Intricacies of the Lee Press

Posted on: 2010-03-12 11:08:12

Got my "Lee Challenger Breech Lock Single Stage Press Anniversary Kit": this week.

Here is a comixed version of my experience:


h2. What really happened...

h3. I didn't read the directions

My buddy uses the Hornady "Handbook of Cartridge Reloading": and their "kit": to do his reloading. A lot of my experience and workflow was based off of my experience with his gear. This doesn't exactly apply to the Lee kit.

Read all of the instructions. Twice. This will solve most of your problems and save you some time.

h3. Handgun reloaders are second-class citizens with this kit

The aforementioned kit comes with "everything" you need to reload... minus the dies. In practice, however, it doesn't seem that statement applies to 9mm, .380, and any other round that has an extremely short case:

  1. The \"chamfer & deburring tool\": doesn't work for handgun rounds. Perhaps it would work for .38 special since the shell is quite a bit longer. The problem is that you can't hold onto the round, it goes all the way into the tool. Go get an \"RCBS Chamfer & Deburring tool\": It works *much* better.
  2. The \"powder funnel\": is also not very friendly to the smaller cases[1]. If you put the case on the table (or in a loading block) and put the funnel over the case and pour the powder, the powder gets all over the place. Not very usable at all. This one is a bit easier to resolve. Simply cut about about 3/8 in. of the bottom of the funnel off, sand it off with 300 and then 600 grit sandpaper... and it should work much better.

h3. I didn't take my time

An "Impact Bullet Puller": is awesome. It's the reloading "undo" tool. In my rush to get some ammo loaded, I forgot to calibrate the scale. As a result, those rounds are probably a grain or two too hot. A couple extra grains in a rifle round might not hurt if you are loading starting loads. But an extra grain even at a starting load for a handgun could damage your gun... or your hand.

Trying to get the powder measure to the right setting for a 4.6 grain load took probably 5 or 6 minutes. Measure, weight, dump, repeat. You can't rush this folks. It's no wonder my friend bought himself an electronic scale.

fn1. You can sort of get around this by using the powder-through-sizing die, but that adds an extra step to an already tedious process.

h2. Praise for the Lee Kit

Let's talk about the good stuff. In fact, now that it's all set up the way it needs to be, it feels much faster than the other kit.

h3. Perfect Powder Measure

The powder measure does seem to be very accurate. I went from measuring every load to every 5 (and as the trust grows) every 10 to 20 rounds. It can take a while to get it calibrated (resorting to trial and error), but once it's set... well... it's set.

h3. Safety Prime

The dual-action de-prime/full length size/re-prime on a single stroke is very nice. On my buddy's Hornady kit, this is a two step process... de-prime on the press then prime by hand. The press also has a funnel for spent primers where they go through a tube to a trash can (or they collect in the tube.)

Also, the "shake to upright the primers" on the safety prime really works. Very quick and easy, that thing.

h3. Overall construction

No problems with the dies. The kit feels very solid. The wooden handle is very nice. Doesn't feel cheap. Some of the plastic components do feel a little cheap, but they nonetheless perform well.

Anyway. These are my thoughts on it now. Let's see where we are in... oh... 2 or 3 months.

Final result (click for fun):