If you’re looking for the best dial calipers that provide ease of use when it comes to reloading or machinist work, then we’re confident that you’ll enjoy our review.
It isn’t always easy to identify which dial caliper offers the best in terms of usability, range, accuracy, durability, and affordability.
That’s why comparing a few dial calipers against one another helps make sure you choose the best tool for your specific needs.
Before reading the reviews below, you’ll want a proper understanding of what a dial caliper is. It’s a type of caliper that works via a rack and pinion system instead of digital circuitry used by digital calipers.
The best brands that exist to choose from include:
- Starrett dial calipers
- Mitutoyo dial calipers
- Harbor Freight dial calipers
- Anytime Tools dial calipers
- Stalwart dial calipers
Let’s dive into our review so you can make your next buying decision an informed one.
This Starrett dial caliper offers some of the best quality and accuracy on the market. While it might come in a little higher in price when compared to other models, its overall quality fits the higher cost.
The solid hardened stainless steel components are resistant to corrosion while offering increased accuracy and longer life. The American-made dial caliper offers longevity and precision.
The enhanced split mechanism from the Starrett dial caliper eliminates backlash while improving precision. With the rack teeth pointing downwards to keep foreign matter from interfering, measurement errors are minimized.
- Highly-accurate readings
- Consistent measurement due to the sliding jaw’s lock screw
- Thumb-operated adjustment roll makes one-hand use simple
- Easy-to-read red dial
- 0.001″ precise dial graduations
- Expensive to repair
Fowler Shockproof Dial Caliper – Stainless Steel
This Fowler model is one of the best calipers for machinists.
The knurled lock screw holds the sliding jaw in place while measuring to always ensure an accurate measurement.
The Fowler comes equipped with a covered stainless steel rack, preventing dust and debris from falling into the dial caliper and interfering with the accuracy. This device works smoothly when you need clear dial graduations of 0.001”.
- Made by an American company offering a 1-year warranty
- Accuracy aided by heavy-duty spring
- Achieve precise measurement due to its knurled lock screw
- Manufactured for maximum life expectancy
- You may need to calibrate the needle to dead center
If you’re looking for the best dial caliper to help decrease backlash, then know that Anytime Tools dial caliper manufactured this model with that in mind. The heavy-duty springs help prevent gear teeth jams due to inadequate caliper control/gear teeth clearance. This dial caliper is one of the most budget-friendly on this list.
The Dial Face Scale measures in both decimal inches and metric. The color-coded scale allows flexibility for various projects.
The raised sliding surface prevents wear and tear that could ultimately lead to inaccurate measurements. With the Anytime Tools dial caliper, you can accurately read to the nearest 1000th of an inch.
- Made of long-lasting metal
- Dial face offers both metric and inch readings
- Wear and tear reduced by the raised sliding surface
- Dial lens makes it easy to calibrate
- Protected by included clam-shell case
- Becomes misaligned easily if not handled with care
Made in Brazil, this Mitutoyo dial caliper offers smooth action that should make any machinist happy to have it in the shop.
New Designed Dial Movement
Quality here doesn’t suffer at all when compared to higher-end models available on the market. The dial moves easily and offers high shock protection.
You won’t have any issues reading the well-marked bar scale and dial as you accurately take your measurements. The Mitutoyo can measure OD, ID, depth, and steps.
- Offers extra smooth sliding surface for easier movement
- Overall, a well-built model
- Remains in position well due to the sturdy lock screw
- Past users report that it doesn’t have the advertised TIN coating
Are you looking for a high-quality dial caliper without breaking the bank? This Accusize model offers a great value in hardened stainless steel construction for all machine operators.
The sleek satin chrome finish isn’t just for good looks. This caliber is made of hardened stainless steel for an ultra-durable product. It also features engraved graduations, a covered stainless steel rack, and comes in a deluxe case.
The Accusize dial caliper comes with a clamp to save prior settings. It’s dead-on straight on a 0.5-inch block and comes in within .0005” on a 1-inch gauge block.
