My experience with my new Loadmaster.


September 11, 2009, 10:13 AM
I have been reloading on my Deluxe turret for the last year and like it, and despite its shortcomings it has served me well. I have lately wanted to go progressive on the pistol rounds I shoot the most of, 9mm and .38. After reading ALL the reviews online on the Loadmaster, I figured I am a tinkerer and there is a lot of help out there for them. That and the price was right. So, ordered the Loadmaster .38/.357 kit from Midway on Tuesday as well as all the fixings for 9mm (~$36 shellplate and case feeder)and it arrived on Thursday unscathed.

Got home about 5, got it into the garage and pulled it out of the box. Not knowing what to expect from all the reviews I was pleasantly surprised how beefy this press was. I got it bolted to my work bench and went inside to make dinner and watch the kids for a bit. Came back out and went to work. After watching all the videos online I disregarded the instructions all together and started taking it apart. I was surprised to see the plastic parts were all bur free and I lubed them with talc. I lubed the press in all the recommended places with STP oil treatment and started putting it back together.

I followed the videos on the reassembly and was surprised at how easily everything went. Only issue I had in the indexing/shell plate department was a slight hang up with the index rider on the down stroke. Had to nail file one edge that was catching with a couple of strokes and everything indexed like glass. I was really surprised how smooth and solid it felt.

Dared to live dangerously I decided to move on to the case feeder. Got the components out of the boxes and put them on. Pulled the crank and it worked flawlessly out of the box. Only adjustment was the tension adjustment and a half turn in and the shell was feeding all the way in. Felt a bit on the lucky side and took a break for an ice cream sandwich with the kids.

Came back and set the primer depth, set the dies, and put the powder measure on, and realized I was done. Having two sets of .38 dies I took the decapping pin out of one of the sizing dies and put it in station 2. Ran a couple rounds through it by themselves and checked everything for weight length and operation. Put the case collator on the tubes and dumped a bunch of .38 shells in and filled the primer tray.

With a slow pace on the first few pulls everything seamed to function. So I sped up a bit, not by much. Within 25 minutes I was out of bullets. Ney a hiccup but one, caused by my own doing. An upside down .38 casing trying to enter a shell plate makes for bad juju. Had to reset the case feeder, but took me 1 minute. All primers fed reliably and set well in the case. All cartridge lengths were within a thousandth of each other.

As I unloaded everything from their feeders and sat back with a cold adult beverage, I was gitty as a school girl. At that point I didn't get it, all the bad hype about the machine didn't make sense. Either I got a good unit out of the factory, the factory is addressing there QC, or instruction was not followed in bad operation. I do agree the included instructions are not great but the vids online actually make things look more difficult then they are. I did notice some of the mods made in the video came with the kit, the shell slider now has the additional hole. The plastic parts had no rough castings inside or out or burs and were fairly smooth.

I only have really one complaint and that is the primer tray. The tray on my turret has dots in the bottom, it does a great job at flipping the primers, the tray with the Loadmaster has circles and it is not real effective at flipping the primers.

Overall I am happy, I am going to the range in about an hour to give them a test run. If it keeps producing like this, I think for the money, this is the ticket, and it did not need much tinkering, if much adjusting at all (other than standard press adjustments, dies, primer depth, ect. ect). No crushing of parts, or nuclear explosions. Just effortless ammo making. I have never used the Hornady, or Dillon or any of the other progressives, so I cannot compare. Thanks for the read, and if you follow the videos and take things one step at a time, this seams to be a great progressive press. May not be your opinion but its mine, and when a product deserves a bit of praise I am willing to type it.

Total set up time: ~1.25hr
Total time to do 100 rounds starting out: 25 minutes max.

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September 11, 2009, 10:18 AM
Excellent. Glad it is working well for you. I looked long and hard at the Loadmaster many years ago when choosing a progressive. Looks like a well set up press that should be easy to use.

September 11, 2009, 10:43 AM
It sounds to me like Lee has done ongoing changes to deal with most of the niggling problems that can sour one on the Load-Master.

I suspect that the first time you change calibers, you will find a need to tweak the dies and primer-depth settings on both die sets and turrets. So, a savvy purchasor of the Load-Master--as you obviously are, having researched the current on-line information on this press, sorted out a good setup procedure. Maybe Lee will start referencing for their printed instructions.

