If you’re a shooter that regularly reloads their own ammo, you are likely aware that buying a high quality reloading die is very important. Reloading dies are one of the most important tools to have when reloading your own cartridges, no matter what caliber they are.
Reloading dies help to ensure that you are reloading the shell correctly. This ensures that every shell you reload is precise, accurate, and of high quality.
If you’re a firearms enthusiast, you’ll likely know what you should look out for when buying a reloading die. However, newer shooters and hobbyists may get a little intimidated at this point. They have minimal knowledge of reloading a shell and might not even know what a reloading die is and what it does.
Worry not, you’ve come to the right place to learn more about reloading dies. This article will give you the information you need to get the perfect die set kit for yourself. There’s no doubt that you want the very best reloading dies for accuracy, ease of use, and bang for the buck. This review will hopefully give you all the information you need.
What is a Reloading Die?
Before we get deeper into the world of reloading and reloading dies, you might have one question, what the heck is a reloading die?
Well, that’s actually a very good question.
A reloading die is basically a tool that you fix onto your reloading press. It is used to shape each cartridge that you make. The reloading die influences your bullet in a multitude of important ways including to decap, resize the mouth, neck, crimping, and seating of the bullet.
In short, if you want to reload and make your own shells, having a reloading die is very important.
That being said, note that there is much more to reloading than just the reloading die. If you’re a complete beginner, it’s best to start by picking up a comprehensive reloading guide. It’ll help you understand how to correctly reload your shells and what to look out for.
After reading a good reloading guide, you’ll likely find that a reloading die is just one piece of the puzzle. There are a lot more tools that are needed to successfully reload your own ammo at home. These tools include a powder trickler, a digital powder scale, a brass tumbler, and a hand priming tool.
Now that you understand what a reloading die does, lets get down to business.
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Making the Right Choice When Buying a Reloading Die
Before diving into our recommendation for the 5 best reloading die sets on the market, you need to know what to look out for. In general, there are 6 things you need to consider and look out for when buying your reloading die set. These six things include
- What you need
- Do you need Specialty dies or special crimping dies?
- Materials and build quality of the die
- Do you need lubricants?
- Calibers serviced
- Added accessories
What kind of die set do you need to reload you shell?
What kind of die set you need to buy completely depends on the kind of case and ammo you’re trying to reload. Check the info sheet on the die set and see if it supports the ammo type you’re trying to reload.
If you have bottleneck cartridges, a 2-die set will be enough. But for straight cases, you’ll need the 3-die sets. Sometimes the crimp is built-in with the seating die, and sometimes they come separately. For that, you’ll need a 4-die set. If you’re not sure, then go for the 4-die set as it’ll have everything you’ll need.
Do you need a special crimping die to properly seat the bullet?
When buying a reloading die, check if your ammo requires a special crimping die to seat the bullet. A lot of the die sets already have a crimping die present in the set, however, some do not. Check if the one your buying has one if your ammo needs it.
Do you need a specialty die?
Some ammo requires a specialty die to properly reload. There are different specialty dies out there, including the bump die which aids in chambering the bullet and the hand die which is operated by hand. Check if your ammo needs a specialty die to reload correctly.
The build quality and materials of the die
The materials that make out the die is very important in determining how durable the die is and how long it’ll last. They’ll also determine if you’ll need a lubricant or not and how much the dies will cost. In general, steel dies are the cheapest while dies made out of special materials such as tungsten are more expensive.
Most dies that you’ll purchase are usually made out of hardened steel, but this is not always the case. There are dies made out of other materials such as carbide dies, which contain a ring of tungsten carbide. Knowing this is important, because this will determine if you need lubricants or not.
Besides the materials, you’ll also need to scrutinize the build quality of the die. Having a well made die is the difference between having one for life and buying a new one every six months.
Will you need lubricants?
While this is usually determined by the kind of material that the die is made of, you may find that there are other reasons why a lubricant would be necessary. If you don’t want the extra expense, you may want to look at using a type of die that does not require it
Caliber Serviced by the Die
There are some dies that can be used for different calibers and cartridges. On the other hand, there are some dies that are made specifically for one type of ammo and caliber. There are also dies that are match grade and ensure extreme accuracy.
Pistols will need dies that are made for the specific pistol caliber that you own. These are generally different compared to rifle rounds.
Because of that, before buying your own reloading die set, you need to do your own research and find out what you’re shooting. Then you can find out what die actually services the bullets and cartridges that you use during your shooting sessions.
