Lee Precision Offers a Wave of Innovation

Lee Precision is focused on product advancement and value for reloaders and dealers.

Lee Precision Offers a Wave of Innovation

Lee offers patriotic-colored anodized Breechlocks to aid in station or caliber coding and company employees created this flag with anodized breech lock bushings. 

At some point most customers will head to their local retailers to understand what’s required to start reloading ammunition. Maybe their motivation is to shoot more and spend less, or to finely tune ammo for that perfect gun setup, or maybe it’s due to the many ammo shortages of the last decade.

Regardless of the reasons, the vast majority of customers start with Lee Precision reloading equipment because of the features, quality and value of the company’s complete system packages.

Lee Precision was founded in 1958 by Richard James Lee, who went on to invent the Lee Loader and had more than 30 patents. Today, Lee Precision continues the tradition of reloading innovation and value. Stephanie Weber, one of the owners of Lee Precision and the daughter of CEO John Lee, serves in a GM-type role for the company.

Shooting Sports Retailer spoke with Weber about how Lee continues to innovate.

SSR - The business structure of Lee Precision seems to be unique in the industry.

Weber - We are (unique). Many businesses are very hierarchical and here at Lee our team all wears a lot of different hats and just gets done whatever the customer needs. Our family is very passionate about the company, with five of us involved in the full-time daily management. There are a few other family members and school-age family that jump in to help during peak periods and during the summers. The important thing for customers and dealers is that they do not need to jump through five layers of management to get an answer on something. Lee is just as fast and nimble today as it was decades ago.

SSR - How has the business changed over its history?

Weber - Grandpa Lee was always tinkering and innovating and that legacy has been passed on to the family. Some more than others, but all of us feel like we carry forward his innovative spirit. Sadly we lost our founder and grandfather in 2018, but it is interesting to see that he had so many ideas on products that we are just now able to deliver through newer manufacturing methods.

My father and brother have been heavily involved in product development for some time and are now pushing forward some of our founder’s product visions, and many of their own. The Pro4000 is a huge jump in functionality, serviceability and reliability, and we have an exciting new list of products for 2020 that we are thrilled to see hit the market.

SSR - What are some of the new products Lee will introduce this year?

Weber - Dealers will see a lot of new products this year from Lee, perhaps more than they have in quite a while. The big product introductions are around the Automatic Processing Press. The Auto Breech Lock Pro Progressive Press has a Pro4000 kit version, and we have a host of problem-solving products like the Primer Pocket Swager.

Think of the APP as a single-stage press that can be set up for automation. The press can be used like any other single-stage press, but is the only one that can be automated like a progressive press. Now customers can deprime cases, size cast bullets, swage primer pockets, make sure cases are bulge-free and more at very high production levels. We think this will be a very hot starter press and also the perfect companion press for progressive presses. Customers were begging for this. We even had some customers mounting reloading presses upside down as bullet resizers — though we do not recommend that. So now we have a safe and simple solution. We are offering the APP in standard and deluxe packages with an optional automation kit, with our bullet sizing kit, Primer Pocket Swager and X-press Shell Holders all compatible add-ons.

The Primer Pocket Swager allows easy prep and priming of military crimped brass. Customers just add in the #2, #4, #19 swager size needed. We even have a universal adapter and small and large swager so you can use your current shell holder that is included with our dies. Most people will just buy two separate swager units.

Our new bullet sizer is less expensive and simpler with one body die and is compatible with the APP automation kit. Previously customers would have needed to buy a bullet sizing kit for every diameter and now they just need a punch and sizer, which is about 40 percent less cost per caliber. The big feature is the ability to automate the process without having to hand-feed each bullet.

The Auto Breech Lock Pro progressive press has been a flawless product and is now available in the Pro4000 kit form. Customers wanted a ready-to-reload kit like we had in the Pro1000 kits and that was delivered in the four-station Pro4000 that no longer mandates the exclusive use of CCI and Remington primers. The main reason for the fourth station on the Auto Breech Lock Pro was customer requests and the prolific use of our Factory Crimp dies that require four stations or another production pass.

The ability to lightly and slightly twist and remove a die with our integrated splined Breech Lock system has made our customers super happy, so we are now offering conversion kits for many other popular reloading presses on the market. We now offer patriotic-colored anodized Breechlocks to aid in station or caliber coding and we had some fun with a table full of anodized breech lock bushings to create this flag.

SSR - What will be the hottest sellers for Lee dealers in 2020?

Weber - Our hottest sellers are always the reloading dies and single-stage Breech Lock Challenger and Classic Anniversary kits. Next will be the APP press and Pro4000. Though our Breech Lock Bushing system made it easier to swap calibers, there will still be customers who want a simple turret press that they can set and leave for certain calibers. 

SSR - What is driving the product development cycle?

Weber - It is a combination of ideas we see that will make our products better and some new ideas no one has thought of that we were granted patents on. A lot of great ideas come from our customers through call center and email support and social media and personal interactions. 

SSR - How does Lee support its dealers?

Weber - There are several ways. We believe that our distributors are the best channel to get products quickly into the hands of dealers and those distributors can also support dealers with all the other reloading components. We do have a few very small dealers who buy direct, but most dealers prefer the bundled purchase order approach through distribution. Our distributors also have Lee-funded programs that push the brand through email, social media and digital media advertising. We do some catalog reimbursement programs as well for dealers. That is based on the number of SKUs to help out with printing costs.

SSR - What do you see in the future for Lee?

Weber - Our focus has always been on innovative tools at a value price and we know this is our sweet spot. We have tried premium lines and still have some heirloom-quality premium finished cast presses, but they do not sell as well. We have always seen the most-bang-for-your-buck solutions as our top sellers and our most successful offerings.

We plan on continuing to be the innovative leader, keep improving our existing products and introducing new ones to the marketplace with a focus on continued product improvement and innovation. My dad and brother are always looking for new ways to improve the product and have a list of potential new products and accessories for the APP press. We are also just getting into anodizing aluminum and have some ideas to help the reloader quickly identify parts.

SSR - Where do you see the reloading market heading?

Weber - Thankfully we are resetting back to pre-2013 levels and the frenzied and crazed buying has subsided. For a lot of mid-size businesses that make up the firearms industry, this type of product demand puts huge customer service and production stresses on companies our size to attempt to meet demand. We like steady and slow growth.

It really has been interesting to see how much politics and anti-gun sentiment can postitively drive radical sales spikes in the firearms industry. We thankfully do not see this much reactive buying behavior until someone starts talking about ammunition taxation, limitation and regulation — then we see a big spike.

As an example, the horrible events of Sandy Hook drove a lot of uninformed social posts around gun control and taking away or regulating reloading components or ammunition and we saw crazy buying again. We really hope we can have a calm market for a while. These quieter times are our best time to work on innovation and R&D around new product development, which is what customers have come to love about Lee.


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