Looking forward: Get in the habit of watch the primer "shaking" to ensure reliable primer feeding down the ramp. A primer / slider insertion problem will occur if you let the tray / ramp get too low to "push" the primer completely into place. I would advise you to get in some spare parts--particularly the primer sliders, and in fact the whole primer feed assembly. I'm guessing, of course, but the first time you have a real primer feed problem--i.e., incomplete primer insertion into the slider with a cocked primer, you will need these parts--and maybe even a new primer trough feed "top".

You will probably also want to get some additional trays, case feeder tubes, and the collator if you want to do high-volume reloading. Personally, I now work at a more relaxed pace--e.g., with the setup done--and load about 420 rph. To do that readily, though, I do have additional tubes filled with cases and tray filled with primers.

Jim H.

GW Staar
September 11, 2009, 12:18 PM
Congratulations on joining the Progressive Loading Club.

Two friends of mine, bought Lees last Christmas. Since then, having found the idea on a pro Lee website, they found that Lee primer feeders work most reliably with CCI primers. They don't have a clue why, but Load Master owners and Pro 1000 owners can up the reliability, and lower the aggravation by using those primers. When you first start having the feeding problems, as insinuated by the post above, try switching.

My friends are perfectly happy with their Lees, now that they no longer have primer feeding problems, simply by changing primer brand.

It's fantastic that Lee has such a great presence on the web, because Lee users help each other by posting experiences and fixes for all to see and use on, and the great links on that page.

We users of other brands should be as helpful to our peers;) "THR" and "AR15" have such people that help, but there ought to be a "Green" forum and a "Blue" forum and 2 "red" forums. :D

September 11, 2009, 02:30 PM
All 100 of them went boom and none of them went Kaboom or Pffffft. I did have my first squib today. I took another 100 that I loaded on the turret press months ago, last round out of 200 in total and it didn't make a peep. I thought I simply had a FTF, then I realized I could not open the chamber or cock the gun. Gunsmith on site forced it open in a gunsmith kind of way and sure enough, just enough bullet in the forcing cone to keep it closed.

I did find that the unsized bullets loaded in the turret were shooting more true than the sized bullets I ran through the Loadmaster, but that is a different discussion on a different subject.

September 11, 2009, 04:27 PM
re the squib load: Since you've been reloading on the Turret for awhile, I won't belabor the reasons for a squib load. (I'm assuming you were using one of the Lee Auto Disk variants). But, if this incident is the first time for you, you may have stumbled into the rare occasions in which the (spring-operated) operation hung up--they do happen, but rarely. Have you maintained the auto disk?

How much variance are you getting in the LOAs on your Load-Master? On the next run you do, take time to set aside, in order, the first 5-10 rounds, and the last 5-10 rounds, measure the LOAs and chart them.

Jim H.

September 11, 2009, 05:45 PM
this is the reason i still belive in my Dillon. it has an interactive mech thay makes sure that the powder measure cycled completely. i got my first 550b over 20 years ago, before lee even started looking at building a progressive and i havent looked back since. these days i load for other shooters as a full time job making money at it. i can offer a wide range of options that you simply cannot get at the stores unless you load yourself.
my services give you the option of getting custom ammo at a reasonable price without having to invest in all the hardware that is involved. we can load everything below .50 BMG and might even accept a contract for it too. (it would have to be for enough to pay for the tooling, almost $2000 just for the hardware)

if you have a friend who has a Dillon, try it!! its why i sold all the rest...

if you decide to sell the loadmaster, keep the dies and get a 550B, you wont belive the differance.

(and no im not a sales man. i just dont have time for problems)

September 11, 2009, 06:09 PM
I appreciate the input, I reload and shoot as a hobby. Thus far haven't had a problem, and the ammo is pretty shootable in my opinion. Glad your Dillon is working out for you. The squib was a first in about 3000 rounds thus far and not a huge deal, and didn't happen on the LoadMaster.

Will post AOLs when I get some more loaded.

September 11, 2009, 06:24 PM
sniper1259: You're right--but the two presses are different types: The Classic Cast Turret is--well, a turret,, with auto indexing as an 'option' that takes about five seconds to disable. The 550B is a manually indexing progressive. For press-mounted powder measures, I know of none mounted on a turret that have a fail-safe / positive return feature. Are there any?

