We’ve all felt the delima. You’re standing in one of the isles at Harbor Freight tools (or substitute your own local low-cost import tool retailer) – and you are staring at a tool on the shelf. Should I buy this $19.99 digital caliper, or should I buy the Starrett one for $129.99? Hmmmm – how often will I really use this tool you ask yourself… Well, I won’t be using this digital caliper in extreme environments… so perhaps I’ll just get the cheap one here. Heck, I could buy six of these for the price of one premium digital caliper….
Have you experienced this kind of (sometimes painful) decision? If you are like me, you really have a weakness for quality. For me it goes a bit beyond that. I really like industrial grade tools and equipment. Quality industrial equipment is expensive, there’s just no way around it. If you don’t have the money to buy the right equipment the first time, will you have the money to replace the cheap junk that you thought would get you buy with the “real deal” later? These kinds of questions are good to ask yourself up front.
Quick Side Note:
I recently had two import knock-off camera flashes die on me (after about a year of light use). In frustration, I decided to fork down the money on “the real deal”. Where the knock-off flashes were $109. each, the Canon 580EX-II flash that I bought cost $425. – that’s a staggering price difference for two flashes that are “equivalent” on paper. What I discovered right off the bat is that these flashes were nowhere close in practical use. The import flashes had cheap mounts, noisy zoom motors, loud and slow recharging, inconsistent metering, and the list goes on. The Canon flash is sturdy, fast and silent when recharging, and extremely consistent. The Canon flash IS the real deal. In this case I should have started out with one “real” flash rather than two “knock-off” flashes. This isn’t the first time that I’ve learned that lesson the hard way!
So how does this relate to reloading equipment? Many first-time reloaders need to decide what “grade” of reloading gear to get started with. You can spend $129.99 up to $1700.00+ on a progressive reloading press- so how does the first time reloader (or experienced reloader) decide what to buy? At this point, most first-time reloaders are starting to count the cost. How long will it take for my reloading equipment to pay off? Will I really use this equipment? Those are the kinds of factors that we all face when we go to make these kinds of major purchases. I could go on and on here, but I won’t. 🙂
Let’s focus on some factors and truths that will help shed light on what grade of quality is right for a given application:
- Quality stays, junk fades. Remember those flashes that I spent $218. on for two? Those flashes are now worth basically nothing. I bought the Canon flash brand new because used units were selling for ~75% of new cost. That tells you something right there! Reloading equipment is basically the same. You will retain a *much* higher percentage of your investment when you buy quality.
- Buy quality, buy once. Buy junk, buy twice. If you approach your investment from a “total cost of ownership” over the long term, it pays to buy quality up front. Obviously this is not always possible: a college student may need to reload with a $129.99 progressive, because that’s all that’s in the budget, etc.
- Safety matters. You probably wouldn’t buy a replacement airbag for your car from Harbor Freight, so should you depend your guns and body on cheap reloading equipment? It’s worth carefully considering.
- Nothing is perfect, value varies. Usually you get what you pay for, but that doesn’t always pan out 100%. Shop carefully so that you find the “Sweet-Spot” for value, your requirements, and your budget.
I hope this discussion is helpful. Don’t over-think things, but do think about what you buy.
Do you have thoughts about quality? Please leave a comment!