Gear Review: Lee Breech Lock Hand Press Kit

Lee Breech Lock Hand Press Kit (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

JWT for TTAG

There are lots of good reasons to load your own ammunition. But if you’re going to spend many thousands of dollars on reloading equipment, at least in the first few years, cost savings isn’t one of them. Of course, you don’t have to spend that much. Buying everything new, you can get away with a good single stage press and everything you need for around $1,000.

Or you can spend a whole lot less with the Lee Breech Lock Hand Press Kit.

There are a couple huge advantages to the Lee hand press.

It’s incredibly inexpensive. As an experiment, I ordered all new parts for reloading. That includes the Lee Breech Lock Hand Press Kit, dipper set, four die set for .45 Colt, and a bullet mold. Total cost? About $150, including shipping. I didn’t set out to buy all Lee Precision branded products, it just worked out that way.

Reduce that by $25 if you don’t want to cast your own bullets…but then take into account the cost of buying bullets. If you don’t have a cheap supply of lead (the ground of my own home range is a pretty good supply) then you’ll want to buy lead or hard cast bullets. They are very inexpensive. Of course, for more cost you can also purchase jacketed bullets and they work even better for many applications.

Lee Breech Lock Hand Press Kit

Good enough bullets. (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

You’ll need some powder, too, and what you spend will depend on what powder you need and how much you buy. Take a look at the Hodgdon and Alliant reloading data websites to get a good idea on what powder or powders work best for you.

You’ll need cases. I don’t scrimp on cases, choosing Peterson or Starline whenever I can. When it comes to .38 SPL and .45 Colt starting loads for fun or competition and target practice, I just load to the crimp groove. For these loads, Starline cases will last dozens of reloads with no significant stretching. However, it again depends on what you want to do.

I’ve had fine success using all brands of cases I’ve found on the ground, sometimes years after they were dropped there, after some simple hand cleaning. I don’t polish brass. Shiny reloaded brass is an abomination. Chocolate brass is earned and deserves to show its scars.

Finally, you may or may not need calipers. Seating cases to the crimp groove suffices for a great number of bullets and applications.  It just depends on what you need your gun and bullet to do. Case length may be an issue, maybe not. Again, it depends.

If you want to reload for precision, you’ll need a scale. I don’t use an electronic powder scale and thrower, but the modern ones work great. You can also get by with the Lee dipper set, and if you are using black powder or are just loading for one recipe with one bullet and one powder and charge, you don’t need either.

Lee Breech Lock Hand Press Kit

Read them all. (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

I would also highly recommend you purchase a reloading manual, one that describes the entire process. I prefer the Lyman Reloading Manual for this. Read and follow the whole book.  Read and follow all of the instructions on your reloading dies. Read and follow all the instructions on your press. Read and follow all the instructions on your components. It’s all important information.

All of the above equipment and components are pretty easy to come by, even in today’s seller’s market. I purchased the items above online without much searching at all. The problem right now, and unfortunately I don’t see a whole lot of light at the end of this tunnel, is primers. Find them where you can, and I wish you good luck.

I purchased everything new, just for this article, but you don’t have to. My single stage presses are on their 3rd generation. There’s nothing wrong with buying used and you can get some fantastic deals. At a garage sale I once bought a milk crate full of Lee and RCBS loading dies for a total of $25.

Lee Breech Lock Hand Press Kit

Super portable. (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Beyond its inexpensive nature, the Lee hand press has another great feature. It’s extremely portable. Everything I needed to reload for .45 Colt fits inside a shoebox. A simple toolbox or tacklebox is more than enough space. Not only is this great for people living in apartments, RVs, campers, or in a van down by the river, but you could probably wander south Chicago with this kit in a book bag and pick up enough random cases and lead to do all your reloading under the nearest bridge.

