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Adventures with a Lee Pro 1000

Discussion in 'Reloading' started by vafish, Jan 11, 2010.

  1. I've been reloading on a single stage Lee press for about 27 years now. Never real high volume, but enough to save some money and get some extra shooting in. Mostly large bore pistol rounds like the .41, .44 mag, .45 colt and some old rifle rounds like the .300 Savage. I also do a little bit of bullet casting.

    My son had stated shooting USPSA with me and bought his own S+W model 10 and gear. Well lets just sat that all those .38's on a single stage press are pretty time intensive. Even with the kid doing most of the work.

    I'd been thinking about getting a progressive press for years, I've read a lot about them, drooled over the Dillon's, but they just aren't in the budget right now.

    Well I kept looking at the Lee Pro 100 progressive press. Price is pretty good. I read the reviews, knew that they could be a bit of a hassle to get set up right. But I decided to take the plunge after getting a Cabela's gift card for Christmas and having some Cabela's bucks on my credit card account.

    This past Sunday the wife and younger kids were out of the house, and the older son and I decided to do some loading with the new press.

    The short part of the story is that every thing I read about the Lee Pro 1000 is true.

    We had about 900 cast 148 gr wadcutter bullets available and a large box of empty cases.

    I started setting the press up when it arrived last week. Like everyone says the instructions that come with the press are about worthless. Thankfully the internet is here and decent instructions and video's are just a mouse click away.

    Started out with the powder measure. I had heard that flake powders like Unique with light charges were not a good choice. Well guess what powder I had in the loading cabinet? yep, Unique.

    Filled up the powder hopper with Unique, set the disk to throw a 3.4 gr charge and filled up the primer tray. The measure wasn't dropping any powder. So I pulled the powder measure off the press to see what the problem was. In the process the disk fell out and several ounces of powder spilled. Eventually I got the power measure dropping powder, but it was very inconsistent and the charges were lighter than the chart said they should be.

    I cleaned up the spilt powder and let it in the dust pan at my feet.

    I also had some primers get jammed up in the feed mechanism. Took everything apart, spilled a bunch of primers in the process, got the primer path cleared out, and then took the advise I had read and drilled a small hole in the primer tray and top so I could use a toothpick to keep the primers from falling out while putting the tray in place.

    Then I got a bright idea, I have an RCBS powder measure that drops light chargers of Unique just fine. So I removed the Lee powder measure, adjusted the the RCBS measure and was very excited that it slipped into the expander die in place of the Lee autodisk.

    My plan was to just flip the RCBS lever manually at the top of the stroke. The problem was I didn't realize the expander moves inside the die. First .38 special case to go up in the expander die launched the RCBS powder measure and it's contents of Unique powder into the air and all over my loading area, the floor, and pretty much covered everything. The language i used was not fitting for a Sunday afternoon.

    Needless to say I was getting pretty pissed at this point. I knew if I kept working on the press something was going to get broken. So my son and I swept up all the powder from the floor and cleaned it out of all the nooks and crannies on the press. We ended up with a heaping tuna can full of powder, dust and dog hair. So we decided to dispose of it properly and took the tuna can of powder to the front yard.

    Several ounces of Unique powder set on fire is a pretty impressive sight. Smokeless powder does not explode, but it does burn very fast and in this case created a tower of flames about as tall as my 17 year old son.

    After that enjoyment we went down into the basement and watched a movie to calm myself down before giving it another try.

    2nd round was much better. I still used the RCBS powder measure, but the son held it in place and dumped the powder while I operated the rest of the press. One time a primer got a bit sideways but I felt it immediately and fixed it easily.

    We ended up cranking out 101 rounds of .38 Special. By the time we were done it was getting to close to range closing time so we didn't get to try out our accomplishments.

    So in closing, everything you read about the Lee Pro 1000 is true.

    The instructions are worthless.

    It's very frustrating when it isn't working right. (take a break and come back to it later.

    When it's running good it cranks out ammo quickly. (but pay attention for primer problems)

    Small charges of Unique do not meter well in the auto disk measure.

    Lighting piles of Unique on fire is fun.
  2. kcbrown


    Nov 18, 2008
    I didn't have any of the troubles you had, but my experience hasn't been trouble-free, either. I didn't expect to just set up the press and start loading ammunition. I checked the functionality of everything first, all the way through making dud rounds. That wound up saving me an enormous amount of frustration.

    There are a couple of things you need to do to minimize the chance of a primer issue. First, you need to mount the press in such a way that it does not move when you operate it. Otherwise, the movement of the press can move the primer on the pin so that it doesn't seat properly. Second, you need to make absolutely sure that the trough itself is always full, because the primer feed is gravity-driven and without sufficient weight on the primer to be used, the primer will not move into position properly. I haven't had a single primer issue in the 600 rounds I've loaded so far.

    The problem I'm currently working through is one that has even Lee perplexed, and I suspect it's the result of some part being defective -- it's just a question of figuring out which one.

