First progressive press - very happy with it for the price.
By Adam L.
on Aug 17, 2023
Short review for the TL;DR crowd - I like this thing a lot, it works fine, it was inexpensive, and it has upgraded my rounds-per-hour for reloading by an order of magnitude over single-stage loading. My one caveat is, I was a very experienced reloader when I bought it, and a newbie reloader may not find it as reliable and relatively easy to work with as I did (but I expect that's true of any progressive press).
Long review for the detail-oriented crowd - I have been reloading for about 20 years on various single-stage press setups. Mostly I reloaded bigger stuff - 308, 30-06, 45/70, etc. Over the last few years I've started loading 9mm and 223, and have reached the point where I just don't have the time to single-stage load 1,000 rounds of this and 1,000 rounds of that and 2,000 rounds of the other, when each loaded round takes handling it 4 to 5 times in/out of the press or priming tool. I'm also getting more arthritic, so handling the brass in/out of the tools that much is hard on my hands. So it was time to upgrade, and I'm not rich enough to drop $1,000 on a Dillon, and Hornady LnL isn't much cheaper, nor is RCBS progressive stuff, etc, so I looked at Lee.
After considering the 4 currently available options (Pro 1000, Pro 4000, LoadMaster, and Six Pack), all of which were affordable options, I settled on the Pro 1000 as being ideal for my uses. Factors for decision - I strictly wanted it for handgun and small rifle rounds (ie: I did not need the extra OAL capacity of a Loadmaster or 6 pack), I did not like the clockwise rotation nor the priming system on the Pro 4000, and in most cases, I am really just going to use the Pro 1000 to size, prime, flare, and still single-stage the powder+seat+crimp process for better quality control, so 3 die positions is plenty.
Setup was fairly easy, although I would caveat that by saying if I was a newbie reloader, it probably would be a lot less easy to setup than I found it. I suggest that there are good youtube videos for everything, so just take the time to watch the videos, and go slow - setup one thing, play with it for a while till you are comfortable, then move on to the next thing, etc.
My intention was (and mostly still is) to just use the Pro 1000 to crank out cases that are fully ready to single-stage load on a different press. Very similar to how a lot of people use the APP press. Using the Pro 1000 in this capacity, I find I can comfortably do 1,000+ ready-to-load pieces an hour for handgun brass using the case feeder, and 600 or so an hour of 223/5.56 (no case feeder, just me dropping each piece into the case slider after lubing by hand). The main slowdown when using it this way is keeping the primer tray full.
I have also done some experimental full progressive loading of 380 to see what I thought of it. The press itself and all the parts worked fine for me, but for me personally, I found I didn't like how many things are happening with each pull of the lever, and by the time I lean over to check powder/case fill, then set the bullet on the case at a very awkward angle, look over to make sure the next piece of brass is lining up right in the case slider, paying attention to feel on the downstroke for primer seating, watching the primer tray to make sure it stays somewhat full, watching the case feeder to make sure it stays full, I found the whole process fairly taxing mentally and while it's definitely faster than my method of doing "case prep on the pro 1000, but final loading on the single-stage" method - it's not THAT much faster, and it's a lot less relaxing/enjoyable. So for the most part, I intend to stick with final-load being done on the single-stage. To be fair, any progressive loader would be the same thing to me, so that's not a knock on the Lee.
A few tips/tricks to ensure everything rolls along smoothly:
1) Never ever let the primer feed system get empty. The weight of the primers above in the feed path pressing down on the primers below is required to ensure reliable operation (ask me how I know). So watch the primer tray - seat about 4 primers once you see the last one trickle out of the tray, then stop and reload the tray. As long as I keep the system full, I've never had any mis-feeds.
2) Run the press handle smoothly and consistently, and keep the speed reasonable (about 1 complete up/down stroke ever 2-3 seconds is as fast as I'd recommend). Jerky movements or trying to go too fast can both cause problems.
3) Watch the videos of people setting up each of the stages, even if you think you don't need to. It's worth the 30 mins of your life.
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