The downside? It’s not fast.If you’re going with commercial bullets and you’ve figured out what you need to do beforehand, expect to produce about 40 rounds in an hour, including prep time. I was interested in my own cast “boolits” and black powder loading. Not including the time it took me to heat the lead, I was able to make just 15 complete rounds in one hour.

The process is very simple.

Lee Breech Lock Hand Press Kit

Melting lead over charcoal. (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

If you’re going to make your own bullets, I highly recommend the Lyman Cast Bullet Handbook. In a nutshell, you’re going to need to heat lead and pour it into your mold. There are a few tricks to this, and I cut my teeth on casting round balls for flintlocks at mountain man rendezvous.

You need no specialized tools to melt and pour lead. An electric melting pot is nice, but people have been casting lead over coals for hundreds of years, and that method still works just fine.

Lee Breech Lock Hand Press Kit

Your mold should look like this before you start. (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Again, buying lead bullets is pretty cheap. You’ll pay between $25-50 for 500 pistol bullets. Buying superior copper jacketed commercial bullets is often 10 times that cost, and depending on what you need them to do, may very well be worth it. Sometimes and for some calibers, finding any bullets at all, of any materials, can be a challenge. A mold for these bullets is a very sound investment. The good news…you can always mix and match.

Clean your cases with a wire or nylon bore brush and a cloth. Then very lightly lubricate the case mouth with case lube. There are lots of case lubricants, but a good amount comes with the Lee Breech Lock Hand Press Kit. Again, a little goes a long way.

Next we’ll start really using the hand press. Place the appropriate shell holder for your cartridge in the slot of the column. There’s only one place it fits. If you got a Lee kit, the shell holder is included. Otherwise, you’ll need to purchase one separately. Each set says which shell holder it needs.

Lee Breech Lock Hand Press Kit

Expander die setting into quick change bushing. (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Each kit comes with one of the Breech Lock Quick Change bushings. They are inexpensive and I see no reason to buy any others. You just need one to thread a die in to make the kit work. Multiple Quick Change bushings allow you to set a particular die in them, and then quickly change them in and out, with no adjustments necessary after the first time.

If you are mentally impaired, this will save you as much as a minute of time. If you have the faculties to be reloading in the first place, much less. If you are buying them in order to improve consistency for precision loading, you are really wasting time and money, as you’ll need to measure and verify the COAL each time you set up anyway.

Screw the sizing and de-priming die into the top of the bushing in accordance with the instructions that came with your die. If you don’t have instructions, look them up. Note, I said your die, not the press. They are usually the same, but there are exceptions.

Lee Breech Lock Hand Press Kit

The easy way to use the hand press. (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

As with most things, there’s an easy way and a hard way. If you want to struggle for no apparent reason, place the shell into the shell holder with the ram all the way down, grab both handles in front of you and squeeze them together, running the shell up into the die.

Alternatively, place the press on your non-dominant thigh, lower the ram only far enough to emplace the shell with the mouth of the shell holder facing up, and gently press down with your dominant hand on the handle into your thigh until the handle stops. The shell will stay still, the mouth won’t bang the die on the way in, and you’ll be able to efficiently move throughout the process.

If you are loading a straight-walled case, now you’ll need to expand the mouth of the case to fit your bullet. Follow the directions that came with your die set. You don’t want to work your brass more than you need to, and you don’t want bulged cases. Expand the mouth only enough to fit the base of the bullet flat into the case, not most of the bullet. The seater die and the lubed interior of the case will do the rest. Don’t rush this.

Lee Breech Lock Hand Press Kit

Included primer in action. (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

I don’t know what you did to find your primers (and I don’t want to know). The first rule of Fight Club is operative here. Now you get to put it to work.

The kit comes with a handy priming tool. I’m probably the only person in the world who doesn’t like a stand-alone hand primer, since they don’t provide consistent enough results. In my own experimentation I’ve found primer position to make a real difference in consistent velocity. This one works well, just follow the directions included with the kit, not whatever videos you might find on YouTube.

