Saturday, December 21, 2013

Loading with a Lee Load-All II shotgun press

   The following is a picture heavy step by step "how to" load a shotgun shell on a Lee Load-All II shotshell press. This is basic stuff, I have already installed the correct shot and powder bushing as reviewed in THIS post on my blog. This is to show both instructions on the use of the press and just how simple it can be to "roll your own". If you want info on loading buckshot 12ga "OO" buckshot on the cheap click HERE
We start with a spent hull.

Slip the sizer ring over the hull so the notched end is towards the top.

Place hull into "station 1" and pull down the handle all the way if you feel a hard stop re-position the hull as it may not be centered with the depriming unit, this can be common on 20ga and 16ga hulls.

Hull has been sized and deprimed in station one, now grab a primer!

Push start the primer into the hull so it will seat straight.

Place hull in station 2 and pull down smoothly on the handle, At this point you have primed the hull and removed the sizing ring off of the hull.

Sizing ring pushed up hull.

Slip the ring off the hull and place it nearby where you will grab it after this shell is loaded.

Place the hull in the third station. Pull down handle, and with the powder/shot bar starting at the left (with shot insert showing) move the bar to the right. * NOTE- if at this point you are not sure of your powder charge refer back to my earlier post on the Load-All

Powder charge has been dropped. Now for the wad, let up on the handle and grab your shot wad.

Shot wad in place, pull down on the handle until you feel the wad seat. It is important now to be consistent with your wad seating pressure between loads so try to do it the same every time.

The wad is in place and the handle is down lets drop some shot, move the powder/shot bar back to the left this drops the shot.

Moving the hull to the forth station try and position it so that one of the star crimp dents is closest to you. This helps ensure a well formed crimp every time. Pull the handle down (the station directly behind this station is for starting either 6 or 8 star crimps depending on what gauge you are using)

Move the loaded round to the final stage and pull down on the handle, you will get the feel for it after awhile. You have now completed a loaded round of 20ga birdshot ready for the field! After some practice this can be done quickly. You might not save a lot of money over the economy loads but you can tailor payloads to your gun and try various combinations, if you start loading buckshot and slugs you can save a LOT of money quickly. 

A trick to the Lee Load-All shotshell press

   In a previous post about loading buckshot (found here) I used a Lee Load-All II shotgun press that I had purchased new. If you have found yourself with one of these presses (which you can get cheap used) this post is a overview of how best to go about getting started with your selected load. As well as 2 handy tricks for getting where you need to be with your selected powder charge.  The first trick is how to make sure you get consistent powder drops the second is how to switch out powder bushings without much hassle.

This pair of Lee Load-II shotshell presses able to load 12ga,20ga and 16ga cost me under $100

Before I go any further there are better presses out there to mass produce shotgun ammo on, I have gone with the Lee Load-All for the simple fact that I do not want a larger machine taking up space nor do I want one that has all the bells and whistles, if you have read much more of my blog you will understand I like simplicity. Also the 2 presses I have now plus their conversion heads have combined cost me under $100....thats $100 for two presses that can load 3 gauges.

The Lee Load-All is a simple press that comes with everything you need (except components) including powder and shot bushings. When I had obtained my first Lee Load-All it came in I didn't need a shotpress in 20ga....I needed 12ga. Luckily Cabela's conveniently stocked the 12ga conversion head there as well......I smelled a bit of a marketing scheme but I digress.  The Fact the press is easily converted between gauges appealed to me. I later on purchased a 16ga conversion head so now I had one press the size of a long thin shoe box that could load 12ga, 20ga, and 16ga......pretty slick huh? I wont get into the parts swapping of the conversion here (just yet)  but you know the story, you get tired of changed around the parts and start looking for another press. A few months back I stumbled upon another press, this one was set up in 16ga and was missing the sizer ring, had everything else bushings and even the instructions, but was missing the sizer ring. No bother I had a complete 16ga conversion already so I slapped down my $8 for the lot (I did say you could get them cheap, didn't I?). Since I don't even own a 16ga shotgun I decided to convert the press over to 20ga so now I would have a dedicated 12ga and 20ga press.........the 20ga press will get converted whenever I need to load 16ga ammo.

The priming system on the LA can be upgraded to a primmer feeder as pictured below, this allows you to load a couple dozen primers and with a simple jiggle and lift of the trough you will feed the next primer that will automatically be seated with you move the shell into the 2nd station.
Lee offers this primer feeder (red trunk looking thing) for the 209 primer, handy if loading a lot of ammo

Pictured in the 2nd bay from the left is the standard primer seating stem.
 The powder and shot bushings are in Lee Precision fashion, formed plastic. These are labeled with numbers, as I will get into here in a bit you will find the powder bushings are off by what the chart claims causing you to throw a lighter charge of powder than you were wanting, I will show how you can quickly get to the powder charge you want without undue hassle (like emptying out all the powder every time you find you are throwing the wrong powder charge).
Large shot charges up to 1 7/8 oz can be thrown.
Powder bushing on left, shot bushing on right.

Supplied bushing capacity chart, As noted most of these will throw lighter than advertised charges so its important to use a scale to verify.

When you start using a new Lee LA press here is a simple way to get the powder weight you need

Step 1: Remove metal face plate from the front of the Loader

Step 2: put in the starting powder and shot bushings you intend to use

Step 3: Replace metal face plate, ONLY put the powder in the hopper DO NOT PUT SHOT IN YET!

Step 4: With spent hull in place cycle the charge bar a few times and dump back into the hopper. Then dump 1 charge guessed it ....weigh it

 Step 5: The LA press will give you 2 weights of powder depending on the type of powder you are using if you just throw a charge without depriming the case and sizing it first your charge will be light because the powder is not settling as the press is being manipulated. I proved this by simply throwing 3 charges all weighing 13.8gr of unique Then actually going through and sizing and priming a case AND THEN priming it....same powder bushing dropped 14.1gr consistently.

 Now if your load is calling for around 14gr of unique I would stop at that point, but the load I am using is calling for 15gr of unique.....but I already put powder in the hopper? I don't want to dump it all out and dump it back in and possibly spill powder all over the place if it can be avoided. I want to jump from the .105 bushing to the .110 bushing. Here is how you can go about that without much hassle.

Step 6: With the charge bar moved to the right so the powder bushing # is showing remove the faceplate.
Position of the charge bar for bushing swap.
Step 7: This is why we didn't fill up the shot hopper (shot would be pouring out right now if we had), with the face plate off rotate the charge bar so that it pivots underneath the hole the powder drops through. Now the powder and shot bushing should be exposed, pop out the powder bushing and replace it with the one you want to try next.
110 bushing in place, replace face plate and throw charges.
Step 8: Cycle the charge bar a few times with a hull in place and dump in the hopper. Now take a hull run it through the first 2 stages, prime and then dump the powder charge and weigh. If you have thought ahead at this point you might say "hey, if I size and prime a bunch of cases and do not load them how am I going to load these and get the correct powder weight when I do load them". One solution is to use one scrap case and run it in the first 2 stages over and over again to give the press the jigging and jarring it needs to get the powder to settle, it is how the press was designed to work.
"Dummy" shell in place to ensure correct powder settling is
Repeat the process until you get close to your goal, I was aiming for 15gr I got 14.9 on several throws that is plenty good for shotshell.

Now that we have a the powder charge weight we are looking for we can fill the shot hopper with the desired size shot and begin loading.

All set!