Making choices...


April 2, 2007, 11:44 PM
OK...I know I'm cheap. I'm trying to get into reloading for my .357 on a tight budget. :banghead:

Plan A failed - I had a deal cooked up with a woman at the local Wally World who was selling her ex's reloading gear - involved some manual labor, but I would have been SET! He packed it up and left.

Plan B was bidding on eBay, but good grief - some folks are MIGHTY proud of their stuff! I can get brand new less than some of their prices!

So, now I'm down to Plan C - buy new, but am on shoestring budget. Would love a Lee turret press, but right now, every dollar counts (hard to shoot diapers...until they are full, then make interesting targets!). Here is my Plan C, options 1, 2, and 3. In addition, I will order a LEE manual (seems to be a good place to start) plus buy powder, primer & cast bullets locally - save UPS fees.

#1 - Lee Classic Loader. Available for $12 from Wideners. That's about as cheap as it comes.

#2 - A NIB Lee Hand Press w/.357 dies (I think steel) for $35.

#3 - A NIB Lee Challenger kit w/dies for $45.

Have more time than money, and enjoy "tinkering" so the speed is not an issue. If I am lucky, I get to the range once every other month (honestly, I am trying to roll my nickels to buy a membership at the local club; if I do that, I will shoot more. Membership starts 8/1, so I have a few months between now and then). I look at the Classic Loader, and for the TOTAL price (loader, book & components) I am right at where I would be just getting the Challenger. But, would I be that much better served with one of the presses?

I know I sound like a real weenie...I am trying to make my precious few extra dollars count the most for me. Opinions from folks who have been where I am at???

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April 3, 2007, 12:15 AM
Sometimes you can pick up some good deals on used reloading equipment at yard sales and gunshows. You might try those routes and save some money there.

Hope this helps.


April 3, 2007, 12:26 AM
Frequent Craigslist for good garage sale type deals and ebay, gunbroker and the likes do offer good deals on occasion, but you need to be patient and shop often.

I would go for a bench mounted press of some sort for simplicity. There are plenty of budget conscious options out there. I suggest you save some money to get a single stage. A hand press will work, but it will quickly have you longing for a bench mounted single stage. You might even cruz the classifieds here in THR for some great deals.

Again, I've seen a lot of good deals on Craigslist, but you have to shop often and act fast. Good deals, most of the time, only last a few hours.

April 3, 2007, 12:45 AM
almost exact same situation.

Lee offers a 40th anniversary set (manual and reloader c frame press for 34 bucks to your door. I'll try to find the order number, but midway has it as well.

Not a bad deal if you ask me.


The Bushmaster
April 3, 2007, 09:47 AM
I started out with a Lee "C" bench mounted press (single stage). It didn't take long for me to replace it with a Lee turret (I have and use both) (I won't have a progressive any time soon). When you have to change dies and adjust them for every stage of reloading you will pine for a turret. Spend the extra bucks (even if it hurts) and get a Lee Turret...And a die set for .357 magnum...:)

April 4, 2007, 10:00 PM plan is to get the Classic Loader. Wife agreed I can spend that amount to "try reloading to see if you like it" and if so, can look towards larger investment down the road (you know...I think I can tell right now I'm gonna like it!!!). So, for a little over $20, I'll order the Lee book and Classic from Wideners.

Now...quick question...can the Classic Loader handle any type of bullet? Can I load cast (WC/SWC), or do I need to stick with jacketed stuff?


April 4, 2007, 10:36 PM
If you're starting on a slim budget, the Lee reloader press is a good value for ~$30. But some good advice has been given already. Check yard sales/flea markets. The equipment I got to get started was in a box of "junk" that I bought for next to nothing. It included an RCBS single stage press, a case trimmer, several sets of dies (2 of which were for calibers that I was going to reload), a chamfer tool, primer pocket cleaner, and a Lee auto prime. Basically almost everything I needed to get started.

You will have other things that you will want to add to your list of equipment as the budget allows, but start saving your pennies for a good vibratory case cleaner. cleaning cases will be the most tedious part of the reloading process. Trust me, I cleaned cases by hand for years until I bought one. Now I look back and say "Why didn't I buy one of these years ago?". You don't need one right away, just think to the future.

Matt Dillon
April 4, 2007, 11:14 PM
Start by reading some good reloading manuals - The ABCs of reloading, and the Sierra, Hornady, Speers are good reloading manuals. I would at a minimum try a hand press and dies over the Lee classic loader :banghead: - If you don't like it, then sell your equipment. You can purchase dies and reloading on eBay at very reasonable prices, and if you get your C&R license ($30.00 for 3 years) you can save more than the $30.00 on one order from Midway USA, Brownells, and Grafs.

April 5, 2007, 08:13 AM
I also started reloading on a fairly tight budget; wait, no, I still am on a very tight budget. Anyway, here is another few options. First, if you want things really cheap, find a local gun shop that looks like it is owned by Fred Sanford (of Sanford and Sons TV fame). Often, they have used stuff that you can get a real deal on. They also are usually willing to haggle with you on price. Just make sure to look over what you are getting, before you start to dicker on price. Have cash in hand; haggling with a credit card doesn't work real well.

Some of the folks at the club might let you come over and use there equipment to reload, and all you would need to pay for is components. That mainly depends on how well you know them, so this one might or might not be an option. The gun show option works well as well; I have purchased two sets of RCBS Carbide dies (40 S&W and 45 ACP) for $20 each, in the past 2 years. Sure, they were used, but that's still a lot better than $45 a piece, plus shipping for new ones.

In any respect, I'll second previous advice and recommend a bench mounted press. A friend of mine used a hand press for a while, but it was difficult to deprime and resize brass, even on pistol brass. A bench mounted press can be bolted to a board that can be clamped to a workbench (existing or a workmate) or a table, and then moved after reloading. I do this with my shotgun press, but that's a different story.

Good luck, and welcome to the obsession.


April 5, 2007, 09:05 AM
If you are not in a hurry, put a sign up on the range looking for reloading gear.

I started with a Lee Loader which is the set you are takling about. I'd just buy that first up (that's what I did back in 1971). It will have a scoop and some loads on the info sheet. Buy one of the recommended powders and load up using a bowl for the powder. Sink the scoop into the powder so that it slowly flows over the top of the scoop. When it is full, scrape off the excess carefully with a business card. If in doubt, pour it back and have another go. The loads recommended on these flyers are all mild. You don't need a scale or other equipment at this stage. Th escoops are remarkably consistent if you are. The scoop opening is scaled to the cavity, most people turn their noses up at them, but use them carefully and you will be pleased with them.

Don't Lee have a system where they give dies, etc that have been returned to the factory but are still ok to beginners? Being a man of the cloth and financially challenged, you would qualify I'm thinking.

I have a lot of Lee loaders and would post you one, but the 38/357 is one I have never come across.

Good luck with it.

April 5, 2007, 10:15 AM all of you who have offered suggestions, comments, and guidance on the first purchase. I have been doing some reading, on-line and the old fashioned way (did you know they make these things called "books" - just kidding).

I did find a fellow just a few miles away who has an old Lyman single-stage that he is willing to sell me, with .357 Lee dies, for $45. That a good deal & place to start? (Now I'm starting to 2nd guess myself...grunt...)

I'm jammed up for the next four days or so...these are the busiest days of my year. So, I'm going into "lurk mode" for a little while...

A blessed Holy Tridium (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday) and Easter to all.

And as Sherriff Bart said on Blazing Saddles, "Keep the faith, brothers!"

-Preacher Man

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