It is possible to switch the last two steps with the Lee pour-through dies. That is, prime then bell the mouth. I am not a fan of that order as I find that some powders like to stick in the die during the pour.

At this point, you now have a case that will go “pop” when you bang it. Yay. Remove the case from the press. Fill that case with whatever powder you’re using and go from a pop to bang. Yay!

Lee Breech Lock Hand Press Kit

A full charge of black powder in a .45 Colt case. (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

For this review, I’m building black powder rounds. I find black powder much more dangerous for the new reloader. Read the Lyman Black Powder Handbook and Loading Manual.

Once you’re done loading the powder, you’re ready to top it with a bullet. Some dies seat and crimp, but I much prefer to do this in two separate steps, assuming I need to roll crimp. For a taper crimp, I find one die works just fine. Your cartridge and application will determine what kind of crimp you need.

Once the seater die is in, put your now-powered case back into the shell holder in the ram. If you are using lead bullets, lube the bullet liberally, filling any grooves completely (you can use the same lube that came with the kit) and set it in the case mouth. Raise the bullet-topped case up. You’ll need to play with the die seating depth to get the right bullet seating depth. Again, take it slow. This is really not the time to be in a hurry.

If you don’t need to crimp, voila! You’re done. In this case, I do, so I’ll just repeat the process again, swapping out the seating die for the crimp die to provide a firm crimp in the crimp groove.

Lee Breech Lock Hand Press Kit

Choirs of angels sing. (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Now you’re dangerous.

For anyone who’s used a bench-mounted single stage press, all of that was extremely familiar. The Lee Breech Lock Hand Press Kit really just replaces a bench-mounted press with something that you can carry anywhere.

For you folks who are new to reloading, or anyone who wants the portability this kit provides, the Lee Breech Lock Hand Press kit is a fantastic tool set. Except for the demands of F-Class shooting, there’s nothing you can do with a single stage bench mounted press that you can’t do with this one. It’s just slower.

The Lee hand press is very well built, and considering simple time limitations, I find it highly unlikely a shooter would be able to wear it out during a lifetime of use. I already had the hand press by itself that I purchased long prior to this review. Now I have two, and I’ve bought kits for a few people for Christmas.

Specifications: Lee Breech Lock Hand Press Kit

Dimensions: 11 1/2″ X 4 1/2″ X 1 1/4″
Weight: 2.51lbs
MSRP: $78 ($53.99 at Brownells)

Rating (out of five stars):

Overall  * * * * *
What a great piece of kit.

comments

  1. avatar Noob Loader (?) says:

    I’ll take it…..
    Actually I already have the Lee Load Master… but I will be getting one of these for convenience…

    1. avatar Missouri_Mule says:

      With the Electoral College meeting Monday December 14th and recent even actions of a certain unconstitutional tyrannical agency, it is the duty of every patriot to learn to reload their own ammunition and prepare to do so.

      Imported ammunition and and reloading supplies will be gone quicker than you can say “executive order”.

      The only reason my wife had .380 to practice with in 2013 was because I got reloading equipment for Christmas in 2012

    2. avatar Southern Cross says:

      I started my reloading with a Lee hand kit, but I did supplement it with an auto prime tool for the primers. The reloads shot okay but were inconsistent. When I bought a proper press and scales, I measured the powder scoop charges from the Lee kit. The powder charge weights were nowhere near the listed weight in the instructions for the powder I was using. In fact they were under by several grains at best and more at worst.

      I have never used a hand reload kit again after that.

  2. avatar Old Guy in Montana says:

    .45 Colt brass is that ubiquitous in downtown Chicago…just for the pickin’. I may have to rethink visiting ChiTown.

    In all seriousness: Good article. We can use more articles / contributions like this.

    I may have to try one of these out…the portability and price is a definite plus.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Thanks. I’m suspecting you’ll find a lot more 9mm brass around chi-town.

