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Where does favoring superior products end and snobbery begin?

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by 762NATO, Mar 8, 2010.

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  1. 762NATO

    762NATO Member

    May 4, 2009
    I'm new to reloading and currently reading the Lyman manual and digging thru a lot of posts here to learn all I can before biting the big bullet on a list of reloading equipment.

    A friend of mine is a seasoned match shooter and we both share a love for the M14, though he carried the thing in Vietnam and I just shot one for the first time less than two years ago. :) He is an avid reloader so I hope to learn a lot from him. We went to a gun show together the other day and I was milking him for as much info as possible regarding reloading equipment.

    I've been strongly considering the Lee Classic Turret and their 4-die set for my 40S&W pistols, but I also will be reloading for my M14. He told me to stay away from everything Lee except for their hand priming units. When I asked why he said because their market share is not from bench rest or match shooters...that their tolerances and quality is based upon the needs of people making blasting ammo or hunting deer. He told me for the essential gear (i.e. presses and dies) to stick with Redding or Forster as they have the best reputation among match shooters. I also had been considering the RCBS X-dies for 7.62x51 ammo. He told me he tried them so that he would not have to trim his brass so often, but they they did not give him as accurate a cartridge as his Redding dies.

    What do y'all think? Is he right on for the most part? Is there a qualitative difference in the accuracy of the cartridges produced by Redding or Forster gear vs other companies and that it comes down to what you can afford? What about long-term reliability and build quality? Or is my friend stuck in his ways and pushing the snobbery boundary line?

    I am not a match shooter. I will be making ammo for blasting, deer hunting (LOL, in regard to his response) and for SHTF. However, I am not ruling out the possibility of becoming a match shooter in the future as I have been shooting for less than 2 years and it has come very naturally to me. I wouldn't mind being able to make match-quality ammo in the future.

    I expect all sorts of answers here. I'm looking to cut thru all the responses that wreak of offense because the poster owns RCBS or Lee gear. I'm most interested in responses like, "I own Lee but I used a Forster press and wish I had it instead," or, "I own (or have repeatedly used) both Lee and Redding presses and can tell no appreciable difference in the quality of ammo produced." ETC.

  2. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    Sep 17, 2007
    Eastern KS
    I think many of us older reloaders are stuck on RCBS, Redding, and others because thats what we have had excellent success with for 40 years or more. I haven't bought any major new Lee equipment because I can't wear out my old RCBS stuff.

    I have nothing against Lee dies or equipment, and even have been buying Lee dies in odd ball handgun calibers for the last few years.

    I'm not a fan of their aluminum presses, or powder measures, or primer tools.
    Mainly because I had bad luck with them years ago, and will never buy any more of them.

    On the other hand, there is no less inexpensive way to get set up & reloading perfectly good ammo.

    If after you learn to reload and find some of it lacking, you can probably sell it for close to what you paid for it and buy something more expensive and/or better suited to your needs.
    Once you find out what your needs are.

  3. 7.62 Nato

    7.62 Nato Member

    Aug 8, 2009
    I own and use the Lee Classic 4 hole Turret Press. It works very well. I'm also not a competitive match shooter. If you want to compete you have to practice, that takes ammo and lots of it. From the beginning my reloads have been more accurate than factory ammo and I don't even consider myself a "good" reloader yet. Most peoples ability will not surpass their equipment. If you get to that point you can upgrade.

    By the way, nice screen name.
  4. lykoris

    lykoris Member

    Mar 24, 2009
    I own redding/lyman decapping dies and wish I had first bought the lee decapping die.

    price is what you pay an value is what you get, each person has a price point and their own subjective opinion of what constitutes 'value'.
  5. Jesse Heywood

    Jesse Heywood Member

    Dec 9, 2009
    You two must be long-lost brothers!

    I can't speak about anything but RCBS. I used their equipment in years past, and it was very good. Last fall I got back into reloading, and bought RCBS. The new stuff that is made in China is junk. I had to hand fit, chase threads, and deburr everything but the dies.
  6. loadedround

    loadedround Member

    Feb 18, 2006
    Valley Forge, Pa
    You only get what you pay for these days. With 45 years worth of reloading experience, and a retired engineer, I find the Lee press to be very light for reloading rifle cases because of it's overall construction. I don't see the precision or the tolerance in any of the Lee presses compared to my favorite press, the Redding Boss or Big Boss. I have also used Lee dies and they work well, however because of some of the aluminum components in them, they also will wear quicker. For light reloading use, consider the Lee, but for volume reloading consider Lyman, RCBS, or Redding presses; or go all the way and invest in a Dillon 55B. You will not be sorry.
  7. jfh

    jfh Member

    Aug 28, 2003
    Maple Plain, MN
    I think the issue rests less in what kind of shooter you are--i.e., you said you are "not a match shooter"--and more in what kind of reloader you might become. IIRC, a recent long-range (1000-yd?) record was set using cartridges built on Lee gear. Generally, however, that is not the brand's reputation.

