So I finally got fed up with ammo prices and ran out of the ammo I reloaded at my cousin’s house. So I decided to pick up a kit. I wanted a kit since they come with almost all the equipment you need and you usually get a bit of a discount for it. Also, they don’t really come with much equipment you don’t need. So you don’t feel your money is wasted.
I was considering the RCBS Rock Chucker supreme master kit as well as the Lee Breechlock Challenger kit. The lee kit came in at just barely over $100. The RCBS was just a little over $300. I have used RCBS stuff in the past, but never Lee. So I hit the web and found a bunch of reviews of the Lee. They all had nothing bad to say. So why write a review for something I know there is an abundance of reviews for out there already? Basically because there is a few issues I have with this kit. They are minor and to be expected for the price. However, they are big enough that I think if I knew about them before hand I would have ponied up and bought the RCBS kit.
This is the sight that greets you when you open the box containing the kit. A little assembly required. No big deal. Everything was packaged fine and arrived without any sort of drama at all. I ordered a Lee 3-piece die set and a RCBS Case Loading block at the same time. Also ordered at the same time but picked up later was the Hodgden Varget powder, Hornady V-Max 40gr moly coated bullets, and primers. I went with Remington primers this time since that’s all they had in stock for Large Rifle primers.
Now as I mentioned before, the issues I have with this kit are pretty minor. And I expected some issues to come with the price tag. But I was planning on loading maybe 300-500 rounds per year is all. Not 500 a month like many people. So I figured even if it wasn’t great quality it would survive the job I would put it through. Let’s run down the parts list, which for the price is pretty extensive:
- Lee Breechlock Challenger Press: Not as smooth as the RCBS Rock Chucker. But looks and feels pretty sturdy. Uses Lee’s quick change bushing which are a great idea and so far work great. You just set your die into one of the 3 included bushing, and pop it down into the interrupted thread on the press and turn it about 60 degree and it locks in place. No need to reset dies in the bushing, just change out the bushing and die set as a whole. The amount of drag on the main shaft is a bit worrisome. I even lubed it with teflon and still after resizing 150 rounds and putting bullets into 30 there is scrape marks down the shaft. It also has some primer install tools for putting primer in on the press instead of the hand primer. They seem to work smoothly. But they are a bit pointless without the auto feeder for the primers. My only complaint about that is that the used primer catch only works if you have the primer tool in, but with the primer tool in, you can’t lower the shaft all the way down or the shell is stuck in the holder.
- Lee Perfect Powder Measure: Typical rotary powder measure. You adjust the cylinder on one side of the rotary housing and rotate it up to fill with powder. Rotate it down to dump the powder. It has graduation marks to make it easier to adjust. Works fairly well. But when brand new is a bit stiff. But it didn’t take long to loosen up. This actually worries me because it is just a plastic cylinder inside a plastic housing so if it get any more loose than it is now, it will be too sloppy and possibly to the point of falling apart. This hasn’t happened yet, but it would not chock me if it does. Also included is a funnel for the powder. It is a nice hard smooth plastic and works great.
- Lee Safety Scale: Another mostly plastic construction part. The base is cast aluminum and feels plenty sturdy. The zero indicator if a bit strange being cut on an arc though. It’s supposedly magnetically dampened. I don’t see it. The arm with the weight adjustment on it is all plastic with a steel ball on it that rolls into different pockets for the weight differences. It seems much less precise than other sliding balance systems I have seen. Also the way you adjust for increments less than 10 grains is stupid. It has a plastic slider with 3 white indicators that you try to line up the middle line with the 1/10 grain increment you want. Problem is, it is very hard to move it a small amount and the 1/10 indicators don’t work well at zero. Also the pivot for the arm is a pointed plastic “V” that may become dull over time reducing accuracy.
- Lee Auto Prime System: This is their hand primer. It comes with feeding trays for both large and small primers. The trays are plastic and the handle is cast aluminum. The handle position kind of sucks for leverage, but it is no worse than any others I have used. And it makes sense for manufacturing. The only thing I would like to see changed is maybe just a little stiffer return spring in it. It comes with a full set of shell holders that cover pretty much anything out there that this kit would work with anyway.
- Case Trimmer, Chamfer Tool, Primer pocket cleaning tool: The trimmer I did not use since all my cases measured just fine. It is a very simple piece, but since I didn’t use it, I will not comment further. Chamfer tool is a hand chamfering tool. The I.D. side works fin, but the O.D. side didn’t seem to work well. Again, it’s just a very simple piece that I really didn’t need anyway. Primer pocket tool is a little round hardened steel piece with knurling in the middle. The scraper for the pocket is just a slightly tapered flat bar that is maybe 1/32″ thick. It takes quite a bit of effort to clean the pockets even on brass that has only been fired once and never reloaded before. The knurling messes up your fingers due to the effort required. Again, something simple that you probably don’t really need anyway, and I don’t really know how you could make it better other than making it sharper and/or mounting it in a drill.
OK, that covers the parts. So to summarize, the powder measure while it seems fine for now got loose pretty fast and won’t surprise me if it fails to work well after maybe 1,000 rounds of use. The scale works, but is fairly cheapish. The Press has a great feature in the quick change bushings, the primer catcher works well, but only with the inconvenience of the primer insertion tool, and the main shaft has some drag on it during use.
Overall, it’s an OK product at a great price. So if you are like me and plan to only do a few hundred rounds a year and have a tight budget. Then this is not a bad choice. However, if you plan to do a lot of reloading you probably won’t be happy saving a couple hundred bucks up front because 6 months down the road you will likely be buying all new equipment. That being said, Lee must be given props for providing such a complete package at such a great price. I really can’t even see how they have it made for as little as it costs.