I have owned a Lee Pro 1000 for a little over a year and in that time I have learned a lot about this press, both good and bad. After some trial and error I made some modifications to the press increase reliability. Thus I will actually have two articles on this press. The first will be the review and the second will be the mods I made.
The Lee Pro 1000 is a Progressive Reloading Press that comes basically assembled and ready to go. It is the least costly progressive press you can purchase, from any manufacturer. In making it fit a price point some concessions had to be made and some of those concessions have serious ramifications. The best way to illustrate this is to compare it to the closest similar unit, the Dillon Square Deal B. The Dillon unit cost roughly $389 plus shipping or roughly twice what the Lee cost. I would wager the majority of that cost is in design and materials, not just the Dillon name. Back to the Lee…
My own experience with the Lee Pro 1000 started after I signed up for a training class that required 2500 rounds over 3 days. Prior to registering for that class I had used Freedom Munitions re-manufactured ammo and shot on average 200 rounds per month. I was faced with the prospect of purchasing 2500 rounds or loading up 2500 rounds on the single stage press I own. The more I thought about it, the more disgust set in, so I dropped back 7 yards and punted. So began my search for an affordable progressive reloading press. I came upon the Lee Pro 1000 in a Midway USA advertisement; it was $189 plus shipping and it seemed like it would fit my needs. Some quick math proved I could buy the press and components (I had lots of brass) for the same price as purchasing loaded ammo. After researching the unit and what I would be getting I ordered the press and the funnel collator for it.
When it arrived I wasted no time in setting it up. I had read several websites and was aware of certain idiosyncrasies and known issues but with a minimum of effort I was up and running. Now a year later I have produced a little over 5500 rounds of serviceable ammo. I say serviceable and not good because frankly, the machine is lacking in many areas and the result is inconsistency. Remember the Dillon Square Deal B I mentioned above? You know, the press that cost over twice what the Lee cost? What do you get for that price? Accuracy, reliability and repeatability. With that said, let’s get into the Pro’s and Con’s.
Affordable – The Lee Pro 1000 is the most affordable Progressive on the market. When the press arrives you will find every die is set, with the exception of bullet seating depth.
Case Feeder – To unit comes with a “special” case feeder. To the unexperienced the provided case feeder is a bonus.
Size – The Lee Pro 1000 is rather small in both foot print and height. This is a boon for those with limited space.
Caliber Changes – If you reload a lot of different calibers it is easy to change, especially if you invest in an extra Turret so you can keep the dies set.
Cons (hold on to your hat)
Case Feeder – I’ll start here since I also listed as a “pro”. In theory a case feeder should make the unit faster. It does not! There are two ways to load the case feeder. Use the collator, which leads to numerous cases upside down in the feed tube, or you can load each tube one at a time. I have tried both. One at a time is slower but more reliable and what I recommend IF you really must use the case feeder – more about that in the next article.
The case feeder has another time killing issue. On occasion the cases will get hung up and will not feed. This requires the operator to run the ram all the way up and use a scribe or long thin screwdriver to jiggle the cases to feed. When the machine is running the case feeder allows for a healthy feed rate. Unfortunately I don’t believe I ever loaded more than 15 rounds before some issue with the case feeder required me to stop and fix the machine. New Level Unlocked: Frustration!
Primer Feed – The primer holder is actually pretty ingenious and quick to reload; the primer feeder, not so much. The primers slide down this chute device that looks like a playground slide and is made of two pieces of plastic. I have a mod that corrects the issues caused by its two piece design.
I don’t have a good solution for the other issue – the playground slide. The primer holder sits at a 45 degree angle behind the press and feeds the primers down the chute. The problem is the chute turns completely horizontal before reaching the actual primer setting mechanism. For the primers to feed properly there must be enough in the chute to provide “head pressure” otherwise you will have mis-feeds and a multitude of errors that will raise your blood pressure.
The last problem with the Primer Feed has to do with dirt, or more specifically powder. As you will read below there is great chance for powder to wind up on and below the shell plate. When (not if) the powder gets into the primer setting mechanism it will cause issues. A can of aerosol duster for keyboards is your best friend here!
Shell Plate Stop/Locator – The “stop” or locator device for the shell plate is a spring-loaded detent ball. (See photo below) There is nothing inherently wrong with a spring-loaded detent. The problem lies in the placement of said detent. Mainly the fact it is centered below the bullet seating die. This means your case is filled with powder when the detent “pops” up and smacks the shell plate directly below the case. Anyone with a basic understanding of physics will understand the problem with smacking the case in the ass after being loaded with powder. For those that failed High School Physics I’ll elaborate… the powder charge is violently shaken and it is normal for a flake or two to hop out of the case. Aside of the issues with powder being all over your bench you get to enjoy a variable powder charge, a dirty machine and an imminent, jammed primer setting mechanism as mentioned above.
Powder Measure – The powder measure is OK. The biggest issues I had with it was elated to the powder type. Some powders measure well and others don’t measure correctly at all. For the price of the powder measure, I can’t really fault it.
I can fault the idiocy of the Auto-Disk. Specifically the chart that Lee provides. This chart list common powders and shows which diameter hole in the Auto-Disk will give a specific charge weight. I recommend you take the chart and use it to start a fire pit. I don’t know what world the chart designer is living in, but I have not found it to be accurate at all. Frankly this is only a minor annoyance as you should be measuring your powder charges with a scale; but seriously, if you are going to spend the time making a chart, shouldn’t we be able to expect it to be somewhat accurate?
So there you have it. The pros and con’s you can expect with the LEE Pro 1000 Progressive Press. Note that I didn’t describe the reloading process and I won’t in my next article either. Reloading is not something to be taken lightly and if you are interested you should seek guidance from an experience reloader. I also recommend you start on a single stage or turret press.
As noted above, next time we’ll go over the mods and tricks that help make the press more reliable and user-friendly.