What reloading setup for .38 spl, .357 mag, .30-30 & .45-70?


August 1, 2007, 05:35 AM
In terms of reloading, I'm not a newbie yet, just thinking about it.

Over the last few months, I've pared and streamlined my toolkit.

Currently, it is composed of five guns devoted to
SD (city & outback), hunting, and walk-about in outback:

* Marlin 39A: .22LR (yes, I understand: no reloading)
* SW 642: .38 spl
* SW 65: .357 mag/.38 spl
* Marlin 1894C: .357 mag/.38 spl (now in shipment)
* Marlin 336: .30-30

I will likely add a Marlin 1895 in .45-70 within in a year or two.

I'm semi-nomadic, so my goal - even a necessity - is
a light, fast, efficient, self-reliant, minimalist SD and hunting kit.

Thinking down the road a few months,
I'm starting to research a complete reloading kit
with which I can break away from factory loads.

I'm looking to acquire all the tools that
I need to reload for those calibers on the above list.

I'm not interested in casting my own bullets,
at least initially. I will buy them.

Due to space constraints (which are stringent),
I'm looking for a single reloading rig that can reload
all those calibers (except .22) flexibly,
with options for other calibers.

Given those criteria, if I handed you $300 (plus commission)
and said, "Set me up to reload those calibers",
what would be on your "must get" list?

I could go higher than $300 if a good reason is present,
but less is always welcome as long as quality isn't sacrificed.
I tend to buy quality rather than economy,
even if not always the top of the list.

I'm looking for a good quality "starter kit"
that is suitable (perhaps with additions or upgrades)
for someone with intermediate to advanced skills as well.
I'm not interested in the latest fancy dancy technology,
just good quality basic tools. Basic simplicity is fine with me.

I spent a couple of hours earlier reading the archives
about various presses and powders for these calibers.
I have an initial opinion about
a couple of potential setups,
but will withhold questions about them
so as not to bias suggestions.

Thanks for your advice.


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August 1, 2007, 09:11 AM
1. It's received very good user reviews (and some brickbats from some people). AFAICT, it's the only press that will fit your cost criteria in a turret version--and I would not recommend a single stage press for someone reloading handgun cartridges.

2. It's big enough, I think, to even do the .45-70--and it's ungodly durable.

3. I think you can fit it all together--at least with one caliber to start with--for $350.00, including shipping fees. At least, that was the ballpark cost (including shipping) I put together for one caliber and relevant accessories (including tumbler, caliper, etc.)

FWIW, I worked up the pricing from the Kempf's site--here's the link to their 'real deal:' http://www.kempfgunshop.com/products/reloading/leeprecision/kits/KempfKit.html

Here's a link to the Lee information-- http://www.leeprecision.com/cgi/catalog/browse.cgi?1185973228.1951=/html/catalog/turretpress.html#ClassicTurretPress

and here's a link to an exhaustive review of it: http://www.realguns.com/archives/122.htm

A caveat: I do not own one--but I do own earlier model Lee gear, and I currently do my reloading (.38 / 357 load development) on a (standard / old) Lee turret package. That original Lee turret, IIRC, will not handle your (future) .45-70 package and, IMO, is not the value in terms of durability and strength that the new "Classic" series is.

Jim H.

August 1, 2007, 09:14 AM
I'd suggest a 4 hole turret press. I was tempted to go inexpensive originally with a single stage press but glad I didn't. I go through a lot of handgun calibre ammunition, so the auto indexing turret press has paid for itself. Much cheaper and simpler than a progressive too.

My set up is a Lee Classic 4 hole turret, scale, Pro auto disk powder measure, primer feed, set of of dies and etc. for around $200. All I had to do after that is get lead, powder and primers. (Saved all my old brass.)

Nice thing about turret presses, if you load more than one calibre, you buy seperate turrets and leave the dies installed and ready to go. Makes change over between calibres a snap.

August 1, 2007, 10:13 AM
Lee Classic Turret, mounted to a sturdy board that can be clamped to a desk, table, small child, etc.

I use that same press (attached to my bench) for 38, 357, 44mag, and 6.5x55. I'll be adding 30-30 to that list very soon. I've loaded 32acp on it in the past. When I lived in an apartment, I had the original Lee Turret mounted to a board and C-clamped to my desk.

