Lee Pro 1000 Reloading Press – Improvements and Mods

Lee Overview

Now that I have given a long-term review of the Lee Pro 1000 I felt it only fair to provide some mods and improvements I have made.  It is my hope that those who own this press, or are contemplating purchasing it, can get use these to get the most out of the press. I will list the mods in the same order as the cons were listed in my review article.

Case Lube – my first suggestion isn’t a modification and is applicable to all reloading presses. Buy and use Hornady One-Shot spray case lube! You don’t have to be super precise with the application. The following method works well for me.

  1. Spread the brass out on an old cookie sheet.
  2. Sparingly spray One Shot.
  3. Return the brass to the loading bin.
  4. Spray some One Shot into the resizing die. Every 1000-1500 rounds apply a little more to the die. Pro Tip: when spraying One Shot into the die, place a rag below the die to catch the grime that will run out.

Lube the Press – my second improvement is to lube the press. I use oil on the ram and the hex bar that controls the indexing. I do not recommend grease; I tried it and there was no improvement over oil and it made a mess.  My press is currently lubed with Valvoline 5W-20 from my last oil change, I think…

Just put a little on your finger and wipe the surfaces.  I have not found it necessary to lube the handle mechanism as there is enough play to ensure ease of function.

Case Feeder – Now we’ll get into the meat and potatoes of improvements and I’ll make the first mod  simple – remove the case feeder, and Z bar. Yes the cyclic rate will be lower, but I have seen a consistent 50% improvement in rounds per hour. This is because you are no longer fighting the case feeder. This also allows one to briefly inspect each case prior to placing it into the machine and catch the damn 380 ACP brass or those with crimped primer pockets.

IMG_5491

Case Feeder Removed

Primer Feed – There are two worthwhile mods you can make to improve the primer feed. The first is to ensure the two piece chute retains its shape. I chose to do so with zip ties as seen in the photo below.

IMG_5481

Note the Zip Ties

The second improvement is to put a zip tie on the upper primer feeder “activator”. The primer feed mechanism uses a rod that comes out the side and “kicks” off of two groves as a means of ensuring primer flow. It is a Rube Goldberg setup that works better with the zip tie as shown below.

IMG_5492

Ugly, Rube Goldberg and Effective!

To keep the primer feed from jamming up due to errant powder see the shell plate stop/locator mod below. Oh, as I noted in the first article, a can of aerosol duster for keyboards is your friend here!

Shell Plate Stop/Locator – There is not much we can do to correct the spring-loaded detent without major redesign. I tried to trim the spring and relieve the tension but that led to inaccurate shell plate indexing.

The trick is simple. Place your finger over the powder charged round as the shell plate rotates. This is best seen in the video below. It is easier to do once the case feeder is out-of-the-way.

Powder Measure – I’ll be honest, I don’t have a good answer here. I know Lee has introduced a new powder measure called the Lee Auto Drum but I have been hesitant to invest in it since my goal is to upgrade in the next few months.

Triangle Tactical does a review of the powder measure here for anyone interested.

Case Ejector – This wasn’t mentioned in my first article but it is a simple and effective mod. Basically it involves bending the case ejector rod similar to that shown below. The rod bends like a coat hanger so have no fear and bend away.

IMG_5478

Tweakin’ (wait, what?)

Below is a not very good quality video of me loading about 10 rounds on my press. At this rate I can load 300-350 an hour. This puts the loading in the ballpark with a Dillon Square Deal B. The press now produces decent ammo that is accurate enough for action shooting, defensive training and plinking. It is not going to bullseye accurate, but frankly if you are shooting bullseye you are probably loading on a single stage so you can control every aspect of the process.

The Lee Pro 1000 is an affordable press that can be made to run decent and can easily provide enough ammunition to shoot 1200-1500 rounds a month. As it sits I have about a 5% rejection rate when I case gauge the ammo. That doesn’t mean the ammo won’t fire or function, it just means it MAY not feed properly.  I relegate those rounds to training only.