    I've not used Unique, so I don't know how well it meters in general, but if I remember correctly, it doesn't tend to meter well in small holes like the one you'd likely be using for such a small charge weight, because if I'm not mistaken, the flakes are relatively large compared with the diameter of that hole. So it's not that the powder measure is junk as some might have concluded from your experience, it's just that the combination of the powder and the charge weight aren't something it can handle. In contrast, I'm using Silhouette and it meters wonderfully in the Auto Disk with the adjustable charge bar.

    What indexing problems, if any, did you have with it?
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2010

  3. Only had it mis-index once and that was after I had some primer problems.

    I hadn't read that movement could mess up the primers. I mounted the press to my Midway portable loading bench. It does allow some movement. I'll mount it permanently to the bench in the basement and see how it does.

    From what I have read it is small charges of Unique that cause problems. I was using one of the smaller holes which should have been throwing about 3.4 grains IIRC. Pretty light charge. Since the Autodisk's disks are a fixed height the only way to get smaller powder charges is with a smaller diameter hole. The RCBS powder measure I was using has a fixed diameter cylinder and the powder charge is changed by adjusting the length of the cylinder, so that is probably why Unique works well in it.

    Once I finally got it running the press did work pretty well, and I think once I change powders the Autodisk should do it's job to.

    I guess the point I was trying to make was that you read about issues with the Lee Pro 1000 press, and they are right for the most part, it does take a little tinkering to get the press running properly. But once you get it running it is a good little press. I'm not giving up on mine because of a few minor set backs.

    DEADLYACCURATE Senior Member

    Oct 24, 2009
    Congrats on the new press. I hope you get it working 100%
  5. kcbrown


    Nov 18, 2008
    I definitely agree it's a good press once you've got the issues ironed out. I only have the one issue remaining, but it's a difficult one to track down because it's intermittent.

    The real question is: once I get this press running reliably, where do I go from there? I'll no longer have a press that needs tinkering with! I guess I'll just have to get a Loadmaster. :supergrin:
  6. GioaJack

    GioaJack Conifer Jack

    Apr 14, 2009
    Conifer, CO

    If you need to tinker with something for the rest of your life and still not have it run right... get married. :whistling:

  7. Colorado4Wheel


    Nov 2, 2006
    Just load 1K rounds and start tinkering all over again.
  8. kcbrown


    Nov 18, 2008
    Er, well, I did say "once I get this press running reliably", which I basically regard as loading at least a couple of thousand rounds without any real issues. Ideally, it would load tens of thousands of rounds without any real issues, but I expect wear and tear on the press alone would cause a problem here and there after 10k rounds or so.

    Besides, isn't the Loadmaster supposed to be the Ultimate Challenge amongst presses to get working reliably? :supergrin:
  9. kcbrown


    Nov 18, 2008
    LOL! Well, as it happens, I've already tried that, but had the "misfortune" of picking a lady who is ultra-cooperative and generally very cool, so I have to find something other than my marriage to tinker with... :rofl:
  10. idahoglock36


    Mar 4, 2008
    I had that press once for about a week. Nothing but frustration.

    It was mounted very well. I did something wrong and it set off a primer. Broke the toilet chain more times than I can count. Thought about beating it with a hammer....called it names that made my dog duck his head. Drilled out the powder measure so it would drop the charge I wanted.

    A week later I threw it back in the box it shipped in not the Lee box and shipped it back to Midway. They gave me full credit and I used it on a is much better....not without problems but better the LNL does have some issues (like the powder measure arm coming loose, the bushing for the powder measure coming loose and the whole powder measure goes up, the shell plate coming loose, and having to remove the ejector wire and manually removing rounds, getting all the spent primers out of the tube when the get stuck in there....but I can live with that....but I couldn't live with the 1000). You can take the instructions from both companies and throw them in the trash. I still use a lot of Lee Dies and like them, I grew up on a Lee Hammer Kit....but send that press back and get something else, the Lee problems just don't make sense....I'd like to meet their engineer!
  11. kcbrown


    Nov 18, 2008
    I avoided the chain issue entirely by using the spring return on the powder measure. You have to buy a couple of extra parts to set that up but it's not expensive and works very well. I peer into every case to check the powder level so I'm not at all concerned about a double charge. That would require me to short-stroke the press in any case, and that's something I won't do unless something goes wrong, and if something goes wrong I'm paying extra attention to everything.

    I use the adjustable charge bar with my powder measure and know from experience that the powder measure works with my preferred powder (Silhouette) very well, so that wasn't an issue for me at all. I did try to find a disk that would work for my load but none of them wound up being quite the right size.

    It's a shame you weren't able to get yours to run well. If messing around with mechanical gadgets isn't interesting to you then Lee progressive presses are definitely not what you want.

