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Post subject: Re: Just ordered a Lee Progressive press
Post Posted: Thu Jan 03, 2013 9:42 pm
If someone is following this and considering a Lee set-up this is something I was thinking about today.

A friend that's thinking about getting into reloading asked me if Lee stuff was junk and I said no. That's the short answer.

Their stuff works fine for me. My first set was a lee breech lock challenger probably 10 or 12 years ago. Simple press, easy to set up, easy to use. I loaded a couple hundred rounds of 9mm following the instructions with the press, the dies, my manual and what I learned in a reloading class I took the day before. I took the loaded rounds to an indoor range and all 200 hit the paper and cycled the action in a few semi-autos. None of the cases were bulged after firing or anything, none of the rounds malfunctioned or caused the guns to malfunction or jam. Still had all 10 fingers at the end of the day.

I picked up as many cases as I could, took them home and reloaded them again. I was using the same kit that they still sell with not much other than a tumbler to clean the brass and a caliper. I think I used this kit for a few years, sort of got busy, moved a few times and lost the kit at some point. I have no idea what happened to it but with what I had invested in it, maybe $200, and the use I got out of it I could care less.

A few years after the press disappeared I started shooting alot and missed my old hobby so I bought the RCBS rockchucker kit. It looked nice and Vance's had it in stock so I took it home. Pretty much the same as the Lee kit as far as the content of the box but I think Lee has a few extras, like the shell holder set for their priming tool. The powder scale was much better built than the Lee one I had owned and so was the powder dispenser but they function exactly the same. I ended up getting rid of the RCBS kit and went back to a Lee single stage. I switched back because I liked the Lee better than the RCBS stuff. Part of this though, to be fair, is probably because I started on the Lee and used it so much.

The Lee scale looks like a toy. Sometimes the beam (or whatever it's called) gets stuck and you have to tap it with your finger. Most of it is plastic. The powder dispenser feels cheap when you're setting it up but it works fine. The primer tray is even worse... it is made with really flimsy plastic that looks like it would shatter if you dropped it. It also works fine and all of this stuff has a lifetime guarantee. Lee stands behind this stuff too, I doubt you'll ever see a customer service complaint.

This new kit is no different than the other stuff I've bought from them. It looks cheap and it feels cheap. As long as it's not flopping around the back of my truck or something though, I don't think it will break. If it does, I will send back the broken parts and they will quickly fix it or replace it for free. Still trying to find time to go get some bullets and powder to really get this thing running.

The thing that really sort of hit me today though is that Lee stuff is not for everybody. You have to be patient and you have to be pretty mechanically enclined. Things will get stuck, they will jam and they will need adjusted. This is not the kind of stuff anyone will brag about owning or show off to thier friends. It is good, american made functional equipment that requires a little extra time and effort to use, but produces the same results as equipment 5x the price.

If you want something to pass down through future generations, buy the Dillon or the Hornady or Lyman, RCBS etc. If you plan on reloading a ton of ammo and have plenty of cash to throw into it, buy one of those.

There are some pretty mixed reviews on Lee equipment. Some people love it and offer all kinds of tips on how to make the stuff work better and others just say it's crap and send it back. There is no doubt that the Dillons and other high-end kits are higher quality. If you put the two side by side one looks way cooler and nicer than the other. At the same time, if you put two loaded cartridges side by side I don't think anyone could tell you which press either was loaded on.

Joel
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Post subject: Re: Just ordered a Lee Progressive press
Post Posted: Thu Jan 03, 2013 10:20 pm
NRAInstructor wrote:
It is good, american made functional equipment that requires a little extra time and effort to use, but produces the same results as equipment 5x the price.


I agree 100%... and that is the advice I give people, if you don't mind "tinkering" you can get a Lee press to work just as reliably as the other brands at a fraction of the cost.

If you want something that will (most likely) work right out of the box then Lee might not be the best option.

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Post subject: Re: Just ordered a Lee Progressive press
Post Posted: Thu Jan 03, 2013 11:17 pm
The main key to the priming unit working is never let it run dry. Soon as the primers clear the end of the primer tray reload it. If you start getting misfeeds, just stop! Clean everything out using compressed air. Sometimes powder will find its way into the system if a prior shell casing didn't primer and powder fell out of the primer hole. Also the timing will sometimes get out of wack just a bit preventing the primer from feeding straight up and catching the edge of the shell, this usually manifests itself as upside down primers.

