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Help me pick test indicator and holder

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JoeC

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#1
Hi,

I'm kind of new to machining and need to acquire a test indicator and holder for my Grizzly G0775 mill and Baleigh 13x40 lathe. At this time I can buy one good indicator and holder. I am thinking Tesatast/Bestest and Noga. In addition, I could also afford a cheapo with less resolution if that makes any sense.
In addition to general not extremely precise machining, I will be threading a few gun barrels.

Test indicators:
What would be the most useful test indicator as far as resolution/range/stem? I think in inches, not metric.
I am thinking .001 or .0005.
What stem length is most useful for general work?
Can I get a short stem model and change to a long stem when I want to get up in a barrel? I know the reading would be off.
Or is changing stems a bad idea for a nice indicator?

Holders:
Noga's come in NF, DG, MG, MA sizes for their articulated holders.
Their post holders are much more affordable, and have more reach. Ph3100, 2040, 4016.
I have no idea what is a practical size.

What is your advice?

Thanks,
Joe
 

mikey

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#2
Joe, I'm with you re Swiss dti's. However, you have to be careful nowadays because some of the indicators that have long been made in Switzerland are now being made in China, including some Bestest indicators. Hexagon has apparently succumbed to the world economy and is outsourcing. If the dial says "Swiss Made" then it is made in Switzerland. If it does not, then it isn't.

I tend to favor Compac indicators. One of the best is the Compact 214GA, a long travel dti with a large, easy to read dial that is calibrated in 0.0005" units. For a general purpose dti, this is the one I prefer. Here is one on ebay now and it is brand new at a decent price: https://www.ebay.com/itm/New-Compac...180975?hash=item5203aff32f:g:eh8AAOSwFnxaUaZ2

Other options include the Interapid 312 series, most older Tesas and B&S. Mitutoyo makes some nice ones but are not as smooth as a Swiss indicator in my experience. I have a Interapid 312b 15V with a long arm and it is smooth as silk. Changing arms will alter the direct reading and for most uses, a short arm is better.

For stands, Noga flex arm stands are probably the current world leader and they are very good. I suggest you consider one with the fine adjust at the base of the arms, not at the indicator end. The base adjuster (FAB) models are easier to adjust for really fine movement.

I own an NF model, a MG model and several NF1018's (these mount in a spindle; they have no magnetic base). All are useful. If I had to pick one, I would probably go with the MG; it is stout but very smooth. The DG has slightly smaller diameter arms than the MG. The NF has the smallest diameter arms and is lighter; I actually use it the most. I'm sure the other guys will be along shortly to give their opinions.

I have not used a Ph model holder but it is likely going to be more solid than the flex arm models, albeit a bit slower in use.
 

Ray C

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#3
Laugh as much as you want but, the mag base indicator holder from Harbor Freight has never let me down. It too has a fine adjustment. https://www.harborfreight.com/multipositional-magnetic-base-with-fine-adjustment-5645.html

For general purpose work, two indicators are most useful to have. One would be a 1" travel indicator and the other would be the half-thou test indicator.

The 1" travel indicator (often also called a drop indicator) sees more use in my shop than any other kind of indicator (and I have quite a a few). Again, the Harbor Freight indicator is what I use because, they are very reliable and inexpensive. https://www.harborfreight.com/1-in-travel-machinists-dial-indicator-63521.html

For indicators, Shars.com sells very adequate indicators in both half-thou and tenths for about $40 each. I have about a half dozen in different shapes and probe lengths. Some of them are almost 10 years old now. I've tested them on granite with gage blocks, pin gages etc and they perform very well.

A half-thou indicator is likely to be more useful to you than a tenths indicator.

Ray
 

BGHansen

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#4
I've got 3 or 4 Last Word Starrett's in 0.0001" (0.008" travel) and 0.0005" (0.030" travel), Mitutoyo 0.0005" (0.030" travel), Import no-name 0.0005" (0.030" travel), SPI and Fowler's 0.0005" (0.030" travel) and three Interapid 0.0005" (0.060" travel). The Mitutoyo is on an Indicol spindle bracket for centering up on the mill. The Starrett's set in the tool boxes unused, SPI/Fowler's pretty much the same thing. The Interapid's get the most use, like the 0.060" travel for 4-jaw truing up on the lathe. Plus they're smooth.

I have a couple of Noga FAB base that gets a lot of use, also a Starrett mag base. But as Ray mentioned above, got a lot of use out of HF quality mag base and DTI before upgrading. I'm a hobbyist, not a production guy. If you're on a budget, maybe start with the import stuff and upgrade at some point.

