Classic Lee Loader-45ACP-More Trouble Than Worth?


September 9, 2008, 12:11 PM
I'm looking into a Classic Lee Loader as an intro to reloading. If all goes well, I'll probably work my way into the more expensive equipment that undoubtedly will make the job easier.

That said, the Lee website says that "considerable force is required for sizing" in the .45ACP kit. While I understand there are considerable limitations to the Classic Loader Kit in any circumstance, is the .45ACP kit especially miserable/frustrating/impossible to use?

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September 9, 2008, 12:30 PM
Personally, I'd just go with a Lee Classic Turret Press kit from Cabela's (in fact, I did). The Classic you're talking about is single-stage, right? I understand wanting to start out as inexpensively as possible, but within a week or two you'll be wanting to upgrade anyway. A single-stage is nice to have around for various uses, but it's too slow to do a bunch of loading with, in MY opinion. FWIW.

I don't think the .45acp requires any more force than anything else, but you DEFINITELY want to use carbide dies, not steel.

September 9, 2008, 12:32 PM
I wouldn't bother with the Lee Loader ... I started with one, that lasted about 2 days (too much noise to suit the other humans in the house, and the occasional primer going off was nerve-wracking)... get a turret or single stage press to start with. I like Hornady stuff, but RCBS, Redding, and Lyman make top notch single stage and turret presses. Lee presses are OK if you're on a budget, too.

Oh, and like Rondog said, get Carbide dies for the .45ACP ... it's worth the extra $$.

September 9, 2008, 12:51 PM
agree with the other guys. i have about 9 lee loaders. I occasionaly use them when im bored or something. In fact just the other day i was depriming and sizing with one. Thats what its really good for. depriming. i put the decapper on the die so its one long tube. then start de priming. then i sized them all. I was doing 9mm. Well my son sees me. Starts to laugh ask why am i messing with that thing. I said just to get some practice and well its so easy. So a few minutes later he comes back and hands me a box of primers. So i say to myself what the heck. I deprimed them sized them. Might as well prime them. Well i was doing box of 50. So when i got to around 45 kaaaaboooom. That was enough i picked up the stuff and put the lee loader away. Got out my hand prime and finished the remaining 5. A few minutes later my son comes walking in. Said the cat was lying in the window when the primer went off she fell to the floor. He was laughing his head off. So ya lee loader is a good tool i have always found that its very easy to set off pistol primers with it though. i must have done around 30 or so now. Rifle i have never had one go off. Shotgun neither just pistol. Any how they do work but like the other guys said. For 45 acp you best getting a press

September 9, 2008, 01:01 PM
If by classic loader, you mean the do all the work with a mallet kind, I wouldn't suggest it.

I have one in .357/.38Special that I bought for that same reason - an intro to reloading. Cost me about $20 plus another $7 or so to ship. It's slow (but fun, in a "playing with firecrackers" sort of way while priming). Very slow if doing pistol ammo - which is what you are planning to do.

If budget is key, get either a Lee Hand press or their simple, C-type press. Usually you can find it for about the same price - in fact, a few places have the C-press with a Lee manual for about $30-35. Yeah, you'll invest another $25 in dies, but for $50 or so, you'll have a solid tool that will not aggrevate the hound out of you and still allow you a decent rate of speed.

I'll keep my Lee Classic Loader - if for no other reason, if I ever have to or want to take it with me, it fits in a little kit with a box of bullets and a bottle of powder. But if I had to do it again, I would skip the LCL and go straight to the single-stage press.


September 9, 2008, 02:02 PM
I've used the Lee Loader on and off for 40 years. If you're only doing 5 or 10 rounds at a time, there is nothing wrong with it. While growing up I reloaded shotshells sitting with the family while they watched TV. There's nothing wrong with a simple hand kit if your volume is very low.

In 40 years (maybe a thousand metallic cartridges and a few thousand 16ga shotshells) I've never set a primer off. Then again, I'm a competent reloader, and practiced care and safety from Day One forty years ago.

But if you want to reload larger volumes and be consistent and precise, there are inexpensive single stage presses that work great! Others will advise you to get more expensive equipment (only the best) but they are probably spending money you don't have. Let them buy it for you.

September 9, 2008, 02:32 PM
Thanks, gents. I think I'll give another look at the basic Lee presses, based on your advice.

September 9, 2008, 07:17 PM
I have one in .357 and in .45. The .357 kit was a gift from my Dad back in '92 and the .45 kit was bought a couple of years ago. The .357 kit is very easy and smooth to use but the .45 kit is another story. I found that it is extremely difficult to get the case in and out of the sizing die on the .45 kit to the point of becoming some serious work for very little result.