      1. avatar Old Guy in Montana says:

        You were writing about loading .45 Colt and then mentioned brass for the picking lying on the streets of South Chicago (apologies I didn’t see the segue)…still not a prob, the Dillon has set up’s for 9mm and .45 ACP.

        BTW, MidwayUSA owes u a commission for selling me one of these loaders and accessories earlier today (Brownell’s was out of stock).

        Hope you are better and will continue with the reviews.

        Could you review some of Maven’s or SwampFox’s optics…please?

        1. avatar jwtaylor says:

          I’ll ask.

  3. avatar The Crimson Pirate says:

    I started with a Lee Hand Press years ago. I still have it and find uses for it.

    I disagree about the Breech Lock bushings. I find they do make changing dies smoother and faster IF you are doing all processes on a single round at a time. Most experienced reloaders do a single process on a batch of rounds before moving on to the next procedure. But when I got started I did one round at a time until I was more comfortable with the process and more confident that I was not making mistakes.

    If you buy Breech Lock Bushings they will now fit most Lee presses. You can also get adapters for other presses to use them. For example I got one for a Hornady single stage press I have, because it was the only non Lee press and so was being a pain in the butt by not taking them.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Honestly I never even thought about doing one round at a time.

      1. avatar kahlil says:

        Obviously with experience and practice the speed of reloading will increase. On average how long does it take to finish cartridge (ie, .45 Colt as in your example here) ? This isn’t something that you want to rush but was curious.

        1. avatar jwtaylor says:

          From the article:
          If you’re going with commercial bullets and you’ve figured out what you need to do beforehand, expect to produce about 40 rounds in an hour, including prep time. I was interested in my own cast “boolits” and black powder loading. Not including the time it took me to heat the lead, I was able to make just 15 complete rounds in one hour.

        2. avatar Kahlil says:

          Thanks for pointing that out. I read the article but somehow missed that.

        3. avatar jwtaylor says:

          Probably because of my propensity to ramble and confuse the order of operations.

  4. avatar rt66paul says:

    I would like to be on your Christmas list.

  5. avatar Green Mtn. Boy says:

    I luv mine, mostly use it to decap BPCR,SASS long range brass at the matches before the empties go in the soak jug.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Genius

      1. avatar Green Mtn. Boy says:

        JWT

        Wish I could take credit for the idea but I learned it from a savvy BPCR shooter and you know the saying that thievery is the sincerest form of flattery.

    2. avatar Anymouse says:

      I have a universal decapping die on mine. I can spend time with the family, watch TV, or whatever else I want while mindlessly moving cases from the “expended” to “decapped” bucket. From there, they go into the wet tumbler to get ready for their date with a progressive press. Besides having clean brass to work with (including primer pocket), my first station can be a resizing/trim die instead of resize/decap.

      1. avatar Old Guy in Montana says:

        @Anymouse

        Good idea! Thanks for the suggestion.

        One change I suggest is to rinse your brass before you handle / process it (and afterwards – hot water is still pretty cheap). A hot rinse washes most of the lead dust and particles off (with the added benefit of not contaminating your cleaning media as much). I had a bit of a scare earlier this summer with a Blood Lead Level test. I’ve changed my handling procedures for case prep / reloading and my latest BLL test was back down in the “normal” range of 0-4 rather than the double digits it was.

  6. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

    i’ll need three to get the spousal unit and offspring going.
    “you eat, you load.” (in that order; always wash up if eating afters).
    my sister (missed) had an exp. credit card on the dash of her karmann ghia. the dymo label mate adjacent read, “you breathe, you scrape.”