    By your characterization, you don't (at this point) need the gear with a "match" reputation. With that in mind, what RC says is good advice. To this I would add one more observation--since Lee gear can require fiddling and some trouble-shooting skills to run efficiently all the time, it helps a lot if the user is process-oriented and not goal-oriented. One who is minimally 'mechanically inclined' will have no trouble with the fiddling, and you clearly already have enough sense to ask questions.

    So, there's no reason to not consider Lee gear. As 7.62 Nato points out, he's happy with the Lee Classic Turret, and if you get that you can learn reloading and efficiently load all your calibres quite handily.

    Jim H.
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2010
  8. oneounceload

    oneounceload member

    Apr 24, 2008
    Hot and Humid FL
    In the BR community, that also means making the most accurate round every time as well - it's a combination of quality and quantity, with the focus on quality.
  9. raz-0

    raz-0 Member

    Dec 26, 2002
    My current high volume pistol setup has Lee, dillon, and redding dies in it. I started with lee, and replaced whatever wasn't working for me at the time. For me, for the most part, I start with lee dies, and replace the bits that don't work.

    In general, their dies are pretty decent. Their single stage presses are as solid and rigid as anyone elses. It's not exactly high tech equipment there. The turret has compelling reasons for and against (I started with one, and moved on, but it makes a great "trying things out" backup press). Their progressive presses are pretty easy to argue against. About all they have going for them is cheapness, and for high volume reloading, the press is definitely on the razor side of the equation rather than the razorblades.

    As for the forster press. It is stupidly expensive. For carefully built match ammo, I could see the appeal at one point, but now that both hornady and lee have bushings for your dies that allow you to remove and replace them while keeping everything set, I don't see what you are paying for these days with the forster press.

    I really don't think anyone produces dies that are bad these days. What I think you will find is that different pieces of gear do the job slightly differently, and some have advantages that may or may not be relevant to you, and some don't.

    For example, the redding micrometer seating die, rcbs x-die, lee factory crimp die, and egw-u die are all based around a gimmick/feature they do that other things don't do the same way. Each one of them is genuinely useful if you need that gimmick. If you don't, you will be left wondering why you paid the money for it.

    As for your friend having a poitn or not. Well i'd keep in mind that there is probably less accuracy to be realized between cheap lee .308 dies and expensive redding .308 dies than the difference between an well set up m14 and a decently set up bolt action rifle.

    As for benchresting, you get lots of wildcatting going on, and forster will make you more special one off dies for cheaper while still caring about precision to the nth degree than the next guy. When chasing that last little bit of accuracy, that matters.

    Also, for that last little bit, case prep matters a lot. Forster and redding have had a lot better case prep tools as single brands than pretty much anyone else for a while. However, hornady is making some significant inroads in this area, and a umber of small manufacturers have always produced some very high quality, price competitive equipment in this area.

    My $0.02
  10. Grumulkin

    Grumulkin Member

    Dec 1, 2005
    Central Ohio
    The only things I like about Lee stuff:

    1. Factory Crimp dies.
    2. Collet dies for some applications.
    3. Their priming tool.

    I have an RCBS single stage press and a Redding T-7 turret press both of which I'm quite happy with. My dies have run the gamut. I now buy mostly Redding dies but have also been happy with RCBS dies. Hornady dies are fine except one size fits all and they're big and clunky. I therefore only buy Hornady dies when RCBS or Redding doesn't make them economically for a cartridge I wish to load for. I tried RCBS X-dies, didn't like them and divested myself of them.

    I don't like the case trimmer from Redding. It's overprice and I don't think it's that well made. I have the big motor powered RCBS case trimmer. For a hand trimmer I'd go with Wilson or Forster.
  11. showmebob

    showmebob Member

    Feb 1, 2009
    Salida, CO
    I have used RCBS, Dillon and Hornady presses. Lee, RCBS and Hornady dies.
    I think the pressed I've used were all equal quality. For dies I like RCBS the best.
    If you can try out whatever press you are considering.
    Good luck.
  12. 243winxb

    243winxb Member

    Jul 7, 2004
    Hopewell Big Woods
    You would do well to follow your friends advice.
  13. mongoose33

    mongoose33 Member

    Jan 2, 2009
    Lee stuff, generally, is cheaper-made. Not always--the Classic Cast press is pretty darned good for the price. But the dies, I'm not that enamored of.

