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A caliper that won't break the bank?

GunNutGunNut Posts: 7,642 Senior Member
I can't find my old caliper so I need to buy one.  The old one was not digital, it was an old school metal one so needless to say I'd like to upgrade but I see prices from $20 to over a thousand.  Whats a decent one that wont cost me a kidney?  Brownells has a Sinclair in the $30s.  Is it any good?

Replies

  • JKPJKP Senior Member Posts: 2,541 Senior Member
    I think that's what I use. I'm away from the cave for a while so can't confirm. No need to spend a ton of $ on a caliper. 
  • earlyagainearlyagain Posts: 7,928 Senior Member
    I have a Cabelas and a Frankford. Both $20.00.. No complaints.
  • Uncle FesterUncle Fester Senior Member Posts: 1,569 Senior Member
    I got an Igauging Absolute Origin digital caliper on Amazon.  I like it because it is very easy to read.
  • LinefinderLinefinder Moderator Posts: 7,749 Senior Member
    Yep. Most all calipers are made by a small handful of companies and marketed under a myriad of brand names. Prices range from Harbor Freight to Starret and Brown & Sharp. If you are simply reading to 3 decimal places, most any will suffice.

    A bit of explanation here....for handloading, a caliper is used more as a comparitive tool than an "absolute" tool.  Say you measure coal at 2.737" but find your best results are at 2.724". Okay. Assume your calipers are out of calibration by the huge amount of .020". So what, if you're using the same calipers for the same task. It's a relative thing.

    Otoh, if you are using your calipers to create things to a certain spec that has no tolerance, you better spend the bucks up front and expect to pay almost as much annually for calibration.

    At work I use calipers that measure down to .0005" and a test indicator that measures to .0001" and a drop indicator that changes with ambient temp. The last one is so sensitive you'll never get the same reading on consecutive tries. You've got to average several and call it good.

    At home? A couple $30 dial face no name brands. They're just comparitors after all.

    Mike
    "Walking away seems to be a lost art form."
    N454casull
  • tennmiketennmike Senior Member Posts: 27,457 Senior Member
    The Sinclair from Brownell's would be a good choice, as would the Lyman or Mec if you go digital. And they have a decent guarantee.
    I bought a Starett caliper a LONG time ago. Hurt to pay that much.

      I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that I don't know the answer”
    ― Douglas Adams
  • LinefinderLinefinder Moderator Posts: 7,749 Senior Member
    A caveat to my prior post, and this IS important. Repeatabilty (in the home environment) is usually more important than "absolute" accuracy. Inconsistent pressure on the thumbwheel, edge burrs on the part, temp changes in the part from holding it in your hand, etc......it's not unusual for something you've just measured to gage a couple thou different on your next try.

    Take care with thumb pressure. Take care with how you hold the part. Mind temp changes. Even a hi-$$ caliper can drift on you.

    Mike
    "Walking away seems to be a lost art form."
    N454casull
  • BigslugBigslug Senior Member Posts: 9,327 Senior Member
    The Lyman and Hornady both get it done.  Have regular need to check bore slugs preparatory to ordering custom bullet molds, and frequently compare results against micrometers.  Good within 0.001" at any rate.
    WWJMBD?

    "Nothing is safe from stupid." - Zee
  • ZeeZee Senior Member Posts: 27,464 Senior Member
    I have two “Cabela’s” brand. They seem to work. I ain’t a comp shooter. But, you’ve seen my groups. They do what I need doing. 

    I’m sure similar quality will do the same. 
    "To Hell with efficiency, it's performance we want!" - Elmer Keith
  • LinefinderLinefinder Moderator Posts: 7,749 Senior Member
    tennmike said:
    The Sinclair from Brownell's would be a good choice, as would the Lyman or Mec if you go digital. And they have a decent guarantee.
    I bought a Starett caliper a LONG time ago. Hurt to pay that much.

    I found a Starett .0001" 2-3" mic at an antique shop in Florence, CO a few years back. 18 whole dollars! LOL. Sent it in for calibration, and I've been a very happy camper ever since. Gets calibrated every year, and they've never had to adjust it.

    Mike

    "Walking away seems to be a lost art form."
    N454casull
  • ZeeZee Senior Member Posts: 27,464 Senior Member
    I tried tried a digital once. When the batteries died........I ditched it. 

    I don’t like batteries. 
    "To Hell with efficiency, it's performance we want!" - Elmer Keith
  • JustsomedudeJustsomedude Posts: 1,319 Senior Member
    Just be sure to stay away from plastic.
    We've been conditioned to believe that obedience is virtuous and voting is freedom- 
  • LinefinderLinefinder Moderator Posts: 7,749 Senior Member
    Zee said:
    I tried tried a digital once. When the batteries died........I ditched it. 

    I don’t like batteries. 
    I use a Mitatoyu .0005" digital caliper at work. We have spare batteries in our toolbox. But truth is, I can read less than .0005" on my Dillon "at home" dial caliper and batteries are never an issue. If you have to get closer than that, it's time to break out the manual micrometer, or a $100k OGP.

    Mike
    "Walking away seems to be a lost art form."
    N454casull
  • Gene LGene L Senior Member Posts: 12,575 Senior Member
    I got a pretty good digital one and a cheap dial one, which I use the most because it's handy.  I don't get deep into machining so my requirements for accuracy are pretty generous. got an old micrometer, too, not one of those with the Vernier scale I could never rtead, but with a window that gives the readout numerically.  Probably not precise, but precise enough for what I do.  Which isn't much when it comes to 10/000 of an inch.

