Thursday, February 26, 2015

Lee loader overview: or : possible reloading tools for beginners

As winter gives us here in Ohio another round of 10° highs and constant wind with sputtering precipitation I start to think more about long days spent out at the range.  Even though simple pleasures like ringing the steel gong at 200 yards is still weeks away I have (as some of you may have noticed with my recent trend of posts) been obsessing over the .38 special / .357 Magnum combination, range time with the new carbine has been exceedingly limited. But as I mentioned in this post about the 38/357 carbine teamed up with like chambered revolvers  I wanted simplicity and utility in a revolver/carbine package that would be hard to beat. For going on 2 years now some ammo like .22LR has been cost prohibitive for a lot of folks, myself included in fact. No, we are not hurting for ammo at the wonderwolf residence but we aren't acting like we're in a time of plenty either. The way I see it is its more important now than ever to make every shot count. If you're not learning something from every pull of the trigger (even in dry firing) then you're not bettering yourself as a rifleman.  Reloading as has been mentioned before can save money, time and resources are your limiting factor. Getting the most utility out of your chosen tools (be it sewing kit, firearm, lathe/mill, car) is important.  Simplicity when starting to reload is important so you understand the basics steps and learn what to look for. As you see your need grow you can determine if its worthwhile to put more resources into tooling. Start with a few select books on the subject if you are just starting out, here is a good place to start if you are not sure where to look .  

"Lee loaders" through the years, these 4 boxed sets show the various ways these tools have come packaged.
Reloading equipment-
The most basic tool for reloading a complete round of ammunition be it metallic or a shot-shell cartridge is the "Lee Loader".  Economic and somewhat versatile the "LL" is designed to offer everything except the components to load ammunition. A note here however, these dies in the bottle neck cases ,30/06, 223, 30-30 etc only neck size. As you will find in the directions you are instructed to only use cases that have been fired in your gun. Which works out well if you think about it, save your brass for that Savage axis in 30/06 or Ruger American  and when you go to load it with this kit you'll only be neck sizing for your rifle, something that can aid in accuracy as well as brass life though your mileage may vary. Lee comments that cases fired in pump, semi or lever actions gun can not be reloaded with these kits. I imagine that this mostly applies to the bottle neck/tapered cases. However I would keep this in mind no matter what gun you are looking at reloading for.

Top left and top center kit are pistol kits, top right kit is 30/06 , bottom is .410 shotgun kit.
If you take a closer look you'll note 2 of the kits are missing parts, Common when it comes to used kits. Easy to fix though if you have a lathe. 

Pistol kits come with a flare tool as most pistol bullets have a very flat base and do not start as easy as rifle bullets with which boat tails or bevel bases are more common. If you find yourself wanting to flare your rifle cases I recommend being a little resourceful and look for a short punch at the hardware store that would give you a little flare...not much is needed however so beware. Lee makes a universal flare die for presses but that is outside the scope of this post.

A complete .38 special lee loader kit, Note this kit can also be used to load .357 Magnum as well.

The major parts of the .38 special set can be seen below, not much to it really. Midway currently sells the most if not all lee loader kits for $27.99.....How much is a box of 20 rounds for that 30/06 or .38 special again?

Pistol kit parts, Decapping chamber,  capping rod, priming base & bullet seater, flare tool, die body, decap rod & powder measure appropriate to caliber. All that is needed to convert to .357 mag would be a different powder measure (or scale) and load data.

Rifle set has a lot in common with the pistol set, die body is a 2 part die however, adjustable for bullet seating depth.
Incomplete 30/06 die set (missing decap stem, something I'll make on the lathe later), Note the die body on this set has a little more to it, the bullet seating depth is adjusted by adjusting the die body instead of a knurled knob on the bullet seater as can be seen with the pistol set. 

Although Lee no longer makes the shotgun shell loaders as pictured below they can still be readily found online for sale in various places as well as at gun shows. I have been told that it was a different "LEE" company that produced the shot-shell loaders. They probably went through some restructuring at some point and came out a new company. I'm not sure on this but LEE does not support the shot-shell loaders any longer.
.410 Shotshell kit, Powder & shot dippers, skive tool decap rod, priming rod, wad/crimp tamp and die body.

That gets most of the information out of the way I wanted to get out there before I started reviewing the individual dies, the end product they make and their accuracy. As time and weather permits I will post tests and results, for accuracy I'll be using the 30/06 dies out of a bolt action scoped rifle I have handy. 

I'll also make mention at this point that as I believe I said in my review of the "LEE LOAD MANUAL" the instructions for most all of their products are in the manual (load book) if you are curious about starting to reload this book is a good one to have besides "The ABC's of reloading". And as always if you don't know if you want to put money out yet for books.....check your local library! Stay safe out there.

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