Even with the mods the single biggest drawback remaining is the fact the press uses three dies instead of four. Presses that run four dies can use a Factory Crimp Die in the 4th stage to ensure case uniformity. In my experience, a Factory Crimp Die would drop the rejection rate to practically nothing.

In the end it is all about what you can afford and what you want to do. If you can afford a better press, I would suggest you do so. If you shoot more than 1500 rounds a month, I would look elsewhere. If you want to shoot multiple calibers each month, I would look elsewhere. If you are starting out and limited on funds but want to move up from a single stage this might be the press for you, if you are willing to tinker with it and learn its idiosyncrasies.

As for me? I shoot a Tanfoglio which are known for tight chambers; that dictates the need for a four stage press and a Factory Crimp Die.  I plan on moving up (to the East Side?) sometime this year.

30 thoughts on “Lee Pro 1000 Reloading Press – Improvements and Mods”

  1. I hate to sound like a Dick,(Sorry Caleb)

    The ONLY modification you need on a Lee is to buy a Dillon!!

    I just got a 45 on Ebay for $150, it comes on Friday, when it gets in, I’m taking it to Dillon and for under $50, they will do a complete Refurb on it!! I’m updating it to 550B Features with the 450 Frame, Great Press!!

    1. Obviously a Dillon is better. That isn’t the point of this article. Go to Brian Enos Forum, check the Dillon page and note that people have issues with their Dillon’s too.

      Seriously, did you even read the article or did you just see it wasn’t about a Dillon and decided to make a fanboi comment? People who are so brand myopic make me want to purchase another brand out of spite. My goal isn’t reloading because I enjoy it, the goal is maximum usable ammo as quick as possible. I don’t care the color or brand as long as the job gets done.

      1. Relax bro, I read the article, and came to the same decision that I’d rather pay $750 on a Dillon 650B than to remove a case feeder for one example. That’s say that if the Lee was $100 and needed no tinkering at all, than it’s still not worth it.

        That said… It’s a good article and info by itself, no need to get drawn into a X vs Y.

        Personally, with the price ammo is right now, I should absolutely not be reloading 9mm. It’s far better to pay $.20 a loaded round than to pay .075 bullet + .03 powder + .025 primer + labor. And that is considering that I’m turning out 350-450 per hour with a 650B by myself.

        I think too many people discount their reloading labor as “free”… I’m much more interested in my shooting hobby than my reloading one. When the election rolls around that might be a different story.

        1. I’m not mad. It just boggles my mind.

          I’ve got my reloads down around 0.115 cents each. Still cheaper than factory ammo.

  2. I bought my Lee 1000 when I got back from Kuwait, back in April 1991. I have found the press to be a great value, but quirky. As you noted the case feeder is not always the smoothest and I have made both a new Z Bar and a new loaded round ejector out of a thick wire coat hanger. The Z bar I made is a wee bit longer and has worked well for the last 19 years. If it breaks, I’ll make a new one. I have also coated the rails (as I call them) that the case feeder slides on with paste wax (Kiwi’s when I was in the service and now my daughters crayons). This makes the feeder slide more smoothly, IMO. Most of the time I do not use the case feeder, as I found myself starting and stopping too often due to the speed of Lee 1000. The gravity primer feed starts to hang up when the primer count goes below 25 or so. I keep another tray of primers ready to go because of this. Without the case feeder, I get around 400+/- rounds loaded per hour. With it installed, I get more than twice that, but I feel I lose control over the process. Lastly, the steel parts on the press seem to rust more readily than would like, but some grease and oil keeps things to a minimum.

  3. Could you put the bullet in the case as it comes down, before rotating and hitting the detent ball to “plug the case” and stop powder jump?

    Right now your process is:
    1) Cover the case
    2) Insert new case
    3) Insert bullet

    This would just combine #1 and #3 earlier in the order and eliminate an entire step.

