Hornady Pistol Dies


In this review, we’ll take a look Hornady’s “Custom Grade New Dimension” pistol dies. In particular, I’ll use a set of revolver dies (44 special/magnum) for this review.

Overall Score: 4.5/5



  • – A very complete set, with accessories and replacement parts, allen wrench
  • – Great features, Excellent quality
  • – Comes in a nice stackable cases


  • – Rubber washer on seating die deforms (too squishy)
  • – No 4 die set available (for automatics, separate taper crimp die)

Complete Review:

 There’s no question: Hornady makes a great set of pistol dies. Each set comes in a rugged plastic box that is stackable. The boxes are nice, but the dies sometimes sit a bit wonky in the holders (a nit pick…).

Here’s what you get with each set:

  • – Sizing/Decapping die
  • – Expander die
  • – Seating/Crimping die
  • – Plastic storage box
  • – Extra seating plug (come with flat point and round nose style plugs)
  • – Extra “C” snap ring (retains sliding bullet guide and seating plug)
  • – Allen wrench
  • – Instructions

Each die comes with a nice locking ring so that you can retain your height setting when removing from a press or lock-n-load bushing.

What you get with each pistol die set (Lock-N-Load bushings shown not included):


So let’s take a look at the individual dies included in this set.

Sizing/Decapping die:

Sizing die, view 1


Sizing die view 2


The sizing die features a titanium nitride coated sizing ring. This prevents the die from wearing out even when you’re not using lubrication, and helps to prevent cases from sticking. (I use lube most of the time anyways as it makes the press run smoother) These dies also feature the “Zip Spindle” system for adjusting and retaining your decapping pin height setting. This system works really well compared to some of the other systems I’ve used. The sizing ring does a great job of sizing the cases. Where some brands of sizing die have not sized down enough in my experience, the Hornady sizing dies always size to a proper diameter.

Overall score for sizing/decapping die, 5/5




Expander Die

The Hornady expander die is simple and straightforward, and has worked well for me. It has the same standard features as the rest of the dies (corrosion resistant coating, lock ring).

Expander die


Overall score for this expander die, 5/5




Bullet Seating / Crimp Die

The bullet seating and crimp die has some unique features. One of these features is a sliding guide for the bullet. This guide contacts the bullet before seating begins. This helps to align the bullet, and helps to prevent the bullet from tipping. You can also change the seating plug (comes with both a flat point and round nose style seating plugs) in just a few seconds! One complaint I do have is the rubber washer between the lock ring for the seater and the die body. It’s much too squishy, so you are left with a mushy feel when you compress it, and it deforms easily. Perhaps I’ll experiment on my metal lathe with some delrin plastic to see if that works better.

Seating / Crimp die view 1


Seating / Crimp die view 2


Overall score for this expander die, 4/5




Value for the money:

Overall, this is a great set of dies. Retailing at $57.07, the basic set is a bit spendy, but looking online today, I saw them on sale for a bit over $35. Factor in the free bullet deal, and then you’re talking about a great value. Based on the average street price of $40 or so, I’d call these a good deal, so the score here is 4/5.




Summing it all up:

The Hornady “Custom Grade New Dimension” pistol dies are top quality, and offer some great features. I’ve reloaded 1000’s of pistol rounds in 9mm, 38 special, 357 magnum, 44 magnum, and 45acp with these die sets. I would like to see Hornady offer a 4 die pistol set (with taper crimp die), and have a bit of trouble with the rubber washer on the bullet seating die, but those are really nit-picks in the grand scheme of things. The split lock rings work great, and the extra parts and tools are very handy. If you do buy a taper crimp die, there’s room in the box for it (I have one for 45acp). These dies are also covered by a lifetime warrantee. Currently, there’s a free bullet promotion where you can get 100 Hornady XTP bullets with each set of dies (that’s about a $20 value), that definately sweetens the deal! For more details see www.hornady.com.

Complete Review Video: 

23 thoughts on “Hornady Pistol Dies”

  1. Hi. I’m gettingmy fisrt handgun, a Ruger p90 that i will pick up next week. Since i’m a guy that like to be full equipped when i start a new hobby, i’m concidering of buying a reloading press. On your site you only talk about Hornady press. What would u recommend for a first time user like me. I’m looking at Load-Master, Dillon 550 and now that i’ve read everything on your site, a Hornady. I’m not a very patient guy, and like things that go fast 🙂 What is your recomandations?
    Continu for your good work.

