Portable Handloading Setup--Which One?


June 13, 2005, 05:05 AM
I'm currently in a situation where I won't be able to set up another reloading bench for some time, but I'd like to work up small batches of custom loads. I've seen the Lee Loader and the Lyman hand press. For batches of 20 rounds or so, which one would be better? Costs are about the same given that I'd need to buy at least two Loaders and could just get the one Lyman hand press. Are there other options? Sadly there's no bench or table I can hook to unless I leave no marks (no bolts through the table)

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June 13, 2005, 06:46 AM
What about the Lee Handloader? It uses standard dies, yet is completely handheld. It's a bit on the large side compared to the two you listed.

Here it is: http://www.midwayusa.com/eproductpage.exe/showproduct?saleitemid=410804

I've used one before, it works well.


Jim Watson
June 13, 2005, 08:57 AM
Look at the Midway pedestal mount. It supports a regular press and can be pushed into a corner when not in use. Set components out on any table or counter available. I had a homemade version in small quarters when I first got out of college and it and a folding card table served me very well.

Otherwise, NOT an orignal Lee Loader.
The Lee Handloader is ok. The Lyman has the capability of being bolted down for use as a bench press, but I would wonder if that might not make it clumsy to use barehanded.

June 13, 2005, 09:49 AM
Another idea is to mount your press to a board and use C-clamps to secure that board (and press) to your table or desk. That's how I got started years ago. I've only loaded straightwall pistol cases that way though.


June 13, 2005, 10:46 AM
cosmoline, you need to go to www.sinclairintl.com and get the arbor press and the LE wilson hand dies.

benchrest quality stuff and you can carry most of it in your pocket.

if you want to use a small rubber mallet, you don't even need the press to use the hand dies.

1911 guy
June 13, 2005, 12:04 PM
is very rudimentary. It works, as I've got one for my .357, but I haven't used it in a long time. I would get the hand press if I were to do it over. You'll have much more control over seating depth, crimp and some other things the Lee Original does not allow much control over. Also requires no mallet.

June 13, 2005, 02:15 PM
The Lee hand press is cheap and uses standard dies -- very portable, too. Hard to beat for its intended purposes. Costs hardly more than a Lee Loader or two!

Vern Humphrey
June 13, 2005, 02:45 PM
I spent a year and a half in Darkest Michigan, working a project for General Motors and living in a 2-bedroom apartment. I used a Lee hand press, and had everything I needed to load .45 ACP, .38 Special/.357, .22 Hornet and .30-06 in a tool box in the closet.

June 13, 2005, 03:27 PM
Sinclair Intl recently added a wood stand to their catalog that you mount your single stage press to.


It looked nifty, so I copied the idea to build one for myself.


I pretty much went off of the photo for the basis. I didn't have any specifications of the actual product or anything.

Seems sturdy enough. I even neck brass on this setup.

I figure I can keep my Rockchucker mounted to this thing and it will allow me to take it to the range if I need to. This is my primary rifle reloading press. I use my Redding T-7 for pistol.

June 13, 2005, 05:27 PM
I own a Lee Handloader from my apartment days. It had enough ooomph to reload .357mag. I would recommned Hornady One Shot case lube for decapping/resizing.

Dies, RCBS hand primer, and a set of Lee dippers finished off the equipment list.

June 13, 2005, 08:40 PM
Get an lightweight aluminum (Lee) C or O press. The little C press can be had for less than $20. Mount to a board and c-clamp to a table. Mounting so the board goes across the table allows clamping both near and far sides and adds much to rigidity. Much less fatiquing than either "hand" press. Banging on an original Lee Loader get tiresome very very quickly.

lee n. field
June 13, 2005, 09:55 PM
Ditto to the people who have been recommending the Lee Hand Press.

Cheap, they use standard dies. Extremely portable. The ergonomics are kind of sucky, and you won't have enough leverage to resize larger rifle brass unless you're pretty strong.

June 14, 2005, 08:51 AM
I'm gonna differ here - and I own a Lee hand press.

Get an RCBS Partner press, bolt it to a 2x6, and clamp that to whatever. The Partner can deal with most cartridges, and is nice enough on tolerances that you see a lot at benchrest matches. I'd also use an arbor press (mallet bad) and Wilson seater. Get Redding FL resizing dies, but don't worry about their seaters. You can put EVERYTHING you need in a toolbox/tacklebox.

Hey, are you talking about rifle or handgun? If handgun, I'd go completely different.

June 14, 2005, 11:43 AM
What is an arbor press? Anybody have pictures?
For my portable setup, I have a Lee challenger press mounted to a piece of wood that I can clamp to a table anywhere. Nice and sturdy when clamped too. I also have a Lee powder measure mouted on a similar size piece of wood that I can bring with me anywhere. I also own a Lee Loader, and it works but it is loud.

June 14, 2005, 11:52 AM
What is an arbor press? Anybody have pictures?


June 14, 2005, 12:17 PM
I've been using a couple of the Lee Loader C-presses for various light duty applications... portable press for a bullet seater to take to the range (w/ some O-rings to help float the die and the shell-holder, it works extremely well), as well as for mounting a collet type bullet puller. I have them bolted to some blocks of wood, and then C-clamp the wood to my bench (or wherever I'm working). I have tried some light F/L sizing w/ them, and there was just too much flex and variation in measured headspace dimension, even in .223 Rem w/ a lot of lube!

