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Loadmaster - what problems?

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by darwin-t, Nov 25, 2007.

  1. darwin-t

    darwin-t Well-Known Member

    I just finished loading 2,000 rounds of .45 ACP with my Loadmaster. I had a total of 4 rounds with missing primers - my fault - I didn't keep a close eye on the primer trough - and 1 primer not fully seated. No tipped primers.

    When I loaded my last 200, I timed them and was loading at a rate of 600 per hour - without a case feeder or case inserter. Granted, I had the primer trays filled ahead of time, which only takes a minute per tray. Six minutes per hour for that, that's still 540 per hour.

    I don't understand what all the complainin' is about.....
  2. jfh

    jfh Well-Known Member

    That is roughly my experience, too, Darwin-t--

    But, I haven't really done extended runs since I finished setting it up in July. Before that--when I last had it out about eight years ago, I was damn near ready to throw it out the window. However, the Load-Master videos on youtube--yours, and shadowwood500's (name?) were the ones that helped me do the final setup this time around.

    Like you, it appears I can get a sustained rate of about 400-600 hour, but I use the case feeder (and don't use a bullet feeder). I do get set up for that--loaded primer trays, and sometimes even loaded cartridge feed tubes. I no longer have ANY trouble with the priming side of things.

    I think the "problem" with Load-Masters can be traced to a couple of different issues.

    The first is that the Load-Master, as it comes NIB, does need some setup and tweaking. Much of this tweaking info has been developed after purchase by people such as you, and then illustrated well in the afore-mentioned videos. Unless the buyer is an experienced reloader, they simply may not know enough to get it running smoothly.

    Add to that the issues a manufacturer has in developing products sold to a low price point and the ingenius and arguably eccentric ways Lee makes an overall reloading press 'system' and it can be problematic for the naive buyer.

    The Second problem is that, because of the first, Lee (progressive) presses really are oriented to problem solvers and not to goal-seekers. After watching and participating in numerous press fix-it and discussion threads for the last seven months, I've concluded that, for example, Dillon owners want an end goal, period, and have less interest in the process. Successful Lee owners enjoy the process and are as inclined to 'solve a little problem' as they are to be goal-seekers--i.e., primarily / only wanting a reliable, finished cartridge.

    So, I guess, for people like us, there is no problem--but for others, it can be the road to perdition.

    Jim H.
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2007
  3. darwin-t

    darwin-t Well-Known Member

    I agree with you on your points, but would like to add a couple of others.

    Loose shellplate - when that thing gets loose, you may as well forget about getting good quality results.

    Improper die adjustment - if you get the resizing die wrong, that can throw the priming adjestment all out of whack.

    Partial strokes - the LM moves the primer slider back to the resting postition on the upstroke. Interrupting the stroke and/or reversing it can only cause problems.

    I'm glad our videos have helped you and others.

    On your first point, better instructions would definitely help.
  4. shooter1

    shooter1 Well-Known Member

    Lee could greatly improve customer satisfaction by putting out an illistrated, detailed, owners manual. The ones I have seen are crap! Lot's of neat, simple, engineering examples in their design. I think McGiver had a hand in the desigh of the Loadmaster!
    I think you are "spot on". Points well taken.
  5. darwin-t

    darwin-t Well-Known Member

    I encourage everyone who feels this way to email info@leeprecision.com - President John Lee reads most if not all of the emails to this address. He has replied to many of my emails. We had high hopes for John, he talked of a Lee Precision forum and a place for customers to ppost videos, etc. I'd be happy if they would put out a better instruction manual - I know Dillon's is quite good.
  6. wally

    wally Well-Known Member

    Lee should get the videos that have been posted on youtube and distribute them with the press on a DVD!

  7. jfh

    jfh Well-Known Member

    Wally makes a good point as a follow-up to the improved owner's manual--supply the youtube videos on an included CD/DVD.

    Darwin-t also elaborated on a couple of the "typical" problems a new user of the Load-Master can run into. So, an important part of the new user's manual would be an extensive "troubleshooting" guide.

