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Thread: What's the deal with high end pistol dies?

  1. #1

    What's the deal with high end pistol dies?

    I am wondering what the general consensus is on high end pistol reloading dies, primarily for 9mm and to a lesser extent 45ACP.

    Here is what I mean:

    I understand that super precision is needed for rifle rounds. How things get sized, annealing, and every possible thing on the planet related to brass prep all matters...when you are talking about rifle rounds. Particularly if you are into precision or long range shooting the dies can make a difference in success or failure. But that stuff doesn't really directly carry over to pistol shooting, at least not that I am aware of.

    What I am wondering is the general consensus for pistol dies. I have been reloading for quite a long time so I think I have a fair grasp on the basics of everything but I figured I would ask for 2nd through 50th opinions.

    That said I don't know if the intricacies of rifle reloading necessarily translate over to pistol ammo. I see expensive pistol dies for both resizing as well as seating for pistol ammo. Things like a Mighty Armory Gold Medal pistol die runs around $165 bucks (plus shipping) for a single decapping and resizing die setup. I also see the Redding 9mm micrometer seater die that runs about $90 bucks (plus shipping). These are just two examples. Those two dies alone would make pistol reloading dies that would be over $250 for a single caliber, and possibly more. I've seen some seating dies that don't have a crimp function so one would have to also buy a separate crimp die and add another step in the process. I guess that last one isn't as important if you are working on a progressive press.

    While I want very nice ammo I am wondering if all of the more expensive dies (for pistols) really make any kind of difference when shooting? If so, what differences are there when it comes to real world application? It's easy to justify and see results with rifle ammo, but I am not sure about pistols.

    I might shoot my pistols out to 25 or 50 yards on occasion but most of the time I am nowhere near that far out. So in general the distance aspect is quite different than with rifles. I take it there are many competition shooters here so please expand a little bit (if possible) on handgun dies, specifically the more expensive ones. Yes if you have a super tight chamber in your gun you need to make sure that's all correct before you reload a ton. In that case the right type of die would matter.

    I am thinking about my shooting (of pistols) and I am trying to justify why one (or more than one) of the expensive dies would matter as it relates to pistol ammunition and results down range. Yes I get it that some dies will work a lot better for high volume reloading (progressive or automated) but that doesn't answer my underlying questions about performance of pistol ammunition being substantially better (or not) than with regular old dies.

  2. #2
    You need carbide dies, I am not sure brand matters a whole lot. I never crimp and seat in the same step even on a single stage cause I don't like it.

    The Redding Micrometer seater die is awesome and would recomend it. The micrometer part is nice if reloading different bullets in batches but the real great part about it is the seating stem is on a spring and aligns the bullet before seating. Really speeds things up for me as I just sorta half ass get the bullet in the case. Nice for a progressive press if your not using a bullet feeder setup.

    Current die prices are inflated as well.

  3. #3
    Lowly Production C-Class olstyn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leroy View Post
    You need carbide dies, I am not sure brand matters a whole lot.
    Agreed. I like the style of lock ring that Hornady puts on their dies, but not enough to switch away from the RCBS dies that I already have. I think that unless you're planning on shooting competitive bullseye or something else requiring very high precision from a pistol, just about any basic carbide die set will do just fine. Especially given that a whole die set is usually $50 or less, I see no issue with just buying one, seeing how well it works for you, and adjusting as necessary. I definitely wouldn't buy anything expensive/specialized unless you can determine that it's not generating the results you need.

  4. #4
    Mr. Shovel Lover Hambo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by olstyn View Post
    I think that unless you're planning on shooting competitive bullseye or something else requiring very high precision from a pistol, just about any basic carbide die set will do just fine.
    I'll second this. I keep thinking about a micrometer seating die for 9mm, but I don't buy one because I rarely change bullet weight/design. If you can find 9mm dies, they won't be cheap right now.
    John Wick didn't kill all those people because they broke his toaster.-MickAK

  5. #5
    Soul Brother Number 1 Greg's Avatar
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    You can buy the Hornady lock rings on their own and use them on any brand of dies.
    Donít blame me. I didnít vote for that dumb bastard.