    Much of their stuff is made of plastic. Take the Lee Perfect Powder Measure. Costs circa $21 on Midway. It's ok--not perfect, but it's fair. I also have a Redding powder measure. All metal (except the powder reservoir). Solid, consistent, excellent.

    Is there a market for the Lee measure? Sure--if you can't afford anything better, it'll work. But it's not as good as the Redding.

    Lee is a great way for people to enter the reloading arena, if they are budget-constrained. Lots of people make good ammo w/ Lee stuff, and there are some longtime users who are perfectly happy.

    But I've learned over a long life--this isn't snobbery, it's life experience--that you generally get what you pay for. Further, it has been my experience that if I compromise on quality, I'm almost always disappointed.

    I had this confirmed with Lee 9mm dies. They're cheaper than other brands, and there's a reason. The locknuts are cheap, and secure the die to the press w/ a rubber o-ring. Contrast that with the excellent lockrings one finds on Hornady's dies. Quality stuff from the get-go. And the dies are, too.

    Lee doesn't tend to warrant their products as long as others, and that too is reflected in the price.

    I've used Redding, Lyman, RCBS, Hornady, Dillon reloading equipment. All of the above is quality stuff, IMO. In my view, Lee is a level below that, with the exceptions of the FCD, the Classic Cast, and maybe one or two other things.
  14. bds
    • Contributing Member

    bds Member

    Jan 10, 2010
    Northwest Coast
    I can only speak for pistol reloading.

    I have RCBS and C&H single stage and Lee Pro 1000. The RCBS Reloader Special 5 has been great for sizing requirng little effort. The C&H Champion is industrial. Pro 1000 has put out over 250K accurate match grade reloads (I am on my second press) average 600+/hour.

    I have only used Lee carbide dies, but many shooters I know have switched to them after using other dies. I am still using the dies I bought back in 1995 and never needed to use case lube.

    I hand prime all of my cases using Lee Auto Prime and yet to break the handle nor plan on using anything else.

    I hope this helped.
  15. jcwit

    jcwit Member

    Oct 19, 2007
    Great state of Indiana
    Let your wallet be your guide! Remember value is like beauty, its all in the eye of the beholder.

    With that said Lee seems to be going like crazy, if they were terrible they would have gone the way of the Yugo.

    But then again so are all the other mfg's.

    Unless you're into benchrest or real heavy competition I doubt you'll ever know the difference.

    Also Ammo loaded with all Lee equipment held the 1,000 yds world record a few years back.
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2010
  16. JimKirk

    JimKirk Member

    Nov 23, 2008
    Nicholls,GA South Georgia
    * added Forster CoAx as that is the press I changed to after moving up from a RCBS press.

    There are several ways to go about buying reloading equipment:

    Purchase as cheap as possible... think Yugo-Nano

    Purchase middle grade... Think Chevy-Ford

    Purchase high grade... Think Lexus-Benz

    All of them will get you where you want to go:

    If you don't mind pushing, get the Yugo-Nano.

    You can go Ford-Chevy and ride without a lot of extras, but you don't have to push.

    Or you can get the Lexus-Benz, it'll park itself, adjust the seat for you automatically, do everything but wipe your butt(I hear they have a prototype), but it cost some $$ to ride in class.

    It's your choice!

    Buy a $2000 rifle and put a $69.95 scope on it!

    Jimmy K
  17. NuJudge

    NuJudge Member

    May 20, 2006
    SE Michigan
    If you are shooting cast bullets in pistols, especially Tumble Lubed cast bullets, I recommend the Dillon Seating Die, because you can disassemble it to clean out lube without losing adjustment.

    I don't like the Lee Zip Trim, but I believe that's all Lee makes I don't like.

    There are things Lee does not make, such as specialized neck bushing size dies, and micrometer seating dies. Then again, there are specialized things such as their rifle Collet Dies and some of their 6-cavity molds which are very nice.

    Do yourself a favor and try to scrounge stuff cheap through Craig's List and other sales forums. There's a lot of good used equipment out there cheap. Buy it before new, except when you have a specialized need.
  18. homeyclaus

    homeyclaus Member

    Jan 26, 2008
    Almost all of my gear is Lee. I run a Lee Load Master progressive with more than 10000 rounds on the clock, and have a Classic Cast for general purpose use.

