Field test of a real classic: Lee Loader in .45-70 Government – A very useful, complete reloading kit for under 60 euros from the STROBL.CZ range

The Lee Loader – the “Classic” monicker has been recently added by the company themselves in their website and catalogs – is possibly the most affordable centerfire ammunition reloading system ever devised and is available in many popular calibers for both handguns and rifles.

It has also been on the market for the last 60 or so years, having been introduced in the early sixties, and used to load millions upon millions of rounds. And as testament to the potential accuracy that can be obtained with the Loader, the Lee website claims that ammo loaded with it helped achieve a long-range shooting world record listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for more than seven years.

The contents of the Lee “Classic” Loader kit, with everything needed to reload ammunition, except the ammo components themselves… and a rubber mallet or suitable heavy object – even a smooth rock.

European online retailer, located in the Czech Republic offers tools for ammo reloading, sport shooting and hunting accessories; and also offers Lee products. Therefore, I ordered a .45-70 Government Lee Loader Kit from them, at a very affordable price of just over 56 euro plus shipping.

Hammering a case to resize its neck inside the Lee Loader die with a suitable, heavy wood 5x2” slab.

The Lee Loader resizes only the collet of the case, so it is important to note that the spent cases to be reloaded should have been fired in the same gun that we intend to reuse them with. 

Plus, the Lee Loader is indeed not recommended for long guns that normally require full length case resizing, such as semiautos, pump actions and… lever action guns! 

At the shooting range, I shot a Hornady commercial round in my Marlin lever action rifle, and recovered the spent case.

But, the .45-70 case is straight walled and it is possible that it may still work flawlessly with the rifle I wanted to test the kit with, a Marlin M1895 lever action hunting gun – and spoiler alert, in my case and gun, using standard and not exasperated loads, I can attest it works perfectly!

The already decapped case in the die, flush with the die rim – the neck has been resized. Time to seat a primer in the case.

The Lee Loader Kit from STROBL.CZ contains all the tools needed to load the cartridge – except for a hammer...

The kit supplied by STROBL.CZ contains everything needed, except the rubber mallet: the multifunction die, that is used to perform all reloading operations on the cartridge case, a “shell holder” of sorts that also allows for the correct stand-off used to allow for neck expansion when seating the bullet and perform decapping, a bullet seating tool that also is used to seat the primer, a decapping rod and a second rod that is used to perform other operations, i.e. remove the resized case from the die, and a powder measure.

Once primed, and removed the case from the die, the shell holder is used to offset the case in the die for powder charging.

Adding the appropriate reloading components to the kit, meaning primers, bullets and powder, plus the above-mentioned necessary rubber mallet – or a heavy piece of wood found lying around – allows the shooter to easily reload ammo in any situation. 

Seating a primer is easy, using the combination bullet/primer seating tool.

As a matter of fact, the Lee Loader reloading kit is so small and self-sufficient that it’s completely portable, something that the more advanced and expensive press-based reloading equipment is not.

The Lee Loader kit in .45-70 Government from the STROBL.CZ range in the field test

Actually, to prove this, I made a trip to my local shooting range with a box of Hornady Leverevolution hunting ammunition, a small bottle of powder (Hodgdon H322), some .45 Hornady HP 300-gr bullets, a box of CCI No. 200 Large Rifle primers and the kit itself. 

Bang! This case has been shot two times in the span of five minutes at the shooting range!

I shot a single round of the commercial ammo at the target placed 18 meters away using my Marlin M1895 lever gun, located the ejected spent case, found a slab of wood on the ground with which to whack with reckless abandon (LOL!) the reloading die and proceeded to fully reload that very same case on a wooden bench.

Placed a bullet in the die…. The bullet seating tool is hammered home, until the head touches the die rim. The bullet is seated. Adjustments should be made prior to make sure the reloaded round OAL is right.

The operation of hammering down a bullet on a primed and powder filled case may be unsettling at first, however the safety is surprisingly high. The primer is always protected since the shell holder is bored in the center, therefore the primer never contacts material except when it is seated in the case, plus a history of millions of rounds loaded and 60 years in the market without incidents attest empirically to the safety of this reloading die.

A reloaded round of .45-70 Government with the Hornady 300-grain hollow point bullet.

I admit I did not violently hammer down the die, as gentle taps actually did the job, and that I cheated a bit, as I needed more powder that the 48 gr of H322 that the 3.4 Lee powder measure would yield, so I had with me an additional 0.5 Lee powder measure to add another 7,1gr to reach a reasonable 55 gr that is a good ballpark load for the 300-gr bullet I had on hand for the test.

Using the Lee Loader in the field to reload the recovered spent case I shot moments before.

Remember to do your homework before attempting to reload, and always check safe loads in the powder manufacturer’s manuals.

I then loaded my gun with the round I just reloaded and immediately shot the cartridge a second time right there and then! I could write off the slight difference in POI due to the different load/bullet weight combination of the reloaded round vs. commercial, however, this is beside the point.

It is that easy to reload in the field! 

Once ready, the round of .45-70 Government will be loaded in the tubular magazine of the Marlin to check feeding and shot again at the target.

Moreover. There are many instances in which being able to easily reload on the range proves quite useful: experimenting with new powders or bullets, such as trying to find that sweet spot for maximum accuracy and speed. Of course, finer variables such as seating depth, run-out, neck tension etc are out of the possibilities of this very affordable kit, however it does speed experimentation up considerably vs. having to go back home to load more rounds according to the results obtained in the field. Obviously, this trade off has another disadvantage – that is, speed to load a cartridge. With practice, it is possible to reload a round in les than a minute – that is a long way from the speed of even a single turret press at home. 

The reloading process with the Lee Loader kit supplied by STROBL.CZ in detail

There are seven steps to fully reload a spent case. First off, start with cases shot with your rifle; inspect the cases for damage and wipe them clean as much as possible. Use a fully loaded factory round as a gauge for OAL and set the seating die on it BEFORE attempting to reload. Or, bring with you a caliper….

  1. Use the shell holder and gently tap out the spent primer with the decapping rod.
  2. Insert the spent case in the die to resize the neck and tap the case head until it is flush with the die rim.
  3. Place a fresh primer in the pipe shaped tool, cover it with the case still in the die and carefully tap the die to seat the primer in its pocket.
  4. Tap the primed case out of the die using the long steel rod.
  5. Measure the powder using the provided spoon (very possible that a second or even third powder measure spoon is needed to reach the correct charge) and fill the case.
  6. Place the filled case on the shell holder and slide the die over the case, then drop a bullet in.
  7. Place the bullet seater in and tap down until the primer seater cylinder is flush against the die.
The result on target of our reloaded cartridge.

Done! It takes about a minute to a minute and a half to fully load a cartridge. was very fast in shipping the die set to me and ships all over the EU, also a multilingual free consulting service is available via email and phone. 

The .45-70 Govt. Lee Loader kit is priced at 56.13 euro; actual price may vary based on local VAT and shipping.

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