  7. avatar John Davies says:

    Or if you like gorgeous, over the top machine work, get one of the Buchanan Precision Machine hand loading presses. Yummy…… https://buchananprecisionmachine.com/products/buchanan-precision-machine-hand-reloading-press
    The only problem with any hand press is that you get really sore muscles in places you never would with a bench mounted one.
    John Davies
    Spokane WA

  8. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

    I took up reloading after my ETS primarily so I could load premium rifle bullets and tighter controls. I loaded handgun ammunition also but only for my magnum revolvers. Reloading for my pistols was just too time consuming on a single stage press for the volume of rounds I was shooting. Then top shelf rifle ammunition became available from the factory. Goodbye reloading. I sold my RCBS Big Max and Rock Chucker and all accessories (there were a lot) a few years ago. Wish I had them back.

    1. avatar The anti-fancy says:

      Good to see you back Gadsen Flag, despite the threat of a new website format.
      I still don’t have an EDC light, so your work here isn’t done 🙂

      1. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

        anti, I’ve not gone anywhere. At least until the format goes to hell again. Anyway, I’m watching Inglorious Bastards and I can see four Surefire lights now. Can’t go wrong.

        1. avatar Green Mtn. Boy says:

          Many of us will Go ! We are not the owners/controllers of the site but if they want to see their numbers drop off precipitously,it’s their choice.

  9. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

    Did Dyspeptic do a review on one a number of years back?

    1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      I mentioned it while extolling the virtues of the Lyman 310 tool. The 310 is a much older product:

      https://www.lymanproducts.com/media/user/file/r/i/rifle_set_of_310_tool_dies.pdf

  10. avatar jakee308 says:

    I had just started buying reloading equip when the great ammo scarcity arrived. Let me tell you that it also affected the components for reloading.

    Both as to price and to scarcity. Altho slightly less than ammo because of the number of reloaders seeing this as a clarion call to stock up have helped overload the component market let alone the manufacturers buying whatever they can from wherever they can.

    So it’s turned into not so big a saving. I’ve bought some just to have on hand but not for the savings in cost. yet.

    1. avatar Missouri_Mule says:

      It is not about scarcity or cost.
      It is about preparedness for the coming struggle.

  11. avatar Manny A says:

    Great to have everything you need to reload in a backpack, just in case you don’t have time to grab a bench press to take with you.

  12. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    Great starter kit. Heck, you can sit in your ambitious boy recliner and watch the tube.

  13. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

    Desperate times ammo shortages, desperate measures, etc.

    I’ve seen it’s *possible* to remanufacture primers, but I question the wisdom in doing it. The method I’ve seen involves pressing back the ‘dimple’ on the primer face, but it seems to me the risk of metal fatigue and primer blow-out makes that to risky for me…

  14. avatar Umm . . . says:

    I last reloaded 20+ years ago, and am far from an expert, but the article appears to present the beginner a false dichotomy between this cheap bit of frustrating drudgery for “About $150, including shipping”, or “a good single stage press and everything you need for around $1,000.”

    At Midway this press is $41.99, and Lee’s single-stage [bench] press is $43.99. Their auto-index turret press (the one I used, IIRC) is $89.99.

    I don’t get it. What possible reason could anyone – other than the tiny handful of poor souls for whom the actual [$48] delta is insurmountable – have for juggling this thing on his lap, fiddle-fucking with dies between every step, rather than buying the turret (plus the rest of your kit, if cost is a big issue)?

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Well first, there were two major benefits in the article, not just cost.
      But second, what does that turret press go on to? You’re going to need to attach it to a sturdy bench. Does it include a primer seater? What about all the powder, dies, bullet molds, funnels, everything else? All that adds up.

      1. avatar Green Mtn. Boy says:

        Exactly,it isn’t always possible to load in the field with a bench mounted press.
        There are many traveling shooters that use hand tools to reload with and store all the tools in a small camper, it doesn’t stop them from shooting.

      2. avatar Umm . . . says:

        While it’s true I didn’t mention the mounting factor in my reply, I reloaded when I lived in a small apartment, and find it hard to envision apartments, RVs, or campers that can’t accommodate the <1sqft footprint of the turret press (clamped if you can't dedicate the space permanently). If you aren't a complete masochist who changes dies on the hand press between each step for every individual round, wouldn't you need about that much bench space to hold the partial cartridges between stages anyway?

