Getting into reloading is intimidating. To avoid ending up with a workbench cluttered with dust-collecting dies and presses, you want to make a good initial decision on equipment, but it can be difficult to avoid buying gear that you’ll outgrow quickly or find too complex in the beginner.
If you’re not entirely sure where to start, I think the Lee Classic Turret Press Kit is the best option for the money. Despite shortcomings, this setup-in-a-box will meet the needs of most handloaders, without breaking the bank, for their first years reloading.
The Classic Turret Press Kit’s MSRP is $300. I purchased mine for $270. The box contains almost everything you need to start reloading.
- Modern Reloading, 2nd Edition – All reloaders need a manual (but are better off with two). Lee’s manual is okay if you’re just starting out because it goes into surprisingly little detail on the process of loading ammunition. You need to use the leaflets that come with the equipment to get the full picture of actual handloading.
Lee’s manual supplies lots of load data in an easily-readable format. Their data also exceeds some manuals in terms of ranges of bullet weights and powder types, which is a boon to experienced reloaders.
Worth noting is the overall tone of the book. Written entirely by Richard Lee, the style is conversational and littered with personal anecdotes that give the book more personality than other reloading manuals. It’s refreshing, but I don’t know how helpful it would be to someone brand new to handloading. The Lyman manual provides better detail on the process of handloading broken down into individual steps. The occasional rambling-style of Lee is a lot more fun, but less informative.
Overall, I don’t think it’s the best reloading manual for neophytes just getting into the hobby, but it will serve initially. I strongly recommend making the $20 investment on Lyman’s superb 39th edition guide. The writing is purely lawyerese, but provides the perfect partner to Lee’s book.
- Lee safety scale – This is a beam scale that will work well enough for most beginning reloaders. It is extremely sensitive, able to detect minor changes in grains, but tends to wander its calibration with handling. Even with the beam magnetically steadied, it’s finicky to work with, requiring far more attention than electronic scales.
This is a piece that I would recommend upgrading, especially if you’re reloading for precision rifle shooting where ultra-consistent powder loads are critical. However, for the beginning reloader, this is a perfectly functional component of the kit.
- Case prep tools – In a blister pack you’ll find you get a case cutter, lock stud for the trimmer, chamfer tool and primer pocket cleaner. There’s a case of lube included as well to round out your case prep needs. These tools are all passable but time-consuming and the primer pocket cleaner wears out after a few thousand pieces of brass. I’ve found they work fine but for a high-volume rifle reloader I would consider investing in a quicker trimming unit.
- Large and small safety primer feed – The Turret comes with an attachment that bolts onto its corner, allowing you to suspend one of these priming arms. The two feeds have a disc that holds primers and feeds them into the Ram-Prime. When your press is at the top of the stroke, you push the arm forward, and then push a button on the end of the priming arm. This causes the feed to release a primer into the Ram-Prime.
While they are well constructed and plenty durable for plastic parts, they don’t release primers reliably. You need to be in the exact correct spot, and then, occasionally, something goes wrong with the feed and pushing the button produces no results. Other times the primer is upside-down. Sometimes, the feed gums up so badly you have to stop and tear the thing down to resolve the issue.
This is hands-down the worst part of the kit. It’s workable but it was the first thing I replaced. I recommend investing in a good hand primer to save yourself time and frustration.