Delivery falls into these categories:
- Supplies and Universal Tools
This category consists of items that are almost always in stock to ship right away. It includes lead wire, lubricants, standard sizes of copper strip, copper tubing, and most bullet jackets that are listed, and what I would call "universal" tools. By this, I mean tools that are not specific to a design of bullet but are used by almost everyone who swages any sort of bullet. Therefore, they are tools we can make in large quantities and keep in stock, since making them specific to a certain bullet isn't necessary. Tools that use different inserts are not really caliber or shape specific, so a handful of different inserts serves every potential customer's needs. We may run out now and again, but it isn't long before we can schedule another production run and have inventory again. This includes the hand presses, which are very labor intensive and can only be built in good-sized groups or lots (making just one would cost far too much in setup time).
- Hydraulic Presses
Hydraulic presses such as the Corbin CHP-1 Hydro-Press and the Corbin Hydro-Mite press are built individually or in small groups (such as two at a time) because of the intensive amount of component assembly and wiring involved. The major components are usually in stock, and the assembly labor and testing is what takes the most time. We try to keep at least one press available for immediate shipment, but it is safer to estimate 10 to 14 days for assembly, testing and delivery. There are times when one or more of the high quality industrial grade components is backordered from the electrical or hydraulic component manufacturers, so it isn't possible to always guarantee that delivery time. But in general, we have parts in stock and can build and ship within 14 days.
- Dies in Popular Standard Calibers and Shapes
We try to have the most popular sizes and shapes of bullet swage dies in stock, by making "runs" or groups of parts to assemble the more popular sets. The most popular handgun bullet swages are .355 (9mm/.380/.38 Super), .357 (.38/.357Mag), .40 (10mm, 40 S&W), .429 (.44 Special/.44 Mag) and .452 (.45 ACP/.454 Casull, etc.), in the 3/4-E ogive shape. For lead semi-wadcutter styles, the LSWC-1 single die/punch set is usually in stock in these sizes. The "Keith" truncated conical nose shape is most popular in this style, with the 3/4-E SWC ogive next in popularity. Flat, cup, and Base Guard base shapes are usually in stock.
For jacketed handgun bullets, the FJFB-3 die set is most popular in 3/4-E ogive, with open tip core seat punch and flat base. However, it doesn't usually add very much time to an order if you want a LT-HP punch, or an OT-HP punch for a specific jacket and we don't happen to have one in stock at that moment. If you were to specify a diameter that is non-standard (such as .356 or .354 instead of the more common .355 for 9mm) it can make a big difference in delivery time, as we'd have to build that set when the older jobs are finished or when one of them matches yours.
For jacketed rifle bullets, the most popular calibers are .224 (which covers nearly all 22 centerfire cartridges, from .218 Zipper to .225 Winchester, and also covers the .223 or 5.56mm), .243 (6mm), and .308 (which covers nearly all centerfire 30 cartridges including .300 Whisper, .30-06, .30-30, 7.62mm NATO, and so forth). Other "standard" calibers may or may not happen to be on the shelf, as there are so many rifle calibers that it would be impractical to keep inventory for all of them in every possible design and shape. Surprisingly, the .510 (50 BMG) is often in stock in popular ULD and ULD-TIP styles, or in the 6-S or 8-S ogive shape.
The most popular shapes for .224, 243, .308 and actually most other sizes would be the 6-S ogive for general shooting, the ULD for very long range shooting, the 1-E ogive for subsonic, lever actions, big game at 100-200 yards, and most African big game, and in the .308, the ULD-TIP (metal tip insert ultra low drag style).
The most popular basic package of dies (or "die set") is the FJFB-3 3-die set, same as used for pistol bullets. However, in the long range styles such as ULD shape, the RBTO-4 set is preferred. That is a rebated boattail, 4-die set. You can always get the 3-die basic set first, and add lead tip and rebated boattail dies later, if you wish.
- Dies in Non-Standard Calibers and Shapes, or less popular Standards
If the bullet is "almost" standard, it means the shape or diameter is a little different from the tools, reamers, and laps we keep on hand, so in effect your order is custom even if it isn't all that much different from standard. Also, standard shapes and calibers that we don't happen to have on the shelf when you order, but will eventually make in a group for stock, will be made in the normal queue of work along with these slightly non-standard jobs. The difference is, we'll make your standard size/shape order and probably a couple of extras, whereas your non-standard shape/size will just be for you, not extras for stock. That means we will have some inventory, now and again, in the less popular but still "standard" sizes/shapes.
