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The Lee Classic Turret Press - Product Review

For several years I have reloaded ammunition using the Lee Turret Press and Lee four hole turrets (made by Lee Precision of Hartford, Wisconsin) and have been satisfied with the results.

My original Lee Turret Press required me to feed new primers into the primer holder, then to use my thumb to hold the primer holder in position as the ram was lowered to seat the primer.

I later bought a newer ram for the Lee Turret Press which incorporated the Lee Lever Prime System... a system that, as the ram is lowered, employs a lever on the primer holder to position the primer automatically, without any further operator input.

The Lee Lever Prime System came with primer holders for large and small primers.

Even though I was satisfied with this system, three problems persisted.

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First... as my spent primers were ejected, they often popped out of the press and onto the loading bench, or onto the floor. Spent primers ended up all over the garage... sweeping out the garage became as much a "primer disposal operation" as a true cleaning operation.

Second... the primers that went where they were supposed to go collected in a pile under the press, which necessitated removing the press from the bench to clean them out.

Third... the little lever activated primer holder itself sometimes popped out of the ram and hit the floor, requiring a minimal amount of time and effort to reinstall. This didn't happen often, but it did happen occasionally.

I recently bought a newer model - the Lee Classic Turret Press - (see photo #1).

The Lee Classic Turret Press uses the same turrets as the older model (photo #2), so no new turrets or dies are needed; however, I do recommend reseating all your dies to factory specifications when installing any new press or ram.

The Lee Classic Turret Press comes with one four hole turret and an improved Lever Prime System, including large and small primer holders.

The three problems outlined above quickly vanished.

The ram of the Classic model is hollow, which makes it much larger in diameter than the older model. During the first stroke of the press, as the sizer/decapper die pops out the old primer, the spent primer falls straight down through the hollow ram and drops into an attached tube, where it is captured (photo #3).

The spent primer really has nowhere else to go except straight down the "pipe" and into the tube.

The tube is about .625" in (outer) diameter. It is approximately 16 inches long, and is made of heavy clear flexible plastic (or PVC), allowing you to see its contents. At its end is a rubber cap, which can be easily removed, allowing you to dispose of the spent primers (photo #4).

Or, if you wish, the cap at the end of the tube can be removed altogether and the tube channeled into a cup or other container.

The stroke on the Lee Classic Turret Press is longer than on the old press, allowing the newer model to accommodate longer rifle shells, including cases over four inches in length if the auto indexer is removed. The pull handle on the Classic press is also longer than the old one.

The handle is slightly bowed so that it is angled slightly away from the press to provide hand clearance when activating the handle.

I found the longer pull handle to be slightly uncomfortable and, for my purposes, unnecessary. I didn't need the increased mechanical advantage provided by the longer handle (photo #5).

However, Lee must have foreseen this, and engineered a solution right into the Classic Turret Press.

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The pull handle is adjustable... it slips into a hole at the bottom of the linkage, and can be adjusted to a custom length, and then tightened into place by means of a bolt (photo #6).

It is very easy to shorten the handle for individual comfort. I found that by adjusting the pull handle 3.5 inches inward, the pull was more comfortable (and shorter).

However, this necessitated an "overhang" of the bottom end of the handle. Although this overhang didn't interfere with anything, I nevertheless didn't like it (photo #7).

So I decided to do something about it, and to make some other "custom" improvements.

Customization and Final Touches

After I had arrived at my favored length for the pull handle, I had a machine shop cut 3.5 inches off the handle so as to remove the overhang at the bottom (photo #8).

This lowered the ball grip at the top of the handle and also gave me a shorter stroke... I found both to be more comfortable (photo #9).

However, shortening the length of the handle also reduces the leverage, so make sure you are satisfied with the pull of the shorter length before "trimming" any inches off it.

I also trimmed the clear PVC tube that catches the primers from 16" to a length of 8". Don't worry... if you overdo it, this tubing is available at hardware stores. By experimentation I found that each inch of the tube will hold 28 large primers... an 8" tube will hold 224 primers and the full 16" tube will hold 448.

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The plastic tube is attached to the bottom of the ram by friction, and I soon discovered that the tube will sometimes slip off the ram. Therefore, I tightened things up with a plastic "wire tie" as shown in photo #10.

As a final touch, I cut two hardwood boards (5"x10"x½" thick), drilled them to fit, and mounted them above and below the press to further support and anchor the press to my bench (photo #11).

I used 5/16" hex bolts for mounting.


After getting everything set up as I wanted, I found the Lee Classic Turret Press to be smooth and comfortable to operate, and the Lever Prime System to work perfectly.

I found the shortened stroke to be comfortable, while still giving me plenty of leverage for firm and confident reloading.

Photos #12, 13, and 14 show the progression of the Lever Prime System as the ram is lowered... #12 shows the primer holder as the lever first contacts the base, #13 shows the lever moving into position as the ram continues to be lowered, and #14 shows the lever fully in position, ready to insert the primer. The motion of the lever is automatic... no thumb needed.

The Lever Prime System included with the Lee Classic Turret Press has also been improved to prevent the lever (primer holder) from popping out of the press during operation... in fact, you now have to remove the shell holder before the lever can be removed.

I was happy to see every spent primer fall right into the tube, with none getting "loose" in the garage.


The Lee Classic Turret Press is an improvement over the older Lee Turret Press and it is highly recommended for the reasons stated in this review.

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