We’ve established that reloading dies are not the only tool you need when reloading your own shells. You need other tools like a powder scale and a trickler. Even though most die sets only comes with the reloading die, some sets come with these accessories.
However, these bundled packages tend to be more expensive compared to regular sets. If you already have all the tools required except a reloading die, it’s better to buy a set that contains only dies.
Now that you know what to look out for and what to consider when buying a reloading die, here are our recommendations for the 5 best reloading die sets on the market today. These die sets are all great quality ones, however, they have different pro’s and con’s.
Read through the reviews below and see if one suits your needs and budget!
The Best Reloading Die Sets – Top 5 Picks
OUR #1 CHOICE
[su_service title=”Hornady Custom Grade New Dimension 2-Die Set” icon=”icon: star” icon_color=”#2D3092″ size=”32″ class=””][/su_service]
Hornady is one of the biggest and most respected brands in the firearms and reloading world. Their custom grade 2 die set further cements their position as a producer of reliable high quality gear. These Custom Grade dies from Hornady represents one of the most premium dies on the market today.
This custom grade 2 die set is made of high grade steel that won’t scratch. Before the kit is boxed and mailed, every piece is hand inspected to ensure that the protective coat is correctly applied, that it properly connects, and that it works as designed.
Each one features very precise machining, with some of the best internal finishes in the entire reloading industry. You’ll find that these dies work very smoothly and are very easy to adjust. Compared to similar dies, you’ll get much better alignment and precision.
Besides, because of the smooth finish, you won’t have to worry about case sticking or creating too much friction. This is great for soft pistol brass because you won’t scratch the case.
When buying the custom 2 die set from Hornady, you’ll get a full length sizer die along with a seating die. The full length sizer die features the Zip Spindle design, which ensures a tight fitting lock that minimizes the chances of slipping. You’ll also have the elliptical expander for smooth neck sizing, because of this feature, you don’t need a separate expander die.
The locking retainer spring makes disassembling the die very easy. This means that this is one of the easiest die sets to thoroughly clean after use. This is critical because thoroughly cleaning your die sets is very important to guarantee longevity.
Each kit comes in a box container that makes the storage of the dies easy and convenient. A wrench flat is also included in the kit which makes adjustments of the dies very easy and straighforward.
However, you need to keep a close eye on the zip spindle design of the die. Some of our friends reported that the zip spindle is the weak link in this otherwise excellent die set. It can break or malfunction if set too tight. Some even reported that it stripped out due to the rather shallow threads.
Overall, the Hornady custom grade new dimension 2 die set is one of the best die sets on the market today. It’s well built, made out of high grade steel, and has excellent precision. If you’re in the market for a high quality reloading die that’s accurate, precise, and will last a long time, the Hornady custom 2 die set is the one you’re looking for.
[su_service title=”RCBS 20515 Carbide Die Set” icon=”icon: star” icon_color=”#2D3092″ size=”32″ class=””][/su_service]
RCBS is another highly regarded name in the reloading and gunsmithing industry. The 20515 carbide die set is the perfect example of why people like RCBS tools, they’re reliable, high performing, and built to last.
This die set gives you 3 dies to work with, starting with the sizer die made from carbide. The rest of the gear is made out of high quality cast steel that’s very durable and scratch-proof. To increase the longevity of the die set, RCBS also hardens and hand polishes them with protective coating.
Having the sizer die made out of carbide means no more lubricating the cases prior to sizing. This can significantly cut down on your lubricant expenditure and makes it easier for you to reload your shells. However, keep in mind that
The other dies in the set are the bullet seater die and the bullet seater plug. The bullet seater plug lets you seat the bullet as close as you can to the rifling, so you obtain the maximum overall length needed for the best ballistic performance.
These dies are extremely durable, and even after long use they don’t show any grit or carbon buildup. While it’s prudent to clean the dies regularly (according to the included instructions), these things continue to work smoothly to help you with your high-volume reloading.
Besides being durable, they are also very precise and accurate. They’re precision-drilled and reamed to the same exacting standards as the finest gun mechanisms to ensure the utmost accuracy and precision.
However, some of our friends that use these dies reported that a small subset of the dies exhibit quality control issues. These can range from poorly applied protective coating, flimsy shell holder, to poor quality lock rings. When receiving your die set, look out for these issues so you can claim a refund or replacement if you get a faulty one.
Overall, the RCBS 20515 Carbide Die Set is a high quality carbide reloading die that’s precise, durable, and easy to use. If you’re in the market for a set of high quality carbide reloading dies for 9mm luger shells, this is a great option to buy.
