Beginning with Lee hand loader?


May 24, 2010, 08:12 PM
At this point, I probably don't shoot more than 50-100 rounds a week, combined. Mostly 9mil with some .40 too. Maybe I'll shoot more if I can get the hang of reloading.

I'm interested in any advice and or suggestions as to where to go from here. Be it additional equipment, particularly "must haves", or good powder/load recommendations for a beginner. Thanks in advance!

Anyway, I have either purchased or been given the following.

Lee hand press
Lee ram prime
.9mil 3 die set
Lee safety scale
HF tumbler
Red Dot powder
125grn RN boolits of unknown mfr.
CCI 500 primers

I'm getting ready to place an order and will be adding .40 dies, the Lyman #49and possibly the ABCs of Reloading and another more beginner friendly powder, perhaps Green Dot? Should I get the FCD for the .9 or do I not need it? What else? Any and all help appreciated.

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May 24, 2010, 08:16 PM
What brand is your die set? Chances are you do not need the FCD.

If you don't have a mentor showing you the ropes DEFINITELY get the ABC's of Reloading and read it cover to cover first. But it is your hands and eyes not mine so take it FWIW.


May 24, 2010, 08:19 PM
Get a set of calipers, I don't use a FCD for pistol rounds. I like HP-38 powder for my .40S&W. Get a the Lee hand primer, its worth the $15, the ram-prime takes longer.

May 24, 2010, 08:24 PM
I'm just getting started myself, and what you have is extremely close to what I have. I am getting the Lee auto prime though, rather than the ram prime.

May 24, 2010, 09:21 PM

There is really nothing wrong with what you have. I really like the Lee Factory Crimp Die. My first suggestion is to resize a few cases and see how they headspace, case alone, in the barrel of your auto.

I agree you need calipers for overall length. For a starter get one at Harbor. You can always upgrade later if needed. I haven't needed too yet.

Red Dot is fine although W231 is my favorite for 9mm. But again, Red Dot is fine, just make sure you weigh a lot as it doesn't meter as well in a Lee Scoop or a Powder Dispensor due to it is bulky and flaky.

You should have no problem knocking out 50-60 rounds per hour with your setup once you have the hang of it. Clean, Resize, Clean primer cavity, prime, add powder using the powder through expanding die, seat bullet, crimp...have fun.

May 24, 2010, 09:33 PM
The Harbor freight calipers ( Vacek mentioned work great, and are on sale often. Sometimes less than $19.99. I picked up a pair at the local store. They read right on with my more expensive ones. They won't do .0001 of course, but you don't need better than .001.

I would go with a more medium speed powders for 9MM and .40, although the fast ones like Red Dot will work. W-231 would be hard to beat for your first rodeo.

I have never used the hand press, and could be wrong, but if you have room, I suspect you will be glad later if you get a single stage press.

The 3 die Lee sets are all you need.

May 24, 2010, 11:43 PM
+1 on the caliper. W231/HP38 would be good for 9/40, but if you can't find them, Green Dot would be good too. It's a bit faster than W231/HP38, but close enough for me with lots of available load data.

You'll get a lot of workout using a hand loader ... bonus chest/pectoral exercise too ... sweet! :D

Maybe gloves for your hands?

May 25, 2010, 01:42 AM
Pretty much everything they said above is good.

That hand press will get you started, nothing to worry about there. Maybe you'll get a bench press later. But use what you got right now.



Cheap calipers.

Lyman 49th edition, OR Lyman Pistol & Revolver #3. The pistol book has a lot more pistol info than the 49th edition.

Skip the FCD for now.

For 9mm, just about any Small Pistol primer works fine.

115 and 124/125 RN bullets work great, either jacketed or plated or lead. Your choice. All of them work great.

When working up your load (start low and work up from there until you are satisfied with the function and accuracy of your pistol, but never exceed max load) make 10 and shoot 10 until you find your load. Don't load 100 and shoot the first 2 and find that they don't work. Load 10, shoot 10, until you find the load you want. I know it's tedious, but it is essential.

May 25, 2010, 04:17 AM
Two suggestions: Get the Lee hand priming tool. You'll be glad you did.

Second, get a small tube of Lee case lube, cut it about 10:1 with alcohol (dries faster) and keep it in a small squeeze bottle then put a squirt or two in a plastic bag with about 100 casings or so and tumble them around with your hands and then dump them out on a towel to dry before resizing even if you are using carbide dies. Trust me on this, your arms will thank you.

dagger dog
May 25, 2010, 05:51 AM
Both 9mm Para and .40 S&W headspace on the case mouth so you dont want a crimp like the FCD provides but rather the taper crimp that the seating die does. So you won't need the FCD for either.

The hand priming tool from Lee that sniper5 suggests is the way to go, but make sure you get the shell holder for both calibers as they are different from the shell holders that work in the hand press.

May 25, 2010, 09:16 AM
Wow! I never expected so much great advice. Not one person said "use the search button." Of course, I have been but wanted some input from the vets and more experienced noobs.

I do have a HF close by, so I'll get the calipers. Yes, I'm sure I'll upgrade to a bench press when I get an idea what I'm doing. But I knew I was going to want a hand press because of the utility, convenience of a take anywhere system.

By all means, keep the suggestions coming. Thanks again!

May 25, 2010, 09:26 AM
jason70, welcome to THR and to the wonderful world of reloading.

You can also look around for a used single stage press. I usually find them for around $25-$35 at gun shows/classified. Take your die and make sure the threads fit and you should be fine.

May 25, 2010, 10:26 AM
Welcome to the forum.

If and when (probably when) you get a single stage bench press, hold on to the hand press. I use mine with the Lee Decapping die, which handles all calibers, pistol and rifle. I like to sit and inspect and decap several hundred cases at a time while watching a ball game or listening to a book on tape. The hollow ram in the hand press will hold 30 or so primers before I dump them in a can for easy disposal. Once they are sized, I take the same approach using the Lee hand priming tool.

These actions are just mechanical so I can have something on in the background. When it's time to dispense the powder and seat the bullets, I don't want any distractions.

I reload 7 handgun calibers and 4 rifles calibers. I try to keep about 300 sized and primed handgun cases for each caliber available most of the time and about 100 rifle cases. When I sit down at the press I can concentrate on the powder charge and bullet seating.

I enjoy reloading and find it is relaxing. (Same with bullet casting.) Since I don't need to crank out 1,000 or more rounds at a time, this system works well.


May 25, 2010, 04:20 PM
Thought you might enjoy seeing my reloading "bench".

May 25, 2010, 06:06 PM
I knew a guy who reloaded in his truck. He used a lee loader and just jammed everything under his seat. .30-06 and .45 ACP. Talk about a dirty truck, dirty equipment, and dirty reloads. :eek:

But he was happy.

Yours looks much nicer sniper5. :)

May 25, 2010, 10:56 PM
Ok, I have a list together..

ABCs of reloading is on back order, so I ordered the Lyman Pistol and Revolver. Thanks for the suggestion.

Also, the Lee manual and the bench press combo. Still room for improvement with this press, obviously. But it will give me another one to work with and something I'm sure I can find a use for later on even if I upgrade.

Lee .40 cal carbide 3 die set
Lee pocket primer brush/tool
Lee Auto Prime w/shell holder
Lee case lube
Will get more powder and calipers locally. (planning to look for W231)

I'll keep you guys updated on my progress. But I"m sure I'll have more questions before I actually start charging cases. I have about 20 ready for powder. Thx.

May 25, 2010, 11:24 PM
There is a legend from the 1960's about a cowboy who used his Lee Loader on bar tops to reload 30-30 for the local Indians, who provided their own brass and traded beers for his services. He would probably need the proper Federal FFL license as an ammunition remanufacturer to do that today.