If you want to reduce your powder needs, you can load all three calibers with Unique or 2400. Neither powder is ideal for all three, but it can be done.

For dies, I'm perfectly happy with Lee dies. I use their carbide dies for handgun cartridges and their collet dies for 6.5x55. Because I'm shooting the 30-30 in a Contender and there are issues with cartridge length and growth in Contenders, I'm going with a full length resizing die set for that caliber. I'll save a few bucks by going with their RGB set since I can use the same shellholder for 30-30 that I use for 6.5x55. Since both rifle calibers are two die setups, I can get both in one turret. I'm sure you could do something similar with your 30-30 and 45-70 setup. You can load both handgun cartridges with the same dies, just adjust the bullet seating and crimp die. Get the 38special dies though, the 357mag specific dies don't work well for 38, but the 38s work for the longer 357.


August 1, 2007, 12:06 PM
I would suggest an RCBS Rockchucker kit. RCBS backs their products with a lifetime guarantee, no questions asked. The equipment is first rate and will do what you've outlined just fine.

By the way, do you want to sell the Marlin 39A? Been looking for one for awhile.

Hope this helps.


August 1, 2007, 01:26 PM
I'll join Fred in being another voice of dissent.

Hornady Lock-n-load Classic or Classic kit.

It slides under the 300.00 target at MidSouth and presumably elsewhere. Around 120.00 for the press alone should you wish to assemble your own paraphernalia. The kit contents seem pretty nice.

The LnL gadget allows for quick changing of dies without losing adjustments. Whether it nets out to more or less time than swapping a 4 hole turret I wouldn't know - probably evens out.

There's a promotion good for a half-pantload of some pretty nice bullets with the purchase of the press or press kit. This pretty much makes the press "free" with a bit of creative accounting. Check out the promotion - most of what you're loading is represented. The list is on a pdf on this page:

August 1, 2007, 02:20 PM
Would this work for you? Everything fits in, on, or under an old TV stand. I load 5 calibers on this RCBS single stage.
Inexpensive, and works very well.


August 1, 2007, 02:54 PM
Thanks very much for your responses, folks. This is very helpful. I'm taking notes.

Please continue.

I won't worry so much about specific powders, bullets and primers at this point. That'll come later for me. What I'm going to focus on up front is the basic gear for set up: press, dies, turret, scale, etc.

I'm encouraged by reading your suggestions. All the names that you've mentioned so far - Lee, RCBS, and Hornady - are the ones that I'd picked out during my reading of the Archives last night as top contenders for me.

I'll confess that the Lee stands out for me pretty strongly initially. Even though I've never reloaded, I've heard about Lee Reloaders since I was a kid. (Though I'm sure the others are great products, too, name recognition carries a strong bias.)

Sounds like I can indeed get one press with multiple dies that will work for all the calibers I mentioned ... though there seems to be some question about the .45-70? I really want to be sure I can do everything from .38 spl to .45-70 with what ever I get, so I'm going to need to research that a bit more.

On this page (http://www.leeprecision.com/cgi/catalog/browse.cgi?1185973228.1951=/html/catalog/dies-rifle.html), Lee lists .45-70 under a special category at the bottom of the page: "STEEL 3 DIE SET W/ POWDER THROUGH EXPANDING DIE; Factory Crimp Die is not included". I honestly don't know what that means yet - I confess I don't even fully understand what a "die" does yet - but I'll figure it out.

I can see that I need to read a basic primer (short manual of the basics) on reloading so that I have a better understanding of the basics and can communicate more effectively about gear and make a better decision. RCBS has a nice one. (http://www.rcbs.com/guide/default.aspx) I'll probably start there.

I'm pretty sure I have something bookmarked that was recommended by a THR reloader when I started down this road a year or so ago. At the time, I wasn't convinced that I wanted to reload, but now that I've settled on a few calibers, and - importantly - learned that one can reload 100 - 200 per hour (after learning the techniques and practicing), well I'm pretty convinced I should. (I thought it would take MUCH longer to reload that many rnds.)

OK, thanks again for your help. Please feel free to add more ideas. ;)


PS: Fred, no, sorry, the 39A isn't for sale. It's part of a project that I'm working on now, discussed elsewhere on THR.

