One of the most frequent questions I get when the conversation turns to reloading is what bullet seating die I use. I've tried a bunch over the years. The way you seat the bullet in the case is one of the most important parts of your reloading operation. If the bullet does not get seated directly in line and centered in the case neck, it can lead to poor accuracy and inconsistent results on the target. Today we will be looking at the top of the line competition seating dies from two of the major reloading equipment manufacturers - Forster and Redding. Both companies have a long standing reputation for producing quality reloading equipment, but today it is all about bullet seating. So lets dive right in and see which company has it all figured out!
On the left is the Forster ultra micrometer seater. To the right is the Redding Competition seater, and a 308 win case to the right for size comparison. As you can see, the redding micrometer head is about half the size of the forster unit. They are virtually identical height, and both clear the handle on my forster co-ax without issue.
Both dies feature a sliding sleeve that centers the case before the seating stem starts pushing the bullet into the case.
Both dies can be disassembled for cleaning. The forster comes apart right in the middle, while the redding unscrews right beneath the micrometer. This is where the similarities end. The seating stem on the redding, is a short floating unit that contacts a little nub underneath the micrometer. When you unscrew the micrometer head, there is a spring that pushes on the sliding case holder, and this seating stem which slides inside it. After a few hundred rounds, I can visibly see the micrometer head has actually dented the seating stem. Also, I have had to send the redding die back to the factory for service due to the seating stem cracking. After the stem cracks, it then scars up the inside of the floating collar. Redding was unwilling to just send me replacement parts, so I had to send the die out to them, and it took about 3 weeks to get it back. This is a known issue with the redding die.
The forster seating stem is screwed in and protrudes through the top of the die. There is a slot for a screw driver as well as a knurled locking nut. This allows for a coarse adjustment and easy "zeroing" of the micrometer head. This feature is far easier to use than the redding. You simply zero the micrometer, then unlock the knurled locking nut, and use a flat screwdriver to adjust the seating depth. I was able to get it set to exactly 2.225" to ogive without much trouble. The redding has a hole in the top, in which you can shove a hex wrench to accomplish nearly the same thing to a degree. I still don't like that the mic adjustment and the seating stem are separate pieces. Just another point of failure.
Another big difference between the two is the micrometer adjustment themselves. The extra size of the forster really helps here. As you can see both micrometers are marked for 0.001" increments. That's 1 thousandth increments. The forster's indications are a lot wider than the redding. This makes precise adjustments very simple and easy to read. If you needed the accuracy, you could even adjust the forster in 5 ten-thousandths. (thats 0.0005) The redding mic has indications that are less uniform, and very close together. It requires a little more of a stare-down to make sure you are on the right setting. It is also note-worthy that it requires about twice as much force to turn the forster mic than it does the redding. I would consider it impossible to "accidentally" move the forster... while I could see it happening pretty easy on the redding.
I believe in keeping a tidy workspace when I'm reloading. On my bench, everything is suppose to have its place... and the easier a manufacturer makes that for me... the happier I am with them. Once you have a redding die setup, its virtually impossible to put it back in its case and actually close the lid. If you unscrew the mic head, then you can get it in there, but its annoying. The forster comes in a much larger case that can actually be used after the die is setup. Not only that, it will hold a redding bushing neck sizer, lee universal decapper, and a redding body die in there too! The lid closes just fine, and it can be tucked away wherever I please.
Finally... Cost. Prices were taken off midway.
Redding - $94 + shipping
Forster - $67 + shipping
I compared length to ogive on 50rnds done with the redding, and 50rnds done with the forster and they were all within 1 thousandth of each other. The runout was actually less by 1-2 thousandth with the forster. In my opinion the forster is the clear winner. Its easier to set up, easier to use, cheaper, and in my case resulted in just a tiny bit less runout.