Bruce
 

rwm

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#5
I second the Noga bases. The knock offs on eBay are not bad either.
R
 

Ray C

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I've got 3 or 4 Last Word Starrett's in 0.0001" (0.008" travel) and 0.0005" (0.030" travel), Mitutoyo 0.0005" (0.030" travel), Import no-name 0.0005" (0.030" travel), SPI and Fowler's 0.0005" (0.030" travel) and three Interapid 0.0005" (0.060" travel). The Mitutoyo is on an Indicol spindle bracket for centering up on the mill. The Starrett's set in the tool boxes unused, SPI/Fowler's pretty much the same thing. The Interapid's get the most use, like the 0.060" travel for 4-jaw truing up on the lathe. Plus they're smooth.

I have a couple of Noga FAB base that gets a lot of use, also a Starrett mag base. But as Ray mentioned above, got a lot of use out of HF quality mag base and DTI before upgrading. I'm a hobbyist, not a production guy. If you're on a budget, maybe start with the import stuff and upgrade at some point.

Bruce
I'm with Bruce on this one. Sure, I have some Mity's, BS and Starrett equipment. Some of it belonged to my father and uncle who were a tool/die maker and metallurgist (respectively). Because of sentimental reasons, I don't use that equipment as much as the day-to-day stuff. Also, some of those items are pretty old and showing their age. For what I do, the lower-cost equipment serves me just fine and in my "semi-professional" opinion, it functions just as well. I try to be very careful with all my equipment but sooner or later, mishaps will occur. For example, the only test indicator I ever broke was damaged when I tried to rotate it at 1000 RPM. -Happens when you hit the "On" button instead of the "Jog" button...

Anyhow, JoeC eluded to a cost constraint so, I pointed-out what equipment works for me. If anyone here follows me, you know by now that (even though my shop is crowded and messy) I keep everything inside of a thou and all my bearing fittings are within 2-3 tenths.


Ray
 

mmcmdl

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#7
Joe . I have some very nice indicators that I will be letting go . I'll give you a list of what I have if you want .
 

rgray

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#8
Can I get a short stem model and change to a long stem when I want to get up in a barrel?
There is rifling in there so unless you're talking about indicating in a chamber that would not be of much use.
 

JoeC

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Joe . I have some very nice indicators that I will be letting go . I'll give you a list of what I have if you want .
I would like the list, please.
Joe
 

JoeC

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Joe, I'm with you re Swiss dti's. However, you have to be careful nowadays because some of the indicators that have long been made in Switzerland are now being made in China, including some Bestest indicators. Hexagon has apparently succumbed to the world economy and is outsourcing. If the dial says "Swiss Made" then it is made in Switzerland. If it does not, then it isn't.

I tend to favor Compac indicators. One of the best is the Compact 214GA, a long travel dti with a large, easy to read dial that is calibrated in 0.0005" units. For a general purpose dti, this is the one I prefer. Here is one on ebay now and it is brand new at a decent price: https://www.ebay.com/itm/New-Compac...180975?hash=item5203aff32f:g:eh8AAOSwFnxaUaZ2

Other options include the Interapid 312 series, most older Tesas and B&S. Mitutoyo makes some nice ones but are not as smooth as a Swiss indicator in my experience. I have a Interapid 312b 15V with a long arm and it is smooth as silk. Changing arms will alter the direct reading and for most uses, a short arm is better.

For stands, Noga flex arm stands are probably the current world leader and they are very good. I suggest you consider one with the fine adjust at the base of the arms, not at the indicator end. The base adjuster (FAB) models are easier to adjust for really fine movement.

I own an NF model, a MG model and several NF1018's (these mount in a spindle; they have no magnetic base). All are useful. If I had to pick one, I would probably go with the MG; it is stout but very smooth. The DG has slightly smaller diameter arms than the MG. The NF has the smallest diameter arms and is lighter; I actually use it the most. I'm sure the other guys will be along shortly to give their opinions.

I have not used a Ph model holder but it is likely going to be more solid than the flex arm models, albeit a bit slower in use.
Thanks for the heads up on some Bestest not being from Switzerland anymore.
I almost pulled the trigger on the line to the Compac until I noticed the screw in the face plate looked corroded. What would you make of that?
 

JoeC

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#11
Thanks for all the replies. Just the kind of information I was looking for.
Keep them coming.
 

EmilioG

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#12
Word of caution on buying used or Import: Many of the indicators on Ebay are in not in good shape. Many are damaged to some degree.
Most can be repaired, but with repair costs upwards of $60-$150, a $50 "deal" can turn in to a nightmare.

