Newbee Going crazy trying to decide on reloading setup


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ghh3rd
January 10, 2009, 02:54 AM
I was thinking of starting out very basic due to budget constraints, and getting the Lee Classic Loader Kit to experiment with. I just had a small financial windfall, and can now get something a step or two better. I have to figure out what to get, soon, before my new found 'wealth' gets reallocated by my other half.

Has anyone used the Lee Challenger Breech Lock Single Stage Press? How would this work -- do you complete one step on an entire batch of cases, then swap to next die, do next step, etc? Would this be considered a slow process? How well does the "Perfect Powder Measure" work?

Says "Quick change or conventional die change system" - would the quick change parts be very expensive? Does it mean it allows quick changes of the different dies, as well as quick change of caliber, or is caliber change difficult on this press?

I wanted to stay around $100, not including dies or shipping.

Here's what I saw tonight and was thinking of ordering. What else do I need to order if I purchase this kit?

If there is another setup in my price range that you think would be better, please let me know.
_______________________________________

Lee Challenger Breech Lock Single Stage Press Anniversary Kit $89.99

"O" frame design
Dies are changed with the twist of a wrist.

Challenger Breech Lock single stage press
3 Breech Lock die bushings
Lee Safety Scale
Perfect Powder Measure
Powder funnel
Lock stud and cutter
Lee chamfer tool
Large and small Safety Prime
Tube of sizing lube

Features:
Quick change or conventional die change system
Accepts all standard 7/8 x14 threaded dies
Can handle cartridge lengths from the 0.905" 25 ACP through the 3.750" 460 Weatherby

A Lee Case Length Gage (sold separately) will need to be purchased for each caliber being reloaded
_______________________________________

Thanks a lot - Randy

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ljnowell
January 10, 2009, 03:41 AM
Dont forget reloading trays! I have found from using both now that the c style press has more hand room and such.

lgbloader
January 10, 2009, 03:46 AM
Hello Randy.

Let me start by saying welcome to THR and the world of Handloading. If you like to shoot, you love it after handloading. It will improve your shooting by at least 25 %. Plus you will afford to shoot more which is why most of us handload anyways.

I have a Man Cave with some great tools: 3 blue progressive presses, Redding T7 press, RCBS auto powder drops and case prep tools. It is a pleasure going into this work space and working with truly state of the art equipment especially since I have built my newest bench early last year. Since then, I have made great improvements and added an addition to extend it. Life is good. No, I am not bragging, hear me out.

Then The NFL Football season started end of summer 2008. I proceeded to build a mini bench for the exclusive use of sitting on my recliner in the family room and process brass while I watch the games on Sunday, nothing fancy. Once built, I realized that I needed a press for it and after some thought, I decided to go with a "Cheap Lee Challenger" press, the old one without the breech lock, not even the newer Anniversary kit. I bought it at the reloading store at a shooting range I shoot regularly at for $35.00 including a couple of extra tools. At first, I kept to the plan, deprime or even resize/deprime brass. I also began to use my Lee safety prime II press primer system. Then... I slowly began to bring pro-jos and powder inside to the mini bench and doing final assembly (while NOT watching TV). It's ability is now complete and I have since mounted a zip trim, and a powder stand for one of my Uni flow powder throws, I have a RCBS balance beam scale, all the case prep tools (champfer deburr,primer pocket), calipers and even a couple of spare manuals. I used this mini bench set up for most of my hand loading time since I built it. So much, in fact, that I am considering dismantling it to force me to go back to The Cave again. The Cave is starting to collect dust !!!

End result, I have loaded everything I shoot on this Challenger press except my big Magnum caliber rifles (and Shotshell of course) and it has worked just fine for me. Is it as smooth as my Redding T7 or my Dillons, my Lee Classic Cast or my retired Rock chucker? Nope... seriously, I am just being honest, but I have loaded ammo on that cheap little Lee Challenger press that is better than that of factory loaded ammo. I sincerely have no regrets in purchasing it.

IMHO, I strongly believe that you will enjoy working with the Lee Anniversary kit and shooting the ammo that it produces for many years to come. You can always upgrade later if you still want to. But as you can see, even with all my wonderful gadgets and toys in my Cave, I am still very happy with my Cheap Lee Challenger press and my mini bench next to my recliner.