        I emphasized costs because the article did ("a whole lot less"; "huge advantages"; "incredibly inexpensive"). The component list and "all that adds up" in your response make it sound like _I_ ignorantly failed to consider all the other costs of reloading. Did I write the article or estimates? Either your low figure omitted essentials, and/or your high estimate was padded with extras. I understand there's plenty of room for opinions and preferences – in everything except arithmetic, which is objective, absolute, and (in this case) precisely $48. The fact is, the more "everything else" costs, the more insignificant the difference is as a percentage of the total.

        1. avatar The Crimson Pirate says:

          I had trouble finding space in our compartment for a bench. Even now I have my other presses mounted to a wooden box kind of thing that sat on top of a table initially, and then graduated to sitting on top of a small rolling tool chest that contains most of my reloading stuff.

          Reloading isn’t for everyone and this can allow someone to try it out cheaper and then expand or upgrade later if they like it. That was also a consideration for me. I wasn’t sure I had the patience for this.

          I’ve known some precision rifle guys who would craft single rounds at the shooting bench with these.

          And of course if one ever needs to relocate in a hurry one can toss this and some die sets and components in a bag or small box and pack it along.

        2. avatar Umm . . . says:

          The Crimson Pirate,
          I could be wrong, but it sounds like your first point is basically on the same page – i.e. “Many of us are space constrained . . . BUT anyone determined to make it work can find <1sqft for a press just like I did."

          With regard to the second, I hear this argument a lot in regards to newbs, and always find it frustrating. "This isn't for everyone; this has its downsides, so just get some cheap crap [that amplifies the hell out of those downsides!], because you're new and won't really notice the difference." Kind of like "Grandma struggles with a Glock slide, so get her a DA revolver with a 13lb trigger [that many strong, experienced shooters find excessive]." I see the exact opposite: An expert has the skill to make anything work, and also is committed enough to see it through. Jerry Miculek could do great things with that trigger; Grandma is guaranteed to suck, and hate it.

          Sometimes the price difference is so great as to tip the scales regardless, but that is clearly not the case here where the price difference between decent gear and endless frustration is literally less than a carton of cigarettes or one family dinner at Burger King.

        3. avatar jwtaylor says:

          Except there’s no frustration here. It’s a false premise. It’s a very simple process that’s exactly the same as any single stage press. I load tens of thousands of rounds a year on single stage presses. So do many others. The entire process is listed above in the article. It’s not challenging at all.

        4. avatar Umm . . . says:

          The strawman fallacy is a false premise – in this case, attacking a single-stage analogy I never made, when I’ve been consistently comparing the subject press with turret presses.

          Once I reconsidered my naive initial motivations for reloading, I decided that even turret-press reloading wasn’t worth my time; therefore, it’s not a false but a self-evident premise that doubling the drudgery (to save $48 – LOL) never could be.

        5. avatar jwtaylor says:

          Yeah I figured you didn’t reload much. A turret press will save you about 2 minutes in total over a single stage press.

  15. avatar FormerParatrooper says:

    I would be interested in an article about reloading shotgun shells for for old shotguns like the Remington 1889 sxs.

    1. avatar Green Mtn. Boy says:

      Lee used to back in the day,sell just such a hand tool set for loading .410,20 ga.,16 ga.,12 ga. and 10 ga. shot shells and other than their set that was needed was a wood or rubber mallet.

      They worked great in most any break open shotgun but not so well in many pump shotguns, my example is from 1955 and was given to me complete and probably has more value to a collector

  16. avatar arc - the annoying one says:

    This is actually an interesting product that I may consider. I simply don’t have the space or money for expensive setups for a little hand rig that can make a few bullets at a time would be invaluable.