Lee added a positive return feature to their progressives--the Pro 1000, and the Load-Master--some years ago; I updated my early Load-Master with it when I got it out again, two years ago. Personally, I prefer an auto-indexing progressive, particularly for handgun ammo. To my way of thinking, the brain fart that results in double-charging on a manually-indexed progressive is the issue. However, I do suspect that if one were to learn / develop their operational skills on a 550B, it would probably not be an issue.

Different strokes for different presses, so to speak. But, I personally don't consider the (Lee) Turrets to be directly comparable to the 550B.

Jim H.

September 11, 2009, 07:47 PM
If you look into the case each and every time you put a bullet over a powder charge to seat it, you will not have squibs. I don't care who's machine you are running, period. ;)

September 11, 2009, 08:24 PM
I love my Loadmonster. It took a min to set it up and get it going, but after that it has run like a top. The Loadmaster website is a wonderful help and the forum seems to be great as well. I have it and 2 Reloader presses to handle anything I can come up with.

September 12, 2009, 12:39 AM
I've been musing over his comment about seeing the powder in the cartridge every time. In due time, I realized that I had a different kind of sequence in reloading--just enough different.

Basically, I had learned to watch the powder measure dispenser action, not to look for the powder. Yes, I do look for the powder now--but that is not the heavily-ingrained habit; it's more 'A' check on 'THE' check. It works better than 99.9999 percent of the time, or even better. (I estimate that I have reloaded perhaps 90,000 rounds, and I have had about three squibs.)

Jim H.

September 12, 2009, 09:59 AM
I do agree I need to look into every one. I have been glancing in looking for a double charge, but a .38 case in any press with 4.3 grains of HP38 is hard to see (I know but I like this powder). I may have to rig a light and possible mirror. I ended up casting about 500 bullets last night to feed this beast, pan lubing as we speak. Probably won't load any today due to it being a B-day for the daughter.

September 12, 2009, 11:15 AM
I may have to rig a light

An LED light is very helpful in seeing in those deep cases with little charges in them.

I bored (drilled) a two stage hole in my LNL to hold a Fenix E1 LED light. Works great. Shines right down in the cases.

September 12, 2009, 11:23 AM
Man that is awesome, got any links to the cheapest source and bit sizes. I assume you tapped the top hole so it screws in, what was the tap size?

September 12, 2009, 11:27 AM
I just drilled a small hole all the way through, then a larger hole (1/2" I think) almost all the way through. (stopped about 1/16" short) The light just slips in and the ledge at the bottom holds it from falling through.

September 12, 2009, 11:40 AM
I tried to get a better pic, but you get the idea. This is the one I did on my Projector over 20 years ago to fit a Maglight "Solitaire". The LED lights are much better. On my LNL I drilled it at an angle thinking it would work better, but I was wrong. Just drill it in the middle of two stations and straight down. Mine is after station #3 and before #4.

September 12, 2009, 12:52 PM
I couldn't agree more about checking each and every cartridge for powder before seating a bullet!

I have always done this, and have never had a squib in 10's of thousands of rounds.

I was teaching a friend how to reload, and must not have made enough of an issue of this step in the process.... had 4 squibs in 400 rounds (a pathetic success rate)... of course, he was new, and may have made other mistakes leading up to it, but had he taken this one step it all would have been averted (as well as my embarrassment out shooting when I had to stop and pound squibs out of my barrel repeatedly)

September 12, 2009, 01:58 PM
That light option you created in your LNL is just too slick for words.


September 12, 2009, 02:21 PM
Now, if we could just figure out how to do it on turret presses--

I tried a clip-on booklight--which, taped on (a real jury-rig) helped some. But it did not provide sufficient overhead lighting to reliably illuminate the case interior.

So, I am still brainstorming away on this.

Jim H.