- Works well for fine adjustments
- Includes repetitive-settings clamp
- Hardened stainless steel bar
- Sturdy fit and finish
- Offers large measuring range
- Harder to use than other models due to its lack of a roller wheel
This fractional dial caliper provides ease of use, sturdiness, and a nice hardened stainless steel construction at an affordable price.
The iGaging dial caliper comes equipped with a thumbwheel that helps you make fine adjustments for precise measurements.
The iGaging dial calipers come well-designed with inch and fraction inch displays. You won’t have problems getting your desired readings due to the +/- 0.001″ accuracy provided by this fractional dial caliper.
- Comes with dual scales (fractional inch and inch displays)
- Slide lock and dial remain firmly in place
- Range comes in at 12-inch resolution
- Professional build for long-lasting performance
- The depth-measuring probe won’t fit drill holes less than a quarter-inch inside diameter
Are you looking for an extremely affordable dial caliper that provides accurate readings? This might just become your next favorite tool.
Stalwart assures superior performance on all of its products by using a thorough quality control process. While this dial caliper is made of lightweight stainless steel, its construction is durable enough to hold up throughout the heaviest periods of use.
The Stalwart dial caliper is lightweight and can be easily transported between home and professional projects.
- Position lock and thumb-roll mechanism makes it easy to use
- Measures step, depth, inside, and outside
- Made with sturdy, shockproof stainless steel
- Measurement range comes in at 0-6 inches
- Not as smooth as other available models
Here’s a quality and accurate option that fits any machinist’s budget.
This Fowler comes built to last, due to its shockproof, corrosion-resistant, and solid hardened stainless steel construction.
The accuracy of this Fowler model is aided by the heavy-duty springs that help with anti-backlash control.
- Precise measurement achievable due to its knurled lock screw
- Avoid gear clogs due to the covered rack
- Rugged and long-lasting option
- Clear dial graduations of 0.001″
- This dial caliper comes with 12-month warranty
- Slide action rougher than other available models
You’ll achieve accurate and reliable inside, outside, and depth readings using this premium dial caliper that comes with a satin-finished bar.
The Starrett dial caliper offers knife edge contacts that can be used for parallel lines on any workspace. The convenient placement of the thumb dial allows you to use the caliber with one hand while using the fine adjustment roll.
The double pinions lessen the chances of disengaging with the rack gear. This creates more accuracy than a single component anti-backlash system.
- Full dial revolution equivalent to 0.100”
- Accuracy aided by dial bezel lock screw
- Downward-pointing rack teeth protect against clogging
- Two pinion mechanism helps with accuracy
- Offers slippery-smooth action
- This tool needs extra care to ensure a prolonged life
If you’re looking for top-quality accuracy and long-lasting functionality as a machinist, then you have to consider this model for your next purchase.
The titanium nitride (TIN) coating provides a tough and reliable tool that can take a beating and resist wear and tear.
The Mitutoyo Calipers come with a certificate of inspection that includes a NIST number. Rest assured that you can achieve .001″ accuracy using one of the best dial calipers for machine operators.
- Offers extremely smooth action
- Locks firmly into place due to its sturdy lock screw
- Highly accurate
- A sturdy tool
- High-shock protection
- In the higher price range
Before purchasing the best dial caliper, there are a few things you should consider.
When searching for a dial caliper, you’ll want to consider the size of your material and what measurement mode is necessary. Your dial caliper should provide:
- Inside Measurements
- Outside Measurements
- Depth Measurements
- Step Measurements
Dial calipers can consist of many different materials, but the most durable is hardened stainless steel. This material can withstand some beatings and lasts for years to come.
A coolant-proof caliper means that you can use your dial caliper in any kind of working condition. They are resistant to coolant, water, dust, and oil.
If your dial caliper includes a thumb roller, you can benefit from using the caliper with one hand while adjusting measurements with your thumb. This is a great added benefit if you need a free hand to hold an object while measuring.
Choosing a dial caliper requires that you consider its precision.