  17. avatar Specialist38 says:

    Good article. I prefer the Lyman nutcracker but imdont often reload rifle cartridges.

    For the newbs, you should point out that primers will be the hardest thing to come by…..as in non-existent at the moment.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      You mean like, where the article says:
      “The problem right now, and unfortunately I don’t see a whole lot of light at the end of this tunnel, is primers. Find them where you can, and I wish you good luck.”

      1. avatar Specialist38 says:

        Doooooh….glossed over that.

  18. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

    JWT, I’m not even half way through reading this article and I think you’ve already convinced me to start rolling my own.

  19. avatar CentralVirginian says:

    Good article. A JWT reloading series would be a good addition here. I’m in the newbies waiting on primers category. I bought a press kit, a set Lee deluxe dies in 38 special, powder, bullets, scale, calipers, just awaiting the day when primers are back in stock.

  20. avatar Nate in CA says:

    I have 3 different Lee Classic loaders – took me about a week to de-prime 1000ish mixed .38/.357 brass, which then got a ride through a media tumbler. Eventually I’ll sort them out and load some live rounds. Really a convenient setup for people like me who refuse to commit to a full on reloading bench.

  21. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    I submit to the readers that there are a large number of single-stage presses available in estate sales, garage sales, etc. You can find them all over the place these days, for $50 or less. I’ve seen Lee, RCBS, Lyman, Pacific, you name it single-stage presses, in sales, tossed into boxes of “my late husband’s junk” in estate or garage sales. I used to feel guilty about low-balling the widows who didn’t know what they were selling, but I’ve heard enough disparaging comments of fellow shooters and educated shooters by their wives, that I no longer feel a whit of remorse at trying to get as much of these late shooters’ estates at the lowest possible prices.

    The biggest issue in some of these older presses is to make sure you get the shell holders for them – some of them are now difficult to source if you don’t have your own machine shop tools.

    I hear so many youngsters grouse and gripe that they want a progressive press, that if they don’t have a progressive, reloading goes so slowly that they won’t do it. I’ve got news for you, kids. If you buy up a few single-stage presses, you won’t need to change your dies out, once you get set up for a particular cartridge. One of my benches has three RCBS presses set up side-by-side, one with a decapping die, one with an expander, one with a seating/crimp die. The powder throw is on its own stand.

    That said, I finally gave in to the appeal of a progressive and bought a Hornady LNL AP for higher production cartridges. I don’t have it up and running yet, but I’m initially impressed

    I get it, I really do – people want to spend their time shooting, not reloading or cleaning. But I’ve been reloading quite well since the early 90’s with my multiple single-stage press setup, and as I happened upon additional single-stage presses, I’d buy them an integrate them onto my bench.

    A friend who has now passed on used to load all the ammo he needed to win DCM matches with a Lyman 310 tool while watching TV in the evening in his living room. The important thing is to gain experience reloading by any means first, get used to the mental focus necessary, and then you can decide “how much press do I really need?” The important thing is to start reloading, even if you’re using a tool like this one (the Lee Hand Press) or a Lyman 310 tool, or a RCBS Partner press.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      I’ve been trying to do an article on the 310 Ideal tool, but there’s no handles out there.

      1. avatar Biff says:

        Take a look at https://the310shop.net/products/
        He shows handles for sale, they aren’t cheap though.

        1. avatar jwtaylor says:

          Thanks, but I have emailed him several times over the last couple of years and he has never replied.

      2. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

        Sure there are. What I think you meant to say is “There are no handles out there at the price I wish to pay…

        Living in black powder/actual cowboy country as I do, I se some very antique Ideal Tools show up from time to time in estate/garage/etc sales and second-hand/pawn shops. Some of them are quite old – pre-dating WWI.

        This is one of those areas where I think someone could make a tidy little business making replica tools that take modern 7/8-14 dies, and an adaptor for the old dies.