    The Classic Cast is top-notch. Everyone that's used mine (and many have green presses at home) thought it was a steal for the price. No slop, anything.

    Progressive presses from all makes have a Rube Goldberg quality to them. The Lees are probably most known for using plastic friction parts. In their defense, they're the ultimate test of your ability to follow instructions. If you think you know better than the guy that designed it, then yes, they can be frustrating. If you're willing to go through your instructions thrice to make sure you got them right, you'll find that all of a sudden, it just works. Once it works, you can develop the feel for the way it should be feeling, after which there isn't all that much that goes wrong. I think that so far, in 4 years of use, I replaced 4 primer sliders, one primer ram, and the "flipper" part (which to its credit, lasted 8000 rounds or so, and cost $1.50).

    Lee pistol dies are as good as any other, and their auto disk powder measure (the pro one, not the old one) is as reliable as you can make a sliding disc. The rifle dies, IMO, are great to start with. I have others, and depending on what I am doing I may mount up the X-Die, but in the grand scheme of things I have few complaints, it all works as promised. My 308 dies will load ammo that'll cloverleaf at 100 yards if I sandbag my rifle, and I don't think that's unreasonable.

    Now, for ultra-precision, palma-style matches, sure, I'd treat the brass better, get Redding dies, hand-weigh charges, uniform flash holes and meplats, and generally sort everything by weight. But for things like 3-gun, IDPA, or bet-you-can't-hit-that-pop-can stuff, the target won't know the difference. Is it worth it? Up to you.
  19. RustyFN

    RustyFN Member

    Jul 5, 2006
    West Virginia
    I only have experience with Lee and Dillon. I bought the Lee classic turret four years ago. I couldn't afford over $1,000 for a Dillon to load four calibers so I bought the Lee. I have loaded on a friends Dillon 550 and it was very nice. I am also very happy with my classic turret. It doesn't require any tinkering. Nothing has broken or needed to be replaced. The safety prime system has worked near flawless. The pro auto disk powder measure is very consistent. I do shoot pistol competition and load quite a bit of ammo. My classic turret loads just as good ammo as any other turret or progressive. This is just my experience. If you do a search you will find that most people that have actually used one are happy with it.
  20. Ateam-3

    Ateam-3 Member

    Jan 13, 2009
    +1 jcwit

    I have a lot of Lee dies and I have not experienced any problems with them at all. Likewise, I have RCBS, Pacific, Lyman All-American and Hornady. Again, no problems with any and some sets are 40+ years old. I have loaded many rounds of ammo, both rifle and pistol, and believe they yield ammunition every bit as accurate as I am.

    Find what you like and what you can afford and do not be intimidated by the comments about Lee being that much inferior to the more expensive products.
  21. Bush Pilot

    Bush Pilot Member

    Oct 17, 2007
    Lee makes a darn fine scale, haven't had any papers fly away since getting one.
  22. Balrog

    Balrog Member

    Nov 28, 2008
    One thing I have noticed is that in general, the more something costs, the less I have to screw around with it to keep it working.
  23. mallc

    mallc Member

    Apr 28, 2007
    FFL in Muscatine, Iowa 52761
    Started with LEE

    five years later I have no LEE equipment whatsoever. It works just fine but just about everything else works better.

    Ask why people prefer Smith and Wesson over cheap imports and you'll get the same answers.

  24. warnerwh

    warnerwh Member

    Feb 14, 2009
    The Lee Classic Turret is a bargain and a half. I have zero issues and it will turn out 200 rounds per hour if you go just a little fast. Build quality is also very good. No pot metal on this press, it is all cast iron and steel. Years ago I would have never considered any Lee press and my last press before I got married was a Dillon. I'm sure the accuracy of the ammo coming off of the Lee is just as good as what came off the Dillon.
  25. Historian

    Historian Member

    Oct 6, 2007
    Dallas, Texas
    I have been reloading for a few years now and I am still using my reliable RCBS Rockchucker. I can afford to buy any set up that I want but I like the idea of hand crafting my rifle rounds. With that in mind, I have found that Forster sizing dies and competition seating dies give me outstanding results with a middle-of-the-road press. I truly believe that Forster seating dies are the best that you can buy and will make up for many shortcomings that the average reloader might find with his/her equipment. Welcome to the hobby and, however you choose to go, may all your rounds shoot true.

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