By popular request...more on reloading
Wednesday, June 04, 2008 Filed in: Reloading, Things I like, Ammunition
From the comments and emails I've been getting, there is a resurgence of interest in reloading. At the price of factory ammunition, I can see why!
I'd like to touch on some things that Jerry brought up in Monday's comments. Yes, I have rather extensive experience with Lee, Dillon, and Hornady progressives. Frankly, each will produce identical ammunition; properly set up, there is no qualitative difference between the cartridges that come off any of those brands. If someone is having problems with the quality of their ammo, switching press brands is quite unlikely to help!
The primary difference among press makers comes in the ease of operation and long-term durability. In my experience, Lee presses require a somewhat higher level of mechanical aptitude to run (and keep running.) They also have a higher percentage of wear-related parts replacement, though to be fair every press has certain pieces that need replacement at regular intervals. It's just that Lee's tend to be more integral to the operation, and have slightly shorter life spans.
Again, a Lee will produce fine ammo - you'll just have to "fiddle" a little more to get it to do so. (Jerry, don't lose hope - bottleneck pistol cartridges like the .357 SIG are notoriously difficult to reload, no matter what press you use!)
Jerry also asked about dies. In carbide pistol dies, I like RCBS, Lee, and Dillon, in roughly that order. Lyman and Redding carbide pistol dies are fine, in a single stage press. The problem with them is that their carbide sizing rings have a very small chamfer at the edge of entry. When operating a progressive press the larger, rounded chamfer of RCBS, Lee, and Dillon dies results in much smoother case entry into the die.
This does have a downside - the larger the edge radius, the further up from the cartridge base the case is sized. That means that the bottom of the case doesn't get sized as much, which can cause feeding problems in autoloading pistols. Dillons are by far the most radiused, which is why I place them at the last of my "preferred" list. Lee and RCBS, in my opinion, have a much more "balanced" approach between feeding and sizing. (The Dillon dies, however, have the very best decapping pin arrangement and Lee the worst. I guess you just can't have your cake and eat it too!)
The only pistol dies I don't like are Hornady's. Their TiN coating, while hard enough for the task, isn't as polished as the carbide rings the others use. Their dies require more pressure on the press handle, and are noticeably less smooth. In fact, the only die I've ever had that scratched cases - gouged them, actually - was a .38/.357 Hornady TiN sizing die. (Hornady's bullet seating die, in contrast, is the very best I've used. This goes to show that no one - and I mean no one - does everything right!)
In rifle dies, all seem to produce accurately sized cases. However, there is a big difference in the internal finish. Redding dies, not surprisingly, are the best - very smooth, very consistent, very nicely made. The RCBS dies are good as well, but some of the Lee dies I've tried have been a little rougher than I would like. I haven't had a scratched case with a Lee die, but handle effort seems higher than the others. They certainly work well enough that I don't feel a burning need to replace those that I have, but when I buy new dies I'll stick with Redding and RCBS.
One of the nice things about RCBS rifle dies is their decapping pin arrangement. Hornady makes a carbide sizing button to replace the stock steel button on the RCBS decapping rod, which makes internal neck lube unnecessary.
(Why not just use Hornady rifle dies? Their decapping pin arrangement stinks. The only brand better than RCBS in that regard is Redding - who make their own carbide buttons. See why my rifle die preferences are RCBS and Redding?)
-=[ Grant ]=-