    2. avatar Umm . . . says:

      DG,
      You’ve got me intrigued: I completely agree with what I believe is your intent (“spend [your] time shooting, not reloading” by avoiding continuous die changes) but you seem to have gone to some elaborate lengths of your own. Out of curiosity (sincere, not sarcastic or rhetorical question), why not achieve that objective by getting one turret press rather than multiple single-stages?

      1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

        I got into the multi-press situation bit by bit.

        The first press I started with was a RCBS Partner Press, which was a birthday gift. I still have it. Then I got a RCBS Rockchucker at an estate sale. I set up the Partner for decapping and re-priming, and the RCBS for sizing, then seating/crimping. Then I got a Lee press. Then another RCBS – given to me. And now a much older RCBS press, the model name of which I don’t know.

        All of these were years apart. Same bench, lots of mounting holes as I moved presses around.

        Why not a turret press? They cost money, and they’re rare to see in estate/garage sales. I see scads of single-stage presses at estate/garage sales. I very rarely see progressive presses in any estate/garage sale – they’re scooped up by relatives and friends before the sales ever happen.

        1. avatar Umm . . . says:

          DG,
          Thank you very much for the patient explanation! The turret presses I see on Midway (similar to my old one, I believe, but it isn’t accessible right now) aren’t much more than the single-stages, but I don’t know enough to judge whether they’re any good or not.

        2. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

          Ummm,

          Turret presses can be quite, quite good when you’re doing accuracy reloading. They give you a speed-up over a single-stage press, especially when you can get a full set of dies on the turret with auto-indexing. Some turret presses give you the ability to have two full four-die sets on the turret.

          Perhaps the ultimate expression of a turret press is this new entry to the market:

          https://www.area419.com/product/the-zero-reloading-press/

        3. avatar Umm . . . says:

          Of course I agree, and really appreciate the link! Slick, but I wonder what it does that my $89.99 version doesn’t?

  22. avatar GS650G says:

    This tool and the mere act of reloading will be banned by president Harris rather quickly.

  23. avatar EpsteinDidNOTKillHimself says:

    That is how I started out.
    Sitting on the couch, watching TV, doing 50rnds batches at a time.
    Was it fancy?
    Nope.
    But it worked, and that was all I could afford at the time.

  24. avatar John Tardif says:

    My wife and I are Full Time RVers, we live – work and travel the U.S. with our Pickup Truck and Travel Trailer while seeing America along the way.
    Because we live in a 24 foot travel trailer , we don’t have a lot of room for “extra stuff”. I use the Lee Breech Lock Hand Press exclusively for reloading and I love it. I use RCBS carbide dies with Hornady die locking rings , and a Hornady portable electronic powder scale. ( but I’m looking for a beam scale ).
    I do most of my reloading while sitting in my recliner. The only thing I don’t do while sitting in my recliner is charge the cases with powder , I do that at our dinette table.
    The Lee Breech Lock Hand Press loads just as well as my single stage bench press used to. I love the portability of my Lee Breech Lock Hand Press.

    JT

    JT

  25. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    The important take-away JWT is giving folks here is that there are other options than a progressive press for reloading.

    Folks need to learn a bit about how reloading started over 100 years ago to see how simple it started:

    http://wawyckoff.com/IdealTools/Index.html

    We’ve come a long, long ways. Today is literally the best time ever to be a reloader. There are more high quality sources for brass, bullets, more high quality, low-deviation powders. Primers are about the only place where we haven’t made substantial progress in the last 20 years – they’re quite good, but they haven’t seen the level of improvement we’ve seen in brass, bullets, and powders.

    And if you still want to load black powder into a brass case and shove a cast lead bullet on top of it, you can still do that.

    1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      I forgot to add one other type of press that can do literally anything, including swage jackets onto lead core wire: the Corbin press.

      http://www.corbins.com/presses.htm

      A swaging press is just like a single-stage press on steroids.

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