[su_service title=”RCBS Full Length Die Set” icon=”icon: star” icon_color=”#2D3092″ size=”32″ class=””][/su_service]
RCBS full length die set series offers many different sets and groupings for various types of ammo. The one we reviewed is the group A die with 2 dies, the full length sizer die and the seater die.
The sizer die included in this set comes with an expander-decapping unit that removes the spent primer while expanding the case at the same time. This die also has vents to minimize any damage to the case, which can happen when you use too much lubricant or when you have trapped air inside the cartridge.
Meanwhile, the bullet seater die seats the bullet to the right depth using the bullet seater plug. It also has a built-in roll crimper, so it secures the bullet inside the casing even while you’re seating the bullet. This increases the safety and efficiency when reloading your shells.
These die sets are machined from high quality steel that RCBS has dubbed their die grade steel. This is a hardened steel that’s specially made for RCBS reloading dies. They, the RCBS full length die sets are precision milled to precise standards so that they’ll reload your ammo with the utmost precision.
As a finishing touch, the dies are then polished and coated before being sent to the store. These steps ensure that they’ll work well and will last for a long time.
These are one of the best reloading dies in it’s price range in regards to durability, precision, and ease of use for the average reloader. If you’re in the market for a no-frills die set and only need the sizing and seater die, the RCBS full length die sets are probably your best bet.
[su_service title=”Lee Precision .45 ACP Carbide 3-Die Set” icon=”icon: star” icon_color=”#2D3092″ size=”32″ class=””][/su_service]
Lee precision is also one of the top brands in the firearms and reloading world. It has steadily increased it’s fanbase due to it’s equipment consistently being high quality and also reliable. This carbide die set for the popular .45 ACP pistol round is a great example of what the brand has to offer.
This is a reloading die that’s specifically designed to work with .45 ACP ammunition. If you want to reload this specific pistol ammo, this is the reloading die you’re looking for.
When buying this set, you get a full length sizing die that’s made out of carbide, you’ll also get a bullet seating die and the powder through expanding die. Because the sizing die is a carbide die, you won’t need to buy any case lubrication when sizing your shells.
The dies are made out of highly durable steel to ensure durability and longevity. It’s also precisely machined to ensure top of the line accuracy and precision when reloading your shells. When using this, we feel that the fit is nice and perfect, along with the bullet depth..
Lee precision products, including their dies tend to be more affordable compared to other manufacturers. However, they don’t skimp on quality. They may not look that impressive with a sleek finish or a shiny polish, but these sets give you the best bang for the buck.
Plus, you’ll also get a universal shell holder and powder dipper along with this purchase, and there’s a load data sheet too included in the package.
If there’s any drawback to this set, is that it’s missing the crimping die. It’s cheaper to just buy the 4-die set than to get this 3-die set and then get the crimp die separately.
Overall, the Lee Precision 3 die set for .45 ACP round is one of the most cost effective reloading dies you can buy on the market. They’ll reload your shells quickly, efficiently, and most importantly cheaply. If you’re in the market for a reloading die but have a limited budget, give this one a try.
Type of Reloading Dies you Need to Know
We’ve established that there are several types of dies that you can buy on the market. When buying a reloading die set, you’ll usually get several of them pre-packaged, depending on the set. It’s very important to understand which dies do what so that you don’t waste any money.
Here are several of the most frequently packaged and sold reloading dies on the market and what they do. Make sure to read and understand this fully before buying your own set of reloading dies
- Resizing/depriming die: This is perhaps the most important die you need to get if you want to reload your own ammo. A resizing die sets the spent case back to its proper size so it can be reused again. At the same time, it also takes out the spent primer from the case so you can put in fresh primer.
- Bullet seating die: After using the sizer die, you’ll need this one. Its job is to align the bullet correctly to set it properly inside the casing. A bullet that’s not properly seated will have poor accuracy and firing characteristics.
- Case trimming die: Lots of people don’t bother case trimming die, but it’s nice to have especially when you have a progressive reloading press. Over time, cases can stretch as you reuse them, and the case trimming die will then trim back the case to its proper size.
- Powder through expanding die: This is a die you may want to use after resizing the case using a resizing die. Its job is to help funnel the powder into the case once you’ve resized that case to it’s correct dimensions.
- Crimping die: Once you have the resizing and the bullet seating die, you may want to consider getting this die next. You’ll need this for pistol rounds, as it tightens the neck of the casing around the bullet you’ve seated inside.
