Lee "Classic" Loader


December 28, 2006, 03:51 PM
What an awesome little tool. I bought a couple of them for my nephews for Christmas and one for my son. I've been reloading for a while with an RCBS setup and all the related equipment so this was something different. About the only limitations besides being fairly slow is you're restricted to a powder dipper if you don't have a scale and it only neck sizes which of course is what you want if you don't use an autoloader anyway. IMO Richard Lee really was and is a genius to have put all the functions into such a small inexpensive tool over 40 years ago. Hopefully I've helped created a couple new handloaders by introducing them to this great tool. Like any other hobby, I think that's what reloading needs to stay alive and well. I know Lee has cut back production on these tools to only the most popular calibers due to declining sales but I hope they continue to offer this product well into the future. No, I don't work for Lee or sell their products.:D

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December 28, 2006, 06:21 PM
I love their handpress. They use standard rifle dies. I use 2 of them, one for resizing and one for bullet seating, and load all my 223, 7mm magnum, 308, 30/06, 338 and 340 Weatherby ammo on them. Combine that with their hand primer tool and powder measure, and you have almost all you need for reloading. Just avoid their lube, RCBS is much better.

December 30, 2006, 07:22 PM
Well said Eagle, it was just Christmas last year when I got a Lee Classic Loader in .357 and not only did it pique my interest in reloading so much that I have several turrets and presses for different pistol and rifle cartridges now, but it also gave me an excellent understanding of the basic process which I believe has made me a safer reloader. I got into reloading for the hobby and accuracy and every now and then, I still crank out a box on the old classic.
I do have an electric scale now so I feel much better about the charging stage.

January 2, 2007, 02:54 AM
I was talking to an old guy who was scrounging for brass at the range last Saturday. I'd seen him there before. We started talking reloading. He was telling me about some Lee equipment he had and I mentioned that I like Lee stuff - good value and good quality. His wife interrupted and said, "Well, we don't like ALL Lee products." I didn't know what she was referring to, and she pulled her husband's hand out of his pocket and he showed it to me. The end of his right index finger was blown off and there was a large nub just below the large knuckle.

He told me it happened a long time ago, I'm guessing 1960s or early 1970s. He was reloading some .44 magnum. The Lee Loader requires the person to hammer on it instead of using the compound leverage of a press. I never liked the idea of hammering, but I didn't think there were signifcant safety issues, despite the dodgy impression of hammering on ammo. The guy told me after the explosion, there wasn't a place on the walls or ceiling where you could put your finger and not touch a tiny speck of blood. His wife said the bedroom was completely covered in pink spots.

The guy then told me a gruesome story about being fine, right up until the doctor took a pair of diagonal cutters and chopped off the piece of protruding bone, and that's when the guy passed out.

Don't get me wrong, I like Lee products and I probably should have gotten a dealer discount considering how much red stuff I own. And I'm sure the Lee Loader is safe when used as directed. I just thought you might like to read a gruesome true story, and it'd serve to remind everyone to be careful when reloading and shooting.

Uncle Don
January 2, 2007, 05:51 AM
Wow, that's quite a story. Just hearing about the doc taking a pair of wire cutters to my finger make me cringe. However, if you run across him again, ask how it happned. I know that many people (including myself) have set off a primer when driving the case down on top of the primer in the priming chamber, but at that point, there is no powder. As a result, I primed manually away from the loader after that. Later in the process, when the bullet is seated, the round with its powder charge should be sitting in a chamber that has a hole around the priming area so that nothing can set it off. I wonder if there was something on the bench under the priming area. I'm not questioning its occurance, I'm just curious as to how it came about.

January 2, 2007, 10:05 AM
The guy at the range offered an explanation, but it didn't make sense to me so I didn't pass it along. I'm familiar with the concept of the Lee Loader, but I've never used one so I don't have any practical experience.

The range guy told me that he was crimping the bullet in place and when he was hammering on it, it exploded. His theory, to the best of my understanding, was that the powder was compressed down into the primer and set it off. As I said, I didn't see how that could happen. I didn't ask follow up questions, because I figured this happened 30-40 years ago, and he probably didn't understand what he was doing or it wouldn't have happened, and he was probably in shock and couldn't have accurately described what happened the next day.

