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Thread: BUILDING a 12 Gauge Lee Loader

  1. #1

    Cool BUILDING a 12 Gauge Lee Loader

    Unfortunately, they stopped making the Lee Loader hand-loading kit for 12g at some point, much to my (and others) annoyance. They still make them for rifle and handgun, but not for shotshells.

    I've seen people using them on youtube videos, and I've seen a few for sale on ebay, but they're becoming rare and the prices are going up (plus I have postage to deal with, because I live in Atlantis, aka Australia).

    So I thought I'd just build my own kit.

    Most of the parts are easy enough to put together. A wooden dowel, a quarter inch bolt, a block of wood with a washer on it and a hole drilled through or even a stack of washers glued together (for de-priming), a flat surface (piece of steel or hardwood). I use cut-down brass of various calibres as powder measures, and I load black powder for my old 1890 double barrel hammer gun, so I'll be running a square load (same volume of powder as shot) - so that's just one measure, which is a bonus.

    The last bit is the crimper. I can see from the pictures it's a steel tube, and the dowel (sized to fit inside the shell) fits down inside one end to finish the crimp, but it also starts the crimp... I assume it has a cone-shaped inside to do that?
    Anyone got any ideas how to replicate that?
    Do you have the 12g Lee Loader and you can take a pic of the inside of the crimping tool?

  2. #2
    Boolit Master

    Wayne Smith's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Hampton Roads, Virginia
    Get a crimp starter from any of the shotgun loading machines and use it by hand. Or do a roll crimp over a card wad - roll crimpers are often found on e-bay.
    Wayne the Shrink

    There is no 'right' that requires me to work for you or you to work for me!

  3. #3
    Boolit Bub

    gds45's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Orange County, The Communist State of NY

    Cool 12 gauge lee loader

    Click image for larger version. 

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    You are looking up inside the Lee "Body" at a small ledge near the top. The ledge has a slight bevel that as you push it down on the shell it starts the crimp. The next picture shows the "Rammer" that you push down through the top of the body to finish the crimp and set the slight indentation on the end of the shell. This is all done by hand pressure.
    What I didn't know when I bought it is was it was built for paper shells. It has a note in the directions that say "Plastic shells cannot be crimped without a starting die to reform the crimp." After you use the crimp starter you then proceed as above to finish the crimp.
    Hope this helps!!
    Last edited by gds45; 01-11-2018 at 06:19 PM.

  4. #4
    Boolit Master GhostHawk's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Fargo ND
    I'm with Wayne, you can find hand cranked roll crimper that will work fine.

    I use a gasket punch and cut my overshot cards out of white plastic milk jugs. You can get quite a few cards out of a gallon jug if your careful.

    Prime, charge, set your wad column, shot, overshot card, shove up into the roll crimper, push hard while you crank it 4-6 times, hey presto, finished shell.

    You can use clear plastic packaging, clamshell packaging if you want to see whats inside.

    I just use the white and write on it with black sharpie 6's, buck, slug, etc.

  5. #5
    Boolit Master

    Join Date
    May 2005
    Castlegar, B.C., Canada
    I have an old 12 ga. Lee Loader for 12 ga. Thats what I started reloading with. In those days you could buy the primers like pistol or rifle primes and put them in the old cup after punching out the old primer.

    Lee used to make nylon 6 and 8 segment crimp starters for use with a hammer. I have both.

    You punch out the primer + cup using the Lee Loader, punch the primer out of the cup (I used a finishing nail), use the Lee Loader and punch to replace the primer + cup, remove the hull to pour in powder, push the wad in through separate nylon wad fingers, shot/slug, then put whichever crimp starter suits on top of the hull and whack it with a mallet then reinsert the hull into the Lee Loader and use the big punch to finish the crimp. Slow but effective.

    Agreed, the roll crimp is likely a better way to go.

    Lee has stopped production but there are others:


    Well, "other" I guess. I was sure I had seen another one similar but can't find it now.

    Wouldn't be hard to make one if you have a lathe.


