My very first set of reloading dies were LEE 44 Magnum pistol dies that came with the LEE Pro-1000 press that I started out with. Since then, I’ve acquired many more sets of LEE dies ranging from 30-06 to 9mm to 45 ACP to 357 SIG and quite a few in between. LEE Pistol Dies (technically handgun dies, but I’ll use the term “pistol” to cover both autoloader and revolver here) are some of the most popular dies because of their combination of features and value. In this post, I’ll cover the different die sets that LEE offers, compare features, and I’ll even show a demonstration of setting up some dies on a progressive reloading press!
We’ll start with the video:
As you saw in the video, LEE pistol dies come in a 4-slot case with room for the included shellholder and dipper. The lid will lock shut when closed, or can be “slipped on” without locking if you rotate the lid 180 degrees.
As seen in the picture above, the included instruction sheet (which is quite comprehensive) has the cartridge specification on the end-flap that hangs down so that you can see which die set is which when they are stacked on your shelf- a nice touch. Here’s a detailed view showing the fully-featured LEE Deluxe 4-die set, and which dies are included:
This diagram illustrates the features and cost associated with each set: (all dies in list use standard 7/8″ x 14 TPI threading)
Note: if you look around, you’ll find deals on LEE pistol dies that are well below the MSRP prices listed above!
All of the LEE pistol die sets include:
- Hard case with clear lid
- Instruction sheet
- Dies (see chart above)
- Powder dipper
So you might be wondering: will LEE pistol dies work on my press? The answer is: most likely yes! Here’s some considerations:
- Your press needs have 7/8″ x 14TPI threading- most do, with the Dillon Square Deal B being the notable exception.
- You’ll need at least 4 stations to use the 4-die set, and three stations to use the 3-die set.
- If you are not using a LEE powder measure (examples would include the Auto-Disk and Auto Drum measures) you’ll need to make sure the powder-through expander has the funnel adapter screwed all the way in (providing a solid stop for expanding case mouths, no powder-through in this case) and that you have an extra station for the powder measure (4 stations for a 3-die set, and 5 stations for a 4-die set).
There are other minor things to consider like clearance between the factory crimp die and your ejector wire (bottom of die can hit your ejector wire), but those issues are rare. Another consideration is the diameter of the lock rings. As an example, on the Dillon XL-650 5-station progressive press the die spacing is very close, so you may need to use smaller lock rings (such as the Dillon lock rings which are affordable).
LEE pistol dies are great, and in many setups I use I mix and match dies. For example, it’s nice to have extra seating/crimping dies so that you can separate your seating and crimping (or just buy a 4-die set!). I also like the chamfer on the inside of the LEE carbide sizing die because it can center case necks better in some situations. In the end, die setups are a personal thing, and you’ll have to experiment to see what works best for you. If you choose to experiment with LEE dies, the good news is you don’t need to spend as much is most other die sets!
Do you use LEE pistol dies? I’d love to hear your setups, your experiences, and any tips/tricks that you’d like to share. Please leave a comment!