    Finally, I think Lee should simply sell it as a five-die setup and include the alternative primer-system set with the package. I'm willing to bet 90% of the 'persistent' problems come from the Primer subsystem, and I'd also bet that 90% of the same problems are solved by the use of a separate die for decapping and a second die (over the primer) for resizing.

    Jim H.
  8. FieroCDSP

    FieroCDSP Well-Known Member

    interesting reading. question for you guys. When you're setting the sizing die, do you do it with a spent cartidge in the priming slot to prevent screwing up the depth?
  9. darwin-t

    darwin-t Well-Known Member

    I had problems priming when I first got it - I switched to the separate depriming and resizing. I ended up switching back to the original design and it's working very well. I got the idea that if the primer was off just a little bit, the case can move around a bit to line thing up. I might be completely wrong in my thinking. :confused:

    I have another threory about priming - that a rock solid mount is very important. You don't want lateral motion in the press when the primer is sitting on top on that priming pin. And when that case is being forced up into the resizing die, the press is gonna move if you let it.
  10. darwin-t

    darwin-t Well-Known Member


    The resizing die is done by getting firm shellplate contact and then in another 1/4 turn.

    In the past when doing caliber changes I have re-adjusted the priming depth,but the next time I do it, I'm going to adjust the resizing die slightly to get the primer depth just right. I'll be changing primer pins,too - going from large to small primers.

    I'll let you know how it works out. I'm all outta 45 components, may try some 9mm now.
  11. FieroCDSP

    FieroCDSP Well-Known Member

    okay... I asked because I thought the extra 1/4 turn would mess up the seating depth, but now that I think about it, at the top of the stroke, the priming arm is already a hair past where it would normally stop with the sizing die in there.

    I haven't had any problems with depth, only flipping.
  12. Shadow500

    Shadow500 Active Member


    You had a good rhythm going and am not surprised that your rate was so high.

    After initially setting up for one caliber with the sizing die set 1/4 turn past shell plate contact, I also set up subsequent calibers by adjusting the sizer die height to set primer depth. This makes caliber conversions a breeze since no adjustment is necessary after you switch the shell plate and turret. If you are sizing in station #1 it is also pretty easy to do. Just put a primed case in station #2 and run the ram up until the primer pin feels like it is touching the primer, then run the sizing die down in station #1 until you get shell plate contact. You should be done, but sometimes you may need to fine tune it from there.

    It was more of a pain to do with my setup since I size in station #2. I started with the sizing die 1/2 turn to a full turn past shell plate contact then ran the ram up with a primed case in station #2. With the ram all the way up I pushed the primer rocker down with my finger to see how much space was between the rocker and the adjustment bolt. Then I backed the die out a little at a time until the rocker just touched the adjustment bolt when the ram was all the way up. This got it darn close, then I fine tune it by actually priming a few cases while fine tuning the die. It looked kind of funny when making the initial adjustment because I had my right leg on top of the handle to hold the ram up while using my left hand to hold the primer lever down while backing the die out with my right hand.

    The end result is well worth the effort.

    You should make a video you how you do this while sizing in station #1, and if you don’t mind, I will do one on how to do this when sizing in station #2.


    Chris AKA, Shadow500 but sometimes called Shadowwood500 by Jim H.;)
  13. jfh

    jfh Well-Known Member

    I hate the cliche "welcome aboard"

    so I will just say I am glad to see you here, Chris. Heh--"shadowwood" is the name of a upper-end housing subdivision near here; that was a real Freudian slip of some sort. Last June, you and Darwin-t became my reloading heroes when I tackled the Load-Master setup again. In addition to simply seeing the various setups being done, I thought the STP lube recommendation was pure genius. The demos of successful, high-volume production really spurred me on.

    In the big picture of this setup process, I think the best paradigm for setup "starts with the beginning"--e.g., get the #1 (resizing / decapping) at the right height, and then proceeds forward. In addition to this "one-step-at-a-time approach, there needs to be tweaking done to the entire subsystem you're working on."

    about die setup tweaking:

    I went through an extended-tweaking process when I finalized my die setup. The primer-resizing die had been added, and I (much earlier) done the appropriate primer-anvil screw adjustment. And, by this point, I had the separate decapping / resizing dies in place. Further, I had gone to separate seating and criming / final sizing by adding a FCD.