    Dan Gravel

    1. Hello Dan-
      Congratulations on your new gun! I have a friend that likes his p90 a lot. I have a lot of Hornady information here, but in the future I’m planning on reviewing many different products, and posting videos, articles, tips/tricks for them as well.

      There’s a few things to consider. The “before selecting a press” article on this site http://ultimatereloader.com/?page_id=193 and the “types of presses” http://ultimatereloader.com/?page_id=199 should give you an overview of some of these considerations (I’m still working on that last article).

      If you’re mechanically inclined, and want to do a lot of loading, I’d say you could start with a progressive. One thing worth noting about the Dillon 550 is that it is not auto-indexing. That means it would be easier to have a double charge with that press.

      I’d say the Dillon XL650, The Hornady Lock-N-Load AP Progressive, the RCBS Pro 2000, and the Loadmaster would all be worth considering. The Lock-N-Load AP Progressive has a “1000 free bullets” deal that’s quite attractive, and it’s packed with features that I like (Lock-N-Load bushing system is great). A lot of people like the XL650, but it costs more, and takes more time to change calibers. Dillon does make great products. The Lee is cheap, but it has a couple things I don’t like, such as priming cases at the top of the stroke (while the dies are acting on the cases). The Lee can be made to work, but it takes more tinkering from what I’ve read. The RCBS Pro 2000 has a unique strip primer feed system.

      Also note that Hornady just did a refresh on the Lock-N-Load AP progressive (EZ-Ject system) that eliminates the only problems I’ve ever had with the press (mostly ejection issues).

      Good luck with your new gun! Please let me know if you have any other questions.


  2. Thanks Gavin.
    I just bought the Lock-n-load AP!!!!

    Now i look a this thing and know nothein about setting it up. I’ve looked a all your videos.

    Not much information in the instruction books about the setup for my .45 ACP.

    1 – witch rotor should a use for the powder drop large or small.

    Unfortunatly the dies and shell plate are B/O at the retailer where i bought the press, so i can’t do much for now.

    I need so much information about reloading that and don’t know where to start 🙁

    Thanks for your great work.


  3. Dan, you’ll like the LNL-AP, great press.

    To answer your questions:
    1. You can get by with the large rotor that comes with the powder measure, but with some powders (like Unique) I’ve found the small rotor to work better in the 5 grain range

    2. Look around at different suppliers, you may find them in stock at different online retailers

    3. A good place to start is this site 🙂 I’ll be adding more comprehensive “how to get your press setup” writeups, but for now you may want to look at the “What you need to load pistol” http://ultimatereloader.com/?page_id=332 article. That way you can make sure you have everything you need when all your shipments come in.

  4. Thanks again.

    I, red this article, and it was very helpful. By the way, you could add there, a primer flip tray 🙂

    Is the .45 considered a large pistol? Because i know that the primers to use, are the large type.

    Your the best…


  5. A couple of other nice features of Hornady dies:

    Hornady offers an optional micrometer seating adjustment screw, which would obviate your complaint about the rubber washer on the lock nut for the standard seating adjustment screw.

    Hornady seating dies disassemble as you showed for swapping seating plugs. This is also extremely handy for cleaning them if you seat a lot of lubed cast bullets. Everything that touches the bullet comes out the bottom when you pull the spring clip (you don’t even have to remove the die from the press). Best of all, when you put them back in and replace the clip, the seating depth and crimp settings do not change, eliminating the need to re-setup the die.

    Finally, Hornady lock rings are the only ones to combine a sure-locking cross-bolt design (instead of a set screw) with wrench flats.


  6. Hey ! Andy
    Got myself set up with the press. Working fine!!!
    Made myself a Post like yours. Very nice.

    Thanks for your great work


  7. Hi Gavin,

    If you haven’t tried Hornady’s micrometer seating stem, give it a look. The markings can be slightly hard to read in dim light, but the performance is well worth the price. I -love- doing a test seat, being .005 off, and absolutely getting it perfect on the next try.

    And you only need one; it replaces the standard seating screw, so you can just swap it out to different calibers as you go.

    BTW – love your website!


  8. Hey there,

    I am coming home from Afghanistan for a couple of weeks and was looking to purchase your roller handle and bullet tray. Do you no longer offer those? Thanks for the great website!



  9. Is there a difference between the Series II dies. And the New Dimension set of dies. I wont get into the custom grade dies:) Plan on ordering hornady dies. Just want to make sure I get the right ones. Will start out with 9mm and 38 special. Thank you


  10. Hi Gavin, why do you like having a separate crimping die? I use this die set with the seating/crimp die. Is there an advantage to having a separate crimp die? Thanks.

