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Old May 7, 2006, 11:46 PM   #1
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Lee Hand Press Kit

I would like to get into reloading and can not set up a bench in My house.
It looks like the Lee hand press kit might be a way to start, but I know little about it and loading for that matter. Some of the principles... but I've never reloaded in My life.
Besides being able to tailor My loads for My particular handgun(s), would I save money too? I'm spending a bit these days when I shoot and would like to cut that down. The .45 ACP in particular is why I'd like to reload, and Maybe .357 Mag & .38 Spl in the future.
I'm shooting mostly .45 ACP & 9MM these days and when I took a visit to Lee's website, I have found I questions about their dies too.

Does anyone own/use or have used the hand press? Is it easy to use, or do I have to apply a large amount of force?
As for the dies, what's the "Speed Die" about? Would it save me steps in the process? Or is it better suited for another press?
I'm wondering about case cleaning as well. Is tumbler needed, anything else?
Is this possible venture worth it in the end?
I guess it's not really the money aspect, I just want to shoot more for the same money. But some savings would be welcome too!
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Old May 8, 2006, 06:51 AM   #2
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Lee Hand Press Kit

Jim, are you sure you don't have room in your house for a single stage press?

They don't have to be mounted permanently.

They can be fastened to a short piece of 2x8 and C-clamped to a table top, if neccessary. Or buy a Black & Decker Workmate (folding work center) and clamp it to that.

A hand press, I would imagine, is intended for use out in the field, not at home, and its inherent compromises to permit portability would get tiring after a while.

As far as case cleaning goes, in my short time as a reloader, I have found the tumbler to be one of my better purchases. Toss 'em in for an hour or two and life is good.
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Old May 8, 2006, 09:43 AM   #3
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I'm with Rodney. I much prefer a light press that can be clamped to any available flat surface to a hand press. The little Lee Reloader that they give away with the loading manual will do fine for the cartridges you mention.

I've never used the Speed Die and know no experienced reloader who does. The three die sets are cheap and compact enough.

You can fit a complete reloading setup into a toolbox and set it up in five minutes. I have a bench setup, but I often clamp a press to my picnic table when the weather is nice.
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Old May 8, 2006, 03:55 PM   #4
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I started with the handheld and moved to the single stage. It will certainly work but it is slower and reloading with a press just feels better. It is good for sizing cases while watching tv. I would not recomend charging and seating bullets while watching tv though. The difference between the handheld and lee single stage is only a few bucks so I would recomend going with the single stage and clamping it down.
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Old May 8, 2006, 07:40 PM   #5
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Unless you literally have no surface in the house that you can clamp a small single-stage press onto, I wouldn't recommend the hand press as a starter, either. It's a great second or third press for use at the range or maybe at a camp or similar situation, but think you'll find it limiting and a little frustrating if you're starting out. Lee, RCBS and others make small presses that can be bought in kits (although I think you're often better mixing Brand A press with Brand B measure with Brand C scale, etc.). I have a RCBS Partner that I still use very frequently even though you could never do real case forming with it and probably couldn't full-length resize large magnum cases without a lot of effort.
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Old May 8, 2006, 09:23 PM   #6
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I started, 20+ years ago, with a Lee Turret Press but soon thereafter acquired a Hand Press as well. As others have noted, the hand press is ideal for doing low-concentration tasks (depriming, sizing, case mouth belling if you're not using a through-die for powder charging, and final crimp with a Factory Crimp Die) sitting in a comforable chair in front of the TV. The hand press has pretty good leverage, but will take a bit more muscle than any bench mounted press. OTOH, you probably will build up the muscles you need fairly quickly. And as others have suggested, you will want to go to at least a small bench press as soon as feasible.

I've never had a Speed Die, but gather it is a single unit that can be reconfigured to do each of the necessary steps in reloading - you still have to do the same steps, whether using a speed die or regular die set. The disadvantage would seem to be that you have to reset a speed die each time you use it, whereas with a 3- or 4-die set you calibrate each die once and then just screw it back into the press the next time you need to use it. Lee 4-die sets are cheap enough that I can't imagine wanting to fool with a speed die, but maybe they have advantages that I'm missing.