August 1, 2007, 03:00 PM

That's a very compact setup.
Nice to know I can use so little space.

Thanks for that visual.

Rod B
August 1, 2007, 05:29 PM
The Lee Classic Turret press would work well for both the pistol & rifle rounds.

However I would remove the index rod & use as a single stage when reloading for rifle.

Get the Lee Pro Auto disc powder measure for the pistol calibers.

I would suggest the RCBS Uniflo powder measure for the rifle rounds.

August 1, 2007, 05:51 PM

August 1, 2007, 07:44 PM
Bryan, if that ad was six months from now,
around early January when money flows better here,
I'd likely jump on it.

Right now, with a new baby (named 1894C) on the way,
I can't swing it.

Nice to know about packages like that though.
I'll read up so I know what everything is and does.

Rod: I'll put those items on my list for study. Thnx.

August 1, 2007, 08:05 PM
The Lee classic turret has legions of happy owners.

However, there seems on the one hand to be a relative constant flow of "help with my Lee Turret" threads; on the other hand, there is no shortage of those that have no problems and moreover contribute to such threads with solutions that seem to generally resolve whatever issues are encountered. This may or may not include phone calls to Lee and the replacement of various, generally no-charge, small parts.

I don't have one so will defer to those that have had personal experience but it seems that the thing occupies a certain shadow realm where it's "neither fish nor fowl". It's more complicated than a single stage but way slower than a progressive. In some ways it might be said to combine the disadvantages of both.

Do a forum search on "ratchet" for examples.

Personally, I tend to gravitate to a single plus a progressive but I get the impression I'm in the minority. Since you seem to research matters rather thouroughly, I'm curious how your decision will play out. A stated memory of the Lee name will only tend to add interest.

FWIW, I don't own the Hornady single either - it's an exercise in my being objective in a "if I had it to do over again" sort of way. Also, the dynamics would shift dramtically in the absence of the "bullet promotion".

August 1, 2007, 08:18 PM
Oh, I can tell: this is going to be a fun thread.

I think I'm going to learn a lot ...


August 1, 2007, 09:03 PM
I'd also suggest a turret press. I have a Lyman 6-hole turret but if I was buying now, I'd probably get the Lee. I just like their stuff and their philosophy.

I started with a single stage press, but it was a bit tedious. A single stage will work fine if you really need to keep costs down.

I clean, size and prime in batch fashion. After that, I can load close to 200 rounds/hr on the Lyman. Currently, I load pistol only - 9, 38/357, 40, 44, 45.

Other items:

rock tumbler for case cleaning - small capacity, but very quiet (I live in a condo). I'd like a vibratory cleaner, but I keep hearing they are noisy and move around, so I'm hesitant to get one.

Lee dies. They work fine for me and are inexpensive. I use the 4-die sets.

Lee hand priming tool (I can do 300-400/hr easy). I didn't like priming on the press. I feel I can go faster doing it with the Lee tool.

Lyman 55 powder measure in one of the turret stations to drop powder. Consistent and holds its settings. I mainly plink, so not concerned with ultimate accuracy.

Scale - I have a cheap RCBS digital, but actually trust my Lee beam scale more.

It's quite a fun hobby.

August 1, 2007, 10:04 PM
Oh, I can tell: this is going to be a fun thread.
No doubt, but observing from the sidelines in frowned upon. Research and let us know what conclusions have been drawn.

August 1, 2007, 10:06 PM
No doubt, but observing from the sidelines in frowned upon. Oh, I promise, Hawk: I'm not a "sidelines" kind of guy. ;)

August 1, 2007, 11:33 PM
Another vote for the Lee Classic Turret Press, especially for loading pistol calibers. Without rushing and keeping quality control very high I can load ~200 38/357 rounds in an hour. Remember, we are talking about the "Classic" Turret Press, not the Turret Press. The Classic has a Cast Iron base and a very thick ram which is almost twice as thick as the "normal" Turret Press.

Mind you, there are better presses available on the market but for the money, the Lee Classic Turret Press is a very good value. The Press will cost you $80, a set of Lee Deluxe Carbide Dies for 38/357 cost $31, the Safety Primer kit is $20 and the Pro Auto-Disk Powder Measure is $30. $161 is way under your stated budget. Each additional pistol caliber will cost you $31 for the dies and $12 for an additional 4 hole Turret. Rifle dies will cost you a little more but not much more.