B&S Best Test indicators are great, general use gages, but they are fragile, un like the Compac, which is super sturdy. First time indicator, you may want to consider a new Mitutoyo.
Of the Swiss brands, only the Value Line is made in China. See: www.longislandindicator.com for some very good information.

Mikey links an excellent Compac.(good seller, JRWoodca, I've purchased from them). You can buy this model brand new from LongIslandIndicator for $225., the latest, newest model, has larger ball bearings). I own two of those in .0005 and ,0001". These are multiple rev DTI's. The B&S Best Test is a single rev. which shorter range but super accurate. Bottom line, I would stick with Swiss Compac, TesaTast or Best Test first, Mitutoyo, brand new 2nd choice. The Compac, will last a lifetime.

AFA indicator holders? It's a good idea to buy a few., but a Noga mag base,& an Indicol, are pretty much essential. You can buy what you need as you go along an determine your specific uses for each. Check out the Noga website. Good luck.
 

EmilioG

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#13
]Thanks for the heads up on some Bestest not being from Switzerland anymore.
I almost pulled the trigger on the line to the Compac until I noticed the screw in the face plate looked corroded. What would you make of that?

The corrosion you're seeing is probably from the indicator sitting in a box for a long time. I'm sure it's fine and you can ask the seller if the one they're shipping comes in a sealed bag. New indicators all come sealed with Vci paper. I would try to get the price down though. They originally wanted $225 or best offer. I see the price has come down a lot. Another thing, if you can't verify the accuracy of the used or Ebay gage, it will be difficult to tell how much hysterisis, condition of bearings, etc.. Unless you know what to look for in a used gage, I would seriously consider a brand new gage from a seller like Msc. Amazon.com also has good deals on Best Test, but purchase from Amazon.
 
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19E60

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Joe, I'm with you re Swiss dti's. However, you have to be careful nowadays because some of the indicators that have long been made in Switzerland are now being made in China, including some Bestest indicators. Hexagon has apparently succumbed to the world economy and is outsourcing. If the dial says "Swiss Made" then it is made in Switzerland. If it does not, then it isn't.
+1 on what Mike said...
I decided I needed a .0001 indicator, ordered up a Bestest 7023-3 from MSC on a %off sale a few months ago, thought I got a pretty good price (lowest I could find anywhere). Unpacked it the second it arrived...the label on the plastic case did not say "SWISS MADE"...uhoh methinks something is awry here. Sure enough the face of the indicator does not say swiss made either. Buyer beware indeed, I have no idea where it was assmbled/made. Having said that, it appears identical in terms of materials and workmanship, including the plastic case, as my genuine swiss made Bestest. Disappointing though to pay swiss made pricing and have it made somewhere else.

That Compac Mike linked appears to be a steal at that price, and is a sweet indicator. I'm not sure that is corrosion on the screw face...lordy am I tempted on that one regardless, but I already have 2 half-thou indicators and the finance department would blow a fuse...still tempted though. I seem to have developed a fetish for swiss indicators thanks to the helpful folks on this forum.

My first indicator when i was starting out and didn't know any better was this one https://www.ebay.com/itm/030-Dial-T...520798?hash=item19fbf8109e:g:uogAAOSwv~1aTWD3. Have to say it has worked just fine and still does, despite taking some unintentional abuse. If I were on a tight budget it would, and did, get me started.

Agree buying used can be a crapshoot. I haven't been burned yet but then I've only bought 2 used. One is a Compac 225GA vertical off ebay in wonderful condition, extremely happy with it. The other was one I couldn't resist, an Alina 41-628, another vertical style, although with small face but it's just so darn cute (yup my name is Kurt and I have an indicator problem), that I bought from Ideal Precision out of their used/reconditioned section, even came in the original wood case.

I have 2 Noga bases, the small and medium with fine adjust on the base...love them.

There is rifling in there so unless you're talking about indicating in a chamber that would not be of much use.
With gun barrels you are using the indicator as a comparator, taking readings off the lands or grooves not both, whichever suits your fancy; this is how barrels are indicated. As such switching out stems is not an issue since you are only comparing position and not concerned with absolute dimension. However I do have an Interapid 312B-15 long arm for such work (did I mention I have an indicator problem).
 

mmcmdl

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Joe , I will let you know what I have left . Probably close to 100 or so . If you see something that floats your boat , we will work something out andif you find out its not what you wanted , you can always return it . I'm always here ! I just don't have the need for the majority of high precision tools anymore since I don't work for the government anymore and most likely will not be machining at home .
 

mikey

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I also have Starretts, Mitutoyos, Teclocks and I even have a Phase II and they all work. HOW they work differs though. A Swiss-made indicator is super-smooth and consistently so. This is most evident in the drop indicators but is also seen with the dial test indicators. My Interapid and Compac indicators repeat the best and have done so for decades. I'm not dissing the Chinese stuff; I just choose not to buy them.

