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Old August 17, 2012, 11:20 PM   #1
Join Date: August 17, 2012
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45 Colt question-Lee loader

Ok, I am to purchase a Ruger Vaquero 45 colt next week and am considering a Lee Loader set up to load around 20 rounds a month for shooting pop cans and the like. This will be my first experience with handloading.

What words of advice or wisdom do you have?
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Old August 18, 2012, 03:59 AM   #2
sob (sweet ole bill)
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Lee Loader

Been using Lee Classic loaders for forty years. Seven rifle/pistol cals and 3 shotgun. Slow, yes, but 50 rounds of .357/hour is easily do-able when you get some experience. I have a Lee single stage press for full length resizing.
Noise is a problem with the "whack-a-mole kit". Get a beer bottle capper and the pounding will go away.
Get a reloading book!!.. Lyman, Sierra, Any, or a bunch. You need to study the directions and follow safe protocol.
E-mail [email protected]

Last edited by sob (sweet ole bill); August 18, 2012 at 04:06 AM. Reason: addendum
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Old August 18, 2012, 06:52 AM   #3
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First go out and buy the Lyman loading manual. Then read it.

When buying loading tools, cheap is cheap-- spend the money, how much did you spend on the Ruger?

Chances are this will not be your only reloading venture so get a kit from Hornady, RCBS or Lyman.
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Old August 18, 2012, 12:12 PM   #4
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Well, money really isn't a concern. I am mainly interested in simplicity and portability.
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Old August 18, 2012, 12:20 PM   #5
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Buy the Leeloader, they work just fine. when you get to 200 rounds a month you might consider a regular reloading outfit.
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Old August 18, 2012, 12:52 PM   #6
Lost Sheep
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Welcome to the forum and thanks for asking our advice


For 20 rounds a month, the investment in the Lee Loader might be best. At least the price of entry is low (about $25-$30, right?).

Add a mallet (Do not use a steel hammer. Steel on steel is not advisable.) A wooden, rawhide, plastic or very hard rubber is much better. Even a brass hammer, but not steel.

A chunk of wood underneath the tool helps reduce damage to your work surface and can be replaced with another scrap when it gets all dented.

Use a drop cloth spread out under your chair and work surface. It will make cleanup simpler and will catch the (inevitable) powder spills, dropped primer (either live or used) and the gritty, burnt trash from the spent primers. Don't use plastic sheeting. It is noisy, lets primers roll away and the static it collects causes spilled powder to scatter. Cloth drapes better, too, laying flat and not tangling up your feet.

The Lee Loader comes with a single powder measuring dipper, but that severely limits your capacity to choose different powders or power levels. The entire set of dippers costs about $15-$18 and will allow you more flexibility.

Even having the set of dippers, however, does not make it easy to get the charge you want for adjusting the power level of your ammunition. Most loading data comes in weight, not volume, so you have to use the Lee conversion chart to figure out what you are getting. Even so, if you desire a charge weight in-between what the dippers give you may be tricky, so a scale is a good idea.

A scale to actually weigh the powder directly is far more flexible. $25-$30 will get you a Lee Safety Scale. It is accurate to .1 grain. (Note: Gunpowder is measured in grains, which is a unit of weight. 7,000 grains make a pound. Do not confuse grains with granules/grains of powder.)

The Lee scale, while accurate, is not easy to read. (Put it up on a stable shelf at eye level in good light is my advice.) Ohaus makes scales that, while no more accurate, are easier to operate. Ohaus makes almost all the scales sold under the nameplates of RCBS, Dillon, etc. Those scales cost from $75 to $180. I don't recommend electronic scales. Many do, but I don't. Gravity is reliable. Electronics can be affected by the electronic emanations of flourescent lights and by low battery power.

Having a scale will allow you to customize your loads (with the information contained in loading manuals or from powder manufacturer's web sites) with infinite variety.


A Lee Loader can fit in a jacket pocket, but you have to add the mallet, a work surface, eye protection and ear protection (the repeated banging of the mallet is not good for your ears) you wind up with a shoe-box full of gear.

If, however, you take out the wood worksurface and put in a scale, take out the Lee Loader and put in a set of press-mount dies, take out the mallet and put in a Lee Hand Press, you can load much more flexibly and quieter.

$30 Lee Loader
$10 Mallet
$0 Scrap wood worksurface
$0 Eye protection and ear protection, which you already have for your shooting (DON'T YOU?!?)
$10 protective glove for your off-hand (just in case a primer goes off)

$35 Lee Dies
$30 Lee Hand Press
$0 Eye protection and ear protection, which you already have for your shooting (DON'T YOU?!?)
$7 loading block (not necessary, but recommended, $0 if you make it yourself)

To either choice, I would add the $25 Lee Safety Scale (or a better one if you choose), the $15 set of Dippers and a couple of loading manuals (Lee's book and Lyman's, perhaps)

The price difference is not that much.