    As I tried a short run (one tubeful of cases), I found I still had the erratic LOAs problem, and the last five cases went to perhaps -.005 (or greater) variance. That's not good if one is loading MAX load cartridges, as I am planning to with 38 Special.

    The solution to this (other than accepting erratic LOAs of generally-inconsequential difference) rests in getting "equal" pressure on the shell plate for all dies. I found that when I added the "4-die configuration" (the separate seating and crimping), the LOA change was minimized to perhaps +- .002. To get to that variation, I backed up all the dies and started over.

    Begin with the first die station setup, and follow Lee's direction for a "plus-1/4" setting.
    IIRC, the most successful setup came by removing the #1 / decapper die (after putting down witness marks) and then putting in the #2 decapping die, setting the "plus 1/4" to the same pressure on the upstroke. I then reinstalled the #1 / decapper die and confirmed no change in feel.

    With these two dies as my starting point, then, I reset the PTED, the seater, and the crimper / sizer, working on them one at a time and checking the "pressure" on the downstroke.

    The PTED deserves special attention to using a "typical" case in place and setting the die height by feeling the initial contact with the case mouth. Then I could tweak the expander setting to my liking.

    As I worked my way to the seater-crimper die (now adjusted to provide only seating), and then to the FCD in the 5th / last station, the setup became a bit more complex.

    As one adjusts the last two dies, it becomes necessary to "balance" the shell plate pressure from dies one and two with the shell plate pressure from dies four and five. I did this simply by careful observation of the shell plate and die four (then die five) deflection. Again, IIRC, I even went back and "backed up" dies in stations one and two--only a bit, perhaps 1/32 of a turn.

    All this adjusting was done with cases in place. As a result, I ended up with many cases in various stages--decapped, decapped-and-sized, decapped-and-sized-and primed, etc., etc.

    The end result was is that the Load-Master now has an extraordinarily smooth feel to it, with no unusual "quirk" in any given process. The LOA is typically +- .0015 in production when all die stations are filled, and the LOA only shortens to -.002 or -.003 as the last cases work their way to then catch bin.

    The above recitation is an extremely verbose description, but at least it is down on paper, so to speak. I'll post it now and edit it a bit later.

    Jim H.
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2007
  14. dgray64

    dgray64 Well-Known Member


    What was that about the STP lube. I hadn't heard of anything like that and am eager to hear of any great shortcuts. Thanks.

    Dave :neener:
  15. Eric F

    Eric F Well-Known Member

    Where are the Lee Haters?

    I am shocked that some one has not come out and dogged the loadmaster yet like they have done so many times before:neener:

    Any way the load master and pro 1000 are 2 great presses after initial setup and a few "learning rounds" I have run thousands with out problems ever. I do a tune up every thousand rounds just to be sure everything is good. I pull 1 out of every 100 rounds to check powder charge if you do this AFTER INITIAL SETUP you will be fine
  16. jfh

    jfh Well-Known Member

    Here's a link to a search on YouTube for

    "The Load-Master Videos:"


    It looks to me like Shadowdog500 and Darwin-t have put up over 25 videos illustrating setup and use of the Load-Master. IIRC, it is Shadowdog500's video of the case feed demo and theory of operation that illustrates the use of STP on the bottom side of the feeder slide assembly. I took time to watch most of these videos--and watched some of them two or three times. I suggest any Load-Master owner do the same.

    FWIW, when I dug out the Load-Master and remounted it, I started with a complete disassembly and detail clean. That got me reacquainted all the characteristics of the press. Initially, I thought I detected excessive wear on the carrier assembly, so I sent it in to Lee for their review. They checked it over (and found the carrier assembly within tolerance) and added the latest version of the feeder rod and adjusted it, added a new version of the feeder with a radiused top lead edge, and then returned it promptly.