Use caution when priming and if it doesn't feel quite right Stop! Check it out, sometimes it's a crimped case with not enough chamfer for primer to Guide in. You can reload a large number of rounds with this press, when you find yourself flying along you might want to slow down, I guarantee you that at a fast speed you will eventually lean on the primer seating a little hard and will set one off.

A couple more hints if your interested, get some good light to shine right on the charged case and visually look for powder in case and the right amount, it's a cheap safety step. I verify every case before I set the bullet on the mouth. Another key tip is when you are done using the powder measure, if you're not going to use it in the next day, dump the powder back into the can. The powder measure is sensitive to any moisture and you will notice when shooting the rounds by under powered loads occasionally. Never trust the chart for powder charges, use only as a guide and measure each drop for the correct weight. I find I usually have to move up 2 discs with bullseye to get the correct weight.

This is a great press for the money, just remember when it starts going bad that it won't get any better! Sto, clean it out and start over. Your sanity will depend on it :)
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Post subject: Re: Just ordered a Lee Progressive press
Post Posted: Fri Jan 04, 2013 4:46 am
tcmcblane:

That's what I'm getting from my buddy with the new Lee.... He's a pretty decent tinkerer. He has noticed the primer feed problem already.

Joel:

Pretty much what I noticed with my buddy's Lee.... I already had $350-ish in hand (from selling a gun), so I had some "cushion" that let the Dillon look a little more favorable. About the only thing I can't justify is buying one press for each caliber :D. It is a lot more "truck jack" than toy, too - Dillon didn't spare the horses there. Another one of those "Lord, when I die, please don't let my wife sell these guns for what I told her I paid for them...." things....

(I have a camera tripod here that was very inexpensive, but overbuilt incredibly. Really awful "head", but a replacement would cost more than the tripod, but every camera I've ever owned - and I've had a few really heavy ones - is plenty light enough for this truck jack.... Fairly stable with an old fashioned VHS Camcorder on it at about 60% of full extension, which is "eye level" for me at 6'1"!)

Regards,

Stu

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Post subject: Re: Just ordered a Lee Progressive press
Post Posted: Sat Jan 05, 2013 1:04 am
One thing I am sure a LOT of Lee users do not heed, the owner of the co states in his book there are some brands of primers he feels should NEVER be used in bulk primer feeding devices, and I am quite sure many Lee users do not heed that warning. I do not recall the brands but I do recall reading it in the book.

I really like some Lee stuff, like the 6 cavity molds..............wonderful tool...and they are redoing all the 2 cavity molds into the same style of blocks. But some other stuff is pretty clunky...I have shared my feelings on their bullet seater dies....utter poop IMHO. I'm not fond of their handgun expander dies either...they are needed to make the powder measure work though.

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Post subject: Re: Just ordered a Lee Progressive press
Post Posted: Fri Jan 25, 2013 9:10 pm
Well, I slacked off for about a month but I finally got the thing up and running tonight after a trip to the local dealer for the missing components.

Just as I was expecting this machine is touchy so it took awhile to work out all the bugs and get everything dialed in. The chain provided broke. I repaired the chain using the connector that came with the press and that broke. The chain for the powder dispenser has been replaced with fishing line (I know, but that's what I had and it works). :)

The priming system gave me some trouble at first, but like others have said, keep the powder out of that area and keep the tray full! That seemed to help quite a bit.

I bought some cast 180 grain bullets and a pound of Winchester WST. The primers are now all seating properly after a few adjustments, the powder dispenser is kicking out exactly 4.0 grains and the OAL was exactly 1.135 on every single finished cartridge.

I don't like the disc things that come with the powder measure so I ordered the "micrometer adjustable charge bar" which is much easier to use and make adjustments to, I like it. Also had to replace the plastic case feeding tubes since the ones that came from Midway USA were broken but now I have a few spares so I'm in good shape.

The next step is to test fire a couple dozen of these and then come back and crank out about 500 if I like the load. After that I will get some pictures on here and more info for anyone that is interested.

Joel
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Post subject: Re: Just ordered a Lee Progressive press
Post Posted: Sat Jan 26, 2013 11:13 pm
So far so good! I ended up loading 30 of the first batch to test two full mags and they worked out great. Now that the press is set up and adjusted, I loaded about 200 rounds this afternoon. I had one primer jam and I think it was a user error.

Now I need to buy more bullets and make time for the range!