The best resolution is 0.001” increments. If the dial caliper doesn’t offer measurements this specific, look for one that can at least measure in increments of .0005”.
Accuracy is just as important in a dial caliper. Look for one with great precision in its measurements to have an accurate result.
The best accuracy in a dial caliper is .001” to 12”. This can be measured across the full range of the tool.
Dial Caliper Case
If you ever plan on carrying your dial caliper around, look for one that comes in a sturdy case. This will ensure that you can store it when not in use and transport it when necessary so that the dial caliper is never damaged.
If you’re looking for a dial caliper that is easier to read, look for one with a clear display. This means that the numbers on the dial are visible and easy to read even from a distance.
A dial caliper with a smooth slide is always more efficient than one that doesn’t. Look for one with better-quality bearings in order to get the most out of your measurements.
Knife Edge Jaws
A dial caliper with knife-edge jaws is ideal for when the jaw must accommodate a larger object. A high-quality measuring tool will have smooth knife edges that allow for easy placement and removal of the jaw from the workpiece.
If your dial caliper ever breaks, look for one that is easily reworkable. Look for a model with replaceable components that can be replaced without having to purchase another whole new tool.
Chase refers to the length of the jaws. When choosing your dial caliper, you want to look for one with a longer chase in order to get more accurate measurements.
Name brand calipers will always offer a trustworthy reputation over off-brand calipers, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find good off-brand calipers that meet your requirements. Generally, name brand calipers have better features such as ABS (absolute scale) technology, sturdier materials, and are longer lasting.
Off-brand calipers can come in handy for less frequent use, or if you are a beginner looking for an interim before committing to a more expensive model.
Calipers of Different Types
There are a variety of calipers available. Different types can be used for various purposes, and it is important to know which type you need before purchasing one.
Vernier caliper is a hand-held tool with two scales. The upper dial scale records the measurement between the jaws, and the lower dial scale reads to 0.01mm. Vernier caliper is used for producing accurate measurements.
These calipers come with either large or small meters. They contain a calibrated screw that moves up and down, which you read off on the meter when measuring objects with depth such as large holes, lengths of flats, etc.
If you measure objects that have a narrow opening, spring-loaded calipers can be used. These calipers come in different ranges and measured values.
They perform by having a narrow jaw on one side and a wider jaw on the other with a calibrated screw between them to accurately measure depth. To start taking readings from.
These are similar to spring-loaded calipers, but they don’t have the division on the screw. They are calibrated using scales that run along both sides of the jaws.
This type of caliper comes in digital form, and it has an electronic display that records only accurate digits and does not need recalibration as it uses a sensor inside to measure dimensions. It can be used for accurate measurements, and it’s fast and easy to use.
How to Read Dial Calipers
If you are not an expert at using dial calipers, your measurements can be inaccurate or may not be what you wanted. Dial calipers have the numbers placed on the top of the instrument. A line is drawn across both scales to indicate its length.
The lines are graduated, so they do not touch each other on one side of the dial scale however they overlap at some point on both sides of the scale. A null measurement means that once it reaches either end of the range, it has no value.
When reading a number from a scale, remember it refers to the distance between it and the opposite line on the same scale. The major scale is the bigger one.
The minor scale is smaller, and it’s used for precise measurements meaning that one side of the measuring line on the major scale is equal to 10 on the minor scale. The endpoints are very important when you are taking readings from your dial caliper.
When you are reading off your number, make sure that point A touches or overlaps with a line on the opposite side of both scales. This will ensure accuracy in your dimensions because numbers don’t lie.
Tips for Selecting Dial Calipers
Before you purchase a dial caliper, make sure that it has the following features: It has a very secure and heavy-weighted frame to prevent movement during measurement.
Make sure the points meet properly before taking a reading. As a result, the results will be accurate. For better control, make sure its size fits your hand.
Check if the dial is bright, which makes it easier to read in some lighting conditions. Additionally, check if a locking mechanism is available to hold the jaws open when you need more space for larger objects.