Most people probably start off reloading for the savings on ammunition cost, and almost all of us find out that we don't save any money at all but do get to shoot a lot more for the same money as we were spending before. But we also tend to find that there is a satisfaction inherent in making our own reliable and accurate ammunition, and that sometimes we can even improve on the accuracy of factory ammunition as well (hard to really notice with handgun ammo, though, unless you're a pretty good shot to start with.) Being able to load 44 Magnum down to pretty much any level you want with pretty much any bullet you want (for example), or 45ACP with semi-wadcutter bullets that won't work in your automatic but do just fine in your revolver, are advantages you may come to appreciate later.
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Old May 8, 2006, 10:27 PM   #7
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I started out with a hand press, and I never "graduated" to a bench press. I like the portability and the ease of storage it affords. I do everything except loading powder and seating bullets from my easy chair. The rest is done at the kitchen table. Oh, yeah, I tumble clean the brass in the garage. When I'm done, everything but the tumbler stores in a big rubbermaid tote.

I started out with the Lee hand press, and I like it very much. I still use it for depriming, using a universal depriming die prior to tumble cleaning. The hollow ram on the Lee hand press efficiently captures spent primers and debris.

I added a Huntington Compac hand press to my arsenal, and I use it for everything else (except priming, more on that later). It is smaller in size (not capacity), but is stronger and more accurate than the Lee I have. The compac's dual opposing handles and twin guide rods ensure perfect alignment of the ram to the die. They also allow double the leverage in a smaller package. Finally, if it is clamped to a table, it does not transmit the operating torque from the handle to the bench like a standard bench press does. I mounted it to a 4" circular wooden stand that maintains the portability I like, while also allowing it to stand up on its own if I need both hands for something else for a minute.

The Lee hand press does a fine job; I never had a reloading problem I could attribute to it's flexure or misalignment (shell holders are designed to deal with a certain amount of misalignment between the ram and the press anyway), but the perfect alignment of the Compac does add a measure of confidence in my work. I would heartily recommend the Lee, since you will always have a use for it, whether or not you eventually "upgrade" to a better hand press, or a bench press. I wouldn't want to do any case reforming on one, but full length resizing even rifle rounds is definitely within its capabilities.

I would not, however, recommend the Lee Hand press kit, since it comes with the ram prime unit. While certainly adequate for repriming brass, it does require you to handle each primer, one at a time. A much better idea is a hand held priming tool, of which the Lee Autoprime is a good example. I use one and like it a lot. However, I will be trying the new RCBS hand primer tool with the universal shell holder and the square primer tray, both of which address shortcomings of the Lee autoprime.

I would recommend standard dies over the speed dies, since they will continue to work even if you get a turret or progressive press eventually. I prefer Hornady dies to those from Lee, but the Lee Factory Crimp die for bottleneck cartidges is a winner. The Carbide Factory Crimp dies for straight wall pistol cartridges are less beneficial, unless you are loading on a progressive press, and/or you don't keep your brass trimmed to a uniform length. I seat and crimp in one operation, which works great once you get it set up, and saves a step on single stage presses.

Speaking of setting up the dies, I really do not care for the Lee Lock rings. I prefer the Hornady lock rings, since they combine secure clamping action with wrench flats, a combination not found elsewhere. I install them on all my dies, regardless of the die manufacturer.

I like the Hornady die sets primarily for their seating dies. They use a sliding alignment sleeve that engages the bullet and brass, aligning the two prior to pushing the bullet into the brass. The also work with the optional micrometer adjusting screw, giving you precise control over seating depth. Finally, if you will be reloading a lot of lead bullets (as opposed to jacketed bullets), your seater die will get gunked up with bullet lube from time to time. The Hornady seater dies allow you to remove a spring clip on the bottom, and disassemble the guts of the die for cleaning, while it is still in the press, without affecting the adjustments.

