammo. For basic high volume range stuff, the Lee dies do just fine. But would much rather use a Redding seating die for the small amount I do for precision & want it a lot more uniform.
  23. RandyP

    RandyP Member

    Jan 28, 2009
    Ford or Lincoln, Chevy or Cadillac, Dodge or Chrysler, Toyota or Lexus? Hyundai or Genesis?

    If you perceive there is a substantial 'quality' difference in the parts used beyond cosmetics and advertising in the above, then definitely buy the most expensive model of reloading die you can find and enjoy it. Personally I mostly use Lee products because they fit my realistic needs and budget. I suspect you're not looking to do any 1000 yard benchrest shooting with that Arisaka, so buy accordingly.
  24. Galil5.56

    Galil5.56 Member

    Dec 20, 2007
    NW PA
    Well put, and exactly what I was eluding to in my post... I truly enjoy using them from the second I open the box, till I put them back, inclusive of all you mention. Even small things like a shell holder can be seen/experienced in a similar way. My RCBS shell holders, esp it seems my really old ones are a joy to use - They are cut right, velvety smooth in use, and well finished. Lee while functional are not as well cut, and their rough finish hampers smooth entry/exit of the case, and even how the primer seating cup interacts... So removing a small pistol case stutters and catches, and upon entry the priming cup catches just enough to be annoying and remind you of its faults, where the RCBS remains invisible in a good way.

    Sure, you can break out the emery cloth, and file and to try and correct, but with RCBS you remove the shell holder from the package, and enjoy its buttery smooth, more efficient, satisfying operation. Same for so many Lee vs RCBS and other comparisons, and I'm grateful we have such choices to do what we love, and do it well to boot.
  25. Varminterror

    Varminterror Member

    Jul 17, 2016
    There ARE reloading items for which more money is just more money.

    When it comes to reloading dies, I have rarely found that to be the case, and rather, you DO get what you pay for.

    Lee dies are fine for loading ammo, and are capable of producing ammo of better quality than most factory loads, for sure. But when I’m loading ammo I really care about, I use Redding bushing sizing dies, Sinclair expanders, and Wilson seaters.

    I can’t stand Lee O-ring locking rings, so I do replace them with Hornady and Forster rings. I don’t really love rings in which the lock impinges upon the threads, and prefer clamp type, so I do replace them about half of the time as well.

    I have used and do use Dillon, Lyman, Whidden, Wilson, Redding, RCBS, CH4D, Lee, Forster, and Hornady dies. I’m no Lee basher, and I do use a lot of their dies, as well as 5 of their presses - but you’re not buying top end equipment with Lee on the box. Not everyone needs or even wants top end gear, certainly nobody wants to pay top end prices - and that’s ok.
    Blue68f100, lightman and Kaldor like this.
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