  6. #6
    Boolit Master
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    I started to load shotgun with an 12 ga and 410 one of Lee that the OP was talking about. If you where to like to make one yourself.I is to get most of the parts from Mec single stage loader and make the rest yourself.I had fix up one of my sisters for the 410 all she had to do is to get the parts that I told her from Mec and she would have her had loader almost like Lee. But she did not follow on it after. For some reason.If the Op like help on it PM me and I will help the out.
    Life Member of NRA,NTA,DAV ,ITA. Also member of FTA,CBA

  7. #7
    Boolit Master GhostHawk's Avatar
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    Mar 2014
    Fargo ND
    I made kits for both .410 and 20 ga for reloading brass hulls.

    BPI or Circlefly for wads. I have a small steel body man's hand anvil I use for priming, has 2 flat sides, others are different curves.

    Piece of dowel or even a whittled down tree branch for your pusher.

    Deprimer I used a hardened finishing nail set in a dowel. Set it on a 2x2 block with hole drilled in the end.

    With the brass hulls easy to glue in an overshot card.

    I have not loaded that many rounds total. Maybe 40 for the .410 and 25 for the 20.

    Some of those 20 ga loads are a .56 punkin ball. Need to test those out one of these days.

  8. #8
    Boolit Master
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
    I have the Lee 12 gauge classic kit (circa 1967) and both Lee 6 & 8 point star crimp starters. My dad's buddy gave us sever al clay pigeon boxes full of once fired paper hulls back then so I bought the Lee loader ($10.00 new). Worked great on paper hulls. I think Federal & Winchester were 6 point star while Remington was 8. Tried loading the plastic hulls later but even with the star crimp starters most times the finished crimp didn't fold evenly. Wound up sealing with candle wax.
    The loader kit has an aluminum adjustable shot scoop graduated in 1/8 oz. increments, and fractional drams for measuring BP.
    I haven't loaded with the kit in 40 years ( ran out of paper hulls) but do occasionally use the shot scoop.

  9. #9
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    W.R.Buchanan's Avatar
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    Mar 2011
    Ojai CA
    Yeah Lee stopped making those kits because the crimps always are challenging to get looking right, and they had too many returns on the product.. I have one and have played with it extensively and it just doesn't work very well at closing the crimp.

    You can get a roll crimping tool from BPI that works great and they come in every gauge.

    "It's not how well you do what you know how to do,,,It's how well you do what you DON'T know how to do!"

  10. #10
    I agree, I really like the lee loaders for handgun, and I assume the rifle works well, but not the shotgun. I've tried all kinds of tricks, they make shells, but they don't make them nice. The lee load all II is a big step up from a lee loader kit. I am a Lee fan, but the two places they need to improve most in my eyes are a good shotgun reloading press and a powder scale.

  11. #11
    Boolit Master
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Houston TX
    Hard to beat the Lee Load All for reloading small amounts of shotgun shells.
    Have MEC machines but still use the Lee Load All a lot.

  12. #12
    Boolit Master
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Northeast Tennessee Hills
    I had a 20 gauge Lee Load All and it would do a pretty decent job on a previously loaded hull. Just don't expect the same from New Hulls. For some reason, it just doesn't want to close the crimp tight enough to stay. It looks ok when you finish a loaded shell but a day or two later, the crimp is opening up and will allow the shot to fall out. Besides, Lee does not make a 410 Load All. MEC loads a better shell but you do pay for the privilege. my experience anyway, james

  13. #13
    Boolit Master
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Central VA
    The 20 ga Lee Load All I had was the only press, metallic or shot, rifle, pistol or shotgun, that I could never get to work to suit myself. While the Lee Loader for shot shells can be cantankerous, the OP is making the individual component tools to suit himself, so with any luck he should be able to make something to work on his specific application. Sometimes we folks in the "Land of the Free" forget the hoops our foreign brethren must jump through to do things we take for granted. The parts and tools mentioned in this thread that can be readily acquired at LGS or gun shows and tried, then modified or discarded if we aren't happy with them can be quite difficult to find and expensive to buy in OZ (or for that matter, Europe, the UK, South America, and elsewhere.) Combat Wombat (gotta love that screen name!) I wish you the best with your project. I bought a replacement crimp starter with proper number of grooves from MEC to use with a Lee Loader in 410, but the actual crimping punch is a mystery to me... I'll try to figure out how it is arranged.