It is tough to save money reloading 9mm ammo, since it is available pretty cheaply (Academy sporting goods has 9mm blazer for $4 a box every day of the week). For the other calibers, you will either save money shooting the same amount, or shoot more for the same cost, or somewhere in between.

Hope this helps,

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Old May 8, 2006, 10:33 PM   #8
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Wow, I Want to thank you all for the info!
A lot to think about now...
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Old May 9, 2006, 09:24 PM   #9
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Still trying to see if I could find the space for a bench. But it's not looking good right now.
I have some questions about safety though.
What is a "safe" environment for reloading? Of course no smoking, open flames, etc. But what else is there? Would reloading be a bad idea in a carpeted room?
How about component(especially powder)storage?
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Old May 9, 2006, 10:36 PM   #10
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bad idea

carpeting is not that good an idea as it will tend to hold spilled powder. This is a fire hazard. If you have a kitchen table you have a start for a place to reload. you need the reloading equipment, a lenght of 2X10 and a couple of C-clamps. unless your kitchen table is glass, this works cut a 2X10 as long as the long way on your kitchen table. or you can use another large table. mount the press to the board using flat head machine screws countersink the screw heads in to the wood so they are below the surface of the wood. they must stick up far enough above the top of the board to put nuts on over the press. take piece of towel or blanket that will completely cover the area between the board and table top to protect the table from being scratched. on the far end of the table use the c-clamps to clamp the board to the table. Note the clamps only touch the underside of the table. depending on the press and storage room available you may or may not leave the press mounted to the board for storage. the board by itself will store almost anywhere, in a closet, under your bed where ever. If the table has an extended area on the underside of the table you can use other boards to build it up on the underside of the table so your clamp doesn't touch the table except on the underside. If need be you can cut the board longer and extend it over the edge of the table but you may need to put some weight on the other end of the board to offset the leverage generated by the press. I have used this method to use a progressive press to generate .45ACP ammo.

i know a guy that put the board across a console TV set.
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Old May 10, 2006, 12:52 AM   #11
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I own the Lee hand tool for my range kit. I either use it with a Redding Competition Seater die (sliding case aligning sleeve and floating seater) to put bullets into rifle cases I prepped in advance for working up a load. I also own several sets of the speed dies. I am not sure why they were called "speed" dies? They are not faster than standard dies except that you usually only have to set the die height once. Twice for seating some bullets. The main reason I have them is they are light enough to keep in my range box. Again, this is for load workups, but this time in pistol. I don't usually pre-prep the brass for pistol. I prefer to use the same case repeatedly for that. The hand press sizes pistol easily. Neck-only sizing for a bolt rifle would also be no problem. Full-length resizing 30-06 and larger with it will get old quickly.

The main reason carpet is a bad idea is the same reason you don't want to work in front of a fan or other moving air. It is that when you de-prime a fired case a certain amount of primer residue gets loose as dust. This often contains lead, so you don't want pets or children sniffing or licking it. You don't want to pick it up on your hands when sitting on the carpet eating potato chips, either, because you will touch the floor when you lean back, then wind up eating the lead, too. Lead and Chips, anyone? If you are going to work in front of the TV, work over newspaper or another disposable dust catcher.

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Old May 10, 2006, 01:18 AM   #12
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I use a Lee Hand Loader and Speed Die ...

... I find it adequate, though a little slow, but then is that not the nature of a single stage press ? I reload .357 magnum, .38 spl, .44 magnum, .44 spl and 6mm Remington (still using the Lyman 310 Tool). I use to reload 9mm Lugar, but as cheap a that has become I currently save the effort. I store all my reloading tools in a single plastic file container.

I find the Lee hand press convient, and a step up in ease of use from the Lyman 310 Tool, which I still use for 6mm Remington, and at the range. For a long time, the 310 Tool was used as my sole reloading tool, due to space considerations. The Lyman 310 Tool is about as small as they come, so that smaller than standard dies are used. A nice small set for travel though.

The Lee Hand Reloader is considerably larger, and does full case resizing, as opposed to the Lyman 310 Tool, which only does neck resizing. The lee uses standard dies, which means if you ever decide to upgrade, the dies will work.

I use a Lee speed die in both .357 magnum/.38 spl and .44 magnum/.44 spl. Is it faster ? I don't think so. Is it slower ? I don't think so.

Day 1: I clean a batch of cases and let dry a couple of days.

Day 2: I install the die body, screw in the resizer, resize the batch, unscrew the resizer and insert the deprimer, then deprime the batch, I reprime the batch using my old Lyman 310 Tool ... this takes about an hour for a batch of 150 cases ...

Day 3: I use the Lee powder dipper to charge a case, then use the Lee Hand Loader to seat the bullet. I get the 150 rounds completed in about 45 minutes. I'm cleaned up and done in and hour. It takes longer if I weigh each charge, but I'm not a critical bullseye shooter, so I'm content most of the time to use the dippers.

To answer your other questions:

I think the Lee Hand Loader has good leverage, and I find that a great deal of effort is not required.

I find the Carbide Speed Die easy enough to use with the Hand Tool, no great speed improvement over the three die set, but then no great negative side either .... a wash as far as I'm concerned (and I do have the .44 magnum/.44 spl three piece die set).

I use a tumbler (cheap on sale rock tumbler from Harbor Freight). I put about three handfull of cases in the tub, with some cut up green nylon scrub pads and a couple tablespoons of low suds laundry detergent. I tumble an hour, if in a hurry, or 4 hours if I want the cases to really shine. Is it neededed ? Not really (since I shoot revolvers I.m not chasing brass, nor do I scrounge range brass), but it is nice to have.

I figure my reloading a 150 rounds in a couple hours of my time results in maybe a 50% saving on the cost of ammunition, and I shoot maybe 600 - 1200 rounds a month.

The Lee Hand Loader works, as do the Speed Dies (though I highly recommend the Cabide set)

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Old May 10, 2006, 11:18 PM   #13
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Wow, I'm learning more about this every time I come back.
I really appreciate all the info and help!

Since I would like to load .45 ACP, what is the average cost of loading a 500 round batch of "standard" 230 Gr. FMJ loads? Components would be purchased online.
How long does brass last in general? And how much powder would it take to charge them? I have no idea how far a pound of powder would go...

Oh, and what web sites does everybody use for purchase of components?
I know of two stores that sell powder and whatnot locally, but I never checked prices.
Have to remedy that this weekend.
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Old May 10, 2006, 11:51 PM   #14
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Buy powder and primers locally to avoid the HAZMAT fee. A pound of powder will load 1000 to 1500 .45 ACP. Check local prices on cast bullets. If you must buy online, buy from someone who will ship in the flat rate priority mail box. Shipping any other way is a killer.

Roughly speaking, you should be able to load .45 ACP for $7.50 a hundred. The cases last just short of forever. You can cut the cost in half by casting your own bullets if you are a good lead scrounger.
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Old May 11, 2006, 12:33 AM   #15
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A> I've got a Lee hand press, it works just fine. I don't find it any more difficult to use than any other single stage press. I use it to load .38 Spl, .357 Magnum, and 9mm.

B> If there is any place locally to buy your powder and primers, you are probably better off buying from them than ordering them online, HAZMAT fees will eat your lunch if you have to ship them.

C> I end up buying about half of my bullets online from Midway USA, and about half of them I get from the local ammo components dealer (or, well, as local as it gets around here), that being Georgia Arms (which is where I get my powder and primers). Unfortunately, I'm not set up to do my own casting (yet).
Formerly lived in Ga, but now I'm back in Tx! Aaaand, now I'm off to Fla...
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Old May 13, 2006, 01:06 AM   #16
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+1 leftoverdj. If you can get the powder and primers locally, you'll save a bunch of money on HAZMAT charges. I got dinged $20 EACH for for my last pound of powder and 1000 primers, and then UPS wouldn't deliver the primers -- I had to drive to the depot and pick them up.

As far as having molten lead in the house or garage for casting your own bullets, it might save you money, but it's a bit dangerous. I personally wouldn't do it.

The Lee hand press has impressed me so far. The effort isn't that all that much, and I can reload at the kitchen table. I'm using carbide dies, .38 Special Lee's.

I did buy an MTM Universal reloading block that makes things a bit more organized.

In the event you need brass, I can highly recommend this guy, [email protected], as a reasonably priced and reliable source.

Hope this helps.

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Old May 21, 2006, 01:20 PM   #17
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Thanks everyone.
I'm still not sure if I can set up a small area for a bench...
If I can, one area is extremely small. The other site would be much larger, but I have some misgivings about the latter.
It would be a space in My garage, sounds good right? Only, it gets VERY hot(I live in FL). No components would be stored there. I used to clean My firearms in the garage, but even with two celing fans and a floor fan running, it's still too hot. Opening the garage door helps a little, but not much. And if I leave the door open, mosquitoes come. A LOT of mosquitoes!

Until I can get the reloading site figured out, I ordered "the ABC's of reloading".
It should be here in a couple of days. I didn't know about that book until I came here, kudos to all on that one too!
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Old May 22, 2006, 04:26 PM   #18
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I own and use a Lee Hand Press.

Short answer, go for it. Bought as a kit with a die set they're around $50 (maybe a bit more now -- I got mine a couple years ago), and include everything you need to do basic reloading of that cartridge.

Works pretty good. It's a little slower than a bench mounted press. The ergonomics aren't super great.

I find that I don't have enough leverage to handle large (ex. .308) cases easily. Pistol cartridges -- no problem.

Spent primers accumulate in a hole underneath the shell holder, and must be emptied out periodically. This is not diffucult, unless you get so many you can't get the shell holder off.

As for the dies, what's the "Speed Die" about? Would it save me steps in the process? Or is it better suited for another press?
Skip the speed die, go with a standard 3 die set. Lee diesset's aren't expensive.

I'm wondering about case cleaning as well. Is tumbler needed, anything else?
A vibratory cleaner is a nice thing to have, but you don't need it right away.
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Old May 22, 2006, 04:39 PM   #19
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Lee Hand Press

I began years ago with a 310 tool (hand reloader) Lee Powder measures and a
decent reloading manual which I read and reread before my beginning to reload.
Never over charged with powder, never damaged a gun and developed a grip that handshakers would avoid. Good way to begin reloading. Have several presses, but last is a six holer as to easily reload two different calibers when I need one or the other without changing dies. Had a Lee progressive, not used now, Have a single stage Lee for resizing lead bullets, pulling bullets, and whatever. Get after it, Cowboy!
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Old May 22, 2006, 05:16 PM   #20
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Would reloading be a bad idea in a carpeted room?
It is safe, but you want to put down an old beach towel as you can have a problem if you spill gun powder and try to vacuum it up. The towel makes it easier to find a dropped primer as well.
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Old May 23, 2006, 09:45 AM   #21
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limited space

"Still trying to see if I could find the space for a bench. But it's not looking good right now."

I live in a rather small (525 sq ft) apartment with my fiancee and I have a lee turret press and the lee reloader c frame press mounted to a 2x6x29" piece of wood. I just c-clamp it to a small end table when the reloading bug bites. When done it all goes under the bed. you don't really need a fancy set-up for casting. A basic list is
Heat source
lead (try some tire shops and ask for old wheelweights!)

Coelman stoves can be had for a song at garage sales
pot doesn't need to be huge 1 Qt steel (stay away from aluminum lead will make it weak and having 20# of molten lead spill on you really sucks!)
a small ladel is all that is needed

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Old May 23, 2006, 10:53 AM   #22
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Just another comment on the limited space issue ...

It really doesn't have to take much room for a reloading space.

As an example, I've got a full Dillon 550b set up in a tiny part of an apartment storage room on top of a cheap work table.

It doesn't take much room. Be creative.
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Old May 23, 2006, 04:16 PM   #23
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Sounds like it time for bunkbeds so daddy can have a new office.J/K

Your in FL I would set up a press on a table outside
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Old May 23, 2006, 04:46 PM   #24
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Ha Ha Ha And that's exactly where my press is? When I'm done, I just pull off the clamps and put it away.
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