I load everything on a Lee 3 stage press now, but I still use the .357 kit on occasion if I just want to throw a few rounds together without changing out my dies and resetting my powder measure on my press when I am in the middle of loading another caliber. It is also nice to have a reloading setup that I can just throw in a dufflebag and take on a camping or hunting trip if I feel like it.

As to setting a primer off when using one of these kits, I have never done so and honestly I don't see how it could be done unless the person was either doing something wrong or using WAY more force than is needed to seat the primer. That said, I don't set primers with my face hanging over the rod either! (And no, I ain't gonna lol ;) )

September 9, 2008, 07:54 PM
Oh man, are you talking about one of these?

There ain't NFW I'd waste the time or money on something like that. This is what I was talking about, start with one of these kits from Cabelas or elsewhere and never look back........

September 9, 2008, 07:54 PM

If you want to try out reloading, get to really understand and know the basics and you are content with an output of 30-60 rounds per hour, you can't really beat the Lee Loader. At least when you look at the price, the step by step ability for quality control, and generally getting into a fun hobby... go for it.

I started with Lee Loaders, still use them for some rifle calibers and revolvers even though I have the Lee Breechlock and a Dillon Square Deal.

Sometimes, I just want to relax back, make a few really good bullets with my Lee. The force needed for pistol...not that bad.

By the way I have a Lee Loader for every common rifle and pistol caliber. Also have the original 60's vintage for 12 and 20 guage.

September 9, 2008, 08:52 PM
+1 on what rondog said. I have been using a Lee classic turret for two years and couldn't be happier.

September 9, 2008, 09:34 PM
I just acquired one for .45. Started with .223 a couple of months ago. I have not used the .45 yet.

It is slow going, and noisy. However, I enjoy the portability and practicality of the Lee Loader. I have no room for a bench or press at this time, so I usually load outside in the shade.

Having loaded about 200 rounds so far, I'll say that it works well and the savings add up quick. If I had the space I would step up to a Lee Anniversary Kit. It has everything but the dies for $80. and the dies are only $20.

Though I would definitely keep the Lee Loaders, and make use...

September 9, 2008, 10:05 PM
I used the Lee Loaders many moons ago when I was a teenager.

Mom and Dad would run me out of the house due to the "whack, whack, whack" sound of driving the cases into the die. Those were the days when I was pinching pennies to buy components.

I wouldn't start that way today, knowing what I do.

September 9, 2008, 10:08 PM

I have a few of these lee loaders in some of my main calibers: 38spcl, 357 mag, 30-30 win, 7.62 Russian, 308, and 30-06 and I think a couple of others. I think they are great.

September 9, 2008, 10:50 PM
Here it is:

Lee C-style press with manual - $25 plus S&H.

I would go that way instead. The manual alone is about $15-20, or the press by itself is $25. It's a great deal for the budget-driven reloader!


September 9, 2008, 11:08 PM
You can still find Lee challenger press kits for around $35 bucks. I did just last weekend. Kit includes: Challanger "O" Frame press, lube, ram prime tool, and a powder funnel. All you need is a couple of reloading manuels, a scale, calipers and dies and you can start loading. You can add trimmers, champfer/de-burr tool, case brushes for neck and primer pocket, and a tumbler later. We are talking way ultra econo style and you won't win no awards for the best reloading bench on the block but you will be able to load good ammo.

Me personally, I would hold out and save a bit more cash for the LEE Classic Turret and build that way. The main reason I bought this Challanger press is to have a press right next to my recliner on my mini bench. I have 3 Dillons, 1 T7, and a good sturdy Lee Classic Cast in The Cave 50 paces away.


September 9, 2008, 11:24 PM
The boy wants to load up some 45ACP.

He can do it with $25 for a Lee Loader, $20 for some powder, $4 for 100 primers, another $20 for some bullets. Cost is around $70 bucks and he can have some good reloads.

Cheapest Lee press is going to set him back $35 plus another $35 for the dies, now add the $44 for the materials and he is at $104 give or take. Not to mention finding a table or something to bolt the press to.

Takleberri....give it a try. If you like it, keep doing it. If you really like might want to upgrade sometime...sell the Lee Loader on Ebay and get most of your initial investment back. If you don't like it....sell it on Ebay and get most of your initial investment back.

This kind of decision ain't rocket science.

Uncle Chan
September 9, 2008, 11:27 PM
I've about 20 Lee Loaders. I use several weekly. They ain't quick, but they are effective and will give you good quality loads.

At home, I have a classic turret, a dillon, and a single stage.

September 9, 2008, 11:38 PM
Cheers, Uncle Chan.

September 10, 2008, 02:01 AM
I have an entire room in the house dedicated to reloading. Presses for pistol, rifle and shotshell.