    1. Likely! I hadn’t thought of that. I’ll try tonight. I can promise I will have to hold the bullet otherwise the detent will knock it out.

      Cabela’s has the LNL AP on sale and it comes with 500 bullets. Fighting hard not to order it.

      1. I bought my LNL AP about a year ago and it has been flawless. It worked right out of the box. The free bullets were nice too.
        Get a powder through expander for the powder measure and you will have room for a powder cop, seater, and separate crimp die.

    2. I tried and placing the bullet on prior to the detent blocks your view for a powder check. But it is still quicker to cover with the finger while holding the bullet, then place the bullet, then load the case.

      Small improvement, but it helps.

  4. Does anybody run a spell checker anymore?
    Can’t get past two sentences without finding an error.
    Hint: “are” not “our”

    My single stage works fine, don’t need fancy stuff like that.

    1. Thanks for pointing out the error. As you are aware I don’t do this as a full time gig and my staff editor consists of me. One can only review their own work some many times before they can no longer see the forest for the trees.

  5. Since there’s only 3 stations is it possible to arrange the dies such that it’s powder-thru, bullet seat , and then crimp? I ask because I decap & stainless tumble first, the resize separately (& then check case length), so I don’t need a resize die in this process.

    There does seem to be a lot of complicated hand movements for this press though. Quirky

    1. You would need to prime the cases separately, otherwise you would be priming after the powder is added; but yes, it could be done.

  6. Excellent article! I started out with a pro 1000, and had some of the same experiences. I didn’t have as much issue as you had with the case feeders, but I also hand loaded them into the tubes.
    The way I felt with the primer feeder was to keep an eye on it and when the primers started to dam up at the ramp, I just tapped the feeder to make them flow again. I also kept a paper clip nearby to help unstick any primers that wouldn’t budge from the tap.
    Over all, I found it to be an OK loader, and did use it for several years until I finally upgraded.
    Wish I would have had your article when I was working out the bugs on mine.

  7. I must say your mods are making the reloading process a lot slower. I can crank out reliable ammo (chrony variation of less then 5 feet per second) with this. I load 92 rounds in 14 minutes at a relaxed pace. So not gunning it for time. The only reason I noticed the time was because I needed to go somewhere with the misses and needed to make sure I wasn’t late. That’s with having to reload the primer feed, checking a primer seating every time I think it felt a bit funny on that stroke and the odd case falling down on the way from the case feed to the shell plate.
    Maybe mine is just run in a bit. Bought it in 2005 and I load 38/357/9mm/40/45 with it.

    Also not having the bullet feed means I would have to do that as well as look into the case to inspect powder and place the bullet. Currently I just inspect case for powder and seat bullet. Case feeder does it’s thing.

    You’ve had it a year and you’ve not gotten use to the rhythm of your press yet? Just be gentle and go at the pace that works for that press. If I rush my press the primer doesn’t seat nicely. If your stroke is jerky you’ll get powder spilling out. The old slow is smooth and smooth is fast holds true for the Pro1000.

    Now for our Dillon yrseud1, I thought about upgrading to the Dillon. For the price of getting another calibre conversion setup going I could already buy another 2 Pro1000’s and some extras. I can also promise you if you do a side by side of my ammo versus your Dillon loaded ammo there will be no difference. It’s about your own personal QA and not forcing or rushing the press. I like to spend my money on guns, components and gear.

    However if it does finally die on me to the point that a few (less than 5 parts) cannot be replaced to fix it I would definitely consider going another route. But till then I don’t see the need to spend more money on a press if I have a perfectly serviceable press that cranks out good quality ammunition.

    Am I saying it’s better than anything of the other presses? No. Not at all. I’m saying that for the price point you’ll not find a better press. Ammo is of good quality.

    Cons:
    Auto disk – doesn’t allow you to fine tune loads. The gamer in me wants the closest possible load to a given power factor with a specific powder. I’ve had experiences where one hole diameter down is under factor and the next hole is way more than required. Like in WAY more. Not gamer friendly in that regard.