LGB

Shoney
January 10, 2009, 05:47 AM
ghh3rd
WELCOME to THR!!!!!

Lee Challenger Breech Lock Single Stage Press? How would this work --
It is a good servicable press for the money.

do you complete one step on an entire batch of cases, then swap to next die, do next step, etc?
Yes, you complete each step of the reloading process on a given number of cases and move on to next step, (i.e. sizing, priming, charging with powder, seating/crimping bullet)

Would this be considered a slow process? How well does the "Perfect Powder Measure" work?
Slow compared to a turret or progressive press, yes. But much faster than a hand operated press. When you are starting out, speed is not as important as paying attention to details and turning out a quality product. I don't have experience with the Perfec Powder Measure.

Says "Quick change or conventional die change system" - would the quick change parts be very expensive?
The bushings from Graf and Sons list as $8.59/2. Each die you use will require a bushing, unless you wish to change the bushings between dies. Although this would work in a pinch, it defeats the idea of "quick change"..

Does it mean it allows quick changes of the different dies, as well as quick change of caliber, or is caliber change difficult on this press?
Dies are screwed into the bushings and can be locked at the proper setting during setup. A simple twist (about 1/3 turn) allows you to pull the die and bushing out without changing the setting. Time invollved would be 1-2 seconds, whether inserting or removing dies.

You equip all the dies with bushings for the different cartridges you load, and you can change from loading a 45ACP to a 270 die in seconds. You do not have to change any settings on the dies since they were already locked in when you did your initial setup.

Overall the bushing system is very handy if you load several different cartridges at one sitting. If you do not have enough bushings, in a pinch, you can switch one bushing to several dies, but that defeats the "quick change". If the lock rings change on the dies during this bushing removal or installation, you would have to do set up on those dies again.

Good shooting!

NMRancher
January 10, 2009, 09:16 AM
Lee is decent stuff for the money. It'll do what you want it to do and won't break the bank. The one thing I didn't see you mention is a reloading manual. Get a couple of good ones, don't rely on what you read on the net.

bullseye308
January 10, 2009, 11:52 AM
Being budget minded you can hit up the local library for loading manuals short term till you can buy your own. I also use Lee presses and have a Loadmaster and 2 20.00 Reloader presses. I have a small table to bolt a Reloader press to that slides right up to the recliner and do my case pres in comfort. You can be just as happy loading on a cheap lee press as any other and speed is not a good thing for a new reloader. Go slow, verify, verify again, then assemble. Keep good notes, that will save you lots of headaches down the road. Get a good cheap caliper also. Make sure that you can have alone time while reloading as distractions can be a bad thing. Wear eye protection at all times, and if in doubt, ask.

Welcome to the addiction, it is a hobby unto itself and will consume you. :evil:

ghh3rd
January 10, 2009, 01:49 PM
It sounds like the Lee Challenger Breech Lock Single Stage Press will work out OK for me, and for the money, looks like a fair deal. I'm just anxious to get started, although I'm not supposed to shoot reloads at the indoor range that I belong to. I figure that I'll reload and stockpile for the less frequent times I go to the outdoor range, and just shoot more than I usually would when I'm there.

I long for the days when I could pull off a dirt road and legally shoot. Here in the Tampa Bay FL area, we don't have that luxury.

Do most people who reload use cast bullets, or FMJ? The FMJ are sure more expensive.

Is it feasible to cast your own bullets? Can you use pure lead, or does it have to be an alloy?

Thanks

RustyFN
January 10, 2009, 04:10 PM
It sounds like the Lee Challenger Breech Lock Single Stage Press will work out OK for me, and for the money, looks like a fair deal. I'm just anxious to get started, although I'm not supposed to shoot reloads at the indoor range that I belong to. I figure that I'll reload and stockpile for the less frequent times I go to the outdoor range, and just shoot more than I usually would when I'm there.
IMO that would be a fine press to start with if you don't need a huge quantity per month.
Do most people who reload use cast bullets, or FMJ? The FMJ are sure more expensive.
Depends on the person. I shoot cast bullets in my 1911 because I cast my own. I shoot FMJ in my 9mm and 38 spcl. I'm getting ready to start casting for all of my pistols.
Is it feasible to cast your own bullets? Can you use pure lead, or does it have to be an alloy?
I think it's the way to go if you shoot a lot. Wheel weights are the easiest way to go, you won't have to add anything to make them harder. I get WW"s for free and can cast my bullets and load 45 auto for around $2.70 per 100 rounds. I am planning on casting for 9mm and 38 spcl this year and will be able to load for all my pistols for that price.
Rusty