I'm getting set up to load for 6mm BR, and while I should have enough brass to get me by for most matches I'll be entering (200 pcs), even multi-day ones, if this rig ever gets hauled out varmint hunting I might be in trouble after a day (or less!). I'd picked up some Wilson dies for my Hart arbor press; the biggest concern was whether or not I'd need a body die regularly (some say they only use it every 4-5 firings, some every time, which pretty much mirrors my experiences). I decided to try the Lee hand press and see how that works out. If it doesn't... I'll have a handy little bullet seater for the range, I guess ;)

Also, another option for a small portable loading station while you are moving could be to get a single or double thickness of 3/4 ply of an appropriate size, screw-n-glue them together, and bolt a 2x4 cleat to one side in the middle... and then clamp it in a Black & Decker WorkMate, using the 2x4 cleat to clamp btwn the jaws. Might be kinda low to the ground, but pretty damn sturdy. I'm looking at moving sometime here in the (somewhat) near future, depending on a lot of things, and I think I know how my Dillon 550 and Redding M25 will be mounted...



June 14, 2005, 01:52 PM
Heres a picture of my bench in my apartment. Quite heavy with all of the components on the bottom shelf. It works very well.

June 14, 2005, 10:27 PM
Let me suggest a Lyman T-Mag turret. I started with the little RCBS Partner Press, and now have it, the T Mag and an RCBS Pro 2000 ll on my bench next to each other.

June 14, 2005, 11:41 PM
Wow, thanks for all the options! Candt--where did you get that bench?

June 15, 2005, 09:22 AM
That's a Black & Decker Workmate - they sell 'em at Home Depot and Lowe's...

IMHO, they take up a lot of room, even when folded. Again, I'd recommend a toolbox and c-clamp approach.

pete f
June 15, 2005, 11:38 AM
If you are going to be in an apartment, There are several options and ways to look at ways to do this.

DO you need to completely pack it away and keep it discrete as in living with other roommates?

Is your requirement one of just space?

For a long time I live in a tiny house and with a wife and two kids. My reloading was restricted to what I could fit in one rubbermaid tub. I ended up with a dillon SDB for pistols and I used a Lyman turret head press for rifle stuff. I got a couple of layers of 1/2 inch plywood screwed together to make a base and this just got clamped to the kitchen counter. I thought real hard about making it as efficient as possible, both in space and time. obviously being clamped on the kitchen counter, it had to be put away after a couple of hours at most.

I found that with this set up I could be in action in ten minutes and the SDB allowed a hour of work to put out 3 or 4 hundred rounds. This is the hard part. if you go with a hand die or a portable set up, they are designed for maybe making 20 rounds or so at a sitting. The sinclair stuff is top notch, absolutely the best quality, but it is designed for guys in bench rest matches where they load five shots at a time. Not designed for production loading. If you are looking like i was for being able to make blasting ammo, then Do Not Go with the handheld or the like. Later I bought a grinder stand and used that as tool stand and just kept the dillon press on the stand down stairs next to the washer. I bought a couple of bags of shot and filled the base with 50 pounds of shot to stabilize the whole works.
this is similar to what i had,

another option I have had experience with is using table bases, these are often available really cheaply. I have used some similar to these...



June 15, 2005, 12:07 PM
My bench is by no means the most portable, just an option for apartment dwellers. My bench I got at Sears, and it is the Craftsman brand of the workmate type bench. I couldnt be happier with it.

lee n. field
June 16, 2005, 08:56 AM
What is an arbor press? Anybody have pictures?


You don't use standard dies in these, right? What do you use?

June 16, 2005, 11:04 AM
You don't use standard dies in these, right? What do you use?

Correct. You use hand dies. LE Wilson is probably the most well known manufacturer.


June 16, 2005, 12:32 PM
lee and candt

keep in mind with the arbor press/wilson hand dies, you're usually using collet style dies and only "neck sizing" about 1/4" of the case. and with the wilson dies, you've got to pick the size of the collet you want, and they come in .001" increments, allowing you an extremely precise control over neck tension, but also requiring you to have some clue about how much you want. i.e. it might not be the best choice for someone starting out.

the lee hand press stuff would be more appropriate if you want to full-length resize.

my opinion is that the arbor press/wilson dies are much, much higher quality than anything lee ever made, but it's not really appropriate for every situation. if you're just making blasting ammo, then go with the lee... not because of the expense, but because you're probably full-length resizing.

again, the head on the arbor press, as you can see in the picture, is held in place with essentially a little bit of friction applied by the black lever. if you tried to full-length size a bottleneck brass case that had expanded significantly, the head would probably just slide up and scratch the post. it's no rock chucker

June 16, 2005, 01:44 PM
The RCBS Partner press suggestion is interesting. I'd be embarrassed to tell you how much I use mine instead of a bigger press, and it's held up very well. You couldn't full-length size 50BMG cases in it (they wouldn't even fit! ;)) but for many reloading tasks it works very well, and is very affordable -- and would be very transportable, too.

June 16, 2005, 05:04 PM
For truly portable, I'd second the Lee Hand Press. I have had one for nearly 20 years and I still use it quite a bit. I've full length resized everything from 32acp to 300winmag and have never had a problem. I use carbide dies for my straightwalled cases but don't lube them. It is NOT a Dillon progressive, but I have never felt like 20 rounds is the most I could do in a sitting ... 200-300 40S&W or 45acp rounds have come out of it on many occasions. While it is not ergonomically perfect, you will learn how to use your knee to help minimize the travel when you are loading short cases.
Is it PERFECT? No ... obviously not, but it IS viable and as someone else mentioned, you can fit your entire reloading kit in a normal sized toolbox ... including a powder measure and a scale!

Good luck,


June 17, 2005, 05:50 PM
I do not use my arbor press for sizing brass. For that, I use either a conventional press. I use the arbor press for seating.

I FL bump resize my 6PPC benchrest brass - very few benchrest shooters use hand die sizers anymore. But almost all use arbor press seaters.

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