Survival Reloading: Lee Loader Review for Basic Survival Conditions

Lee Pistol reloading kit in red plastic kit

For those just getting started with reloading, a “round” of ammunition is composed of the case, typically called “brass” and usually made of reloadable brass, an appropriately-sized and powered replaceable centerfire primer, the powder, and bullet. The whole process of a detonating round is simple; the hammer in the gun hits the firing pin, which hits the primer that detonates a small explosion to ignite the powder. In turn, the burning of the powder builds pressure inside the round in the chamber and pushes the bullet down the barrel.

By Major Pandemic Closed Lee Pistol reloading kit in red plastic box Technically, in a survival situation, the only thing required to reload a round is to just knock the primer out of the case, replace it with a new primer, add powder, and seat a new projectile. However, additional steps deliver a higher quality, more accuracy, and consistency. Obviously, someone figured out that you did not need to do one function at a time and the progressive reloading machine was created.

Progressive reloading machines can deliver a finished round every couple seconds. A single-stage press does one function at a time in a more labor intensive, but more controlled, fashion at a production rate of around 2 rounds a minute. The Lee Loader is basically a brilliantly redesigned, pocket-sized single-stage press that can produce stunningly accurate and consistent rounds, but it does it at a fairly slow pace. For basic survival-level reloading, the $30 Lee Loader is the only practical option for a packable pocket-sized reloader, and it is available in a broad array of mainstream calibers.

Fit, Feel, Finish & Features

Lee made a name for itself as a quality reloading tool company that delivers big on value. Where many other companies base model progressive reloaders start at over $500-$1000, Lee’s is less than $200. Not only does it offer the value option for progressive reloaders, Lee also offers some unique reloading tools that no other manufacturer offers including a hand press and this pocket sized $30 Lee Loader.

Lee Pistol reloading kit in red plastic kit From the outside, the Lee Loader is packaged with the look of any of Lee’s red cased dies, but with everything you need in that little package to knock out the primer, resize the brass case, insert a new primer, flare the case to accept a bullet, add powder, seat a bullet, and crimp the case. It is all there in a durable all steel parkerized and chromed steel tool set which should last a lifetime or two of use.


How the Lee Loader works is a bit brilliant with several double-sided tools—main hard-chromed double-ended sizer/crimper, double-sided de-primer/shell holder, combined priming base/flat base/bullet seater, flaring tool, de-priming punch, priming/knockout rod, and powder scoop. By combining and flipping the dual sided tools, you can accomplish the entire reloading process with a limited number of dies and tools.

The step-by-step illustrations helped me understand when to flip this, knock that out, and put me into a pace where I could easily load 2 rounds per minute in a pretty efficient manner. I will agree, 120 rounds an hour is not burning it up. However, I would rather have a slow reloading method I can take with me than a high-speed reloader back at home.

Of note, making a round is like making a cake. You cannot just toss whatever amount of powder in the case and top it with whatever bullet weight and type you want and expect everything to go well. Most retailers sell what is in essence a recipe books for reloading with tried and tested recipes showing recommended minimum and maximum loads with this specific powder and this or that specific bullet. Disastrous consequences could occur if you just wing it.

Lee Pistol reloading kit in red plastic kit

Final Thoughts

The Lee Loader is actually the lowest cost reloading option to start reloading on any tailgate, stump, rock, or worktable. At a paltry $30, everyone should have one in each caliber firearm they own. The Lee Loader does give you some great options in a package no other loader can match. Most importantly, with just the addition of a bullet mold and a Leatherman, the Lee Loader gives me the ability to scavenge nearly any pistol round to create ammunition for my gun, and that is what I call being prepared.


Lee Loader Delivers de-priming, resizing the brass case, inserting a new primer, flaring the case to accept a bullet, adding powder, seating a bullet, and crimping the case to finish the round.

Includes:Lee Loader .38 Special (other caliber options available) – Pictorial Instruction Manual – Recipe card for some basic .38 Special Loads

What caliber is your favorite survival gun? How many Lee Survival Reloading kits do you need for to complete your survival preparations? Share your answers in the comment section.

Gas maskMajor Pandemic is an editor at large who loves everything about shooting, hunting, the outdoors, and all those lifesaving little survival related products. His goal is simple, tell a good story in the form of a truthful review all while having fun. He contributes content to a wide variety of print and digital magazines and newsletters for companies and manufacturers throughout the industry with content exposure to over 2M readers monthly.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (13)

  1. If you were in desperate need of gun powder (I don’t reload yet)could you cannibalize shot gun shells to reload pistol or Rifle Ammo?

