Redding Reloading Equipment is an industry icon. A family owned company since 1946 it first operated out of a converted chicken coop. Now the company distributes its products worldwide.
In the mid 1960’s Redding began producing dies for rifle and pistols and as late as 1974, all dies were made on a hand operated turret lathe. Suffice it to say, the company has improved its dies and its manufacturing processes over the past 50 years. Their new “Premium Die Set” series is a case and point. In their own words it’s designed for “Utility Precision, and High Production”.
So what piqued my interest in this product?
I’d been using Dillon’s progressive press, the RL 550B, for a decade and its served me well. However over the past few years I’ve taken my reloading more seriously. I’ve become an accuracy freak. In order to print good groups it’s not only helpful to have an accurate gun and know how to shoot. Your ammo has to be extremely consistent and to get there, your reloading methodology has to be precise.
The first step in the road to precise reloading is to ditch the range brass and use brand new cases from a quality manufacturer such as Starline. (This article from Starline’s website offers insights into the rationale of using new brass for accuracy).
Dump that range brass and get some good stuff like Starline if you are serious about accuracy.
Shortly after I started loading large quantities of new Starline brass, I discovered the limitations of the Dillon system. It’s not that it doesn’t work. What I found is that you can improve it, by using Redding dies which are more refined and better engineered.
Enter Redding’s New Premium Series
It didn’t take me long to discover the advantages of using the Redding Premium dies.
For example, Redding’s seating die has a micrometer, so it’s easier to make fine adjustments to the case length. Dillon’s method is hit and miss.
I could live with this until I started loading the new brass.
I quickly realized that in order to load new brass, especially in combination with plated (Rainier) bullets, you need to chamfer/deburr every new case. It’s time consuming and frankly, a pain in the neck.
If you don’t smooth out the the jagged rim of the new brass, the case can stick in the sizing die and/or in the powder drop funnel. This means instead of a smoothly operating press, you’ll have to add extra pressure on the handle’s up stroke to pry the funnel and/or the sizing die from the case mouth. When the brass is freed, the whole platform abruptly pops up and shudders, usually resulting in powder spilling out from the case.
When you’re loading plated bullets, the process gets even more complicated.
If you don’t smooth the case mouth and flare the rim of new brass to perfection, the jagged edge may cause the plated bullet to adhere to the side of the shell during the seating process. That can result in a dinged bullet and/or a crushed shell casing. I found loading new .45 ACP brass to be the most problematic but have also had issues with new 10mm and 9mm cases.
So is there a work-around for these issues?
In lieu of the old chamfer/deburr routine, Starline suggests treating the bullets with lubrication or running the brand new brass in a tumbler. Starline’s Process Manager and Chief Ballistician, Hunter Pliant, said that his company will modify Dillon powder funnels (at no charge) so that they run smoother with the new brass. (One would think that Dillon might make these changes so that customers would have this right out of the box).
Or, as I discovered, you can dispense with any prep on the new brass by using the new Redding Premium dies.
Integrating the Redding Dies into the Dillon Press
The Premium series consists of a three (3) die set which includes a Titanium Carbide Sizing Die, a Special Expander Die with a Titanium coating and a Seating Die with that includes a Bullet Seating Micrometer.
Thus Redding dies differ slightly in function from the Dillon set up so you’ll end up re-orienting your die setup.
Step # 1: Run the brass through the Redding sizing die. (Because I was using new brass, I removed the de-capper).
There are two ways to do this if you have a Dillon system.
The first method is to swap out the Dillon sizing and seating dies with Redding products. The Redding seating die doubles as a crimping die so you have the option of ditching the Dillon crimp die. That leaves you with two Redding dies in the Dillon toolhead (minus the expander die).
It works ok, but one of the Redding tech support staff had another option, which incorporated the expander die.
He suggested breaking down the reloading process into two steps, which necessitates using an extra Dillon toolhead.
The first step is simply resize (or if you like resize and add primers) to your cases. That means adding only the Redding sizing die to the toolhead. Take your new (or old) brass, resize and add the primer.
After you’ve got your cases prepared, add your second toolhead to the press. Your new configuration will consist of the expander, the existing powder drop, the seating die and a crimping die.
The expander (inside the expander die) has a titanium coated tip and works like magic. The tapered tip makes a perfect pocket for the bullet without over-flaring the rim.
Why do it this way?
There are a couple of advantages. This way you get to use all of the Redding dies. You’ll also break down the expanding and crimping stages into two separate functions.
Using Redding’s state of the art expander die in the first phase will create a properly sized bell on the rim. This is important, especially with new brass.
This die achieves several critical functions. It creates a smooth entry radius followed by the precise expanding diameter to accommodate the bullets. This also makes a perfect bearing surface in order to seat the bullet. This helps correctly align the bullet with the center line of the cartridge case which positions the projectile for proper contact with the seating micrometer. The last step creates a flare to further open the case mouth. This is key not only for plated bullets (which are really soft) but for cast bullets so that they do not shave lead during the seating process.
Step #2 is to run your brass through the toolhead with (from left to right) the expander die, powder drop, seating die (with micrometer) and the crimp die.
Once the proper flare is established the powder is dropped from the Dillon powder system. You’ll need to move the funnel up half a turn or so. You’ll want the funnel to make contact with the shell casing without changing the diameter of the bell. This will allow the proper amount of powder to drop accurately in the case.
When you reach the seating die you’ll also turn it up a full rotation so that it won’t crimp the case. You can then seat the bullet accurately with the micrometer. This takes the guessing out of the seating process and is a vast improvement over the Dillon technology.
The final stage is the crimp which is easier to adjust separately from the seating die.
The only issue I had was a couple of times the powder did not drop from the funnel. This was at the very beginning, when I was first tweaked the powder drop. I suspect this was because the funnel didn’t contact the case mouth with enough force. You’ll want to be certain you adjust the funnel to make firm enough contact with the case so that it drops the requisite amount of powder but not so strong that it expands the flare that you’ve already established.
After loading several hundred rounds of .45 ACP I can say conclusively that working with the Premium dies offers a much smoother, more consistent reloading experience that is just as fast or faster than the legacy system.
Voila! The final product. Starline brass topped with a Rainier 185 gr HP bullet. (Note that Rainier is out of business but you can get plated bullets from other sources such as Berry’s).
What I really liked was that I was able to load plated bullets with new brass with no chamfer/deburr hassle. The Titanium carbide dies and the Titanium coating on the expander do provide the lubricity that makes for a more productive and enjoyable process.
I really liked having the expander function separately from the powder drop. The problem with the Dillon system is that in order to adjust the size of the bell on your case you have to remove the two clamp screws on the powder assembly and then take a wrench to the toolhead to tweak the funnel “penetration”. If you don’t get it right the first time you have to repeat until you do.
With the Redding expander die, all you do is unscrew the collar atop the die and rotate top of the expander one way or the other. It’s much faster and more precise. The geometry of the “pocket” created by the expansion of the case is a distinct improvement over the Dillon powder funnel. The Redding die, which is tapered actually creates a tiny shelf on which to place the bullet without over flaring the rim.
I loaded both plated and classic 200 gr SWC bullets and will never go back to the older dies. Note that, if you want to incorporate the expander with the Dillon, you need an extra toolhead. It makes for a two step process but in my estimation, it’s well worth it.
Proof is in the shooting (25 yards off the bench). We used a Rainier plated 185 gr HP bullet over 5.9 gr of AA#2 in the Starline case.
Consistency may be the hobgoblin of little minds, to paraphrase Ralph Waldo Emerson, but if you’re shooting for accuracy, you need to be boringly thorough. That’s the way you make accurate ammo.
That’s why the Redding Premium Die series is the way to go.
If you have any questions, Redding has a first class tech support system. The guys are experienced, patient and wonderful to work with.