Redding Reloading Dies: Sizing Them Up
Over the years, I’ve used just about every readily available brand of reloading dies: Hornady, Lee, RCBS, Forster, etc. In the mid-nineties, I gave a set of Redding dies in 270 Winchester a try.
I now own a set of Redding dies for almost everything I reload for. Most of the sizing dies are the Redding Type S FL Bushing dies. I’ve also used Redding Competition Bushing Neck Die Sets in 260 Remington and 300 Winchester Magnum. This article will outline the options available with Redding dies and what I recommend.
Redding offers dies for all popular cartridges in several configurations. The most useful sizing dies for precision rifle reloading use an interchangeable bushing for neck sizing.
I full-length size every case, every time. Full-length sizing won’t harm precision or case life if done correctly. It can also help assure every loaded round chambers easily under field conditions.
Redding offers two basic sizing dies that size the neck and the body in one stroke of the press handle. The first is their standard Full Length Sizing Die, which is cut a little undersized for the chamber of the cartridge it’s designed for. When we force a case into it, the die sizes the neck and body at the same time. The expander ball on the decapping rod sets the neck diameter as the case is pulled back out of the die.
The other basic sizing die that Redding sells is the Type S Full Length Bushing Die. This die has the same cut for sizing the case body, with a cavity in the neck area that holds interchangeable bushings.
These bushings, available in plain hardened steel or with a titanium nitride coating, are used to set the outside diameter of the case neck. This die can be used with or without an expander ball.
Both of these sizing dies are capable of producing ammunition suitable for long range precision. The Type S Bushing Die has the advantage of being easier on your brass. It’s also more likely to produce cases with less runout after sizing. The reason for that is case thickness variations from brand to brand.
The standard full length sizing die has to accommodate all case thicknesses by sizing the neck down more than is necessary. It then sets the neck diameter by pulling it back over an expander ball on its way out of the die. This extra working of the brass hardens it, causing inconsistent tension on the bullet from case to case. How quickly, or how much this can happen depends on chamber dimensions and brass thickness. Pulling the unsupported neck back over the expander ball also sets us up for a case with excessive runout at the neck.
With the bushing die, the amount of neck sizing is controlled by selecting the bushing we want. There’s no need to oversize the neck; just change the bushing size to account for thicker or thinner brass. I use the plain steel bushings, marked .001” to .003” smaller than a loaded round’s neck diameter. For detailed information on how to select the right bushing, click HERE.
Watch these videos for more information on the differences between the dies, as well as an explanation of how I select bushings and use the dies:
Another option from Redding is the Competition Bushing Neck Die Set. This set includes a Body Die, Competition Neck Bushing Die, and Competition Seating Die.
The Body Die is exactly that; it only sizes the body from the shoulder back. The Competition Bushing Neck Die sizes the neck with a bushing. A floating sleeve holds the body of the case in line with the die, while a micrometer-adjustable top controls how much of the neck’s length is sized. Cases are full length sized in two steps with this set. With a turret press it’s a piece of cake. I use a Redding T-7, rotating the plate back and forth for each case.
The Competition Neck Bushing Die set has no capacity to expand necks. You’ll need a separate die or mandrel to straighten dented necks.
There are a couple of reasons for using this set. The first is the ability to size the case necks after every firing, but only size the body of the case when it becomes difficult to chamber. Also, by sizing in two steps the amount of stress applied to the case is minimized. Less stress on the case as it passes through the die helps produce minimal runout.
I recommend the Redding Type S Full Length Bushing Die for sizing cases, and the Competition Seating Die for seating bullets.
Redding offers these two dies as a set called the Type S Match Bushing 2-Die Set. With this combination, I’ve loaded thousands of rounds of ammunition suitable for precision long range shooting. All of those cases were full length sized, with the shoulders “bumped” .001” to .002”. My cases have always lasted as long or longer than the barrel, with eight to ten firings on some of them.
Squaring the die in the press produces runout of the sized cases of .001” or less. I remove the expander ball from the die, eliminating torque on the case neck as it’s pulled out of the die. The bushing is all that’s needed for sizing the neck.
In a side by side comparison of the Competition Bushing Neck Die set and Type S die, the Type S die actually produced less runout. With a batch of fired 300 Winchester Magnum brass, the cases came out of the Type S die at “0” to .001” of runout. The body die in the competition set kept the cases at “0”, but the bushing neck die induced .001” to .002” of runout. In tests that I’ve done, that amount of runout has meant nothing as far as precision is concerned, but why pay extra for it?
I ran this same comparison of the two sizing die systems several years ago, with the same results. Using an extremely accurate 260 Remington, I was unable to see any benefits from using the more expensive competition dies for sizing. With an open mind, I tried again with the 300 WM and came to the same conclusions.
The Redding Competition Seating Die uses the same floating sleeve and micrometer-adjustable top as the Competition Bushing Neck Die. In my opinion, they are worth the extra cost over a standard seating die. They make it very easy to load concentric rounds exactly to the depth you want.
In the end, I think the Redding Type S Bushing Die and Competition Seating Die make a good combo for reloading precision ammunition. They offer a good balance of value and performance.