What Is the Advantage of Using a Dial Caliper?

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Conventionally, gun owners and experts use a dial caliper when reloading ammo. But with digital calipers getting cheaper and more reliable, what is the advantage of using a dial caliper?

I discuss that and more below.

What Is the Advantage of Using a Dial Caliper?

The biggest advantage of dial calipers is that they don’t need batteries. The rack-and-pinion mechanism makes them economically and environmentally friendly.

These instruments remain reliable in damp conditions, but the same can’t be said for digital calipers. Additionally, the clear display of measurements makes them easier to read than vernier calipers.

Dial calipers also offer some other advantages:

  • They are easy to zero since all you need to do is rotate the dial correctly.
  • Dial calipers tend to be much cheaper than digital calipers and boast accuracy comparable to a micrometer.
Person using a dial caliper

What Are the Disadvantages of Using a Dial Caliper?

Since dial calipers use the rack-and-pinion mechanism, they can get misaligned when dropped. Recalibrating a dial caliper after dropping it is challenging.

What’s more, dial calipers either provide imperial or metric readings and cannot switch between them like digital calipers can.

Dial calipers are costlier than vernier calipers, and their accuracy gets influenced by the magnetic fields around them.

What to Look for When Choosing a Dial Caliper for Reloading Ammo

Dial calipers are used dozens of times, even in short reloading sessions. If you’re into competitive pistol shooting, you can expect to reload thousands of rounds every month. This makes it important to know what to look for when buying a dial caliper.

Quality Construction Materials

Moving the jaw of the caliper back and forth causes wear on the frame and jaws over time. Additionally, the gear on the rack can also wear out quickly on a low-quality dial caliper.

It’s important to purchase dial calipers made from quality 400 series stainless steel since it is the most resistant to wear. Ideally, you want the rack to be made from C93600 or C93700 bronze alloy.


Checking the graduations of the frame before buying a dial caliper is important since you need to make sure the caliper is easy to read. The best dial calipers are laser etched and have contrasting numbers and distinct hash marks that make them easy to read.

Additionally, the bezel should not be too sloppy, and the access locking screw should be easy to access.


A smooth feel when sliding is a hallmark of a quality dial caliper. It makes the caliper that much easier to operate and allows for consistent readings in the heat of the moment.

Further, the clamping screw should be large enough to turn comfortably, and the rack must have a shroud to protect the teeth from dirt and gunk.


Dial calipers offer several advantages besides being more economical and water-resistant. However, at the end of the day, whether you choose dial calipers or digital ones is a matter of personal preference. Some find digital calipers more accurate and easier to read, while others enjoy the simplicity of a dial caliper.

James Forrester is a lifelong gun and firearms owner, and an even bigger advocate for gun safety. He created KeepGunsSafe.com with the purpose of sharing helpful tips and educating others on how to keep guns and weapons safe and secure.