September 14, 2009, 08:18 AM
Yesterday I decided to switch up calibers on the press, this took a bit of time initially. Wasn't bad but took some time. So I switched from .38 to 9mm in about 45 minutes and the difference was night and day in press operation. 9mm takes quite a bit of pressure to process 5 cases at one time as opposed to .38. Also I learned that crimped primer brass is detrimental to the Loadmaster, and I am sure any other progressive. Man what a PITA, would do 20 rounds and then jam with a crimped primer pocket. I also had OAL all over the place, I think a big part of that was setting the machine up using the sizing die as the stop as opposed to setting the primer depth at the top of the stoke. I think most 9mm brass is picky about how high it will go into a sizing die. I did change that last night and OAL did improve, but I did not do enough of it to really evaluate the change.

My biggest question now is HOW DO YOU PICK THE CRIMPED BRASS FROM THE GOOD BRASS. There has to be a way, the press ran well but would come to a halt when I got one of those crimped cases.

September 14, 2009, 09:24 AM
I size and hand prime all my brass before loading on my machine. It makes things go much smoother. It adds time, but I prefer to hand prime anyway. I just run all the tumbled brass through the LNL, then prime, then load sans the sizer. When sizing while loading, 90% of the pressure/strain is from sizing. It will help your O.A.L. from varying as much as well.

September 14, 2009, 09:45 AM
simply because I have never loaded 9mm on mine, nor worried about 'crimped' cases.

However, you are running into the issues that come when one changes calibers. I found it took a lot of tweaking--i.e., die and primer seater adjustments--to get a changeout so that it was a simple drop-in changeout.

On my early machine, I did determine that there is some sort of flex in the shell plate--that is there can be flex if the dies are not tweaked to provide the right kind of pressure at full ram extension. That seems to be the source of the variable LOAs. It's fairly easy to get acceptable LOA variance with one caliber when all stations have cases in them; the problems come at the beginning or the end of the run. But, when you change out, unless the 2nd / 'new' turret and die setup provides the same amount of pressure at the various stations, you get LOA variations. Or something like that. I do NOT recall how these final settings compare to the 'basic' setup guidelines for the various station dies--but they probably are not too far off.

I eventually found I could resolve the "even pressure" issue by going to a five die setup. That is, I run the Lee Universal Decapping Die in station one, then the decapping / sizing die without the decapper in station two (over the primer), then the PTED-Seater-FCD (as a crimp only) respectively. Since the UCD is not a sizer, it can be used to help equalize the pressure / flex issues.

For me--at least on this early press--the sizer installed at station 2 also had an important side benefit of locating a case properly as the primer is inserted--i.e., the erratic primer-anvil location that can "chew up / damage" the slider, primer feed trough body or top, etc. when one runs low on primers or has a dirty chute.

Maybe using the the Universal decapping die in Station one will help with your 9mmp case crimp issues--I don't know.

IMO, it is worth the time to closely 'troubleshoot' the two different caliber / turret setups. I suspect this matter of 'similar pressure' and shell plate 'flex' is mostly just specification tolerance (as in, this turret rises more than that one sort-of thing)--be sure that is minimized before chasing too hard on the primer seating depth problem.

added on edit: I do not recall how Lee describes the press operation, but I would not rely on the primer insertion as the "stop" to determine LOA. There simply is too much potential flex in that part of the press system. Sort out how to get the dies set up properly in relation to the shell plate, IOW.

Jim H.

September 14, 2009, 10:08 AM
I do understand what your saying Jim, but with the sizing die setting the primer depth, I think that is where I was getting the problem. 9mm cases as small as they are, are beefy little things. I even had a hard time with them on the turret press on occasion. They don't like going all the way into the sizing die, although the .38 have no problem, and it would explain some of the OAL problems but I also noticed primers would not be set on some of them. After setting the die via the "Setup" video the primers were set just right.

I also need to re-bolt the thing to the bench, I broke the bench top where bolted to it. Its 3/4" particle board attached to a fairly stout frame. I am going to move the press back and bolt it to the actual frame and not the top.

September 14, 2009, 01:06 PM
I have to say my experience with the Loadmaster has been a positive one for the most part. I've had a few hiccups mainly with setup. You may need to order some plast parts: indexer flipper and get some extra bullet feeder fingers in case it gets caught or doesnt line up just right with the bullet seating die. I also use Walkalong's advice and size and de-cap then hand prime all my cases. It adds a little time to the whole process but really speeds up the charging, bullet seating and crimp stages. I mainly load .45 ACP and I get good quality ammo from mine.

September 14, 2009, 01:32 PM
Nate1778: re "...with the sizing die setting the primer depth...."