To get a better picture of the different types of reloading dies along with their function, watch the video below by Redeye reloading on the different types of reloading dies
Now that you’ve learned what kind of dies are in those sets that we’ve recommended, you can be more confident in buying the ones that you really need.
Frequently Asked Questions when Buying a Reloading Die
People ask a lot of questions when buying their reloading dies. Here are several of the most frequently asked questions, see if yours have been answered!
Q: Why you need a reloading die?
Answer: A reloading die allows you to create and reload your own ammunition accurately. A lot of shooters like to reload their own ammo because it gives them better control over the quality.
Besides quality control, self-reloading the ammo also saves a lot of money in the long run. This is because it’s way more expensive to buy primed and loaded ammo compared to their components. For the budget conscious shooter, reloading their own ammo is the way to go.
Some even call reloading ammo a therapeutic and meditative process. Some shooters use this as a pastime to relax and zone out their daily problems.
Q: What Do Reloading Dies Do?
Answer: As we’ve said before, a reloading die is used to help you reload your own ammo. Specifically, it’s used to ensure that the ammo is not damaged and is in proper condition before it’s refilled with gunpowder and primed.
Referring to our list above, there are several different functions that a reloading die does. A resizing die resizes the ammo to it’s proper size. Bullet seating dies seats the bullet correctly inside the cartridge. While a crimping die tightens the neck to ensure a good fit.
For a more comprehensive list, see our list above on the types of reloading dies you need to know.
Q: How do reloading dies work?
Answer: The reloading die is an important part in your reloading kit. After cleaning your spent brass cartridges with a brass tumbler, a die set allows you to resize the cartridge to their original size. This is a crucial step because the pressure applied to the shell when firing may cause the brass to deform.
Because of this deformation, it’s not possible to re-use a used shell casing without resizing them first. This is done by using a resizer die in your reloading die set. There will be a part that will specifically work with the neck, to include the case mouth. You will be able to reopen the case, properly reshape the case, and prepare it for filling with ammunition all on your own.
Some die kits come with a tool that allows you to seek the bullet so that the case mouth is at its proper depth. Others come with a crimping die that evens and removes the bell. All of these play a part in ensuring that you get the best quality ammo for your weapon. This is also why there are specific ammunition die kits for different round sizes and different functions.
Still confused? Below is a handy video by AFAB firearms on reloading dies to give you a better visual representation of what we’re talking about here
Q: Carbide vs Steel Reloading Dies – What’s the difference?
Answer: The main difference between a carbide and a steel reloading die is the need for lubricant. Carbide dies don’t need lubricant when sizing the shell. This can save you money in the long run, even if the cost of a carbide die is higher compared to steel ones.
Besides that, a lot of people also attest that carbide dies are more durable compared to steel ones. They’ll last longer compared to similar dies that are made out of steel.
However, you can also find a lot of steel dies that are very durable and long-lasting. Some even provide lifetime warranties on their die sets because of their durability. This proves that steel dies can be as durable if not more compared to carbide based dies.
Q: How to tell if you have steel or carbide dies?
Answer: The easiest would be to check your instruction manual, if it states that your die is a carbide die, then it’s a carbide die.
In truth, there is little difference between the two. Both usually use cast steel as the basic building material for the body of the die. However, on carbide dies, there is a tungsten carbide insert that you can visibly see. This insert is not present on regular steel dies.
You’ll usually see this insert as a ring on the mouth of the die. Because it’s made out of carbide, it will have a slightly darker color compared to the rest of the sleeve.
Q: Full Length vs Regular Reloading Dies
Answer: When you’re buying a sizing die, you’ll find that some are described as full length wile some are described as small base. Full length dies are actually regular sized dies, however, they are different compared to the small base one.
The standard sized full length die is more popular with reloaders because the small base dies comes on farther down the body of the shell. This in turn works the brass more, which will shorten the lifespan of the brass, cutting the cost savings of reloading your own shell.
Q: Lee Precision vs RCBS Dies
Answer: Both Lee Precision and RCBS manufacture very good reloading dies. Both have a great brand name and are associated with reliable high quality dies.
Usually, RCBS dies tend to look better, they have better finishing and are usually more polished. RCBS dies also exhibit impressive looking knurling that’ll surely be a talking point for many. However, the differences between both brands are more on the aesthetic side compared to normal functions.
As a reloading die, both functions well and are high quality. You might find that RCBS dies have somewhat better build quality and quality control compared to Lee ones.
However, you can’t discount the price difference between the two. Lee Precision is known for offering high quality products at an affordable price. RCBS on the other hand, is known to offer high quality product that’s reliable and long lasting.
Q: Lee Precision vs Hornady Dies
Answer: Hornady is an old and respected brand in the reloading and gunsmithing industry. It’s brand name is comparatively more prestigious compared to Lee Precision. In fact, you’ll find some reloaders that are religiously loyal to Hornady and won’t use any other equipment.
Hornady’s reloading dies have a reputation for being solidly built and won’t drift after you’ve set them. However, several customers reported that a few Lee Precision dies suffer from drifting issues every now and then.
Drifting means that the die shifts a little bit over a period of time, especially when used regularly. It’s easy to fix, you’ll just have to re-tighten the dies periodically. Even Lee dies that have the reputation of being easy to drift has very minimal drifting. They only drift by about 1/100 of an inch after reloading about 500 rounds.
However, Lee Precision dies are usually cheaper and is equipped with more extra things/features stuff that we like to call freebies. If you want to get the best bang for the buck when buying your reloading die, Lee Precision is usually the way to go.
Q: Lyman or RCBS Reloading Dies
Answer: A lot of people swear by the build quality of RCBS dies. When buying one, you can expect to open to box, take out the dies, and begin to use them right away. People expect everything will work smoothly when buying an RCBS product.
However, their products are comparatively more expensive compared to other brands. That’s especially true when compared to budget brands such as Lyman or Lee Precision. You can even find a Lyman die for about one thirds the cost of an RCBS die.
Although Lyman dies work well and are also built to exacting quality standards, a lot of our friends and customers experience problems with their dies every now and then. This might be caused by poor build quality or a lack of quality control from Lyman. Quite a few people are also dissatisfied with the level of assistance that’s provided by Lyman’s customer services.
However, if you’re on a tight budget, Lyman reloading dies are still a good buy. They’ll reload your shells for a fraction of the price.
Q: Who makes the best reloading dies?
Answer: Actually, there is no clear cut answer to this question. The biggest brands in the reloading world are Hornady, RCBS, Lee Precision, Redding, and Lyman. All of them produce great quality reloading equipment, including reloading dies.
When buying reloading dies, you can’t go wrong with these big brands. These are the kinds of names that you can count on to provide you with quality reloading die sets.
If you’re looking to buy the best reloading die, don’t just look at the brand, look at the specific model your looking to buy. Sometimes, even big brands such as Hornady or RCBS have models that are rife with faulty tools, defective parts, and quality control issues.
Look around to see what consumers are saying about each particular kit. This is one of the things that I did in producing this review. I wanted to give you the very best, and that was not always the top one or two brands that consumers are used to.
Q: How to Use Reloading Dies?
Answer: Reloading dies are fairly easy to use, if you’re confused, always read the instruction manual. However, what you need to do with your reloading die to reload your shell depends on what type of press you’re using. Single stage presses work differently compared to a progressive press.
Let’s say you want to reload 100 shells of ammunition, with a single stage press, you’ll probably need an hour. Here are the steps that you’ll likely take when using a single stage press
- Start by putting in a die which in most cases is the resizing die
- Set the die on the press and adjust it firmly
- Set the case into the reloading press, keep doing this until all of your rounds are resized
- Take out the resizing die and put in the bullet seating die, keep seating your bullets until all of it is properly seated
- Change the reloading die to a different function (if needed)
To get a better picture of how to reload using single stage press, watch this nifty video by Jiujitsu 2000
The reloading process is quite different when you’re using a progressive press. A progressive press has several stations, so you can pull the handle on the press and all the dies on these stations do their jobs at the same time. Each case goes through all the stations as you press the handle, sort of like going through a factory assembly line.
That means you don’t have to keep removing the old die and putting in a new one. This saves you a lot of time and effort while also increasing your reloading speed. However, you’ll still need to change the dies if you’re going to work on rounds with a different caliber. You have to remove all the dies for the previous caliber and put in a new set of dies.
With some progressive presses, doing this may not take as much time as you may have feared. You may have to remove the bushings containing the set of dies instead, and putting in a new bushing set of new dies for the different caliber.
When looking to buy a reloading die set, it’s best to understand what you need and what you don’t need. This way, you won’t waste any money by buying something you don’t need. If you’re looking for the best pistol ammo reloading dies, we recommend the Lee Precision 4 die set.
However, if you use rifle rounds, the Hornady custom grade 2 die set is probably the one that gives the best bang for the buck. It’s high quality, reliable, durable, and yet it’s not that expensive compared to higher end models with similar quality.