Good luck and have fun!!

August 2, 2007, 12:18 AM
what volume of the different calibers will you need per month?

August 2, 2007, 01:56 AM
I'm a reloading newbie, but am happy with a Rockchucker with the Hornady LNL bushing adapter - changing dies takes 5 seconds.

I mounted the press to a pair of oak boards (each 3/4" thick, 8" deep, 18" wide) and then C clamp the boards to a B&D workmate bench. Easy to tear it down for storage. Downside is output is in to 50 to 70 rounds an hour (.357 mag and .45 ACP) range.

August 2, 2007, 02:02 AM
what volume of the different calibers will you need per month?That's a good, relevant question for my decision,
and one I hadn't really explicitly thought about.

I'm pretty confident no more than 200 each for .38/.357 on average.
Half that or less for the .30-30 and .45-70.

August 3, 2007, 12:21 AM
I load all the calibers you listed and more using a RCBS Rock Chucker.
I do not load fast. I take my time and enjoy it.

I believe it is best to learn on a single stage press, then move on to a turret later if you need the volume.

August 3, 2007, 12:29 AM
I believe it is best to learn on a single stage press, then move on to a turret later if you need the volume.
I agree, that's why I took out the auto-index rod when I first started reloading. When I understood the steps I used the auto-index. Even though the turret press has an auto-index it's not a real progressive press because you do each step separately and see the results.

August 3, 2007, 01:30 AM
I believe it is best to learn on a single stage press,
then move on to a turret later if you need the volume.Ah, now I'm finding this interesting.

Slow but sure; pay attention to details.

You've got my attention ...

August 3, 2007, 07:35 AM
A minor adjustment by the voice of dissent:

I believe it is best to learn on a single stage press, then move on to a progressive later if you need the volume.

August 3, 2007, 11:20 AM
I also have the Lee Turret press. I dont use the auto index. I use it as a single stage, with the ease of changing pre set dies out with the twist of a turret. Buy extra turrets and you can have all of your dies set up and ready to go. It is really that easy. You can spend more, but the Lee does all the others will do. You won't be disappointed. I currently reload for 15 different calibers with my Lee.
Don't forget to start with a good book on the basics of reloading and also have a buddy come over and give you a quick basics class on the finer points of reloading. Great hobby.

August 3, 2007, 12:20 PM
Based on the equipment "sticky" the Hornady LnL system, adapted to a single stage, allows for die change-out in a couple of seconds (per die). Time to change dies would appear roughly the same between an pre-populated turret head and pre-adjusted dies with LnL bushings.

A Lee turret head is around 9 bucks. The LnL adaptor is around 9 bucks plus 3 bucks per bushing.

Simply perusing the manufacturer's literature and the "sticky" would lead me to believe that there's no real difference in either time or money between loading up turret heads and swapping out LnL bushed dies. Or differences that would be so small as to be of academic interest only.

August 3, 2007, 04:07 PM
Thanks for the continuing advice. I'm learning a lot here.

OK, I finally got around to reading Dave's sticky "For the New Reloader: Thinking about Reloading; Equipment Basics -- READ THIS FIRST". (Yes, I know I should have read it first, but didn't. Now I'm up to speed.)

I've also surfed a bunch of web pages by Lee, RCBS, Hornady and a few others. (Not an exhaustive read but getting started.) I do not yet have a reloading manual, but will be heading up to a large gun store in a day or two to pick up my 1894C (in route there now), so will pick one up.

In the mean time, could one (or more) of you either define, or point me to a page containing definitions for, "single stage", "progressive" and "turret"?

All the pages I've read so far all refer to those, but none of them - including Dave's sticky - defines the terms and describes that type of press.

I have some sense of "single stage" (does only one caliber at a time, one step at a time) and "turret" (contains dies for multiple calibers? - and/or - Does more than one step at a time?), but as for "progressive", I have no clue.

Thanks for your tutelage.


August 3, 2007, 04:09 PM
Oh, one other thing: what's the word on the street about the possibility that .30-30 owners will ever be able to reload Hornady LeverEvolution ammo, which I intend to use some?

Is that a pipe dream, or a possibility?

