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Lee Precision Breech Lock Challenger Kit (Red)
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- Includes a set of 11 Auto-Prime Shell Holders
- Kit includes the Breech Lock Challenger Press and one Breech lock quick change bushing
- This kit is perfect for those who prefer to prime off the press
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The Lee Precision Breech Lock Challenger Kit includes the Breech Lock Challenger Press and one Breech lock quick change bushing. It provides a complete powder handling system, with the most convenient and repeatable perfect powder measure. Plus the Lee safety scale, the most sensitive and safest of all powder scales and fill your case with the included powder funnel. Case preparation tools include a cutter and lock stud to trim your cases. Lee chamfer tool chamfers the inside and outside of the case mouth and a tube of premium sizing lube is included. A small and large primer pocket cleaning tool completes the case preparation package.
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Legal DisclaimerThis product contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.
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I've reloaded thousands of rounds of both rifle and pistol ammunition with this kit. Each of the included items works as intended and with just a couple of exceptions (discussed below), I'm still using all of them.
That being said, some of components do show compromises that had to be made to bring this in at such a rock bottom price point. First the good news:
The press itself and the hand primer tool are the two best things about this kit. Comparing the Challenger press to a turret or progressive press is just silliness; it's apples to oranges. But this thing is every bit as functional as anyone else's single stage press. It is cast aluminum instead of ductile iron, but then again, Hornady's well-regarded single stage press is also made from this lighter weight material. The Lee unit is rock solid and the breech lock design does speed up die changes.
The hand primer tool (what Lee calls the Auto Prime) is likewise very effective. It gives you good tactile feedback and with minimal practice you can crank out primed cases with ease. The fact it comes with a complete set of priming tool shell holders for practically every caliber is a nice bonus.
In the interest of fairness, the not-so-good:
The powder dispenser is very cheaply made, being almost all plastic. While I've personally found it to throw accurate powder charges, it just doesn't feel like a particularly well-constructed instrument. And unlike most of the other components, I do have to wonder about the powder dispenser's long term durability. The white markings on the micrometer adjustment are already wearing off. Although I don't pay much attention to them anyway. I just set the micrometer to the general ballpark and then start making small adjustments as I weigh test charges until I get it dialed in.
The markings on the powder scale are likewise wearing off, but that's the least of my complaints about this component. It is accurate, but it's not exactly easy to work with. Besides being slow to settle onto a definitive reading, it has this weird adjustment system for tenths of a grain. You have to slide a plastic doohickey until a little window corresponding to the desired tenth of a grain aligns with a white mark underneath and lock it into place by depressing this tiny plastic pin. Half the time, just the act of pushing that locking pin shifts the position of the doohickey, potentially throwing off your weight setting. It's hard to put in words just how cumbersome this is, but I've found it to be an excessively fussy (and cheap) design. Oh, and the scale has to be re-zeroed every time you pull it out of the box, or you will not get accurate powder weights. I've gotten used to its quirks, but I'm thinking hard about upgrading to a better scale.
The case cutting tool and lock stud are fine, but don't do anything by themselves. To make them work, you have to buy the case length gauge that corresponds to the caliber you will be reloading. Again, hard to explain in words, but suffice it to say that the case length gauge, along with the die sets, are two caliber-specific components you have to buy separately to make this reloading kit "complete". And while you're buying extras, get another pair of the breech lock quick change bushings (about $9 Lee Precision Breech Lock Bushings (Silver)). This kit only comes with one (I recall receiving two, but more recent purchasers report only getting one). Most die sets have two or three individual dies, and you want a separate bushing for each die, or the breech lock system doesn't offer any real advantage.
The primer pocket cleaner tool works as intended. So too does the chamfer/deburr tool, but it's a very cheaply made, severely design-compromised tool. I recently bought a real chamfer/deburr tool for about $20 and it's much, much better than the Lee version.
I tried the included case lube once but that tube of pasty stuff just doesn't feel right compared to the RCBS lube that I ended up getting, along with a proper lube pad. Actually, I've heard of reloaders doing just fine lubing their cases with a $3 quart of motor oil and an old rag.
Better yet, dispense with case lube all together. You have to buy a caliber-specific die set to "complete" this kit anyway. Do yourself a HUGE favor and spring for carbide versus steel dies; the former doesn't require any lube.
I initially cheaped out and bought steel rifle dies. Only later when I bought a carbide set for pistol ammo did I see what all the fuss was about. Night and day difference and really speeds up your case prep. Trust me: even on a tight budget the $10-15 price premium for carbide is a no-brainer.
So why 4 out of 5 stars if the Lee Challenger kit is so full of compromises? Because everything does work and you can absolutely make match grade ammunition with this kit. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. For the price I paid, I've gotten a ridiculous amount of value out of the Lee Challenger kit. Plus, it's a low risk way for anyone to test the reloading waters.
[Edit]: for absolute novices, here are the extras you *must* buy in order to complete this reloading kit. (Besides the actual reloading components - bullets, shells, primer and powder).
1) A reloading manual.
2) One or more die sets specific to the caliber(s) you want reload.
3) One or more Lee case length gauges specific to the *rifle* caliber(s) you want to reload. (Not necessary for pistol calibers b/c unlike rifle cases, pistol cases generally do not require trimming.)
4) A bullet extractor. You *need* one of these because the time will come when you either make a reloading mistake or worse, think you *may have* made a reloading mistake. If you're unsure you've made a mistake and don't have the extractor, you'll be tempted to risk using that suspect round. That's how serious reloading accidents happen.
Nice to have items:
1) A set of calipers to precisely measure case and overall cartridge length (this one's practically a necessity).
2) A tumbler, tumbling media and brass polish.
3) A reloading block to stand up your cartridges during each step of the reloading processes. You can get by without these if you use either those plastic cartridge storage boxes or even the plastic/styrofoam spacers that come with packaged pistol ammunition.
long story short, the press makes up for all the other issues.
If I had wanted to crank out hundreds of rounds in a couple of hours for practice shooting, then I would have been very disappointed. This press takes a lot of tinkering with the various dies to get perfect results. Same as all manual presses. But it does what it was designed to do very well. I crank out around 50 rounds of very high quality reloads custom tailored for my pistol.
Warranty with Lee is fast and easy. I have had a decapper pin fail and the primer unit break, my fault, I took a photo of the damaged items, emailed to Lee tech support, and within a day new items were on their way too me.
Keep in mind that the kit is fairly complete. It does require dies for the round you plan to load, the proper powder, primers, bullets, and the cases. You should also have a good reloading manual or even more than one. I have three! Loading data can be found on the web too.
I have thousands of round reloaded with this kit, and I enjoy using it. Reloading can save you money, however, for me, I don't much more shooting, so I'm spending about the same money, but shooting way more.