And yes, Kurt, you are not alone!

With regard to the Compac indicator on ebay, I don't see any corrosion on the screw. I enlarged the pic on a 4K screen and cannot see what you're referring to. If there is corrosion then it is likely from sitting as Emilio said. If you are considering it, email the seller and tell him of your concern. He can examine it and tell you more about that than a picture can. Personally, I think that is a very good price on one of the best indicators I know of but if there really is an issue then he might go for a lower price offer.

You can also wait for a used one for cheap but then its a crap shoot as to how it lived its life before being sold. Used indicators, if they are in good shape, can be cleaned and calibrated by LIIS and returned to fine working condition but it adds to the cost.

This discussion happens fairly frequently on HM and there is no right answer as to which indicator to buy. You get what you can afford and take your chances, I suppose. For me, I prefer to buy a good one and buy it once. Then again, I've bought many good ones so I don't even follow my own advice!
 

mmcmdl

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#18
Mahr makes a very nice indicator and that price isn't bad !
 

EmilioG

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+1 on what Mike said...
I decided I needed a .0001 indicator, ordered up a Bestest 7023-3 from MSC on a %off sale a few months ago, thought I got a pretty good price (lowest I could find anywhere). Unpacked it the second it arrived...the label on the plastic case did not say "SWISS MADE"...uhoh methinks something is awry here. Sure enough the face of the indicator does not say swiss made either. Buyer beware indeed, I have no idea where it was assmbled/made. Having said that, it appears identical in terms of materials and workmanship, including the plastic case, as my genuine swiss made Bestest. Disappointing though to pay swiss made pricing and have it made somewhere else.

That Compac Mike linked appears to be a steal at that price, and is a sweet indicator. I'm not sure that is corrosion on the screw face...lordy am I tempted on that one regardless, but I already have 2 half-thou indicators and the finance department would blow a fuse...still tempted though. I seem to have developed a fetish for swiss indicators thanks to the helpful folks on this forum.

My first indicator when i was starting out and didn't know any better was this one https://www.ebay.com/itm/030-Dial-T...520798?hash=item19fbf8109e:g:uogAAOSwv~1aTWD3. Have to say it has worked just fine and still does, despite taking some unintentional abuse. If I were on a tight budget it would, and did, get me started.

Agree buying used can be a crapshoot. I haven't been burned yet but then I've only bought 2 used. One is a Compac 225GA vertical off ebay in wonderful condition, extremely happy with it. The other was one I couldn't resist, an Alina 41-628, another vertical style, although with small face but it's just so darn cute (yup my name is Kurt and I have an indicator problem), that I bought from Ideal Precision out of their used/reconditioned section, even came in the original wood case.

I have 2 Noga bases, the small and medium with fine adjust on the base...love them.



With gun barrels you are using the indicator as a comparator, taking readings off the lands or grooves not both, whichever suits your fancy; this is how barrels are indicated. As such switching out stems is not an issue since you are only comparing position and not concerned with absolute dimension. However I do have an Interapid 312B-15 long arm for such work (did I mention I have an indicator problem).


Very strange on the Msc purchased Best Test. I have never seen a B&S Best Test DTI w/o Swiss Made. I own several Best Test DTI's, older Blue box
and the newest Grey Box model. All of them -3 or -5 series. All have Swiss Made on the dial and the boxes. I would have returned it. Was the gage in the sealed plastic bag when you opened the box? All new Swiss indicators come sealed with Vci paper. All B&S Best Test DTI's have Swiss Made since they are made in Switzerland. (ValueLine made in China).

Side Note: B&S Parallel sets are now made in Switzerland by Tesa.!

The Mikey linked Compac is selling out fast. I think Mikey did them a favor. $171 plus $15 shipping from Canada seems high. $185.00, another $40 get's you a brand new one. ?? with a warranty too.
 
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JoeC

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#20
I went ahead and bought one of the Compacs that Mikey pointed out. I really like the large, uncluttered, easy to read dial, and rev counter.
Much nicer than anything else I was looking at. Thanks, Mikey.

For some reason, I was thinking these were old models. Maybe its recent mfg. I'll ask.
 