- Custom work and Strip Jacket Maker Sets
I include the JMK-1-S, JMK-1-H, and JMK-2-H jacket making sets with the custom work because most people want something very specific when they wish to draw their own jackets from strip rather than purchase ready-made jackets or use copper tubing jacket makers. Also, these sets of drawing dies are extremely detailed and intense in the amount of skilled labor required to make and test them, and tie up a lot of precious die-maker time that normally would be used to make and fill a large number of standard swage die orders, so it doesn't "pencil out" to build these for inventory when you combine the two factors.
Custom work, and the strip jacket makers, normally will take the most time to deliver because they will be one-off, special jobs made to do exactly what you want, rather than what any of the five hundred people ahead of your order wanted! We take all the jobs in the sequence the order is placed. This is modified only by grouping jobs so a later receipt might be finished along with an earlier one, leveraging the same machine setup time for two or three jobs that happen to match requirements.
So your order will only be delivered faster, not ever put further behind, by grouping and planning as much as possible.
We have a certain number of diemakers, and they can make only so many dies per day. We have kept the prices low as possible for the quality of material and amount of work involved (cutting corners could shave pennies and speed up delivery, but we didn't become the world's top swage die providers by cutting corners!). That means when I get quotes from other tool and die shops to help us out, I am always shocked by the prices I am quoted, which are usually far more than we ask for the finished products. This is because a shop can only get the price down on precision work if they have done a lot of the same thing over many years, and have developed in-house jigs, tooling, and techniques to achieve high efficiency without compromise in the quality. Shops that quote a price anywhere close to ours generally have not been able to provide the same level of quality, diamond lapped finish, testing and tolerance control. Bottom line, we can't speed up delivery, keep the same price level, and maintain the same high quality by getting outside help. Been there, doesn't work.
There is a production triangle which consists of three sides: quality, speed, and price. You can adjust any two. But the third one will automatically close the triangle.
Anyone can cut corners, spend little or no time testing or skip heat treatments and thereby reduce either price or delivery time, or some combination. But I don't think we would have been around 40 years if we reduced quality. People come to Corbin for the best possible value, meaning quality that is consistent with the requirements for long production life with good bullet precision at a reasonable price.
So we lock in the "Quality" side of the triangle. Now we can change price or speed, but not both at will. If we spend more money on machinery, buildings, and hire more diemakers, we could produce more dies per day. But someone pays for all that,so the price of the dies would go up. The cost of increased production is not linear. You don't get twice the production for twice the investment since so much of the cost is government interference as you grow. Environmental studies, land use development for the new larger buildings, infrastructure fees, building permits for every swing of the hammer and turn of the screwdriver, you name it, increased size increases costs faster than it increases production rate. Try it. You will see! It's much worse than even 20 years ago. More employees means more government-caused expense over and above the wages and employment taxes. Just mandated health care alone can crush the budget now. (Thanks, Liberals, for your compassionate love of government growth!)
Keeping the price in an affordable range, far less than any of the alternatives which could offer similar quality, means we have two sides of the triangle locked. The third, delivery time, is what it has to be. Long. We have made some progress in becoming more efficient, in scheduling similar jobs together, in eliminating some of the products that took more time than they were worth and released that time for more popular toolmaking. In the 1970-80's we were often 3 years behind. Today, we usually are not more than 18 months behind on the oldest jobs. And most of the new orders go out within 90 days or less if they fall into the "usually in stock" categories. The custom work still is rolling in faster than we can make it, so it does take a while. Be prepared for this and don't order if you can't wait.
Or, if speed is more important than cost, we can do custom die work on what we call "Rush Overtime". This means, I ask the diemakers if they can spend one or more weekends building one person's order on overtime pay. I must pay overtime, by law, for more than the usual 40 hours per person per week. The taxes and insurance and other wage-related overhead add another 0.5% to the cost of that 1.5x labor. So the total additional cost is 2x.
This does not mean we are "making" twice as much to do your job within 45 days or less. It means it costs us 2x as much and we have to pass it on. It is a way to add hours legally to our work week just for people who feel it is important to have the dies sooner. Since the cost of a die is almost entirely the labor that goes into making it, doubling the labor cost will make the die cost twice as much. Just basic math. But it does provide a way to get certain items much sooner, if you need them badly. Just ask for an item to be made on rush overtime. Within a 45 day period, at least one of the diemakers usually can give up one weekend, maybe two. Not always, so we don't PROMISE to have overtime work available. But so far, except in December when we take annual holidays and are closed for two weekends, it has always worked out.
Rush Overtime work must be paid in advance. The reason is that we have to commit to paying for the labor and then, if the order is declined, it isn't likely the next person on the list wants it at overtime cost. Most people are willing to trade delivery time for lower cost.