If a possibility in the future, any guess as to which press would do it better?

August 3, 2007, 06:48 PM
If you need 200 or so a month for each caliber, I would seriously consider a Hornady Lock N Load Classic Kit. I am starting out, and I can do 200 rounds in an hour or two with a Lyman Turret press.

I don't know that a Turret Press has any advantages over a the Lock N Load system - at least as far as I understand it. I think the Lock N Load has some kind of bushing that locks in place, so once you get the dies adjusted, you can just click them in place.

A friend who had just bought a Dillon gave me the Lyman Turret. So the price was right. It was a generous gift, and the the Turret is fine, but I don't think it's any faster than a Lock N Load. I tend to do things in batches of 50. So I decap and resize 50, then prime 50 (with a hand priming tool), expand and load powder in 50, set bullets in 50, and then crimp 50. So I move the Turret like 4 times per 50 reloads. I could probably click in a bushing every 50 rounds as fast as I can turn the Turret.

I would had a hand priming tool to the kit, and a set of dies, and you'd be more or less ready to go. A friend really suggested I get the hand priming tool, so I'd develop a feel for how primers should seat - instead of priming on the press. The hand priming tool has really worked really well for me.

The main thing is to get started - I really enjoy reloading.


August 3, 2007, 07:32 PM
I'll take a swat at it.

Single stage: One die, one shell holder.
A batch of brass is processed through the first die
Die is changed
Batch is run through the next die
Die is changed
Priming and powder charging is worked in there where appropriate, on or off press, usually off.

Turret, Multiple dies, one shell holder. Can be operated as above except substitute "rotate turret" for "die is changed".
One shell can be processed through each die without removing from the shell holder until complete. The Lee classic has taken this to its logical conclusion by automatically rotating the turret and providing provision for powder charging and priming as part of the assembly.

A little math indicates that the number of handle pulls between a single stage and turret is essentially unchanged. However, the insertion and removal of the brass into and from the shell holder can be substantially reduced.

Progressive: The single shell holder now becomes a 4 to 8 station shell plate which is raised into a turret-like toolhead or die group. Primer feeds and powder charging facilities are invariably provided on press although some will still perform some functions off-press.

Now we get one complete round per yank on the handle.

There are massive variations in each type.
Single stage: Lee Loader through Forster Co-Ax or Redding Ultra Mag.
Turret: Redding T7 represents the "traditional" approach.
Progressive: Wide variety - the Dillon 1050 is a good one to check to see how they operate.

The Lee 4-holer, IMHO, is a different beast altogether and differs in philosophy from turrets like the T7. It is, or can be, rather like a progressive with a one-station shell plate. It's production would be incrementally greater than a traditional turret when in auto-index mode but still well short of a true progressive. Some view this as an innovative solution in versatility, others view it as an answer to an unasked question. I'd bet that both concede it's a unique product though. I would also concede it has considerable advantages in space requirements and costing.

August 3, 2007, 09:31 PM
That helps a lot, Hawk. Thanks much.

I'm mostly following that, at least as far as a novice can.

I may have a few questions later, but first am going to reread your explanation closely a couple of times, revisit some web pages on Lee, Hornady and RCBS, put some pictures with some words ...

I also found a fairly substantive handloading summary essay on wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Handloading) that I'm reading now for the first time.

After all that, then, I'll probably have another couple of questions.

This is helping me understand a couple of important conceptual details. For example, reading your essay there I realized that dies play several roles, with different dies for different portions of the process. Now that I think about it, that makes sense and actually simplifies things for my understanding.

August 18, 2007, 09:01 AM

You are taking your first steps into the wonderful world of reloading, you are going to really enjoy your new hobby! I enjoy reloading so much that I like going out shooting even more now just so I can get empty cases so I can reload more :neener: ! I hope you've been saving all your brass.

I made a post over in The 642 Club that you may recall where I went over my setup. Here's the link: http://www.thehighroad.org/showpost.php?p=3217143&postcount=2082

As I stated in that 642 Club post, IMHO, a great place to start is with the ABC's of Reloading, 7th Edition by Bill Chevalier. It doesn't give any specific load data, but it is the best introduction to reloading that I know of. And I think you can order it from Walmart.com cheaper than anywhere else.