    "It aint easy being green!"

  14. #14
    I moved several years ago and could not find my 12 Ga. Lee Loader. Looked all over the new house and garage, then looked on ebay and saw HIGH!!! prices, so I made a set. I have the machinery to do it and had a 16 ga. for reference. Even made a 6-point crimp starter from holly.

    Of course, after I made the set, I found the Lee set.

    Click image for larger version. 

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  15. #15
    Boolit Master

    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Atlanta, NY 14808
    "Even made a 6-point crimp starter from holly."
    Nice work.
    Micah 6:8
    He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

    "I don't have hobbies - I'm developing a robust post-apocalyptic skill set"
    I may be discharged and retired but I'm sure I did not renounce the oath that I solemnly swore!

  16. #16
    Boolit Master
    barrabruce's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Far Nth Qld Australia
    Plus 2 on that crimp starter.

    I made one for 410 shells.
    I use mostly brass cases and glue the over wad in with nail polish.
    I don't think they make plastic shells like they used to.
    Either they are real flimsy now or I have gained tremendous strength and was a master at reloading.

    I use a cylinder of plastic milk container or cardboard from primer packets as the shot cup sitting on a card wad just like ww super shells still do.

    A crumbled up piece of baking paper between the power wad shot wad
    Shoots reasonable groups and with home made swan shot cheap and available.

    At $80 a carton of 12 guage trap loads these days I'd doubt if I could even reload for that if I could get all the components.

    You can cut off the crimp petals and use thin over shot wad if you like and a small dab of nail polish works well or pva glue.

    Using the cases in only one gun/barrel certainly helps unless you want to resize things.

    Ohh gun was made for paper shells.
    Have you checked the length with fired plastic shells?
    I know the paper shells are shorter once fired and I doubt if you need the added pressure of trying to squeeze everything through a choked chamber at the start of the proceedings.

    Just a thought.
    Last edited by barrabruce; 01-15-2018 at 01:42 AM.

  17. #17
    Boolit Master GoodOlBoy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
    Deep East Texas
    Ok I know it is a minor point of order but I would like to point something out. "Lee" did not stop making the shotgun loaders. The Lee that made the shotgun loader was the father's company. Lee Custom Engineering inc. Which technically NO LONGER EXISTS.

    Lee Precision (which is the current company owned and operated by the son) does not, has not, and will not make the shotgun loaders. This was pointed out to me YEARS ago in a rather abrupt email from Lee Precision when I inquired about a single replacement component for a kit.

    Anyway Happy reloading, God Bless, and One Love.

    Last edited by GoodOlBoy; 01-15-2018 at 11:18 AM.
    Yes I can be long winded. Yes I follow rabbit trails. Yes I admit when I am wrong. Your mileage may vary.

    Keep your powder dry. Watch yer Top knot.

    "Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!"

    Yes there were "Short" 45 Colts! http://www.leverguns.com/articles/taylor/45_short_colt.htm

  18. #18
    Boolit Master
    barrabruce's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Far Nth Qld Australia
    This video shows the 410 reloader explained well.
    I didn't know it had a taper for crimp starting in one.

    Hope it helps

  19. #19
    Boolit Master
    Join Date
    May 2015

    It may be of interest for some of you, gentlemen!

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Abbreviations used in Reloading

BP Bronze Point IMR Improved Military Rifle PTD Pointed
BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
C Compressed Charge PR Primer SPCL Soft Point "Core-Lokt"
HP Hollow Point PSPCL Pointed Soft Point "Core Lokt" C.O.L. Cartridge Overall Length
PSP Pointed Soft Point Spz Spitzer Point SBT Spitzer Boat Tail
LRN Lead Round Nose LWC Lead Wad Cutter LSWC Lead Semi Wad Cutter
GC Gas Check