Also, if anyone has had trouble finding small pistol primers, BJs guns in Mt Vernon has some for $30/box and a decent selection of cast bullets. Buckeye Outdoors had some this afternoon but they were $39.99

Joel
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Post subject: Re: Just ordered a Lee Progressive press
Post Posted: Sun Jan 27, 2013 2:42 am
Joel:

Great!

Now you know why I like the Dillon, though - setup is probably just about as tough, but everything I really needed was in the box, and nothing broke immediately. I'm not sure anything can :D....

I'm still occasionally getting an inverted primer, and there's a trick to getting one seated properly eery time, but that's not a biggie. Dillon uses the "micrometer" style powder measure, btw. No calibration, but you have to turn a hex screw to set it up, and it seems to be stable. The disc system isn't going to be as precise, but for the average reloader, ought to be adequate, though. If you're trying to load 4.7gr, and it insists on dropping 4.6 or 4.8, as long as it's consistent, it shouldn't matter for the guys loading paper-punching rounds for casual shooting.

Filling the Dillon primer tubes is a bear (they'll sell you a tube loader for a pile - $314), but it works well enough. It seems possible to get a primer to flip itself while loading the tube into the tube that's built into the press. Looks like one can bounce off something and flip. The rest of the primers in the tube seem to be willing to fall as desired, though.

I don't know what Mike's stock of cast bullets is, but he had a mountain of lead when I was there last month. Primers and powder will be harder to find. I'm tempted to find a set of molds, and maybe a sizer & lubricator (and a furnace), just in case bullets get scarce, but who knows.

Ran into a guy tonight who can't find .40 and .45 range loads (FMJ's for a Glock). He needs to grab up a couple of "standard" barrels. (I think you can clean the stock Glock barrels adequately enough, too.) Really a good time to get into reloading.

I've been under the weather, and otherwise unable to get onto the range for about a month. It's starting to hurt :D.... Becka's in town and wants to make noise, too.... Some nights we shoot more bull than bullets, too, but I may have to re-think buying the conversion kit for 9mm for her....

Enjoy!

Stu

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Post subject: Re: Just ordered a Lee Progressive press
Post Posted: Sun Jan 27, 2013 9:23 am
yea the primer station on the lee auto loader sucks .. its very temperamental but i cheat...

what i do i tumble the brass actually i tumble it over night with jewelers rouge media ( its so shiny :D ) then i de cap and resize the shiny little turds .. now here where i cheat i prime them separately .. ill do 200-500 at a time with a hand primer its faster and works so much better .. then i feed them into the loading tubes and eliminate the depriming and the primer loading station on the press .. and just sit there and chug along .. after you get a few misfeeds and having to stop to clear the crap out and start all over i have probably saved numerous hours by just eliminating those two trouble spots..

and also by running the brass in jewelers rouge and by getting it so shiny it makes resizing the brass easier by reducing friction of the case and die

just a thought .. but try it after you cussed it out a few times you and the press will be one in bullet making harmony

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Post subject: Re: Just ordered a Lee Progressive press
Post Posted: Wed Jan 30, 2013 10:04 am
Ok, well I've loaded my first 500 rounds of 40 S&W on this press now. All in all I'm extremely happy with the purchase. Set-up was a little frustrating at times but now that it's set the way I like it and no need to adjust anything I have had very few issues actually running the press. The fishing line instead of a chain is working really well. I imagine it will wear out eventually but replacing it will be easy.

The biggest problem I had is around 10 of the 500 rounds I loaded did not have a fully seated primer so they got tossed in the coffee can of mistakes. This may be half my fault for being careful not to force anything in. Some just go in easier than others. The powder gets a little messy but not bad, I just need to clean the area after each session.

As far as the loads- I love em. I shot about 150 through my M&P and then field stripped the gun. The barrel looked like it did before I started shooting- no fouling at all. The recoil is extremely mild and they are all functioning perfectly.

A guy that works for me owns a Sigma in 40 and brought it to work yesterday. The weather was nice so we went shooting (yeah you could call me a pro-gun employer). He had a big grin after shooting a couple mags of these in his gun and ended up talking me out of 100 of them to take home.