elkhuntingfool
January 10, 2009, 04:19 PM
It sounds like the Lee Challenger Breech Lock Single Stage Press will work out OK for me, and for the money, looks like a fair deal. I'm just anxious to get started, although I'm not supposed to shoot reloads at the indoor range that I belong to. I figure that I'll reload and stockpile for the less frequent times I go to the outdoor range, and just shoot more than I usually would when I'm there.

I use this press and have loaded thousands of rounds with it - rifle and handgun - never an issue. I didn't use the Lee Powder measure -I have a Uniflow and well - I already know how to use it - so no brainer.

Do most people who reload use cast bullets, or FMJ? The FMJ are sure more expensive.

I load both - I think a box of FMJs run about 25-30/100. Lead cast I buy are $30/500. Easy to figure out the savings there.

rfwobbly
January 10, 2009, 05:06 PM
Randy -
You need to start looking at used equipment on Craig's List if your top end is $100. Although you can find several presses in that price range, the purchase of a press is just the very beginning.

After the press comes a reloading manual $25, a set of reloading dies $25, a measuring caliper $25, and we haven't even started on the bullets, powder, and primers which are all $25 each too !!


You might want to visit a reloading friend, learn the process, and then assemble a spreadsheet of ALL the things you'll need to have to get started. Then total up ALL the costs. What good will it do you to purchase a press if you only have enough to buy the one part? That's sort of like wanting a house, but only having enough money to buy the bathtub. :eek:

Follow?

ghh3rd
January 10, 2009, 05:53 PM
Actually "I wanted to stay around $100, not including dies or shipping."

Manual -- for now, I will check for a recipe in a couple of books at the library, or order the Lee Book for about $13.

Caliper - I have two old calipers, but eventually want to get a better one. The first caliber I want to load will be .38, and from what I understand the overall length of the round isn't as critical as it would be for a round for semi auto. Is this correct?

I'm prepared for the expense of the primers, powder and bullets - my $100 was just for a low end setup. I figure I may wind up spending towards $200 to get what I need, including the press I mentioned in my post.

Does it sound like I'm thinking correctly? Any reason not to choose the setup I originally mentioned? I think I'll order this evening after I get back from the archery range with my son.

By the way, any tips on a good web site to purchase .38 rounds? Rather than 1000 perhaps 500 or 250.

I really do appreciate the input.

Randy

bullseye308
January 10, 2009, 06:30 PM
If you look in the reloading components for sale section you will find 38 brass for sale cheap. Looks like the last few lots sold for around 35.00/1000 cases. not bad for 38spl. There are some here that could cast you some bullets for a reasonable price too. Ask around in the for sale forum and see what comes of it.

jfh
January 10, 2009, 07:13 PM
I don't think you'll go wrong with the Lee Challenger, unless you really start working with the bigger rifle cartridges a lot.

However, I do note that you are talking about starting with 38 Special--and if you are shooting handguns a fair amount, and if your budget can tolerate it, I would take a hard look at the (Lee) Classic Cast Turret.

Since it seems to be budgetary issues driving the initial purchase, you might want to weigh the overall costs. Keep in mind that you will probably want a SS on hand anyway, so the Challenger would be fine. However, the Classic Cast Turret can function both ways--i.e., as a SS and as a turret, and then as an auto-indexing turret.

Googling "Classic Cast Turret" in this forum will bring up discussions on its merits, and even into color wars (ignore those).

Jim H.

Shoney
January 10, 2009, 08:39 PM
ghh3rd
Several people have mentioned that you should get a reloading manual or three. That is truly the first step of reloading. Reading one cover to cover before you start. Whether from the library or buying use, a good manual will save you grief and time and money!!

ghh3rd wrote, "I figure that I'll reload and stockpile for the less frequent times I go to the outdoor range, and just shoot more than I usually would when I'm there."
I'm sure you understand that you must do your load development before you start stockpiling. There are several methods to do this. You do not want to stockpile a lot of ammo that is not compatible with you or the weapon.

Good Shooting!!!

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