One question I wanted to ask might be answered here. From the look of his finger and the description, it looked like the round exploded. It wasn't some fast burning from mildly constrained powder. It looked like the case was fired in a chamber with a barrel to create back pressure. It looked like he shot his finger off. I've never tried it, but even with fast pistol powder, I think if I somehow ignited a round in a reloading press, there would be a loud pop from the primer and the powder would fizz and hiss and spit some flames, but not release the same energy as quickly as it would if I chambered it in a pistol and fired it. Is the Lee Loader constructed anything like a chamber, with thick steel walls that would allow pressure to build inside the brass like that? It seems unlikely, and an unsafe design, and Lee seems more cautious than other reloading manufacturers (their refusal to stack primers in a tube to avoid chain reaction detonation, for example).

Oh yeah, I think it was his left index finger that was blown off, not the right index finger as I previously stated.

Uncle Don
January 2, 2007, 11:58 AM
While the die itself would act like a bbl so to speak, the chamber the round sits in during those operations has an enlarged hole where the primer is. I can't imagine the round going off but I wasn't there. It seems that it would have occured a few times considering the number that are out there and were/are in use, but he would be an interesting guy to talk with. Thanks for clearing it up.

January 2, 2007, 12:38 PM
I don't have any worries about safety with this product when it is used properly. In today's litigious society Lee would have pulled it long ago if there were any serious inherent problems. It's real easy to blame an object instead of yourself.

March 31, 2007, 11:02 PM
One: can you use cast bullets (SWC) with the Lee Classic Loader?

Two: I know the kit comes with one dipper. I understand that will produce good, middle-of-the-road loads - velocity/energy wise. Using the LEE manual & the full set of dippers, can I work up warmer or milder loads?

This might sound silly...but bear with me. $$ is tight. For my .357 GP100. Help making choice (either order will include new LEE manual)

Choice A: Classic Loader from Wideners @ $12.00. Leaves me a little extra for some small things....

Choice B: Lee CHALLENGER press kit, NIB, with dies @ $42. Ties up all available cash.

Thoughts as to A or B???

Have more time than money. Will I be that much better off with the Press than the Loader?

I know...I'm cheap...but I'm doing what I gotta do, huh?

Carl N. Brown
April 4, 2007, 05:25 PM
I have and use Classic Lee Loaders in .38 Special, .30-30,
.303 Brit, 6.5 Carcano and .45 ACP. Loading twenty rounds of
rifle is OK, but fifty rounds or more of.38 can become work.

Classic Lee Loader
Classic Lee Loader Instructions:
If you follow the instructions properly, your worst mishap
should be popping a primer during the primer seating step.
When this has happened I may or may not hear the
primer over the mallet whack, so I always check the
priming rod for soot from a primer explosion.

Now, seating a bullet or crimping a case into the bullet
is done with a cartridge case loaded with powder: the
head of the case must be in the decapping chamber.
(Since the bullet seating rod is part of the priming
chamber, the worst case scenario is usually crimping
a bullet with the case head in the priming chamber.
The crimping die is the inside of the stop collar.)

What NOT to do:

April 4, 2007, 09:48 PM
i use my lee classic all the time. here is my order

go shooting.
come home tumble the brass.
take out the lee classic. while watching tv i start to deprime all bras with my lee classic. then my son cleans out the primer pockets
now depending on how many we want to do. i take out the press. set it up. then my son and i put the shells in a huge bowl and start to size them he will start of on the lee classic loader i will start on the press. then we change after a while. then i pull out the primer tool while i am getting it ready and putting in the primer he is installing primers. by the time i get to 1 he is on like number 5 already. now we take out our lee case trimmers and spend the next 20 minutes checking every case for lenght. now we set up the charging trays and start to load the powder this is where we take our time.

then we take out the bullets. i set up the die in the press and start to press and measure a round to get the right length he does the same with the lee classic loader. then we start pressing bullets. this is where the press really starts to kick butt over the lee classic loader. however when we are done by using both of them we get a lot done. same time we both respect the classic loader and like working with it. its a great little set up that for sure pays for itself really quick.

Money wise you pay for a lee classic loader after loading about 75 rounds. on a press with dies scales and equipment you might have to load up several hundred rounds before its starts paying off. so for 15.00 you can have a kit that will do everything.

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