But when my son wants to learn, I'll give him the Lee Loaders and a plastic mallet. Soon he will have a deep inner feel for what he's doing. Just like I did at 14 years of age.

[By the way, when I started we couldn't find components, case lube or bullet lube locally, and there was no Internet. We cast our own bullets, mixed our own lube, cut our own shotshell wads, and reloaded everything with Lee Loaders. My first four Loaders were 16 gauge, .30-06, .30-30 and 44 Mag. No wimpies here.]

September 10, 2008, 03:46 AM
thanks for the great info posted here im a young guy who has no one in my family who even owns a gun besides a 2nd cousin and am on a tight budget but i want to try to cut ammo costs i spent 50 bucks which is quite a bit of money for me and am going to try to pick the hobby of reloading would reloading a .40 be cheaper than buying ammo every other week which is how much i tend to shoot about a 100 rounds a trip

September 10, 2008, 05:19 PM
All comments have been helpful and appreciated. My take from all of them is:

-The Classic Loader kit works as advertised
-The Classic Loader kit is compact (very important)
-The Classic Loader kit is SLOW (which I can live with)

That said, I'll be picking up a .45 ACP Classic Loader kit this weekend, and I'll stop back to say how it went. I know the difference between the Classic Loader and the next step up in presses is not that much dollar-wise, but it's more than I have at the moment. However, all the comments about the "next step up" presses have also been helpful, and I will certainly reference them when I don't have winter heating season to pay for.

September 10, 2008, 06:37 PM
tackleberi.... Good decision. Have fun, be careful.

September 10, 2008, 06:52 PM
All comments have been helpful and appreciated. My take from all of them is:

-The Classic Loader kit works as advertised
-The Classic Loader kit is compact (very important)
-The Classic Loader kit is SLOW (which I can live with)

That said, I'll be picking up a .45 ACP Classic Loader kit this weekend, and I'll stop back to say how it went. I know the difference between the Classic Loader and the next step up in presses is not that much dollar-wise, but it's more than I have at the moment. However, all the comments about the "next step up" presses have also been helpful, and I will certainly reference them when I don't have winter heating season to pay for.
If that's going to get you started then good for you. The most important thing is to start reloading. Good luck and let us know how you like it.

September 10, 2008, 06:54 PM
You won't regret it. Enjoy!

September 10, 2008, 08:56 PM
The reason the pistol primers go off with the classic loader, and rifle primers don't (in general), is that most (if not all) of the rifle loaders only neck size. It requires considerably less force to drive the rifle cases out of the die and onto the primer. With a pistol die, you have to tap a lot harder to push out the case/seat the primer. In the course of that, it's a lot easier to pop the primer.

straight-walled cases are full-length sized.

Uncle Chan
September 11, 2008, 12:00 AM
Cheers, Uncle Chan.

Howdy to you, Igbloader. How goes the battle? RV season is just about over up her in the PNW. Time to move back to the house and load on the presses!

September 11, 2008, 09:31 PM
I heartily recommend the Lee Classic Loader. It's how I got started. I loaded up 40 rounds and said, "This sucks eggs." But I already had powder, primer, and bullets; it was too late to go back. I was a reloader.

I found a way to come up with a single stage press and felt like I'd gone from a tricycle to a pickup truck. Seriously, you don't have to have the fanciest and fastest press or best dies, but you'll be a world ahead with an inexpensive single stage press.

lee n. field
September 11, 2008, 10:30 PM
Classic Lee Loader-45ACP-More Trouble Than Worth?

That's it right there, more trouble than it's worth, except for very narrow circumstances.

I have not used the .45. I have used a .38 Special and a .223 Lee Loader. The .38 was a genuine PITA due to the full length resizing. The bottleneck .223 kit was way easier to use.

Where it makes sense is:

very little money to spend
very little room for any reloading gear.
very limited reloading needs

If you want something to throw in your bugout bag, this might be it. Don't forget the hammer.

To my mind, the Lee Hand Press Kit and a Lee die set (to get the scoop, load data and shell holder in with the deal) fits in only a little more room and is way more useful. And you can get into that for about $60 still, I think.

September 12, 2008, 08:18 AM
To the OP:

If you are doing this to save money, there is one very important step you must do, or you'll wind up spending more money and getting very frustrated very fast.

The kit comes with the "dies" (note: not the same as regular dies) a sheet of load data, and a powder scoop.

When you buy your kit, do not just walk over and buy a bottle of powder and a box of bullets. Open the kit and check the size of the dipper (scoop). It'll be marked on the side in .cc measurements. Now, look at your load data page and cross-reference all of the loads where that dipper can be used.

