Lee Loadmaster Auto Press...a Saga


March 14, 2005, 09:35 PM
After 35 years of single-stage press reloading for about 15 rifle and pistol cartridges, I recently decided to get fancy and get an automatic press. Initially wanted a Dillon 550-B...until I reloaded several times on a friend's...then decided on a Hornady L-N-L Auto due to researched reviews, lower cost (currently $299 at Midway, $310 at Graf's with free shipping), lower cost cartridge conversions, MUCH better powder measure, and ease of use. Was making out my order, and suddenly remembered that somewhere in my storage I already have a used Lee Loadmaster I picked up at a Texas gunshow just before one of my moves about ten years ago (six moves since!). At the time I set it up without a manual, couldn't get it to work at all, ordered a new priming mechanism for it, packed it for storage, and forgot it. Figured I should take another look at it before ordering $400 worth of new press and conversion kits. :uhoh:

So, I located it, and had another go at setting it up. This time I explained and requested a manual from Lee (which they promptly mailed free!). I had to partially strip the tool to clean the previous owner's gunk out, inspect and lube it, and finally began to understand how it works. Decapped primers are collected inside the ram, and I found more than half a cup of them, which you release by simply sliding a tab at the bottom of the ram. I like that! Cases are held on the shellplate by individual levers, one per station, so a case can be easily removed from any station in case of a problem. They are adjusted simply by moving the levers into the case position, and running a case through the five stations (I like 5 stations!), which automaticaly adjusts their positions (Simple!). :p

Started working on the problems one by one.

Automatic indexing...wouldn't! Performed by a simple short beveled square bar with a nylon flipper on one end that rides against cams built into the massive press frame and is pushed by the operating handle to push a shell plate stud to index. Simple! Problem is, mine rode free of the cams and wouldn't index. :cuss: Fix from the Manual: loosen a nut on the bottom of the ram and turn the head slightly, tighten nut. Doggone if it doesn't work like a champ now! Smooth and easy.

Automatic case feeder wouldn't work. I stripped it to see how it was constructed, then adjusted it per the manual. Still couldn't get it to feed at the bottom of the stroke, which I assumed it should do. Skipped it :banghead: and went on to install the new priming assy, then went on to the non-functioning powder drop assy. Suddenly noticed to my surprise the case feeder was working fine...it feeds at the start of the upstroke, not at the bottom of the downstroke! Duh-h-h...

Powder Drop wouldn't work. This is case actuated, meaning that it won't drop a charge unless there is a case at the station. Problem is, easing the handle down, the case won't clear the powder tube enough to operate the powder measure. Adjusted, cussed, readjusted, cussed in a different language, gave up. :banghead: Finally, I read about the "Lee Powder Through Expanding Die" in the catalog Lee sent with the Manual, and the word "Expanding" suddenly came through...you have to force the case over the powder drop tube!...which will then operate the powder measure. Double Duh-h-h... :cool:

As my Loadmaster came set up for .45 Auto, complete with carbide dies, the same shellplate will handle .30-06, .308 Win, there's already a separate shell plate for .38-Spl/.357 Mag, and a small primer conversion, and the powder measure has a micrometer adjustable charge bar, guess I'll give it a try tomorrow. First I'll have to rig a catcher for completed cartridges. Lee cartridge conversions are reasonably priced compared to other makes, as you only need a shellplate and possibly a smaller case feed slider.

Gotta say I'm unexpectedly impressed by the simplicity of the machine and its operation. The press seems to be as innovative as their very modern dies. I still have reservations about the nylon parts, but replacements are very inexpensive...mostly one to three dollars.

Moral: Don't try to set up an automatic press without a manual! :neener:

Now, what cautions do you Loadmaster owners have for me in operating the Loadmaster? :scrutiny:

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March 15, 2005, 03:32 AM
I hate to hijack...

But walk me through your process for realigning the carrier so that that the press will index properly. I have been fiddling with mine for a couple of weeks, and can't get it to auto-index.

Yes, I have read the instructions, but can't seem to get it to work for me. I align it to the pull out rib, and it binds at the end of the pull out rib, ie won't allow me to lower the ram. I adjust it out a little, and it won't contact the pull out rib.

I have successfully adjusted it in the past, but I can't seem to get it this time.



March 15, 2005, 10:05 AM
Stinger, the nut is located in the center underneath the ram. Loosen it, and I could turn the head supporting the shellplate and index ram slightly clockwise. That brought the flipper in proper contact with the side of the press frame, which I tested by working the handle a couple of times through the cycle, and then I tightened the nut.

You might also inspect the flipper for assurance it isn't wearing (replacement cost, $2). If that is the problem, about how many cartridges have you reloaded on that flipper?

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