January 11th, 2020

Custom-Honed Full-Length Dies — Better than Bushings?

Honed FL Forster Whidden Full-length dies
For some applications, we prefer a non-bushing FL die over a bushing die. Shown here are three Forster full-length sizing dies, with necks honed to three different dimensions: 0.265″, 0.266″, and 0.267″.

The Honed Full-Length Sizing Die Option

There are many good options in full-length (FL) sizing dies. Most precision hand-loaders prefer FL dies with neck bushings. These let you adjust the “grip” on your bullet by using larger or smaller bushings. FL bushing dies are available from Whidden Gunworks, Forster, Redding and other makers.

Conventional, non-bushing full-length sizing dies can create ultra-accurate ammo with very low run-out. But many conventional non-bushing FL dies have an undersized neck diameter so you end up with excess neck tension, and you work the brass excessively.

There is another effective option, one that promises extremely low run-out. The honed FL die is a full-length sizing die that has the necked honed to provide a precise fit to the case-neck. When done right, honed FL dies produce extremely straight ammo — as there are no issues with bushing alignment (or bushings that are not perfectly concentric). This Editor owns honed dies from Forster, Redding, and Whidden. They all perform extremely well, delivering match ammunition with extremely low run-out measured with a 21st Century Concentricity Gauge.

In one of the most popular articles we’ve ever published, Bugholes from Bipod, California shooter “Froggy” explained why he prefers honed dies for his tactical ammo.

Q: Do you FL size every time? Do you use custom dies?

Absolutely, I full length resize all of my brass every time I reload. And guess what? I’ve never had a feeding problem.

I do use a modified sizing die, without bushings. My FL resizing die has been custom-honed in the neck area to give .0015″ press fit on the bullet. I also put a slightly larger radius at the neck shoulder junction. I feel that this helps to seal the chamber. With this die, I get consistent neck tension every time–without bushings. Bushings are useful when you’re fishing around for a good load. But once you find the right amount of sizing for ideal neck tension, you can do this better with a customized FL die.

6.5 Guys Review Forster Honed Full-length Dies
The 6.5 Guys have reviewed honed FL sizing dies from Forster, explaining the pros and cons of this type of reloading die. They explained that, if you load a wide variety of bullets from different manufacturers, you many want to stick with a Bushing FL die. However, if you have settled on a particular bullet and found the “ideal” neck tension, then a honed die may make sense.

In this Gear Update, the 6.5 Guys discuss a service offered by Forster Products to custom hone the neck diameter of its full-length sizing dies to the customer’s specifications (to the thousandth). Whidden Gunworks also offers custom-honed FL dies.