Saturday, March 28, 2015

Lee loader : Reloading for economy and fun!

It seems as though every reloading company has some "eternal" product that carries on and on and sets the standard in its niche. As far as "intro to reloading" goes the Lee Loader fills that niche with honors. Its been made to reload just about any major shoulder fired cartridge case and hull you can imagine (short of 50bmg...but even then I'm sure there is somebody who has copied the Lee loader for the 50BMG). Here is a good place to start as a primer on lee loaders

The Lee loader is hands down the most economic way to load ammunition for your rifle, pistol or shotgun. Even if you are a veteran reloader you can not help not giving due credit to this overly simple and effective tool.

The Appeal- Say you purchase a rifle like the Savage Axis in 30/ don't shoot but maybe 80 rounds a year to hunt and keep in good shooting form with. You really dislike the $1 a shot and then some for the ammo you are seeing on the shelves. While looking at the reloading kits at one of the "worlds largest outfitter stores" you see this little "lee loader -30/06" you do some research and for under $30 you can be set up to load yourself ammo instead of what may have been a lot more for press, dies and all offending accessories.

A few caveats with this line of thinking, you also will need a good powder scale, primers, bullets and a hard rubber mallet DO NOT USE your claw hammer. Other than that you are set to go.

Pro tip- Even if you are loading on a STURDY bench you may still want to use a large steel block under your set up to absorb the pounding so items on said bench don't migrate off bench.

Today we'll be loading some .38 special since I've been shooting that caliber a lot lately. The pistol dies are a little different than the rifle dies but they all perform the same basic tasks and the same theory is behind both sets.

First we grab our decapping rod and decapping chamber and with our RUBBER mallet we drive the primer out. Decap all your cases first.

Pro tip- If you are handy and you have the material cutting a notch in your steel block (or dense wood?) so that the spent primer falls into a tray or other bin of sometype will speed up the process some. Having spent primers floating all around is not good.

Step 1 remove primer

Rubber mallet- Yes its an import but it goes with our affordability theme here....also my older plastic mallet kind of gave up the ghost.

Don't even think about using this!!!!!

Step 2: hammer case flush with die

Grab your priming base/bullet seater combination tool.

Place primer in hole

Set die with case facing down on top of priming tool

Lightly tap, get a feel for this step and go slow, check primer about halfway through to ensure its seated straight and true

A coffee mug is great for pouring powder into to scoop from, After your done loading pour powder back into original container. Never leave powder out when you are not loading ammo.

Now here is one area I get a little fussy with when it comes to the included scoop supplied with the lee loader. This scoop is the .5cc scoop, it is supposed to throw a 4.6gr charge of unique....ok well thats all fine and good but when I weighed the charge it did throw it came out to 3.9gr everysingle time. Still a safe minimum as per some load books however this is a good reason to have a powder scale on hand so you know what charge the scoop throws. DON'T TRUST WHAT THEY SAY IT SHOULD THROW.

PRO TIP- If you have a good powder measure you can take a fired case like a 9mm and wrap some medium weight wire arounds its base, now you can use this as a scoop and file the case shorter until you get the charge you are wanting, A coat of nail polish on the outside with a sharpie label can let you know what scoop is for what powder and exact charge it was made to throw. Cheap and effective!

In goes our powder
 Next we take our combination tool and adjust the bullet seater stem a little at a time and trial fit until we get the bullet seated to where we want it.
Adjusting the seater requires loosening the lock ring and running down the stem in the pistol set.
 We may or may not flare the case mouth at this point, I forgot to take a picture of that process but no biggie, next the bullet is dropped in and seater is situated on top.
Whack-a-mole that bullet into place (gently)

Pro tip- Again if you are handy I would highly suggest making a sort of tool rack for the rods, flare tool and bases. putting each tool back after each use and in the order you use them would make loading even faster. Also a scrap block of wood drilled with a spade bit can make a marvelous loading block on the cheap! And its good for the environment!?

And presto- We loaded a round of .38 special

If we wish to crimp our bullet we simply flip the die over to the side we poured the powder through and placing the bullet nose down tap lightly with our mallet a few times to get the desired crimp. It does not take much so check after a few taps and you will get the feel for it quickly.

About a round a minute is doable

I have shown how a single round of pistol ammunition can be loaded very cheaply, quickly and with minimal tools. I have a very extensive reloading set up with lots of fancy equipment however loading with the lee loader is as simple as you can get and very enjoyable. If a man was stuck in a cabin for awhile I would much rather load my ammo with one of these than the nicest progressive press out there. Its fun, its simple and relatively safe. The lee loader is perhaps all you might ever need to satisfy your ammunition consumption. OR it could be a great way to find out of reloading is something you want to dive deeper into. These kits are hands down great for the beginner who is learning on their own and has the time to do it right and read up on it.

The link below goes to the instructions for the Lee Loader in its pistol form.

1 comment:

D Musolff said...

Nice article, I have a number of Lee Loaders one for each pistol and rifle caliber that I own plus all 5 shotgun guages. Good photo work and adding the Pro Tips is a plus. Keep up the good work. - Lucky Joe