JoeC

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I don't know why I assumed these were some old stock.
I ask the Ebay seller about the age and warranty. Here is his reply:

"Hi, we bought out a distributor that had closed. They are current stock. I would assume they have a factory warranty but don’t know for sure as we bought them as a close out we are not distributors that is why we are selling at less than dealer cost. Thank you"

Can't wait to get it!
 

ddickey

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Did you make an offer? If so what did you get it for?
I bought a Compac P2 a year ago from the same seller. Got the same answer to my question.
 
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JoeC

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JoeC

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Did you make an offer? If so what did you get it for?
Where it said 4 available/1 Sold, I clicked on "1 Sold", and there was a long list of "Offers declined", so I didn't make an offer.
$171.50 + $15 shipping.
 

ddickey

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Yeah. I made four offers and got locked out.
 

EmilioG

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Congrats. The grey box Compac is the latest model. They have even larger ball bearings, so they will last two lifetimes.
If you have a receipt, the warranty should be good. I think it's one year. They should come sealed and will the Tesa paperwork if they're
truly brand new. They may have been purchased with the intention of being used but were not.
These Compacs are really smooth and super accurate. Let us know how you like it.
 

JoeC

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Yeah. I made four offers and got locked out.
Wow, I didn't know you could get locked out! I have made one offer a couple of times.
 

ddickey

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Actually I made five offers. After the fifth one is denied you can no longer make an offer but you can still buy it for the buy it now price.
Sorry if my previous post was misleading.
 

JoeC

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]Thanks for the heads up on some Bestest not being from Switzerland anymore.
I almost pulled the trigger on the line to the Compac until I noticed the screw in the face plate looked corroded. What would you make of that?

The corrosion you're seeing is probably from the indicator sitting in a box for a long time. I'm sure it's fine and you can ask the seller if the one they're shipping comes in a sealed bag. New indicators all come sealed with Vci paper. I would try to get the price down though. They originally wanted $225 or best offer. I see the price has come down a lot. Another thing, if you can't verify the accuracy of the used or Ebay gage, it will be difficult to tell how much hysterisis, condition of bearings, etc.. Unless you know what to look for in a used gage, I would seriously consider a brand new gage from a seller like Msc. Amazon.com also has good deals on Best Test, but purchase from Amazon.
Hi Emilio, Thanks for the info. Whats the reason for purchasing from Amazon?
Thanks, Joe
 

JoeC

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+1 on what Mike said...
I decided I needed a .0001 indicator, ordered up a Bestest 7023-3 from MSC on a %off sale a few months ago, thought I got a pretty good price (lowest I could find anywhere). Unpacked it the second it arrived...the label on the plastic case did not say "SWISS MADE"...uhoh methinks something is awry here. Sure enough the face of the indicator does not say swiss made either. Buyer beware indeed, I have no idea where it was assmbled/made. Having said that, it appears identical in terms of materials and workmanship, including the plastic case, as my genuine swiss made Bestest. Disappointing though to pay swiss made pricing and have it made somewhere else.

That Compac Mike linked appears to be a steal at that price, and is a sweet indicator. I'm not sure that is corrosion on the screw face...lordy am I tempted on that one regardless, but I already have 2 half-thou indicators and the finance department would blow a fuse...still tempted though. I seem to have developed a fetish for swiss indicators thanks to the helpful folks on this forum.

My first indicator when i was starting out and didn't know any better was this one https://www.ebay.com/itm/030-Dial-T...520798?hash=item19fbf8109e:g:uogAAOSwv~1aTWD3. Have to say it has worked just fine and still does, despite taking some unintentional abuse. If I were on a tight budget it would, and did, get me started.

Agree buying used can be a crapshoot. I haven't been burned yet but then I've only bought 2 used. One is a Compac 225GA vertical off ebay in wonderful condition, extremely happy with it. The other was one I couldn't resist, an Alina 41-628, another vertical style, although with small face but it's just so darn cute (yup my name is Kurt and I have an indicator problem), that I bought from Ideal Precision out of their used/reconditioned section, even came in the original wood case.

I have 2 Noga bases, the small and medium with fine adjust on the base...love them.



With gun barrels you are using the indicator as a comparator, taking readings off the lands or grooves not both, whichever suits your fancy; this is how barrels are indicated. As such switching out stems is not an issue since you are only comparing position and not concerned with absolute dimension. However I do have an Interapid 312B-15 long arm for such work (did I mention I have an indicator problem).
Thanks, Kurt. Which Nogas are you calling the small and mediam? The NF and DG?
And thanks for validating my thoughts of using a long stem for indicating a rifled barrel.
On that note, let me reword one of my questions from my first post. Can I swap indicator stems and expect the same precision/readout when I reinstall the original stem?

Thanks, so much for everyone input.
 
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