For those getting started with reloading, a “round” of ammunition is composed of the case, often referred to as “brass,” which is usually made of reloadable brass, an appropriately-sized and powered replaceable centerfire primer, powder, and bullet. The whole process of a detonating round is simple; the hammer in the gun hits the firing pin, which hits the primer that detonates a small explosion to ignite the powder. In turn, the burning of the powder builds pressure inside the round in the chamber and pushes the bullet down the barrel. The chore is made simple with the Lee Loader.
Technically, in a survival situation, the only thing required to reload a round is to just knock the primer out of the case, replace it with a new primer, add powder, and seat a new projectile. However, additional steps deliver higher quality, more accuracy, and consistency. Obviously, someone figured out that you did not need to do one function at a time and the progressive reloading machine was created.
Progressive reloading machines can deliver a finished round every couple seconds. A single-stage press does one function at a time in a more labor intensive, but more controlled, fashion at a production rate of around 2 rounds a minute. The Lee Loader is basically a brilliantly redesigned, pocket-sized single-stage press that can produce stunningly accurate and consistent rounds, but it does it at a fairly slow pace. For basic survival-level reloading, the $40 Lee Loader is the only practical option for a packable pocket-sized reloader, and it is available in a broad array of mainstream calibers.
Fit, Feel, Finish & Features
Lee made a name for itself as a quality reloading tool company that delivers big on value. Where many other companies base model progressive reloaders start at over $500-$1000, Lee’s is less than $200. Not only does it offer the value option for progressive reloaders, Lee also offers some unique reloading tools that no other manufacturer offers including a hand press and this pocket sized $40 Lee Loader.
From the outside, the Lee Loader is packaged with the look of any of Lee’s red cased dies, but with everything you need in that little package to knock out the primer, resize the brass case, insert a new primer, flare the case to accept a bullet, add powder, seat a bullet, and crimp the case. It is all there in a durable all steel parkerized and chromed steel tool set which should last a lifetime or two of use.
How the Lee Loader works is a bit brilliant with several double-sided tools—main hard-chromed double-ended sizer/crimper, double-sided de-primer/shell holder, combined priming base/flat base/bullet seater, flaring tool, de-priming punch, priming/knockout rod, and powder scoop. By combining and flipping the dual sided tools, you can accomplish the entire reloading process with a limited number of dies and tools.
The step-by-step illustrations helped me understand when to flip this, knock that out, and put me into a pace where I could easily load two rounds per minute in a pretty efficient manner. I will agree, 120 rounds an hour is not burning it up. However, I would rather have a slow reloading method I can take with me than a high-speed reloader back at home.
Of note, making a round is like making a cake. You cannot just toss whatever amount of powder in the case and top it with whatever bullet weight and type you want and expect everything to go well. Most retailers sell what is in essence a recipe books for reloading with tried and tested recipes showing recommended minimum and maximum loads with this specific powder and this or that specific bullet. Disastrous consequences could occur if you just wing it.
Delivers de-priming, resizing the brass case, inserting a new primer, flaring the case to accept a bullet, adding powder, seating a bullet, and crimping the case to finish the round.
– Lee Loader .38 Special (other caliber options available)
– Pictorial Instruction Manual
– Recipe card for some basic .38 Special Loads
The Lee Loader is actually the lowest cost reloading option to start reloading on any tailgate, stump, rock, or worktable. At a paltry $40, I think everyone should have one in each caliber firearm they own. The Lee Loader does give you some great options in a package no other loader can match. Most importantly, with just the addition of a bullet mold and a multi-tool, the Lee Loader gives me the ability to scavenge nearly any pistol round to create ammunition for my gun, and that is what I call being prepared.
Do you have a SHTF reloading plan? Do you have a Lee Loader? Share your answers in the comment section.
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Major Pandemic is an editor at large who loves everything about shooting, hunting, the outdoors, and all those lifesaving little survival related products. His goal is simple, tell a good story in the form of a truthful review all while having fun. He contributes content to a wide variety of print and digital magazines and newsletters for companies and manufacturers throughout the industry with content exposure to over 2M readers monthly. www.MajorPandemic.com
Looks like a great productive way to spend some down time making ammo. I’m glad I’ve keep some range brass.
Tom C. says
I have one from the 60’s. I haven’t used it, as I have a Lee single stage reloader. You can buy a hand press from Lee, which is one step up and still portable. That would allow you to use regular dies. It is important to know that you dip with the dipper and not scoop. Scooping packs the powder, causing inaccurate measuring.
The Lee Loaders are interesting, but if you use them you really need a set of Lee Powder Dippers (the loader only comes with one) so you can vary the amount of powder you use or even use other types of powder not suited to the one scoop they include. You should also get a scale to verify how much powder the dipper is actually holding. Lee has charts you can reference, but a scale is still cheap insurance.
I would actually recommend the Lee Hand Press Kit instead of the Lee Loader. It uses standard Dies you can use in any reloading press, is very compact and can actually full length resize rifle brass. If you get the hand press and some other basic items like a loading block to hold the cases you are working with, one of Lee’s powder measures and a scale, you can fit everything you need to reload several calibers into a .50 cal ammo can.
Donald Tidwell says
I bought a Lee Loader in .45LC when I was living in temporary housing for a new job. My household goods were still in storage along with my RCBS rock chucker single stage. I think I got it just to see how it worked. I was a little nervous because it looked like you would be hitting primed charged cases with a hammer, but later saw that the setup makes it just as safe as any reloading. Hand loading is fine for brass that has been shot once or twice. But you have to watch case growth after a while and trim your cases if they exceed maximum length (a case length gauge and finished round gauge should be part of your toolbox for each caliber you reload).
Lee M Heath says
I run a small gun shop I put together over 30 years ago. Having been in business that long I have accumulated more than a few Lee loaders. I sell them used, usually very slightly , for 10.00 each. Those in the know grab one for their favorite caliber.