    That got the case feeder issues out of the way--e.g., the binding of the feeder when the actual feeder operates and it is not adjusted properly. I then referred to the videos to complete adjusting the feeder subsystem. (I also took the time to set up the feeder tube base, but that's a different topic.)

    It seems to me to make sense to first tackle each subsystem--case feed, primer feed assembly, primer seating, die setup, etc. etc, and to generally do them in the order of operation. Get the case feeder operating properly (or remove it if you don't want to use it. Then tackle the primer subsystem, etc., etc. The "final" setup needs to be approached not only incrementally, but as a whole, and further tweaking of previous subsystems' adjustments may be needed.

    So, there's the long-winded answer to "what's the STP tip?"

    Jim H.
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2007
  17. jfh

    jfh Well-Known Member

    A nominal order of Load-Master subsystem setup:

    If one follows the Lee directions supplied with the Load-Master, one can get it running--there is no doubt of that. The question of getting it running reliably for fast and long production runs is what will plague the user. Following is a "Version-zero-point-9" of a setup sequence that may help the owner wanting the smooth operation this press can deliver.

    1. start with a detail strip-and-clean
    2. with the press cleaned, tackle the subsystems--
    3. get the shell plate carrier properly tightened down
    4. take apart and clean the primer subsytem assembly
    5. adjust the primer seating depth properly, using the adjustment screw.
    6. adjust the indexing lever as needed
    7. proceed to the case feeder, and begin with the proper arm adjustment
    8. now begin the die setup process

    I'll continue to refine this list and try to make it exhaustive. The key to using it successfully will be to test each subsystem operation as you proceed forward to make sure it 'integrates' with the preceding operation smoothly.

    An awful lot happens on a progressive press "at one time"--that is, with one stroke--arguably, with just one-half stroke of the lever. Do several strokes and concentrate on the subsystem you want to tweak--and eventually, it all comes together.

    Jim H.
  18. Shadow500

    Shadow500 Active Member


    I like your list and I agree with everything you said.

    I believe that Benedict(I assume he goes by that name on this board) is working on doccumentation that will list setup and troubleshooting procedures for the loadmaster that will link to Darwin and my videos. This way someone can read the steps and then click on the hyperlink in the text to see how that step is done. I anticipate that we will have to make additional short videos to make this work.

    I got the trick to turn the seating die an extra 1/4 turn from reading Uncle Don's tips. Supposedly this cocks the shellplate the same every time so that you get more consistent OAL's. Since I did this and started tightening my dies down firmly with a special wrench that I made my OALs have shrunk to +/- 0.002" on my 9mm. This measurment does include the end run cartrages which are always slightly longer. I also flipped the nut over and got rid of the o-ring. When you tighten the die with a wrench it does not come loose.

    Photos of the wrench are shown below. It is just an 1-1/8 socket that I turned down to fit between the dies, then I silver soldered a handle on. If you are going to make one, use an impact socket because they are softer and allot easier to machine . Last week I was burning out carbide bits left and right trying to turn down hardened tool steel sockets to make more wrenches. I picked up some impact sockets and they cut like butter.


  19. jfh

    jfh Well-Known Member

    That's a neat wrench package, Chris--you ought to license to Lee, as I bet it would fit on dies installed on all their turrets.

    Of course, that negates Lee's "fingertighten" pitch for their locknuts--which, as we all know, doesn't work reliably to lock down the dies. (I note you have your dies down sally-good-and-tight like I do.)

    Kudos on the excellent pictures, BTW.

    I think I am going to forward this thread link to Lee, too. If Darwin is right (and I am sure he is), John ought to see it. If he does--

    John, when is the Classic Cast 4-station progressive going to come out?

    and, when is the six-station Load-Master II coming out?

    You gotta do it.

    Jim H.
  20. Shadow500

    Shadow500 Active Member

    I finally made the video that I said I would in this thread.

    This video shows how to set the primer height in subsequent turrets so that the primer height don't have to be adjusted every time a caliber change is done.

    Make sure you use the normal procedure (using the bolt) for the first caliber adjustment, and only use this procedure for subsequent calibers.

    Here is he link.


    Merry Christmas,


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