A few years ago I got into the reloading game with Lee Loaders. These kits allow you to literally hammer together custom ammunition with little need for additional gadgets. But unfortunately, the pistol loaders resize the brass cases when reloading. That is good so you can use the new rounds in many guns, but it takes much more effort to drive cases into the die with the plastic mallet and with my arthritis I needed a better long term solution.
Enter, the Lee Hand Press. The Lee Hand Press retails for about $40 and is smaller than a 2 liter bottle of soda. It requires more to work than the little Loader kits but, it is still a fraction of the price of a conventional reloading press (which can run anywhere from $100-$800, depending on how complex the press setup is) without the need to clear and maintain a spot on your work bench. Originally, I bought the Hand Press to size cast bullets; however, I later picked up a set of dies and a Lee Ram Prime unit to load pistol ammunition.
The Lee Hand Press is a simple rig that features two arms on a hinge. One arm has a threaded ring for inserting the reloading dies and the other is a simple lever that pushes a central cam up toward the ring on the other arm. The central cam is milled for a shell holder that will hold the case as it travels up into the die. The whole process is tedious as reloading should be, but minimal force is needed to do each task on the press.
Lee Hand Press vs. Conventional Benchtop Press
I have reloaded some ten thousand cartridges with the Lee Hand Press. In that time, I’ve found the Hand Press has some upsides and downsides to using it, rather than a conventional bench reloading press.
- The Hand Press is relatively small in size and is easy to transport and use with no need for a dedicated space. A conventional press needs a bench to itself.
- While much faster than the Lee Loader, the dies are screwed into the press one at a time after the previous operation of depriming cases, bullet seating, ect. This ensures a minimum of mistakes.
- In terms of sheer speed, a conventional press will normally be faster at getting rounds made.
If you want to get into reloading without spending a ton of money on conventional presses, the Lee Hand Press is a great option to consider. It may be a compromise, but, for $40-odd bucks, it works well. Whether you are an occasional reloader, or someone who shoots thousands of rounds a year, the Lee Hand Press is a streamlined solution—for your ammo, and for your wallet.
Disclaimer: No matter how you reload ammunition you must consult a reputable reloading manual and determine what is best for your firearm. Your safety is your responsibility.