  6. #6
    Lowly Production C-Class olstyn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Greg View Post
    You can buy the Hornady lock rings on their own and use them on any brand of dies.
    Yup. I've just been lazy. My RCBS dies are already set where I need them and in LNL bushings, so if I was to change the rings, I'd have to re-do the setup on the entire press. I mentioned it more in the spirit of "if I had it to do again, I'd probably have bought the Hornady dies or other ones with similar lock rings." The RCBS ones use set screws that have a tendency to munge up the threads, which is obviously not ideal.

  7. #7
    I have been reloading and shooting plated bullets for years. If anything I only change the grain weight for the most part. 147 for the subs and 124 for the every day stuff. That is because it mimics my carry ammo. Sometimes I do load 115 grain because on occasion that's what I have, but when I am purchasing those first two are it for the most part. Usually I will buy enough for a few years of shooting at a time and if finances permit I will double up.

    Generally speaking I just stock pile components over time so if I change something it's going to be out there in the future sometime.

    I have used a few different types of dies for pistol, but nothing from the high end (ever). That said I have some RCBS ones now. They are ok but not my favorite. I had to perform surgery on the seating stem of one because it kept on damaging the tips of my bullets. After I honed it out it's been working like a champ.

    When I shoot I tend to mix it up some. I might be shooting pistol today, but rifle tomorrow and I might do totally different things with that mix. I have a 300 yard lane at my house so lately I have been shooting a .22LR out there. It all just depends.

    One thing I have done lately (because of the addition of a Labradar) is I am starting to pursue more precision long range ammo. At a friend's house they have 1,400 yards so I enjoy that a lot too. In the mix of me annealing cases and weighing charges I started to try to make my reloading a lot more efficient while also upgrading a few things.

    I would like to upgrade my pistol dies but $165 bucks for a single 9mm sizing die is a little bit crazy. It's not that I am freaking out over the price because it's really just the cost of a nice meal out (over the other dies). I understand that prices are inflated now but that is the normal price for that specific die.

    The micrometer thing seems like it could be useful. That would be a buy once cry once kind of deal. The same thing would be true for the Mighty Armory 9mm Gold Medal 9mm and 45ACP dies but I am not sure if someone else has been able to produce good results with them. Not saying it's a bad product but rather does the net performance gain either in reloading or in shooting warrant any of that price tag?

    Eventually I am going to get a second press (probably a Dillon of some sort) so I can relatively high speed load up pistol and other plinking ammo but for now I am using a Redding T7. While I do want to upgrade my pistol dies I am not sure if that one I am looking at justifies the price tag.

  8. #8
    I just went through the TNT GOLD MATCH 9mm Luger Sizing Die web page. I believe that itís meant for high-volume loaders like smaller factories. In fact, several comments specifically mention using it with fully automated presses. In that application, I see several key benefits:
    1. No lubrication required. This simplifies production and keeps facilities and machines cleaner, both of which are major headaches for high-volume loaders.
    2. Greater durability over the long haul, probably millions of rounds.
    3. You can adjust sizing for a specific bullet diameter. This lets a match shooter solve for brass thickness in a specific barrel, which matters with ultra-hot loads. Could also let a factory owner adjust for a specific lot of projectiles thatís slightly under-or oversized.
    4. Ability to adjust crimp precisely. Changing crimp by a few thousandths is a time-honored way of tuning handgun ammo. It tightened groups considerably in a stock S&W Model 625 that I once owned, and matters even more in race guns or with extremely high-pressure loads.

    Those of us with Rockchuckers probably donít need this. But if youíre looking to upgrade your press to a seriously high-volume number, then you could spread your investment over more time.


    Okie John
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  9. #9
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    Micrometer seating dies for handgun reloading may have lille practical use. Many of the guns themselves lack sufficient accuracy potential to benefit from their use. Many individuals lack knowledge or technique to justify them. And then there are a number of sources of variation from start to finish that would negate their use. Lee dies perform nicely. RCBS dies have an excellent track record. If I owned no equipment and intended to buy a Dillon press, I would buy Dillon dies just to keep things simple. Simple is often better.

    Over the years I bought many used die sets even if they were steel non carbide pistol dies and even if I did not need them. Price determined purchase.

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