Who Makes the Best (or Worst) Reloading Equipment?

Copyright 2023 – Stephen Redgwell

Some brass and an arbor press with an LE Wilson inline seater

What do you prefer?

This article starts with a discussion about Lee Precision.

Some reloaders poopoo Lee products, claiming that what they make is substandard. To the people who hold that view I say, Lee could not have remained in business for over 60 years if that was true. They have some so-so products, but other companies are similarly afflicted.

Regardless of what you prefer, it’s always good to keep up to date with everyone’s equipment. If you see something and believe it’s junk, don’t buy it! We all have different needs and expectations. Everyone has a budget. So if you do not care for RCBS, Lyman, Redding or Lee, read about their products and stay current anyway. Sometimes, innovation comes from the strangest places!

What about Lee Precision? After a bumpy start as Lee Custom Engineering, Richard Lee reformed as Lee Precision. That was over 60 years ago. Since, Lee Precision has introduced thousands to the hobby of reloading. Starting with the Lee Loader and expanding into traditional die sets, presses and accessories, they have a long history of helping reloaders. That includes me.

If it sounds like I’m a fan, you’re right. Like many others, I started with a $5 Lee Loader, a wooden hammer and a pound of IMR 3031. Over the years, my collection expanded to over 30 sets. I even have a couple of his Zero Error Target Loaders too. You will have to use your Google Fu if you want to know more about them. The Target Loader hasn’t been made for years.

Lee Zero Error Target Loader

If you are too young to remember the glory days of the Lee Loader, no worries. You can still find new and used sets to try. Since the Lee Loader neck sizes only, it’s best to use them only for bolt action or single shot rifles.

The simplicity of the design makes it easy to size case necks and seat bullets with little or no runout. The Lee Loader is an inline seater, which explains why runout isn’t a problem, but for hunting ammunition, runout is rarely a concern.

So I like Lee Loaders and their press mounted, collet neck sizing dies. I find the “Quick Trim” case trimming system easy to use. Their Universal Expanding Die works a treat for flaring case necks with both cast and jacketed bullets.

The Lee bench scale is a love it or hate it item, but makes a great, inexpensive back up.

The Lee powder scoops compliment any reloading bench, making it easier get to the right powder weight. Add a powder trickler and you’re in business!

Lee Ram Prime

I also like their bench mounted, single stage presses. The first one I bought was called the Lee 2001. I purchased it sometime in the 1980s because I needed a bench mounted press to speed up my reloading process. I was shooting a 303 British in competition and the Lee Loader wasn’t fast enough. It got its name because Lee Precision guaranteed it until the year 2001. Mine has never broken, despite heavy use.

Lee Ram Prime

The Ram Prime is an “on press” priming tool that comes with a large and small primer holder and and a screw in attachment for the shellholder. Ii should be on every reloader’s bench in case their favourite priming tool breaks. You need a cheap, virtually unbreakable back up!

The Lee shellholder set is inexpensive and gives most reloaders all the shellholders they will need.

www.leeprecision.com You can nose around here for a description of their products.

To be fair, I am not a fan of everything Lee makes. Like any company, there are some duds. For me anyway. (No pun intended)

I don’t like the Lee Zip Trim and prefer not to use their seating dies. Where possible, Wilson in line seaters are my die of choice. Forster seaters are second.

Wilson In Line Bullet Seater

I don’t care for Lee’s progressive presses. When I need a little speed, I have several single stage presses, all by different manufacturers.

RCBS Rock Chucker press

I use an RCBS Rock Chucker for full length resizing or neck sizing with a collet die. A couple of years ago, I got a Lyman Brass Smith Ideal press for priming, case neck flaring, case neck expanding with a mandrel and cast bullet bullet sizing. I wanted a smaller press that I could use on my portable reloading bench. It’s a cast press, and for what I expect, it’s overbuilt! (Don’t tell Lyman!) My trio of presses finishes with a Redding Boss. I use it when using the Forster seater.

Of all the die companies, I like Redding the most. Depending on the cartridge, I regularly use their body dies and a couple of full length bushing dies.

Satern funnels and 21st Century Innovations decapper

I have a decapping die made by 21st Century Innovations. This is important because 6BR cases have smaller, 0.057 inch diameter flash holes. The standard Lee decapper is too big.

I use an arbor press for my Wilson bullet seaters.

I don’t care for plastic powder funnels, so I use Satern aluminum funnels. They are well made and don’t suffer from static as much as the cheaper, plastic forms.

Forster Bullet Seating Die on Redding Boss Press

I still use my old 2001 (Challenger) press, but only for decapping with a Lee universal decapping die. After close to 40 years of use, it was relegated to light duties.

Lee 2001 Press – Now called the Challenger Press

Since the 1970s, my equipment and technique has evolved, usually because of innovation introduced by many companies. It is always to your advantage to look around and see what is available and what is new.

I do not believe that you should only use products made by a single company. That restricts you.

Where possible, I use Lapua cases. Failing that, I trust Starline. Remington and Winchester brass are no longer on the radar. If their quality control improves, they might make an appearance again though.

I have never condemned anyone because they used dies or accessories that I chose not to buy. I said this earlier, but it bears repeating – Everyone has different needs and expectations.

Whatever you use, keep exploring! Reloading is a journey, not a destination!