    I already have a Dillon 650 so if I want absolute reliability (or as close to that as you can reasonably get) I'll simply make use of it. I've now got it set up for the more demanding of the two calibers I shoot: .40 S&W. I think the fact that I've got that press made the issues I've had with my Pro 1000 much easier to deal with, because I don't have to get the Pro 1000 working reliably (and in any case, it was cheap enough that if it becomes a failed experiment it's not the end of the world for me. I'm very fortunate to be able to afford to experiment like this).

    I think the problems you get with Lee presses can be subtle but they can be worked out with enough patience. I suspect the defect rate of their parts is higher than that of the other manufacturers, and that surely adds to the frustration.
  12. Bones507


    Oct 3, 2007
    Vafish, if nothing else you gave me a few good laughs with your post, lol. I do hope you get it running right and all turns out good though.
  13. coachg


    Dec 7, 2007
    I had the best luck with mine when I ran the priming operation separate from the powder and bullet seating. I think it was because the powder always seemed to get a few flakes in the primer chute which is very sensitive.

    Load up the case feeder and prime a couple hundred cases, then empty the primers and fill the case feeder with primed cases and finish the operation. I know it's not how it's supposed to be done, but I found it 10 times less aggravating which was worth the slight loss in overall speed.
  14. Well had much better luck today.

    Hit several gun stores on Friday looking for some Wincheter 231. No one had any in stock. But one shot did have some WST, which has a little faster burn rate than W231, but is very suitable for light .38 Special wad cutter loads.

    I lubed up a pile of 148 gr cast wad cutters, it ended up being about 230 of them.

    I have a box of several thousand .38 brass that has already been cleaned and deprimed.

    Only had a couple of problems with the primers. Once it fed 2 of them in some how. And the other time some how a case got in that had not been deprimed. I didn't notice that the decapping pin wasn't tight enough and instead of popping the primer out it slid upwards slightly. So when the case got to the priming station it still had the expended primer in it. That ended up jamming a primer up pretty good.

    Powder measured flawlessly. I was checking a case every 10-20 rounds and every single one of them was spot on.
  15. kcbrown


    Nov 18, 2008
    I find I'm able to tell when a primer isn't seating properly generally before there's damage to the primer. On the downstroke of the ram, at the point where I get to the primer seating operation I will slow almost to a complete stop and then push the primer in. It takes relatively little force and the force difference between pushing it in when everything's working and pushing it in when there's something wrong is considerable. I don't apply enough force to push it in when something's not right. And when something's not right I'll stop, rotate the shellplate, remove the case that's being primed, and examine the situation. I've found cases where the bottom of the spent primer had been removed but the sides hadn't, for instance. I've encountered the situation you encountered where the primer hadn't been removed.

    Those situations feel very different from a normal primer seating operation -- the primer feels like it's hitting a hard stop and because I'm not forcing the primer in I'm able to not only detect and deal with the situation, I'm also able to save the primer.

    When something happens where you can't fix the case and put it back into position, it's best to simply pluck the primer off the ram and set it aside. Once there are no more primers left in the tray you can take the saved primers (you may have more than one) and put them into the tray and replace it.

    I think you'll find that if you're very gentle with the press during the priming operation, you'll reduce your problems to almost nothing.

    Have you mounted your press to the bench in the basement? How much movement is there? My bench is relatively heavy and is secured to the back wall, so it doesn't move at all. I have a steel plate underneath the press to distribute the forces over a relatively large area (without it, the press edges would dig into the bench). The resulting stability of the press has resulted in me having not a single issue with the priming system itself -- all priming issues have been the result of problematic cases.
  16. WiskyT

    WiskyT Malcontent

    Jun 12, 2002
    North Carolina
    Likely your decapping pin was NOT loose. It is designed to slide up like that rather than brake should it encounter a primer it can't get out. Mine do it once in a blue moon. I can't remember the last time it happened. It even punches out crimped primers no problem. For some reason a primer will just be held in by kryptonite or something and they won't come out.

    Loosen the collet that holds the decapper in place, return the decapper to it's original position, and tighten the collet.

    My father had a primer that bent his Dillon decapper into a "U" it was so tough. It was a Boxer primer too, not Berdan. From time to time RCBS and others will break the decapper. I don't know what could make a primer so hard to get out, but it just happens to a piece of brass now and then.
  17. The secret to getting your 1000 to work is the mount. Mount it to a rock stable platform where it will have very little play and it will work great.
  18. dudel


    Dec 10, 2008
    Texas Hill Country
    You've not cried until you've used (and been abused by) an RCBS Green Machine.
  19. fr8owner


    Oct 17, 2008
    The original auto disk works well with the adjustable charge bar even with unique. I can consistantly drop 5.3 grain of unique for some light 40 S&W loads. I use it for 38, 45 and 40 with my light loads and my other turret is set up with the auto disk pro and seems to work better than the original auto disk and makes less of a mess for my magnums.
  20. kcbrown


    Nov 18, 2008
    You made me go look that one up.

    LOL! That one looks like "fun", and not in a good way. :crying:

    Sorry, I'd rather deal with a press where there's at least a small chance of getting it working reliably... :supergrin: