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Low Light 11-11-2012 9:28 PM

Is a Caliper By Any Other Name Just the Same?
Has anyone bought or used the Harbor Freight dial calipers? Are these sufficient for reloading purposes? I know most of HF's stuff is cheap Chinese knockoffs, but turns out brands like Dewalt and Milwaukee are cheap Chinese knockoffs as well (Who knew?).

Keeping it on track; I need to get a set of calipers and the Harbor Freight ones seem sturdy enough so I'm wondering if the extra money for Frankford Arsenal or Hornady is worth it. Are they all the same? It is if they're American-made but if they're also Chinese, I'm keeping the extra money where it belongs.

Colt562 11-11-2012 9:47 PM

thats what I use is the ones from Harbor Freight seem to work fine.

SixPointEight 11-11-2012 10:11 PM

Most dial calipers and such are made by X company and branded by Y. They have the same internals and casings and everything, with different colored stickers and names. Even if the calibration is off by a couple thousandths, it won't matter. If you were a machinist, spend big money on your measuring tools. You're a shooter, spend the money on the guns/components because COL isn't measured on the micron level!

DirtyDave 11-11-2012 10:33 PM

If you are going to go cheap, go with a cheap digital. Do not go cheap on a Dial Caliper. Cheap Dial calipers feel like crap and are prone to jumping or losing their place easily. Cheap digital calipers seem to work fine but seem to go through batteries faster than the good brands.

My Mitutoyos have seen almost daily use for 12 years and I changed the battery for the first time last year.

damndave 11-12-2012 2:27 AM

Never used a HF caliper, but have heard decent things about them. I know a lot of people who use the Frankford Arsenal and like it a lot. I prefer a digital over dial. Just easier/faster to read.

MIAMIbaseballer 11-12-2012 3:23 AM

I've also heard pretty good things about HF. A caliper is not that crucial when reloading like a scale. If a round is too long, it wont feed/chamber. If it's too short (to cause damage), you'll be able to see it. So get whatever caliper you feel comfortable with and that works well, you shouldn't have any problems....

The War Wagon 11-12-2012 3:24 AM

How much MORE could a RELIABLE caliper cost? :o

MIAMIbaseballer 11-12-2012 3:35 AM


Originally Posted by The War Wagon (Post 9706952)
How much MORE could a RELIABLE caliper cost? :o

Reliable or accurate? Most calipers will work just fine for reloading because there is small room for error. And most do not trim pistol brass.

The RCBS digital one has great reviews for accuracy and reliability and it's around $70. Other than that, you're getting into the upper end calipers for machining...

the86d 11-12-2012 3:47 AM

I went with a cheap device from China such as:

It has been very accurate, and I tripple checked everything when I 1st got them because I was concerned. I do like to buy American-made when I have the cash, but when I bought them I was broke, and since they still give me accurate measurements, I never upgraded...

rsrocket1 11-12-2012 5:59 AM


Originally Posted by The War Wagon (Post 9706952)
How much MORE could a RELIABLE caliper cost? :o

These are good reliable calipers. I have both digital and dial calipers from Mituyo and they are reliable, smooth and accurate (checked periodically against references). Do you need such instruments for reloading? No.

As others state, I would rather have a good scale that accurately measures to +/- 0.05 grain and a set of $9 harbor freight digital calipers than a $200 caliper and a $10 Harbor freight digital scale.

john16443 11-12-2012 6:22 AM


Originally Posted by Low Light (Post 9706155)
Has anyone bought or used the Harbor Freight dial calipers? Are these sufficient for reloading purposes?

As long as that dial caliper has graduations that indicate 0.001", you're good to go. Matter of fact, I put my HF digitals into long term storage and use a dial caliper exclusively now.

Dutch3 11-12-2012 6:34 AM

I use a "Peacock" brand dial caliper. Made in Japan in the 1970s. Never any issues with it.

I used some digital units at work years ago, but never cared for them due to battery issues and often failing to read accurately. Then again, it was a pretty grimy environment.

AJAX22 11-12-2012 6:54 AM

I run mitutoyo's ... But my buddy is a machinists and he has 1/2 dozen of the harbor freight ones that he uses around the shop....

They seem to be quite accurate and having a bunch of them for the same money allows him to not have to waste time looking for them when he is running complex machining operations with multiple setups

klewan 11-12-2012 7:06 AM

I've got a couple of the HF's, I checked them against the standards that came with my Mitutoyo Combi-mikes and they were within .0005", basically the width of the needle between the hash marks.

Low Light 11-12-2012 7:11 AM


Originally Posted by The War Wagon (Post 9706952)
How much MORE could a RELIABLE caliper cost? :o

LOL! I hear ya. I guess it's more of a principle thing. I just happened to see them and I need a pair and figured, "Why pay more, if I don't have to". I tend to apply the same principle(s) across the board. If it's junk, you're cheap; if it works the same, you're prudent.

Harbor Freight it is. Thanks, all.

fcr 11-12-2012 8:08 AM

My HF calipers does go through batteries, I take it out when not in use.

calixt0 11-12-2012 8:35 AM

I have a HF dial set.. it works.

gunboat 11-12-2012 5:57 PM

I have an old sears plastic dial -- It works fine for reloading, if you need more accuracy than about +/- .002 you need a micrometer.

CGT80 11-12-2012 6:10 PM

I hate most harbor freight and made in china products, but the cheap digital calipers work fine for reloading and general work in the garage and on my trucks. The cheap ones don't feel great, much like a stock or cheap trigger on a gun, but it still gets the job done.

Try using batteries that are labeled SR instead of LR, which means they are made with silver oxide. The silver batteries last much longer. The cheap batteries start out with a lower voltage and then drop quickly as they are used. I had one set of cheap calipers that would flash the display a couple weeks after installing a new batter. I switched to the silver based batteries and now I can't remember when I had to change the battery last.

fcr 11-12-2012 6:53 PM

Thanks for the tip CGT80

short circuit 11-13-2012 7:57 AM

I have been using the HF digital calipers for 2 years with no issues, and would buy them again if is should ever break down.

fcr 11-13-2012 8:10 AM

Does anyone else with the HF calipers go through batteries ? Just curious, maybe it is just quality control and I happen to have one of the chosen ones.

short circuit 11-13-2012 8:34 AM

My HF digital 6 inch caliper is now 2 years old and still on the first battery.

Cowboy T 11-13-2012 9:48 AM

Haven't tried the HF dial calipers, but I have used the Lyman ones (got a good deal on it, about HF's price). I'm sold on dial calipers now. They always work, no batteries needed, just pick 'em up and start measuring.

Cheap Shot 11-13-2012 1:49 PM

I have the HF dial version and it doesn't feel cheap to me. Maybe I should pickup a $200 one so I can feel the difference. But note I haven't noticed the several hundered $ difference in rifle scopes yet either, although I do have a spotting scope that sucks (but it was $25 for 15-60x60)

Speedpower 11-13-2012 5:32 PM

Use only Mitutoyo Digital Caliper if you want exact measurements, it's really accurate.

johnny1290 11-14-2012 11:28 PM

I do hotrod stuff. For what we need, it's just fine. They never actually shut off though, so there's a constant drain on the battery. You have to take it out when you're not using it if you want it to last. Whatever cheapo battery it came with lasted for years for me that way, and I know other guys that would have them die in a few months.

edit: whoops I forgot to mention these appear to be just sticker branding, as someone else observed.

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