There is a lot of great, high quality equipment out there. So it is hard to go wrong from that perspective. It is just a matter of picking the press that best meets your needs. For me personally, I planned on reloading around 400 to 600 38/357 rounds per month. Which I did for a while, though between being short staffed at work and my wife throwing her back out recently (picking up our 9 month old BIG boy) I haven't been out reloading/shooting lately. Also, space is at a premium so I wanted a press that would be relatively compact and highly versatile. Finally, I was on a tight budget.

In the end, I chose the Lee Classic 4-Hole Turret press. As others said, you can run it as a single stage press for starting out and reloading rifle ammo. And you can run it as a semi-progressive press for reloading pistol ammo when you get comfortable with the process. I can comfortably reload 150-180 rounds of 38 special per hour. Some can load 200+ per hour, though I weigh every 10th or 20th charge just to be extra careful. Setup is pretty straight forward. I found the videos on Lee's website to be especially helpful: http://www.leeprecision.com/html/HelpVideos/video.html

One thing I really like about the Lee Classic Turret is since the dies mount so close to the vertical centerline of the press (where the shellholder and ram are located), operation of the press exerts less twisting/torsional forces on whatever surface the press is mounted to. So a massive, bulky bench is not a necessity. My bench is plenty sturdy, though it is obviously not built like a battleship, as some benches are. It works perfectly:



As for reloading .45-70, I know the Lee Classic Turret can reload 50 BMG, though in single stage mode only (auto index disabled). So I would assume .45-70 would be possible, though you can always call Lee.

I purchased my kit from Kempf Gun Shop: http://www.kempfgunshop.com/products/reloading/leeprecision/kits/KempfKit.html. The price of the kit and components is very reasonable. Shipping was less than $20, which included 2000 lead 38/357 bullets! That reminds me, Kempf has great prices on their lead bullets. 2,000 158 grain 38 Special/357 Magnum round-nose flat points sells for just over $100, including shipping.

Good luck with your decision. There are a lot of smart people here on THR, and they all offer sound advice. Pick what you think will best meet your needs/uses.

August 19, 2007, 07:25 PM
I'll stir the Red (Lee) vs. Blue (Dillon) vs. Green (RCBS) pot here a bit. Not knocking the Lee as it is a good price performer, but I've never heard anyone wailing that they wished they'd bought a Lee instead of their cheesy RCBS press.

This is an opinion I've expressed many times in various threads worth every dime you've spent on it:

The Lee tools are engineering marvels, designed to provide maximum functionality at minimum cost. IMHO, durability and robust design are not high on the spec sheet. That being said, I still use the Lee Auto Prime. I have worn out (literally, as in, broken metal pieces) two, and try and keep one around for spares, in addition to two (Large primer and Small primer) in use. The fact that I, a relatively low-volume shooter, can wear one out says something. The fact I can afford to have 2 in use and a 3rd for a spare says something as well.

Nem', you've been given a good steer toward "The ABC's of Reloading". I gave my copy, written by Dean Grennell, away. It was entertaining as well as informative. Keep us posted on the evolution of your thinking.

August 19, 2007, 07:37 PM
Hutch, thanks for the thoughts ... and the nudge on this thread. I still owe yours a read, and haven't read Jad's yet thoroughly either. I'd gotten momentarily distracted by several other threads of a different nature this weekend; time to get back to these more "practical ones" for a while. ;)

Thanks to you both for thoughts. I'll read more closely tonight ...


August 19, 2007, 08:11 PM

I'd lean toward the Rockchucker to accommodate the calibers you listed & the quantities for same. I used one for years, loading handgun ammo & lots of belted magnum rounds without a problem, until I "upped the inventory" of handgun ammo, went to a turret, gave my old press to a nephew & bought a Forster coax press for rifle rounds. Lee dies work fine & I believe most, if not all come with a shell holder. A package deal may get you a powder measure and/or scale & possibly a set of dies with the press. I'd also recommend a hand-held priming device (I use an RCBS). Don't forget a caliper (I use a Harbor Freight 6" digital model that reads right with more spendy units). A powder funnel with multiple adapters, Imperial sizing die wax, & loading block (made or purchased) should get you started. Watch Craigslist & yard sales in your area . . . I've found some very sweet deals on reloading equipment via those venues locally.


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