  11. Colin- you can use either, but the taper crimp die will give a nicer looking crimp for auto pistols (avoids marks on end of case mouth, no big deal either way). I like having separate adjustments as well… There’s also an element of increased COL consistency with separate seat/crimp. Just a few reasons!

  12. I am ordering a lnl press and this die set. Can I adjust the seating/crimp die not to crimp and use the tamper crimp die. Thanks for the great information.

    1. Absolutely, that’s how I’ve setup 45 ACP, and it works GREAT! Just crank down the seater die on a factory cartridge until it stops, then adjust seating stem, finally dial in crimp with the separate taper crimp die.

  13. I have the Hornady progressive press and I am having a constant problem with the sizing/decapping die position. I have the Hornady die set and no matter what I do the shell will not enter the die straight and smooth. It tends to miss the center of the die and contacts the die off center causing the shell to either not enter the die or ruin the shell. There is no adjustment available for this off centerness. I have spoken with the Hornady folks and they don’t understand why it’s doing what it’s doing. The adjustments that you normally can do, forward and backward, do not deal with this problem. Do you have any suggestions or have you seen this problem? Any suggestions will help.

    1. Terry- I have occasionally run into this issue. First off, what caliber are you reloading?

      Here’s a couple things to check:
      1. Make sure your case inserter is properly inserting the case if you’re using the case feeder (if feeding by hand, make sure you are gently inserting the case fully)
      2. Make sure you’re using the right shellplate. If you’re loading 45 ACP and are using a #1 shellplate (works, but not totally) consider upgrading to the #45 shellplate which is tailored for the 45 ACP cartridge.
      3. If you have another brand of sizing die with a larger mouth chamfer/radius that can help in some cases (depends on the caliber)
      4. Make sure your shellplate bolt is tight (just a bit of case wobble if you move the case mouth, not much)

      Hope that helps!

  14. I also have occasional issues with the decap/sizing die; usually about three or four of 100 will not enter properly. I think you touched all bases to watch out for, Gavin! For me it’s usually because the shellplate bolt has worked loose (very common on my particular press).

  15. why hornady lock-load ap sometimes won:t take brass into resizing die—if the bullet is not completely streight in the brass going into the crimping die, the automatic indexing will not complete its cycle so the brass going into the resizing die is 1/32 short of a complete cycle–just turn plate by hand clockwise—than make sure bullet in next brass going into crimp die is streight.

  16. Any one looking to buy a press should go the manufacturer’s site and download the manual and read it (also, read a couple of reloading books or manuals).
    Hornady and Lee have videos on their sites that help quite a bit (however, there are some videos on Lee’s site that have no sound when I play them).
    Next, go to YouTube and look for videos on the press(es) you are interested in.
    Finally, I think the L-N-L AP is both the easiest and the best standard progressive. I really like Dillon’s 1050s, but they are NOT for most people.
    1) Make sure case retention spring is down so you can slide cases in.
    2) Be sure the shell plate retention bolt is tight. I put a couple of drops of LokTite Blue on it. I could still remove the bolt easily and the Loctite on the threads would still hold the bolt.
    3) You need to find the right tension for the bolt to apply to the shell plate. It must be tight enough that primers are seated properly and loose enough to move and not jerk.
    4) Get an RCBS Lock-Out die
    5) Never force anything. If the press hangs up, remove one case at a time to determine the cause. Most of the time it will be a case not entering the sizing die properly or a primer not moving into position properly.
    6) Keep the press clean and lubricated and clean up any spilled powder immediately. One of worst things to happen that will frustrate you real fast is if a kernel of powder or dirt falls into the primer seating stem and the stem hangs up in the raised position. I really wish that the plug could be disassembled and made adjustable for primer seating depth.

  17. i have a new lock n load, seems to not like the clays powder..cleaned the powder drop twice with alcohohl (note keep an eye on the bushing comming loose). i have the new titanium 45 auto dies and it has alot of brass debri in it that drops all over..cleaned it; cycled one and it has a new brass ring left in it…any ideas

  18. Help. Just purchased a lock n load progressive. I also purchased the new Hornady 9mm die taper set. I can’t get the taper/bullet seater die set up and the instructions don’t seem to cover the type of die i have. Can you do a video on just setting up the dies?

  19. I agree with your assessment of the Hornady Custom Grade pistol die set — particularly the squishey rubber washer issue. I don’t see any benefit of the rubber washers at all.

    What would happen if one just removed the rubber washers and tightened the locking rings metal to metal?

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