May 25, 2010, 11:28 PM
There is a legend from the 1960's about a cowboy who used his Lee Loader on bar tops to reload 30-30 for the local Indians, who provided their own brass and traded beers for his services.
I saw a bumper sticker the other day: Native American, fighting terrorism since 1492. :eek:

OK, back to OP.

May 26, 2010, 09:49 AM
Thanks, the setup shown has everything I need to load for 14 different military calibers as well as .38/.357 including case prep (although I've gone mostly to a tumbler now). The thing I like about that setup is that it is completely portable. There is even a small cordless screwdriver in one of the drawers to make case prep easier. I can reload on the tailgate, on the bench, in the garage, the patio, the kitchen table, wherever. All I have to do is bring along the appropriate bullets, powder and primers (I NEVER have more components in the area than I am using for the load being made-less chance of mixup). Lately, since my wife has gotten into pistol shooting, we are looking at getting one of the Lee progressives or a Lee turret press and leaving it set up for .38/357. The rifle stuff I would probably still do by hand press tho, just because I like the feel and sensitivity and hands on experience. I also have a small collection of LeeLoaders and occasionally buy ones that are unusual or odd, just because that's how I started and I'm nostalgic.

May 26, 2010, 10:56 AM
Both 9mm Para and .40 S&W headspace on the case mouth so you dont want a crimp like the FCD provides but rather the taper crimp that the seating die does. So you won't need the FCD for either.

The factory crimp die does taper crimp 45acp and 9mm. There is nothing wrong with using a FCD, OP. Lots preach against and lots for it. I have one for two calibers I reload, but I only use them with one particular bullet combo in each caliber.

May 26, 2010, 11:14 AM
I am not a FCD fan, as many here know, but ljnowell is right, the FCD for 9MM and .45 ACP does a taper crimp, and, properly applied, will not hurt a thing as far as the crimp goes.

Jumping Frog
May 26, 2010, 05:11 PM
The biggest bargain I know is the Lee Anniversary Pack (, Lee part number 90700.

The kit includes the Richard Lee book, Modern Reloading combined with the Lee Reloader Press. ( sells the book for $13.99. Wideners sells the Lee Anniversary Pack (|212|237) consisting of the book plus single stage reloading press for $20.40. What is not to like about a single stage press for $6.41?

I know you can use the hand press kit. But for a $6.41 single stage press, you will soon find the press is a lot easier to use.

May 26, 2010, 06:34 PM
I loaded at least 10k pistol rounds on one of those little lee loader bench mount presses. Still works good.

May 26, 2010, 10:15 PM
I loaded 10k plus on one of those presses in the last 18 months. :} I do all my case prep on one and load on the other. I really need to dust off the loadmonster and use it more, but I have too much time on my hands :o I am only loading pistol rounds now, but I have loaded over 15k 223 & 8k 308 on the reloader presses with no issues. It is definitely the most value priced press out there and with the book it is a no brainer.

Jumping Frog
May 27, 2010, 09:17 AM
I loaded 10k plus on one of those presses in the last 18 months. :} I do all my case prep on one and load on the other. I really need to dust off the loadmonster
I usually load on my Loadmaster, but I use the Lee Reloader press pictured above to size my cast bullets and to full-length size cases before I trim them. I don't usually load ammo on in, but I have done it just to see how it worked (It worked fine).

May 27, 2010, 08:34 PM
The C press above was added to my final order, which I posted above. Thanks for pointing out I could have gotten it cheaper. Not much thoo. It's all good. Can't wait for this order to come in so I can get started.

June 3, 2010, 10:28 AM

Order from Midway is in. Still got some reading to do but I am about ready to load some cases. I'll be using Green Dot, 125grn FMJ, and CCI 500 primers in Winchester and/or Blazer brass. In the manuals I have there is no load data for this combo. Anyone have another source. Also, any advice as far as weighing/measuring powder are appreciated. Have the Lee Safety Scale and the dippers. TIA


June 4, 2010, 05:34 PM
Loaded my first rounds yesterday myself! Using the hand press, it works well, and it is very compact. I managed to fit everything I use for reloading in a medium size toolbox, sans primers and powder, which I store separately. Did a hundred rounds in one hour, but that includes the trimming I had to do to change a 9x19 to a 9x18. The trimming was easily the most time-consuming part. I can honestly say I am hooked for life!

I did run into an issue with the Harbor Freight Digital Calipers. My set was off by approximately 0.011". I'll be purchasing a different set asap.
I'm using the Lee perfect powder measure and the Lee scale. I also have the dippers, but the powder measure works better for me.

June 4, 2010, 08:15 PM
Harbor Freight Digital Calipers. My set was off by approximately 0.011".
Can't you just re-zero? Or is it more wrong than that?

My complaint with Harbor Freight Digital Calipers is the fragal plastic hub that holds the thumb wheel. It breaks easy, if you don't baby it (I'm on my second pair, first were replaced for free). On "real" calipers that part would be metal. But, what the heck. Paid less than $20 for them.

June 5, 2010, 12:38 AM
I can re-zero it, but when I measure something with it, it is off. The discrepency increases as lengths get longer. At what should be .710 inches, it reads .699, give or take .001. perhaps the mechanism is calibrated wrong.

June 5, 2010, 08:03 PM
On 9mm, I think a huge number of people set their dies so that they expand the mouth just enough to get the bullet to seat without "shaving" the sides, then set their seater or crimp die to JUST take out the expansion. (so that the brass comes back to fit snug on the bullet at the mouth)

I bought EVERY Lee crimper die and tried them, and all they did for me was scuff up the mouth of the brass, so I quit, and just adjusted my lee seater so that it JUST touches the mouth, and smoothes it back to the bullet. You will see a tiny (<1mm) band of bright brass, right at the mouth, when it is set that way.

You can turn the die down toward the brass until you feel it hit the mouth to get a feeling for where it should be, and then fine tune. Sierra manual recommends AGAINST what I am doing, but it sure works fine. I've done hundreds and hundreds of 9mm this way, and I bet I am just a piker. I quit worrying so much about the crimp stuff immediately.

I am using Berry's 124 grain plated bullets for the above. I can't speak for other projectiles, but it has worked well for the Berry's. I only need three dies: full length resize, expand/charge, bullet seat/crimp. Also, I finally went to the lee turret press (4 holer, with auto index) for pistol ammo (still do rifle on single stage press) -- wow, what a nice press.

Have fun and stay safe!

June 5, 2010, 09:14 PM
If it helps anyone, I spent a little more money and bought a set of General digital calipers and have been really happy with them. So far right on the money for every known quantity I've measured. And I've heard mixed reviews but the little MTM digital scale has been real good to me as well. I still continuously crosscheck with my Lee scale and known test weights and it seems pretty accurate. There are a couple of glitches in the program that cause it to jump in .2 increments in a couple of measurements instead of .1 (for instance jumps from 21.9 to 22.1 gr., I've heard it's a software issue.) increments but is still consistent from load to load so I can live with that for the price.

June 5, 2010, 10:34 PM
For a scale. Ditch the cheap digital, lee safety scale if that is what you are using, and buy at the least a Lyman Pro 500. I had too. I noticed that my Lee Scales and such were way off from round to round. With the Lyman no big deal. It works great.

Another tip for plinking and 9mm loads. I load 9mm, and I use 5.0 grains of Unique for a 125 gran Conical FP. I took a shot primed shell, and loaded it with 5.0 grains of Unique. I then marked where the powder was inside the shell. I took a dremel and cut the shell down. Soldered a brass handle to the shell that I cut to hold 5.0 grains of Unique, and I only use that now to dip my loads, and scrape level. Works great, safe, and checks out every time. Cut my time down a lot. Just an FYI for ya.

June 5, 2010, 11:19 PM
Jason, A few things that I have learned over the years reloading straight wall pistol brass.
Cleaning primer pockets is a waste of time.
All ways tumble brass with the spent primer in place.
Clean brass will help your dies last longer.

June 6, 2010, 12:08 AM
I agree with all three of those things.

I suspect if you were shooting Bullseye, it would help to clean primer pockets, or shooting very long distance, and had a firearm capable of great accuracy, and were a tremendous pistol shot, and......well, I don't clean mine.

June 6, 2010, 05:30 AM
You've got about the same set-up I've got.

Lee Hand press, 9mm (and 38) dies, Lee Powder Measure and scale, chamfer tool, case trimmer and lock stud, primer pocket cleaning tool, auto primer, and Lee's loading manual.

I don't load a lot, and I don't have a lot of room to work with so I like this setup. I can set up on the kitchen table in a couple of minutes, then pack everything back up in the box when I'm finished. (I screw the powder measure to a board rather than the table.)

One thing I do keep handy is a small flashlight. It's probably a result of my lighting, and old eyes, but I find the Lee scale hard to read without it. Shine a flashlight on it, and it's no problem.

June 6, 2010, 09:48 AM
Jason, where do you live? One of us might be close enough to help you out.

June 6, 2010, 02:57 PM
Thnks for the continued suggestions guys. Didn't want you to think it's not being read. I appreciate all the comments and I've already learned alot from you all.

Today I actually got everything set up for the first time. Experimented with weighing some powder earlier and now i've been loading empties, trying to get the crimp, oal just right. Having the extra press has really been great.

Anyway, not sure if I'll actually charge any cases today but I'm still open to any suggestions of how many grains of Green Dot I should put behind these 125 FMJs. Initially, I'm purely interested in getting something that will hit paper. Will work on tweaking later. Thx again.

June 6, 2010, 09:32 PM
According to my Lee manual-

The recipe for a 9mm Luger is:

125 gr jacketed bullet Small standard pistol primer (brand not specified) 5.0 gr. Green Dot starting load, do not exceed 5.2 gr.

Should give you a velocity between 1106 and 1150 with a maximum pressure of 32100 psi.

Make sure you check this against another source.

June 6, 2010, 10:16 PM
Thanks alot Sniper! I got that one from the Lee manual too. Seems high compared to some others I've seen. Some as low as 3.8. Not sure at the moment where that one was from. I am trying to cross reference everything like you suggest.

I tried seating a few rounds today. Most of them had a hardly noticable ring/bulge in the case around the base of the projectile. Never did figure out what exactly I was doing wrong but I didn't have much time to experiment today. I'll get it one of these days, I guess.

June 7, 2010, 12:22 AM
Do you shoot a Glock? That bulge is due to the way the chamber is designed and is sort of a hallmark of Glocks. It has to do with poor support around the head. I believe Lee started making a special kit for bulged cases called "The Bulge Buster" but it is not available in 9mm because the case is tapered. They are trying to find a way to get one out for the 9mm. If you're shooting a Glock just go ahead and process them normally and they should work fine in the Glock. The .40 seems to be the caliber that experiences most of the feeding problems with the bulge.

June 7, 2010, 11:01 AM
Yes, I do shoot a glock. And, I just saw the other thread on the subject of this issue. I did make several powderless rounds and they seemed to chamber and cycle properly by hand. Thanks again for your help!

Ranger Green
June 7, 2010, 11:36 AM
Another very usefull tool is a case guage. If you get one for each caliber you can "test" your loaded round for proper dimesions ( including proper/acceptable crimp) just by seeing if they fit into the guage. When I started out I loaded a lot of ammo that had a corrdect crimp but a serious mistakle. I caused an bulge below the case mouth which made my rounds unusable. They would not chamber the whole way due to the bulge stopping the round with 1/16" to go. A case guage helped me ensure my cooorect crimping procedure would work. I do not load without one and have never been forced to go home from the range with bad ammo since.

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