Lee Loader Vs. Lee Die-Loaded Ammo

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By Tank Hoover

When it comes to bare knuckle basics for loading brass cartridges, the Lee Loader is as elementary as it comes if you want to knock out some rounds with your own hands. All that’s needed is the Loader and a few accruements to reload ammo in the caliber of your choice. I use a LEE turret press to load 99 percent of my ammunition. I break out the Lee Loader a few times a year to stay “in touch” with these basic tools. I bring a kit or two on vacation, in case I get bored, feel the need to piddle, or stave off “Handloading Withdrawal Syndrome” (HWS) while away from my cluttered ballistic “laboratory” at home.

I place the proper powders in pill bottles to keep my kit small and compact. Bullets are stored in sandwich bags, and primers already come packaged in a flat, space-saving sleeve. A wood block is also packed to prevent marring the kitchen table of the rental unit. Lastly, a small plastic hammer, the driving force of the operation, is also packed. It all fits in a small ballistic nylon bag. My wife calls it my “Sanity Kit For The Insane.”

Whenever staying at the beach during summer vacation and I break out my survival kit to satisfy my handload fix, I become a lone trapper holed-up in a trapper cabin on my trap line, reloading ammunition to keep me safe and alive from any critters that could mean me harm — while my wife and daughter are basal-bombing laying out in the sun. But for me, there’s a blizzard blowing outside, a draft is coming in from missing chinking between the logs from a wily chipmunk, who uses it to insulate his nest, as the air conditioner blasts its coolness. The wind is howling, the mulligan stew is simmerin’ over a crackling fire in a cast iron kettle, and I’m tapping out my lifeline of cartridges for my trusty .45 Colt New Service. Hey! It’s my fantasy, I get to pick where I’m at, unlike my wife, who picks the beach every year for our vacation.

Good ol’ Hat Trick Roy, our trifecta fedora-wearing Publisher, Writer and Editor at Handgunner, did a great job doing a “How To” video and article about the Lee loader (http://americanhandgunner.com/reloading-38-special/). After watching it for the 28th time, I thought it would be interesting to do a comparison with ammunition loaded by the Lee Loader vs. a conventional press with dies.

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The two methods Tank used to load the cartridges for the head to head competition.
A LEE Classic Turret Press with LEE dies versus the ageless LEE Loader.

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The LEE Loader is a handy, compact kit, really cool and fun to load cartridges with.
It doesn’t get as bare bone basic as this folks, and it works! It comes complete with
easy directions, load chart and its own compact carrying case perfect for a kit bag
.

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You tell me the difference between the two results using different techniques!
I’m happy with either set of groups. For you spoil sports, the LEE Loader group
is on the right. Not that it makes a bit of difference with the results.

What’d We Learn?

So I load 50 rounds on my LEE Classic Turret press, using LEE dies and powder dispenser. I used the same dispenser to load the LEE loader brass cases for consistency sake, after they are sized, primed and flared with the Loader Kit. After the cases are charged, the bullets, cast and powder coated from the same batch, for uniformity, are seated and crimped, using the LEE loader kit and mallet. There is no measurable difference between brass sized with the Turret Press and dies and the Lee Loader sized brass. The crimps are identical between the two methods employed while the cartridges are assembled. Makes sense, since both methods are from the same parent company. Still, it’s good to know, to alleviate any doubt to the consistency of Lee Loader Hand Kits.

The caliber I chose for this competition was the tried and true .44 Remington Magnum. I would be shooting Miha 6 cavity mold #503, a Hensley & Gibbs reproduced Keith bullet mold dropping the prettiest Keith slugs ever, at a rabid, lead pot emptying rate. These bullets drop out at 265 grains with my alloy and are almost too pretty to shoot! Almost! For shoot them we do! The bullets in question were powder coated and loaded over 10 Grains of Alliant Unique powder and sparked by CCI large pistol primer. This is a pet load of mine clocking just under1,200 fps. Just as the proof of the pudding is in the eating, the proof of this experiment is in the shooting.

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Which Powder Coated Cast Slug was loaded with the LEE Loader and
the LEE Turrret Press with LEE dies? Bet you can’t tell.

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Tank tapping out some cartridges at the beach fantasizing he is a lone
trapper in Alaska. Cantcha’ just smell the musk of the trappers lure mixed
with mulligan stew wafting through the air? You can’t? Smell harder then!

I’m shooting a Ruger Super Blackhawk Hunter with a Leupold 2X scope mounted with Ruger rings supplied with the gun. All groups are fired at 25 yards, using a shot bag filled with walnut hulls (for easy transport) on top of a carpeted 4″X6″ block of wood. It’s a steady platform for sixgun shooting. I keep a piece of suede leather on top of the shot bag to prevent gas-cutting of the bag from the barrel/cylinder gap gases escaping from the gun.

Groups were shot, alternating each style of handloaded ammo. Several groups of 5-shot groups are fired, finished with a 10-shot aggregate group as a finisher for each group of ammo loaded.

You tell me the difference between the two types of ammo loaded because I sure can’t tell the difference, and I was there! This proves to me there isn’t a gnat’s butt of difference between the two. Pretty good stuff to know for those who want to start handloading, or just need to sneak a fix to prevent HWS while on vacation. Keep your lead hot and your powder dry Pilgrim, and have some fun while doing it!

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4 thoughts on “Lee Loader Vs. Lee Die-Loaded Ammo

  1. Garry

    I first got into reloading in 1979 with the Lee Loader too, also in .44 Magnum, loading for my Ruger Super Blackhawk.
    I think I paid less than $15 for my Loader back then. A box of 50 .44 shells was $20!

    Reply
  2. Jasper

    Reloaded for years using only a Lee Loader in .44 magnum. Worked great and found it to be extremely reliable and easy to use! Found it gave extremely consistent results with my favorite hunting load, also in a Super Blackhawk using a jacketed 265 grain bullet at 1425 fps with less the a 12 fps spread. At 25 yards it showed about a .6 inch group for 6 rounds from a rest.
    Nothing really special, but super for deer hunting and the like. Would reliably stay under 3 inches at 100 yards, although I would limit my shots to 40 yards or less at game animals.

    Reply
  3. Dougas Dopkins

    Tank, Did you weigh the powder or use the dipper when loading with the Lee Loader? The dippers always scared me. Are the powder loads consistent, etc.

    Reply
  4. Garry

    The Lee Loader got me into reloading in 1979. Mine was also .44 Magnum. Loaded for my Ruger Super Blackhawk. I paid less than $15 for the loader, and .44 ammo was $20 per box of 50, so it didn’t take long for the loader to pay for itself!

    Reply

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