    It can be a shaky ride but learn to see where your press starts to falter and just slow down for that part of the stroke. (Just realized what that says about the quality of the press but again at Hi-Point prices you can’t expect HK performance.)

    1. I could do about 100 in 20 minutes with the case feeder. By taking it off my cyclic rate is slower but I can load more in an hour because I don’t have to stop and reload the case feeder and fight the stoppages. It’s not perfect, but the ammo is overall more consistent. The Auto-Disk.. yeah, I have run into the same issues with it not throwing a consistent charges.

    2. Lee makes a micrometer that takes the place of a disc. Works well unless you want small volumes of Unique.

  8. I’ve had a Lee Pro 1000 for a couple years now and haven’t had any of the issues you’ve mentioned, and need needed to do any of the ziptie mods. There is a rhythm to using the Lee, and once I figured it out, I can reliably churn out 350-400 rds an hour without the case feeder. I did polish the loaded round exit ramp, and it does need to be dismantled and cleaned every 2500rds or so. Other than that, she just keeps on churning out rounds. Maybe I got a”good” one?

    1. I have some other Lee reloading equipment and have found Lee’s biggest issues are their dependency on plastic and loose tolerances. If you get a press with all of the tolerance stack-ups in the ‘sweet spot’ then it will run great. If the press has looser tolerances then it will be more finicky. Sounds like you got a “good one”. Hang on to it.

  9. Have you ever used a turret press or do you shoot too much for that to be good? I’m running ~300 rounds a month and I’m thinking of setting up to reload for 6.5×55 and 45acp…just not sure what press to get

    1. I went from a single stage to a progressive. I have never used a turret. I know Luke at Triangle Tactical recommends the Lee Turret. For precision loading I prefer a single stage. For action pistol and volume a single won’t work. I am on track to shoot about 6000 rounds of 9mm this year, presuming I don’t take a high round count class, which I might. To some that is a huge number and too others it is insignificant. I shoot other calibers, but not to that extent. I would shoot more if I didn’t have hot rods as my other hobby. I make a living in aviation so competition is a hobby. From personal experience a CCW carrier can shoot about 2500 rounds a year and be a solid shooter, provided they are consistent in their training and carry gear.

      I think you could load 300 a month easily on a Turret press. I bought the progressive because I need 2500 rounds in less than a 6 weeks and the cost difference between buying ammo and buying the Lee Pro 1000 and components was equal. This method allowed me to keep the equipment. Once the press arrived I was able to load about 700 a week and meet my goal.

      Prior to ordering the Pro 1000 I had been looking at the turret presses and was contemplating a RCBS turret press. I have never used the RCBS turret, but I fondled it in the stores and it seemed solid and the build quality was great. If I was going to go with a turret that is probably the one I would go with. It is less than a Dillon or Hornady progressive but higher quality than the Lee turret presses.

    2. Paul, I started with the Lee Loadmaster. I found it to get finicky, to get out of time, and to start eating some of the small plastic parts. I took a step back and went with a turret press, now I’m running two. The big Redding T7 and a Lee Classic Cast. The big guy gets used for low volume reloading of big rifle cases, the Lee loads everything else. The Lee auto indexes if you wish so you can either batch load or load complete cartridges one at a time. Very simple, very reliable.

  10. I run a Hornady LnL set up for 9mm. It’s not like spending the extra money made my world trouble free. My rejection rate is about the same as yours, especially if I’m using cast bullets. My solution is to leave my single stage set up with the factory crimp die. Then my rejects get run through the single press, drops my reject rate to almost zero.

    1. After 27 years of using Dillon, my rejection rate us under .01%

      Ya, I had one upside down primer last time and it was all due to the Dillon Electric Primer Filler, when I fill up Primer Tubes by hand, I NEVER have upside down primers, but this ThingamaJig is fast!!

Comments are closed.