Also, be aware of who made your product because that’ll give you an idea of how well it’ll last and what kind of warranty applies on parts replacement or repairs just in case something goes wrong later on.
Always check for a refund or limited warranty, which is also usually offered by high-quality tool manufacturers.
Dial Caliper Usage Tips
Make sure that the jaws are clean and free from particles such as dirt or any other substances that can interfere with measuring results.
Do not force your dial caliper to measure if it does not open enough, especially for dial calipers. This could break your caliper, and no replacement is offered once you do this.
Check if the jaw opening is wide enough and try closing them a little bit more until they fit in tightly around an object making measurement easy.
Opening your dial caliper all the way when taking measurements causes inaccuracy because it may not be closed exactly in line with each other when you take into account its thicknesses, walls of objects, or any irregularities such as pivot points, for example.
Always check if the two jaws are touching or overlapping on each other before taking a measurement. If not, move the jaws a little bit more until they touch perfectly.
If your calipers have ratchet stops, make sure to zero it every time you take a reading after opening and closing the jaws. This way, accuracy will be assured, especially if you need to take several tasks one after another.
Looking for more info? Here are the answers to a few FAQs.
Five major factors exist that you must consider when attempting to determine what makes the top dial caliper for reloading or machining.:
Since this product moves upward on the scale of features such as usability, range, and durability, it naturally increases in price due to other dial calipers.
Considering range, most work can get done well with 0-6” calipers, and these are the most common dial calipers on the market. You can also buy calipers that move up into the 12” range, however.
You’ll usually find that usability increases when choosing digital calipers over dial calipers. On the other hand, many machinists like the fact that dial calipers typically offer more durability and you don’t need to worry about battery drain.
Three main caliper types exist:
- Digital Caliper
- Vernier Caliper
- Dial Caliper
All three kinds can measure the four common measurements that you need from a caliper:
1. Step measurements
2. Inside diameter measurements
3. Outside diameter measurements
4. Depth measurements
Digital calipers can measure all four types of measurements and bring back incredibly accurate readings. Most digital calipers give accuracy to about .2mm or .01 inch. Paying more (such as $100 or more) for your digital caliper can bring accuracy down to as much as .05mm.
Vernier calipers let you see a “ruler-style” reading instead of a digital screen. It’s tougher to get the reading as accurate with vernier calipers rather than digital.
Dial calipers read as accurately as and work as well as digital calipers.
Digital or Dial Caliper – Which is the best?
Advantages and disadvantages exist for both digital and dial calipers.
Dial calipers use a rack and pinion mechanical system. The dial reads increments of one-thousandth of one inch as it is moved by the caliper’s dial set. It can also measure one-hundredth of a mm readings.
Advantages of dial calipers include the fact that they work well if they become damp (although they’re not fully waterproof) and they don’t require the need for batteries.
Disadvantages come into the picture when you consider that the rack and pinion’s alignment goes out if the dial caliper gets dropped.
You gain more shock-proof ability with digital calipers because they don’t include the covered rack and pinion system. No gears exist because they’ve been replaced by a circuit board in this type of caliper.
Advantages include the ability to easily convert back and forth between mm and inches. A disadvantage to using digital calipers appears when you consider that their batteries often seem to run out exactly when you need them most. A second disadvantage rears its ugly head when wet or dirty conditions produce jumpy readings.
- Push down on the IUT contact point and let the contact point align back with its starting position
- Get the attachment arm positioned on the dial indicator
- Obtain a zero reading by positioning the test indicator and micrometer thimble
- Determine the calibration checkpoints by dividing the dial indicator range into four equal parts
- Move the checker’s spindle that corresponds with the lowest number from the previous step
- Repeat previous checkpoints in the opposite direction
- Continue repeating the previous two steps two more times to figure out IUT repeatability
You can’t go wrong with any of the products we’ve reviewed for you.
What’s the key to obtaining the best dial caliper that fits your needs?
Match accuracy, durability, usability, and range needs to the most affordable price that fits your current budget restraints. Compare two or more options within your pricing range, make your decision and enjoy the newest tool in your arsenal!