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Old November 27, 2009, 11:41 AM   #1
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Lee hand tools

I used to do a lot of reloading, but got rid of my "stuff" years ago.

Now I want to start loading again (just for calibers 25-20 and 32-20) and am considering buying a Lee hand tool and powder dippers, along with a Lee hand priming tool.

Has anyone an opinion or experience of these tools that he'd like to pass on to me?


Last edited by wch; November 27, 2009 at 06:19 PM.
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Old November 27, 2009, 12:19 PM   #2
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If Lee Hand Press -- go for it.

If Lee Loader -- pass. I don't even think they're made for what you want to load for.
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Old November 27, 2009, 12:30 PM   #3
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I have a Lee Loader in 9mm that I have had for years, and just picked up one in 7mm Rem Mag. at a local gunshop, old new stock, for $9.99. I haven't had a chance to try the rifle version yet, but the 9mm version has served me well over the years. Sure, it's slow, but it produces a good product and is much less expensive and takes up much less room than a regular setup.

If you are looking into a hand press, I would consider getting a single stage instead. You will have to buy the dies for either one, why not put out a few more bucks and get something you can use a little more comfortably.
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Old November 27, 2009, 10:39 PM   #4
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If you can pick one up at a gun shop or other retailer, I would recommend you check out a Lee hand press before you buy it. I have one and it was very poorly aligned between ram and die. But it is excellent for depriming, since it has a hollow ram that captures all the spent primers and debris. Just remember to empty it out after about 20-25 large primers, or it will fill up and jam the shell holder, making it harder to empty.

If you are interested in hand presses in general (i.e. the portability, etc.) I highly recommend the Huntington Compac hand press. It is much better designed and built than the LHP. And it can be mounted on a bench if desired, or I just mounted it to a ~4" hardwood disk so that it can stand up on its own if I need both hands for something else. The LHP cannot be so equipped. It is quite a bit more money (you can get the excellent Lee Classic Cast O-frame press for less $$), but it is one of the finest hand presses available.

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Old November 28, 2009, 03:45 AM   #5
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I find the powder Lee dippers to give +/- 1 grain consistency. The only way they work for me is to use one that provides about 1 grain low, then use a powder trickler to bring up to load point.

I use this method when loading 6mm Remigton using a Lyman Tong tool. The method might be slow, but I can load a box (20) in about an hour, about a years worth.

I only neck size, as I only have the one 6mm Remigton and I do not let others shoot my loadings. I see the Lee Classic Reloader only neck sizes also. I think it a cheap method. I've never used one, but always wonder at consistency ... powder dipping and banging away with a hammer.

$25 on ebay for the Tong Tool seems a better choice to me.

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Last edited by Hook686; November 28, 2009 at 04:06 AM.
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Old November 28, 2009, 05:41 AM   #6
sob (sweet ole bill)
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Lee Loaders (aka) Lee Classic Kits

Have used these kits for over thirty five years. Have nine kits, 2 shot shell ,three pistol and 4 rifle.
Lost track of each total but the grand total for all is 32,000 .

Never have had a problem with varying loads.

Yes, they are a slower way to load but you need to be vigilant and this method of loading will certainly teach that.

Look up Lee Precision online, I believe you will find your calibers are listed and for about forty dollars each you can be ready to roll your own.

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Old November 28, 2009, 06:07 AM   #7
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+1 about the Lee Hand press and dies and hand primer. You can put everything that you need for those two cartridges into a tool box and store it in a closet.
The Lee Loaders - noisy and slow but I own about a dozen of them for rifle, pistol, and shotshell (not made any longer)
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Old November 28, 2009, 10:13 AM   #8
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For the lee clasic loader. I regularly see an old guy that comes to the range all the time carrying a tackle box. He shoots 30-06 and loads them on the bench. I have seen him load 5 rounds in 4 minutes. He says it all he has used for the past 30 years. So he has a lot of practice with it. He keeps some brass, an old pharmacy bottle with some powder, bullets, primers, a small block of wood, and a mallet in the box. He shoots the crap out of that old rifle, and his groups are like one small hole. So I guess it works for him. He says it has paid for itself many times over, and allows him to shoot more often.
Note they do not make them in nearly as many calibers as they used to.
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Old November 28, 2009, 11:01 AM   #9
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The Lee hand press is a tool I always have with me at the range for load work up. Often I arrive with cases already prepped and primed and charged incrementally and corked. So all the hand tool does at that point is seat bullets as I work up through the charges. As soon as I hit a pressure sign or an accuracy limit, I stop seating and don't have to pull any bullets later.

In the past I've done all loading operations on that tool. The main limit is that full length sizing rifle cases seems to require a slicker lube than the Lee, if you don't want carpel tunnel out of the experience. I use Imperial Sizing Wax, which is very portable, but then I have to have a plastic can of baby wipes to get it off. I tell curious onlookers that my loads are new and I have to change their diapers. But seriously, working up loads at the range will attract the attention of those who didn't know you could do that. May bring in some converts. Bushing type neck sizing dies are the easiest sizing on that press. Especially if you've selected a bushing that needs no expander with your cases, something you can easily do if you neck turn or select cases for their uniform neck thickness.