Joel
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Post subject: Re: Just ordered a Lee Progressive press
Post Posted: Wed Jan 30, 2013 10:10 am
Rich 2.0 wrote:
yea the primer station on the lee auto loader sucks .. its very temperamental but i cheat...

what i do i tumble the brass actually i tumble it over night with jewelers rouge media ( its so shiny :D ) then i de cap and resize the shiny little turds .. now here where i cheat i prime them separately .. ill do 200-500 at a time with a hand primer its faster and works so much better .. then i feed them into the loading tubes and eliminate the depriming and the primer loading station on the press .. and just sit there and chug along .. after you get a few misfeeds and having to stop to clear the crap out and start all over i have probably saved numerous hours by just eliminating those two trouble spots..

and also by running the brass in jewelers rouge and by getting it so shiny it makes resizing the brass easier by reducing friction of the case and die

just a thought .. but try it after you cussed it out a few times you and the press will be one in bullet making harmony


I can see how that would work well. Do you just take the sizing die completely out and run them through normally? I think I may have lucked out and got a good priming system on mine but I will keep this in mind if I have trouble.

ETA: Stu, I'm not saying this is a great idea but the guy that casts the bullets I'm using is local and he swears he shoots them in his standard Glock with no fouling. The load I mentioned using came from him, though I did verify the charge and OAL through a couple scources before I shot them. The load seems to be on the low end but it cycled the actions in both full size pistols perfectly on every shot. The powder choice and charge may have something to do with how clean these loads are.

Also, thanks for the lighting suggestion above. I saw this on a youtube video also and it is a good idea. I ended up mounting a clamp light with a flourescent bulb (worried about heat) so I could visually check each powder charge before setting the bullet on. Works nicely.
Because of the way I like to load, slowly and cautiously, I'd say somewhere around 250 rounds per hour is the rate I'm going at assuming I don't take breaks and stay at it.

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Post subject: Re: Just ordered a Lee Progressive press
Post Posted: Wed Jan 30, 2013 12:58 pm
Joel:

Great! Even if you had to give your guy 100 rounds :D.... Besides, you have to take some pity 'cause he's got that Sigma....

Getting the primer to seat on the Dillon, and probably on yours, too, is a matter of getting the process "right" so you remember to shove the loading handle "up" at just the right place in the cycle, no matter what. Some primers will seat as smooth as butter, and some almost need a hammer....

(NO, Rich, don't use a hammer!)

You can remove the decapping pin from the Dillon initial die and it'll do the other magic things just fine. That's the one that occasionally cuts a case in half for me. The fit into the shell plate is kinda tight, and a protruding primer usually fights me. Those won't work in my manual decapper either, but I can cheat with it and just hold the case in manually instead of using the shell holder. Those cases get extra attention and a little primer pocket work, too.

I don't clean 'em like Rich does, but they to run through the tumbler for about two hours total. Half in corn husk, and half in walnut, and don't ask me which one is first :D - too early in the morning....

(I just had to let the furnace guy in - our furnace has this goofy little exhaust blower that decides to fail, and costs $250.... Good for another 2% efficiency :) .... But when it croaks, unless you jumper out a contact on an airflow sensor, no heat.... Jumpering that out is NOT RECOMMENDED, but it's safe enough for a couple hours. Which is why I'm awake....)

Anyway, keep an eye on what you're doing, and avoid distractions. I play a little elevator music in the background, and even quiet the scanner a bit.

Regards,

Stu

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Post subject: Re: Just ordered a Lee Progressive press
Post Posted: Wed Jan 30, 2013 7:12 pm
thanks for posting all this info, I've been following this thread with a lot of interest. I recently got the challenger press kit. Good to know about the primer feeder, the kit came with a hand primer. I'll probably not even worry about the primer assy and just do it all by hand.

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Post subject: Re: Just ordered a Lee Progressive press
Post Posted: Wed Jan 30, 2013 7:28 pm
RogerD wrote:
thanks for posting all this info, I've been following this thread with a lot of interest. I recently got the challenger press kit. Good to know about the primer feeder, the kit came with a hand primer. I'll probably not even worry about the primer assy and just do it all by hand.


Glad somebody read all that! :lol:

I always used the hand priming tool with my single stage. If you do things in batches of 100 you don't have to worry about putting primers back in the box or keeping them in the tool.

Joel
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Post subject: Re: Just ordered a Lee Progressive press
Post Posted: Thu Feb 21, 2013 11:01 pm
Ok I've done a few hundred rounds, and I've found that my oal changes (a couple thousanths) a lot, and the fine tuner is jumpy in this respect. (this is the Lee die set) Any hints on getting a consistent oal? I'm shooting for 1.48-1.5 oal on a 38 special but often I get -1.48 1.5+ without ever moving the die.

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