Lee Loader Review - How To Do Basic Level Survival Reloading
those that are just getting started with reloading, a “round” of
ammunition is composed of the case, typically called “brass” and usually
made of reloadable brass, an appropriately sized and powered
replaceable centerfire primer, the powder, and the bullet. The whole
process of a detonating round is simple; the hammer in the gun hits the
firing pin, which hits the primer which detonates a small explosion
which ignites the powder. In turn the burning of the powder builds
pressure inside the round in the chamber and pushes the bullet down the
in a survival situation, the only thing required to reload a round is
to just knock the primer out of the case, replace with a new primer, add
powder, and seat a new projectile however additional steps deliver a
higher quality, more accurate and consistent round. There are various
levels of reloading ammunition from very very basic to high volume, all
of which do the exact same generally accepted steps of knocking out the
primer, 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. To do these steps correctly and safely we
typically a recipe for the proper powder and bullet weight. steel
forming dies, punches, some rather unique and interesting looking tools
dedicated to reloading, and a fair amount of pressure applied via a
reloading press. Obviously someone figured out that you did not need to
do one function at a time and the reloading progressive machine was
created which mounts all the dies/stations on a turret and then will
auto-feed cases, primers, and bullets so that all you need is a strong
arm to pull a lever to produce a finished round.
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
two rounds a minute. In most cases the really super serious target
shooters handload with high precision single stage presses for more
control. The high volume shooters, as you would guess, favor the faster
high volume Progressive reloaders. The Lee Loader is basically a
brilliantly redesigned pocket sized single-stage press which can produce
stunningly accurate and consistent rounds, but at a fairly slow pace.
basic survival level reloading the $30 Lee Loader is the only practical
option for a packable pocket sized reloader and is available in a broad
array of mainstream calibers. I of course choose my favorite survival
caliber of the .38 Special/.357 Magnum to test out the Lee Loader’s
abilities as a long-term bug out bag solution should I be driven away
from my full sized reloading machines. The Lee Loader is also a cool
reloading option for tailgate load development at the range and will
allow you to develop just the right powder and projectile recipe; such
as two loads I am re-developing with two OOO buckshot balls in a .38
Special case and three OOO buckshot balls in a .357 case.
WHY .38 SPECIAL/.357 MAGNUM
have espoused many times my belief that the .38 Special/.357 Magnum
round is “the” ultimate survival cartridge. The main reason is its
flexibility. Let’s say in a survival situation, you stumble on a cache
of 9mm, .40 S&W, and .380ACP rounds but need .38 Special round. The
.38 Special and .357 round can accept any small or magnum handgun primer
salvaged from nearly any handgun cartridge and if tested cautiously,
can reuse nearly any reclaimed powder. So you can just knock out the
primer and harvest the powder from those found rounds.
that point all you need is a lightweight Lee mold and you can re-cast
any reclaimed lead and you have the ability to complete a round from
salvage. No other round offers this flexibility. The flexibility is due
to the longer length of the case which gives a lot of options on what
powders it can use. Additionally the manual cycling non-semiauto rifles
and pistols the round is shot from are not picky about delivering that
perfect powerfactor window that will assure perfect cycling of a
semi-automatic action. Heck, the size of the case even allows you to
power your rounds with black powder packed in if needed. The size of the
bullet also is a bit more miserly to cast a bullet vs the next best
option of the .44 Magnum. For these reasons, I wanted to have a .38
Special/.357 Magnum Lee Loader to toss into my SHTF bug out bag to feed
my Ruger 77/357, Henry Big Boy, and my revolvers.
FIT, FEEL, FINISH & FEATURES
has made a name for itself as a quality reloading tool company who
delivers big on value. Where many other company’s base reloading
progressive reloaders start at over $500-$1000, Lee’s is less than $200.
Not only do they offer “the” value option for progressive reloaders,
Lee also offers some unique reloading tools that no other manufacturers
offer including a hand press and this pocket sized $30 Lee Loader.
the outside, the Lee Loader is packaged with the looks 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.
the Lee Loader works is a bit brilliant with several double sided
tools. A main hard chromed double-ended sizer/crimper, a double sided
de-primer/shell holder, combined priming base/flat base\bullet seater, a
flaring tool, de-priming punch, priming/knockout rod, and powder scoop.
Because the only difference between .38 special and .357 is case
length, by just adjusting the bullet seating depth on the bullet seater
and taking a little care not to over crimp the longer cased .357 rounds,
the .38 Special Lee Loader can be used for both calibers. By combining
and flipping the dual sided tools, you can accomplish the entire
reloading process with a limited number of dies and tools.
though I am an experience reloader, my first round was like working
through one of those tortuous story problems from my school days. The
perfectly clear step-by-step illustrations helped me understand when to
flip this and 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 agreed
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. The way I look at it, in a survival situation you have nothing
but time, so it will give you something to do.
Here is the process in detail of reloading a round with a Lee Loader.
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.
have standardized on a cast 158 grain semi-wadcutter based on a Lee
casting mold and Hodgdon Clays powder which I can also use for 9mm, .38
Special and 12 Gauge loads. There are literally a hundred powders that
could be used, however being familiar with the Clays charge for a .38
special round is smart because it represents the lightest grained load
of any pistol powder from my research and will give you a starting point
for load development with mystery powders. Start at a low power and
build up the charges safely. Obviously is a survival situation this
testing situation may not be ideal and could potentially create an
the insanity that is the current political environment, everyone is now
considering reloading and the Lee Loader is actually the lowest cost
reloading option to start reloading on any tailgate, stump, rock, or
work table. At a paltry $30, I think everyone should have one in each
caliber firearm they own.
the same situation that I would rather have my toolbox of tools versus a
Leatherman if I was going to build something, I would rather have a
nice big progressive reloading machine for high volume reloading than
the Lee Loader. Thought slow, the Lee Loader does give you some great
options in a package no other loader can match.
me, the Lee Loader will see a use as I am goofing around with load
development at the range versus dragging out an entire loading press
just to test a couple rounds. The loader will also be used for throwing
together a couple extremely low velocity “gallery” rounds when needed
for for pest removal around the house all without screwing up all my
powder measure settings on my larger reloader. Most importantly with
just the addition of a bullet mold and a Leatherman, the Lee Loader
gives me the ability to scavenge nearly any pistol round to create round
for my gun and that is what I call being prepared.
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
- Pictorial Instruction Manual
- Recipe card for some basic .38 Special Loads