Lee Loaders work. At one point a world record was held by group fired loading with one. The dippers, if you get the correct technique down, can get within about 0.4 grains with stick powders, IME. For me, this usually means an open Tupperware fruit cup full of powder that you settle the bottom of the dipper deeply enough into so it fills. Surprisingly, that charge variance can be good enough. I used one of the old Lee Zero Error loader kits with its dipper and IMR4198 to drill endless cloverleafs with my Remington 600 in .222 Rem.

Hatcher describes, in working up loads for National Match ammunition one year, how he tried two powders that were akin to IMR4320. One had long extruded stick grains and the other was a short grain powder. The arsenal loading equipment could meter the short powder to +/- 0.3 grains. It could only hold the long grain powder to +/- 0.85 grains. So the extreme spreads were .6 grains and 1.7 grains, respectively. Despite this, ammo loaded with that sloppy charge of long grain powder was consistently more accurate fired from a machine rest than the more tightly weighed short grain charges. So the long stick powder load became the national match load that year and was used to set several records. Hatcher's theory was better flame front passage through the larger spaces between the bigger grains allows more consistent ignition, which proved more significant than the charge differences.

That's not something often given enough emphasis in handloading discussions. I've had the experience of cutting group size almost in half just by improving ignition consistency and changing nothing else. This was done by deburring flash holes when using Accurate 2520 in the .308. I never saw any improvement with stick powder, though. It lights up well as it is. So, if you use a Lee Loader with a dipper, I would favor stick powders.

Read Dan Newberry's OCW site concept and load method. If you find a charge weight-insensitive load by that method and then find a dipper that charges within that range, you are golden. For someone trying to do a few rounds on a budget, that may not be a practical consideration, but if you have a friend with scales and other loading equipment who can help you work up the charge you want from a dipper, then that effort will be worth your time. It is common to make calibrated dippers by soldering a wire handle onto a case and filing down the case to set the charge.
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Old November 29, 2009, 07:09 PM   #10
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Thank you all for taking your time to answer my question.

Your experience and help are very much appreciated.

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Old November 30, 2009, 10:43 AM   #11
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The dippers, if you get the correct technique down, can get within about 0.4 grains with stick powders
Hopefully they're closer than that when you're talking about 3.5 or 4 grain loads using the .3, .4 (custom) or .5cc dippers.

I just used the Lee hand press setup to load my first 100 (mild) rounds of .38 special and they shoot just fine. It took a bit of trial and error to work out the bugs in my technique but I think I will get faster with practice.
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Old November 30, 2009, 02:21 PM   #12
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I just started reloading a couple months ago using the Hand Press.

It works fine for it's intended purpose, plus I can do most operations while watching a movie or something. So far it's seen about 2000 9mm rounds loaded and no major issues.

Downside? It's a great way to get carpal. Pace yourself.
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Old November 30, 2009, 03:57 PM   #13
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I LOVE the hand tools. I feel I am able to make the most precise and dependable cartridges using hand tools because of the tactile feedback. I can hand prime and hand load to teh exact same specs every time.

Also, due to the leisurely pace imparted by the nature of the hand tools, you have more time to observe for QC and mistakes. Unless my need for ammo quantities rises steeply, I will stick with the hand tools forever. The only other reason i could see switching would be if i developed arthritis or something.
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Old November 30, 2009, 11:20 PM   #14
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Yes, with small dippers you'll be closer. I was thinking more like .308 charges.
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Old December 1, 2009, 02:42 AM   #15
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Food for thought: By weight or by volume

There are a considerable number of reloaders who believe strongly that charges thrown by volume produce better acuracy than charges thrown by weight. There is empirical evidence to support the opinion, too. Just something to consider.

There was a thread on "" that produced some cogent arguments on both sides a while back.

Another observation: My Lee Dippers cannot cut up powder granules, no matter what their shape or size. The technique I use differs from that used by UncleNick (which is the one recommended by Lee). I fill a bowl full enough that I can pass a scoop through the powder in an arc, coming up with a dipperfull and then letting the powder mounded up fall off to a consistently shaped mound. I get charges within .1 grain with a 7 grain scoop and flake or ball powder. I don't have any experience with the "stick" powders.

When I first started reloading, I mounted my RCBS Jr single stage press on a 2x6 about 30" long. It and all my gear would fit in a footlocker easily. I would mount the board on a nightstand (or just wedge it in the drawer) and I was good to go. Scale, loading blocks and the other peripherals sat on the other end table. I was very careful not to spill any powder and to collect all my spent primers (but a sheet spread out under me could have made that job easier). I still have that 2x6 (with a Rockchucker on it now) and I mount it on a folding workbench (like Black & Decker or others of that type).

About relative cost of ammunition: Most reloaders don't figure their time in on the cost (after all, it can be a relaxing way to spend an evening and is a decent hobby in and of itself). When I first started reloading for .357 Mag, I could load for a nickle a shot. Of course, retail commercial ammo was only 20-25 cents a shot back then ($10 to $12 for a box of 50). The 1:4 ratio still probably holds, but there are neat calculators on the web that will run the numbers for you, such as this one:

or just do an internet search on the phrase "Cost of reloading" or "reloading cost" or phrases like that. There is even one that has a downloadable EXCEL spreadsheet you can use offline.

Good luck, good shooting, always wear eye protection especially when working with primers and don't pinch your fingers in your press (or whack them with your mallet).

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Old December 3, 2009, 07:34 AM   #16
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I got mine from someone on for $15. I used it to resize and load a few hundred 357/38 spec as well as some 303 brit. I love it!
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