    1. Ya as a last ditch or die option. BUT you could just a easy blow your self up. You don’t know what powder you have. Burn rates, PSI, ect. It is easy if you know what you have and use charts.Try it you will like it.

    2. Maybe—you would not know how much to use. It would actually be safer to make some black powder, as you will not get as much pressure. You could blow up your gun or worse by using an unknown powder. Many of your larger shot-shells are loaded with something like Red Dot, which is a fairly fast-burning powder to use in a rifle.

    3. I have a bunch of 7.62x54R and figure you could tear it down and use it to reload any 30 caliber rounds, but I’d load it lite and check for high pressure signs as you develop a load for for that unknown powder.

    4. There is very little powder that burns way fast for rifle use in shot shells so I’d save them as is.

  2. thank you, Robert. I appreciated your thorough and encouraging explanation. I will take your advice and give it a try. Your comment helped a lot.

  3. I talked to the Lee Loader people about a hand loader for the S&W.460 and they do not make it nor are they intending to. I like the concept but have always been reluctant to reload because it can get pretty complicated. What is the simplest set up a person could use to reload S&W .460?

    1. It isn’t really “complicated” to hand load. It is rather fun and once you read up on the basics, and gather all the components, it is quite enjoyable. If Lee doesn’t make your particular caliber( .460 ), check the other companies. Hornady has about every caliber made, and if not, you can have a CUSTOM die made for a bit more than an off the shelf set of dies. A basic kit to get started only costs about 300 dollars. But then you need the dies, brass casings, primers, powder, and bullets. For everything you’re looking at 500 dollars INTIALLY. Call cheaper than dirt, they will get you hooked up! That ammo is an expensive price if you by factory loads. But by hand loading it, it drops to about 35 or 40% of manufacturer costs, plus, it is “adjustable” meaning you can load them from mild to super hot!. A single stage press is the simplest to use, and the slowest production method. Look around and you may find a set up that someone wants to get rid of when they upgrade to a progressive press. Give it a try, if you get “into it ” ,then buy in bulk, 8 lbs of powder, 500 bullets, 1000 primers, etc. It brings down the cost. Sorry this is so long of a post! Good luck. And maybe find a friend that reloads to give you some guidance.

  4. Observed Vietnam aged sniper reload and fire at least 25 7×57 rounds was amazed at level of accuracy achieved with this simple affordable tool wow

  5. I bought a Lee Loader when I was 22 years old (That’s 45 years ago) and used it until a good friend of mine gave me a no name single-stage press. I used that press for more than 25 years. Now I have a Lee single stage press, Lee dies, etc. I have always been impressed with Lee quality and Lee prices. In this day and age, everyone needs at least the capabiolity to reload if the necessity arises. Pick a caliber, get a bullet mold and a Lee Loader, just like the author of this post has stated.

  6. I use one of these to de-cap and neck-size my fire formed brass for my sniper rifle. I then use my Lee C-Frame press for priming, bullet seating, and crimping operations. Cases are charged using a Lee Perfect Powder Measure. I can create high quality and extremely uniform ammunition. I have a Lee Pro-1000 progressive press for my handgun ammo. All high quality equipment at a reasonable price.

  7. Got mine 50 years ago. love them 12ga and 30-06.I don’t know about straight wall brass but on necked cases they do not full length size.Just the neck. If you fire them in the same gun they came out of this is not a problem. In other guns they might not chamber easy or at all.

    The Lee Loader is a must in your “bug out cave”. The only thing smaller and cheaper is for reloading shot shells. A long nail and a fat stick.

    Lee made one for me in a old caliber that had no dies. I sent them one un fired round and they copied it.

    Lee rocks. I still buy there gear.

  8. I have a Hornady Single stage press, and dies for my rifle and my EDC Glock 32. Just checked, but there is no .357 SIG listed. It would be nice if one was made. I would purchase two. Of these, one for each “go bags” I have prepared. Have hundred rounds of pistol ammo, and 60 rounds in each bag for my 7mm Remington Magnum rifle. Also have ten rounds of OO buck, and five slugs in each bag. A few knives, water purification etc.
    Hope they will make my pistol kit soon.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your discussions, feedback and comments are welcome here as long as they are relevant and insightful. Please be respectful of others. We reserve the right to edit as appropriate, delete profane, harassing, abusive and spam comments or posts, and block repeat offenders. All comments are held for moderation and will appear after approval.

Discover more from The Shooter's Log

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading