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What's wrong with Lee reloaders?

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by 3rdpig, Jul 21, 2006.

  1. 3rdpig

    3rdpig Well-Known Member

    I'm a long time reloader on a single stage press and am considering the move to a turret or progressive.

    Yes, I know "save up and buy the Dillon 550". But before I do that can someone tell me just exactly what is wrong with the Lee progressive and turret loaders? I know the Classic Turret seems to be well liked, but everyone I've spoken to warns me away from the Pro 1000 or the Loadmaster, but no one can tell me why, they just keep repeating "get the 550".

    Will someone tell me what's wrong with the Lee progressive loaders, and if one is better than the other or if they're both no good? I don't need to know what's good about the Dillon, I have that figured out, but just can't seem to find out what's wrong with the Lee loaders.

    I shoot mainly 9mm and 5.56 but may also load several other pistol calibers. Right now 5.56 is the only rifle caliber I plan on loading. I shoot 300 to 500 rounds a month.

    Any real info would be appreciated.
  2. cherryriver

    cherryriver Well-Known Member

    Mostly, the priming system. I threw out my Lee Pro 1000 after only 1000 rounds, with two squibs and I don't know how many otherwise defective rounds.
    It wasn't just me- I've loaded many tens of thousands of rounds on Dillon progressives without even a tiny fraction of those problems.
    In the end, the Dillon Square Deal B was cheaper.
  3. loadedround

    loadedround Well-Known Member

    3rd: There really isn't anything mechanically wrong with the Lee progressives for light reloading single calibers. Their biggest problem with using them is that they are cheaply made and a royal PIA to keep in adjustment. Basically the quality is not there and Lee offers a much poorer warranty and customer service than Dillon and the others. If you buy a Lee progreeive press and change caliber often, you will spend more time adjustiing everthing intead of loading. JMHO
  4. frenchwrench

    frenchwrench Well-Known Member

    The Lee cast turret is great. The progres:rolleyes: sives.....if you like to "tinker" get one.
  5. OldSchooler

    OldSchooler Well-Known Member

    I was leaning to a Lee or Lyman manual turret set up for mostly rifle and of course some handgun reloading. Now ya'll are scaring me...
  6. SASS#23149

    SASS#23149 Well-Known Member

    turret is different than progressive

    the 2 are different in many way.The turrets are more solidly built with fewer moving parts,so way less downtime.Supposedly this also translates into fewer rounds per session,but that depends on how well the progresive is behaving.
    dillons just behave better.:):evil:
  7. lamazza

    lamazza Well-Known Member

    I hate my Lee pro 1000-as stated ad nauseum the primer feed it horrible and the setup is cheaply made. The price makes it tempting , but its not worth it.
  8. 3rdpig

    3rdpig Well-Known Member

    I appreciate all the reports of your experiences with Lee progressive loaders. I'm convinced that it probably isn't what I'm looking for. Shame though, I wonder why Lee hasn't corrected the problems? They seem to be responsive to customer desires.

    I'll have to decide how much I'm willing to spend, it looks like my options are, on the low end, the Lee Classic Turret or on the higher end the Dillon 550 or one of the other better progressive loaders. If I go that way I'll probably go Dillon, they're only about 10 miles from me.
  9. 1911user

    1911user Well-Known Member

    Ditto the primer feed on the Lee progressives; it's just not worth the trouble if you plan to be reloading for the long term. It can be made to work most of the time but you really have to babysit it. Also keep a stock of the plastic primer parts, they'll get crunched and have to be replaced every so often.

    If you are using a single stage press efficiently, you will not see much (if any) speed increase with a turret press. 250 an hour is about the max out of a turret press (even the lee with auto-indexing) and you will be physically working hard to keep that pace.

    I hate to see progressive and turret used in the same sentance; they are not similar and should NOT be compared as close to the same thing. One is a single stage press that happens to hold several dies and the other performs reloading operations on 4-5 cases at a time.

    There really is a long-term difference in the quality of different reloading presses.

    Because Lee stuff is made to a low price point and they can't do things like everyone else and keep the same pricing. Plastic is a hell of a lot cheaper than machined metal. You get what you pay for in my experience. It's nice to sit down to reload and have confidence the press will produce quality ammo without having to constantly tweak and babysit it. Sometimes being cheap is expensive; BTDT.
  10. Rabid Rabbit

    Rabid Rabbit Well-Known Member

    I have both the turret and loadmaster. The turret was eaiser and more accurate to set up and load. Not bad for 250-300 rounds per hour. The load master took some careful setup and following instructions. The priming system is the weakest part but considering how you feed primers to a Dilion I'm not sure that is a strong point for dilion. The lee case feed system is great and very inexpensive. If I have everything set up right without rushing I load 8-900/hour. Now if I can only get the bullet feed working right.

    I thought about the dillion but I think I got a better deal. Sure I have to pay for replacement parts but since the only part I break is a $1 primer piece that lasts 10,000 rounds I'm doing much better price wise. The thing is so inexpensive that in a couple of months I'm buying another loadmaster frame so I don't even have to change calibers.
  11. benedict1

    benedict1 Well-Known Member

    I hate to ruin the Lee bashing parade--I am at a loss to understand the animosity about Lee products. If you had the time I could tell you the horror story of all time about a Dillon SDB and all the stuff that came with it which I just sent back for a full refund. The priming system was totally messed up and no amount of fiddling, adjusting or replacing worked. I was on the phone with Dillon people daily for 10 days. No dice.

    I now have the new Lee Classic Turret Press with 4 hole turret, Lee Safety Prime, LeePro Powder measure and three sets of DeLuxe Pistol Dies--it all works, it is simple, it is auto indexing and even though I've had it only a week, I can load 150 rounds per hour easily. I expect that to hit 200 as I get my routine down. That's about all we shoot at our house in a week so this works out well.

    I'm in no hurry--I want a good round every time I work the sequence--I can see what happens, or doesn't. Sure once in awhile a primer fails to come out of the primer trigger--but I see it and can do something about it without having to dismantle the whole machine. There isn't a progressive press out there that doesn't lose a primer once in awhile and when it does, you end up with a case with powder and bullet, with no primer, that goes into the bullet puller pile.

    And, oh yes, everything I have cost half of what I spent with Dillon and I still didn't have the third die set from Dillon that I still needed. The thought of trying to get the Dillon large pistol primer system running when changing over the SDB to .45 ACP was too horrifying to contemplate after all the trouble I had.

    Thousands of Dillon machines very work well--thousands of Lee machines of all types work well. A clunker can show up anywhere. But for simplicity and low cost, the Lee auto indexing press is just too good to pass up. Any and all progressive loaders can give you fits. To really learn to reload, to understand the steps and the equipment's capabilities, at reasonable cost, you cannot beat Lee. There are other turret presses that work very well, but most cost a lot more.

    Why don't we all work at helping each other to learn about the quirks and solve the problems we all have from time to time with machines, share our reloading results and quit knocking each other's equipment. ALL of the reputable manufacturers, Lee included, give a 30 day money back guarantee with no questions asked. Just send the stuff back if it isn't right. Dillon graciously accepted my stuff and promptly refunded, so would Lee, or RCBS or anyone else.
  12. 3rdpig

    3rdpig Well-Known Member

    I'd be thrilled with 250 an hour. When I was using the single stage press on a regular basis I could do 100 an hour when things were flowing smoothly. Trying to go faster than that was begging for a bloody fingertip. But I've got big fingers and I tend to be clumsy with small stuff unless I go slow.

    Interesting information here, seems not everyone hates Lee.

    My needs aren't heavy, if I can get a progressive, or turret (sorry!) loader that I can load 300 to 500 in a single 2 hour session, once a week, I'd be happy. Having fast caliber changes, and not having to remove/replace/adjust dies every time would be a big deal to me also.

    What I DON'T want is one I have to repair or tinker with every time before I load. I don't mind a little fine tuning, but I've got more than enough stuff in my life that has to be tinkered with every time.
  13. 3rdpig

    3rdpig Well-Known Member

    I've been sitting here in front of Dillons and Midway USA's websites.

    3 different presses. All set up to do 2 calibers, 9mm and 5.56. Dillon 550, Lee Loadmaster and the Lee Classic Turret.

    For the Dillon all I added was one caliber conversion kit, I'll use my existing dies. I don't believe anything else is necessary, but it's hard to tell, Dillon's site isn't exactly detailed in what comes with the press and what you need to switch from pistol to rifle calibers.

    For the Loadmaster (it's a kit, with one set of dies, powder measure, case feeder, primer feed, etc, etc) I added in one turret, one shell holder, case collator, rifle size case feeder and a universal charge die. I get one set of dies with the Lee set, not that I really need them, but I do shoot .40 and have no .40 dies so I'd probably order it in .40 if I decided on this press.

    For the Lee Classic Turret (press only) I added one extra turret, two shell holders, powder measure, primer feeder and universal charging die.

    Dillon RL 550 B - $410 (I'll have to pay tax, but no shipping.)
    Lee Loadmaster - $275, not including shipping.
    Lee Classic turret $138, not including shipping.

    I've read positive and negative reviews on the Loadmaster, most of the negativity comes from some small parts being cheap and breaking or from the lack of good instructions to set it up. Once the initial setup is done most people seem to like them.

    I've only seen postive reviews for the Classic Turret, but it's pretty new. It seems like Lee listened to what users didn't like about the earlier turret presses and fixed them on this one.

    I've read many positive reviews on the 550, any negativity I've come across concerns cost of turrets and other add on features, most which aren't absolutely needed but are rather pricey.

    $410 is going to be tough for me to handle, I'd probably have to sell a gun to afford that. $275 is on the outer edge, I could do it without selling anything important like a gun, but it's more than I really want to spend right now. $138 I could do easily.

    Of course, I could stick with my single stage press and it won't cost me anything, but I'll still be buying ammo, I doubt I'd find enough free time to load as much as I'd shoot.

    I'm not really asking anyone to make the decision for me, I can handle that, I just thought some might like to see what I worked up.
  14. benedict1

    benedict1 Well-Known Member

    Caliber changes take seconds with an extra turret and dies set up and adjusted in them. I also found that putting a new set of dies in takes no more than 5 minutes, maybe 10 if I drop one on the floor and have to find it under the bench. The instructions with the Lee DeLuxe Pistol Die Set are very clear on what to do.

    I also like the Factory Crimp Die--I get a lot of range brass and a lot of the 9 mm has the Glock "bulge" near the base, or whatever. I resize, deprime, prime, flare and add powder, seat the bullet and then final Factory crimp and full-lenght post-size in that last die. They will chamber after this, no matter where they came from. The Factory crimp is a nice slant/taper for the auto cartridges and puts a solid roll crimp on the revolver stuff without you having to do anything. For a duffer like me this is super.

    Going from large to small primer and back with the new Lee Safety Primer is a matter of seconds. (this system will take a little getting-used to--it works really well--if a primer doesn't feed, you know it right away and can do something about it--I like that very much)

    I can go from 9 mm to .38 Special, especially if using one of the Auto Disks for powder dropping, in about two minutes flat. If I use the variable/adjustable charge bar I have to set it and weigh charges but that is the same with any press. I also just made a calibration chart for it and I can set it very close to what I want on the first try. I stick to one powder, Unique, and load everything with it. That makes things more convenient.

    I'm not a Lee salesman, just want to load some good cartridges with no hassle. The Auto-Indexing Turret Press, the New Classic, is a tough piece of machinery that really can go once you get your rhythym established. Will it beat a well-tuned progressive? Nope. But it is far easier to deal with. That's how I got there.

    Someday, if the need arises, I will try a Progressive press again, but it'll have to be a slam-dunk before I spend the dough.
  15. benedict1

    benedict1 Well-Known Member

    Check out these two links for an indepth review of the New Classic Press with all the bells and whistles. They give you complete step-by-step how-to setup instructions between the two sites.



    Cost was definitely a factor for me--I had no dies or anything.

    Whatever you do keep in mind that if you don't like it you can send it back. I know that is a hassle but it is a great option. You will get a lot more reloading kick for your $$ from the Lee setup.

    People have complained about the Lee Safety Prime--hard to adjust, won't feed primers, etc. Those two links both show how to set them up and the Lee website has instructional videos to set up about anything you buy from them. I have loaded the small primer tray with a hundred primers several times and run right down to the very last one. All you have to do when they get low is tap the primer feed trough/tray and one is always in the trigger for the next insertion into the cup on the lever prime ram. For the life of me I can't figure out why people are complaining about this system?? I am no mechanic and my fingers are like clubs sometimes but it seems to work just fine.

    I'll help in any way I can. If you go to Glock Talk there is a guy there with the moniker Uncle Don who is a real Lee expert--he helped me make up my mind.(here is the link to the Reloading part of Glock Talk where he hangs out--http://www.glocktalk.com/forumdisplay.php?s=&forumid=26 ) There is also a fair number of Lee Bashers--can't get away from it. You just have to make up your mind and get what you can afford.
  16. benedict1

    benedict1 Well-Known Member

    Just noticed your comments about what you need with Dillon--and with Lee.

    Whatever you do, call your order in and make sure you have the right stuff. Neither Lee nor Dillon websites are real clear cause they have lots of stuff. I bought my Lee equipment from Kempf Gun Shop


    They were a little higher than Midway but if you call them and talk to Sue she knows Lee stuff inside and out and will tell you just what you need, and she won't try to sell you too much. Her dad runs the shop and I'm sure he could help too, but I talked to her.

    As for Dillon, they have a bunch of guys who can help if you call them. They know the stuff inside out too.

    I don't know about the Midway folks but I'm sure if you ask for a reloading guru to help you, they will find someone fast.
  17. 3rdpig

    3rdpig Well-Known Member

    benedict1 - Thanks for all the info, I'm a user over at GT but after asking about Lee loaders on another website (which shall remain nameless) and being roundly attacked as an idiot for even considering purchasing anything but Dillon, I came here assuming that the attacks wouldn't be allowed and I could get some real info. I've since gone over to GT and read through the reloading section, I see the same Blue vs. Red. vs. Green vs. Orange battle is going on there too.

    Unless I find a used Dillon, I'll probalby wind up with one of the Lee loaders, which one depends on how much I want to spend and if I think I really want to mess with a progressive loader. I'm liking what I'm hearing from you and from the reviews you sent me on the Classic Turret. The price is right, it sounds easy to set up and use and it sounds as if it's built to last. And most importantly, it sounds like it will do what I need.
  18. unloaded

    unloaded Active Member

    I went through the same struggle you are having now. I decided the LoadMaster was right for my needs. I only load for .40 S&W right now, so I got it setup for that. $199+shipping, just watch for sales. If you do get it setup for .40 it comes with the large casefeeder but it has the small slide. I didn't realize this until looking into setting up for other calibers. Not a big deal, just something easy to overlook and could ad a few days waiting on an extra part or two. I've probably loaded about 5,000 rounds since getting it early this year. So far nothing has broke or been a problem. Between the videos on Lee's site and Uncle Don's tips, setup was fairly easy. I'd say the main thing to ask yourself before buying one is how mechanically inclined are you? If you have no luck with mechanical things, you might want to shy away from a LoadMaster, and possibly other progressives. If you don't mind doing a bit of tinkering or adjusting, you will be fine with it. I do a lot of tinkering with mine, but that is because I try a lot of different things. I've got 6 different kinds of powder that I use, probably same amount of different bullets and three pistols I load for. I load OAL's from 1.125" to 1.200" depending on what I'm after. There are times though I'll leave it setup for a particular load for weeks, and not have to make any adjustments. All the fiddling is caused by me, not the press. It will stay where you want it if you set it up right. I'm very pleased with mine, it is the only thing ever used though, so I can't make any direct comparisons. Did I mention I can really crank out the rounds....?

  19. Lennyjoe

    Lennyjoe Well-Known Member

    I have a Lee Classic 4 hole turret press that I purchased used here last year. Also have 4 extra turrets with dies and auto disk measures on each. I can load around 250 per hour on this press and the only complaint is the indexing. Sometimes it doesnt index exact but a slight adjustment with the hand works fine. I just need to replace a worn part but havent done it as of yet.

    For the price the Classic is worht it. Works just fine for me for reloading .45, 10MM, .44 Mag and .223 range loads. I use a single stage for 30-06 and 22-250.

    Sure, I'd rather have the 550 but with so many projects and not enough cash something has to give;)
  20. jjohnson

    jjohnson Well-Known Member

    I'm sticking with Dillon.

    Well, the last Lee I ever bought (and ever will buy) was a cheap aluminum cast single stage press that I broke the casting on while swaging primer pockets on maybe 100 military 30-06 shells. I'd bought it as an "extra" press I could use for small jobs not worth converting setups on my Dillon 550. I'm not a big guy, but I broke the casting muscling the thing less than 100 cycles.

    On the other hand, my wife bought me a Dillon about 8 years ago, and I load at least 10,000 rounds a year on it in ten or twelve calibers. The speed and repeatability of operation (consistent ammo) was worth it. The few things I've needed from Dillon, whether it's hotline advice or something on the press I wrecked by not following instructions have been taken care of immediately, no charge. Once a small part popped loose and got lost on my floor - when I called them for a replacement part, no problem... and when I told the guy that if it popped off once, maybe they should send two.... they promptly did just that. I now have an extra 'bellcrank' in my kit.

    I'm not saying all Lee products are junk - I have some of their dies, and they're good enough - but I'm turned off by the experience I had with their press and way too happy with Dillon to do anything else. Good luck.:cool:

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