    I don't use either very often, maybe to measure OAL, once to read a chamber cast of a bullet diameter, and probably a few instances I can't remember, but you guys enthusiasm got me to thinking I may be missing something important.  What do you use them for at home regarding guns?
    Concealed carry is for protection, open carry is for attention.
  • GunNutGunNut Posts: 7,642 Senior Member
    So the main use would be to measure bores, chamber mouths and bullet diameters.  It sounds like I’m overthinking it and just about any “name brand” will do?
  • zorbazorba Senior Member Posts: 24,985 Senior Member
    Zee said:
    I tried tried a digital once. When the batteries died........I ditched it. 

    I don’t like batteries. 
    I don't like batteries either - BUT - I had a solar powered digital caliper at work. Somebody stole it, but it was really cool. Wasn't cheap. No batteries needed, just like a solar calculator, and almost as good as a solar flashlight! ;)
    -Zorba, "The Veiled Male"

    "If you get it and didn't work for it, someone else worked for it and didn't get it..."
    )O(
  • GunNutGunNut Posts: 7,642 Senior Member
    By “name brand” I’m including names like Caldwell and Cabelas.  Excluding no name eBay Chinese ones?
  • ZeeZee Senior Member Posts: 27,464 Senior Member
    My buddy uses a “Hornady” brand caliper. 
    Looks exactly like my “Cabela’s” but a different color. 
    Pretty sure.......one make and many names for the run of the mill calipers. 
    "To Hell with efficiency, it's performance we want!" - Elmer Keith
  • Gene LGene L Senior Member Posts: 12,575 Senior Member
    GunNut said:
    So the main use would be to measure bores, chamber mouths and bullet diameters.  It sounds like I’m overthinking it and just about any “name brand” will do?
    My problem is when I get info off the caliper or micrometer, there's not much I can do with that data.  I'd measure a bore with driving a lead slug down it and using a micrometer, which is the only time I've found a real use for a precision instrument.  Maybe a caliper would work, don't know.  But as suggested, for general use I'd get an inexpensive Made in America one. if you can find such.  I only bought my digital caliper/micrometer because a guy I know needed to sell it. 
    Concealed carry is for protection, open carry is for attention.
  • mitdr774mitdr774 Member Posts: 1,770 Senior Member
    I have Cabelas and Hornady branded calipers.  Other than some fancy trim I dont see the difference between them.  The only time I have had one loose calibration so to speak, was when I dropped one and it would not return to zero repeatably.  That pair went in the trash.  
  • gunner81gunner81 Member Posts: 623 Senior Member
    I got a Huskey at home depot and it works fine better that an old HF one
  • GunNutGunNut Posts: 7,642 Senior Member
    Zee said:
    My buddy uses a “Hornady” brand caliper. 
    Looks exactly like my “Cabela’s” but a different color. 
    Pretty sure.......one make and many names for the run of the mill calipers. 
    That’s what Linefinder said too.
  • GunNutGunNut Posts: 7,642 Senior Member
    Thanks for all your help folks.  I’ll shop the usual suspects and stop overthinking this.  
  • JayJay Senior Member Posts: 4,349 Senior Member
    I have a Lyman dial caliper and a Hornady digital caliper.  Both have been good and both were bought because that's what was available at Sportsman's and Cabelas when I bought them.

    I only had the dial caliper for the entire time I've been reloading.  I got the Hornady for only one purpose, to use with my bullet comparators and headspace measuring kit.  It's just easier.  With the dial, I have to measure and subtract the measurement of the comparator or heaspace tool.  With the digital, I just close the caliper until seated against the tool, hit the "zero" button and start measuring.  Otherwise, I'd still be using my old Lyman dial caliper for everything.

    The Hornady does seem to eat batteries, even when it's not being used. I've just got used to taking the battery out when I'm not using it for a while.
  • LinefinderLinefinder Moderator Posts: 7,749 Senior Member
    edited April 2020 #25
    GunNut said:
    So the main use would be to measure bores, chamber mouths and bullet diameters.  It sounds like I’m overthinking it and just about any “name brand” will do?
    Depends, amigo. Calipers are great for measuring lengths and OD's, but I'm always cautious about trusting them for measuring  inside dimensions....especially diameters.

    For diameters of holes, gage pins are the way to go. I'd not try to measure bore or chamber diameters with calipers, even though they all have the "inside read" feature. It's simply not accurate on curved surfaces.

    Gage pins can be purchased individually, or in sets, and come in different tolerance ranges. The most common is "Minus .0005", meaning if the nominal diameter is listed as .375" the pin actually measures .3745" since you can't actually insert a .375 pin into a .375 hole. A .3745" pin will get you within .0005" of true diameter, and that's usually good enough. But, you can spend bigger bucks and get Deltronic pins within .0001" of specified diameter. Not many jobs call for this degree of accuracy, but the technology is available.

    Two things gauge pins do that simple calipers can't, is tell you if your hole is both perpendicular to the surface, and if the hole tapered during the machining process.

    In short, a caliper won't get you the info you need on a tapered chamber, nor would I trust it much for measuring bore diameter unless you're measuring the OD of a poured slug.

    Sorry to get so long-winded, but metrology is a trade in itself.

    Mike


    "Walking away seems to be a lost art form."
    N454casull
  • ilove22silove22s Senior Member Posts: 1,507 Senior Member
    imo,

    get a good/decent one and dont look back. 

    If you dont loose them and if you take care of them, they will last a lifetime

    i have some SS dial caliper from someone where and its nice.   I dont think it was expensive. I may have got it from Midway way back then.

    I also have a plastic RCBS dial one that its good for what it is.  

    and i also have a sterrett.  
    The ears never lie.

    - Don Burt
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