Without fail, when I’m at the range, picking up spent brass like a squirrel coming off the Jenny Craig Diet, people always ask me if I reload. The very next comment, again without fail, is something like “I’ve always wanted to do that. How much does it cost to get started?”
Reloading is one of those things that a lot of people are interested in doing, but there’s a learning curve and getting the gear you need to start can be pricey. With that in mind, we got to chatting with the folks at Midsouth Shooters Supply. The topic of discussion was whether you could get started reloading your own ammunition for less than $200.
We check out the Lee Breech Lock Challenger Reloading Kit
With that goal in mind, I decided to check out the Lee Breech Lock Challenger Kit. As the name implies, it’s a collection of gear, that in theory, will allow you to get started reloading without buying extra stuff. The kit itself sells for about $120 at Midsouth Shooter Supply, but you’ll need a couple of other caliber-specific components. Let’s plow forward and see what you really can do for a couple hundred bucks.
As I started to unpack and digest all the stuff included, I was surprised at the variety of tools that come in the box. Without getting into all the gory detail (yet) the contents of the kit allow you to:
- Perform case operations like depriming, resizing, belling, and crimping.
- Weigh powder charges or anything else for that matter.
- Dispense a bunch of powder charges of the same weight.
- Trim cartridge cases back to proper length.
- Chamfer and deburr cartridge case mouths.
- Insert new primers into conditioned cases.
- Remove primer pocket crimps (sort of – more on that later.)
All considered, just about everything you need to reload rifle or pistol calibers is in the box. There are three things not included, and most of those are the caliber specific stuff that can’t really be included anyway since the Lee folks don’t know which caliber you’ll be reloading. Those components are:
- A die set for resizing, belling the case mouth, seating bullets, and crimping. That’s a caliber specific thing, so you’ll have to buy your own.
- The dies for the case cutters. The kit includes two different case trimming tools, so you’ll need to buy either the Quick Trim case trimming die or the case length gauge and pilot depending on which trimmer you want to use.
The only tool that I think you need that’s not included is a caliper. While the caliber-specific Lee cutting tools automatically trim the case to the correct length, you’ll still want a set of calipers to measure overall case length when you seat a bullet.
Let’s take a quick tour of the reloading process using the included gear.
The press itself is light but plenty sturdy for sizing rifle cases. After mounting it to a bench using three bolts, the first thing I did was assemble 100 rounds of .308 Winchester. Even during the resizing step, which requires a bit of force, the press worked fine. One thing I did notice was that this press wouldn’t “cam over” when it reaches the end of its travel. Instead, the lever comes to a hard stop. For this reason, you need to pay attention to make sure you complete each stroke to a full stop at the very end.
The powder scale is a classic beam style with what feels like an aluminum base. Most of the beam itself is plastic. A steel ball drops into a series of pockets to measure the ten-grain increments while a plastic slide sets single and tenths grains. I compared accuracy with a higher end digital scale I have, and it was perfectly acceptable.