Best Calipers for Reloading

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Reloading takes a lot of tools and gear to be successful. One of the biggest aspects of reloading ammunition is measuring the neck thickness of your brass casings. For this critical task, calipers are one of the only real solutions.

Let’s go over the best calipers you can use for reloading.

Best Reloading Calipers of 2020

VINCA Quality Electronic Digital Vernier Caliper

Pros
  • Very affordable
  • Comes in multiple sizes
  • Made with stainless steel
  • Already calibrated
  • 3 modes
Cons
  • Can’t use regular USB cable for charging

This digital caliper is an excellent choice for all your reloading needs. For starters, it comes with multiple sizes so you can use it for any kind of cartridge or casing. It’s made with durable stainless steel and provides accurate results every time thanks to its digital design.

This digital design is doubly helpful because it allows you to switch between three measurement modes: fractions, inches, or metric. Either way, it provides accurate measurements down to 0.001” and allows you to easily zero the tool by pressing the button beneath the large and easy-to-read LCD display.

To make things even better, this affordable caliper has already been calibrated before the sale. As a result, it’ll be ready to go right out of the box, making it a perfect choice if you need a digital caliper ASAP.

Bottom Line

This digital caliper is an excellent choice both for its affordability and its versatility; you can obtain precise measurements no matter what form you want them in.

Hornady Digital Caliper

Pros
  • Very large LCD
  • Digital or steel variants
  • Slide is lockable
  • Inches or mm
Cons
  • Steel one is a bit pricy

You can purchase this reloading caliper in either a digital or steel analog format. The latter choice provides you with the same high-quality measurements, though it uses a regular dial instead of a digital LCD display. The LCD displays particularly large if you decide to go with this version, and it’s very easy to zero and change between inches or millimeters if you prefer one over the other.

Either way, both types of calipers are made with high-quality materials and both feature a lockable knob that allows you to stop the slide from moving. Attaining precise measurements around the brass necks of your casings has never been easier.

The only real downside is that the steel caliper is a little expensive compared to the digital one and even others on the market. Still, both options get a high-quality protective case and neither are the most expensive you can find.

Bottom Line

This caliper is a great choice whether you prefer digital or traditional versions, as each tool provides excellent measurements and a phenomenal locking knob.

Neiko 01407A Electronic Digital Caliper

Pros
  • Inches, fractions, and mm measurements
  • Large LCD screen
  • Very affordable
  • Comes in multiple sizes
  • Locking knob
Cons
  • Batteries don’t last that long

This caliper is one of the best digital models in existence. All of the sizes available, which range from 6 inches to 12 inches, are made with durable stainless steel that affords each tool excellent durability and wonderfully consistent results. You get three measuring modes between inches, millimeters, and fractions, and each variant provides accurate measurements down to 0.001” or their equivalents.

You’ll also make use of a knurled thumb roller and locking screw. This makes it easy not only to make precise adjustments with the head of the caliper but also to lock it into place. The LCD screen is pretty large no matter which version you choose (although there’s an additional extra-extra-large screen version available), and you even get a free replacement battery included with the purchase.

The one real downside is that the included batteries will require charging sooner rather than later. This isn’t a huge issue if you do a good job of remembering to plug your caliper in after using it, but it might be an inconvenience if you tend to forget this crucial aspect.

Bottom Line

This digital caliper is excellent for both its construction and precision, and the additional free battery doesn’t hurt.

Mitutoyo Advanced Onsite Sensor Absolute Scale Digital Caliper

Pros
  • Has Advanced Onsite Sensor
  • Includes protective case and additional battery
  • Allows zero to be set at any slider position
  • Keeps track of origin point once set
Cons
  • Jaws not carbide tipped
  • A bit pricy

This digital caliper represents the future of the tool thanks to its unique and modern innovations. As an example, it features an origin point function that keeps track of where it started once you initiate the measurement. This is great for making multiple measurements in rapid succession. You’ll also be able to easily zero the caliper wherever you place the head without needing to repeat the zeroing process each time.

You’ll also benefit from the advanced onsite sensor, or AOS. This phenomenal and innovative sensor uses electromagnetism to resist dirt, oil, and water. All this is to say that the sensor is incredibly precise and does a great job of finding the absolute thickness of brass casings even in dirty environments.

You’ll easily be able to take this tool into inclement weather and still find that it functions properly especially since it’s built with durability in mind and comes with a protective case, as well as an extra battery. It doesn’t have any carbide tipped heads, however, which most other calipers do these days.

Bottom Line

This digital caliper has a few advanced features that make it a modern tool for modern gunsmiths and hobbyist reloaders.

iGaging Absolute Original Digital Electronic Caliper

Pros
  • Multiple sizes and types available
  • Rated for water and dust resistance
  • Can be used with different USB cables
  • Comes with two-year warranty
Cons
  • Have to pay extra for USB cable

This digital caliper uses high accuracy absolute memory technology. This just means that it keeps track of its origin position once it has been set up, which makes it easier for you to take multiple repeated measurements. It features an extra-large LCD display that tells you the sensor position to help you measure with increased precision.

You don’t even have to reset zero since the measuring speed and positions are unlimited. You can even use this caliper to transfer its measurement data to a computer using a standard USB port. The only downside is that you have to pay extra for a USB cable for this functionality.

Other than that, it’s a great tool. It uses a high-quality surface finish to help the slider move without difficulty, and it’s IP54 rated for water and dust resistance. Furthermore, the included two-year warranty ensures that you’ll have an option to replace the tool if it breaks during normal use.

Bottom Line

This high-quality tool comes with an excellent memory function and a few other features, like a warranty and USB data transfer, to make it worth your while.

What is a Caliper?

In a nutshell, a caliper is a precision measurement instrument typically used to measure the interior and exterior dimensions or thicknesses of reloading cartridges and cases. Anyone who reloads their own ammunition must focus on accuracy and case neck thickness uniformity. In other words, the neck of your brass casings needs to be the same thickness all the way around if you want to produce excellent cartridges that are accurate when they emerged from your rifle or pistol.

Calipers help you ensure that the thickness of your brass casings are uniform. They do this by measuring the thickness of the casings by several metrics, including overall thickness, depth, or width, depending on the exact tool you use.

Is It the Same as a Micrometer?

Calipers are distinct from micrometers. Micrometers are even more precise instruments that can only measure one aspect of a surface or casing at a time. For instance, there are outside or inside micrometers that are specialized to measure the thickness of those surfaces. But calipers can measure both the interior and exterior of your casing.

In most cases, a caliper will be just fine for your reloading needs. Most people who use micrometers are going over the top in terms of casing thickness precision. If you’re a beginner just getting into the reloading hobby, you should definitely stick with a caliper as they are more versatile and easier to use.

What to Look For in a Caliper for Reloading

Of course, even though most calipers are pretty easy to use, that doesn’t mean there are all alike. Some calipers are definitely better than others. Let’s take a look at what you should consider as you browse different caliper options.

Type

Broadly speaking, there are two main types of calipers for reloading: digital or standard/analog. Digital calipers have a few advantages over physical or analog ones. For starters, they can be more easily adjusted and present you with a more accurate reading of thickness since they don’t rely on human hand movements to facilitate their measurement. A digital sensor provides you with the measurement information after fixing the caliper head on the target surface.

On the flipside, analog or standard calipers never run out of battery, so you’ll be able to use them consistently for as long as you like. Standard calipers are also a little more durable overall, and many people report that their calipers last them for decades so long as they are taken care of.

Either option can work for you; it all depends on preference.

Measuring Modes

Different calipers may have different measuring modes or metrics. You’ll definitely want millimeters included within its potential measuring modes since you’ll only be measuring brass casings down to this amount in most cases. Extra measuring modes are nice but not necessary for reloading purposes. 

Precision

Even though micrometers can be more precise across the board, that doesn’t mean you should settle for an imprecise caliper. Always go for the most precise caliper you can afford, as this allows you to fine-tune your casing thickness and get things as perfectly uniform all the way around as possible.

When selecting a caliper for reloading, never go with one that can’t provide you with accuracy within 0.02 mm or 0.001 inches. These measurement precision ranges are necessary to achieve true brass casing uniformity for a cartridge.

Durability

The best calipers for reloading will be built to last. Look for something made with durable materials and a long-lasting battery, at least if you choose a digital one. Longer batteries will allow you to use the caliper for longer without having to recharge them or purchase new cells.

Relative Zero

If you plan to use your caliper with several different casing thicknesses, you’ll need a caliper that can zero out its measurement heads pretty easily. Try to find one with this functionality if you plan to use multiple cartridges for your reloading hobby. But if you stick with one cartridge in most cases, this feature isn’t all that necessary.

Easy to Calibrate

If you get a standard or dial caliper, you’ll need to calibrate it about once a year. This means tightening up its various components and making sure that its measurement head actually produces accurate measurement results. Find something that’s easier to calibrate instead of something overly complicated. 

Weatherproof

Finally, you may want a caliper that has some weather resistance if you plan to do your bullet reloading out in the field or at a target practice site. This feature isn’t necessary, but it’s nice to have if you plan to expose your caliper to the elements. Most calipers will probably spend most of their time in workshops or dry garage environments, though.

Conclusion

All in all, the ideal caliper for your reloading process will depend on how accurate you need the caliper to be and what kind of caliper you prefer. Do you prefer physical or digital calipers? Do you need something with an advanced sensor? What about longevity? Answer these questions, then select one of the calipers we provided above and you’ll be sure to produce some high-quality casings.

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