Maybe that is not what you meant to say--but the sizing die does NOT set the primer depth. Setting the primer depth is a completely independent operation, once the turrets and dies are set up.

I set up the turret/die/shellplate by building numerous dummy rounds--no primer or powder, with sized case and bullet--Then, I fine-tuned the primer depth adjustment. Then I changed turrets / die-caliber set, and confirmed the similar "pressure" settings by die tweaking--and even switched back and forth until both die sets produced satisfactory dummy ammo. Then I set the primer depth adjustment with the 'first' turret / die set.

Then, with the 2nd / new die set in place, I checked for primer seating depth. At least with the various handgun calibers, generally no primer seating depth adjustment is necessary.

At any rate, do not rely on the primer adjustment to set the LOA, so to speak. That is, I suspect, the end result of using the primer anvil setup instead of the die setup for your 'benchmark.'

About 9mm--from what I remember, your observations are true. And, a decent benchtop or frame boltdown is a must--otherwise, there can be 'misinterpretation' the top of the stroke max point as the bench flexes. Personally, my benchtop is a double-layer / laminated MDO--it's nominally 1.5" thick. The frame is only a standard cabinetry base cabinet--but that is locked into place at the wall and by vertical stringers from the shelf storage above it. It's stiff enough to allow the benchtop to have a 6" extension (e.g.,, it is 30" deep) so that presses have knee space under them, and easy access for mounting. No flex problems with any of the presses--but I do not reload / resize big rifle cartridges, either.


Jim H.

September 14, 2009, 01:40 PM
Jim let me clarify, here is the video on "subsequent caliber primer adjustments". He uses the sizing die to set the primer depth of subsequent calibers, problem is if the cartridge does not bottom out every time in the sizing die then all other operations are off. That's when I decided to just set the primer adjustment in the setup video and back the sizing die out a bit. There just seams to be too many factors that would come into play in the below set up.

September 14, 2009, 02:27 PM
aha! That's a new video to me. I downloaded the loadmaster videos and contributed there about 18 months ago; I've only been back intermittently since. IOW, my Load-Master has been working smoothly since, so I have not been keeping up to date.

He is doing essentially what I did; I just did not explain it the same way. In my jargon, you did in fact set the die depth off the die, NOT off the priming arm. In effect, Shadowdog500's video shows that: he already has the primer arm setup "done"--or at least within the ballpark. Therefore, this procedure for setting subsequent die sets turrets should come out fine. (Which, is at least the way it should come from the factory. My machine had no real reference to "factory" settings for primer depth when I sorted out my setup. So, I started out as he did--i.e., by screwing the dies in until contact, then setting per Lee's standard settings--and then tweaking as need to get consistent LOAs for a given turret. Then I had to go back and do a primer depth adjustment.)

BTW--in my comments, I had been assuming that you were working with a 'standard' 4-die (or even 3-die) setup--e.g., that you did NOT have a universal decapping die for station one, and therefore had the standard sizing die in station one, and NO die in station two (priming).

So, are you running a 5-die turret--or did you say that earlier, and I've just forgotten it?

Jim H.

September 14, 2009, 03:21 PM
Yeah I am running a 4 die set with both setups. I am going to wait till I have another order for Midway and get a couple more turrets and some universal de-capping dies.

The .38 special setup is

1. Size/Decap
3. Expand/Powder
4. Seat
5. Crimp

September 14, 2009, 03:49 PM
Sizing .38's twice?

September 14, 2009, 03:54 PM
Nah, just put the one in station 2 to hold the shell in place for priming. I had an extra set so basically I don't need the universal expander in the #1 slot.

September 14, 2009, 06:25 PM
nate 1778 says--"...basically I don't need the universal expander in the #1 slot."

As for the "second" sizing die--i.e., in station 1--I would replace it with a universal decapper. You're probably working the brass twice, thereby shortening its life--and the Universal die will require less effort as well.

Jim H.

September 14, 2009, 06:51 PM
Gotcha, and will order in the near future, if there is any brass that I am not lacking it is .38. Its the only brass I will leave at the range, I would guess 4000 casings at this point. The nice part about wheel guns is guys at the range tend to put there spent .38 casings in the little holder on the side of the lane, dump in bag and its mine............;)

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