Reloading can be a difficult thing to get into. It’s an area where there is a lot of choice, and where more experienced users forget how expensive and intimidating it can be to get into. I hear a lot of people claiming that the best solution for people new to reloading is to get a $1000 Dillon and the best sets of dies, case trimmers, tumbler, etc so they can “get the best to start with” and it’s bullshit. For someone new getting into reloading, the stages need to be well separated, easy to understand, form good habits, and get into it inexpensively. Some people will start reloading, think “well this is a waste of time, I only shoot x times per year” and quit. For this, and the reasons above, I’d always encourage beginners to start with a basic kit and move up from there. The LEE 50th Anniversary Kit is the most inexpensive way to get into reloading.
The primary piece of any reloading kit is going to be the press. With LEE, you get a basic O press called the Challenger. With the new breech lock challenger kit, they’ve upgraded the toggle links to be a lot beefier. Whereas the old toggle links could break with too much pressure (I’ve done it) the newer links are made of steel and will withstand a lot more abuse. For all new reloaders out there, don’t worry about the fact that most other manufacturers have bigger, beefier, much more expensive presses in their “beginner” kits. Those presses offer a smoother reloading operation, but it’s not like they’re going to make magic ammo. The reloads you make with this Challenger press are going to be just as good, and your short term reloading investment is going to be a lot lower. This press is best screwed or bolted down to a metal plate or sturdy wood surface. If you really need portability, screw it into the end of a 2X4, then clamp that 2X4 to the surface you temporarily used to reload. I used this exact technique for a few years of reloading, and it always provided a sturdy non-moving surface: important when you’re trying to feel out various reloading stages.
The Perfect Powder Measure
The powder measure that comes with the LEE Anniversary Kit has a decent sized hopper and can throw powder charges from the smallest pistol to the largest rifle cartridge. The charges are metered in a micrometer-ish chamber, cut off with a soft wiper, and thrown down a relatively short universal drop tube into the case. I’ve seen a few comparisons between powder measures that have shown that the perfect powder measure doesn’t throw quite as consistently a powder charge as others, but it’s almost a moot point. If you need ultra consistency, weigh each charge. If you don’t, weigh every 5th or 10th depending on the consistency you demand. If you’re so anal that you’re going to weigh every charge anyways (like one friend of mine), then the perfect powder measure is just as good as one that costs 10x as much.
Safety Prime System
Kind of a pain in the ass and one of those components that will do the job, but could be replaced with something like the auto prime or other hand held priming tool. I just dislike the number of actions that you have to take to prime each case, the fact that you have to setup your press to do it, and the clicky primer thing. It works, it’s just not nearly as slick as a hand priming tool that you can use while watching TV once you’ve got good experience on the tool and know what a primer should feel like when seating.
A marvel of inexpensive, yet precise measurement, the LEE safety scale covers setting up the perfect powder measure and confirming charge weight as you make your ammo. It really is as precise as they claim in the literature, and you WILL be unsatisfied unless you’re within a few kernels of powder of where you should be, because of how far off the scale seems. Any tool that encourages consistent, accurate ammo habits is a fantastic addition to a kit like this.
The anniversary kit comes with a few other accessories like primer pocket cleaners, case mouth chamfer tool, case length cutter, powder funnel, and some sizing lube. The kit used to come with a reloading manual, but with almost all bullet, powder, and reloading companies offering their reloading data for free online, I’d imagine LEE cut it out to save costs. To add on for each caliber/cartridge you want to reload, you’ll need:
-Case length gauge
-Cases, powder, primers, and bullets.
Can you get better presses, automated powder throwers, fancier chamfering tools, and more convenient case lube? Sure. But for the beginners out there, I really struggle recommending anything more than this kit. For a bit more than $100, you get the basic components necessary to start reloading. It’s your basic buy-in to see if you like doing it or not, and that’s worth something.
**The link to the LEE anniversary kit is an affiliate link. If you click on that link and buy something, I might get a bit of coin to help with hosting.