The Lee Loader is perfectly adequate and probably as fast as the Hand Press. And is an investment commensurate with 20 rounds a month. For about $25 more, you can have a much quieter tool that is not unnerving to onlookers waiting for the explosion (said explosion is virtually impossible, but EVERYONE thinks about it - probably from watching old cartoons).

Check out these videos Lee Loader Lee Hand Press
the Lube is convenient, as is the funnel, but neither is necessary.

The continuum of convenience and speed goes up from there

If your shooting goes up past 50 rounds a week, you might find yourself thinking a press actually mounted on a tabletop would be convenient. It is. And faster than either the Lee Loader or Hand Press. But the price starts to climb past $100. Maybe up to $200.

If you want more speed, a Turret press and some accessories will get you up to 100-200 rounds per hour rather than the 30-50 available with the simpler tools. But the bench-mounted single stage press or the turret is no more complex in operation than the hand press. You are looking at $250 for the setup.

If you still want MORE speed, a progressive press can give you 100 to 1,000 rounds per hour. But they are more complex and will cost you some serious money. $200 to $1,000

Food for thought.

Lost Sheep

Last edited by Lost Sheep; August 18, 2012 at 01:01 PM.
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Old August 18, 2012, 12:58 PM   #7
Lost Sheep
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simplicity and portability

While I was composing, you posted your interest in simplicity and portability.

The hand press is your ticket for both.

The mallet driven tool requires you have a sturdy work surface and be away from other people who will be annoyed by the hammering. The hand tool can be operated quietly seated in front of a card table. (Though, the scale I recommend needs to be on a more stable surface.)

Lost Sheep

p.s. Note that your quantity of shooting, if you are like most of us, will double within the first six months. Probably more than double.

p.p.s. check this thread:

You will find a lot of encouragement to eschew the Lee Loader and adopt a press. I will remind you that (even though I am one of those encouraging a press) that you must make up your own mind and determine what YOU want and will serve your needs best.

I also proudly admit that I have a Lee Loader for almost every caliber I reload. Just on principle, I guess, or "just because". I never use them any more but they are neat.

Last edited by Lost Sheep; August 18, 2012 at 01:12 PM.
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Old August 18, 2012, 01:16 PM   #8
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Here My opinion, Get the Lee Loader. It will be handy for use even after you get a press if perchance you advance that far. They are not that slow if you load in batches, I can come real close to matching someone with a single stage press, but I do use a hand primer for priming. In the end the Lee Loader is very useful to take to the range for load work up down the road. I only wish I could get a Lee Loader in all the calibers I reload for.

As far as the Lee Hand Press I've watched others fumble with one of those, to me its a real joke. Before I'd subject myself to that I'd buy a single stage "C" press and mount it on a piece of sturdy board and buy a couple of "C" clamps.

JMHO Hey the cost was nothing!
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Old August 18, 2012, 01:46 PM   #9
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Lee loaders make quality ammunition but are "LABOR INTENSIVE". I lasted about a month with my first one and traded it in for a press. Just TOO much work for the output. I also wanted to shoot a LOT more but just couldn't make the ammo that fast with LEE
Mark Lane to William Buckley: "Have you ever referred to Jessee Jackson as an ignoramus?"
Buckley: "If I didn't, I should have"
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Old August 18, 2012, 03:22 PM   #10
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Just note loading for straight wall cartridge loads it take several good hard whacks to full length resize them. Some Lee case lube will help make it a bit easier on you. If you go with the hand press I would also advise some Lee case lube as well. It will wipe off of finished rounds with a clean cloth. It reduces effort to size dramaticly, even if you have carbide dies, and with .45 Colt it helps to prevent bending, or tearing the thin rims of them as well.
No matter how many times you do it and nothing happens it only takes something going wrong one time to kill you.
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Old August 18, 2012, 04:53 PM   #11
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Excellent link, thanks, for me the hand press set up look good.
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Old August 18, 2012, 05:01 PM   #12
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I really like the Lee hand press, they are cheap and easy to use. We have 2 of them. My wife and I can sit in front of the Tv and resize, prime , expand.
I do have a dedicated room where I actually measure the powder and assemble the cartridges after all the prep is done. We put out about 20,000 rounds a year like this

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Old August 18, 2012, 07:11 PM   #13
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Before I'd fumble around with the hand loader I'd seriously take a look at one of these

bolted on to a piece of 2 X 6 and c clamped to a chesp bar stool fpr TV watching. Much better set up IMO, course YMMV and my experience only goes back for 50 plus years.
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Old August 18, 2012, 07:12 PM   #14
Clifford L. Hughes
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Most reloaders that I know stated that they were going to load only a few rounds a month and bought cheap equipment. After they realized their savings they found the slower gear inadequate and they purchases faster equipment and more precise equipment from major manufactures: RCBS, Dillon, Lyman, and Hornaday to name a few. I use a Dillon and a Rock Chucker myself. I started out with an old Lyman C press in 1960.

Semper Fi.

Gunnery Sergeant
Clifford L. Hughes
USMC Retired
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