Say it's a 1.5 cc. scoop.
STEP 1: Skim down the chart and look at all of the "lines" where a 1.5 cc. scoop is used. Let's say the chart shows the scoop can be used to make a 200gr lead load or a 230 FJM load.
STEP 2: Decide which load do you want to make - the 200 or 230? You decide to make the 230.
Step 3: Now, look at that load in the 1.5cc, 230FMJ category and see what powder it tells you to use. LET'S SAY...that with a 1.5 cc scoop, a 230 FMJ bullet, the powder recommended is SuperShooter [fictitious]. That's the powder to buy. This is important. If you buy the wrong powder, you might not be able to use your scoop for the load you want, meaning a) you have to buy the whole set of dippers (about another $10 investment) or b) buy another bottle of powder (another $20). In other words, don't buy Unique because the salesman likes Unique; don't buy Bullseye because it says "Unsurpassed for .45 target loads" on the bottle. USE YOUR CHART & DIPPER TO FIND THE POWDER!

Step 4: Pick up a package of primers.
Step 5: Pay for stuff & go home to make 1st reloads.

How do I know this? I invested in two powders before I got that right. The first time I just asked the guy at the counter, "What's good in .38 and .357?" He gave me PowderA - not even listed in my Classic Loader chart. Next time, I had done my reading and found out what I wanted. But, I forgot to write it down, so when I drove to the store (hour's drive each way) I guessed as to what I should buy...and got it wrong (powder & scoop didn't match the bullets I ordered). Third time, I wrote it down and got it right. My "inexpensive" reloading start quickly added up because of a really dumb mistake. :banghead:


September 12, 2008, 02:45 PM
I got started with that kit. It's slow, it's noisy, it works.

Honestly for pistol, this does not make a lot of sense.

If you can spring for a hand primer, chamfer tool, and pocket cleaner, it will make your life much easier with this thing.

Definitely get a plastic hammer like they picture in the kit ( harbour freight or sears carry them, around 5$ ) OR a small block of wood and 3 pound hand sledge.

If I had it to do over again, I would skip this thing and go straight to a 4 hole turret press like the one pictured above.

September 12, 2008, 02:54 PM
Yeah, loading for pistol rounds, consider how much time and effort it will take to pound out a magazine full of cartridges. Might be OK for making rifle ammo, if you don't shoot very much. When I go out plinking, I like to shoot until the ammo runs out, the targets run out, or I'm burnt out, whichever comes first.

Making ammo with a Lee Loader, I'd feel like an Indian making arrows one at a time by hand. JMHO, they're not for me.

September 12, 2008, 02:58 PM
Before buying any reloading i STRONGLY recommend you buy or borrow The Lee reloading manual. You do not need the loading data, this comes with the kit.
The advantage to the book is the first 10 or so chapters do a great job of explaining reloading in general but even better they give detailed instructions and explanations for all the Lee Precision reloading equipment, including the Lee Classic loaders.

September 12, 2008, 05:06 PM
I used the whackamole kit for about 200 rounds. Then bought a handpress and didn't look back.

September 12, 2008, 05:31 PM
I started loading with a Lee Loader and loaded thousands of rounds with it. I presently own a half dozen of them and occasionally still use them just for the heck of it.

I disagree with most of the posts on this thread.
If I had it to do over again, I would either buy the Lee Loader and then get a serious progressive press, or just get a serious progressive press.
For loading .45 ACP I would not waste my time using a single stage press. Yes, I own a couple single stage presses. Yes, I have loaded 10s of thousands of rounds of handgun ammo on them, mostly .45 ACP. That is the reason I have the opinion I do: I have been there, done that, learned something from the experience.

September 14, 2008, 05:57 PM
Talking about buggin-out.

Whenever I travel by car I have my 45 Old Model Vaquero, my Classic Lee Loader...I've added the primer cleaner, chamfer cleaner and case length gauge with cutter. They all fit very handy in the case along with the original Whakamo Lee Sizer for .452, and a case expander that came with an earlier kit. All in 1 Lee Loader plastic case.

That (not the firearms) fits into my 50 Caliber ammo can with a lb. of Red Dot, 100 precast .452-255-RF, a 2 hole 452-255-RF, Lee ladel and little Lee Lead Pot. Also a small bottle of Alox and 1000 large pistol primers.

It also contains the orginal 12 Gauge Reloader with some fiber wads and nitro disks, + 200 primers, 10 lbs lead shot (#5).

Last but not least my 312-180-RF one holer with 100 gas checks, .303 Lee Classic reloader with whakamo case expander and case length gauge. 200 Large Rifle Primers

Also the Lee scoops in a ziplock.

25 Hulls
30 .45 Starline Brass
20 .303 once fired 303 Brass

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